The media union:

Christopher Warren, federal secretary of the MEAA, and Ruth Pollard, federal president, AJA section, write: Re. Media union hardball and the $10,000 Tassie witch (yesterday, item 21). Your Tasmanian Crikey correspondent seems to think that you should have elections without campaigning. In the Alliance we’re not frightened of robust debate and when people stick their hands up, they shouldn’t be surprised when people express a view and write to other members about those views. To suggest some sort of campaign against particular nominees is both untrue and frankly, an affront to the integrity of the Alliance and its membership. Candidates came together to form a ticket and sought the support of their union colleagues — to seek and offer such support is the right of any member of the union. Campaigning on a ticket for common values and goals, and seeking the endorsement of the membership is a long-held part of the democratic process, and one the Alliance proudly upholds. To resent this is to resent democracy itself. However, it’s appalling that Crikey has lent itself as a vehicle for defamatory smears by a disappointed candidate. The cost of the How to Vote leaflets and their distribution was borne by the nominees. As your correspondent well knows, the Alliance is not permitted, at law, to involve itself in the election process and has not done so, nor endorsed any individual.

Labor and IR:

Tony Thompson writes: Re. “Labor’s bid to create a national industrial law” (yesterday, item 9). It appears that Professor Williams has accepted the Federal Government’s media releases (spin) regarding the coverage of WorkChoices. The claim that WorkChoices applies to 85% of the workforce is seriously questionable. There is significant doubt that workers employed by an employer that is “Pty Ltd entity as Trustee for” where the ABN is linked to the Trust is a Constitutional Corporation as defined by section 6(a) the Workplace Relations Act 1996 (Cth). This matter was first raised when the Office of Employment Advocate advised that Workplace Agreements from Employers that used an Australian Business Number (ABN) of a Trust “… will have no legal effect …”. There are various decisions in State Industrial Commissions that have broadly dealt with this issue but have not made a specific determination. See Anderson v Darwin Plastic Surgery Trust [2006] QIRComm 108; 183 QGIG 786 & Sally Anne Read v Meredith Hunter & Associates 2007 WAIRC 00056. Our experience is that many employers that have a Trust in place have the ABN linked to the Trust not to the Corporate Trustee. Until this fundamental question is conclusively determined employers that have a Trust with the ABN linked to it are being advised that it is prudent for them to work on the basis that WorkChoices does not apply to their business. The consequence of getting it wrong could result in breach of award and unfair dismissal claims both of which can result in expensive outcomes. While this question remains unanswered there is significant doubt that 85% of the Australian workforce is employed by a Constitutional Corporation as defined by the Workplace Relations Act and is therefore covered by WorkChoices.

Moneybags Costello:

Peter Wachtel writes: Re. “”Moneybags” Costello and the poor state relations” (yesterday, item 12). Howard and Costello don’t need to offer personal income tax cuts at the next election. They only need to reduce the rate of GST. Now that would put the ALP in a spin. If the ALP wins the next election and the states refer their IR powers it will be a minor win to the Liberal Party. Next time the Liberals come to federal power (as they surely will) they can totally reform the IR laws with no state impediment.

Howard vs Bracks:

Cameron Bray writes: Re. “Liar: Howard backs Bracks into a corner” (yesterday, item 8). There has been some talk about the precautionary principle at play in working out what to do about climate change — on the basis consequences of doing something and being wrong about climate change are way less than doing nothing and being right. Taking this one step further, Australia is vulnerable if other countries decide to pursue the precautionary principle, regardless of what we do. John Howard’s endless wittering about how he won’t risk jobs to address climate change is dependent on other countries pursuing his blithe “she’ll be right” approach as well. If the international community decides to take it seriously then some of our key industries may be in big trouble. To grab a few examples: There is already some evidence of a global downturn in long distance tourism. If other countries decide to tackle air travel as a way of reducing CO2, then the Australian tourist industry is stuffed, no matter if warmer water destroys the reef or not. As for the coal industry, if the rest of the world decides to pursue drastic change in power generation towards greener options, then our fat dirty brown coal mines will have no markets. And as for the logging industry, if international agreements pursue serious carbon sequestering and make agreements on the purchase of old-growth timber or products that industry is cactus too. So the Howard government’s approach is a double-ostrich stupidity; not only does the climate not have to change, but the structure of trade and markets have to remain as they are now as well.

Leon Miller writes: I think Howard just made a decision that this guy Bracks could be thinking this way forever, and decided not to play these Labor games with Australia’s future. I think time for niceties has expired. Howard looks like he gave him a chance at hush-hush negotiations but Bracks simply abused it.

The Virgin blues:

Robin Stanier writes: Re. “When it comes to pilots, Virgin can’t count” (yesterday, item 3). Non-stop flights from London to Perth are totally irresponsible from the Greenhouse gas emission point of view. The most fuel-efficient range for any modern jet aircraft is 4000kms to 6000kms. For a plane to fly 14,487kms from London to Perth the plane has to carry enormous amounts of fuel over the first part of journey so that it can travel the whole distance without stopping. To carry this additional amount of fuel the aircraft has to be bigger to contain the fuel tanks, is heavier because of its increased size, has to have a stronger and heavier undercarriage and has to have bigger engines to lift the aircraft and overcome extra drag stemming from higher weight. The Aeronautical Journal dated November 2006 which is the official organ of the Royal Aeronautical Society, points out that a 250 passenger aircraft designed to fly 15,000kms has a take off weight 30% greater than a 250 passenger aircraft designed to fly 10,000kms and 150% heavier than one designed to fly 5,000kms. Additionally an aircraft flying the distance in one stage of 15,000kms uses about twice the amount of fuel compared to an aircraft travelling 15,000kms in three stages. That is about 57 tonnes of fuel or 176 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

Amanda Vanstone:

Jack H Smit, Project SafeCom, writes: It keeps coming back to me, that one single line about Mandy — and today, now that Vanstone has opened the curtain of the stage again, I just cannot help myself anymore. Some call her Mandytory Detention Vanstone — but I have better intent for her. The trouble is that I’m feeling a bit politically incorrect — I mean, you’ve gotta be careful these days calling women “fat”. It may get you deported, even now that Mandy’s leaving politics. You never know who’s listening. It keeps throbbing away in my head: “It ain’t over until the Fat Lady Sings”. I mean, sings, thinking of Vanstone as a born opera singer. You know, going to Italy is just one step closer. To the opera, I mean. She already speaks Italian. She already composes ballads. All we now want is to get her singing. How about a ballad singing about the Glories of Mandatory Detention? Or a song, lauding Baxter or Woomera? Truth is, that Vanstone was kicked out by Howard because she had an independent mind. Anyone with an independent mind is many times more intelligent than Howard, and a threat to him. Take one look at the Liberal backbenchers — they have the civil manners (Petro Georgiou), academic distinction (Russell Trood) and independent discernment (Judi Moylan): all of them are just too dangerous for Howard. So, good luck to her, and we wait with baited breath until she moves on to the stage of the Camera Di Opera De Roma and starts her Opera in Three Parts, her home-made Il Viaggiatori del Woomera.


Graham Bell writes: Re. “Iraq insurgency finds a new target: Australians” (yesterday, item 2). Guy Rundle may be right about “insurgents” targeting Australians in the mistaken belief that we here in Australia will react in the same way as have the Americans. However, that was a stupid slur he made about the Italians. Italian troops and carabiniere have been very effective for decades and I would be happy to have them serving alongside me.

Treasury spin:

Simon Buckland-Hemming writes: I assume Dan Buchler (yesterday, comments) attempting to spin the purpose of the Future Fund is indeed the same Mr Dan Buchler, current employee of the Federal Department of Treasury?

Seeing dead people:

John Parkes writes: Re. “Crikey, I’m seeing dead people … in prime time” (yesterday, item 20). The comment in today’s Crikey about the running of advertisements featuring Steve Irwin raises some questions about protocols involving pictures etc of people known to be deceased. The PC amongst us (for that read mainly the ABC) have a habit of not naming or depicting deceased Aborigines and claiming that it is for cultural reasons. At the very least, they run warnings that there may be images of deceased persons which may cause offence so that viewers can turn off. Some authorities here in SA do other bizarre things in the name of cultural sensitivity in the small hours of the morning for the same reasons, for example demolishing publicly owned houses where there has been a murder, or cutting down trees against which drunken idiots have killed themselves by driving into them at high speed – and neither offending body was given a fair trial prior to the sentence being carried out. I ask why it is not appropriate to cease the publication of images of Steve Irwin for the same cultural reasons. While he may not have been of aboriginal ancestry, surely it is still insensitive to publish these images which may be seen by aboriginal person because there is no advance warning that the images may offend? For that matter the images may be disturbing to non-Aborigines. Anyway, surely Bindi could be substituted, she seems to be taking over the ubiquity role once occupied by Eddie Everywhere.

Kerr and Akerman:

Doug Melville writes: Christian Kerr & Piers Akerman — has anyone seen them in the same room? Are they in fact the same person? Sadly, Christian is sounding more and more like a poor man’s Akerman — his most recent anti-climate-change polemics are sounding suspiciously like him. If I wanted to read someone frothing like that, I would purchase Piers, Shanahan or Albrechtson in the Tele or The Oz.

Myer goes viral:

Matt Gillard writes: Re. “Myer goes viral — and customers are happy to catch the disease” (yesterday, item 28). This is not new. In fact, they probably copied their original owner — Coles Group. In the lead-up to Christmas last year, Coles provided “Family and Friends” discount vouchers for Target and Kmart, and Myer had one as well at that time.


Gerard McEwen writes: Both Charles Richardson and Philip Woods (Tuesday, comments) take “Qantas: the rush and the rorts” (Monday, item 11) to task for alluding to Qantas customer service as a tautology. Both are correct to do so as tautology is a form of reverse reasoning to establish a causal relationship e.g. all mass murderers breathe therefore breathing causes people to become mass murderers. However, Mr Woods is incorrect to describe it as an oxymoron. My old grammar book defined an oxymoron as a “compressed paradox” which implies that although there may be a seeming contradiction in the phrase, upon closer consideration there is an element of sense. The text then went on to give the example of to “make haste slowly” — seemingly contradictory but actually making sense. Accuracy is the first requirement of the art of pedantry.

Diana Simmonds writes: Re. Clinton Barnes (yesterday, comments). You’d think the name of one of the 20th century’s most enduring pinups wouldn’t be that difficult to get right. Amazing how many people don’t actually look at her name. Maybe they’re looking at something else. Anyway, it’s Marilyn Monroe — not Munroe or Munro.

Pattie Tancred writes: Re. “World Cup comes to life in its last gasp” (yesterday, item 23). Yesterday’s Crikey quotes Rob Smyth in the Guardian. The quotation ended with: “Even their own fans are bored of it”. What in the name of Fowler is going on here? I keep seeing “bored of” in reputable print publications (and hearing people say it, but that’s a different matter; most of them would be hard pressed to recognise decent English if it joined them in the bathtub with a glass of champagne and a rubber loofah). Did those pedantic nuns lead me astray all those years ago with “bored by” and “bored with”? More to the point, how can one be “bored of” something?

Jim Hart writes: Very generous of Charles Richardson to acknowledge “from whence” has common usage considering “from whence cometh my help” has been a line from one of the Prayer Book’s greatest hits since 1662. But then it was the book of common prayer. A bit of redundancy in the right hands can be a useful and legitimate literary device.

Yesterday’s typos (house pedant Charles Richardson casts an eye over the howlers in the last edition of Crikey): Item 4: “Commissioner Keelty would like the media to cease it’s ‘speculation’ as to what brought on this tragedy …” – oops, rogue apostrophe.

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