Greenpeace and whaling:

Khalil Hegarty writes: Re. “Greenpeace responds: Is ITS doing PR for Japanese whalers?” (Yesterday, item 9). I would like to make it clear that ITS Global has never undertaken work for the whaling industry and that I personally find whaling practices abhorrent. I also stand corrected by Greenpeace CEO Steve Shallhorn for his detailing of the Greenpeace’s European anti-whaling campaigns in the 20th century. However, with the hand-slaughter of 800 whales still taking place every year in the 21st century, the question still remains unanswered: why aren’t Greenpeace chasing down vessels in the Faroe Islands? Or opposing the harvest of 1000 endangered dugong in the Northern Territory? After the media circus and disinformation that took place in the Southern Ocean during January 2006, it is difficult not to be cynical about Greenpeace’s tactics. This was highlighted this year by Greenpeace not sharing information on the location of the Japanese whalers with the world’s most active anti-whaling organization, the Sea Shepherds, despite the Sea Shepherds doing the opposite. For some reason I thought it was about the whales.

Terry McMullan writes: Steve Shallhorn, the CEO of Greenpeace Australia Pacific, takes a predictably high moral tone in his response to Khalil Hegarty’s argument that the organisation is selective in its targets and less than honest in the way it engages a compliant and gullible media. In 1990, I was a corporate flack at a large Australian company and experienced first-hand the lengths that the rainbow warriors would go to in their efforts to attract media attention. I’m sure that now, as then, all that televised derring-do will coincide with the collectors hitting the streets for donations. I recall with wonder the day I convinced a Very Senior Greenpeace official to accompany me into an international oil industry conference. They were picketing the place, and the TV cameras had already visited, so his credibility would be safe. Standing on the mezzanine floor above the delegates milling around below, I pointed out to him that they were all highly educated people open to reasoned and researched argument. Why didn’t Greenpeace maintain its passion but engage people like this on their own turf? Why not try communicating their concerns to bring about change? His response: “There’s no media in that.” Or money, I suppose.

Richard Green writes: A suggested solution to the whaling dilemma follows, one that should satisfy the anti-whalers with its results, silence the whaling lobby with its logic and pacify certain ideological sectors with the knowledge that the invisible hand can help environmental issues as well. In short, let the Japanese whalers kill as many whales as is financially feasible for them. This would entail removing the whaling ban and every subsidy and piece of government support afforded by the Japanese government. The whalers will no longer be able to complain about cultural values being dictated by foreigners, instead they can make as much money as they can out of storing unsold meat, making dog food and the occasional purchase by the 6 or 7 people in Japan whom actually find whale appetising. Perhaps they’ll just have to complain about the cultural imperialism of the Japanese consumer. In the meantime we can get started on all the subsidised fishing fleets around the world.

Geoff Russell, Animal Liberation SA writes: Simon Rumble (yesterday, comments) seems to think that cruelty is all right if it is “traditional”. The Inuit traditional whale killing method involved multiple harpoons and air filled bags to slow down and wear out the whale in a process that could take days. Rather similar to British stag hunting where the stag is hunted until exhausted and then the dogs can catch it and … you can guess the rest, or Tasmanian wallaby hunting, or Queensland pig hunting where dogs are also used to spice up the “fun”. At a rough guess I’d say that pack rape of women was a traditional male pastime, but some of us have moved on. Some of us have used our enormous brains to work out that women don’t like it, and some of us have worked out that whales don’t like harpoons — even the traditional non-exploding variety. The slaughter in the Faroes is cruel and vicious and labels like “traditional” don’t make it any less so.

Dave Horsfall writes: Marilyn Shepherd (yesterday, comments) writes about the Japanese pointing out our alleged hypocrisy in killing kangaroos, but both parties seem to have missed the point that we don’t lie about killing ‘roos for “scientific” purposes. They are killed to be eaten (yes, I’ve eaten Skippy), and also because they are considered by some to be a threat. Perhaps Japan could be equally honest?

Australia’s foreign exchange reserves are not in freefall:

Saul Eslake, chief economist, ANZ, writes: Re. “Foreign reserves in freefall as private bank safety valve gets jammed” (yesterday, item 21). Contrary to Robert Townsend’s assertions, Australia’s foreign exchange reserves are not in freefall. Closer inspection of the table in the Reserve Bank’s monthly Statistical Bulletin (which can be seen here) from which Mr Townsend drew his figures shows that the $54bn fall in the Reserve Bank’s gross foreign exchange reserves between May and December 2007 was more than offset by a $57bn turnaround in the Reserve Bank’s forward FX commitment position. As a result, the RBA’s net foreign reserves actually increased by just over $3bn during this period, to a record $35.8bn. Some further insight into what was happening to the RBA’s foreign exchange holdings can be obtained by looking at the Bank’s full balance sheet (available here). This shows that deposits of the Commonwealth Government and its ‘instrumentalities’ with the RBA were run down from over $67bn in May to less than $20bn in May. This was, I presume, the result of the Future Fund moving the cash which (together with the Government’s residual stake in Telstra) was initially its sole asset out of its account with the RBA and putting it to work in accordance with its investment strategy. While that cash was on deposit with the RBA, the RBA invested it in foreign (mainly US) government bonds, which would have showed up in its foreign exchange reserves. And it would have hedged that position, which would have showed up in its (negative) forward foreign exchange position. As the Future Fund withdrew cash from its account at the RBA, the RBA sold off these holdings of US Treasuries (which showed up as a decline in its holdings of foreign exchange reserves) and also unwound the hedges (which showed up as a decline in its negative forward commitments). Incidentally, yet another table in the RBA’s Bulletin shows that Australian banks’ foreign liabilities actually increased by $34bn between the end of June and the end of November, including by nearly $18bn in November itself. So although it has undoubtedly become more expensive for Australian banks to borrow overseas, it hasn’t been impossible. More generally, as I’ve argued on other occasions (including on Crikey itself, which if you don’t have in your archives a version of it can be found here), the size of a country’s foreign exchange reserves does not tell you anything about the quality of its economic management (Exhibit A for this proposition: Japan, holder of the world’s second largest foreign exchange reserves, the worst-performing industrialized economy in the last decade and still struggling to exit from the deflation which followed the bursting of its 1980s asset price bubble).


John Goldbaum writes: Re. “The Tele names names and breaches teen rights” (yesterday, item 15). According to the law of Victoria, child pornography means a film, photograph, publication or computer game that describes or depicts a person who is, or who looks like, a minor under 16 engaging in s-xual activity or depicted in an indecent manner or context. (Crimes Act, 67A). The use of this law, which encompasses such a wide definition of p-rnography, let alone child pornography, in the context of Corey Delaney’s transgressions defies common sense. The consequences of a conviction are a criminal record of being a paedophile and having one’s name placed on a register of child s-x offenders. That would destroy Corey’s job prospects in many different areas of employment. I doubt the legislators intended this law should criminalise the behaviour of one 16-year-old taking mobile phone pictures of another 16-year-old in an indecent or suggestive pose. The Victorian police need a reality check.

Zachary King writes: So now the Victorian police are bringing child p-rnography charges against “he of the famous sunglasses” because he took pictures of half-naked girls playing twister at his party. Sweet merciful Jesus, what teenage boy wouldn’t? Honestly, who is being childish now? Free Corey!

Corinne Gepp writes: Re. “Corey — it begins…” (Yesterday, item 18). Corey Delaney couldn’t organise a beer in a brewery if 500 people is all he can round up with the assistance of technology. When we were teenagers in the 70s we could get hundreds of people to a party, without mobile phones or the internet.

Nathan Campbell writes: I heard the Liberals have put the feelers out to Corey Delaney – it seems they’ve heard he’s a good party organiser.

Beware the geeks:

Colin Jacobs, board member, Electronic Frontiers Australia, writes: Re. “Angry geeks: “Don’t waste money on internet filters”” (yesterday, item 13). Stilgherrian had it almost right in yesterday’s Crikey. Watching taxpayer money being wasted on technical folly does make geeks feel frustrated. What makes them angry is being labelled as defenders of kiddie-porn for raising these objections. Heaven knows a lot of bad anti-terrorism policy has gotten up because of the political awkwardness of opposing anti-terror laws. Time will tell whether we end up with a government Internet filter the same reasons. I suppose this would be a pretty good example of what Mencken meant when he talked about “defending scoundrels”.

Education in a spin:

Trevor Best writes: Re. Yesterday’s editorial. Your “Kevin, Julia, ready when you are” piece completely overlooks the basic fact that education is squarely a state responsibility and always has been. That speaks volumes for all the Labor states and the dumb bogans who bought Kevin07’s spin about it somehow being the fault of J W Howard. But OK, let’s see what happens next.

Free newspapers:

Gavin Robertson writes: Re. “Why The Sun is no longer Rupert’s Idol” (yesterday, item 17). Glenn Dyer wrote: “Sales of free newspapers….” Presumably you mean circulation? Only people at Rupert’s level buy and sell free newspapers.

Ray Williams:

Warwick Sauer writes: Re Niall Clugston’s jibe at me (yesterday, comments). Fantastic stuff- my Crikey seems to have yet again been doctored. Because not even a semi-illiterate, upon reading my comment on Ray Williams, could have concluded that I believed bankruptcy to be an indictable offence. Next time Mr Clugston wants a cheap snark, he should perhaps first re-read the material on which he proposes to comment.

Louise Convy writes: Is Niall Clugston for real?! He wrote: “HIH might have been Australia’s biggest corporate collapse, but it wasn’t deliberate. Bankruptcy isn’t an “indictable offence” as Sauer seems to think. Williams’ crime was not stealing money; it was not coming clean about the extent of the problem.” Surely he is not so naïve or ignorant as to believe this? Clugston needs to familiarise himself with the criminal actions of Ray Williams and why he was found guilty. In addition what about his appalling behaviour in the final days of HIH? Ray Williams and his associates took over $10 million out of the company instead of paying policy holders. Spending exorbitant amounts of money i.e.; $1500 worth of jellybeans; $10,000 gold watches and luxury hotel accommodation, knowing the company was collapsing. Sounds like stealing to me. His pretence of regret and apology are just an act. He was anything but sorry when sentenced. In fact he was “bitterly disappointed” about the sentence. Ray Williams is a liar and a criminal, a dreadful man bereft of a conscience or interest in anyone but himself and this is evident by his past behaviour.

Bad behaviour, tennis and PR:

Charles Richardson writes: Back in 1995, I was a ministerial adviser in the Victorian government when then-premier Jeff Kennett persuaded his cabinet to change the name of the tennis venue “Flinders Park” to “Melbourne Park”. I argued (to no avail) that this was a piece of stupidity on a par with renaming “Wimbledon” as “London”. But the idea was that the positive publicity associated with the Australian Open would rub off more on the city, thereby boosting tourism, investment, and so on. If that’s true, then probably the premier should have paused to reflect that negative publicity rubs off as well.

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