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Letters to the Editor

From time to time, a commentary on the world will bubble up inside of me to the extent that I'm forced to write a letter to my local, metropolitan, daily newspaper, The Age. This is where I blow of some steam. Feel like venting too? Add your own comment or visit my homepage.

Friday, October 31, 2003

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Problem Gamblers

I condemn Tattersalls' spirited deflection of responsibility for problem gambling (29/10). Clearly, Mr. Fischer sees it lies with the individual. And their family. Or society as a whole. Anyone but the gambling companies.

It's clear that no company would ever refuse a bet from a punter on welfare grounds: to do so may invite legal proceedings from punters (discrimination) and shareholders (failing to maximise investment). Also, they cannot help but market to problem gamblers, the underage and the vulnerable with their media and in-venue messages. These two facts render near-useless the "self-exclusion", warnings and advertising accord of which Mr. Fischer boasts.

This built-in lack of self-control means that it is not appropriate for private or public companies to own gambling. Other countries have nationalised gambling: why not us?

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

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Pokies Challenge - Give (Back) 'Til It Hurts

Tony Hay (20/10) feels sorry for Tattersalls executives for their burden of extracting wealth from the poor. To be fair, management is no doubt focused on extracting wealth from their richest customers - people much like themselves. At the very least, Tattersalls' Managing Director Duncan Fischer says he doesn't want money from problem gamblers (16/10). What does he mean? That if they could employ (for free) an army of bouncers with divine insight to exclude "problem gamblers" - they would? It's a nice sentiment to express publically, but ultimately hollow: we expect deeper thinking from our outcome-oriented business executives.

To give this statement teeth, Mr. Fischer should say "in an effort to stop taking millions of dollars from problem gamblers, we are willing to undertake measures that will, as a side effect, deny ourselves some revenue from our gamblers *without* a problem as well".

Inevitably, some people who cannot afford the fun of pokies are swept up in the promotional blitz. For the gambling industry to take responsibility for this, they will have to accept the frightening proposition that some non-problem gamblers will be similarly swept up in the reforms they must implement.

Perhaps we've misread that Tattersalls customer tracking scheme (14/10): was it actually a step towards responsible engagement with the community through identifying problem gambling and targeting messages appropriately? Maybe, but I doubt any gamblers received mail suggesting they take it easy for a couple of weeks.

Sunday, October 19, 2003

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Bush's Gift

Bush's comment about Australia as sheriff isn't a diplomatic gaff at all: it's a rugby-inspired free kick to Dr Mahathir as a retirement gift. His two foreign officials have set up the play, and we're all waiting for the PM to sink the boot.

Saturday, October 11, 2003

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Auf Wiedersehen, Cobber

We have yet another report from the egg-heads knocking our nation's tried and true business model of "digging it up or chopping it down and then selling it." ("Medical Research Brings Rich Returns, Says Report", The Age, 10/10). When will the brainiacs realise that, intellectually, we're not top-shelf and we should continue our focus on what really matters: sport. Modest and decreasing margins on selling bits of Australia overseas has made us - pound for pound - one of the world's great sporting nations. This "knowledge economy" fad is just a distraction.

Remember, these are the same boffins banging on about the "brain-drain". (Personally, once I've finished my PhD, well, let's just say Wednesday nights sees me down at the CAE learning German.) Don't worry about it! It's not like any brain-drain's going to hamper the international selectors' choices, is it?

Friday, October 10, 2003

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Medical Indemnity

The doctors' union needs to get some members to specialise in spin. The perception out there is that they get paid hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, for a guaranteed job, with the right to set and evaluate the standards of themselves and their colleagues, all while running a closed shop. Plus, they get to shift the costs of their mistakes onto the taxpaying public and grumble loudly about interference from outsiders like judges and juries.

At least government ministers have to run the gauntlet of an election before we grant them such privileges.