Mark Hardcastle writes: James Burke’s specious argument for war in Afghanistan (yesterday, comments) suffers from a most basic error. Murderous attacks on civilians don’t solve the problems he wants solved. Nor does re-branding the killing “collateral damage” solve the problem. Analogies between Afghanistan and Germany in 1939 are spurious. Hitler’s Germany was a military superpower. A better analogy for that superpower would be with the ideological Neo-Cons and the President with the Messiah complex who invaded Afghanistan.

In Yugoslavia, the massacre of civilians increased as a “predicable” consequence of NATO bombing. Finally, Burke’s rationale for murdering Vietnamese is a shocker: “it was not clear what would happen to the people of the South should it fall to the communists”.

If in doubt, kill ‘em.

Humphrey Hollins writes: James Burke suggests that if the Taliban return to government in Afghanistan they will behave just as they used to. Well maybe. Certainly the public face being presented by them at the moment is much more tolerant. Music is allowed as is kite flying and they seem to have realised that a bit of moderation is good. Perhaps Afghanistan will be like Cambodia where the ex Khmer Rouge still rule but they are relatively benign and internationally accepted.

Banker bonuses:

Peter Lloyd writes: Re. “Banker bonus restrictions might do more harm than good” (yesterday, item 27). Let Crikey no longer add to the chorus of criticism from the corporate sector and their apologists regarding restrictions on executive pay packages at companies receiving bail-outs (I almost wrote “companies receiving public subsidies”, but of course there’s always been a deluge of those).

The real issue, and the one our courageous business press almost totally missed, was why insane pay packages were being “negotiated” by boards and the remuneration consultants called in because company directors are too stupid and lazy to do anything themselves. The “insanity” I refer to isn’t related to the amount of pay, but the apparent absence of any protection for shareholders’ interests in so many cases. In most regimes at most times in history, these guys would be in labour camps or tied to posts in front of bullet-riddled walls.

Capitalists, libertarians, free marketeers, or whatever they like to call themselves have a theory requiring the dead wood to be removed. There is plenty of management talent waiting for its chance.

David Griffin writes: Adam Schwab wrote: “Many bankers are paid an annual cash amount directly based on the income they produce for the business — in a similar manner to a real estate agent or car salesman.”

It is misleading to compare bonuses in the financial sector to commissions for salespeople. Salespeople cannot expose their employer to the risk that traders can. A salesperson can only maximise their sales, while a trader can return large (or small) profits or losses. Only providing incentives for one side of that equation (the profit side) promotes risk taking, which is not optimal for their employer.

Making payments contingent on the further success of the company may help (as long as boneheads don’t takeover the company), but they will not help you make anyone responsible for the losses of AIG and co.

And +100 points for not being on the “bonuses are evil!” bandwagon.

Electorate offices:

A former electorate officer writes: Re. “QLD Speaker’s Office’s overtly political nature” (Tuesday, item 11). Crikey’s coverage of the Queensland Speakers Office and its lack of political independence highlights as to just why electorate office staff members are and continue to be treated so badly when it comes to complaints against sitting MPs.

The shenanigans in this office scream out for some independent investigation, particularly given the overtly political nature of the Speaker’s Office. There are far too many staffers who have been forsaken as a result of their naive representations to an office and the individuals within who were purporting to be politically neutral. This is as opposed to high level Labor hacks. Were these same hacks feeding information straight back to the Labor parliamentary and party machine in order to neutralise and/or persecute complainants?

I am amazed to see that Stirling Hinchcliffe, a former Speaker’s Executive Officer in that Office has neglected to place this important position on his CV. He was there for a number of years and in fact, during a period where I thought my complaints about the behaviour of the local member to the Speaker’s Office and to the Parliamentary Services HR section were being dealt with in a non partisan manner. His omission is perhaps unsurprising given that he is now seen as an up and coming Labor high flyer in the Bligh Government. One may be excused for thinking its inclusion in a CV may present a possible risk of being tarnished by association.

This is an office that is supposed to be above the political fray. In Queensland it is obviously very much a part of the snake pit of Queensland, especially Labor Party, politics. A Royal Commission into the treatment of electorate office staff by this office and the QLA in general is a minimum requirement.


Marcus L’Estrange writes: Re. “SackWatch: unemployment heads to double digits” (yesterday, item 2). Inexplicably, your columnist Andrew Cook, in reality, comments on the “Labour Force Australia” monthly employment/unemployment survey figures in his article, yet no one in their right mind mentions these figures.

Former Victorian (ALP) Employment Minister, Steve Crabb (and himself an actuary), claims that the: “Labour Force Australia survey is not only misleading; it causes real harm”. He then asked why the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) officials produced this “load of old cobblers”.

The Federal Labor wants to gut the above-mentioned surveys in order to show that the “cash splash” policy is working. All the cash for trash (shares in dodgy companies, “Rudd Bank”, general bank guarantees etc) plus the cash splash (direct payments to the punters) policies do is to artificially lower the real unemployment figures mentioned in the two above mentioned surveys.

Of course the punters will have to pay for this indebtedness but by then Comrade Rudd or our “Great Helmsman” will be out of office on his huge super payout and who knows, Ambassador to China under the Tories.

After all, both parties, on top of rewards showered on them by the ruling elite for services rendered, also reward each other for services rendered to the “top end of town”, don’t they?


Charles Kane writes: Re. “Qantas row: rude mechanics vs. goons” (yesterday, item 14). In his item about QANTAS and the TWU’s strike, Ben Sandilands put to one side the arguments for and against striking. Personally, I’m happy to state a view.

The “right” to strike is grossly archaic. Its historical basis — that being the poor conditions of vulnerable workers during the industrial revolution- is now entirely defunct. Workers are now afforded myriad rights through both exhaustive legislation and also their own employment contracts; if those rights are infringed they can (and do) enforce them through numerous legal avenues. What possible grounds are there for sanctioning a person’s blatant disregard of their obligations as an employee, when they submitted to those obligations freely and willingly?

Stikes are legalised blackmail. They cause employers (and often the public) financial loss, not to mention gross inconvenience. And all so that the union can get some free publicity for their views and the workers can have a few days off to watch daytime soaps.

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