Forget ETS, implement bullsh-t trading:

Kieran Masel writes: Re. “Nelson still talking guano on climate” (yesterday, item 10). I think I have a solution to all the hot air (pun intended) generated from the climate change debate. We need a bullsh-t emissions trading scheme. How would this work? Each year the government issues every citizen a permit for 1,000 units of bullsh-t. Each unit is valued at one dollar. If you are a little old lady who goes to church every Sunday then you will probably only use 200 units of bullsh-t in a given year (there’s no such thing as a zero-emitter). Our little old lady has 800 bullsh-t credits (1,000 minus 200) at the end of the year. She can go to the post office and sells her credits for $800 (800 x $1). Extreme bullsh-t emitters (such as politicians, real-estate agents, and car salesmen) cannot exceed their cap of 1,000 units. If they do they have to purchase bullsh-t emission credits (like the ones from our little old lady). If a politician emits 17,000 units of bullsh-t then he has to spend $16,000 to buy bullsh-t emission credits (17,000 minus 1,000). This would send a price signal (bullsh-t for “the more you use, the more you pay”) to heavy emitters. We now have real cash incentives to reduce our total bullsh-t emissions. While I admit it would be extremely difficult to measure and police the level of bullsh-t emitted by each person it is no more difficult than measuring and policing carbon emissions by every emitter in Australia. It’s all the same bullsh-t.

Nicholas Roberts writes: It’s scary and surprising that no-one is asking the question: “What happens when the greenhouse gas market fails?”. The idea that we are basing the survival of human civilization and most life on the planet on a system that will inevitably fail, if not entirely, periodically. Unlike the financial system, we cant buy back carbon out of the atmosphere, the sea. No government or private or independent organisation can intervene in the emerging climate market. It won’t be simple business or household bankruptcies, it’s a little more serious than that.

The economy:

Marilyn Shepherd writes: Re. “Oil prices push consumer confidence to record lows” (yesterday, item 1). For the past seven years Australia has been building personal and foreign debt of about 165% of disposable income which should be unsustainable by anyone’s measure. Inflation has started to rise so the RBA raises interest rates to rein in the astronomical level of spending. Now that that spending has finally slowed down a little the chicken little’s in the banks claim the problem is lack of consumerism causing a major downturn. With high incomes, high employment and even higher exports on the horizon I suspect it is nothing more than a whinge from the retailing giants who want more and more profits and nothing at all to do with the price of petrol. George Megalogenis from The Australian (one of their only sensible journalists) pointed out some time ago that petrol is only about 3% of the weekly budget and really people don’t have to have the stuff. Me thinks the bank economists should have a reality check because I have never in my life heard so much bloody whining from rich people.

Noel Courtis writes: Glenn Dyer’s item seems to list everyone who is to blame for the downturn. Unless I missed it, there is no mention of the PM and the way he makes no effort to raise the spirit of Australians. When people are down a smiling face and encouraging words can do wonders. No, the PM doesn’t go down that path — he sets out to drive their spirits down lower by telling amazing stories of how the Barrier Reef is finished and how thousands of Queenslanders will die of the heat as well as all prices will go through the roof etc etc etc. When will he see something good for the country?

Libraries are important:

Melanie Elron writes: Re. “Fairfax’s business arm shooshes the librarians” (yesterday, item 19). Fairfax have sunk to a new low with this one. Upfront I’ll say that I’m a librarian and am outraged at what’s happened at FBM as a fellow professional. But as a citizen I’m also outraged at the impact this will have on journalistic integrity. As an information professional I understand more than most what this really means. This could set a precedent for all media, and it devalues accurate research and intelligent information-gathering. Sure it’s an easy cost to cut, but it’s media consumers who will suffer from the erosion of quality. This is opening up a new world of fact-checking by Google and Wikipedia. I am no luddite — I love the web, and I use those sources everyday in my work. But I know when to check them against authoritative sources. Published, edited, fact-checked sources. Sources that, because of their rigorous editing, cost a lot of money to produce and therefore aren’t free on the web. Unfortunately Gen Y is already so pacified by Paris Hilton and the Pussycat Dolls, they won’t even know how to evaluate what they get fed… I use Fairfax products everyday. Business relies on them, legal proceedings sometimes rely on them too. If the media is based on incomplete and inaccurate garbage (as has often occurred when idiotic web-hoaxes are picked up by news media and paraded in otherwise respectable publications) then how can we trust their printed word? The AFR was the beacon of quality business journalism. The media is the voice through which Joe Public understands the world. Bias is one thing — outright inaccuracy is a whole other story… How can an executive be so blind to the source of the quality upon which his product’s reputation is based? Without accuracy, research and integrity the AFR will become just another rag, dismissed and discounted by the marketplace. Well, we can only hope…

The Democrats:

Alan Kerlin writes: Re. “An attack on Mayne’s Democrats revisionism” (7 July, item 18). Recent weeks have seen a lot of commentators banging on about ‘what killed the Democrats’. As a former branch president and National Executive delegate, I can attest that much of it was utterly uninformed and incorrect. It is therefore good to see Andrew Le Clercq given space to set the record mostly right — the role of the GST issue is always overplayed. The Democrats were a party that was truly governed by its membership, from its policies to its leadership, instead of by a back-room cartel like the old parties have. The membership had pretty much moved on beyond the whole GST issue, and were solidly focussed on the future, as borne out by the following record election result. But some in the senate team were unable to move on in a similar fashion — most particularly Meg Lees and John Cherry. Cherry’s role in white-anting the Senate team is not recognised by many. The biggest disappointment was that it was effectively destroyed by so few people who couldn’t grasp the big picture and park their personalities at the door. And those of us with moderate economic views but strong environmental and social ethics are left as “ships with no ports”.

Beware fuddy duddy’s bearing laptops as gifts:

John Kirkham writes: Re. “Computers for kids are useless without backup” (yesterday, item 12). From the parallel of owing my own IT business and seeing the Federal Government offer laptops to all schools has me rubbing my hands with glee. I just can’t wait to offer on-site service contracts to local schools. The flaws that exist with masses of so called techno savvy youth, having personal access to these bundles of modern technology wonder, far outweigh the educational benefits, let alone the gravy train about to be unleashed on the Australian IT sector. From firsthand experience, I’ve been blown away at the antipathy shown by up and coming grown ups… floored even. A problem with service backlog exists within all national laptop distributors so the rough and tumble of school life for a laptop is going to test out even the most streamlined servicing provider. Schools can’t expect same day turnaround for damaged equipment so it’ll mean stock piling spare laptops within schools for ‘just in time’ replacement… doling them out like books on a library card. As well, there is a whole new dynamic that’s being created for teachers in schools because of a “laptop for every school kiddy” policy. Teaching flow will be broken just because one student’s laptop crashes mid lesson, what kind of a burden is that to inflict continually on a hapless teacher. Smaller schools can’t create IT departments out of thin air to manage on-site maintenance of networked computers. So the private sector will have to take up the slack, for a price. To this day, I still gasp in awe, seeing a parent hand over hard earned cash in the vain attempt that something inside “that box” will spew forth, forming for their offspring, a creative spark, a genius quality.

G8:

Derek Barry writes: Re. “Doing the G8 wrap” (yesterday, item 5). I note that Sophie Black and Jane Nethercote’s G8 wrap today tried to alarm us with the knowledge that Japan’s current Prime Minister would be 114 years old in 2020. Good grief, has the Japanese gerontocracy spread to the extent that the country is currently led by a 102-year old? Not quite, it seems. Crikey should be aware that Mr Fukuda is a sprightly nipper who will turn 72 next week (happy birthday!). Ben Wikler from Avaaz knows this too and his quote had Fukuda celebrating his 114th birthday in 2050 not 2020.

Marsali Mackinnon writes: Just some minutia on Sophie Black and Jane Nethercote’s item FYI — from an old newspaper subeditor… “Chaud-froid” is a French cooking term that in English means “A dish that is prepared as a hot dish but is served cold. Chauds-froids are pieces of meat, poultry, fish or game coated with brown or white sauce then glazed with aspic.” (Larousse Gastronomique). But when it comes to a definition of “eater shield and pink conger” (Japlish?)… I’m lost for words! Sounds like that old English definition of fox-hunting (“the unspeakable in pursuit of the inedible”)… hope the G-8 choked on it, whatever it was…

Mark Vaile:

Stuart Mackenzie writes: Re. “Vaile of Arabia’s phone scam link” (yesterday, item 4). I’ve read and re-read Bernard Keane’s item, but I still can’t see why it was published. If there is “no suggestion that Servcorp had any knowledge of the businesses conducted by some tenants” as Bernard says, what is the story and why would you seek a comment on it from Mark Vaile even if you could reach him?

BankWest:

Kirk Muddle writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (yesterday, item 7). After reading the tip regarding BankWest raising their interest rates, I rang Bankwest — as we have our mortgage with them. “Shane” in the call centre had no idea, had to then call though to “the responsible division”. Eventually came back to me and told me my rate has increased to 9.5% from 9.3%. When I asked about a press release (pointing out that all others banks normally do) they said that they are only obliged to send out an account position statement. As soon as I have 20% equity I am SO changing banks!

Rundle in the US:

Julian Gillespie writes: Re. “Rundle08: Obama’s eye-wateringly cute family interview” (yesterday, item 2). Guy Rundle, you’re a bloody genius – when will the book be out?

Photography and children:

Sally Goldner writes: Re. “Banning n-ked kids would make the law an ass” (Tuesday, item 12). In 1972, Nick Ut photographed n-ked nine-year-old Kim Phuc fleeing her napalmed village during the Vietnam War. As Nick didn’t have any permission to do so, will he now be charged with creating child p-rnography?

What’s Crikey market?:

Harry Goldsmith writes: Re. “Media briefs and TV ratings: Hollowmen win, Satin princess” (yesterday, item 21). What is Crikey’s market? There are two items in yesterday’s “media briefs” section to which I am referring. One refers to the supposed similarity between the Addams Family and the family of the “photographed n-de girl”, and the other is the comment on how Professor Garnaut combs his hair. How does either of these items add to the quality of Crikey? It is not as if you have blank pages that you have to fill with rubbish. These are the type of items which turn me off Crikey. Are you trying to get the Daily Telegraph’s and the Herald Sun’s readership to switch to Crikey?

Maurie Farrell writes: Apart from your “media briefs” people, does anyone give a toss whether TV newsreaders are wearing satin, or silk or any other bloody thing?

Caltex:

Frank Boys, manager, investor relations at Caltex Australia writes: Rer. “Caltex spins its profits as oil prices soar” (30 June, item 22). I would like to correct some inaccuracies in the article, as well as provide more explanatory detail on our preferred reporting methodology. Firstly, I would like to address some of the inaccuracies in your report. You state that our replacement cost of sales operating profit (RCOP) “lowers the actual profit it reports to the taxman”.

This is not correct — our income tax payments are determined by our statutory or historic profit. You also state that our forecast profit for the first six months of 2008 is “between $175 million to $195 million, down $294 million on the first half of 2007”. The forecast profit is actually down between $99 million and $119 million from a result of $294 million in the corresponding period last year. Further, I would point out the growth in sales of “diesel passenger and SUV type vehicles” has had a negligible impact on diesel volumes and prices. Whilst growth in domestic demand is being driven primarily by the mining sector, it is a simple fact that surging demand from Asian economies, in particular China, has driven world prices for diesel to historical highs. As you are aware, the price of diesel in Australia has grown in line with the cost of buying diesel in Singapore and transporting it to Australia.

A significant portion of your article was also devoted to our preferred replacement cost operating profit (RCOP) reporting. RCOP merely restates cost of goods sold from historic cost to replacement cost, thereby removing the impact of movements in the crude oil price on our profitability. As movements in the crude oil price, both up and down, create volatility in our reported statutory earnings, the RCOP result better represents the underlying financial performance of our refining and marketing operations. It is not, as you claim in your article, related to the decline in profits — the difference between the historic and replacement cost results is dependent only on the movements in the crude oil price which is outside Caltex’s control.

As I am sure you are aware, Caltex has been publicly and consistently reporting its earnings on both an RCOP and historic cost basis for many years. It is not a recent phenomenon. The RCOP methodology is well understood and accepted by the financial markets, investment community, banks and credit rating agencies as an appropriate means of assessing the performance of our business.

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