Haneef, Ruddock and shoes:

John Blakefield writes: Re. “The presumption of innocence is a nuisance, isn’t it Mr Ruddock?” (Yesterday, item 10). I gather that the good doctor Haneef was “collared” when about to embark on a flight out to India via KL on a one way ticket. If he is undesirable person of “suspect” repute such that he needs to be kept in Villawood, why not give him his ticket and let him do what he wanted to do all the time. To the “hawks” he’d been deported. For the “doves” he’d be allowed to go home to his family. Neither party could complain.

Jenny Morris writes: Is it just me, or is it obvious to everyone else that Dr Haneef has only been charged (with something or other) so that there was a basis for the Immigration Minister to revoke his visa and kick him out of the country? I can hear the words ringing down the corridors now; “you’ve got to charge him with something”. Every Australian should be concerned with the farcical and unjust procedures in this case, including that a suspect/defendant isn’t allowed to know of all the evidence against him. It would be funny, if it weren’t so gravely serious. Thin end of the wedge, anyone?

Ali Cheema writes: I would really, really like to know why Haneef is appearing barefoot? What possible danger could shoes have? Suggestions from fellow Crikey readers welcomed. Asking you to excuse my ignorance in advance.

The Oz, the AFP and the Haneef leak:

Brian Mitchell writes: Re. “The Oz, the AFP and the Haneef leak: What is going on?” (yesterday, item 1). The Australian Federal Police can’t raid the offices of The Australian as it would be regarded as a breach of parliamentary privilege to raid the private offices of a Government Minister.

John Bevan writes: Now that Haneef’s lawyer has admitted to the leak doesn’t all your speculation yesterday look silly!

Climate change — sell your snow gear:

Matt Hardin writes: Re. “How the ‘Climate-Change’ faithful spin cold weather” (yesterday, item 17). I am an engineer. I don’t write publicly about history because to get things wrong would embarrass me, waste others time and irritate people who know. Humphrey McQueen should stop writing about climate change for the same reason. The atmosphere and oceans are complex things and we do not understand them completely. “Climate change” has been adopted as the description for the processes resulting from increased greenhouse gas concentrations as it is almost certain that, while globally the earth’s temperature will rise, locally there may be different effects. As any engineer will tell you, complex systems in equilibrium are liable to move out of equilibrium and to other states if given sufficient energy (imagine a marble on a dimpled plate, if you shake the plate enough, the marble will move out of its resting place and may end up in another when the plate is returned to stationery). Climate change models are not like weather predictions, they give chances of things happening. They suggest that events (eg. hurricanes, droughts, floods, gentle rains at night followed by sunny days) may become more or less likely in different places over time. One cannot say that event “A” is a result of climate change, one can say that event “A” was made more likely by climate change and that we can expect to see more of it (or less as the case may be). This is not sophistry, this is science and statistics.

Steven McKiernan writes: What a funny old fellow is Humphrey? Heaviest snow falls for seven years, bewdy the snow-field economy in Victoria is booming, and incidentally so will the rivers and ecosystems that depend on the spring thaw. Snow means a change in weather not climate. Humphrey dismisses global warming and then offers snow in Victoria as proof? In winter? Goodness. The trouble with weather is there is a lot of it about. Climate change is somewhat more complex and his weak-a-sed refutation is a piddle in a pond. To claim “every” cyclone is evidence of climate change is irresponsible; to claim cyclones being more likely to travel southward into areas of denser populations is less so. Perhaps he would be better served by examining this document by the Australian Greenhouse Office and CSIRO — Climate Change Impacts and Risk Management — before he finds himself mute, in the corner, without his pants on. He’s a really amazing old bear!

Simon Mansfield, editor of TerraDaily.com, writes: Actually, 101 solar science explains this year’s cold weather. We are just reaching the bottom of the 11 year cycle and plain basic science explains what has caused this nice cold winter. Of course, having a mild la Nina enter the hydrosphere helps to spin up them roaring 40s. Enjoy it while you can. Make sure the kids see it. And if you own anything at all related to the snow industry — this is the last season to sell and keep your money.

Housing affordability:

Rory Robertson, an economist at Macquarie Bank, writes: Re. “Give me land, lots of land … the housing will follow” (yesterday, item 12). The IPA’s Alan Moran yesterday yet again failed to acknowledge the key features of Demographia’s fascinating six-country dataset on home prices. About half of the top-42 “affordable” cities in the English-speaking world are in America’s “Rust Belt, according to Demographia. Meanwhile, important coastal cities dominate Demographia’s top-26 list of “unaffordable” housing markets. No major coastal city in the English-speaking world is “affordable”. Yet Dr Moran has claimed “…there is no indication that demand factors separate the highly unaffordable cities from the highly affordable cities”. Housing unaffordability is all about artificial constraints on land supply, he argues, still refusing to acknowledge that the more-than-doubling of Australian home prices was driven mainly by the halving of mortgage-interest rates in the wake of the early-1990s recession, and the big expansion of credit availability. Of course we should develop new suburbs on our city fringes as rapidly as is feasible, to absorb our elevated levels of immigration. But don’t hold your breath waiting for a big drop in city-average home prices. Coastal cities that dominate their region are expensive everywhere. We’ll find over time that it’s much easier to make our coastal capitals larger than it is to make them affordable. If Australia’s population, average incomes and wealth all continue to rise, so too will average home prices in our coastal capitals, notwithstanding Dr Moran’s assessment that homes in America’s rust belt are cheap mainly because of inspired hands-off planning regimes.

Andrew Lewis writes: Alan Moran is welcome to his opinion, but nobody except those with a vested interest would agree that opening up vast green fields of the Cumberland plain will result in reduced Sydney house prices. Studies on the subject suggest that it will affect the price of houses on the fringe, at best, while having no effect at all for the vast majority of houses. Sydney is geographically distinct, as is every city really, which sort of makes his speculative analysis of cities worldwide somewhat worthless. Once again a vested interest has entered the debate about housing prices without once mentioning the distorting effects of a little elephant called negative gearing (and to a lesser extent, capital gains tax). Apparently this policy disaster that neither side of politics will even acknowledge has absolutely no effect on house prices, who would believe it? Recent polling indicates that very few people are buying the Federal Government’s spin campaign about land releases being significant, and they are correct to be dismissive. The question is why would you believe it? Finally, expanding land releases on the fringe of Sydney will only exacerbate the terrible transport problems that Sydneysiders deal with every day. Unless a genuinely sophisticated and efficient public transport system is created, the peripheral land is just that, peripheral.

Craig Cadby writes: Releasing more land on metropolitan fringes is not the answer to housing supply shortage. While developers, and the residents who move there, immediately benefit from cheap land they soon complain when they discover there is no infrastructure and services such as transport, education, power, water and health. It is the rest of the taxpayers who end up footing the bill to supply these. As witnessed most dramatically in Sydney, outer suburban properties don’t hold their value because nobody wants to live on the fringes, demand is for inner city dwellings. The solution is to build high density in the places that people want to live, which incidentally is where most infrastructure already exists. Local councils and state governments should ignore the protests of selfish residents who can’t cope with change, represented by groups such as save our suburbs, because their views are not consistent with the needs of the wider community. If the likes of these people always controlled the agenda our large cities would still be villages and we would all struggle to find somewhere to live.

Howard and nuclear power:

Mark Duffett, research fellow in geophysics at University of Tasmania, writes: Re. Yesterday’s editorial. Just saying… what, exactly, in your editorial? The news of damage to a Japanese nuclear power facility with associated leaking of radioactive material can actually be construed as bolstering the case for nuclear power in Australia. Such incidents would never occur in the vast tectonically stable terrains of our continent. Better to have reactors here than in Japan, in other words. That’s what I was going to say originally, anyway. Then I looked a bit more closely at the source of the Japanese earthquake report which you quoted extensively. After all, it mentioned that “a reactor ruptured”. Surely that would have resulted in far more serious consequences than the exceedingly minor release of radioactive material that actually occurred? Well, inspection of sources used by the Daily Grist (to which they provide links, to their credit) shows that there was no “reactor rupture” at all. Rather, some storage tanks leaked — hardly the same thing. But it could still happen next time, right? If a local green activist says “weakness in the face of quakes is the Achilles heel of nuclear power plants”? Well actually, that’s not what she said, even if you did think such a person would be a reliable source on a technical engineering issue. The original quote in The Guardian clearly indicates that the activist is referring to ancillary facilities such as electrical transformers, not the reactors themselves. It’s a pretty important distinction. To suggest otherwise, as Daily Grist does and Crikey reproduces verbatim, in a transparent attempt to invoke spectres of Chernobyl, is dishonest.

Shirley Colless writes: John Howard: “Nuclear power production has no direct CO2 emissions…” But what about the indirect ones? The aim seems to be to put nuke power close to the coast where there is water and the uranium mines are out well beyond the black stump; therefore, what are the indirect emissions that would be caused by: 1) Building the nuke plants in the first place; 2) Building the infrastructure linking them to the existing grid; 3) Mining the uranium; 4) Transporting the uranium thousands of kilometers to the plants; and 5) have I missed anything? If I worked out my family budget only on direct costs I would soon find that the indirect costs had put me on the downside of the Micawber principle.

The PM’s foray into the intertubes:

Henry O’Donovan writes: Re. “Howard’s missing video” (yesterday, item 5). I did exactly as you did — went through four pages of p-ss-takes on Howard before finally putting the word climate in to get his video. Hilarious! I went through the exact same process. I’m glad you are bringing this to the attention of your subscribers. Once there, the video was so “straight-jacket-like” I didn’t even watch the whole thing. I was falling asleep — just like Howard!

John Goldbaum writes: Re. “John Howard: wilting in a winter wonderland” (yesterday, item 4). Christian Kerr was far too harsh in giving oxygen to Labor’s “silly old fart” message about the PM. John Howard’s unlikely appearance on YouTube was an easy mistake to make. He probably thought he was boarding a German submarine for a voyage to inspect the melting ice cap over the North Pole. U-Boat, YouTube, what’s the difference?

Alan Kerlin writes: Disappointing that Crikey also got drawn into John Howard’s clever tactic of making his climate change strategy announcement on YouTube. So while every corner of Australian media is busily debating the YouTube factor, who exactly is critiquing the woefully under-resourced climate change policy?

Shop stewards = union bosses to the Libs?:

Russell Bancroft writes: The Libs have put up a huge billboard in Dandenong Rd, in Melbourne’s south east. It claims that 70% of the ALP Shadow Ministry are former union “bosses”. I have done a quick check of the bios on the ALP website. This indicates that 14 of the 30 strong Shadow Ministry at some stage worked for a union in some capacity. This is just under 50%. It includes Burke, Bevis, Crean, Evans, the two Fergusons, Griffin, Ludwig, Lundy, McLelland, O’Brien, Roxon, Tanner and Wong. Unless some of the members are a bit reticent about their past, one can only assume that the Liberals have defined “union boss” rather broadly. Maybe they equate shop steward with union boss?

Van de Velde’s Carnoustie carnage:

Holger Lubotzki writes: Re. “Fond recall of Van de Velde’s Carnoustie carnage” (yesterday, item 21). Who on earth is Charles Happell? The resident Crikey golfing version of Peter Faris? Van de Velde was not at all unlucky to lose the British Open at Carnoustie in 1999 — he was just stupid! To be kind, maybe he had a temporary relapse to his childhood golfing mindset, but he could have, and should have, won the Open that day. The photographs of Claude standing barefoot in Barry’s burn are proof of his stupidity. Rather than being unlucky, Van de Velde was very lucky indeed that his tee shot on the 18th did not end up in Barry’s Burn from the outset, instead finishing up on the opposite sloping bank of the burn. What he did next cost him the British Open. With the ball well above his feet and held up in deep rough, he opted to play a 4-iron (not a 2-iron as claimed by Happell – is that a chance for today’s “pedant”?) for the green and we all know what happened next. Van de Velde should have taken a pitching wedge back to the 18th fairway, another wedge to the green, and then two putted for an “easy” victory. Nobody knows why he didn’t do that, and he probably doesn’t know himself. Perhaps he wanted to win at Carnoustie with flair and colour, rather than in some kind of beige and dowdy fashion? An Australian professional golfer I know well blames Van de Velde’s caddy entirely. He says that once asked for the 4 iron the caddy should have replied “the 4 iron is broken”. If Claude then asked “what?” the caddy should have pulled out the 4-iron, snapped it over his knee and said, “See? It’s broken”. Ditto for the 5-iron, 6-iron, et al until the only clubs left in the bag were Claude’s wedges and his putter. He has a point. With only a wedge to choose from for his second shot van de Velde would now have his name engraved on a very special piece of silver. As for Charles Happell, well, if he can’t get excited about the British Open being played at Carnoustie, one of he game’s truly great courses, then perhaps Crikey would do well to find themselves a less dowdy golfing correspondent?

David Frazer writes: I have the good luck to know and play a semi regular round of golf with Mike Clayton, pro golfer, sometime correspondent for The Age and (almost) renowned golf course architect. We have discussed Van de Velde’s calamity on occasion and Mike will not hear a bad word against him. Apparently, the approach shot into 18 struck a rail less than 2cm in diameter, completely flush, such that the ball ricocheted fully 40m straight back in the direction from which it came, over a creek and virtually unplayable in the rough. Half a cm higher or lower and Van de Velde takes a free drop right next to the green. According to Clayton, it was a deliberate attempt to exploit the presence of the grandstand and the free drop hitting into it provided. Clayton claims this was the smartest play possible to virtually eliminate any score higher than a bogey. The risk of getting a horrid lie left of the green with deep bunkers in play was the alternative. Clayton even thinks the idea of playing out of the creek wasn’t stupid, and if the final group had of arrived at the 18th half hour earlier this shot would have been on — as it was the tide was coming in! Bottom line, no choke, and as Craig Parry says, the most unlucky major event loser since Bob Tway v G Norman. It irks me that people, although to be fair not your correspondent, like to poke fun at Van de Velde when it seems this really isn’t warranted.

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