World’s best practice pulp mills:

Plant physiology consultant Mike Walker writes: I can understand Louise Crossley’s frustration regarding “World Best Practice Pulp Mills” (yesterday, comments). I was a consultant to the Wesley Vale Mill Project in 1988, a couple of years before “Best Practice”, and when plantations were going to save the world as a vehicle for carbon storage (which was my brief to quantify). Plantation hardwood doesn’t need the Kraft (chlorine) bleaching process to yield white pulp, and so neither does the pulp mill. Old growth hardwood does, ditto. This means dioxin in the effluent. If there were enough plantations to feed the Tasmanian mill’s voracious appetite, a “World Best Practice Plantation Fed Mill” could be dioxin free. There aren’t, so a “World Best Practice Old Growth Hardwood Fed Mill” would be one producing the least dioxins. The proposed mill will be a mix initially until it can be fed entirely from plantations. In 1988, the carbon credit side of things looked good (still does). “Old growth” means just that – the trees have stopped growing and are taking up virtually no carbon/hectare/year, compared with about 20 tonnes for plantations. The down side is it’s been getting drier and warmer since then. Each hectare of plantation is sucking up as much water/year as a hectare of potatoes for processing – we have a “World Best Practice” French Fries plant in Tasmania as well. The Value Adding comparison beggars description. The plantation area is huge by comparison. Tasmania is too small.

John Hayward writes: Re. “Testing the nerve of Gunns” (Friday, item 8). Richard Farmer was overly flattering in accusing Paul Lennon of being stampeded by Gunns to approve the pulp mill. The firm view among informed Tasmanians is that Lennon has been the leading stampeder for the company, and himself, rather than for state. After the abrupt departure of the first RPDC Pulp Mill Assessment Panel Chairman Julian Green (an aide to a former Premier and now Gunns director Robin Gray), it was alleged in the Mercury that Green had been sacked by Lennon for feet dragging. Green was revealed to have received a gratuity equivalent to the 400+k amount he would have received if he had been sacked, but not when he had quit, despite his angry public blast at Lennon at the time. Green said no more, the public got a flat denial of the story, but we still have no evidence from Lennon.

The issue of wigs and gowns being worn in court:

Former judges’ associate Paul Bullock writes: Re. “Victorian courts wig out, but what about Tasmania?” (Yesterday, item 17). Greg Barns’ rant about the issue of wigs and gowns being worn in court overlooks several relevant points regarding what is a rather more complex and subtle question that he implies. One is that the notion of “anonymity” of judges can also be understood in the sense that a judge sits not as an individual, with all the ordinary foibles and biases that that implies, but as a conduit for the exercise of the power of the court. Likewise counsel appear not in their own right but as representatives of the parties and officers of the court playing a defined role. As such the “18th century attire” Barns scorn is also symbolic of the impartial exercise of power by a court – your dispute is being judged by the system, not the man. A second, and more important, point is that the courts are indeed “more than a bunch of service providers”. Respect for the rule of law, as demonstrated by respect for the courts which uphold the law, is absolutely central to the proper functioning of a modern democracy. The trappings of the court are important in that they lend an appropriate air of seriousness and significance to proceedings, which may deal with the proprietary interests, rights, and even freedom of ordinary people. When judges are regarded as no different to plumbers and accountants, there is a real risk that the law will be regarded as a commodity, not an absolute. As the Haneef affair demonstrates, Australia is surely a country in need of more respect for its legal institutions, not less.

Xenical scaremongering needs clarifying:

Pharmacist Con Berbatis writes: Re. “Xenical, the drug that dare not speak its name” (yesterday, item 5). Peter Mansfield’s scaremongering about Xenical needs clarifying. In 2003, the NHMRC ranked Xenical with Level 1 evidence as just one of two agents for effective weight loss with up to 2 years use. The NHMRC, nor other national (eg. ADEC, ADRAC) or international safety agency has expressed concerns over the years. Where is Peter’s evidence for Roche’s lobbying affecting the decision to switch Xenical to a pharmacy non-prescription agent after patient-years of satisfactory experiences? Would Peter cite his references for “…suspicions about cancer from long term use…” because the WA Regional Drug Information Centre’s search revealed little of concern? Xenical is not absorbed and works by inhibiting an enzyme in the stomach and not “by making you sick”. Enzyme inhibition is a mechanism of many outstanding therapies which Peter knows. Choice’s “mystery shopper” results were a prompt to pharmacists to justify the high public trust they have long held. Pharmacists nationwide are being tested by the world’s largest “mystery shopper” study by the University of Sydney to ensure that trust. Xenical may be a “fascinating game” to Peter but it has aided me to manage weight with little of the discomfort he reports.

Crikey’s kindergarten level comedy skits over APEC:

Garth Wong writes: Re. “Hyacinth and Howard no speakies after Laura’s no-show” (yesterday, item 3). How disappointing that Crikey has descended into such kindergarten level comedy skits with this contribution from Barry Everingham? It doesn’t even measure up to usual high school comedic acts at their annual yearly productions. In fact, I find it appalling the lack of respect our supposed “intellectuals” give to our political leaders and reflects badly on the level of debate in Australia by dragging it down to the gutter.

Greg Watters writes: Barry Everingham has shown a common misunderstanding of Catholic dogma on contraception, when he wrote: “What if the Lame Duck President pulls out too? There would be more withdrawals than on Tony Abbott’s honeymoon.” Getting off at Redfern is a mortal sin punished by an eternity in hell. The only morally acceptable method of contraception for faithful Catholics is Vatican Roulette or the rhythm method. I am sure that Abbott has always practiced this and this was, indeed, confirmed by the ex-girlfriend who did not have his love baby. Unfortunately far too many people, these days, do not know the moral gulf that exists between getting off at Redfern and playing Vatican Roulette.

Cathy Bannister writes: Everingham deserves lynching. ‘Nuff said.

Getting tropical and political with Kath and Kim:

Glenn Peters writes: Re. “It’s over: Kath & Kim hit out at ‘bloody Howard'” (yesterday, item 1). There’s nothing wrong with Kath & Kim getting tropical.

Thane Prance writes: Croiky! Don’t think we’re surprised that those two classic dummies Kath and Kim will vote for Kevin.

Cameron Sharrock writes: You guys said: “No doubt Crosby/Textor will be circling the Donut King at Fountain Gate this weekend to find out.” That’d be Krispy Kreme, folks. With a voucher from TV Week. Make sure they get there when the big “now baking” sign is on.

David Flint is not the sharpest knife in the kitchen:

Frank Golding writes: Re. “Flint: polls v credibility, Cousins v Turnbull and Akerman’s “sleeper”” (yesterday, item 18). David Flint is not the sharpest knife in the kitchen. “While a coalition cabinet chosen by the PM will consist of individuals from widely different backgrounds,” he pronounced yesterday, “the likely Rudd cabinet, chosen by Caucus, can be readily portrayed as a team of unreconstructed union bosses. The Coalition election campaign will try to make sure the electorate believes this.” Bearing in mind that the ALP makes no distinction between Shadow Cabinet and Shadow Ministry, Parliamentary biographies show that 10 out of 30 (30%) ALP shadow ministers came to Parliament from union careers (and most were not “bosses”). The remainder came from a diverse range of occupations (including seven lawyers). On the Coalition side, 11 out of 18 (60%) Inner Cabinet Ministers were lawyers before entering Parliament. Add the four lawyers in the Outer Cabinet and that leaves just the other half who were not lawyers (including nine owners of businesses or farms). Talking of variety: four of Howard’s best 30 are women compared to seven of Rudd’s. Now, let’s see what schools they all went to…

Scott Rhodes writes: “Bondi Peoples’ Republic”? Why on earth do you publish this rubbish?

Fairfax traineeships:

Barry Donovan writes: Re. “Fairfax traineeships: that’s fine, but what about the rest of us?” (Yesterday, item 23). It has been worrying that the recent comments in Crikey, including those by your intern, Luke McKenna, about the apparent cutbacks by Fairfax on employing new young journalists, centre on the apparent necessity and urgency of being employed immediately by The Age (or perhaps The Australian, ABC, or Herald Sun). This may be pushed as being extremely desirable by lecturers at media studies/journalism schools, but a very large number of Australia’s best journalists in the past have worked initially on country papers or suburban papers – learning the often tedious but ultimately rewarding business of gathering local news from real local people (their readers). Do a good job there, build up a great collection of published stories, and – who knows – The Age or Herald Sun may end up making the phone call eventually to you.

Kate Hannon writes: Dear Luke, welcome to journalism; nothing much has changed since I graduated either with my BA (Journalism), University of SA, 1983. Keep trying, you’ll get there.

The AFL and drugs:

Igor Biscan writes: Re. “Dylan Howard accuses AFL of censorship” (yesterday, item 21). Dylan Howard can have a good sook about the AFL being bullies but the fact remains he’s the one who bought private medical files and then sought to broadcast the contents. I’ve never expected high ethics from the AFL and I suppose it’s foolish to expect them from the likes of Howard.

Justin Mills writes: Adam Schwab wrote: “Possibly because it appeared in the Sunday Geelong Advertiser, most AFL fans would probably not have noticed the…” It was Saturday’s Geelong Advertiser, there hasn’t been a Sunday Ady for at least five years.

Andrew Johns:

Chris Davis writes: Re. “Andrew Johns – everyone knew but no one wanted to…” (Yesterday, item 22). I know we still have a regime of prohibition on recreational drugs and the media nicely morph the “performance enhancing drugs” with “drugs in sport/cheating insinuations” but where is the debate acknowledging the reality of drugs in our society? So many people happily pop a pill to make their health better, but have a very different standard on popping one for fun. Instead we choose to feel smug and superior and allow a black market to develop, to get dodgy crims to supply our kids rather than the same pharmaceutical companies that safely make us better? Well that’s my opinion but where is the range of opinion and debate all around Mr Johns’ honest admission, rather than attacks on our football codes? The impression I got was that he was truly sorry for the deceit and disappointment caused, but hardly an anti drugs tirade? More like wake up and see what our/your young people really are doing? I would love to see some really good debate on this issue, and hope Crikey can step up to the plate (hoping a sporting analogy will help…).

Margot Saville writes: I have no interest in rugby league or Andrew Johns. If he took illegal drugs, like cocaine and ecstasy, then it is a matter for the police. If he is bipolar and a drunk, then he should see a doctor. And if the NRL is too lazy to do random drug tests, then replace the chief executive. Now can we get this very tedious story off the front page?

Nick Jewlachow writes: What astonishes me most about the Andrew Johns saga is that, as far as I can tell, nobody has picked up on the fact that he was continuing to binge drink while being treated for bipolar disorder. It’s a very, very bad idea to drink heavily while on most antidepressants or mood stabilisers. Dr Halpin would have told him this when he started the treatment. Johns is extremely fortunate to be still walking, talking and not in jail. The ecstasy and cocaine use is just the cherry on top. Still, much respect to him for going public, even belatedly, and to his brother for forcing the issue into the open.

Magnetic refrigerator:

Greg Angelo writes: Re. “State of the Planet: Magnetic refrigerator needs no electricity” (yesterday, item 20). I had to check the date to make sure it wasn’t April Fools’ Day. I then checked the link to the website nominated, and I suspect that the article has suffered in translation. As a simple accountant, I’m not a physicist but if anybody can lower the temperature of a room without an energy input I will walk naked down Bourke Street. The laws of thermodynamics require an energy input in order to lower temperature. If you do not use electricity, you need some other mechanical energy input. The article concerned refers to the system of being quiet as its main advantage. I seem to remember that the kerosene refrigerator was also silent. It would be helpful if Crikey sought a reputable source of advice on basic physics before presenting such articles to each readership.

What’s so bad about an Aboriginal Parliament?

Chris Hunter writes: OK, Paul Lucas (yesterday, comments). So you can’t accept the reality of a “Black Australia.” However, fear not — my views don’t represent “Left Australia” — they are personal views so just take a deep breath and relax, asking for God’s help is simply overkill. Anyway Paul, what’s so bad about an Aboriginal Parliament? That’s right, an Aboriginal Parliament. Like what Scotland now has. You know Paul — the country next to England. It must be on Google Earth, eh?

Loving the marketplace. It is the engine of our society:

Bruce Graham writes: Mark Hardcastle has misunderstood me (yesterday, comments). I love the marketplace. It is the engine of our society. But there is an important stock market aphorism: “The market can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent.” Markets – from the tulips of Holland to the energy contracts of Enron – can be so frighteningly, tragically wrong before they finally become correct. The problem of “externalities” makes any rational discussion about markets a quagmire, and anyway, in the long run, we shall all be dead. So the idea of an incorruptible and perfect marketplace in ideas – which is where this debate seemed to start – is otherworldly. And the idea that a new Utopia can be built by perfect implementation of the market principle – which is where Mr Hardcastle turned – suggests that he fell in love with Ayn Rand 50 years ago and never lost the dream. At least Ms Rand had the excuse that she had seen the failure and evil of communism with her own eyes. Mr Hardcastle implied that I am long haired, unemployed, a freeloader, or part of the chardonnay set. I wish. And, I shall not be continuing this debate further. It has gone from satire to caricature. And while I respect that you should publish a variety of opinions, this type of monocular free market fundamentalism is a one trick pony which loses interest fast, so please do not feel the need to publish more shouting septuagenarians who believe that socialism is killing us all.

Phil Doyle writes: Another gut-bustingly funny contribution from the your very funny satirist Mark Hardcastle. As a battler it comes as some surprise that we are supposed to be buying friends. Only a humorist as clever as Hardcastle could take market forces to their logical conclusion that we buy human relationships. Out here in Mortgageville we form friendships with people because, well, we like them. Like most things in life, it doesn’t have anything at all to do with money. Did the Mother of all Beancounters pick his wife up from Kings Cross? Keep it coming Mark, this stuff is gold.

Mike Hughes writes: Having read Hardcastle’s latest missive I can, like others, only conclude that it is the work of a satirist gleefully presenting a psychotic free marketeer in all its devoid of logic glory. If it’s not, and HC’s views are sincerely held, then the only possible answer is that, much like an aging rocker, he somehow did a line of something mixed with the ashes of Milton Friedman.

Ian Pavey writes: Are David Flint and Mark Hardcastle engaged in some sort of private mate’s game to see who can submit the most disjointed, meandering drivel to Crikey and still get you guys to publish it?

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