Michael Egan writes: Re. “Media briefs and TV ratings” (yesterday, item 21). I know I said I’d never correspond with your rag again, but I really, really promise this is the last time. Who’s this nitwit claiming Neville Wran announced his resignation in 1986 on Channel Nine’s Sunday program? Anyone who knows anything about NSW politics knows Wran announced it on the stage of the Sydney Town Hall, not after the Sunday program, but on the Saturday of the ALP Conference. Even if your dopey contributor didn’t know, surely you’ve got someone there to correct these silly inventions. You’re almost as inaccurate, stupid and dishonest as the Daily Telegraph, the Sydney Morning Herald and the Australian Financial Review.

Glenn Barry writes: Re. “Maaaaate, how about that Sydney casino licence?” (yesterday, item 3). “Kerry Packer famously pushed for the exclusive lotteries licence in NSW because he “just wanted to see if Neville Wran could deliver”.” No, it was an “exclusive Lotto License”, and no, KP did not push for an “exclusive” at all. News Ltd (Murdoch) and Vernons (Sangster) (Partners in Australian Soccer Pools that was then making good money) put a proposal to the government and that found favour with the Treasury (Norm Oaks) and the Premiers Department not to mention the Hill “Mau Mau”. NSW Lotteries did not have the technology or the expertise (but Union pressure made the deal end up a strange joint venture anyway). Packer wanted a piece of the action and that what led to what you might report as Packer “just wanted to see if Neville Wran could deliver”. Wran did in a meeting with Murdoch in New York 1978 where he told Murdoch the deal was on if Packer could have a third … duly agreed and implemented. At least Packer showed some interest in the running of the business personally (He called me day one to see how it was going), that was more than Trevor Kennedy did as I explained to Neil Chenoweth and as he quoted me in Packer’s Lunch.

Barry Donovan, former adviser to the Hawke and Cain Governments, writes: John Howard’s claim that “Labor power means union power” will not work in 2007 and it did not work 25 years ago when the ACTU represented more than half of Australian workers and their families. In 1982 leading to the 1983 Federal election PM Malcolm Fraser continued the campaign against “union power” that had reached its heights during the 1970s when Bob Hawke was both ACTU and ALP President. Unfortunately for the Libs, Hawke had achieved the key political feat with his colleagues of uniting both the blue and white collar unions, which greatly expanded the ACTU base from the traditional blue collar area into banking, insurance, health, education, media etc. This expanded base helped provide both policies and electoral support for Federal Labor from 1983 through to 1996 and may well help Labor win the 2007 election, despite the fact that a diminished number of workers are actual union members today. Former ACTU Presidents such as Simon Crean, Martin Ferguson, and Jennie George in Canberra are more than balanced by ex-employer body MPs representing the Libs going back to the time of Ian Macphee. It is John Howard who is out of touch with the Australian public today with his ancient obsession about reforming the country’s IR system which had provided decent wages, maternity leave, equal pay, penalty rates, real holiday leave, and a proper working week which always allowed Australian families to plan a good weekend. Pru Goward heard the rumblings and Bennelong voters are not happy. Goodbye Howard power, not union power come the election.

Jay Walker, former Australian correspondent for High Times magazine, writes: The irony of David Hicks pleading guilty to “providing material support for terrorism” on the same day that Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams and Democratic Unionist Party leader Rev Ian Paisley were breaking bread together across a peace table was difficult to avoid. More so when ABC702 Radio’s Virginia Trioli was interviewing Paddy from an Australians for Northern Ireland group which had been raising funds for years in Australia for the Republican cause. David Hicks trained with, and saw some action but not enough to his liking, a creation of the USA’s CIA and Pakistan’s ISS, al-Qaeda, who were in cahoots with the Taliban-led government of Afghanistan during his stint. After some more action he fought on the Pakistan side of its war with India over the disputed territory of Kashmir and then after even more action he went to the former Yugoslavia and fought with the Kosovo Liberation Army on the same side as NATO forces. All it would have taken at this stage to drive the paradoxical meter off the dial and almost obliterate the distinction between a “freedom fighter” and a “terrorist” was a piece about one of the PM’s favourite “terrorists”, Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress.

Kevin Hendry writes: Now that David Hicks has been found guilty of supplying material aid to a terrorist organisation, does it mean that all those who have donated money etc to organisations like the IRA, Tamil Tigers, etc etc will now be arrested and sent off to Guantanamo Bay. If I were an Irish-American I would be ducking for cover!

Leonie Ramsay writes: Re. “David Hicks: guilt by incarceration” (yesterday, item 1). When David Hicks is repatriated to Australia and is safe from retaliation by the guards at Guantanamo, he can say and write whatever he likes. We won’t be surprised if the first thing he says is that he was innocent and pleaded guilty to get out of there. Any political advantage to the US and Australian governments deriving from his guilty plea will soon evaporate.

Andrew Inwood writes: Re. “The Crikey Water Diet, Part II” (yesterday, item 16). The water diet is flat out the funniest thing I have ever read. Literally. The idea of adding up a resource that literally cannot leave the earth or be transformed into something else then managing it in some fantastical way so that you might preserve more of it is just plain funny. It’s a like a tax on people who don’t understand physics. What happens to this water when it is consumed? Either by the pant or the animal that consumes it into something else? Where does the energy go? I’d really like to see a carbon diet – how much carbon are you eating? What about an oxygen diet? Does your food support the production of noxious gases. I know – you could add up the amount of hydrogen consumed in the production of hydrogenated fats (margarine) and the amount of oxygen lost to the atmosphere. Have a look at this when you get a chance… Crikey has now got its head firmly up its own a-se.

Alan Phillips writes: Your article completely ignores the fact that all water goes back into the environment and is used again and again. This omission was probably deliberate in order to give the article shock value. It reminds me of a flier that was distributed in WA sone years ago which advised that a tap dripping once per second wasted over 600L per day! After I did some quick calculation. I advised the department that the figure should actually be only about 9L per day. The department’s reply was that drops come in different sizes! It proves once again that one shouldn’t let facts spoil a good story.

Mal Teggins writes: It is rarely recognised that growing food in the home garden is far more water efficient that buying it from the supermarket. It is not something that the mainstream has considered yet. Please watch and urge your readers to watch an interview with David Holmgren on ABC’s Gardening Australia on Saturday 31 March at 7:30pm.

Jane O’Grady writes: Congratulations on your article on embedded water. It is material that people need to become aware of. Agriculture – plenty of scope for reducing greenhouse inputs there! Modern, commercial and broadacre farming uses a lot of petrochemical stuff, as well as lots of water. Permaculture tries to minimise inputs by exploiting cooperation between species, and working with the local environment rather than trying to correct, override or ignore it.

Geoff Russell writes: I loved your Crikey diet article, but while Kangaroo meat may be environmentally more benign than beef, it is a food source which doesn’t scale, causes colorectal cancer, and involves inescapable cruelty (kangaroo mums frequently have dependent joeys who escape and die slowly when she is shot). There is an article that is the “smoking gun” research on heme iron causing the DNA damage that causes colorectal cancer (Red meat enhances the colonic formation of the DNA adduct O6-carboxymethyl guanine: Implications for colorectal cancer risk. Lewin, Bailey et al). To summarise, heme iron induces the formation of chemicals called N-nitroso compounds (the same chemicals that cause cancer in smokers) which damage your DNA. Whether the damage is repaired or goes on to become cancer is subject to many forces – genes, diet, luck. But the damage caused by the meat is the same as that found in human colorectal cancer victims. We have the highest rate of colorectal cancer in the world (with NZ).

Tim Smith writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (yesterday, item 5). It seems your first tip yesterday was on the money. Have a look here for the announcement. It’s not even on the ANZ website, but on the site of the people to whom they have outsourced the rewards program.

Todd Campbell writes: In regards to yesterday’s tip that ANZ is increasing the number of points needed to redeem rewards, I can confirm it’s true, at least partly. The actual increase appears to be related to the redemption of points for vouchers (shopping vouchers) and ANZ cash (cash deposited into ANZ accounts) only. For example, the number of points needed to redeem a $50 gift voucher will increase from 6,250 to 6,660, an increase of 6.56%. This information is found on the ANZ Rewards website, only after you log in and go to the page to redeem points. Given that with the rewards card I have I only get one point per $1.50 spent I now need to spend $9,990 to get a $50 voucher instead of $9,375 (which is about 0.5% return on money spent!)… great reward, eh?

Les Heimann writes: Re. Yesterday’s editorial. John Howard is ramping up his union bashing campaign… but who is listening? As Crikey wrote not so long ago “when a swing is on it’s on”. Sure, the upcoming budget will no doubt titillate the venal; certainly this “outgoing government” will seek to tip out the tin and leave nothing for the victors. But who is listening? Wedging, expostulating, over the top hysteria, ridicule and just plain hyperbole doesn’t work when no one wants to hear any of it anymore. As Crikey asks today, who will be the candidate for Bennelong? After all, as John Howard has consistently pointed out, he will stay as long as his party requires – perhaps his party is beginning to listen!

Peter Wachtel writes: Anne Lampe (yesterday, comments) writes about how she heard so many stories about dissatisfied people and WorkChoices. Don’t worry Anne – after the next election if the ALP wins, the following election instead of hearing them complain about WorkChoices, you can write in to tell us all the stories about how dissatisfied they are with not having a job.

Terry Kidd writes: The problem that I see for WorkChoices and AWAs is that John Howard’s legislation allowed AWAs to be targeted at the lower end of the work force, precisely where some protection for the worker is needed. Let’s face it – work contracts have been around for the higher end of the employment market for a long time and tend to work well. There is no doubt that they also work quite well for larger organisations in the resources field. However, now that more vulnerable employees are now in range leaves them open to, what is seen by many, as exploitation by employers who are far more mercenary then more fair minded employers. I have experience of leading a workforce and negotiating conditions that were win/win for the bosses and the workers. Yes, the employees traded some conditions, but they were compensated for that, and the winning points for the business were returns in efficiency, productivity and flexibility that allowed gains in customer service and profitability. Interestingly, the business also gained further in productivity because the employees were happier and earning more. In my opinion, the problem for the Government in AWAs is the fact that there is no effective safety net to stop unfair exploitation at the lower end of the employment market. There is no negotiation about conditions… It is simply take it or leave it. I believe that the heat would drop out of the debate and there would be no WorkChoices election issue if the Government quickly moved to amend WorkChoices to protect the lower end of the employment market.

Vivien Kluger writes: Re. “NSW blunder a roll model for the federal poll?” (yesterday, item 12). I just want to share my experience/concern at the way pre-polling was conducted in NSW for the recent election. To start with, I had to show ID! Why did I have to, when if I’d voted on Saturday I wouldn’t have been asked for ID. When I questioned why, the person behind the counter said, “so we know it’s you”. Why is that important for pre-polling and not on the polling day, I asked. “That’s what we’ve been told to do,” was the answer. I said, “I thought they would have a sensible explanation” and let it go then as I was getting nowhere slowly. What happened next made me mad again! I was given polling slips for both houses and an envelope. The front of the envelope had to filled in with my name and address and to be signed! I said where’s the other envelope. They said, “what other envelope?” I said, “the one where I put my private vote in.” They said, “there’s no other envelope.” I said, “that’s not a private vote then, which I’m entitled to under our democratic system of government.” Seriously blank look from the other side of the counter. I said, “that’s most unsatisfactory.” After a little more of this to and fro being told we need the name and address to mark you off the roll, the person behind the counter folded my slips and put them into the envelope and sealed the darn thing! Denied voting as well as everything else! This is a most unsatisfactory system.

David Mansford writes: Re. “The patented Crikey bank fee retrieval letter: get yours now” (yesterday, item 4). I was slugged $40 for having insufficient funds following a direct debit – my error. I wrote a letter to Citibank similar to the one in today’s Crikey. No luck! Has anyone had success having a Citibank fee reversed?

Robert Bruinewoud writes: Re. “The Economy: Raising national productivity” (yesterday, item 30). A question regarding the 265,000 new jobs that have been created in the last year – mostly low skill, low productivity jobs for low-skill workers, according to Henry Thornton – how many of these “new” jobs are being done by people who find it necessary to work two or more of these new jobs just to make ends meet?

Greg Cameron, Urban Rainwater Systems Pty Ltd, writes: If you are one of the 58% of Australians who live in NSW or Victoria, the water that falls on your roof is your property. Your ownership of rainwater gives you the right to use it any way you please. Your state government has no authority to regulate, require you to use, or tax, your use of the water that falls on your roof. You have the legal right to install a rainwater tank and to plumb it into your household plumbing provided you comply with building, town planning and plumbing regulations. To encourage you, your government gives you the right to install rainwater tanks up to 10,000 litres in NSW and up to 4,500 litres in Victoria, without planning approval. If you install four small rainwater tanks, say 670 litres each, at strategic parts of your house, you will collect at least 65KL of rainwater each year that you own. This will give you a 30-year supply of water for around the cost of mains water. But if you are a resident of South Australia, Western Australia or Tasmania, you do not own the water that falls on your roof. Your state government can regulate, require you to use, or tax, your use of the water any time it likes. If you are a resident of Queensland, your government does not know who owns the water that falls on your roof. However, this does not seem to matter too much, because your government regulates your use of rainwater all the same. Because of the economies of scale in production, distribution and installation, the absolute lowest cost of rainwater supply will occur when every roof in the country is used as a water catchment. COAG is the obvious choice to champion a national rainwater tank policy. If COAG supported people owning the water that falls on their own roof, and harvesting it at a cost that is lower than recycled water and desalinated seawater, we would have a national, bipartisan, rainwater tank policy.

Robin MacDonald writes: In these days of groups demanding apologies for the actions of past generations (I note the demand from the descendants of the slave traders as the latest such plea) surely it is time that we as a nation stood up and demanded an apology from the Poms for their treatment of the convicts they sent out on fleets of unseaworthy vessels to the Great Southern Land. Maybe Crikey could lead the call.

Diana Carroll writes: Much as I am reluctant to get all pedantic with your resident pedant, I must take exception to this: “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’.” Christian’s omission of a single “e” may be careless or even devious (who are we to fathom the Kerr brain?) but it falls far short of being a “howler”.

Yesterday’s typos (house pedant Charles Richardson casts an eye over the howlers in the last edition of Crikey): Item 16: “Bega Valley cheese from Victoria is also largely rainfed, notes Montagu.” Mr Montagu may know lots about water, but he needs a geography lesson: Bega Valley is in NSW.

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