Andrew Nikolic writes: Re. ” Party Games ” (Friday, The Pollbludger). I note William Bowe writes:

The Launceston Examiner reports that Brigadier Andrew Nikolic, veteran of numerous overseas postings and until recently the Australian Defence Force’s director-general of public affairs, has “confirmed that he is interested” in Liberal preselection for the federal seat of Bass. Also said to have his eye on the preselection is Senator Guy Barnett, who will otherwise have to settle for the slighly less appealing prospect of number three on the Liberal ticket.

I left the Director General Public Affairs role in Defence in March 2008. For the last 12 months I have been a First Assistant Secretary within Defence’s International Policy Division, with responsibility for managing our regional Defence relationships in South East Asia, the Pacific and East Timor.

Swine Flu:

Cathy Bannister writes: Re. ” Get a grip: Swine Flu is not a biblical plague ” (Friday, item 1). The problem with the approach to the swine flu is the lack of targeting. Swine flu may be mild and only kill as many people as normal flu, but the point remains that it is highly contagious (possibly more than standard flu is) and it will kill some people whose health is otherwise compromised. Like, possibly, your mother. Perhaps Health and Ageing should announce out safety guidelines for those older, sicker people? How we can help them avoid catching the flu and how can they be helped if they do? Maybe we should be isolating them and organising home doctor’s visits, rather than have them sitting in infection-filled waiting rooms.

John Browning writes: Children returning from Japan with mother. She is a teacher assistant at the same school they attend. The Queensland Government says that the children cannot return to school for seven days but has no objection to the mother returning straight away to work in the preparatory classroom with 5-year-old children. Crazy, or what?

Digital radio:

Gabe McGrath writes: Re. ” Digital Radio: Who gives a toss? Radio’s dead anyway ” (Friday, item 21). Stilgherrian, in the interests of fairness, I’ll declare upfront that I work for a commercial radio station, but my opinion is mine alone. You suggested:

  1. Analogue/Digital radios only receive X different stations.
  2. Online radio systems have more stations.
  3. There are stacks of hardware devices that can receive net radio.

I agree with the numbers, but not your interpretation of their value. You asked, “What does Breakfast with Blocko and Narelle really offer that can’t be done by a $160 plastic rabbit?” Here’s three examples off the top of my head.

  1. If my wife was listening to a net radio station at 5.15pm on June 8th, 2007… she would have kept driving up Helen Street & turned into Frederick Street, Merewether. (as she does every other day of the year). While she would have enjoyed the great variety from it would have been cut short about 30 seconds later, as a torrent of water engulfed our 2 week old $26,000 car & she would have had to jump out, fearing for her life. As it happened, my wife was instead listening to a local radio station, who advised just a minute earlier that Frederick Street had turned into Frederick “River”. So she turned left 2 blocks earlier than usual, and when she turned back onto the top of Frederick Street, she saw a stream of vehicles swept away drivers who hadn’t heard the warning.
  2. Companionship. I once hosted a “mid dawn” shift. Many of those lonely people who called in for a chat would be somewhat disappointed
    if they instead tried to skype the DJ at a net radio station. Often, there isn’t a DJ. And we’re assuming the listener has “skype” setup.
  3. Bushfires. With a Royal Commission in progress, I won’t go into any details. But I’d always bet on my radio local station for safety information, ahead of etc

Stilgherrian, I’m no luddite. I used to LOVE listening to . (Until it was *blocked* due to Australia’s licensing rules.) But sometimes one solution does not fit all.

Australia’s balance sheets:

John Goldbaum writes: Re. “ Will members of parliament please grow up ?” (Friday, item 4). Bernard Keane wrote that he “couldn’t work out what the Opposition’s point was about debt in 2022”. Put simply, Australian Government debt could have been one-third lower and have been paid off more quickly if the whole of the Government’s economic stimulus package had been invested in productivity-increasing, supply-side expanding, economic infrastructure rather than a mixture of economic and social infrastructure and the poorly justified cash splashes whose sole purpose was to prop up consumer demand for goods and services at their already unsustainable level for just a little while longer.

Paul Keating’s recession gave Australia a rapid economic re-structuring and enabled 14 years of economic expansion which continued despite a number of recessions in other countries, whereas Kevin Rudd’s cash splashes and much of his social infrastructure spending will result in Australians continuing to live well beyond our means on the back of indebtedness to harder-working, modestly-living, sensibly-saving, creditor nations.

The choice is between “pain now and good times later”, or “good times now and pain later”. Principle has to be re-paid and interest just adds to our burden. It would be a quicker-ending misery if we took our pain now, repaired our family balance sheets and then emerged to a fresh start without worrying about our creditors knocking on the door.

As for governments hoarding piles of cash from the resources booms to tide us over the busts, forget it. Governments of all political persuasions can’t be trusted to spend taxpayers’ dollars wisely. Just imagine Mr Rudd levying a tax for the purpose of sending out $900 cheques to a favoured group. There would be pandemonium and he wouldn’t even dare to try. Yet, he was happy to borrow money for the purpose of sending out $900 cheques to some favoured groups, and that just means that when future tax collections are used to repay Government debt, Mr Rudd can ignore the link between the taxes and the cash splash debt.

Those countries whose populations repaired their balance sheets quickly by reducing spending and increasing saving will advance much more quickly than Australia in years to come.

Rising tides:

Louise Doran writes: Re. ” Bad days in Byron as the tides rise ” (Friday, item 17). I’ve lived in Byron Shire for almost three decades. When I first came here the little fibro beach shacks at Belongil Beach were going very cheap — they were hard to sell after the 1974 cyclonic weather caused a huge amount of damage. No one in their right mind wanted to live there or spend hard earned money on something that in all likelihood would be washed away.

Consequently, in 1988, council introduced the very sensible policy of planned retreat, so that prospective buyers would be aware of the problems in that area and not expect ratepayers/taxpayers to finance any futile attempts to save their homes, at the same time causing problems elsewhere.

Affordable housing at Belongil!!! That must be the joke of the year. Not only have buyers in this area ignored the warnings, they have spent huge sums ‘renovating’ these properties, some of which are on the market for up to $6.9m!!! What they are currently worth one could only guess.

Over many years I have witnessed the havoc wrought by the ocean, huge king tides and wild weather and the stupidity of people who think they can literally hold back the tide. People who have gone ahead and spent huge sums rebuilding these houses, knowing full well what the consequences would be, have to accept the inevitable outcome and stop whinging.

Private schools:

An anonymous Crikey reader writes: Re: ” Rundle: a minor indiscretion with the school cormorant ” (Friday, item 13). Guy Rundle chuckled about Firbank being the sister school of his alma mater Brighton Grammar. You may be interested to note The Porny School is in the village of Eton, Berkshire, UK (girls and boys attend). I kid you not — here is a photo I took recently of its shingle in the main street, not a stone’s throw from the gentleman’s tailor and outfitter that supplies Eton boys with their top hats and tails:

Eton College, which covers most of the village is — as you would know — where England’s royalty and elite have educated their sons for 600 years, just over the river Thames from that hillock at Windsor where one would have a castle if one were Her Majesty, Queen of England.


Justin Templer writes: Re. “ APRA falls flat in face of executive pay bonanza ” (Friday, item 26). Adam Schwab criticises APRA’s draft principles on remuneration on the grounds that they deal only with risk-adjusted remuneration and do not address the specific quantum of remuneration received by financial services employees. He then suggests that it is a problem that these principles are not black letter law — this misunderstands the fact that APRA is able to operate more effectively than ASIC through consultative, risk-based supervision rather than being restricted to the imposition of one size fits all black letter law (the Corporations Act). At least he has the grace to put voice to APRA’s position that a “one size fits all” approach cannot work given differences in size, operations and complexity of organisations – before then condemning the whole exercise by stating that the Federal Government has effectively done nothing at all.

Strangely for someone bursting with criticisms Adam does not choose to share his own ideas with us. And chooses to ignore the fact that the form of remuneration most likely to lead organizations into undesirable risk-taking or even illegal behaviours and of most concern to financial regulators is of the type that is highly-leveraged to short term profit – in other words, the type of remuneration APRA has addressed. If an executive is paid (by his example) a fixed $2m each year this will not in itself reward the executive for bad behaviours – although it may promote green-eyed journalism.


An anonymous Crikey reader writes: Re. Thursday’s editorial . I currently work at the International Labour Organisation and to be frank, if the ACTU did “dob” in the Australian government, the complaint would be welcomed in Geneva. Australia is hardly the golden child here — it is a running joke that we have an outdated, draconian and overly-complex industrial legislative regime. Indeed, the ban on pattern bargaining referred to in your editorial is regularly singled out for criticism (it breaches Convention No. 87). Australia only looks better in comparison with the US, but that is because the US hasn’t ratified most of the core Conventions. The ACTU needs to sort out their priorities and protectionism is not the answer, but in respect of the industrial legislative regime, their policy is not outdated or out of step with international standards. Your critique is just adolescent name calling.

US Supreme Court:

An anonymous Crikey reader writes: Re. ” Obama lays foundations for Democratic dominance of all three branches of government ” (Thursday, item 2). As much as I enjoy Guy Rundle’s brilliant contributions to Crikey , I was deeply dismayed to see him refer (all of six times) in this piece to Barack Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court as Sonia “Sotomayer.” It is “Sotomayor”, Guy. Call me a pedant, but I expect better from Mr. Rundle.