A correction:

Senator Stephen Conroy writes: Further to my comment yesterday (yesterday, comments), after further checking, Ms Simons did request a copy of my speech from my office. I apologise for suggesting otherwise.

The NAB has no connection to Homeside:

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NAB’s media manager of group corporate affairs, Felicity Glennie-Holmes writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (yesterday, item 6). I am writing to correct the record in relation to the item published yesterday, which referred to National Australia Bank. Your informant is incorrect on a number of fronts: 1) Firstly, NAB has no connection or involvement with the Homeside brand in the US, or any of the activities of that organisation. 2) Further, in Australia, low-doc loans are a very small part of the NAB lending portfolio – less than 2% of the total book – and we have no direct exposure to the sub-prime market. 3) Lastly, it’s in both our interests and the customer’s to work together for an outcome if a customer is experiencing financial difficulties. In this respect our behaviour remains the same for any customer who purchased a mortgage through a broker using the NAB-owned Homeside brand in Australia, and we are working together with those clients in the usual way.

GetUp!’s pulp mill campaign:

GetUp!’s Campaigns Coordinator Ed Coper writes: Re. “The pulp mill and pre-packaged protest” (yesterday, item 16). GetUp members’ 25,000 submissions to Malcolm Turnbull’s pulp mill inquiry were not “form emails” as Christian Kerr and Timber Communities Australia are claiming. Our site contained a blank text box for members to write their individual comments in, which a vast majority of the 25,000 did. If the box was left blank a pre-prepared message was sent on their behalf, but most submissions did not do this. GetUp facilitates everyday Australians’ political actions, and the fact that over 25,000 people were compelled to make submissions on this issue shows the level of concern in the community — that level of concern is what is inundating the Minister, and it should ring alarm bells if anyone is arguing this vital feature of a functioning democracy (the public having their voices heard in the process) is in anyway problematic. This form of communication with our elected leaders is simply a modern reality, and we’re greatly appreciative that so many Australians choose GetUp to make their voices heard in this way.


Yvonne Calder writes: Re. “Iemma ups pubs’ gambling while Russ flicks the pokies” (yesterday, item 8). I note with interest the latest machinations about poker machines/gambling in pubs and clubs – I find it noteworthy that I know of no Sydney metropolitan club currently trading (this excludes South Sydney Rabbitohs), where you can enter the club and participate in other activities such as entertainment, eating or drinking without passing by poker machines. Pubs in metropolitan area on the other hand, usually have poker machines away from the entrance into the premises and usually in rooms separate from the general trading area. I am not a supporter of poker machines, they promote addictive gambling because a player does not wager on anything. However, I find the above revealing.

John Clements writes: So Russ abandoned the pokies – they weren’t sold for old fashioned money? Were they transferred elsewhere where the social cost equation is less relevant? If they were sold, then for how much? How does this compare to the acquisition value of Souths?

Housing affordability:

Wes Pryor writes: Re. “Housing affordability – is it really the big question?” (yesterday, item 17). Michele Levine heralds a report that quantifies what we know to be true. Buying a house is hard. But, helpful as the data are, putting it into a contemporary political perspective might add some mass for Crikey readers. Not only are we sticking around at school and university longer – and making (relatively) less while we’re doing it, we’re somehow finding ways to pay for those degrees – either up-front or deferred via HECS or similar. The washout is that there really is stuff all left in the pot at the end of the day/week/year. About enough, I suppose, for a Hudson’s coffee or a night on the turps. Even then, they’re probably on credit. The idea of fitting a proper grown-up mortgage into the equation is unthinkable. The real rub, of course, is that deep down we wanted to be a builder or a plumber, in which case we’d be cashing in on the baby-boomers tweaking their respective ranches to look like whatever Jamie Durie says it should look like, and sitting quite comfortably in a house of our own. Housing affordability and the skills shortage are but faint blips on the contemporary political radar in Australia. They are, though, clearly related, and this Morgan research seems to evidence just how. However necessary and noble the trades might be, a society that values scholarship and knowledge less than a new patio is sick indeed.

Gerrymander this Mr Mayne:

Mark Wallace writes: Re. “Rupert plays hardball with staff and critics” (Friday, item 22). Why does Stephen Mayne think his little hobbyhorse is of interest to anyone? The only comment I’ve read of it over the many, many, many (yawn) weeks that he’s been pushing this barrel have come from his own unfettered use of Crikey’s cyberspace. As a former Newscorp shareholder (sold at a profit, thanks very much Mr Murdoch), I couldn’t give a toss whether Rupert has a “gerrymander” or not, so long as the dividends keep flowing and the shares keep appreciating. Rupert does have a few more runs on the board than the upstart Mr Mayne. Face it, Stephen, you’re just a pathetic little attention seeker gasping for oxygen, and nobody cares how blue your face gets. Hey Mr Beecher, surely it’s more than a year since you acquired Crikey? By my understanding of the deal at the time, you can now do a metaphorical Glen Milne and soberly push him off the stage for good. My gut feeling is that Crikey would become instantly more readable.

Apathy and unions:

Michael Hawkins writes: Re. “WA business doesn’t fear all unions, just one in particular” (yesterday, item 23). Joe McDonald is an interesting character. One minute he is the biggest attraction on the The West Australian’s website site due to his onfield display on a working site. Next week a wall falls over at the same building site and there was not even a whimper of interest on the same site. If only someone had been injured or killed the public might have been more interested? May we one day wake from our slumber and apathy to unite on the point that no-one should ever die or have their lives put at risk while at work. Until that day we may be very thankful that Joe is out there attempting to make the workplaces safer… and just as an aside, can we all have a reality check and appreciate that a building site has been and probably always will be dominated by colourful language exchanged in normal conversation between workmates – lets not get over excited when we see Joe or one his “comrades” recorded using it, wake up Australia!

Russell Bancroft writes: Michael Pascoe needs to read the ALP industrial relations policy Forward With Fairness. It proposes no changes to the union right of entry rules.

Questions for the Libs:

Adam Dunsford writes: Re. “Labor’s higher education plan: questions for Stephen Smith” (yesterday, item 11). Sorry to be a bit of square but when you say you are asking the Shadow Minister of Education several questions so that you can compare Labor policies to the Howard government policies it may help to provide the Howard government policies as I’m not really sure what that are either. Of particular concern is the question of where are we going to get the teachers and schools to handle Costello’s brilliant baby boom.

Alexander Downer, attack spaniel:

Holger Lubotzki writes: Re. “The new collected snarlings of A. Downer, attack spaniel” (yesterday, item 20). Crikey, it is just blatantly lacking in objectivity to label Alexander as an “attack spaniel”, not to mention grossly offensive to spaniels! I’m thinking poodles or chihuahuas would have been far better targets for an effeminate canine metaphor with our precious Foreign Minister…

Dave Horsfall writes: If Alexander Downer thinks Mandarin (a tonal language) is as easy to learn as French then he’s not fit to be Foreign Minister.

Super spending and Kevin 08?:

Pat Berzin writes: Re. “Errington: Living in Howard’s PR State” (yesterday, item 12). Is John Howard entertaining the possibility of an ALP election victory? Could that be why he seems to be practising a ‘scorched earth’ policy by bestowing largesse in the marginal and other seats identified in Christian Kerr’s article? This super spending not only improves the Coalition’s electoral prospects, it also depletes the surplus, ensuring Labor will start on the back foot financially, should Howard’s bribes fail to work.

John Mair writes: My tip is that the election won’t be called until early next year so all the Kevin07 T shirts are completely redundant and unwearable – ever – and the Labor Party is made to look like idiots.

The US Fed and Wall St:

Christian Kent writes: Re. “The Fed bails out the fat and the dodgy. And Wall Street” (yesterday, item 1). Correct me if I’m wrong, but why did the Federal Treasurer hold a press conference about the US Federal Reserve decision on interest rates? Isn’t this monetary policy, and the area of the Finance Minister?

John Ley writes: An excellent opinion piece, Glenn. Hope you will be continuing with these articles during the election campaign.

The Interstate Commission:

Michael Kilgariff writes: Re. “Rudd’s first term rabbit revealed: an inquiry. Novel” (yesterday, item 4). Perhaps they could call it the Interstate Commission, thus again complying with Section 101 of the Constitution which declares that there shall be an Inter-state Commission. The Interstate Commission was not established until 1912, was abolished in 1950, re-established in 1983 and again abolished in 1989. Begs the question, is there ever anything new?

Sydney airport:

Colin Chilcott writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (yesterday, item 6). In response to today’s tip regarding APEC flights banking left immediately after taking off in order to avoid Tory Electorates, I can provide the following. So long as I can remember, aircraft departing on runways 34L and 34R which head towards Sydney, have always banked left or right almost immediately after becoming airborne for the very reasons mentioned in the tip. Common sense I would have thought. Maybe your tipster just hadn’t noticed previously.

Pay it forward:

Colin Norris writes: Re. Sue Bradford (yesterday, comments). I am a farmer and know lots about those forward contracts. They are a recipe for disaster unless you have deep pockets. In nine of the last ten years the contract price for canola was higher at harvest time than when the contracts were offered early in the year. Come in spinner. Here we have it again. In retrospect, the only people saying that this year was going to be a “bumper” harvest was the NSW Ag minister, grandstanding might I add. The amount of rain definitely has not signalled that. Farmers are very slow learners and keep doing this. I know heaps of farmers who have been caught and some are talking $100,000 plus. 40k is common.

Crikey balance:

Roy Travis writes: I fully support the comments of Peter McDonnell (yesterday, comments). He could have added that in addition to the return of Trade Union power we can also look forward to the return of unfair dismissals legislation. I know that there are many small businessmen out there who would agree that the Unfair Dismissals legislation was certainly unfair.

Steve Johnson writes: Is Peter McDonnell being disingenuous, or is he related to a sitting Lib? My advice to him is to stick to Albrechtsen, Akerman, and Henderson, or read the prevailing opinions in The Australian, where he will find a reassuring diet of pro-government blather to salve his tortured brow. Now, to the point. The coalition are in federal government, and have been for 11 years. Governments are required to be held accountable. Oppositions are obviously not in government, and so wield limited power. Their level of accountability is, therefore, also limited. It is, therefore, reasonable to assume that any media coverage will focus on a government in power, compared with the opposition, and I expect Crikey to line up Mr Rudd’s pasty buttocks with its size-nines with equal fervour if the ALP wins government. That’s what I pay for, Peter.

Mark Jones writes: Peter McDonell, in defense of Crikey, balance is very much in the eye of the beholder. My interpretation of their opinions and editorials, and I may be wrong, is that Crikey is for responsible economic policy that supports business and freedom of choice. Alternatively the Howard Government is for Big C conservative government. Despite the rhetoric, I would argue the Howard Government has been one of the worst economic managers in Australia’s history, for example first home owners grant – inflationary, private school subsidy – inflationary, private health insurance rebate – inflationary, childcare rebate – inflationary, bogan breeding bonus – inflationary, token tax cuts – inflationary and the GST, which to be fair was good policy, but it temporarily was, you guessed it – inflationary. The Howard Government has been about middle and upper class welfare and has blown the biggest booms we’ve probably had; hence we have one of the highest interest rates in the OECD. Don’t get me wrong I have very little confidence in the Labor party, but why would I reward the Howard Government with another term, perhaps I’ll vote Democrat particularly given Andrew Murray’s excellent piece in Crikey on tax reform and indexation of thresholds, though are they running a candidate in the electorate of Canberra? In conclusion, I think you’ll find Crikey will be highly critical of Labor if they do win, so I wouldn’t unsubscribe yet.

The NT intervention:

Jack Andrews writes: David Lodge (Tuesday, comments) asks “Should the government simply keep subsidising these communities?” Hang on a minute champ! The entire Northern Territory including Darwin runs off tax transfers from down South-some 80% of the budget I believe. I understand Tassie is in a not too dissimilar economic situation as is almost every rural region in Australia-none of them is self supporting. So sure if you want to cut adrift Tassie, the NT and most country towns in conservative electorates and a bunch of heavily subsidised resource based industries (e.g. the billions of dollars spent on propping up a few irrigators around the Ord river scheme) go ahead-but don’t just confine it to blackfellas!. For that matter what about the police? They don’t turn anyone a profit either-why should we subsidise them? It’s because the alternative is worse – you’re either spending the money on comparatively peaceful remote communities with publicly supported jobs like land and sea conservation or you’re spending it on jails, more cops in the cities, health consequences of alienation and intractable problems with dispossessed people congregating and substance abusing in larger regional towns. And that’s exactly what will happen if the Howard intervention isn’t radically overhauled.

Shay Gordon-Brown writes: David Lodge wrote about the NT intervention: “What other western country openly gives free money to one race or group of people based on their location?” The answer is basically all western countries do. Ever heard of farming subsidies? Tax breaks and industry subsidies? Perhaps even water allocations? All of which are given to non-aboriginals here in Australia all the time based purely on political advantage and not on the sustainability of the crop or industry. For example unsustainable timber industries in Tasmania get tax breaks, unsustainable cotton crops in Victoria and NSW get water allocations, uneconomic sugar farms in Qld and unsustainable manufacturing industries in Adelaide. The small amount of money that the federal government actually spends on the remote indigenous citizens of this country compared to the money that they throw at big foreign businesses is so paltry in comparison that one has to wonder what the objection is about if it isn’t racially motivated?

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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