Singlehouse brouhaha a ripper yarn

David Salter writes: Re. “Shame on the media’s obsessions with the Singlehouse ‘scandal‘” (yesterday). Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and an opinion in itself cannot be false unless based entirely on misconception, but Bernard Keane’s assertion that the Singleton/Waterhouse brouhaha is a “non-story” reveals just how far removed the Canberra gallery has become from mainstream journalism. He claims the saga has no “significance” alongside “issues of policy substance”. Well, it’s certainly significant to anyone who likes a punt, or whose livelihood depends on those who do.

Keane then builds on his theme to rail against popular outlets that rely on familiar news “narratives”. What seems to escape him is that the Singleton/Waterhouse conflict is a great story precisely because it doesn’t unfold along those well-ploughed narrative furrows. It is a very long way from the normal if-it-bleeds-it-leads fodder of our nightly commercial news bulletins. It is complex, dramatic, emotional, unresolved – and hugely entertaining.

Keane may well think bookies, trainers, owners, footy legends and brothel-keepers should all be beneath our contempt (and wish a plague on all their houses), but that doesn’t make their very public falling out a “non-story”. It is, in fact, a ripper of a yarn with plenty of sub-plots to keep us reading, listening and watching for weeks. To suggest that the media in NSW shouldn’t afford it prominence is a ludicrous distortion of journalism’s basic obligations to its consumers.

Bookies’ expertise

Peter Grudzinskas writes: Re. ‘Just’ a bookie?’ (yesterday). Megan Stoyles writes: “Sorry, but bookies make their living on being expert in the sports on which they offer bets.”

This fallacy underpins every mug punter’s deep-seated knowledge that if they know more about a particular sport, that is are more expert than their bookie, they have a chance at walking home with the cash.

Bookies are not “expert in the sports on which they offer odds”, they are experts in “making a book”, that is, to lay odds on each runner in a race such that whoever wins, the bookie profits by holding more on the losing horses than they pay out on the winner. Sure, they have “winning races” and “losing races”, a perfect market cannot be framed on every single race; but this is all part of the swings and roundabouts of a high turn-over business. The odds laid on a particular race are not the “chances of success” determined by a knowledgeable expert; they are the relative inclination of the punting population to bet on the horse, such that the money wagered on the entire race exceeds the amount paid out on the winner.

Suggestions for Treasurer Bernard Keane

Lou Moretti writes: Re. “Fantasy budget: Keane on the slow path to sustainability” (yesterday). Not a bad attempt. I would support most of that but have reservations on two items of revenue:

Banks super-profits tax : firstly define what “super-profits ” are and the rate of tax applied. Could end up like the mining resource tax and generate “nil” net revenue. Plus, without the government actively encouraging competition by allowing new entrants, under the current bank oligopoly I think fees would go up to cover the additional impost on the banks. Might just as well increase company and personal income tax.

Tax on superannuation drawdown: why penalise the actions that were firstly encouraged by the government? Increase super savings so that less reliance is placed on the government pension. Laws were introduced to encourage this ,and now you want to introduce a tax that is effectively retrospective. Also keep in mind that many of the people you want to tax did not have any super contributions until Keating introduced the super levy in 1992, unlike people who join the workforce today who have super accumulating from day one at a higher rate than in 1992. Why not instead increase the tax on super contributions by making the tax rate closer to the marginal tax rate? This way the highest income earners would effectively pay 40% contributions tax instead of 30%.

Hope this helps in balancing your budget.

John Bushell writes: Bernard Keane’s fantasy budget might achieve financial sustainability but certainly not  environmental sustainability. How about a drastic reduction to the  $11 billion per annum taxpayers fork out to the fossil fuel industry in production or consumption subsidies?

We have a carbon tax of $23 per tonne of CO2 emitted to atmosphere payable by big emitters yet, at 2012 emissions of 552 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent, Australian taxpayers are subsidising the production of all greenhouse gases (not just CO2) at $21 per tonne.  Stopping this particular roundabout would seem to be a first step both financially and environmentally.