Saying sorry and wedge politics:

David Hand writes: Re. “Kevin wedges Brendan as new term starts. Yaroo” (yesterday, item 1). Christian Kerr has taken the view that the apology to the stolen generation is wedge politics. This implies some sort of Labor political craft, creating a high strategy of which we mere mortals are oblivious, apart from the sterling efforts of Crikey to provide insight to political intrigue. An alternative view, one supported by Occam’s razor, (paraphrased as “All other things being equal, the simplest solution is the best”) would suggest that Labor is simply implementing a policy for which it was elected and the Coalition, with no help from anyone else, is completely stuffing up its response to an iconic event that will be remembered in history for a long time to come.

Victoria Collins writes: At the risk of sounding as though I am suffering from delusions of Kevin Rudd’s political acumen, brought on by prostrating oneself before the avatar of Kevin Rudd, my “friend” from Facebook, might I add one more (perceived) wedge to Christian’s list of one. It just occurred to me on Monday morning, as I was listening to Tony Windsor explain, in his fair and balanced way, how much the extra sitting day on Friday would throw his normal parliamentary sitting/electorate work regimen off kilter. He said he would no longer be able to use Fridays to attend to his electorate as well as he used to-some things only being able to be done on a Friday. Then he added; “I imagine it will be a lot worse for the West Australians”. The comment suggesting that they will be well tuckered out coming and going from Canberra, after a longer sitting week, as well as having much less time to attend to electorate and other business… such as plotting against the Labor Party, or maintaining their profiles with their electorate! No prizes for guessing where in Australia was the only State which continued to smile on the Coalition? Why, Western Australia, of course! Wow, that’s going to be a wedge that will actually physically hurt over the upcoming three year electoral cycle!

Sue Nicholls writes: Regarding Sorry Day, I have this bit to add. I once read a history of the area out of Walgett about a couple of my ancestors who settled there in the early days. It told how they had a stockade built around their house with knot holes for rifles. So I got to thinking who was that aimed at? Another relative had an Aboriginal servant who had a bell around her neck to make sure they knew if she was idling. How many of us, unknowing of our early settlers’ lives may have more reason than most, to say sorry? It will be a wonderful day; an inspiring day and I hope a healing day.

Ben Keyzer writes: With the Liberals wanting to change the wording of the apology to the stolen generation or not even wanting to say sorry, I was just shaking my head with typicality over this. In choosing a different title to the stolen generation we came up with the; borrowed generation; the rented generation; the temporarily lost generation; the I found them under the lounge generation; the five finger discount generation; the grand theft people generation; the lifted generation; the hired (without pay) generation; the pinched generation; or the loaned generation. What do you think? I bet if you took this to some of the politicians with a serious look on your face they would believe you and pick one in all seriousness.

Michael Woodhead writes: Why have you got Kevin Rudd saying “Pity” (Yihan) in his speech bubble. It means “regret” or “what a pity”, not sorry. He should be saying “Baoqian”. Or is he expressing Australia’s true feelings about the Stolen Generation?

The US elections:

Mikey Hughes writes: Re. “US08: GOP goes Trekkie at the Mitt hits the fan” (yesterday, item 4). Can I be the first to preorder the book collection of Guy’s adventures in yank land? “The girls are all in pearls, Oaks Day dresses and levels of make-up that would have a Russian cosmonaut’s wife suggesting they go easy on the blue eye-shadow” had me in stitches causing embarrassing gophering from cubicle bound colleagues. Keep it up Rundy!

Martin Gordon writes: The coverage given to US Democratic candidate Barack Obama “success” is extraordinary given the low levels of turnout in some of the primaries. Literally the turnout in some party primaries is less than a handful of a per cent and in some cases literally 1 to 2%. News agency Reuters has then pointed out that the last three states Louisiana, Nebraska and Washington, that Afro-Americans represented about half of all voters. In total across the US Afro-Americans represent only about 15% of the electors. Of these three states only the last is likely to be won by the Democrats. I have little regard for primaries due to the impact of small turnouts of very unrepresentative people. The media coverage is particularly poor, and usually not misleading but just plain wrong.

Where in the world is Peter Costello?:

Alan Kennedy writes: Re. “Time for Costello to put up or shut up” (yesterday, item 6). Stephen Mayne appears to be still holding a torch for Peter Costello even as it becomes clear that he was a dud treasurer who as Keating famously observed lay in a hammock for 11 years. The economy was not well managed by him and he did nothing to curb inflation by standing up to Howard who loved throwing it around to any interest group he thought might vote for him. The stories about Pete’s big offer are I am sure all leaked by him in his office. It seems clear there have been NO offers which is why he is still in parliament. Who would want him? He has no leadership skills. His couldn’t stand up to Howard’s spending and he showed he was gutless in refusing to have a tilt at Howard. Who would want a director or executive with that sort of CV? And if they don’t want him why should we as taxpayers have to keep on funding him at the parliamentary trough? Maybe Tim can get you a job handing out food parcels to the underprivileged.

Phil Bourke writes: With parliament resuming this week and the likelihood of regular sittings on Fridays, will MPs’ pay be docked if they don’t attend the House or Senate? Peter Costello is rumoured to not be sitting in the House this week, so denying his constituents parliamentary representation. Similarly, noises are coming from other MPs that as there are to be no votes or divisions on the proposed Friday sittings, some MPs will leave the national capital on Thursday night. If our elected MPs have no leave (sick or annual leave) from their workplace of Parliament and then don’t turn up for work, why shouldn’t they be treated like any other employee who doesn’t turn up for work? No work, no pay.

Bank fees:

David Gothard writes: Re. “Which watchpuppy? The strange world of bank nudging” (yesterday, item 20). I am a self funded retiree. For around 30 years I had been employed in positions on contract in various parts of the world. No provision for superannuation but well remunerated. I started a portfolio of blue chip shares to keep me when I retired. This has built up over the years. Recently, I was annoyed to find that bank charges were increasing and my credit card provider decided to levy an annual fee. So I switched my credit card to a provider who guaranteed never to levy an annual fee. I also changed my bank account to one which levied only a standard monthly fee of $6 per month. I use the credit card for almost every purchase and pay it on time so never attract interest. My income is extremely variable. I can go for a couple of months without any dividend and then receive several at once which markedly increases my bank balance. These are paid directly into my bank account. I opened an account with ING and now shift all dividends to ING (at 7% on call) on receipt so my bank account remains around $300 just to give me ready cash for beer, fags and newspapers etc. I move sufficient funds back to my bank account two days before the credit card account is to be paid. This change in procedure nets me an extra maybe $1,000 a year. Worth having at $20 a week and easy to keep going. Not a fortune but why let a bank have it when I can use it for myself? Why fill bank coffers when one can fill their own?

News analysis from the 19th hole:

Frank Birchall writes: Re. Yesterday’s editorial. John Taylor’s (and Crikey’s) “news analysis” is a classic piece of smart ars-ry from golf club ignoramuses: While it’s true that interest rate increases are a questionable tool of monetary policy, John’s “hands up” question just creates a straw man. Inflation is not a phenomenon amenable to fine tuning — once it gathers momentum, it won’t conveniently stop at 4%, not does it ensure that “the joint” won’t stop “dead in its tracks”. Stagflation is a real possibility; I can readily accept that no one at the golf club cares less about killing whales. Fortunately the golf club is not a representative sample of Australian society; “Seven out of ten thought Ray Martin died five years ago.” I rest my case; and the people of NSW had an opportunity to change the government less than a year ago — they decided not to by a comfortable margin. It’s obviously impractical to hold elections every time a group of disgruntled voters thinks it’s a good idea. The Californian experience was very unusual — according to Wikipedia, it was the first successful recall election in 118 attempts.

John Spresser writes: Apart from the comment on inflation I would have to agree with the article. I do not know if John was around when interest rates were running at 17%. The reserve bank was given the power it had for this very purpose. I can remember Whitlam saying that inflation was good because it added to Government revenues. The band of 3% was chosen because it is sustainable. Once inflation gets out of that band it gets very hard to control. If you are happy with 4% when the crunch comes you will be happy with 5% and so on until the whole system is in jeopardy. Tough luck about the boys at the Golf Club! They are going to get hit with higher interest rates to tame the dragon of inflation because once it is out of its cage; it takes 10 years of misery to put it back in. I have been there and I definitely do not want to go there again.

Andrew Millard writes: John Taylor wrote: “Nearly time to take the authority for running the country away from the Reserve Bank. They’re a bunch of dills, obsessed with an unsustainable inflation rate, who can’t see that the only people affected by interest rate rises are those who couldn’t afford to buy a plasma TV anyway. One third are really suffering and the rest will spend what they like. Hands up those who’d rather have 4% inflation and everyone with a job than 2-3% and the joint stopped dead in its tracks.” In the 1970s it was considered fact that slightly higher inflation would lead to slightly lower unemployment. This was proved by Phillips with his handy little ‘Phillips curve’. Milton Friedman, with the help of 2006 Nobel laureate Edmund Phelps, showed that slightly higher inflation gave you slightly higher prices and made no long term difference to the unemployment rate. You cannot buy jobs by unleashing inflation; inflation is much more likely to destroy jobs.

John Little writes: Bravo John Taylor (except the whaling comments – you are “dead wrong” there mate). But yes let’s withdraw the RBA powers and p-ss off this NSW dysfunctional mob laughingly called a government. Only trouble is who the hell would replace them?

Interest rates:

Steve Martin writes: Re. “RBA talks tough on rates: this will take years” (yesterday, item 3). Most of the talk about rising interest rates has concentrated on the effect on mortgage holders of a cash rate that is now 7%. But the majority of the population do not have a mortgage, either because they have paid their homes off, are unable to afford a mortgage, or are single. But if so many are quite prepared to carry credit card debt that has an interest rate of what? 14% or so, why would a .25% interest rise slow demand?

Whaling: impound the ships and pass the ammunition:

Brad Harris writes: When a controversy won’t go away I want to look closer to see what is really at stake here. That is the Crikey spirit I think, and in the case of the whales, I want to know: Does Australia really have any sovereignty over sanctuaries, and if so, can we send in gunboats and impound the ship? Do the Japanese really respect the right of whales to exist unmolested under international treaty, and if not can we impound the ships? Does Japan really respect Australia? Because if it doesn’t then they can’t have any aluminium, iron, coal or beef any more. Yes and impound the carriers while they think this through clearly. Does Australia really respect the whales, if so, all of the above apply. If not, we contract out the slaughter of the whales and sell the stuff to Japan. Or eat it ourselves. It all looks like failed diplomacy to me. And yes, I care. 

Sideburns:

Dave Liberts writes: I saw Kevin Rudd on last night’s news – the sideburns are back! Long live the sideburns!

Underbelly:

Angela May writes: Re. “Underbelly goes down to the wire. It’s all happening etc.” (Yesterday, item 5). Greg Barns’ article in yesterday’s Crikey is spot on. Who the hell do Channel Nine think they are? It is a fundamental right that people have access to a fair and speedy trial. How they hell do Channel Nine think their right to screen a dodgy-sounding program outweighs the judicial system in Victoria and the rights of the individual awaiting trial. Unbelievable.

Cricket:

David Brown writes: Re. “Cricket Australia stumped by its ambitious players” (yesterday, item 17). The story contains erroneous information: “Craig Moore left his Scottish club to pull on the gold jersey…” Craig Moore, while still replete with a weird hybrid English/Scottish accent, has been plying his trade for the Queensland Roar in the A-League all of this season. I think author Thomas Hunter may be getting Moore confused with Scott McDonald, who currently plays for powerhouse Celtic, and is the Scottish Premier Leagues top scorer, a remarkable feat. Overall though, I agree with the tone of this article that CA are desperately clinging to their power base over this issue…

Summer ratings:

Kim Williams, CEO and MD of Foxtel, writes: Re. “Seven wins last week of summer ratings” (yesterday, item 19). I read with interest Glenn Dyer’s piece yesterday and which went on to say that: “The Seven Network managed to fight off the Nine Network in the last week of summer ratings to win the 10 week period comfortably”. This is only correct if, like Glenn Dyer, one elects to ignore that Foxtel exists. The representation is wrong and Seven did not win the summer ratings over the last 10 weeks. Seven was down 0.3 of a share point this summer to a 20.8% share across the 5 City Metro Area. The facts are as follows: Seven had the 2nd highest summer share of viewing in the 5 City Metro Area behind Subscription Television (STV); STV had the highest overall share seven out of the 10 summer weeks across the five City Metro Area, Seven won one week and Nine won two weeks; Primetime (1800-2230 as defined below), STV had the highest share in Sydney, six out of 10 weeks (Seven won three and Nine won one week) with a leading 21.0% share for the summer (infront of Seven with a 20.8% share). To rewrite Mr Dyer “Foxtel managed to fight off the terrestrial networks to win the 10 week period comfortably.” Here are the overall stats for those who are interested in factually correct information from week 49 of 2007 through week 6 of 2008:

  Total STV Seven
Market Share Summer 2007/2008 Variance on Last Summer Share Summer 2007/2008 Variance on Last Summer
Sydney 27.4 2.1 19.8 0.4
Melbourne 22.6 1.8 21.1 -0.8
Brisbane 25.7 3.1 19.4 -0.4
Adelaide 18.3 4.4 22.5 -1.1
Perth 21.6 3.4 23.1 -0.2
5 City Metro 24.1 2.6 20.8 -0.3

Source: OzTAM. All Metro Homes Data. 0200-0200. Wks 49-6, 2006/7 & 2007/8.

Perhaps Glenn should take off those rose-coloured glasses and start to recognise what consumers are really watching.

Peter Fray

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