Prince William’s visit:

Glenn Dunstan writes: Re. “Royal barbecued rib(bing) shows Billy is a prince among men” (yesterday, item 11). I write with reference to the piece from Thomas Flynn regarding the visit of William Windsor. I actually liked the start and the jaunty tone, — tying the Windsor’s to the constitution, they are above politics, etc etc

Unfortunately, where it all crashed and burned was when Tom used the abbreviation HRH. I always find monarchists sad and somewhat cringe worthy. Sorry, Tom but this is 2010 – not 1810.  Royalty and all its trappings are a silly anachronism.  It has no place in a modern democracy. Australia will be a republic – it is only a matter of time.

Fat people flying:

Peter Wotton writes: Re. “Crikey Clarifier: will a fat tax for airline passengers work?” (yesterday, item 12). Why is there a problem about charging fat people more for plane tickets if they take up more than the standard airline seat room? If we consider passengers are simply a special form of freight, then it should be easy to apply the formula used by the freight companies for determining the cost of transporting freight.

Sell tickets on the basis of volume ( the cubing used by freight companies) or on weight ( as the Australia Post does) . This would seem to be a totally equitable method. After all we all get charged for excess baggage, even the lean ones and that surely is not fair!

Sheepish book prices:

Michael R. James writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (yesterday, item 6). In yesterday’s “Tips and rumours”, there was an alert that UK Online bookseller BookDepository had “just hiked its prices in the last day or so. By 100% in many cases. Since I had predicted in Crikey last year that “it seems highly likely that wannabe competitors like BookDepository are unsustainable” I immediately checked out the rumour.

It seems completely without foundation. In December I ordered books from both Amazon and BD and just now rechecked the BD prices for all:  of the 14 from Amazon only 8 were available from BD (FYI, at A$155.76 more than Amazon including shipping) and today’s BD price is actually $4.55 cheaper than in December. Of the 12 books bought from BD their price today is $1.17 cheaper than December (FYI, only 8 were available on Amazon and the price was almost identical to BD).

So, at least for these 20 books the BD price is actually a bit cheaper which is almost certainly related to exchange rate changes.  It may be that my books are a particular selection — certainly no best sellers and a preponderance of slightly older books (and not many available in Australian bookstores) — but I can see no reason to believe there has been any substantive changes.

Googling only reveals a similar price scare in February 2009, so I believe someone has their wires crossed, or as I found in the PIR wars, they simply looked up a single book.  As can be seen from my prices the statement that BD “is THE place to buy books online”, is highly conditional.

Margaret Bozik writes: As a loyal user of Book Depository I blanched in horror when I read your tip that it had “just hiked its prices in the last day or so. By 100% in many cases”. Then I went to check for myself.  While the AUD prices have increased — slightly – in recent weeks, it seems to be mainly due to currency fluctuations.

And when I go back to my earlier orders that were charged in pounds sterling rather than AUD and compare what I paid and what the current prices are for the same books (in pounds sterling) there does not seem to be any overall large price increase – most books are currently selling at identical process or a few pence more or less.

Yes, some books have had a bigger hike in prices but this may be because when I bought the original book, it had been on an extra discount sale.  Even at the current prices these books were still way cheaper than buying from a local retailer.

Abandoned trolleys:

Ava Hubble writes: Re. My call (Monday, comments) for fines to be imposed on Coles, Woolworths and other supermarkets which fail to prevent their trolleys from being abandoned in parks and on our streets.  Yesterday a spokeswoman for the City of Sydney responded to the problem with this statement:

In the past 12 months the City has reported over 9,000 trolleys abandoned on public land. This does not include trolleys left on private land, such as HousingNSW properties, schools and church lands.

The top 5 suburbs for dumped shopping trolleys within the City of Sydney over the last 3 months are:

  • Redfern = 798
  • Glebe = 542
  • Sydney CBD = 527
  • Surry Hills = 262
  • Ultimo = 156

A proposed City of Sydney collection fee for dumped trolleys would be based on the costs of retrieving, transporting and storing the impounded trolleys, as well as administrative costs associated with  this process.  The fee is yet to be determined but would be placed on public exhibition for 28 days prior to submission to Council for endorsement.

The NSW Impounding Act permits the City of Sydney to auction or dispose of impounded trolleys if they are not claimed within 28 days.   We are yet to determine whether one or both of these routes will be taken.

Krafty takeover:

Shirley Colless writes: Re. “Buffett’s Krafty take on merger maulings” (yesterday, item 24). As a true blue Australian I have not purchased either Kraft Vegemite, peanut butter or processed cheddar cheese for years, and have already found that Cadbury chocolate marketed (made?) in Australia has lost something (I will go no further in case I end up with a legal action), I don’t give a toss that Kraft has taken over Cadbury.  As a consumer, I have exercised my rights of choice and I have already found Australian alternative products.

Climate change:

Viv Forbes, chairman of the Carbon Sense Coalition, writes: Re. “Comitatus: When climate change scepticism changes political opinion” (yesterday, item 9). In Copenhagen, PM Rudd advocated cutting production of carbon dioxide by at least 20% by 2050. Back in Canberra, PM Rudd says Australia’s population will increase from 22M now to 36M by 2050.

A bit of simple maths shows that he thinks our grandkids can exist on just half the carbon energy per person that we use now. But the PM also promises a nation building program of rail, road, and port construction. What fuels are all these new vehicles going to use? Is he expecting nuclear powered trains, solar powered trucks and wind powered bulk carriers?

The Copenhagen Rudd is promising a poverty stricken green future for our grandkids. Or the Canberra Rudd is just a lot of hot air.

Internet fridges:

Moira Smith writes: We’ve been promised the internet fridge, for what, ten years now? Surely much longer? And who wants one? Not me. I keep my milk in the fridge, and the front of it is covered with fridge magnets and the odd bill or photo. There was some publicity originally about how we could prepare our shopping lists on this computer interface, then order food online.

Hmmm … maybe. But why would I stand in front of the fridge to ‘watch TV, listen to MP3 music, take and store digital photos, make a video phone call, use the fridge as a message board or surf the web’ when I’d rather sit in my living room AT my computer or (if I had a laptop) sit at the kitchen table in comfort?

Oh we could move the fridge …. or the kitchen table … but most Australian kitchens don’t have that sort of flexibility, in fact I think many (including mine) have a dedicated recess complete with power point to fit the fridge in, and there is no room for even a kitchen chair in front of it or you’d stuff up the pedestrian access to the oven and the sink.

I just don’t get it, never did, still don’t. And $15,000 to buy one!  American or Australian dollars, that would buy a few laptops, I could have them all over the house!