Rupert Murdoch was not here:

Greg Baxter, director of corporate affairs at News Limited, writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (yesterday, item 7). Crikey published: “According to the back bench at News Ltd Holt Street, there could be a change coming at the Sydney Sunday Telegraph after a flying visit last week by the proprietor, Rupert Murdoch. He was here briefly but took time to read and digest his local publications. The Sunday Tele was one that came in for the typical Murdoch treatment: it was scanned and then allegedly tossed across a desk with the comment: this is sh-t or words to that effect. And then he was gone.” Attention Crikey from News Limited: Rupert Murdoch was not here last week. Nor was he here the week before, or the week before that. He’s not here next week either. He has I believe made the alleged comment “this is sh-t or words to that effect” on numerous occasions – about Crikey. Here’s another tip: Be nice to your mothers. They’ve suffered enough.

Taxing RTDs:

Mark Freeman writes: Re. “Voodoo tax policy on alcopops” (yesterday, item 3). Dear Crikey, there are all sorts of dubious counting and agendas in alcopop taxing and pricing. It doesn’t take a genius to see that these pre-mixed drinks’ high profitability was further subsidised by unwarranted preferential taxation. Look at the alcohol content per container versus the price. Even at the now equalised tax rate they’re still a money spinner. My prediction – don’t expect the touted price increases over time as the grog pushers compete over market share at the cost of slightly lower per unit profits. Then there’s the extra tax take. But hang on – isn’t the idea to reduce consumption? So is this extra tax take based on current consumption or a predicted reduced rate?

David Sanderson writes: A point that Crikey seems to have missed is the widespread misreporting of this tax change. Many early reports said that the tax on RTDs was going up from 39.36 cents a litre to 69 cents a litre leading to a price increase of 30 cents to $1.30 a bottle – see the Sun-Herald for an example of this misreporting. Even a superficial examination of the maths shows that these figures do not add up and that the reporters had wholly missed that the tax applied per litre of alcohol not per litre of RTD.

Mikey Hughes writes: Bernard Keane wrote: “Then again, it’s rare that the impact of a tax is primarily on young women, many of them below voting age, who are being demonised as binge drinkers (cue the usual file footage of semi-conscious teens staggering around, or belting each other).” Interesting point from Keane. Except of course the voting age (18) is the drinking age as well. Given the impact binge drinking can have on a still developing brain anything that can be done to curb the excess is probably a good thing. That way some of those below voting (and drinking) age people might make it to 18.

Christopher Ridings writes: Re. “Alcopops: Who among the booze producers lose?” (Yesterday, item 20). Glenn Dyer’s title says it all. There’s fast money in commercially spiking younger people’s drinks. No inroads into this and other problems can be made until the money trail is followed to see who profits from the status quo. Next step is to get between these parasites and the product. It is sheer hypocrisy for any Government to warn about the dangers if the product is continued to be allowed to be advertised. Part of the problem is that even Governments get to depend upon the income that derives from the immature, the weak, and the vulnerable. I will know that Governments are fair dinkum when they ban advertising all stuff that causes addiction problems or clutters the planet. Nothing less is going to make any difference.

For more comments on this issue, see the Crikey website story.

World Youth Day:

Paul Gilchrist writes: Re. “NSW spending too much on World Youth Day? Pope a Catholic?” (Yesterday, item 8). Bernard Keane has another spray at WYD, this time based on a survey of 300 people he read about in the newspapers. But no, I do him an injustice. After his jolly and juvenile spraying words like “paedophilia” and “misogyny”, he gets down to his real point, which is to condemn tax concessions to religions (based again on something he read somewhere). Fair enough, you can at least have a rational argument about this (rather than the knee-jerk prejudice of the first part of Bernard’s article). Bernard (via the article he quotes) criticises the tax concessions involved in church run hospitals and aged care facilities (staffed partly by volunteers), so what does he want? More tax concessions for commercial operations or increased fees for all the sick and old?

Simon Rumble writes: I’d just like to head off the inevitable arguments about why religions don’t pay tax. No doubt there’ll be the argument that religionists do good deeds. However, such activities could very easily be financially walled off from other activities, and attract the same tax concessions afforded to other charitable organisations. The rest of religions’ business should be treated like every other business. That includes proselytising (AKA business development).

Justin Templer writes: Bernard Keane is upset by the amount of taxpayer money lavished on the Catholic Church, and other religious subsets. But the greater outrage should be reserved for the quiescent nature of the Australian electorate. A Fairfax press poll on attitudes to World Youth Day suggests that Sydneysiders are primarily concerned by the potential disruption to traffic and public transport. This narrow self-interest ignores the flagrant abrogation of the tenets of our supposedly secular society – the federal and the NSW state governments have chosen to throw taxpayer dollars at the celebration of one particular set of beliefs, the Catholic creed. If next year Scientologists seek taxpayer funding to parade the decaying remains of L. Ron Hubbard around Australia will this request be met equally generously? And, if not, why not?

John Goldbaum writes: John Watkins claimed that World Youth Day would generate $190m in tourism revenue and the Chamber of Commerce estimated the figure would be $230m. Government outlays to support World Youth Day have been estimated to be between $86 million and $160 million. Even if we accept that revenue from the event will be $230 million, we should remember that revenue is not the same as profit. Assuming a very generous profit margin of 20%, Australians will only earn a return of $46 million for the expenditure of more than $86 million. Jesus saves and taxpayers pay through the nose!

Shirley Colless writes: According to an article in The Bulletin earlier this year, the Roman Catholic branch of Christianity was planning to contribute $20-25 million towards their exclusive World Youth Day. If it does so, then the bill for this six/seven day wonder will be raised to over $185 million. And that’s not counting the cost to my local council, for instance, which has been, virtually, ordered to provide facilities for the ‘pilgrims’? And all this in what public, I repeat public, interest? How much of the estimated $190-230 million in tourism revenue will actually come back to the public coffers? But what really fascinates me is John Watkins’ claim that there is sufficient leeway in the public transport system to cope with the extra trains and buses that will be needed to move the ‘pilgrims’ around. If this is so, then why is not this wonderful leeway being used to move commuters, shoppers and students around Sydney every day of the year?

John Dougall writes: I read Crikey on a daily basis and until I read the vituperative piece of tripe that you served up yesterday about Catholicism I was ready to become a subscriber! Okay… the Iemma Government has certainly made some big mistakes around World Youth Day, and I for one believe that the whole event is being over-hyped and is a very questionable use of taxpayers’ funds, but that does not excuse the vicious attack that your journalist was permitted to launch on the Catholic Church and its beliefs. Lift your game and get out of the gutter – you should be ashamed of yourself! You owe five million Catholic Australians an unqualified apology.

For more comments on this issue see the Crikey website story.

Food and sustainability:

Tim Falkiner writes: Re. “Mungo: And now for the good news…” (Yesterday, item 9). Mungo MacCallum wrote: “As the United States, representing more than a quarter of the world’s economic production, gets crooker by the day (restrictions on the sale of rice, for heaven’s sake – food rationing in the richest country in human history!) There are fears that the infection must spread. Australia has at least partial protection through the commodities boom and trade with China, but it would be naïve to think we can escape unscathed. A few wrong calls could easily push us into a recession – one which we don’t have, according to most of the experts.” Just what is Australia’s capacity to supply its population with locally produced food? Jared Diamond reckoned Australia’s carrying capacity on a sustainable basis at 8 million and we have something like 20 million. Given our poor soils and poor rainfall, are we able, assuming all incoming food sources were cut, to feed our population? It is just an interesting question.

NSW power privatisation:

Alan Kennedy writes: Re. “Iemma’s dilemma: privatise or count the Costa” (yesterday, item 2). Even if you favoured power privatisation in NSW it would be tempting to vote against it at the ALP conference this weekend if it meant seeing the back of Iemma and Costa. Throw in Tripodi and Meagher and a vote against would be well nigh irresistible.

What do you mean by “Free Tibet”?:

H. Richard Brinkman writes: Re. “The Olympic Torch, the Chinese and the protests” (yesterday, comments). Could those who wish to “Free Tibet” describe the Tibet that would result? Do they mean the Tibet of the early fifties – a serfdom ruled by a theocracy that allowed no Western medicine or science, no transport systems, no infrastructure, no telecommunications, no air traffic, no public education and no contact with the outside world? A “Free Tibet” would not return the country back to the equitable, prosperous, enlightened form of democracy that many of its supporters imagine, but in fact has never existed.

Paying for sport:

Garth Wong writes: Re. “Is Rudd’s margin too fat to worry about promoting exercise?” (Yesterday, item 13). Why should a student not interested in participating in individual, group or team sports be levied a fee to allow those who want to participate and enjoy free access to a university sports club? Maybe the student prefers to participate in his/her suburban sports clubs? In the general community, if I want to play squash, or competition tennis, or suburban rugby union, rugby league or soccer competition, I have to pay a club membership and registration fee to enjoy the benefits of participation in that competition and the club facilities. What makes university students such a special case for free access to this activity? If you extend this argument to all sectors, then councils and state governments should be levying all its tax payers a fee for the establishment and running of local and state sports clubs and make participation in these sports free to all who want to take up the offer. Of course this does not happen. By definition, or university students are the brightest and most intelligent of our youth to gain entry to undergraduate or post-graduate studies. If they don’t realise they should be looking after their own health and physical fitness, why should the state nanny them from cradle to grave. I’m not sorry! Let them suffer for their own bad lifestyle choices. It’s survival of the fittest, which is how Nature and evolution has occurred over the millennium.

Anti-heroin implants:

Jim Heckathorn writes: Re. “Calls for inquiry into unproven anti-heroin implants” (18 April, item 12). As a director of a medical devise company that has developed a Naltrexone implant now ready for testing I would like to comment on Ray Moynihan’s item. I should also add that we are in the process of documentation, testing, and setting up clinics that will give us TGA approval. So far the expenses have been all ours but we hope to obtain help from a grant. You article did not help and I would like to address the following points: 1) Naltrexone is not an “unproven” implant. In addition to the ones Dr George O’Neil has implanted, stated as “more that 2000”, when I did the research almost two years ago there were more that 12,000 implant cases in the UK and the USA. 2) While the article seems to suggest that an inquiry is going to uncover “dangers” of the implant I believe, if it is done correctly without bias, it will support the implant as a treatment for heroin. 3) Naltrexone, as I said two years ago, is a DuPont drug that has been used for 25 years. It is not an “unproven” drug. 4) The article implies that there are serious questions about the safety of still experimental implants. Well the questions should be serious but the safety of the implant (as an implant) has never been questioned. Only the people electing to go off the program and back into drugs. So what’s new? Thousands of users in Australia face the same problem every day when they elect to go off of a treatment and back into drug using. And many of them die. 5) Crikey ran a series of “stories” that have not been properly assessed in good quality clinical trials? Come on. Get real. The USA alone has published many clinical trials with outcomes. I’m sure the UK has also. 6) Methadone is a standard treatment? We know people including a family of a personal long time friend, who has been trying to get off of Methadone for almost ten years. The young adults have to get the “standard Methadone” usage down to an “acceptable” usage (whatever that is) before they can be accepted into a treatment centre. 7) Naltrexone has been linked to a “number” of deaths? How many? I only know of two. And if you take that to be out of the 2,000 performed in Australia that number is only .1 percent. And even if it was 20 it would only be 1%. The number for people coming out of prison and go on and than off of Methadone and back into drugs is between 5 and 7 percent die. Figures from Prison Fellowship Australia. A bit old but I would bet they are worse now not better.

The Republic:

Adam Rope writes: John Bowyer (Friday, comments) seemed to be trying to silence different opinions – “If you cannot suggest a model then keep out of the debate” – which is interesting when we are meant to be having a debate. As I stated previously, in my honest opinion we don’t need a debate about a model for a republic, or changes to the constitution, and all those other distractions. That’s just a tactic the monarchists use to divide the pro-republican argument, as was achieved last time around, with the John Howard divide and conquer wedge. We just have to have one simple clear question to vote upon – do we want an Australian citizen, living in Australia, as our head of state? Once that is done, and the result in, and the will of the majority of Australians is known, then we will know if we need the debate about the model or – please note – not.

Jeremy Davis writes: Re. The Republic Debate (yesterday, comments). Can anyone please tell me where it is stated, whether it be the Constitution or elsewhere but excluding the contributions of Flint and like-minded Crikey brethren, that the Governor-General is Australia’s head of state?

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