Singapore Airlines not after Qantas:

Stephen Forshaw, Singapore Airlines’ vice president of public affairs, writes: Re. Yesterday’s tips and rumours (item 6). This from yesterday’s edition: “Macquarie Bank has approached Singapore Airlines concerning a revised take over bid for Qantas. Singapore is said is to be very interested as it would allow it automatic control over two thirds of the domestic market as well as the long sought after trans-Pacific routes. It would also allow them to not bother with its start up Tiger Airlines. The finance required for the Qantas bid could come from the original amount set aside for Tiger.” Not true at all, in every respect and completely implausible for a whole range of regulatory reasons.

Wendi Deng profile out tomorrow:

Miriam Kauppi, Production Editor of The Monthly, writes: Re. “It’s open slather on media wives – except Wendi Deng” (yesterday, item 5). Just to clarify, the release date for the June edition of The Monthly was incorrectly mentioned as June 5. It will not be available until tomorrow, June 6.

Kyoto, markets and carbon:

Rod Campbell-Ross writes: Re. “Markets, carbon prices and the inconvenient truth about Kyoto” (yesterday, item 1). Strange, that our pollies are so averse to introducing a carbon tax. It seems that lots of people think they would be better; because that would fix the price of carbon and it would also fix the problem of leakage through such scams as HFC-23. Taxes are the cheapest and easiest solution by a wide margin. The tax should be applied at the well or pit head or on import on a fixed price per ton CO2 based on grade of oil, gas and coal. It should also be charged on exports and the government could pay out sequestration credits. Of course, the coal industry would suffer, but that is the point. Coal should stay in the ground. The government could provide assistance to miners to get jobs in the renewables industry. Taxes applied at the well and pit head are easy to collect and enforce. They are also transparent and deliver a clear message: carbon has a cost. I would have thought that if Howard (especially) offered to swap income taxes for energy taxes he would find it very popular among the famous Howard battlers. He could disarm the labour camp at the same time by lifting the tax free income limit by taking out the entire 15c band in one jump, maybe even much of the 30c band if he was courageous enough. The economy would not suffer at all if net taxes remained unchanged. People could pay their taxes instead through their energy use. Australia could also impose a carbon duty on all goods from countries that fail to tax or cost carbon sufficiently as well. That would help support Australian industry too. Countries arguing for carbon limits could hardly complain about that. If the big importing countries did the same, exporters such as China would find they would impose carbon costs very quickly. An effective increase in energy costs based on a carbon tax would give a welcome boost to innovation and research in the renewables field. In addition, failing to tax carbon is in effect handing a big subsidy to the fossil fuel industries. These are not justified, especially given the situation today; they should start paying for their externalities. Courage however is in short supply among political leaders these days, led by the nose as they are, by focus groups and private polling. President Bush, like Howard, also resists measures to counter global warming. Like Howard, his excuse is also the economy, but for him it is China. This is despite that the fact that the US is the worst culprit by far. Someone needs to stand up and be counted.

Alistair McKee writes: Someone needs to reframe the debate on the turnaround costs of meeting the threat of climate change. It is not so much an economic issue as a justice issue: it is of necessity an issue of intergenerational equity. If future generations were represented in our parliamentary democracy, they would probably plead for a 90 per cent reduction in GHG globally by 2050. Because of Peak Oil the turnaround costs of moving away from the carbon economy as a percentage of GDP grow exponentially with time from about the present time. Howard is not only “passing it forward”, but he shows no understanding that the Second Law of Thermodynamics rules; Howard commenced his career as a school debater and, backed up by the power of incumbency, he fools too many people who fall into the debating traps he sets. He’s not strong on the rules of evidence. We are finally in an age which requires natural resource accounting and distributive justice implied by the weighting of turnaround investment “passed forward”.

Peter Wood writes: There seems to be a pattern to Howard’s policies on climate change. After an initial phase of denialism and watering down Kyoto, the PM embraces carbon geosequestration. This has some promise, but is unproven and unlikely to be significantly adopted until at least 2020. Then the solution becomes for us to embrace the brave new world of nuclear power. As well as introducing a few new risks, any nuclear power plants will take at least 10 years to plan and build. Finally, after refusing to do so for many years, the PM has agreed to implement a cap and trade system for greenhouse gas emissions. We will finally be addressing the market failure that caused the problem in the first place. But we will have to wait a bit longer than this year’s election for it to be implemented – we will have to wait until after the following election. Meanwhile, polluters can pollute more, and spend more time lobbying for their share of free emission permits. It is very important that we take care in the design of an emissions trading scheme. We should have a trial phase of the trading scheme that lasts for a year or two, and is implemented before the following election. That way, if the government of the day does something stupid like auction and hand out more permits than emissions causing the carbon price to collapse, we will be less likely to repeat the mistake. This particular mistake occurred in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme.

Nicholas Roberts writes: According to Clive Hamilton’s Scorcher, Australia negotiated a very good deal in Kyoto, to reflect our reliance on fossil fuels, and then we played spoiler in all international Kyoto engagements, trying to undermine the process… why? So we could sell more coal. Then we can say domestically; look we are meeting our own (exceptionally weak) Kyoto targets and no-one else is (because they are buying our cheap coal and have high targets) and we are still have a good economy and jobs (coal corporates make profits and fund the entire “brown” environment agenda). You should really read Scorcher… The depth and details of mendacity… One day it will literally be criminal. 

Tim Le Roy writes: You don’t have to look too far in Australia to find a carbon gravy train. Just consider our booming wind industry. Wind millers in Victoria claim carbon abatement of 1.3 tonnes of CO2 per megawatt hour of wind energy produced leveraging off an ignorant public and a compliant government that believes the instant the wind blows the La Trobe Valley starts shutting down. Nothing could be further from the truth, as even the Bracks’ spin on wind admits that brown coal generators are the last to shut down when the wind blows, yet they continue to claim massive abatement. Even worse, a megawatt of wind energy still qualifies for the same subsidy as solar and hydro which can actually demonstrate meaningful emissions reductions. The old Enron carbon trading boys now working for Westpac must be licking their lips.

Geoff Croker writes: To fix the carbon dioxide problem is scientifically trivial. Pump sea water to an open vertical pipe located at a height of x above sea level, the height x being great enough to give enough velocity & volume for efficiency of the system. The other end of the pipe has to be located at a depth of about 600 metres below sea level at a suitable location. Air can be sucked into the system at a convenient height above sea level. The air consists of water, oxygen, nitrogen and carbon dioxide. There are other elements in air but for this exercise they are not relevant unless you take a direct feed from a power station. The pipe needs to be long enough for heat generated by crushing the trapped gas to transfer to the surrounding water. So the air is sucked in with the water down the pipe and descends to 600 metres. The water vapour turns to water, the oxygen and nitrogen eventually bubble up to the surface, and the carbon dioxide solidifies and falls to the sea floor where it remains. Planet saved. Unless you forget to turn the thing off in which case all growing vegetation dies. Let someone else work out how to pump the water.

Joy Storie writes: Why are we always told that we must manipulate everything except the economic and monetary systems. They are treated as if they were the forces of nature which we must obey, whereas nature itself can be put on “hold”?

Who do you trust?:

David Iron writes: Re. “Who do you trust too clever by half?” (Yesterday, item 4). Who do you trust to address the issue of climate change? Of course we are going to trust the coalition as they have been at the forefront of the global debate over the last eleven years! This is the same coalition that asked us to trust them on weapons of mass destruction, babies overboard, no GST just to name a few of the boilerplate items. This is also the same coalition that has washed its hands of any responsibility for the AWB scandal and that stood by and allowed Indonesian backed militias to kill innocent East Timorese just to name a few of the social injustices that they have presided over. So the saving grace in the climate change debate is that we are to trust the coalition because they are good managers of the economy. Yes, we have low unemployment and, yes, we have had an unprecedented period of growth in our economy but these figure failure to capture some of the real suffering within our communities. Listen to aid and welfare groups such as the Salvos and you will hear a different story. It is a story of increased poverty and record levels of demand on their services. In reality we are not as well off as the coalition would have us believe. Lastly the coalition wants us to be grateful for all of the tax cuts and tax rebates and other hand outs. How stupid do they think we are? They are giving us back our own money that they have amassed through over taxing us. Who do you trust?

John Goldbaum writes: Christian Kerr wrote: “John Howard, very cleverly, is turning climate change into an economic issue. We may want to save the planet, but don’t want to see our household energy bills increase.” Phillip Coorey and Marian Wilkinson wrote that John Howard warned that “electricity and fuel bills will rise and the only way to avoid the sting will be to use less” and that assisting households “would not be [by way of] energy bill subsidies but would be in the form of helping and informing people how to use less energy” (“Emissions plan hurts households, but not big polluters”, SMH, 2 May 2007). John Howard has failed to understand that the point of the carbon price signal is not to ration or use less electricity, but to make clean technology price competitive so that we will produce electricity which does not emit greenhouse gases in the process. A rich person can buy as much clean electricity as he wishes without destroying the planet and his taxes can subsidise the power bills of the poor without wrecking our goal.


Catherine James writes: Re. “RU-486: abortion drug still a hot potato” (yesterday, item 3). It is concerning that a GP is concerned about the slow take-up of RU-486. The GP believes reluctance to use RU-486 is some kind of perverse ideological pressure from those in high places. Cynic I may be, but I doubt the TGA is kowtowing to Senator Guy Barnett or anyone else on this matter. Ideological pressure is not needed for the TGA to take it slow on RU-486. Pure science is enough for any doctor to be more than concerned about its use. Peruse the submissions made to the Senate prior to last year’s conscience vote, and you will find sufficient scientific evidence referenced there for one to wonder why this drug exists at all. The ideological arguments lie heavily on the side of those who want to make this drug more available – there’s no science to back it up. The chairman of the French company that made RU-486 in the 1980s was himself not keen on it as a preferred method of abortion: “As abortifacient procedures go RU486 is not at all easy to use. In fact it is more complex to use than the technique of vacuum extraction… A woman who wants to end her pregnancy has to “live” with her abortion for at least a week using this technique. It’s an appalling psychological ordeal”. (Edouard Sakiz, Chairman Roussel-Uclaf, August 1990). Read the literature, concerned GP. I wonder if you would take this drug yourself.

Gary Carroll writes: Re. RU-486. What does our PM say “who do you trust”; well you can certainly trust the Liberal Party to frustrate the will of parliament on this matter.

Politics, polls et al:

David Murtagh writes: Re. “Political bite-sized meaty chunks” (yesterday, item 13). When Crikey isn’t treated seriously enough to be allowed into Budget lockup, you should reflect for a moment on items like this: “A local passes on news of the Prime Minister’s recent visit to Bathurst: The PM chatted to several young guys for about 10 minutes on global warming, but as he left the guys started shouting “Vote Labor!” and yelling abuse at his car. I heard one of them turn to a mate and say, ‘Before I shook his hand I rubbed my hands over my balls!'” If you don’t take yourselves seriously as a media organisation, how can anyone else?

Noel Courtis writes: Re. “Galaxy poll has the Libs starry-eyed” (yesterday, item 7). How quickly Crikey has changed with the results of one poll. It has been Rudd, Rudd, Rudd but yesterday it was: – “If Howard wins he won’t stick around”. Take a stand and stick to it.

Brian Harvey writes: The infamous MV TAMPA was docked in Sydney over the weekend. I wonder if the PM invited the captain to cocktails at the Council meeting?

Les Heimann writes: Kerry Lewis’ “layman’s observations” (yesterday, comments) rings a very loud bell. Her numerous examples of destabilisation of the individual, cost squeezing and the creation of purposeful uncertainty developed in the eleven years of this government clearly demonstrates “the vibe extant” throughout middle and lower Australia right now. No matter what polls say from time to time and day to day most middle Australians are now substantially depressed and uncertain and completely turned off by political spin. The fear and uncertainty do not and could not remotely suggest that Australia is heading in the right direction and anyone who gets relief from at least some of these ills will win an election against those who caused it all in the first place. It’s more than we are not listening to the government – no point in hearing from the executioner. We want a White Knight and right now his name… Sir Rudd.

Simon Burke writes: My heroine Noeline Brown asked (yesterday, comments): “When did the business of Kevin Rudd’s wife being sold suddenly become a “scandal” as it says in Crikey? Please explain.” I’m wondering when Kevin’s wife was sold and to whom? Bring back Blankety Blanks!

Hugo Chavez:

Matthew Weston writes: Re. Jenny Haines (yesterday, comments). If John Howard closed the ABC, channel’s 7, 9 & 10 and only ran Fox TV would that be OK by you? If he fired all the judges who refused to swear allegiance to him personally, would that be OK by you? If he suspended parliament, every one, and ruled by decree for a year, would that be OK by you? Do you want the Australian Army to swear an oath of allegiance to him personally? That’s what your wonder boy Chavez has done. Your starry eyed myopia is no different to that of the rabid defenders of Stalin or the delusional dopes that supported Hitler. Democracy is fragile in Australia at the moment, but it’s been suspended in Caracas, and there can be no acceptance of that as a reasonable option, ever, even if you wrap your actions around anti Americanism, alleged social justice, wealth redistribution or what ever.

David Lodge writes: It seems Jenny Haines is conveniently avoiding the fact the Chavez has just axed a commercial television station and has replaced it with a state run station. State ownership of utilities is fine for developing countries, but I’d like to see Ms Haines or indeed any other wet lefty explain state run media.

A Filipina and migration:

Christopher McGrath, member of the Migration Institute of Australia, writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (yesterday, item 6). Crikey wrote: Readers might like to know that a Filipino woman who is permitted to settle in Australia on a spousal visa cannot receive Centrelink benefits until she has resided here for two years.” Several points to make re the above story: 1) Yes it is true of ALL new migrants, that they cannot obtain any social security until they have held a permanent visa for 2 years. However, as you wrote, this lady can get Medicare cover. 2) Even a person who applied for any permanent visa IN Australia can immediately get Medicare, they do not have to wait for the visa to be granted. 3) Without know exactly what visa that lady holds, there are several that might be applicable, it usually takes 2 years from lodgement of the application to get a permanent visa, which is a legal criteria requirement. Initially, after full assessment of the application, including health and character checking, the applicant is granted a temporary visa that allows full work and travel rights. About 22 months after lodgement DIAC will request proof the relationship is ongoing before granting the permanent visa. As I said above, can get Medicare immediately if the application is done in Australia. 4) So for spouse visas, the wait for Social Security can in fact be 4 years!

John Purcell writes: Thanks for the information. I would have thought it was Filipina woman – but let that slide. What was the problem? Seems fair to me. Open access to Centrelink benefits and other snorts without having contributed to the tax base!? This sort of access is not readily available in most jurisdictions to the best of my knowledge.

Mike Burke writes: A “Filipino woman” is, by definition, a Filipina. And the point of your story is?

Robin Hood:

Neil Doody writes: Re. “Media briefs and TV ratings” (yesterday, item 23). Glenn Dyer wrote: “Where is the mist, rains, snows and sleet of winter? Where is the nasty brutish reality of life in 1192 AD in and around Nottingham?” Robin Hood – 1192 AD would be well within the Medieval Warming Period (MWP) where temperatures in UK were significantly warmer than they are today. More details here. There is a link to be drawn between all this and current global warming trends but I’ll leave that to you.

The AFL:

Simon Hoyle writes: Re. “Umpires are just the pea in the whistle” (yesterday, item 21). Like the umpires and the AFL’s executives, Charles Happell has it part-right. In the words of the Magnificent Sheeds, Sydney fans “know the rules better than ever before”. They quite plainly don’t like what they see. Telling them that now they know what all other footy fans already feel does not make everything OK. In fact, it suggests that the problem is league-wide. And it encapsulates a core problem the AFL faces. Australian Rules football is basically a brilliant game. But the laws (or the interpretation of the laws) have changed so regularly that even rusted-on fans are wondering what on earth is happening out there. They’ll keep watching because, well, old habits die hard. But potential new fans will take one look at the mayhem and confusion and, being unable to follow what’s happening on-field, will conclude that nicknames like “cross-country basketball” and “aerial ping-pong” are spot on. (In fact, the current rule interpretations sometimes make it look more like a cross between netball and touch footy). And they’ll go back to the sports they’ve been habitually watching: rugby (both codes), where the hard, physical contest remains part and parcel of the game, and soccer, where most controversial decisions tend to be offside rulings. Eventually, the number of rusted-on fans will go into decline (we’ll all die, eventually), and unable to attract new spectators, so will the AFL.

Anthony Marinac writes: Charles Happell is only half right when discussing the complexity of AFL umpiring. The laws of AFL can often be complex and ambiguous, but at the start of last year the AFL addressed this by producing a little-known document called “Spirit of the Laws”. This document defines for umpires and players the seven key principles which underpin the laws. When there is ambiguity in an on-field decision, umpires apply the spirit of the laws to resolve the ambiguity. It actually works extremely well. I may just be a weekend hack, doing the thankless job of running around umpiring the under 14s and under 16s in Canberra, but the Spirit of the Laws document makes my job heaps easier. The problem is that the spectators, commentators, and even most players are not familiar with the “Spirit” document. Once you make yourself familiar with that document, many of the umpiring decisions become far more comprehensible. Given the speed and complexity and barely-controlled chaos which characterises our wonderful game, the umpires do a bloody fantastic job. Bloody fantastic.

Robert writes: Re. Charles Happell. And I quote; “That sort of bedlam has part of parcel of a day at the footy since Charlie Brownlow first donned a pair of ankle-high boots and ran some Brylcreem through his hair.” If Charles had taken the time to do a bit of research he would have found that Charlie Brownlow died in 1924 the same year that the first Brownlow Medal was awarded to Edward (Carji) Greeves of Geelong, BRYLCREEM wasn’t created until 1928.


John Messervy writes: Re. “Fairfax crosswords: making it hard for their readers” (yesterday, item 20). Cruciverbalist Richard Walsh may well take issue with David Astle and his occasional bloopers in the Fairfax cryptic crosswords, but has he ever tried the general knowledge crosswords published by The Age on Saturdays and Sundays? Saturday’s effort is relatively easy, but Sunday’s is a monster in terms of knowledge required (my wife and I usually have to resort to Google and our reference library to finish it). My point here is that it is compiled by Snodger Puzzles. I don’t know who they are, but the English they use in the clues — spelling, syntax, punctuation — suggests it is a second language. No, make that third. On top of that they usually tell us answer X has six letters or answer Y has two words of three letters and five letters. And every week or so answer X will have seven letters (and there are seven spaces) and answer Y will have two words, but each of four letters. If Mr Walsh thinks WIER is a challenge we recommend these brain-busters. (Yes, we have written to Fairfax, with no response and no result.)

Gillian Bullock writes: Re. Fairfax crosswords. Do the Times crossword in The Australian instead – vastly superior.

Neil James and Barry Chipman:

Justin McMurray writes: Crikey. More comments from the dynamic duo of Neil James and Barry Chipman (yesterday, comments). For their next comments (yes, they’re inevitable) may I suggest that you simply include their names. Their actual commentary is not really necessary given Crikey readers well and truly know what they have to say (over and over).


Laurie Gaffney writes: Re. Yesterday’s tips and rumours (item 6). “Any idea that Simon Banks wasn’t dumped is fanciful … The impending nuptuals and the wanting to live in Sydney thing had nothing to do with it.” Nuptials, please folks.

Yesterday’s typos (house pedant Charles Richardson casts an eye over the howlers in the last edition of Crikey): Editorial: “… but he will not not hold that office for the duration of the next parliamentary term.” Double negative – for emphasis? Or to mean that he really will hold it? Or just a typo?

Send your comments, corrections, clarifications and c*ck-ups to [email protected]. Preference will be given to comments that are short and succinct: maximum length is 200 words (we reserve the right to edit comments for length). Please include your full name – we won’t publish comments anonymously unless there is a very good reason.

Peter Fray

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