Leader Community Newspapers:

Leader Community Newspapers Editor in Chief Toni Hetherington writes: On February 27, the Tips and Rumours column of Crikey.com.au carried an item suggesting Leader reporters were offering positive reviews in paper in return for free meals.

This is untrue.

Leader Community Newspapers does not use its reporters to conduct food reviews at restaurants. Leader uses a reputable outside contributor. This contributor does not do reviews in return for free meals. The contributor pays for all meals and is reimbursed by Leader. Our reviews of restaurant food are, therefore, independent and are either positive or negative depending on the experience of the diner.

Leader Newspapers is disappointed its good name is being used in an attempt to scam restaurateurs and would welcome any information be passed to Leader or the police to catch the persons responsible.

Salvation Army donations:

Eros Association CEO Fiona Patten writes: Women’s Forum Australia’s Melinda Reist (yesterday, comments) asks why the Eros Association continues to offer donations to groups we know will not take them. Well Melinda, its because they keep on sending personal donation requests in the mail because I have donated personally in the past and knocking on my door asking me for money.

The fact that World Vision have sent two letters to my home asking for money from my personal wage which is derived from my work from the Eros Association and the fact that the Salvos have knocked on my door asking me for a donation inevitably raises the hypocrisy and the discrimination inherent in religious charities in this country and I for one, want to put an end to this.

Why is it okay for them to ask and accept a personal donation of money earned from adult retail sales (we don’t represent brothels or s-x workers) but then to turn around and publicly refuse to take a donation from an adult sales company? Its the Christian aid organisations who are seeking us out for special treatment.

I would have thought that someone supposed to be against discrimination against women would be against unfair discrimination in general. If these organisations are serious about not accepting donations from the ‘sin’ industries they should include a rider on all donation forms that says, “Please do not send any money that may have been earned from gambling or s-x industry sources”. Only then can they say that their policy is not hypocritical or two-faced.

Firewall:

Stilgherrian writes: Verity Pravda (yesterday, comments) reckons there “doesn’t seem to be ever mounting opposition” to the Rudd government’s planned internet filter. A key independent senator with balance of power changed his position from strong support and even extension of the plan to vocal opposition. If that isn’t “mounting opposition” I don’t know what is!

It’s also a bit rude to label as “rants” the comprehensive, well-reasoned arguments pointing out any filter’s ultimate ineffectiveness — that’s in terms of actually either preventing the spread of child p-rnography or helping parents restrict their children to age-appropriate material, whichever the policy is this week. Anyone who reckons the limited aim of “filtering the ACMA blacklist” of 1500 or 10000 sites will have any significant impact on either of thos is living in a fantasy. The arguments continue to be valid, which is perhaps why it seems like “people saying the same things”.

Verity also says, “I can see little prospect of Conroy not being Minister in the immediate future. Both the NBN and filter are policy positions supported by the PM.” True. But both projects are full of fail. The NBN is the focus of speculation about restarting the tender process. The internet filtering scheme is mired in controversy. Conroy isn’t providing leadership on these issues, and I reckon he looks increasingly vulnerable. Certainly in Senate Estimates on Monday last week he looked like a man with much weighing on his mind. He certainly wasn’t the sharp-eyed fighter I saw a year ago and, as Bernard Keane noted, Senator Lundy was running interference.

I left out the idea of internet filter becoming a double-dissolution trigger due to space. That’s certainly a fun option to explore though, eh?

Catholic rebellion:

Paul Gilchrist writes: Chris Hunter (yesterday, comments), says that discussion about Fr Kennedy in South Brisbane, and religion in general is a worthy endeavour. I personally agree, but I wouldn’t say that it is “an entirely inexplicable rationale”. For example, I hope a religious experience is more convincing than the UFO sighting he mentions. Religious faith should be tested by reason.

As for Fr Kennedy, I have a problem when he says his authority comes from the community, by which I think he means the people who turn up on Sunday at South Brisbane. If being a priest means anything, his authority comes from God, via the Church, represented by the local Bishop, and including the whole community of believers. If Fr Kennedy finds this idea ridiculous, why does he call himself a priest?

Roger Franklin writes: It really shouldn’t fall to an agnostic (on a good day; full-blown atheist after a losing day at the races) to correct your more religiously minded correspondents, but once again some setting straight needs to be done.

Contrary to Chris Hunter’s assertion, Paul’s blinding moment overtook him on the road to Damascus, not Tarsus, as he states. Paul hailed from Tarsus. He was en route to Damascus to persecute Jewish adherents of the alleged Messiah.

As for Mackay invoking the Council of Trent in his defence of St. Mary’s ousted old guard, more tosh from a tosser. Trent codified the Church’s response to the Protestant challenge — in effect proclaiming “This is what we believe — this and no more.” It also produced the Tridentine rite, that inflexible celebration of the Mass which remained the law of the Church for the next 300 years. For Mackay to cite Trent as a justification for parishes deciding to celebrate the Mass as they see fit is no less perverse than claiming that the laws of the road allow for driving on the wrong side if a small number of malcontents prefer to do so.

As far as I know, not once in their 12-odd years of convocating did Trent’s bishops and cardinals urge that statues of the Buddha be installed in Catholic churches, as apparently happened at St. Mary’s, which missed a glorious chance. Why didn’t Fr. Kennedy & Co. go all-out and invite the hard-partying Bacchus to occupy a niche off the nave? If you are taking doctrine and liturgy to the panel beaters, it might as well be in the name of having a really good time.

Executive pay:

Jordan Green writes: Re. “A bit rich: Australia’s CEO payout shame” (yesterday, item 3). No-one NEEDS a $1m salary! The usual justification for the exorbitant CEO remuneration packages offered by Australian public companies is that such riches are required to attract the very best executives through a global search effort. Further, the claim is that remuneration is tied to performance and, as such, is justified. The stark evidence of public company performance is clear — it isn’t working!

For more than a decade the Howard government was inundated with the cries of the public to rein in the soaring disparity between CEO compensation and company performance. During that same time the government was repeatedly cautioned about the commercial and social consequences of the ever widening gap between CEO remuneration and employee salaries. The Howard Government did nothing, or worse, facilitated the excesses of the CEO.

Now there is a ‘bipartisan’ push to make the vote on Remuneration Reports more than symbolic. This is another ill-considered, knee-jerk response using an ineffective lever for a system that is already broken.

The GFC is bringing many of us a lot of pain and there is plenty more to come. However, it also brings us a rare opportunity for change. Let’s use this time of pain to make painful changes so that when we hit the upswing we have a better system.

The Rudd Government has shown leadership in this area and should step up now with the commitment to change for the better. Our legislators and regulators should establish a maximum level of CEO fixed remuneration (say $1m/yr) and a standardised formula for relating company performance to CEO short-term and long-term bonuses. FBT and other mechanisms already provide for sensible tracking, disclosure, management and costing of benefits.

A key responsibility of a competent CEO (or manager at any level) is to groom candidates to replace the incumbent. Let’s grow our own, Australian CEOs, attract home expat Australians who have the experience and networks to fill the CEO role. Australian studies have consistently reported Australian management as in decline for over a decade. Let’s use this time of imposed pain to go through the painful process of shedding our old prejudices, stop copying the failing American model down the gurgler and build an indigenous capability to manage and lead our own businesses in the 21st century.

Peter Lloyd writes: I am grateful to Gavin Moody (yesterday, comments) for his description of ‘tournament theory’, a rationalisation for senior executive remuneration. Of course to catch on with today’s corporate-allied academics, a theory has to make appear ‘natural’ a situation that has developed by deliberate conspiracy.

Thanks to the brief moment of truthfulness only allowed during the accellerated dive into recession, for now society recognises that the CEO class are simply massively greedy members of a herd, paid like prophets but in fact no more capable of predicting or controlling events than a cork on a lake. So the question should be asked, whose blindness and incompetence has led to this delusion? Of course, the answer is the boards, the other half of the conspiracy. And who is supposed to oversee the boards? The shareholders themselves, though of course the disciples of the ‘freedom’-addicted Hayek have always stopped short of allowing shareholders to exercise control over companies.

Capitalism is all about separating consequences from responsibility, and the challenge for governments should be to slate the pain of societal collapse as closely as possible to those whose negligance has created the situation. I fear we will all lose interest in the issue before we have even begun to get beyond trite theories and into the real world that is so far from boardrooms and country clubs.

Video of the day:

Damon Schultz writes: I don’t really know what the point was of posting today’s video of the day — “Pork barrelling — the art of makin’ bacon” — but I’m amazed that a five minute video purporting to educate about pig flesh can totally avoid mention of the animal whence it came. I suggest in the interests of balance and completeness any of the videos at video.php be posted on Wednesday’s issue, or sadly I will have to conclude that like the rest of the media Crikey is in the thralls of the animal flesh production industry.

Sharon Hutchings writes: Yesterday’s video of the day on how bacon is made was possibly enough to make some swap their morning dose of artery clogging carcinogenic flesh for something healthier. However, for the full unsanitised unedited story that is guaranteed to keep the pork from one’s fork, the video should actually commence at one of those intensive piggery factories then move onto an abattoir (learn more or use your imagination). Ironically most people can’t seem to stomach the full story.

Green politics and Paul Howes:

Louise Crossley writes: Re. “Buy foreign, buy local, just don’t buy Paul Howes” (yesterday, item 9). What all commentators on this issue miss is the transport, and hence carbon, costs of buying foreign. In our current global warming crisis, buying Australian for this reason alone, makes sound sense. The failure of the debate on ‘protectionism’ to acknowledge this, is yet another example of the obsession of our politicians and commentariat with the global financial crisis and their failure to join the dots to the far greater threat of ecological meltdown.

Why can they not understand, let alone acknowledge or act upon, the glaringly obvious fact that both the financial and economic crises have the same basic cause — over-consumption on credit in a finite planet (both economic and environmental)?

Therefore any long term solution to the financial crisis can only be found in confronting and solving the far more serious, underlying and fundamental ecological crisis. Simply returning to business-as-usual defined as exponential economic growth — even if it may be a year or so away – will only result in exponential ecological meltdown. It amazes me that economists can pontificate on the positive feedback loops between falling retail sales, unemployment and reduced production, (repeat….) but be completely blind to the same but potentially much more catastrophic feedback between CO2 output and global warming.

Niall Clugston writes: Bernard Keene describes AWU secretary Paul Howes as a “gifted self-publicist”. How true that is. In a saga akin to Frank Hardy’s Power Without Glory, I first encountered Howes as a schoolboy skateboarder activist in the Blue Mountains, NSW. The next I knew he was a leading light in the Green Left Weekly-linked Resistance group in Sydney. Then, astonishingly, he bobbed up in Tasmania, spokesman for the right-wing AWU on the Beaconsfield accident. When Bill Shorten went to Canberra, he seamlessly became union boss.

It’s no surprise to me that he’s now, as Keene reports, the “Right’s favourite trade unionist” and a green-basher. What his former Green Left comrades think is probably unprintable. I would, however, disagree with Keene’s description of Howes as a “economic ignoramus, crass populist and self-promoting would-be Labor MP”. He is certainly the latter — and perhaps a future PM! — but in place of the first two epithets I would simply say “opportunist”. It is not a question of his knowledge or his beliefs but simply his appetite.

GFC:

Julian Gillespie writes: If I was Obama and chose to go down the big stimulus route and I knew I would need to finance that stimulus with lots of US Treasury notes, then I would first go to all the known buyers and ask them what they thought.

Seems safe to say that the lenders agreed to back the new administration’s spending ideas and, like any bond sale, the lenders were provided a level of disclosure most of the market only dreams about. This is not to say the lenders’ sentiment will not turn, but for now they are behind “the new guy”.

What appears remarkable to many observers is the sustained rate of accumulation in Treasuries despite US fundamentals seeming almost terminal and requiring them to hit the ‘re-set’ button. If the lenders are being held aloft on the grand speeches of the new administration and its talks of a new dawn of hope and how they can and will build themselves out of this mess, then I for one think those lenders drank too much kool-aid.

As Niall Ferguson (and in a similar respect Robert Schiller) has been saying, we are watching a delusion that is manifest in the minds of many who are responsible for fixing this problem, which Ferguson quite wittily calls The Great Repression. I tend to agree. Assuming he is correct and as this repression idea is now slowly circulating at high levels — and will no doubt hit the ears of those calling the shots some time soon — then people being people and not wanting to be seen as repressed will, I garner, want to finally wake up and smell the roses.

When will that happen? Probably when another review of the bank balance sheets in the US finally requires one person to make a big judgment call on valuations — the last guy history will see as holding the can on that call. Until then the Mad Hatters Tea Party will remain in full swing. When that happens, a long proclaimed and much touted market correction will inevitably transpire — the US dollar’s falling — which makes me a little more than afraid, as there are some big hitters holding a lot of Treasury notes out there…

We, as they say, shall see… but however right or wrong, one thing can be said for certain — anything is possible at the moment, where ‘crash’ has certainly become part of the lexicon.

Vaccination:

Simon Wilkins writes: Ignaz Amrein’s (yesterday, comments) timing for this argument couldn’t be worse, given the recent outbreaks of measles in QLD and Victoria (here and here) due to…wait for it…a drop in vaccinations.

As a scientist, I have to object to Ignaz’s point about not talking about side-effects. Scientists and medical practicioners are actually those best positioned to talk about the side-effects of vaccination, especially in comparison to the natural course of the disease the vaccine prevents (see here). However, where they often fail is in conveying that data to the general public in a way that makes it clear that the side-effects (and 1 in a million risk thereof) associated with vaccination (see here) are vastly outweighed by the side-effects (and 100% risk thereof) of allowing a disease to run its natural course (see here, here, here and the WHO site).

As for “not mentioning the war”. The “war” we should be fighting is to answer the question “How do you get the general public to become numerate when comparing associated-risks, as opposed to making decisions based on anecdotal evidence and media sensationalism?”. Unfortunately the answer is probably either boring (public education) or tragic (the deaths of loved ones due to ignorance).

Top Gear:

Craig Iedema writes: Despite that Glenn Dyer (yesterday, TV ratings) believes that SBS was somewhat under handed in offering up old Top Gear shows as new – anyone who has seen the Ads on SBS for this series (‘Back to the beginning’) would know that the shows in the coming weeks are old.

Footballers:

Matthew and Moira write: Re. “TV to be granted greater access to footy stars” (Monday, Media briefs). Do we really want to see footballers interviewed anyway? How many times do we need to hear ‘we’ll give it everything we’ve got’, ‘should be a tough game but I’m confident we’ll win’, and ‘we’ll see how it goes on the day’?! I can completely understand why clubs might not be willing to allow interviews to promote games — players will exhaust club supplies of clichés!

Murray Darling:

Judy Holly writes: How was the Victorian government allowed to construct a pipeline to take further huge amounts of water from the Murray catchment, when farmers have to give up water rights?

The Goulburn River is a tributary of the Murray River, joining it just above Echuca. The Eildon Dam on the Goulburn already takes huge amounts for Melbourne’s water supply. Now more is to go. Franz Kafka would just love this country!!

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