Not reading before commenting:

Stephen Duckett, Chief Executive, Centre for Healthcare Improvement, Queensland Health writes: Re. “Untangling Australia’s healthcare system” (Tuesday, item 10). I was interested to see in Bernard Keane’s piece on the NHHRC Interim Report that “The Commission also lacked a senior health economist”. Not sure why this comment was made. Am I not senior? My brief bio is in the back of the report. As with many commentaries so far, those on denticare being the most notable examples, this lapse can probably be put down to not reading before commenting.

Realestate.com.au and fire damaged properties:

Zoyee Kartalis, Public Relations Manager at realestate.com.au, writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (yesterday, item 7). In response yesterday’s Tips and Rumours, realestate.com.au has been extremely sensitive to real estate agents that have been impacted by the fires, by firstly respecting their privacy immediately post the fires and focusing on responding agents affected by the fires.

Now we are proactively contacting affected real estate agents and are asking whether they want their properties removed, as some real estate agents still want their listings to remain on
realestate.com.au.

In addition we have suspended billing and collections for all impacted customers in affected areas (and for those flood impacted agents in QLD). The team at realestate.com.au have also contributed by raising $30,000 and coordinated “survival packs” containing key essentials via The Salvation Army.

The global financial crisis:

Alan Kennedy writes: Re. “Time for some honest truths about where the GFC will end” (yesterday, item 2). Crikey should come with a health warning. It is not for the faint hearted. The GFC has normally calm people drowning in their own panic-stricken hyperbole Stephen Mayne has lost it. His “joining of the dots” showed a man on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Pull yourself together Stephen. Man up! No-one likes a Cassandra.

You may have had your ears licked clean by snakes but it would be better if you kept the prophecies to yourself. Us frogs sitting in the slowly heating water and refusing to check our super “balances” are only thinking “mmmm I feel kinda toasty”. And are we supposed to be reassured by Guy Rundle’s claim yesterday in Crikey: “Cleaning up this mess will simply be preparation for the next big dumper, in 2018 (they come about every decade), and that may well be the big one.”

Jeezus, I can’t wait for that one.

Although he did redeem himself with the line about Michael Costa: “He simply moves from one brainstorming obsession to another, ending, as all these people do, in that gully trap of human despair, The Australian ‘s op-ed pages.”

Fellas, we know we are deep in the bisque, as old P G Wodehouse would say, but nothing is served by simply sitting there screaming. With Stephen Mayne becoming no more than a high-pitched shriek, eastern Europe disappearing down a sinkhole of corruption and debt, America marching towards a socialist state and Janet Albrechtsen promoting Tom Switzer as a starter in the Bradfield horse race, after modestly removing her name from the list — it’s time to party.

The dark riders are abroad, the Apocalypse is coming down the road. Don’t be sober when it arrives.

David Havyatt writes: Stephen Mayne’s interesting analysis misses a couple of vital points. In a global debt for equity swap, it is the relative not absolute strength of Government balance sheets that would matter. But more importantly, if there is going to be a “global haircut” are you better to be a nett lender or a nett borrower — the short answer is a nett borrower because you benefit from the right off.

Slightly more relevant is the idea that one economy that continues to have its own strong financial sector, a real economy built on valuable tangibles, political stability and an educated workforce can and will be in a better position than any debt swamped economy. The stimulus package in its current form attempts to soften the landing in the hope that the Australian economy can trade through the worst of this cycle.

The debt levels forecast at the end of the process are less than the debt levels left by John Howard Treasurer in 1983. Get a grip man.

David Hand writes: Re. “The coalition got it really, really wrong on the financial crisis” (Tuesday, item 14). I would not argue with Possum Comitatus’ analysis regarding the favourable reaction in voter land to the government’s stimulus package versus the lack of support for the coalition’s response. However I would point out that his analysis seems, like many of the advisers surrounding Kevin Rudd, locked into the 24 hour news cycle and the current opinion polls.

It doesn’t really matter what people think now; the issue is how people will feel next year, should $42b (and the rest, as Saint Kevin rescues capitalism from itself) disappear into the ether and the recession truly arrive and many jobs are lost. If the stimulus package works and Australia avoids a protracted recession and unemployment stays comparatively low, then Possum and his mates can say that the coalition got it very wrong.

The Coalition’s position is focused on the next two years, not the next two opinion polls.

Death of newspapers:

Glen Frost writes: Governments should throw newspapers a life line” (yesterday, item 19). What’s wrong with newspapers? No subsidies required, simply change the content.

Having grown up in the UK on a daily diet of The Sun (as a warm up to the challenge of reading The Financial Times you understand), may I say that the sight of a lovely young lady on Page 3 with no clothes on is a welcome start to any man’s day. Whilst working on the foreign exchange market I tracked the GBP Sterling/US$ exchange rate; the daily movement of the British Pound on the forex market would track, exactly, the direction the Page 3 girls breasts were pointing; breasts facing left, the Pound would fall and vice versa.

Eventually, I didn’t need the FT. I think Rupert Murdoch was aware of this too and this is probably the real source of his power and wealth. Well, apart from the way his Editors use the front page to support various political parties. My female friends were often impressed with the “Page 7 fellah” too, just to keep it all equal. If you want younger readers, you have to involve them in the newspaper.

Newspapers are declining because they are focused on the wrong content. Why are they so in awe of politics? It’s only a few nerdy journalists that care about Peter Costello or the NSW Labor implosion; most people want to read about the indiscretions of their politicians, not what they are saying (except the pillow talk).

Why spend our good tax money paying a bunch of journalists to write stories no-one is reading? Isn’t that what bureaucrats should do? Why not give a billion to the ABC and get Kerry O’Brien to write a column every day? (he does, it’s on the web) Or, make newspapers a tax deduction, like business lunches used to be before some killjoy Treasurer took that away.

Focus on the needs of readers — not the interests of editors and journalists!

John Donovan writes: Here is the difference — there are state supported TV stations, specifically run to provide a balance and perceived unbiased position on news, drama, arts etc. The government could remove funding, and the medium itself – television – would still continue as a cost effective method of communication of ideas and other content. Some of the private TV stations still seem to be making a profit, albeit reduced – but that is more to do with inflated business models and unreasonable cost structures.

The issue with newspapers is their ability to adapt, and to understand what people want from their product. It is a hybrid of print and digital, with the ability to sit down for a couple of hours on Saturday morning with the Ramsey’s, Priors, and God help us, Devines — whilst still having the ability to access online up to the minute content written by real journos.

Here’s the thing — people will pay for this service. We subscribe to Crikey. I subscribe to The Monthly. I buy The Big Issue. Because I value the content, I am prepared to pay for it. I personally think the $1.30 per day for the SMH undervalues the publication. I would happily pay $3 if I could get journalism of the quality of Annabelle Crabbe and Rodd Gittins on a daily basis.

So, rather than cost cutting and reducing perceived value, why not investigate increasing the value of the product, lifting prices to a sustainable level, and re-analysing the mix of subscription price in conjunction with advertising dollars to determine the optimum spend?

Jag Sanger writes: Your editorial (yesterday, Crikey says) proposing state funded newspapers and its comparison with TV neglects a huge point — TV distribution is limited by spectrum, a finite and physical resource. There is no monopoly on newsprint, or on access to retailer shelves. There are strong public interest reasons why access to physically constrained mass media should not be entirely commercial, and not just that we’d end up with wall to wall Fox.

More importantly the reason newspapers are in the dumpster has nothing to do with quality of journalism or lack of readers. As you know more people read more news today than at any point in the past. The problem with newspapers is they have lost revenues — not readership — and the economic problems of newspapers are solved at the back of the book, not the front page.

The newspaper business model doesn’t work. Throwing cash at it won’t make it work. For the government to keep journalists in a job so they can produce comment that no one reads works wont make it work either.

Tom Richman writes: While I’m happy to see recent proposals for a government owned newspaper, it’s all a bit frustrating to find the idea only gaining traction many years after the second paragraph in my contribution below appeared in Crikey. Timing is everything, right?!

What difference does it make whether networks or newspapers are bought by domestic or foreign interests…or by the same person for that matter…if they all tend to speak with the same ideological voice? Clearly, both the electronic and print media have become so capital intensive that ownership, of what ever permutation, is limited to only the most wealthy and, if I’m allowed a some stereotyping here, the most conservative.

Since the electronic side of this distortion is somewhat offset by the ABC, wouldn’t it make equivalent sense to have a publicly funded national newspaper as well; one that sets the standards of editorial fairness and enquiry rather than panders to whatever slant a media baron thinks is important in protecting his own economic interests?

Joe Hockey:

Shirley Colless writes: Re. Sergio Freire on Sir George Houston Reid (yesterday, comments). Ah, how long will it take to discover whether or not Joe Hockey “represents the apotheosis of intelligence, the triumph of mind over matter”?

Margin calls:

Odin Kay writes: Re. “Are Margin calls the new black” (yesterday, item 23). Excellent article. May I also add that an insider that cannot trade but knows of an imminent major downturn can help spread the info to market to start a fall in the share price that will deliberately trigger the margin call (OZL started falling weirdly just before the margin call happened).

Sure they will lose some value from the lower price but they do it because they know it is about to be even worse if they keep the shares, and since there is no other way out for them, that is the best they can do. They can calculate the price at which a call will be made, and so can calculate the potential loss, and hedge against it with some options. Perfect set up!

This is a mockery of ASIC’s inside trading rules. Can something be done about it?

Satellites:

Tom Osborn writes: Tim Deyzel wrote (yesterday, comments): “Tom Osborn correctly pointed out that existing geostationary (including GPS)…”

I didn’t say that. I said GPS’s are at 20200 Km, which is a 12 hour orbit, not a 24 hour geostationary orbit (much higher and often used for communications). Tim is right that launching though a cloud of junk in LEO orbit may well become GPS’s biggest risk. By then we may be navigating via more local beacons, which talk to implants in our skulls…

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