The interest rate rise:

Harold Levien writes: Re. “Rates up and the rhetoric lines are drawn” (yesterday, item 1). Raising interest rates to fight inflation is highly inefficient. It’s rather like burning down major forests in the path of a bushfire instead of sending water bombers to attack its course. The aim, to reduce demand when there’s a shortage of some skilled labour, could be achieved by less painful means. Until deregulation of the banks in the eighties the Reserve Bank could impose lending restrictions to fight inflation. Concurrently it could direct the banks to maintain lending to sectors of the economy considered high priority on economic or social grounds (for example, home builders, farmers and exporters) but to reduce lending to sectors considered of lower priority, such as shopping malls, hotels and speculative activities. Employing interest rates as the Reserve Bank’s sole anti-inflation weapon generates considerable undesired collateral damage to individuals, firms and the economy. At the same time many large corporations can avoid the desired impacts if their market power ensures the higher rates can be passed on to customers. There seems to be a strong case for now reassessing this decision taken in the eighties.

John Spehr writes: Howard was quick to say “Sorry” to one group of Australians today, even though he had no control over the interest rates. It’s a pity he is unable to apply the same rationale, to enable himself to apologise for a far greater travesty, suffered by another group of original Australians.

David Hawkes writes: With the subject of interest rates and their impact being widely discussed, may I point out that despite all media talking of the affect on home owners, there is none. They own their houses. The unfortunates on whom the impact results are home buyers! Please let all in the media be aware of this.

Stephen Lambert writes: Re. “Waiting for Godot: rates up and no Lucky” (yesterday, item 2). I wish Richard Farmer were right when he says “Paul Keating, whatever else, was the great economic teacher to the electorate”. If Keating was a good economics teacher, his lessons, unfortunately, don’t seem to have stuck that long. The vast majority of serious economic reform this country has seen in the last 25 years was done in the Hawke/Keating years. The Howard/Costello team have accrued huge surpluses on the back of this, in a growing economy with low rates of unemployment, and wages and inflation under control. These are the outcomes of the recession we had to have, which has delivered us 16 years of uninterrupted growth (note who was in power for the first five years of this period, who started this trend). You know this has to be true when even Gerard Henderson acknowledges the significant reforms of the Hawke/Keating era. If Keating had been a better economics teacher, the Australian population would not have voted for this economically lazy and inept government at the last four federal elections.

Chris Hunter writes: Richard Farmer’s piece about the Liberal’s “Godot” exercise is fair enough. But really the metaphor should be extended to include the lot of many. The six hundred thousand plus waiting on lists for dental treatment for example. No priority there, just greater suffering and future cost. Howard mocks the working class with his absent social policies. It’s time for him and his billions to be parted. That is for some of the low income earners hard earned reserves to be spent on something of direct benefit to them — like genuine health cover.

Alan Clark writes: I really think you should have put in a “Spoiler Alert” when Richard Farmer wrote: “The script for John Howard and Peter Costello is not straight out of Samuel Beckett. The trouble with Godot was that he never turned up and neither did something else.” You’ve just gone and ruined it for me because you’ve told me the ending.

If this government was a car, then it is a lemon:

Stephen Woods writes: Re. “Smith: Will rates get people listening to Howard?” (Yesterday, item 8). Ian Smith attempts to draw an analogy between Howard and the family car with lines like, “despite having had very few problems with your existing family motor” and “you hear that your existing model is among the most reliable on the market”. The analogy is absolutely flawed and totally misleading. The Howard-mobile has had a profusion of problems – inability to comprehend a multifaceted approach to Aboriginal health and welfare, stubbornly refusing to say sorry to them, gutting education of resources which subsequently denies Australia a well trained workforce, denial of climate change, dragging Australia into the Iraq war, lying about children overboard, cow-towing to the religious right in areas of s-xual rights, feigning ignorance in the AWB wheat scandal, squandering a windfall in taxes on re-election promises, inability to properly manage the resource boom for Australia’s future, introducing the cynically labeled ‘WorkChoices’ – and the list goes on! If this government was a car, then it is a lemon, and only fit for recycling. Whoops! I forgot it is built of non-recyclable, environmentally polluting materials.

Peter Rosier writes: Ian Smith speaks from hope rather than experience. It now seems clear beyond almost all doubt that the electorate have made up their collective and determined minds to give Johnny the boot, not because he’s done such a bad job on the economy, but rather because they no longer accept that he had a lot to do with it anyway and that they now wish to reward him fulsomely for some past miscreancies. Not all of the electorate has the same reasons; they are, I’m sure, many and varied, but they are reasons which can’t be affected by anything Howard can do now. I mean, he can’t go back and decide not to invade Iraq, or not connive in keeping Hicks in jail for five years without charge, or not pass WorkChoices or . . . It’s a pretty long list, actually. Using the car analogy adopted by Ian Smith: the owners know that it goes all right, not super well, but all right, but it’s a bloody nuisance when you knock your head as you get in, and the colour’s never been quite right and there could be more room in the back. And the new model doesn’t have any of those problems, and you can be sure that it’ll go well, because it’s been well-designed and built.

Pauline’s revival:

Pádraig Collins writes: Re. “Are we about to see a Pauline revival?” (Yesterday, item 17). Mark Bahnisch, in his analysis of Pauline Hanson’s preference deals, neglected to mention that the Climate Change Coalition is preferencing her at no 5. If it comes down to a three way battle for the last Qld Senate seat between the Coalition, Labor and Hanson, every vote for CCC is a vote for her. CCC has a similar deal going on in NSW. In WA it has a sweetheart deal with Graeme Campbell. I wonder what Karl Kruszelnicki thinks of that?


Tom Kenyon writes: Re. “Pakistan: it’s every country for itself” (yesterday, item 6). Oh here’s a revelation: “…’yellowcake’ Bob sold fighters to Pakistan that were always known to be convertible to nuclear arming”. What perception. Never mind the fact that the WWII vintage Lancaster bomber could just about carry a cruise missile. All you need is a plane capable of carrying the weight of the missile and a few wires to release it. Any 737 would fit the bill. What a beat up by The Age and Guy Rundle is a goose for even mentioning it.

Peter Burnett writes: It’s nice to know that as Pakistan goes into crisis and the US-India nuclear deal threatens to destroy the NPT, our government still plans to sell uranium to neighbouring India. But don’t worry – India’s nuclear weapons are in safe hands, according to Foreign Minister Downer: “India has no record of nuclear proliferation. They have an excellent non-proliferation record, other than themselves of course having nuclear weapons.” (For this and other gems on the stability of South Asia, see Mr Downer’s website for 17 August 2007).

Malcolm Turnbull:

Bridie Sampson writes: Re. “Adopt a Politician: our brush with Malcolm Turnbull” (yesterday, item 18). Not surprised at Malcolm Turnbull’s reaction to Adopt a Politician –green lobbyists masquerading as a youth group. A quick look at their website reveals other mistakes such as misspelling “Woollahra”. If they want to do hard interviews, then they should not whinge when they receive a less than cuddly welcome.

Jillian Blackall writes: In defence of Malcolm Turnbull, please note that he was speaking at a federal candidate’s dinner organised by the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Business Association, from 7.30pm to 9.30pm. He then had to catch a plane to Canberra to be there for a debate with Peter Garrett on Thursday morning. That was why he declined to attend the Wentworth Climate Change Forum – he couldn’t be in two places at once.

Ruddisms: A very Crikey glossary:

Ray Edmondson writes: Re. “Ruddisms: A very Crikey glossary” (yesterday, item 5). Jane Nethercote notes that while Howard is stuck in the 1950s, it’s Rudd who speaks like he’s just walked straight off the set of Dad and Dave. Steele Rudd’s 1908 novel Dad in Politics opens with these words: “Smith, the member for our district, died one day, and we forgot all about him the next. Not that a politician is remembered much after he dies, but Smith had been a blind, bigoted old Tory, and was better dead. Politicians are mostly better dead, so far as other people and their country are concerned.” The novel was the basis of the plot for the 1940 feature film Dad Rudd MP, which interestingly was about getting governments to spend money on water projects. Perhaps, like his Queensland namesake, he knows both how to recognise vote winners and talk about them.

Marilyn Shepherd writes: Cheap shots at Rudd, cheap shots, cheap shots and more cheap shots is all we read in Crikey. I read the Ruddisms and they are not bloody Ruddisms, but bushisms. I guess you had to have grown up on a farm in the 1960’s to have a clue what they mean but they make perfect sense to me and millions of others who grew up in the bush. They are called whatever you want them to be but they are not spin and drivel like we get from Howard and Costello.

Nuclear power:

Helen Caldicott writes: Michael Angwin’s reply (yesterday, comments) to my nuclear-elephant-in-the-room reminds me of the American Tobacco Association officials who heaped ridicule on anyone who dared to raise questions about the health risks of smoking, and the corporate interests that promoted it. Despite his derisory tone and “she’s just a conspiracy theorist” label (typical of the nuclear/uranium industry and its flacks) the facts remain:

  1. Halliburton’s subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root was a key player in the construction of the Alice to Darwin railway. Both have well-deserved reputations for cronyism, corruption, and close ties to the Bush administraiton. Those Crikey readers who are unaware of this might wish to begin their education by reading David Rose’s article, “The People vs. the Profiteers” in the current issue of Vanity Fair Magazine.
  2. The Alice to Darwin Railroad is operated by the Great Southern Railway Corporation; its major stakeholder is a division of Serco Group Plc (“probably the biggest little company you’ve never heard of”). Here’s a link to the page on Serco’s website which describes their involvement in the management of the UK Atomic Weapons Establishment. And here’s the page that describes their activities relating to their management of radioactive waste.
  3. The Northern Land Council has “volunteered” Muckaty Station for use as a nuclear waste repository for 200 years in exchange for payment by the Government of $12 million. Here is the transcript of an ABC PM interview with John Daly, Chairman of the Council, in which he expresses confidence that Muckaty will be the government’s preferred site.
  4. About the GNEP, the Howard government has been exploring the possibility of Australia’s achieving advanced nuclear technology to fully participate in the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership.

    “It doesn’t seem to me to make a lot of sense to favor the export of uranium without looking at enrichment,” Howard told ABC TV’s 3 June 2006 Insiders program.

    “There is significant potential for Australia to increase and add value to our uranium extraction and exports,” he repeated on 6 June.

Of course in advance of the election he’s gone completely quiet on nuclear reactors for Australia, plans for enrichment, and importation of nuclear waste. Are we surprised? As for the GNEP itself — to which Australia signed on 17 September of this year –the US National Academy of Sciences last week severely criticized the plan as relying on unproven re-processing technology. See here. Of course all the uranium industry can do now is blow cheap rhetorical smoke, but the Australian people deserve better than that. They deserve the truth.

Paul Cockram writes: Michael Angwin of the Australian Uranium Association leaves out a fair bit of the story when he takes Helen Caldicott to task over the nuclear waste dump in the NT. Brendan Nelson, as Minister for Education, Science and Training held a press conference on 24 January 2005 where he stated quite clearly that Australia needs to get on with the waste dump project because we are contracted to take waste from Britain and France. He said 32 cubic metres of intermediate level waste will be reprocessed and returned to Australia starting in 2011. At another press conference on 15 July 2005 Mr Nelson was pressed by journalists about the distinction between high level and intermediate level waste. He again stated that the radioactive waste coming to Australia from Britain and France is not high level. But he did go on to say the waste is spent fuel rods set in concrete in containers each weighing 112 tonnes. It seems just the ticket for a railway short of freight. Michael Angwin should read the press releases on Australian Government websites to keep up to speed or he might even like to look up the earthquake that ripped massive trenches through the Muckaty region in 1988.


David Havyatt writes: Unfortunately Katherine Wilson (yesterday, comments) gets her research wrong – again. Her web search on me (on the correct spelling) threw up that I used to work at AAPT. I left that position in June. Anyway, AAPT itself no longer has a direct interest in any wireless based business. I was also one of the witnesses that appeared for AMTA before the Senate “Inquiry into Electromagnetic Radiation” in 2001. I don’t claim to be an expert, but I do have a concern about the way this issue is dealt with. The only known health effect is the effect of warming. The existing standards are set with a precautionary limit well below the known level at which that creates a health issue. In the absence of any health effects should there be any additional restrictions? The Bioinitiative Working Group report states “At least three decades of scientific study and observation of effects on humans and animals shows that non-thermal exposure levels can result in biologically-relevant effects. There should be no effects occurring at all. Yet, clearly they do occur.” This is where they go wrong. Biological effects do not mean there are health effects, and there is no evidence of health effects. There is a known biological effect created from the low level of visible light created by a star in the night sky –a reaction by a cell in the eye and we detect light. But that biological effect is not a health effect – though looking at the same thing (a star) would create a health effect if you looked at the sun in daytime.

Advice for Kevin:

Daniel Grynberg writes: Some advice for Kevin… From my three-year-old’s present favourite book:  

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