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The political letters are flying thick and fast. No punches are pulled and you’ll enjoy them all.

Just read your story about Australia’s obsession with sport – thank you! It is wonderful to hear someone else saying what amounts to heresy in this country.

I’m disabled – desperately trying to get a loan or grant to do a course and hopefully, end my dependence on welfare. Six months of arguing with CRS, Centrelink, FACs, Intensive Assistance Providers, State Government and the Federal Minister has left me despondent. I wonder if I was an elite athlete instead of a cripple getting this money be a problem?

A quarter of Australia’s population is disabled – at certain times in everyone’s life they will be temporarily disabled. Do we have any representation in Government? Nope – our lives are shoved into Family and Community Services narrow view of income support. Sports? A whole bloody Ministry to themselves!

Thanks once again

Michelle Murray

Crikey: And all these state-funded Olympians who are now millionaires should pay some of the money back to help fund those genuinely in need of state support.


I met Johnny Howard in the lift

Hey Crikey, So your Gran met Johnny eh?

Well how’s this? I got in a lift on Phillip St in Sydney the other day and came face to face or rather chin to bald head, with Johnny Howard. Just him, me and these two huge gorilla looking dudes in suits with those coily discreet radio wires protruding from their collars and their ears.

So I offered the PM my standard greeting of “Evening”, then turned to adopt the lift etiquette correct stance of facing forward but as I was turning he said, “I think you’ll find it’s morning actually.” (No shit Sherlock, it was 10am). So I conceded his point, ” I s’pose it is” and turned back around. About two seconds later I hear this voice behind me, “You must be one of those 24 hour traders. You don’t even know if it’s night or day…” and I think “fuck. Johnny Howard is taking the piss; he’s heckling me.” Now I’m a standup comic right, and as a standup you should always have an armory of heckler retorts which put upstart audience members in their place, so as a reflex I turned to unleash one when I got to thinking about the two gorillas and how they were probably already watching my hand movements and my bag real close. So I contented myself with the reply, ” It must have been the heavy cloud cover that threw me”, said just close enough to be impolite but not so close as to warrant sudden and violent intervention.

We rode up together for eight floors maybe 15 or 20 seconds and as he’s getting out of the lift he makes a point of turning to me and saying “well, good MORNING.” and chuckles to himself as if he’s just dealt me the final fatal thrust with his rapier wit and I think you’ll keep so I just say, “Later”.

I reckon not that many civilians have had such a candid and private exchange with the PM (any PM for that matter) and I reckon maybe those gorillas were in for a bollocking for having allowed someone like me to get into the PM’s lift…you reckon?

Take it easy.

Later, Jeff

(The-guy-wearing-the-Col-Allan-sink-pisser-name-tag at your Sydney gig).

Crikey: Isn’t Johnny a wag. He even told my grandma that she was “pretty hardy”. You should have said that it was evening in the Mother Country at the moment and you work on the Queen’s hours. Still, it’s something to use in your stand-up routines.


The Tool Shed: Stephen Mayne: Loose Cannon. From Workers Online

We are big fans of Crikey and the work of its founder Stephen Mayne in holding corporate Australia to account. But in setting up a new party to contest, among other things, union elections, this self-styled Mr Smith has exposed over shot the mark.

*****************

The Mayne story is proof that loose cannons don’t just come from the lunar Left. Raised by the Melbourne Establishment, Mayne strode through a series of Silver Spoon jobs to the esteemed position of adviser to the loosest cannon of them all, former Victorian Premier Jeff Kennett.

But having scaled the heights, Mayne realized the view was less than pure and often downright grubby, His public repudiation of Kennett, subsequent bid to stand against him as an independent and then web assault of Jeffed.com during the campaign ensured his ties with the Tories were permanently severed.

Mayne then moved to Sydney, got the gig as Business Editor at the Daily Telegraph where he embarked on an inspired crusade that netted him a deserved Walkely. He brought up small quantities of shares in major companies, then used his right as a shareholder to scrutinize CEOs and directors from the floor at AGMs.

Crikey has been a breath of fresh air for those of us watching the corporate takeover of Australia with bemused detachment. He has the knowledge, networks and courage to make the top end of town squirm and has built a fledging media empire around the project. In charting the complex web of corporate directorships Mayne is fulfilling a significant public service and can teach the trade union movement a lot.

But Mayne wants more. This week he added to his ever-expanding scrapbook of media clippings with the announcement he’s establishing his own political party. The broad philosophy is free enterprise, free speech and consumer and shareholder rights. If anything, it sounds to me like the Australia Party that another celebrated self-promoter, Singo, set up in 1970s. Innocent enough, I hear you say?.

But Mayne goes further: “We will be the only political party in Australia that contests elections in trade unions, public companies, mutuals and sporting clubs, as well as local, state and federal governments,” he trumpets.

Trade unions? This lapsed Tory wants to not only take over corporate Australia, he wants to have a go at the trade union movement as well.

This is the behaviour of a Tool on two levels.

First it betrays his lack of understanding about the movement. Mayne approaches the trade union movement as though it is moribund, still locked into the Accord structures. He has no appreciation at the efforts to reactivate trade unionism at the grass roots to which most, if not all, trade unions are now diverting more and more attention. Indeed, it is only through this type of cultural regeneration that the changes Mayne would like to see happen would be possible.

Secondly, top level challenges will be counter-productive. Even presuming Mayne got a stable of credible candidates around him, the impact of their tilt at power would be negative. The external challenge would inevitably force the current leadership to close ranks and fight back, forcing them to divert attention and resources from rebuilding delegate structures to engage in the sort of power struggles which push the interests of rank and file members to the periphery. Reform of trade unions will not come through terrorist tactics – all that will occur is the barricades will be closed and the movement will continue to shrink.

Mayne’s nave call for rank and filers to join him in a grassroots crusade is misguided and counterproductive if his real goal is to make the trade union movement more open and accountable. This takes engagement, understanding, identification with the trade union movement. In throwing bombs from the sidelines, Mayne not only does himself a disservice, he undermines the good work he is doing as a shareholder activist.

Peter Lewis

Editor of Workers Online

Crikey: This is the first predictable response from a group that may face a little bit of extra scrutiny on their cosy elected positions. Workers Online is the propaganda outlet for the NSW Labor Council. The MUA was a classic rort that a party standing up for shareholders and consumers should have tackled. The wharfie rorts damaged Australia’s international reputation, sent companies broke and forced up consumer prices over many years. Since the MUA was broken, Lang Corp’s share price has surged from about $2 to $12, creating about $1 billion in shareholder value and cheaper prices for consumers as well. Another example where a good pro-shareholder campaign is with the thuggish behaviour of class warriors Dean Mighell and Craig Johnston from the ETU and the AMWU respectively. A company like Pacifica runs the biggest manufacturing site in Victoria and could well benefit from the defeat of the destructive Johnston at the next AMWU elections. Anyway, Crikey is not the vehicle for this political party so let’s move right along.


Kojak’s crazy doomsday scenario

Waves of Asian boat people, run the gaunlet of ATM machines, syringe wielding lunatics, where is this guy living? Yes in a way you are right to publish him, but I can’t but get the uneasy feeling that journalists in 30’s Germany probably defended Volkische Beobachter in the same way.

Ian

Crikey: If the Germans knew a lot more about Hitler they probably wouldn’t have let him get into power in the first place. I’m a disclose, disclose, disclose man. Get all the facts on the table and everyone is in the best position to make an informed decision on how to vote.


Grand Prix accident

Like Tim W, I am angry and not prepared to let ‘them’ get away with it.

I also no longer believe what our politicians tell me, and I don’t have the answers. But as Tim says, collectively we must be able to find answers that most of us can accept. I also believe that’s the power of democracy, so why doesn’t it happen?

In writing: “That’s what our governments are for.”, I imagine Tim’s views are probably typical of majorities in most marginal electorates, and by October 1998 there were scores of these seats federally and hundreds including state lower houses. By now most seats in most lower houses have electoral majorities which want neither coalition and Labor candidates, but do recent elections reflect this?. Put this together with Dr John Hewson’s column in the AFR on 1 Dec 2000, headlined: ‘System needs a clean up’, in which he wrote “you just rig the key marginal seats”, and what have we?

Dr Hewson was slightly misquoted by Brian Costar’s subsequent letter to the editor: ‘Vote 1 for hard evidence’, defending the AEC, as a more insightful: “you just have to rig the key marginal seats”. Dr Hewson also wrote that there’s “almost a conspiracy of silence on genuine electoral reform”! What was each trying to say (or not say)? What is going on?

Just who has to “rig the key marginal seats”, and why? Is it BECAUSE we, the voters, might be able to find answers, that “our governments are for”, but can’t or won’t find, or even try to hide? Who are ‘them’, who “get away with it”? I could propose my own answers to these questions, but would like to hear others. Then we can start making 2001 year[1] of More Accountable Democracy!

Get MAD in 2001!

Jim Stewart

Crikey: And it was Kim Beazley as Minister who changed all those federal electoral laws back in the early 80s which made it so much easier to rort the system. Be interesting to see his policy on the AEC this time. We’re considering try to get the name Hillary Bray on the electoral roll to demonstrate just how easy it is.


Packer journo says political party a mistake

Stephen,

I read with alarm your latest alert concerning the formation of a political party to contest the election of seemingly anything that moves. Well and dandy for those like yourself and Vern Hughes who seek the glare of public office. But I must register some alarm about your intention to extend the reach of your unnamed force to run for board directorships.

It is encumbent upon all directors of any company to represent the interests of creditors, shareholders and employees. Their job is to be truly independent of all forces that tug at their shirt sleeves, and not succumb to the lures of either left or right wing political leanings. They should not be corrupted! Imagine for a second what your reaction would be if there was a Liberal Party candidate standing for the National Bank board on a platform of bank amalgamation! Horrors!

I need direct your attention no further than the current fiasco in the NRMA boardroom to demonstrate how the director of a politically divided board serves little purpose whatsoever. You and Vern may have the best of intentions, but you run the risk of being portrayed as simple political opportunists. You are being naive, to put it politely. Should you win a board seat, I look forward to comparing your aspirations to those of Nick Whitlam or Anne Keating!

If you want to be politicians, take off your wings and have a go at in the big time. I can only assume that you are on such a high after the recent spate of new Crikey.com subscriptions that the blood has rushed to your head. Perhaps it is an early April Fools joke.

Regards, Alan Deans

Crikey:Alan, does that mean prominent Liberal Party fund raisers such as Hugh Morgan and Charles Goode should not sit on boards. The NRMA needs some force to get Keating and Whitlam off that board. Having a registered political party doing it will give it more force and organisational discipline. The party has shareholder value and board accountability as key platforms. If a candidate we backed got on a board, then they would have to fulfil their duties to drive value and be accountable. Australia lacks a culture of shareholder pressure and we’re all about creating such a culture which would be good for all shareholders.


HIH’s Grand Prix box

Stephen,

I couldn’t help linking the HIH disaster with the Saul Eslake warning on sports obsession. The HIH corporates took a box at Ron Walker’s Grand Prix for several years and appeared to be more interested in drinking the Moet at shareholder’s expense than looking at the bottom line back in the office. The HIH replacement at the Grand Prix is AMP, their name appears just behind many of the Marlboro billboards. I guess Ron got more political donations from giving Marlboro the prime sites, and maybe the AMP execs were too pissed to notice. I think Crikey is doing a good job in highlighting bad corporate behaviour, and maybe Saul Eslake needs to expand his thesis to expose some of the corporate rorts that are only too evident at the Grand Prix, which is at the extreme end of these activities.

Regards, Peter Logan

Crikey: Saul has kindly allowed us to run the full and expanded version of his talk and makes some very persuasive arguments. Those HIH lads really were the cowboys of the industry and in many respects it is good to see the back of them.


Don’t call refugees queue jumpers

Tim W’s letter about refugee camps reminded me of something that really pisses me off: when the far right uses the label “queue jumpers” to denigrate refugees.

When did the Hansonites become so concerned about those in “the queue”?

It’s like they’re saying, “We don’t want you here, and if you come you should relinquish your language, your culture and your religion. You have no right to use the social safety net, no right to bring your family to live with you, and no right to natural justice on immigration matters.

But we won’t let anyone push in front of you.”

Chris

Crikey: And how was Ruddock recently claiming there is not much interest in skilled migrants coming to Australia. With the dollar at US49c, we’d have half of America and the UK coming if they were really allowed in without too much hassle. The Olympics were the most fantastic advertisement for Australia. Hundreds of the athletes would probably choose to settle here if we had a policy that welcomed them. Hansonites are basically mean spirited in saying that we have the least populated country in the world and people who live in shocking places shouldn’t be allowed in. Show some compassion, please.


Stick it to Bracks over gambling

Good on yer, Crikey! Keep sticking it to the gutless Bracks Government on the proposed pokies tax (or surcharge, whatever the jargon is this week). You clearly show how the Mr Bigs of gambling have Bracksie over a barrel – an uncomfortable position largely of his own making. If Victorian Labor would show a bit of spine and stand up for the battlers on this one, some of the damage done by Kennett’s ‘generosity’ may be able to be wound back.

SH Poeckes

Crikey: Well said. Given the obscene profits, the answer is higher taxes and less machines. The licence owners will still be billions in front, such were the appalling deals done by past governments. WA has no pokies and this is electorally very popular.


Ignore those cowboy Liberal students

If the Liberal Students are progressive then the Taliban are fun loving party guys. Moving hokey motions against the Taliban is one thing, but ask then what they think on abortion, euthanasia or any real issues and it’s like talking to a member of the Religious Right Coalition.

Most of the active student Libs I’ve met in whatever state it is that I live in (as the infamous Fake Name I won’t bother revealing my location) are further to the right than some of the Hansonite nutters out there.

Oh well, let the book-burners have their one moment of fame for the decade. When was the last time anybody saw the ALSF get a mention in the papers? They’d have to drive a tank up the steps of Parliament House to get any publicity these days so you’d think there would be some gratitude to Crikey for actually giving them a mention. Some people are never satisfied.

Regards, Fake Name

Crikey: This is one thing I agree with Jeff Kennett about it. Young Liberals tend to be real f wits. So often they are spoilt little rich kids with no idea about the real world.


Kojak’s bullshit doomsday scenario

Lord help me, Hanson’s right (all puns intended). Today I was attacked by a BAS-weilding agressive beggar high on GST, sniffing those fumes that the asian refo boats had brought with them. What next, Pasco? Do you want to ban condoms so we can run around crying populate or perish again?

Geoff

Crikey: Kojak certainly paints a colorful picture but it is good that we at least know what the thinking man’s One Nation powerbroker believes is happening.


Sports obsession overstated

I think in regards to the Olympics and the Grand Prix you have neglected to balance the ledger of NSW and Victorian taxpayers in respect to the level of income provided by each event to private industry, which in turn, are indeed the ‘taxpayers’ in each state by the fact that they employ a large proportion of each states workers who pay tax.

The Olympics created a lot more revenue than can be calculated directly. As a worker in the construction industry I have experienced the pre Olympics boom and the post Olympics slump (combined with the intro of the GST and resulting lower investors confidence). The huge infrastructure projects in and about Sydney created thousands of jobs and increased the income of many workers in that field. Increased wealth of individual sub-contractors who in the main were small Australian based firms (yes the consulting companies that won the tenders for most jobs were based overseas but there was a flow on effect to the sub-contractors who do most of the ground work) allowed for these companies to increase profits and therefore invest in more capital and labour.

Similarly there was an increase in construction of infrastructure in Melbourne and Brisbane, partly as a flow on effect of high investor confidence and due to the competitive ‘keeping up with the Jones’ factor. During the period of the Olympics, restaurants, hotels, motels, airports, bus companies, public transport systems, CBD businesses, cafes, kiosks, nightclubs, bars etc. have never done so much business. This allowed employees to earn more income through longer hours and more shifts. A similar effect, somewhat lesser in scale, is caused by the Grand Prix each year in Melbourne, which is a lesser event in scale anyhow. If you were to give a rough indication of the income generated by each event to private industry I am sure you would get a less disturbing picture.

Aside from all of this, the level of exposure of Australia to the world as a country that is capable of holding such events must increase foreign business owners willingness to do business with Australian businesses, as opposed to being treated as a colonial outpost that is not a big market and not worth investing in.

Tourism exposure aside the Olympics was psychologically a good event for Australians as they created an air of positiveness as EDDIE said for our country on a world scale. Something that is not easily quantified in economic terms.

The main point to your argument appeared to drift more to the effects of gambling than sport by essays end. I agree gambling is abominal and our governments are shameful in their attitudes to revenue raising from pokies and punting.

Sport however is a release and you are kidding your readers if you try to portray Australia as a sport obsessed nation, more than any other. The strongest economies in the world are also Sport obsessed but not Olympic Sport obsessed necessarily. Japan is obsessed with Baseball, Soccer, Sumo Wrestling and Golf. The Ski industry survives off the income derived from its Japanese market. USA is obsessed with all sport – look at how wrestling has developed into an industry. NBC and CBS and Fox pay over 2 Billion for the rights to NFL. Germany, Italy and England ride the fortunes of their soccer teams and leagues.

I was in Spain last year and experienced true obsession for sport. Real Madrid were playing the locals in a town not far from where I was staying – about 50km away. On the completion of the game, the smallish town I was in became a cacophony of drums, horns and whistles. Real won and the locals of the town I was in came out and partied in the street for the rest of the day in all their Real Madrid merchandise. They marched through the streets (about 3000 people) and drank. It appeared no one folllowed the local team, they all followed Real which was about 300kms away. No one from the town actually attended the game as far as I could tell they just listened to it on the radio.

Amazingly this was for just a regular roster game and I imagine it went on in towns all over Spain. Can you imagine Australians in Shepparton doing that when Carlton defeated Freo at Optus Oval?

There you have it. This is the first time I’ve actually felt emotive enough to reply to anything in my life.

Keep up the good work I enjoy listening to and reading your ramblings.

Anon

Crikey:Australia spends more per head of the taxpayers’ money on elite sport than any other country. Hence our terrific medal tally finish at the Olympics. Show me another GP that has had $100 million of taxpayers’ money spent on it. No other tennis grand slam is underwritten by taxpayers. And one of the reasons the gambling lobby is so powerful is that hundreds of sporting clubs are financed by poker machines. This is why we are also the most gambling obsessed country in the world.


I’m a lefty Green and hope you’re still born

Is this another conservative party in the making,I see nothing in the platform about job creation or protection. And what about the establishment of a Bill of Rights,nup,no mention. Base standards and awards and a fair system of arbitration, missing, protection of the environment, another area missed. And what is this wealth creation,for whom may I ask, the already filthy rich. Free trade at the expense of local employment, no thanks, I don’t want my weekly wages in rice.Reading between the lines I hope this new political force is still born. I like the Greens holding the balance a darned sight more then any employer based party, at least their policies are not based on greed but on ethically based values.

Crikey: If you like those economic vandals known as the Greens holding the BOP then we’ll be a long way from your vote. You may like the consumer protection, monopoly busting, sack the dud CEOs stuff we’ll be pushing, but if you don’t like wealth creation we’ll lose you pretty quickly.


Pulling the leg of a Troglodyte

Hi Stephen

Please don’t use my real name if you use this. Just call me “Retired Ferret”. Back in the late 1960s when Bill Hartley was still the Oberfuehrer of the Victorian branch of the ALP I was still a member. (That was before I saw the light!) It was also before the days of e-mail. I knew that Bill used to dictate letters to his secretary. I wrote in a long, boring enquiring letter about the ALP and its aims and objectives. Then I signed it “R.SUPPWOOD”.

Back came an even longer more boring reply, so I assume Bill never realised his leg was being pulled. (Say the name aloud quickly Stephen.)

Regards, Retired Ferret

Crikey: Bill Hartley, now that’s a loopy economic vandal and one who clearly took himself far too seriously.


Nepotism in the Lightfoot family

Don’t mention my name in this, but isn’t young Matthew Fergusson-Stuart the child of Anne? Recently betrothed and married to Ross Lightfoot? And coincidentally, a member of his electorate staff?

Do you think they’ll breed further? Hope not.

Anon

Crikey: Indeed, Hillary makes mention of this in her latest column.


Why is Quik so expensive without sales tax

Below is fairly much verbatim something I sent to Nestles last week via their website. No reply to date. Mr Costello doesn’t seem to have an email address, so I will have to get around to printing it out and sending something to him. The only reason I checked it was that he made the news talking about Quik. I wonder how many other products we are being ripped off on?

Regards, Fraser

Letter to Swiss multinational Nestle

Prior to the introduction of GST the Treasurer is on record stating that Chocolate Nesquik was untaxed and Strawberry Nesquik was taxed at 22% (Hansard 02-Jun-1999). At the time the price of the two products was identical.

Immediately after the introduction of the GST the price of Strawberry Nesquick fell considerably as you would have expected, the price of Chocolate Nesquik remained unchanged.

However checking the prices now, at various supermarkets around Australia, the prices are exactly the same again for both products and it is the price of the Strawberry Nesquik that has risen substantially to match the price of Chocolate Nesquik.

What happened to the saving to the consumer brought about by the removal of the 22% tax on Strawberry Nesquik? On how many other products or services has this post GST price change occurred?

Crikey: Nice one. You should also send a copy to the ACCC. I suspect Nestle are probably regretting paying $500 million for parts of Pacific Dunlop’s old food division when the dollar was about US75c. Maybe they’re trying to sneakily claw back some of the losses. If the Nestle spindoctors read this, we’ll happily publish an explanation.


Tasmanians have fixed up their anti-Gay laws

“Surely Jones could find other things to get madder about, like the anti-gay laws in Tasmania for instance.”

Now I know it was tongue-in-cheek suggesting that Jonesy would ever stand up for the rights of people if he was not handed a (bank) cheque beforehand, but to be fair to the good people and parliament of Tasmania: their anti-gay laws were struck from the books almost 4 years ago, and they now have some of the fairest age of consent in the country, and are now considering anti-discrimination laws also.

Lustfully, Al.

Crikey: Stand corrected on this. I was also half thinking of the London toilet block incident when writing it.

Peter Fray

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