Jim Cooper, Media Relations Manager at Coles, writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (yesterday, item 7). The below posting to your “tips and rumours” section caught my eye. I’m struggling to see how you’d run this unless you expanded the section to also include “unsourced, unchecked opinion”. Nothing in the below could be reasonably deemed a news tip, or a rumour. And none of it is true.


  • “makeover has already run out of steam” — last month we announced 5.9 percent sales growth for the first quarter of the current financial year, with comparable store sales growth of 6.2 percent. There’s plenty of steam, a fact widely recognised by a swathe of retail analysts and media commentators.
  • “Every one of the initiatives Ian McLeod has claimed were already being implemented before he arrived.” — Rubbish. Try a new store rollout program, standardised state-based pricing, revamped private label offering, new marketing initiatives (i.e., MasterChef partnership), a phase-out of sow stalls in pork production, removing added hormones from beef production, etc etc.
  • “Coles was recently planning a cold Christmas because the new team didn’t know it doesn’t snow in Australia at Christmas.” — Spare me.
  • “…and an online blackout for staff. Coles staff have been told not to post anything regarding the company, even if it is positive, on Facebook or Twitter, etc. Many staff been severely disciplined.” — Completely false. I’ve attached the message that went out to team members in July this year. As you can see, there is no “online blackout”. We have simply asked team members to make sure any use on social media is appropriate from a work perspective — a position adopted by hundreds of companies.

The posting does Crikey no credit.

Gay marriage:

Daniel Stubbs writes: Re. “Our same-s-x marriage story: still think it’s immoral?” (yesterday, item 11). Loved Crikey reader John’s personal perspective on his own “marriage”. And his tangible claims on marriage which may be more substantial than many of those who currently enjoy the right to marriage. John was rightly disappointed with Malcolm Turnbull for (what I see as) a lack of leadership.

Later in yesterday’s edition Patrick Baume was finding “it hard to understand all the angst in the Labor Party over the gay marriage issue”. Yes, it is something that Labor could clearly differentiate itself on and it is also true that a majority of people have no problem with. The problem is however is leadership.

This government knows that while it does nothing it does not risk losing voters to the Liberal Party (potentially only to the Greens). If the government created marriage equality  it would likely lose the crucial votes of its more conservative supporters and suffer the quiet wrath of some powerful institutions such as the large churches. This is why the long slow campaign to win hearts and minds of community members and leaders, which I hope we are seeing unfold, is so important and necessary.

The need for greater community understanding was no better illustrated than by the letter from Marcus L’Estrange (yesterday, comments) who seems to think that gays are only 3 percent of the population; gays and lesbians do not experience extreme disadvantage and poverty; and that gay marriage is not normal or natural. these assertions have been proven not to be true by sound research.

My overarching concern however is that so many people (like this letter writer) believe governments are only about facilitating or creating economic development whereas a key government responsibility is to ensure that all people enjoy all rights equally. It is important to remember that marriage is both a social and economic institution. If you do not see the economic benefits of the institution of marriage it may be because you have not been locked out of it.

In Australia, we seem to be unable to have a well reasoned discourse over human rights, probably because the majority enjoy rights and feel that the marginalised may, in attaining them to will take something from them. In fact the opposite is true. I hope that we can come to realise that those of us who enjoy rights, such as marriage, have their  enjoyment diminished by the fact that others are denied the right.

(Daniel Stubbs is the Director of the Inner City Legal Centre — a community legal centre that provides specialist legal services to people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex in NSW.)

Douglas Clifford writes: I first met my “significant other” at a cruising area on 17th July 1972. We have lived at the same address since May 1977 … so much for the “instability” of gay relationships!

I had a trans-urethral resection of my prostate in 2004 which effectively put an end to our s-x life (which had been declining anyway). I am now functionally a-libidinal. This is a somewhat of a problem for my partner, but companionship and mutual affection and respect have endured. I am deeply grateful for his continuing support, washing my clothes, cooking meals and bookings for theatre, films, concerts opera and other cultural pursuits (where would the arts be in this country — and others — without the support of the gay community?) I have no doubt that our relationship will continue, “until death us do part”.

I am now 67, and he is 60 (i.e., we are into our 39th year of relationship).  Many older “straight” couples have also to work through these disparities of libido, and usually do so. In that respect, we are not that dissimilar to our “straight” friends. Do we crave same s-x marriage? No, not really. Our relationship is already strong enough. We might consider it if there were significant legal and financial benefits, but the current Commonwealth government has largely removed these impediments, so there seems little reason to get “married”.

Gavin Greenoak writes: Saint Augustine said, “Love, and do what you will.” I wholly subscribe to this. Marriage is sacred in my experience, because it is a celebration of an enduring love, which is a profound and beautiful thing. It is the gift of gifts. Children are its natural issue. But it is also, for me,  a very private thing quite separate from its institution.

If I loved another man, then it would be another kind of gift of love, and no less sacred, and it might be a great joy for me to think of the right word, and the true poetry, to describe its public celebration. My partner would not be my husband, because I would also be his. No one would pronounce us man and wife. We would I am sure be grateful of the relief from an often problematic institution which would not preclude sitting down with a lawyer to draft an agreement between us.

To receive, nourish, and maintain the gift of love wherever it may be given is the spiritual task of our human being, and to get into strife and squabble about whether we should have a kick-off at the tee, seems to me worse than irrelevant.

The Royal engagement:

Phil Hand writes: Re. “First Dog on the Moon” (yesterday, item 6). Thank you for First Dog’s range of royal engagement souvenirs. Life truly does imitate art. Here in the UK the BBC Radio 2 lunchtime news carried the headline ‘The first royal engagement souvenir mugs have come off the production line’. We can all sleep easy in our beds knowing this.

Big pharma:

“Ella Vayted Lavelle” writes: Re. “Drug giant takes legal action against influential government advisers” (yesterday, item 2).The article by Roy Moynihan about cholesterol drugs was very interesting. I had a relevant experience not so long ago.

My GP referred me for a routine blood test. When the result came back he pointed to the cholesterol number and told me which drug he intended to prescribe. I asked if this treatment was long term and he confirmed it would be for life. I asked about alternatives and tried for a few months to change my cholesterol level by exercise and diet, without effect. I then asked my GP more questions about the proposed drug, such as side effects, the “number needed to treat” for a measurable improved outcome and so on. I also asked about the basis for setting the threshold at which cholesterol is considered to be high. Much of my inspiration came from reading this.

His response to the more detailed and technical questions was to become tetchy, insist without explanation that refusing the drug would involve significant risk and emphasise he is a doctor and I am not. We reached something of an impasse, so I went to a consultant for a second opinion.  The consultant advised he would not recommend the drug on the basis of measured cholesterol alone since I am a fit individual with no other relevant medical history or symptoms.

If I had not argued with my GP the cost of my drugs would be added to the figures Mr Moynihan cited. If my GP’s attitude to these drugs is typical it’s not hard to see why so many Australians are taking them.

Geoff Russell writes:  Public servants are expected to give free and frank advice to Government and such advice is usually protected against Freedom of Information requests precisely to prevent intimidation. If big pharma wants to start threatening advisory committee members, then perhaps thought needs to be given to secret committees who give secret advice. What a horrible thought. But there is an alternative.

Most heart disease is deliberately self-inflicted. For years health authorities have been telling people to avoid saturated fat (this is  basically a politically correct way of saying meat, dairy and eggs), smoking and get plenty of exercise. Perhaps it’s time to get serious and take all the cholesterol lowering drugs off the PBS altogether. If people really think that the Wagyu and  Brie is good enough to die for, then it’s time they did.

Climate change et al:

Andrew Lewis writes: I get around to reading my Crikey a bit late these days, so didn’t pick up Viv Forbes wonderful comments from Monday until mid Wednesday. It made me rush straight to the comments/corrections for Tuesday to see who had responded, and pleased I was to see the intelligent responses provided. But I can’t support the call for Viv’s comments to be banned, let’s just include a statement clarifying that he is a coal industry lobbyist.  I would prefer that these madcap rantings be published as it is better to know what your enemy is thinking. Correction, “thinking” is probably a grandiose term, what about “musing”?

Anyway, for mine, I’m much more inclined to believe Paul Krugman when he points the finger at what will really happen if a carbon price is introduced. For most of us, the change will be insubstantial, but the losers are those who currently pay nothing for their externalities, and that is the coal and oil industries. Instead of the rest of us being big losers while the coal and oil industries make huge profits, we will be better off and they won’t be.  That is the price we will pay, and I and others are willing to pay it.

But I would dearly miss lines like this; “Who wants a carbon tax?  The Greens.  They hate human beings and their farm animals, crops, coal, oil, cars…”

That is pure comedy gold!

Dr. Aaron M. Petty, School for Environmental and Life Sciences, Charles Darwin University, writes: Re. Tamas Calderwood (yesterday, comments). I had a quick search with the subject “Climate change” in ISI’s Web of Knowledge (an index of peer-reviewed literature) and found 3423 articles published in 2010 within the subject of meteorology and atmospheric sciences.

As an academic I know full well how much effort, thought and consideration must go into each and every one of those papers.  Those are 3,423 different ways in which we have considered, adapted, tinkered and developed our understanding of climate science and climate change.

During this same year I have heard Tamas Calderwood blurt out the same three statements:

  1. Errors in the IPCC report discredit climate science;
  2. snarky emails from East Anglia University discredit climate science; and
  3. no consistent warming trend since 1998 discredits anthropogenic global warming.

Tamas (and you are just Crikey‘s foil for the climate denialist at large), science has made a lot of progress in one year in refining our knowledge of climate change. You, and sadly politics as well because of people like you, seem to be stuck in a time warp.

Nigel Brunel writes: Love your work Tamas. Firstly — Copenhagen was not a failure — it just did not reach the high expectation that people had set out to achieve — nevertheless basically every major economy in the world has now made commitments to reduce emissions.

Secondly — China may be building short-term coal fire power stations hand over fist but it has to in order to accommodate its every-growing middle class. It is the recipient of the vast majority of renewable technology globally. China is very concerned about the environment as it impacts on its peoples. The most amazing thing is they are about to launch carbon trading within its country and Australia is still struggling with the issue.

Thirdly — stop injecting noise and meaningless waffle about CO2 — as I have mentioned before — it’s been proven that GHGs trap radiation that is reflected back from the earths’ surface. That was proved in the 1800’s.

Fourthly — yes the voluntary CCE has closed — no surprise given the US is unlikely to proceed with a Cap & Trade system but it’s a meaningless point by you. Point to note — Many states within the US have their own ETS.

Finally — I don’t have enormous amount of prestige invested in the “calamity” of climate change — my interest is seeing us address risks and create policy around a situation that has been proved and peer reviewed by the vast majority of the world’s scientists. Just out of curiosity — what are your qualifications?

Peter Fray

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