Centenary House

Has it escaped everyone’s notice that when this 15 year lease was being
negotiated very few people believed there was a low inflation era ahead
of us. One economist from a Regional bank was stating this but no
one else to my memory.

In my walking around the corridors of Parliament House I found
neither the Member for Bennelong nor the Member for Higgins thought
this would be the case.

If you went on history then the increase in rent was in line with the
trends. What happened of course was that Bernie Fraser arrived and
ensured inflation remained low hence the nominal rent appears out of
the ordinary.

In Capitalism some organisations win from contracts and some lose. The
ALP had Lend Lease negotiating for them and obviously did a fine job.

The major question to ask is why wasn’t an inflation clause put in ie.
the rent does up by the official CPI rather than what they thought
inflation would be.

Homer Paxton

Thin spin from Forestry Tasmania

Last weekend my partner and I took a drive through the Tahune Forest in
the Huon Valley of Tasmania. As we entered the winding wooded roads the
Forestry Tasmania public relations messages became increasingly
aggressive and ubiquitous.

Signs along the road every kilometre or so told us about the ‘multiple
uses’ of the ‘living forest’ and how Forestry Tasmania was ‘growing our
future’. We were gobsmacked by the audacity of the company’s
spin-doctors when we saw one sign which read “Rehabilitation following severe wind damage November 2002”.

Are they serious? I mean this windstorm
must have blown around a passing truckload of chainsaws!

2004 election is a Howard referendum

I’ve been hassling Bob Brown for months about Andrew Wilkie in Bennelong.
Look at the 1998 returns. Unity and Hanson were the big winners
that year.

If Labor stays out, and the Dems jump ship, then Howard will down to preferences if they can repeat 98 and double it again.

The next election will be a mini referendum on Howard and whether it is
okay for Democracies to lie about why they go to war. Only a fool
would discount the impact of a Wilkie running under the Green ticket
against Howard.

This is a serious challenge that will force Howard back into his
electorate to fight for every vote. Don’t be surprised if history
gets made in more ways than one at this next election.

In the meantime the challenge is on. It’s out of the gate. And the
build up will begin in the shadows. Remember the mere reality of facing
a party room vote will be humiliating for Howard. You must have
contacts to give you a very nasty rundown on how to destroy Howard will
out it been a blood bath in the actual party room.

Howard’s only defence at this point is a quick snap election. But he
needs Telstra up as a DD before he can move. If the non-govt parties
are smart they’ll delay until mid year on Telstra and kill the DD
process by June 30. In fact doesn’t the effective DD end date come
forward from June 30 due to the process of calling an election.

But Costello needs to write his own May budget without Howard in the way, so he has to move sooner rather than later.


The Mechanic

– how does the Howard Government rate?

I found your recent article on privatisations interesting.
However, I shouldn’t think the Commonwealth Bank float could be
classified as a disaster for taxpayers simply because of the large
value appreciation subsequent of the float. The key issue is
whether, at the time of the float, the value received was fair.
It is arguable that the value appreciation subsequent to the float
could not have been achieved had CBA remained Government owned.
So the value appreciation subsequent to the float might be interesting,
but not relevant to the question of whether the Government did a good
job of the privatisation process. Please correct me if I have
misinterpreted your article.

As a side issue with Telstra, as I understand it, the anti-Telstra
privatisation types argue that bush services are not up to scratch and
until they are, Telstra should not be sold (or alternatively, Telstra
should never be sold, but let’s leave that alone for the moment).
Assuming the Government could sell its stake in Telstra at something
approaching the current price (the blockage discount should not be
large and would probably be offset by the price increase should full
privatisation be passed) the Government is still sitting on something
in the order of a $30 billion block of Telstra shares (the Government
owns approximately 6.4 billion shares, the market cap of Telstra
(circa. $30b) as quoted by most data providers (eg, CommSec) give a
market cap based only on the 50% of total shares which are in free

The Government has flogged the “Provision of services has
nothing to do with ownership” line pretty hard it but doesn’t seem to
have got them too far. To my knowledge, to this day no
pro-privatisation types have to run the simple argument that were the
Government to sell its stake, the $30 odd billion raised could fund
some pretty trick bush services with maybe a few quid left over.
This is obviously too simple so there must be something more sinister
to it?


Defence reporters and their sources

I was deeply impressed with the article Defence Reporters and their
sources by Mr Sasha Uzunov. He hit the nail on the head with his
analysis of defence and war reporting. It’s about time the so-called
experts were given a run for their money.

It doesn’t surprise me to see that News Ltd did not run the story, even
though it was favourable to Ian MacPhedran. Maybe Mr Uzunov needs to
find himself a “relative” within News Ltd to get published.

Aussie Jo Naybors

Defence – know your guns

Sasha Uzunov (Defence reporters and their sources) was ‘astounded’ that
many journalists do not know the difference between a Steyr assault
rifle and the M16.

“We would not tolerate a lawyer who was not qualified representing us
in court, yet we allow ‘unqualified” journos to report on defence.”

Uzunov then describes the RPK as a ‘light machine gun’. It is a
heavy machine gun. The appearance and most likely tactical employment
of them is significantly different.

Then follows a discussion about WMD, what they look like, and how would a journalist know if he/she fell over one.

Nerve agents, a type of WMD, are colourless, odourless liquids,
particularly lethal to humans, which can be distributed as a liquid or
in the air as a vapour or as aerosol particles. They can be
manufactured by similar techniques in similar plants to insecticides.

Here is a task for the obviously highly trained and experienced Uzonov.
There sits two unmarked spray cans. One contains fly spray
(non-allergenic, lemon scented), the other the rapid acting nerve gas
GB (Sarin), which can cause miosis, loss of muscular coordination,
headache, confusion, coma, convulsions and death. Without wearing
individual protection, pick up one can and spray gaily.

Yours etc

WA Reid

V/Line partial upgrade of Geelong line

The Vic government seems to be up to something with the rail network
upgrade to the regional cities. The start time of the project was in
disarray almost up to Xmas and it looked like something would have to
give or run overtime. It looks like they came up with a sneaky way
around the problem. During the Geelong line closure, one line was fully
upgraded but the other appears to be less than 50% done.

If you want to confirm it, take a Sprinter ride and look out the back
window of the last carriage. You can easily tell which wooden sleepers
have been replaced with the concrete ones. I hear on the grapevine that
V/Line staff expected the whole line to be done. You can call me a
cynic but I suspect the timing is important either for an election or
an avoided budget overrun.

It will be interesting to see if one trip is quicker than the return when the new rolling stock arrives.


Why I like the present government

We all know Crikey don’t like the present government because you have
given me, and many others, just that impression. I wonder how?

But we all know that much of these billions that are forthcoming at the
moment came from big, and I mean big company good times last year
taxes. Of course let us not forget the GST which wasn’t wanted by the
Labor party, Federal and State, remember? Or is your memory that short.

But each of the Labor states knows how to bitch when they don’t get
enough of the GST tax, don’t they? and it’s not split up by Cozz or
little Johnny either is it, remember? So please, get real with
your very vitriolic attacks on the present government policies.

We have little unemployment and they are mainly those that wouldn’t
work in an iron lung anyhow. Excellent GNP growth, very low interest
rates as compared to that other mob (I paid 15% when I built my house).
Low inflation, you beaut. And believe it or not when I am sick, which
is often, I dig around and get myself a good GP who bulk bills and
doesn’t charge the earth as well and keeps me walking around!

On top of that, I use my brain when I analyse which of the parties can
manage our good hard-earned taxes and as long as I can remember from
Whitlam through Hawke to Keating, it ain’t that mob of thugs either.

For God’s sake, can you imagine that clown Kevin Rudd running around as
Foreign Affairs Minister? He won’t, or can’t answer a simple question
put to him on his favourite program Lateline, on the ABC, and other
programs that he is interviewed on. Including the poor hacks with
microphones and notebooks at the ready when he shows his face sometimes.

I could go on and on Stephen, but I appreciate your very good daily
newsletter, it’s different to the tabloids and broadsheets but get a
lot unbiased man. Your favouritism shows very plainly. Lets face it
Stephen, wasn’t it a Labor main that took you to the cleaners for your
house and all and can’t run chook raffles without losing the tickets?

We could do without any more sermons on the mount…..yes Mount
Pritchard I mean on how to raise my kids and my male masculinity,
especially how to read to my children at bedtime or any other time
inclusive and that I pick without any advice or political interference.

The Opposition Leader has been there long enough now to start unfolding
some policies (if they/he has them) without having to wait until, as he
often says, the Government brings down the next budget.

What a lot of rubbish we voters have to put up with.


The real meaning of “freeway”

In Question Time yesterday (04/03/04), Peter Costello had a go at the Bracks Government in the following terms:

“What part of the word ‘freeway’ do you not understand? The word
‘freeway’ is made up of ‘free’ and ‘way’. Either the Bracks government
does not understand ‘way’ or it does not understand ‘free’.”

While I agree with the Treasurer that tolls on our roads should be
avoided wherever possible, I couldn’t help but laugh at his ironic
comments. They revealed that Costello doesn’t understand the word

“Generally a freeway is a grade separated divided highway designed for
high speeds. Contrary to popular belief, a freeway is not a highway
‘free’ from tolls. The ‘free’ in freeway instead refers to a
legislative definition passed by the California Legislature in 1939
which provided for a highway that would be free of encroaching
properties and which provided for control of access. At the time this
was very controversial since property owners next to the road could
have no rights of direct access.’

Glossary of Highway Terms

Indeed, section 23.5 of the California ‘Streets and Highways Code’ provides that:

“‘Freeway’ means a highway in respect to which the owners of abutting
lands have no right or easement of access to or from their abutting
lands or in respect to which such owners have only limited or
restricted right or easement of access.”

I know I’m being pedantic and I know Costello’s comment was just a
cheap gag to make the evening news, but changing the meaning of words
is a dangerous habit to form.

Especially if you are going to challenge for the Prime Ministership… or maybe you’re not. Who knows?

Robert Corr