In this bumper edition of Yoursay, everyone is having their say on
everything from Melbourne Ports MP Michael Danby and his criticism of
SMH columnist Alan Ramsey to disasters with Foxtel Digita, sexism
in the NRL and political nepotism.

Is Danby’s seat in danger?

With regard to Danby’s attack on Ramsay – you need to read between the
lines. Why is Danby having a whack at an anti-Howard
journo? Because Danby is more interested in saving himself than
helping the ALP.

Word on the street is that Danby is facing a real challenge for his
seat of Melbourne Ports – the Libs have actually finally decided to
field a half-decent candidate in David Southwick (also Jewish, like
Danby), and Danby has expressed concern that he has a real fight on his
hands.

To avoid losing his seat – Danby needs to shore up the Jewish vote –
and that means Pro-Israel. Danby and the ALP have come under fire
for not pulling Julia Irwin and Tanya Plibersek into line over the last
couple of years and Danby is desperate to hold his “Pro-Israel” title.

Whilst the enemy of your enemy is your friend….Not when it comes to your own skin!

Port Watcher


What was Danby’s motive with Ramsey

Danby’s attack on Alan Ramsey had less to do with Alan’s anti-Israel
stance than his never ending attacks on Howard, who seems to be Danby’s
hero – the Man of Steel can do no wrong. It seems unbelievable that
Danby hasn’t been rolled in pre selection battles – he should be in the
Liberal Party. I can’t find any references to an attack by Michael on
kids being held in detention centres, or on kids overboard, or on the
lack of WMD’s or on the outrageous silence on the treatment of two
Australians in Guantanamo Bay where they are probably the play things
of US guards. I wouldn’t think Ramsey will be losing much sleep over
the attack – and his column next Saturday will probably be required
reading.

Barry Everingham

In defence of Michael Danby

I am very disappointed at you and your correspondent’s Jew baiting of
Michael Danby. Michael is an Australian Federal MP who happens to be
Jewish. He is also seen as a strong supporter of Israel. However
he is a multi dimensional person who stands up for many issues on
behalf of his constituents.

While he may be vocal on Israel he is also vocal on other International
issues such as Tibet, Rwanda and Sudan. From viewing the Parliamentary
website just this week he has made the following speeches in
Parliament: on this year’s Budget, Defence Procurement, Government
Advertising, Medicare, Uni funding and more. Michael has served his
electorate of Melbourne Ports proudly and works tirelessly for his
constituents.

While I don’t agree with Michael on all matters political, I find it
peculiar that you give such emphasis to Michael’s background rather
than focusing on the issue of Ramsay’s “Scissor and paste jobs” (by the
way as I remember it Crikey has been critical for a long time of this
excessive use of transcripts in the Ramsey columns). Michael has raised
serious allegations about Ramsey. They have not been rebutted by anyone
at Fairfax. They were raised by Michael not only because he is a Jew,
but because he has been on the receiving end of Ramsey’s bile and
bitterness as so many have in the past. You question his motives
that he has done it because he is a Jew. Are Australian Jews not
allowed to raise questions on any topic without being seen solely as
Jews?

That says more about Danby’s critics than about him!

Yosi Tal
Leichhardt


In defence of Alan Ramsey

Well done to Alan Ramsey for being one of the very few journalists, and
probably the only opinion columnist to stand up to the pro-Israel lobby.

As a reader of the Melbourne Age I envy Sydneysiders. No writer
at the Age will dare criticise Israel for fear of causing offence to
Melbourne’s influential Jewish community.

Tom

It was time for PP McGuinness

Paddy McGuinness has been a pompous, hypocritical and self-admiring
humbug ever since he first propped up the back bar at the Criterion.
That he now is leaving the Herald will improve that sad rag. For some
years now Paddy has been incapable of writing analytically, and this
week the bare-faced cheek of his spray at Michael Moore’s latest movie,
which Paddy hasn’t seen, and his ad hominem abuse of Moore as fat and
scruffy – a perfect description of Paddy – typified his declining
years. That he signed off his letter as Paddy AO says it all.
Good riddance to the old egotist, I say.

B Moore

How many people actually read Andrew Bolt?

In Wednesdy’s sealed section, you say “Bolt’s weird logic is so
far-fetched it’s amusing” – no quarrel there – and “What’s frightening
is that it’s also the gospel for thousands of devoted Herald Sun fans.”

I’m not so sure about this last point. How many people actually read
Bolt, or any other Herald Sun columnist, for anything other than
amusement value? It would be interesting to know. My guess, for what
it’s worth, is not very many.

People who are serious about politics or current events are
realistically going to prefer the Age or the Australian. The Herald Sun
caters to people who are more interested in the sports news and a quick
grasp of the headlines – and of course to look at the pictures (not
surprising that in its former incarnation it was called the “Sun
News-Pictorial”). So I suspect that the circulation figures are
misleading, and that Bolt is there more to serve the prejudices of the
publishers than the readers.

The frightening thing is elsewhere: that Bolt is taken so seriously by
right-wing intellectuals and political operators. He is regularly
quoted with approval, gets featured at forums and book launches, and
last year was being seriously talked about as a Liberal Party senate
candidate. Surely the right has enough troubles without getting tied up
with purveyors of racial and religious hatred.

Former Liberal Staffer

Greedy Harvey Norman

I was fascinated by your item on how Gerry Harvey became a billionaire
– Harvey Norman’s general reputation, in Sydney at least, is of being
the most expensive supplier of computer equipment and software, and is
generally given a wide berth by those in the know. Obviously not
enough people are “in the know” as I assume they do very well.
Maybe if all these suppliers told them to stuff it, things would change!

Jennie Owen

Harvey Norman’s just capitalism at work

Good on Gerry – I used to work in the Hi Fi Business years ago, and I
might have one or more ways of making profit that Gerry has not thought
about, but no sympathy for the Giants in the industry- making a loss –
hah.

What everyone forgets is there is but one beneficiary, the consumer –
and while Gerry makes his motzahs, the consumers have an overabundance
of low priced, good quality TVs, VCRs, DVDs, washing machines, you name
it, that would make the princes and princesses of 100 years ago green
with envy. But Gerry’s business has a limited lifetime, because his
master, the consumer, is fickle, and as long as he supplies what they
want, he will be rich. The minute he doesn’t, crash bang.

Don’t tell me the wops in Sony, Philips etc are doing it hard – wank.
Loss leaders – hah – Panasonic have a marketing system – new tech comes
out as JVC, motzah’s made, and then mass marketed under the Panansonic
label, then down the feeding chain under different labels.
Capitalism – I love it.

Failures? Betamax, Ford Edsel, and heaps more – 48 track Stereo tapes, another dud.

The mob? They make Gerry rich, not his hard bargaining with his
wholesalers – if they are unhappy with his operation, Coles MegaMart
would love to get a better wholesale price – that would give Gerry a
few frights.

Captain Capitalism

Harvey Norman’s massive profit margins

Be fair to Gerry Harvey being the market leaders, their prices and
service levels set the benchmark for the rest of the industry. And what
benchmarks!

In software and hardware sales, we just set our prices at $5 less than
Harvey Norman’s normal prices. This gives us a gross margin of 30-40%
on most items. Given that Gerry screws the distributors and buys by the
pallet load, the profit margins for HN must be exceptional.

Then there’s service levels. Thanks to Harvey Norman, and Bigpond, the
rest of us can get away with anything. No matter how ill-trained,
incompetent or ignorant of consumer law we are, you can be sure the
poor punter has learned that service will be much worse at the computer
superstore or on the “help”
line. Gerry Harvey is a genius, his stores set the standards the rest of us in the industry aspire to.

Keep up the good work.

The Computer Guy

Telstra and George Patts

On the Telstra – George Patterson Bates deal, as I recall Crikey was
the only voice who questioned the propriety of awarding a tender-free
contract at the time. I note finally the questions are being asked. As
somebody who is both a part owner of Telstra (ie the government owned
bit, not the private shares!) and a former Patts employee, and having
seen how that business was run, the whole concept fills me with fear
and loathing. For Bob Mansfield to come out and state that all he did
was direct high level Patts people in the right direction (presumably
from his Sydney office in the Patts building…) sickens me with his
outrageous arrogance.

Keep it up, The Adman


More disasters with Foxtel digital

Several weeks ago Foxtel brought me up to date by installing its new
baby, Foxtel Digital in my eastern suburbs home. When asked if I still
wanted to subscribe to the magazine I said, “Yes”, thinking nothing
more about it.

Well, what arrived in my mailbox was the May 2004 ‘Digital’ edition,
and I was extremely disappointed to see how different it was from its
analogue predecessor. Gone were all the detailed and columned
channel-by-channel program listings that I had relied on since the
mid-nineties when I first signed up with the pay-TV service provider.
Instead, we have a new ’31-Day Foxtel Digital TV Guide’ which previews
just five or six ‘picks’ per day and, apart from a useful A-to-Z guide
to its premiere movies and various glossy promotions, that’s basically
it.

I thought: “This is like having The Green Guide without any program
listings!” It’s sacrilege, especially as Foxtel still calls it a ‘TV
Guide’. It gets even worse.

My request to have the old magazine reinstated was refused point-blank.
They said the computer system will not permit the ordering of the
analogue magazine for digital customers. So I cancelled my subscription
then and there. I know the analogue May issue exists; I’ve seen it at a
friend’s. But they won’t let me have it, despite the fact I’m now
having to pay more than ever to ‘get it on’.

They also told me that both the Foxtel website and the new on-screen TV
guide would provide the detailed information I sought. Well, the
on-screen guide will only show you programs seven days ahead, and in
three-hour lots – a tedious exercise! As far as the Web is concerned,
there’s a lot of clicking required, and even printing too, and I’d
rather open a magazine than turn on my computer every time.

I also know that Foxtel Digital’s sister service in New Zealand, Sky
Digital has had a very similar on-screen guide for several years, yet
continues to publish monthly a comprehensive written version for all
its customers. Why does its trans-Tasman relative have to be so
different, I wonder? Also, many elderly people aren’t too good with
computers and multi-buttoned remote-controls, and why should they be
disadvantaged?

I understand there have been many complaints to Foxtel about this, and
I wonder if you people felt it was a story worth following up, or what?

Bill Lees
Melbourne


Pollies have no idea about nepotism

As one of those many people who both vote and pay taxes, I must say in
response to Dee Alty’s piece in defence of political nepotism, that
it’s typical that a pollie or a relative of a polly has no idea as to
what the community thinks. The big difference between media and
business’s employing rellies is 1. We voters do not pay for it, 2. They
are not accountable to the public and 3. Pollies are supposed to (big
laugh here) be acting for us, the community – not their relatives or
their bank balances.

Never ceases to amaze me how pollies simply have no idea.

Aniko Cripps Clark

Nepotism: private vs public

Nepotism is a tricky issue. As a partner in a private business I can
choose to employ my brother or my best friend and they do a rotten job,
it is my money and my business on the line.

On the other hand, where the money being used to employ the person is
not mine (because the position is with publicly listed company or a
government position) – then I need to answer to the stakeholders in
that organisation. Many organisations have specific procedures for
employing people that allow the stakeholder (aka shareholders) to see
that they are getting their money’s worth with each employee and that
the best person for the job is being employed. Simple rules like
advertising the job widely and undertaking a reasonable interview
process.

As a citizen of Australia and hence a stakeholder in the government
surely I am entitled to demand that when the government employs people
with public funds, that they can show procedures designed to ensure
that my money is being well spent. Most (if not all) government
departments have such procedures in place – so are there similar
guidelines for persons employed in the offices of politicians?

I don’t question that many family members have the skills and
qualifications to do the jobs they are employed to do by their
politician relatives. The question must be, could someone else be doing
a better job for the same salary – and if the answer is yes, then the
public is being ripped off. I realise that there is always someone out
there somewhere who could “do a better job” – and obviously it doesn’t
make sense to track down every possible person who could do the job.
All that is needed is a straightforward set of rules for the selection
process of all people being employed by government money. Then people
like Dee can point at that process and say “I competed fairly for this
job and was awarded it on my abilities”.

Isn’t that what this government is supposed to be all about – open competition.

Of course if the relative in question chooses to volunteer their time
for no payment, or the politician pays them out of their own personal
funds, then that is another issue entirely.

Michelle Davis

Is Hillary being a little harsh?

I always enjoy Hilary’s pieces, but I feel her latest, “Liberals: dead;
Labor: dead useless”, is a little hard on the Labor front bench. While
I agree that one the surface reading and the implied view of the
electorate, Crean would make an iffy Treasurer, it’s surely in office
that such people are made, not on the opposition benches.

I remember in the term before the election of the Howard Government
doing a similar analysis, and coming to the honest conclusion that the
Coalition front bench was either smarmy, over confident types
(Costello) or (more commonly) the usual born to rule,
idiot-sons-of-the-aristocracy types (eg Downer, Moore, Anderson). The
Labor Ministry by comparison contained a large amount of talent, much
subsequently lost.

Even I, a rusted on Labor supporter, have to say that the Tories have
usually had the appearance of a fairly good grip in government.

The point I am trying to make is that often government makes the
minister, not the other way around. Can Costello personally take the
credit for the state of the economy? A lot of it has to do with good,
consistent advice from key bureaucrats (not to mention the bold
reforms, if not always good shepherding, of the economy by Keating).
Similarly, do Downer’s shallow, albeit usually coherent and
statesmanlike, utterances come from his inbred brain–the one that
cooked up “the things that batter”? More likely, the plot is cooked up
in DFAT and delivered plausibly.

I seem to remember Simon Crean, post union days, being applauded as a
reasonably capable Minister for Primary Industry under Hawke. Treasury
is more taxing, but one receives more help. McMullan would certainly
make a great Minister for Finance. Jenny Macklin is not sharp, but is
every bit as workman-like in her way as her Labor predecessors as
deputy PM, say, Lance Barnard or Lionel Bowen. The Ferguson twins are a
worry, but have their place.

The resources and air available to a government and its individuals
inevitably make them appear of a better quality that the alternative,
except in rare cases (eg Whitlam v McMahon).

Chris

No wonder NRL has issues with women

Just got back to my hotel after venturing to my first State of Origin
match at Telstra Stadium tonight. My one observation (other than it was
a close match and wrapped up in extra time with a great field goal) was
what the hell are the NRL on about?

In a week (or is that year) where most people would choose “sex
scandal” as a synonym for “rugby league” in a word game there were no
less than four, yes four, blatant sexist episodes.

The first was an ad by an official sponsor (Tooheys New) showing a 5
foot man dancing with his head in the cleavage of a 6 foot woman. The
next was a Cougar ad, enough said. Then there were the X-Box
cheerleaders (not in NSW colours) advertising Microsoft’s game console.
Last but not least, the Wizard girls who waved flags and carried on at
the half time goal kicking competition.

I would have thought that from the top down the NRL would have been
tiptoeing through the night and trying to remind people that the actual
game is what’s important. I can’t remember ever seeing anything like it
at an AFL game, and certainly not at a Super 12 or cricket match.

The Mexican

Re: why are our cricketers still in Zimbabwe?

When is someone gonna wedge the PM on this issue? He’s usually very
happy to weigh in on sporting issues “at a time of his choosing”.
Howard’s been loud and proud about Zimbabwe, and is want to use
cricketers for reflected glory at the drop of a baggy green hat. How
’bout some reflected shame? Isn’t there a journo out there who can make
him duck and weave on this issue? Time for some real sport!

MH

Qantas: a view from the cabin crew

Dear Crikey, keep up the good work. I work for Qantas and have done for
the last 18 years as a long haul flight attendant. What really sticks
in my craw is the pure hypocrisy that Qantas management practise on a
daily basis. The issue of Qantas employing off shore based crew is an
issue that strikes at the heart of employment and employment practices
in Australia. Qantas pay its foreign workers substantially less than
Australian based crew for the same work and in some cases for more
work. They get around the moral issue by saying that the foreign crew
live in cheaper cultures that cost less. So what! This is pure 19th
century Colonial exploitation. If this is the way that a company that
dares have the logo “Spirit of Australia” behaves then surely we as
Australians should be able to force the company to change it’s logo and
at least be truthful in it’s intentions. Surely a better logo and more
accurate is “Spirit of the Dollar and exploitation of foreign workers”.

Robert

Trish is not the only ravel rorter

Arguably less blatant, the travel rorts of the Australian Trade
Commission (Austrade) are undoubtedly more taxing on the taxpayers’
purse.

Three or four times each year the Austrade North East Asia management
team (some 30 Trade Commissioners plus support staff plus guests) like
to get together and wrestle with the big issues facing Australia’s
exporters.

Somewhere central with cheap and direct flights? Hong Kong, Tokyo or
Seoul? No, they like the white beaches of Vietnam at least twice a
year. To be precise – and at the cost of another couple of hundred
dollars each (each way) as there are no direct International flights –
to Danang.

Makes sense, Vietnam’s inexpensive isn’t it? Not Danang, rooms at the
five star resort cost $200 AUD per night. Taxpayers screwed again.

But it doesn’t stop there, because all the staff in NE Asia enjoy white
beaches too. Every year between 50 and 100 of the NE Asia staff are
treated to a 3 day jaunt to Vietnam, Okinawa, Pusan or some other
exotic beachside resort. At least half of the cost is collected by the
taxpayers. But they’ll be proud to know that half of one of these days
is dedicated to ‘team building’!

One could be forgiven for sympathising with these hard workers – who
surely deserve a little bonus for their hard work – if it wasn’t for
their already hefty (up to 25%) performance bonuses built into their
salary.

I hope Australian exporters are satisfied.

Anonymous

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