Dr Rachel David, director, public affairs at CSL, writes: Re. “Beware the Gardasil hype: an industry insider” (Friday, item 13). Kimberly Elliott in her comment about Gardasil implies that the testing of the vaccine has somehow been inadequate and that it has been “rushed” on to the market. This is not correct. Gardasil has been researched for almost 20 years, including clinical trials of over 25,000 women worldwide prior to being made publicly available. It is now approved by regulatory authorities in over 80 countries globally as being safe and effective, and intensive continuing surveillance has not found cause for concern in terms of adverse events even after 20 million doses have been distributed. Generally the safety standards for the clinical trials of vaccines are far higher than for other drugs, as vaccines are used by large numbers of healthy people to prevent illness rather than treat it. The results of the Phase III studies of Gardasil (published in the New England Journal of Medicine) speak for themselves and do not need to be “hyped” by anyone in the pharmaceutical industry. In fact the NSW Cancer Council as recently as last week stated vaccination has the potential to all but eliminate HPV disease in women in the future. This includes cervical precancers requiring surgical treatment, vulval and v-ginal cancers and g-nital warts as well as fully developed cervical cancers. For anyone concerned about the side-effects of Gardasil, the Australian Government has issued independent evidence based information that can be accessed here.


Alex Pollard writes: Re. Ted O’Brien (Friday, comments) — it is important to be clear about what inflation is. Inflation is an increase in the money supply relative to all goods, services and assets. Unfortunately it has become customary to measure it with the Consumer Price Index, a rather skewed and narrow measure. The truth is a broad measure of the Australian money supply (M3) is currently growing at close to 17%. This is the real rate of inflation. This is why houses are now unaffordable for all but the wealthiest first home buyers. We have seen a massive growth in money supply, but until recently little impact on the cost of living (largely thanks to China and cheap oil). Instead, all that extra money has been chasing houses and shares, bidding both asset classes up to unsustainable highs. Increasing interest rates *does* reduce inflation, because it reduces bank lending — the mechanism by which the money supply is increased. Yes, money is effectively created by fractional-reserve banking, and interest is the price banks charge for that “service”. However Ted O’Brien is correct in so far as increasing interest rates may not prevent CPI increases. Thanks to lax monetary policies (or more fundamentally, our flawed fiat money system), inflation is already baked in the cake, it is just a matter of waiting for it to flow into our cost of living as asset prices collapse.

The ATO:

Les Heimann writes: Re. “The Lowy tax settlement: I was there” (Friday, item 1). In my 36 years’ experience in the ATO including heading up the then Review & Litigation Division in Victoria I settled lots of cases. I know that many cases were also settled at the highest level in “Head Office”. There do exist internal ATO guidelines for settling cases and I certainly won’t reveal them here. However, suffice to say one of the most common causes for case settlement was, and certainly still is, that if the ATO cannot sustain an allegation it simply has to withdraw. That the ATO often, very often, is certain that a taxpayer is guilty doesn’t mean anything. Unless in a Court the ATO can prove the taxpayer’s guilt then it is absolutely counter productive to litigate. How many times did I hear the Auditors lament “but he’s guilty”. How many times did I respond “then prove it”. Thank god we live in a country where a person is innocent until proven guilty; if that means some escape because of this law it is a small price to pay. Unfortunately too many believe that “knowing” of guilt is enough. Unfortunately too many tax auditors (and I was one myself once) believe it is the taxpayers’ responsibility to prove their innocence.

Barack Obama:

Martin Gordon writes: Re. “Rundle08: Obamabots infiltrate McCain’s campaign” (yesterday, item 4). The coverage in the media of the Obama Berlin speech and visit to Europe has been hard to avoid. But even the most sympathetic European media are starting to realise the rhetoric is impressive but not the content. McCain has long advocated an emissions trading system (at least in legislation since 2003) whilst Obama has just joined the bandwagon. Obama in bolstering his foreign and military policy credentials wants Europe to do more in Afghanistan (and Iraq). Dare I suggest he wants a military “surge” in Afghanistan whilst opposing the Iraq one? His nuclear weapons free world struck even some Berlin audience members as unrealistic, and with China and Russia unlikely to agree it seems dead before the words left Obama’s mouth. Now Russia wants to put bombers in America’s backyard in Venezuela and Cuba how will he deal with the reality of that? Leaders loved aboard but not at home are not new, Mikhail Gorbachev and Tony Blair (recently coined as the Blair effect) are good examples.

Andrew Bolt:

Greg Samuelson writes: Re. “Andrew Bolt: you cackhanded climate slimers you” (Friday, ite, 5). So Andrew Bolt reckons the world may yet warm again, but it won’t be for “at least another decade”. Gosh, is he sure he can hold his breath for that long? And if he can, won’t the gains be cancelled out by the (Herald) Sun spots?

Julie Brennan writes: If you start employing Andrew Bolt then far from subscribing, I won’t want to even receive your sample.

Bernie Woiwod writes: If Andrew Bolt is now a writer for Crikey would you please cancel my subscription.

University students:

Bruce Graham, University Student in 1981 to 1987 and 1990 to 1992, writes: Re. “Part-time work and poverty are killing campus life” (yesterday, item 14). Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. Students worked fewer hours in 1984 because there was S.F.A. work to be had. Unemployment falls hardest on school leavers. Check the unemployment rates in the early 1980s. People getting married to get benefits? If Dara Conduit has only “heard stories” she should get out more. In 1984 it was the only way a 23 year old could escape from the implied income of their parents. There has never been a time when Centrelink student allowances were sufficient to live on. On the other hand, it is predictable (and consistent with foreign observations, and presumably what John Howard wanted) that making people pay for their education makes them more money driven, and destroys “campus culture”. Some conservative politicians appeared to believe that this would teach all 20 year old students to be conservative. Amanda Vanstone in particular seemed to have a chip on her shoulder in this regard.

Solar heating in China:

Ben Elliston writes: To clarify the comment from Marshall Roberts (Friday, comments), those “radiator-like thingos” are evacuated tube solar hot water systems, developed in the early 1980s at Sydney University and now manufactured in huge quantities in China. I would like to add that China has by far the greatest deployment of solar hot water heating in the world (measured in gigawatts thermal).

Big W:

Julian Gillespie writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (Friday, item 8). Regarding the tip about Big W selling out of advertised televisions. Legally speaking there is very old case law on these matters — Carbolic Smoke Ball from memory — where in the absence of any qualifying statements in the advertisement like “Until stocks last” etc, then all the consumer has to do is front-up and say “I accept your offer for that tele at the advertised price”, and then quite simply the deal (rather contract) is done — Big W thereafter have to furnish the tele at a later date when it comes back into stock for the advertised price — the trick is to “accept” the “offer” when you front up before they are able to communicate to you that the offer has been withdrawn (for whatever reason).

Crikey Consumer Watch:

Richard Scott writes: Re. “Crikey Consumer Watch: The iPhone” (Friday, Video of the Day). Just wanted to say that the consumer watch video was the funniest thing I’ve watched in weeks. Apart perhaps from the Queensland Liberal party.

The importance of words:

Simon Wilkins writes: Re. “Media briefs: Max Mosley gets damages, journalism’s future” (Friday, item 19). A quick trip to could have saved Times food columnist Giles Coren’s sub(s) from receiving such a superlative rant, but then we would have been the poorer for it and they would know the true meaning of “Sub”. On the other hand nothing demonstrates that the importance of words is over-emphasised like First Dog’s response to Andrew Bolt vs. Climate change. Dogcellent!

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