John Hayward writes: Re. “Peter Garrett: The man of the moment” (yesterday, item 4). If Christian Kerr knew a little more about conservation issues he might understand Bob Brown’s resentment of Peter Garrett. While the docile rocker is being used as a marketing ploy, the real Labor Party can be seen in Rudd’s Forestry spokesman, Tasmanian senator Kerry O’Brien. Like the incumbent Forestry Minister and fellow Tasmanian Eric Abetz, O’Brien has distinguished himself principally by barking at greenies from the back of the Gunns Ltd ute. Seeing Federal Labor, which wholly backs this incredibly wasteful, destructive and politically munificent outfit, receive any credit for good intentions is extremely frustrating for those who know the score.

Patrick O’Leary writes: Christian Kerr’s analysis of Peter Garrett and Labor vs Bob Brown and the Greens is missing something. Presumably the stronger the Greens’ first preference showing at elections, the more the Labor hard heads feel the need to develop policy with a green tinge and the more leverage Garrett gets influencing party directions. If the ALP backs expanded uranium mining next conference he and they will be in a political bind. He’ll have to perform a reversal on something that more than anything has defined his life as a public figure – his principled opposition to uranium mining and all that flows from it. He can only do so many of these reversals before severely diminishing his image as someone who can influence or even lead the policy debate – plus it will be a major distraction for Labor’s messaging on climate. If the Greens poll well up to the Labor conference it can only up the pressure for better environmental outcomes and give those who agree with Garrett more momentum. It would be a terrible look if the major story on the environment emerging from the conference was not about Labor’s leadership on climate change but rather how they are going to get big Pete to sell more uranium to the wavering Green voters they might want to win back – I don’t hear the marginal seats crying out for more uranium. This is, to some degree, why the Greens could have their cake and eat it too – the stronger they look like performing, the more both the major parties have to make concessions towards green policy issues. Without the Greens hanging around many of these issues would not even be on the radar in the first place. They mightn’t get to make the final decisions but their presence ensures the major parties can’t afford to ignore their issues come election time, especially should the Greens look like having balance of power in the Senate. Garrett’s job will be much easier under that scenario than if the Senate looks like sticking with the Coalition and Family first combo that was partly guaranteed by an ALP deal favouring FF over the Greens. I’d be interested to hear Pete’s views on that particular piece of Victorian preferencing.

Barry Farrell writes: Re. “John Howard’s polluter-stacked emissions taskforce” (yesterday, item 1). While I am not a subscriber, I do read your website and when I see statements such as this I start to wonder about the accuracy of the rest of your stories – “On the day when Labor put Peter Garrett in charge of climate change and the environment, John Howard announced a taskforce to establish an emissions trading system”. I might just point out to Stephen Mayne that John Howard did no such thing – John Howard established a taskforce to come up with their idea of how a global emissions trading system that allowed Australia to retain its competitive position might work. They are not to establish a system but merely to consider how such a system might work. Let’s get the facts correct.

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Carolyn Wood writes: Re. Mayne on Rudd (yesterday, item 9). Is the best that you can do on Kevin Rudd an incident that is four years old? Having a broad command of the English language, including the more colourful words, is hardly a sin – especially in politics.

Cameron Bray writes: Re: “The Ceausescu moment approaches” (yesterday, comments). Interesting times indeed if the polls point to an unpopular government with an aura of invincibility. My guess is that the combination of low poll ratings with a general expectation of victory is the most dangerous pass a government can be in. If voters think a long-entrenched government is bad, unpopular or just stale, fear of the unknown may keep them from chucking them out (like the “Frightback” election in 1993). But if the electorate also think the government is invulnerable they are more likely to give it a kicking as they think it is a “low risk” strategy. Worse, voters will be indifferent to whether the other side is fit to govern, which removes a lot of of traction from any government campaign and makes the opposition’s job easier – all they have to do is look fresh, not shoot themselves in the foot and manage to say clearly “we are not them”. If my memory serves, we last saw a general sentiment of “we hate the government but we think they will win” in the lead-up to the 1996 Federal election bloodbath and it went for the Kennett horror in 1999 as well.

Luke Prendergaast writes: On what research does Richard Farmer base his claim that “an overwhelming majority of Australians believe that the country made a great mistake when it allowed a major influx of Muslim migrants” (yesterday, item 10). Was there a poll I missed?

Danny O’Brien writes: Re. “Summing up the Victorian figures” (yesterday, item 14). I know you guys hate the Nats but you just can’t bring yourself to admitting the Victorian result for them was a cracker, can you? Charles Richardson says “it’s still a long way back” as their vote at 5.2% is still well shy of 1996 at 6.7%. As a psephologist, he would acknowledge that in 1996 the Nats in Coalition had no Liberal contest in any of their seats and as such some still had primary votes in the 70s so of course the statewide vote was higher. Regardless, this is the bottom line for Victorian Nats: 1996 – nine assembly seats. 2006 – nine assembly seats. How is it that they “still have a long way back”? I suspect if the vote rises again next time the comment will be “oh, but it’s still a long way back for the Nats – in 1955 they got blah blah blah…” Given that every commentator was predicting oblivion again (“If the Nats win Morwell I’ll eat my Crikey t-shirt”) I think a 1% statewide swing, two new seats (one they’ve never held before), about a 10% average increase in primary vote in incumbent seats and a probable say in the BOP in the Upper House deserve some credit – even begrudgingly.

Chris Colenso-Dunne writes: The principal reason Margaret Thatcher has continued to defend Pinochet to this day (yesterday, item 11) was not because of his violent overthrow in 1973 of Allende’s reformist socialist government nor even because of the tyrant’s early experiments with monetarism. Thatcher has had a soft spot for the phalangist pipsqueak primarily because Pinochet agreed to allow UK warships to use Chile’s ports during the 1982 Falklands campaign.

Michael Rogers writes: Re. “Pauline Hanson and the thing we don’t mention” (yesterday, item 10). Richard Farmer wishes people would stand up and say they are tired of anti-stem cell research speakers pushing their religious morality on everyone else. He goes on to suggest that the fact that such research involving the destruction of uniquely individual groups of stem cells may in the future lead to saving the lives of people suffering presently untreatable deadly diseases, is a reasonable justification for allowing such research. Let me state for the record that I do not believe in God. To me the facts are very clear: If no-one interfered with a particular group of these stem cells (ie the product of a sperm cell successfully meeting an egg cell and fertilising it) then they may, or may not develop into a human being with all the usual rights to life. Many things can go wrong, leading to the death of that group of cells any time before it develops sufficiently to be born as a baby. Exactly the same as the current position of everybody reading this – if they don’t die “today” of a heart attack, road accident, cancer etc, they will live a bit longer – that’s all. In other words, we all continue to have our chance at life, until there is some kind of intervention, whether it be accident, disease, or “natural” death. Intervention by a human agency, that results in the truncation of human life, is usually termed murder or manslaughter. A fertilised egg, a blastocyst, an embryo, a baby, a child, a teenager, an adult human, is a ball rolling down a slope. If the ball meets no obstruction, it continues rolling as long as there is a slope. At what point are we justified in placing an obstruction in the way of that fragile bundle of life? If Mr Farmer considers this justifiable, can he please point out the difference between this position and a hypothetical situation whereby healthy human individuals (baby, child or adult) are randomly selected from our population to be killed so their organs may be useful in saving the lives of some other person or persons? By the way, while I understand this research is supposed to be carried out using either “leftover” fertilised eggs from IVF programs or eggs specifically fertilised for the purpose of research, we can equally argue that leftover babies (any orphanages overflowing anywhere?), or humans grown specifically as organ donors may be justifiably killed to save the lives of others. Representation of opponents of stem cell research as religious fanatics is a way of persuading semi-interested observers to discount the value of their argument. It is not a religious issue. It is a moral issue.

Bill Watson writes: Re. “ACMA inquiry threatens future of reality TV” (yesterday, item 18). The ACMA inquiry shows the gulf between old fogies/old media and the young folk. As YouTube demonstrates, TV is becoming increasingly irrelevant to young people. The internet is where it is for them and it is well beyond the reach of Senator Coonan and the God botherers. Any outcome will be only accelerate the migration of viewers to the internet.

Dan Noone writes: Re. “Government spreads its legs” (7 December, item 22). Michael Pascoe can’t have it both ways: 1) He complains that Australian companies get sold off to international investors too cheaply, ie MIM. 2) He complains that the new legislation will only give a one-off increase to Australian stocks. Well, that new increase in value will mean that foreign raiders will have to pay up for Aussie companies, benefiting all shareholders, Australian and foreign. Michael should study his line of reasoning before ripping off scathing little pieces about subjects he obviously hasn’t spent too much time evaluating.

John Ryan writes: I see that once again the old “let the AFL broadcast on SBS and the ABC” is being run again. I would like to ask why. Seven and Ten entered into the agreement with the AFL with their eyes open. If they were stupid enough to pay over the odds for the rights, why should the taxpayers bail them out? They fell for the three card trick, and made their bed – let them lie in it.

Fiona Sassenfeld writes: Re. “Newsreader news” (yesterday, item 21). Another clarification for the esteemed Glenn Dyer, whose comments I really do enjoy reading. Re Chris Bath from Seven News – Chris did not win Dancing with Stars. She was robbed I will admit, but another Seven star named Ada Nicodemou won that series from Chris.

NSW MLC Jon Jenkins writes: Re. Robert Hughes’s comments (yesterday). Bray’s survey was an online survey but was restricted because you needed a username and password. This was in fact the second survey Bray has done and both surveys returned almost identical results. The seven point scale returned an average of 3.6 which in Bray’s own words: “The results, ie the mean of 3.62, seem to suggest that consensus is not all that strong”. As to Peiser’s report, it is noteworthy that my words [and those of Peiser himself] have been deliberately twisted by Hugh from “support for AGW” to “rejection of AGW”. Prof Peiser has not retreated from his claims about the explicit SUPPORT for AGW; rather he has retreated from some comments he made about explicit REJECTION of AGW! In fact here is part of Peiser’s response to Media Watch questions about the survey: “I’m afraid that is not the case. The vast majority of abstracts in her [Oreske’s] sample do not deal with anthropogenic global warming at all.” and then goes on to prove that Oreske’s figures are extremely suspect! I suggest everyone read the email exchange between Peiser and Media Watch here. But the real bell ringer for everyone reading this is: firstly, the lack of response from Hughes to the storm data; and, secondly, the venom of the personal attacks: ilk, dog and vomit. This is a typical response from the “social justice” arm of the cult of AGW: attack attack attack!

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