A green mistake:

Clive Hamilton, executive director of The Australia Institute, writes: Re. For 4c a litre, we can kill the Greenhouse effect (Friday, item 2). In my haste to meet Crikey’s deadline I wrote that if the world economy grows at 3% per annum through to 2050 then global GDP will be around 350% higher. This is a mistake. It will be 3.5 times the size, which is, of course, 250% higher. The mistake does not change the conclusion that deep cuts in emissions can be had for a very modest cost.

The air safety debate:

Chad Reed writes: Re. “Fear of flying takes on new meaning in Australian skies” (Friday, item 1). Let’s get serious. Is it really a crisis of safety or a crisis for the sinecure of modern piloting? Do the maths: 900 hours of flight time is just 18.75 hours of work a week under CAO 48. Maybe that is so little work that they are getting fatigued by the long boring hours of waiting around to actually fly.

Greg Angelo writes: Ben Sandilands should get a firm grip on himself. Assuming a 40 week working year to allow for 12 weeks of holidays and rest period, 900 flying hours a year translates to less than 23 flying hours per week. Whilst flying an aircraft can have its stressful components, the flying aids available to pilots of commercial airliners are such that the vast majority of flight activity is boringly routine. Remember also that there are two pilots on each aircraft unlike long-distance truck drivers who invariably travel without a co-pilot and, by all accounts, will work in excess of 50 hours per week with no 12-week rest period. Provided appropriate fatigue management practices are observed, it would seem reasonable that the 900 hours per annum cap, probably set when aircraft were less facilitated by computer-based flying and navigation aids, could be reasonably exceeded provided the limits in any one interval such as a week were not excessive.

Richard Letts writes: A propos of economising by the airlines, I was on the afternoon flight to LA on 16 January. After take-off, as the wheels were raised, it sounded as though the mechanism was grinding up a Coles supermarket trolley. An hour later, the plane turned back to Sydney. In the ensuing three-hour wait for an airworthy plane, there was an announcement to passengers on a Qantas flight to Thailand, also delayed due to mechanical problems. In the choice between larger Qantas profits and safety, I’d rather not be dead. By the way, on this competition-starved route, economy costed $3000 and business class upward of $13,000. Keeping planes in the air when the fare is $3 has to be a problem. But at the prices on the LA route, one would hope the planes would at least be dependably airborne.

John Newton writes: Many years ago — from 1976 to 1979 in fact, I worked on the Qantas advertising account at Leo Burnett. It was crystal-clear to us writers who ran the airline. The pilots. One story from those times, apocryphal or not, illustrates this. During my time on the account, Sir Lennox Hewitt was chairman — he took over in 1975, and retired in 1980. He had a reputation in the airline for being somewhat abstemious. Whether it’s true or not it was said that he would ask to take home the opened and unfinished spirits from the bar at the end of a flight. One day, the story goes, he checked in and boarded a 747, and asked to see the crew manifesto. The flight services director brought it to him and he scanned it. He noted there were eggs for the crew breakfast. Take them off said Sir Lennox, far too costly. The FSD complied and issued the order that there were to be no more eggs for the crew breakfast. The news of this decision roared around the airport, and the next pilot to board a 747 asked to see the crew manifesto. Where are the eggs for the crew breakfast he asked the FSD. The chairman ordered them taken off he was told. Well, said the pilot, this aircraft is not taking off until the eggs are replaced. And the jumbo sat there for — how many minutes at how much a minute — until the eggs were found. Yes, things have changed.

Mike Holland writes: I flew with Qantas in the late ’70s and said then, I would never, never fly with them again and have avoided them ever since, with only BA competing for my gong of “Most Miserable Flying Experience”. Circumstances dictated of recent times, that I had to fly with them again (bugger, just couldn’t avoid it). Of course, it was a total c-ck up. Late plane, missed connection, the whole catastrophe. Bring on “Dodgy Bros” airlines as they just couldn’t be any worse. If you’re going to have a lousy flying experience, it may as well be cheap!

Mike Cowley writes: Re. Friday’s tips and rumours (item 9). I’m no expert, and hopefully one will write in to clear this up, but air traffic control radar is designed to deal with transponders on both civilian and military aircraft, and is not used for detecting unauthorised aircraft anyway — that would be the responsibility of military radar. So while it might make the job of ATC a bit harder, it’s hardly a security emergency.

The Qantas sale:

Ben Aveling writes: Re. “Qantas takeover struggles to stay alive” (Friday, item 5). Out of curiosity, I weighed all the paper I’ve been sent as part of this would be takeover. 1.32 Kg. Multiply that by I don’t know how many shareholders — it’s a lot of dead trees.

Kelly Hoare:

Jonathan Matthews writes: Re. “MP worried: two kids and family seat to support” (Friday, item 10). I couldn’t agree more with your comments regarding Kelly Hoare. I heard her appalling whinge on the radio; she forgets that it’s the electors of Charlton, not the Labour Party, that she is responsible too. They decide whether she has a job or not. Besides, having served three terms, doesn’t she have a generous pension to fall back on?

Alan Kennedy writes: If, as I believe, Kelly Hoare, has been an MP for three terms (elected in 1998) she qualifies for a generous indexed parliamentary pension for life. It should, on my estimate be around $60,000 a year. Up until last week, I had never heard of this distinguished MP. I have, however, heard of Greg Combet and I know which of the two I would like to see in Parliament. And as a sole parent could I suggest that Kelly Hoare finally find out about life as lived by most single mums and get a job. If as she says she is a great local member, she is probably even now being overwhelmed with offers.

Heffernan, barrenness and the commentariat:

Mike Dwyer writes: Re. “Should we be listening to the “barren” commentariat?” (Friday, item 15). Henry Bolte and Robert Askin, two figures in the pantheon of the Liberal Party, were both married but childless. Did this affect their ability to govern? Admittedly there has been some post-mortem criticism of Askin, but he is singularly the most successful Liberal in terms of winning elections in NSW. Bolte was unchallenged in 17 years at the top. Even though Phillip Adams has described Christopher Pearson as an expert in all matters heterosexual, I understand that he is single and childless.

Justin Templer writes: Bill Heffernan — respect. In the early ’90s, freshly arrived from London as a new Australian, I decided to volunteer my services to the Liberals. Living within the North Sydney electorate naturally this was the branch I chose to join. I did not have great expectations of my baptism into Australian politics – beyond writing a cheque for my membership dues and joining a table of blue-rinsed ladies stuffing envelopes. But even these low expectations could not be met. To cut a very long story short my extended attempts to join the Libs failed (lack of interest and disorganisation on their part) and I became increasingly p-ssed off, culminating in my complaining to the NSW headquarters. I was advised to relay my complaint to Bill Heffernan, who was at that time President of the NSW Liberal Party. I phoned Bill in the hope of some action — he cut straight to the point. “Give it up, mate”, he said. “Those guys are just a bunch of effing w-nkers”. I was cured and have never joined the Liberal Party, which has saved me tons in terms of wasted time and money. Thanks, Bill — I’m glad your mum wasn’t a baroness.

Labor’s lead in the polls:

Megan Stoyles writes: Re. “Labor extending lead: Morgan Poll” (Friday, item 4). Your Morgan Poll story reports that this is a face to face poll which in some eyes means that the response is more truthful than a hurried phone response. Or it could mean that people are more likely to say what they think is expected. Either way, more Australians are emboldened to say that they will vote for Rudd and that they believe the Coalition will lose. Two experiences verify that: on a beach in a formerly solid coalition, now possibly marginal, rural electorate, a pillar of our small society and small town community joiner and activist, greeted me pleasantly — as always — but added that “your mob is traveling well”. He then chatted about political issues generally as well as the beauty of our location (as it is and hopefully always will be, developers, councils, governments, and VCAT willing). Second: queuing in the crowded women’s toilets at the Comedy Theatre during the interval of Keating the Musical (a sell-out as on every night), a smart woman in her late 40s quipped about the political balance of the audience, stating that she was in the minority as a “paid up member of the Liberal Party”. While consoling her by referring to the brief glimpse of Michael Kroger in one election night sketch, she said warmly “your lot are going to be hard to beat” while adding quickly — in case other paid up Liberals were listening — that of course “we’ll be working hard to stop it”. A final portent: a close relative who is a political swinger has declared that she won’t be voting for that Howard again — she can’t put her finger on a specific reason why but knows there are many of them. And that Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard both seem very nice.

Tampa, and is this really 2001 all over again?:

Ailie Bruins Hornsby writes: Re. “Is this really 2001 all over again?” (Friday, item 12). I agree the Tampa delivered the 1991 election to Howard. I was employed as an electoral official at that election. The actions of the Liberal Party scrutineer were not clear to me at the time but may explain the importance the Tampa misinformation was, in gaining the One Nation vote. I worked on a small booth in a Liberal seat. The only vote that the scrutineer was interested in was the One Nation vote. The One Nation count was the first information the scrutineer phoned through to the Liberal Party election headquarters. I presume he was following instructions.

Brough and Wudapuli:

Andrew Smart writes: Re. “How Brough sold a lie to Wudapuli” (Friday, item 8). I have lived for over six years in the NT (though not currently residing there), plus my wife was born and bred in Alice Springs. In relation to your story on Aboriginal housing purchases, just two things to note. One for ya and (sorry) one “agin” ya. (1) You are dead right about the stupidity of the whole idea. For all the reasons that you have mentioned, plus another. Traditional Aboriginal people (such as those in the NT) have a very complicated and strict set of rules and rituals associated with the death of family members. As you know, most “houses” are inhabited by very large extended families. When someone in a family dies, the rest of the family goes into “sorry business”, which entails a formal and non-time specific period of mourning encompassing such things as not mentioning the dead persons name, never viewing and/or destroying all pictures/ photos of that person as well as everyone moving out of the dwelling in which the dead person lived. This is all done because the belief is that the dead person can be held back from passing into the spirit world if they are invoked or coerced to “hang around”. The period for which it is prohibited for family members to live in that dwelling is often very long (many months to years) and due to the close and complicated family relationships within the small community groups, it is unlikely that anyone will live in the dwelling for some time. This of course will lead to people paying off (as you mentioned) a worthless house — that they cannot use. Given the rate of death in these communities this scenario is an absolute certainty. (2) Please don’t pontificate too much about the school situation. In these schools the enrolment numbers very rarely match the actual attendance numbers. If every school in Aboriginal communities in the NT was staffed based on enrolment numbers there would be an outcry about the number of teachers sitting round doing nothing with any students to teach. So out of reality, funding is more based on actual rates of attendance. In the Aboriginal communities in which I worked in central Australia, regular school attendance was never regularly more than 10% of total number of kids, and was usually more around the 5%. This, of course, is an extremely sad situation, as it means that a whole new generation of Aboriginal people will be even more disenfranchised from mainstream Australia, as they will lack even the basic skills to participate in a 21st century world. It may be outright bribery, but any measures that get more of these kids in school cannot be a bad thing. Moralising about the ethics of such steps will do absolutely nothing for the Aboriginal people themselves, other than contributing to the perpetuation of the current situation.

Nuclear power:

Ian Lowe writes: Re. James Eggins (Friday, comments): “The energy payback from nuclear is huge, mainly because the plants are large, operate virtually continuously, and now typically have 60-year lifetimes”. This sort of hype is difficult to take seriously. Given that the FIRST nuclear power station — actually, the first nuclear weapons production facility to generate electricity from its waste heat — was only switched on 50 years ago, how can it seriously be asserted that nuclear power stations “typically have 60-year lifetimes”? There would eventually be a positive energy payback from nuclear power stations but, in the short to medium term, building and fuelling them would consume large amounts of energy and produce large amounts of Greenhouse gases. Even the UMPNER report, with its slanted terms of reference and stacked membership, could only claim that 25 reactors would reduce the GROWTH in emissions by 18%. Nuclear is too slow, too expensive, too risky and makes too little difference to be a rational response to climate change.

Damon Lewis writes: Beautifully polished response from James Eggin, in Friday’s letters, being an ex (but rather lowly) policy-cum-spin writer I could just smell the work of a true professional wafting over me, so I just had to quickly Google his name… can we all therefore assume that he is one and the same; “James E Eggins BA, LLB General Manager Sales, Paladin Resources Ltd from 2005; Industry Consultant 2004-05; Divisional Manager – Commercial and Marketing, Copper-Uranium Division, WMC Resources Ltd 1999-2004; General Manager – Marketing (Olympic Dam) 1989-99; Manager Marketing, Canning Resources Pty Ltd 1987-89; Assistant Marketing Manager then Marketing Manager Queensland Mines Ltd from 1981. UIC Director 1995-2004. Reappointed 22/6/05” (from the Uranium Information Centre website: http://www.uic.com.au/about.htm)

Mark Byrne writes: James Eggins points out how favourable Prime Minister Howard’s Switkowski report is towards nuclear power. But Switkowski’s UMPNER Taskforce evades and obscures the problem of the low-quality uranium resources. There is plenty of uranium, but there is a very limited quantity in high-enough concentration. Below a certain concentration of ore the energy required to process the uranium becomes so high, that the energy consumed is never paid back. Currently uranium provides 2.2% of global energy. At such a low consumption rate, estimated the reserves of sufficiently rich uranium will last 70 years. If we double the world’s nuclear power we would only have reserves for 35 years, in which we can gain net energy from uranium. But developing new nuclear power would make our CO2 emissions worse for the following two decades. The energy balance figures from the UMPNER background report show that the Energy payback period for nuclear power is from 5.6 to 14.1 years. (These are under estimate because it assumes a rich uranium ore). This is a terrible length of time that would need to be added to the 10 to 15 years required to commission a nuclear plant. That would take us to approximately 2030 before proposed nuclear power would stop worsening our net CO2 emissions. And if we double current global nuclear power, 2040 would be around the time that uranium runs out for energy net gain. The energy payback for current renewables is months not years.

Telstra spin:

Simon Rumble writes: Re. “Telstra turns the blowtorch on Graeme Samuel” (Thursday, item 22). Wow. Margaret Simons really stirred up the Telstra defenders, probably recruited from Telstra’s astroturf campaign www.nowwearetalking.com.au. The reason I can pick this is that both respondents (Friday, comments) mention “foreign-owned” and “Singtel”, which is the coded language Telstra spinner Phil Burgess uses. So how much of Telstra is foreign-owned, once you look at all the hedge funds and the like? Of course, what Telstra wants is a return to the bad old monopoly days. The wholesale pricing they’re currently talking about for FTTN is $80/month per customer, which is well and above what telcos are currently paying for wholesale access even for the highest-speed services. How anyone could make a margin on that is anyone’s guess. The G9’s proposal guarantees open and equal access to all telcos, which is exactly what terrifies Telstra. Because there is no operational separation between Telstra and Telstra Wholesale, they get to do all kinds of sneaky, anti-competitive tricks. For example, they recently made it impossible to get the $19.95 “line rental” (The Sol Tax) if you get your ADSL through any other provider than Telstra Wholesale. The reason? People like me with ADSL2+ are using VOIP to completely bypass Telstra’s telephone monopoly, so they’re trying to claw some money back with sneaky, anti-competitive tricks. Disclosure: I work (contract) in a technical capacity for one of the G9 telcos, but this is my opinion and nothing to do with them.

The AFR exodus:

Mike Martin writes: Re. “Fin Review in deficit as Chanticleer heads to The Oz” (Friday, item 6). Jane Nethercote missed one: Rowan Callick, formerly the Fin Review’s highly respected Asia-Pacific editor, resurfaced (last year, from memory) as The Australian‘s China correspondent. Callick’s despatches were one of the highlights of the Fin.

457 visas:

Christopher McGrath writes: Re. “Canberra quietly ups the skilled migration ante — it’s all about inflation” (Friday, item 28). Remember that a lot of the 457 applications are in relation to people already here on a 457. Meaning that not all the numbers granted every year represent “new” people coming in. Also, traditionally, visa granted numbers include the family of the principal applicant. I am not sure it is the same with 457 category, but its probably safe to say it is. So a married 457 applicant with 2 children = 4 visas.


Bruce Graham writes: Re. “Victoria’s cloning legislation: what happened to the review process?” (Friday, item 11). Dr Tonti-Filippini is certainly well qualified to comment on bioethics, but Crikey readers who do not have a history of following these debates should be aware that he is not unbiased. Dr Tonti-Filippini is the most prominent Catholic bioethicist in Australia. He initially became prominent as the foundation director of the Department of Bioethics at St Vincents hospital in Melbourne in 1982. His appointment was a response to the dominance in public bioethics debate at that time, of then Monash professor of philosophy Dr Peter Singer. Since then he has established himself as a provider of orthodox Catholic comment on a wide range of bioethics issues. Although his opinions are frequently well argued, he is disappointingly reticent about his affiliations. These include appointments as a lecturer at the John Paul II institute, and as a fellow at the Southern Cross bioethics institute, which is funded by the Knights of the Southern Cross. He has for many years been the de facto spokesman on bioethics for the Catholic Church in Australia. Dr Tonti-Fillipini’s affiliations are relevant. He has not come to this debate as an impartial observer, but as a seasoned campaigner for an orthodoxy which opposes everything the new Victorian “therapeutic cloning” amendments stand for. His opinions deserve to be heard, but he brings question to his own integrity when he chooses to downplay those affiliations.

Big Brother:

Dave Fawkner writes: Re. “Big Brother: spinning genital humour into a community service announcement” (Friday, item 20). Further to the Big Brother debate. I’ve never got past the opening remarks of the idiot who presents Big Brother’s Friday Night Games before (he may actually be more irritating that Gretel Killeen), but last week I was having dinner at a friend’s place and his kids insisted on watching it. There was some sort of Japanese theme night and one of the games involved contestants clenching oversized plastic prawns between their thighs and hopping between a minefield of oversized tofu blocks, past a table full of ninjas, and over a yellow bridge before dropping said prawns into a giant wok. What really summed up the crassness of it all was hosts referring to the yellow object as the Bridge On The River Kwai. Australian values indeed!

The Logies:

Margaret Bozik writes: Re. “Plucking Logies gold … from a bucket of chicken” (Friday, item 22). The Logies might be fluffy and insubstantial but Simon Hughes shows his own ignorance of Australia’s entertainment industry, particularly the comment “With the exception of Ms Box, who sounds like she should be a drag queen, the producers are obviously going for nice.” If Simon had even once tuned into Australia’s highest-rating TV show this year (Dancing with the Stars), he would have seen that Fifi was the public personification of the word “nice”, with her radiant smile and self-deprecating humour smoothing over all manner of klutzy moments and tempestuous events. She may not be a rocket scientist or doyenne of the ABC but she is no insubstantial teenage soapie star or drag queen either.

Neighbours script editor Peter Mattessi writes: Condescension from an Australian television writer? Who’d have thought? Allow me to précis Simon Hughes’s argument for those who dozed off in the first paragraph: “television is crap and if you watch it you’re a moron. Read books like I do, you imbeciles! PS Get this for a laugh, John Wood’s fat”. Simon Hughes, your snobbery doesn’t become you. And how you can quote “Carmella Cammeniti went from baby peddler to nun, before suffering severe facial burns that required reconstructive surgery” and then conclude that “television takes itself so very seriously” is beyond me. Maybe try employing your sense of humor when you watch soap opera. Sure, you won’t be nearly as smugly superior at dinner parties, but you might find that you enjoy it.

Food, water and CO2:

Animal Liberation committee member Geoff Russell writes: I have to confess to Anthea Parry (Friday, comments) that I eat all manner of cereals — among other things. But the animals I imagine you eat also eat cereals. According to the UN FAO database, in the year 2005, Australian livestock ate about 10 million tonnes of cereals while Australian people ate about 2 million tonnes. If Anthea wants to reduce the number of massive monoculture farms, I suggest getting rid of beef feedlots, chicken and pig sheds which consumed those 10 million tonnes of cereals. Yes, farmers use a lot of fertiliser to grow all those cereals. But according to the Australian Greenhouse Office’s 2004 Inventory, most of Australia’s fertiliser is used for pasture (p.188 — Appendix 6.H), not crops. Qld is the odd state out with 85% of fertiliser used on sugar and cotton — I confess to eating sugar also. Rice was the other issue Andrea raised, and indeed, rice uses a lot of water, according to the CSIRO 2005 Balancing Act, it uses about 1400 giga litres. This is less than half the 3500 giga litres used by the dairy industry. And beef is another 3200 giga litres again. Unlike the dairy industry, rice farmers can reduce planting when water is short. I’m sure that Anthea, like me, doesn’t live on fresh air, but that seems to be where she gets her information from.

Michael Brougham writes: I hope Anthea Parry was trying to be funny. While eating nothing would be highly beneficial to the environment, especially since anyone on this diet would cease consuming any resources at all and turn into fertiliser after a few weeks, it’s a red herring: eating nothing is impossible, and suggesting it as a solution does nothing to address the central argument that red meat is a highly resource-intensive foodstuff compared to plant food. It’s pretty simple, really: a cow will eat many thousands of calories in the form of plants over its short lifetime, but will only ever yield a fraction of those calories through itself being eaten (I think I’ve read that it’s about one-fiftieth, but I’m happy to be corrected there). If you cut out the middle man (or, more accurately, the middle ruminant) and eat the plants yourself, you’ve just gained yourself an enormous amount of calories you would have lost from feeding your cow. Obviously humans don’t eat exactly what cows eat, but if you didn’t need all that land to grow cows and their fodder, you could grow acres and acres of alfalfa or tofu or something equally boring (I’m a vegetarian on principle, not taste). As for water consumption, while I agree that growing rice in Australia is pure insanity, growing beef is far worse: a study done by Cornell University put the amount of water required to grow a kilo of beef at 50 times that required to grow a kilo of rice, while the CSIRO reports that the production of a single kilo of beef can consume up to 100,000 litres by the time it’s made it to the fridge down at Coles. Food for thought.

Crikey – not the future of news?:

Kate McDonald writes: Re. Garry Muratore (Friday, comments): “Crikey for my mind is media of the future, on-line, accessible and able to react quickly to stories.” How can Crikey be the media of the future when its sole purpose is to “react quickly to stories”? Where the hell do those stories come from, Gaz? Not from Crikey, I’m afraid, barring a few honourable exceptions (onya Stephen v the Gnome!). It does the same job as talk-back radio — discuss the morning newspaper headlines — only better and funnier and with a wider range of opinion. Crikey doesn’t report, it comments. It doesn’t use journalists, but commentators. You cannot have a “media of the future” without actually investigating or reporting stories. I adore Crikey and wouldn’t miss it, especially when Stephen has a tilt, it runs commentary from nutjobs or Christian has a dummy spit, but to call it media of the future, or even a source of news, is a bit rich.


Joanna Mendelssohn writes: Re. “Heff’s history of upsetting the Libs’ NSW Right” (Friday, item 16). Irfan Yusuf is a former right-wing Liberal. Presumably that is why he is so devoted to the institution of monarchy that he wants to “reign in” Bill Heffernan (a particularly kinky concept). Others would prefer it if Heffernan were reined in.

Gavin Robertson writes: Re. “Media briefs and TV ratings” (Friday, item 26). Deeper problems for Big Brother: “The spokeswoman denied producers deliberately set the task … to illicit a dramatic response”. There may be many things in BB which are illicit, but elicit is the word you were really looking for here.

Yesterday’s typos (house pedant Charles Richardson casts an eye over the howlers in the last edition of Crikey): Item 16: “… members of the PM’s faction, the NSW Right, have asked him to reign in the maverick Senator Bill Heffernan …”. Try “rein in”. (Gets it right later in the same story.) And the rogue apostrophe is in … item 25! “‘New Horizons’ captures stunning images of Jupiter and it’s moons.”

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