Richard McGuire writes: Memo to Christian Kerr and other free market zealots at Crikey. If you are going to lambaste Kevin Rudd, for daring to suggest, that government intervention, in the form of an industry policy is needed, lest our nation become nothing more than a giant quarry, at least be consistent. If “The Market” is all wise and knowing. If the law of the jungle is to apply. The same approach must also apply to government intervention, pertaining to media ownership and diversity. Why should anyone care if Murdoch or Packer takes over Fairfax? Or are journalists a protected species? The disciples of Milton Friedman can’t have it both ways.

David Havyatt writes: It is interesting to recall that Fairfax sold Murdoch the Daily Mirror in Sydney in the 60s because “Rags” Henderson was convinced it would send Rupert broke. Fairfax retained ownership of the Sun. In none of the markets where News had to offload titles after the acquisition of the Herald and Weekly Times group did the paper survive — so in an acquisition game there probably wouldn’t be many buyers for the Tele and the Herald Sun. So Murdoch’s best strategy is to turn them into afternoon papers again — and then later close them. However, in the logic that says the ACCC could stop deals because of content concentration across platforms, the ownership of all Australia’s newspapers by one group would not be lessening competition.

Cathy Bannister writes: Re. “Canberra’s beautiful people” (yesterday, item 4). I’m always interested in what ANU’s maverick economist Andrew Leigh has to say, and today’s announcement of the correlation of politicians’ attractiveness with their electoral success was fascinating and not altogether surprising. However, there is just one little problem: namely, the number of people asked to rate the politicians’ beauty. As one with a smattering of knowledge about social research, I’m a little concerned Dr Leigh feels confident to go public with a study that has a sample size of four. It doesn’t matter how representative of the electorate he and Amy King have judged those four to be, it’s just not enough for a rigorous result. The results should therefore be treated with some suspicion.

John Parkes writes: Re. “How not to deal with a rogue commander” (yesterday, item 10). Charles Richardson seems to criticise the Prime Minister for not interfering n Fiji’s problems in a military way. An invasion he wants? I don’t often agree with this Government but this time I think they got it right. Maybe they have learnt from Iraq. All sorts of stories eventually leaked out abut our “invasion” of East Timor and how it was under funded, under equipped, and had to be supported relatively discreetly by the US with serious logistics support. And that action was not opposed by the Indonesian or any serious armed force. Assuming no or little help from the US or Britain, who are bogged down elsewhere, the question needs to be asked whether in the face of well armed and well trained (well, we did train them well didn’t we?) Fijian soldiers and sailors are our armed forces capable of invading and defeating Fiji? I know it sounds like a stupid question but think about it: the Fijian army may be small but it is relatively professional, well armed, presumably well trained, and appears to have popular support amongst the people, or at least the native Fijians anyway. Fiji extends over large distances and many islands. Do we have the logistics to invade and hold this type of terrain in the face of concerted and dedicated opposition? Clearly we, and our super power allies can’t cope with guerilla type resistance in Iraq, so why should we think that Australia can cope with similar resistance in Fiji? Yes, I think the Government was correct this time.

David Mendelssohn writes: I don’t usually disagree with Charles Richardson but I do in his piece on the Fiji coup. I normally also would never seek to justify a coup but this one, while regrettable, was necessary. All previous coups or coup attempts in Fiji have been by racist elements in the indigenous Fijian population to overthrow democratically elected multi-racial governments. This one is to protect the interests of non-racist indigenous Fijians and Indo-Fijians against the racists who have been running Fiji since the fall of the Chaudry government. The Qarase government, amongst an array of measures to advantage indigenous Fijians at the expense of others, has been planning to amnesty George Speight and others involved in the 2000 coup attempt, people who sought to murder Bainimarama, without whom a semblance of democracy would not have been restored. Bainimarama is understandably extemely upset and angry at the failure to prosecute Speight and those behind him and lock them up for very long periods of time, instead of which Qarase was going to exempt them from any future possibility of receiving their just punishment. The unpalatable reality is that there can be no stable or long-term democracy in Fiji until the indigenous Fijian racist elements are decisively put down and to pretend otherwise is to condemn Fiji to a hollow facade of democracy, a la Malaysia.

NSW MLC Prof Jon Jenkins writes: Re. “Legal action on climate change — let the lawsuits begin” (yesterday, item 11). Our resident “world is going to end” McHugh gets it wrong again when he says: “There are two questions: first, can specific, damaging events reasonably be tied to human-induced climate change, and; second, can the proportion of total global emissions over which the respondent has control (in this case around 6%) be reasonably expected to significantly impact on such events?” There are actually three questions: Is climate change actually happening, if so has it caused any damage and are human emissions of CO2 the cause? On the first question the answer is probably yes, the overall global temp appears to have risen about 0.5C and the oceans about 10mm over the past century. As to the second the answer is probably no specifically referring to hurricane activity mentioned by McHugh the actual frequency of severe hurricanes is less now than it has been in the past: Only 4 “highest category” storms have occurred in the last 10 years! This is as expected as there have been 67 category 3+ storms in the 155 years since 1850, you would expect ~4.3/decade. Also of the 18 category 4 storms to hit the US since 1850 only one has hit in the last 30 years, which is actually less than probability predicts (at least three should have). This year not a single storm hit the US anywhere! What was that about more severe storms again? As to the final question: In the 2003/4 survey conducted of the world’s top 600 climatologists, Professor Dennis Bray of the German Institute for Coastal Research found the following: Less than 1 in 10 (9.67%) of the world’s top climatologists strongly agreed that the recent warming was caused by human activity. This is confirmed in the most recent survey of the scientific literature in 2005 by Prof. Benny Peiser of Liverpool’s John Moores University who analysed the same set of 1,000 documents [cited by Naomi Oreskes and Gore] — and concluded that: “only one-third backed the consensus view, while only 1% did so explicitly.” Sounds like an open and shut case to me!

Matt Hardin writes: I am not a relative (that I am aware of) but as someone who has had his name misspelled all his life could you please correct Ian McHugh’s spelling. It was Garrett Hardin who wrote the Tragedy of the Commons, not Harden.

Sarah Clarke writes: Couldn’t agree more with Greg Ponchard who yesterday compared Christian Kerr with a News Limited journo, suggesting he is “running scared that Labor can now actually win the next Federal election”. The volume of bile spewing forth from Christian this past week (with nine stories in four days and counting) says vastly more than any of the actual content of his rants. I guess it means he’s left the Greens alone for the time being. Take a breath, Christian. It’s getting boring.

Adam Schwab writes: Re. “Canberra spreads its legs for foreign investment, offers it tax free” (yesterday, item 22). Michael Pascoe makes a fair point with the latest “outrageous” changes which allows foreign companies to avoid paying capital gains tax. The move is roundly supported by business on the grounds that it will increase foreign investment and bring Australia more into line with other countries. The only thing ‘business’ neglects to mention is that Australia has a unique tax system, with our system of dividend imputation and relatively high CGT. As a result, our tax system is relatively neutral with regards to companies to how companies distribute retained profits (by contrast, the US, with its lower levels of CGT and lack of imputation discourages dividends). Many other economies, such as Germany, Belgium, Hong Kong, Singapore, Switzerland, Sweden (in the case of share sales), the UK (in the case of sales of shares in a trading company) and US have far lower or nil rates of CGT. Therefore, they don’t charge the full whack of CGT to anyone (local or foreign). By contrast, the new laws here exempt only a small class of investors (foreign companies) from CGT, creating an uneven playing field, and as Pascoe noted, giving further impetus to the private equity bubble (which is mainly conducted by foreign private equity firms). While there is absolutely nothing wrong with foreign investment, it isn’t so desirable that we should be literally paying for it in the form of lower consolidated revenue.

Stephen Bolton writes: Re. Milne v Mayne II. The only way we can finally rid ourselves of the banality that is the Milne-Mayne non-event is to have an all out rematch. Both men in blue body suits and red speedos in a no holds barred wrestling match in a kiddies wading pool filled with jelly (a repulsive mental image but one that would set the media world aquiver). A packet of migraine pills and two bottles of chardy should kick start proceedings and make the event a media spectacle of mammoth proportions. The winner gains bagging rights and the loser publicly pilloried for being a wet-behind-the-ears whinger.

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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