CRIKEY: In “Tips and Rumours” on Wednesday, it was suggested that Sapex “started rising strongly around the 23rd of April after hovering around the same price for months, then released a report today (29th) saying they commenced a seismic survey on the 24th.” Sapex had in fact announced the survey in late March.

Graeme Samuel and the ACCC:

Joel Smith writes: Re. “Why has Graeme Samuel changed his tune on Fuelwatch?” (Yesterday, item 12). I read with interest Bernard Keane’s analysis of Graeme Samuel yesterday. A little bit of historical perspective needs to be brought into play here. Yes Mark Latham originally did not support Graeme Samuel’s appointment as Chairman of the ACCC before the 2004 election; this has been widely reported recently with Samuel’s term expiring soon and him requiring the support of Federal Labor to be re-appointed. What has yet to be reported anywhere is that Latham changed his opinion on Samuel prior to the election as this link shows. “Reversed his threat of last year to immediately sack Graeme Samuel as Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chairman, saying the concerns were about the way he was appointed and perceptions of a conflict of interest. “From what I can gather he’s had a controversy-free period and seems to be doing a reasonable job and we hope that continues in the future.” It should also be noted that originally two Labor states supported Samuel — Tasmania and Victoria. Interestingly at the time the Tasmanian Treasurer David Crean was the opposition Treasurer’s brother. Later on, five of the eight Labor states supported Samuel hence why he has served five years as Chair of the ACCC. Whilst Stephen Conroy originally made some very derogatory comments about Samuel under parliamentary privilege, I am guessing they must have patched up their differences when one looks at this article from The Australian in October last year just before the last Federal Election. “He has also promised the key role in determining prices for Telstra’s other sworn enemy —  the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission.”Thank God for Graeme Samuel,” he said a few times yesterday — hardly evidence of a reduced role for the regulator in future.”

Wong’s water plan and rainwater tanks:

Greg Cameron, Urban Rainwater Systems Pty Ltd, writes: Re. “Wong goes to water. Is this the best they can do?” (Wednesday, item 11). Further to Bernard Keane’s item, he missed the point entirely about rainwater tank subsidies. If rainwater tanks are not cost-effective, why subsidise them at all? State and federal governments subsidise rainwater tanks to assist households to conserve water, and in the belief that, “In Australia, water is vested in governments that allow other parties to access and use water for a variety of purposes”. This is the claim made by all governments in clause 2 of the National Water Initiative 2004 (NWI). Nonsense. Urban water users in three states do have property rights to water. Water that falls on a person’s roof is vested in that person — and not government — as now acknowledged by the governments of NSW, Victoria and Queensland. (The governments of South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania rely on a legal technicality that a building fixed to land is land and therefore the roof of that building is land. Water that falls on land is surface water and rights to surface water vest in government; therefore water that falls on a person’s roof is vested in government. Clearly, residents of SA, WA and Tassie are like rabbits, which also live underground.) Rainwater tank subsidies are not required in order for privately-owned rainwater to cost less than government-owned mains water. What is required is an investment of around $50 million in rainwater tank manufacturing plant that will be capable of supplying three million houses on the eastern seaboard with four rainwater tanks each (one per downpipe) and capable of delivering at least 70 KL of rainwater each year, which is around one-half of annual indoor water use. With mass production of tanks and fittings, rainwater will cost $1.20/KL in Sydney and $1.40/KL in Melbourne and Brisbane. All houses could be supplied within 10 years. When governments acknowledge that clause 2 of the NWI does not apply to rainwater tanks, it will be an opportunity for them to explain their disinterest in a rainwater tank program that is available to 100% of households, without payment of subsidies costing several hundred million dollars.

The 2020 PR tender that wasn’t:

Dr Sue Page writes: Re. “The 2020 PR tender that wasn’t” (yesterday, item 9). Wasn’t there something in the US Free Trade Agreement that required any project >$50K to be advertised across both countries? Not that I want to pay a US consultant instead of an Australian one — more that there are a whole lot of departmental projects that quietly change hands without due accountability in the tender process.

China’s resources grab:

Andrew Brown writes: Re. “China’s unprecedented Australian resources grab” (Wednesday, item 2). Whatever the political sensitivities which I’ll leave to others to debate, at least the Chinese are taking on development risk. It pales into insignificance alongside the Gnomes of Glencore (Xtstrata) making off with MIM in mid 2003 for an equity value of $3.4billion and assuming debt of $1.7billion for an enterprise value of $5.2billion. Xstrata made EBITDA in Australia of US$2.5BILLION last year (mainly from MIM) despite coal/rain problems (and that was at a fraction of the coal prices they’ll get this new Japanese fiscal year). Oh, and the 50% of the Alumbrera mine in Argentina owned by MIM chipped in a mere US$756million last year. On my crude calculations, MIM shares, which were sold via the Scheme of Arrangement against the advice of the then MD, Vince Gauci, would at 8x last year’s EBITDA, be worth somewhere around $13 a share versus the takeover price of $1.72. You can’t really legislate against public company Directors, and institutional shareholders exercising their judgement and giving it away.

Rivers of latte and the ABC:

Tony Barrell writes: Re. “Conroy dropping the ball on media policy” (Tuesday, item 1). Why does Bernard Keane persistently take the cheap and easy way to identify people he thinks are stupid, wrong-headed, whatever, by associating them with café latte? On Tuesday, Keane labeled those in support of a staff elected director at the ABC as “latte-littered”. A strange and rather stretched metaphor to say the least, but what does he really mean? That people who drink milky coffee Italian style are not to be trusted. Mate, café latte is, if anything, the tipple of the suburbs, as is chardonnay, so neither will do as a signifier to ridicule trendy twerps. And why is a staff elected director an obviously stupid concept? It’s certainly not confined to ABC circles. Keane clearly is unaware that in Germany all corporations have, by law, to include a staff representative on their boards. (Declaration of interest:” I am a former ABC employee and long term supporter of the Board having at least one member who knows something about broadcasting)… Pass the pinot grigio.

Troy Buswell, snedger and pooner:

John Mair writes: Re. “That Troy Buswell is an awful snedger” (yesterday, item 10). Richard Farmer wrote: “Apparently in County Cork the practice of sniffing bicycle seats after women riders alighted was prevalent enough for the word snedger to be coined…” I think you’ll find the most common term for this uncommon perversion is pooning. Either way, it seems it gets Brendon Nelson’s support.

Guy Rundle in the US:

Tim Stott writes: Re. “US08: America falls off the roof” (yesterday, item 6). Very nice piece today Guy Rundle. George Bush has indeed tested the processes of US government to destruction.


Ignaz Amrein writes: Re. Alfredo Nistico (yesterday, comments). I thought I was pretty good at being sarcastic but obviously not good enough for everyone to notice, do any of you guys give lessons? Alfredo, please tell me where I can get one of those bumper stickers.

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