A new CEO for Qantas:

Denise Marcos writes: Re. “Geoff Dixon replaced by younger Qantas model” (yesterday, item 2). Stephen Mayne, I’m concerned you’re neglecting your medication: it’s the only plausible explanation for penning Alan Joyce is “the right man for the job.” Ye gods, just when one thinks it can’t get any worse; the person at the helm of the overwhelmingly reviled Jetstar is now in charge of a former icon, Qantas. We mourn the passing of a once great airline; henceforth it’s destined for ignominy. As for the kangaroo image displayed on the aircraft tail, Qantas management are eroding a national treasure and should re-earn the right to flaunt it.

Alan Kennedy writes: God help the travelling public. The man who has turned Jetstar into the worst airline I have ever had anything to do with, a view supported it seems by many Crikey subscribers and the feisty Peter Faris QC, is about to be unleashed on Qantas. So we can expect new levels of rudeness, arrogance, passenger abuse and generally substandard service. Scratch and domestic flyer and you will get a Jetstar horror story of being bumped from flights even though you arrived within the ludicrous times set by the airline. Cancelled flights, delayed flights it goes on and on. Qantas is bad enough but now it seems it is just going to get worse. Can’t wait. For God sake Kevin, open up the Australian skies domestically and internationally so we have some real choice and don’t have to put up with the Jetstar and soon it seems Qantas nightmare.

Oxygen cylinders in planes:

Ken Waite writes: Re. “The full bottle on the latest Qantas thrill ride” (yesterday, item 3). Just a quick line about Ben Sandilands article on the Qantas incident. It’s important to understand that oxygen is a supporter of combustion, not a fuel. A cylinder of oxygen cannot by itself be “detonated” or, in other words, go off like a bomb. To create an explosion you need the right mixture of both oxygen and a combustible material like aviation fuel. This would require the oxygen to leak fairly rapidly into a space like a fuel tank which would contain kerosene vapour. In addition a spark would be needed to ignite the mixture. I’m writing this as a humble science teacher who is concerned that the impression is given that all oxygen cylinders are like primed explosives. The flying public need to know that they are not. I’m not an apologist for Qantas and the truth will out in the enquiry.

The Liberal-National merger:

Vincent O’Donnell writes: Re. “LNP: new name, same dribbling hicks and hacks” (yesterday, item 10). In The Age of 28 July, a correspondent suggested that Joh Bjelke-Petersen would be turning over in his grave over the Liberal-National merger. Wrong… Joh would be jumping for joy. The rural neo-socialists of Queensland, once called the Country Party, have for decades sought to eliminate the Liberals as competitors for the conservative vote especially in the cities and towns. That’s why, in part, the name was changed to the National Party back in 1974. It is certainly why the Nats pinched the arts and culture policies of the then treasurer, the Lib’s Gordon Chalk, to smarten up their hayseed image, in the eyes of the urban Liberal voters. Remember, this was during the reign of the Whitlam government in Canberra, when, for the first time, Australia’s artistic culture became the source of pride not embarrassment.

The strategy worked. In the general election of November 1986, both Labor and Liberal were reduced to a rump in parliament and the Nationals, for the first time, ruled without the need of a coalition with the despised Liberals. However, the euphoria was short lived: the sky was black with chickens coming home to roost and the following election was a rout for both conservative parties. Labor has, with one brief interregnum, ruled Queensland since. Now, after almost four decades, the Nationals have triumphed over the Liberals by eating them whole and then snatching the presidency of the new party. Joh Bjelke-Petersen would be pleased.

Brendan Nelson’s ETS plan:

John Goldbaum writes: Re. “Coalition scores own-goals with weak climate policy” (yesterday, item 4). Brendan Nelson’s strategy of delay applies equally to his party and its ETS policy. It is the Vietnam War strategy. You have to destroy the village in order to save it.

The drug industry:

Walt Hawtin writes: Re. “Drug industry fines itself $2 million” (yesterday, item 5). Ray Moynihan would probably be perceived a little more credibly on his routine bashing of the pharmaceutical industry if he offered a slightly more balanced view for his readers. I know its Crikey’s “oeuvre” to be more “cutting edge” than the mainstream media, but this bloke’s crusade against the industry is becoming increasingly lame. For example, Ray asks the rhetorical question “… whether letting the industry regulate its own marketing practices is really the most sensible approach here”. Within one minute of reviewing the Report he referred to, I was able to discover that the industry’s Code of Conduct Committee has twelve members on its panel.

Five of these are industry members, two being company clinicians or scientists. But there are also another eight members who are from the medical profession (four people); one is from the government’s drug approval agency (TGA); one is from a consumer group (CHF); plus there is a scientist from ASCEPT. Finally, there is an independent lawyer who acts as Chair. That means the industry is outgunned 8:4 on its own behavioural standards committee! And the whole process is then overseen by the ACCC! This hardly reflects Ray’s claims that the industry regulates itself. He is guilty of either deliberately omitting this information, or he didn’t bother to fully read the Report from which he quotes. Either way, it was pretty ordinary journalism from a known industry bagger. DISCLAIMER: I am a former pharma industry employee in Australia and UK. I currently provide professional services to the pharmaceutical and life sciences industries in Australia and Asia.

The alcohol industry:

Geoff Munro, Australian Drug Foundation, writes: Re. “Richard Farmer’s political bite-sized meaty chunks” (yesterday, item 12). Richard Farmer is onto something. If the spirits industry is worried that people are risking their health by drinking straight spirits, instead of the pre-mixed variety, what will it do now to protect the health and well-being of their valued customers? And was it so smart of the industry to refuse every attempt to have warning messages on placed on bottles of spirits, now that the Distilled Spirits Industry Council of Australia fears that spirits drinkers aren’t able to drink the product safely, because the bottles contain more than one standard drink? Surely now the manufacturers and retailers are honour bound to introduce straight talking warnings of excessive consumption on all spirits labels? And good, concrete advice on what constitutes unsafe drinking? Or is the whole story a load of industry-inspired, government-bashing, self-regarding hokum that is intended to give the Senate an excuse to reject the alcopops tax bill?

Interets rates, fuel and inflation:

Luke Butler writes: I have been based overseas mostly since 1988. Most recently spending my time around Europe (from a base in France) and the Middle East (UAE). Recently, my wife and I came back home to Oz to visit and spend more time with my Mum who is 79 and lives on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland. I have been struck by the effects of two Federal Government related policies/matters and their profound negative effects on the Australian economy — high interest rates and high fuel prices. Both share the common link that they can be adjusted by our Government appointed bureaucrats and by a change of policy.

For example, most central bankers in the OECD have reduced interest rates by around 2% as a response to the twin aberrations of the US credit crunch and the oil price surge and flow on effects throughout the whole economy of every country in the OECD (in the world for that matter) when our boys decided to put our interest rates up by around 3%. The results are clear for all to see and made more noticeable when viewed against the rest of the OECD. Rates here see bank overdraft rates around 9.5% when in Europe, USA and much of Asia they are more like 4.5%. All Businesses and families in Oz are amongst those negatively affected. Why — and why no comments anywhere on what is surely a simple observation?

The old inflation model that drove interest rate rises has been widely recognised as being overtaken by “aberration events” elsewhere, so why is it so slavishly and destructively followed here? Similarly the various Government imposed charges and price component inputs that go on top of our base fuel costs appear likely to account for around $0.90 per litre (more for diesel) and at a time when the Federal Government sits on top of its well publicised $40 billion surplus from tax collection (i.e. from us). So why not simply take the Governments foot off our collective throats and reduce its impost onto fuel prices by for example $0.50 per litre (more from diesel which should be cheaper than petrol as it comes out of the refinery process just after kerosene and a long way before petrol, hence is cheaper to produce everywhere unless Government taxes such as we have make it more expensive).

Jon Faine:

David Dosser writes: Re. Jeremy Mitchell, Editor of nowwearetalking.com.au, (Friday, comments). A touch of ridicule, an implied warning: Mitchell’s response looks to be more an attempt to silence criticism than to answer the questions about propriety that rightly arise from Crikey’s report on Jon Faine’s commercial dealings. Furthermore, the defence of Jon by a company his actions look to have benefited does not enhance his integrity in the matter. Mitchell focuses on only one aspect of the picture with his claims that there is “no obligation” on Faine to promote Telstra’s products and it is unlikely that Faine “can be influenced by a few technical devices”. Why would any commercial enterprise assist someone without expectation of some benefit? And it looks that Faine has obliged – publicly promoting assistance he received, and through his actions which enabled commercial enterprises to link him and their product. It is irrelevant that Faine is on holiday. Faine is, and why else would he have been given commercial benefit, if not for him being a well-known ABC presenter? (We can be sure the same support would not be extended to any ordinary John Doe citizen for his holiday.) Jon’s reported actions have shocked me and damaged this ABC listener’s trust in his independence and analytical skills.

Glenys Stradijot, Friends of the ABC (Vic), writes: With the ABC’s increasing engagement in commercial activities, there is a danger of an important principle becoming obscured, even for the most ethical of its journalists: The ABC and its presenters must not only be independent, they must be seen to be independent. Public trust in the integrity of the ABC and its staff is damaged if they promote commercial activities or even look to have accepted commercial favour. And that is no less the case if it occurs outside ABC time. Ironically it is the public’s trust in ABC identities that any commercial enterprise is seeking to gain advantage of by associating their product to them. But that public trust does not belong to the ABC or any individual to sell. And it will be readily lost if it is abused.

Consumer protection law:

Greg Adler writes: I’m not sure what case Julian Gillespie (yesterday, comments) has in mind but Carbolic Smoke Ball is not the one. This was a case about a cure-all with almost miraculous properties that failed to live up to its advertised potency. The court found that the extravagant claims were “mere puffery” not to be relied on. Consumer protection law has moved on but the answer to the claimed wrong in the missing Plasma TVs may lie in fair trading regulation not in a mythical right to hold the store to a purported offer. A pricing in a store is an offer to treat not a direct offer. The contractual offer is made by the buyer and the acceptance of the offered price completes the contractual arrangement.

Andrew Bolt:

Mike Smith writes: Re. Julie Brennan and Bernie Woiwod (yesterday, comments). Andrew Bolt’s not writing for Crikey, that was just the right of reply. Certainly, the paper he writes for doesn’t allow for that, but we do expect Crikey to be better than them.

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