Bernie Masters writes: Re. Bias in the ABC. You left out a crucial word in yesterday’s editorial. You said: “… ABC conspiracy theorists are wrong … in their assumption that professional journalists can’t and don’t separate their own worldview from their work.” What you should have said is: “… ABC conspiracy theorists are wrong … in their assumption that ALL professional journalists can’t and don’t separate their own worldview from their work.” Can you understand the difference between the two statements? The first accuses critics of the ABC of implying that EVERY journalist employed by the ABC is biased and does not remove their bias from their work. I don’t believe this is what the ABC’s critics are saying at all. The second statement suggests to the reader that only SOME ABC journalists can be accurately accused of such non-professionalism, and this is what I understand to be the basis of their complaint. I know a few ABC journalists here in WA and would strongly defend some of them against any accusation that they transfer their political bias to their work. But unhesitatingly I’d also accuse a few others of being so biased as to cause their colleagues to be tarred with the same brush, such that the whole of the ABC organisation appears tainted by left-wing ideology. Tsk, tsk, Crikey, you appear to be just as biased as the very people you are attacking. Or are you seriously suggesting that every single ABC journalist is as politically pure as the driven snow? I don’t think so.

John McCubbery writes: What have you been smoking? You feel insulted when journalists’ professionalism is called question? “But where the ABC conspiracy theorists are wrong, insultingly so, is in their assumption that professional journalists can’t and don’t separate their own worldview from their work.” You feel insulted? Have you ever read your own copy? Do you have any recollection of the way our Prime Minister, Treasurer, Opposition Leader and various state Premiers have been described in Crikey? And you feel insulted because some people dare to allege that journalists “don’t separate their own worldview from their work”? Boy, if there was ever – EVER – evidence that this is is true (and it is certainly obvious to enough people), then this evidence is in yesterday’s hilariously childish and utterly myopic editorial. Were this not so funny it would be tragic. Or, more accurately, were it not so tragic it would be funny.

Mike Burke writes: Re. Journalistic bias. You are joking, no? This one needs to be filed for posterity with Jack Waterford’s recent effort where he seriously argued that John Stanhope shouldn’t be sacked for his incompetence regarding the Canberra fires because he (Waterford) could list many instances of John Howard’s incompetence that didn’t result in his being sacked (or words to that effect). People have no difficulty whatsoever in accepting that professional journalists can and do separate their politics from their job. Some good examples are Laurie Oakes, Jane Hutcheon and Jana Wendt, none of whom have ever, to my knowledge, displayed any significant degree of bias towards either side of politics. They are among rare exceptions to a general rule that Australian journalists seem to believe it acceptable to barrack for one party or another, with a large minority, if not a majority, firmly and irretrievably corrupted by their own political allegiances. As for ABC journalists behaving professionally, I’m sure we’d all like to see that, but those of us old enough to remember a time when they actually almost invariably did are unlikely to live long enough to see it as the norm rather than the exception again.

Ben Aveling writes: If anyone wants badly enough to reverse the tendency for journalists and teachers to lean leftwards there is a simple solution: pay. If journalists and teachers were paid, say, $200,000 a year, then the positions would become rather attractive to people with suitably right wing views. Otherwise, having a social conscience will continue to be a prerequisite for the jobs.

DIMA spinner, Sandi Logan, writes: “Illegal fishing kids still getting a raw deal?” (yesterday, item 9). We were pleased your coverage of HREOC’s very positive findings on the improved conditions and management of Australia’s immigration detention facilities carried a heading ending with a question mark. It’s the little things which count. One more little thing while I have your attention is DIMA’s response to HREOC on the issue of illegal foreign fishers, and specifically how best to manage their time in Australia (usually two-three weeks maximum, and often shorter). You did provide a link, but for those who did not bother to check it, what we said to HREOC was “the department is conducting an extensive review of detention arrangements at the Northern Immigration Detention centre, as part of a ‘Whole of Government’ post-apprehension review of illegal foreign fishers (IFFs). The review will examine alternative detention options for IFF juveniles (average age is 16 years) who are presently held in… motel accommodation, under supervision… . In Northern IDC, all IFF juveniles no longer visit their crew members in adult compounds and all voluntary visits are held in the visits area of the detention facility. DIMA is also implementing an expanded program of recreational and educational activities for both adult and minor IFFs in Darwin.” I think the short answer then to your question is, no, illegal fishing kids are not getting a raw deal.

Alan Hatfield writes: Re. “Time to end one-buck-per-tonne water pricing” (yesterday, item 11). Brad Ruting is dead right. Sooner or later but preferably sooner we are going to have to abandon rationing, appeals for restraint, etc, etc and simply charge a realistic price for water in Australia. Do people remember when metric measurement was introduced, petrol was only around 10c/litre (sometimes less in some price wars, notably in and around Melbourne). I don’t like paying $1.20/litre or thereabouts but I cope and I prefer it to having my access to fuel rationed. I have coped by now driving a small car with a two litre engine (instead of the 3.5 litre car I formerly had) and by using public transport more often, too. There is no reasonable reason to treat water any differently. There may of course be an argument for a careful transition period especially in relation to agricultural allocations and there may be arguments to help some users meeting an increasing cost for water (although there would all need to have sunset clauses and be public and transparent). But the sooner we treat water as we treat most other resources the sooner it will be used more rationally (and we will have more resources to improve water infrastructure where such investment will have the most beneficial impact).

Steven McKiernan, Water Policy Officer, Conservation Council of WA, writes: Brad Ruting makes some good statements; water is undervalued. In the Perth metro area the use by domestic and industrial consumers roughly equals that of licenced irrigators, most of whom do not pay a tariff rate. This water comes from the same groundwater source as 65% of Perth’s drinking water, the Gnangara water mound to the north of Perth, this is a very complex water mound and the environmental values on the mound are close to collapse from over extraction. The last time changes to water pricing occurred, after restrictions in late 1970s, there was a massive shift to unlicenced and unmetered private backyard bores. There are approximately 150,000 bores taking water from the shallow Gnangara aquifer across the Perth metropolitan area, and this has been shown to be causing ecological damage through over extraction and acidification (pH ~ 3.5) in wetlands. Irrigators have to pay for infrastructure, pumps, pipes and sprinklers, but essentially, after applying for a groundwater licence, they pay nothing for usage. The Department of Water tick and flick groundwater licences “A 17 gigalitre licence to grow carrots that sell for a buck a kilo? Certainly sir. No charge, that’s fine”. Environmental consequences such as desiccation of shallow aquifers; acidification of groundwater; drying lakes and wetlands; eutrophication from nutrients; private irrigators are NEVER told to turn off their pumps. Charging more for domestic consumers may force change in consumption habits, though studies show the price elasticity of demand for water is very low. The full environmental costs of over-extracting water must be placed on all users of water in an equitable way, and this can be done through metering of all users of the common resource.

Julian McLaren writes: Brad Ruting believes water should be more expensive. That’s a great idea for someone who is single, but with a household full of children, I think the equality of the idea stinks. There would have to be concessions for families, otherwise you would present another disincentive for us to reproduce. Lets not kid ourselves here. Water actually falls from the sky. Why not harness the water more effectively. Lets not use the El Nino as an excuse for the State Governments to increase their dividends from water utilities to fill their coffers.

M Lethbridge writes: Re. Water tanks. I think John Kotsopoulos (yesterday, comments) has missed the point of the exercise: it is not about saving money. It is about being able to water the garden and conserve rainwater. Or are you suggesting that Coralie Le Nevez donate $6000 to the water authorities to repair the pipelines?

Allan Layton writes: John Kotsopoulos, commenting on water tanks, makes an absurdly simplistic analogy when he asks “Would you rather spend money on thousands of stretcher bearers or an ambulance?”. That depends, John, on the circumstances. Firstly, how many injured persons are we talking about? If there are in fact thousands of injured persons, then perhaps ‘an ambulance’ might not be the best answer! What exactly is your point then, about the value of water tanks in a crisis situation? I agree that tanks are not an economically efficient solution – but they just might allow social and environmental outcomes that you seem to be ignoring.

Peter Walton writes: Re. “Even in death Killen helped cross the political divide” (yesterday, item 8). Please, Kevin Rudd is not the alternate prime minister, he is the alternative prime minister. There is a fundamental difference.

John Taylor writes: Thank you Jeff Wall for your beautiful item about Sir James’s funeral. I cried, then I laughed, then I cried again. Magnificent.

Queensland Greens member Graham Lapthorne writes: While I find much of Christian Kerr’s prolific output entertaining, some even illuminating, his unbalanced views and reportage of the Greens increasingly jeopardise the editorial credibility of Crikey. His prominent allegations (19 January, item 12) of NSW Greens receiving donations from the St George Bank (false) prompted a correction yesterday from Eleanor Gibbs, of the NSW Greens, but no apology from Crikey. Were this a one-off or merely occasional incident of false, vindictive reporting of the Greens by Kerr, I’d let it rest. But there has been a clear and blatant bias in Kerr’s reporting on matters Green and environmental since you first went on line. Were I Crikey’s editor-for-a-day, I’d suggest Christian hand over any leads he had on the Greens to another Crikey reporter and assign a fact checker to anything else he wrote on the subject.

John Carmody writes: Re. “Howard’s barefoot beach holiday is hardly Whitlamesque” (19 January, item 2). I disagree with Richard Farmer’s assessment of the “PM at Broome” story. Of course, the PM is entitled to his holiday – in summer or whenever else he prefers to take it. But that’s hardly the point. The media were not so accommodating last year when Mark Latham insisted that he was on holiday with is family: pursuing him didn’t seem to trouble them, then. One of the PM’s notable political successes has been that – in contrast to EG Whitlam – he has always represented himself as a simple man of the people, empathising with “Howard Battlers”. Hence the regular holiday at Hawks Nest and the appearances at the cricket and all manner of popular sports. Obliging his VIP jet to detour to Broome – and then to have to return a day or so later to pick him up (and Mrs Howard) to go to Brisbane for the Killen funeral must have cost close to an extra $40,000-50,000. Perhaps that’s not much for Mr Farmer; many will see it as a needless extravagance. So, when the PM approaches “double standards”, it seems perfectly legitimate for the press to report that fact.

Campbell Fuller writes: Re. “Lovie conquers all…” (yesterday, item 22). Who the hell is Lovie? Why would I care? Why would Crikey subscribers want to read 500 words on gridiron and NFL (on top of 380 dull, dull words last week)? I would have thought those rare people who actually follow this … umm … sport would be better off tapping into a US news website and downloading all the boring grunt’n’slam their hearts desire. I didn’t subscribe to Crikey to read about a sport with zero relevance, let alone ten pars of poorly written CRAP. Crikey, if you want to diversify your sports coverage, how about more AFL, more athletics, swimming, water polo, rowing, netball, golf, surfing, skiing … there are plenty of sports that are played in Australia and that Crikey readers might care for.

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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