The economy and Rudd’s stimulus:

Les Heimann writes: Re. “Rudd almost ready to show us his stimulus package” (Friday, item 1). Let’s visualise not one economy in one market place but multiple economies in the one market. This is the cause of our economic woes — world wide — and it’s not something that can be “fixed”.

Industries such as manufacturing, lending, finances, stock markets and even governments have actually cheered on as the same traditional western markets were sent into debt so as to consume double and triple and more than the combined productive output justified. All on credit. All illusory. All absolutely destined to fail — and now it has.

When the Berlin wall fell and the whole of Eastern Europe became a possible new consumer market was this embraced? No, it was exploited and thus the whole market has not really grown. What about Africa? New market? No, still being allowed to kill each other in the millions and no real consumer market add ons. What about China and India? Well they have not been helped by the free marketeers — they have been exploited and what a glorious resource of cheap labour! Now their economies are failing because most of their output is for the mythical credit market in the west.

The credit based market is gone and must never come back. Governments have a very clear task now. Rebuild the western and emerging economies with very clear and very certain controls over the myth makers. Markets must never be allowed to consume more than they make. That’s the discipline over burgeoning debt.

What can be done now? Forget this nonsense of “stimulation”. Be bold governments of the world. Establish the world’s market consumption capacity as represented by its ability to pay. Forgive all debt and start again with tight controls over credit provision. There’s a start.

Jenny Morris writes: I note with interest Bernard Keane’s reference to the pros and cons of a cash handout to the unemployed, who missed out on the last round. Bernard writes “you get the sense the Government would prefer to talk about re-skilling the unemployed, not giving them money.” If it’s just more talk about re-skilling the unemployed, I suggest the government saves its breath. The current system is failing the unemployed.

An agency my brother is with won’t even pay for him to do a refresher computer course or a course on using an EFTPOS machine that would get him a retail job — they say they haven’t got the money. Umm, isn’t that what they exist to do? This is despite there apparently being an “account” for each client, containing money for training for that client. Short-term money market, anyone? Same agency is very good at calling its “clients” in for regular meetings that serve no purpose other than to get the agency the standard fee from DEEWR.

I suggest Gillard and Rudd reform the current disgrace misnamed call Jobs Network, or rename it Demoralisation Network.

Craig Thomler writes: Looking around the world there is little evidence that paying politicians more improves the quality of the people entering politics. Equally there’s no evidence that paying politicians less reduces the quality. Therefore, rather than a proposed parliamentarian wage freeze, I recommend that Rudd cuts parliamentarian salaries to the average female weekly earnings — not to the male. Their wages would then be reviewed annually based on the latest figures on average female earnings. Their superannuation should at the same time be adjusted to be based on the average returns of Australian super funds.

This would kill two birds with one stone — firstly parliamentarians would suddenly become committed to raising the average wage for Australians and ensuring their future through superannuation, and secondly they would become committed to ensuring that females earn the same amount as men for the same work.

Any parliamentarians who resigned based on the lowered wage would be shown up as less interested in serving the country than in serving the dollar. I wonder how many would be left.

John Goldbaum writes: Wow, what a headline: “Turnbull to go hard on emissions“. Now that’s what I call a real stimulus package!

Keith Thomas writes: Re. “Media briefs: Hot online forum quotes… Overheard in the newsroom…” (Friday, item 20). We have heard too much from journalists telling us that their reportage is of far higher quality and depth than mere “commentary” by bloggers.

Of course, there are examples where this is the case, but the biggest story of 2008 – the sub-prime/credit/financial crisis that looks like becoming a global recession – was missed by journalists, yet was alive in the blogosphere and the full implications spelled out accurately from at least 2006.

When did the first professional journalists break this story AND keep it on the boil with the urgency it now has and which the bloggers recognized years ago?

Chris Hunter writes: Re. Friday’s editorial. That Nevil Shute’s On The Beach be used to allegorize the world economic downturn in relation to Australia’s fiscal position is creative to say the least. However, there is an antidote to the creeping toxicity slowly engulfing us all and it is provided by the very same author.

Anyone who has read Shute’s 1938 Ruined City will immediately recognize its relationship to today’s crisis — all the usual suspects are there including a corrupt banker, a downturned economy, mass unemployment — the whole box and dice. Shute cleverly weaves a tale of recovery and optimism, indeed a triumph over the odds stacked against the mythical industrial town of Sharples.

Guantanamo Bay:

Martin Gordon writes: Re. “Closing Gitmo: a Crikey media wrap” (Friday, item 12). First day and Guantanamo Bay is fixed, well no! The media faithfully “Baracking” report the signing of every bit of paper as it is an actual achievement. Everyone would like to close the place, as John McCain and George Bush himself agree. The problem is the people there and how our laws can’t cope with these people, and Obama has not resolved how to deal with people that could be released (despite having in one case masterminded the September 11 attacks).

Posturing is easy, as The Economist recently pointed to in one of its message to Obama’s Blackberry they might end up been a prison for them on the mainland (out of the reach of the law) to detain them indefinitely.

The contradictory nature of the Obama announcement was obvious too, he claims that he will “prosecute the ongoing struggle against violence and terrorism”; the question is how if you end up releasing your enemies to attack you again?


Verity Pravda writes: Re. “So Conroy’s Internet filter won’t block political speech, eh?” (Friday, item 2). I really wish I hadn’t clicked through to the images Stilgherrian pointed to in his post, but I wanted to assess for myself what they contained. At core in his item Stilgherrian is making two claims. Firstly that the Internet is being treated differently as these images would be allowed on the TV news. Secondly that because these images appear on a political site, blocking them amounts to “political censorship”.

The Television Code of Practice regulates content on television. The code applies the OFLC classifications to films, and their own classification scheme to programs, but not to news. The rules for news (etc) that these programs do not require classification, provided that the licensee exercises care in selecting material for broadcast having regard to: — The likely audience of the program; and — Any identifiable public interest reason for presenting the program material.

It goes on. Material which cannot appropriately be classified AV or any lower television classification, because of the matter it contains, or the way that matter is treated, is unsuitable for television and must not be broadcast.

In accordance with the Broadcasting Services Act, television licensees may not broadcast a program that has been classified “refused classification” (RC), or has been classified as X, under the Office of Film and Literature Classification Guidelines. Now we all know the problem with the existing blacklist is that it is of RC, R18+ and X18+ material. I am happy to accept that the images displayed would fall into the R18+ or X18+ category.

I sincerely doubt that any television network would think that those images met the standards in the Television Code of Practice (did Crikey think to ask any?). But it continues to be a mere assertion that the step after the technical trial will be the mandatory filtering of anything beyond RC. It is worth noting that Senator Minchin in all his professed concern has never bothered to defend the lumping together of RC, R18+ and X18+ in the Broadcasting Services Act in this way. Maybe Stilgherrian might like to sharpen his campaign from being “no blacklist” to “blacklist only the RC list” (I’d join that campaign by the way).

But Stilgherrian’s biggest claim is that the blacklisting of this site is political censorship. I don’t know why he doesn’t just resort to an unrestricted artistic defence of every image. Political censorship would only be occurring if the site were banned for the views it expressed. That isn’t the case. It was de rigueur in the late 60’s to claim (the Maoist claim) that all acts are political, that isn’t the case here. The anti-abortion case isn’t being stopped because of the message, just as it wouldn’t be political censorship if an anti-censorship site were blocked because it chose to display censored information.

It would be helpful if this inflammatory nonsense wasn’t being fed by Crikey.

Michael Backman:

Mark Freeman writes: Re. “Backman column: a hollow apology?” (Friday, item 16). Crikey you lot, wake up to yourselves and check out a bit of what people are saying and doing in Israel. There’s a whole rainbow of political views there. Get on the net and see for yourselves. Don’t judge all Israelis by the actions of their government. And stop thinking a vocal minority here speak for a majority there.

But mostly have a think about the big picture. This two state solution that’s supposedly the only possible option in a political world full of choices. How’s it going to work? Where are the plans? All these years and not one major detail. But so many people really believe it’s the answer and it’ll happen. Now that’s I call a PR victory.

A question:

Andrew Dempster writes: A question for your readers: is there another country in the world that celebrates as its national day the date that its land was claimed by another country? On 26 Jan 1788, Governor Phillip claimed this continent in the name of Britain. So logically, 26 Jan should be “Britain Day” or perhaps “New South Wales Day” as it was founded then. “Australia” existed first as a word when published on Matthew Flinders map — should its publication date be Australia Day? Or more sensibly, when Australia became a country — 1 Jan 1901.

Which leads to a follow-up question — has any country ever celebrated its bicentenary when only 87-years-old?

Friends of the ABC:

Bernard Keane writes: The correction of the many erroneous claims of the self-appointed Friends of the ABC is a Sisyphean task. No matter how often the facts are pointed out, they persist with their bizarre view of public broadcasting as a socialist frolic under permanent threat from politicians, bureaucrats and ABC executives themselves. Glenys Stradijot was at it again last week, disputing my statement that the Coalition had not cut ABC funding. As a simple inability to add up is one of the hallmarks of FABC agitation, let me explain some basic numbers:

The ABC’s funding in the last year of the Keating Government was $515.063m. The ABC’s funding in the last Howard Budget was $809.532m. If you index the 1995 figure at CPI — which the Government doesn’t, it uses the lower WCI 6 — the maintenance of Keating era funding would have amounted to $798.273m in 2007. Like, about $11m less than they got.

And just to avoid the inevitable FABC claim that any rate of indexation short of 100% a year somehow amounts to a shameless assault on public broadcasting, I used the highest quarterly CPI figure for each of the intervening years, far beyond the annualised figure normally used. A more accurate index suggests the ABC was getting ~$90m more from the Coalition. So even when you contort the numbers as much as possible, they don’t yield anything other than the simple conclusion that the Coalition boosted the ABC’s funding. Even the ABC itself has explained how its funding had been more than restored in real terms by 2004 (p.38). Still, the Friends never let the facts get in the way before and I’m not expecting them to start now.

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