Peter Scruby writes: I reckon one of the best slogans I can remember was for Sir Bruce Small, long time Mayor of the Gold Coast back in the 60s and 70s. “Think big, vote Small.”

Christian Kent writes: Let’s not forget Morris Iemma’s predecessor, Barry Unsworth: “He’s Good Value”. Shucks, maybe they hated him? Like parents who give their children bad names.

Jim Hart (mathematician to the stars) writes: This so-called “Mile High Club” (yesterday, item 17) is not such a big deal. Pre-metric readers will recall that a statute mile is 5280 feet so membership is open to anyone who has bonked at Thredbo or Mt Hotham. Or in Denver, Colorado for that matter. Assuming the well-trained Lisa waited until the captain turned off the seat belt sign before inviting Ralph to move about the cabin, they would have been more like six or seven miles above sea level. As for Ron Walker’s altitude, frankly I’d rather not think about it.

Matty Whittle writes: I know it’s a very unlikely scenario, but hypothetically, what would happen if Howard lost Bennelong, but the Coalition won the election? Who would be PM? Could Costello end up as PM, although no-one voted for him as PM? Could someone in a safe Liberal seat give up their seat, and let Howard run there in a by-election?

Mungo MacCallum writes: Richard Farmer notes that Stanley Bruce lost both government and his seat in 1929 after promising to abolish the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, one of the pillars of Australian federation (yesterday, item 13). The suggestion is that John Howard, having effectively abolished its successor, the Australian Industrial Commission, may be headed down the same path. But there is a more recent parallel. In 1974 the then Opposition Leader, Bill Snedden, proposed a wage freeze as part of his election campaign. When asked how he would enforce it, he admitted that it might involve the abolition Arbitration Commission, a policy dismissed as disastrous by most commentators, who inevitably invoked the shadow of Bruce. Snedden duly lost the election, but it wasn’t a total disaster; he in fact made up a little ground against the government of Gough Whitlam, who at that stage was still flying pretty high. Obviously times had changed, and 33 years on they have changed even further. WorkChoices may be unpopular, but Labor would be unwise to rely on it to unseat Howard either from Kirribilli or from Bennelong.

Bernie Masters writes: It’s a pity you didn’t ask people (yesterday, item 14) familiar with the concept of clean coal for their opinion, rather than rely on a majority of “experts” who are really sceptics (a former employee of the Australian Conservation Foundation, which is opposed to everything, and a spokesperson for a group that appears to be anti-coal). The sceptics wonder whether carbon dioxide sequestered into deep geological layers will stay there for decades or centuries. As a geologist, I ask them to consider the many geological strata around the world that have been able to store petroleum, natural gas, hydrogen sulphide gas, water and a number of other gases and liquids for hundreds of millions of years without leakage. I recommend that interested readers read the book Geological Storage of Carbon Dioxide edited by SJ Baines and RH Worden (2004) and published by the Geological Society, London. They will learn that there are existing CO2 deposits within sedimentary sequences, some many millions of years old. This suggests that geosequestration is totally feasible. They will also learn that some 2.3 million tonnes of CO2 have been successfully injected into a saline aquifer beneath the North Sea since 1999. As the third expert, David Brockway from the CSIRO, said: “I personally have no concerns whatsoever (about geosequestration) but the community needs to be convinced”. It’s a pity that Crikey chose not to accept his challenge to help assist community understanding by displaying a certain degree of bias by choosing a majority of experts who were opposed to the technology.

Rodney Polkinghorne writes: Ms Nethercote misses the point when comparing cows to lightbulbs (yesterday, item 6). Cows add carbon to the atmosphere temporarily, but power stations do so permanently. Carbon goes in cycles. The methane in today’s cow farts was grass a week ago, and will be grass again in a decade, after the methane becomes carbon dioxide. The gas produced by today’s bushfires was trees yesterday. If those trees hadn’t burnt, they would eventually have died and become mushroom farts. Either way, new trees will grow and absorb the carbon within a century. Lightbulbs burn coal; plants will absorb the exhaust, and it will eventually be fossilised and become coal again. But geology takes longer than biology. That might take a million centuries, and it will not be part of human history.

Bruce Ward, independent candidate with the Climate Change Coalition at the forthcoming NSW Legislative Council election, writes: Jane Nethercote is only partially correct in her comments regarding the flatulent emissions of ruminants. Ruminants are not designed to eat high grain diets. Their purpose is to be out on the range, eating great volumes of cellulose that is contained in grass. Unfortunately, ever-increasing numbers of animals are foolishly being consigned to feedlots where the animals suffer carbohydrate overload. The symptom is flatulence. The problem is human induced, and it is getting worse. Regrettably, more than 70% of world grain production is now consumed by animals who were not designed to eat high carbohydrate, grain based diets. And in the absence of these animals on the range, the grasses are dying. If you want to tax animal farts, make sure you tax the ones coming from feedlots, but please, leave alone the animals on the range who are simply doing their natural function, and at the same time removing more CO2 than they create. It is a classic case of taxing what we don’t want and encouraging what we do want.

Tim Hollo writes: First it was energy policy by directly funding projects, now it’s a ban on incandescent light globes using mandatory energy performance standards (MEPS). Does this mean we’re seeing a return to the days of good old-fashioned regulation? It was, of course, the Howard Government which sank any hope of using MEPS to reduce energy use almost a decade ago. It followed the global trend away from direct regulation towards economic measures. Then, when it looked like they might work too well, it opted for voluntary measures which have never been shown to make any impact at all. It’s the greatest irony of all that, coming under intense pressure to do something – anything – to reduce greenhouse pollution, the government is returning to direct regulation. Of course, the advantage of this approach is that it gets to pick and choose the politically easiest things to do and ignore the hard bits altogether. Like the coal industry…

Dave Horsfall writes: Jane Nethercote asks whether replacing incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescents is “a bright idea or should we turn the dimmer switch”. That’s a very good question, as dimmer switches are generally incompatible with CFLs.

John Taylor writes: Got it! A fluoro globe in every lamp and a cork in every cow’s bum. We’re saved!

Simon Hoyle writes: Re Tips and Rumours (yesterday, item 7), please help me out – I’m at a loss. What exactly does “the best stories” mean, in the context of A Current Affair?

Chris Colenso-Dunne writes: Charles Richardson writes, “… all agreed that the open repudiation of international law would make the world a more dangerous place” (yesterday, item 12). We can all make plausible predictions – but what’s the hard, global evidence that the whole world is really now more dangerous than it used to be, and if it is, that this is the direct effect of the US-led invasion to topple Saddam’s regime?

Andrew Lewis writes: Pleasing to see Charles Richardson’s polite piece questioning Julie Szego’s critique of “the left” and their position on Afghanistan and Iraq. Her article uses the classic straw man tactic of taking an extreme left position and suggesting that all opponents of the Iraq war were of a similar mind. The reality was that prior to the PM committing troops, the vast majority of Australians of all political persuasions were against the invasion of Iraq. There was very little opposition to going into Afghanistan, and there still isn’t. Of course, every excuse put forward beforehand to justify the invasion has been shown to be false, except for the object of getting rid of Saddam (they got one right), but never let the facts get in the way of syndicated political cheerleading. I live in the vain hope that the war boosters in Australian journalism are publicly ridiculed for their initial and continuing support.

Stephen Harrington writes: Bravo to Charles Richardson for today’s critique of Julie Szego’s Age column (yesterday, item 12). In early 2003, I was one of the many thousands of Australians who thought the looming invasion of Iraq was unjustified, potentially dangerous and unnecessary hurried. We were, however, scoffed at by our Prime Minister (and his cronies) for being ignorant to the real menace and supposedly imminent threat Saddam Hussein and his regime posed to peaceful Western nations. We all know the rest, and yet no apology has been forthcoming. The Prime Minister now likes to back himself out of corners by saying that the invasion was justified because the world is better off without Saddam Hussein: and, of course, he is right in saying so. Yet clearly Mr Howard has forgotten saying in early 2003, that: “…if Iraq had genuinely disarmed, I couldn’t justify on its own a military invasion of Iraq to change the regime.” Too right, it isn’t the left that needs to apologise for Iraq: it’s our current leaders – the people who are still confused about why we even joined the bandwagon to Baghdad in the first place.

Mike Burke writes: (yesterday, item 18) Margaret Simons told us: “It is all very complicated, but perhaps journalists would be better off dropping objectivity as tired and often hollow dogma and trying hard to work out what it might mean in practice, whether we still value it, and why.” Who is this “we” comprised of and, apparently, for whom you purport to write, Ms Simons? With increasingly rare exceptions, journalistic objectivity hasn’t existed in this country since at least the 1960s, and least of all in the ABC. Surely the issue is not whether the set of “we” that call themselves journalists should decide about “dropping objectivity as tired and often hollow dogma” but rather that the set of “we” who are media consumers should be the ones to decide if and when objectivity exists. In point of fact, this set of “we” has already done so with a vengeance, which is why the print media is moribund and the electronic media are simply “comic strips” with nothing useful to say about anything whatsoever. The blame for this parlous state of affairs lies squarely with journalists and nobody else. If you believe that “dropping objectivity” will do anything but confirm what the rest of the world has already known for generations, you’ve been living on the dark side of the moon.

John M Green writes: As a first-time contributor to Crikey, I’d like to thank you for publishing my satirical piece but I don’t really think I can in the circumstances. I’ve sorely just learnt how “you beauty!” is truly in the eyes of the Crikey editor, not the writer. It’s a free country, luckily, so if Crikey finds it useful to flourish about investment bankers turning their guns on people, it can, even if Crikey got the wrong target. To headline my piece as “from inside Macquarie Bank” is not just a flourish, it’s a fantasy. As you correctly note in your cover piece, I haven’t worked there for months. Further, I’d like to suggest that a more sober read of my private equity pieces (those you mention from the AFR and the FT) reveals I am not Chicken Little spruiking the dangers of either Macquarie or private equity bringing the sky, or even aeroplanes, down. They might not like everything I’m saying, that’s probable, but the essence of my argument is not as an enemy of private equity (where I have some investments), nor of Macquarie Bank (where my continued admiration is evidenced by my ongoing share ownership). It’s as a believer in the importance of the sustainability of the public company model. My core theme is that private equity’s current ascendancy, notably in the “taking private” deal, highlights worrying flaws in the public equity model. Finally, in case you missed it, the “flag” I was waving in my satirical piece for Crikey was intended as a metaphor for “the public company”.

David Mendelssohn writes: Terry Maher (yesterday, item 20) tells the Sydney Morning Herald‘s Mike Cockerill to get his facts right. Terry should first get his right. What the SMH calls football is what 90% of the world calls football. So Cockerill was correct to say that the crowd at the A-League grand final was the biggest ever at a club football game in Australia, as he was referring to what the overwhelming majority of the world’s population would recognise as such. Yes, there have been bigger crowds at games of other codes, but Cockerill clearly was not referring to or including them. As for Terry’s claim that Aussie rules can be traced back to “Marngrook, a traditional Aboriginal game played by the Gunditjmara people from the western region of Victoria, thousands of years ago”, I say “Prove it!” I have heard this claim before and I have never seen any convincing proof for it. As for what people in the US call “football”, who cares? They think their domestic baseball league is a “world series”.

Rob Moston writes: Terry Maher (yesterday, item 20) states that: “The English football association broke away from the Rugby Union in 1863”. This is not correct. Association football did not “break away” from Rugby Union in 1863 because the Rugby Football Union (RFU) was not founded until 1871. In other words, the sport of “soccer” officially predates the 15-man rugby code by almost a decade.

Paul T Meakin: John Howard’s announcement that some 70 more Army trainers will be sent to Iraq poses two important questions. The first is how long does it take to train Iraqis in police work or the basics of soldiering? In Australia six months would be considered a reasonable time even allowing for some further on the job training, but in Iraq this process has been going on and on now for three years! The second question is how can the Australian Army afford to lose 70 trainers while attempting to recruit and train an additional 1200 soldiers in order to increase the size of the Army? Does not make any sense to me!

CORRECTION: Crikey incorrectly reported yesterday that the Daily Telegraph had published the telephone number of Australian Press Council complainant Mark Robinson. The number published was in fact that of Critical Mass spokesman Chris Mosley. Robinson says he is not a “bicycle activist”.

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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