Conscription: it makes a difference

It was not only the Israeli corporate bond market that bowled over former Australian Securities and Investments Commission deputy chairman Jeremy Cooper on a recent trade mission to the Jewish state.

It was not only the Israeli corporate bond market that bowled over former Australian Securities and Investments Commission deputy chairman Jeremy Cooper on a recent trade mission to the Jewish state.

After already banging on about the Israeli "X-factor" in a newspaper column last month, Cooper was still trying to articulate yesterday why Israel was such a success story.

Was it largely the result of compulsory national service?

"Perhaps a big reason for this X-factor is how Israel prepares its young people for the challenges of life," Cooper told an Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce function yesterday. "The answer is compulsory service for everybody over 18 ... it makes a big difference.

"By the age of 25, the average Israeli has worked in a close-knit team in very demanding environments, made decisions that have had real consequences and have been required to solve complicated problems in a short space of time," Cooper said about the benefits of donning khaki and carrying an assault rifle for one's country. "What this translates into is a propensity to carry out technical innovation."

Thank heavens Cooper, who now has a job with Challenger, made his trip to Israel after completing his review of Australia's superannuation system in 2010. Compulsory super contributions could have been extended into more controversial areas.

JOYCE IN BRIEF

The Qantas chief executive, Alan Joyce, probably had a good excuse for not posing in a pair of undies in a Beijing hotel room this week.

After all, he's had a slumping share price to prop up and renewed talk that a private-equity consortium led by his predecessor and "mentor", Geoff Dixon, might want to buy out the struggling airline.

Joyce passed on his opportunity to exhibit his physique at a farewell bash for Air New Zealand's outgoing and fitness-fanatic chief executive, Rob Fyfe, which was held on the sidelines of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) annual general meeting.

Fyfe, who once starred naked (in body paint) in one of his airline's advertisements and in another wearing disco gear, had undies handed out to the chief executives who attended the party at the China World Hotel.

"I was one of those guys who was supposed to show his underpants," Joyce confirmed.

CBD was unable to find out whether any guests, including Cathay Pacific's John Slosar or International Airline Group's Willie Walsh, took some of their clothes off.

The Australian boss of Etihad Airways, James Hogan, would only confirm afterwards that he still had a pair of the Air New Zealand-sponsored undies in his hotel room.

Wearing undies could have been a bad look for the Irish-born Qantas boss anyway, given he was appointed the chairman of IATA yesterday. He is the third Qantas chief executive to serve as the chairman of the air transport body.

It would have also been a bad look for the Qantas boss to lose his shirt after what has happened to the airline's share price in recent days.

Joyce might need a Popemobile or at least some minders at next year's 69th IATA annual meeting in Cape Town. He had to bulldoze his way through a mad pack of journalists at a press briefing yesterday.

TIGER TENSION

The Balmain Tigers legend and Chameleon Mining chairman, Benny Elias, might want to avoid sipping a cafe latte across the road from Rozelle Markets this Saturday.

That is where residents opposed to his plans to transform the Tigers' Rugby League Club into a $310 million high-rise complex on Victoria Road will hold a last ditch rally to vent their views before the NSW government decides on whether the development can go ahead.

But one inner-westie who has struck himself off the list of potential protesters is the Labor powerbroker and Australian Workers Union national secretary Paul Howes.

Howes, who lives in Leichhardt, has tried to get the two Labor councillors who serve at Leichhardt council, Darcy Byrne and Lyndal Howison, to see the merit in the project.

"Whenever I am travelling down Balmain Road to the west of Victoria Street [sic], I am struck by how sadly underdeveloped the area is," Howes said in a recent letter to the councillors. "It is desperately crying out for a project of this calibre to revitalise it. If we fail in this endeavour, the valuable heritage of the Balmain Tigers, their rightful home and our community will be tarnished forever."

But Howes does not seem to have the same sway in Leichhardt as he does in the federal Labor party.

Byrne last week helped co-found Tigers Against the Towers, a group of Tigers supporters against the development.

BIG BACKERS

The former Hawke Labor government minister John Brown has also become a strong supporter of the project. Apart from appearing in a YouTube clip with the former Noiseworks lead singer Jon Stevens, former Socceroo Mark Bosnich and cricketer Stuart MacGill in support of the development, Brown has also written to the Premier, Barry O'Farrell.

"I do hope the clamour of the critics can be overcome by a government which has shown thus far the courage that its predecessor lacked," said the Tourism and Transport Forum founder's letter about the "desperately needed facility".

Bosnich, for his part, has offered an insight into his philosophical attitude to life and high-rise developments. "The world is about change. It's the only constant thing that happens in life apart from paying your taxes," he said in the YouTube clip supporting the development.

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