Melbourne Uni:

Christina Buckridge, Corporate Affairs Manager, University on Melbourne, writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (yesterday, item 8). To correct a few erroneous claims about the University of Melbourne and the Australian National Academy of Music (ANAM),

Firstly, the Commonwealth Government has not redirected its funding for elite music performance training to the University of Melbourne. That funding has been flowing through the University for 14 years and will simply continue to do so for the new Australian Institute of Music Performance (AIMP), the nominated successor body to ANAM. Like ANAM, AIMP will be an affiliate of the University and will have an independent board.

Secondly, the Federal Government will not pay for a ‘Young Artist Programme’ for the Victorian Opera. The graduate opera program to be introduced at the University of Melbourne in 2010 is funded by the Dame Nellie Melba Opera Trust. It will see up to 20 nationally or internationally selected gifted voice students supported by scholarships from the Trust.

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Thirdly, AIMP students will all be on Commonwealth Government scholarships, nationally and internationally selected for their exceptional talent. They will be no room for mediocrity.

Fourthly, the University of Melbourne’s music programs have, for 10 years, attracted the highest number of international students of any music program in Australia — including more than a few outstanding graduates from Singapore and Hong Kong.

And finally, AIMP will realise the original concept for ANAM — linked to a music school, not operating in isolation — with AIMP students able to benefit from the music-rich resources (a wider range of instruments and orchestras and ensembles) of the new University of Melbourne School of Music which brings together two outstanding music education facilities, the University’s Faculty of Music and the Victorian College of the Arts School of Music, to form Australia’s most comprehensive music school .

The F35 Joint Strike Fighter:

Paul McMahon writes: Re. “The blue-sky marketing madness of the F-35” (14 November, item 14). Wake up Australia; the Department of Defence is about to spend over 16 Billion dollars of your hard earned, diligently taxed money, on an aircraft that will not do the job for which it is being purchased, namely, maintain the RAAF’s operational and technical superiority against any nation that may choose to challenge our national sovereignty.

Yes I am talking about the F35 Joint Strike Fighter, and against the latest generation Russian developed fighters, the F35 is no match. In a dog fight, the F35 will be slower, less manoeuvrable, carry fewer armaments, and its stealthiness and radars will give it no advantage over its latest generation Russian developed adversaries. And guess what? Our neighbours to the north have either bought, or are buying these very same Russian developed aircraft. How do I know? I did some research, and what I discovered, disturbed me no end. I encourage all who read this letter to do the same, and judge for yourselves.

What does this mean for all of us? Well, we live in a country which contains one ninth of the world’s land mass, but is only populated by 21 Million People. At a time when vast amounts of energy and resources are being consumed by China, India and the Asian Tigers, we are sitting on huge reserves of the very commodities which these countries require, and we are in the process of retiring our big sticks, and purchasing a couple of little sticks.

Remember, Australia has already made the decision to retire possibly the best strike aircraft in the world, namely the F111, and replace it with the F18 E/F Super Hornet, an aircraft which experts have labelled a “dog of an aircraft”.

Be concerned voters, because unless we the voter show that we do care about the defence of this great nation, and the purchases that the Department of Defence is making, we may, and certainly our children will, suffer the consequences of what appears about to become another Defence Department procurement stuff up, but this time with the potential of grave and dire consequences.

The defence minister, when he was in opposition, “promised the world” in regard to this up and coming purchase. Since he has been in power he has forgotten his promises. At the very least, let us push for a transparent evaluation process, as took place before the purchase of the F/A 18s currently in service.

It is obvious there is only one aircraft that will meet the future fighter needs of the RAAF, and that is the F22 Raptor. However, the US government doesn’t seem to think that we can be trusted with this aircraft as they have an export ban on it. We have fought & died along side the US military in every major conflict since 1917. It appears that the US is happy for our young men and women to die fighting next to them, but they do not appear to be prepared to sell us the necessary hardware for us to adequately defend ourselves.

Voters, now is the time to take a keen interest in this defence matter, as in 2009, on the advice of the Department of Defence, the Government will make a decision regarding the purchase of Australia’s new front line fighter, and all the indications are, they will sign up for the F35 JSF, which would be a tragedy for this country. Voters I encourage you to satisfy yourselves concerning what I have said, and if you judge what I have said is true, then please, contact your local federal member, the Minister for Defence, and the Prime Minister to let them know you care.

Fixing a hole in the housing crisis:

Kerry Henry, Executive Chairman, Audit Services Pty Ltd & Aussie Bonds Australia, writes: Re. “Australia on its own sub-prime precipice” (yesterday, item 4). Regarding the statement by Denise Brailey that “evidence of widespread deposit bond application fraud is emerging” has been well recycled over the years and is simply not accurate. Via our origins, we’ve been in the deposit bond market since 1989, and thus experienced many cycles of the property market.

In part, we agree with the comments made, but it isn’t “widespread”. Yes, there was a spike during the 2002-2004 “boom” period. There were a number of “cowboy” deposit bond issuers that had no backing from reputable insurance companies, whom were issuing Deposit Bonds exacerbating the situation as outlined in your article. Thankfully, when the purchasers defaulted on the purchases, the “cowboys” rode out of town and haven’t returned.

Yes, there are still those (mortgage brokers, lenders and one deposit bond issuer that we are aware of) happy to support “lo-doc” investment loans, where no proof of income, loan settlement capability or loan serviceability is sought or substantiated. We don’t participate in this market sector and prefer that it didn’t exist. Thankfully “lo-doc” loans represent a very small part of the market and are in decline, as lenders “wake up” and withdraw.

Yes, there’s low level fraud, mostly falsified documents by “middlemen”.

Part solution is to force developers/vendors to only engage registered/licensed “middlemen” and legislate that any commission entitlements payable are escrowed and only paid on settlement of the purchase contract, rather than pay (say) 40% of their commission entitlement upfront.

John Goldbaum writes: The housing price slump in any country should be allowed to find its natural floor by market forces so that equilibrium can be re-established at a re-set clearing price. Foreclosures must be allowed to continue in order to rid the financial economy of moral hazard. Both lenders and borrowers have to pay for their mistakes.

However, there is a role for governments in the USA and around the world. They should purchase excess foreclosed houses at the new market price and incorporate them into their social housing stock, a new experience for the Americans. Evicted families could be re-housed for lower rent rather than higher mortgage payments, possibly in the same neighbourhoods or even in the same houses, but with no expectation of sharing any part of any future house price increases.

That way, families can afford to remain in their neighbourhoods, in their jobs and in their schools. No need to destroy the house and the furniture, and chuck the low-paying job (for those who had paid employment). The children would be less traumatised than moving interstate to stay with relatives or living in tent cities. This social housing solution will cushion the pain rather than sparing it altogether but it’s worth a try.

Paul Keating:

Despina Anagnostou writes: Re. “Banshee on a rampage: the full Keating text” (yesterday, item 1). Reading Paul Keating’s letter reminded me of a time not so long ago when a considerable number of our politicians were passionate rather than merely angry (which, granted, is preferable to insipid and/or wooden as one media manages one’s tired message with the lowest common denominator in mind). I miss our leaders working themselves up into such a lather (over actual policy) that they were moved to carpet-bomb their opponents with glorious turns of inspired phrase, beautiful for their logic as much as for their creative artistry.

I miss jousts where (often complex) ideas were the sabre, and, call me sentimental, but I even miss self righteous but principled diatribes, always based on something real and meaningful, punctuated by a cutting chaser, a glare, or maybe even an unnerving, victorious smile. Paul Keating, I miss you.

Climate change:

Adam Rope writes: Re. “Enough Rope for 31,000 climate sceptics” (yesterday, item 17). I have always wondered why so many apparently intelligent people proclaimed that a hoax like the “The Oregon Petition” somehow proved there was doubt over the science behind global warming/climate change. Firstly there was the dubious provenance of the petition itself, from a small pseudo-scientific body with little accepted published material — which was not exactly difficult to locate in our inter-connected age. There was also the very straight forward and significant denial of the petition itself by the National Academy of Sciences, which the petition promoters seem to have simply ignored as irrelevant.

Then there was the apparent acceptance of a petition as somehow being “science” or somehow reflecting real scientific research or opinion — would a petition of similar style from, say, either Greenpeace or Exxon Mobil be accepted in even vaguely the same manner? It also appears that few have actually read the rather ridiculous statement that leads the petition, nor read a real article on the projected effects of increased carbon dioxide levels in our atmosphere.

Finally it seems few checked into whether any of the alleged signatories are in fact “scientists” as claimed, and that if they were in which field or discipline of science they were qualified, worked or researched — something I would thought was rather important when discussing “science”.

John Bevan writes: I find it interesting that if anyone expresses any doubt about climate change they are immediately attacked on a personal basis by the climate change experts. The attitude seems to be if you are claiming climate change is a human made event then you are an expert — if you have any doubt or ask for evidence you are either a nut or a non-expert or in the pay of big business or all three.

A North Korean-like paean:

Luke Hughes writes: Re. “Penberthy moved aside. Garry Linnell the new Tele editor” (14 November, item 3). I wonder why, in this week’s North Korean-like paean to the CV and skills of her sister paper The Telegraph’s new Dear Leader Garry Linnell, The Australian‘s Sally Jackson neglected to mention Garry’s rather less decorated brother Stephen, who recently pleaded guilty to charges of perjury and disclosing confidential information as he turned Victorian Police supergrass. It surely must’ve been an oversight as Sally, like Garry, is one of Australia’s greatest journalists.

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