Vaile of Arabia and what to do with lax Coalition pollies:

Michael Andrews writes: Re. “Vaile of Arabia deserts the Opposition” (yesterday, item 1). So Mark Vaile is swanning around in the Middle East. The guy is on leave I understand so cut him a break even though you could claim there are enough non sitting days available to him to do these things. If you calculate the paid hourly rate of a Federal Minister over a year you’d find it was much less than a mechanic working in the WA mines. Crikey instead should be focussing on the absolute stench of Government in NSW and the elephant in the room that no-one talks about, the ALP and institutionalised corruption. When you have a poll which shows 41% of people aren’t aware of the Wollongong scandals you have a serious breakdown in democracy and a compelling case for non compulsory voting.

John Goldbaum writes: Re. Yesterday’s editorial. Your editorial was incomplete. John Howard’s bludging former ministers should certainly leave the parliament straight away, and the cost of the resulting by-elections should be deducted from their parliamentary super.

Bill Darby writes: I would like to suggest that payment of electoral expenses be conditional upon the elected member “sitting” in Parliament for at least one year after election — with a requirement that such payment of expenses must be refunded if a newly-elected or re-elected member decides not to stay. Members would then need to consider their position prior to nominating. At present the taxpayer underwrites everything. Is there any relevant provision in the Electoral Act? Any individual taking a similar approach in business might risk being sued for breach of contract due to non-delivery of value.

Scandal in Wollongong and dodgy councils:

Roger Colman writes: Re. “Introducing the new tzar and tzarina of Wollongong” (yesterday, item 3). Apart from being unable to deliver services in hospitals, schools, transport or roads, NSW Labor must be spending all its time working out how to assist developers make money. Starting in 1994 when Labor Party member (and ex Labor Fairfield City Councillor) Phuong Ngo was found guilty of assassinating Labor local State Member John Newman. Then we go through a raft of Labor Councils where Labor Lord Mayors or Deputy Mayors have been found to have some problems. Strathfield Council where in 2004 ex Labor Mayor Abi Saab attempted to win back the Mayoralship paying an ex Policeman to record attempted bribery attempts on then Independent Mayor Tsang. The $20,000 cost of the eavesdropping costs greatly exceeded Council Mayoralty pay, so the position must have held some other prestige benefit. The State Parliamentary Labor powerbroker Eddie Obeid, and his family, have been financially involved with some of the Strathfield developers of interest. Then we go to Rockdale Council where in 2002 Adam McCormick, the Labor Deputy Mayor, was charged with corruption. Then ever onwards to Wollongong Council. Now that the appointment of Joe Scimone to Joe Tripodi’s Department has been cleaned of Joe’s involvement, Joe is in the clear, but Labor Party nepotism continues. At Canada Bay Council, the local Labor Mayor A. Tsirekas has allowed some development applications without tender to the same developer (Bechara Family) involved in some for the Strathfield Council goings on. The Land and Environment Court found the Council had “abandoned its independent judgement” in approving some developments to this same family. What sort of encouragement must there be for a council to abandon its judgment? Joe Tripodi‘s sister in – law, Angela D’Amore is the State Government representative for this council area – one would think that this Council also deserves the sack. So with this many Labor Councils involved in some heinous behaviour – one would think that a part of the State Labor Government and its caucuses on Councils are made up of crooks or those that lie with crooks. Looks like Naples where nobody could find Mafia Chiefs or charge them with anything.

John Bevan writes: So Alex Mitchell thinks that the Iemma government has invented the whole corruption scandal in Wollongong just to get a port development through! A true journalist — never let the facts get in the way of a good story!

Sarah Green writes: Re. “Australia’s dodgiest local councils — a Crikey list” (yesterday, item 11). Last year the Busselton Shire was investigated by the WA Corruption and Crime Commission following several councillors’ involvement with lobbyists Brian Burke, Julian Grill and Noel Crichton-Browne. It was related to a controversial development at Smiths Beach, near Yallingup. Thought this was another dodgy one for you!

Recession and the RBA:

Philip Carman writes: Re. “Let’s hope the RBA remembers Keating’s recession” (yesterday, item 8). The RBA won’t cause any recession – that’s just a furphy put up by those who won’t concede that it was caused by their own, or their mates’ poor judgment in taking more debt and risk than was sensible. The collective losses and the resultant jobs lost and waste of effort, money and time in playing catch-up are the real shame of this recession we are going to have to have… The RBA will certainly rule a line under the economy and so will appear (to some) to be the cause, but they would not need to act if others had taken their feet of the pedals earlier (already). Blaming the messenger is a stupid and pointless exercise, showing that no lessons have been learned by the blamers, who will do it all over again, when next they get the opportunity.

Les Heimann writes: Queen sang “I want it all and I want it now” and Midnight Oil reprised “The rich get richer and the poor get the picture” and for over ten years our now turfed out leaders cheered from the sidelines chorusing “market uber alles” and now? Now we start paying for the songs of our forefathers. Now little dwarfs are popping around their toadstools singing “their must be pain – throw them out of work – throw them out of their houses” and so on. How in the hell can anyone justify pain as a cure for economic woes – especially pain to the already most financially challenged? But that’s what’s happening. Instead why not go back to the future and revisit real market intervention because supply side economics never works when it is under strain. Many years ago this country rejected a referendum on wage and price control – mainly because our conservative politicians saw this as a fundamental attack on a free market. Well perhaps it’s time to look at it again. Or raising company tax to say 60% or raising a super tax of say 30% on all incomes above $150,000. There is absolutely nothing fair, equitable or correct in constantly making “the poor get the picture” for the excesses driven by the top end of town.

Campaign finance reform:

Olaf Ciolek writes: Re.”Stars align for serious campaign finance reform” (Tuesday, item 9). A few months before last year’s federal election, The Age published an insightful op-ed piece by the economist Andrew Charlton. He argued that WorkChoices was not just an ideologically motivated assault on the unions. It was also strategically expedient: traditionally, the ALP’s coffers have benefited from unions’ deep pockets. Charlton believed that with one blow, Howard hoped to neuter both the unions, and the ALP. A similarly plausible duplicity can be read into the Rudd government’s recent proposals regarding campaign finance reform. Mayne has estimated the ALP’s net worth as between $700m and $1bn. Cutting the disclosure threshold will surely go some way toward increasing transparency in the electoral process. But capping individual donations will greatly affect the comparatively impecunious Liberal party’s ability to contest state and federal elections. Indeed, given the decreasing importance of the unions as sources of ALP campaign finance (some 10%), Rudd’s mooted reforms are far more consistent with – to use Charlton’s term – a “power agenda”, than Howard’s WorkChoices ever was. If Rudd were really serious about campaign finance reform, he would advocate not just caps on donations, but also caps on spending by political parties. If implemented, Rudd’s current proposals would simply perpetuate the ALP’s significant financial advantage over Australia’s other political parties.”

Niall Clugston writes: Why not ban all organisational funding – unions, businesses, lobby groups? If you’re not a voter, you can’t be a donor. Makes sense to me…

Star fu*king:

Greg Samuelson writes: Re. “Star fu*king – it’s the Australian way” (yesterday, item 18). Over the last year or so, Greg Barns has spoken so many eloquent and courageous words in defence of democracy, the rule of law and the powerless that he can be easily be forgiven for the occasional dribble down his chin. Yesterday’s Crikey piece was, unfortunately, an example of the latter. Making art of any kind does not render null and void someone’s right as a citizen to make public comment and effect public change for the common good (nor does it necessarily excuse anyone from it, Carey included). Cate Blanchett and Ian McEwen are doing just that, and good on them for giving it a go. As for Barns’ implied assertion that you need to be an “expert” on something before having the right to say anything publicly about it, did you need to be a general or a foreign policy mandarin, for example, to know the Iraq war was not a bright idea? It’s pure nonsense, Greg, but after such a strong year, you’re forgiven. Grab a tissue.

Keith Thomas writes: Greg Barns’ title can’t have been serious – it’s even more meretricious than the practice he denigrates. In fact, the main public issues relating to Tasmania’s forests and climate change are social and political and relate to human failings, public hypocrisy, double dealing, competing worldviews, the power of vested interests and the future of human well-being. A competent serious novelist is just the person to shed light on these — the scientific position is largely settled.

Fay Sharp writes: Step back and have a gander at the new government – half of them are new celebrities in the “house”. The ALP have been star fu*king for some time. It must’ve worked for just over 50% of star fu*k crossed working families.

Derek Kreckler writes: Greg Barns’ item was a bit OTT and full of assumptions!

Trevor Best writes: Greg Barns is right. Authors, actors, artists of any mode are our court jesters, entertainers, no more. Their opinions are of no consequence on any subject.

Robert Manne:

Justin Templer writes: Re. “The Australian’s Manne-hunt” (Tuesday, item 16). Clive Hamilton writes that Robert Manne’s new book Dear Mr Rudd is a collection of essays and policy suggestions “from a range of thinkers” (including himself). I hope this new-fangled “thinking” business doesn’t take off – without proper training some people could get hurt.

The Melbourne Grand Prix:

Ken Sparkes writes: Re. “Keep Melbourne’s Grand Prix? The numbers just don’t add up” (Tuesday, item 17). I have attended and worked at all Melbourne Grand Prix’s plus spent a heap of hard earned over that period. 2008 will be no exception! The Save Albert Park Group (SAP) is aptly named. Some are so frail it is a shame that they put their bodies through the turmoil of sitting under umbrellas or out in the elements with their crowd counters. Many of the SAP areas are unattended and if attended, whilst they are counting a hand full on one side, multitudes pour past on the other. An exercise in futility. On occasions I have stood there just to co-operate and requested they count me. Last year the SAP area did not have one person covering Gate 1 in the early hours and thousands poured though. Don’t ever hire them to count elephants! But by crikey you have given me an idea for 2008 – I will video all four days just as an exercise to show the stupidity. Naturally these folk do it with good intentions but they should put their efforts into something constructive for Victoria and the people of Melbourne, like helping Meals on Wheels, attending the sick and dying or assisting with school crossings. The Australian Grand Prix provides employment, fun and entertainment and is the best organised and run F1 in the world and I’ve been to all of them. NSW would sell the Harbour Bridge or for that matter the City of Wollongong just to get such and event. But the Melbourne Grand Prix will go just the same way as Adelaide and fall into the abyss with the help of misinformed media and motor racing haters. What next, the MCG Grand Final?

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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Peter Fray
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