Costello — man of principle?:

Steve Johnson writes: Re. “Costello: Man of principle, gutless wonder” (yesterday, item 2). Peter Costello claims to have put the Liberal Party ahead of his own ambitions by refraining from challenging John Howard for the leadership of his party. He says that unlike Mr Howard himself, Andrew Peacock and Paul Keating, he “chose” not to challenge for this reason. Mr Costello’s’ comments raise several awkward questions about his character and sense of priorities. Firstly, did he ever really have the numbers at any time in the last 11 years to mount a credible challenge on John Howard? It sounds unlikely, making his claimed role of a serious but restrained challenger a piece of mere whimsy. In fact, the only time Peter Costello could mount a successful challenge is the present. So why is he hesitating? Surely it is in the Party’s interests to wrest control while the polls are predicting a landslide to Labor? Secondly, should we not expect a Treasurer who publicly shares current and ongoing misgivings about Mr Howard’s profligate spending be motivated more by the interests of the country and its future, rather than the interests of the Liberal Party? If a senior politician has a genuine vision and does not believe that his or her leader is doing the “right thing”, then the system allows you no choice but to either resign, comply with the party line, or challenge the leader. Peter Costello now appears to have done none of these things, and it appears that a talented and potentially strong future PM is stuck between the lines of history, and possibly on the outer with the very entity he claims to have put ahead of all else: the Liberal Party. The parallels between Howard and Hawke, and Costello and Keating’s respective situations, 18 years apart, is ironic. The fact that the teams seem to have little in common from a personality perspective will make for a great book on comparative political eras.

Kerry Henry writes: Maybe Peter Costello has a point. In a letter to the editor in the AFR on 17 July, a reader identified that re housing affordability, back in June 29, 1995, none other than John Howard told parliament that Paul Keating had failed Australians because the average family spent 27% of their income on the mortgage. In 1982, Howard noted, it had been 19%. Today the average is 35% of their income. Certainly leaves a big question mark.

Andrew Haughton writes: Most people have probably forgotten Treasurer Howard’s proposed tax on the cheap rents Central Queensland miners were paying for their housing in Blackwater. He and Doug Anthony went there and were severely jostled by the miners who went on strike because of the proposed tax. As I say, most people have probably forgotten that. I don’t think Howard has ever forgotten the striking miners.

Richard Hooker writes: Re. “Poor pouty Petey-poo” (yesterday, item 1). I enjoy my subscription to Crikey and read it every day (yes, pretty much all of it). Frequently I disagree with its commentary, but inevitably find its content enlightening and indeed almost essential reading for someone such as myself whose work requires a close understanding of contemporary affairs of government. Equally importantly, the contributions are usually well written and interesting. Yesterday’s pieces by Christian Kerr on Peter Costello’s contributions to the John Howard biography are the exception that proves that rule. It is (fortunately) rare to encounter prose in an otherwise high quality online journal which is so unpleasant to read. The accuracy of Kerr’s criticisms I cannot judge until I read the primary source for myself in its entire context. And I am assuming, favourably to Kerr, that any implicit personal agendas (and I have no idea whether there are any) have not unduly influenced his commentary. Surely they would not so influence any senior and responsible political analyst. But to this apolitical aficionado of public affairs, the articles came across as poisoned, poisonous and immature.

Jill Cooke writes: This poor petey-poo piece is pretty pathetic. Usually Crikey puts out some interesting balanced perspective — but this whiney schoolyard lingo is hard to get past, almost sounds like parliament. Bah… way to destroy your credibility! Yikes.

Toby Roderick writes: Pathetic Crikey. That lead story was drivel. Get over your exclusion to the budget lock-up.

Car industry subsidies:

Glen Frost writes: Re. The car industry is in a hole, perhaps it should keep digging (yesterday, item 10). Why subsidise car factories making cars no-one wants to buy? (Why Ford and Mitsubishi can’t copy the Euro 20 year old trend to small cars escapes me, but anyway). Well, ok, it’s about subsidising jobs for voters in marginal seats rather than anything connected to rational economics. Why not say to the car companies that they should switch to making wind turbines instead? The blue collar workers keep their jobs and the nation actually gets something of value (sustainable power supplies) rather than chunks of metal that sit in car lots.

The iCar — coming soon?:

Sam Highley writes: Re: How are you going to make millions from climate change? (Yesterday, item 27). “Design an electric car people will pay money for”. Perhaps this is the next job for Apple Inc? The iCar has a nice ring to it. Apple could just pull it off, especially given their apparently successful foray into the highly competitive mobile phone market.

Solar hot water heating:

Paul Hampton-Smith writes: Re. “PM’s climate plan: Better ways to spend the money” (yesterday, item 14). Supporting the increase of solar hot water installations is an efficient strategy to reduce greenhouse gasses, but there are some basic flaws in the economic reasons that Dr Hugh Saddler cites. Widespread introduction of solar hot water heating will not offset the need for new power stations, because the highest base electricity generation load is during the day and increasing due to air-conditioning demand (at some point a couple of decades or so ago the peak demand for power in southern Australia shifted from winter to summer). Also, at a hip-pocket level, off-peak hot water is cheap because it is highly predictable and uses spare base load generation capacity at night. I recall from my past employment at a large energy retailer that off-peak was a loss-maker, and was only tolerated because it was bundled with the other profitable tariffs. A large scale increase in off-peak usage in the winter caused by migration of customers from gas to solar could well trigger an increase in off-peak tariffs.

Groundwater not the solution to water issues:

Steven McKiernan, Water Policy Officer, Conservation Council of WA, writes: Re. “State of the planet” (yesterday, item 20). Crikey referred subscribers to the France24 website regarding a huge “underground lake” found recently in the Darfur region, and I found some scary messages for the future for Australia. Unfortunately the “underground lake”, properly described as an aquifer, was known about thirty years ago. Recently retired senior CSIRO hydrogeologist Dr Ramsis Salama worked extensively in the Darfur, Egypt and Sudan during the Seventies and even thirty years ago it was realised that this aquifer was far too remote from the Darfur to be of any use for that particular region. The crucial factor in accessing groundwater aquifers is the rate of replenishment if we tap them. Reduced rainfall and population pressure caused a huge migration of people south into the Darfur, and this tragedy could easily be characterised as the fate of climate change refugees. Here in Western Australia the Carpenter government listened to a huge public campaign regarding tapping the deep artesian aquifer in the south west called Yarragadee, and opted for the climate independent source of water from seawater desalination powered by renewable energy. Unfortunately since the 70s Perth has moved away from surface dams and reservoirs and is still addicted to excessive groundwater extraction from the Gnangara Mound aquifers. This extraction been shown to be consistently environmentally unsustainable according to the independent WA Environmental Protection Authority. The continuing experience of the Gnangara Mound was an analogue of the potential problems that could visit the entire south west of WA. On the Gnangara Mound we have witnessed lakes and wetlands experiencing acidification events in excess of pH 3.5, large areas of banksias across the Swan Coastal Plain suffering from the dropping groundwater table, brought about by the first impacts of climate change, reduced rainfall, reduced infiltration back into aquifers, pine plantations that suck the rainfall before it can infiltrate and continuing public and private groundwater extraction. The message of Australian of the Year Dr Tim Flannery is timely. Perth could become the first ghost metropolis. WA has to move towards demand management for future planning for water resources to protect environmental values rather than continuing the infrastructure-led supply side solutions. The Darfur tragedy is not a scenario that Australians wish to contemplate, and looking at groundwater as a magic pudding is a scary way to advance water planning in Australia.

Housing affordability:

Christopher Ridings writes: Of course demand for affordable housing keeps outstripping supply when our Federal and State Governments keep pandering to the big cities and the coastline while neglecting to support our Australian hinterland. Come the rising of the oceans and Alice Springs will be cornering the housing market.

The Nation and funny women:

Alison Bicknell writes: Re. Last night’s TV ratings (yesterday, item 24). Glenn Dyer should save his tears for The Nation –– the sooner someone puts it out of its misery the better, along with the rest of Channel Nine. And on the subject of s-xist tosh: can anyone explain why Thank God You’re Here only ever has one woman per episode? Why not two or (subversive, I know) three? Is there really such a dire shortage of funny women able to do a spot of theatresports?

Air power:

Dr Carlo Kopp, Editor of Air Power Australia Analyses Journal, writes: Re. “Air power and history’s lessons are far from fantasy” (12 July, item 15). Abraham Gubler’s attack on my work in last Thursday’s Crikey is not the first such tirade, nor likely to be the last. It is remarkable only in the extent to which it faithfully mirrors the dysfunctional reasoning which prevails in the Canberra Defence bureaucracy. It is replete with errors of fact and misunderstandings of basic issues. Gubler falsely claims that my conclusions on the regional arms race and its likely impact on Australia’s strategic position were devised to justify the acquisition of the F-22 Raptor and life extension of the F-111. The opposite is true. In 1998 I authored a ministerial submission, now public, which surveyed the then developing regional arms race and identified the serious strategic risks which would result. One of the conclusions of that research was that only the F-22 would be competitive given the high quality and sheer number of high tech Russian weapon systems which would arrive in the region. Further analysis of this problem in late 1999 indicated that extending the service life of the F-111s would provide a cheap and high performance option to supplement the F-22s. In short, the critique is not only laced with errors of fact, but also displays a failure to appreciate the technical and strategic realities the Asian arms race is forcing upon us. Strategic fact: Post-2010 Asian nations will have an unprecedented capability to project coercive power into Australia’s area of interest. (Ed. Dr Kopp’s full response can be found following Gubler’s original article here.)


Charles Happell writes: In response to Holger Lubotzki (yesterday, comments): I’m putting Charles Richardson out of a job in correcting the litany of errors in Mr Lubotzki’s letter but some of his assertions are so absurd, or just plain wrong, they cannot go by without a response. Mr Lubotzki, a few quick points:

  • The stretch of water snaking across Carnoustie’s final hole is called Barry Burn, not Barry’s Burn.
  • The ball was not well above Van de Velde’s feet and in deep rough on the 18th hole. It actually found a great lie in the rough (see below).
  • The club he used for his second shot was not a four-iron, as so confidently asserted, but a two-iron. (Please note this exerpt from Van de Velde’s post-round press conference: “There’s no easy tee shot on 18 even if you are three ahead. I drove down the right, really down the right. I missed the creek but the ball was lying fantastic. I could have taken the wedge and tried to lay-up but the ball was lying so good I took my two iron. I kept my composure. I didn’t need to go for glory, but that wasn’t glory it was a makeable shot.”)
  • You keep referring to Van de Velde as Claude. His name is Jean. You may be thinking of Jean-Claude Van Damme, who is a Belgian-born martial artist.

As to whether Van de Velde was unlucky, well I’d rather take the word of his playing partner that day, Craig Parry, and a man who makes a study of these obscure golfing matters, Mike Clayton (see yesterday’s comments) than someone who wouldn’t know his Jean from his Claude, or his four-iron from his two-iron.


Richard Farmer writes: “Best Bets: Crikey’s election betting guide” (yesterday, item 19). Malcolm Mackerras has kindly alerted me to an update to his pendulum that I missed. “Consequent upon the decision of Peter Andren to retire from the seat of Calare,” he writes, “I changed the placing of Calare on my pendulum. I have taken it off the Labor side and now show it as though it were held by the Nationals. I show Calare now as needing a swing of 11.7 per cent for Labor to win it from the Nationals.” Making that adjustment means my form guide should show Labor in Calare as having a 0.155 chance of winning.

Gwilym Croucher writes: Re. “In the US the subprime sky is falling … here too?” (yesterday, item 7). Hate/love to be pedantic but when he wrote, “The Caliber hedge fund in London closed last month. It had $US908 billion invested…”, I think Glenn Dyer meant 908 million, though the former would have made for quite a story.

Yesterday’s typos (house pedant Charles Richardson casts an eye over the howlers in the last edition of Crikey): Item 1: “… may deliver the same sort of results for the Liberals in 2007 and Treasurer Howard’s helped to do in 1983.” Should be “as”, not “and”.

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