Iemma works late:

Alison Hill, Senior media advisor to NSW Premier Morris Iemma, writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (yesterday, item 5). Crikey published: “… the Premier rarely swings into action before 9.30am and does not take meetings, schedule events and is rarely at his desk after 4.30pm.” Your source is clearly not one of the Ministers, agency officials or Ministerial staffers that the Premier is renowned for calling late into the night to debate policy detail. Perhaps someone is confusing his commitment to introduce family friendly hours into the NSW Parliament with his own schedule?

Saving the planet:

John Hayward writes: Re. “We have a decade, tops, to save the planet” (yesterday, item 1). I wonder if the decade Sophie Black says the planet has left is the one Howard has just spent stoking up the coal industry, or the one to come, with Rudd doing all he can for a forest-fired pulp mill in Tasmania. If there is any human instinct stronger than survival, it’s a politician’s hunger for corporate patronage. Game over for the rest of us.

John Hunwick writes: Dr Graeme Pearman is the most respected scientist in Australia on climate change. If he says we have 5-10 years in which to change things around we had better believe it and act on it now before it is really too late. The greatest impediment is not the majority of people – they already know it’s the most significant issue we face. What most people want is leadership, community-based leadership not the top down stuff characteristic of present government bureaucracy. The greatest impediment is the lack of government will and commitment to making the hard decisions – and they will be hard. No more coal-fired power stations (and no nuclear ones either they will take far too long to come on stream); no more cheap airfares; no more cars using more than 7 litres/100 kilometre; an increase in the price in petrol. Of course it would be considerably helped if government subsidies for coal, and private vehicle manufacturers ceased immediately and a significant carbon tax were introduced. I am worried that although we know what to do we won’t do it. I am also worried that if the rate of CO2 emissions have grown from 1.1 to 3 percent in recent years, that the rate will continue to increase even more and that we will find that the time available to turn things around is even less than we suspect.

Steve Martin writes: I have no desire to get involved in the global warming debate. But regarding the Arctic sea ice retreat which appears to be on the verge of opening the mythical North West Passage, and also a grab for the possible/probable oil wealth below the ice; this retreat, at least last year has not been matched with a similar sea ice retreat in Antarctica, which I read recently was at record levels last year as measured by satellite data. This is only data from one year certainly, and as records go not a very long period, as satellite data is a relatively new data source. But it does show that global warming is a very complex area of science with what must be an almost infinite number of variables.

Julia Veitch writes: We don’t just need clean energy to stop carbon going into the atmosphere; we need carbon to be removed from the atmosphere, i.e. carbon sequestration. I have a simple, workable but possibly unpalatable suggestion, as follows. Subsidise broad acre farmers who currently run grazing animals to grow trees (oops, there go the tax cuts). Trees are a carbon sink and incidentally, growing them will lower water table levels, reduce saltation, improve water catchments, build soil and create humid microclimates, which are rain incubators. With large scale tree growing in place, we would buy 50 years or so for development and use of clean energy technologies (while the trees are actively growing and sequestering carbon) while carbon is being siphoned out of the atmosphere. The unpalatable bit for omnivores is that most people would have to eat a lot less meat for the next 50 years. But surely that’s better than us all being cooked.

Kevin Alcock writes: Well I hear we are, in Australia, one of the worst polluter per head of greenhouse gases and should immediately reduce, without the nuclear option (never ever according to Labor). Bob Brown would have us shut down coal exports immediately. Whatever we do, e.g. hold our breath and nationally cease to exist, less than six months would see China replace our sacrifice. I have a family member who as a pilot covers all of China on a weekly basis. The norm over any major city is to enter the “brown cloud” at about 6000 feet. You cannot believe the pollution levels over there. Statistics on a per head basis are meaningless. Ours as a percentage of land mass would probably be infinitesimal. To prevent the planet going to go past the tipping point, we have to direct the effort to reduce the emissions to where the bulk of the stuff is coming from. Let us stop talking rubbish and address the problems. This is unlikely to happen in the context of an election campaign where the pitch is to the lowest common denominator. The developed nations may have to make a meaningful financial contribution to assisting countries like China and India. This, I believe, could make a more meaningful impact on the immediate problems.

John Bowyer writes: Perhaps Graeme Pearman or Sophie Black could enlighten me? All that information distilled into “We are all going to die unless we change in the next 5-10 years!” Well here is a thought, why is the esteemed Dr Pearson so enamoured and interested in the Arctic only? It seems to me that if the Antarctic ice in our hemisphere is also disappearing then things look grim but this was studiously avoided? I read last week that the Antarctic ice was actually growing so I am now much calmer and think that it’s all just another panic puff piece. The day these clots start selling their waterfront properties as opposed to buying it will be the day I start worrying!

Stephen Magee writes: Sophie Black wrote: “This is not a panic puff piece or a tabloid beat up”. Well, only because Crikey is web-based.

The Oz , Overington, Mitchell et al:

Khalil Hegarty writes: Re. “Wentworthgate just the latest chapter in the trashing of The Oz ” (yesterday, item 3). Guy Rundle’s editorialising against Chris Mitchell’s tenure at The Australian as a “trashing” was irritating at best. Editorial leadership of a national daily – and therefore brand management in a competitive commercial environment – requires two key components (among other things). First is tailoring the product to market. The Australian is a relatively niche product for a daily. Its circulation is around 130,000; higher than the AFR (its closest rival), but significantly lower than any metropolitan daily. Circulation has remained competitive under Mitchell. Tailoring a newspaper requires a specific editorial perspective; Mitchell accurately describes this as “centre right”. Second is the ability to successfully manage a large team. Failing to do so leads to low morale (witness the The Age under Andrew Jaspan) and a consequent inability to capture a core audience. To “trash a brand”, as Rundle describes, requires failing to do either of these; Mitchell has done both. If Rundle has objections to the political bias of a newspaper or the staff’s occasionally appalling public behaviour, they should be aired as that, rather than attempting to construct an analysis of the newspaper’s brand management. Failing that, they should be placed in a new section for non-analytical media analysis.

Brian Mitchell writes: Re. “Caroline Overington v. the priggish pontificators” (yesterday, item 26). I thought Caroline got the prickly end of the pineapple over her comments, which were clearly light-hearted, but she did go over the top. It’s one thing to call people “sweetie” (ugh) and “flirt” but to actually tell a professional contact, who is not a personal friend, to preference one rival over another because it would make for better copy is a familiarity too far and she deserved a telling off. That said I, like Christian Kerr, hope Media Watch gets a makeover next year. It’s become far too prudish. Attard and others would make you think journos should cloister themselves and take vows before writing a word. Journalism is about providing interesting and factual stories, not the provision of social work.

Philip Woods writes: Christian Kerr displays himself as a fellow “colour writer” (the Oz’ s Chris Mitchell’s description of Overington – not mine, and he should know fluff when he pays them for it) when he attempts to defend the indefensible. Overington’s sin is not that she types silly diatribes on how interest rates are good for Howard; how Garret was not really joking (but she was); her tetchiness with Media Watch ; nor why Labor’s former PM’s supporting Rudd is supposedly a bad thing. No, her sin is that she is not in the very least bit funny; she is not topical; and nor is she entertaining. She reminds me of the Monty Python sketch about the man who wanted to buy an argument but only got the ‘gainsaying of no’ to every proposition. She is an irrelevance. Sort of like David Flint, but at least he is entertaining even though his arguments are often illogical and his propositions not supported by his evidence. Come on Chris, do us a favour, and try to write something funny if you want to be a colour writer too.

Timid focus-group-focus:

Chris O’Regan writes: Re. “Saulwick: Focus group populism is bad policy” (yesterday, item 16). Irving Saulwick and Denis Muller’s meditation on the need for bold initiative, rather than timid focus-group-focus, in national debate is timely and relevant. However, their major concern, that good policy is now being sidelined at the expense of populism – is not as well-founded as a cynical commentariat might think. Look at WorkChoices. The government, bless them, were always aware that it would be screamingly unpopular. Howard’s determination not to back flip shows that in this instance he is genuinely concerned to preserve what he sees as good policy. Similarly, the ALP’s “middle-of-the-road” style opposition to WorkChoices has surprisingly little to do with what will play out well in the electorate. “A balance between flexibility and fairness” is hardly inspiring, populist stuff. If the ALP were purely and simply worried about electoral gain, they’d probably be promising tariffs and a return to arbitration. Rather, the audience that the ALP is seeking to court with its IR policy is a group far more reactionary and self-interested than the broader body politic: the narrow demographic of think-tanks, commentators, and lobby groups that are adamant unpopular reform is the way of the future.

Barnaby Joyce:

Alan Hatfield writes: Re. “Abjorensen: Barnaby Joyce, Labor minister?” (Yesterday, item 8). And in the ACT a few years ago, an independent (Michael Moore) was made a minister in the then Liberal Government (led by Gary Humphries, currently a Senator for the ACT) for precisely the reasons you are outlining in relation to Barnaby Joyce’s possible future in a Federal Labor Government. And that was in a Government of only four ministers!

Regional Partnerships rorts:

John Clements writes: Re. “MacCormack: Nats stick to the script, shameless pork handouts ensue” (Wednesday, item 9). I applaud the integrity and sincerity of David MacCormack’s war on subsidy and point him to the NSW Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunals’ (IPART) recent determination on city rail costs. IPART found that a $1.9 billion dollar per annum subsidy was being paid to Sydney’s city rail users. IPART found that this equates to $15 dollars per week per household in NSW being paid to city rail users. The average annual income of a city rail user is $100,000, the average annual income for NSW is $75,000, and the average annual income where I live (regional NSW) is $36,000 per annum. David we need your leadership, if we are to stop sending $15 dollars per week subsidy to those $100,000 per annum city rail users. I hope David is able to control his rage when he reads these figures; I look forward to the principled attack he will make on this enormous subsidy.

David MacCormack writes: It was timely of Nathan Quigley (yesterday, comments) to defend the National Party the very day the Auditor-General released a damning report on the blatant partisanship, lack of accountability and poor governance of the Regional Partnerships rort, presided over by Mark Vaile himself. National Party members are either too stupid or too self-interested to be trusted near public money. Probably both.

Pork-barreling:

Russell Dovey writes: Re. “Forget philosophy, have some money” (yesterday, item 13). Peter Saunders, if pork-barreling is made worse by compulsory voting, why was the term invented in America to describe American politics, which has always had voluntary voting?

Mildly amused:

Lindsay Beaton writes: Re. Nigel Pope (yesterday, comments). I wonder if I’m the only one mildly amused that the most strident defence of Mercy Ministries comes from a Pope.

Humour, left and right:

Tony Barrell writes: Re. “Razer: Finding humour in election 2.0” (Wednesday, item 14). As to humour of the left and right it depends who you are laughing at. Usually the rule for satirical humour the kind of which we Crikey sophisticates enjoy is simple: the right laughs at the victims of exploitation while the left laughs at its perpetrators. And when you get caught out laughing at someone you shouldn’t be you are either “only” joking. Or laughing at yourself, whichever is most plausible and least painful.

A West Australian bean poll:

Di Day writes : Along with my flat white at Miss Maud’s Coffee Shop at Karrinyup Shopping Centre, Perth, I was offered a coffee bean to drop into the box of my choice for the Federal straw bean poll. From the pile in the Coalition’s box, it looked highly favoured by the latte sippers over here.

Telstra and renumeration:

Adam Schwab writes: In true fashion, Telstra spinner, Andrew Maiden (yesterday, comments), couldn’t let an article about Sol’s pay go without reply, unfortunately for poor Andrew, his excuses have gone from the sublime to the ridiculous. Maiden claimed “Sol’s remuneration has increased by 26% over the same period that share price has risen 25%. That’s an extra $3 million for Sol in return for adding $15 billion to shareholder wealth in the past 12 months.” Only problem with that comment is that Maiden chose a very convenient base point for his comparison – namely right after Sol trashed Telstra’s prospects (causing its share price to fall to $3.75). Maiden would be well aware that Sol was appointed CEO in July 2005 when Telstra’s share price was around $5.10. It is now $4.75. That sounds like a reduction, not a creation of shareholder value.

David Havyatt writes: I don’t really want to join this debate because the whole scheme of fixing executive remuneration based on share prices is a fraud, created by Milton Friedman and other economists trying to address real principal/agent problems by linking the goals of management to those of shareholders, but perpetuated by CEOs and former CEOs (also called Board members) to globally inflate executive remuneration. But to the specifics of the matter at hand a longer view of the Telstra share price – say five years – is warranted as is a comparison to the ASX 200 (easily obtained from www.asx.com.au ).

That isn’t a flattering picture – a deep plunge in 2005 and then the late rise being slower than the ASX200. When the rising tide doesn’t raise your boat perhaps you should ask who keeps adding ballast. It seems the Telstra Board doesn’t ask that question. Oh, by the way it can’t be the regulatory rules – they haven’t fundamentally changed since 1997.

Qantas:

Denise Marcos writes: Re. “Qantas board gets away with it” (yesterday, item 31). $4 Billion to be spent on new aircraft. Have any Qantas board members or their business forecasters heard of peak oil? In the alarmingly foreseeable future their tricked-up Marc Newson-interior planes will be too expensive to fly. Only Qantas board members & senior management, captains of industry, ex-wives of international sporting identities, pensioned Nine Network executives & Lotto winners may be sufficiently solvent to afford passage on one of these technologically-outdated jets. Lest you were worried, politicians will be allocated their Qantas seats regardless of cost. Another point: it’s one thing to spend billions on cute aircraft but can we address the current gross deficiencies of staffing and front-of- counter customer service in airports? Hark, even the frequent flyer shareholders are becoming restless! The Qantas board gets away with it – for now.

Of poetry and haiku:

Simon Rose writes: Re. “Rundle’s morning Byronic thingy” (Early Campaign Edition: Day 33, item 6). If I wanted to pay for bad poetry I would purchase obscure books from the uni co-op. I buy Crikey to receive news and relevant comment on political shenanigans and so forth, so perhaps you can stick to what you are good at? That would be much appreciated.

Chris Hawkshaw writes: Re. “Rundle’s morning haiku” (Early Campaign Edition: Day 32, item 6)

Oh puh-leeeze, a sen
-tence chopped in three is not a
bloody haiku Guy

Much as I love your other work.

A small typo:

Michael Sullivan, CEO of Sportingbet Australia writes : Re. “The big bets all going Labor’s way” (yesterday, item 14). Sharp eyed readers will have noticed a small typo from yesterday’s piece. Labor has in fact won 18 of 31 days of the campaign.”

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