The PM’s 2020 steering committee:

Paul Gilchrist writes: Re. “A touch of the Oscars in announcing the PM’s 2020 steering committee” (yesterday, item 5). Your correspondent Bernard Keane seems to be very grumpy when discussing the 2020 conference, all the glasses are mostly empty according to him. Cate Blanchett is “Australia’s go-to luvvy” and Tim Fischer doesn’t have a “functioning brain”. Tim Costello is too well known, so he “will bring nothing new to the debate”, whereas “young surgeon” Dr Kelvin Kong is too inexperienced to spark ideas. Calm down, Bernard, take the angry pills!! Now, I regard myself as a bit sexist, but even I can look past Cate Blanchett’s blonde hair and see that she is well qualified. She was a star in the Sydney theatre scene, is now the director of Sydney Theatre Company and is well connected in the US, why can’t she lead one of these groups, despite the blonde germs? Having got all that off his chest, Bernard then dismisses anyone concerned about binge drinking (item 10, Tuesday). According to Bernard, “there’s no evidence for any of this”. Upon closer inspection, Bernard’s evidence of lack of evidence is that the tabloids talk about it, so it must be rubbish. Then the ABS statistics don’t show a rise in alcohol consumption. Is it just possible that binge drinkers don’t show up in global statistics or don’t report their own behaviour? So the 2020 conference is complete rubbish, and there is no binge drinking. Anything else you would like to dismiss out of hand, Bernard?

Shay Gordon-Brown writes: Gut reaction 1) One woman? Nine men? Gut reaction 2) No physical scientists? No engineers? Gut reaction 3) Cate Blanchett? I really expected to see a few people that really have a talent for such symposiums. Where is Barry Jones, polymath? Janet Holmes-a-court, all-rounder? Methinks this some sort of Machiavellian ploy by Professor Glyn Davis to just have a nice dinner with Cate Blanchett rather than any serious thought about Australia in the year 2020.

Niall Clugston, droid, writes: Re. “Wanna be starting summit: things you should know about 2020” (yesterday, item 12). Memoid to Janoid Nethercote, journoid at Crikey newsoid: “factoid” is not an uber-faboid wordoid meaning “fact” as in your commentoid on the Ruddoid’s 2020 Summit. It means something that has the form of a fact but isn’t really. Or… perhaps that was the pointoid…

Marilyn Shepherd writes: Re. “US08: From suicide vest Obama to Kevin’s sleazy elitism” (yesterday, item 6). Guy Rundle claims that the 2020 summit is as anti-democratic as the Whitlam dismissal and I am at a complete loss as to how that conclusion was reached. One happened already and the other hasn’t.

Allco’s scandals:

Alan Kennedy writes: Re. “Time for corporate plod to throw the book at multiple Allco scandals” (yesterday, item 2). It is all but impossible to disagree with Mayne on the regulator getting stuck into Allco. There are many things that need looking at including the cushy little deal done on Rubicon whereby Fell was able to buy his $28 million house in Sydney (now in his wife’s name of course) at the same time as the company was covering up the extent of its problems. It hid the $900 million exposure to the banks while being able to find the money to pay Fell for Rubicon. Is it any wonder people become outraged about the way business is run in this country?

Glen Parkes writes: The ABC should make a series on the whole sorry affair. Call it Bonanza. Never have I seen so many cowboys. Allco, dodgy valuations, and KPMG… please. If goodwill is impaired, but we cannot determine by how much, should we not write the thing down till we are comfortable we have not overstated it. But no, goodwill is left in, all 1.3b of it. I’d love to see the cash flows that justify that. Let hope ASIC and the ASX stand up and do something.

Philip Carman writes: If it’s good enough for CEOs and other corporate executives in Australia to trot out the furphy about needing globally competitive salaries in order to attract people with talents such as theirs (!) then surely it’s also reasonable to expect Australian companies (and their CEOs, etc) to face similar fines and even similar prison sentences when caught committing corporate crimes of equal talent? Something about sauce, gooses and ganders springs to mind. At least we can see who the gooses are when they are local talent!

Morris Iemma:

John Taylor writes: Re. “Iron Iemma’s belligerence risks a party split. Just watch” (yesterday, item 9). The poll Alex Mitchell refers to destroys for all time the legitimacy of polls. Please name one person in NSW (let alone 34%) who truly believes Morris Iemma is doing a good job. This has to be the most disastrous Government NSW has had since Jack Lang and more calamities befall them almost daily. Even their “announcements” are bullsh-t. Who believes that, within the lifetime of all but those in primary school, we will have a “subway” system running from wherever to wherever. The truly tragic thing about it all is that we have another three years and three weeks of this mob to go and if you believe the aforesaid polls, another four years could be added to that. Don’t let it ever be overlooked that we will vote again for a Federal parliament before we get another opportunity to dispose of this mob. Aggh!

Jonathan Yarad writes: I find it quite amusing that Mr Iemma is going to work harder and get going. To most it is about time he “got going” as NSW has been in a state in decline for over 10 years. As to “working harder”, maybe any work in general will be better than the 10 years of spin and manipulation we have received over the last 10 years.

Tricky Tiger’s luggage limit scam:

Michael Cordover writes: Re. “Tricky Tiger’s luggage limit scam” (yesterday, item 13). Tiger put up the per kg “excess” luggage cost two weeks ago — I was going through Melbourne on the first day of it and was behind a poor lady who was out a couple of hundred for her shopping trip. I was horrified so asked for a copy of conditions of carriage — only to be informed that they didn’t keep one on site, at all. Not even the manager had a copy of the contract. Not that it matters. Consider Article 16.1 “None of our agents, employees nor representatives has authority to alter, modify or waive any provisions of these Terms & Conditions.” — So the contract cannot be modified under any circumstances at all, apparently. Of course, fees aren’t set by the T&C, they can be varied at any time without notice. Having studied but not practiced contract law, and also being a bit of a lefty, the word “unconscionable” keeps coming to mind as I read this so-called agreement. If I had the time, money, inclination and skill, I might fight these guys. I think someone needs to.

Jim Hart writes: Another nice little add-on from Tiger when you book online is the opportunity to select your seat. You can enhance your flying experience with a regular aisle or window for a mere $8 but the extra bit of knee-room in an exit row will cost you $32.

ABC Learning:

Pamela Curr writes: Re. “ABC learning the hard way as profits slump” (yesterday, item 3). Eddie could always set up sheltered workshops for tots on the grounds that it was early learning for the hard cruel world. A nation which puts its most vulnerable into the hands of the market is beyond the pale. Profits out of the oldest and youngest among us —  where is our soul?

The West:

Chris Owen writes: Re. “What will happen if Kerry Stokes wins The West?” (Yesterday, item 16). Margaret Simons asks “What will happen if Kerry Stokes wins The West?” West Australian people’s answer is anything would be better than what we have now which is a paper of advertisements, lifestyle lift outs and car ads interspersed with an odd news piece. Opinion pieces by Gerald Henderson (two days after they appear online in the SMH) and ex editor of The West Paul Murray – which make Piers Akerman in the Daily Telegraph look like an intellectual. Help! Save us!

Moral panic:

Kerry Lewis writes: Re. “Everyone loves a moral panic” (yesterday, item 10). And the fact that the Rudd government is going to need the support of Steve Fielding and Nick Xenophon (Senate-wise, in a couple of months) wouldn’t have a small amount to do with the reasoning for tickling their tummies now, on issues that the more liberal Labor followers would probably prefer weren’t tinkered with, in such a ham-fisted, ill-thought, “nanny-state”, overtly politically expedient manner, just to appease a couple of politicians, when at least one of them, has shown to be in opposition to Labor ideals, so often, for the time he has been in that Senate, would it?

Rupert’s Adventures in China:

Slate’s Jack Shafer, writes: Re. “Rupert’s minions and the gentle art of self censorship” (yesterday, item 4). Say, Crikey, how about linking to my review of the Bruce Dover book? If it’s worth mentioning, isn’t it worth linking to?

Garnaut and nuclear power:

Willem Schultink writes: Marlene Hodder (yesterday, comments) rather disparagingly writes about nuclear energy, but misses some obvious points. Firstly the amount of carbon energy required to extract the uranium will decrease as nuclear energy becomes more widespread and nuclear derived energy is used in the extraction and processing of nuclear fuel. This is such an obvious thing that I am surprised she missed it! The reason that long term storage of nuclear waste is an issue at all is because nobody is game to tackle it. Australia should seize the enormous economic opportunity presented by the need for storage of nuclear waste. We have the stable geological and climate structures in isolated areas to be able to safely and effectively store it – at a price, of course! And we would perform a major service to an energy starved world that cannot afford the risk of massively increasing its use of carbon fuels. The growth in China and India will increase the demand for energy at much greater rates than could ever be met by renewables. Try telling them that they should consume less when they are just beginning to get some decent economic growth! Nuclear proliferation is not an issue. World powers who want to have nuclear weapons will have them whether we use nuclear energy for electricity generation or not. Someone else said that we have plenty of sunshine in Australia – we should use that. But this doesn’t help those countries that have very little sunshine. It’s not just about Australia. It’s about providing sustainable base load energy for the whole world.

Cardboard Kev and Alex:

Alan Kerlin writes: Re. “Cardboard Kev makes a mockery of flesh Kev’s parliament” (Monday, item 9). I look forward to seeing the next session of parliament featuring the government’s cardboard cut-out of Alexander Downer – knife and fork in hand, unearned payslip poking out the jacket pocket.

The ABC Logo:

Vivien Kluger writes: Hi Crikey, I hate the intrusive new logo like lots of other people, but I guess I’ll get used to it. What I find curious is why they have the old logo on during the news and The 7.30 Report and then revert to new type for other programs. Maybe they’re not so confident after all!

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Peter Fray

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