A Holy War against the Greens:

Russell Bancroft writes: Re. “Holy war against the Greens” (yesterday, item 9). In response to Christian’s article about a preference deal in Tasmania involving the ALP and Family First to knock off the Greens; I suggest that this is just Christian up to a bit of mischief-making. ALP rank and filers in Tasmania would never stand for it. The anger directed at ALP head office by ordinary members in the lead up to the Victorian election when rumors of a deal with FF surfaced was palpable. If the deal had gone ahead then there would have been few ALP how-to-vote cards handed out come election day. The deal will never happen because much as some ALP members and MPs might dislike the Greens, ALP supporters (a much larger group) will back the Greens any day over FF. The lesson of 2004 might not have been learnt by all, but it has been learn by enough people with common sense.

Andrew Owens writes: I admit to being one of the “Green votes… returning to the ALP”. I voted Greens in 2004 and in the State election (WA) in 2005. My reasons are – after years of incompetent leadership and woeful policy development, Labor finally actually has a leader and a platform. While somewhat to the left of Rudd, I feel his heart is in the right place, Australia would be a better place under him and many of the things I have heard from him convince me that he is the leader for this generation. However, the Greens in WA have really done nothing to deserve my vote. They don’t bother to organise adequately, have no local presence worth mentioning, complain about the lack of media coverage they receive, and many issues which are critical in this coming election they don’t seem to have a stance on. In Tasmania, different kettle of fish entirely — I think some of the criticism of them there and of Bob Brown is both premature and a bit misguided.

Philip Carman writes: This little semi-socialist (who ironically makes a good living in the Money Business!) won’t be returning to vote Labor, just because of the KRudd factor. I see New-fangled Labor as far too conservative and probably afraid to make the tough, nation-building decisions that might need to put business slightly behind consumers and our society slightly ahead of the economy. The don’t-make-waves rot started with Keating (a great Treasurer and possibly indigenous Australia’s most effective friend) who was beguiled by some big business interests and too conscious of being economically “responsible/conservative”. Under Rudd we would risk becoming a Mini-Me version of the Howard regime. Those of us disaffected with Labor and who think long and hard about each candidate before casting our first preference to the Greens, (as the only party genuinely interested in the bigger picture of living in a sustainable society/economy) will probably continue to put Labor ahead of the Libs and in doing so, will effectively be voting for Labor under our undemocratic system where your second-worst preference can become the only vote counted. But it’s going to be a close call. Labor is not a shoe-in and Howard will have plenty of money and tricks up his sleeve before election night. Tricks that will no doubt be financially tempting and therefore attractive to those semi-conservatives/aspirationals that the Rudd team hopes to hold on to at the Big Poll.

Peter Lloyd writes: Well yes Christian, “both Labor and the Liberals in Tasmania have been infuriated by the dealings with the Greens in state parliament,” because the focus of these dealings has been the Tamar Valley pulp mill. This issue has witnessed, especially in the last six months, a slide from the mere “business as usual” levels of back-room dealing between Gunns and the major parties, to a brazen corruption that is obvious to almost everyone. Family First, as a front for an alliance of extremist religious groups that have particular purchase in Tasmania, will try very hard to work for the interests of the majors while being on the take from the forestry trough. But there is every chance that, just as John Winston is finding, the stink simply won’t be washed away with a scare campaign — especially since this same tactic is now so well-established that it is virtually an election tradition. Stephen Fielding’s “family impact statements” have been cast contemptuously aside by the Coalition, while a glance across the Pacific reveals for all the stupidity of mixing greed-driven evangelism with parties beholden to a few corporate giants. The ALP got kicked in the teeth by the Tasmanian branch and CFMEU last time, Peter Garrett is too embarrassed to even cross Bass Strait, and the pulp mill is proving very sticky for Malcolm Turnbull as it insults his integrity both on the environment and on business ethics. Now if any party can fail to capitalise on this situation it’s the Greens, facing as they do a vituperative media ready to run any story, however ludicrous. But maybe Family First don’t really have “smart operators in the back rooms”, just deluded, amoral dark ages empire-builders with pockets full of cash. And maybe Taswegians are becoming aware of this.

Bureaucrats fear the new Rudd gulag:

John Kotsopoulos writes: Re. “Bureaucrats fear the new Rudd gulag” (yesterday, item 7). Bureaucrats who are political appointees or who take an overtly political stance must expect that they will go in a change of government. That’s how it’s been for the past 30 years at state and federal level. I can recall when the Kennett government unexpectedly fell a few Kennett clones among the top brass in the bureaucracy tried to do a hasty makeover but failed, while others folded up their tents and moved on. Professional public servants who have a track record of impartial advice have nothing to fear and would in my view applaud this approach.

Chris Larkin writes: Presumably Kevin Rudd won’t be following the Thai model when he wins in November, which is based on the ethos of keeping your friends close but your enemies closer. In Thailand people found to be unfavourable to the government of the day are transferred to what are called “inactive posts”. Typically, but not always, these inactive posts are contained in the prime ministers office! After last year’s coup, my old boss, the current deputy minister of finance in the interim Government, actually went one better (unheard of in Thailand) and managed to sack a five Revenue Department directors-general for their part in ruling that the former Thai PM’s family had no tax liability for the multi-billion dollar sale of their telecommunications empire to Singapore’s Temasek. For one DG he couldn’t sack, he “promoted” to deputy permanent secretary of the Ministry of Finance — a 2IC position, so this poor sod has to twiddle his thumbs down the hall from the man to whom he directly reports — at least on paper. My old boss quite enjoys the situation by all accounts.

Geoff Scott writes: If senior public servants are perceived to be supportive of a government of the day, upon a change, how the incumbents feel about working with a suspect public service. This profession was always considered to be as Caesar’s Wife. They cannot be easily replaced. Or sacked. I was under the impression that advancement sideways was always the reward for underachievement in the public service. The fact that they could be targeting NGOs makes this more interesting. The largest form of funding for NGOs in government funding. To get this time and effort has to be put into lobbying the government for funds. This has the benefit of weeding out the weaker submissions. But it must be considered to be impartial.

The BRW Rich List:

Arlene Macdonald writes: Re. “The inside dirt on the BRW Rich List” (yesterday, item 1). What do you mean “The ATO would have a field day if they could get their hands on it [i.e. the BRW database]”? The ATO has the power to get this information (whether held electronically or on paper) if it chooses to. Privacy/confidentiality is no defence to its powers. As Section 263 of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936 provides.

Shauna Jarrett writes: Members of the rich list won’t use Qantas Business Lounge – they would use the Chairman’s Lounge!?

Reality TV going too far?:

Zachary King writes: Re. “Going Dutch for a kidney: Reality TV reaches a new low” (yesterday, item 6). While not wanting in any way to deflect or disagree with the disgust at The Big Donor Show in any way, Guy Rundle’s ludicrous statement that it is no surprise the show is arising from “the home of very liberally applied euthanasia laws” beggars belief. Euthanasia is based in the inherent respect for quality of life, a concept so far removed from this grubby show I cannot begin to comprehend how he thought he could crudely tack on an attack against it (despite his feeble attempt at justifying it in the following sentence). This must surely be a candidate for the longest bow of the year award. Stick to subject at hand, Guy.

Nick Shimmin writes: I am generally inclined to agree with Guy Rundle, but his contribution yesterday should not be allowed to go unchallenged. The outrageousness of his claim about The Donor Show, that “if you think the morality of it is genuinely debatable, then you haven’t understood how morality and life connect”, place Guy firmly in the moral fascists’ camp, and if anyone who argued a point Guy disagreed with made a similar statement, I’m sure he’d be for locking them up. So if anyone utters a word disagreeing with you, they have no morality, Guy? Well, count me in. Of course the show is tasteless. Of course such things shouldn’t be presented as entertainment. Of course there should be better ways to raise awareness of organ donation. But the publicity and debate it has incited will have moved a large number of people to realise they should be on the donor register (I have heard several today even in Australia), so actually it will save lives. One life, one hundred lives, I think that’s some powerful spin for the program, Guy. But you would prefer that those people who will benefit from that would die in favour of your moral prescription. I would hazard a guess you have never been in urgent need of an organ donation but unable to find a donor. If you had lived in the real world, perhaps your morality would be less absurdly dogmatic. And you wouldn’t be so terrified of “death flowing into life”. Death is a part of life, Guy. Most people understand that.

Jim Holding writes: I believe myself to be totally anti-censorship. However, after reading reports about the The Big Donor Show, I am starting to wonder whether I can make an exception to my rule. My God…

Land clearing and carbon emissions:

Michael Rae writes: Re. “Each day more trees will die” (yesterday, item 3). Steve Truman has it dead wrong in asserting that Senator Ian Campbell was sent to Kyoto in 1997. It was the then federal environment minister, Senator Robert Hill, who successfully held out for the “Australia clause”, ie. “Give us a carbon credit or the trees die.”

Robbie Kelman writes: The Australia clause allowed Australia to count emissions from land clearing in its carbon accounts thereby raising its overall emissions profile – the result was that as legislation came in to outlaw land clearing, and our stationary energy and transport emissions increased, our reaching the target of 108% of 1990 levels was that much easier. So, we might just make the target not because we have done anything about reducing industrial emissions (they keep going up) but we have stopped emissions from land clearing. It’s not then precisely right to say clause 3.7 allows us to claim the carbon credits – thought the effect might be the same. I’ve often wondered whether in fact we could be taken to court for “non-additionally”? Our stopping land clearing wasn’t to reduce our carbon footprint (it was to stop salinity and biodiversity loss etc), yet we claim the emission reductions from this source off our target.

Amy Wise writes: What fantasy land does Steve Truman, “renegade farmer”, exist in? In cutting down trees he may as well be cutting off his own legs. Most Australians understand the link between native vegetation clearing and Greenhouse gas emissions, and many also appreciate the consequences for the health of the land itself – the very land on whose productive capacity Mr Truman relies for his livelihood. Rising water tables, salinity, poor water quality, erosion, sedimentation of waterways, reduced farm income, a loss of native aquatic habitat with a corresponding impact on native fish and animals – all attributable to clearing of deep-rooted native vegetation. Many farmers today understand these links and through organisations like Landcare are doing fantastic things to try to reverse the damage. So Mr Truman and friends stop behaving like whinging farmers get off your collective arse and do something constructive like joining a Landcare group.

Politics et al:

Bill Owen writes: Re. “Climate change campaign shows why we’re cool about Howard” (yesterday, item 2). Good stuff in Christian Kerr’s piece. But climate change, IR and the economy are not the only factors that are costing Howard voter support. The other big factor is Howard’s dishonesty — epitomised by the lies he told voters about the reasons for supporting Bush and Blair in their decision to bombard and invade Iraq (illegally) in 2003. It’s strange — I haven’t heard a single mention of foreign policy lately in the pre-election debate by mainstream media commentators …

David Hawkes writes: Re. “Perilous polling? Well, maybe or maybe not” (yesterday, item 13). From whom did Peter Brent get the information that people don’t loathe John Howard as much as they did Paul Keating? Ask around some more, Pete, you could be surprised — I was.

Karl Goiser writes: Re. “Why Rein’s business was already a conflict of interest for Rudd” (yesterday, item 4). Well, I read up to Stephen Mayne’s article, and then felt compelled to send you this note. There was an article in last night’s Lateline about this, and they pointed out that, like Mr Rudd’s wife, the spouses of several Government ministers are not exactly appendages of middle-aged men either. How can you justify personally attacking one member of Parliament and his spouse without also attacking others who are in the same situation? Wouldn’t you say that not doing so smacks of bias? What are the interests of the spouses, close relatives and close friends of ministers in this Government? Are there any conflicts? Ultimately, there is a general question about the connections of MPs with money-making ventures, and what they or those who are close to them stand to gain. I don’t know of any decisions made by Mr Rudd which seem to be a conflict of interest, but I can think of two by Mr Howard: the bailing out of his own brother’s company when it went belly-up, and the decision to push for the use of ethanol in fuel when a good friend of his is heavily involved in that industry. I am sure you can think of many more conflicts of interest in decisions by this Government!

Tony Kevin writes: Re. “Censure SmackDown in 100 tagged words” (yesterday, item 8). Your word frequency analysis of the censure debate on Tuesday brings home to me the limitations of this mode of analysis, for getting to the heart of things. When I think back on Rudd’s brilliant and passionate speech in this debate, which had been brought on by Rudd without notice after a contemptuous challenge from Howard at the end of Question Time (which it took Rudd just one nanosecond to respond to — I was listening to Parliament and it was one of the most exciting moments I can ever recall there), I most remember one phrase “this Prime Minister has no credibility”. He only said it two or three times, but that’s really all we need to remember.

Indigenous Australia:

Mary-Ellen Hepworth writes: Re. “Portrait of the average indigenous Australian” (Monday, item 1). Is the average indigenous Australian really male? Given women are said to make up 52% of the population, and Aboriginal men are found to die disproportionately early, sure the average indigenous Australian would more likely be female. Or doesn’t that count?

Chris Davis writes: Just a clarification on Steve Elliot’s conjecture (yesterday, comments) that the data I provided was flawed, it wasn’t – the dot density map reflected one dot for each indigenous person living in a census collection district, the smallest geographic unit available that provides anonymity for us all. It reflects where the forms are collected.

Marlene Hodder writes: Alan Hatfield (25 May, comments) asked: “I wonder if there are a million Australians who would be prepared to give $60 each to allow the Alice Springs town camps to receive their $60 million they need but without any strings attached?” My response is an emphatic yes, I believe so. I have been trying to obtain advice as to how to handle/manage/publicise this. Any suggestions from Crikey? I feel this matter is urgent as it is my understanding Brough gave another month for deliberations, ie. from last Friday. Winter is coming; life is going to become even harder on the camps.

Tim Winton:

Diana Simmonds writes: Re. “What price Tim Winton?” (Yesterday, item 21). Simon Hughes was going along nicely — the stuff about Winton moving, the publishers’ angst, possible ramifications for 3000 print run writers, seismic shifts in book stacks in general, etc. Then he goes and ruins it: off come his socks and not only are feet of clay revealed but a head of concrete too. Comparing Tim Winton to West Coast AFL footballers — and the dangers of sudden big money being shoved up the hooter — is stupid, irritating and thoughtless. Thoughtless in that if Simon Hughes had rubbed his two grey cells together for even a minute before committing idiocy to paper he wouldn’t have done it. Tim Winton is a mature man in all senses of the word. He’s been successful for a long time and part of that success is the maturity and compassion in his writing. Having a substantial injection of cash into his bank account is not going to turn Winton into anything other than what he already is. AFL footballers are, by definition, immature boys. Throw wads of cash at them when they become overnight successes and mini-celebs and the inevitable happens: mayhem, personal damage and all the rest. Tim Winton like them? I don’t think so. The job of an editor is to cut nonsense like that — which simply mucks up a halfway decent story and lays Crikey open to yet more grumpiness from readers whose enjoyment is marred by what seems to be your obdurate pride in sloppy journalism.

Brian Mitchell writes: I’m sure Simon Hughes was only trying to be funny with his article, stating he hoped Tim Winton didn’t go down the Ben Cousins route of celebrity infamy, but Simon’s wit could do with some work. Tim Winton is one of life’s true gentlemen, one of the most self-effacing, humble people you’re likely to meet. He eschews publicity at every opportunity and only reluctantly fronts the media. The fact he took on the role of being the public face of the Save Ningaloo campaign a few years ago is testament to his strength of support for the natural environment … he would have much rather stayed home with the kids, writing and surfing. As a native of Fremantle, Tim can often be seen strolling the port city’s streets and it’s one of the more pleasant aspects about the place that he and its other famous sons — John Butler, the Eskimo Joe boys, etc, can do so unmolested, just faces in the crowd. I’m more than confident that a much-deserved lucrative publishing deal will do absolutely nothing to change Tim Winton. If anything, he’ll probably be a touch embarrassed at finding himself with a pile of cash. It can be fun to poke a tall poppy, I’ve done it myself many a time, but on this occasion I think it’s misplaced.


Bill Bariamis writes: Re. “Remember the glory days of AFR.com” (yesterday, item 18). As a long time subscriber to the AFR, I totally concur with your article on AFR.com. The AFR editorial team have taken greed to a whole new level! We are expected to pay $2.70 for the newspaper, regardless of whether it is purchased at a newsagency or a long term subscription is taken out. We are then asked to pay for an afr.com service which appears to have been designed solely for day traders. To cap it off, when they find that subscriptions to this crappy service are not up to budget, they actually put a quasi-electronic version of the paper on-line and want paper subscribers to pay a FURTHER amount (around $30 per month) to read the paper electronically! If Fairfax allows this debacle to continue, this paper is headed for the publication dustbin. I cancelled my subscription in protest some months ago, and I do not intend to renew unless there is a very dramatic change in attitude to “value for the customer”. Fairfax and the AFR editor should note that we are not mugs!

Government childcare:

Alan Kerlin writes: Re. “Why didn’t the Future Fund buy into ABC Learning?” (Yesterday, item 27). Don’t know about the Future Fund, but you have to wonder why more government departments don’t set up on-site childcare operations. Apart from the staff getting their ever-increasing childcare costs FBT-exempt, the department gets an employee much more likely to hang around, and a “nice little earner” to boot.

Peace in Northern Ireland:

Guy Rundle writes: Turlough O’Meachair (yesterday, comments) suggests I’m in error for suggesting that the Official IRA is responsible for peace in Northern Ireland. I didn’t. I suggested that Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness were, in part because they adopted the analysis of Cathal Goulding, the IRA’s leader in the ’60s, that there was no social base for a sustained armed campaign (even though the Official IRA later briefly started one). The rest, apart from confusing the Real and Continuity IRA, is quibbles and spelling errors.

Research funding:

Mike Martin writes: If Alastair Mitchell (yesterday, comments) had checked the AUSTLII web site page Summary of funding position – 2007, he would have discovered that while AUSTLII budget for 2006 was $1,450,000, more than 50% of that was obtained from Australian Research Council grants which have now ended; Mitchell’s egregious attack on Margaret Thornton, to use his phrase, is a public embarrassment for him. AUSTLII income from remaining sources for 2007 is approximately $750,000, which is why the group has cut staff and is appealing for stakeholders to contribute further in recognition of the value that they are receiving. For instance, it has suggested an annual contribution of $20 per lawyer per year from the legal profession as the basis for one major segment of its users. This has been adopted by the National Association of Community Legal Centres. So far, the Australian Bar Association and the Law Society of New South Wales, amongst others, feel that their members would struggle to afford it.

The Movie Show:

Simon Sharwood writes: Re. “The Movie Show leads SBS’s online charge” (yesterday, item 20). I’m the journalist that Glen Dyer quotes in yesterday’s item about recent reporting on The Movie Show. And I’m not entirely happy he’s said I’ve fallen for spin. Let’s look at the facts: the brief he links to is dated 6 October and refers to a version of the program expected to air as of January 2007. Well, here we are at the fag end of May and perhaps (just perhaps) it seems a little sensible to assume that a project delayed by several months might just have taken on a few new aspects that do not strictly follow the format outlined in the brief. Or do engagement and creativity cease the moment the production company signs the deal as they then stamp out a show, cookie-cutter fashion? If Dyer and Crikey had taken readers deeper than the third par of the story they’d have gotten to the real meat: “Previously as a production company we have dished out the content and said ‘enjoy’,” Mr Culvenor said. “But more and more it is clear that viewers want to have a conversation. For shows such as Idol and The Biggest Loser, we get people pitching new segments to us . . . there is an evolution from passive viewers to active viewers.” The commercial speculation? I’ve no truck with that, as I did not cover it. But whatever the original brief, there’s a new model of audience engagement being explored here. Or at least an intention to do so!

Darce Cassidy writes: Glenn Dyer writes that during Senate estimates hearings in Canberra ABC CEO Mark Scott made “it clear the broadcaster had no plans to put ads on ABC websites”. On the contrary, the Hansard transcript makes it clear that Scott confirmed that the ABC ran two types of websites. While www.abc.net.au does not carry advertisements, other ABC websites do. Scott told Senate Estimates, “As we have said, we have had some advertising on websites in the past. You would you be aware of the Countdown site that we have created … a commercial site wholly owned by the ABC, but the only way we could get that site up and running was with the commercial revenue behind it, and it was linked to the commercial activities of then ABC Enterprises in the licensing of Countdown for this tour.”

An SBS puff piece:

Neil Summers writes: Re. “SBS happy as audiences and advertising revenue are on the rise” (Wednesday, item 22). Maybe if Glenn Dyer took his sources from a wider range rather than taking Shaun Brown’s word for it out of the Estimates Hansard, he would realise that the World News hour has failed dismally to get better audiences. He publishes the figures everyday in his column. And, of course the advertisers are going to be happy. Getting AB demographics cheap doesn’t seem to be the role of a public broadcaster. I’m old-fashioned and still have this obviously deluded view that the success of a public broadcaster is not necessarily how many people you can attract to lowest common denominator programs. Silly old me.


Brian Maher writes: Repeatedly this week Glenn Dyer has said in his TV wrap-up that Heroes has moved to Thursday nights at 8:30pm in yet another example of the belief in media circles that Sydney = Australia. A quick check of on-line TV listings will show that Heroes remains in its Wednesday night timeslot in Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth, Darwin and Hobart. Is it more a case of it being moved in NSW and Queensland to avoid clashes with Origin rugby league telecasts over the next few weeks?

Tasmanian forests:

Barry Chipman, Tasmanian state manager, Timber Communities Australia, writes: Hope the following will help those interested (Tuesday and Wednesday, comments) appreciate what Tasmania has achieved in the name of forest conservation and why that achievement is world class. The previous Federal ALP Government Regional Forest Agreement process, established an independent panel of world-respected environmental scientists to develop nationally agreed criteria for a compensative, adequate and representative forest reserve system. Resulting in recommended non-mandatory reservation targets of 15% forest biodiversity, 60% old-growth forests and 90% high-quality wilderness. With assigned for assessment, detailed descriptive criteria. (Forest had to be forest). The 1997 Tasmanian RFA process employed over a two-year period several hundred highly qualified environmental and resource scientists to rigorously and objectively evaluate forest against the criteria. Resulting in reservation levels of 40% (1,269,000 hectares) forest biodiversity, 69% (851,000 hectares) old-growth and 95% (1,836,300hectares) high quality wilderness. The 2004 Tasmanian Community Forest Agreement upgraded these levels to 1,465,000 hectares (47%) forest biodiversity, 1,004,480 hectares (80%) old growth and 1,885,300 (97%) high quality wilderness. Not a bad achievement when compared against the 10% forest reservation target set by the Convention of Biological Diversity, and agreed by the WWF and the IUCN. Additional good reading is the just released Sustainability Indicators for Tasmanian Forests 2001-2006 available at DPAC as part of the Tasmanian RFA 10 year review.

David Hicks:

Neil James, executive director, Australia Defence Association, writes: Marilyn Shepherd (yesterday, comments) asks one question but really asks two. In answer to her first, surely all Australians would expect that our diggers, if captured, are treated in accordance with the Third Geneva Convention. There is no reason not to because captured ADF personnel fully qualify for protection as prisoners-of-war because the ADF fully complies with the Laws of Armed Conflict (LOAC) in its prosecution of military operations. With regard to Marilyn’s second question, as a captured belligerent and even though he did not qualify for PW status (under GC III); David Hicks was detained in accordance with the Geneva Conventions. In terms of his separate trial for criminal offences, the first round of military commissions were struck down by the US Supreme Court because they did not comply with the Geneva Conventions under which Hicks was detained and protected. Please note, while Marilyn may deny it, the US Supreme Court and every other serious legal authority, not just me, believe Hicks was covered by Common Article 3 of the four Geneva Conventions. The court may still strike down the second round of criminal trials because of this — but such a ruling would not affect the separate legitimacy under international law of detaining captured belligerents (and only 5-10% of those detained are separately facing criminal trials by military commission anyway).


Stephen Mayne writes: The SMH didn’t bury James Packer’s sale of his Macquarie Bank shares in the Qantas read last Saturday because the paper led its business section with the story last Friday. Also, the original Hutchison Telecommunications Australia float price in 2000 was $2, not $5 as I reported last month. Apologies on both counts.

Michael Brougham writes: I doubt that the ATO will “pour” over the BRW Rich List; the magazine probably isn’t waterproof and would get very soggy very quickly. It seems more likely that the ATO intends to “pore” over the list.

Yesterday’s typos (house pedant Charles Richardson casts an eye over the howlers in the last edition of Crikey): Item 9: “… could end Browns’ 30 year political career.” No, only one Brown, so “Brown’s”, not “Browns'”. Item 12: “… those who couldn’t help themselves or user the internet for vacancies could be assisted.” I think that’s “use”, not “user”.

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