No conspiracy over nuclear issues:

Executive Director of the Australian Uranium Association, Michael Angwin, writes: Re. “Why is everyone ignoring the nuclear elephant in the room?” (2 November, item 15). Take a few unconnected facts (some of which turn out to be wrong), link them, darkly imply secret motives and, hey presto, you have a Global Nuclear Conspiracy Theory. Dr Caldicott’s conspiracy theory doesn’t need an investigative journalist to unpick it:

  • The Asia Pacific Transport Consortium built the Adelaide-Darwin railway line. The Consortium comprised Kellogg Brown & Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton; along with John Holland Group, which constructed the National Portrait Gallery; Carillion, which constructed the Grand Mosque in Oman; Macmahon Holdings, which is building the Darwin City Waterfront Project and the Australian Railroad Group, which is a joint venture involving Wesfarmers. Clearly, these are very dangerous companies!
  • So, let me get this right. The operator of the Darwin-Alice Springs railway, the Great Southern Railway Consortium, has five members, one of which is a subsidiary of another company that has a one-third interest in a consortium that has some connection to the nuclear industry? Gee, I’m convinced.
  • Unfortunately for Dr Caldicott, Muckaty Station has not been chosen by the Federal Government as the preferred site for a nuclear waste repository. It has been nominated by the Northern Land Council and approved by the Minister as a nominated site, along with three others. Why has Caldicott failed to find that information on the Department of Education, Science and training website?
  • The Global Nuclear Energy Partnership does not commit Australia either to enrich uranium or to import and store the high level waste produced from Australian uranium used overseas. The Australian Safeguards and Non-proliferation Organisation’s annual report for 2006/07 says: “Some people have expressed concern that GNEP would oblige uranium suppliers such as Australia to take back spent fuel or nuclear waste. This is not the case…Spent fuel would be transferred to a country with advanced fuel cycle technologies, able to recycle the fuel and to treat the eventual high level waste. Australia does not have these technologies.”

The only piece of investigative journalism needed is that which questions a bit more deeply Helen Caldicott’s deeply-flawed use of the available facts.

Penberthy: What Rudd story?:

The Daily Telegraph Editor David Penberthy writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (yesterday, item 5). Crikey published: “The Daily Telegraph is sitting on a big story on Kevin Rudd that will make the Scores story seem irrelevant by comparison. The Tele will run with the story this Friday.” Can you please let us know what our story about Rudd is? We may need to put on extra staff.


David Mendelssohn writes: Re. “Pakistan is the place to watch (this is not good)” (yesterday, item 3). I cannot agree with Guy Rundle that “any fair electoral process is bound to put Islamic fundamentalists into power sooner or later”. This grossly overestimates the real level of popular support for Islamic fundamentalists in Pakistan, as I understand the situation there. The fact seems to remain that Benazir Bhutto’s social-democratic and moderately secularist Pakistan People’s Party is the political force with the greatest popular support and would almost certainly win the most seats in any fair election held in the foreseeable future. It will be hard to form a stable democratic government without the PPP. The independent trade union movement in Pakistan also is stronger than is generally realised. It seems to me that the way in which Islamic fundamentalists are most likely to come to power is by a military coup, as they have white-anted the lower and middle ranks of the armed forces over time, as Tariq Ali showed in his book, The Clash of Fundamentalisms. An officers’ putsch seems to me be the greatest threat in Pakistan.

Kevin is a super, slick salesman:

John Shailer writes: Re. “ALP channels Ja’mie King” (yesterday, item 14). Labor has come out with its latest negative “Whingeing Wendy” ad, complaining about rising grocery, petrol prices, interest rates etc. Apart from Kevin Rudd’s 36 “Me Too” Coalition policies, can anyone tell me one policy of his own, which will help solve these problems? No! Not an enquiry; review; study; audit; committee; new bureaucracy, etc, but a policy! Kevin is a super, slick salesman! – But what is he is really selling? Do we find out after the election?

Confessions of a barefoot heckler:

Justin Templer writes: Re. “Confessions of a barefoot heckler” (yesterday, item 15). Yes, Charles Roche, you should have been a little more polite. We all have political issues that we feel strongly about – to this end we are blessed with a robust democratic system that allows us to register those views. What makes you and your complaints more special than those of the other 21 million Australians with whom you share this country? It will be a sad day when the Prime Minister of Australia is forced to resort to an exercise bike in the basement to avoid bumping into ferals on his daily walk. As for Crikey giving this rubbish the light of day – I regret that two years running I wrote to Peter Costello suggesting that Crikey was a source of serious comment and should not be excluded from the budget lockup.

High Court appointments:

Paul Bullock writes: Re. “Errington: High Court appointments hanging on election result” (yesterday, item 8). Wayne Errington is absolutely right to highlight the significance of judicial appointments this election. It is sobering to reflect that with a differently constituted High Court we might not have – at least in their present form – any of: WorkChoices; control orders under the ASIO Act; indefinite detention of refugees; or an FOI system neutered by unreviewable “ministerial certificates”, to name but a few of the very important laws ruled on by the Court. Through the retirements of Justice Kirby and Chief Justice Gleeson the Court will lose two of its driving forces, albeit often driving in opposite directions. Errington is also correct to draw a distinction between the political and legal meanings of “conservative”, but is perhaps too kind – the WorkChoices decision is in its way as radical as anything from the 1990s, and in other common law countries Justice Kirby would quite possibly be part of the judicial mainstream rather than so often being the lone voice of dissent.

The Chairman’s Lounge:

Geoff Medley writes: Re. “And what’s Steve Price doing in the Chairman’s Lounge?” (Monday, item 4). The comments by Stephen Mayne on the suitability of Steve Price and his admission to the Chairman’s Lounge unfortunately didn’t question why Richard Wilkins was there as well?

Kevin07 in London:

Kate McFerran writes: Having decided to move to London about two months ago, I thought I’d do the right thing by the Australian Electoral Commission and deregister my details, thinking how nice it would be to allow all future election guff to simply float on past. How wrong I was. Having now arrived in the motherland, I’ve worked hard to avert my eyes at campaign ads in the expat press, and only read very carefully selected election coverage online. Imagine my sense of defeat after returning quite happy from a stunning autumn walk in Hyde Park to find a Kevin Rudd flyer waiting at the front door of my serviced apartment. Like a boyfriend turned stalker he knew I was doing everything in my power to avoid him and so made himself impossible to ignore. The flyer very kindly informs me of where and when in London I could go to vote (if I still had one), and mentions details of some ‘plan’ he has for Australia’s future. Naturally I was perplexed. How did Kev’s people manage to get past the electronic security and find their way to my door, and how did Kev even know to look for my door? Maybe after the ear-wax affair made its way into the UK papers he’s leaving no stone unturned in his quest to stamp a different head shot in people’s minds. I have to admit the flyer is a good size though. Bend it in half and it makes a handy coaster, which is probably what god-knows-how-many tourists in London are doing with theirs right now…

Howard and Keating’s love of Mahler:

Marshall McGuire writes: It may already have been brought to your attention, but there seems to be something quite delicious in the fact that John Howard backed Mahler in the Melbourne Cup – Gustav Mahler of course being the favourite composer of Paul Keating.

Wishful thinking:

Catherine Phillips writes: Re. “Downer couldn’t be more wong” (yesterday, item 13). Crikey wrote: “Bennelong and Parramatta are the only seats held by the Coalition in the top 20 electorates of non-English speakers.” After redistribution, the Federal seat of Parramatta becomes nominally Liberal (0.8%) but at present is held by the delightful Julie Owens for the ALP. Wishful thinking on the Libs part I guess.

Prime Ministerial trivia:

Colin Mathers writes: Re. “Prime Ministerial trivia with RD Chalmers” (yesterday, item 19). I had never realized until I read Crikey yesterday that Ben Chifley lingered on until 2001, 51 years after his reveal-all biography was published.


Katherine Wilson writes: Now, David Havyatt (yesterday, comments) could have disclosed his interests in the Wi-Fi issue, like I did. A Google search reveals him as head PR for telco AAPT. As such, instead of looking at the vast body of peer-reviewed scientific literature on the sites I link, Havyatt once again goes into spin mode and smears bodies like the Bioinitiative Working Group — an international coalition of senior scientists — as “scare-mongering websites”. To back this emotive (rather than evidence-based) smear, Havyatt quotes WHO’s website fact sheet. What he doesn’t mention is that many WHO scientists have broken ranks to speak out against this ‘fact sheet’. With a 50-50 split in the literature (check links in my article) claims of “no scientific evidence” about the dangers of low-intensity, high-frequency radio waves are simply sophistry, according to electromagnetism expert and WHO advisor Professor Michael Kundi of the Medical University of Vienna. He has warned authorities against issuing such “distortions of cause-and-effect”, because science is rarely able to mount conclusive evidence of causal relationships. It’s more likely to determine associated risks, particularly when considering the mess of EMR signals we’re exposed to. This misunderstanding of science process, he says, can be “readily misused by interested parties to claim that exposure is not associated with adverse health effects.” To be conclusive, studies showing risks must be funded and repeated, which takes political will. Industry doesn’t tend to repeat studies that show risks. So when organizations like WHO take a ‘weight of evidence’ approach to declare safety, the scales tend to favour only conclusive studies. These need funding and repeating. It’s Catch-22. Unfortunately, we don’t live in an empirical utopia. For more than four decades, for example, “science” declared categorically there are no links between high-voltage powerline proximity and leukemia. Now the epidemiology is in, we know there are. I say we take a sensible precautionary approach to WiFi until the studies are repeated comprehensively.

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