ABC Learning and childcare:

Andrew Lewis writes: Re. “The commentators who were seduced by Eddy Groves” (yesterday, item 22). Kudos to Neil Walker for checking the members of the fourth estate who were sucked in by Eddy Groves supposed business model. I was flabbergasted on reading a number of reputable journalists from broadsheets virtually lecture the child care sector about how “simple financial disciplines” meant that 40 to 50% of revenue would cover all your costs and the rest was just cream, and the Eddy was just introducing management skills where none existed.

The inference was that this was an industry ripe for the picking, fat and bloated. Now what was long suspected in the industry has come to pass and the simple financial disciplines these guys were talking about was the oldie but goody “cooking the books”.

Ray Quigley writes: I agree with Mitchell Holmes (yesterday, comments) that there is nothing inherently wrong with a child care centre being run for profit. Before the ABC Learning “consolidation” started there were a great many individually operated centres run by profit oriented proprietors. I am sure there were “good” and “bad” operators. If my memory serves me correctly, when ABC Learning was buying centres at a great rate, another (at least one) of the same sort of model (Peppercorn?) was established by a group led by some very conservative figures.

One could surmise that its main business aim was to sell out to ABC. It is worth a thought that the private hospital industry was being taken down the same “path” by Mayne Nickless (remember them?) where bandages, etc were centrally “sourced”, leaving staff to have to whip down to the local supermarket before someone bled to death on the operating table.

Indigenous Australians:

Justin Templer writes: Re. “Mapuru school kids “starving” for maths and English” (yesterday, item 3). The condition of indigenous Australians is a hugely important national issue — which is why I do not understand why you publish long rambling essays about the obscure politics involved in building a community swimming pool or the unfairness of government in the type of school it is willing to offer. I woke up towards the end of this latest treatise to discover that former teacher Linda Miller had devoted 1,300 words to the complaint that government had offered the Mapuru community only a small government school, not the Independent Christian School they wanted.

Frankly I think that it is wonderful that we live in a society that can afford to fund a remote school for 40 school-age children — that is an average of three students per year. To then require, as Ms Miller does, that taxpayers should fund a school outside of the official schooling system and devoted to one particular religious belief in turn beggars belief.


Greg Angelo writes: Re. “Media briefs: Over worked Fairfax subs… Mapping the media meltdown…” (Yesterday, item 19). Recent events off the coast of Somalia have dispelled the Hollywood myth of the pirate as some form of hero. These thugs and bandits are terrorising ships crews and holding them and their cargoes for ransom. These vile individuals do not carry cutlasses and flintlock pistols but use high-powered rifles, machine guns and rocket propelled grenades to enforce their demands.

The apparent reaction of world government is to look on with distress whilst ships and their crews are held to ransom for weeks at a time. In the murky undercurrent of risk management, it appears that as the perceived lesser of two evils ransoms are being paid by owners and underwriters. Unfortunately this can only have the effect of encouraging more blatant piracy aided and abetted by criminal elements within Somalia.

We have been so conditioned by Hollywood and its acolytes including the Disney empire to treat piracy as some form of entertainment. Governments around the world must act uniformly to outlaw the practice of paying ransoms under these circumstances. Furthermore a free fire exclusion zone should be declared off the coast of Somalia and any unidentified vessel travelling at a speed of more 10 knots should be fired upon.

A similar zone should be declared off the coast of Malaysia for the same purpose. The navies of the world should be encouraged to send multi national forces equipped with ship based helicopter gunships to facilitate this process.

The Howard Years:

Fran Harris writes: Re. “The Howard Years: history told by the players” (Tuesday, item 10). During the Howard years I had to compete for Australia overseas on four occasions, I was too ashamed to wear my Australian track suit as is the custom only wearing it in the opening ceremonies. I have to go to Finland next year; I still have not made up my mind yet to wear my Australian uniform in public.

Car sales:

Denise Marcos writes: Re. “Australian car sales slowing, not crashing … yet” (yesterday, item 23). Observing the big three luddites of the US car manufacturing industry plead their case to Congress for a US$25Billion injection is laughable. Through being short-sighted and rigidly sustained ignorance Ford, Chrysler & General Motors have opted to shoot themselves in the collective foot. For the disengaged CEOs and their blinkered corporate boards the writing has been on the wall for the past decade pointing to an obvious market for fuel-efficient smaller vehicles…enter the Hummer! Any fiscal assistance would merely encourage these incompetents.

Head of State:

Trevor Best writes: Stephen Magee (comments yesterday) is right. We don’t vote in our Head of State. That is of course the whole point. Would anyone want to go through the US experience? And would anyone want to give a Head of State the powers the Presidents of republics have? There is no bar to non-Catholics marrying into the Royal Family, but common sense usually prevails. The conduct of the Pope in the sixteenth century was every bit as bad as radical Muslims today, in trying to enforce religious practices, exert de facto rule, and extract taxes under pain of mass executions and burning at the stake. (At least 300 clerics by the hand of Bloody Mary).

When England ultimately and consistently rejected his domination, the Pope reacted by excommunicating Elizabeth I, thus creating the church in England as a separate entity. Even recently, Roman Catholic dominated countries had pacts with and supported the Axis in WWII, and just lately in Australia a prominent republican raised the religious factor, in suggesting that monarchists were just a bunch of old Anglicans. Long live the tried and true status quo.

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Peter Fray

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