Fix the shareholder voting system:

Ralph McKay writes: Re. “Shareholders apply the AGM blowtorch” (1 December, item 27). The investing public is opposed to outrageous payments to public company executives. So why are shareholders not exercising their voting rights?

The problem is the outdated 18th century public company voting system. Shareholder voting is far too inconvenient, infrequent, opaque and insecure. It has no audit trail. Most people do not have the time and resources to attend many public company AGMs. For many it means long distance travel, cost and greenhouse gases. Shareholders have no control over the voting agenda. What’s the point of a binding or non binding vote months have the contact has been sealed? An unknown percentage of proxies go missing each year. It is too easy for institutional shareholders to abstain from voting or to represent their own executive interests above that of their members.

Online direct voting is the solution to all these issues. It is vastly more convenient than attending an AGM or even direct voting by paper. It’s cheaper than paper or AGM voting. Online voting enables shareholders to take control of the voting agenda with a continuous transparent voice. A voice with the moral authority and power for change. Modern online voting technologies are much more secure and transparent than paper ballots. Anyone online could audit the vote from home. No one has invented a better integrity cop than transparency. Online voting would make it practical to introduce compulsory transparent voting for institutional investors.

Chartered Secretaries Australia (CSA) has been calling for direct voting for some time. The obstacle is vested interested everywhere. Direct voting is almost unheard of in public companies. It represents a transfer of voting power to the owners. It’s not popular with company directors or shareholder groups acting as proxy holders.

The global financial crisis is an opportunity for those who are awake. It’s a moment for an evolutionary leap in corporate governance. It’s time for political leaders and regulators to act and protect the nation’s wealth.

Economic doom and gloom:

Bernie the optimist writes: Re. “Job ads in freefall, layoffs loom” (yesterday, item 1). Doom. Gloom. Doom. Gloom. Crikey is starting to sound like news.com.au or Fairfax media… By the statistics you published internet job ads are sitting at 199,433 per week… I’d hardly say the economy is stopping? I work for a Harvey Norman store in Brisbane and last month we were up 6% on last year… this month so far we are up almost 15% and people haven’t got there bonuses yet…

Please stop reporting on the NSW economy which is all doom and gloom when the rest of the bloody country isn’t there yet… You’re starting to sound like Packer/Fairfax mindless drones! Hey, here is a novel idea… try talking the economy up?!

Rudd and Swan:

Pete Wilson-Jones writes: Re. Yesterday’s editorial. Crikey wrote: “Do we have evidence here of an emerging split in the federal cabinet? A potentially damaging rift between the Prime Minister and his Treasurer?” A rather populist and very long bow to draw Mr/Ms Boss, considering such rapidly changing world economic circumstances.

I am sure Swan and Rudd are on the pulse and quite sensibly doing that high-scoring dance, the Political Lockstep, unlike the hopeless Opposition, who seem more interested in talking down the economy and the well-performing Rudd Government than formulating any kind of policy ideas. Not even one policy idea from Turnbull and co.

Piers Kelly writes: Slow news day? Finding discrepancies between the prime minister’s recent comments and Wayne Swan’s advice last year isn’t evidence of anything as exciting as a split in federal cabinet. Make your jokes funnier please.

Global warming:

Tamas Calderwood writes: Re. “Richard Farmer’s political bite-sized meaty chunks” (yesterday, item 11). The most important point to note about the temperature graph referenced by Richard Farmer is that the entire global warming case rests on a warming trend that occurred over the past 30 years. This warming was no more dramatic than the previous warming trend from 1910-1945.

Furthermore, the GW theory has no explanation for the cooling trend between 1945-1980. Finally, if recent chilly temperatures are not evidence that global warming may be slowing then what standard of evidence is required? Is the theory not falsifiable?

Zimbabwe:

Christopher Ridings writes: Re. “Crisis in Zimbabwe: a Crikey wrap” (yesterday, item 15). The average age for Zimbabwe citizens is now reduced to 37. Their President-for-life Robert Mugabe at 82 is now nearly twice this age. On present showing he is likely to outlive the rest of his country. What is now needed is for other leaders to stop huffing and puffing and instead to issue a substantial reward for him to receive justice. No need to send an army in. There is just one man.

Old and new money:

Robert Johnson writes: Re. “Richard Farmer’s political bite-sized meaty chunks” (yesterday, item 11). According to Richard Farmer, apparently one difference between “old” money and “new” money is, respectively, settling down to a drop from a Penfold’s wine cask and using Penfold’s Grange to make spaghetti bolognese. For an ordinary soul like me, I retain fond memories from circa 1980 of buying their (then new) Koonunga Hill from Farmer Bros in Manuka at $1.99 a bottle.

Bidgood:

Ambrose Chapel writes: Re. “Bidgood was right to take those photos and sell them” (yesterday, item 17). In response to Graham Young’s question: “Should the photographer have tended to her obvious physical needs, rather than take the shot?” Interestingly, the photographer did both. “After taking the photograph, Út promptly took Kim Phúc and the other children to a hospital in Saigon”.

Attack of the clones:

Adam Barker writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (yesterday, item 7). Crikey published the following tip: “I would like to inform you that the actress Scarlett Johansson actually is a clone from the original person, Scarlett Galabekian…” If they are making clones of Scarlett Johansson please put me down for six.

Tim Hollo writes: You mean there’s lots of Scarlett Johansson clones running around out there? Cool! That’s the kind of genetic engineering I can whole-heartedly support!

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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