Executive Remuneration:

Niall Clugston writes: Re. Yesterday’s editorial. On executive pay, the Crikey Team makes the rejoinder: “Don’t get us started on the money made by the likes of The Wiggles and Nicole Kidman”. But, if you think about it, pay for performing artists is the least objectionable example of excessive remuneration.

They only gain their stardom by their own exceptional achievements and the willingness of the public for concerts, movies, merchandise etc. If nobody likes them, they get nowhere. There are plenty of failed artists. In our society, this objection only amounts to saying that record companies and other show business managers should rake in even more money at the expense of performers. Really? A similar argument applies to the “elite sportsmen and women” that Crikey scorns.

As Bernard Keane says (“Executive remuneration: PC pays out on directors“, yesterday, item 1), executive remuneration is a matter of “private property rights. If shareholders want to pay CEOs tens of millions, that’s their problem.” And shareholders can make millions from shares they never knew they owned. So why exactly complain about artistic or sporting performers who have worked hard all their life?

Geoff Russell writes: Your editorial asks why do we object to massive remuneration and what harm are we trying to prevent in wanting to control them.

The harm is the intrinsic injustice and it isn’t only humans who think such things suck. We know that some people work twice as hard as others, and some people are twice as smart as others, but we also know that nobody works 20 times harder or is 20 times smarter than everybody else and that if they are getting 20 times more then it is a scam.

We also know that the money to finance the scam has been gouged from others or perhaps ‘minimised’ away from the tax office. Considering that even dogs and chimps have sussed that this is wrong, why do we tolerate it?

Keith Binns writes: From my point of view as a left wing Christian, I can answer your question Why, exactly, do we object to massive remuneration? easily. The Old Testament Law is opposed to massive differences between the rich and poor. I am particularly opposed to it when there is no link, as there so often isn’t, between pay and performance. For directors and executives to receive disproportionately huge (in comparison to other workers in a company) pay packets when a company is doing well is bad enough. For them to receive similar remuneration when a company does poorly is indeed obscene. It’s not just the money. We all know that it just isn’t fair.

Zachary King writes: Re. “First Dog on the Moon” (yesterday, item 6). While I enjoyed your editorial on executive remuneration and couldn’t agree more, First Dog on the Moon was quite simply the best encapsulation on the topic that I have seen. Bravo.

Footpaths and pedestrians:

Paul Hampton-Smith writes: Re. “Footpaths are danger zones for pedestrians” (yesterday, item 15). Harold Scruby is in typical attention-seeking mode when he asserts that the speed limit for cyclists on shared bikeways should be 10 km/h (to be overtaken by most joggers). This is in the same vein as his other comments that hybrid cars are dangerous because they’re too quiet. Next, I suggest, he will be advocating the resurrection of the 19th century requirement to have a man walking in front of all cars with a red flag.

But putting aside Scruby’s hilarious statements, and the ridiculous cyclists-are-bastards stance, as a commuting cyclist for decades I actually agree with him and Ava Hubble. Few of the dinky bike paths constructed by councils seem to have been designed by, or in consultation with, commuting cyclists, who travel at anywhere between 20 and 60 km/h. In fact, many bike paths aren’t needed at all.

My bicycle route to town each day negotiates the back streets without using a single bike path, and passes through two traffic lights. If I used the main road bike tracks it would be an much slower trip breathing exhaust fumes through fifteen traffic lights.

There is plenty of misinformation that cycling is dangerous, which is probably the reason for the needless focus on bike paths, when in fact the cycling death and serious injury statistics per hour on the road are about half those for cars.

Edward Stratton-Smith writes: A simple solution to the problem of footpaths being “danger zones for pedestrians” is for a little bit of money to be spent on proper cycling infrastructure (see Grant Doyle’s “Letter from Amsterdam“; Crikey, 17 September 2009).

In this country, cycling infrastructure generally consists of white lines painted on busy roads. In many cases, those lanes are only cycle lanes for about an hour and a half on weekday afternoons. It is really no wonder that those few normal people (not those training for the Tour De France) who are brave enough to ride bicycles on Australian roads retreat to the footpath whenever they can.

Still, Ava Hubble need not worry. Once the obligatory Walk to School “Day” is over, all of those children will be safely imprisoned again in the back seats of their parents’ cars until they finally taste freedom in the form of a driver’s licence when they turn 17 and become yet another motorist.

Wayne Robinson writes: Cyclists should be on the roads not on footpaths; they are travelling too fast for footpaths. There should also be cycle lanes painted on all roads wide enough to have cycle lanes, and reckless motorists should be punished with the full force of the law (cyclists should be allowed to dob in reckless motorists). I don’t cycle, but I do realise that cyclists do deserve some care and onsideration.

Tsunami coverage:

Mitchell Holmes writes: Re. “A tsunami of Aussie Aussie Aussie media” (yesterday, item 4). You noted today that The Cairns Post takes the local angle on the Samoan tsunami to the extreme. While TCP is in many respects a fine regional newspaper, its Achilles heel is the screaming front page headline, particularly where the paper can make a local link, however tenuous, to a national or international issue.

TCP does this on such a regular basis that the link to ANY wider issue is along the lines of: “a friend, of a cousin, of a person who once spoke to someone, who was a fellow passenger on an aircraft, that had a stopover in CAIRNS, thought they recognised the person involved in the latest natural disaster/sporting event/sex scandal/international dispute.”

It is “LOOK AT ME, LOOK AT ME” reporting at its worst.


James Burke writes: Re. “Europeans throw Russia an olive branch” (yesterday, item 16). Charles Richardson’s item on the Russia-Georgia conflict, while otherwise astute, skates glibly over one of the shadier recent episodes of Caucasian history. In 1993 the separatist army in the Abkhazian Republic expelled the majority Georgians, who outnumbered the ethnic Abkhaz by two or three to one.

With about 250,000 Georgians displaced this was one of the biggest and most successful ethnic cleansing campaigns of a very nasty era (for which Georgian political leaders can take their share of blame). How much of this military success, and of the previous fostering of separatist sentiment, was due to the suspected involvement of Soviet/Russian security forces, has always been a matter of conjecture.

Interestingly, this conflict was also a baptism of fire for Shamil Basayev and other Islamists, who fought on the Abkhaz side before going on to inflict much pain on Russian soldiers and civilians during the Chechen wars.

Influenza vaccination:

Stephen Lambert writes: Re. “Influenza vaccination: the case for” (Wednesday, item 15). Michael Wooldridge mounted a structured and reasoned response in his piece refuting the position Peter Collignon (Crikey, 24 September 2009) put on H1N1 vaccine. Instead of dealing in an evidence-based manner with the information presented, Melissa Sweet went the man suggesting that Wooldridge was acting as a stooge for CSL. It was a cowardly and pathetic attack, made worse by the mysterious claim that anonymous others also wanted to know.

I know controversy is the cornerstone of journalism, but the number and tone of articles against the H1N1 vaccination program in Crikey is beginning to look like a campaign. It may be worthwhile reflecting that as of Monday this week, in my state (Queensland) alone, there remained 32 people currently hospitalised with H1N1, including 10 in intensive care.

By the time the irrational scares of GBS and multidose vials are proved incorrect, the capacity to deliver a high population coverage vaccination campaign will have passed.

Declaration of interest: Stephen Lambert is a co-investigator for the CSL-sponsored paediatric H1N1 vaccine trial.

University of Melbourne:

Christina Buckridge, Corporate Affairs Manager, University of Melbourne, writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (yesterday, item 7). Your tipster will be relieved to hear that water tanks are being installed to collect water from the Medley Building at the University of Melbourne to provide supplementary water for the South Lawn — one of our significant heritage gardens — during the summer months. The Vice-Chancellor’s garden or tennis court are not part of this plan.

The installation of these tanks is part of massive exercise across all campuses to use water more wisely. At Parkville, for instance, the South Lawn has been replanted with drought tolerant Kikuyu turf, a 220,000-litre tank is already in place in the System Garden, ‘purple pipe’ is being laid to carry recycled water around campus, and over 62 km of drip irrigations systems have been installed to replace sprinklers — to mention but a few strategies.


Michael Day writes: Re. “Yes, they really called it that: Vegemite’s new name unites the internet in contempt” (Monday, item 19). How clever are Kraft? Think about it: come up with a shit name for a new product that’s bound to get the internet buzzing and indulging in its favourite habit – flaming – then, after all that priceless publicity, drop the shit name and replace it with a better one. For more publicity. Sucked in!

A concrete correction:

Mick Callinan writes: Re. “China threatens polluters with a twist of the money tap” (yesterday, item 3). Glenn Dyer wrote: “In the cement sector, the State Council said it would suspend and review all new projects in the pipeline.” Won’t it be difficult to start the flow again if the cement sets in the pipeline?


Jim Ivins writes: Well put Wayne Smith (yesterday, comments). Respectember at the ABC reminded me of that sly old joke: “All leave is cancelled until moral improves”. The only thing that bothers me about F*ckofftober is that it’s too specific. As Smith suggests, it’s not just the ABC that employs idiot managers. Public institutions like universities and hospitals are riddled with them too. My guess is you’ll make a lot more in sales by ditching the ABC logo for a t-shirt that everyone can be proud to wear.

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