The wage gap:

Mitchell Holmes writes: Re. “The wage gap: we’re stuck in the dark ages” (yesterday, item 11). Comparing net wealth as an indicator is one approach to testing inter-gender wage equity. Of course these gender comparisons always raise some questions which are rarely addressed:

  1. Do any of these studies adjust for women who actually choose to leave the workforce to raise a family full time? This choice is not always that they had no other choice. I have known many women who, when child number 2, 3 or 4 comes along, happily retire from the workforce while hubby continues to win the daily bread. While there is a great income imbalance between partners, most couples tend to share assets such as principal home, bank deposits and shares. Only superannuation becomes greater for the working partner.
  2. Do these surveys take into account the not insignificant government benefits due to a non-working or part-time working mother — baby bonus, childcare subsidy, CCB Parts A & B?
  3. Does the net wealth measure make any allowance for business people receiving income (other than wages) from their own companies or trusts?
  4. Does the net wealth measure adjust for non-income forms of wealth accumulation — divorce settlements, inheritance, etc.
  5. The statement that “women enter a labour market that does not allow them to combine careers and motherhood and so the earnings gap persists” ignores many changes that have been made to the flexibility of the labour market in recent decades. Of course parents (not just women) can combine careers and parenthood — millions do. But as much as women may be blessed as the gender that is most likely to be able to multi-task, it is simply a fool’s paradise to suggest that many people could possibly run a stellar, high earning, lengthy career and at the same time be “parent of the year” every year for the first 18 years of their children’s lives.

At some stage, as thinking adults, we make choices as to how we allocate the scarce resource that is time.


Amy O’Hara, Media Communications Assistant, Public Affairs and Policy, Pfizer Australia, writes: Re. “Pfizer’s campaign to drug as many smokers as possible” (18 September, item 14). Pfizer wishes to clarify a few misconceptions in response to the article published in crikey on Friday, 18 September.

Pfizer shares Professor Chapman’s interest in promoting the benefits of quitting smoking and as such, we’d like to clarify a couple of points about our smoking cessation initiative which were unfortunately misunderstood.

Firstly, Pfizer is, as Professor Chapman correctly states, the manufacturer and sponsor of Champix (varenicline), an aid for smoking cessation for adult smokers who are motivated to quit. We are no longer the owners of NRT since we sold our consumer products business to Johnson & Johnson and are not responsible for their quit smoking messages.

Secondly, we have never disqualified quitting cold turkey as a valid option to quit smoking, as many smokers have succeeded using this method. The brochure that Professor Chapman quotes has been designed to specifically address those smokers who have tried to quit in the past and failed.

This is shown by the title: What makes you think you can quit this time and by the opening remarks of the piece: “If you’ve tried to quit in the past and failed — don’t worry. Most people have 5-7 attempts before they finally succeed…” (Added emphasis).

Our smoking cessation initiative strongly recommends that smokers who have failed previous quit attempts speak to their pharmacist or doctor, as these health care professionals are well placed to counsel smokers on what options would be better for them, including cold turkey, NRT, prescription medicines and alternative therapies.

The website provides further information on nicotine addiction, the benefits of quitting smoking and the different methods available.

We have based our references to the long term success of unaided quitters (“only 3-5% of people who try to outsmart cigarettes without treatment succeed”) on published, peer reviewed publications by another renowned expert in smoking cessation: (Hughes JR, Keely J, Naud S. Shape of the relapse curve and long-term abstinence among untreated smokers. Addiction. 2004 Jan;99(1):29-38).

Thank you for taking the time to read Pfizer’s response.


John Taylor writes: Re. “Gerard Noonan: Why I’m running for the Fairfax board” (yesterday, item 4). Gerard Noonan would be a magnificent acquisition to the Fairfax board. But … tell him he’s dreaming. Nobody breaks into the cosy Directorship structure of any major Company just because they have the right credentials for the job. Two final words on the subject: Stephen Mayne.

The Democrats:

David Thackrah writes: Keith Binns (yesterday, comments) comment that Senator Lees led the Dems to their death seems a little awry. Consider the Bill for the GST was put up by John Howard and he negotiated with the Balance of Power in the Senate. Consideration was given to applying a tax on “consumption” so if you bought a Maserati you paid the appropriate consumption tax. It worked.

Since then, income taxes have fallen, government found money to hand back to Mums for the kids and more roads got fixed together with some improvements in the field of health. The thought of this tax revolution belonging to the Dems drove the Major Parties crazy and they sooled the Gallery to produce anything negative about the Balance of Power. The democracy extant amongst the Dems produced two party members crossing the floor on the GST issue anyway.

Compare that with stacks on the mill in the major parties today! Is democracy a factor that lasts for a few hours on polling day?

Brendan Nelson:

Stephen Wong writes: Re. “Allo, Allo! Brendan Nelson’s postcard from Luxembourg” (yesterday, item 12). In appointing Dr Brendan Nelson as ambassador to the European Union after so much careful consideration and based on his in-depth knowledge as a diplomat, Kevin Rudd is either a fool or the greater hypocrite, or both.

Double dissolution:

Peter Burns writes: Just wondering whether twice blocking a money bill (say, ETS or Medicare legislation), which provides a trigger for a double dissolution, actually means that the dissolution and calling an election has to happen immediately.

Could Rudd keep his finger off the trigger until the normal election time, giving him the option of either a half or full Senate election, whichever suits his advantage at the time? This would allow him to keep to his statement about not wanting an early election yet still give him the opportunity to rid us of the ridiculous Steve Fielding and maybe annihilate the Nats in favour of more Greens.

Darebin Council:

David Hand writes: Re. “Ferguson urges ‘science, not green faith’ in letter to Batman residents” (yesterday, item 1). It was heart-warming to see Darebin Council’s commitment to their community achieving zero carbon emissions by 2020. However, posing with a self-congratulatory sign is one thing.

Having a practical plan, which is missing from the story, from the Darebin Council website and from the Northern Alliance for Greenhouse Action (NAGA) website, is another. Unless you consider grand strategies such as, “Purchasing or renewable energy from an accredited retailer through GreenPower” or “Built from renewable energy, i.e. installation of building solar panels” to be examples of a practical plan.

Sounds more like a “Feel-good” project to me. They are not planning for the citizens of Darebin to export their carbon emissions to the Latrobe Valley are they?

Climate change:

Tamas Calderwood writes: Re. “Former coal exec Ian Dunlop: Rudd and Corporate Australia are failing on climate change” (yesterday, item 5). This week the baton passes to Ian Dunlop for some climate hysteria in Crikey. He warns of “increasing risk of abrupt and irreversible climate shifts”, with “indicators point[ing] towards more and rapid and severe climate change” such that “if we do not act quickly and decisively the effects will be devastating”, and … yawn, you know the rest.

Not that the key indicator — the temperature data — supports any of this nonsense. But who cares? His point is that action on climate change must be accompanied by that old chestnut: “Different values”. We must make “transformative” changes and conjure up “realistic rules” for the “free market ideology [that] still dominates” while “moving away from growth and consumption” because the “status quo is unsustainable”.

Who knew that 20 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall the same dreary old utopian arguments could be re-packaged and re-flogged as a new solution to capitalism’s wicked ways. So while Dunlop finishes by invoking Churchill, allow me to conclude with an insight from H.L. Mencken: “The urge to save humanity is almost always a false-face for the urge to rule it”.

Ken Lambert writes: Re. Les Heimann (yesterday, comments) Why are we agonizing over a Strangelovian cat stroking failed Maoist like Guy Rundle? The big story of the day is Hugh Jackman’s deep analysis of the unbreakable link of third world poverty and anthropogenic global warming. After all, what we need is more celebrity song and dance persons running energy, ETS and climate change policy… worldwide.

Obviously Hugh needs to check whether there was any world poverty before 1850 when AGW started all this sh-t happening for the poor. Maybe he needs a small history lesson about the 17th and 18th centuries when the poor were … poor and … cold … but that’s a trifling criticism in the much greater world of celebrity.

With Jackman running poverty-AGW, why not Bono for Biomass, Blanchett for Batts (pink), Sting for Solar, Winfrey for Windmills … .and of course Jane Fonda for Fonduclear (Chinese style).

Port Phillip Bay:

Jenny Warfe, Blue Wedges, writes: Stephen Bradford Port of Melbourne Corporation CEO (15 September, comments) sounds desperate, and so he should. Economic modelling for channel deepening plugged in 5% annual growth from 2007 to 2035 … but the real economy is showing Melbournians we’ve blown the budget on a project that was well past its use by date before it even started.

Business Spectator says shipping lines have cut thousands of jobs and mothballed ships to cope with over capacity and falling trade. Freight rates are dropping dramatically, in some cases to nothing, and the three biggest container shippers have all dropped several vessels and routes. The world’s biggest shipping line Maersk has a 13,000 TEU container ship sitting idle in Europe for want of cargo. Nothing in the real world suggests shipping lines will replace fleets with bigger ships any time soon, and- there’s plenty of opinion that smaller ships may be the way of the future anyway.

Car imports are down 33%. Industry insiders say Chinese imports are down 40% and our exporters are struggling. Dairy and meat exports particularly have collapsed as overseas importers can’t get credit to buy our goods. MUA State Secretary Kevin Braken says that container volumes are down 25%. He’s certain the Port doesn’t need a third stevedore operator, advocating the retention of the cosy duopoly of (struggling) Asciano and DP World. And what of the new “contained aquatic facility” where millions of tonnes of toxic sludge from Yarra dredging have been dumped, with more to be added over the coming years of “maintenance” dredging.

Who is willing to stand up and guarantee that? Peter Garrett? PoMC said deeper channels would deliver around $2 billion benefits by 2035. That’s around $80 million benefits per annum. When compared to the $75 billion trade per annum through the Port of Melbourne, the benefits are miniscule — it’s around 0.1% increase … and reliant on what we now know was a pie in the sky growth scenario. Most of us would prefer something enduring for our money; a school or two, more trains, tracks that don’t buckle in the heat … more hospitals perhaps?

How much longer can the Brumby infrastructure cheer squad — VECCI, Andrew Bolt and Stephen Bradford — kid themselves that a permanent toxic dump and unused deeper channels are “vital” for Melbourne? Of course we already had a working port — but now it owes us another $1 billion.

At the very least Mr. Bradford should explain — Why the rush? Show us your ships Stephen.

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