Banana smoothies and Westpac:

Jackie French writes: Re. “Crikey clarifier: the difference between home loans and banana smoothies” (yesterday, item 4). There’s not much banana in a smoothie. The banana smoothie analogy is more accurate than Westpac may realise. As a committed banana smoothie consumer, I can testify the price of banana smoothies doesn’t rise (or at least not in my selected sample) when the price of bananas goes up.

Costs of  rent, wages, milk, yoghurt, ice cream, vanilla, containers, straw, capital costs of blender, refrigerator etc make the price of bananas insignificant:  as insignificant, for Westpac, as the real cost of the loan is when  setting loan rates.

John Taylor writes: Adam Schwab surely can’t be serious that Peter Hanlon’s transfer within the structure of Westpac, which seems to be customer focussed, had any relation to media criticism of their moving home loan interest rates by more than the RBA increase.

Sign up for a FREE 21-day trial and get Crikey straight to your inbox

By submitting this form you are agreeing to Crikey's Terms and Conditions.

This would hardly have been a one-man decision and I’m sure Mrs Kelly would have given it the OK.  If that’s the case she would hardly have “ demoted” him the next day. Perhaps it’s a promotion.

Vernon Brabazon writes: I recall in my post high school youth applying for a position with Westpac as a “cadet” bank clerk (then, The Bank Of New South Wales) and filling out all my personal details, only to be told by their HR that they couldn’t offer me a position because they didn’t employ people from “broken homes”.

I have studiously avoided using them ever since … because they probably wouldn’t want any customers with that background either. They would probably be hard pressed to find any suitable employees nowadays.


Martin Gordon writes: Re. Neil James’ letter on war (yesterday, comments). While I normally have a lot of time for both Charles Richardson and Neil James I am more inclined to align with Neil’s comments. The usual partisans will line up against the US and UK, or Bush and Blair and quibble over legal niceties. I am happy to be in the corner with socialist Bernard Kouchner (MSF founder), Ramos Horta and Christopher Hitchens (now debarred leftist) in taking action to enforce international agreements and flagrant breaches of UN resolutions.

The fact that Hans Blix could not find something is not new, he could not find the nuclear weapons programs of Iran, Iraq, North Korea and Libya when he headed the IAEA. Despite which the IAEA won a Nobel Peace prize! In fact the nuclear weapons program of Iraq only came to light at the end of the 1991 war. If people do read resolutions 687 and 1441 they are water-tight in terms of compliance requirements.

Having read The Weapons Detective by Rod Barton (an Australian that went on numerous inspections) and the disingenuous legal interpretation of whether Blix had to report all his findings I have little faith in him. Barton also describes staggering quantities of unaccounted anthrax, VX gas and which in 2002/03 Iraq was still lying about, when it was clearly evident they had them, and had not accounted for them.

My wife sometimes can’t find her watch, that does not mean it does not exist, and the items involved are not exactly fair floss! I am pleased that the world is rid of Saddam Hussein, and whatever mistakes the US, UK and its allies have made, Iraq is still a vastly better place. And of course it is easy for armchair critics to quaff their brandy and speculate but they were not citizens of Hussein’s Iraq, and have to suffer him.

Mike Crook writes: So Neil James is still trying to justify the unjustifiable, and uses the twist and turns of the victors language to do it, even blaming the UN. There was no justification for the Iraq war and the subsequent death of over a million Iraqis, most of them killed by us. The Iraq war was merely the latest, at the time, in a long line of invasions or interference by the US in pursuit of their ideological, corporate and strategic interests.

Every time a “Socialist” (or any other government viewed as anathema by the US) has reared its head anywhere around the world, in the last 50 years the USA has proceeded to knock it off, and succeeded everywhere except Vietnam and Cuba. Afghanistan in the seventies and eighties, Chile, Nicaragua, Grenada, Haiti, Angola, the list goes on, culminating in Honduras this year.

In many cases the US has supplied both sides to a conflict with weaponry, including both the Northern Alliance and the original US spawned  Taliban. The US aided by its’ Anglophone acolytes Australia and The UK  has become the first terrorist state of modern times.

We despair for the people of South America as the US establishes seven (yes seven) military bases in Columbia to reassert control over the left leaning states in the region, as especially Ecuador, Bolivia and Venezuela attempt to establish a new order that is not based on capitalism and personal greed. The “Gulf of Tonkin” equivalent is not far away but how will Neil justify sending Australian troops to help in this conflict?

Neil James is very good at supporting his members but some of them surely must be questioning their own role in all of this, especially with the growth of mercenary companies to fight these unjust wars.

No cheer:

Pat Falcon writes: Re. First Dog on the Moon’s Christmas cards. I don’t like the Christmas cards with “baby Jesus” as a dog. How insulting! I certainly won’t be buying any of them.


Jim Hart writes: Jenny Ejlak (yesterday, comments) says she “suspects” that wrongful acquittals outnumber wrongful convictions in our justice system. I am sure they do and I hope they outnumber them by at least 1000 to one.

A false acquittal may be unfortunate but it is the necessary price of living in a just and civilised society. A false conviction is a tragedy for one person and a matter of shame for us all.

And either way, a guilty person walks free.

Retail politics:

Peter Thomson writes: Just wondering if a Crikey reader or someone within the Crikey team would be able to answer a quick question? Tony Abbott keeps banging on about “retail politics” like it’s the be all and end all, is it possible to get a definition of “retail politics” or otherwise an example? Keep up the good work.

Tiger and marriage:

Brett Gaskin writes: Re. “Tiger birdies: he’s just a victim of the times” (yesterday, item 19). Keyser Trad’s article on the declining sanctity of marriage was pretty well spot on. Unfortunately he greatly diminished the message with the line “Without strong religious boundaries, …”.

Would these be the same boundaries that are shared by the Skaff boy in Sydney, and a not insignificant number of Catholic priests?  Let’s not pretend we’d all be better people if we went to a church, mosque, or synagogue.  Human beings should not need someone to tell them what is right and wrong.

Oils ain’t oils:

Buster Hogan writes: Re. “Oil pollution visible from Exmouth, WA, to Queensland” (Monday, item 5). A quick note on the oil pollution story. The organism symbiodinium microadriaticum does a very good imitation of an oil slick and is common at this time of year in Northern Australia. I strongly suspect that the photos of your correspondent do not show an oil slick, but rather Symbiodinium, also known as false coral spawn

Digital TV:

Christian Kent writes: Some of the complaints to Crikey about ABC’s digital TV services have been pretty uninformed lately.  ABC3 programme information has existed with placeholders going back to Monday 6am last week, 3 days before the channel launched, on my TiVo and many others on, as a cursory search would uncover.

Another complaint to Crikey the other day about ABC News in Melbourne not being in HD completely misses the point that ABC News everywhere is not in HD, only upsampled. The reason that other viewers see NSW news on ABC HD is that the ABC only has one HD encoder in Sydney, and it is better to give viewers a choice rather than the test pattern they used to get in 2006.

The only news service in the country with HD reports in the field (where HD can be useful) is Nine News in Sydney.

Melbourne University:

Christina Buckridge, Corporate Affairs Manager, University of Melbourne writes: Re. “Why I resigned from the University of Melbourne Council” (yesterday, item 15) & “Leaked email: Teach for free? Melbourne uni councillor calls it quits” (Tuesday item 14).It is regrettable that Tammi Jonas has decided to resign from the University Council where, as member elected by graduate students, she could have raised concerns and had them thoroughly and sympathetically considered.

Ms Jonas is wrong in claiming that the Arts Faculty made a ‘strategic decision’ to stop paying postgraduates.

Dean of Arts Professor Mark Considine says it has never been suggested that graduate students should give lectures or tutorials for free. While Schools within the Faculty experiencing straitened circumstances might have cut back on the number of guest lectures, it is not the Faculty’s policy to ask people to give tutorials/lectures without payment. Postgraduate students are an important — and paid — part of the Faculty’s tutorial program which rolls on as usual.

Of course, some guest lecturers — retired honorary staff, for instance – may elect to present a lecture pro bono.

The email inviting Ms Jonas to take part in the Melbourne School of Graduate Research (MSGR) 2010 programs should not have been sent; no other postgraduate students have been invited by MSGR to teach into 2010 MSGR programs without payment. MSGR does not condone requiring postgraduate students to work without payment.  However, some staff, and very rarely postgraduate students, may volunteer to take part in MSGR student enhancement programs but that is their decision alone — there is no compulsion.

The University’s position is that if people are in employment, they are required to be paid in line with University policy.

Current rates for casual tutors at Melbourne are $104.84  ($125.37 with a PhD) an hour for the initial tutorial and $69.90 ($83.57 with a PhD) for repeat tutorials.  These are standard for the industry and comparable to other countries.  The hourly rate is way above average wages.

However it is important to note that postgraduate study is usually a full-time occupation and tutoring should not be used as a prime source of income.

In recent negotiations towards a new enterprise agreement, the University has agreed to increase the casual loading, ensure that all casual marking is paid at a separate marking rate (currently $34.94 per hour) and that casual academics have access to University facilities over semester breaks. The University is committed to improving conditions for casual staff during this round of bargaining.

Also where there is evidence that a casual staff member, or any staff member for that matter, is not being paid in accordance with University policy or that there is a mismatch of expectations about the work they are required to do, the University acts to correct it.

Climate change:

Niall Clugston writes: Re. Yesterday’s editorial. Your editorial comment’s citation of the claim that “The year 2009 is likely to rank in the top 10 warmest on record” prompts me to wonder why the dubious statistics of global temperature are treated as the “slam dunk” of the issue.  To me, the retreat of the age-old glaciers and the opening of the fabled North West Passage is far more palpable proof that a hundred learned reports.

I can excuse scientists’ inability to communicate, but the experienced activists of the environmental movement should be able to offer more than the current mix of pedantic dogmatism and vapid street theatre.

They should be more open to honest discussion rather than trying to ram the perverse ETS solution down people’s throats. But then what can you expect from operatives who constantly rework their catchcry –  from “greenhouse effect” to “global warming” to “climate change” – and then marvel that the public thinks it’s a new issue?  Do they actually, deep down, want to fail?

Tamas Calderwood writes: Brett Gaskin (yesterday, comments) hits me with the environmental equivalent of Pascal’s wager:  Believe in global warming and get benefits like the decline of the coal industry (try selling that to the Hunter region) or don’t believe and suffer the apocalypse.  Hallelujah!  Still, seeing as none of the disasters in this sales pitch is even close to happening, I might just hang on to my wallet before I sign up and discard the energy sources that sustain our way of life.

John Kotsopoulos says that in this debate it’s me versus NASA.  That would be me and the majority of Australians, Brits and Yanks according to the latest polls.    That would be NASA’s GISS temperature data that largely agrees with the “Hide the decline” CRU data.  That would be the original CRU data that doesn’t exist anymore (they lost it!) and was shown to be, ahh, “adjusted” by the recently leaked files.  That would be the NASA data that they refuse to release to the public for checking.   Hey, I’m feeling pretty confident buddy.

Matt Andrews says the temperature trend is +0.2C per decade… well, except for the past 12 years right Matt?  And how does a 0.7C rise since 1870 translate into a 0.2C per decade trend again?  What was it you were saying about MY “utter ignorance of basic statistics”?

Both Matt Andrews and Geoff Russell insist the planet has been receiving more heat (or energy — same thing) than it’s been emitting, even though both admit it has cooled since the 1998 peak.  Please refer to the first law of thermodynamics guys.

Finally, Jim Ivins thinks I’m pretty funny but can’t quite explain why I’m wrong, which I think is pretty funny.  How ironic.

Alan Lander writes: Last night’s news told me the Australian snow-fields now consistently receive 30% less snow compared to the 1950s, and the season is also generally four weeks shorter. The same bulletin tells me a German shipping company has re-routed freighters through the Arctic, saving fuel from the long way round through the Suez Canal — because it can now. Yet the Tony Abbotts and Tamas Calderwoods continue in their death struggle to try and suggest black is white.

Tamas and his denialist colleagues’ worries must surely stem from conservatives’ greatest fear: world “socialism”, as a result of the increasing need to find global solutions to global problems in banking, international law, and trade as well as climate, making them no different to the weird, heavily armed survivalists occupying caves across America.

I fear the climate debate locally is headed the same way as the republican debate as conservatives like Abbott, Joyce, Abetz and co plant doubt into the minds of those with no time to consider the issues — and the nation’s heart will again be broken. It is the nature of conservatives to deal in black and white — even saying black is white if required, as in this debate — while the liberal-minded discuss and argue the greys, thus sounding far less “certain”.

So may I suggest a new rallying call for those fed up with the rantings of these fearful fanatics: “Tell it to Tuvalu”.

Steve Simmonds, Bachelor of Crikey (Melb) (Lifer), writes: I very much enjoy the climate change debate that has been running on Crikey over the last 12+ months including the “predictable” [That is a somewhat obscure intended pun by the way] comments from Tamas Calderwood, however I think it would improve the debate somewhat if someone (including Tamas himself) could enlighten us as to his background, employment, qualifications, conflicts and declaration of interests along with the make and model of the particular barrow that he is pushing (i.e.: which coal company does he own shares in!!!).

In the event that we discover that there is no “evidence” that Tamas actually knows what he is talking about, then this would allow us to simply dismiss any of this thoughts or arguments as being ill informed comment.

He repeatedly argues that there is no evidence of global warming, well until I am convinced otherwise with evidence to the contrary, I can confidently assert Tamas Calderwood doesn’t have a clue what he talking about.

On a more serious note, I believe that it is fact (F! A! C! T!) that no one really knows what the climate is going to do in the next 5,10, 50 years … who knows, Tamas’ “guess” that it we are actually “cooling” may mean that it will be snowing in QLD in 2020 … so I would have thought he should then be arguing for the urgent distribution of jumpers to the banana benders and double our land clearing and coal burning activities (is this the worst that will happen if we cool too much??) … but if he is wrong then what?

Surely the only responsible thing to do is to take out the insurance based on the guesses … if this means costing everyone some dollars so be it, if it costs some comforts or jobs so be it, if it turns out to be a waste of time and money so be it and the worst outcome will be that Tamas will have the bragging rights telling his grand children how no one listened to him way back when, and his QLD jumper company will be doing a roaring trade.

If on the other hand he is wrong and NOTHING is done, his QLD jumper company will be in all sorts of strife and his grand children will never visit him in the clinic, having disowned him and changed their names to Calderdidnt. Even if there is some doubt that there is very little we can do to turn it all around, we owe it to future generations to at least try.

Steven Evans writes: Wow, there are allot of manmade climate change experts (or believers, take your pick) here at Crikey. An American 6th grader has also discovered man made global warming by comparing temperature records between urban cities and rural communities.  I’d like one of the resident experts to watch the short video and explain to me how this is not manmade global warming.