Simon Rumble writes: Re. “How the Green Gestapo is letting state governments off the hook” (yesterday, item 2). I know Christian Kerr can’t resist an opportunity to put the boot into the environment movement, but what has the green movement got to do with the “dob-in-a-neighbour” water reporting? You won’t find much material on the ACF, Greenpeace or state Nature Conservation Council web sites encouraging dobbing. Nor have the Greens taken such a stance. So how is the “Green Gestapo” label justified? Then again, the more Kerr does this kinda thing, the more he discredits himself. In that case, keep it up Kerr!

Deborah Nesbitt writes: ARGHHHH! I am so sick of green bashing in the media. Christian Kerr’s attack on some phantom “Green Gestapo” for sensible water restrictions imposed by state governments is truly bizarre. And claiming that a public campaign to save water is “a diminution of social capital” is simply irrational. Is having a green lawn during a drought now “social capital”? Oh please. The real story is about how governments run public campaigns aimed at changing social behaviour. A real challenge when the change needs to happen quickly. Most public campaigns to change behaviour, like public health campaigns, are well funded and very long term. Think drink driving or anti-smoking. But we have to change water use patterns now. So, the water police threat is mostly just that. Telling the public via the media there are more water police around and encouraging people to police each other is a classic behavioural change strategy. Deliver the message effectively and the majority of people will do the right thing most of the time. Perhaps, Christian, you could do some serious reporting on the disgusting water rorting going on in the Parliamentary triangle here in the ACT? Loads of green lawn, but social capital?

Alan Lander writes: Crikey is always so good for laughs. And one of the biggest I’ve had in… oh, minutes, is Christian Kerr’s comment in yesterday’s item 2: “We’ve got a diminution of social capital, thanks to hysteria whipped up by governments and Henny Penny environmentalists.” This coming from a Howard a-se-licker like Christian, is priceless, given his hero has brought about so much social capital loss through whipping up racism, xenophobia, class envy, and job security, that it’s a wonder there’s any of that capital left to lose. And as for The Age’s story about some paranoid ex-teacher in Melbourne – well, Victoria’s pretty slow for news even when it isn’t January.

Brad Ruting writes: Re. Michael Pascoe on the ACCC and petrol prices (yesterday, item 15). Although the growing dominance of Coles and Woolworths in the petrol retail market may be cause for suspicion about collusion and anti-competitive pricing, and might just be worthy of investigation, there still seems to be a widespread level of ignorance in public opinion and the media regarding petrol prices. Without passing judgement on the presence (or otherwise) of anti-competitive practices, it seems that simple microeconomic theory can explain what petrol refiners are up to – ie, acting in their own self-interest. Although they may be ripping off consumers with high petrol prices that fluctuate in seemingly randomly ways and out of kilter with the oil price, it should be noted that this does not necessarily, by itself, imply that price-fixing between refiners is occurring. It would seem that the petrol market in capital cities is exhibiting what economists call Edgeworth price cycles, which can form when there are big fluctuations in input prices, a small number of large market players, limited production capacities and substantial barriers to entry. When prices “cycle”, or move up and down differently across operators in the market, firms (refineries) are just doing what every company does – maximising profits. This often involves a trade-off between lowering prices to attract more customers, and raising them to gain a higher per-unit profit. Collusion may well exist in the oil refining business, but the possibility that no stable equilibrium pricing strategy exists in this market should not be dismissed. Many people seem to be sceptical about the ACCC’s investigations into petrol pricing, but the reality may well be that they’ve done all they can and nothing dodgy is going on at all (as loath as I am to defend oil companies).

Magnus Vikingur writes: When the interest rates go up it takes the banks a nanosecond to adjust. However if they go down it takes three weeks or more for the customer to enjoy the rewards. Same goes for oil prices. Sorry to state the obvious, but the attitude is always: “What’s wrong with that?” Are the service stations waiting for their tanks to empty if oil prices decrease? Do they reduce the price only after the pumps in the underground tanks start to suck in fresh air and get refilled with the cheaper fuel? The obvious answer is NO! Their pump price is an instant adjustment. We all know this. Why does’t the ACCC have more power to kick their a-se? The question is… Where does the adjustment go? Not to us! It’s bloody crook. How much is being made under the table?

Jon Fairall writes: Re. Murphy’s Law (yesterday, editorial). Look, I hate to be a pedant, but while you succinctly state Murphy’s Law, none of your examples are actually examples of it. A slice of buttered bread is (slightly) more likely to land butter side down because the application of butter moves the centre of mass, not because of Murphy. Cords tangle because of the second law of thermodynamics (States of chaos are more likely than states of order). Your third and fourth examples are simply wrong. Fools and non-fools alike can use foolproof systems. The wind blows irrespective of your relationship to smokers. Murphy’s Law is an injunction to designers, not a comment on the hazards of life. The significance of Murphy’s Law is that if you design a system such that it is possible to malfunction, and you use it often enough, it will malfunction. This is as relevant to the design of gallows as to any other man-made system, but is unlikely to be the cause of the atrocity you report from Iraq.

Geoff G writes: Re. Murphy’s Law (yesterday, editorial). Buttered toast always lands buttered side down. A cat always lands on its feet. So if you strap buttered toast to a cat’s back it should spin just above the floor without ever touching it! I don’t own a cat so I can’t prove it but the theory is sound.

Michele Stephens writes: Re. “No news on WA’s missing radioactive canister” (yesterday, item 1). The concerned parties should wait until the sun sets and when everything is dark, do a flyover … they will see lots of green figures scurrying, hopping around or perhaps even lying quite still. The greenest area will probably indicate where the canister is located. If that fails, they should look for green storemen in all the relevant warehouses and depots. And I’m supposed to believe that governments and/or the private sector can safely process sewage into drinking water? Yeah, right.

Jim Hart writes: Your radioactivity scribe Thomas Hunter asks what a missing canister says about “Australia’s readiness for a full-scale nuclear energy industry”. The answer, Tom, is bugger-all. When I’m in charge of our next reactor I promise I won’t be shifting any radioactive stuff around in barbie-bottles on commercial trucks.

Garry Young writes: Re: “SBS slashes content to accommodate ads” (yesterday, item 3). Honestly, I don’t mind the advertising on SBS so much – it’s a free market, and they need to keep their head above water. What I do mind is the act of “tweaking” the audio whenever an ad break occurs – to several decibels above the program you are watching!!! I am used to the traditional commercial networks doing it, but SBS, I expected better from you. It’s annoying, and it just makes me switch channels whenever it happens, which is obviously counterproductive for the advertisers. On that note, has anyone else noticed that since we have entered 2007, Ten seems to be doing the ad tweak even louder than ever before? I have a home theatre setup, and it is quite noticeable – especially late at night when the ears are a tad more sensitive.

Mike Newton writes: As far as ads on the SBS program Top Gear are concerned – they could not be much worse than the program itself. I watched the program for five minutes after an upbeat review, but honestly. What’s the point? Macho stuff about speed and fancy performance parameters that are no doubt exciting and fascinating to a fantasising motoring cognoscenti. But why are we overloaded with this stuff in prime time? Why are the car manufacturing moguls still on this hiding to nothing? Give us some decent technology and cars that appeal to real buyers. I have been wanting a realistic green car for years, postponing my upgrade in vain hope of someone somewhere coming up with a car I can buy now that will last beyond the very near day that everyone realises we are all in the environmental poo.

Crikey Publisher Diana Gribble writes: Re. Killen and Fraser. At the risk of extending trivia into absurdity, I think Jeff Wall’s piece in Monday’s Crikey (item 1) needs a response. Gary Foley tells a story about visiting Malcolm Fraser’s prime ministerial office with a delegation of Aboriginal activists. The group was happy with the PM’s response to them but afterwards talked among themselves about his aloofness or even “snootiness”. No, said Foley, anyone can see he’s not snooty; he’s shy. If Gary Foley can make that perceptive observation after one short meeting, how come, if Jim Killen was such a close buddy of Malcolm Fraser’s (which I don’t believe he was), he didn’t notice this over years of association? And therefore, if he wanted to talk to the former PM so badly, why didn’t he just pick up the phone (which I don’t believe he ever did)?

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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