Apology and retraction: In our ‘Tips and rumours’ commentary published on our website on September 1, 2010 we published a claim that an employee of the Australian Electoral Commission who was responsible for “inadvertently” opening a pre-poll ballot box before 6pm on election night (thereby rendering the votes unusable) was linked to the SA Labor Party and that the particular pre-poll box, being from a Liberal area, was “deliberately chosen” in order to exclude non-Labor votes.

This was described in the item as a “ruse” with the intention of changing the election result, both in Boothby and nationally. It was also suggested this was a “police” matter.

Crikey accepts there is no evidence to suggest that this AEC employee was in any way linked to the SA Labor Party and, equally, no basis to suggest that the opening of the pre-poll ballot box was deliberate, or predicated upon a Liberal voting area.

Crikey accepts that such suggestions were completely without foundation. It unreservedly apologises to any officials within the Labor Party that suffered hurt as a result of the item.

Simon Westaway, head of corporate relations at Jetstar, writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (Friday, item 7). Your Jetstar tip is littered with mistruths, ill directed innuendo and some quite fanciful claims.

To address these in reverse order:

Jetstar Pilots based in New Zealand do receive superannuation as part of their remuneration. It is supplied through Kiwi Saver – a New Zealand based savings initiative for retirement. Pilots working for Jetstar Asia based in Singapore (as Singapore nationals) similarly receive superannuation. The company does it on their behalf. For overseas national pilots based in Singapore, the ‘CPF’ is factored into their annual salaries.

Jetstar’s official and duly reported Australian domestic on time performance (OTP) for the month of August 2010 was not 36 per cent – a preposterous figure which in effect would mean the airline has operated in some kind of time warp! Our official submitted OTP to the Bureau of Infrastructure Transport and Research Economics (BITRE) for the month of August (after auditing) will be 82 per cent for on time arrivals, following our official figure of 82.4 per cent arrivals for the month of July. Our last two months of OTP for Jetstar is well ahead or on par with the industry average. It is noted that Jetstar recorded almost a 7 percentage point (pp) greater result than Virgin Blue and 9pp greater than Tiger Airways during the last official reporting month of industry OTP (that being July 2010) by BITRE.

Safety has and remains our number one priority at Jetstar – for our customers and our people who are trained to a high industry standard. The allegation that it is otherwise by the ‘deep throat’ is outright rejected. It is standard procedure for our technical crew (pilots) to address their cabin crew on safety matters ahead of flying. The business is always focused on testing for safety across our organisation. On such a matter where a crew member doesn’t provide a satisfactory safety response to an aircraft Captain they would be removed from duty and re-trained.

As a true Pan Asian airline now serving over 50 destinations across 17 countries to have “local relevance” requires our people to be from across the Asia Pacific region – and be positioned so. With respect to our cabin crew we presently employ over 800 cabin crew in Australia. A further 300 crew are positioned in overseas bases in New Zealand, Singapore and Thailand — again to principally support local Jetstar services in these markets and an across Asia network. Around 50 Australian crew work as casuals to provide additional support to our around the clock operations. A crew members age is in essence irrelevant (they must be at least 18 years of age) but for the record the average age of our cabin crew presently sits is in the mid to high 20’s — a truly unstartling figure in our industry or for that matter many parts of the Australian workforce.

Earlier this week Jetstar Flight 4 Honolulu to Sydney did experience a significant departure delay due to a cabin crew member on sick leave. Jetstar cares for its customers and has apologised directly to them for the unanticipated delay some days ago. Jetstar normally plans on its long haul services (such as to Honolulu, Japan or Thailand) for additional cabin crew to fly on these routes as mitigation against such an occurrence. An internal assessment of this delay is occurring and continues.

Jetstar would like enquiring media to pay attention to this detailed response if making contact with our organisation with respect to the rumour from an unnamed source placed on Crikey on 3 September 2010.

Put your chips on it

Ray Edmondson writes: Re. “The science of pokies make them a special kind of harm creation” (Friday, item 3). If Andrew Wilkie and Nick Xenophon have their way, poker machine revenue turnover will be significantly reduced and Australia’s dubious reputation as the poker machine capital of the world may improve. The club industry has complained about the potential loss of revenue. True, perhaps, but their loss will in fact be a gain for the Australian economy. Taxpayers will pay less to mitigate the effects of problem gambling, and the punters will presumably have more left in their pockets to spend on useful goods and services.

Financial risk taking — which includes everything from playing the share market to playing the gee gees – may be a time honoured part of life, and often involves developing skills and judgment in the pursuit and creation of wealth. But the pokies and other forms of gambling based on random events promote no skill, and do not create wealth: they merely redistribute existing wealth. For me to win, you have to lose. At best it is a zero sum game. In practice it is much less than that, because part of that wealth has to be siphoned off to the facilitators — the clubs, the pokie manufacturers, the lottery promoters and so on, who in the end are the only sure winners. When does such activity cease being a public good and become a net parasite on the economy?

Independently minded

Jim Hanna writes: Re. “Richard Farmer’s chunky bits” (Friday, 12). The section “How Australia is governed: two pictures tell the story”, certainly does tell us a lot about the way Australia is governed.

If the people lobbying/influencing you have Anglo names, nobody’s gets terribly upset. It’s just the way things get done.

But if they have foreign-sounding names, beware! Instantly, there’s more suspicion. Just sayin’ (by the way, the NSW Minister in the SMH‘s story has said today that she paid for her own airline tickets).

Gabriel McGrath writes: Dear Mr Windsor and Oakeshott,

Nice to see you (on today’s SMH) seeking the views of an average voter, before you make the big decision. Since you’re obviously planning to meet all Australian voters in the same way, I thought I’d be proactive and give you my availabilities. I can do lunch next Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday, but I’m no good later in the week. It’s so nice to know the opinions of some bloke in WA who digs things up and throws his weight around, are just as important as a bloke in Newcastle who writes ads. Looking forward to our catch-up, gentlemen; lots to talk about! PS: re: lunch…Do either of you have any special dietary needs? Please advise. (Crikey has my email address.)

No hope for NSW

John Kotsopoulos writes: Re. the editorial (Friday). “This NSW Government is such a rotting hulk of misconceived intentions and failed policies that any action by one of its ministers is viewed by the electorate through the prism of gross government incompetence.”

Harsh words. Has your writer ever checked out the performance of the alternative government in NSW Parliamentary chamber? I have through the A-Pac channel on Foxtel.

Never have I witnessed such a bunch of no-hopers. They give every impression that like a long serving but ineffective public official they expect their turn is coming simply by dint of time served. Their vacuous and usually contradictory pronouncements actually make the Labor Government look good. On what I have seen of both sides the Libs have no claim to government whatsoever .

Mining tax

Zachary King writes: It works like this Mark Duffett (comments, Friday). Mining companies currently pay less tax than other corporates — so that while Johnny corner store, Billy mechanic and even Dorothy Dot Com are paying 30%, mining companies paid on average about 18% (see Treasury reporting). The RSPT was originally designed, developed, named and recommended to the Henry Review by the Minerals Council of Australia and don’t get me wrong, the Labor version of it was woefully constructed and pitifully sold, but the line about the effect that it has on investments? Don’t come the raw prawn.

A profits tax means that all early stage and exploratory work by mining companies is essentially subsidised by the Australian tax payer and although a reasonable argument can be made to support this in light of the heavy capital and infrastructure requirements required, an industry that already pays tax at a rate significantly below the rest of corporate Australia crying poor is a bit much. And as for washing the books black, it accounts for around 14% of corporate tax revenue.

Election debatings

David Ashton writes: The Coalition loudly claims that they are the better economic managers. Where in the constitution does it state that the job of the government (or, at least, the priority task) is economic management?

What constitutes economic management? What is considered to be “the economy”? Can you tell me?

Henrie and Jill Ellis write: Both the Coalition and the ALP’s squalid and shameful pork barrelling as both attempt to form government merely displays how morally and ethically corrupt they are. There is not much to distinguish between Julia and Tony when it comes to handing out the largesse, and despite Bernard Keane’s dispelling the myths surrounding the notion of competence (Friday, item 1), unless there is serious parliamentary and electoral reform in the future we are destined for more of the same argy bargy we have witnessed over the past two weeks.

Not only have many of our Federal politicians demeaned themselves with their obfuscation, equivocation and duplicity without one iota of consideration for the nation’s well being, but also have done their level best to outperform each other in the race to alienate the electorate further.

The technique of the “big lie” now substitutes for genuine policy debate, the Murdoch media and powerful vested interests misrepresent and distort the issues, while sensationalist, selective garbage is pedalled by the political strategists in simplistic emotive political advertising.

Mark Latham was right for the wrong reasons, next time just lodge blank voting papers, we do not need ALP and Coalition politicians like these who have contempt for us all.

A friend put it nicely adapting an old joke formerly reserved for lawyers: ” Why didn’t the snake bite the federal politician? — “Professional respect!”

Malcolm Fraser in power

Marcus Vernon writes: It is astonishing to watch former Liberal prime minister Malcolm Fraser being elevated to near sainthood within the Left, without the slightest attempt by anyone in the ABC or ALP to remind us of his divisive policies when in power (1975-83).

Incredibly, Fraser was applauded, and left unchallenged, on ABC TV’s Q&A program a week ago tonight when he denounced News Ltd’s recent critical coverage of the ALP — despite Fraser being the ever-willing beneficiary of News Ltd’s pro-Liberal support during each of the elections he won (1975, 1977, 1980).

So is the 1975 constitutional confrontation and dismissal to become merely a footnote in Australian political history? Fraser pushed the nation to the edge of serious civil unrest as he and his Liberal-Country Party Coalition rode into office.

In government, Fraser was a hardline Tory conservative. He opposed the introduction of the 35-hour week and national wage increases before the Arbitration Commission; he used RAAF personnel and aircraft to undermine union strike action in essential services; damaged Medibank; slashed public funding, including to the ABC; and he recognised the murderous Indonesian military takeover of East Timor.

Fraser refused to take on Queensland premier Job Bjelke-Petersen over the internationally embarrassing gerrymander in that state, even as it prevented his own Liberal Party from making gains in state elections.

Indeed, his obsession with ‘states’ rights’ ensured Fraser showed no interest in legislating over the top of state governments to implement national Aboriginal land rights.

Is this provocative political legacy of Fraser’s now so easily overlooked simply because he has criticised Tony Abbott, and John Howard before him? Has the Left really become that superficial, and its memory that short?

For me and many other Australians who remember, Fraser will never be forgiven for maintaining diplomatic recognition of the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime in Kampuchea (1976-79), even after Vietnam had driven Pol Pot out of the country and the full horrors of the Killing Fields had been revealed. This included the torture-murder of at least two Australians. Shame, Fraser, shame.