WorkChoices and government advertising spending:

Matt Cowgill writes: Re. “Joe Hockey and that $100 million war chest” (Friday, item 5). Amidst all the current IR chatter, one interesting issue is being ignored: that of Notional Agreements Preserving State Awards (NAPSAs). NAPSAs cover employees who were covered by state awards prior to WorkChoices, and have now moved to the federal jurisdiction, but have not signed AWAs or entered into other forms of registered agreement. For most people on NAPSAs (and this includes a lot of small retail shops, cafes, child care centres, etc.) the status quo has been largely maintained. They may not have noticed WorkChoices yet. However, NAPSAs are due to expire on the 26 March, 2009 (see Workplace Relations Act 1996 (C’th) Schedule 8, Division 2, s.38A(1)). At this time, a whole lot of award-dependent employees will cease to be protected by the terms of their old state award. It’s an interesting political timebomb, set to detonate well after the looming federal election.

Stu Annels writes: What I want someone in the Government to explain is why, if I have a good work history with over eight years with my former employer, in a technology-based industry, who presents well, is articulate, has had held responsible positions, sat on OH&S committees, completed regular stints as a team leader, and who is not looking for jobs beyond his capabilities in a time of high employment, am I struggling to find work that pays me more than $40k pa? Granted, my best skills relate to customer interaction/service, and my last position in the company I worked for is not something that most companies would know exist, but, if in a time when employer groups are screaming for good staff, why am I being offered around $20k less than my last role? I know that I was well paid in my former role, but, really! $20K less? In a time of close to full employment? I think that alone says something must be wrong with worst choices, as the unions call it…

Terry Mills writes: The attempts by Joe Hockey to ignore and bypass media questions on the costs of advertising WorkChoices Mk II have been surreal and then I notice some very odd Australian Government advertising over the weekend, including a full page (Australian Magazine) ad by DFAT promoting travel insurance; a worthy endeavour, but why taxpayer-funded, surely the insurance industry and travel agents could adequately promote their own products. Similarly, the media blitz of blue umbrellas as the Australian Government promotes the benefits of private health insurance. Then there is superannuation and yet another full pager (again Australian Magazine) for an asthma action plan booklet. Is this necessary information that the Government has a duty to impart to us, as ministers would have us believe, or is it a subliminal message identifying the Government with every aspect of our wellbeing: from the workplace to our health, retirement etc? All this from a Liberal conservative government normally happy to be identified with small government.

Niall Clugston writes: Re. “A tale of fog, woe and havoc in our federal skies” (Friday, item 17). “A bemused baggage handler” writes of the “American award conditions” of United Airlines flight crews. In fact, awards are unique to Australia, and American workplace relations are what Howard’s reforms are intended to move us towards.

Howard, the polls and electioneering:

Charlie Prell writes: Re. “Double whammy: The Government and Howard locked into defeat” (Friday, item 11). I have read a lot of comment about the near certainty of a Kevin Rudd-led Labor Party win in the coming federal election. This seems to be on the mark, but there is one coming event that most political observers are refusing to consider. There is an APEC forum in Sydney in September. The cheapest and most effective political campaigns are based on fear. If there happened to be a terrorist attack, or even a terrorist scare, during the APEC forum the population would be running scared and reticent to vote for change. If you think this is a conspiracy theory, then cast your mind back to the 2001 federal election. John Howard’s Liberal Party were dead in the water until the Tampa incident and the whole People Overboard issue, which catapulted the Liberal Party back into power on the back of a “fear factor” campaign. I’m not saying the Howard Government orchestrated the Tampa incident. But John Howard, similar to George Bush after September 11, was smart enough to take the full political advantage of the event.

John Kotsopoulos writes: Howard destroyed Costello’s Budget with his ill considered and ill-prepared backflip on IR just as surely as Costello idiocy destroyed Campbell’s career in the Burke affair. And these two have the hide to talk about experience and judgement.

Costello, Howard and the World Bank:

Michael Fisk writes: Re. “The PM, the pretender and the really big bank option” (Friday, item 9). A modest proposal for you. The only way Crikey subscribers are going to be able to fully appreciate Christian Kerr’s contributions to national life is if, before reading them, we can smoke what he smokes before writing them. Peter Costello or John Howard for World Bank president. Wow man, like, can you dig it! Far out and totally unreal. So, how about offering a free sample with each new subscription or subscription renewal? “Open the email and don’t Boggie the spliff” could be your new advertising slogan. It’s bound to be a winner for you, in some circles at least. And readers get to chortle and giggle along as they take a trip to Planet Kerr. A win-win situation.

Vincent Burke writes: Whilst it is very tempting to suggest we send a petition to George Bush urging him to appoint John Howard as the next president of the World Bank (or Costello if Howard really can’t be budged) — anything to get rid of either! My money is on Tony Blair to snare the job.

Naltrexone:

Ben Haines, ex-research fellow, National Drug Research Institute, writes: Re. “Naltrexone III: The clash between zero tolerance and harm minimisation” (Friday, item 4). Congrats to Ray Moynihan for injecting some rare intelligence into discussions of drug policy. However, the article falls into the common journalistic ‘balance’ trap in presenting the two philosophies (harm minimisation and zero tolerance) as being of even roughly comparable stature. Within the scientific and health research community, there is zero tolerance for zero tolerance. Harm minimisation is evidence-backed medicine at its finest; zero tolerance is faith-based policy at its worst, and it typically finds little support from the scientific and healthcare communities. The article might also have mentioned that Dr Wodak is also the director of Drug and Alcohol Services at St Vincents Hospital, and in that role is one of Australia’s premier experts on the medical treatment of drug related harm. He is extremely widely published in peer-reviewed medical journals in Australia and internationally. Dr O’Neill, on the other hand, is an ex-obstetrician and gynaecologist, with (to the best of my knowledge), limited experience in the drug and alcohol field prior to opening his naltrexone clinic. ABC news has also reported that Dr O’Neill also owns the company that produces the implants used in his government-funded research.

Why Nine is failing:

Brian Mitchell writes: Re. “McGuire: an expensive failure” (Friday, item 22). Nine’s ratings are falling because it produces rubbish TV. Worse, the rubbish it produces is either boring or painful to watch. Take game shows: Channel Seven has the marvellous Andrew O’Keefe (witty, casual, friendly) on the suitcase-for-cash show and also The Rich List. Both are fast-paced and fun to watch; the suitcase show in particular has plenty going on to hold viewer interest. Compare them to Nine’s cloned headline shows, Millionaire and 1 vs 100. Both tedious and boring with cheesy dramatic music in between the far-too-long pauses. The mob show in particular with its constant use of (blonde) models (and McGuire’s sexist references to them). Eddie himself is a competent host but is too blokey and footy-focused with his commentary. And there’s the problem for Nine. Its macho mentality. Its sole appeal is to bogans on good incomes: tradies with expensive utes who think that whatever the execrable Sam Newman and his minions do is funny. Any man with a brain and respect for women, migrants or any other “minority” made fun of by the footy bullies switches to another channel. As for women — I’d love to know what the ACNielsen stats say about female audience figures for The Footy Show and its ilk. Nine desperately needs an extreme makeover. It needs a woman’s touch, and it needs it now.

The history wars:

Justin Templer writes: Re. “Forget the history wars, let’s get on with teaching our kids” (Friday, item 19). Paul Kiem (vice-president of the NSW History Teachers Association) wrote that teachers aim to “give indigenous history its rightful place in Australia’s story, with the hope that this may assist reconciliation”. Strangely, my understanding was that history teachers were paid to teach history — not to attempt to influence young minds in support of socio-political aims the teachers might regard as desirable.

The Qantas board:

ABC archive researcher Wendy Borchers writes: I thought you’d be interested to know that David Morgan (CEO Westpac), aged 13, played the lead role of Tom Thumbleton, in the ABC children’s adventure series, The Magic Boomerang, directed by Roger Mirams, filmed in Woodend, Victoria, in 1964 and sold to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation as well as the BBC. I would say that the magic boomerang would be a very handy acquisition if he was to replace Margaret Jackson on the Qantas board …

Broadband and business:

Peter Smith writes: Re. “Are broadband speeds really affecting business users?” (Thursday, item 4). The main requirement for high-speed broadband with monopoly pricing is to allow large bonuses to be paid to the cabal of foreign management at Telstra. I would cancel the work visas for these people and ship them off to Nauru.

Renting and the bottom of the heap:

Roy Milne writes: Re. “Family First and the good old Australian gravy train” (Tuesday, item 16). Charles Richardson mentions that renters are at the bottom of the heap as far as government subsidies goes. Wrong! Renters, unless quite wealthy or with a high income can get rent subsidy, partly based on the weekly cost of rent. The higher the rent, the more they get!

Nuclear power:

Sandra Sokol writes: Stephen Jackson (Thursday, comments) has concerns about the heat from a nuclear reactor. In all likelihood the global heat contribution of the water cooling of the nuclear reactors will be small compared to the heat trapping of the enhanced Greenhouse effect. However, the localised heat effects to could be devastating to local ecosystems. The local ecological effects would be made synergistically worse with the increased salinity from a desalination plant. However, there is a missing link that should be added to Thomas Hunter’s summary of nuclear power’s water requirements. BHP is being offered a massive subsidy to build a desalination plant at Port Augusta (South Australia). BHP also requires extra electricity (an average of 400MW extra). To put that in perspective, 400MW is the average power required for all combined households in Adelaide. And what do BHP require all this extra fresh water and power for? It is to be used to mine more uranium at the proposed expansion of Olympic Dam!

Oops:

Mitchell Holmes writes: Re. “Why Westpac’s David Morgan might best suit Qantas” (Friday, item 2). “Jacko lost site of this over the past few months when the owners of Qantas were denied vital information and passionately advised to sell out too cheaply.” Perhaps lost sight?

Ivor Burt writes: Re. Friday’s editorial. “…pedalling a persistent nugget of wilful misinformation”. Try “peddling” — it works much better unless you’re on a bicycle.

Yesterday’s typos (house pedant Charles Richardson casts an eye over the howlers in the last edition of Crikey): Item 2: “Jacko lost site of this over the past few months …”. Should be “sight”, not “site”. Item 14: “the private members bill … is just being allowed to gather dusty.” No, “get dusty” or “gather dust”, but not “gather dusty”. Item 16: “The whale polls ACNielson rejects”. It’s “Nielsen”. First rule of proofreading: always check the headings.

CORRECTION: In Friday’s story, “How the papers report the facts on circulation“, we reported that “The AFR‘s average net paid sales increased for the latest quarter (Jan-March 07) by 242 copies per day: 86,287 to 86,529. The Oz‘s went down: 134,610 to 120,000+, a decrease of close to 11%.” This was incorrect. The final figure should have been 129,000+ not 120,000+.

CORRECTION: In Friday’s story, ‘Indigenous abatement scheme leaves Government’s program for dead’, a sub-editing error replaced the words ‘private’ with ‘public’. The story should have read:

The West Arnhem Land Fire Abatement project is an example of how private investment can not only abate carbon, but also generate jobs for indigenous people in remote regions and assist in environmental management.

and

WALFA abates carbon equivalents at $10 per tonne (in private sector funding), the photovoltaic rebate program at a minimum $100 per tonne (in public subsidy) according to the ACF figures.

WALFA is currently privately supported through an agreement between the NT government and Darwin Liquified Natural Gas, but provides an exemplar of what can be achieved in terms of carbon abatement on Aboriginal-owned land irrespective of the source of funding. You can read the correct version of the story on the website here.

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