Kim Dalton, Director of ABC TV writes: Re. “Aunty serves it up to the government over TV production funding changes” (Wednesday, item 25). Far from criticising the Federal Government, in fact we welcomed both the rebate initiative and the merging of agencies. With regard to the rebate, I said ‘we welcome the government’s objectives, which we understand to be assisting the development of a more sustainable production industry as well as increasing the level of Australian television and feature film production’. We went on to say we had given feedback to the Government in terms of the implementation of the rebate and in particular the administrative detail. Our experience is that the Minister and the Department have been very open and willing to consult with the production industry and broadcasters and have been receptive to the feedback that has been provided. In regard to the merging of the agencies, we stated ‘a more coherent and streamlined delivery of the government’s direct funding to the industry makes sense.’ We then pointed to the need for the new agency to maintain existing levels of funding to key areas of television production, in particular children’s and adult drama and documentary. This is because there has been some discussion within the FFC of reallocating money out of television production into development or even out of television production into feature film production. We then went on express concern over the growing tendency within the FFC to move towards a system of evaluation for television production funding and suggestions from the FFC that the new agency would allocate all of its television production funding on the basis of qualitative assessment around criteria of ‘cultural significance’ and the ‘national interest’. These comments were not a criticism of the Government’s initiatives and were clearly directed at the FFC and intended to contribute to a discussion currently taking placed within the production industry.

Housing affordability and the Aussie dream:

Don Eime writes: Re. “Housing affordability: it’s your own fault” (yesterday, item 2). Hooray! At last I have read a media article with the real deal! It’s a pity we can’t send this article to all the irresponsible morons out there who don’t seem to understand that mortgage payments are NOT the responsibility of any one else but themselves, let alone governments of any persuasion. And a good start would be to send it to the ABC’s Kerry O’Brien after his pathetic performance last night trying to draw some muck out of Peter Costello that he can then use at a later date to smear the Liberal election campaign. We wouldn’t want to hold our breath waiting for a similar article to appear in the local rag would we!

Ian Price writes: From my perspective, this Howard government has sent us the message that our streets are lined with gold, that we’ve never had it so good, that our future is assured with them in power. And they’ve gone along with greedy lenders supplying bags of gold to any Tom Dick or John, regardless of their ability to pay. Done everything so their rich mates can make a killing. Have they ever intimated that the average/median Aussie should perhaps be a bit financially cautious, economically realistic, and even perhaps frugal? Perhaps that’s only for starving third-world countries?

Harold Levien writes: The acute shortage of rental housing which has led to escalating rents has an obvious solution. The Australian or State Government could establish a public housing corporation to build a substantial quantity of rental accommodation. Since governments can borrow at a significantly lower interest rate than private developers and since their imperative is public service rather than the 20% to 30% profit which drive private developers governments can charge much lower rents and still cover costs. Additionally as new public housing comes on the market the increased supply would push down private sector rents. If the public corporation borrowed for a start, say, $2 billion at 6.5% the annual $130 million interest could be built into the rental structure. Such funds could build around 10,000 quality apartments. An important added benefit: a public corporation could give much greater consideration than do most current private developers to quality of construction, environmental and neighbourhood factors, and aesthetics and thus reduce the urban blight annually added to our landscape.

Ted Lavender writes: While I agree the borrowers should live within their means, the biggest problem lays with the high housing price and the ease in which people can obtain a loan. High employment figures? These stats are fudged when a person who works for one hour a week is not deemed as not being unemployed. Going back 30 years or more families could buy a house with only one wage going into the family coffers. But now in most cases two incomes are necessary. So what happened to change into the present situation? Could it be that we are now a greedy society? Where success is measured in how much money or materials we accumulate. Was it because we have adopted the American business ideology of making a greater profit than the previous year? Look at the profits of Banks and Big businesses to name a couple, the remuneration of executives, their bonuses and golden handshakes and yet we find the gap between the haves and have nots widening. It is no good stating we have a strong economic growth, or low interest rates, not if the house prices are out of reach to many people or they can’t keep up the payments of their mortgage. Is managing personal budgets taught in the schools curriculum? Why should land prices escalate when there is so much land in this continent? So who is to blame? Not only the Howard Government but State Governments and Local Councils whose only desire is bigger profit, simply by controlling land availability to force the price up. Is this because we rely on “financial gurus” who’s only thoughts are on profit for the few but not on the effects on the mass? To allay any false ideas on my politics I am not and have never been a Communist and have voted for the Coalition in the past and may even do so at the next election. I am a pensioner owning my own home and am quite content with my lot, but I do feel for those on a limited income in trying to achieve the “Aussie dream” of home ownership. And what of the future generations, who has the answer? I would be interested in any response.

Interest rates and local government:

City of Yarra Councillor Paul D’Agostino writes: Re. “Rate pressure to test RBA independence” (yesterday, item 1). Glenn ascribes some of the responsibility for housing affordability to local government. This is not consistent with the facts where local government hasn’t prevented the development of housing in either the inner city or outer suburbs – the recently released census data supports this. The fact that individual councils may have knocked back developments receives far more press than the substantially larger number of new dwellings approved. Like most commentators he may have also mistakenly viewed rate increases as affecting housing affordability. Rates do not increase property prices and – generally – do not increase housing costs. Rates are the result of revenue targets for councils which are then applied on a pro-rata formula basis to all properties. The formulas vary but typically favour farms in rural areas and residential properties in urban areas. In urban areas, commercial and industrial properties typically wear a disproportionate amount of the cost. This means that the headline rate increase for the total rate revenue actually translates into something less for the residential property owner. Sweeping erroneous statements do not add to the quality of debate. These statements detract from what was a great article.

Bruce Smith writes: Glenn Dyer gets a few things wrong in today’s Crikey. In item 1 he worries about the cash rate going up to 6% – that actually happened in August last year. Then in “More Oz hedge funds rocked by sub-prime mess in the US” (yesterday, item 26) on the troubled hedge fund, he says “The other 50% is owned by a group of white men and no women: no names were apparent on the web page so it’s a case of “we’re a hedge fund, trust us.” In fact, at least two don’t appear particularly “white” and their names and bios appear when you roll your mouse over them. Admittedly you have to use a bit of initiative, but it only took a few seconds to work out what to do.

If only the battlers knew:

Clive Hamilton writes: Re. “Rate rise: the case for government gain” (yesterday, item 9). Around 3-4 months ago Glenn Milne wrote in his Monday column in The Australian that Costello was privately saying that he was hoping for a couple of interest rate rises before the election to focus the minds of the mortgage belt on which party is more likely to keep them from rising more. Since it came from Milne, Costello’s chief cheer leader in the media, it is likely to be well-sourced. Fancy that. The Treasurer is hoping to see pain inflicted on Howard’s battlers as a political tactic. If only they knew.

Cherry picking statistics:

John Goldsworthy writes: Poor Christian Kerr just can’t prevent his bias from showing. In his item we see another example of cherry picking statistics to exaggerate a point. Firstly, the discussion is about home loan interest rates. Secondly, he seems to have forgotten that Keating was Treasurer (the Placido Domingo of Treasurers as I recall) under Bob Hawke just as Howard was Treasurer under Malcolm Fraser. Now if you go to the RBA graph of the F05 Indicator Lending Rates which is the one which shows home loan rates this is what you find: Highest Lending Rates by Prime Minister from Whitlam to Howard: Whitlam 10.5%; Fraser 13.5%; Hawke 17.0%; Keating 10.5; Howard 8.0%. Howard has had the lowest home loan rates for the last 32 years.

Rudd’s forest policy:

Jack Smith writes: Re. “Rudd’s forest policy gives Coalition its first big break” (yesterday, item 12). In response to Senator Milne regarding Tasmania’s forests, her contribution really does verge on the hysterical if not comical. What it exposes is the fact that the Green vote is collapsing because Labor is in front on other issues like Greenhouse, and Senator Milne in her desperation has to resort to the usual Green lies in regards to forestry. e.g.) Labor has committed to the burning of Tassie’s native forests etc, etc. What twaddle. The simple fact is the Greens are an extremist radical party who masquerade as the conscience of the middle class. They are nothing but a party of Trots and occupy the radical fringe of left wing politics in this country. And when the going get tough they hang out the threat of Green preferences. Good. The simple fact is neithebrr Senator Milne nor Brown can direct or control Green preferences and if they think they can direct them, well good luck. Even better, let them try and cut a deal with the Government and watch what happens to their ever dwindling support. The Greens are now a desperate extremist party looking for a reason to exist and in the absence of a deal on Senate preferences they will join the prehistoric age where they well and truly belong.

Mark Byrne writes: Would Australia be more alive under a progressive Liberal PM than under a dry Labor PM? Senator Christine Milne suggested that there are votes for the taking if the Coalition were to retire its current leader and enact substantive progressive environmental policies. Howard has zero green credibility. Nothing he says will break through his 11 year record of injustices (from its treatment of vulnerable peoples’, to the attack on the independence of vital democratic institutions). But a fresh Prime Minister Turnbull or Costello with a full set of inspirational world leading progressive policies might break through and capture the imagination. If Rudd’s ‘me too’ approach and Premier Lennon’s pulp mill democracy are any example, I’m not expecting much inspiration from Labor.

Myke Cunningham writes: Well where do I go, what do I do now? Rudd’s definitely lost me with his backward old school Tasmanian logging policies, I’m not voting for a younger version of John Howard! Can’t believe how conservative and visionless he is!

Shrubhuggers and Stalinists:

Simon Thomsen writes: Re. “Who wants to lose the 2007 federal election?” (Yesterday, item 14). I always wondered who wrote the comically splenetic Sam Kekovich rants on The Fat, but Christian Kerr gave the game away with “Who wants to lose the 2007 federal election?” If “Shrubhuggers and Stalinists provide much of Crikey’s commentary nowadays”, to which side does Christian dress? I’m assuming Peter Faris QC is the Old Growth guy. Either way, Christian’s repeated apologia for the whatever-it-takes school of politics (how very Richo-80s) are a good way to ensure the primary vote of the two major parties droops to an extent that a spam box full of vi-gra offers couldn’t fix.

Paul Cockram writes: What is it with Christian Kerr? I am a “shrubhugger” and a “Stalinist” if this cheap shot means environmentalist and socialist. I want to see Howard and his cronies gone as soon as possible but it doesn’t follow that I must wholeheartedly and without question embrace Kev’s crew. Come on Christian, this “shrubhugger” stuff is repeating like a crook record. Most of our state governments, and now increasingly, the federal opposition have swung so far to the right that the only discernable alternative must come from the left. You are not from the left, I accept that. But when it comes to choosing between Cornflakes and Rice Bubbles, what’s wrong with being a bit daring and opting for muesli?

Lay off Jetstar:

Ivars Avens writes: Re. “Dear Qantas: Ideas from a fed-up traveller” (Wednesday, item 27). Crikey wrote: “If you have a gripe to air about any of Australia’s airlines, we want to hear from you.” Actually my gripe is about Ben Sandilands who seems to have a bias against Jetstar and in favor of Virgin Blue. Our daughter works for Jetstar; we know many crew members and a nicer hard working group of people one could not meet. Many business people (especially journalists) seem to hold a grudge against Jetstar and Sandilands seems to be no exception. He misses no opportunity to slag off at Jetstar and yet I have not seem him once talk about the chronic shortage of pilots experienced by Virgin and resultant regularly canceled flights. Nor has he said anything that I have seen about Tiger’s check in conditions and luggage limits being stricter than Jetstar’s. Sandilands seems to take delight in the notion that a foreign airline might cost Jetsar jobs (perhaps including our daughter’s). Crikey takes delight in collecting gripes about our kids but never says anything positive. Airline staff constantly have to put up with rude, arrogant and impatient passengers who think then sun shines out of their *****. Never a word about the good job they do. Not good enough Boss, not good enough.

Gerard Henderson:

Stephen Lambert writes: Re. “Gerard Henderson tells the radio kids off” (yesterday, item 19). The Sydney Institute should be congratulated for its impressive list of speakers, as outline in yesterday’s edition, representing a broad cross section of Australian political life and society. The problem is that it is impossible to separate the Sydney Institute from Gerard Henderson, the media commentator. Looking at the Institute’s website, the only staff who is not executive or administrative assistants are Gerard Henderson (Executive Director) and Anne Henderson (Deputy Director). In his media appearances Mr Henderson is always linked with the Sydney Institute, and, despite the breadth of the speaking list, he is the public face of the Institute. His commentary is conservative in nature, some would say strongly so (for example, he remains a strong defender of Australia’s involvement in the Iraq war), and this flavours the public’s perception of the Institute he heads. But more important than the perception of him and the Institute, is perhaps a real conflict of interest, possibly raised in Crikey on Monday in the Tips and rumours section. It referred to a Media Watch story about a Liberal Party figure making large donations to “a leading Sydney think tank”. Living in Brisbane, the only Sydney think tank I am aware of is the Sydney Institute, but there are probably many others. Regardless of which one the Crikey tip relates to, it raises an interesting question about the Institute’s funding and Mr Henderson’s declarations of competing interests (or lack thereof). When on Radio National’s Breakfast program on Friday mornings, Mr Henderson is routinely introduced as being from the “privately funded” Sydney Institute. Without further details or disclosure, how do we know the Institute does not receive large donations from the Liberal Party or Halliburton, or any other organisation involved in matters that he comments on? Is Mr Henderson the only person in the media these days who doesn’t have to declare a potential conflict of interest? Without this detail, why should we believe his conservative commentary is anything more than an advertorial, and if that is the case, what is the real difference between this situation and the John Law’s/Alan Jones’ cash-for-comment saga? To dispel these concerns, Mr Henderson should be asked for all of his media appearances, but particularly those on the public broadcaster (RN Breakfast, The Insiders, and occasionally Lateline), to declare any funding to the Sydney Institute that might constitute a real or perceived conflict of interest.

David Lenihan writes: Who is Gerard Henderson?

Leave Kerry alone:

Bruce Armstrong writes: Re. “Wh-res-and-all Packer bio a triumph of defamation reform” (yesterday, item 3). Leave him alone. It’s a sad and cowardly thing to talk in a bad way about anyone who is not here. It’s not clever or productive. Grow up. That guy was a human being. He did his best. There is no point in posthumous character assassinations. Remember this; he was amazingly good at what he did. RIP KP.

Warlugulong:

Bob Gosford writes from Yuendumu: Re. “Finally, Hank Ebes stops playing possum” (yesterday, item 21). Further to Geoff Maslen’s piece yesterday – while it’s great to hear of the publicity given to Aboriginal painting generally and the extraordinary old man whose work was the subject of the record-breaking sale for his painting Warlugulong (which by the way in correct Warlpiri orthography should be spelt Warlukurlangu), will the NGA release, perhaps in book form, the text and pictures of the CD-Rom that Tim Klingender has said accompany the work? This might unpack some insights into this wonderful painting, the man who painted it and the country and culture behind it. And if the NGA needs and assistance with this project I’m sure they could get it from the Warlukurlangu Artists cooperative at Yuendumu – just down the road from the subject of this painting…

Stan Zemanak:

Dean Galloway writes: Peter Peters (yesterday, comments) wrote that people who disliked Stan Zemanak (i.e. that strange, anonymous entity he refers to as “Australia’s Left”…does he mean WA?) were “Bitter, twisted, resentful, humourless and completely out of step with mainstream Australians.” Funny, I thought that was a pretty good description of Zemanak himself!

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.