David Marr, former Media Watch presenter, writes: There’s one point I have to make regarding Mark Scott’s comments about Media Watch (yesterday, item 15): Fairfax, Nine, Seven, SBS and the ABC itself have been able to live with the attentions of Media Watch over the years. But not News Ltd. The ceaseless campaign against Media Watch is driven by the one news organisation in this country that just can’t take criticism: News. So they work to crush the only show on television that from time to time calls News Ltd to account. And they have the gall to call this the pursuit of diversity.

Gareth Darlow writes: Governments of all persuasions whinge about the ABC’s “bias” which seems to consist of spending more time criticising them than their oppositions. But the basic fact is that the government is in power, and its actions have more consequence than the opposition’s. Surely then it’s in the public interest to spend more time making the government accountable and testing their policies and ideologies, particularly when there’s no election in the offing?

Rudi Michelson writes: “Albrechtsen gets what she wants: Media Watch under scrutiny” (yesterday, item 15). Margaret Simons is conquering new frontiers of the ponderous in her self-indulgent piece about ABC bias. Only the persistent reach her most specific statement: “ABC institutional bias… is the colourless, odourless gas apparent only to a few. Despite numerous past attempts to find it, nobody has ever managed to prove that it is there. So how can its reduction be measured?” With all that gas in the air I wonder if Margaret noticed that Phillip Adams, self confessed Howard hater, is the dominant person on Radio National, ex-Whitlam staffer Kerry O’Brien is the dominant person on ABC TV. That all Media Watch hosts have been lefties of either the snide or preaching varieties: Stuart Littlemore, Richard Ackland, Paul Barry, David Marr, Liz Jackson and Monica Attard. Don’t mention George Bush in front of Margaret Pomeranz or David Stratton on At The Movies but Outfoxed or the latest Mike Moore film gets four or five stars. Four Corners is an anti-corporate dogma factory. Most honest of all was Dave Hughes on The Glass House on 9 July 2004, leading up to the previous federal election: “I’m a big fan of Mark Latham. Look I, basically, I don’t care who’s against John Howard, [even] if [it’s] Saddam Hussein, I’d vote for him basically.” If the ABC decides to become true to its claim of diversity, it would stop appointing same-olds. My challenge to Margaret is to name the right-wingers in any of the above programs or find the right wing version of the Dave Hughes quote.

Peter Haydock writes: It’s somewhat disingenuous to suggest Janet Albrechtsen’s dislike of Media Watch is due to its attitude towards her. Numerous mainstream as well as conservative viewers have been irritated by the program’s continued move towards the left and its selective handling of subjects to criticise. I think its treatment of Albrechtsen’s stories on the Lebanese pack rapes, as displayed in the profusion of emails that you presented, shows how good Media Watch can be when it chases a story. A pity then that it doesn’t display the same terrier-like efficiency when pursuing targets of the left (allegations of plagiarism by Alan Ramsey and Phillip Adams and the recent self-inflicted implosion by Terry Lane in the Sunday Age as well as his disgraceful mea culpa spring to mind.) Viewed in this light Janet Albrechtsen’s caution in her responses to Media Watch seems eminently sensible and her desire to see a change in the programme’s policies quite reasonable.

Jeremy Scrivener writes: The ABC is being set objectives it cannot achieve. Where is management going to find conservative content across all program types to redress the perceived bias? Criticism of the ABC comes mostly from warriors of The Right – with a few notable (and fair) exceptions (Crikey). The problem The Right has is that it is heavy on comment and opinion, and light on investigation and real journalism. And trying to find a conservative writing drama or, heaven forbid, comedy, is impossible. Of course The Left has its fair share of opinionated wordsmiths and hacks, but it also has a huge range of intelligent and dedicated writers in all disciplines and art forms. They dominate major cultural institutions not because they’re lefties, but because they’re bloody good at what they do. The ABC may find some good practitioners from The Right to satisfy its critics, but it’s going to have to indulge in some real Affirmative Action to fully balance the scales – and we know how much The Right loves Affirmative Action.

Mark Byrne writes: Who are these critics of the ABC that have so much influence? Polls reveal that 90% of Australians believe the ABC does a good job. Are we facing yet another situation were the interest of so few, but so powerful, will dominate our society? Are these critics the same people who worked to manufacture uncertainty and delay action to reduce global warming? Are they the same people who regularly fire up the hate machine of intolerance towards marginalised soft target groups in Australia? Are they the same people who seek to deny past wrongs of indigenous dispossession and attempt to rewrite history to whitewash atrocities?

Jack Evans writes: I wonder if the guidelines to prevent bias in the ABC will include giving roughly equal time to political parties which have equal representation in the Federal parliament. Requests to address the massive imbalance of time allocated to the Greens (four senators) compared with the Democrats (four senators) have been ignored over the years. As a member of the Friends of the ABC I abhor the attacks on our national broadcaster but as a Democrat I do get frustrated over the number of friends the Greens have in the ABC.

John Berlin writes: How many other Australian families apart from the Packer dynasty can now truly claim to have had Federal legislation enacted for their direct financial benefit? That is in addition to the shameful Tasmanian ALP State Labor Government laws passed exclusively to also assist this – the richest family in Australia – in nefarious gaming controls. And then we, through the risible Howard and Downer, have the gall, the hide and duplicity to tell our South Pacific neighbours to rid their own countries of the overt stench of corruption. They are a long way behind us in the sling stakes and we have not even mentioned the Government-sanctioned AWB. Once again a good and honest man in the AFP Commissioner is made a laughingstock by the antics and lack of ethics of his political masters.

Martin Dix writes: After years of ducking and weaving like a demented cockroach, at last we know what Senator Steve Fielding and his Party stand for. It’s the “Packer Family First Party”.

Ebony Bennett, Media Adviser to Bob Brown, writes: My congratulations to Christian Kerr: his piece on climate change (yesterday, item 3) was great. The government has gone straight from “what climate change?” to “nuclear power is the answer to climate change” without batting an eyelid and no one has really asked what’s changed in the past month. Nuclear technology is dangerous, expensive and won’t be up and running in Australia for at least 10-20 years. It is certainly no solution to climate change. And for a man who has staked his reputation on security, going down the nuclear path seems an unnecessarily risky option for John Howard – no matter how effectively it splits Labor. North Korea is thinking about another nuclear test and we’re talking about ramping up exports of uranium. Madness. I am worried this government is going to hurriedly push through legislation that will saddle me, and everyone else in Australia, with 10,000 years of radioactive waste for the sake of 50 years of power. I look forward to more climate change coverage from Crikey.

Cathy Bannister writes: Thanks to Christian Kerr for his observations on Ian Macfarlane’s changing perspective. It’s hard not to suppose that the new policy could be entirely cynical, adopted to push nuclear power and along with it the potentially hugely lucrative uranium export industry. It isn’t necessarily all bad though, because whatever the underlying motive, Macfarlane has at least admitted that climate change exists and needs addressing. Lobbyists should be able to find ways to use this significant concession: it will be a relief not to have to argue the absolute basics: to argue not whether to do something, but what to do.

Geophysicist Mark Duffett writes: Re. “Howard’s choice: nuclear energy, or global warming” (yesterday, item 14). I normally value Ian McHugh’s considered contributions on climate change, but in talking down nuclear power he strays outside his area of expertise, and it shows. Of all the arguments against nuclear power, uranium scarcity is surely the weakest. First he puts up a ridiculous straw man scenario: overnight substitution of all coal-fired power with nuclear power stations AND assuming existing technologies only (a clear warning that whatever follows will be worthless). The resulting estimates he cites (but does not attribute, following the venerable tradition of the Club of Rome) of less than a few decades remaining U supply, wildly underestimate the ability of the industry in which I (indirectly) work – mineral exploration – to discover new ore. Peak oil may be upon us within the decade, but we’ve still got a long, long way to go up on the U production curve – literally we’ve barely scratched the surface. Don’t take my word for it, though. For genuine authority on this subject, you need look no further than another submission to UMPNER, that of Geoscience Australia. From page 20 of their submission: “…it is our considered opinion that there will be adequate nuclear fuel resources to support steady growth of the nuclear power sector throughout the 21st century.” In the context of technological development (of the renewables that we undoubtedly also need), a hundred years is a lot of time to buy.

Rowen Cross writes: Re. “Drought relief payments: money well spent” (yesterday, item 6). If anything, Ben Fargher’s rebuttal to Clive Hamilton’s piece (yesterday, item 5) reinforces Hamilton’s point. Ben Fargher makes the case for drought relief by outlining the state-of-the-art measures farmers are using to combat drought. If all these measures are being put in place and we still have serious drought problems, doesn’t this suggest we should stop farming these marginal lands? Sounds to me like we’re flogging a dead horse.

Allan Lehepuu writes: It is nice to see that Clive Hamilton is such a dry, economically, in saying that drought relief only props up inefficient farmers. I’ll be interested to see if he holds the same opinion about government subsidies applied to energy producers that require support to compete in the market place.

Leo Vance writes: Re. “Iraq and the (belated) vindication of Mark Latham” (yesterday, item 12). Let me quote Iron Mark himself, from his Diaries, July 31 2004: “Steer clear of Iraq… the troops-out policy has not worked… electorate is polarised… 50% hate Howard’s policy and 50% hate mine”. Iron Mark himself has managed to admit he made a mistake, incredibly enough. But apparently Mr Richardson knows better. The proposition that because Kim Beazley can sell an Iraq withdrawal policy in late 2006, therefore Mark Latham was not harmed by such a policy in early 2004, is fundamentally illogical. Beazley simply cannot be made to look either anti-American or flakey, no matter how hard the PM tries.

Tamas Calderwood writes: Tony Sadgrove (yesterday, comments) points out that as early as the 60s and 70s the “radical-left” were lecturing everyone about the dangers of industrialisation, over-use of petrochemicals and the cutting down of forests. However, even a cursory evaluation of the environment will show that the free-market West was infinitely more successful at environmental management than Maoist China, the USSR and the other regimes for which the radical-left apologised prior to Communism’s decay into an evil and embarrassing relic.

Richard Vella, Information Office of Opus Dei in Australia, writes: Re. “Young Nats take a left-turn” (16 October, item 10). Mark Bahnisch’s conspiracy theories about the “NSW Young Libs” only tarnish the integrity of your worthy e-zine. When will people like Bahnisch wake up and realize that Opus Dei wants nothing to do with politics in NSW or anywhere else? Opus Dei is a spiritual organisation that is part of the Catholic Church. We provide faith education to individuals who want it. How they choose to live out their lives with this input is their responsibility. Rather than fuelling some Da Vinci Code-like controversy, I advise that you stick to the facts. Opus Dei is not a force in politics and has no intention of taking over any party.

Lisa Crago, Greens SA Campaign Manager, 2004 federal election writes: Wow, while Andrew Burke places his hand over his Green heart and gets all pious regarding preferences (yesterday, comments), he neglects to mention that the Greens’ longstanding policy of only preferencing like-minded parties, based on policy positions, appears to have been abolished. How else can he explain preferencing an ALP candidate over a Democrat candidate? How can he explain Mark Parnell (newly elected Green Member to the Legislative Council in South Australia) choosing to preference the religious ultra-conservative NO-DRUGS candidate above the environmental and social justice based HEMP Party? Have the Greens now replaced the interests of their constituents and supporters with political expediency? People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. If I were a Green, I would tuck my chin in and keep very quiet about preferences also. (I resigned from the Greens in 2005 after a failed attempt to expel me for questioning the actions of the ALP elected/rejected and Greens accepted MP Kris Hanna. I was talked into running for the HEMP Party (SA, 2006) in response to the Greens policy to reinstate penalties for personal cannabis use for adults and refusal to have a policy to farm industrial hemp for paper use.)

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