Telstra spinner Rod Bruem writes: Re. “Enough talk, give us the detail on broadband already” (yesterday, item 3). Going to Paul Budde for an intelligent comment about Telstra and broadband is a bit like going to Glen Milne for a reasoned comment on Crikey. Budde is not independent; he’s Telstra’s most crazy and outspoken critic. Whatever the question, his response will always be that the answer lies in regulating Telstra even more or breaking the company up – when in fact too much regulation has been stopping Telstra investing for almost a year. Perhaps Paul Budde could explain how breaking Telstra up would help investment in Australia? Only one telco in the world has fully gone down the structural separation path advocated by Budde: that is BT in the UK and as a result there is no prospect of Britain getting a fibre network any time soon. Making companies smaller and putting barriers between the service delivery arm and the decision makers in the business doesn’t generally lead to better outcomes for customers. Likewise, separating electricity and gas suppliers from their infrastructure is a relatively simple affair, but telecommunications networks are a lot more complex and require continued investment and upgrading. Those who compare telecommunications networks to gas pipes and powerlines generally don’t know what they are talking about. By the way, Budde last year predicted Telstra’s last major investment, the Next G mobile network, would be an absolute failure. As Next G is now on track to becoming one of the world’s most successful 3G investments, how can anyone take Budde seriously as an industry commentator?

Keith Bales writes: So Senator Coonan thinks she and the Cabinet know more about media and the world wide web than Keith Rupert Murdoch? Let’s get real and listen to “experts” rather than blather on in the Senate and just proving once again she knows very little (like Alston) about the media business? Everyone in Australia that uses the internet knows she is wrong and that Rupert is right. You only have to look at his sensational record. At least, the Labor Party have recognised that if nothing else?

Jill Reid writes: Re. “The Crikey Water Diet: Part I” (yesterday, item 5). Thanks for the article on the water diet – just thought that you would like to know that the Australian Vegan Society puts our daily water consumption figures as follows: A day’s food for a meat eater requires over 15,000 litres of water; A day’s food for a vegetarian requires 5,000 litres of water; A day’s food for a vegan requires only 1,500 litres of water. It does give you food for thought – and no entendres about greenhouse gas production please. Have you given any thought to the methane produced by the livestock and the carbon dioxide used in transportation & processing meat. That’s another story altogether. Thank you for mentioning this – It’s a whole debate that as a society we are not having.

Emma Field writes: Thanks for the fab suggestions on how to slim down in a H2O friendly way. I think every workplace should take on board your suggestions to save our thirsty planet; in fact I am taking the following to my manager. Scrap the free tea and coffee (thousands of litres of water required) and replace with beer and wine (hardly any water required!); Encourage smoke breaks rather than tea breaks (given tobacco soaks up soo much less precious water…may need to revise smoking ban in buildings…but if it saves the planet no barriers should stand in our way!); Supply corn and potato chips (not beef flavoured) for all staff to stop the need to eat lunch (which might involve a ham/chicken/beef sandwich); Free dry cleaning for all staff opting to wear hemp.

Keith Thomas writes: Stimulating, but a little simplistic. “Embedded water” is not like embedded energy. A kilogram of beef may contain 100,000 litres of “embedded water”, but it’s not in the beef on your plate. It will have gone through the cow and out the other end where it may have evaporated, fallen as rain and been “embedded” in vegetables or even more beef – a number of times. And how about the “embedded water” in kangaroo meat? That would be thousands of litres per kilogram too but will have been provided at almost no cost to the environment. It is the environmental cost of the “embedded water” that is the issue, not the volume of embedded water as such. The more local your food source, the less industrialised your food and the more of it you grow yourself, the less the environmental cost of the water embedded in it.

Brad Ruting writes: Have you ever heard of the water cycle? Although the food Australia exports may have used a lot of water during its production, exporting that food is not the same as being “a net exporter of embedded water. Water that we don’t have.” Whether water is used for irrigation, or falls on pastures, or on fields of crops, or in rivers, or anywhere, really, it works its way back into either the groundwater system or into waterways which end up in lakes and oceans. The sun evaporates water off bodies of water to form clouds, which the wind blows over land, where they drop the water. It’s hydrology at its most elementary level. A lot of water may not be used efficiently in food production, but when we consume food with “embedded water” we’re not destroying that water and forever removing it from the Earth. By all means argue for greater efficiency and environmental sensitivity in how we manage the water that falls from the sky, but don’t pretend that water disappears after being used only once.

Geoff Russell writes: It’s nice to see “mainstream” media finally alert to the fact that we eat and export most of Australia’s water. The biggest single user of water in Australia is the dairy industry. It takes about 318 litres of water (this is all extracted water and doesn’t include stuff in farm dams and “free” water that happens to fall and produce grass) to produce each litre you drink. That’s 3,500 gigalitres annually. All our towns and cities use a mere 2,300 gigalitres. But nobody can touch the dairy industry – talk about India and its holy cows! Victorian Australian of the Year, Philip Wollen, is being mercilessly pursued by The Weekly Times for being critical of the dairy industry. Most of the Victorian dairy industry would go to the wall if market forces were let loose on water. Hence Bracks being the sticking point in the national water agreement. Despite us being one of the highest consumers of dairy products in the world, we have one of the highest rates of osteoporosis in the world. Why is this so if dairy products are so good for your bones? This is a really interesting question leading to many complex issues.

Daniel Patman writes: Re. The Water Diet. As a dedicated semi-vego I’m pleased to find myself vindicated but for the sad reality of my caffeine addiction. The ethical straw I desperately clasp is that we can’t compare kilos of coffee with kilos of beef – can we? On another note, how about including the humble fish in your calculations? That’d throw a spanner in, har har!

Dave Horsfall writes: Jane Nethercote writes that we are the “driest continent on earth”. We are actually the second driest, behind Antarctica, and the driest inhabited continent.

Christian Kerr writes: In my comments on the NSW Liberal leadership yesterday (item 11), I somehow managed to say Malcolm Kerr is the president of the Barry O’Farrell fan club, rather than Wayne Merton. And, no. Malcolm Kerr isn’t a rich uncle who’s threatened to cut me off or anything.

Anne Lampe writes: I did an afternoon stint at a polling station in Bennelong on the weekend and unhappiness with WorkChoices was mentioned by voters many times. And from neighbours, colleagues and friends I have yet to hear a positive story about the impact of the new IR laws. Everyone has a story about a sibling, partner, child or friend that has been confronted with a multi page agreement written by the employer’s lawyer that the employee cannot alter or negotiate and which cuts them out of penalty rates, conditions and forces them to work hours set at the whim of the employer. The only choice the job applicant/employee is given is sign it or forget about the job. Like scary airline and bad bank stories, these stories get told and retold. They are bad word of mouth stories, the most effective negative advertising. If the federal government thinks it has no problem on the IR front, it is in for a rude shock on polling day. Many voters, having lost work/family life balance and pay, will jump at the opportunity to express their dissatisfaction at the ballot box.

Niall Clugston writes: In your “editorial” yesterday, you comment that the NSW election “highlighted” the fact that this is an “era of almost undifferentiated policy and ideological positions between the major parties”. But, in fact, Iemma ran hard on “traditional Labor values”, standing up for workers’ rights and public services, and attacking Debnam as the man who would slash 20,000 jobs and hand IR powers to Canberra. And this seems to have resonated with voters, who appear to have overlooked Labor’s saga of scandal and fiasco and voted on the “big picture” or “ideology”.

Greens electoral analyst Stephen Luntz writes: Re. “NSW election: what happened and why” (yesterday, item 7). Thanks for noting that we outpolled the ALP on primaries in Vaucluse. I think you are right that we have never done this before in a state or federal seat (although we did get ahead of Labor in the Nedlands and Cunningham by-elections after preferences). However, you missed the fact that this was not the only seat where it happened. We are also currently ahead of Labor (admittedly in one case by just 3 votes) in North Shore, Pittwater and Manly, although in the latter two the Independent pushed us into 3rd place. Beating the Liberals in Balmain and Marrickville means we have now done this about a dozen times round the country. It’s interesting that we beat Labor in more places than we beat the Liberals.

Tom McLoughlin, Ecology Action Australia, writes: Re. “The Three Way split in NSW” (yesterday, item 8). I agree with Richard Farmer on the rise of a third force in politics. For 16 years now I’ve been mulling over the three moral values sustaining the Coalition, Labor and Greens even in adversity. 1. Coalition – individual freedom to realise one’s full potential free of government/collective oppression. 2. Labor – just reward for labour, eg via collective solidarity. 3. Greens: ecological sustainability/justice. Each borrows from the other as needed but return to these three for existential credibility. The Greens are shoving the Democrats aside in the age of ecological priority, re: climate change, ozone hole, water, over population, food supply etc. A fourth moral value of fair open process is getting lost as limits to growth intensify the contest for the three left standing. But we do need this fourth process value to mediate the situation and that worries me. The Greens argue for “grassroots democracy” in their general platform with socialist implications, and quite contrary to Plato’s famous objection that democracy gives the wise man as much say as the fool (how true). Do the Coalition and ALP even care about democracy as such or is it just an optional tool in their eyes, or even hindrance at times? The secrecy of the Howard and Iemma govt (F18 hornets deal, broken FoI system respectively) shows a systemic problem in our politics, so will the Greens really carry that torch now for all including in their own dealings with power? Will any of them?

Rod Campbell-Ross writes: As a voter it’s hard not to be cynical about the weekend’s election. It was largely irrelevant to our futures. “Rearranging the deckchairs” is a phrase that springs to mind. For without doubt the defining issue of our times is energy; and that was hardly mentioned. The mainstream media in Australia, even Crikey, haven’t cottoned on to Peak Oil which likely is happening right now. Two-thirds of the world’s oil producers are in decline including Mexico, the North Sea and Australia. Saudi production dropped by nearly one million barrels per day last year, but that didn’t make the news. Every year oil consumption massively outstrips new discovery. So what? Petrol will be more expensive. Fertilisers and pesticides are made from oil. Huge farm machines run on diesel which means food prices are going to go up a lot. Only rich people will fly. The price of oil affects everything, so inflation will spike along with interest rates. Expect a major recession. Apart from Sweden nobody is preparing. That’s unless you count the Iraq war. Next in the US war plan is Iran, which may happen soon. Expect over $100 per barrel. Life is soon going to get very difficult, yet nothing was said about this in the election. And global warming. The Nasa GRACE (Gravitational Research And Climate Experiment) website is scary. It shows that the polar ice sheets are melting faster and faster and 162 cubic km of Greenland ice now melts every year. More is melting in Antarctica and on glaciers all around the world. On average it is nearly nearly one degree warmer than it was a hundred years ago. That’s the beauty of averages: it is actually 6-8 degrees warmer near the poles where all that ice is. New evidence suggests that when ice sheets melt, they do so catastrophically quickly. Larsen B collapsed in a month, shocking scientists who had expected it to take 100 years. How much will sea levels rise? It could easily be one metre or more in the next ten years. What kind of world are we leaving our children?

David Houston writes: Like most of the ABC election broadcast, you got the NSW election Murray Darling result wrong. It was not held by the Nationals, but won by the Nationals from the Labor Party. Similarly wide of the mark were the city commentators guess that the sitting member lost it only because of the redistribution. Water and alcohol (the member’s) had bigger impacts than the redistribution. Crikey journalists should visit or listen to the bush occasionally, so we don’t get an overload of spin and wishful thinking about what goes on out here.

Max Reichert writes: As a non-cardigan wearing ex-public servant enjoying the well earned fruits of my superannuation earned over many painful years of contribution, I am somewhat amused at the shyness of politicians – and the curious reluctance of political commentators – to publicise the fact that the Future Fund, as well as providing a minimal standard of living to hardworking men and women in the Commonwealth Public Service, also provides an astonishingly generous income for life to (sometimes extremely mediocre) politicians rejected by their electorate, sometimes at an age hardly into their forties. While it would be totally wrong to attribute Peter Costello’s hysterical outburst in the House against Labor’s broadband proposal to the extremely remote possibility that his future retirement income might be adversely affected by unwise investments by a future Labor Government, it would not be unreasonable for him to declare a personal interest in the matter of the fund – which is to provide him with a level of luxury in retirement which the average voter cannot imagine and will never enjoy.

Tom Moloney writes: Everyone who writes seems to assume that “unfunded superannuation” is a bad thing. As long as the Commonwealth Government has provided superannuation it has been “unfunded”. It is only since the fund vultures have been allowed to take cuts coming and going that “unfunded” has been discovered to be a bad thing.

Greg Cameron, Urban Rainwater Systems Pty Ltd, writes: Geoff Walker (23 March, comments) asks “how much of our rain actually falls on rooftops”? The answer is about 900GL (billion litres) on 5.6 million house roofs assuming average roof area 175 square metres. When every person uses 290 litres of drinking water a day, 5 million Australians, or 25% of the population, will use 530GL each year. Rainwater tanks on all separate houses (75% of all dwellings) will yield at least this much water at lower cost than recycled water and desalinated seawater.

David Scott writes: Re. Geoff Walker and Benjamin Shuhyta (yesterday, comments). I think Geoff is right and Benjamin wrong. 200 x 8,000,000 = 1,600,000,000 square metres. As there are 1,000,000 square metres in a square kilometre, the correct answer is 1,600 square kilometres.

Mike Martin writes: Re. “What the bishop said to the Wikipedia founder” (yesterday, item 17). Peter Hollingworth’s entry in Wikipedia has been cleaned up but it is not spotless. The article says regarding Peter Hollingworth’s call to the Australia Talks program on 21 March, “The presenter, Paul Barclay, challenged the caller on whether he was Hollingworth. Hollingworth admitted he was.” I heard the program as it was broadcast. Barclay did not “challenge”. Hollingworth did not “admit”. Hollingworth, as is the standard custom with callers to the program, was introduced by first name only. I received no impression that he had tried to obscure his identity. In fact, the situation may have been the very opposite. As I recall, after Hollingworth asked his question (which the Wikipedia article quotes from Christian Kerr’s Crikey piece), Barclay said to Wales words to the effect, “before you answer you may like to be aware that the caller is a former Governor General of Australia. Am I right, Peter?” Peter: “Yes.” The Australia Talks audio is here if anyone wants to check it out.

Peter Lloyd writes: Re. “Brutalised and starving, Zimbabwe on the brink of revolution” (yesterday, item 4). Wouldn’t it be nice if we learnt a lesson from Iraq: when Mugabe falls, we can put in place a force to restore order, and allow the best aspirations of the Zimbabwean people to be realised. Or, we can adopt the Downer-Rumsfeld strategy of letting the power vacuum be filled by fanatical and violent extremists.

Martyn Smith writes: Re. “The Economy: Singapore, drugs and the Boss not for turning” (yesterday, item 28). Henry Thornton’s travelogue from Singapore refers to Howard as the boss. Henry is entitled to his opinion but I view Howard ultimately as the servant. I know it’s akin to the clowns running the circus or the lunatic running the asylum, but in the last analysis Howard and the rest of the politicians notionally work for us, and I wish Henry wouldn’t flatter Howard; the man’s head is big enough already. I also take issue with Henry’s opinion that the IR legislation is a serious economic reform. The word “reform” has been worked to death in the last few years. How about calling it what it is, a change? We can agree to disagree on whether its good or bad. Contrary to Henry’s view, Howard’s IR has deformed what was a good, fair and balanced industrial relations system in Australia. For me, the only thing Henry is right about (apart from his politics) is that the IR change is “serious”. He can rest assured that lots of Australians take Howard’s “serious economic reform” very, very seriously indeed.

Stephen Woods writes: “…what an irony if the Libs were thrown out because of a serious economic reform.” Is making profits for businesses and companies (many of them record profits!) a “serious economic reform” or just allowing a fat profit for your friends, Mr. Thornton? We were informed earlier in item 6 about a study by Professor David Peetz of Griffith University that argues “Women and casual employees (often overlapping categories) are the biggest losers under WorkChoices”. Is this what is meant by a “serious economic reform”, that many of the most vulnerable should pay for these profits to happen? A more comprehensive appraisal of the total social effects of these “economic reforms” is needed by Henry. No?

Damien Anderson writes: Re. “Unionists in parliament: the truth” (yesterday, item 9). Stephen Mayne’s list of former unionists includes the following; “Barry Collier: MLA for Miranda in NSW. Former President of the Legal Education Teachers’ Association of NSW”. I understand the association referred to is a professional grouping rather than a union. The relevant union for Barry, a former high school teacher, would have been the NSW Teachers Federation. It should be noted that Barry was re-elected last Saturday in a seat he won from the then Deputy leader of the Liberal Party and former Greiner Government Health Minister Ron Philips in 1995. The seat was held by conservatives since its creation just after WWII. Kim Carr is included because Stephen, apparently, doesn’t like his politics. Mayne acknowledges he was never on a union’s payroll. Aside from its questionable accuracy, Stephen’s list seems to place former union participants on a par with those on other Crikey lists, such as former staffers who became MPs. The issues are clearly different. Perhaps Stephen should tell us where Labor MPs should come from? Alternatively, he could compile a list of all the millionaires in the Liberal Party. Or perhaps he could have a tilt himself (again).

Tim Hood writes: Re. “Oh, possum! Go to Downer if you’re down” (yesterday, item 13). I hope I am not alone in observing the stunning hypocrisy of Alexander Downer, when he attempts to have the media lay off Santoro, just days after launching a very personal attack on Kelvin Thomson.

Jody Bailey writes: Last week, Alexander Downer made a genuinely humane, if somewhat government-self-serving, plea by asking that Santo Santoro not be hounded to death. Any further cheap blows become like a street-fight where a down and defenceless d-ckhead cops a full-blooded kick square in the head. It came from a coward, was totally unnecessary and might kill him. It probably won’t though, you hope. I wonder if Peter Costello has ever had pause to reflect upon the flying punt he launched a couple of years ago, which connected truly with the bowed, stationary head of Nick Sherry. I seem to recall gleeful and wrathful baying from all of the government front bench, Mr Downer included, as Mr Costello salivated over Sherry’s prone carcass. Dog-eat-dog has become the routine stuff of our politics and pity the fool who has the daily-ratings media-hounds set upon them. But thanks for the glimmer of humanity, Alex. I almost believed.

Jeremy Bath writes: Re. Media briefs and TV ratings (yesterday, item 23). I’m pretty sure Andrew Fraser never admitted to being drunk at the time when he went for Joe Tripodi in parliament last year. My memory of the incident is that Fraser consumed half a glass of red during dinner earlier in the evening. Perhaps it is Glenn Dyer who was drunk? How else would he explain getting wrong virtually the only NSW political story covered nationally last year?

Jim Hart writes: Re. “APA cracks 30% as Qantas shares fall again” (yesterday, item 25). “You have to feel a little bit sorry for Macquarie Bank.” Oh what a card you are, Stephen Mayne. Very droll indeed. Maybe not quite good enough for a spot in the Comedy Festival but not bad for a business commentator.

Yesterday’s typos (house pedant Charles Richardson casts an eye over the howlers in the last edition of Crikey): Item 11: Christian Kerr referred to “David Clark” when he means “David Clarke”.

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