Miranda Darling writes: Re. “Lingerie model becomes terrorist expert” (yesterday, item 5). It is all too often the case that when their ideas are lacking, critics go after the credibility of the person they disagree with. This is a lazy strategy. Unfortunately, once the attack has been made, it should be responded too. For the record, Katherine Wilson’s facts are inaccurate: there are only two Darlings on staff and the board; the third is an honorary fellow who was given the honorific, as have many others, for long term support of the CIS. He has had no other involvement. I remain unsure what my grandfather, who is involved in the arts, has to do with a debate on how terrorism is discussed in academic circles and the media — but I’ll let that through to the keeper. I am no less qualified to write on how the terrorism debate is played out than Ms Wilson is: “I’ve worked as… a barmaid, a cleaner, a camp cook and a waitress”, writes Ms Wilson. This does not disqualify her from journalism; it would not disqualify her from writing the “book-length piece of literary journalism” she aspires to one day completing. Neither should my brief career in fashion, nor the novel I wrote before I completed my undergraduate degree at Oxford, now disqualify me from doing my job. As she mentions, I have a Masters degree in Strategic Affairs, which covers topics such as terrorism, counterterrorism, weapons of mass destruction, religious violence, transnational security issues and other relevant material. My work on terrorism and related matters has appeared in The Australian, Sydney Morning Herald, Canberra Times, Quadrant magazine, the Jakarta Post, and other publications. I have also given various presentations on-theme in various forums throughout Australia. I list these merely to point out that it would be more helpful to the debate to attack the ideas rather than the person who comments on them. This course of action only discredits Ms Wilson and does not further the discussion. One useful thing may come from her displeasure however: sales of my novel may increase.

Mandi Wicks, General Manager of Vega 953, writes: Re. Glenn Dyer’s item — “Is Vega going to get Vaguer?” (22 September, item 20). As a journalist, I am sure you take great pride in reporting the facts. As such, I would like to clarify some of the points made in your article. 1) dmg has no plans to sell the vega radio licences in Sydney and Melbourne. This is simply not true. 2) dmg has no plans to “revamp the stations completely and continue with a different approach”. We have spent many months talking to Sydney radio listeners and we believe the “vega variety” concept has enormous potential. 3) The vega radio stations in Sydney and Melbourne have not been “revamped twice since launch”. We launched with a talk/music concept and then simplified this to a music and entertainment concept earlier this year. We have run 3 marketing campaigns since launch which is par for the course. Nova 969 (vega 95.3fm’s sister station) often runs up to four different marketing campaigns per year and other radio stations take the same approach. 4) You refer to the demographic identified by dmg as “boomers who want a bit of talk and music”. This was the initial concept and the vega stations moved away from this about six months ago. Both stations are now music and entertainment based and are not specifically targeted to “baby boomers”. 5) Lastly, you talk about Angela Catterns reportedly not being a “happy camper”. We do not believe this is true. We believe Angela is doing an outstanding job on the breakfast show with Tony and Rebecca. We believe the show is improving each week and provides a fantastic adult alternative on the FM dial. Have you had a chance to listen to it? Glenn, I would welcome any opportunity to show you around vega 95.3fm in Sydney and I’m sure my counterpart in Melbourne would do the same.

Nigel Paterson, Publisher/editor of the Cycle Torque Motorcycle Newspaper, writes: Re. “OMCGs: the real, lurking Australian terrorist threat” (29 September, item 1). Yet again the media has tarred all motorcyclists as troublemakers and threats to society, thanks to the actions of a few. Crikey recently published an article which claimed the threat to society posed by Bikie gangs was far greater than from terrorism. The article’s credibility is called into question, however, by the sweeping and obviously inaccurate assertions near the end which said the “rough diamond, that annual participant in the charity Toy Run, that ‘harmless’ character who is sticking a needle in your kid’s arm and supplying the truckie that wipes your mates’ family out on the highway. Also, increasingly, he’s your accountant or lawyer.” This is blatant nonsense. To imply any sort of significant proportion of the motorcycling public — and that’s who attends charity Toy Runs — have any involvement in organised crime is so ridiculous it casts into doubt the rest of the article. Motorcyclists are a diverse group of people. Many share a passion for two wheeled transport although increasingly the general public is seeing the benefits of motorcycles and especially scooters, which are selling in record numbers. Current new bike sales in Australia are running at close to 100,000 a year, comprising everything from children’s bikes through scooters to off-road competition machinery and on to farm ATVs, sports road bikes, cruisers and touring motorcycles. It only takes a glance at the variety of two-wheeled machinery available to realise the purchasers come from all walks of life. Toys Runs have been run for close to 30 years in many parts of Australia — Cycle Torque promoted 21 in the December 2005 issue. They attract many, many thousands of motorcyclists giving hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of donations to the needy around Christmas time. Is the author trying to say Bikie Gangs are involved in Toy Runs simply to make themselves look good to the public? I’m sure the Salvation Army and the other beneficiaries of the various Toy Runs around the country would not appreciate being linked to organised crime, even in this small way. If Crikey is going to publish opinion pieces it should put a name to them. If it is going to use anonymous sources the facts should be checked, and broad, sweeping statements with no basis in fact removed.

Neale Brumby, Publisher of HEAVY DUTY Magazine, writes: I’m 49 years old, ridden motorcycles all my life, and publish a Harley-Davidson magazine in Melbourne called HEAVY DUTY. I also have four kids and don’t force narcotics upon them, or supply them needles. To cut to the chase, because any more than a few minutes on this is a waste of my time, the second last para in your piece on OMCGs was a beat-up of the highest order. I have heard the “bad bikie” crap all my life but the OMCGs do not represent me, or any of my mates. Associating me with them p-sses me off and I would love to see you stand up at this years Toy Run and tell the participants that they are bikie terrorists. In summary, you’re ignorant of your subject matter. Nothing wrong with being ignorant except if you decide to display it in public.

Bernie Masters writes: At last, some rational debate on the plastic bag issue (yesterday, item 22). Here’s some more food for thought. The average free plastic bag handed out by a supermarket weighs 4 grams. If six billion such bags are used each year, the total weight equals 24,000 tonnes. Since the average Australian produces some 900kg of waste each year, 20 million of us produce a total of 18 million tonnes, of which plastic bags constitute just 0.13%. So why aren’t we focusing more on the 99.87% of waste that isn’t plastic bags? In contrast, the reusable bags which consumers now have to buy as replacements for the free bags weigh some 120 grams or 30 times more. In sustainability terms, you have to use them at least 30 times to make them better for the environment than the free bags. In my household, we reuse our free bags at least once, so that means heavy duty bags must be used at least 60 times if they are to be more environmentally friendly. Using them less frequently than this prior to disposal means that we’re adding more plastic to the waste stream than if we’d continued with the freebies! Just as important is the validity of the claim that plastic bags kill marine animals. Very little scientific research has actually been carried out on this topic, but available evidence suggests that most marine animals die from entanglement in “ghost nets” — abandoned or lost commercial fishing nets which continue to trap and kill fish and other marine life for decades. At most, plastic bags cause only a few percent to this tragic loss of turtles, birds and other marine animals. While I have no great sympathy for the National Association of Retail Grocers, it’s clear that the green lobby has high-jacked the plastic bag debate. On a scale of 1 to 10, the adverse environmental impact of free plastic bags is no more than 1, but it’s an emotive issue that the green lobby has used more to raise their profile than to genuinely protect the environment.

Gabriel McGrath writes: Re. Plastic bags. Michael Pascoe has stumbled onto something that’s puzzled me for ages. (and I’m a pretty pro-environment person). We used to get those “thin plastic bags” from the supermarket. And once we emptied them of groceries, we used them to hold our garbage. Now, we bring our own “big green environment bags” each time, but have to BUY garbage bags. Result: 1) The bags that hold our garbage are thicker. 2) I presume thicker “garbage” bags take longer to break down than thin “shopping” bags.(?) 3) Needless expenditure for us. 4) We look “trendy”. Perhaps an industrial chemist in the Crikey army could advise? (not about the “trendy” thing — about the “breaking down” thing).

Ravi writes: I am a squatter spending some time in Nova Scotia hence reading your posts with greater fondness. I saw the write-up by Michael Pascoe on plastic bags and then had a look at the published material. Both sides have misquoted and given their little spin but the evidence shows that plastic bags can potentially cause harm. When I say evidence I don’t just mean the 1987 study which as Ken Henrick says is on birds but other evidence too — there is lots of it (You may want to look at a 380-page EPA document to the US Congress). Plastics/plastic debris can cause harm by entanglement or ingestion. Fishing gear (post fishing!) is by the far the commonest plastic associated with entanglement but plastic bags and plastic pellets (apparently that is how plastic is transported) are the major potential cause of harm from ingestion to marine animals. It is actually very hard to systematically estimate harm from these products but combination of existing data and rational thinking suggests that harm is likely rather than unlikely. Then of course one has to consider whether this justifies stopping using plastic bags etc.

David Tiley writes: Re. “What’s wrong with Australia’s film industry?” (yesterday, item 17). Adam Schwab has a go at the Australian film industry because almost all the hits in the Channel 9 Great Aussie Movies list are old. Somehow he blames government funding for protecting filmmakers from the marketplace so we can go off and make pictures no-one wants to see, and claims that government funding has gone up in the last decade. In fact it hasn’t — particularly compared to the budgets of our competition. Most of the filmmakers who made these films got their breaks under the 10ba tax regime, which may have been a giant rort but did allow the industry to spend some money and take some risks. Nearly all of the films in the list had government money in them. The critics of government funding also tend to forget that the most obvious hits go to the marketplace rather than the government so the easy ones are cut out of the system; they also get a public subsidy through their tax breaks. Adam also valorises comedy — but by my count only five of the fifteen of our national favourites were comedies. I bet the investors in Lightning Jack, the pic that Hoges made after Crocodile Dundee aren’t too pleased with the wonders of the marketplace. One other point to ponder — of those twenty films, precisely one of the directors doesn’t work in Hollywood. No opportunities here.

A local filmmaker hoping to get film funding writes: Film-makers use taxpayers’ money to make films that the Australian public don’t particularly want to see. Yes. Ironic isn’t it? But not quite accurate. Actually film makers make films that they think are arty and worthy and will therefore will get funded because the feature film funding decision makers (generally-speaking ) frown on films that are deemed commercial. As a film-maker, If you have a commercial idea everyone knows you don’t stand a chance of getting public money. You have to go to the private sector for funding and that presents another problem. The current tax incentives are totally pathetic so who would invest in a film? What’s wrong with the film industry? Two things. Firstly — we don’t make enough films. Most of the films cited in your article that were made between 1975 and 1993 were made possible by a little thing called the 10ba tax ruling which enabled the private sector to write off sh-tloads of tax dollars if they invested in an Aussie film. The point is: you can only make really good films when you get to practise your craft and you can only do that by making lots of films. Secondly — the selection criteria for becoming a funding body project officer need to be overhauled. Look at the CVs of the current crop and you’ll see that the majority of people making decisions about feature film dramas come from a documentary background or have the right academic qualifications or have made the odd arthouse film that three people saw. It might help if most of them came from a drama background, and only a few of those were arthouse film-makers. Then, I suspect, we hungry, eager-to please film-makers would be churning out comedies and genre films by the bucket-load and we might see some entertaining ideas funded.

Warren Dinte writes: There are two issues relating to the changeover to digital television that have not been commented on as far as I am aware. Firstly, digital transmission is unwatchable in the storm season when lightning flashes pixilate the picture and causes a loud crackling noise through the sound system. It is the only time of the year that we choose to watch analogue TV. For the Government, it will mean thousands of households will hold it responsible for not having TV to watch on these occasions. Think Grand Final night — or serials — and you will get the picture (pun intended). Secondly, a couple of years ago the Government introduced a policy that provided assistance to local Governments to improve reception in their local areas where reception was poor. This was taken up by many Local Governments around Australia. The set-up is that the equipment received the analogue broadcast from the main transmission tower and re-broadcast it to the local area in analogue. What is going to happen to these when analogue transmissions are switched off at the main transmission towers, and are these re-transmitters going to be allowed to continue transmitting analogue signals or to they have to re-equip to provide a full digital service? If the latter, who is going to pay? Bizarrely, this subsidised service was commenced at a time when it was known that analogue transmissions were in their final years.

Doug Melville writes: Interesting to hear Senator Humphries suggesting yesterday that we should ban Political Donations and instead go to a tax-payer funded model. I was under the impression that with the Government’s free spending on (Non)-political advertising, plus the mammoth increase in electoral allowances, that we were effectively doing that anyway. Or perhaps what the Senator would like is the banning of Political Donations so that the advantage to incumbents was even greater. Self-interested… Moi?

Glen Frost writes: Re. The un-Australian debate. The term “un-Australian” is derived, or rather copied, from the USA, where in times past, members of the public (like actors) were dragged before committees to be denounced as un-American, and a threat to apple pie, corporate profit etc. Therefore, Australians who use the term “un-Australian” are actually copying the Americans; and sheep-like copying of other English speaking peoples is, as any true blue knows, un-Australian… or should I say, it’s not the Australian way. Although that sounds like a comment from the Editor of the QANTAS in-flight magazine or some toffee nosed pommie. This definition of “un-Australian” presents some big problems, and not just for creatively challenged politicians. For example, commercial TV in Australia has rather high levels of American content (approx 65% of ‘Stralian commercial prime time TV is foreign) – does this make Eddie McGuire un-Australian? If TV is the most powerful cultural medium (the internet being a close second of course!), perhaps Crikey should run a campaign to “name and shame” other un-Australian companies.

Keith Van Driel writes: Hear, hear, Michael Mullin (yesterday, comments). For years I have been wondering who on earth else the PM could be talking about than the inhabitants of this continent with his endless references to the “Australian people”, “Australian values” etc. Has he been imported, like Sol Trujillo, for the specific job of making the “Australian people” comfortable and shielding them from the dreadful goings-on overseas? It sounds so dreadfully childish, or does he see us as his children?

Allan Lehepuu writes: Whether Indonesia suffers the “Balkanisation” of its territory is not of great concern, the high risk of violence that would accompany such a break up would. Ben Oquist championing the cause of West Papua (yesterday, item 9) will have to do a lot of convincing as to why Australia should accept the risk to life and treasure to support such an upheaval. I note that the UN doesn’t support such a break-up. Maybe Ben should start his campaign in those hallowed halls on the bank of the Hudson River.

David Murtagh writes: Re. NGV and rogue curator reach secret settlement (yesterday, item 15). Hooray! Geoffrey Smith and the National Gallery of Victoria have reached agreement. Hopefully this means an end to the dull daily updates on a saga no-one but Stephen Feneley cares about.

John “Johnboy” Griffiths writes: Re. “Why politicians should stop spinning and learn to love the blog” (yesterday, item 11), specifically lauding Larvatus Prodeo’s influence with a high of 42 comments in a day: “Australia’s most established political blog (Larvatus Prodeo) frequently discussed the election campaign and received 42 comments on its busiest day during the election. As the popularity of sites like Larvatus Prodeo increases, a need to understand the potential power and influence of these blogs arises. Up until now, knowledge about the phenomenon has been fairly limited.” Frankly this paltry number proves that political blogs have bugger all influence. On my own site RiotACT, covering only issues surrounding Canberra more than 100 comments a day is not worthy of note.

David Schiller, a proud member of ‘Generation Y’, writes: Re the article which was written by Adele Horin and published in Saturday’s Sydney Morning Herald (Tuesday, item 8) with reference to a study that was commissioned on Generation Y. For the herald and the author to give so much coverage to a 61 page study of only 70 people, of which only eight were from Sydney (which is disproportionate relative to the Australian population) and say that these are “the results of fascinating research on the generation aged 15 to 24”, and try to imply that this study gives a reasonable background as to the attitudes of my generation is absurd. We “confuse globalisation with global warming” and university students are apparently “neither intellectuals nor contemplative”. This is far from the verdict Peter Sheahan reached in his 2005 book entitled “Generation Y – Thriving (and surviving) with Generation Y at work”, of which the introduction states his research was based on the attitudes of “tens of thousands” of people. Any in-depth reading of the actual report which can be found online here, and it would soon become apparent that this is not a comprehensive report at all, nor is it particularly well written. Such an example of this would be the use the word “battlers” to categorise certain individuals, and describing some people as “minimalist”, both odd terms to describe a person I would have thought. Perhaps the most gross inaccuracy, is the reference to university students as “neither intellectuals nor contemplative”. This comment is based on the attitudes of the following number of people:

1 from Adelaide
4 from Bathurst
3 (max) from Rockhampton
1 from Sydney
1 (max) from Warrnambool

Total number of current university students this comment is based on = 10 maximum.
Total number of current university students from Australian capital cities (where the majority of students reside) = 2.

I think these facts speak for themselves. They are not a reflection on the attributes of current university students in any way and to try and to portray as much is clearly grossly inaccurate.

CORRECTION: In yesterday’s story by Espen Skoland, “Why politicians should stop spinning and learn to love the blog”, the link to Skoland’s blog didn’t work. For those wanting to read or weigh in about political blogging, click here.

Send your comments, corrections, clarifications and c*ck-ups to [email protected]. Preference will be given to comments that are short and succinct: maximum length is 200 words (we reserve the right to edit comments for length). Please include your full name – we won’t publish comments anonymously unless there is a very good reason. 

Peter Fray

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