Sue Boyce, President, Liberal Women’s Council (Qld), writes: Re. Tips and Rumours (yesterday, item 6). Obviously your “tipster” on Queensland Liberal Party matters dislikes me but unfortunately they’ve let their spite get in the road of the facts. Far from “all but one” of the Executive leaving at the last AGM, only two of the seven of the Liberal Women’s Council officebearers changed. A reasonable balance, I would have thought, between retention of experience and development of new talent. Also, evidence I would have thought that the rest of your tipster’s comments are less than factual.

Peter Morgan, Investment Director at 452 Capital, writes: Can I put something to Treasurer Costello before he gets too carried away with the cute “bear and honey” jingle? The Future Fund has approximately $80 billion to invest; let’s assume the consultant rule of thumb is followed and roughly 40% of this money goes into Australian shares. Now let’s also not forget the Australian sharemarket is close to record highs, has produced 20%+ returns for the last three years to 30 June and is well on the way to doing the same this year. My point to the Treasurer – and I know it’s not conventional – isn’t it possible we could have a correction or, heaven forbid, a bear market develop around the time the Future Fund does its so-called investing? If so, and let’s give the Treasurer some help by not being too pessimistic, if the market falls 10% (still above where it ended 30 June 2006) there’s $3 billion odd gone pretty quickly and what’s to show for it? Zero. Finally, before the industry experts start their twaddle saying sharemarkets always recover, let’s not forget we are talking an upfront $30 billion entry by an investor into the stockmarket and not one averaging in overtime which makes the timing of the entry all that more important. Disclaimer: Potential conflicts of interest. 1) 452 owns Telstra shares which may be an advantage or possibly a disadvantage depending on the fine print of Rudd’s policy. 2) 452 manages money for some clients that we think vote Labor.

Telstra spinner Rod Bruem writes: Re. “Will Telstra cop losing its copper wire under Labor’s broadband plan?” (yesterday, item 1). I believe I’ve been misquoted in the story yesterday on Telstra’s response to the ALP broadband policy. The article says I described the Optus G9 scheme as “just a government spin campaign”. What I actually said was that it was a “PR campaign dreamed up by the regulatory and corporate affairs department to let the government off the hook”. Having the G9 “alternative” out there creates the impression somebody else will invest if Telstra doesn’t, so the Government doesn’t feel pressured to ease regulations that are preventing Telstra investing. In actual fact, while the ACCC Chairman Graeme Samuel is a cheerleader for G9, no members of the Government have offered it any public support as far as I’m aware.

Drew Turney writes: “The copper wire network was Telstra’s ‘key asset'” and “Telstra isn’t about to hand that asset to anyone else”, said Bruem. Therein lies the entire problem with our telecommunications in this country. If you work on the inside of the telecoms field, it’s the tip of the iceberg that Telstra holds other providers over a barrel because it owns the infrastructure on which they rely and competes with them at the same time. Call me a socialist, but as soon as Telstra wanted to go private and play in the telecoms services sandbox with ISPs etc, the government should have cleft it right down the middle ­keeping the copper wire network under public ownership with a big flashing neon sign that said “essential service, not subject to economic forces” and leaving Ziggy, Sol and every other CEO with a silly name to operate on a level field with everyone else.

Richard McGuire writes: It hasn’t taken long for the great Telstra privatisation experiment to begin fraying around the edges. The latest instalment is Kevin Rudd committing a future Labor Government to kickstarting the construction of a high speed broadband network using proceeds from the Telstra sale. On offer is 4.7 billion dollars to be used in partnership with the successful tenderer, be it Telstra or the G9 Consortium, who would then build the network. For Rudd and Labor the devil is in the detail. Unanswered questions remain. Will the government retain its share of ownership once the network is built? If Telstra is unsuccessful in its tender, will it then meekly allow the successful tenderer access to its copper network? How ironic is it that even before the Telstra sell-off is finalised, this injection of what is, after all, government money is needed to get the network up to speed? Are we seeing the reinvention of the wheel here? Howard and Costello can protest all they like; the fact is that the free market utopia they promised is not delivering. In the privatisation of Telstra we witnessed the triumph of ideology, private greed and profit over the national interest. The great Telstra privatisation experiment is a work in progress. Stay tuned. The chickens will be coming home to roost for years to come.

Peter Lloyd writes: I recently moved from Queanbeyan to Tasmania. I sought to move my Optus ADSL to my new address: can’t be done, Optus “don’t service Tasmania”. Seeking to avoid the break fee, I asked to move it to a friend’s address in Queanbeyan. After much toing and froing around Optus’s Indian call centres, it eventually transpired that Telstra could not make the connection from the nearest exchange, because my friend’s six-year-old house is “in such a new area”. Telstra could route the ADSL link in via other exchanges, and this could take “between two days and 12 months”. End result, we are both on Telstra ADSL, like it or not. Lindsay Tanner once had the eminently wise suggestion of breaking up Telstra before selling it. Placing the copper network in the hands of an independent company that seeks only to increase traffic – from any provider – makes sound sense and is therefore beyond our myopic, luddite government.

Neil Pentecost writes: Typical Labor… they want to provide the infrastructure at taxpayer cost. Be buggered. These huge telecommunications giants can and should invest their money, and not ours. The guy from Optus looked like he couldn’t believe his luck. Still pinching himself, I imagine. They were happy to invest. Now St Kevin wants us to pay. If business wants/needs it they will pay. It’s a commercial enterprise just like pay TV. Doh! Does Rudd want to pay for Murdoch’s Foxtel infrastructure too? The reason we have no high speed is sites like Crikey that advocate publicly owned phone companies like Telstra. They wanted to milk every last buck out of the old copper network, and the government can’t be their funder. You guys are unreal. You argue both sides of the coin. Talk about having your cake and eating it too. Give me a break. You guys are in fairyland… again.

Craig Cadby writes: Re. “Is this newfangled broadband a true economic boon?” (yesterday, item 9). The author, a shortsighted economics professor, completely misses the point of investment. In the foreseeable future all music, video, software, communication, etc will be delivered electronically via this interweb thing. These media will become exponentially more complex and of higher quality consisting of larger data sizes requiring more and more bandwidth capability to shift these around the net. Add to this a multiplicity of new and existing services that will be solely delivered over the ever more necessary internet, it seems to “just wait a little longer” for each of them using current infrastructure would be a waste of time. Even an economics professor might understand the relationship between time and money.

Mike Martin writes: Joshua Gans makes some excellent points on Labor’s broadband proposal, but there is more to be said. We have insufficient information to reach a sound view. How many Australian premises could currently receive basic broadband over existing infrastructure? Most of those could also receive 12-24 (nominal) Mbs (ADSL2) broadband with modest telco investment. How many premises would this be? Would extending the scope of ADSL2 cost any more than that of 1 Mbs service? Why is FTTN being considered for premises already within reach of ADSL2? Would 100 Mbs cost more than 12 Mbs? (If so, how much? Should we be considering that instead?) Is Labor’s proposal any less justified than Telstra’s aborted FTTN proposal? If not, why did we not hear the same criticisms of Telstra? Or were they actually made, but lost in the political noise? Until there is a feasibility study on the table with quantified costs, coverage scopes and options, it is impossible to see what should or should not proceed.

John Lawrence writes: Re. “Gunns’ new mill has Tassie’s native forests in its cross-hairs” (yesterday, item 18). Thomas Hunter’s story in yesterday’s Crikey fails to tell the complete story. Gunns currently owns or controls (via MIS schemes) approximately 110,000 hectares of plantations which they will expand to 150,000 hectares during the first five or six years of the mill’s life. If done via MIS schemes the tax subsidy of approximately $4,000 per hectare will amount to a total of $160 million. When the area of plantations reaches 150,000 hectares the annual harvest/ replanting rate will be 15,000 hectares implying a subsidy via the tax system of $60 million per year. With claims of 1600 direct and indirect jobs from the mill, that amounts to a subsidy of nearly $40,000 per job per year. Is this a world class pulp mill or a world class rort?

Helen Armstrong writes: “We’ve done a very conservative calculation and come up with a total area of around 200,000 hectares of native forests being fed to Gunns under this deal, which is over 2,000 square kilometres. That constitutes 15-20% of the total area of Tasmania’s tall eucalypt forests,” Law told Crikey. That will be “devastating” for endangered species like the wedge-tailed eagle”. Last I knew, wedge tailed eagles were hunters of the open grassland. This reminds me of the “Spotted Owl habitat loss” (blamed on grazing cows) in New Mexico’s forests when in fact the wingspan of the Spotted Owl did not allow it passage in the tightly treed forest. Perhaps Mr Law has mixed his species?

Ken Turnbull writes: Re. “The ABC on the ABC, house-ad nauseam” (yesterday, item 20). Can we don ABC uniforms, storm the radio stations and destroy equipment that pumps promotions into programs? Nowadays I listen only in the car, as its steering-wheel audio controls allow me to dump the incessant advertisements. The Abe is not a commercial duck; it just quacks like one. Judging by letters and comments over the past few years many listeners are suffering from promophobia.

Keith Thomas, Nature and Society Forum, writes: Greg Cameron (Thursday, comments), writing about the ownership of rainwater, raises a fundamental issue that applies to all natural resources such as the air that you breath and the sun on your face. It follows, of course, that governments who claim ownership should welcome and be fully liable for any health effects from their polluted products (air) or cancer from their UV enhanced sunshine.

Geoff Walker writes: Please tell me that all the recent kerfuffle in Crikey about entitlements to rooftop rainwater (yesterday, comments) is a beat-up! Surely the question to ask is “how much of our rain actually falls on rooftops?” And to answer this question you look at how much of our wide, brown land is sheltered by rooftops. If the percentage is large there may well be a significant impact. To keep it simple, let’s just talk about dwelling roofs and assume level rainfall throughout Australia. If Australia’s 20 million inhabitants occupy, say, eight million dwellings and each dwelling has, say, an average 200 sq m of roof, then the total rooftop coverage of land is eight million x 200 sq m = 1,600 sq km. Yes, the dwelling rooftops of Australia cover the equivalent of a 40km square of land! By my arithmetic, that’s about 0.02% of the continental land mass! That leaves 99.98% of rainfall escaping the evil clutches of domestic rainwater tanks. Refine the calculation as far as you want and we’re still talking peanuts – so why bother? 

Alex Encel writes: Re. Gareth Darlow (yesterday, comments). After the analogue signal is closed down the power of digital, presently reduced to avoid interference, can be turned up. Rabbit ears can be fine but it will be location dependent.

Anne Turley, Chief Executive Officer, Melbourne Citymission writes: As a major provider of services to young adults confronted with unemployment, homelessness and social exclusion, Melbourne Citymission would love to see what both major parties have to offer on the social policy front. While all the mudslinging in Canberra undoubtedly makes for entertaining conversation in the bars and restaurants of Kingston and Manuka, we ordinary folk are wondering what our leaders are going to do about Australia’s unacceptably high youth unemployment rate, which hovers nationally at around 10%, but is as high as 30% in some suburbs of Melbourne. We’d also like to know what our leaders have to offer in terms of making education and vocational training more accessible for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. All we can see at the moment is spin. Take Andrew Robb’s address to the National Press Club last week. The Minister talked about the poor image of trades and the need for Government to change perceptions. The reality is that if you’re a young person in Melbourne’s western suburbs and you want to do pre-apprenticeship training in the automotive industry, securing a place is akin to winning the lottery – only 30 training places will be available this year. That’s despite a critical skills shortage in areas such as heavy vehicle mechanics. As we head towards a federal election, it’s time for both major parties to put their social policy credentials on the line and show us what they’re going to do to make education and training, housing, health and childcare more accessible for ordinary Australians.

Philip Carman writes: Re. “The shonks driving the mortgage defaults” (Monday, item 25). I couldn’t agree more with (some of) Michael Pascoe’s sentiments about the vertically integrated (I call it serially conflicted) property businesses some are promoting to the punters. But why not get to work on exposing them, Michael? You’re in the journalism game and know more than most about the financial world, so the skulduggery out there should be pretty easy to uncover and put under some light for all to see. Could it be that the potential for litigation is too powerful a disincentive? If so, there’s your answer to the rhetorical question about why others don’t do something… I too would like to see the big banks exposed for their part as well as the people who are doing the integrating/bearing the conflicts named and shamed, but let’s not get bogged down on size – all the crooks in business need to made accountable for the losses they create, rather than allowed to retire to a life of leisure and big boats… I would argue that the potential problems caused by the Westpoints of this world are usually known to their industry colleagues well before they fall over but no one seems willing to try or capable of denting their armour until it’s too late. As an experienced financial adviser I saw them (Westpoint) coming a mile away and warned anyone who would listen, but at the time I didn’t dare risk a lawsuit by broadcasting my comments when it could have done some good. I’m sure a few others would have shared my views but similarly stayed quiet about them for that reason. We all now know that Mr Carey would have stopped at nothing to halt any adverse comments about him or his business dealings. Even (or should that be, especially) ASIC and the ACCC are pretty much powerless to identify these people early enough to stop them doing their dirty work; that is, unless industry players decide to clean up their own game by turning in the shonks amongst them – and pigs might fly! I know in my industry it is impossible to get agreement about who is worth the trouble of kicking out for poor practices, but everyone wishes they had done so after the event, also when it’s too late. How about all industries having to fund a levy that takes some responsibility for its shonks? That would make everyone think twice before ignoring bad practice. It could potentially make everyone a whistle blower… But how would that go down in the land of the “anti-dobbing” culture? Habits and cultures are difficult to change.

Michael Ayling writes: Re. “Howard’s C-130 dash: all the angles” (Monday, item 2). I wish to respond to certain comments made by your “aviation cinematography expert”. I have worked extensively in these aircraft (C130 H and J), with defence. (1) Could it be that there was already a cameraman on the ground before the aircraft landed? The PM was sitting up the front – “the jump seat”, as he mentioned. Therefore almost everybody else in the aircraft would have had an opportunity to exit before him, including a cameraman, even if there wasn’t one on the ground already. (2) As far as the moving propellers go, there are two explanations. First, for anyone who has ever filmed aircraft propellers, they will know that the frame rate is rarely as rapid as the rate of rotation of the propellers, but both move faster than the naked eye can detect. Shot head-on, aircraft propellers almost always look like they’re rotating slowly due to this differential capture rate, just like a computer monitor filmed on camera appears to flicker, because it flickers at a different rate to the camera’s capture rate, but faster than our eyes can perceive, which is why they don’t appear to flicker to the naked eye. Second, it was probably the judgment of the aircrew that an engine shutdown in the event of a smoke or fume-producing process was deemed the safest option prior to exiting the aircraft. The same applies to cars: if the engine is smoking, pull over and switch off! The aircraft had to be brought to a safe stop, but without knowing the cause of the smoke (and hence, possible fire), the pilots would shut down the engine to prevent a fire from starting or to cut fuel to an already burning fire. (3) Regarding why the PM was running and the others walking: Iraq is a dangerous place. As the PM had already announced himself to the Australian soldiers and then departed, there would have been time enough for word to get around about his presence, among locals that is. So if an Australian-marked aircraft (which ours are) takes off and then has to land again, could it be possible that it just might be carrying the PM? Iraqis are not stupid. ADF personnel would know of the added danger from stand-off attacks in such an event and would have moved the PM some distance from such a large, slow-moving target as quickly possible. The PM was the VIP with the bodyguard; it’s up to the others whether they do likewise. The PM’s bodyguard would have simply acted in the most cautious/expeditious manner possible. Most of the smoke or fumes would have dissipated from the cabin by the time they got out and, once in the open air, why bother running, unless you’re a VIP who has just taken off, turned around, landed and spent some time on the ground as a stationary target for insurgents? It all stacks up to me. May I suggest that your aviation cinematography expert concentrate on proving that the lunar landing was a hoax.

Liam Trehy writes: Re. “You say migration, we say unlimited cheap labour” (Monday, item 7). Is there actually a skills shortage or a shortage of employers paying market relevant rates? I would appreciate it if someone could explain who/what decides whether there is a “skills shortage” or if the term is actually just spin-speak/propaganda put into the media by interested business groups, political parties, media outlets etc. It would seem a very good way of excusing the issuing of 457 visas which seem to be having the effect of keeping wages low in a number of professions (truck drivers, tradies etc).

Jay Walker, former Australian correspondent for High Times magazine writes: Re. “Never mind the Afghan opium crop, heroin’s on ice” (Wednesday, item 16). One throwaway line in the whole piece and I’ve been seemingly Charles Richardsoned by John Boxall (comments, yesterday) but since this is pedant’s corner, let me try a George Brandis, an “a” or “the” of being rodent by using the “letter” of the statement as a defence against the ‘spirit’ of its intention. Chiang Rai is both a town and a province and both the towns of Chiang Rai and Mae Sai are in Chiang Rai province. When used on it’s own as here on this Thai tourist website: “The sights of Chiang Rai are often visited on a day-trip from Chiang Mai, but we would highly recommend a one or two-night stay in Chiang Rai town”, it refers to the province. The northern most point of Thailand is the northern most point of the province and is located at “the border crossing between Thailand and Myanmar in the ‘Golden Triangle’ region”. As for its intention, I sit corrected, had forgotten about the day trip from Chiang Rai town to Mae Sai but not the cold beer and lunch on the bank of the border river.

Samantha Bowden writes: Re. Dermot McGuire (yesterday, comments), thanks for the grammatical advice, and the fleeting account of my accolades, one hopes you understand that my comment “Journalism 101” is a colloquial figure of speech  that merely makes reference to the basics of journalism, and whether you learnt this from your multi-tasking history tutor or the side of a cornflakes packet, I’m not fussed. As you’ve demonstrated you have enough time to read Crikey and respond, I’m sure you could Google an online dictionary and find that fortuitous has varying definitions based on the context in which it is used. Your definition is one of many, and I’m polite enough to say it’s correct in definition but not in this context. I used fortuitous – in the context of lucky, fortunate, providential, advantageous, serendipitous, heaven sent – need I go on – these are all legitimate substitutions for fortuitous. (I leant about context and grammar from my journalism tutor in my media and communications degree – probably not as relevant as your history tutor’s knowledge of journalism, though.) And in case that doesn’t stand, the Oxford Dictionary can be such a help! Also I note Crikey’s own spelling watchdog, Charles Richardson, didn’t see fit to pick it up, but I’m flattered I rated so highly in your daily list of priorities. Re. Christian Kerr (yesterday, comments), my point in regard to fact checking and questioning the validity of your remarks still stands reasonably, regardless of the status of my personal relationship with Mark Powell. But I think Tammy Wynette’s words of wisdom “Stand by your man” are apt in this situation.

Adam Rope writes: In response to Mike Burke (Monday, comments), and his request that I provide a summary of my scientific critique to those who critique the scientific consensus on man-made global warming, I have to decline his kind offer, based on two lines of reasoning. One is that I am not an environmentalist, nor climatologist, myself, nor am I actively working in any scientific field (although I do hold a degree in Geology and have some scientific knowledge) so I therefore do not – and did not – claim to be qualified to judge any single “scientific” argument available on man-made global warming. The other reason is that I generally take the Richard Dawkins view, as his on the Creationist Intelligent Design nonsense, in that engaging in a “debate” with those who are deliberately denying or mis-reporting the science behind the evidence of man-made global warming is, in itself, legitimising their falsehood. Having said all that, I do read many of the articles, and critiques, written online – for a daily laugh, Mike, I recommend you read Andrew Bolt’s blog for his latest hilarious outrage at the what the “alarmists” are writing – and through some minimal Google research of my own can usually locate valid criticisms, either scientific or just plain factual, to rebut articles like Bill Broad’s in the SMH, such as the one I provided in my original comment.

Kim Lockwood writes: Re. “The spooks and spivs flock at Avalon” (yesterday, item 4). Tell your resident pedant, Charles Richardson, to tell your man at the Avalon air show that the only Marshall with two ells is a man’s name. The reference in the report should have been to Air Marshal Geoff Shepherd. And tell Michael Pascoe the verb is recur, not reoccur.

Yesterday’s typos (house pedant Charles Richardson casts an eye over the howlers in the last edition of Crikey): Item 2: “… before being transferred back to the Future Fund in yet another outrageous exercising in double counting.” That’s “exercise”, not “exercising”.

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