A correction:

BHP Billiton Limited’s, manager of media relations in Australia/Asia, Samantha Evans, writes: Re. “An embarrassing cost blowout for BHP Billiton” (yesterday, item 30). In response to your story published on 23 October, there seems to be some confusion on BHP Billiton’s capital expenditure in relation to two of our Petroleum development projects: Atlantis South and Neptune. Unfortunately your story suggests we announced a cost “blowout” with the release of our quarterly Exploration and Development Report. This is not true. We had in fact already announced these increases in capital expenditure as part of our full year results back on 22 August, while the operator of the North West Shelf Train Five project, Woodside, had already announced changes to that project’s capital costs. Our previous updated capital expenditure figures are outlined on page 3 of our results announcement, which can be found here.

Nuclear power:

Linda Jaivin writes: Re. “Nuclear power? Suddenly a marginal issue” (yesterday, item 3). Howard hasn’t said the N-word since 28 September. Malcolm Turnbull says it might never happen. And there will never ever be a GST. This time Howard’s learned his lesson – he lets Turnbull say ‘we may never build a nuclear power station in Australia’ and then if the Coalition gets back in, Howard can say, but I said we had a mandate for nuclear power. “May never” means never having to say you’re sorry; there’s a big difference between that and “will never”. Turnbull doesn’t call the shots and people would be foolish to think his word on this issue was the final one.

Brent Hoare writes: You should probably add Lithgow/Wallerawang to the NSW list of possible nuclear power station sites, existing stations on the high voltage grid, water, pro industry locals, but in the very marginal Macquarie…

Howard, Cheney and Hicks:

Keith Thompson writes: Re. “Howard and Cheney in ‘iron curtain’ Hicks deal?” (Yesterday, item 4). Is this true? Did our PM and Dick do a deal on the fate of Hicks? If so this is the last straw. We live in the electorate of Hume. We have a great representative, who, although being a devoted PM supporter, does a great job for the electorate. My wife and I have always placed more stead in the man (person) than the party. However, we believe that Hicks, who is quite possibly a scumbag, albeit our scumbag, was not afforded the basic justice and protection by our government that he was due.

Illegal logging in PNG:

Khalil Hegarty, senior consultant at ITS Global, writes: Tiy Chung of Greenpeace, responding (yesterday, Comments) to the article “The Greens simply don’t want any forestry in Tasmania” (October 5, item 11) has demonstrated once again that he and his colleagues at Greenpeace care little for the world’s poor. If Greenpeace were to have its way and close down Papua New Guinea’s commercial forestry, GDP would decrease by more than 1%, approximately 9,000 PNG forestry workers would suddenly have no income and the estimated 50,000 people immediately dependent on these incomes would be left with nothing. The forestry industry’s expenditure on health, education and infrastructure such as roads, airstrips and bridges in rural areas – which can outstrip provincial government expenditure by 80% – would be reduced to nil. HIV/AIDS initiatives launched by Rimbunan Hijau and other private companies in PNG – where infection rates are estimated at up to 4.4% – would end. Reports on the real contribution of the forestry industry to PNG can be read here and here. Chung continues to display Greenpeace’s propensity for exaggeration and distortion as displayed in its aggressive campaign against forestry in PNG and the company Rimbunan Hijau. This includes claims the company controls 70% of harvesting (40% is closer) and that most of its logging is illegal (all the company’s operations are legal), citing reports that are widely known to be erroneous, such as by the World Bank, or incomplete, such as by the International Tropical Timber Organization. Chung’s assertion that the industry’s contribution is short-term is just wrong. There are a number of forestry operations in PNG that have been operating for more than 30 years and continue to operate. They include Open Bay Timbers Limited, Stettin Bay Lumber Limited and Ulamona Sawmill Limited in New Britain, JANT Limited in Madang and PNG Forest Products Limited in Bulolo. Greenpeace’s alternative for PNG, subsistence eco-forestry, has been a failure, demonstrated by their now-defunct operation at Lake Murray on which they spent hundreds of thousands of donor’s dollars. Yes, the people of PNG would be better served if corruption was addressed, as would the forest industry. But the people of PNG would also be better served if Greenpeace got off its developed-world high-horse and stopped using poor people as pawns in its global campaigns.

People are far more interested in Lindsay Lohan than politics:

Charles Miller writes: Re. “Reality check: TV takes the election seriously” (yesterday, item 16). Richard Farmer’s analysis of the most read stories on newspaper websites is amusing, but contrasting what people choose to click on with what TV news chooses to show is not comparing apples to apples. It’s not that the newspapers aren’t loading the sites with political news; it’s just that people are far more interested in Lindsay Lohan. As Drew Curtis, founder of fark.com said in an interview recently: “…previously if you were Time or Newsweek you would have to do surveys to your readers and say: ‘well what is it that you’re reading? What do you like about us?’ (And they’d say) ‘Oh, I like the sports. I like the politics’. Well, nobody ever said ‘Oh I like the article with the guy that had s-x with a horse.’ You know, that never came up… nobody ever said that, but now that we can track the actual articles and see what people are going after, this is what they actually want.”


Rowen Cross writes: Re. “Soundbite test #1: Australia is meeting its Kyoto target” (yesterday, item 13). Sophie Black got it right. I’ve been thinking this for months every time the Kyoto targets get talked up by the Libs. The other area where people have short memories is education. I remember in 1997-98, when I was at Uni, that Howard hacked the crap out of education funding. He also culled R&D spending in a massive way. Then you hear Julie Bishop talk up all the increases in education funding in the last few years and people neglect the low base they are starting from and the fact that Howard’s cuts made that base so much lower. This sort of politics gives me the sh-ts.

John Newton writes: Would someone explain clean coal? Do you wash it? Nuke it? Or leave it in the ground?

Energy subsidies:

Glen Daly writes: Re. “MacCormack: Greens show up Howard on energy subsidies” (yesterday, item 6). David thanks for your article on the Green’s criticism of the Howard policy on energy subsidies. However, why preface the article with gratuitous slagging off at the “economic flat earthers” in the Greens? That sort of abuse does you no credit. I would be interested in reading your intelligent and reasoned critique of Green economic policy and contrasting it with the policies of Labor and Liberal. That way I (and others) might learn something as well as getting some idea of where you stand. We all have our opinions and prejudices but it is better to display them as part of a well thought out commentary without the throw away lines.

Fay Sharp writes: So David MacCormack has stopped eating bread in protest to those energy wasting wheat farmers…eh?

The child care rebate:

Kevin Cox writes: Re. “Who pockets the child care rebate?” (Yesterday, item 17). Joshua Gans discusses child rebates being given through the tax system or as subsidies. There is a much simpler method to distribute money for child care that does not distort the market in child care places and is a fair system. Let us give every child of a particular age and whose parents want to apply for assistance some money. The rules of the money are that it must be spent on childcare or the equivalent and spent in an approved manner and on a given child. The amount of money given could be in inverse proportion to the total amount paid for childcare. That is people who paid more for child care got less money from the government. Let people who wish to provide child care apply and specify how they are going to provide the care and what they are going to do for their money and let there be standards that apply for their applications to be accepted. That is the whole system is voluntary – you do not have to apply to get the funds and you do not have apply to look after children. If either party is found to have abused the system then if they were parents then control of the money is given to a guardian and if they are suppliers and do not provide what is specified then they are banned from receiving any money. This would open up the market for child care places and it is not hard to envisage how even stay at home mums and dads could qualify for payments for looking after their own children. Such a scheme, because it has in built compliance and self reporting would cost a small amount to administer and would create a thriving market place for child care places and give excellent value for the money spent.

Rudd’s Amstrad:

Marlene Hodder writes: Re. “Howard’s abacus” (yesterday, comments). I think it is a credit to Rudd that he is still using an old computer and has resisted any pressure to upgrade just for the sake of it.

Annabel Crabb:

Libby Bessell-Browne writes: Wow. John Mair (yesterday, comments) doesn’t know who Annabel Crabb is? I assume that’s who he meant when referring so dismissively to “a female journalist from the SMH nobody has ever heard of” talking to Ray Martin after the Howard/Rudd debate. I always look forward to reading Crabb’s columns in the SMH. She manages to make politics interesting and funny – not an easy ask. I also enjoy her contributions to The Insiders on ABC TV. John Mair needs to broaden his horizons.

Loving First Dog on the Moon:

Robert Milliken writes: Re. “First Dog on the Moon” (Early Campaign Edition: Day 10, item 3). I love the First Dog on the Moon. It’s the funniest thing in the campaign.

A satirical masterpiece:

Jonathan Matthews writes: Mannik Maire (yesterday, comments) writes regarding the Private Eye issue following Diana’s death; living in England at the time, I remember thinking as the hysteria built on the Monday following the accident as to how the Eye would treat such an event. They didn’t disappoint; the issue was a satirical masterpiece. To my eternal regret, I threw it out before I returned to Oz, and it’s no longer available as a back issue. While I enjoy The Chaser, it hasn’t reached those heights.

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