Ramona Koval writes: Re: ABC staff-elected board member in exile: Dempster waits on Conroy (yesterday, item 14).

On the matter of my “fractious” terms as staff elected director on the ABC board, just a reminder that I never signed any such document, despite what you describe as a “requirement” from the then  chairman.

I had excellent (pro bono) legal advice from very senior legal people that such a demand was unenforceable and possibly illegal, going against the very spirit of the legal requirement for the independence of board directors, no matter how they want to dress it up in “protocol” terms.

If I could still vote for Quentin Dempster, I would!

Shining the light on carbon tax costs

Jane Shaw writes: Re. “What electricity will really cost under a carbon tax” (yesterday, item 1). Just thought you might want to know that the premise for the article is wrong, in several ways.

First, the authors are assuming that the carbon price will be passed onto consumers at the carbon intensity of the state in which the consumer lives. This is not the case, electricity retailers are passing through the carbon price to the entire National Electricity Market (NEM) at the NEM average coefficient, which is about 0.9.

Secondly, even if the retailers were passing through at the coefficient relevant to their particular electricity purchase mix, this would not necessarily be the same as the coefficient of the state where the consumer lives. The NEM stretches from FNQ to Tasmania, every electricity generator on the eastern seaboard plugs into it. Houses in Melbourne are just as likely to be using electricity created at a low carbon gas generator in Queensland as they are to be using electricity from Hazelwood.

Thirdly, the proportion of the carbon price being passed on to electricity consumers is not at all in doubt. One hundred per cent of the price will be passed on to consumers (in fact a lot more than 100% will be passed on but that’s a separate matter). Compensation may mean that households will not have to suffer the full cost, but it will certainly all be passed through.

Finally, if the carbon price was working as it was intended, electricity retailers would buy cheaper electricity from low-intensity generators, which they could then pass on to consumers, thus making low carbon intensity more attractive. Consumers concerned about carbon would thus also be able to make informed choices about the energy they use. The electricity market, being much more savvy than the government, has ensured that this will not be the case. That’s your story, not this academic idiocy written by people who clearly have no idea at all of how the market actually operates.


Joe Boswell writes: Re. “FWA didn’t bungle HSU affair — DPP can still prosecute” (yesterday, item 13). Chris Seage wrote “According to the rhetoric … the case is a dead duck. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

I’m not sure which one of the many alleged criminal acts is “the case,” but the duck, though not quite dead, is a very sick duck indeed.

Seage quotes a FWA spokesman about preparation of prosecution briefs, saying “they do not have an in-house prosecution unit or anyone with the qualifications to do this.” Seage then suggests that the FWA simply did not know that a prosecution requires a brief of evidence.

It is therefore predictable that all the work done over the past three years by the FWA ignored rules of evidence and relevant statutory requirements. It is probable no admissible evidence at all has yet been obtained. To give just one example, witness statements are usually only admissible if taken according to strict procedures with a prescribed declaration at the end signed by the witness and investigator. If that was not done, all the witnesses will have to be interviewed again.

This may depend on the witnesses volunteering to attend more interviews if the FWA lacks powers to compel.

Seage wrote: “As well as prosecuting matters, the DPP also provides legal advice to government agency investigators in particular matters when it is requested by agencies. Often this advice is sought and provided at an early stage of the investigation, particularly if the case is of a complex nature …”

After some three years of inquiry, asking for advice “at an early stage” is no longer an option, unless we take the reasonable view that a criminal investigation has not yet begun. But the matters to be investigated took place several years ago and it is all very stale.

Memories fade, records are lost. The odds against achieving anything are much longer now.

Another important point not mentioned is whether the alleged offences fall within the remit of the FWA to investigate at all. They may in fact be matters for the police. If so, we might wonder why the police were not involved as soon as the allegations emerged.

The government has many agencies that ostensibly have a role in investigating offences that may be prosecuted. It is very demanding to do so, given the complexity and arcane nature of the rules of evidence that must be followed. More problems may arise with newly created offences, untested, poorly understood and perhaps badly drafted, as the government concentrates on legislative quantity over quality. Who knows how many of these agencies are as competent in this role as the FWA, and what help can they really expect from the notoriously over-stretched DPP?

Will Al Jazeera live on for Austar users?

Morrison Hoyle writes: Re. “Foxtel-Austar merger the worst competition decision in years” (Wednesday, item 2) With the merger about to come into effect, I wonder if Al Jazeera will finally get up on Foxtel.  It is currently available on Austar channel 651 and on the Optus D2 satellite used by Foxtel and Austar to distribute programs to customers not covered by cable.

Foxtel has resolutely refused to carry Al Jazeera supposedly because of cost but I suspect it is because Rupert Murdoch hates it and thinks we would be better to watch his appalling Fox News.

Will Foxtel remove Al Jazeera from Austar customers or will it recognise it as a valuable alternative news channel and supply it to its existing Foxtel customers?

Concerned Queensland citizens

Debra Henry writes: Peter Marer wrote “It’s not only LNP players who are agitating for change, there are a raft of concerned citizens sitting on their verandahs with the proverbial baseball bats” (comments, April 2).

If I was sure that Peter Marer was only joking about the baseball bats I’d be saying “give us a break”. But sadly his analogy is indicative of the drastic actions some may be willing to take.

It seems most of the “concerned citizens” are either jilted, failed candidates (as is Peter Marer) or property owners and others in a position to make windfall profits when governments up zone land for development. That the council is “heavily influence” by environmental groups that have limited revenue from modest membership fees and fund-raising, simply doesn’t ring true.

Coffee drinkers aren’t news

Eamon Waterford writes: Re. “Charles Taylor’s trial the talk of the town in Monrovia’s tea shops” (yesterday, item 9). If we were to wander around downtown Canberra, asking people to comment on a ongoing criminal case, I’m sure I could get plenty of people to make a judgment as to whether a person is guilty or not. But that’s hardly a good way to cover the story.

I’m not sure I really like this sort of journalism — a Western journo in a third world country and asks people on the street their opinions on an issue — if a journo was to do that in Australia it would be pilloried for being really lazy investigative work — I can’t see why the same standards can’t be applied for foreign news.

Perhaps I’m nit-picking, but is the story “people who drink coffee in a country are interested in the war crime trial of their ex-leader” really news?

The next Melbourne or Australian Club?

Pam Papadopoulos writes: Re. “Paul Barry: inside Melbourne’s most exclusive club” (yesterday, item 5). Exclusive clubs such as The Melbourne Club and establishment only exclusive venues need to get with the times to attract the next generation

The Canary Club in the city is where the next generation have formed their own cliques and like to hang out for the price of a coffee only, I’m told?