The Queensland floods:

Beryce Nelson in Toogoolawah, Queensland, writes: Re. “Rockhampton flood crisis: attack of the blood suckers” (yesterday, item 4). It was good to see the first 2011 edition of Crikey yesterday but after reading it I am left wondering if I live in a parallel universe.

The main thrust of articles focused on the usual domestic political hoohah as well as the shooting in the US while here in the north of the country — formerly known as the Sunshine State — life will never be the same. The state that has more than 20% of the population and provides Australia with more than 30% of its export income has been damaged in a way that cannot be understood unless seen.

This is not a flood centred around Rockhampton and the central coast. It is a deluge covering an area larger than France, Germany, Holland, Italy and Belgium combined or to put it in a Sydney/Melbourne-centric context — bigger than all of New South Wales and a good part of Victoria. More than a dozen people have died so far and tens of thousands have had major property damage and lost most or all of their personal possessions. Many are still evacuees and will remain so for weeks to come.

Towns as far apart as Dirranbandi, St George, Mackay, and now Brisbane are seriously affected. Dozens of other small and medium sized regional towns and rural communities are either inundated by flooded river systems or have important infrastructure seriously damaged by the ongoing heavy rainfall.

The amazing efficiency and commitment of the Emergency Management Taskforce, local SES volunteers, the Red Cross, local Service Organisations and Local Councils has perhaps masked the terrible impact on the lives of Queenslanders and on the national economy but it should not be underestimated by the rest of the country. All key agriculture, mining and peak season tourism has ground to a halt and the damage bill will run into billions.

The emotional and physical effects will unfold over the next two to three years as so clearly outlined in the research done following the 1974 floods in Brisbane. And yes Anton, forget about the crocodiles but the snakes are well and truly visible as well as the midges in the rural communities and both are a real hazard as is the shortage of safe drinking water.

Yes, I am cross.

Even here in my small town we are trying to find accommodation for about 200 more people stranded last night by rising floodwaters as well as trying to clean up after the localised flooding.

So Crikey, please get your heads out of international politics, the GDP and Facebook and start taking the floods seriously. They are a national catastrophe.

Climate change:

David Hand writes: Re. “Mungo: for Gillard and Abbott, it’s storm clouds at 20 paces” (yesterday, item 9). Mungo MacCallum fires the first shot in the first edition of Crikey in 2011 about climate change and as is tiresomely usual, does the climate lobby yet more damage with ill-founded commentary as though he knows something about it. Not that I do but I’m not trying to commentate.

I say this as a believer in climate change — the science that supports climate change is mathematics, specifically statistics. The warm years at the end of the last century and the first decade of this century are statistically significant. They are not random. At the same time, there is more carbon in the atmosphere now that at any time in the last million and possibly the last 20 million years. Here endeth the science. Everything else is hypothesis and conjecture because climate science cannot yet describe the process by which carbon emissions have led to global warming.

The debate over what to do about it is not helped by the rhetoric of climate alarmists like Mungo. Mild winter? Global warming. Freezing winter? Global warming. Drought? Global Warming. Floods? Global warming. Mungo, the average man in the street sees right through this. It’s like the mobile phone plan salesman. It is irrelevant what your circumstances are, you absolutely need their plan. There is no objectivity in it at all.

Besides this, the predicted 2 degree temperature rise at 450ppm is a guess but doesn’t stop Mungo parroting it with the same confidence as the exact time of tomorrow’s sunrise. This sort of ignorant babbling we have had so much of in Crikey is doing the debate a lot of harm. Leave it to the scientists, mate.

Labor’s demise:

Michael Stanley writes: Re. “Keane’s year in review: how 2010 revealed Labor’s hollow core” (23 December, item 1).  The real and lasting damage to the political stability of the Prime Minister’s position in the Australian polity lies in just this: Should it occur again — say Bill Shorten topples Julia Gillard — then the Australian Labor Party will have brought about, without any consultation with the people at all nor reference to the Australian Constitution whatsoever, a shift in the political centre away from federal elections being the selection of national leader; a choice, say, between Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott, to being the election of a party which may or may not retain the person we elect as leader.

Such an election — if it occurs — will be a fraud and deceit upon the Australian people and electorate: A fraud because the Prime Minister’s tenure is now as fragile as that of the Leader of the Opposition. To think we were electing our national leader would be to err. The Prime Minister is now chosen by The Party. We simply participate in an electoral contest that determines which party will select and control the Prime Minister.

The Rudd coup has wreaked far greater damage upon the fabric of our national political future than allowing his government to run to term. It’s resulted in a situation whereby the damage is more difficult to detect and requires a longer time to quantify.

If you’re an ALP type you might regard this as good. You may believe that people must now focus on party and policy rather than mesmeric speakers and folk heroes. My view is that it is dangerous. That it’s unhinged things. That it breaks the necessary compact between leader and led. That at bottom it’s NSW Labor politics and all its rottenness loosed and dangerous and smelling of trouble and the gutter.

Mark Arbib should be regarded as persona non-grata in Australia henceforth.

Have I forgotten the Coalition? No. The notion that the pragmatic, efficient and career minded Conservative parties would not also use such manoeuvres is absurd. The manoeuvres are part of the fabric now.

Let’s hear no more about The Dismissal in 1975 — Labor owns this one.

Retailers and GST:

Peter Sheppard writes: Re. “The idiocy that is the retail billionaire tax champions” (yesterday, item 20). As a fairly small retailer dealing in only imported footwear from Europe and the US, on first glance I seem disturbed by the level playing field issue regarding GST. In fact this debate is currently raging fiercely in the US, with their State taxes.

The biggest online retailer (pure clicks) in shoes in the state is based in Texas (no tax) and is sending product to California (sales Tax). Old Arnie is pissed and is being heavily lobbied by CA retailers to fix the problem. However, water always finds its own level eventually. The big guys in retail are faced with their biggest challenge ever, and that is a that a small operator can take them on head first without having to have stores (Bricks). Now if these brick dwellers decided to fight back with what sets them apart, they would have a great advantage, but sadly it will not work — it’s just too hard as they coast on easy street.

If I was fully dependent just on my online business, I would say my greatest danger from conventional retailing is face to face SERVICE, and these guys just don’t get it. It just costs too much in labour to gain that edge and wring their wrists and bemoan just why it can’t be like the good old days. They also, I might add, have expensive real estate to protect.

I’m closing one of my stores and using the capital to ramp up my online presence. What epiphany brought this about? I just imported 14 boat batteries from the US where they are made, and saved myself $6500 into the bargain.

Yes, I rorted the GST by having them come out at one at a time ($953 each), but it was just so simple to execute. I’m dealing with a highly  competitive market place in the US, and they always say “Thank you for doing business with us — we really appreciate it”.

Fight, whinge, and moan the big guys will, but if they don’t play to their strengths, they are dinosaurs in waiting.

Robert Pickering writes: Has there ever been a more boneheaded, shoot yourself in the foot moment than Gerry Harvey being front and centre of this campaign.

First of all, it was him who benefited the most from the governments largesse during the once off “pokies and plasma” payout, demonstrated by his surging sales during and after this payment was made public, so it’s a bit rude now to turn around and complain at the government given it’s lined his pockets.

Second, it’s not even him who is the most affected, most people still prefer to go and buy their plasmas in person rather than have them shipped in internationally (tell me someone who’s shipped their plasma from China lately?). I do feel sorry for the booksellers (OK, well, maybe just a little sorry) who have had their market places decimated by more cost effective books, after all, you’re not likely to take a book back for warranty.

Third, and the stupidest part, is that all the people who actually went into the store to buy stuff and didn’t know any better has now been alerted by big front page articles saying “Hey, get your stuff online, it’s cheaper!” — if he’d shut up the same people who bought from him before would continue to buy from him in the future! Now he’s let the cat out of the bag and sales can only drop from here.

Billionaires complaining about money and taxes don’t get much sympathy from the public, ask Andrew Forrest or Gina Rinehart — we don’t feel for you mate, we just don’t.

Keep insulting your customers and see how far it will get you.

Arizona shootings:

David Griffin writes: Re. “Terrorism comes to Arizona” (yesterday, item 1). Blaming Sarah Palin for the Arizona shooting is like blaming Marilyn Manson for the Columbine massacre. Except obviously the shoe is on the other foot in terms of the left-right paradigm. But gun control advocates can still ask… why on earth is it still so easy for anyone to get a gun in the US?

Vodaphone:

David Havyatt writes: Re. “Vodafone’s infosec balls-up a symptom of wider problems” (yesterday, item 3). The various sources Stilgherrian quotes are correct that identification procedures only require identification to be sited but not copied.

However, in the real world procedures are required to verify that employees actually follow procedure. It is too easy to tick a box to say you’ve seen the ID, but requiring a copy to be taken really forces the employee to obtain it.

Additionally the credit card standard mightn’t require obtaining a copy of the ID, but in cases of fraud the copies of fake IDs have been useful in subsequent investigations.

The Ashes:

Colin Chilcott writes: Re. Andrew Haughton (yesterday, comments). Not to put too finer point on it but “I told you so”. You may remember my article back in October, “Australian Cricket drunk, stumbling and refusing to admit there is a problem“.

In that article, I stated that the single largest issue was the Chairman of Selectors. I have no reason to alter from this view. Now that he refuses to accept any responsibility at all for the humiliation of three innings defeats. The present Chairman even wants to continue as in his role after his contract expires post the World Cup.

A plea therefore to Cricket Australia: “Please save us, the cricket following public of Australia and appoint a Chairman of Selectors with some vision, a willingness to make tough calls and accept at least some responsibility in defeat as well as the accolades of success.”

Peter Fray

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