Gunns’ rapacity is as bad as it gets:

John Hayward writes: Re. “Give Gunns a chance, says Lennon” (yesterday, item 3). Maybe it’s the farcicality of a Premier simply handing a state to a big business mate that keeps both Tasmanians and the country largely speechless. The approval of the Gunns pulp mill would have to be the most exhaustively and openly rigged process in the nation’s history. From the exclusion of its ferocious level of native forest logging, the project’s assessment has jettisoned first its assessment chairman, then the entire planning system, and then all public consultation. The planning authorities have been replaced by partners of the proponents. Meanwhile the Lennon government has been ramming through draconian new regulations to effectively restrict rural land purchases to its mates in forestry schemes which feed off of tax breaks. Next to conventional armed robbery, this sort of rapacity is as bad as it gets, but our pollies on both sides appear to like their chances of picking up some of the spoils.

The politics of history:

John Parkes writes: Re. “History is more than just recitative” (yesterday, item 18). The real problem with teaching history is that it (if done properly) needs to teach people to think. Take Gallipoli, which there seems to be a great move to say must be taught. There are two extreme views on Gallipoli. Firstly that it was the first wonderful expression of the Nation’s manhood, and Australia’s first attempt at making a world statement in the name of freedom and democracy, and that co-operating with that bastion of human rights – Mother England – we struck a blow for freedom – a view which is at least arguable. The other view is that it should be seen as an exercise in the total betrayal of our volunteer soldiers by our Government in that it allowed them to be slaughtered as a result of a flawed decision by British politicians and abysmally poor planning, implementation and leadership by third rate English General Officers. Personally I lean towards the latter, but my real point is that I come from the generation whose grandfathers were there and were able to give us firsthand stories of that era but it still took me many years to see past the jingoism and intense and unquestioning pro-British version of the story and to wonder whether there was another interpretation. Yes history, including Gallipoli, should be taught, in fact must be, but it is equally important to view closely just what is taught and how, and that the students are given clear facts and allowed to draw their own conclusions – this is as, if not more, important that just teaching that such and such incident happened.

Geoff Coyne writes: It is a pity that Guy Rundle did not follow the first principle of any historian and check his primary sources when casting aspersions on the aims of the Victorian Education Department in publishing its series of School Readers from 1928 to 1930. The term “race” was common to describe a group of people until after World War II, by when its use by Nazis had made the term “verboten”. And there is no mention in the only foreword that spells out the aims of the series of any role “our race” had in ensuring peace after World War I. The Victorian Reading Books began publication in 1928, and their aim was spelled out only in the Eighth Book, the first to be published in 1928: “The main aim of the committee that made selections for (the Eighth Book) was for it to obtain such as possessed literary merit, were informative, were likely to arouse interest, and were suitable as regards the average standard of attainment of the grade or form for which the book was intended. The young readers were to begin at home, to be taken in imagination to various parts of the Empire, to Europe, and to the United States of America, and thus gain knowledge of their rich heritage and acquire a well-founded pride of race. The inculcation of sound morality was always to be kept in view, and support given to the creation of a feeling against international strife and to the implanting of a desire for world-wide toleration.”

Low paid workers:

Matt Hardin writes: Re. “The Economy: Good times roll” (yesterday, item 29). According to Henry Thornton’s figures the pay rise of low paid workers is of the order of 1% (The Commission has also increased all Pay Scales paying $700 a week and above by $5.30 per week.). In real terms that is going backwards, so much for the bloody boom!

Chris Hawkshaw writes: Thanks Mr Walker (yesterday, comments) for pointing me to John Howard’s 22% 90 day bank bill rate (you have to round up to get to 22% – maybe that’s why I missed it the first time). Now perhaps Henry Thornton can point me to the research which confirms that suppressing minimum wages leads to higher employment at the bottom end of the pay spectrum, as he so breezily asserted. I thought that point was rather bitterly disputed. I have to laugh every time I see Henry applauding WorkChoices and the other IR reforms for suppressing wages growth while the rest of the economy goes exponential. A while back he was applauding AWAs for their flexibility, allowing workers in areas where there are labour shortages to negotiate deals well above their award entitlements. If overall wages growth is being suppressed, the flip-side of AWAs must be impressive indeed — workers in low demand areas are getting it in the neck. Henry Thornton can applaud all he likes, but the punters hate coerced wage restraint. I think WorkChoices is only in the middle rank of Howard’s many sins, but it is largely WorkChoices which will see him get it in the neck come November.

James Guest writes: It’s time for Crikey to be asking round, not only of ALP frontbenchers, but with some logic, also of Liberals who have foolishly neglected it, about the “social wage”. What has become of the Hawke-Keating-Kelty social wage? Talking to a leading ALP figure with impeccable credentials about the success of the Accord and social wage, I received clear acknowledgment that it is based on the simple point that it is the taxpayer, not competitive employers, who ought to bear the cost of providing a minimum of civilised employment conditions. It is just and it is economically efficient. So why don’t we hear that, as my ALP friend jokingly said, the ALP will bring it back if elected? Why does the government not adopt the idea as its own? (It fits well with the quite sophisticated approach of Ian Harper’s Fair Pay Commission as explained by him).

Food stamps:

Simon Rumble writes: Re. “Calling a food stamp a food stamp” (yesterday, item 15). I don’t know where Richard Farmer gets the idea food stamps are uncontroversial in the US, though his surname might be a hint. Food stamps have many problems in the US: fraud, stigma, reduction of competition, the pork barrelling it encourages favouring giant agribusinesses, poor nutrition and welfare dependence. Similar programs in the UK come under fire where the only stores that will accept the vouchers also happen to be the most expensive and with the worst nutrition-value food. Uncontroversial? Hardly.

Housing affordability:

Glen Parkes writes: Keith Thomas paints a lovely picture of domestic bliss. A suburb where all the homeowners frolic together shopping at local businesses, all the time relaxing back in their half a million dollar mansions. Meanwhile those evil non landowning types fill up the place with garbage, and heaven forbid, drive to the local supermarket to shop. Imagine Keith, if you could not afford the $500,000 price tag for a house, or maybe you wanted a cheaper option than paying $7.50 for an artisan loaf of bread. I am thinking Keith that you have some notion that anyone who is not part of the comfortable middle class should be housed away from your delightful little Canberra enclave. A community involves servicing everyone in it, not keeping out the undesirable types who don’t fit your comfortable middle class notions of privilege.

Courting farmers:

Mark Byrne writes: Rob Williams (yesterday, comments) highlights the power of wealth in our courts, and the fragility of our democracy. Powerful wealthy groups can invest in the most elite legal representation, while simultaneously running PR campaigns and funding allied think tanks. On the opposite side, groups with fewer resources struggle to fund their case; and are often forced to drop a case due to escalating costs; or as Rob Williams indicates, they are often deterred from ever taking their case to court. This said, Mr Williams’ sense of entitlement ought to be questioned. Ownership is a word, while the land and life on it is real. No-one is free to do as they please with the land they possess. Our choices must consider the interests of other stakeholders, such as neighbours, other users (or dependants) of the ecosystem and future generations. I hope that farmers can be properly resourced to care for the land. To achieve this, farmers could protect the vulnerable whilst tackling the powerful.

Get back to a local brew, you yuppies:

Julian McLaren writes: Re. “VB Lite: how beer tinkering can fall flat” (Wednesday, item 10). If Fosters are in trouble due to the sales of Crown Lager now being surpassed by Corona, Stella Artois, Heineken and Becks, I fear for the future of our nation. Stop drinking the foreign rubbish and get back to local brew you yuppies.

Keith Williams writes: Further to Mike Dyers on VB (yesterday, comments). The other “tricky” game that is being played by Carlton United and other breweries is the bottling under licence here in Australia yet continuing to charge what you would expect to pay for and have been paying for imported brands eg. Stella Artois has always been a premium imported beer and you had to pay accordingly – sometimes up to $70 per carton. Interestingly it is now made under licence in Melbourne, surely at a more economical rate than importing, yet… you guessed it, and with very minimal notation on the bottom of the carton, they are trying to extract the same margins for that beer as the imported… Same goes for draught beer. Why is it that VB, Carlton and Tooheys New etc are priced at $3.90 per schooner yet try a premium “imported” and it’s $4.90 per schooner. The same goes for Carlsberg, now made and cartoned here yet selling at the same price as imported version…

The truth and a good story:

Chad Ravlich writes: Re. “Glenn Dyer’s comments” (yesterday, item 24). I am convinced that Glenn Dyer works on the premise that you should never let the truth get in the way of a good story. Once again yesterday’s TV rant showed contempt for the truth when he wrote that there was no mention of the Wimbledon tennis during the State of Origin telecast. Incorrect — quite often the tennis was mentioned, prior to the completion of the telecast Peter Stirling reminded viewers that the tannin coverage would commence at the completion of the rugby league coverage. Glenn Dyer should discontinue his medication – it is doing funny things to his brain.

Give sport a chance:

Simon Raff writes: I can understand you combining media, arts, and sports but do you think you could at least give some sports coverage? Nothing at all on Wimbledon, Wednesday night’s State of Origin, etc. Was cost cutting the reason for giving Jeff Wall the flick? Anyhoo, I’ll be tossing in my subscription at the end of this year – I liked the old “balanced” Crikey. Now I need to go mainstream to get some boring sport reports. Good work, was it your poll that made you decide to do 1 sports report a week? Obviously, I’m subscribing to the wrong online “non-mainstream” publication. I hated & before now – sad I’m back trolling those sites for something insightful (but continually disappointed).

CRIKEY: Thanks for the feedback, Simon. But Jeff Wall hasn’t been given the flick — he has a story on State of Origin injuries in today’s Media, Arts and Sport section. Enjoy.


Stephen Mayne writes: Re. “Will MacBank’s remuneration report be overwhelmingly endorsed again?” (Yesterday, item 26). It was only The Age and The SMH out of the major Fairfax papers which failed to report proxy advisory power house Institutional Shareholder Services changing its position and recommending a vote against Macquarie Bank’s remuneration report at this year’s AGM. The AFR covered it on page 50 two days ago.

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.

Get Crikey for $1 a week.

Lockdowns are over and BBQs are back! At last, we get to talk to people in real life. But conversation topics outside COVID are so thin on the ground.

Join Crikey and we’ll give you something to talk about. Get your first 12 weeks for $12 to get stories, analysis and BBQ stoppers you won’t see anywhere else.

Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
12 weeks for just $12.