Paul Gilchrist writes: Re. Switkowski’s nuclear energy report. Ziggy “$3 billion Telstra write-down” Switkowski tells us that nuclear power will be economical, even though it is between 20% and 50% more expensive that energy from coal. Indeed, we are told that “nuclear industry would be cost-effective only if a price was put on carbon dioxide emissions, forcing up the cost of electricity produced from coal”. Ziggy tells us this is a good thing, in order to reduce production of greenhouse gases. But hang on a minute! This enthusiasm for nuclear power started on John Howard’s trip to India. At that time, and for months afterwards, he repeated his skepticism about global warming, and said that to suggest a “tax” on coal was to throw away Australia’s natural advantages. Now, a couple of weeks after John Howard’s and the Government’s road-to-nuclear conversion experience about global warming, it becomes the justification for going nuclear. Did Ziggy add that bit to his report only a couple of weeks ago? When Ziggy was CEO of Telstra, he could feel the way the Government wind was blowing and it seems he has lost none of this talent in his new job.

Keith Thomas writes: I’ll be looking for three things in the Switkowski report on nuclear energy. First, whether his estimate of its economic cost includes the public liability insurance premiums (or the payouts if there is a disaster) for the life of the reactor and the storage of its waste, or if this is to be another public subsidy. Secondly, what he says about decommissioning the reactors (something that has never been completed anywhere in the world). Thirdly, and most importantly, whether the report makes clear that our “nuclear energy debate” is really a smokescreen to hide the real agenda of Australia storing international nuclear waste here. Remember, the Prime Minister raised the nuclear question within hours of visiting George Bush earlier this year. And we know the US and the UK have no solution to the embarrassment of waste in their own countries.

Tony Barrell writes: How to explain John Howard’s eagerness to accept nuclear power (even before Ziggy’s report)? Because it is a silver bullet type fix – which means we can forget about changing our lifestyle and going all “green” and just carry on as usual. And, of course very large corporations will make a lot of money out of the nuclear industry, especially in the subsidised R&D and build phase. But when it comes to the end life of a nuclear power plant, everyone goes very quiet about the costs of decommissioning. Because a nuclear power plant doesn’t last forever, and is a very complex and dangerous thing to dismantle. Recently it was announced in the UK that it was going to cost £175 billion (pounds) to pull down old power plants in Britain. So far they’ve only demolished one in Japan – and it is taking more than a decade to do another. Who will pay? Dr Switkowski doesn’t answer that question. Why? Well, in the time honoured style of this government, he wasn’t asked. Doubtless the builders and operators are assuming our children will.

ACT MLA Steve Pratt writes: Re. “Is Steve Pratt the most litigious politician in Australia?” (20 November, item 9). It is preposterous that Crikey would identify me as “most litigious” when Crikey describes my track record as one action taken by my brother on my behalf in 1999 [when he defended me against a stupid, life threatening newspaper report while I was in a Yugoslavian military prison] and then seven years later Crikey says I have taken legal action over the Gary Kent email and against the City News and their reporter. Putting to one side the erroneous nature of that (Crikey) report this is not serial litigious behaviour. Crikey states that I have, “…announced that I am issuing defamation procedures against ACT liberal party president Gary Kent”. The fact is I have said I am taking “appropriate legal action” over the Kent email for the defamatory allegations in the email, primarily those which accuse me of investigating Richard Mulcahy’s affairs and the related so-called “muckraking”. The fact is I am also taking “appropriate legal action” against the City News and their reporter for City News’s treatment of the Kent email allegations as FACT, one example, “…Stefaniak should have shunted Pratt to the backbench immediately and permanently for his ego driven, cowardly muckraking of his own team”. In relation to the incorrect and misleading statement that one of the people I shared the email with was the leaker. It was not in my interest nor the interest of the five people defamed in the email, nor the two loyal staffers from whom advice was sought, to see that email leaked, given its outrageous defamatory character attacks on those of us named in the email. As for the Sunday Telegraph article. The sensationalist Crikey is naively out of touch with the harsh realities that exist in emergency aid operations inside war zones. I wasn’t supplying information about Iraqi forces – we never saw their forces where we helped the Kurdish people. The fact is I reported information about IRANIAN Revolutionary Guard forces who backed by local Hezbollah terrorists crossed the border into Iraq, creating new humanitarian crises and havoc, including killing my staff and sacking my refugee support warehouses. We wanted the UN to stop them. Yes, that did earn me a price on my head. I have been no more angry than any other Labor or Liberal MLA and if the one incident in 5 years that Crikey mentions is the best they can come up with then Crikey exaggerates and misleads. The incident mentioned by Crikey, by the way, occurred totally within the confidential confines of the Liberal Party corridors – this fact is borne out by a number of witnesses – but the incident was unnecessarily and rapidly reported to the media. If Crikey wants to have a bit of fun at my expense, well I guess that is the lot of a politician, but I say to Crikey: leave my brother out of it, get the facts right and mind who you work for.

Barbara Biggs, People Power Upper House candidate in the Northern Metro Region, writes: I read yesterday in Crikey about my involvement in a tram strike in the 1970s (item 15). This incident was also used to describe me on a blog yesterday as “the most obnoxious” candidate in the election. Well, it’s always good to be “the most” something I guess. The story of the tram strike is outlined chapter and verse in my autobiography, In Moral Danger. Obviously the writer didn’t bother reading anything about it. If he had, he’d have seen that the reason I didn’t join the union had nothing to do with politics. It was because a rep at the Brunswick tram depot where I worked heavied and threatened me. Hence, I didn’t like him and didn’t want to join his club. I didn’t have a political bone in my body or shred of interest about it back then. I’ve developed some because I care about kids getting a fair go, free from abuse and neglect. You go about your business caring about the working class. I’ll go about mine speaking for the most disenfranchised sector of our community. I was 21 when I caused that strike. I’m 50 in a week. If someone threatened me now, I probably still wouldn’t want to join his club. Would you?

Jim Hart writes: Re. “Hawke anoints Combet, ladies man and successor” (yesterday, item 8). I doubt that you really meant to say that Bob Hawke “left the crowd of 1,500 or so in doubt that he believed Mr Combet should follow further in his political footsteps.” But don’t worry, probably no one else noticed.

Mark Scott writes: 20 years ago I would agree with Drew Turner’s argument (yesterday, comments) that an extra hour of daylight means saving on electric lighting and subsequently fossil fuels. However, now that  it seems every second person in sub-tropical and tropical Australia has airconditioning, and every third household everywhere else, coming home to a house in the heat of the day to start cooking for the family means that our electricity bills are greater than ever before.

Rebecca Melkman, Foxtel’s Corporate Affairs Manager, writes: Re. Getting through to Foxtel ain’t easy (20 November, item 19). Getting through to Foxtel is easy for genuine access seekers. We encourage people who are sincerely interested in using our platform to contact us directly because Marcus Westbury’s tub-thumping about access to Foxtel is drowning the facts. In his latest effort to tar and feather Foxtel, Mr Westbury states that Foxtel access user TVN is owned by one of Foxtel’s owners PBL. It might suit Mr Westbury’s pre-judgement of the Foxtel access regime to draw this link. Too bad PBL does not, and never has, owned TVN. The detailed price terms of access to Foxtel are available to genuine access seekers on a commercial in confidence basis because the terms contain commercially sensitive information about the Foxtel business.

CORRECTION: Yesterday’s editorial described the Howard government’s media wealth redistribution “laws” to be (“officially known”) “as the Broadcasting Services Amendment (Media Ownership) Bill 2006 and the Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (Digital Television) Bill 2006”. But as at least one reader has reminded us, “Bills” are not “laws”. When passed by both houses of parliament and after royal assent has occurred – as is already the case with these bills – bills become law and are thereafter known as Acts.

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

Save 50% on a year of Crikey and The Atlantic.

The US election is in a little over a month. It seems that there’s a ridiculous twist in the story, almost every day.

Luckily for new Crikey subscribers, we’ve teamed up with one of America’s best publications, The Atlantic for the election race. Subscribe now to make sense of it all, and you’ll get a year of Crikey (usually $199) and a year’s digital subscription to The Atlantic (usually $70AUD), BOTH for just $129.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

JOIN NOW