Russell Faull, Assistant Commissioner of Taxation, writes: Re. “Tax Office fat cats paid big bonuses but failed to deliver” (25 January, item 4). Last Friday’s article by Chris Seage, contained the factual error that Professor Robin Creyke was paid $340,000 last year as the Tax Office’s integrity adviser. Professor Creyke provides consultative services to the Tax Office under a two-year contract with a maximum value of $340,000.

Keating on PP McGuiness:

Alexandra Penfold writes: Re. “PP McGuiness: a vitriolic liar with the morals of an alley cat” (yesterday, item 15). Paul Keating was at his scathing best in his AFR opinion on PP McGuinness. It is no secret that Keating and Paddy loathed each other. Around July 2004 in a conversation with Paddy at The Riverview Pub in Balmain, Paddy was adamant in his prediction, that John Howard would win the election later that year (he did) and a short time later Costello would take over, to be shortly superseded by Tony Abbott…(they didn’t). The conversation turned to the achievements of the Hawke-Keating government. He would have none of it. He argued that they achieved absolutely nothing and Keating in particular was a total failure from Treasurer to PM. His angst and negativity about Keating became exhausting. Was he perplexed at Keating’s uneducated economic prowess over his own? Or that Keating ignored advice from Paddy? Paddy, overviewed from the 70’s was a chameleon, as some people are. From a habitué of the now defunct pub down in Liverpool Street with the Lefties of the 70’s, to the upper echelons of power in Canberra in the 80’s, somehow his cross-over was more complex than usual. He was fully opinionated, black and white with a large dose of grey ghost from the past. R.I.P.

Chris Holley writes: As a former Bankstown boy myself I have always been amused by Paul Keating’s ability to hurl colourful abuse. Less amusing has been his lack of principle and perspective. In the same week that he vents his spleen on a relatively harmless (and now defenceless) buffoon like Paddy McGuiness, Keating flies to Java to attend Suharto’s funeral, showing his respect for a man responsible for the murder of over half a million people. McGuiness might have written a lot of rubbish over the years (and failed to pay due homage to the self-proclaimed Keating genius) but at least he didn’t send out the army to slaughter his political opponents. Ironically, Keating attacks McGuiness for having once described him as a “thug” of the Right. Given Keating’s willingness to turn a blind eye to Suharto’s monstrous record maybe Paddy had it right for once.

Mitchell Holmes writes: Get over it Paul! We voted you out in 1996. We have no wish to hear anything else you have to say. If you cannot say anything nice about someone, say nothing at all.

John Bevan writes: The pot calling the kettle black!

The unravelling of the MFS group:

Adrian Johns writes: Re. “Will MFS trigger a financial planners backlash? You bet” (Wednesday, item 3). Great investigative piece by Steven Mayne. Where was this before the crash when it could have been even more useful? Thanks for your independent voice.

Mal Hutton writes: Guy Hutchings, CEO, MFSIM, MFS Limited (yesterday, comments) wrote: “FS Investment Management does not pay high commission to financial planners. The rate of commission paid to financial planners in 44 basis points (0.44%) — one of the lowest retail commission rates in the industry and designed to appeal to fee-for-service advisers. Commissions are paid by MFSIM not the Premium Income Fund.” s that upfront (i.e. once off) commission on placement of the funds, or is it the trail commission (i.e. collected each year)? Makes a big difference.

Standard & Poor’s:

Alan Kerlin writes: Re. “Wall St endgame? S&P drops a $265b bombshell” (yesterday, item 1). Glenn Dyer wrote: “S&P said it will start reviewing its ratings for some banks, especially those that ‘are thinly capitalized’.” So what exactly is it that they’ve been doing to justify their keep before now? Is this move by Standard & Poors just an attempt to disguise their failure to adequately perform their core function, and in so doing, further undermine the global markets for all of us plebs out here with money in super accounts? This whole issue has never been just about poor management in some US (and Australian?) banks. It is also an indictment on the job done by ratings agencies, and by the general investment community, who after all are supposed to be looking for – and avoiding – these sorts of problem companies.

Mick Keelty:

Peter Mansour-Nahra writes: Re. “Could the real Mick Keelty please stand up?” (Wednesday, item 4). Greg Barns article is timely because the AFP has developed a very high media profile in recent years, and created much controversy. The issue that stands out for me is the case of the Bali Nine; the family of Scott Rush apparently had sought police help to stop him boarding the flight. The AFP explains that they could not stop him because no offence had yet been committed. What I find paradoxical is that if no offence has been committed, then how can they inform Indonesian police that an offence is going to be committed by these people? At the lowest level, that is defamation of a traveller. If they have some evidence, then that should be enough to have intervened; it may sound like sophistry, but it has had dire consequences for the Bali Nine. The AFP cannot see the paradox – that is why we need the media to keep the public informed, and to keep AFP procedures under the scrutiny of our national values.

Greg Samuelson writes: People bag AFP Commissioner Mick Keelty in publications such as yours, but forget that in doing so they are denying him the column space he needs to lay out all the additional evidence in the “ongoing investigation” into Dr Haneef that couldn’t be released last year because, well, it would jeopardise an ongoing investigation. Over to you Mick, or is it still ongoing?

Guy Rundle in the US:

Brian Derum writes: Re. “US08: Going west with Huckabee” (yesterday, item 5). Like Patrick Howard (yesterday, comments) I enjoy Guy Rundle’s American politics dispatches but they don’t supply quite the entertainment value that anyone can get from subscribing (for free) to or the Obama campaign websites. Every day is like a new season of the West Wing as Hillary in seductive mode flings e-mails headed “About last night” and “You were Wonderful…thanks so much” while Barack links us to Oprah and Uncle Teddy K in a back-to-the-future blend of nostalgia for days long gone and the Camelot yet to come!

Tom Twice writes: “…a few lean-to’s under the overpass, just waiting for yellow crime scene tape.” That Rundle guy is worth the cost of a Crikey subscription on his own. Gonzo journalism at its best…

Danny Krips writes: Just want to add my humble thanks and congratulations to the Crikey team and to Guy Rundle in particular for the outstanding coverage of the US primary process. Bravo!

Private health:

Terry Barnes writes: Re. “Public awards for private gain?” (yesterday, item 14). As a senior adviser to two Coalition Health ministers, and having worked very closely with (and occasionally against) Russell Schneider over fifteen years in both government and Opposition, I could not stand by and let Melissa Sweet’s diatribe against him go unchallenged. Sure our health system’s not perfect, but by helping to preserve the public-private mix Mr Schneider has helped to keep it more effective, efficient and the envy of the world. As for Ms Sweet’s implication that Mr Schneider undermined community values, what utter rot. He supported them by helping to ensure that 21st century Australia does not have a ramshackle NHS-style hospital system, and that there remains a competitive and efficient private health sector to complement the public to the lasting benefit of both. And through championing the carrot of the private health insurance rebate and the related taxation sticks he also has contributed to a more egalitarian sharing of the Australian health cake by ensuring that that many more of those who can afford to do so contribute something to the cost of their own care. Is that really so bad? Finally, if Ms Sweet truly cares passionately about the state of the public hospital system she would have actually complained not that Mr Schneider was honoured but that he was not made a Companion of the Order of Australia for helping to save us from the 2004 policy disaster that was Medicare Gold.

Monkey business at the cricket:

Josephine Kneipp writes: Re. “Monkey business: Symonds, not Singh, the guilty party” (yesterday, item 17). Well said, that man Greg Barns. But not only are we unlikely to see Andrew Symonds charged, the Australian cricket team in its arrogance and ignorance keeps digging itself into new holes and making this whole sorry saga last longer than it needs. Take Ricky Ponting’s pontifications about his critics being lost in the 1950s: “It’s now a fully professional game. It’s not a game of just going out there and having a bit of a bat and a bowl and having a laugh and giggle with the opposition,” the Australian captain is quoted as saying. “This is fully-fledged international sport played by fully professional athletes, and we are trying to do the best by the game and by the Australian public and the on-field umpires and everyone involved in the game.” Yes, Ricky, and you get paid very well for it and get to do it full time, with support from a myriad of coaches and trainers, sports psychologists, physios, etc. Not like those who preceded you in the 50s and even up to the 70s, I believe, who had to hold down full time jobs and got paid a pittance to cover the expenses incurred for representing their country yet still for the most part managed to face their competition with good grace while doing their best by the game and the Australian public. Ricky Ponting’s words say “We are not too good, not too big for criticism,” but his actions and those of the team he leads are something completely different.

David Lenihan writes: Crikey should print a link to the entire Judge Hansen judgement, then contributors who are not aware of his findings could get clued up. It would assist anyone, who continues to defend the actions of the Australian cricket team, to learn, that the good Judge from the shaky isles wrote with not a tremble of hand that Andrew Symonds was the agent provocateur. It is difficult sometimes to realise, our boys are not what their mums would have had them be, in the manners department. Perhaps a smidgen more leadership from the pompous Mr Ponting may assist. I say perhaps as encouragement from GG’s, PM’s and former test captains don’t seem to interest him.

Shirley Colless writes: As someone who agrees with the good judge, I wonder who will be the first to label Justice John Hansen’s comment on Andrew Symonds’ provocative sledging as “racist”?

Channel Deepening:

Craig Cadby writes: Re. “Channel Deepening: Reasons to fear it” (yesterday, item 10). Another potentially major hazard is unexploded ordnance in the heads near the former Point Nepean defence force land. I wouldn’t want to be on deck of the dredging ship if any of those go off.

The public service:

Philippa Cooper writes: Re. “Rudd’s failure to clean out the public service has Canberra angry” (Wednesday, item 1). It seems a long time ago but once the Australian Public Service was an apolitical body dedicated to serving whichever government was in power. Professionals of all kinds have to serve masters with whom they don’t always agree politically, so who shouldn’t a high level public servant be able to do the same?

The price of defeat:

Simon Wilkins writes: Re. “The price of defeat: Brendan Nelson $306 p/w better off” (yesterday, item 4). Richard Farmer’s item made for interesting reading, however he forgot the delicious: John Winston Howard – 2007 salary: $285K; 2008 salary: $0. Well at least it is not a brass razoo from the taxpayers’ perspective!


David Havyatt writes: Re. “AGSM: A highly ranked management shambles?” (Wednesday, item 24). In the fuss and nonsense over the AGSM, I want someone to explain to me the benefits of a “specialised” AGSM library. My experience of all specialised university libraries is that they merely fragment the collection and require researchers to hover from library to library. I’m sure all the real economics books have always been in the main library, now MBAs might read some of them.

The Wire:

Phill Daniel writes: Re. “Telly Watch – Good TV is down to The Wire” (yesterday, item 19). Regarding the US TV show, The Wire. The author claims that the show was treated poorly in Australia by Channel 7… Well in deed it was… but it was Channel 9 doing the dirty work.

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