Pearse and climate change:

Matt Brown, former chief of staff to Robert Hill, writes: Re. “Liberal Party insider throws the book at carbon-loving Howard” (yesterday, item 8). Irfan Yusuf claims that Guy Pearse “worked for former Environment Minister Robert Hill for years.” Pearse may have had a very brief stint on Hill’s staff in Opposition but never worked for Hill or any other Coalition minister in government. He was employed by the department as a speechwriter and wrote a handful of speeches for the Minister. Pearse is happy to have the media portray him as an “insider” and an “adviser” to Robert Hill. Both claims are wrong. Yusuf also claims Pearse “was involved in the 1997 negotiation of the Kyoto agreement.” What a load of rubbish. I was in Hill’s office throughout that period and was a member of Australia’s delegation to Kyoto. Pearse had no role in advising Hill on climate change and never had anything to do with greenhouse policy development work in his office.

John Craig, Centre for Policy and Development Systems, writes: I am sure that you are right that there are no politicians who are not beholden to interest groups. That is, after all, the nature of politics. However I am not certain how much joy the ALP is going to get out of Pearse’s contributions, as it seems that all sides of politics have their own problems in relation to . For example, I have made some attempt to follow the debate about the science of the relationship between carbon emissions and climate change – and this leads to a strong suspicion that the scientific consensus about this is likely to change a lot over the next year or two. Some, but by no means yet all, of the data I have encountered is on “Climate Change; ‘No time to lose’ in doing exactly what?” Furthermore, a few days ago I went to a briefing on emissions trading – put on by technical types who have been working out how it would actually be possible to reduce emissions. They drew graphs corresponding to very modest reductions over the next few decades. I pointed out that the ALP’s policy was for a 20% reduction in emissions by 2020 below 1990 (which is about a 28% cut below current levels) – and asked what this would mean. The response was “Don’t be silly, you couldn’t do it. The ALP is only engaged in political posturing. If they got involved in figuring out the practicalities, their policy would be much different”. These experts seemed convinced that public claims about the ALP policy (ie. that it would require cuts equivalent to removing all cars from the road and shutting down all power stations) was a pretty fair description of the real situation.

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Peter Barnes, IT project manager, writes: Re. “The dangers of Wi-Fi” (yesterday, item 17). Neither the government nor the opposition is proposing Wi-Fi as the solution for broadband Internet access in rural areas. Farmer states that “Panorama, the BBC current affairs program recently reported on concerns that the Wi-Fi technology proposed by the Government could carry health risks”. Wi-Fi is a brand licensed by the Wi-Fi Alliance to describe the embedded technology of wireless local area networks (WLAN). This is the very common wireless access to computer networks found in offices, cafés, universities, airports, hotels, schools and many homes. As a Wi-Fi broadcast point has a very limited range, it is not all suitable for providing access to the Internet over wide areas. The technology that is proposed for providing rural broadband access is known as WiMax. If the Panorama report is correct, and is about Wi-Fi, there is real cause for concern. This is not about some technology that is proposed, but about wireless radiation from existing technology that a very large number of workers and students are exposed every day, and maybe 24 hours a day if they live in, or next to, a house using a wireless access point.

Luke Mawbey writes: Richard Farmer’s article incorrectly states that the government’s broadband plan uses Wi-Fi. The government’s broadband plan uses WiMAX. Whilst the names may be similar, the standards, implementation, and spectra are different, making any reference to Wi-Fi void in the discussion on WiMAX. If the journalist doesn’t even understand the differences in the technologies then it concerns me that he feels qualified to report on such issues as the basic understanding required to provide an analysis (objective or otherwise) is clearly absent.

UK bombs:

Mike Martin writes: Re. “UK bombs: the press response” (yesterday, item 6). When is a bomb not a bomb? Mercedes Benz cars containing petrol, gas cylinders and nails? Any explosives experts among the Crikey readership? Petrol in a petrol tank doesn’t explode. Petrol only explodes in air if dispersed as fine drops or vapour at a concentration of between 1.4% and 7.6% by volume (which is what happens in a car engine). LPG in a gas cylinder doesn’t explode either. It only explodes when mixed with air at a concentration of between 2.2% and 9.6% (which is what happens in a Sydney taxi engine). Nails don’t explode under any circumstances. As The Register pointed out, the devices found in two Mercedes cars in London “could not have detonated. Not under any circumstances. You see, the terrorist wannabe clown who built it left out a crucial element: an oxidiser.” (The classic blend of petroleum fuel and oxidiser was Timothy McVeigh’s mix of fuel oil and ammonium nitrate fertiliser.) If the cars had been drenched in petrol and set on fire the effect would have been similar to the vehicle that crashed into Glasgow airport terminal. The LPG cylinders might have burst with the heat and exacerbated the fire – a nasty conflagration – but to call it a bomb? Isn’t it time for the serious press to get serious? The Sydney Morning Herald‘s front page banner headline yesterday was Britain in grip of terror. In the grip of government spin and gross ignorance more likely.

NT rescue plan:

A white welfare worker who has been working with Aboriginal groups around Alice Springs for 20 years writes: Re. Howard’s NT plan. The people in the community or those working closely with the people are very positive about the constant issues being raised BUT I can’t see much working – going into a community and going out again can hardly do anything. They speak of crowded housing and the need for more housing but they are not addressing the fact that many people don’t want a house because they are not prepared to pay rent (even though it is only $20 a week). Consequently the houses are overcrowded because some people are exploiting others by using free accommodation etc. I don’t know how they will pin down the parents who are not sending their children to school because their childrfen come and go everywhere, whenever and however they please. One week they are in the community, the next week they are at Fink, the next week they are in Alice Springs! Many kids do what they like. At the school I’m involved with, some parents don’t want their children going to school because the teachers are all indigenous and the parents don’t want their children to be taught by an indigenous teacher! And so it all goes on. The big issues like changing your clothes every day and washing and going to bed at a reasonable hour and turning the DVDs or Austar off, having suitable cooking utensils and preparing meals for the childred are not being addressed. Aboriginal people all say “white people are rich”. They conclude that white people can give them everything – and the present programs are just reinforcing that. Saying everyone must get a job or study can’t be a reality because they won’t get out of bed in the morning if it’s cold and they will go to town if there is a car going, and so the story goes on. To continue with education or have a job requires one to get out of bed, to change one’s clothes and to hang in there when things get tough!

Bob Durnan writes: Re. “Alex Mitchell: Howard’s NT rescue plan is in serious trouble” (yesterday, item 14). Alex Mitchell is of the opinion that the Howard-Brough initiative in the NT is a simple case of grabbing mineral laden land to give to mining companies. This would make altogether more sense were they proposing to permanently alienate any land with minerals on it. What they are actually proposing is to temporarily sub-lease small blocks of land that have buildings and infrastructure on them. Beware dogmatic paranoids in election years.

Tom McLoughlin writes: Re. “Noel Pearson doesn’t have a clue” (yesterday, item 11). Guy Rundle is out of line, as is Noel Pearson. I find such emotionally violent attacks quite useless and egotistical. It’s not helping. Noel has a lot of valid things to say. So do his critics. It’s sorting out the wheat from the chaff in both cases that’s keeping everyone busy. Too much chaff.

Noel Pidgeon writes: Dr Gideon Polya (yesterday, comments) sheeted the entire blame for the terrible situation in isolated Northern Territory Aboriginal communities to the current Federal government. Surely the Northern Territory government must be the first port of call in playing the blame game. Why apply 100% of the heat to the Howard belly? The Northern Territory government and other interest groups have much to answer for in this sorry saga.

Greg Hughes writes: Re. “Guess who’s not coming to dinner?” (yesterday, item 13). It’s great journalese to describe someone as born beside a “dirt track”- really reinforces their socially deprived credentials, but unless NT Minister Elliot McAdam is over 65 years old, he wasn’t born beside the dirt track that was the Stuart Hwy. It was sealed by the Seppos in WW2. Admittedly they used concrete, and it wasn’t until about thirty years later that it got the surface named after Mr McAdam’s great namesake, John. But with that advance, the highway completely bypassed Elliot.

Rupert and The Wall Street Journal:

Bruce Smith writes: Re. “As Rupert fiddles with his ego, News Corp hits 10-month low” (yesterday, item 2). Stephen Mayne says the News Corp share price weakness – “10 month low” – is due to market concerns about them bidding for the Wall Street Journal. I suggest he blames the $A instead. There is a close relationship between the price at which it trades here and the currency adjusted price in the US. The $A has appreciated from 77c to 85c (ie. by 10%) over that period which accounts for much of the underperformance. His characterisation of the possible purchase as “the ultimate ego-driven deal” is also incorrect. $US5 billion might sound like a lot but News would be spending only about twice the market value of WA News for probably the best masthead in the world. WSJ would also be a great launching pad for News’ new US finance cable channel.

Polls and polling:

Data strategist Tom Osborn writes: Re. “Galaxy and the “bounce” that never was” (yesterday, item 15). Charles Richardson tries to pin the Galaxy anomaly on the humble “regression to the mean” notion. Betting both ways he also ties it to a “bounce”. “Regression to the mean” is about outliers being rarer than typical or bundled samples of measurement of the SAME process. “Bounce” is a term used by economists when they don’t know what’s going on so they blindly predict “your normal program will be resumed as soon as possible”. Richardson stretches the details to make these claims. Firstly, it was pretty clear that contamination by Galaxy’s sequencing of questions meant the Galaxy scores was not about the SAME process as other preceding polls. The cost of this contamination in terms of error is unknown, but best practice says that the gold standard avoids it. Secondly, in a sequence of measurements of a dynamic process over time (and electoral support IS quite dynamic, with both herd and driven aspects), there may well have been a sudden change in support for the coalition. If we were not aware of the issue of contamination (which Galaxy now appears to have addressed), it would be reasonable to accept that there may have been a sudden change, but await confirmation by subsequent polls (and also check what Galaxy was really measuring). It’s possible to put confidence intervals on trends and sudden changes, but it’s probably easier and safer to say that three outliers in a row are not really outliers.

Steve Chapman writes: I think there is a growing fed-up-ness big time with the major media houses running opinion polls that mean nothing – who cares whether the population, or a selected part of it, thinks Howard is better than Rudd or claim they would vote LIB or LAB today – the only (main) question that counts is what the voting intention is in each of the 18 or so electorates that could actually change hands. And why don’t the mainstream media run these polls – I wonder. My spies tell me its solely because they know that it may not show that the LIB camp are so far in front when it comes to winning the election. I think Crikey could do us all a huge favour by either, pointing this farce out and/or running some polls in the 18 or so actual elections that really count!

Misinformation and Howard:

John Goldsworthy writes: Re. “Keating too kind on Howard record” (26 June, item 14). The misinformation circulating about Howard and his supposed 16% wages increase when he was Treasurer under Fraser is untrue. The large increase in wages occurred under Whitlam from 1972 to 1974 when the unions pushed for increases of the magnitude of 18%. When Howard was Treasurer the wages increases had retreated to a very modest level. Also some correspondents claim that Howard presided over very high interest rates. Certainly interest rates climbed to 11% in the Fraser era but under the Hawke/Keating Government they climbed to 17%. It is time we had a bit more truth in reporting I believe. Christian Kerr should be more careful in his research.

David Flint:

Adam Rope writes: Re. “David Flint: Healthy bias beats an ideological monopoly” (Friday, item 5). I thought the David Flint piece was the usual expected standard of “truthiness”, so no complaints there. I was struck, however, by the sudden onset of honesty halfway through when he wrote “aided by John Howard’s decision not to leave communication with the electorate to press gallery interpretation”. In other words, provide his own spin through compliant media without being subject to any criticism at all.


Rod Campbell-Ross writes: Re. Yesterday’s editorial. I used to live in “Zim” as it is affectionately known among us ex-Zimbabweans. A quick check on Google Earth shows once productive farms for all intents and purposes abandoned to the bush. A friend’s 2000 acre farm is evidently derelict. Large fields that used to grow crops of canola, corn and tobacco now have several large trees growing in the middle. Sheds that once housed 20,000 barn chickens are empty. All very sad, especially because people are starving; and all because of the vanity of a single individual.

Babies are cuter:

Cathy Bannister writes: Re. Yesterday’s tips and rumours (item 7). Regarding the tips and rumours section, why assume that it’s racism behind the 21 millionth (or whatever) Australian always being a newborn? Last time I looked, babies came in all shades, as do immigrants for that matter. Also people do not step off planes and automatically become citizens. Adults only become citizens in clumps around Australia Day and Harmony Day, when the citizenship ceremonies are held – so only if the 21 millionth mark is passed on Australia day will the 21 millionth citizen be an adult. Whoever made that comment probably views everything through black-and-white glasses to see racism wherever possible. The real cause for the xth citizen always being a baby is probably gushy sentimentalism – babies are cuter.

An appropriate theme song?:

John Parkes writes: Yesterday there was an advertisement on TV for celebratory parades in honour of the Army Reserves. The background music was a rendering of a song which I think is called Gary Owen. This was traditionally the favoured song of one George Armstrong Custer and the US 7th Cavalry. The problem here is that they are both best know for an ill thought out attack on native American Indians which was ill conceived, ill led, and a total disaster. Hardly an appropriate theme song for our reserves, or worse still, a portent for the future.

Don’t just keep kicking, kick harder: 

Adam Paull writes: To counterbalance Jason Atwals’ plea (yesterday, comments) to go easy on Channel Nine, I for one would like to plead that you not just keep kicking, but kick harder. All commercial television networks in Australia, and Channel Nine in particular, deserve to be kicked to within an inch of their lives for the way they’ve been abusing public airways and treating the viewing public. The frequencies the broadcasters use to push their client’s soap powders and cheeseburgers belong to us, and we’ve been getting short-changed for decades.

Where are you?:

Seven Network publicist Elizabeth Napoli writes: Re. “Media briefs and TV ratings” (yesterday, item 23). In media briefs and ratings, it’s been mentioned twice now how Backyard Blitz has beaten Where Are They Now in the 6.30pm Sunday slot. This is deceiving as Where are they Now hasn’t screened in Adelaide on both those occasions, due to their commitments to the AFL. When WATN did screen in Adelaide earlier in the series, it averaged close to 200,000 viewers, which would put it ahead of BB. Just bringing your attention to this in case you weren’t aware. 


Yesterday’s typos (house pedant Charles Richardson casts an eye over the howlers in the last edition of Crikey): Item 11: “The most amazing this was Pearson’s reaction”. The most amazing what? Perhaps “this” should be “thing”.

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