Four is Kyoto’s magic number:

Mark Hardcastle writes: Re. “Mungo: The Libs are all about the individual, ask Malcolm” (yesterday, item 8). The greatest problem with the Prime Minister’s current argument against ratifying Kyoto can be reduced to a single number. The number is four. The per-capita greenhouse gas emissions in Australia are more than four times higher than in China. China has boomed by satisfying the wants of U.S. and other global markets. This growth in production sees the greenhouse emissions from 1,320 million people of China matching the emissions from the 300 million people of the U.S. China will have to make drastic cuts to emissions if the world’s climate is to remain anything like the climate that supported the development our civilisation. The challenge is how do we encourage China (and other nations with rapidly growing economies) to commit to emissions stabilisation, and then emissions reduction? Given the scale of the disparity in per-capita emissions, it’s quite audacious for the Howard-Bush coalition to demand China adopt binding targets before we do. At best, the Prime Minister is acting “courageously” (in the Sir Humphrey Appleby sense) by holding out, in an attempt to pressure China to submit. Realistically the stance of the Howard-Bush coalition is the biggest barrier to progress. China will not agree to the necessary targets without a strong and leading commitment from the polluters with the greatest excess.

Spin and politics:

Guy Byrne writes: Re. Yesterday’s editorial. Crikey wrote: “What a sad commentary on the standards of political discussion that last sentence is … ‘have effectively confirmed the story, by declining to deny it’. It sounds hopelessly naive, but whatever happened to simple, unadorned honesty? When did that become more politically acceptable than two grown men shuffling their feet like guilty eight-year-olds?” I loved this question… but it’s been too long in coming. So why does the media tolerate spin? The audience hates it – but all forms of media seem happy to allow it to run unchecked. Back in the early eighties I did some basic media units as part of an undergraduate degree and was struck by how wrong it was to tell students “don’t worry what the questions is … just give them the answer you want”. Today the interviewer has become impotent in the face of outrageous stonewalling – and it’s time you fought back! If publicity is the oxygen of politicians, then why can’t they be pulled back into line by being refused airtime or space in print when they waffle or spin? They would soon be ‘gasping for their profile’. I dream of the day when the Producers on shows like The 7.30 Report turn down the audio on politicians who refuse to answer direct questions or just keep hammering an unrelated message… and their look of frustrated ignominy would be priceless. Anyhow, we live in hope and congratulations on the election coverage.

David Hand writes: I don’t mind you having a go at coalition ministers; after all, they are providing plenty of scope for such. But this gratuitous non-headline, likening them to “guilty 8-year-olds” because they will not confirm a cabinet discussion is another sign you need to lift your game. It was in stark contrast to the more reasoned and erudite items further into the edition. To think that ministers should confirm that something was said just because we are convinced it is true shows genuine naivety on your part, or maybe a lazy choice for the negative coalition story of the day. The whole point of cabinet confidentiality is to provide a safe environment for differing views to be canvassed. The fact that someone, possibly Turnbull, leaked something does not justify the exposure of cabinet’s inner workings and I would expect you to have the maturity to realise this.

Flint on the media:

Harold Thornton writes: Re. “Flint: It’s about time the media did their job” (yesterday, item 7). We must all open our hearts to Professor Flint. The man is clearly demented with grief over what he sees as the inevitable demise of his beloved Howard Government. Until last week he was in the first stage of the Elizabeth Kubler-Ross Five Stages of Grieving – Denial. Now the reality of his nightmare confronts him, he lapses into the second stage – Anger. It’s all the media’s fault, apparently. Everywhere the grief-crazed old gent looks, he sees rats hurling themselves overboard. The final straw must have been Alan Jones threatening to abandon his microphone for the less challenging role of national rugby coach. Poor old feller. He’s got Bargaining and Depression to go before reaching Acceptance. Can he survive the journey?

Chris Gulland writes: Well said David. We should not fall for the Presidential style election campaign as run by the spin doctors along with the 30 second TV grab on the nightly news. I agree it will be impossible for any Rudd Labor cabinet to resist favours and paybacks owed to the unions and their factions, Kevin Reynolds said as much on Perth ABC Radio yesterday morning with his comments about leaders “come and go”. Just consider the hold Messer’s Burke and Grills has over sections of the Western Australian State Government, with their friendships. As good as Kevin is, he does not represent the ALP or any of its factions, he is own man and this will be his downfall… Please wake up Australia!

Denise Marcos writes: One’s eyes bugged-out like organ stops on reading Professor Flint’s extraordinary admission that he was once a trade union official. Forsooth! Sent reeling for the smelling salts (which proved inadequate in the face of such monumental shock), ultimately I was forced to becalm myself with strong liquor. Egad, Crikey, what next?

Wayne Robinson writes: Which planet (or which century) does David Flint come from? The coalition is “centrist to mildly right of centre team”? I suppose to David Flint, with his position to the far right of Genghis Khan, anyone else would seem “leftist”.

Andrew Greene writes: “…a majority of Australians, and over two thirds of blue collar voters, want the death penalty restored in Australia.” From which cereal packet did Mr Flint source his information from?

Interest rates:

Sam Clough writes: Re. “Comitatus: Howard’s grand interest rates furphy” (26 October, item 8). I wonder do these Rudd/Gillard/ACTU supporters realise that a 3% increase in interest rates (almost assured with ALP historic economic mismanagement and rate increases at 1% per time – not .25%) will cost an extra $288.50 per WEEK on a $500,000 mortgage? That will be on top of a possible increase in GST to 15% with the necessary Federal/State monopoly. They will need to move quickly on the latter because surely the inept Iemma Government can’t last much longer. I believe voters should only be eligible to vote if: a) they have passed an intelligence test. b) They have experienced at least one term of ALP Federal Government (as an employed adult).

Ross Stuart Whitby writes: The “interest rates will always be lower under the Coalition compared to Labor” quote. Why doesn’t the Labor party counter with the fact “Australia receives more rain under a federal Labor government”? It’s true and can be proved if someone wants to. Could add a new twist to the campaign.

Advertising and editorial:

Brian Mitchell writes: Re. “Dead diggers and big jets: blurring the line at the SMH” (yesterday, item 4). The real issue regarding the blurring of advertisements and editorial is not where ads are placed, but how they are increasingly disguised to resemble journalism. There is nothing wrong with a commercial wraparound if it is clearly marked as either display advertising or as a promotional feature piece (and not in tiny tiny writing at the top of the page). Ideally, the fonts used should be different to the regular news fonts to help mark the distinction further. The problem with the SMH wrap is that readers were left unsure about whether it was a real story or an ad, or a mix of both. As a result, the SMH has lost credibility and that can be fatal. However, journalists howling about the indignity of their front page being taken by a paid ad should grow up. It doesn’t matter whether their story appears on page 1, 3 or further in — it’s the content of their stories that matter, not their placement. The success of quality magazines is a case in point: After the pictorial front page readers often wade through eight pages or more of ads before getting to an editorial page. It hasn’t hurt either their circulation or their credibility as sources of quality information. We should all remember that up to the start of the 20th century the front page of broadsheets was exclusively advertising. Publishers only put news on the front page as a way to lure more readers (and sales), not out of any altruistic compulsion to serve the public good. With today’s massive fracturing of media markets, publishers are having to give the front page back to advertisers to entice them back.

Revealing all discussion in Cabinet:

Allan Lehepuu writes: Re. “MacCormack: Turnbull should do whatever it takes” (yesterday, item 9). It will be interesting to see if a Rudd Government will follow the new norm of revealing all discussion in Cabinet. Kevin 07 certainly liked the revelation that Malcolm offered a point of view that wasn’t accepted by the rest of Cabinet. Will we see the future discussion between Simon Crean and Peter Garret about Bio fuels (I remember Simon setting back the ethanol industry a decade when he was Opposition Leader) or Kevin Rudd and Greg Combet talking about factional numbers when Kevin gets rolled in the future? Yes, let’s see what the nitty gritty is behind the curtain of Cabinet Solidarity is all about.

Sounding hollow:

Ian Brewster writes: Re. “Why do Aboriginal people have to give up rights for services?” (Yesterday, item 3). Please go and see the location of some of these communities before sounding off on why they should all have good services! You are sounding a bit hollow on this subject.

A Greens Senate victory:

David Mendelssohn writes: Re. “Abjorensen: Polls pointing to Greens Senate victory in ACT” (yesterday, item 11). While Norman Abjorensen is correct in saying that the Coalition would lose their majority in the Senate immediately if the Greens knock off Gary Humphries in the ACT, Section 23 of the Australian Constitution, dealing with voting in the Senate, says, so far as is relevant, “when the votes are equal the question shall pass in the negative”. Therefore, they would, at least until 30 June 2008, be able to block Labor legislation without any need to solicit support from the crossbenches if Labor is elected, as they would still have half the Senators. It would only be in the now unlikely event of a Coalition election victory that they would need to get someone on the crossbenches to vote with them to get their legislation through.

Family First farce:

John Kramer writes: Re. “Family farce: the strange thoughts of Andrew Quah” (yesterday, item 1). Jane Nethercote seems to have undue difficulty working out how Families First preselected a right-wing nutjob like Andrew Quah with his narrow and old-fashioned take on gender politics. What’s not to get? Now if Quah had been preselected for the Greens…

A reality check:

Gavin Robertson writes: Re. “Reality check: And the Oz soldiers stoically on” (yesterday, item 20). I’ve read various stories over the past year about the quality (or otherwise) of reporting on The West Australian. Finding out from Crikey that four of the five most read stories on the newspaper’s website over the weekend had headlines which included the words “daylight saving starts” made me wonder whether the quality problem extends to the readership as well…

Lynn Grove writes: Have just returned from two weeks in the US and thought you might be interested in the only items about Australia in the papers; Arthritis in cane toads; Australian moths eating US apples, and; Barmaid with beer can crushing breasts. Neither a word about elections (except the US version) nor any mention of the soldier killed in Afghanistan.

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.