Mike Martin writes: Re. “Airline insecurity: welcome to the era of the moisturiser bomb” (Friday, item 5). Ben Sandilands writes about the absurdities of air travel security. The absurdities become completely surreal if you track down exactly what it is that the ban on liquids is preventing us from bringing on board an aircraft. The explosive du jour is triacetone triperoxide (TATP), whose molecular structure is prone to violent disintegration given the least encouragement. Shoe bomber Richard Reid had a little TATP secreted in one of his shoes as a trigger for plastic explosive. TATP is however a white, crystalline powder, so that does not explain the ban on liquids. Furthermore, due to its instability, it’s not something you’d want to carry round with you. Terrorists whose plot to blow up several transatlantic aircraft was foiled in 2006 had intended to carry the necessary chemicals on board and mix TATP in an aircraft toilet. This seems to be what the ban on liquids is supposed to prevent. The ingredients for synthesizing TATP are acetone, concentrated hydrogen peroxide solution and sulfuric or hydrochloric acid — all liquids. Daring feats have been accomplished in aircraft toilets, but successfully mixing TATP may be more difficult than most, Thomas C Greene explains what you’d need to do here. Chances of successfully getting away with it? I’d say zero to three decimal places. First documented use of liquid explosive against an airliner (nitroglycerin in this case) was Philippine Airlines flight 434 in December 1994. The plane was damaged and one passenger was killed, but it landed successfully. With a remarkable sense of urgency, authorities have in less than 13 years instituted measures to eliminate this risk. Did I say “surreal”?

Lonely Planet founder Tony Wheeler writes: Re Ben Sandilands ‘Weak point number four’ – duty free purchases made beyond the screening are exempt. If they weren’t exempt then presumably the next non-exemption is going to be all those drink bottles from mineral water to Bollinger which are on board for in-flight consumption. Are we going to make 12 hour flights only consuming drinks from 100ml containers along the way? And “Weak point number three” – domestic passengers are exempt. If they weren’t exempt then we’d all be forfeiting the duty free purchases we made in Singapore or London when we go through security on arrival, before continuing from Sydney to Melbourne.

Cam MacRae writes: I make 4 or 5 trips to the USA each year and was amused this week to receive notice from Qantas that even more time should be allowed for international check-in given the new liquid carry on rules. Amused because security at LAX and Kennedy has all but seem to have given up inspecting my 1 quart plastic bag with miniature bottles, and instead merely bellow at all comers to deposit their spring water in the bins provided. Mark Vaile may well be shrewd, but let’s hope the local airport security are similarly shrewd and get it together quickly.

Geoff Baars writes: Thanks to Ben Sandilands for pointing out the idiocy of the new restrictions on liquids on international flights to or from Australia. But the situation is worse than he realises. According to a recent article on this issue in The Economist (March 8th 2007), the European duty-free sales lobby group, ETRC, is “…especially upset about Australia’s regulations, under which passengers will be screened on arrival and containers of liquid over 100ml confiscated.” I have tried to contact the Department of Travel and Regional Services (which is responsible for this lunacy), to confirm whether The Economist is correct that Australia intends screening passengers on arrival (NB even when there’s no connecting flight). No reply, and the notes on the DOTARS website are not clear. If correct, this makes Australia the worst in the world when it comes to applying these stupid rules. Anyone who knows anything about explosives will confirm that these measures will not make flying any safer; what these measures are inter alia designed to do is to convince the ignorant, and infrequent travellers, that they are now safer. In other words, millions of passengers around the world will now be greatly inconvenienced, in order to ensure that people who know nothing about explosives or airline safety continue to book flights… That’s the generous interpretation. Since Stephen Mayne always likes a bit of a conspiracy theory, especially where monopolies are concerned, I would love to know if the Duty Free Liquor Shops at Australian airports (especially those at the Macquarie-owned Sydney International…) have had anything to do with these rules? I mean, if you can’t bring the (much better, much greater choice, much cheaper) Duty Free from Singapore, London, Johannesburg, etc., then your only option is to shop on arrival in Australia… I declare special interest here: I travel internationally 20+ times a year, from Perth (a wonderful home, but a terribly parochial “international” airport), and my entire single malt Scotch Whisky collection is dependent on Duty Free purchases internationally.

Philip Carman writes: Re. “Journo apathy greets whistleblower case” (Friday, item 19). Margaret Simons got half the story out about the atrocious lack of concern for Kessing’s stance as a whistleblower and the implications of his conviction for those in journalism – but she missed the more important issue, which is that this poor blighter has been hung out to dry for leaking a document that clearly needed leaking! The resultant clean-up of customs and security at airports means that Kessing is little short of a visionary and his actions were heroic. He should have been rewarded with a promotion rather than threatened with a term of imprisonment. Those who prosecuted him did so because the law existed to allow them to do just that (a law which exists to protect those guilty of corruption or covering-up mistakes, rather than the whistleblowers who expose them) and that is the story and what needs to be prosectuted by the Fourth Estate. We all need to get Kessing at least as much attention as David Hicks before he ends up being treated in a similar fashion… Remember – it could be anyone of us in the future and frankly we deserve it when it comes if we don’t do everything we can now, to help Kessing. I’m prepared to kick of a fund to campaign for Kessing with my $100. What about the rest of the Crikey family?

Tony Allan writes: Readers may wish to attack Michael Egan’s record as a politician, but he is absolutely correct about the resignation of Neville Wran (Thursday, comments). As state political reporter for 2GB, I was covering the NSW ALP conference on the Saturday. Wran staggered the audience with his resignation announcement, but within seconds of the end of his speech, faction leaders gathered in groups under the Sydney Town Hall stage to decide who the next Premier would be. Supporters of Laurie Brereton and Barrie Unsworth were prominent, with the understanding that Unsworth would become Premier emerging within a day or so. If Wran’s resignation had been foreshadowed on television, the next Premier would have been decided before Wran made his speech, such was the efficiency of the NSW Labor Right at the time. I also seem to recall that Wran resigned just after a fairly favourable opinion poll, whereas Labor’s private polling was suggesting they’d get done like a dinner at the next election. This was exactly Barrie Unsworth’s fate. Neville Wran was a rare example of an Australian political leader knowing exactly the right time to give the game away.

Fremantle Herald Editor Brian Mitchell writes: Re. “You can go wash the blood off your hands now, Doctor” (Friday, item 15). I interviewed Carmen Lawrence the day before her announcement and it was clear to me she – not Kevin Rudd – had decided 21 years was enough in the bearpit. Although Christian Kerr might involuntarily twitch at the sound of Lawrence’s name she has a cult following in her electorate and it would have been all but impossible to lever her out against her will. If Christian has any proof that “Ruthless” Rudd tapped Lawrence on the shoulder he should provide it. However, I harbour deep suspicions that Christian has, on this occasion at least, reported his own supposition as fact.

Michael Harvey writes: Re. “Sensationalist scare tactics mar Tassie mill debate” (Friday, item 17). Unlike Mr Chipman or Senator Abetz, I am not a person with vested interests in lethal or unsustainable industries. I don’t think propaganda sermons from these two or Premier Lennon about sustainability or development are very comforting. I’m surprised a supplier to the print media (as Mr Chipman ultimately is) bothers writing to Crikey. I am a subscriber to several online, paper-free journals and an unwilling consumer of forestry and mining products, because alternatives have been shelved. Unlike other lethal products such as booze, tobacco, gambling, combustion-engine vehicles and trans fats we ordinary citizens cannot decide not to use products from the forestry, mining and oil industries, nor it seems stop any mining or pulp mill developments. These industries have proven their dishonesty time and time again, yet manage to buy their way out of any accountability, as they no doubt will on global warming. Their outdated products and their associated infrastructure are being forced down our throats by corrupt governments with evangelical zeal. The mantra of “jobs” acts like a poison chalice for fools — as if Mr Gay cares about workers. To add insult to considerable injury we are then accused of being anti “development” if we dare question the wisdom of such promotions! If some vandal was pouring accelerant on your burning house wouldn’t you do everything in your power to incapacitate him/her? Would you be accused of being anti-development? Unless of course it’s an insurance scam, now there’s a thought. The real anti-development stance is one of business-as-usual. We desperately need un-usual businesses to meet our present environmental challenge. In my opinion it is definitely worth the small sacrifice of a few menial and destructive jobs for the sake of the greater global good and for creating work in truly sustainable new technologies. Our future lies only in immediately going cold turkey on these poisonous industries, otherwise “development” as Mr Chipman, Senator Abetz and Premier Lennon interpret the word will be as doomed a concept as the human race. But probably not before the next election.

Geoff Law, Tasmanian campaign coordinator with the Wildnerness Society, writes: Mr Chipman claims (Friday, item 17) I have over-stated how much wood Gunns’ proposed pulp mill will consume. He claims it will consume three million tonnes per annum of woodchips. That is already a huge amount. But Gunns’ Integrated Impact Statement (July 2006) says: “Total intake of pulpwood and residues is anticipated to be in the range of 3.2 to 4.0 million green tonnes per annum.” Indeed, Gunns expects the total amount of its woodchipping to reach almost 7 million tonnes per annum in about 10 years — about double what Gunns exported last financial year. This is a monumental amount of wood. To this must be added the 500,000 tonnes per annum of “residues” that Gunns will burn in a massive wood-fired power station to generate electricity for the pulp mill. These extravagant amounts of wood cannot be cut sustainably from this one small island. Despite the staggering magnitude of these figures, the impacts of the pulp mill on Tasmania’s forests will not be assessed by the State Government. Perhaps Federal Environment Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, can inject some rigour into the process and ensure that these impacts will not be ignored. Yet, how ironic it is that the Federal Government has spent $2 million buying people’s wood-heaters to help clean the air in the Tamar Valley, but has given Gunns $5 million of taxpayers’ funds to develop a pulp mill which will include one of the biggest wood-fired generators imaginable — in the same valley! Such are the contradictions that apply to forestry in Tasmania.

Lynne Good writes: Some readers may benefit from a gloss on last Friday’s contribution from Barry Chipman of Timber Communities Australia (TCA). Despite its folksy name, the TCA is actually a well-funded PR arm of the National Association of Forest Industries, of which Gunns Ltd is a leading player. Barry cited a figure of three million tonnes of wood to be consumed by the mill p.a., slightly below the projected minimum and well below the full capacity of 4.1m tonnes p.a, which matches the largest existing or planned planned mill in the world. To pay for the mill, Gunns has announced that it will be exporting enough chips to raise its total woodchip production to an unprecedented 7m tonnes p.a. All this will be bolstered by huge and ever-increasing public subsidies to the industry for all sorts of things, including, very likely Barry’s letter.

Alona Hunter writes: I just have to comment on Barry Chipman’s latest rant. Firstly, being a pedant, if you are going to use acronyms Barry, anything is one word. Now to the content — the pulp mill will surely create jobs but most of the specialised jobs will be filled from interstate or overseas expertise. The bulk of the jobs in the construction of the mill will only be short term. You know as well as I do Barry, very few of your “timber families” are “wealthy”. The real wealth is shared by very few, and, as has become very evident in the recent past, Gunns are more than happy for the small contractor to lose money in it’s pursuit of higher company profits. How can you promise that no old growth will be used for this mill. You are a spokesperson for TCA, not the watchdog or regulator. How can an industry that takes 10 to 20 years to grow the product it relies on and only minutes to cut down be sustainable? The amounts just don’t add up. If Gunns and the Tasmanian Government really had the best interests of Tasmanians at heart, why aren’t they putting this amazing amount of investment funds into developing a hemp processing plant? Surely this would also create jobs and wealth, and would be truly sustainable and much gentler on the environment!

Peter Lloyd writes: Does the amusingly-named Barry Chipman of Timber Communities Australia, one of seemingly dozens of pro-pulp mill lobby groups getting around, feel even a slight twinge of irony in accusing anti-mill groups of being “guilty of gross dishonesty”? Even his claim that opponents want to “destroy any major development in Tasmania” is a bit rich, given the crony capitalism that is so rampant down here seems to be designed to prevent the development of any industries that might compete with forestry for access to the corporate welfare slush-fund that keeps groups like his afloat. There was a process in place that would have sorted out exactly who was telling lies about the pulp mill- the Resource Planning and Development Commission. The organisation that looks at all major proposals in any industry. But the Chipmeister, John Gay, the CFMEU and their puppet Premier, Paul Lennon, made sure the RPDC process was destroyed. Inconsistencies in their stories as well as statements by former panel members (barely reported by the local newspapers, which are well-purchased with endless full-page colour ads, and not acknowledged by the no doubt similarly well-lubricated local politicians) give every reason to suspect this was a carefully-arranged conspiracy. Presumably the “Communities” bit in his organisation’s title refers to the small clique who grow fat by taking personal profit from public assests. Meanwhile, Tasmania’s telecommunications remains dysfunctional, the incredibly-good local food is not marketed properly to the wealthier parts of the country, the Sydney ferry service has been abandoned, and they wonder why the best and brightest children are leaving in droves.

Mark Byrne writes: Mark Duffett (Friday, comments) pointed out that forests (native and plantation forests), like other dark coloured land surfaces have a lower albedo (reflectance) compared to light coloured surfaces. Lower albedo and higher Greenhouse gas concentrations work together to increase global warming. Does this mean we ought to kill the forests to tackle global warming? No. Cutting down the forests over the last 50 years has not stopped the current rapid global warming. Also we know that the rich niches in native forest ecosystems store more carbon than do plantation forests or farmland. We need to maximise the native habitat to maximise the potential for our heritage biodiversity survive the portion of global warming that we’ve locked in. We also know that established native forest uses less water than growing plantations. Instead of cutting the forests, let’s cut our greenhouse gas emissions, paint our roofs white and use less-dark tarmac.

Darce Cassidy writes: Re. “Open and shut Hicks is guilty” (Wednesday, item 12). The reasoning behind the plea entered by David Hicks is well known to many Indigenous people. In 1965, together with other “Freedom Riders” I was involved in efforts to end segregation in the northern NSW town of Bowraville. A colleague and I were prosecuted on a trumped up charge by police. We, two white middle-class students, were defended by counsel provided by the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, and acquitted. A triumph for justice, you might say. However during our time in Bowraville we met Jack Duckett, a local Aboriginal man, who told us of the reality of justice for people like him. Jack had a very clear understanding of the law in Bowraville. Vagrancy, he said, was doing something the Sergeant didn’t like when you didn’t have a job. Offensive Behaviour, he said, was doing something the Sergeant didn’t like when you did have a job. In his frequent dealings with the law Jack always pleaded “Guilty, fine”. This plea, which seemed to be clearly understood locally, meant “I’m pleading guilty if the penalty is a fine”. I suspect David Hicks pleaded “Guilty, go home”.

Will Jurgens writes: Does anybody in the god forsaken Australian media think that Hicks is guilty, and maybe that is why he pleaded guilty. The things he has learned to do to others to impose his will on them are appalling. His training also included how to lie to advantage in dealing with the likes of the monocular, limited thinking of the western, especially Australian and American media and of civil rights theorists (though I suspect the US media may have a lot more balance). Let’s get some balanced and in depth reporting instead of parroting Hicks’ defense lawyers and supporters in a trial defence conducted by media on Hicks’ behalf. You only revert to that tactic if your case is otherwise bankrupt. It is unreasonable to hold the defense and prosecution to different standards. If the prosecution had only hinted at certain things there would have been an immediate caterwauling and outcry.

Kieran Bennett writes: Re. “775 illegal brothels: over to you Mr Iemma” (Friday, item 2). I noticed on Chris Seage’s list of illegal brothels, a listing for Albury Centrefolds. Was Albury Centrefolds advertised in Albury’s The Border Mail? This would be a very interesting development considering The Border Mail‘s tendency to rant about the evils in establishing a legal brothel.

Ralph Spring writes: Re. “OFT going deeper into bank fees, no quick fix” (Friday, item 25). You may recall I wrote to you regarding one bank’s revelation to me that the [Australian] banks had an agreement [a] to charge late payment fees and [b] to ‘hold-the-line’ and not refund late payment fees. Well today Citibank responded to my request to close a MasterCard because I rarely use it and in recent months they have charged me late fees a couple of times even though more often than not in that period the account was in credit for weeks at a time. The phone call was to offer me 12 months free of annual charge if I would keep the card open – I did because I travel a lot and carry a complete spare set of cards just in case. The point of this is just to provide a second instance of the fact that the banks have an agreement on late fees they won’t refund them but they will go around the agreement in some other way. While gouging is one term, in my book it smells of collusion and anti-competitive behavior. Consumers have a right to protection from such but where are the people that are being paid to provide protection services; the Reserve Bank, the APRA Payments Systems Board, the ACCC etc. Fact is they all have their heads down hoping that it will all go away. Keep up the cause Michael, they deserve all the pressure.

Tom Redston writes: I followed the bank fees story with detached interest; on the basis that as a credit card abstainer I had nothing to worry about. Then my bank statement arrived. $240.00 in penalty fees! No worries. I rang and was immediately offered (after a brief check on my history) a refund of $80.00. I asked for a specific details of the reason the fees were incurred; A $15.00 month Greenpeace subscription hit my account on payday and was processed prior in the interval between the account being at zero and flush with the hard earned. Therefore I incur a $40.00 fee; every time. I was told there should have been a letter sent by the bank advising me of this activity on my account; nothing received on that score. The kicker is this; the bank will give money to any direct debit request regardless of if the account has sufficient funds. When I asked if a request for $10,000 arrived against my empty account I was told that the bank would not honor it. When I asked what policies or guidelines governed this decision to pay a direct debit of $15.00 and charge me $40.00 and not to pay a direct debit of $10,000 and charge me $40.00 I was told that there were many variables and that the bank would not provide me with any statement regarding how this type of issue was managed. I’ve lodged a formal complaint and have been told that a response will be made by 6 March (the offer of the $80.00 was withdrawn).

Rod Campbell-Ross writes: Re. “Oil price alarmists ride again – sky still declining to fall” (Friday, item 26). Michael Pascoe’s shrill dismissal of the “Peak Oil doomsayers” as “Chicken Littles” only demonstrates his own stunning ignorance. It doesn’t stop there. He apparently only just made it through Economics 101. Price signals are meaningless in the oil market for a whole bunch of reasons. He should go and learn about resource economics before grandstanding his economic illiteracy. Finally, he obviously has not even heard of the first and second laws of thermodynamics. Subsitution suffers three main problems: 1 Scalability in volume, 2 Scalability in time; and 3 Low energy balance. Translation: “Ethanol is not the answer.” The bottom line of all this brings us back to Economics 101. Less supply and increasing demand equals higher prices. That’s what we are going to get because supply is declining and nothing is going to change that. But don’t ask Michael Pascoe. Why? Because he doesn’t know.

Liz Johnston writes: Re. “The Ribena liars facing much bigger fines” (Friday, item 27). Another GSK scam? The Health Minister Mr Abbott knows about but has failed to fix it. Since several arthritis medications (eg Celebrex) have been found to have deadly effects on sufferers, doctors are prescribing Panadol Osteo sustained release panadol (genetic brand Dutatrol SR) instead. Prescriptions are for 96 caplets under the PBS, at a cost of $4.90 for health care card holders. These have been unavailable for several months. Instead sufferers can buy the unsubsidised version at a much higher price for less than a fifth of the number of caplets. The government pays GSK $11.70 for the 96 caplet generic version. Surely GSK would not be holding back on filling the PBS orders because they can clean up on the non subsidised over-the-counter package retailing for $5.99 for 18 caplets? Given the Ribena rort maybe they could.

Marcus L’Estrange writes: I read, from Shanghai, with great interest that the world swimming championships were a dud (Friday, editorial) and now that another “bread and circus”, massively taxpayer subsidised F1 GP is mercifully over for another year it’s time to look at the so called claim that millions follow it overseas and will therefore come to Melbourne. I’ve lived in London where the GP is shown in the early hours of the morning on a non descript channel and where print media coverage concentrates on personalities, not Melbourne and now I’m in Shanghai (18 million). Coverage here was virtually non existent with the main story in The China Daily emanating from Berlin and covered Schmacher’s non attendance. Certainly not Melbourne or the race, apart from the results. Yes, the media here are interested in Melbourne but only how Chinese swimmers are faring, nothing else. The race could have been on the moon for all we up here knew. The idea that Melbourne gets invaluable media coverage is the greatest load of self serving nonsense since time began. Given the immensity of Chinese cities and the frenetic pace of life, Chinese tourists just want to see quaint “Victoriana” and the miniature cities of Melbourne and Sydney. Not a clapped out race on a dud, boring track. If they want to see a F1 race they have their own so why travel to see such a non event?

Greg Cameron, Urban Rainwater Systems Pty Ltd, writes: John Hunwick (Friday, comments) thinks the idea of small rainwater tanks is nonsense. Based on actual daily rainfall in 2006 in his home town of Port Lincoln, four 670 litre rainwater tanks collecting water from a 175 square metre roof area, would have yielded 40KL of water at a cost of $2/KL. Tanks would overflow 7KL from 313MM rainfall in 2006, assuming no tank water was used outdoors. However, Port Lincoln’s mean annual rainfall is 487MM. Assume 80% mean annual rainfall for the next 30 years, the yield from four 670 litre rainwater tanks will be 50KL each year costing $1.60/KL with tank overflow of 9KL each year assuming 100% indoor water use. Port Lincoln residents will not obtain 50KL each year of fresh water at this cost from any other source.

Geoff Russell writes: Anthea Parry (Friday, comments) correctly implies that the UK Medical Research Council study I mentioned doesn’t prove that red meat causes colorectal cancer (CRC). The study wasn’t about whether, but about how red meat may cause cancer. That high red and processed meat intakes increase CRC risk has been shown in 3 meta studies on the subject, in addition to the biggest European cancer study (EPIC) and the largest Australian study (in 2004 by the Victorian Cancer Council — Dallas English et al). There are a few plausible ways red meat can cause DNA damage which can progress to cancer, one involves compounds formed when the meat is charred (NHMRC warns about this in its CRC prevention guidelines). The UK research confirmed a second mechanism involving different compounds and applies to uncharred fresh red meat, not just ham and processed meat — already warned about by the Cancer Council Australia website. CSIRO is actively researching what to feed with red meat to reduce the damage it causes — while also telling people to each large amounts of it in the CSIRO Total Wellbeing diet (and accepting funding from Meat and Livestock Australia). A CSIRO/Adelaide Uni Team has found that resistant starch reduces DNA damage caused by red meat (Toden et al) — in rats. This is like taking food with anti-inflamatories to reduce the damage, except that not all foods do the trick. In 2001 there were 12,844 new cases and 4,754 deaths from CRC in Australia.

Tom May writes: Re. “Will Sotheby’s follow Christie’s and close?” (Friday, item 6). Does anybody really care about Sotheby’s and Christie’s closure? Why is Crikey wasting so much time on the art auctioning business? Why? It is pointless and effin boring, it can’t even be dressed up as an intellectual exercise? Is there a Crikey staffer with a close connection to this boring bourgeoisie bullsh-t?

Charles Richardson writes: Nathan Quigley (Friday, comments) accuses me of writing something “entirely untrue” in my piece on the NSW Nationals. He’s wrong. The four gains that the Nationals were widely reported as hoping for clearly included Monaro and not Murray-Darling, which was already notionally theirs. Here, for example, is the report by Imre Salusinszky in The Australian of 21 March: “the Nationals have been more upbeat and insist they are still in the hunt to gain four seats: Dubbo, held by independent Dawn Fardell by a margin of 0.3per cent; Tamworth, held by independent Peter Draper by 1.9 per cent; Tweed, held by Labor’s Neville Newell by 4.1 per cent; and Monaro, held by Labor’s Steve Whan by 4.4 per cent.”

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