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Archive for September, 2009

Corporate porkers are easily identified during company financial reporting season, which unveils excessive executive salary packages. Despite the GFC and southward-heading company profits, their greed and hubris remain in tact.

pigsmoorea Ex Qantas CEO Geoff Dixon is certainly no exception, with total $10.7m for 5 months in the job and 3 months as consultant last financial year. New CEO Alan Joyce’s total package is $3.7m. Dicko’s was 10% of company profits: details of his obscene windfall & below average performance.

BHP Billiton Chief Executive Marius Kloppers was almost modest in comparison, total pay package $12m, up 51%. Shareholder returns were down 35% but deferred performance shares and long term rewards helped Klops break that simple nexus. At least he worked the whole year.

Commonwealth Bank boss Ralph Norris languished with a $9.2m package, despite a drop in profits and pressure for bank executive salary restraint following GFC. Using Federal government deposit & wholesale funding guarantees to gobble up Bank West, and navigate the Storm Financial scandal, show how complex modern banking gets and high pay is merited.

APRA is studying pay practices at financial institutions, to discourage over-risky behaviour, and the Productivity Commission is looking into executive pay in Australia at the behest of the Federal government, which promised to ‘ensure regulation of executive pay keeps pace with community expectations’.

Pigs might fly too, if their tummies weren’t so stuffed full!

John Ralston Saul, author of ‘Voltaire’s Bastards’, in his critique of the managerial class reminds us that they’re not capitalists creatively risking their own money to produce real output, but rather employee bureaucrats playing the system for their own enrichment. More on Saul another time, but he’s compulsory reading for all MBA aspirants.

pigsleep

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The Rudd government cannot be trusted nor taken seriously on climate change policy. As Kevin struts the UN stage lecturing others about the severity of the challenge and need for action in Copenhagen, his half-baked Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme proposal for Australia awaits input from the other side of conservative politics. The media concentrate on whether it will trigger an early election, not whether it’s right or wrong. Nationals remain climate change sceptics and threaten Coalition split. Traumatised by this pincer movement Malcolm Turnbull says wait and see what the rest of the world will do first. That’s leadership and policy principles for you!

Australia is now highest global per capita carbon emissions polluter. Coal exports are set to double as new mines and coal loaders ramp up. Ditto LNG exports. Unproven carbon capture and storage technology is touted as a pollution solution. Gross energy feed-in tariffs, proven to encourage solar power investment in Germany and elsewhere, remain too-hard. Rail lines close. Etc.

Against this background the CPRS proposal mandates a mere 5% carbon pollution reduction and upper limit of 25% if other countries agree. Heavy polluters will receive $16 billion government handouts, and export industry exemptions mean business as usual. The Greens call it Continue Polluting Regardless Scheme. Simple test of these complex proposals is whether they reduce carbon pollution.

If Rudd and Wong were serious about substantially reducing Australia’s carbon footprint they would negotiate with The Greens and independent senators to introduce a real, binding, comprehensive scheme. Current CPRS proposals must be strengthened if they pass, or risk entrenching inadequate action, as political heat dissipates and punters’ attention moves on.

Jobs will not disappear under a proper scheme, contrary to energy industry scaremongering. ‘Green’ jobs will be created en masse. From 1998 to 2008 the oil price went from $US20 to $US130 and did not lead to massive job losses, and when it dropped back to $US40 in a year there was no boom. Our economy clearly has the capacity to absorb necessary adjustments in energy prices.

An eloquent statement of a brave new world from Caroline Lucas (Greens UK): ‘Transition to a post-carbon world doesn’t have to be about sacrifice. It’s about jobs, it’s about a more equal society, and it’s about a way of life with the potential to be more fulfilling than the turo-charged consumerism which is peddled by politicians today’. Amen.

Check here for an inspiring rendition of an old Australian youth hymn favourite.

Global CPR may help treat planetary cardiac arrest & drowning. Mmm!

mine Iron Knob

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President Obama has decided to scrap plans for a US missile defence shield system in Eastern Europe. Proposed by the Bush government as a land version of Reagan’s space-based ‘star wars’ scheme, they planned 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and radar in Czechoslovakia. NATO had already been expanded to include these two former Warsaw Pact members.

None of this of course had anything to do with surrounding Russia with potentially hostile weaponery and US allies, but strangely President Putin found Bush’s scheme very provocative in a supposedly post Cold War environment. Use of the term ‘defence shield’ did not reassure him.

No, it was aimed at protecting the U.S. and allies from long-range missile attacks from Iran or elsewhere in the Middle East! Basic geography suggests a Persian missile would have to fly across Turkey, Western Europe, Mediterranean and Atlantic Ocean before sighting Manhattan. Apparently the defence shield was best located next to Russia rather than in any of these locations, including aircraft carriers or nuclear submarines.

Clearly Putin was just excessively paranoid and those inclusive Americans were worried about European allies being struck by hardline Islamist rockets. Israelis are a tad closer to Iran than everybody else, but are not worried. Defence Minister Barak sees no existential threat to Israel from Iran or any other country.  

Diplomatic pundits reckon that Obama’s decision clears the way to get Russia’s help with putting more pressure on Iran’s nuclear weapons plans, and also upcoming talks on international nuclear disarmament. 

Geo-politics and strategy is sometimes a mesmerising business, but at least in this case, hope springs eternal for common sense to prevail. See START.

Fog outback WA2

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Co-star of 1976 classic children’s film ‘Storm Boy’, Mr Percival has passed away at Adelaide Zoo, at the ripe old age of 33 years. Adapted from a book by Colin Thiele, the story is about Mike, growing up on the wild Coorong coast in SA and raising three orphan pelican chicks. Eventually two return to the wild, but Mr P stays with his friend. It won 1977 AFI Best Film Award.

Despite his star status Mr Percival had lived modestly at the zoo since 1989, taking the name ‘Gringo’ to avoid groupies and fit in with his pelican companions, sharing their feeding routines. In recent years news of the decline of pelican populations in the Coorong, due to severe salinity in this Murray River estuary, may have depressed him. Otherwise he passed away peacefully.

Mr Percival survived Thiele’s death by three years, and is himself survived by his partner Alto and their seven children, the last born last year. Vale a movie legend, who truly incarnated the Dixon Lanier Merritt poem:

A wonderful bird is the pelican,
His bill will hold more than his belican.
He can take in his beak
Food enough for a week,
But I’m damned if I see how the helican.

pelicansx3

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Political party preselection would not normally remain on KC political correspondent’s radar, but the rush for ex Liberal leader Brendan Nelson’s vacating seat of Bradfield on Sydney’s north shore entertains momentarily.

Safest Liberal Party seat in NSW, with a margin of 13.5%, its a prize for any politically conservative wannabes. Ex Howard chief of staff, Nelson acolytes, sundry lobbyists & lawyers make an unsurprising list of carpetbaggers, but there is a stand-out candidate with real intellectual clout.

Ex tennis champ & commentator John Alexander recently joined the party, attended his first branch meeting and is enthusiastic about standing. A strong advocate for preventive health, he believes the decline of public tennis courts is contributing to childhood obesity & health problems (SMH Aug 28). With that range & depth of policy ideas, he’s a shoo-in.

The Labor Party is so impressed that it may not be running a candidate at all. The Greens will go hard though and keep the bastards honest.

The seat is named after John Bradfield, celebrated engineer of the Harbour Bridge. In later life he advocated damming Queensland coastal rivers to divert water to inland Australia by tunnels under the Great Dividing Range. Construction of public tennis courts is a mere bagatelle.

London Bridge

Premier Jack Lang reckoned Bradfield wanted to be the Napoleon III of Sydney, with grandiose plans. Did France’s last monarch & first President also inspire our politicians? Maybe not Nelson, possibly Sartor, probably Keating….but I digress.

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‘The Cove’ is an impressive documentary film (showing in Sydney) about the annual slaughter in Japan of 23,000 dolphins and story of a lone crusade to stop it. Stupidity & greed are up against one man’s determination.

Ric O’Barry is the original dolphin trainer for TV series ‘Flipper’, which put dolphins in our lounge rooms. Marinelands opened around the world to show performing dolphins and became big business. Ric eventually realised the cruelty of captivity for these nomadic animals and set out to make amends for his key role in their commercialisation by releasing them into the wild.

In a small cove in the Japanese fishing town of Taiji he uncovers the cruel catch of wild dolphins to supply world needs. Selected live dolphins fetch up to US$150,000 each; the rest are brutally slaughtered for their meat (despite high mercury levels!). The film details connivance by local & government officials in this trade, including media blackouts; Orwellian propaganda by Japan at the International Whaling Commission and bribery of Caribbean countries as supporters. Dolphins are also cetaceans but ignored in negotiations.

In 2008 Ric went to Taiji with a team determined to film the sorry business with secret cameras. The mission story is cut with interviews about dolphin society, biology and intelligence, movingly and frankly explained by members of Oceanic Preservation Society and others. Our tendency to anthropomorphise them is dangerously ignorant, for example thinking that dolphins enjoy something because of their fixed smiles!

The film has world-wide distribution (outside Japan), winning awards, and now making an impact in Japan, where public awareness of the slaughter was zero. Last week Ric returned to Taiji for the start of the dolphin catching & killing season, with local TV cameras present for the first time. So far, under its first public scrutiny, hunting has been suspended, reports O’Barry.

‘The Cove’ is simply and beautifully related, with haunting and uplifting images & sound track. For more background on the film, organisation and trailer, check out: www.savejapandolphins.org

dolphinsmile

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