Jobs and the economy:

Les Heimann writes: Re. “Full-timers ditched but labour market holding on” (yesterday, item 1). Crikey seemed quite happy that we only lost 1200 jobs in December. But when will the commentariat wake up? We lost 44,000 full time jobs — we gained just on 43,000 part time jobs. This is good? It’s a bloody disaster.

These so called “part time” jobs are largely “casual” carrying with them absolutely no rights — no leave at all, no nothing — just “the right” to work on average five hour shift about three days a week.

A little investigation will demonstrate that all this is partly to counter the new workforce legislation as well as driving down costs — dramatically. Some simple arithmetic will show that an average “casual” 15 hour week at say $20 per hour — or $300 per week is less than a “full time” 38 hour week at say $18 per hour or — $684 per week. Multiply the shortfall — $384 by 38,000 and you get $14,592,000 a week. That’s $758,784,000 in a full year drop in consumer spending!

Meanwhile food costs increase, petrol still gushes dollars at the pump and housing costs. Who can afford to buy a house? Not on a casual wage of $300 a week! So rents increase. Who can afford rents? Not on a casual wage of $300 a week! The government looks toward a consumer led recovery whilst employers look to destroy consumers so as to maintain dividend levels. Then they can’t sell because the market is shrinking and dividends drop so more cost cutting, more job shedding.

This is a disaster happening people! Right in front of your blinded eyes. Much worse than a financial meltdown. This is a perfect storm in the making — a whole of economy downward spiralling meltdown of triple tsunami proportions.  What sort of job will you hold this time next year?

John Carver writes: I want to suggest a campaign that Crikey can run to alert people to the pathetic nature of journalism in relation to the economic slowdown. I’ve been watching the reporting over the last few weeks and have been concerned by the blatant scare mongering being employed by journalists and their editors. I think you did a piece on the overuse of “recession” and I think this is further evidence of an irresponsible campaign of fear. As a case in point, contrast yesterday’s report in The Age on unemployment with its report on house prices.

The headline reads “Massive drop in full-time jobs“. The article talks about a loss of 44, 000 jobs to a new full time figure of 7,640,200. That is a 0.57% drop. Even the most excitable amongst us would hardly call a 0.57% increase in our salary “massive”. In the same article is a paragraph that reads “The Australian dollar lost as much as a quarter of a US cent to 65.76 US cents after the numbers were published, but climbed back to near 66 US cents around noon.” In my view that sentence should read “The Australian dollar reacted momentarily but recovered.” Hardly any attention is paid to the increase in the number of employed people, even though the percentage increase is almost three times as high as the drop in full time jobs.

In their other article “House sale prices head north, west“, although the increases talked about are 6%, the word “substantial” is preferred to “massive”. In fact a comment: “More first-home buyers signed on the dotted line for mortgages in November than in any of the 12 months previous…” attracts no emotion whatsoever! I find this biased doom saying to be outrageous and hope you do also!

Duncan Riley writes: While it’s always interesting reading about Australia’s struggling job market, the data given in Crikey‘s article yesterday quoted newspaper job advertisements; the question though is why? New Ltd in particular (Fairfax is somewhat better) still gives primacy to newspaper job advertisements in reports on job advertising numbers, but with little justification.

The number of job advertisements in newspapers in December (on a weekly average) total 10,100 vs. 190,661 for print and online combined. My maths may be a little rusty, but print came out at 5.3% of total job ads. Reputable organisations wouldn’t report a drop in sales for Subaru (6.4% market share, Nov 08) as being somehow important or representative of the entire car market, so why is Crikey, News Ltd and others even bothering to mention a drop in newspaper ads, let alone ahead of the overall figure and/or ahead of online job numbers?

Of all outlets, I would have thought Crikey would know better.

Spinning the Gaza conflict:

Daniel Lewis writes: Re. “The Aussies spinning the Gaza conflict” (yesterday, item 9). Greg Barns suggests of Israel’s Australian born spokesmen, “If these Australians were members of, or spokespeople for say Hamas, or the Iran or Syria, the media in this country would have a field day in running front page headlines like ‘Aussie terror fighters’…” and therefore, as spokesmen for Israel, they should be “subjected to the same scrutiny”.

It’s obvious Greg Barns can’t draw any distinction between a democratic liberal democracy (Israel) who is a friend of Australia, and an Islamist theocratic terror-state (Hamas). I wonder if Barns also believes Martin Indyk or Crown Princess Mary should be “subjected to the same scrutiny” as, say, David Hicks or Mamdouh Habib.

Newsflash, Barns: Subject them to all the scrutiny you want (as you already have I might add). You’ll find, unlike Hamas, they do not support the death of Jews, suicide bombing or the deliberate murder of children. I would love to read your “scrutiny” of Hamas…

Ashley Midalia writes: Is Greg Barns serious that working for the Israeli government is equivalent to working for Hamas, Iran or Syria? His argument is based on the premise that civilians have been killed in Israel’s war against Hamas. But, by that logic, would working for the United States government, which has arguably caused the deaths of 100,000+ civilians in Iraq, be the same as working for Saddam Hussein or al-Qaeda, Greg?

When will Israel be recognised for what it is — a genuinely democratic and pluralistic nation-state, just like the US, the United Kingdom (which has caused more than its share of civilian deaths in occupied territories over the years) or Australia (which, of course, avoided being an occupying force by effectively wiping out or marginalising the indigenous population before you could say “genocide”)?

The manipulation of credit spreads:

Stephen Matthews writes: Re. “Media players muddy the waters in ASIC rumourtrage crackdown” (yesterday, item 2). I’m pleased to see amongst the voluminous Crikey coverage of the bit parts played by the media that you have hit upon the real sleeper … the manipulation of credit spreads. The market in credit default swaps — based as it is on placing bets on the likelihood of a corporate collapse — has spawned the sort of weapons of wealth destruction that Buffett warned us about. And that was years ago.

Until recent times the hedge funds have been building their equity derivative strategies around manipulation of the CDS market (you sell Macquarie CDSs at x at 2pm, I offer them at x+ 15 points at 2.05pm, you reoffer at x+ 25 points two minutes later, I start a few insinuations around the dopey stockbrokers like ”have you seen the movement in those Macquarie CDSs spreads … They’re going out of business mate” and we clean up on our short Macquarie equity positions by 2.30pm] and all of it under the noses of the authorities.

If the government levied a punitive tax on CDS premiums … much of this coercive behaviour would be eliminated.

The climate change lobby:

Stephen Magee writes: Re. “King tides and killer sharks: Summer’s media beat-ups” (yesterday, item 15). Stuart Nettle’s berating of the media for the king tide beat-up is totally misplaced. The fault lies entirely with the climate change lobby. It was the NSW Department of the Environment which began pushing the line that the king tide would effectively be a foretaste of sea level rises caused by climate change.

A Department spokesperson gave out the same line when interviewed on Radio National hours before the tide was to peak, how long can the climate change loonies get away with this? They continually made wild predictions and then simply walk away when the predictions don’t come true (viz the subtle rebranding from “global warming” to “climate change” in the face of falling temperatures).

If nothing else, the king tide fiasco shows how little trust any sane person would place in their modelling: if they completely over-estimate the effect of a king tide only hours before it happens, why would anyone believe their predictions of climate events 10, 20 or 50 years away?

Conroy’s Rabbit-Proof Firewall:

Verity Pravda writes: Re. “Another nail in the coffin of Conroy’s Rabbit-Proof Firewall” (yesterday, item 11). I heartily agree that the policy is being handled atrociously. But Stilgherrian continually misrepresents what is proposed. Nothing about the filter is about the threat to children from being entrapped on line. The “protection of children” the Minister talks about is the protection of children from the original acts subject of the images, and he is taking every action he can to stem trade in the images, including boosting AFP resources and international co-operation.

It is the functional equivalent of protecting elephants from poaching by banning the trade in ivory. It doesn’t mean you don’t also have programs to catch poachers. But you sure as heck don’t put up a special entrance way at your ports saying “if you have potentially illegal items please enter here”. And at this point all the Minister is asking is that ISPs try blocking access to the websites and tell him how it works — that looks like real evidence based policy rather than just one person saying “it doesn’t work”.

By the way, saying something more than once doesn’t make it true. And exactly why is Crikey providing his rants? Since when has Crikey been a paragon of a complete libertarian view on content? Goodness me only yesterday Stephen Mayne seemed to be promoting ASIC’s investigation of those Packer stories and — horror — quite calm about the idea of the journalist being forced to reveal their sources.

Somehow I thought that was on the taboo list.

The decline of print:

Nick Place writes: Re. “Print classifieds: A case for euthanasia” (yesterday, item 17). I think the real loser in Geoff Jennings’ touching piece is not so much Fairfax as Jimmy the dog.

Who is this Stilgherrian?:

Stilgherrian writes: “Who is this ‘Stilgherrian’?” asks Telstra flack Rob Bruem (yesterday, comments). Too funny, Rod! I don’t know about you guys over at Telstra, but here at Crikey we’ve got the internet. There’s this “Google” thing which we use to look up stuff. Apparently at Telstra you have “Sensis” instead, but even Sensis uses Google now. It takes just seconds to find an entire website about me, including a page called About Stilgherrian.

You can read about me and cows and gin and my geeky computing science background and my broadcasting career. There are photos too, including one of me with a bare-breasted garden gnome, and info about pretty much everything else in my world apart from my secret life as a goat dominatrix. Google says I’m on lots and lots of other websites too. I’ve even got a Facebook page!

The fantastic thing about Google is that even if you misspell my name like you did, Rod — don’t you have copy and paste at Telstra? — the first thing it says is “Did you mean: stilgherrian”. Clever, eh? If you use Sensis, you might not find my website straight away, ‘cos Sensis defaults to Australian pages only and my website is hosted in the US. It’s much cheaper there. Why is that, Rod?

“Why do you let him post reports on Crikey anonymously?” Well, Rod, if you’d done the Google thing, you’d have discovered that “Stilgherrian” is my real, actual legal name — like on my passport and Medicare card and the electoral roll and the endless bills and all those nasty letters I keep getting from the bank. I’m even in the phone book. Is the phone book a Telstra thing, Rod? If Telstra can still afford an intranet, you’ll find that I was a contractor to your marketing department a while back, and I’m currently trialling your rather nifty Next G mobile broadband network.

Look, I know it’s all very unusual, Rod, what with just a given name and no surname n’all, so maybe that’s enough of a challenge for this week? Or was there something you wanted to ask or say about the content of Monday’s article? What was it about again? Oh yeah. Telstra and the internet.

Didn’t you like it, Rod?

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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