Nigel Henham, The Age‘s communications director, writes: Re. “Read it, and cheap” (yesterday, item 20). This must surely be a world first: Jonathan Green taking an interest in the business machinations of Fairfax and its subscription strategy! The Age has been extremely successful in driving record subscriptions and growing its circulation and readership. Converting casual buyers to subscribers provides a range of benefits, not least certainty of supply, ongoing contact with a very large loyal reader base providing a range of value-added benefits, and reduced wastage. We would urge all Crikey readers to take advantage of The Age‘s subscription package – as it seems Crikey does for its own readers. What an irony. We note that on your website you offer 39% discounts to students, seniors and concession card holders. One “group” offer for 50 subscriptions or more is priced at $35! Crikey fails to comprehend that the majority of any cover price increase is absorbed in newsagent commissions plus GST. However, if you follow Jonathan’s logic, the Herald Sun must be more expensive than The Age. Not so. The Age, at $2.20 on Saturday minus Jonathan’s “40%” discount for a subscription, equals $1.32. The Herald Sun on Saturday ($1.40) minus Jonathan’s alleged “10%” discount for a subscription equals $1.26. Both papers, which cost less than a cup of coffee, represent great value. In comparison, Crikey at around 30 cents a day (even with significant discounting) for what it produces looks decidedly more and more expensive.

Christopher Armstrong writes: As a student, I’m entitled to get rather large discounts on The Sydney Morning Herald. At the moment, for a measly $20 upfront I can pick up the paper free from my university newsagent every weekday, which equates to about 10 cents per day. They have also thrown in free seven day delivery over the summer holidays ie, weekday papers, the Saturday Herald and the Sun-Herald. No wonder Fairfax’s revenue is going backwards.

New Matilda board member Susie Carleton writes: Re. “Lefties lose $315K as New Matilda to change hands – for $10” (12 February, item 4). Are we all on different pages in our songsters? New Matilda’s white knight was in fact an existing investor and director of NM, supported by my further investment, a founding director. Doesn’t sound like we believe we “lost our dosh”. The level of new and needed investment required a changed governance structure which included the sale of the company. Same editor, same staff, same office, same computers – but new ideas and a site upgrading. No failure, no loss, just growth and development. Grahame Young, Trevor Cook and others etc who are themselves trying to blog out a living were saddened by NM’s flaws, growing pains and inevitable demise. Sorry. But New Matilda survives … and is committed to continuing to provide the same highest quality articles from the same “best of” Australian writers while still remaining unmoved by fear, favour or profit.

Peter Phelps, Chief of Staff to the Special Minister of State and Federal Member for Eden-Monaro, writes: Re. “The obvious seat that’s waiting for Maxine McKew” (yesterday, item 11). If Maxine McKew wants to run for Eden-Monaro, all I can say is “bring it on!” I can think of nothing better to ensure Gary Nairn’s re-election than parachuting in a left-wing, middle-class ex-journalist from Mosman into our part of the world. I’m sure that she’ll go down an absolute treat with the Bega loggers, the Queanbeyan motor mechanics, the Cooma cockies, the Tumut paper-mill workers and the Narooma fishermen! Seriously, it isn’t going to happen – however much Ms Stoyles and I would like it to be true. Labor hasn’t picked anyone for Eden-Monaro for one simple reason: it hasn’t got a credible candidate. Jim Snow (from 1996) is too old. Steve Whan got back-slammed by Nairn in both 1998 and 2001, and not even Labor is going to risk a two-time loser (cf. Kim Beazley), and a three-time loser if you count his abortive run for an ACT Assembly seat in 1995. Kel Watt did even worse in 2004 and has been “missing in action” in the electorate since election day. He’s got zero media in three years. Moreover, it’s widely known that he couldn’t hack the pace of campaigning in 2004 and Sussex Street was pretty peeved by his (lack of) work ethic. Now he’s off as a PR flack for the downtrodden proletariat of the Australian Medical Association. So who’s left? There are rumours of a certain prominent Canberra trade union lackey running for the seat – pity about the fact that he doesn’t even live in Eden-Monaro. Oh, and a word in your shell-like, mate: don’t enrol at the house of a couple of Labor staffers and think that you can get away with rorting the electoral roll, especially when we know that you are living with your wife and kids in Hume. Poor ol’ Labor – it’s a pretty barren field for the bruvvers down here. Maybe “Sista Maxi” is their great white hope after all!

Peter Lloyd (not of the ABC) writes: Maxine McKew for Eden-Monaro? While Megan Stoyles seems to have concentrated on the contentious issue of “what does the electorate have to offer Ms McKew, real estate-wise”, I would have to wonder whether we in the bellwether seat will appreciate Ms McKew’s talents. Eden-Monaro contains the working classes of Queanbeyan itself, the conservative retirees down on the coast, those with a distinct rural identity in the Cooma region, and the “aspirationals” of Jerrabomberra, the growing McMansion zone around Queanbeyan. Very few if any of these people are ABC consumers, and incumbent Gary Nairn does a fantastic job of playing the “down to earth bloke” while handing the largesse to the big end of town. The ALP candidate at the last election, Kel Watt, is a capable man and it is far from “likely” that Steve Whan will lose his seat in March, despite the miserable performance of his party. Maxine McKew is as “Mosman” as can be, and I’ve always had the distinct feeling watching her on ABC that the miseries of society’s lower classes are more of theoretical concern than anything else. Perhaps she could win, but the ALP will gain little credit among locals for such a stunt.

Pippa Davie writes: Re. “Is Kevin Rudd richer than Malcolm Turnbull?” (yesterday, item 1). In yesterday’s email edition, Stephen Mayne (who should know better) consistently named the wife of Kevin Rudd as “Therese Rudd”. I have no doubt that Mr Mayne is aware that she is known publicly and professionally as Therese Rein. If one wanted to, one could suggest that calling Ms Rein “Mrs Rudd” or “Therese Rudd” is as silly as constantly using Barack Obama’s middle name. I thought Crikey’s founder had a higher opinion of his subscribers than to assume they would not understand who was being referred to if Ms Rein was referred to by her own name.

Philip Carman writes: I think most would agree that Kevin Rudd will need to handle the potential conflicts of interest thrown up by the business his wife runs, with great care, but it would also seem a trifle rash to say “It’s time to sell, Kevin!” when it’s probably his wife’s decision that needs to be taken, not his. It may well be a good time for HER to sell up and take it easier and let’s hope she does consider that course of action if HE is to be free of the associated potential conflicts – but the point is that he can’t make that decision about her business. It also begs the question – Who’d want to be a politician, anyway?

Zachary King writes: Come on Mayne, you are better than that, surely. Time to sell up for Rudd? What a joke that is. The sharemarket is going gangbusters at the moment and you say Rudd should sell up and get out just because he will be in a position of conflict? So what is he supposed to do with the money, bury it in the backyard? If he cashes in and puts it all into a savings account earning a whopping 3.45% wouldn’t he then be compromised every time he made a decision regarding the banking industry? Get over it. If you are the leader of this country, you will be be in a position of conflict no matter which way you turn. Yes, there are steps you can take such as establishing a blind trust and these should obviously be taken. Grow up.

Rod Webb writes: What’s good for the goose should be good for the gander: if Crikey can (rightly) claim the high moral ground over Gerard Henderson’s use of Barack Obama’s middle name it can apologise to Sol Trujillo and its readers for the headline “Trujillo pulls a tortilla out of the Telstra enchilada” (yesterday, item 7).

Phil Harrison writes: I bet that if George Bush’s middle name happened to be Adolf, newspapers such as the NY Times and Washington Post – not to mention the Smage – would always use it.

Simon Hoyle writes: Re. “The evidence before our eyes: Costello’s getting tired of waiting” (yesterday, item 2). “Next they’ll say they’re p-ssed with the PM” – in the Australian vernacular, to be “p-ssed” means to be intoxicated or drunk. To be “p-ssed off” means to be angry with. I presume it’s the latter that you mean. Let’s try to keep Americanisms to a minimum, eh?

Scott Buckby writes: I use 457s quite a bit. In fact my workforce of 11 is almost entirely immigrant. I don’t regard 457s as temporary visas – just a means to get skilled workers here. I strongly encourage people who arrive on 457s to apply to PR immediately. We are a tiny division of a $300mil per annum services and contracting company. Where else do we see 457s? They appear to be quite common in the electricity industry. And there’s a fair bit in ancillary mining activities. So, small(ish) businesses, government owned businesses and private companies (us). We recruit Zimbabweans for our company – in my mind it’s kind of enlightened self-interest. Kinda like a private sector refugee program. My next recruitment strategy will be to offer a signing bonus for locals to sign up. Should be cheaper than the relocation costs we incur now!

Geoff Leach writes: I have followed with interest the sequence of stories on S457 visas, currently the subject of a Parliamentary Inquiry – which may be of interest to Crikey readers. What may also be of interest is that the published minimum wage for S457 visa holders is $42,000. The range goes from $42,000 to well into six figures with an across the board average of $70,000. It would be reassuring to think that these are the exploited workers on which our current prosperity is built.

Simon Buckland-Hemming writes: Crikey rarely runs stories without bylines, however item six yesterday, “Lawfare for Dummies: the al-Qaeda manual on how to manipulate legal process” certainly isn’t the story to start with. Some key points: 1) The research for this story was a website theoretically provided by the US Government, quoting an FBI translation. I would attest the translation had a lot more than words added, if such a “manual” even exists. 2) US ambassador Robert McCallum’s description of legal delay fails to detail the illegal attempts made by the US Government to prosecute Guantanamo Bay inmates, making a mockery of the US and others delivering democracy and the rule of law to Iraq. 3) Disastercentre.com, the hosting domain of “the al-Qaeda manual” is owned by an advertising agency, Alaska Internet Marketing, Inc. 4) A search of the fbi.gov site does not return any result using the specific phrase “al-Qaeda manual”, indicating the entire site disastercentre.com is a marketing exercise. 5) Viewing of the SBS doco last night The Power of Nightmares: The Shadows in the Cave should have been compulsory, as it linked the lack of policy of today’s politicians and the need to create not only the global terror threat but also the entire notion of al-Qaeda, an organisation the program alleges was dreamed up by the FBI to enable prosecution under US law. In the context of David Hicks this sounds very familiar.

Andrew Whiley writes: Justin Templer and Bill Holmes (yesterday, comments) attack David Peetz because, yes!, he supports workers’ rights and the role of unions in our society. But where’s the reasoned rebuttal of his analysis? You know, the tedious stuff of collating and checking available information, facts, sources and statistics. Assessing it all. Then drawing conclusions. Then putting it all in the public domain for all to see. Like Peetz has done here. No screeching on at Peetz like a couple of bush galahs, please. If WorkChoices is so beneficial to the low paid and women workers, show us the evidence. Why won’t Minister Hockey make publicly available the full statistical analysis of all the AWAs registered since the new legislation was enacted? Could it be that he (Hockey), like Justin and Bill are afraid that Peetz just may be right?

Michael Lethbridge writes: In reply to Bill Holmes’s comment (yesterday, comments) on research that indicates John Howard’s workplace laws could backfire. I see no reason to accuse David Peetz of bias – surely the figures speak for themselves unless he is accusing him of manipulating the facts. Call me biased if you will; I am a retired unionist and my personal experience is that no owners of capital will willingly share the gains of the business unless forced by action from the workplace. Remove the power of the workers and of course business will seize the opportunity to reduce costs (workers are a cost). Does he not read his history as to workers’ struggles to achieve a reasonable standard of living, what has changed? If Bill Holmes is or has been a worker at the coalface he is incredibly naïve; if he hasn’t then I do not think he has anything to say.

Mark Hely writes: Re. “The tax trap on debt and savings” (yesterday, item 17). In talking about the need to encourage savings, Charles Richardson suggests that “Bank accounts these days are earning interest at about 5%, if you’re lucky”. I recently thought it was about time to start to show my two young children the value of saving by opening a bank account for each of them. I’m afraid I don’t have a spare $10,000 plus to place in a term deposit, so 5% interest is definitely out for us. The best I could get, from one of the big four banks, was 3.3%pa, consisting of 0.3%pa interest, plus a bonus of 3%pa if at least one deposit and no withdrawals are made in the month. What amazed me were the number of financial institutions (in particular credit unions) that offered zero interest!! And these were for accounts specifically tailored for young people. No wonder saving is unfashionable!

Andrew Cameron writes: It always worries me to see contributors to Crikey and other publications “big note” themselves by providing a title, as if their opinion counts more than anyone else’s. Firstly we have Peter Faris QC, spreading the gospel on all matters legal, and otherwise. Now we have “Environmental Consultant” Bernie Masters (yesterday, comments) telling us how burning full size trees and substantial timbers left on the ground in clear-felled forests is essential for re-generation, and how in 100 years they “are virtually identical to their pre-logging condition”. Bernie, clear-felling isn’t about leaving “gaps in the forest canopy” to “provide weed-free environments”. There is no canopy left at all. Looking out my back door in Tasmania I don’t remember the “pre-logging condition” having singe species trees all in nice rows. Why didn’t he just describe himself as “Dumped Liberal Member from WA”?

Ronald Watts writes: Re: Frequent flyers programs. The system of awarding points for all manner of expenditure is a great fraud on the consuming public. Each year, airlines globally award some four to five times as many points as are redeemed. No problem, of course, when you simply devalue the currency when the customers get a bit heated about the difficulty of redeeming them. Your chances of redeeming points on some airlines are less than 10%. It also distorts competitiveness in many ways – eg by influencing employee travel choices to the detriment of employers. It’s very lucrative for airlines, of course: schemes bring in more than US$10bn per annum – in some cases, more than running aeroplanes. But it’s a very bad deal for travellers. It’s a surcharge on travel and everything else involving points. And then there’s the encouragement of a very dirty activity, greenhouse gas-wise. So what to do? Given how unpleasant the whole air travel experience has become, give air travel a miss. But if you can’t do that, I recommend: (a) Sign up with any airline’s scheme when you use that airline; (b) always book the best deal, ignoring points; (c) use points opportunistically, and forget about the ones you lose.

Alan Lindsay writes: Your comment in “State of the Planet” yesterday (item 18) on the world’s first cellulose ethanol plant being held up by bureaucratic inefficiency would appear to be inaccurate if this website can be taken on face value. Canada would appear to be well ahead of the US in this area.

CRIKEY: In yesterday’s political snippets (item 16), we pointed out Kevin Rudd’s resemblance to comedian Sue-Ann Post. Somewhere along the way, we’d forgotten the original genius for this comparison, a blog called Itemisation. Apologies. Click here for the original post.

Send your comments, corrections, clarifications and c*ck-ups to [email protected]. Preference will be given to comments that are short and succinct: maximum length is 200 words (we reserve the right to edit comments for length). Please include your full name – we won’t publish comments anonymously unless there is a very good reason.

Peter Fray

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