Utter cr-p and nonsense:

Courtney Gibson, head of arts, entertainment & comedy, ABC Television, writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (yesterday, item 7). “The head of ABC arts and entertainment, Courtney Gibson, advertised recently for an assistant/secretary. But it seems that part of the (unofficial) job description includes minding her kids after 3pm. Should ABC management get free child care?” In reference to this claim above: it’s utter cr-p and nonsense.


Antonia O’Neill writes: Re. “WiMAX v. the node: let’s take a vote” (yesterday, item 3). It is critical that everyone is clear that there are multiple generations of WiMAX. Some questions that the Government needs to answer… 802.16e – the mobile wireless standard – or the soon to be ratified global standard for mobile data – is a true 4G technology (yes, why is anyone talking about 3G, when 4G is available?). 802.16e chips will be found in every lap top that carries the ubiquitous “Intel-inside” logo. No need for modems or lap-top cards let alone cables. Don’t take my word for it look at Sprint’s multi-billion dollar investment in the USA. Mobile WiMAX will be to data what GSM is to mobile phones. You get off a plane and your lap top or PDA will be able to access the local network regardless of provider. Why should rural Australians be precluded from this level of service… again? Peculiarly the Government has chosen 802.16d or fixed WiMAX. Why would the Government select a technology that is months away from being obsolete and suggest it should rolled out on a network within a spectrum that is also used for garage roller-doors? With e-Health being one of the key benefits of robust broadband access to rural Australians, why would they select spectrum that is literally “open to the public.”

Kevin Cox writes: There is another way of getting 12mbps to the home and that is through the power lines. The technology exists and is being rolled out in Texas. It travels by fibre to nodes attached to poles or places where power transformers are sited. From there the signals travel along the power lines to individual homes. What this means is that each power point in the home is a potential internet connection. This is relatively cheap technology because no-one has to go into anyone’s house to install anything. It also has other benefits because it can be used by the power companies to tell people their electricity consumption second by second with all sorts of interesting tariff and control ideas. For example, you could allow the electricity company to turn off your air conditioner if the price of power got too high. The economic benefit from this metering goes a long way to covering the cost of broadband. If Telstra fiddle around too much longer and prevent other parties getting access to the last mile of copper then the power companies will offer the same deal to Telstra competitors.

Andy Irvine writes: Good to see some debate here. I use CDMA and Next G wireless systems for remote logging and sensing work, data transfer etc. The new Next G system is an absolute dog, hopelessly unreliable, woeful customer service, hopelessly trained techs, even in urban areas, yet Telstra keeps on being allowed to advertise it and the good old reliable CDMA network is to be shut down. Not sure who Coonan is asking about these services as she agrees to shutting down the old system. She has not responded to anyone I know who has sent her information or questions. I would have very little faith in any new WiMAX plan based on what Next G has not delivered despite huge amounts of clearly misleading advertising. We have to make considerable project/financial decisions based on the fact that our reliable communications are to be shut down and replaced by a dog … And no one appears interested as I’m sure the reception is good in Canberra.

Ian Roberts writes: Two issues regarding WiMAX: Firstly, elsewhere WiMAX is being deployed in densely populated areas to provide public connectivity. In rural Australia how good is the WiMAX fit? How many clients will be served by each WiMAX access point? In really remote areas probably not very many. Secondly, take a handheld WiFi device for a walk around your local area and get an idea how few are encrypted using real encryption (not WEP cr-p). How will Coonan ensure clients are using their network safely?

A quick Broadband Bluffers Guide:

Tom Osborn, modelling consultant and data strategist, writes: Re. “A quick Broadband Bluffers Guide for our political leaders…” (yesterday, item 11). Marcus Westbury explains some broadband terminology. He needs to be more circumspect: the term “Node” in FTTN is not defined. It is politician-speak, not an unambiguous technical term. It may turn out to be “the little hub on the street where phone lines from individual lines link into the main lines back to the exchange”, but then again, it may not. The boundaries between copper and fibre networks are simply not settled. The more fibre, the much more the cost.

Tim Deyzel writes: Not really surprising that Crikey’s Marcus Westbury is a “lapsed tech journalist”. His sloppy definitions probably add to the broadband confusion. In most of science, engineering and common English, the prefix “kilo” means 10^3 (10 to the power of 3, or 1,000), a “mega” means 10^6 (a million) and “giga” means 10^9 (a billion) and so on. So 1,000 kilograms (kg) is EXACTLY the same as 1 Megagram (a metric tonne). In the digital world these prefixes are not exactly 1,000, 1,000,000 etc. Since the digital domain is based on a base 2 number system, pretty much all units are multiples of 2. So a kilobit in computing or data transmission terms is actually 2^10 (2x2x2 … 10 times) which is 1,024. Similarly a Megabit is 2^20 or 1,048,576. This is close to a standard English ‘million’ but sufficiently different that marketing departments of some ISPs will obfuscate their service offerings. Back in the days when only geeks “worried” about bandwidth, a “1 Meg” link would be 1,048,576 bits of data per second. A “1 Meg” link offered to the public now, may only be 1,000,000 bits per second, or 4.6% less than you should be getting. And that’s before we get into the fine print of whether or not this is a sustained or “burst” (ie. peak) speed. Bandwidth (data transmission speeds) are traditionally measured in bit per second. Storage (eg. space on your hard drive) is traditionally measured in bytes. 1 byte is EXACTLY 8 bits. The calculations for storage are identical. If your manufacturer promises you “1 Meg” of storage you should be getting 1,048,576 bytes or 1,048,576 x 8 = 8,388,608 bits of storage, but often you don’t. There is no reason why download speeds can’t be quoted in kilobytes or Megabytes per second — but using kbits or Mbits makes for bigger numbers which looks good in marketing terms. While all this sounds pedantic, many of the better broadband ISPs (I personally use Internode, an outstanding organization) offer speed tests whereby you can download a reference file and time how long it takes to download. If you’re downloading a “1 Meg” file on a “1 Meg” link this probably means a 1 Megabyte file on a 1 Megabit link which (if the link is humming perfectly) should take exactly 8 seconds [(1,048,576×8)/1,048,576], but you’d better check the details in your contract. Confused or just numb?

The hidden Aboriginal scourge:

Laurence Rowland writes: Re. “The hidden Aboriginal scourge: white s-x predators” (yesterday, item 2). Bob Gosford observes that some white people living in or near Aboriginal communities are guilty of abusing children. Doubtless true. However, in an Aboriginal community, abusers are most likely to be Aboriginal; particularly as abuse tends to happen within the context of an extended family or other guardianship setting. In small communities, it is the rule that many will seek to deny abuse even as evidence becomes overwhelming. For a “white” example, consider Pitcairn Island. A grim advantage in identifying child abuse in remote communities is the massive incidence of STIs: a febrile child’s urine test may provide the first indication of abuse when gonorrhoea is identified. Surely, the colour of the abuser, or the abused, should not matter. However, I would be interested to compare management of STIs in urban vs. remote-living children: how many, at one year on, have no person in prison and with the child still in the same social environment? Similarly, when a twelve- or thirteen year-old gives birth there has necessarily been a rape; there is perfect genetic material to allow identification of the offender and generally a very narrow range of suspects. The nature of the offence means that a complaint does not have to be made by the victim, because consent is not possible. Why are these rapes not prosecuted? Perhaps, an answer is to support communities in the awful, painful task of identifying and expelling abusers; then continuing to support the communities as they recover. Of course, a quantum-leap in social service funding is required to achieve this — now.

Christine Brett Vickers writes: It needs to be reiterated: that for decades including the nineteenth century, white men have been identified by commentators, the missionaries, government officials and others as key perpetrators of the abuse of Aboriginal children. Consider the report by the State Children Relief Board in NSW published in April 1915. He disclosed instances of “venereal disease” in Aboriginal girls as young as eight, overcrowded conditions and s-xualised behaviour. Thirty years before, the missionary, John Gribble similarly commented on what he had found in the back country. Again it was the white men. It has been easy to dismiss such comments as the rantings of missionaries bent on destroying Aboriginal culture, or, indeed government officials in support of child removal policies. It is to be remembered that in the same report, Green was critical of the Aborigines Protection Board’s legislation which aimed to “cull” such children from the camps. He proposed a differing plan, which did not mean separating children from parents but rather supported the communities. The radicalism of a Mao or Che is dangerous. It has been pursued before, in NSW in the form of the campaign by Robert Donaldson, a member of the Aborigines Protection Board, to have such legislation in place to solve the problem for once and all. Far better the cautious but firm approach of the commissioners. It is going to take time.

Chris Colenso-Dunne writes: Bob Gosford reiterates that not all who prey on Aboriginal children are Aborigines. Nothing new about this. The history of white men preying s-xually on black women and children goes back to shortly after the arrival of the First Fleet. Indeed, the last two hundred years of Aborigines’ wretched history is in large part one of economic and s-xual exploitation by their white oppressors. Stories abound today of the fear that would go through the camps when on pay day, drunken Irish stockmen, mainly emancipated convicts, would descend on the camps looking for a “gin”. These predators raped or coaxed, impregnated and eventually abandoned thousands of black girls. To compound their misery, often these poor kids were ostracised by their community and left to bring up their half-caste children unaided by their children’s fathers whose only legacy to the girls they r-ped and their offspring was their surname and a fondness for the bottle. One consequence was the well-documented separation of children from their mothers and enslavement as domestic servants in institutions and private houses. Few of the white male perpetrators of this misery have ever been brought to account, named and shamed. It’s time they were.

Nigel Devenport writes: I know that I will get a slapping for this but I ask the question in all honesty and with good will. Why are the remote Aboriginal communities there at all? It seems to me that a major impediment to providing proper policing, medical and educational services to remote areas is the very fact of their remoteness. As I understand it the rationale for the remote communities is to reconnect Aboriginal people to their traditional lands, but if this reconnection does not involve the full gamut of engagement with the land in a sense of truly living in it, rather than sitting in decaying housing, eating processed food and drinking cask wine then what is the point? If you put any group of people in the middle of nowhere and give them no purpose to being there then in time they will self-destruct.

Terry Killick writes: Maybe someone who knows the “rules” can clarify something (like someone from DOCS or alike). If there were children in a white family in Sydney that were being neglected to the point of prostitution and other abuse as described over the last few days, would those children be removed from the family? Are Aboriginal children being denied the same protection as we would expect white children to receive? Should we remove this whole generation of Aboriginal children who are currently in need of help?

Chris Mitchell:

Peter Reynolds writes: Re. “That’s not balance Chris Mitchell, that’s a sop” (yesterday, item 5). Guy Rundle is right about The Australian’s nasty right-wing editorial agenda, editor-in-chief Chris Mitchell and particularly his opinion editor Tom Switzer. To some — including many in the Labor Party — Switzer appears to use his pages to hound Muslims, unions, greenies, the ABC and other vulnerable targets, and savage small-l liberalism in any form. At the very least, it is fair to say that in more than five years at the helm of The Oz’s op-ed pages, with a certainty and thoroughness perhaps unique among opinion editors and editorial writers in the nation, Switzer has never stopped trying to tidy the nation to his preferred philosophical patterns. As the world has grown more baffling, volatile and threatening — and in Australia, The Oz has been instrumental in creating this impression — so his pages’ solutions have grown clearer, more consistent and more ideological and off-putting to serious consumers of the quality press. Look closely at his background and you can see why Rundle is on the money about Switzer and The Oz‘s stridently right-wing agenda: he spent the mid-1990s as a researcher at the neo-conservative American Enterprise Institute in Washington DC; he was the resident union-basher at the Australian Financial Review in the late 1990s and early 2000s before Mitchell hired him at The Oz in 2002; he is married to Malcolm Turnbull’s spin doctor; he is a regular writer for Paddy McQuinness’s Quadrant and the Wall Street Journal editorial pages (the most right-wing opinion pages on the globe); he is apparently very close to our feathered friend Alan Jones and the Liberal Party establishment. He was a keynote speaker at a recent Federal Liberal Council dinner in Sydney at which he delivered a long diatribe about John Howard’s triumphs in the so-called Culture Wars. No surprise then that the Oz opinion pages toe such a strongly ideological agenda that is turning off more sophisticated and nuanced readers. The recent campaign against Clive Hamilton, Robert Manne and David Marr has all the hallmarks of Switzerism. Add in Mitchell’s patronage and it is very nasty agenda.

Greg Bowyer writes: Regarding Chris Mitchell’s approach to his critics: I’d like to share an anecdote that may be relevant here. Almost nine months ago (2 October 2006), Crikey published a short letter from me about The Australian’s regular distortion of its own Newspoll findings to put the ALP in the worst possible light (not much has changed there); I also repeated the well-known fact that the paper had been running a shrill ideological line since Mitchell took over in 2002, especially evident in its cheerleading for the US invasion of Iraq. And probably most unforgivable of all, I suggested a boycott of the print edition of the paper to send a clear message to Mitchell to stop insulting his readership. Sadly, I now blame Crikey for destroying my credibility at The Oz, the paper that gave me my letter-writing start back in 1998 — since that rash piece was published I haven’t had a look-in on the letters’ page; seems Chris read it and took it to heart. So if you happen to be reading this Chris — could you please accept my humble apologies for casting aspersions on the direction of the national broadsheet since you took over, and ludicrously suggesting a reader boycott? Oh, and if I happen to be on some “letters to the editor” blacklist, perhaps after nine months I have served my time in the wilderness? (However, I will understand if it is a 12-month suspension; as long as I am allowed back in time for the election. Cheers.)

Melbourne nightclub owner’s plea:

Andy Coe writes: Re. “Melbourne nightclub owner’s plea on violence” (yesterday, item 6). I read Peter Iwaniuk’s multi-point plea to the MCC and the State Government with a growing sense of incredulity. Surely this is a case of someone using the ABC to promote their own interests done with more panache than the average councillor or state politician. Peter’s chagrin and horror on street violence outside his premises and venues are to the average person commendable. Let’s look at his pleas without emotion. 1) “Society now functions on a 24/7 basis…” – Read society can now piss up on a 24/7 basis thanks to lobby groups from Peter’s profession. The ability to “socialize in a safe environment” with “critical social” development will NOT occur at 4am with our young people, because their circadian cycle will be telling them to go to bed –unless of course they can buy “Red Bull” & vodka at triple the normal price at these venues to fight the cycle and everyone else! 2) “It” — society? Council or government? — Also “needs” to acknowledge that Melbourne and its surrounds have some of the most vibrant and diverse nightlife. Read Melbourne has some of the noisiest, expensive and most grotty nightlife venues in any CBD. 3) “Victoria Police does not and has never had the resources to have highly visible patrols late at night.” I’m not a copper, but I’m thinking there is more to policing than showing the flag to a mob of drunks at night. 4) “There is always a minority that will engage in anti-social behaviour”. Too bloody true! Especially if they’ve been drinking “Bundy” all night and have cracked on to the best-looking chick in the 24/7 basis social development venue and cannot hail a cab in King Street! I can go on — the scariest suggestion is to have “teams of private security” patrol the precincts. Bloody hell! Can you imagine? Teams of shaved-headed meatheads that have been rejected from law enforcement, defence force and parking patrols roaming the streets on “patrol”? Peter, the cure is simple — close your establishment at an hour that would enable people to go home in a state where they can conduct themselves peacefully and lawfully. I know if you do that, you won’t be able to charge up to $10 for a can of VB and what ever the going rate is for a Red Bull and vodka, but there won’t be any need to offer to put up money for security patrols and the like. Sheesh! It’s not that bloody hard! By the way, I love alcohol and love a beer and socialising in a safe environment. It’s just fact that “24/7 vibrant, diverse venues” will never be safe for the average Joe — even for commuters on their way to do a day’s work!

Pam Albany writes: I suggest you ask the Melbourne nightclub owner about their responsible service of alcohol practices. Can they lay their hand on heart and declare they never serve drunken people?

The Amanda show:

James Holyoake writes: Re. “The Amanda show rolls on: What has she got on Downer and Howard?” (Yesterday, item 17). Barry Everingham claims “Amanda has again set a precedent by lumbering into Rome while the current ambassador is in situ — something the (DFAT) mole says has never before happened”. Leaving aside the impossibility of “to again set a precedent”, in my overseas business experience quite a few ambassadors-designate have arrived in countries to undertake language training, but they have absolutely no official capacity until they take up the job and/or present their credentials to the host government. These envious moles are lurking in the dark, as is their wont, and perhaps better suited to posts such as Dhaka — the legendary foreign service in-joke being that not only is it at the ar-e end of the world, but 50km up it! And why is Vanstone not suited to be an ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary, to use the quaint phrase? Previous political appointments have been superb — and mediocre — just like numerous career diplomats. These days a broader view of the world and its foibles is probably an asset. Arrivederci!

Politics et al:

Russell Bancroft writes: Re. ‘Intimidation II: Employers beat up on each other, too” (yesterday, item 20). Humphrey McQueen invited comment about some of the dastardly acts employers commit on each other. The attention of Crikey readers has previously been drawn to the recent Federal Government ads extolling the benefits of collective bargaining for business. It is a fair assumption that collective bargaining on the part of business is designed to assist weaker employers in their dealings with stronger employers, in order to stamp out some of the practices Mr McQueen describes. What your readers may not be aware of is an amendment to the Trade Practices Act (2005 I think it was) that prevents businesses from being represented by a trade union, in their dealings with other businesses. The provision is s93AB, which sets out the process for collective bargaining including the notification of intent to bargain. Section 93AB (8) states, however, that such notice is invalid if given on behalf of the corporation by a trade union, or a person acting at the direction of a trade union. This impacts particularly on owner-drivers. No explanation for this provision has ever been offered. However, it is symptomatic of the Federal Government’s obsession with all things union.

Greg Poropat writes: Justin Templer (yesterday, comments) wrote: “We have employed John Howard as Prime Minister and, as part of his overall remuneration package, given him a house to live in.” Unfortunately, Justin, you’re wrong. We did not give him Kirribilli as part of his remuneration package — he got The Lodge. By executive fiat, Howard stuck his snout in the trough of taxpayers’ funds and commandeered more than an extra $18 million of our money to suit his whim of having the Harbour high life. Just like his choice of overseas digs that cost more than $10,000 a night, this man has never shown respect for the public purse when it comes to his own perquisites and, in doing so, he shows the contempt that he holds all of us in.

David Hawkes writes: Re. “Death row” (yesterday, item 14). Yesterday, Christian Kerr wrote: “One of the joys of watching Question Time in the House of Representatives chamber…” When parliamentary proceedings were broadcast on one of the ABC’s major metro networks the call was often heard “There’s too much audible conversation in the House”. The lower House was always just that, the Senate was referred to as the Chamber. When did things change? Or have they? Perhaps only for journos!

John Jones writes: Re. “Rustbelt revelations: Budget time on Macquarie Street” (yesterday, item 18). I am just an ordinary kind of bloke and there are two things I do appreciate when reading an article in Crikey. The name and some identifying credentials of the author which would possibly allow me to possibly ascertain the validity of the news or argument expressed. “The Labor Dry” writing tells me nothing except the writer wants to remain anonymous so how valid are the comments. Also besides being an ordinary bloke and not an economist, I would have thought that if government expenses had blown out by 0.4% that would still suggest that the expense was still greater than the amount in the original budget and despite the half-yearly budget review suggesting a this expense being up 6.7% on the previous year the fact still remains that there was a blow out and this was higher than the original budget. Is “The Labor Dry” suggesting that the difference between the 0.4% and 6.75% blow-out is because the mid-term budget included an amount of $181 million down payment on the WorkChoices insulation legislation which was not incurred? Even if this should be the case I would argue the fact of the blow-out still being above the original budgeted amount and would not necessarily create a surplus $200 million to be spent. I don’t know but, being a very ordinary bloke and not knowing who the referred PJK is, I find it hard to follow the logic of “The Dry Labor”.

The banker and the bookie:

Martin Gleeson writes: Re. “The banker, the bookie and a failure of responsibility” (yesterday, item 4). In the case of theft of property, there appears to be a double standard operating. If your car, stereo or bicycle is stolen and the thief apprehended, and the stolen property located, the property is returned to its rightful owner. Except in the case where the property is money. There have been plenty of stories over the years where someone has stolen a large sum of money, sold/given it to a casino or other gambling provider, yet when they are caught, the stolen property is not returned to its rightful owner. Why should money be treated differently? It should have nothing to do with community responsibility. Those receiving the proceeds of crime should simply be required under law to return the stolen property to its rightful owner.

Roger Grace writes: Andrew Scott wrote, “So, Crikey readers, what is the answer? Do gambling establishments have a responsibility to society at large? With the enormous amounts of money in superannuation, almost every Australian is effectively a shareholder in large companies whose employees could be embezzling monies to lose to bookies and casinos. When this happens there is a direct reassignment of wealth from mum and dad shareholders to gambling companies”. Put the super direct into bookies and avoid the middleman.

Prostate cancer:

Simon Chapman, Professor & Director of Research Fellow, University Senate School of Public Health, University of Sydney, writes: Patrick Foley (yesterday, comments) says “If I did not have PSA test, or waited until I was 50 for the tests to begin I would have had advance prostate and subsequent bone cancer, full stop.” This may or may not be true. The following information is relevant here: 1) Autopsy studies of men who have died from causes other than prostate cancer have shown that significant percentages of men live with prostate cancer without ever knowing it, let alone it causing their deaths. These common cancers are known as “indolent” cancers and are often discovered by PSA screening. 2) It is very understandable that men having had their cancerous prostate removed fervently believe that they would be otherwise dead. But this does not necessarily follow. 3) An abnormal PSA typically sets in train a chain of events, which for most men will have been unnecessary. Significant proportions of men will undergo biopsy, surgery and then have permanent incontinence and/or impotence. 4) There were 21/11,191 cases of prostate cancer diagnosed in men aged 40-44 in Australia (ie. 0.19%). It is a rare disease in younger men. Patrick Foley’s implication that other men would be sensible to get annually tested from 40 like him, is not a practice recommended by any nation’s health policy. 5) A large proportion of those who die from prostate cancer are around or have exceeded normal life expectancy (85.2% of prostate cancer deaths occur in men aged 70+, with 47% occurring in men aged over 80 years). 6) The key aim of preventive medicine is not to prolong life indefinitely, but to give priority to preventing and treating those diseases which reduce what decent societies call “a good innings”. All people die from some “cause”. It’s early deaths and those preceded by significantly eroded quality of life that deserve our greatest attention. Unnecessary medical intervention can significantly erode the quality of life of men with indolent prostate cancer. 7) What is urgently needed with prostate cancer is a diagnostic test which will accurately predict those cancers which will turn ugly. The tests we have now have poor reliability in that regard. Research funding into such tests is important. 8) Prostate cancer is not the “second biggest killer of men in Australia” — it’s the 6th biggest — as I showed in my original post. Can we please call a halt to the circulation of exaggerated information?


Tony Early writes: Re. ‘Kohler quits Fairfax, poaches Bartholomeusz” (yesterday, item 1). “Investment bankers Mark Carnegie and John Wylie are emerging as quite a thorn in the side of Fairfax, having reportedly outbid the company for Dunn & Bradstreet earlier this year.” That would be Dun & Bradstreet surely?

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