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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.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

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Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?

Street rallies, consumer boycotts, damning reports, politicians handing back money and talkback fury: the misbehaviour of James Hardie has deeply offended our community and a price will be extracted. But let's not forget the lesson from Rolah McCabe's struggle against tobacco giant BAT Australia. Corporate misbehaviour is proposed, developed, implemented and covered up by an army of external lawyers, accountants, consultants and media strategists. These people earn six figure salaries advising companies on how best to dud the rest of us, safe in the knowledge that their professional actions are entirely disconnected from how they are viewed by their friends, family and wider community. This schism allows unconscionable professional behaviour to go unchecked, free of any consequences in the private sphere.

So the next time you're organising a dinner party, remember that you can tell a lot about a person by the company they keep - and the company they work for.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

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A Very Private Choice

I welcome Dr. Kemp's clear exposition (13/11) of the obligation of goverments to ensure the affordability of the private alternative to public services. That's why I'm sure he will support my choice not to use the public sewer system and have my waste handled privately. The courier company says that my modest daily delivery to a certain Parliamentary office in Canberra will cost around $10,000 each year. I can trust Dr. Kemp to remain unswayed by the politics of envy and hand over a generous subsidy to ensure that this is a real choice for me. Further, support will not be means tested as I'm both paying taxes for sewerage services and relieving the pressure on the public system. So, without detracting from the fine work done in Werribee, Dr. Kemp will help me deliver my outcomes in Canberra.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

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New DFAT Warning

Despite the late inclusion of the presumption of innocence in the Guantanamo process, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer (7/9) wonders aloud that "you know, you have to ask yourself what these people were doing in places like Afghanistan and Pakistan at the time they were picked up."

Can we assume now that Iraq is a place like that? What other places are on his list? The Minister needs to direct DFAT to come up with a new category of travel advisory: "possibility that Australian citizens may be picked up by foreign powers, tortured, drugged, transported and detained without charge for three years on a legally dubious island before being subjected to an internationally condemned show-trial where the rules are made up on the fly".

They should call it the "Alex" warning (from the Greek "a" without and "lex" law). Sadly, there's no guarantee that political expediency won't stop the public receiving an Alex warning in time.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

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Blue-chip Donors

I appreciate Phil Dye's (4/9) sentiments: it would be great if the blue-chips kicked in a billion dollars. But, on reflection, it just doesn't make sense - economically or politically.

If 5% of company net profits are better spent on social services, why not increase the company tax rate by 5%? Surely governments are more efficient at allocating resources due to their expertise, experience and economies of scale? Not to mention, they're fairer and won't focus on things that just interest boards of directors. Plus if all companies contribute, you'd only have to raise it by 3% or 4%.

Sadly, the political reality is that the voters won't stand for a tax hike, even on the corporate rate, because many of them are shareholders (perhaps through their super funds). So why would these same people be happy for their dividends to be redirected to the Board's pet projects? Surely if the voters (comprising shareholders and people who benefit from social programs) can't agree to it, then there's no way shareholders by themselves will. And if a board tries to bully it through, they'll be replaced.

This suggestion is premised on two notions: firstly, that organisations that happen to be good at mining and retail are somehow imbued with the ability to out-perform governments in delivering social services; secondly, that investors will agree to a voluntary levy for the board's projects instead of paying it to the government as a tax, or making their own donation decisions.

While both may hold true for some people for a while, it doesn't make for a sustainable basis for funding important social programs.