Most people regard it as kind and entirely proper to gently put to sleep a much loved pet that is suffering a painful terminal illness.
On compassionate grounds, should not a much loved human being who has expressed a wish to die with dignity be entitled to the same consideration?
BLIND TRUSTS ARE NO SOLUTION
It is often suggested that Ministers of the Crown who hold shares should put these into a blind trust in order to eliminate conflicts of interest.
But would this really achieve anything meaningful? Nick Renton analyses this important question.
A Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities has been in force in the State of Victoria, Australia, since 2007-01-01. A worthwhile start, but does this legislation go far enough?
Subjects which are not covered but which ought to be include the following:
Conflict of interest and insider trading issues are of concern to investors.
Consider a financial institution that is acting as an adviser to a company that is planning to make a takeover offer for a target company. In that capacity it clearly has access to highly sensitive market information.
If that institution wishes to also act as a broker then it is expected to take steps to ensure that those of its staff as are working in the broking area are not able to become aware of such critical information until after it has been made public. This process is called "setting up a Chinese wall".
However, if the broking staff concerned are given a specific instruction from up high not to deal in shares of the target company for the time being, then that rather lets the cat out of the bag.
If, on the other hand, the staff are not given such an instruction and continue trading in the shares concerned either as principal or as agent, then the institution will be widely (and possibly unfairly) regarded by investors, regulators and the media as not having managed its Chinese walls properly.
The only practical solution to all this is for the Parliament to pass legislation prohibiting any institution from being both a corporate advisor and a broker at the same time. Those institutions that are already both would need to choose which of these two hats they wish to wear in the future.
Why did not the Australian government insist that David Hicks, one of its citizens, who has been imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay for five years without charge, be tried in the same way as Americans suspected of having committed crimes - by traditional courts in front of a civilian jury and on the United States mainland?
Furthermore, Australia should have pointed out forcefully that a country which keeps unconvicted persons in solitary confinement brands itself as uncivilised.
"David Jones Limited v The Australia Institute Ltd & Anor NSD 2490/2006
"As a shareholder in your company I support your right to conduct the advertising campaign that gave rise to this action in the Federal Court of Australia, but I feel that your action in mounting this case against the authors of legitimate criticism is totally misguided.
"1. In PR terms this action will be utterly counter-productive, merely drawing far more attention to this criticism than if you had just ignored it. Have you learned nothing from McLibel ?
"2. Your attempt to suppress free speech will earn you much odium. You should concentrate on retailing and not devote resources to censorship activities.
"3. Your attempt to use the Trade Practices Act in a non-commercial context may well backfire. If costs are awarded against the company will the directors responsible for launching this foolish action reimburse the shareholders?"
Showing their utter contempt for the owners of the business who provide their remuneration the directors did not even give the author of this constructive criticism the courtesy of a reply.
A BIT OF HISTORY: WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN - THE PAINLESS RESCUE OF THE PYRAMID BUILDING SOCIETY
THE TELSTRA BOARD CONTROVERSY
The Commonwealth Government could very easily have avoided the recent controversy over its nomination of Geoffrey Cousins as an additional director to the Telstra board, against the wishes of the existing directors.
The Government could have abstained at the annual general meeting on 2006-11-14 and let the election be decided democratically by the minority shareholders.
Not using its 52 per cent voting power on this issue would have fitted in with the T3 sale rationale that regulators should not also be players.
Using its voting power in this way shortly before it quit the register was particularly reprehensible.
At the AGM Mr Cousins received a mere 11.6 per cent of the votes from the shareholders other than the government.
In the light of this massive vote of no confidence, will he now do the honourable thing and resign?
To have short term interest rates set by the Reserve Bank of Australia at irregular intervals may have been useful in earlier times, but in this era of having a competitive environment as an economic goal it no longer makes sense.
Australians would be much better off if these rates were set by market forces - as already happens in the case of long term interest rates.
Another precedent is worth mentioning. Once upon a time it was thought necessary to have the exchange rate for the Australian dollar fixed by the authorities. This requirement was abolished in 1983, when the floating of the currency commenced. The roof did not fall in.
In any case, the assumption that monetary policy can fix the Australian economy on a "one size fits all" basis is a nonsense: the resource States are booming; the cities in the other States are pottering along; the rural sector is struggling in the drought; and so on.
HAS TELSTRA RIPPED OFF MILLIONS OF ITS CUSTOMERS?
The recent experience of one Telstra subscriber suggests that this big Australian telephone company may have unfairly penalised its most loyal customers by millions of dollars, as a result of one of its own mistakes.
Telstra experienced a computer glitch in its telephone billing system in February 2006.
It then wrote to its customers that, because of this, the time for the payment of the affected amounts was being extended by three weeks.
In the case of customers who had entrusted Telstra with authority to initiate direct debits to their nominated bank accounts this meant that the automatic debits would be made by Telstra on the new due date.
Notwithstanding this arrangement, it seems that the affected customers were then each hit with a $5 late payment fine on their current bills.
To make matters worse, the reason for this fine was not even explained on the bill, just being labelled "Telstra other charges".
Such an entry would probably not be noticed by most subscribers. Apparently only those who did notice and who complained about it had anything done about it. They were given a refund, but no apology or compensation.
Five dollars per telephone line does not sound very much, but with Telstra's large customer base it would add up to an unjust enrichment of many millions of dollars.
WHAT ALL THE FUSS IS ABOUT: THE ACTUAL DANISH CARTOONS
Which is the more obnoxious - the publication in a minor newspaper of a few rather boring cartoons or the attempts by Muslims to impose their narrow views on the rest of the world through violence and boycotts?
The extremists are calling for the assassination of the cartoonists. But nobody in the West seems to be calling even for the jailing of the arsonists responsible for the destruction of several European consulates in Middle East countries.
SOME UNSOLICITED ADVICE TO THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT
I am not evading tax in any way, shape or form. Of course, I am minimising my tax. Anybody in this country who does not minimise his tax wants his head read. I can tell you as a Government that you are not spending it so well that we should be donating extra.
- Kerry Packer, who died on 2005-12-26, when addressing the Parliamentary Inquiry into the Australian print media in November 1991 (as quoted in Income Tax and Investment)
AGENDA FOR TAX REFORM
Contrary to popular belief, "reform" does not mean less total tax. It means the collection of any desired amount of revenue by means which satisfy a number of criteria - such as equity between taxpayers in similar positions, low costs of collection on the part of both governments and taxpayers, and certainty in regard to the rules.
The system should also have regard to the ability of citizens to pay. Furthermore, taxes should not inhibit economic growth or foster inflation.
Some Provocative Suggestions.����
GOVERNMENTS' LACK OF COMPASSION TO ACCIDENT VICTIMS
When is a change a reform?
Justice Susan Crennan is now a member of the High Court of Australia. An earlier address by her may be of interest.
AMUSING STORY WINS ACCLAIM
It is hard to fathom the logic of those who are opposed to tax deductibility for compensation payments to James Hardie's asbestos victims, in accordance with established principles elsewhere.
As tax was paid on the profits created by these workers it seems perfectly moral to regard the compensation payments as a legitimate expense in the earning of assessable income.
The Australian Government has expressed concern about the unfunded liability of public service pensions. This is fair enough, but what about the much larger unfunded liability of the social security age pension system?
All dates on this site use the unambiguous YYYY-MM-DD format - see the discussion on that page. This modern format is strongly recommended for general use.
LETTING STUPIDITY GET IN THE WAY OF GOOD PUBLIC RELATIONS
GODADDY.COM and CAN-SPAM
Congratulations to godaddy.com for forwarding 30,000 spam messages to a single address. Is this a record?
The scum running this American ISP persist in continuing this illegal activity despite numerous protests.
This also demonstrates that the US government's CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 is completely useless.
Microsoft's bias against non-US residents (as demonstrated in a recent promotion) is just another way for the company to lose goodwill.
THE ART OF WRITING
FAIRFAX MEDIA LIMITED
It is astonishing that the subscriptions department of The Age, a major publication of Fairfax Media Limited, does not have an e-mail address. This antediluvian situation creates a very poor image for a company that wishes to portray itself as a modern e-commerce organisation.
THE AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER'S SALARY
Why not base the Australian Prime Minister's salary on the executive remuneration packages used in the private sector?
For example, the yardstick could be the highest package paid by any company listed on the ASX, plus a 10 per cent margin.
BABCOCK & BROWN'S NOVEL APPROACH TO e-MAIL
Babcock & Brown Limited has found a marvellous new way to deal with business e-mail.
The company waits six months and then e-mails an impertinent reply, saying simply that the original message was deleted without having been read!
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