Olivia Wirth, Head of Corporate Communication, Qantas Airways, writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (yesterday, item 6). Crikey published:

“It’s a bit rich for Qantas to oppose the proposed tie-up between Virgin and Etihad into the Middle East markets. After all, doesn’t Qantas have a much closer deal with British Airways through the Joint Services Agreement on the Kangaroo route to London that was OKed by the ACCC? The JSA is a far closer and more lucrative deal than the one Virgin and Eithad are proposing.”

Qantas is a supporter of alliances and is completely open about its relationships with other airlines, including the Joint Services Agreement with British Airways. This support is very clearly stated in our submission to the ACCC regarding the proposed tie-up between Virgin Blue and Etihad.

The second paragraph reads:

“…Qantas believes that immunised international alliances, which demonstrate real public benefits, need to be positively encouraged by antitrust regulators. It is only with a network of such alliances that an international airline can hope to deliver a sustainable return on its capital investment.”

Our position is clear and we have not raised any objections with any regulator in relation to Virgin’s proposed alliances with either Air New Zealand or Delta.  The concerns we have raised relate to the ACCC being asked to grant interim authorisation of the proposed Virgin/Etihad alliance. We do not believe the “special circumstances” exist for this, particularly in relation to the airlines’ plans to cooperate on services beyond Abu Dhabi to the UK and Europe, and we believe the Commission needs to take time to consider the full scope of the proposal.

Our submission to the ACCC is very clear, but perhaps not for your anonymous correspondent.

The Oz:

Alex van Vucht writes: Re. “The Oz versus the Greens: well beyond the normal News Ltd bias” (yesterday, item 9). & with apologies to Steven McMeechan (yesterday, comments). This is one of those rare occasions where I feel compelled to express my satisfaction to the quality of the coverage by Crikey, which stands in stark contrast to recent editorial pieces in The Australian written by people who purport to be journalists.

I’ve been enjoying my Crikey subscription for twelve months now (it expires today!), and enjoy the regular editorials from Bernard Keane and Guy Rundle. Imagine my dismay when the Australian declared open warfare on a political party. That’s like a mechanic declaring war on Holden, deliberately sabotaging any Commodore that enters his or her shop.

Sure The Australian is entitled to its ill-informed, discriminatory opinion, which it unsuccessfully attempted to cloak under the guise of some poncy intellectual pontification but I’ll be buggered if it’s the sort of thing I’m prepared to pay for. However, Crikey is.

Climate denial:

Nigel Brunel writes: Re. “Climate denialist is an awful term … let’s stop using it” (yesterday, item 13). I can understand agnostics or atheists existing when it comes to religion but not climate change.

Climate change is a peer reviewed scientific fact. If you cannot accept that — then present your own science and have it peer reviewed. The great thing about science is that nothing is certain and there have been great examples of science getting in wrong. I urge people to question the science and be sceptical but don’t do it by opinion or musings — present facts.

If you do not believe in manmade climate change when there is a mountain of peer reviewed evidence proving its real — then you either live in a cave or cannot read (or be bothered to read) or you are just plain ignorant.

A person is entitled to their opinion but not their own facts.

Housing bubble and banks:

John Band writes: Re. “Housing bubble and banks … time for disclosure and context” (yesterday, item 22). Glenn Dyer wrote:

“They all forget that Australia has full recourse housing loans, unlike the US, there’s no tax deduction for owner occupiers (unlike the US) and we having continuing strong demand for new and used houses, and low unemployment, unlike the US, UK, Ireland and Japan and many other countries where there have been a collapse or weakness in the housing sector.”

The UK and Ireland have full-recourse housing loans and no mortgage interest relief. They also, up until 2008, had strong demand for new and used houses, and low unemployment. This all changed rather rapidly and dramatically, especially in Ireland.

I don’t think it’s sensible for Australia to be too complacent that its situation is any different: what would happen to the housing market in the event of a collapse in commodity prices, and hence both the AUD’s value and export income…?

The NBN:

Michael R. James writes: Re. “NBN: why Conroy and his department are fibre zealots” (yesterday, item 11). Here is an American perspective on Google’s proposal to build experimental, ultra high-speed broadband fibre-to-the-home networks. Thanks to Crikey commenter SAURON256.


Jim Ivins writes: Re. Wil Stracke (yesterday, comments). When I was a kid, my grandmother lived alone in the house next door. On Sunday evenings, while Dad went off to the pub and Mum curled up on the sofa for a bit of peace and quiet with the cat, I’d drink tea and watch comedy shows with Gran.

She used to light a cigarette whenever the adverts came on, and I can still remember the way her laughter would sometimes be punctuated by coughing. Worse, the smoke would often make me nauseous, but still I always looked forward to our Sunday evenings together.

Of course, all good things come to an end.  Early one evening, I let myself in through the backdoor and found her lying on the kitchen floor, gasping like a stranded fish while the kettle screamed on the stove. The cerebral haemorrhage paralysed her all down one side, so that despite the best efforts of the medical staff, she couldn’t even shove herself around in a wheelchair. Worse, she lost the ability to speak. “Say-o-ay-esay… o-ay… esay,” she’d tell you time and again, no matter what the question.

Being a smart-ass, a few weeks after the stroke I took a pencil and paper to the hospital, thinking she might now be well enough to write with her good hand.  Sadly, the damage was much deeper than that, vaguely reminiscent of a case study by Oliver Sacks.  Eventually, she learned to nod or shake her head in response to questions, but that’s when the real trouble started.  She was trapped: a passive communicator, doomed to rely on others to ask the right questions. “Hungry?” Shake. “Thirsty?” Shake. “Cigarette?” Nod, nod, nod… “I’ll see what I can do.”

After a few months of this she became deeply depressed, sometimes refusing to eat and often throwing tantrums with the staff at the nursing home Dad had found for her. By then I was old enough to at least begin to comprehend her torment, and I’m certain that if we’d let her, she would’ve smoked from dawn to dusk. She still managed a packet or two a day, once she learned to operate a plastic lighter with her good hand. That’s when I began to think that chain-smoking might be a poor alternative to climbing up onto the roof of the nursing home and jumping off. Or better still, dissolving into a pain-free drug haze with the family around her, knowing she’d never have to wake up to face that self-induced misery again.

It took her four long years to finish the job using the only means available to her. Complications of a chronic lung infection, to which the GP discretely turned a blind eye. A week later, we had her cremated. She would’ve laughed about that, and then maybe coughed a little too.

More than twenty years have passed since then. Even now, I can imagine few things worse than watching a loved one die slowly like that; but the worst thing of all would surely be to endure what my Grandmother did first-hand, unable even to condemn the system that’s keeping you alive.

Usain Bolt, Daily Tele Sports Editor:

Gabriel McGrath writes: Re. “Media briefs: Tele goes a little bit Usain … Satin Watch … who leaked to the Tiser? …” (yesterday, item 20). So, Usain Bolt was the guest sports editor of The Daily Telegraph. Don’t know where the Tele got the idea from, but I do recall something very similar in March this year.

UK-based magazine Retro Gamer had an issue “guest edited” by John Romero, the maker of the 90’s hit Doom.  And yes, each article had a breakout box with John’s “innermost thoughts on the story, as he saw it”.

The environment, it’s sooooo PC:

Jim Hanna writes: Re. “Minimal change in the bureaucracy as the Canberra arrangements are settled” (yesterday, item 8). As Crikey reported yesterday… “Environment has been renamed and expanded to become sustainability, environment, water, population and communities under Tony Burke.”

That means the abbreviated name is SEWPC.

Don’t they think the conservatives and climate changes deniers have enough ammunition?

Satan, err, Satin Watch:

Jeff Ash writes: Re. “Media briefs: Tele goes a little bit Usain … Satin Watch … who leaked to the Tiser? …” (yesterday, item 20). In yesterday’s Crikey I misread the Satin Watch as Satan Watch when I saw a picture of Larry Emdur.

I bet I wasn’t the only one.