Urban Taskforce Australia:

Aaron Gadiel, CEO, Urban Taskforce Australia, writes: Re. “The m-a-a-a-tes return to Canberra” (31 January, item 3). I found your article on the Urban Taskforce a tad unbalanced. The Urban Taskforce represents Australia’s most prominent property developers and equity financiers. We provide a forum for people involved in the development and planning of the urban environment to engage in constructive dialogue with both government and the community. Your article seems to suggest that it is fundamentally wrong for businesses to have industry groups, like the Urban Taskforce, to work with government and the wider community on public policy issues. You have also overlooked the fact that the Urban Taskforce actively supports a total national ban on all donations, from anyone, to all political parties in local, state and federal elections. Political donations should be banned outright from everyone, including the mining and petroleum sectors, the timber industry, the gun lobby, environmental campaigners and other interest groups. We believe a total national ban would boost community confidence in the political system. Political parties should be funded by their own members and a public funding formula tied to election results.

Housing affordability:

David Imber, Australians for Affordable Housing, writes: Re. “Why a rate rise will only take house prices higher” (yesterday, item 2). Well done Glenn Dyer for highlighting the paradox of why we have rising house prices at a time of rising interest rates. And for identifying who is actually suffering in the housing market. There is no doubt that we have a housing affordability crisis but it doesn’t help anyone when overblown reporting breathlessly claims that almost everybody with a mortgage is in stress. It actually suits vested interests — especially the real estate industry — to have everyone focus on house prices and first home buyers. For the reality is that they are doing well out of the high house prices propped up by people with ample assets and income. Yet they regularly present themselves as the battler’s friend by shedding a tear for the struggling first home buyer with a self interested campaign to cut stamp duty, land tax and raise the first home owners grant (which will only boost turn over and prices) yet neglect to mention the booty of distorting tax concessions that boost prices but produce virtually no affordable rentals. All the time diverting attention from the real victims of the crisis and the real structural changes needed to ensure we have a better functioning housing system. To really make a difference to struggling renters we need to see significant Government action at all levels. Thankfully the Rudd Government has made some positive election promises in this area but even it knows it needs to go much further. It needs to significantly increase the supply of public and community housing, reform Commonwealth rent assistance (or at least increase it for those in significant stress), reform the tax system to encourage investment in affordable housing and work with the states to ensure that they too increase their spending, reform the planning system to encourage affordable housing and reform tenancy laws to protect those renters who are renting for longer.

Harold Levien writes: The pain inflicted on hundreds of thousands of households paying off their mortgages springs from the Government’s reliance on interest rates to fight inflation. But these households are not the target of raising interest rates. They’re collateral damage like civilians injured in a military attack. That is one of two reasons why interest rates are hopelessly inefficient and inequitable as a principal means of fighting inflation. The other reason is that it induces the Federal Government to cut or delay, possibly for years, urgently needed spending on vital community facilities such as public hospitals, universities, child care, and research; or alternatively, if it has the courage, to cut politically sensitive middle-class welfare such as the $4 billion subsidy of private health insurance. The aim of these cuts is to reduce demand, and thus inflationary pressures, so as to discourage the Reserve Bank from raising interest rates. Bizarrely, if these cuts in Government spending succeed in holding down interest rates, this is likely to increase private sector demand for bank lending for, say, expanding shopping centres, casinos, clubs or speculative office buildings. In this way a Government sacrifice of urgently needed public spending can assist lending for projects of marginal benefit to the community. There is another way! Prior to Keating’s bank deregulation in the 1980s the Reserve Bank faced with an inflationary situation could direct the banks to lodge with it a proportion of deposits according to its assessment of the growth in demand relative to productive capacity. At the same time it could require the banks to cut lending by a specified percentage to certain sectors, such as shopping mall developers, while maintaining lending to Government priority areas such as farmers, exporters and prospective home owners. By reducing reliance on interest rates such a policy protected home-owning mortgagees and essential public spending. Perhaps it is time to reassess this deregulation decision.

Inflation & TurnBULL:

David Havyatt writes: Re. “Where was Ken Henry’s straight talking on inflation?” (Yesterday, item 1). Stephen Mayne’s endorsement of Malcolm Turnbull’s claim that inflation becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy is merely useful proof that the shadow Treasurer is talking claptrap! The fact that the inherited underlying inflation rate is over 3% is incontrovertible. To argue as Turnbull has that we have higher growth with lower inflation than the US means our economy is in good shape is rubbish, it just means we aren’t in as much strife as the US. Inflation was a self-fulfilling prophecy in the days when rising prices automatically fed into rising wages and vice versa. The magic of having the RBA responsible for setting interest rates to manage the inflation rate as instituted by the Keating Government and maintained by the Howard Government is that everyone knows that fuelling inflation inspires higher interest rates. Therefore if the public understands that inflation is rising they know that means interest rates will rise, and they therefore reduce their demand as if interest rates rose. That is, they anticipate the rise. Over the last year the whole process hasn’t worked because Costello kept trying to talk down the inflation risk and indeed the need or likelihood of interest rate rises and so demand hasn’t eased off as much as would be expected. Can Australians get the message – if we stop buying quite so much stuff interest rates won’t go up.

The Anglican Church:

Mark Edmonds writes: Re. “Anglican unity dealt a near-fatal blow” (yesterday, item 16). Jeff Wall’s observations about the politics at play within the global Anglican Church are probably quite astute. I could not help but wonder at his parting shot, however – that Archbishops Jensen and Akinola are not interested in any ‘healing process’. In point of fact, the history of the Christian church, and indeed, many secular and other religious institutions, is marked by dissenters exercising their rights to free speech and freedom of association to create new institutions sympathetic to their own views. Granted, this dissent has not always been peaceful, but it remains the case that those who adhere to the principles upon which an institution is founded defend those principles, while those who dissent go their own way. The founding beliefs of the Anglican Church worldwide are the captured in the 39 Articles of Faith. You will find that the dioceses sympathetic to Jensen and Akinola adhere vigorously to these articles of faith, while those who advocate other views about the ordination of women, homos-xuality, the nature of Christ, the role of the Bible, etc, are the ones who are dissenting from these beliefs. It is entirely consistent for Jensen to argue that he is committed to the Anglican Communion – it is not fair for those who do not adhere to Anglican beliefs to claim ownership of the communion, especially having done so much to split it. The Evangelical component of the Anglican church may not be the majority of Anglicans (though it is irrelevant even if it is the case), and the Archbishop of Canterbury may not be sympathetic to the Evangelical Anglican church, but the onus in either event is clearly on those who dissent to abstain from Anglicanism and form their own communion, where they may practise their beliefs in peace.

Sasha Marker writes: If the Anglican Church were split due to the difference of opinion among its leadership, who ends up with the property & assets?


Chris Graham writes: Yesterday, Crikey contributor David MacCormack took me to task over my response to his article on the Liberal handling of an apology to members of the Stolen Generations. David accused me of putting ‘bile’ into my arguments. I’m not going to sit here and deny it, but in my defence I would add that I’ve always felt ‘bile’ was the perfect antidote to ‘ignorance’. Fortunately, however, it was all just one big misunderstanding. When David wrote: “Like it or not, there are arguments against a formal apology,” I thought he was actually expressing his own opinion. Now I realize David was doing something else entirely. I’m not sure exactly what, but hey, what’s a little confusion between Crikey contributors. And when David wrote: “An apology overlooks those individual circumstances where forced removal benefited the victim,” I thought that was his opinion as well. Now I see David was just outlining what other people might argue. Here’s me thinking all along that David was expressing his own ignorant views, when in fact he was selflessly putting himself in the caveman’s shoes in the interests of scientific research just so that the rest of us might understand how the great unwashed really think. I sincerely thank you, David, for the sacrifice you’ve made. It must have been horrible to pretend to be so ignorant on the apology issue, even if only for just a few hours.  But could I respectfully suggest that next time you decide to play ‘the devil’s advocate’, you declare it up front. You see, it looks a little, shall we say, ‘retrospective’ to declare it after the event.

Memo F1: Melbourne can live without you:

Jenny Morris writes: Re. “Memo Melbourne: F1 can live without you” (yesterday, item 21). Actually, memo F1: Melbourne can live without you. I really can’t get as excited as Andrew Maitland about Bernie taking his car race and going home. I’ll be joining the vast numbers of Victorians who won’t bat an eyelid if the F1 GP relocates to anywhere but here. The race costs the taxpayer far more than it returns, whatever the faces try to tell us. I dare say many of the luvvies who get free tickets to the event and associated glad-handing soirees will be sad. I suggest that instead, they spend their own money to chase the event to whatever poor city it’s inflicted upon next. Oh, and Andrew, I’m sorry we can’t turn night into day for you to watch the race on TV. Now to sorting out some real problems… think tank anyone?

Mike Holland writes: Yes it’s true F1 has become the “circus” it was always so called – for the wrong reasons! As a passionate long term F1 follower, for me, it has become a bit of a yawn; the SPORT has definitely gone out of it replaced by the big money ballyhoo that you see in boxing. V8 Supercars offer far better entertainment and for real racing Moto GP is a tremendous watch. If only we could get the fabulous European touring car races on a free-to-air channel, all would be well in the world.

Ignaz Amrein writes: As far as I’m concerned, Bernie Ecclestone can bugger off and pollute somebody else’s air, why wait until 2010. The money saved can be used to buy a few railway carriages and there would be even a few dollars left for Brumby to print glossy brochures to tell us all about it! Victoria, leading the way in combating climate change.

Tony Barrell writes: The F1 Grand Prix day or night? What’s the carbon footprint from an event like that?


Carden Calder writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (yesterday, item 7). Crikey published: “We are getting a number of clients calling us saying that they are no longer able to place trades with Tricom. Tricom are only accepting orders that close out positions.” This is only correct for securities lending clients – i.e. clients who want to borrow funds against securities they already own. It is business as usual for equities broking clients using their own funds or funds from sources other than Tricom. Tricom has already reported that it is actively reducing the size of its securities lending and borrowing book.

Summit Darwinism:

Zachary King writes: Re. “Richard Farmer’s political bite-sized meaty chunks” (yesterday, item 12). I am sure that Richard Farmer is simply trying to be clever by noticing that the national summit is on during Passover, but I can’t help myself. In such a vehemently secular society such as ours, I think if anyone chooses not to participate because of a religious holiday it is simply negative self-selection in action. “Summit Darwinism”, if you will.

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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