Satyam:

Eureka Report’s Michael Feller writes: Re. “The murky “truth” behind Satyam” (Friday, item 1). In my article published on Friday, I wrote that NAB had engaged Satyam’s services despite allegations that the World Bank had banned Satyam from its approved suppliers list due to bribery and improper invoicing. NAB has since told Crikey that on discovering the World Bank allegations surrounding Satyam Computer Services late last year it promptly made its own investigations on the IT services supplier. Satyam had otherwise been a supplier to NAB for some time. NAB says: “As part of its regular security audit program NAB carried out a rigorous security review of Satyam to ensure there were no procedural or security vulnerabilities or lapses.” Seek Ltd also clarifies that it has not had any dealings with Satyam.

Kapil Talwar writes: What bunkum! If the Satyam investor scam implies that outsourcing services (to India or elsewhere) is dangerous, then the Enron investor scam suggests that dealing with the US on anything related to energy is suspect, or that the ABC Learning experience implies that you should “review” decisions to send your kids to any Aussie child centre. There’s a difference between scamming your investors and scamming your customers (and there’s plenty of evidence of worldwide corporate versions of the latter as well, but only time will tell if Satyam belongs to that list). To recruit a union secretary to support Feller’s beat-up is laziness. What did you expect him to say?

Les Heimann writes: All those Australian companies exploiting cheap labour! Well serves them bloody right. But will they learn, of course not… These wannabee multinationals will continue to screw the working families of Australia. Is it any wonder when the downtrodden Australian crowd cheers every time a corporate exploiter is embarrassed? Go Satyam.

Conroy’s censorship plan:

George Fisher writes: Re. “The world smirks at Conroy’s censorship plan” (yesterday, item 2). Having read Colin Jacob’s article in Crikey, I thought you may be interested in the below. As I said to the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, I was taken by surprise by their email, but now begin to wonder whether they’ve sent similar messages to all and sundry? And if so, why?

From: Internet Filtering
Sent: Monday, December 15, 2008 11:10 AM
Subject: Response to your recent correspondence [SEC=UNCLASSIFIED]

ISP FILTERING

Thank you for your correspondence and your interest in internet service provider (ISP) filtering.

Attached is information from the Minister on this matter. In addition, the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy has prepared material on a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) regarding ISP filtering. This list is available on the Department’s website at www.dbcde.gov.au/cybersafetyplan

These FAQs will be updated regularly to provide you with the most up to date information on ISP filtering issues.

We hope this information is of assistance.

The Department of Broadband Communications and the Digital Economy

From: George Fisher
To: [email protected]
Sent: Wednesday, December 17, 2008 4:24 P
Subject: Re: Response to your recent correspondence [SEC=UNCLASSIFIED]

I don’t know what this is about. I have never contacted you about ISP filtering and am not really interested.

George Fisher

Vegemite:

Nutritionist Dr Rosemary Stanton writes: Re. “And the Wankley goes to … Happy little Vegemites” (Friday, item 15). Sophie Black was spot on in picking the “Vegemite could be banned” headlines as a beat-up from the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC). Before unleashing the drama of suggesting Vegemite might be banned, you’d think the AFGC would be scientifically-literate enough to know that the Preventative Health Task Force’s recommendations (a) “to add a tax to energy-dense foods” would not include a yeast spread that has virtually no kilojoules and (b) “to regulate the amount of fat/sugar/salt in foods” does not mean a ban, but supports those food companies that want to reduce levels of these substances in their products. The AFGC rail against any criticism of products from their member companies at the big end of food town. In fact, they represent less than 6% of the approximately 2000 food companies in Australia.

Jorn Utzon:

David Salter, Editor-in-Chief, The Week, writes: Re. “Ellis to Hubble: Get over it” (Friday, item 16). In the news backwash of Utzon’s death every second media outlet in the land was claiming to either have the last interview with the Great Man before his demise, or have snared the first interview with him after he left Australia. Just about every claim was wrong, but these are hardly matters of great pith (and it seemed churlish to be correcting my colleagues while Utzon’s cadaver was still warm). But the silly exchange between Ellis and Hubble prompts me to put at least one undeniable fact on the record. The 1992 interview with Utzon was not the first with the Australian media after his departure. Not by 20 years.

In 1971 the This Day Tonight (ABC TV) reporter Peter Luck was staying with me in London while on his Churchill Fellowship study tour. He planned to visit Denmark and ask Utzon for an interview. I was working for the BBC at the time and Peter asked my help in organising him a film crew if Utzon agreed. Peter got his interview and it ran as a special item on This Day Tonight (and was reported prominently the next day in The Sydney Morning Herald). We used some of that interview again in the historical series This Fabulous Century (1979). Them’s the facts.

Alexander Downer:

Kim Hanna writes: Re. “UN on Downer’s Cyprus appointment: get him ‘out of our hair’” (7 January, item 13). I could not agree more that Alexander Downer is a completely cynical choice for the position of UN Envoy to Cyprus. His demeanour is so colonial that one cannot see him endearing himself to any one on either side of the divide. On the other hand, referring to the conflict as being “often violent” is ill informed.

Incidents of violence are rare and many a UN soldier will tell you that being posted there is “boring” because there is not much to do in terms of peacekeeping. The UN presence on the island is cynically referred to as “the tourists” by the locals, as soldiers get to live in five star hotels in the buffer zone and are rarely involved in useful or dangerous work. This is not to say that the UN could not be doing more: there is much to do in terms of de-mining the buffer zone and plenty of corruption to deal with when it comes to illegal property development and transactions. Yet, this is not happening and activities could best be described as trivial.

Perhaps something more analytical on this complex subject would be welcomed by readers.

Aboriginal housing:

Justin Templer writes: Re. “Macklin gives Aboriginal communities two flawed housing options” (Friday, item 9). I look forward to Bob Gosford’s grumbles from Yuendumu with relish. Last time he was complaining about the way the press reported on their new swimming pool — and wanted local control over “foreign” journalists. Today he’s moaning about the Government’s attempt to generate stability and social cohesion in Aboriginal communities by providing for home ownership through long term leases.

Bob is less than happy with the idea that local communities would need to lease out some of their land under private agreements on the basis that “they deny traditional owners real economic benefits from the commercial uses of their land that any other landowner in Australia can enjoy.” He does however concede that “…the idea that Aboriginal people should own their own homes is attractive — why shouldn’t they, just like every other Australian can?”

Just so, Bob — but you will find that usually homeowners have paid for their houses — otherwise it’s called public housing. Given that it is the season for journalistic hoaxes I cannot but wonder whether our Bob is really an investment banker from Sydney’s Eastern suburbs. Why else would you allow this one-eyed tosh to be given your imprimatur through references such as “Crikey understands that…”?

Charity:

Tim Falkiner writes: Re. “Generating charitable returns” (Friday, item 18). As the Chairman of a small charity which does not attract tax deductible recipient status, I believe we should reconsider whether donors should be able to give to charities and receive tax deductions. We must question why an individual should be able to choose how moneys, which would otherwise be paid in taxes and allocated by the government, representing the people, be spent? If the individual wants to provide a specified type of charitable help, that is laudable but why should he not pay for it with after-tax moneys?

The old trusts were set up in days of comparatively low taxation and in an age where the government did not assume a global responsibility for welfare. Today, the trusts duplicate many areas of government welfare activity and generate a great amount of inefficiency. I am not saying the trusts themselves are inefficiently run internally; I suspect they are well run. But they push costs onto others.

If my experience is any guide, the costs expended by charities making submissions to numerous grant makers must be staggering. Further, the major grant makers muddy the waters preventing overall coordination to ensure the dispersal of moneys to best meet the true range of community needs. Also, the grant makers can be used by the government as an excuse for inadequate funding.

Doing away with tax deductible recipient status will allow donors to be creative, to really think about how their money can best be spent to achieve their desired objective.

The US car industry:

Alan Kennedy writes: Tamas Calderwood’s breathless defence of Toyota (Friday, comments) and his denigration of the big three car makes in the US overlooks the fact that all foreign car makers n the US are there because they are generously subsidised by the state governments who also back the companies with draconian anti union laws. In South Carolina where BMW churns out cars, the subsidies have had such a deleterious effect on the state budgets that much needed infrastructure is being neglected because of the amount of tax breaks they have to give to the Bavarian Motor Werkes.

Not a fan:

Jack Smith writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (Friday, item 6). In response to the tip that the WA Government will not allow welcome to country or recognition of traditional owners at various events I have one word — GOOD. I have always thought it was a load of politically correct BS. It’s ridiculous particularly at functions I have been to in various CBDs to have a recognition of traditional owners. It’s a load of crap and just helps fuel the aboriginal industry and its sense of entitlement and maintenance of white guilt. Build a bridge and move on.

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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