Greg Cameron, Urban Rainwater Systems Pty Ltd, writes: Re. Ken Matthews (Monday, comments). The National Water Commissioner, Mr Ken Matthews, was my source for claiming that the federal government proposes an “entitlement regime” for rainwater tanks (16 March, item 16). He wrote on 25 August 2006, “As we understand it, governments have not yet considered the capture of water from roof [sic] in rainwater tanks to be of sufficient magnitude to warrant the issuing of specific entitlements to use this class of water. However, if rainwater tanks were to be adopted on a large scale such that their existence impacts significantly on the integrated water cycle, consideration could be given to setting an entitlement regime for this class of water.” The Commissioner alleges my reporting of his statement was knowingly and mischievously wrong. In relation to a tax on rainwater, my view is that “entitlement regime” means licence, and licence means tax. The Commissioner also says water that falls on a person’s roof in Australia is not owned by that person. This statement is not supported by the Victorian government for Victoria and, as of 20 March 2007, is not supported by the NSW Labor Party for NSW. In my view, it is also not true for Queensland and the Premier, Mr Beattie, was asked yesterday to clarify the matter. (The governments of South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania all claim that a person’s roof is the surface of the ground for water collection purposes. In all states, rights to surface water vest in the state.)

Peter Lloyd writes: Re. “Trees and Tasmania: a political horror” (yesterday, item 19). It is crucial that Crikey readers understand that the deadline set by Gunns for a decision on the Tamar Valley pulp mill appears to be entirely arbitrary and artificial. In light of the glaring contradictions inherent in recent claims by Premier Paul Lennon, covered here, there appears to be every chance that Gunns’s withdrawal from the process was a finesse to allow Lennon to bypass the independent Resource Planning and Development process in favour of a Parliamentary process that Lennon could control. Gunns’s announcement to the ASX on 9 March that it had “every confidence that the necessary Government approvals will be obtained within a timeframe which maintains the commercial value of the project” makes no sense, unless the fix was in. The extremely dubious relationship between Gunns, the Lennon Government and local unions is well known, but the antics are really starting to look like the product of the Joh Bjelke-Petersen school of leadership – right down to the same excuses for everyone turning a blind eye. This corrupting relationship has benefited from Tasmania’s insulation from mainstream political debate and the complicity of mayors and federal politicians, all beholden to the same interest groups. Stephen Mayne recently called on Perpetual Investments to show some consistency on corporate governance after Tabcorp, but it increased its stake in Gunns in late February. There are many who lack the guts to do anything about this situation, which greatly hurts the rest of the Tasmanian business community.

Adam Rope writes: Re. “NSW election slips from mere farce to theatre of the absurd” (yesterday, item 2). Following on from Michael Pascoe’s withering, but accurate, review of the farce that is this weekend’s NSW State Election, is there any truth to the story that former NSW Liberal Party leader, John Brogden, has actually left the country because of this election? Primarily because he does not want to be in Australia when the results come through for an election in which he was more than likely to have led the NSW Liberal party to victory – if not cut down by the fanatic Christian right wing faction within that party.

Mike McManus writes: Re, “Even NSW Libs’ Lane Cove isn’t sheltered from rough winds” (yesterday, item 9). It’s amazing it has taken the Liberal Party HQ so long to wake up to the fact that Lane Cove, held by right wing Liberal Anthony Roberts, is marginal. After the redistribution, the Liberal margin went to 2.8%. Then Debnam said he would cut 20,000 Public Service jobs. Public servants happen to vote and live in electorates. The Lane Cove voter characteristically is highly educated (more higher degrees per capita than other electorates) and is often a public servant, professional and/or in the medical field. Royal North Shore Hospital employs many Lane Cove voters and because of the way antiquated NSW zoning laws work there are also many medical practices in the electorate and lots of doctor’s wives. Doesn’t add up to an electorate that likes cuts in public funding. Anthony Roberts doesn’t reflect the electorate very well. His resume has stated for the past 13 years that he is studying at the University of Technology for a business degree. Must be a slow learner. Also in an electorate which is sensitive to over-development and supermarkets, Roberts’s campaign office is owned by a Woolworths subsidiary company. (Woolworths has fought a ten year campaign to open a supermarket in Lane Cove). There were reports that the NSW firefighters’ union was handing out election material against Roberts in Lane Cove. Funny that. Lane Cove experienced over six large fires in the last 12 months and local member Roberts said hardly a thing. One burned site is now being profitably redeveloped by Lane Cove Council. Thrown out of the Longueville Hotel? Roberts was well known for leading the push protesting against John Brogden’s simply dreadful behaviour…

Alex Encel writes: Re. “The cost of keeping analogue TV on the air” (Monday, item 4). To Bill Scott (yesterday, comments): mandating digital tuners would be a very slow process. Getting the legislation in place, clearing existing stock, manufacturing TVs to Australia’s unique specifications in the common lower price areas would take to say 2009. Then at the current rate of a bit over two million a year we are talking about 2015 to close down while making many of the lower cost TVs on the Australian market disappear. And, to Mike Smith (yesterday, comments): I must have had a senior moment as I know we changed to tone decades ago. Setting up a well designed set-top box with good instructions is simple for most. The voluntary organisations such as the one to which I belong could assist the really disadvantaged. Having a standard STB would make it very simple.

Ross Copeland writes: Bill Scott (yesterday, comments) wants digital tuners installed in TVs at the point of manufacture and that the Minister should just set a date for this to happen. Bill may not realise that we don’t make TVs here any more and I am not sure if the manufacturers in China etc are going to be persuaded by Helen Coonan that they should include digital tuners just for the Australian market. Perhaps Amanda Vanstone could put her recently acquired Mandarin language skills to use by talking to the Chinese about our digital problems.

Gareth Darlow writes: Re. “The cost of keeping analogue TV on the air” (Monday, item 4). I’ve been renting in and around Melbourne for ten years or so, and it’s only occasionally that I’ve lived somewhere with an aerial on the roof. For a lot of renters struggling with their “rabbit ear” antennas, the snowy reception gained from the analogue signal is at least watchable, where a very weak digital signal is not. My suspicion is that for a lot of us, the end of the analogue signal will mean the end of our interest in free to air TV. It’s OK… There are ways to watch our shows without seeing all those ads.

Jason Kelly writes: Re. “Could the GST come back to bite … Labor?” (yesterday, item 12). Come on Christian – scaremongering before the next federal election will need to be better than this. The argument that John Howard could try to scare the voters into submission by raising the ire of a potential GST increase just won’t wash. The only reason that the government needs the support of the states and both houses of parliament is because of the law that prescribes this. The easiest way to change the rate of the GST would be to abolish or radically change this law. And just how would one achieve this in the easiest manner – with control over both houses of parliament, of course! Rudd just has to remind the voters that Howard could increase the rate now if he wanted to!

Terry Mills writes: Re. “Polls don’t disturb the Howard-lovers” (yesterday, item 11). What is also working against John Howard in the polls, but not getting much mileage, is the perception that he reneged on his agreement with Peter Costello to hand over power after three terms of government. Now, with no clear succession plan or handover date, the electorate can be forgiven for moving against an uncertain future and a stubborn incumbent.

Joe Mullett writes: Re. “Ken Aldred: behind the Liberals’ latest disaster” (Tuesday, item 8). Shame on Crikey for joining in the Howard/Costello/Leibler/Print Media bagging of Ken Aldred, who is the politician most unlike the Burke/Santoro/Richo model that, along with WMD, AWB etc, have brought our parliamentarians into deep and desperate disrepute. Sure, Ken is loathed by tax dodgers, paedophiles, corrupt cops and others he has put heat on. But he is precisely the sort of politician that decent Australians will support in droves in the regrettably unlikely eventuality that the Vic Lib Mafiosi fail to deep six his preselection for Holt.

Michael de Angelos writes: Tamas Calderwood’s list (yesterday, comments) of Saddam’s Iraq horrors are often rolled out to justify the invasion as though there is a moral balance sheet whereby we can justify all those who die as a result of our actions against those killed by someone else. He ignores John Howard’s words before the Iraq War which are in the signed brochure delivered to me as a former Bennelong resident which also contained a detailed list of the supposed WMDs in Iraq – that he would never contemplate joining the Coalition of the Willing for the sake of regime change. Perhaps Tamas and Howard may sleep soundly at night knowing people have died in their name on the sole decision of the PM. Personally I couldn’t, even knowing one person had been hurt.

John Kotsopoulos writes: I remind Tamas Calderwood, and the dwindling band of neo-con revisionists, that explicit legal advice provided to the British Government by the Attorney-General Peter Goldsmith advised that regime change was not a legal reason for invading Iraq. Hence the WMD charade with Blair replacing question marks with exclamation marks in the infamous Iraq Survey report. A transcript of that advice can be found here. The invasion was illegal and the occupation is therefore illegal and it’s high time that people like Calderwood and Howard stopped pretending otherwise.

Niall Clugston writes: Tamas Calderwood argues that Crikey’s Iraq Index has ignored the “Marsh Arabs” dispossessed by Saddam Hussein. If he has credible, independent evidence that this project wasn’t merely civil engineering for irrigation purposes, I’d like to hear it. Otherwise, I’ll just file it, with the WMD reports, under “US BS”!

Andrew Brown writes: Re. “Media briefs and TV ratings” (yesterday, item 24). It’s not easy being from Northern England but now you’ve stolen one of our great icons. Last I knew, the Guardian still resided in Scott Place, Manchester and had not been relocated darn sarf to London. Alistair Cooke and John Arlott would be spinning in their graves.

John Boxall writes: Re. “Never mind the Afghan opium crop, heroin’s on ice” (yesterday, item 16). The border crossing between Thailand and Myanmar in the “Golden Triangle” region is at Mae Sai in Thailand (not Chiang Rai – which is about one hour south of Mae Sai by car).

Dermot McGuire, ex Liberal Student lawyer, writes: Re. Samantha Bowden (yesterday, comments). The lady doth protest too much. She has been over a few years an executive member of the Young Liberal movement and ALSF (Liberal Students). The first is the organisation of which Mark Powell is President. Can interests be disclosed please. Also Samantha: Journalism 101 involves Spelling and Grammar (my history tutor taught journalism) “one is fortuitous enough” actually means sufficiently by chance not “fortunate enough”. Check grammar before submitting next time.

Christian Kerr writes: Thank you, Samantha Bowden, for all your instructive detail on young Queensland Senate hopeful Mark Powell yesterday, but can I ask just one more thing. Are you two still an on and off item?

Perry Gretton writes: Could someone please explain the difference to Christian Kerr? There were two instances the other day and one yesterday where he rendered “brought” as “bought”.

Yesterday’s typos (house pedant Charles Richardson casts an eye over the howlers in the last edition of Crikey): Sorry, couldn’t find any typos yesterday.

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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