Linda White writes: Re. “It’s arrivederci Ambassador, buongiorno Amanda” (yesterday, item 1). If you google “Illegal immigration from Africa to Europe”, you can get to an article which appeared in the European news of the Herald Tribune on 6 October 2006. To quote: “Spain in 2005 granted amnesty to some 600,000 illegal migrants without informing its EU partners… Illegal immigration has become an urgent priority over the past year, with thousands of African migrants risking their lives in rickety boats to cross the Mediterranean to get to Europe. The EU has so far failed to coordinate an effective response.” Many of the immigrants use Italy as their gateway to Europe. Maybe Amanda’s talents won’t go to waste if she ends up in Rome.

Wayne Stuart writes: Perhaps there is a solution to leaving poor Ambassador Peter Woolcott in Rome for the term of his appointment and at the same time giving Amanda some vocational “on the ground” training in diplomatic skills. This proposal will safely remove her from the Senate in the lead-up to the election where she might otherwise be seen to be a corpse in the Upper House not doing the Government a whole lot of good. Why not suggest to Mr Howard that Amanda do some “on the job training and mutual obligation work experience” in her new area by being appointed for eight months as Ambassador to Nauru? She could hone her skills (in a quiet and remote, not to mention media bereft, training ground): (a) explaining the home Government’s policies and the reasons for them; (b) practising smiling in the face of criticisms that make a neighbour a thinly disguised jailor for Australia and (c) learning to explain in diplomatic terms how a Government that claims to have been elected because it believes in family values and the rule of law, can imprison innocent children and ignore a family man locked up for five years without charge. Once she has mastered these skills, we will all feel much happier for her to represent us as one of our highly paid (if not properly qualified) diplomats.

Roger Cooper writes: I know we wanted revenge on the Italians for that World Cup dive but lumbering them with a D-grader like Vanstone is way over the top.

Robert Bond writes: Crikey’s editorial yesterday praising Beattie’s inept attempt at providing Queensland with water ignores Labor’s refusal for twenty years to build new dams in Queensland. Beattie has rolled over to the Greens at every election he has won for the sake of a handful of preferences. Green voters in the leafy oases of suburbia have finally achieved what they set out to gain two decades ago – no new dams and a ban on regional water and land development. It is very moving how they are now continuing to stick to their lofty green principles by preparing to drink their own effluent-contaminated water. As for me, when I have cause to visit my grandchildren in suburbia, I will be bringing with me many litres of sparkling, pure, country tank water.

Tony Ryan writes: Your editorial refers only to the most superficial aspect of the SE Queensland urban water crisis, and you become the first willing victim of Peter Beattie’s strategy of severely limiting problem definition. This militates against recognition of anything other than two conceivable outcomes; recycling, and building more dams and trans-regional pipelines; the two solutions which will not hinder intensified urban sprawl. Both of these outcomes benefit developers, but no-one else. If we had but one leader in this country with vision and genuine commitment to the national good, the central causative issue would long ago have emerged as the nation’s primary talking point; which is that too many Australians, migrants and refugees have moved into cities which already have inadequate catchments. The only viable solution is to decentralise our populations; which would have the added advantage of preventing further disastrous alienation of our best arable lands to tar and cement. There lies the rub. This would require redevelopment of our rural economic and social base… recommissioning of rural and regional hospitals and schools; forcing banks to reopen branches; and deepest cut of all, reinstalling tariffs and other protective mechanisms. A cursory survey of citizens in my region of the Sunshine Coast indicates that about a third of retirees and families would be highly willing to move back to regional and urban regions for the improvement of lifestyle and lowering of rates if there were appropriate jobs and services. Obviously, small business would follow. However, an urban reduction would mean a shrinking of Beatties’ power base and the overnight erasure of the entire fiefdom of developers. A similar situation would evolve in other cities of the south and east coast Australia. Let’s do it now. It’s not as though we have any choice.

Geoff Russell writes: How many people who object to drinking recycled sh-t have had a fecal coliform count done on their sink? Tests typically find more fecal bacteria on sinks, sponges and generally in the kitchen than on the rim of a toilet. Where does it come from? If you defrost a chicken on your sink, then most of the so-called chicken juice comes from the scalding tanks when the chickens are killed. Some birds are not stunned properly and empty their bowels into this tank which soon becomes a fecal slurry and all the following birds are infected. This is what chicken “juice” is. For more enthralling details see here. When you know anything at all about food poisoning causes and statistics, then recycled sh-t looks safe as houses.

Brad Ruting writes: Re: “Access seekers quietly furious over Telstra’s High Court surprise” (yesterday, item 16). The point that Telstra’s (probably un-winnable) High Court challenge is more profitable than simply acquiescing to the ACCC – through delaying the onset of fair competition and providing an offchance that the ACCC’s pricing scheme might be rejected or revised – is both obvious and worrying. Telstra is a near monopoly, and now it’s fully privatised, it can do what it likes without having to worry about political sensitivities and the electorate. With competition having encroached into its mobile, long-distance call and internet markets over the past decade or so and reducing profit margins down towards competitive levels, no wonder Telstra is clinging desperately to its unbundled local loop infrastructure. Then again, as it’s just another company maximising its profits, Phil Burgess is simply doing his job – even if recent events look a bit bizarre. One would assume that, even if they lose, they’d still be better off than having opened up the wires to the rest of the market (their argument that the regulated prices are below-cost is a furphy, by the way). The federal government has a lot to answer for here, regardless of the High Court outcome. This situation should not have been permitted to arise in the first place. The infrastructure owned by Telstra – the phone network, mobile towers, internet cables, unbundled local loops, etc – along with the wholesale operations that distribute it to other companies in the market should have been retained in government hands, with just the retail operations sold off. This is the successful privatisation model that has worked well in other countries. That would have been a fair, competitive market. It’s a pity that so soon after full privatisation Telstra is in the High Court already – makes you wonder what they’ll do next to retain monopoly power.

Brad Hill writes: Re. “The continuing saga of Robert Jovicic” (yesterday, item 7). Robert Jovicic, as we know, is not an Australian. His 158 criminal convictions speak volumes about how he feels about Australian values. Despite being eligible, he did not seek Australian citizenship. So now he’s being asked to leave. Jovicic’s father, and presumably other relatives, are in Serbia. He wants to live in Australia — that’s fine, but so do a lot of other people, with much better characters, whom we reject. After reading yesterday’s article by Charles Richardson, I am left wondering — What is it we owe him exactly, and why? Does Charles Richardson really want this guy walking our streets? What do you have to do to get kicked out on character grounds, exactly?

Diana Carroll writes: Re. Michael Pascoe and plastic bags (yesterday, item 19). Like most people, I’ve been cultivating a crop of the reusable shopping bags to reduce plastic bags. I’m keen to do the right thing but think it is outrageous that the major supermarkets are getting a windfall out of this green political correctness. Currently, the cost of the plastic bags is built into our grocery bill but we, the consumers, pay for our own “green” shopping bags. Zero Waste SA., a State Government body, says plastic bags “cost” every household $10-15 per year in their supermarket prices. With around 8 million households in Australia, that means the supermarkets are pocketing a windfall of about $80-120m a year! As far as I know, no supermarket has said they will reduce prices when that line item is removed; if they did, the impact would be negligible on each item or for each consumer. But why should Coles and Woollies et al enjoy a multi-multi million dollar bonus? The Government should show some leadership on this issue and urge the supermarkets to donate that money to environmental projects. It could fully fund a desalination plant in just a few years, for example.

Jon Jenkins writes: Re. “The Economy: Climate change – at a tipping point” (yesterday, item 20). Henry Thornton’s at it again but here are two little facts to put a damper on the Climate Change party. First the temperature data is out for 2006 and, against all the predictions, it was not a particularly hot year. In fact there is a definite trend downwards since 1998 with the Southern Hemisphere leading the way. And as to the UN IPCC report I think the resignation letter of the expert on the UN’s IPCC hurricane panel, Chris Landsea, who was appointed to draft the forthcoming UN report’s section on Atlantic hurricanes. In his letter he wrote: “I have come to view the part of the IPCC to which my expertise is relevant as having become politicized. In addition, when I have raised my concerns to the IPCC leadership, their response was simply to dismiss my concerns.” One day the penny will drop but probably only when the next Ice Age comes, which by the way the Russian Academy of Sciences computer models are predicting!

John Oakley writes: Re. Australian of the Year. I have to disagree with Peter Haydock (yesterday, comments). I am one of the thousands of volunteer fire fighters who have been battling the recent bush fires, and far from being insulted that Tim Flannery was named Australian of the Year, I am absolutely delighted with the choice. It should have happened years ago, but I suspect that if John Howard hadn’t belatedly and insincerely jumped on the climate change band wagon, it wouldn’t have happened at all.

Richard Lester writes: Your correspondent Peter Haydock might like to reflect on the possibility that had the leaders of the industrial world been listening to the likes of Professor Flannery 30 years ago, there may have been no need for those brave, skilled and tireless volunteer firefighters to have “risked lives, families and jobs to save Australia from one of its worst bushfire seasons”. A fence at the top of the cliff makes more sense to me than any number of ambulances at the bottom – it just makes crap TV.

Adam Rope writes: I trust Peter Haydock was similarly outraged at the insult to volunteer fire-fighters over previous recipients of the Australian of the Year award? You know, those “left-wing ranters”, such as Steve Waugh (2004), Cathy Freeman (1998), John Farnham (1987), and even – heaven forefend! – Paul Hogan (1985).

Rick Giles writes: Ian McHugh’s article about biofuels (25 January, item 8) reminds me of the argument that if you eat McDonalds hamburgers, you are contributing to the clearing of Amazonian rainforest (to grow pasture, to feed cattle etc). The McD observation says more about middle class snobbery on culinary matters than it does about clearing the rainforests because it is a gross over-simplification — it attempts to link food that is beneath us to the “moral” issue of destroying rainforests. Therefore as a non-McD customer, I am morally superior. Ian’s article says more about what he thinks of Bush, and makes little contribution to the energy debate other than implying that biofuels have a moral downside. Corn to ethanol is inefficient, as Ian argues, but he damages the biofuels industry in general by failing to point out that there are many ways to produce biofuels and most of them are much more efficient than corn to ethanol. It is widely understood that corn to ethanol is simply a subsidy for US agriculture. How about an article on the subject of biofuels instead of a predictable attack on the US president?

Cameron Sharrock writes: Re. “Soft-centred English plunge to new depths” (yesterday, item 23). Nick Price is absolutely right, and by the time this issue of crikey goes to email he will be in the process of being proved correct yet again by the rampant inability of the English touring party. Australian cricketers considered their greatest challenge, despite all their other successes, to be winning a test series on the sub-continent and attacked that goal with relentless determination until it was achieved. England seems to consider cricketing success against Australia to be a mere inconvenience and attacks that goal with all the ineptitude that can be expected of such a mindset. Their Ashes success in 2005 was such an unexpected bonus that even the drinks carriers were rewarded with plastic knighthoods just for being at the same ground. Maybe now OBEs will be given to the masseuses of a team that loses by less than 100 runs.

Susie Constable writes: Re. “Australian Open: Ten observations” (yesterday, item 22). I agree with most of Michael Winkler and Francis Leach’s observations but found Roger Rasheed really annoying as a commentator. Todd Woodbridge and Darren Cahill were terrific but I wanted to watch the tennis without Roger’s neverending interruptions. He knew it all and I couldn’t help but think how did Lleyton put up with him for so long! Am I the only one who found him annoying?

Scott Gamble writes: Re. “Tennis does it again for Seven, but what else have they got?” (yesterday, item 15). Glenn Dyer wrote: “…and down on the huge 4.04 million from the start of 2005 when our Lleyton Hewitt was beaten by Federer.” Hewitt was beaten by Marat Safin, not Federer.

Michael Brougham writes: For the information of Glenn Dyer and the editorial team at Crikey, “erstwhile” means “former” or “previous”; Eddie McGuire is not the “erstwhile CEO” of the Nine Network, at least not yet.

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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