Nicolas Parkhill, Chief Executive Officer, ACON, writes : Re. “Tips and rumours” (yesterday, item 7). The article in The Sunday Herald referred to by your tipster did not report on NSW AIDS group ACON and its squandering of millions of dollars in taxpayers’ money, but rather on unsubstantiated allegations by a small coterie of long time critics of the organisation based on a wilful misreading of our audited annual report figures.

The “money trail” is detailed in our annual accounts which are audited and documented as they have been every year for the 25 years the organisation has been providing services for HIV/AIDS care, treatment and prevention.

Contrary to accusations persistently made by the same one or two disaffected critics of ACON, there are no “hidden” or “special” payments to the “gay elite”. If there was any substance to such absurd claims, ACON would have been de-funded by Government and stripped of its charity status long ago.

Rather, ACON — and NSW — has a well deserved international reputation for its successful HIV prevention work. NSW is one of just a few places in Australia and the world where HIV transmissions have remained stable for over a decade.

ACON is supported by hundreds of volunteers and managed by professional staff and a board of respected community leaders. The nonsensical claims of maladministration regularly trotted out by the same few critics are an insult to all of those who give their time to serve.

S-x between women is not a significant mode of HIV infection and hence we don’t run HIV prevention programs targeting lesbians. We do however, provide HIV care and support services to all those who need them, including HIV positive women who identify as lesbian.

Queensland floods:

Bob Cole writes: Re. “Brown says a national flood insurance scheme makes sense” (yesterday, item 1). Bob Brown has got it totally wrong. The issue of insurance is the tip of the iceberg whereas the reality lies in the approval process to build.

The issue comes in a twofold situation.

Firstly, let’s look at those areas which have been decimated by floods in the past, and ineffectually safeguarded by management schemes. As an example, in the Brisbane area — in particular the whole Rocklea area — are so important to the economic viability of the nation let alone Brisbane and Queensland.

Flood mitigation and the infrastructure required is paramount to this nation’s continued viability — the ability to transfer water from one part of the country to another as needed in times of drought or flood mitigation. There are vast water systems, as an example the Murray Darling and the feeder rivers, inbuilt into this country that could be used to transport vast quantities of water in times of flood and the ability to transfer water from north to south, east to west in times of drought.

In addition, the development of this infrastructure would enable the economic development of country Australia which just cries out for a drop of water in most years. To tax the miners is facing the problem the wrong way round. The issue is water management — not the band aid.

Let’s look to the world and although imperfect, the Mississippi River has flood mitigation installed along its reach. I say again,  it’s imperfect, and only failed where various state and local governments took short cuts, but it saved cities like Saint Louis a few years ago where the rivers were in massive flood. Brisbane could learn from such an approach and together with a proper plan for total water management, including dams, basins, rivers and pipelines.

A full Royal Commission on a federal level and implementation of a scheme of water resource management is a desperate requirement and has been for years. It needs to be a national approach because states can’t agree on a management practise for the Murray. They have been given the chance to do the job and failed and it now needs to be a national approach for years to come.

John Richardson writes: Yesirree Bob, but why stop with flood insurance? If you really want to be popular with the punters and build a scheme worthy of a mining super tax, why not underwrite bush fires, locust plagues, hail storms, full moons, high tides and low tides, market fluctuations, burnt toast, interest rate increases and broken political promises … the possibilities are huge.

Chuck Berger, Director of Strategic Ideas, Australian Conservation Foundation, writes: Re. “Ask the economists: what effect will the Qld floods have on GDP?” (yesterday, item 2). Last September, Dr David Gruen, Treasury’s head of macroeconomics, argued that “economists and statisticians have long known that GDP is not, and was never intended to be, a measure of wellbeing or progress. Further, while we have known the limitations of GDP, we have done little to discourage its use.”

In yesterday’s edition of Crikey, Tom Cowie’s piece about the economic effect of the Queensland flooding gives us a good demonstration of just what Dr Gruen was on about. Mr Cowie starts off on the right foot, observing that GDP may not be a good measure of the economic effect of the Queensland floods, and citing several authorities critical of the misuse of GDP. But then what does he ask of his panel of illustrious economists? Exactly the question he had just been criticising: what effect will the flooding have on GDP?

It’s an amazing non sequitur, but alas it is not only Crikey that is culpable of intellectual laziness here. Each of your experts should have stood up and told you the question was not a sensible one!

The continued overemphasis on GDP as a measure of economic wellbeing, when we know it’s not fit for that purpose, causes us to miss more interesting insights.

Wouldn’t it have been more interesting to ask the panel of illustrious economists what impact the flooding will have on per capita net national income? Or on subjective wellbeing? Or on the nation’s national balance sheet? Or on median household income? In other words, on measures that relate to the actual lived economic circumstances of Australians?

Ben Palmer writes: NAB chief economist Alan Oster’s comment: “The backend of this year is going to be a lot stronger after the rebuilding, repurchasing and so on.”

The backend of the year? (groan). What is wrong with: the second half of the year?

Geoff Plante writes: I note the PM and many other politicians and urging individuals and businesses to donate cash to various organisations for help to the flood affected.

It would be interesting to know how many/who among politicians of all levels of government have donated their own monies. That is cash out of their own pockets — not electoral office funds or “kind” — but after tax personal money.

Crikey, there may be an exposure of further hypocritical behaviour of politicians if you get some honest responses. Perhaps those who don’t respond have given zip?

NSW electricity:

Niall Clugston writes: Re. “Summonses to eight over NSW electricity asset sell-off” (yesterday, item 4). Why does everyone keep saying that the NSW government wants to sell its “electricity assets”?

The deal only involves the privatisation of electricity retail, not generators, not powerlines. I don’t see how this is the privatisation of an asset.

Secondly, why is the media obsessed about the circus of an inquiry (possibly parliamentary, possibly not), chaired by Fred Nile of all people? Surely a sensible analysis by the media of this ridiculous idea (a privatisation without the sale of assets) is more likely to get to the truth!