Praise and criticism from Crikey’s vigilant readership in Cup week.

John Howard behind the ‘eight ball’

Don’t you think the PM’s crown is slipping slightly in the past few months?

I know he hasn’t any competition lately but he seems just a little out of touch recently with those that elected him.

Johnny and Alexander want to go all the way into Iraq with the war on terror, but do the Australian people fall in behind him. No way, so Johnny and Alexander have to pull their heads in a bit and tone down the rhetoric.

Next we have the Bali bombing. What does Johnny do immediately after it happens? Nothing. Alexander flies up to Bali on Monday, has a photo shoot and then heads off to Jakarta the same day. Bugger the dead and injured Australians. It is not until Wednesday morning that Johnny figures that perhaps he should pay a visit to Bali. Hardly the sign of a man in touch with the people, especially when so many of his people have been killed or injured.

With impeccable timing Johnny & Alexander start issuing Travel Warnings for everywhere north of Darwin. Does it have any effect? No way, just ask anyone trying to get on a flight out of Australia to Asia between now and Christmas.

Sure, Johnny was eloquent at the Memorial service but so he should be, he has had a lifetime of practice.

Now we have ASIO knocking down the doors of Indonesian Moslems who are said to be ‘JI sympathisers’. Well, sympathiser is a pretty broad term and judging by some of the calls on talkback radio and ‘letters to the Editor’, more than a few Australians are a little concerned about giving too much power to the spooks, even though we have the news each evening trying to put the frighteners on us.

Now we might not like them coming over here in leaky boats, but we do get a little concerned when the quiet Moslem family living in our neighbourhood gets their door kicked down at daybreak by the spooks with guns at the ready.

Through all of this you would hardly describe Johnny as our leader, more like a follower.


ASIO deliberately off the track?

Instead of having ASIO and the Federal Police acting like keystone cops and terrorising Australian citizens would it not be more prudent to sit back a moment and take stock.

We are told, on flimsy evidence, that Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) was allegedly involved in the Bali bombing, and that Abu Bakar Bashir, its spiritual leader, is somehow implicated.

Surely it would be better for ASIO and other investigators to look into JI and Abu Bakar Bashir’s connections with the Indonesian military. A report, released last August by a Belgium think tank, the International Crisis Group (ICG), said that JI was set up by Suharto’s intelligence chief General Ali Murtopo in 1977, ostensibly to prevent communist infiltration. Sidney Jones, an ICG director, commented that “if you scratch any Islamic group in Indonesia you will find some security forces involvement”. These links need investigating.

Failure to do so could mean that we move even further away from the perpetrators of this crime – or is that the intention?

I do not suppose ASIO and others’ current line of investigation has anything to do with America’s offer of a $50 million aid package to Indonesia, and a proposed renewal of military ties, as America seeks to make Indonesia a centrepiece of its anti-terror strategy in South-East Asia?

Ian Read
Nowra, NSW

Seven’s share report shocking!

This may not be important in the grand scheme of things
but why doesn’t seven news (Sydney) ever report the
share price of News Corp on its daily market roundups?


Crikey: All commercial news coverages of finance are extremely basic. Have a look at the ABC or buy the AFR.

Emma Bevis inappropriately using taxpayers money?

I read with interest your recent article concerning ALP staffer Emma Bevis who apparently works for her father in the Federal Seat of Brisbane.

As you are aware, little Emma, her brother, and a bunch of her labor right friends, ran a ticket in the Univeristy of Queensland Union Elections called “Activate”.

As a constituent of Brisbane, I am questioning whether or not Emma et al used federal government resources to photocopy propaganda and create banners for her doomed campaign or whether she was honest enough to fund it out of her own pocket.

I surely hope that my tax dollars did not fund a ticket that only got about 200 primary votes out of about 4500 students who voted.

Mark Drayfus

More bicycle concerns

It’s good to know the country is in safe hands. But should I be worried about the two bicycles languishing in our garage? I’m not sure the door is sledge-hammer proof.

Helen Cronin

ATO technologically inept

I have spent much of the last three days trying to e-lodge my wife’s simple tax return. Even with my broadband cable connection, it was hopeless.

The first day started with the ATO’s software freezing my screen, moved on to losing the ‘sendto’ file (which the call centre couldn’t correct in the one time I was able to get through) and then, having to resort to starting again, to two days and nights, of being unable to access the e-tax

In the end, we resorted to paper and a 45 cent stamp.
And we were so looking forward to the 14-day refund.

Frustrated Filer

And again…

I was also caught up in the dismal performance last night, but managed
to talk to a human just before they closed (8 p.m.).

They have extended the deadline for electronic lodgement to 3rd

As to adding to the number of servers for their website, that seems
to be another story.

Jos Vandersman

More customer service excellence from Optus

How about looking at Optus Cable TV.

All is honkey dory when you want to make a connection but should you try to cancel a connection it is impossible to get through to them on the telephone or any other way. I am a working lady as most people are and don’t have an hour to spend on the phone waiting for them.

How come they are so quick to take your money but don’t have the decency of policy to give the same service should you require a cancellation. I still have been unable to cancel my connection with them and am pretty fed up.

Debra Cowen

Dirty Tricks from the ANZ

Here’s a nice one from ANZ Bank card division.

I’ve held a Visa Gold card (co branded with Qantas and Telstra) with them for about five years now. Regularly churn about $8K in transactions each month, and pay in full before due. I’m sure they hate not earning any

Anyway, receive a letter yesterday, from Jennifer Fagg, Managing Director of Cards at ANZ. They are increasing their fees from $67 to $95 for the annual fee, and increasing the rewards centre service fee from $33 to $55.

Additional cards now also attract a new $55 rewards program services fee. Nice little combined net increase of 105% in fees. Can someone remind me what the CPI rate was last year again…?

Thought I’d give them a call with a please explain. Helpful gentleman from the call centre said that since Telstra had dropped out, they were putting the fees up. I thought this was a little strange. Reduce the number of partner benefits and then increase the costs! I was informed that the
call centre operators had been briefed by management that they should
expect a lot of angry callers.

What I learned through my discussion was basically this. ANZ is not earning as much on this card scheme as they are on other cards, so they are tacitly shutting it down. They are trying to actively convert people to other cards that are more profitable, by making this one prohibitively expensive. Interesting that the demographic for the gold card are probably some of ANZ’s more affluent customers, but ANZ see fit to rip off huge hunks of cash from them.

I think I’ll switch back to the barter system.


An incredibly rare, satisfied bank customer.

I’ve been a Westpac costumer for two years. Before them I only dealt with building societies or credit unions. I hated dealing with backs due to experiences with ANZ and the CBA. But I have to say the customer service at Westpac is excellent, whoever implemented the training program has done a fantastic job. The call centre is open 7 days a week compares to the NAB which is 5 1/2 days( I found that out while trying to help a guest who had lost her credit card and was stuck for cash). There is definitely a marked difference in the level of service and friendliness as well. Out of all the business I deal in, I would have to say that Westpac is the best.

I’m might be lucky but always dealing with Westpac is super smooth. So maybe it isn’t a coincidence that Westpac got the top spot.

Patrick Platten
Edgecliff, NSW

Crikey: Can someone help me off the floor?

Waterhouse Stable never far from the spotlight

Was staggered to read Peter Mairs glowing tribute to poor put upon “Fine Cotton” Robbie. I am truly and deeply grateful that Mr. Mairs is not a representative on any body connected with Victorian racing. Fortunately our industry has been able to get by without his pontificating and ill informed drivel. How much time has Mairs actually spent round the racetracks and associates enterprises? Of course this tribute should get him inside running with one of the most powerful stables in Australia. Could it be that he is after a few drinks and tips around cup time?

Robyn Murtagh

Crikey: Good to see the spotlight away from Gai’s fashion sense and onto her controversial withdrawal of ‘Platinum Scissors’ from the Derby.

Sporting Shooter an oxymoron

Your headline “Sporting Shooter” is an oxymoron, there is nothing sporting about shooting something that can’t shoot back

Colin Bolton

Is oppression terrorism?

All very well for the little man to pontificate upon the geniu of Australia for tolerance and compassion. Maybe we show weeks of anguish for our own murdered in Bali even for the horror in far-away Moscow. But, having just read an e-mail concerning the new Baxter facility for ‘illegals’. I am appalled at the selectivity of our compassion index. Sadly the polls seem to show that Australians have no understanding of the relationship between oppression and terrorism.


Solly Lew hedges his bets?

I don’t know if this is widely known but it is getting some airtime in
the financial markets. Somebody has bought a hell of a lot of shares in Coles but has an equal and opposite synthetic short position (a hedge) so that they have no price risk on Coles.

The view is that Solly is behind it as it gives him a truckload of
voting rights without real exposure to the company.


Crikey: ‘Solly Lew’ may not be as stupid as his suppprt for the discount card would make us believe.

Chaos at Virgin Blue

Last night, my husband and I were on a virgin flight from Sydney to Coolangatta. The full plane was waiting for a latecomer, who got on and was slow clapped by the passengers. The chap was evidently peeved so he gave us all rather rude words and gestures as he sauntered up the aisle. Commotion ensued amongst the ‘hosties’ who then ushered him of the plane.

Who then gets on the plane but Branson? He fumbles with the mike and tells us how great his staff are and zooms off, only to get back on (apparently having been accosted by the chucked off chap) and say to us “the poor bloke just went to his grandma’s funeral – let’s let him back on – what do you say?” The chap creeps back on.

We are still there fifteen minutes later. ‘Hosties’ and security in and out of the captain’s cabin, our plane now almost twenty minutes delayed. Chap allowed to stay but ‘hosties’ clearly not happy.

The main, young ‘hostie’ regales all with the story of how you have to be so careful and that Branson should have kept out of it. All very entertaining. Some lessons for Virgin, in my view, are: –

1. How much input should passengers and CEO’s have into security issues?

2. Never underestimate the paranoia of plane staff.

3. Virgin should train its hosties to act more professionally (criticising your boss in front of paying customers is not a good look however young you are).

4. Virgin should hand out ear plugs to save a plane full of older ears from loud music for sixteen year olds.

Aniko Cripps Clark

Wayne Wilson is no Greg Miles

I had the mis-pleasure of having to work on Melbourne Cup day, so I unfortunately missed most of the Channel seven coverage.

All I basically saw was the race and I have to agree with Track Watcher (and Crikey), Wayne Wilson’s call was ordinary. I’m a Brisbane boy who loves his races so I have heard a lot of Wayne’s calls over the years. I think he is a great caller but there is no question he was star struck.

He prattled on at the start and got way too carried away at the finish. I know that is Wayne’s style (if you ever heard his call of Rough Habits last race win in Brisbane you will know how good it can be when it works) but you don’t get that carried away in the Melbourne Cup. Not without letting us know the places and what’s happening with the favourites.

I hope they don’t sack him on one performance but it wouldn’t surprise me if they did.

Brisbane Race Fan

Channel Ten superior for Cup coverage

I can’t agree with your synopsis of Seven’s coverage of the Cup.

Good points you noted are agreed but the cup is more than a race meet. Lots of folk go and lots of folk watch to see the ‘carnival’ and it is this that
Seven missed. Ten could capture the essence of the day, the fashion and the people which Seven didn’t. And ex footballer Jason Dunstall was
awfully gratuitous giving away winnings.

Could have been a much better coverage of the carnival.

John T

Crikey: I’ll take Bruce McAvaney over Tim Webster any day. However, I agree about Jason Dunstall. You can keep him anytime.

Back off the Kiwis Crikey!

The Australian financial journalists are always sticking it up New Zealand! Why I don’t know. Gottliebsen is one of the worst.

Friends in the building industry who have just come back report that immigration and foreign investment have created a huge building boom, There is a chronic shortage of tradesmen. Carpenters in Queenstown have been earning up to $70 an hour!

NZ has 12.5% GST but no capital gains tax, no stamp duty and a maximum tax rate of 39 cents in the dollar. Most importantly it has a universal workers compensation and public liability scheme that costs employers about 6% of wages. Read that and weep Australian employers.

I have suggested that our Labor Party formulate something similar for us but I guess that they are beholden to the insurance companies and legal industry like the Libs.

And of course the Kiwis have made another breakthrough, they have found a new use for sheep-wool!


Crikey: Pity the $70 the carpenters earn per hour would struggle to purchase anything valuable outside New Zealand.

Australia unhealthily obsessed with sport

You asked: “Shouldn’t we get over this national obsession with sport?”

Yes, yes, bloody hell, yes! I can never understand why we, as a nation, have our mentally ill sleeping in the streets, soldiers buying their own combat boots, waiting lists in casualty wards longer than your arm, crappy public transport, yet our media is full of sport, and government budgets splashing out on ever-more spectacular sporting events and venues.

It’s a dangerous world out there, and it’s about time Australia grew up and learned all about it, and at the same time fixed some of our problems.

Ken McLeod

Crikey: Agreed. How many pages did the ‘Wayne Carey’ affair occupy in our papers recently?

Now not the time for ALP’s Latham

A few thoughts . I read your article about Labor and their leadership (Crean on the Canvas). I have always felt that Crean should have been named “Aunty Carp” because carping is what he does best. Those long leading questions full of invective in parliament that leave you feeling, ‘Oh God, here she goes again, nagging and nagging’ and usually about nothing.

The point is that it doesn’t leave you impressed, just pissed off at another politician playing stupid political games, which after all, are not much different from the point-scoring games we all played in kindergarten.

With regard to Latham, and Hillary’s assertion that the Labor party might give him a go, I believe it might be at their peril. He appears to be another Keating, and I have always believed that it was the portrayal of Keating’s sheer nastiness as a human being, and his apparent arrogance, that cost the ALP government.

I believe that it was his skill at invective that cost him and the ALP government. It was also events such as his kissing the ground at Kokoda, the Pope got away with it but I always felt that that result was largely personal, specifically anti Keating and that had Hawke still been PM, they might have won.

I think that most Australians had enough of the politics of hate, and that the memory is still a bit fresh for Iron Mark to have a go and succeed. I also believe that we are moving to expect reasonable and dignified behaviour from our politicians.

I believe that we expect our political leaders to behave with dignity, and not to embarrass the whole country with their utterances and gestures. The point-scoring, so often beaten up by a media bereft of interesting news and desperate for ratings and newspaper sales, has become a real pain.

Kruddy, as you call him, does appear to have a big ego, but he does equally behave with the required dignity, and yet, when necessary, score real political points. He is building a reasonable profile in the media in Queensland.

Most in Queensland would be quite aware of Kevin Rudd, but very few would be aware of Wayne Swan whose media appearances are few and far between. We were much more aware of him when he was Queensland Secretary of the Labor Party.

I do believe that Iron Mark would be too much, too soon, after Keating.

Robert Moore

Get your financial variables correct Crikey!

Your article today. I think you will find that the rise in the Dow (ie US$ value of US shares) is offset to the negative by the strengthening A$ relative to the US$.

You are assuming the movements are both positive – but that is not so. Sales might not be a good idea at present?

Super Norm

Peter Fray

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