Problem gambling:

Peter Newell, President of Clubs Australia writes: Re. “The Crikey audacious lobbyist’s award … and the first nominee is…” (22 October, item, 16). Oops, obviously a careless Crikey sub-editor deleted Richard Farmer’s disclosure when trying to discredit Clubs Australia’s 6 point plan to further reduce problem gambling. In Crikey 24 September 2008 “Richard Farmer’s political bite-sized meaty chunks” Crikey disclosed “Richard Farmer started an internet bookmaking company in Canberra that moved to the UK when the federal government tried to declare all internet gambling illegal”.

If Richard farmer would like to debate the moral behaviour of internet gambling providers, companies that rely on people using credit cards to place bets, and who offer up to $1,000 in free bets when you sign up and hand over your credit card details, bring it on.

Clubs are highly concerned with the well-being of our members, who effectively own our clubs. That’s why clubs exceed their legislative requirements and sign up to voluntary codes of conduct as well as operate world’s best training programs for our staff. Our six point plan, of which family intervention is one point that will be a useful addition to the suite of harm minimisation measures already in place, goes a long way towards making clubs even safer. By comparison internet gambling is virtually unregulated, has no trained staff with Responsible Conduct of Gaming training and studies show problem gambling rates among internet gamblers twenty times higher than venue based gaming. If you want help, the Centrebet website directs you to a problem gambling service in wait for it … Los Angeles.

Our plan was about addressing problem gambling, not just poker machine gambling. We make no apologies for highlighting areas which need to be further regulated, such as internet gambling and credit betting. Nor do we think doing so is audacious. In the last two weeks ClubsNSW has rejected offers from two internet gambling operators, who proposed to give 50% of profits to ClubsNSW in return for promoting their operation. Both offers were rejected because of the dangers of internet gambling and our concern for the welfare of our members. Richard, that is called putting people before profits.

Problem gambling has already fallen significantly during the past decade, largely through the positive work of clubs and government. If you need evidence, look no further than Queensland, the only state in recent years to have increased the number of poker machines. A 2007 study of more than 30,000 people (the largest ever study undertaken in Australia on the subject), found 0.47% of adults are problem gamblers. The same measuring index in 2001 found a rate of 0.83%. Similar falls have been recorded in every other state and territory. Clubs Australia believes we can lower it further with the adoption of our six point plan.

Richard Farmer responds: A debate about the morality of gambling? What a great idea! In my old business of bookmaking it was possible for people of skill to win. With pokies there is only one outcome for a long term players — losing their money.

Rudd, Turnbull and the economy:

Les Heimann writes: Re. “Rudd and Turnbull’s egos destroying everything in their path” (Friday, item 2). Let’s get a few facts straight — in the first place Rudd, Swan et all at no time either suggested anything other than the plain unvarnished fact that they acted to guarantee bank deposits simply to maintain confidence in the banking sector. Both made it crystal clear that they knew their may be anomalies and issues as a result. It’s fair to say that the vast majority of Australians applaud their actions. Turnbull (and his minions) on the other hand have tried desperately to make some — any — political capital out of all this. We all know that our present PM is a little fixated at times; we are learning that he prefers the process over the outcome and so on.

Despite all this to even remotely suggest that on this occasion Rudd/Swan and the rest have not done their level best to act positively in, quite frankly, an awful situation is to be downright ill informed. The free market — we all know now — is a failure! For Turnbull to call Rudd “comrade” and quote “little red books” etc in question time is just another example of he (and I presume his party) strongly protecting and supporting all the selfish free market swashbucklers who have now proven their abject failure. If anything we now have a clear distinction between Labor and Liberal — and that’s healthy.

Alan Lander writes: Am I missing something here? I understand banks had licences guaranteeing their ability to pay out as lender-of-last-resort (as long as they followed regulations). The licences seemed to be popular at least back in 1983/84 when 16 new ones were put up for grabs. It was just local market size at the time which saw a few handed back, if I recall. True, returns from bank deposits have been woeful of late – if any at all – but at least your money was (supposed to be) safe.

Now Malcolm T (and your correspondent Bernard), it seems, wants to protect all those who put funds into other forms of investment fund operations such as CMTs and mortgage funds, where some people put their money in the hope they get bigger returns. But aren’t these operations by their very nature higher-risk because they don’t have a banking licence? So why should Rudd and Swan have to cover those who took the bet? What’s next … covering all shareholders for their market losses?

John Shailer writes: Re. “No reason for Rudd to guarantee mortgage funds” (Friday, item 23). Many self-funded retirees and small investors, reliant for their income from the large mortgage trusts, have had $5.5 billion of their funds frozen, after Kevin Rudd’s mismanagement of the guarantee on bank deposits. Wayne Swan’s solution is “go to Centrelink”. In other words; “let them eat cake,” to quote Marie Antoinette. Remember what happened to her! Smarten up Wayne, show a bit of concern, and sort out this mess!

Matt Cowgill writes: Re. “Wayne Swan approves Westpac takeover of St George” (Friday, item 9). I might start a Bernard Keane drinking game … every time he writes the word “oligopoly”, you drink.

The NT Intervention:

Di Marchant writes: Re. “NT intervention: Macklin ignores review board in favour of anecdotes” (Friday, item 3). I am currently working as a locum in Jabiru. I took the opportunity to go to Kunbarllanjanja in Arnhem Land last weekend to visit friends at the clinic. I was also interested to hear from them if they had noticed any benefits ensuing from the Health checks (I went last year in November to this community as part of the Intervention). I was informed the health checks identified 80% children needing dental care and 80% requiring ENT care (with some overlap). Phase one, which I was involved in, meant performing complete health checks on all children.

My opinion was/is it was “waste of money” in the sense that the information we obtained was already known by the doctors and nurses who work full time in these remote communities, i.e. that there is a significant need for dental care and ENT specialists (to highlight the major areas of need) My understanding is that Phase Two involved providing for the needs identified by the Health Checks. I consider the most rational way to assess this is to look at the end of 12 months and see if the dental and ENT ‘waiting list’ for these children has substantially decreased. If so, the Intervention could be seen as a useful exercise.

Andrew Elder writes: The other thing Macklin has going for her is an absence of opposition. Her shadow minister, Tony Abbott, has repeatedly said that he wants another portfolio. Abbott has written and spoken about almost every other issue than the portfolio to which his leaders (Nelson and now Turnbull) have assigned him. Abbott has not visited many Aboriginal communities in the NT. He has not applied his mind — one highly regarded by his fans — to the issues these communities face.

Abbott should be testing his belief in the Crown vs. traditional land rights; he should examine his religious faith against both examples of moral squalor in these communities as well as indigenous belief systems very different to those of the Catholic Church. Altman has claimed that Abbott supported a decision of Macklin’s, but that “support” is insubstantial. Abbott’s refusal to engage with these important issues makes him unfit for further public office. Stop taking him seriously until he starts engaging with his portfolio, or has the guts to resign from it.

Hoodwinking US taxpayers:

Julian Gillespie writes: Re. “World markets rack up another round of losses” (23 October, item 1). As we feared America’s Bail-Out legislation (TARP) isn’t being used for lending to Main St. As Joe Nocera of the New York Times has reported, the billions of dollars going to US banks together with newly introduced tax-breaks for US banks, are being used by banks for mergers at discount values with other distressed banks — lending-it-on hasn’t been a condition for receiving billions of dollars from US taxpayers.

So as we somewhat rightly guessed when this plan was being promoted by Paulson, Bernanke and Bush, they were saying one thing but have ended up doing something entirely different, and which in no way achieves the original aim of getting liquidity to Main St businesses — that particular objective has been take-up by the Federal Reserve which has been buying-up billions of dollars worth of Commercial Paper, so leaving Paulson and his team free to deploy the $700 billion in any manner it wants — as a fund for promoting bank consolidation.

All of which is absolutely remarkable when one returns to those scenes when Paulson and Bernanke were cap-in-hand before Congress telling them that the toxic CDOs and CDSs needed to be purchased, and that money needed to be injected into banks so that Main St business could operate. But given all the attention being afforded to the last days of the Presidential election, the media in the US doesn’t appear to be prepared to strongly push this story in the US to highlight how once again the Bush administration has hood-winked the American taxpayer one more time.

Parliamentary staffers:

Chris Johnson writes: Re. “Life a misery for the staff of Ronan Lee MP” (24 October, item 2). Bullying is not only a problem for “staffers” in QLD, and it is not limited to the Labor party either: The mounting evidence of ruined lives and careers at the hands of MPs and parliamentary executives looks like a human resource tsunami. This killer tidal wave might also need the nation to pass around the hats in a subversive rescue mission. Up there in the deep north they could launch the Queensland Electorate Staffing Trust (Quest) or in NSW (NEST!) so that victims can return all the bribes and compensation in exchange for the truth.

At footy games, shopping centres and sausage sizzles the aggrieved, their families and supporters could appeal for constituent support with a gold coin donation. By-passing the reprisals and stench of whistle blowing it would give the real heroes and heroines of political life a chance to redeem their faith — in human nature and the political process. This could auger well for textbook MPs who could open set up their bolt-holes as collection points to demonstrate impartiality. All positive, moral and ethical stuff with transparency in government achieved at last.

Stop scaring me:

Justin Templer writes: Re. “Tobacco ad defense shouldn’t be allowed to protect junk food” (Friday, item 18). Professor Simon Chapman of Sydney University’s forbiddingly named School of Public Health, writing on the “recalcitrant elements” in the food industry, tells us that “As happened with tobacco advertising, once the train leaves the station, the series of incremental bans rapidly gathers momentum. The hardliners in the food industry have every reason to be scared…”. I’ve got to say that Professor Chapman and his School of Public Health scare the crap out of me — his eerily Stalinist language suggests an impatience with the concept of freedom and elicits 1930s visions of NKVD operatives raiding food factories in search of his so-called recalcitrant elements and hardliners.

Radio surveys:

Matt Balogh, Managing Consultant, McNair Ingenuity Research, writes: Re. “Media briefs: Halloween comes early… Fairfax continues devotion to death by a thousand cuts…” (Friday, item 20). Joan Warner is incorrect in her statements. The Community Broadcasting Association of Australia National Listener Survey is conducted by an organisation that has over half a century of experience in radio surveys. The sample comprises 5,000 people across Australia, and the questions are not leading – listeners are asked about a list of specific community stations.

The survey has been run three times with very consistent results, and the method has been reviewed and endorsed by the Federal Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy. Every time the National Listener Survey is released we hear Ms Warner’s rhetoric, and every time we have to rebuke her. The fact is that Community Radio is continuing to grow in Australia, and blaming the messenger will not help the commercial sector. Community radio provides 9.5 millions Australians with content that addresses community interests and needs.

The price of petrol:

Richmond from the Crikey explainer unit writes: Re. Martyn Riddle (Friday, comments) who wrote: “I am hoping that the esteemed Crikey readership of economists can help me out with some calculations as it would appear as though my calculator is broken”. Martyn, my (very limited) understanding of our unleaded pricing is that the unleaded price is driven by the (Tapis) Crude price, however there is about a six week delay between the price movements of the two. Presumably this relates to the purchase price of stockpiles at refineries and possibly pre-existing contracts that the refiners have. Our pump price is also affected by the pricing from competing refineries in the SE Asian region and the margin the refiners put on top. So if Tapis crude stays down below $70 for a few months, our pump price should continue to fall towards $1.

Crikey sucks, Adelaide United rules:

Rohan Siegele writes: I echo the thoughts of Scott Sims (Friday, comments) that, “Crikey has gone down hill. There has not been a single scrap of reporting from South Australia”. My complaint however is not in relation to the SA leadership speculation, but more important matters — Adelaide United’s remarkable achievement in reaching the final of the AFC Champions League final and also qualifying for FIFA’s Club World Cup. I know that Crikey’s [Media/Arts/] Sport section is a shadow of its former self, but please just a little mention is all I ask!

Send your comments, corrections, clarifications and c*ck-ups to [email protected]. Preference will be given to comments that are short and succinct: maximum length is 200 words (we reserve the right to edit comments for length). Please include your full name — we won’t publish comments anonymously unless there is a very good reason.

Peter Fray

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