Russell Edwards writes: I for one was pleased that The Australian made us aware of the damage inner-city postmodernists and progressives were wreaking in the Minnesota taxi industry. Who would have thought it? Full marks to Chris Mitchell for bringing this to our attention but regrettably, since I no longer buy his newspaper, I have to rely on Crikey to keep me informed of his latest satiric efforts (yesterday, item 14). For that editorial WAS satire – surely – as is much of The Australian these days. Especially its convoluted attempts to turn every single issue and story into an attack on its own readers. I often travel out of the terrain of those hated “inner city elites”, out in the far suburbs and the countryside. And whenever I try and buy The Australian, newsagents look at me with blank amazement. They never have any, nor do they ever need to. Surely by now “ordinary sensible” Australians outside the inner cities should be aware they have a champion! I may as well be asking for Pravda. And increasingly, that’s what The Australian has become. Outside of the Prime Minister’s office and their own lofty editorial cubicles, no one gives a toss about postmodernists, the ABC and Fairfax journalists. Or people who drink lattes and “chardonnay” (what?). Their fixation on this is tiresome and childish, and doing them no favours whatsoever. Who is reading The Australian if not the educated elite? At least that’s what they tell their advertisers. Encouraging senior writers and editorialists to snigger and indulge themselves like schoolboys is just plain old fashioned w-nking. I used to be a rusted-on Oz reader, but I am not alone in wandering off – the audited readership figures confirm that. I never thought it would happen, but The Australian is finally weaning me off a lifetime habit of daily newspapers. Maybe not totally, I’m too old and conservative (56) and will probably go on reading one til I die… But if The Australian doesn’t get a grip soon, its own demise may come first.

Richard McGuire writes: Yesterday Stephen Mayne (item 4), berated John Howard for stepping into the controversy over Telstra’s decision to remove pay phones from railway stations. To “long suffering shareholders” like Stephen Mayne, I say, be patient. Howard has to make those kind of noises to mollify those who cling to the quaint notion that Telstra will be there in the future to serve the public interest. Just like it did in days of yore, when it was a wholly publicly owned utility. When everyone was a shareholder. When dividends were paid to the government. When profits were reinvested in the network. When it reported to parliament. Crikey, at one time it employed close to one hundred thousand people. Thank goodness those days are over, eh. Be assured that in the very near future, Telstra will operate solely for the benefit of shareholders like you, Stephen. As for your comment, “If the government really wants Telstra to retain the current level of pay phones, it should directly fund this from the budget”, I suspect in the not-too-distant future, that rule will apply to a lot more services than just pay phones. I believe they refer to it as “privatising your profits” and “socialising your losses”.

Matt Hardin writes: While the number of unprofitable pay phones should be removed, and reducing the number of multiple phones at train stations is a good way to achieve this, this is not all that is happening. Two pay phones, one on each side of a ferry crossing at the University of Queensland, have been removed leaving no phones at either dock. The nearest phone to either of these is at least 500m away on one side and close to a kilometre on the other. The pay phone at the City Cat terminal is also slated for removal. This compromises safety for ferry passengers after hours. Not everyone has a mobile phone and mobiles are not always charged up and working. Telstra can talk about profits all they like but will they be negligent if someone is injured or attacked making their way to a more remote phone from where one had existed before?

John Parkes writes: There is a good case for the community being provided with essential services such as public communications, but why must Telstra carry the load alone? Is Optus technically incapable of installing a public telephone? Do such things only work properly if painted orange and blue? A better, and fairer solution would be for community standard services to be listed and all carriers made responsible for them on a proportional basis. The proportions would be based on the carrier’s own claims to market share as claimed in their Annual Reports. If nothing else that might encourage conservative reporting in the claims made in relation to market share. Thus if a carrier increased its share of the Australian market it would be forced to carry the cost of providing the less profitable essential services to Australia as well, rather than Telstra carrying the load for all.

Michael Vanderlaan writes: A couple of points to remember when comparing TV ratings of the Grand Finals (yesterday, item 15). On Saturday afternoon, as I walked through The Rocks in Sydney, every pub was packed to the rafters with AFL supporters, from both tribes and then some. Although a small sample size, I expect this was typical. Whether in the pub, or in the backyard… an afternoon GF warrants a gathering, a few beers, and a good time. Naturally, the viewers-per-box ratio would be uncharacteristically high… and the ratings lower, therefore. In Melbourne, on a Sunday night, one would expect more at-home-viewers, public holiday notwithstanding. It’s chalk and cheese. I don’t think the AFL marketers should be too worried.

Dick Stratford writes: Re. “The premiership Wayne Bennett will value most of all” (yesterday, item 21). Hard to concur with Jeff Wall that the Storm were beaten by a better side. The margin was slim. At least three Barry Crocker refereeing decisions cost the Storm dearly: a blatant shepherd that Blind Freddy would have seen (two points, surely); a non-strip (Slater away on the fly?); a disallowed try (6 points, surely). Weigh in the deflating effects of those decisions, vis a vis the elation that would have accrued from correct refereeing decisions, and we would have seen a different ending. Greg Hartley, come back mate. Pull on your boots. All is forgiven.

Paul Rantzau writes: Re. “Blimp attack, blimp attack! Ambush marketing takes to the skies” (yesterday, item 1). I guess if I was running the advertising account for a very badly performing US based multinational automotive company I’d be using measures as desperate as a blimp. The last blimp I remember in Melbourne was for Whitman’s Chocolates (remember them?) which I once watched crash into the South Melbourne housing commission buildings in Park Street one windy night.

Jim Birch writes: Peter Young (yesterday, item 1) must be living in a different Australia to me to claim that flying the Holden blimp over the “Toyota” Grand Final was un-Australian. Sorry mate, I’d have thought that was about as Australian as a burnt snag. If you want to be really “un-Australian” you’d hand ownership of the airspace over the ‘G to the rats at AFL House.

NSW MLC Jon Jenkins writes: Russell Dovey (yesterday, comments) exemplifies the very reason why scientists are so wary of becoming involved with the media on complex issues. For the benefit of Russell and other “your children are all going to boil in oil” doomsayers here are the two simple facts: 1) There is NO debate that climate change is happening, nor is there any debate that it has happened in the past or that it will again in the future! These are simple geological facts. 2) There is SIGNIFICANT debate about the PREDICTIONS of a particular type of computer model which predicts the cataclysmic scenarios. This debate arises for two main reasons: a) because the models being used for the computers are KNOWN to be flawed/incomplete and b) because the main proponents like Dr Jim Hansen REFUSE to release the source code for the computer models so other scientists can examine them in that hallowed process, that Russell seems to revere, called peer review! If Russell has a strong maths and physics background he can go to to see some of the world’s most eminent scientists discuss this very issue!

Bryan Farrell writes: A government dismissing science and its negative contribution to the environment sounds all too familiar to an American like myself. That’s why it’s surprising to learn that Australia is still debating the dangers of global warming, remaining firmly in George Bush’s back pocket, as the only other industrialised country to reject the Kyoto Protocol. I understand the argument of “What’s the point if America’s not going to do anything,” but is now really the time to be following our lead? The US has been wrong about so many things. We can barely separate our religion from state, so forget about science. Here’s the bottom line: Australia is the greatest per capita emitter of greenhouse gases in the industrialised world. Forget for a moment if you think Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth is more like an Inconvenient Hypothesis, and realise that Australia has a responsibility, not just to the people of the driest continent on earth, but to the rest of this precariously stable planet. Australians must rally their government to take responsibility for the environmentally destructive situation it has helped create. Don’t let America’s ignorance be the example to follow.

Mike Finley writes: Richard Farmer worries (yesterday, item 3) that if we torture our military captives by (shock-horror) not letting them have sufficient sleep, then any potential captor of Aussies is going to retaliate by doing even worse to our troops, which must sound rather unimaginable and extreme to a nice person such as Richard, safely ensconced in Oz. Somehow I doubt whether the terrorists in Iraq or Afghanistan are are too fussed by or aware of all this. Believe it or not, in this new type of asymmetrical warfare, Geneva Conventions are laughed at by the enemy, who will carry out any activity that suits them, regardless. When the Russians were in Afghanistan, the unwritten rule was to keep a spare bullet for use on yourself in case you looked to be in danger of being captured by the Pashtun men and passed into the hands of their knife wielding women. The least worry was being deprived of hard earned sleep. These circumstances may no longer apply, but I think we all have to become a bit more realistic and less sensitive new age metros-xual in our outlook! Methinks we philosophise too much – the ideal world doesn’t exist and certainly isn’t achievable by pandering to weaknesses disguised in the self-righteous mantle of selective ethics.

Terry Kidd writes: Chris Davies (yesterday, comments) raises a very good point. Why do we need more “enemies” and more force/stricter laws in response? His point about tackling issues via different approaches, especially illegal drugs, has merit. Why can’t drug use be government controlled? Why can’t the relevant drug of addiction be supplied to addicts at a controlled price from clinics where we can guarantee quality and size of dose? Why can’t treatment be supplied from those same clinics for those addicts who wish to discontinue use? Could we not combine this approach with very harsh and strict laws for blackmarket importers, suppliers and manufacturers? Is there not a true benefit for society in trying to take the profit out of the drug market? Would we not see fewer deaths, less crime and less cost to the health system? Is this idea, at the very least, worth exploring?

Joseph Palmer writes: As well as the recent fine tuning of IR laws to protect the rights of injured and sick workers, Kevin Andrews has also shed crocodile tears for the plight of Australian workers who are to be displaced by Amex’s plans to import Japanese call centre workers. Jackie Kelly and Pru Goward also want IR reforms changed to protect the rights of women and migrant workers. Isn’t all this against the true intentions and spirit of the new IR reforms?

James D. Catlin, Press Secretary for Conservation and Environment and Natural Resources Ministers under the Kennett Government 1994–1996: The ratio of PR flacks to journalists employed by Bracks is massive, and they deliver on the directive of his Ministers – multiple media announcements; dominate the media. The silence, then, on the Four Corners revelation that Victorian Forests policy was knowingly gifted to a single company for two terms and that policy remains in place should be deafening and will be because our newspapers couldn’t give a rat’s. Eight years of being asleep at the wheel. This is despite a Newspoll showing environment issues are the third most looked for subject by readers, the swelling numbers of new adults exposed to strong environmental ethics during their schooling and a vast army of (non “pot” smoking) middle class boomer activists who sustain long term low level campaigning to protect parts of Victoria from Amcor. Despite new electoral arrangements which could give the Greens the balance of power at the next election. Costello is right on the money: quiet complicit local media are letting state governments get away with anything they like.

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Peter Fray

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