On gender and the ABC

ABC Media Manager for Corporate Affairs Nick Leys writes: Re. “The ABC a utopia for working mums? Sure, if you’re one of the stars” (yesterday). Whitney Fitzsimmons ignored a few key facts in her commentary about gender diversity at the ABC. Contrary to her views, the ABC has a strong track record in promoting and appointing women to senior roles in the organisation, not including its high-profile journalists, producers and on-air talent. They include six ABC directors: Kate Torney (Director of News) Leisa Bacon (Director of Marketing), Lynley Marshall (CEO of ABC International), Sam Liston (Director of People), Angela Clark (Director of Digital Network) and Fiona Reynolds (Director of Regional). Women among the senior ABC executive ranks include Michele Fonseca (Head of News Strategy), Deirdre Brennan (Head of ABC Kids), Rebecca Heap (Head of TV Strategy and Digital), Linda Bracken (Head of Radio Content and Digital Strategy), Jane Connors (Head of Editorial Quality and Governance, Radio), Ann Chesterman (Chief of Staff to the Managing Director), Louise O’Donnell (Head Digital Network Strategy), Georgina Waite (Head Business Affairs), Alison Hamill (Head Group Audit) and Di Costantini (Head of Creative Services). In addition two members of the current ABC Board are women — Jane Bennett and Dr Fiona Stanley.

There are many other women in senior and influential roles throughout the ABC. The 2014 Annual Report records the number of women employed at the ABC as 51.2 per cent of its workforce. All appointments, regardless of gender, are merit based. The ABC leads the way in identifying and supporting talent across all areas of the business. Some simple fact-checking and accurate reporting should have made these relevant points clear to Crikey readers.


Senior Communications Manager for Chartered Accounts Australia and New Zealand Sue Ashe writes: Re. “Can we really raise GST but improve the lot of the poor?” (yesterday). On Monday July 20, Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand released an example of  how GST reform can play a major part in our nation’s future economic success.

That example was based on modelling commissioned by us and carried out by  one of Australia’s pre-eminent economic research houses.  With the permission of the economic research house we have since provided that report   to  government to assist them with their tax modelling.

The Australia Institute, in its article “Can we really raise GST but improve the lot of the poor?” inaccurately claimed that KPMG was involved in developing our model.  They were not involved.  The Australia Institute was probably referring to KPMG’s report, Tax Reform for our Future Success which we referenced in our opinion piece which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald.

On productivity

Dr  James I Brown writes: Re. “Productivity Commission rocks Abbott’s anti-trade union narrative” (yesterday). Your article on the annual productivity report highlights poor productivity growth in utilities. In the electricity industry (and also gas) we have multiple regulating authorities, even after the Commonwealth combined most of the original state regulators. There is AEMO, AER, AEMC and COAG. Four separate bodies which sit in their silos carefully and formally communicating with each other. The dominant strategies being pursued by these bodies are competition to reduce cost and avoiding any appearance of conflict of interest.

An outcome of this is that several years after “completion” of the installation of smart electricity meters in Victoria, no benefits have accrued to customers and they are being charged for the maintenance and operation of a system, which for most, offers an on peak and off peak rate which could have and was being provided by the traditional meters 50 years ago. Worse than this, the peak/off peak tariffs do not represent any form of technically or economically justified real cost of generation or delivery of energy.  For the majority of days of the year and for the majority of hours of the day there is now excess generating capacity available and excess capacity in the distribution network.  Very high costs and tariffs should only apply outside these times, which at present might total only 50 to 100 hours per year.

The introduction of a cost reflective tariff is totally stuck in these regulating bodies and delayed by other “interested” parties such as the owners of the physical assets. Hence far from providing proper economic signals, which should be the aim of a market based regulating system, false signals are being sent which produce perverse and uneconomic investments and outcomes.  Proper signals would probably speed the uptake and reduce the cost of electric vehicles, reduce the incentives to install batteries and to  “get off the grid” (which seems to strike fear into the owners of the distribution assets) and ensure that we maintain and develop a utility network which allows effective investment, utilization of and returns on shared assets.

I would suggest that these types of inefficiencies  are a reason for poor multifactor productivity growth.  But hell we need people employed to keep the economic system ticking over.  With the system as it is, improvements in productivity reduce employment  or require higher levels of consumption and continued over exploitation of the earth’s resources.

Welcome to Planet Tax

Les Heimann writes: Re. “Earth to Planet Tax: we can see through your sneaky GST ruse” (yesterday). Quo Vadis Taxation. Oh what mischief is being made by that little devil Tony A. Don’t you just love him when he gets his mate Mike “Mr Popular” Baird to throw up a big red balloon wafting 15% in the breeze for that ever so popular GST? Isn’t he so clever to get us all distracted and flustered and selfish and scared, playing his tune once again? Of course it is all a distraction; and even if it gets somewhere that’s a plus for Tony. Our tax system is well past the Gordian knot — and yes it does need cutting up — after all, no-one can unravel the thing.

Why are we always so scared about tax? Every country needs to tax people otherwise it can’t spend. I suggest we the people present our politicians with the opportunity to tie their philosophies to the mast of discussion and see where that leads us. The Liberal view is spend as little and tax as little and let the market take care of everything. Labor is (or was) wedded to a form of managed economy where we needed to spend thus needed to tax and impose on those according to their means. The philosophical debate should be held in public as a first step and determine a “winner”. Actually the winner should be the people but at least let us behold the wisdom of free traders versus social thinkers. Then we could adopt the Roman model — everyone pays a set, and the same percentage taxation on receipts. Regressive? No not at all. There are no deductions or concessions or any taxation distractions. It is absolutely fair for Woolworths to pay say 5% on $20 billion dollars sales and you and me to pay 5% on our $60,000 salary. Problem solved.

Steve Davies writes: Bernard Keane has calculated the impact of 5 point rise to a “proper” GST by including both current revenue and the forgone revenue of exemptions to reach half of $75 billion, $37.5 billion. It looks like he’s then forgotten to add the value of the forgone revenue, $17.5 billion, to his $37.5 billion when determining the additional revenue to delivered by a ‘proper’ GST of 15%. Shouldn’t it be $55 billion? Revenue forecasting can be a tricky business!