The US08 primaries:

Peter Byass writes: Re. “US08: Clinton prevails as Democratic race turns vicious in Nevada” (yesterday, item 5). I find the amount of written comment on the “American primaries” taking far too much space in your daily emails. Are you planning a separate daily email when the actual American election occurs? Is the reason the “copy” available is cheap and easy to mimic? Actually, there are other countries, including Australia, that have interesting and diverse events occurring. As a long term subscriber, you have a tendency lately to be “boring” and certainly lacking of any stimulus.

Ken Burgin writes: Thanks for investing in having Guy Rundle on the ground – the type of quality, detailed writing rarely seen in Australian media…

Mike Hughes writes: “Actual labour movement politics is so little a part of people’s image of America – especially the nightmare kidult Disneyland of Vegas, the epicentre of the country’s self-infantilisation – that the viciousness of the fight, and especially the Clintons’ steely determination to beat back the fix, took people by surprise.” The above is just stellar writing. Kudos to Guy Rundle.

Community cabinets:

Tim Grau writes: Re. “Kevin hits the ground running” (yesterday, item 3). For the record Beattie didn’t invent the “Community Cabinet” concept. As a former Goss staffer I can recall having many “Community Cabinet” meetings across a number regional towns and cities in Queensland. They were called “Country Cabinet” in those days. So Beattie can take credit for renaming them and perhaps expanding their prevalence, but the Goss Government certainly had them regularly. In practice they were no different. A full cabinet meeting, individual meetings with community members, usually an ALP fundraising event, lots of local announcements and plenty of positive coverage with the odd protest group using them make their point. Interestingly, some were legendary for the exploits of the travelling press gallery at their pre-Cabinet dinners on the evening before that often lasted late into the night. I well recall one Brisbane commercial TV journo struggling through the post-Cabinet press conference the next day following his over indulgence involving drinking his entire mini-bar at the Noosa Sheraton.

Suzanne Lappeman, political reporter, Gold Coast Bulletin, writes: Actually, the Gold Coast Bulletin goes to every community cabinet unless it is very, very difficult for us to get there. For example, if a small regional town they are going to is not on a commercial air route and is too remote to drive to – not unusual in Queensland. I shouldn’t speak for the other media organisations in the press gallery but I am never alone at these things. ABC radio is always there. Most of us were at Mt Isa for the most recent community cabinet a couple of months ago. Also, local media turn up and get good stories out of the meetings. These meetings are not boring and give the Queensland media a good insight into how local communities feel about issues.

Kevin 07 T-shirts:

Jenny Grant writes: Re. “Kevin 0-Dear: Mr Happy t-shirt scandal” (yesterday, item 4). Another highly cynical and this time somewhat abusive piece of writing. The facts of interest get buried after the abuse. I wore my Kevin 07 T-shirt with pleasure, even though I had to cover the back of it when assisting in Warringah. I earlier helped George Newhouse in Wentworth which is where I sourced my T-shirt. Thus I covered the back up when assisting in Warringah. Strange that, in spite of assisting in two seats which were won by Liberals, I am still very cheerful and pleased with the results of the election. It is good to know my instincts, like those of so many other mothers of young children, were right. Even though my status as a(n) (un)paid worker is perceived so low…

The NT permit system:

Steve Martin writes: Re. “Mungo: The permit system should stay” (yesterday, item 10). Mungo wrote: “Far from being some sinister and unique privilege granted only to Aborigines, as The Australian suggests, the permit system is a simple recognition that land owned by Aborigines has exactly the same legal status as land owned by other Australians.” I live in the NT and have done so for more years than I care to count, but it is not as simple as Mungo makes out. If I wish to visit someone’s private property I can write them a letter asking for an invite, or for that matter make a phone call. I can even knock on their front door and try and sell them the Sydney Harbour Bridge. If I want to do that on Aboriginal land I must approach not the traditional land owners, but the Northern Land Council for permission, rather a paternalistic approach I would have thought, and markedly different from general Australian usage. Actually I have no problem with the permit system, only with people like Mungo who distort the true position, presumably to make it more palatable to Southern readers.

Organ donation:

James Wade writes: Re. “Organ donation: The status quo will kill me and break my family” (yesterday, item 14). It’s a no brainer, isn’t it? Organ donation should be opt-out, not opt-in. Surely those who do not want to donate their organs (for whatever reason) would be much more motivated to opt out than someone who wants to donate their organs to opt in. The whole mess would be solved. I quite honestly feel for Tim Richards, and anyone else in the same position.

Dean Galloway writes: Given that religious opposition is the biggest stumbling block in the way of compulsory organ harvesting, might I suggest that people who reject organ donation on religious grounds watch the Canadian film, Jesus of Montreal? It tackles that very issue and is a good movie to boot. I got my donor card shortly after seeing it and it’s oddly reassuring to think that at least one good thing would come out of my sudden death!

Teaching:

Julie Nicholls writes: Re. Paul Appleby (yesterday, comments). I was raised in a family of state school teachers. I believe they should receive higher compensation; and that I think state secondary teachers in particular, must have some pretty hellish experiences, so my respect and admiration for all of them. However, the debate as I read it seems centred around comparing teaching to other professions to make their point: in remuneration, in hours, in workplace benefits, in workplace problems. This is ridiculous. Every profession has benefits as well as drawbacks. Where the debate alienates me, is in the implication that teaching is somehow inherently more worthy than other professions. Parts of Paul Appleby’s letter fall into the same trap. Paul asks why he should become a teacher, only to be “looked down on” by the general community. In the annual list of Australia’s most trusted professions, teaching regularly appears in the top 10. Ask politicians, journalists, CEOs and car salesmen how it really feels to be looked down on: they’re all in the bottom 10 of that same list. And, incidentally, two of those professions don’t earn that much, either. I suspect many teachers have an unrealistic view of what it’s like on the other side, in the private sector. They see the benefits we get: yes, the remuneration, the comfortable offices, opportunities for professional development, the travel, our interesting and sometimes high profile work. They ignore the downside: the hours, the stress, remuneration linked to sometimes arbitrary performance indicators, the sustained lack of decent holidays, the fierce workplace competition, and, for some, a sense that work is not really fulfilling. Please stop comparing your working lives to the private sector. It’s a pointless comparison. Let your arguments stand on their own merits: you’re doing something inherently worthwhile and valuable for our community, and you want better compensation for it. There.

Who’s to blame?:

Irfan Yusuf writes: I joined Bankstown Young Liberals back in May or June 1993. Dr John Hewson had just snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in the March 1993 federal election. I was attending meetings in which Party members and execs were blaming Dr Hewson for talking too much about dry economics, for trying to sell a new tax from opposition etc etc. In short, it was all Hewson’s fault. Now, 15 years on, it’s great to see the Libs have progressed somewhat. This time around, they aren’t blaming Dr Hewson. Marvellous. It seems that just about every election loss leads this supposedly individualistic party to always blame its leadership. These days, Libs are placing John Howard and his ministers under the microscope, searching for that single political virus that made the Party look so sick last November. What they seem to forget is that their own democratic structures enabled the Libs to get the leaders they wanted. And that they deserved. So as usual, they are looking for the answers outside themselves. Don’t blame far-Right branch stackers. It’s got nothing to do with the Party’s sudden embrace of religious nutbags. And whatever you do, make sure you don’t blame the kind of political rhetoric that saw the Libs trying to destroy Pauline Hanson by looking and sounding like her. Just point one finger at your former leaders and ignore the three fingers pointing back at yourselves. With that kind of soul-searching, it’s obvious the Libs really have lost their soul.

Don’t forget the arts:

Edward Primrose writes: Re. “Rudd government is bad for the arts” (yesterday, item 19). Finally an article on the arts in the arts section. Crikey, I don’t believe it! However, anyone who witnessed Peter Garrett’s pre-election arts circus would have sensed via the newly politicised singer’s party line that we would be in for plenty of compromise in this sector and not much imagination. Nicholas Pickard’s link to the Iemma “football & BBQs” government is entirely justified. Labor’s perceived traditional support for the arts probably dissolved with the premature ejection of Keating. And Crikey does none of us any favours by practically ignoring the subject.

Leave Lleyton alone!:

Jeremy Bath writes: Re. “Late night gives Lleyton something new to moan about” (yesterday, item 7). Has Charles Happell even viewed or read Lleyton Hewitt’s press conference? Done at 5.30am after his epic 3rd round match, Hewitt was repeatedly questioned by media about the decision to start the match just before midnight. At no stage he did raise the issue or even attempt to continue the issue running. He acknowledged the difficulty of the decision for tournament director Craig Tiley and the importance of considering the crowd who had paid good money and shown enormous patience waiting outside for Federer’s match to end. He spoke honestly in saying that it would be difficult backing up but never complained about the decision. The fact is both Hewitt and Baghdatis were misled (later described by Open officials as a communication breakdown) into believing the preceding women’s match would be moved and their match would start at 9.30pm. Yet Hewitt made little mention of the confusing situation despite repeated questioning from the media and laid no blame with anyone for the most unfortunate situation. Maybe after years of relentless bagging, its time to give Hewitt a fair go.

RBA super problems:

Geoff Walker writes: Re. “RBA super problems show why Rudd is right — to the tune of $18b” (yesterday, item 22). Like Stephen Mayne and Alan Kohler I am disappointed at the RBA’s Super Fund’s equity holdings – but unlike them I think the holding of 41.7% is far too low. Closer to 100% in Australian shares for the assets backing the employer’s salary-related liabilities would be a more appropriate and low risk strategy. What many observers miss is that the funding of salary-related liabilities should be an exercise in long-term cash flow management, not an exercise in putting values on the assets and liabilities to obtain an unfunded liability. The super fund pays cash out as salary related benefits and receives cash in as salary-related contributions and as recurring investment income, i.e. dividends, interest and rents. So to the extent that recurring investment income is salary-related there will be an overall salary-related matching between the cash outflows and inflows. And Australian-share dividend growth provides the best correlation with salary growth, thereby rendering Australian shares the low-risk asset. Further, a large, properly-funded scheme typically has a reasonable quantitative alignment between the cash outflows and inflows and so doesn’t need to sell assets to pay benefits, rendering asset volatility largely irrelevant. My bet is that regardless of where the stock market finishes the financial year, the dividends received by super funds this year will be higher than last year’s.

An angry old boiler:

Daniel Lewis writes: Anyone who has spent much time around Australian blogs and media websites would be quite familiar with Marilyn Shepherd (17 January, comments), described by one commentator as Australia’s most unhinged moonbat. Her achievements included unconditional support for the Bakhtiyaris (over whom she would mercilessly abuse Prime Minister John Howard) even when they turned out to be liars and most refugee-tragics dropped them. Now that Howard is gone and David Hicks is loose (no doubt with a permanent invitation to fellow South Australian Mazza’s place for a cup of Horlicks) clearly Marilyn is longing for another cause in her taxpayer-funded spare time. Always having a penchant for the unpopular side (e.g. going into bat for “the naughty Hamas people and their teensy little rockets that have not managed to hit anything;” (The Australian, Blog, 16 October) it seems apparently now it’s Indonesian fishermen and kangaroos. I can tell Marilyn is worked up over this, from her closing paragraph “the bloody sanctuary is not real and it is not ours.” Well, if it’s not real, how does it matter to whom it belongs? For that matter, how could it be bloody? Vintage Marilyn Logic. Then again, it could just be that Marilyn uses the word “bloody” all too frequently, as a Google search will attest, leaving little doubt for new readers that she is really just an angry old boiler. I suggest a nice dish of medium-rare whale veal.

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.

Peter Fray

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