Asylum seekers, Wilson Tuckey and gobbledygook:

Alison White writes: Re. “What is the fuss over former LTTE members in Australia?” (yesterday item 12). Below is how part of “What is the fuss over former LTTE members in Australia?” was displayed in my email yesterday.

Tuckey has reason to make a lot of noise, his parliamentary career has been less than a success, with his sacking by John Howard as a minister a fair indication of his character and ability.

When trying to think of a logical explanation, I dismissed the possibility of a problem with an embedded image, as all other images in yesterday’s email were displayed perfectly … my first reaction was that one of Wilson Tuckey’s speeches had been inserted into this story, and the spell-check/translator program didn’t recognise it as English … anyone have a better idea?

Niall Clugston writes: Re. “The difference between a terrorist and a terrorist” (yesterday, item I think Irfan Yusuf and other commentators are missing the point. The Tamil Tigers have never attacked Australia, and their supporters have peacefully operated here for many years. But their greatest mistake is taking “Iron Bar” Tuckey seriously. His scenario is an operative of al-Qaeda secretly entering Australia via the torturous route of seeking asylum. This is utterly ridiculous.

Climate change:

Paul Hampton-Smith writes: Re. “OK, I admit it, I’m a climate currency leakage sceptic” (yesterday, item 10). In his article yesterday about the relative magnitude of currency exposure vs. the costs of the CPRS, Bernard Keane says that “Somehow, magically, our biggest companies are able to handle that [currency fluctuation] shock to their earnings without bailing out to a country with a weak currency”.

No magic, Bernard — it’s the practice of currency hedging, which is a standard method that companies use to offset currency risk.

If an Australian company thinks it will sell US$1 million in widgets, then it can buy US$1 million futures at a leverage of up to 200:1, meaning an outlay of $50,000. This effectively baselines their exports in US dollars, making them immune to Aussie dollar fluctuations.

For instance, McCarthur Coal announced in March 2009 that they held US$126 million in hedges. Notwithstanding Bluescope Steel’s own statements in 2008 that their EBIT was exposed to currency risk, their annual report describes their extensive hedging activities in detail. Interestingly, BHP and Rio Tinto both indicate in their annual reports that currency hedging is “not in the best interests of our shareholders”.

I have no idea why. Given the massive volatility in exchange rates that we are witnessing, the comparison of currency hedging companies vs. non-hedging, and their reasons, would make another interesting article.

Mark Duffett writes: Bernard Keane’s “our biggest companies are able to handle that shock (A$ appreciation) to their earnings without bailing out to a country with a weak currency” argument is a straw man for its ridiculous all-or-nothing proposition. Of course Rio Tinto and BHP aren’t going to shut down their Australian operations entirely and shift holus bolus offshore.

It’s all a matter of degrees. A mine closed here (e.g. Mindarie, a couple of weeks ago), a mine not proceeded with there (e.g. Avebury), and pretty soon you’re talking serious impacts on the economy.

And the issue needs to be looked at on an industry-wide basis. Individual companies with Australian mines generally don’t move in response to higher costs, they simply go bust. It’s the investment capital that flies, and is/will be the mechanism for carbon leakage.

So that’s how I reckon Bernard should test his hypothesis evaluating the “giant experiment”: compare the stock prices of predominantly Australia-exposed companies versus those with mainly overseas interests, over the period the A$ has been appreciating. Sounds like a job for a professional journalist.

Over to you, Bernard.

Steve O’Connor writes: Re. “At risk of banging on about this, we’re all going to die” (22 October, item 3). I’m still in a state of shock after reading Clive Hamilton’s full paper. Can someone in the inner circle please print a few copies out and distribute (receipts please) to:

  • Kevin Rudd
  • Penny Wong
  • Malcolm Turnbull
  • Penny Sackett
  • Dr Karl
  • Steve Fielding

If they don’t do something REAL after reading that, then they will be the first to be eaten (along with John Howard) when the food runs out.

The fitness industry:

Robert Barnes, General Manager — Operations, Fitness Australia Limited|, The Health and Fitness Industry Association, writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (yesterday, item 8). Crikey published this rumour:

The fitness industry is awarding Certificate IV qualifications to people after just an eight-week correspondence course. Some off them don’t even know how to take blood pressure readings. Not enough regulation for this industry. Seems to suit employers, who exploit their staff, to aim for gym memberships and employ 19-year-olds rather than a TAFE-qualified student where practicals are monitored. Seems easy for governments to turn a blind eye as at least it’s creating jobs.

I am not employed in the industry but, as an ex-rugby player and coach, am dismayed at the lack of knowledge and professionalism in this industry. My main concerns are: health and well-being of customers/clients; programs being written that are too difficult initially causing high drop-out rate; not contributing to reducing obesity in Australia when it could be a major contributor and significantly reduce health costs.

The fitness industry (i.e. actual fitness businesses and exercise professionals) does not award Certificates IV in Fitness. Registered training organisations issue these qualifications mandated by the respective State of Territory Department of Education. If an RTO runs an eight week course it has been vetted and accepted by the State Training Authority — not the fitness industry. The content of the Cert IV, like all training packages, is reviewed accepted by the State Training Authority not the fitness industry. We are currently lobbying for better standards to have more employable graduates from these courses in a review of this training package presently underway.

Fitness Australia registers exercise professionals only with proof of (a) their formal qualification and (b) evidence of their first aid and CPR qualifications. Over 90% are fully insured under the Fitness Industry Insurance program and they have to complete 20 continuing education credits every two years to prove they are up to date with modern industry standards and trends.

An Access Economics Report released this year shows the fitness industry contributes hundreds of millions to avoided health care costs in Australia right now. Just a 3% rise in adult participation in fitness services will deliver up to $200M pa in health care savings to the Federal Government.

Consumers, and ex-rugby players and coaches, need look no further than for a registered exercise professional working in a registered fitness business to find good models of excellent care, safety and service in the modern fitness industry.

Community TV:

Laurie Patton, TVS Chief Executive, writes: Re “Community TV is on its death bed, when will Conroy step in?” (19 October, item 21). Emma Rugg correctly records my observation about the prevalence of overseas material on the networks’ new multi-channels in arguing that Community TV is a great source of local content. Presumably for the sake of brevity, however, Emma omitted that I was not being critical in making this observation.

Original content is expensive and we cannot expect the new digital channels to generate large amounts of new programming. Community TV channels can do this simply because programs are made by enthusiastic community groups and individuals in their own time and are supplied free of charge.

They are an important addition to media diversity and provide an opportunity for new entrants to showcase their talent and their ideas.

Mosley and the Mitfords:

Kathleen Hughes writes: Re. “Lessons in history: Fascism in British politics” (yesterday, item 14). The ignorance and vacuous complacency of Michael Stuchbery’s airy dismissal of the Mitford sisters as mere “upper class twits” is breathtaking.

Actually they were movers and shakers: Unity was indeed close to Hitler; she shot herself in the head the day Britain declared war on Germany; and Diana did marry Mosley; on the other hand there was Jessica; who, as a Communist teenager, ran away with her Etonian cousin to fight fascists in the International Brigade in the Spanish Civil War, she also wrote the groundbreaking The American Way of Death, and Hons and Rebels; she put up inspirational resistance when she went to teach in an American university because she refused to have her fingerprints taken by university authorities as a pre-condition of employment.

Another Mitford sister was Nancy, you may have heard of her, she wrote Love in a Cold Climate among many other very well-known critically acclaimed books, and was a famously mordant wit and intellectual. Another sister founded the Social Democratic Party in the UK. The Mitfords were important women for God’s sake.

Do a bit of checking before you make such empty and ill-founded claims.


Gervase Greene writes: Re. “Carey and Cousins may be buffoons but don’t be too quick to judge” (23 October, item 19). In his article on Friday, the generally admirable Charles Happell charted the very different paths that led two AFL Bad Guys, Wayne Carey and Ben Cousins, to much the same predicament. They shared more than just “a special talent for kicking a pigskin around”.

Now, unless The Duck or Cousins have followed in journeymen Saverio Rocca’s footsteps to the Philadelphia Eagles, I doubt they ever kicked a pigskin anywhere.

Unlike the pointy American football, the Sherrin football used in all AFL matches is not porcine, and nor is it Kangaroo (as some mistakenly believe).

It is made of cow.

Top Gear:

Simon Nasht writes: Re. “Media briefs: Nine’s Top Gear ain’t cheap … The story News Ltd didn’t want you to read” (yesterday, item 20). Glenn Dyer is way off the mark about the consequences of Channel Nine picking up Top Gear from SBS. It’s not about the cost to Nine, it’s about how this will lay waste to SBS’s income and strategy.

Current SBS management put virtually all their faith in two big ideas when they bought into both the BBC original and a local clone of Top Gear. Firstly, that they could compete with the big boys in the ratings department, and thus drive advertising revenue. And second that this ratings boost would impress Canberra enough to deliver a bigger handout. Both strategies have failed dismally. The GFC put paid to any advertising boost, leaving SBS effectively bankrupt for much of the past year. And Labour was dismissive of the broadcaster’s naive bid for extra funding.

The massive cost of the local version of Top Gear diverted funds from other programming — and Glenn you are dreaming if you believe it was just $100,000 per hour. The real figure is at least four times that amount, maybe more (SBS is not saying). All that public money was spent building a hugely expensive brand that Nine now inherits for nothing.

By trying to play with the grownups, SBS has been shown-up as a bunch of amateurs with delusions of grandeur. Nine (whose parent owns Top Gear magazine) and the BBC (part owners of the local production house that makes Top Gear Australia) must be laughing out loud. The Australian taxpayer has effectively build them a massive franchise.

Where was the SBS Board when all this was going on? Asleep at the wheel.

Mike Bush writes: I have been watching Top Gear for the past few years via SBS; the British original and the locally produced series.

A brilliant series, without doubt. SBS has been the channel of choice for series and docos, with short ad breaks, but I dread to think what Nine will do when it gets the series, with a full 13 minutes of advertising per hour, plus channel promos that can run as long as they like, without being included in “advertising time”. Yes, I do watch Media Watch too.

Channel Nine will probably delete entire segments of the British series to fit a 60 minute program. They may have deeper pockets than SBS, but their attitude toward the viewer borders on arrogance.

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