The jihad on Julia:

John Taylor writes: Re. “Jihad on Julia, or is it the start of Rudd’s rout?” (yesterday, item 1). Julia has played it cool and graciously accepted Bill’s heartfelt (though coerced) apology. After all, this was the greatest let-off-the-hook statement in the history of the Howard Government. One minute she was “gorn”, despised by big business and her own party as well. History. Next minute she’s every woman’s darling, without having said a word. Opinion polls would have been 10% down. Now they will be 5% up. Just before Christmas, when Antony Green and his ilk are analysing the Coalition’s loss in the 2007 election, I hope they remember the Boost of Bill, on the second of May.

Cameron Sharrock writes: Julia Gillard must be secretly laughing herself to sleep now thanks to dill, sorry “Bill”, Heffernan’s astoundingly stupid “barren” comment. One brainless utterance from the wuh-wuh-wibberwal chief muckraker has removed all focus from Gillard over her business injury gaffe and placed it squarely at the feet of a 1950s-bound incumbent government. And what did this doyen of right-angled politics do when questioned on the matter today? He whooped like a constipated chicken and ran the other way. Can you even start to imagine the week-long bloody slaughter in all the “right-thinking” media of any non-Government idiot who acted in such a manner? Now witness the yogurt-soaked lettuce leaf with which Huffernan is whipped.

Jonathan Matthews writes: I would like to thank Bill Heffernan for removing the last smidgin of possibility that I would be voting for this barren Government. What a thoroughly loathsome individual. I hope they get pummelled.

Pamela Curr writes: Thank you, Crikey. I am no fan of Julia Guillard but as I turned on the radio and opened the internet, “Jihad on Julia” was there for all to see. So business is not happy with Labor changes to IR — well why would they be. These changes could give the students working at my local supermarket who are now on WorkChoices wages with no penalties, the $88 per fortnight which they lost. No wonder employers are screaming — especially retail. As for the Office of Workplace Standards — they sure are not in there batting for these workers. Following a letter published in The Australian they contacted me for names of employees and employers, stating that they are about to start an audit of cases where young people aged between 19 and 24 are involved. Have to give it to them — at least they are identifying a core market. I gave them the name of an employer and would seek permission for others. What happened — nothing. I rang back weeks later to find out if the audit was happening and was told that it was private so I told them that I knew it had not taken place and when would it. He said next month but reminded me that the employer would have to be doing something illegal and reducing wages and conditions is not illegal under the legislation. Well we all know that don’t we.

Rod Wallbridge writes: I’ve been called a left-wing pinko and a tree-hugging looney in my day, but I’ve never come across such politically correct cr-p as with Bill Heffernan’s point of view. As I understand it, Julia Gillard is deliberately barren, having chosen not to have children. So that’s OK. In Bill’s somewhat old-fashioned view, that disqualifies her from “running the country”. Well, I defend to the death his right to say what he thinks, even if I don’t think it’s a very clever thought. So what’s all the fuss about!

Kael DaCosta writes: The photo you guys have worked up with Gillard as a hostage is pretty poor. I’m not sure if executions and people pleading for their lives should be trivialised in such a manner. It’s a poor showing for a site that’s usually on the ball.

Rudd’s renewables:

Simon Rumble writes: Re. “Rudd’s renewables: making a difference?” (yesterday, item 13). If the pollies are serious about reducing Greenhouse gas emissions, Robert Foster is right on the money steering them away from sexy but expensive photovoltaics. For example, I’m a tenant in NSW. What incentive does my landlord have to install insulation to cut down my heating bills? Solar hot water? Even an energy-efficient hot water system? Of course he has absolutely no interest in such things. This is where the market fails and regulation has to come in. We need minimum standards for buildings (as opposed to the gutted BASIX standards), lighting and appliances. The fact you can still buy incredibly inefficient fridges should be the easiest thing to solve. My aunt recently built a new house on a new housing estate on the north coast of NSW. I was amazed when I walked around the estate to find that not a single one of the houses had solar hot water. Why? It’s not a requirement for new builds. Incredible! Then again, while the construction industry owns the government, we’re unlikely to see this change.

Animal Liberation committee member Geoff Russell writes: Re. Rudd’s renewables. The Australian Greenhouse Office really should know better. Households contribute a lot more than 51.8 million tonnes to our Greenhouse emissions. For example, Australians typically eat about 1/3 of our 2 million tonnes of annual beef production. Lets conservatively this consumption at about 600,000 tonnes. The AGO estimates the Greenhouse emissions from beef production as 51.7 tonnes of emissions per tonne of carcase in its “End Use Allocation of Emissions Report”. Therefore, the emissions due to beef consumption in Australia are about 31 megatonnes. Therefore, eliminating beef from the diet would save about four times more than the 8.2 megatonnes currently used to heat hot water. If Rudd really wants to reduce Greenhouse emissions he should set up a “Quit” line for red meat-eaters to help them kick the nasty habit.

Harold Thornton writes: Thomas Hunter raises doubts about the effectiveness of household photovoltaics in terms of reducing Greenhouse gas emissions. While his general point is correct, it should be noted that the use of household air conditioners during heatwaves (likely to become more frequent events) has required installing massive additional coal-fired generators to cope with the peak load. Coincidentally, peak air conditioner use occurs when photovoltaics are likely to be most productive. There was much talk in the brown-out summer of 05-06 about requiring air conditioning unit owners to install photovoltaics — but I suspect that lowering the requirement for additional coal-hungry generators to cope with peak air conditioning demand is likely to be the main greenhouse benefit of the policy.

Nigel Martin writes: “There are about eight million homes in Australia. Probably about 20-30% of houses don’t have ceiling insulation. That’s in the order of a couple of million households. To insulate the ceiling of a house might cost $1000, and provides an immediate and long-lasting impact on heating and cooling. So why not pick the low-hanging fruit first?” Low-hanging fruit sounds great, but if the product (insulation) is already being taken up by the majority of consumers without market intervention (rebates, tax incentives etc) then you will need to invest a whole lot of money before you get to influencing the remaining 20-30% of consumers who haven’t invested in it. If you give a $1000 rebate you would end up having to pay 10 rebates and seven of them would have done it anyway, result three people influenced for $10,000.

Nuclear power:

Rod Campbell-Ross writes: Re. Nuclear power (yesterday, comments). Nuclear power is heavily embedded with carbon at every stage of the cycle except during the actual generation and transmission of power. Even then carbon is involved, but not much. Before any decisions are made on N-power I would like to see the results of a definitive study done, by government, or preferably on its behalf by a university or CSIRO to determine how much carbon is involved. There are big diesel machines moving millions of tons of rock in the mining of uranium. Processing involves more fossil fuel, to crush and work the ore and extracting uranium from the oxides involves the use of lots of natural gas. Then there is further processing requiring more fossil fuels and you then have yellow cake. Once you have yellow cake you need to mix it with flourine (more fossil fuels) to get uranium hexaflouride that you then enrich (more fossil fuels) and process (yet more fossil fuels) into useable fuel pellets or rods. Finally building, maintaining and decommissioning the plant involves a whole lot more fossil fuel. In fact it has been estimated that n-power stations have a payback period of 15 years in energy terms. To summarise, to make this decision with all the facts we need to know: How much less carbon intensive is nuclear than coal and gas? Is it 1:100, 1:20, or as I have seen elsewhere 1:5 vs gas? This calculation must be done on an entire lifecycle basis counting everything, including suitably costed externalities with comparative data for coal, gas and renewables; What is the energy payback for n-power. How long to break even? Again everything must be counted and comparatives should be provided; What are the financial commitments, especially for storage of waste and decommissioning and who willl pay? And what are the Government’s plans for storage of the 97% of uranium haxflouride that is left over from enrichment? This substance is not lethally radioactive, but is still highly toxic.

Unions and AWAs:

Luke Williams writes: Re. “Dig this: AWAs, mining and damn statistics” (yesterday, item 9). Someone needs to tell Mark Bahnisch that being a good journalist means being cynical about what everyone tells you, including unions. The following doesn’t tell us anything: “Unionised coal miners earn an average of $46.40 per hour. Largely non-union metal ore miners earn $35.20 per hour. Coal miners earn an average of 32% more. Average working hours are less in unionised coal mining — about 41-hours per week — while mostly non-union metal ore mining has workers on over 46-hours per week. And that’s just the hours paid for!” It seems to compare workers from two different types of the industry, it proves nothing. We would need, for example, unionised vs AWA coal miners to draw any sort of conclusion. As far as I’m aware the media is not collectively talking up the wonders of AWA, it’s just very difficult to get clear empirical evidence to suggest exactly what their impact has been.

David Lewis writes: Can anyone explain to me why the Australian Labor Party should not support unions, even in an ideological sense? I may be thick, but it seems to me that the ALP should be focusing on what they see as a fairer workplace in the same way the Government is focusing on what they see as a fairer workplace. Everybody expects the Greens to back environmentalism, and the Nationals to back the primary and extractive industries. Whether they are right in this or not is the issue — not that they give their support that way. Why should the traditional practical base of Labor ideology suddenly be off-limits? If this was just a News Corp rant, I’d ignore it, but it seems to be coming from all sectors of the media (even the ABC). One can criticise the behaviour of certain unions or even the union movement, or even the way the party interacts with the movement. But to say the ALP should not be based from unions is, to my mind, at least, tantamount to undermining the very principles the Party has been built on. The ALP was formed to give unions a voice in the state parliaments of the time and then the Federal Parliament, and as Mr Rudd admitted, membership of a union has always been a rule for its elected members (though he is not so worried about this rule). What would Watson, Fisher, Scullin, Curtin, or Chifley say? To say nothing of Evatt or Calwell, or even Billy Hughes? The issue is not unrelated to the storm Ms Gillard has seemingly created about her ‘jihad’ on business. I am not a party member, nor am I defending the Labor Party unduly.

The Tamils and terrorism:

John Addis writes: Re. “One man’s terrorist … Tamil charges put anti-terror laws back in the spotlight” (yesterday, item 15). Jeff Sparrow’s story on the charging of the two alleged Tamil Tiger supporters omits a significant point. Whilst many of the Tamil diaspora do support the LTTE fight for independence in Sri Lanka, some do not really have a choice. Velupillai Prabhakaran, the leader of the LTTE, makes the very worst despot look like a hippie social worker. Amongst his crimes of murder, brainwashing and the kidnapping of children to fight in his paramilitary forces, he’s also successfully established oppressive networks of what one might call Hindu mafioso. Ordinary Tamil businesspeople in Australia, North America and the UK are not beyond his reach. When they are asked to support the struggle for a Tamil homeland, the request is often accompanied by a less-than-subtle threat that if a suitable amount isn’t forthcoming then a cousin, brother or parent back home might pay the price for the potential donor’s intransigence. This is not to say that this is the case with the two individuals in this particular case but the Tamil Tigers military might is considerable. The money for it comes from somewhere, and by and large it isn’t from Sri Lanka.

Robert Manne and the ARC:

Greg Melleuish writes: Re. “Robert Manne: The Australian misrepresents me…again” (yesterday, item 6). I was amused to read Robert Manne’s comments on the ARC and the criticism that has been levelled at it over the years. It was good to see him laud Stuart Macintyre’s “bravery’ in opposing the Quality and Scrutiny Committee, an opposition that would have lost him no friends either in DEST or the world of academia. When I made some comments in an Australian article in 2003 regarding Macintyre and the ARC I received a somewhat different response. It was an email critical of my actions from the then Head of the Humanities panel of the ARC that Macintyre chaired. Moreover this email was also sent to the members of the Humanities panel and to the vice-chancellor of my university. It does not require much imagination to see what the purpose of that missive was. Nevertheless, I have continued over the years to be critical of the way the ARC functions. In fact I might be considered to be one of the major critics of the ARC. Hence it was interesting that when Gideon Haigh interviewed some 60 people for his article on the ARC he chose not to interview me. The problem is that I make the wrong criticisms regarding the ARC. I criticise its secrecy, its lack of transparency and its tendency, in my case at least, to want to punish those who raise awkward questions regarding its procedures. The real problem is that it is almost impossible to get basic information out of the ARC regarding elementary things such as its actual procedures or statistics relating to successful and unsuccessful applications. FOI requests seem to get nowhere. Manne’s attack on McGuinness is, in fact, a defence of the ARC not a criticism of it. Manne seems to think that the ARC is a great place. The problem is that academics have a vested interest in ignoring any “inconvenient truths” about the ARC. While there are grounds for criticising the way in which the Quality and Scrutiny Committee functioned there are strong arguments for the public interest to be represented in the grant process. Peer review is problematic as a tool of public policy. The public is paying; what it pays for cannot be determined only by specialists in particular areas. Peer review without public scrutiny is letting the academic kids loose in the lolly shop.

The Democrats and the Senate:

Nahum Ayliffe writes: Alister Air’s letter (yesterday, comments) in response to Andrew Murray’s piece in Crikey has inaccuracies in relation to the Democrats’ role in IR legislation and to Family First. I am a former Democrat, and the Democrats were the single reason that WorkChoices were not brought in by Howard and Peter Reith as one of the first acts of legislation by the first term of Conservative government in 1996. The Democrats moderated the Workplace Relations Act of March 1996 and negotiated no less than 176 amendments to the Government legislation. View timeline. The final bill, released in December 1996, included a minimum of 20 allowable matters for Federal Awards and the “no-disadvantage test”. Neither the Government or the Opposition propose a return to this no disadvantage test, forgotten in WorkChoices. Perhaps the Greens will inherit this policy amendment mantle but until they start engaging in the policy debate in the same way as the Democrats did for 25 years, Greens supporters need not rubbish the legacy of very good senators such as Andrew Murray. Andrew Murray is better qualified than most to urge Australian voters to be conscious of their vote in the Senate. In relation to Family First, they were elected by the people of Victoria, nobody else. At the time, Antony Green wrote, “Despite polling only 0.13 of a quota, Family First harvest preferences from numerous groups including the Progressive Alliance, the Christian Democrats, the Aged and Disability Pensioners Party, Non-Custodial Parents Party, One Nation, Liberals for Forests, the Australian Democrats, the DLP and the surplus from the Coalition.” FF got preferences from almost everyone, not just the Democrats, and it’s mendacious and mean-spirited, not to mention detrimental to balance of power Senate politics to continue to ply that fallacious claim, and it most probably originates at the Victorian Greens website. The Greens didn’t win Victoria because they didn’t win enough votes, nor were they as successful in preference deals with the relevant parties. We all have to put up with Family First, just as we had to put up with One Nation, so stop carping, and blaming everyone else.

Crikey criticism and bias:

Roy Sheppard writes: Re, Yesterday’s editorial. “If ABC TV is the TV Media arm of the federal Labor Party,” increasingly, we could be forgiven for thinking Crikey is the print media arm of the federal Labor Party. How about putting a little more balance back into your editorials and you might just get a few more subscription takers!

Peter Lloyd writes: Roger Colman (yesterday, comments) demands “balance” in Crikey. I’ve noticed those demanding “balance” and decrying “bias” are rarely interested in the quaint and dying notion of truth, which is probably why we are cursed with irremovable leaders and market-dominating newspapers that are consistently wrong.

The Tuesday Top Twenty:

Sean McConnell writes: Re. “The Tuesday Top Twenty” (Tuesday, item 19). Are you folk noticing that no independents or minor party personalities have made that list for the two weeks it has been running? Where do you go then in this country to hear the full spectrum of views, surely there are more than two sides to an argument? As a one-time candidate for the Greens at state level, it’s no wonder people look at you sideways when you tell them you’re a Green, it’s not because they are repulsed by our policies, or that we sit around all day getting toasted as the majors would have voters believe, they just don’t even know we or independents or Democrats or Family First even exist.

Singapore and the economy:

Alan Hatfield writes: Re. “Singapore owns more of Australia than Australia” (yesterday, item 4). Once again the old Government-inspired canard about Commonwealth superannuation pension commitments is repeated, this time by Stephen Mayne: “Sure, there’s $40 billion in cash sitting in the Future Fund, but this money ultimately belongs to the public servants who are owed the $100 billion in unfunded superannuation liabilities.” For some 70-plus years, Commonwealth public service superannuation pensions have been paid out of current revenue, through good times and bad, without any apparent difficulties. Further, this forward commitment represents just a fraction of the implied forward commitment to pay the aged pension. Even more to the point, the public service schemes are now closed and, according to the Commonwealth Treasurer’s own recently-released Intergenerational Report, over the next few decades (and beyond !) public service superannuation pensions will represent a significantly declining proportion of GDP! The Future Fund will never be needed to fund these pensions and it will never be used for this purpose! It’s time there was some clearer thinking (and reporting) on the purposes and application of the Future Fund!

Steve Moriarty writes: Re. “The Economy: Flexibility the key to success” (yesterday, item 30). Is it possible to get someone who can actually give us some impartial analysis on the economy? Henry is obvisiously a free marketeer to the end and whilst that is appreciated it hardly makes for balanced assessment. Mining boom due to AWA’s? Really? Gee I thought overwhelming demand from China would be the main reason for sky-high prices. I would suggest that AWA’s (giving the report that there is a smaller amount of them in the mining industry than most people think) make little changes to the prices that mining companies are receiving.

Crikey’s TV coverage:

Diana Lyons writes: Re. “Media briefs and TV ratings” (yesterday, item 26). I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. If you must have a TV critic on board at least get one who knows what he’s talking about. Yesterday Dyer claimed that All Saints would do well after the final of Dancing With the Stars, today he claimed that Channel 7 had been forced to abandon All Saints last night becaue DWTS went past its 9.30pm finish. All completely wrong. If Mr Dyer paid any attention to anything other than ratings figures he would have know that All Saints was never on the program for last night and he would have been aware that the advertised finish time for DWTS was always 10pm. A quick glance at any TV guide or even Seven’s website would have told him all this. Surely a TV commentator should do better.

Oops:

Yesterday’s typos (house pedant Charles Richardson casts an eye over the howlers in the last edition of Crikey): Item 10: “… Kevin Rudd says the plan to build a tunnel linking Melbourne’s east with its west under it’s inner-city strongholds …”. That’s at least the fourth rogue apostrophe in five editions — bit of a problem, I think.

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Peter Fray

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