How the West was won:

Geoff Robinson writes: Re. “AWAs: How the West was won?” (Yesterday, item 10). Making assumptions about individual voters from aggregate data is always risky. On Western Australia the fact to keep in mind are that there was a 2PP swing to Labor of 2.2% across the state, more than in Tasmania. The 2004 Senate figures suggest it is almost certain that Labor held Cowan on Graham Edward’s personal vote alone (Liberal Senate vote in Cowan was 49.1%) and that the Liberals’ failure to win Swan was probably due to their candidate (Liberal Swan Senate was 46% compared to Labor plus Greens of 44.6%). Labor was extremely lucky in WA in 2004 not to lose Swan and Cowan. The underlying result in WA this time might better be described as a Labor gain of one seat. WA voters had the same grievances against Howard as elsewhere but the countervailing fact of economic prosperity counted for more.

Alastair McConnachie writes: As part of Christian Kerr’s thesis on the role AWA’s played in the Coalition’s showing in Western Australia, some emphasis is placed on the fact that the Liberal Party took two seats from the ALP in that State on 24 November: Swan and Canning. As of yesterday, Labor’s Kim Wilkie is certainly behind in the seat of Swan. However, I fear Christian’s assessment is somewhat undermined by the situation in the seat of Canning. The ALP did not hold Canning going into last month’s election, and in fact the sitting member, Don Randall of the Liberals retained the seat in last month’s election despite, according to the Australian Electoral Commission, suffering a swing against him of 3.89%. On Christian’s analysis, that seat, at least, must be populated by unhappy miners.

Water restrictions:

Greg Cameron, Urban Rainwater Systems Pty Ltd, writes: Re. “Water restrictions don’t work, here’s another idea” (yesterday, item 21). Rainwater tanks will provide Australia’s lowest cost source of drinking water supply by 2012, when prices charged by State Governments for mains drinking water will have doubled in every capital city to pay for their desalination plants. One million Melbourne households using rainwater tanks will provide 70 billion litres of drinking water each year costing householders $1.42/KL. One million Sydney households will provide 80 billion litres each year costing $1.20/KL. Subsidies waste public money.

Ernie Biscan writes: What a load of nonsense Adam Schwab writes about water restrictions. A fair use allocation (not a new idea by any stretch) requires authorities to actually know how many people live in every house in a metropolitan city and supposedly their demographics! Who’s going to obtain, monitor and update this data and at what cost? Nobody has every come up with a viable solution that isn’t just going to create a crazy bureaucracy. Restrictions have worked really well in Melbourne. Consumption has been reduced by around 28% compared with water use in the mid-1990s. That’s a great effort. And guess what! Councils have finally been forced to use recycled water to keep our sporting fields and parks green. It took a crisis but we finally got there. And anyone who wants to water on a 42 degree day is just a goose.

Catholics and the Liberal party:

Shirley Colless writes: Re. “Abjorensen: When did Catholics take over the Liberal Party?” (Yesterday, item 20). As a member of the one holy Catholic and apostolic Church, I have a problem with the current use of the word “Catholic” with the capital C as meaning only “Roman” Catholics. The Church Catholic properly includes people of the Protestant, Reformed, Dissenting, Orthodox and Roman Catholic denominations. Check the Macquarie dictionary definition (the universal Christian Church; the entire body of Christians). This, evidently, is not the view taken by Pope Benedict XVI, but while he may preach exclusivity to his own flock his views do not cut much with those of us who would prefer to see the old sectarian divisions vanish from our Church.

Lyle Allan writes: Norman Abjorensen has not mentioned that the United Australia Party, the predecessor of the Liberal Party, was led by Tasmanian Catholic Joe Lyons, who served as Prime Minister from 1932 until his death in 1939. Dame Enid Lyons, the widow of Joe Lyons, also a Catholic, was a Minister the Menzies Cabinet in the early 1950s, and was also the first woman member of the House of Representatives. Jokes aside there has never been real discrimination against Catholics in the Australian conservative parties, who have frequently been very diverse in the people they have promoted. The New South Wales Liberal Party, for example, was once led by a Catholic Premier who also had the distinction that he was born in Hungary. I can’t list the number of Catholic state Premiers in the conservative parties, but there have been quite a number. Victoria has less than any other state, but that is probably due to the fact that Liberal Party leaders from Victoria have tended to be former students of the leading private schools, like Melbourne Grammar, Wesley, Geelong College, Geelong Grammar and Scotch. The Victorian Labor Party, which once prided itself as being exclusively the party of the working class, is adopting Liberal Party practices in that its present leader went to Melbourne Grammar and a recently elected federal parliamentarian went to Geelong Grammar. Jeff Kennett, who went to Scotch College, once talked about the Grammar boys of the Victorian ALP and he might have been right! Strangely the late Bob Santamaria has the last word in Abjorensen’s story. The intensity of religious faith in his word determines bigotry, with greater bigotry among those who take their religion the most seriously. It is not now minority Catholics of working class background or fellow Christians who are criticised by other Christians. Christian fundamentalists who in the past might have criticised Popery now criticise Islam.

Christopher Ridings writes: Norman Abjorensen has drawn our attention that no one noticed that a Catholic was elected leader of the Federal Liberal Party last week. I don’t know how old Norman Abjorensen is but in 1931 Joseph Aloyisius Lyons left the ALP to lead the conservative opposition, then the United Australia Party, and became PM in 1931. He was Roman Catholic with, if I remember it correctly, eleven children to squeeze into the Lodge. I’ve not scrutinised the religious affiliations of our aspiring leaders then and now, but I think our first Australian-born Governor-General about that time, Sir Isaac Isaacs was Jewish. So, what are we supposed to notice?

Sally Goldner writes: I’m glad the Liberals have caught up to the 1950’s and got over their fear of Catholics. At this rate, by 2050 they’ll have “out” gays and lesbians, people of Muslim backgrounds and single mothers in their Parliamentary party…maybe?


Holger Lubotzki writes: Re. “Give us a break Julia” (yesterday, item 17). Richard Farmer wrote: “There was not even the slightest acknowledgement in her comments that education has always been principally the concern of State Governments.” Fair enough, but if that’s the case then why did the previous government give away so much of my tax money to private schools? For the record, I have no issue with paying tax or with the taxpayers’ dollar going towards state funded education. I have a huge issue with my tax dollars being used to subsidise people wealthy enough to opt out of the public school system. Which was always the problem with Howard and Costello – if you were in the low income or no income bracket “socialism” was not an option and you were on your own, but if you were wealthy you could expect all sorts of welfare assistance indulging your expensive preferences.

Tim Gartrell:

Dave Liberts writes: Re. “Constructing the post-electoral narrative: chapter one” (yesterday, item 18). Re. Peter Brent on Tim Gartrell’s Press Club address (transcript here), I think Gartrell’s speech seems pretty realistic (taking into account the usual little exaggerations one would expect from a partisan political operator). There is no mention in the speech of the hypothetical Costello vs. Rudd contest, so I can only presume that Gartrell’s widely reported comments on this issue came in response to a question from the floor. My two cents worth would be that Latham put Labor back into the ideas-and-vision game (and highlighted Howard government’s lack of vision) but lost the 2004 election badly because of his aggression and temper. Rudd’s natural caution and conservatism (and communication skills, and his friendly Sunrise charm) put him in the box seat to continue engaging with the electorate about Australia’s future without the distraction of any Lathamesque personality issues. The Government ran the same campaign it ran in 2001 and 2004, only to discover that voters were not swallowing the usual efforts to scare them into returning Howard. I agree with the thrust of Gartrell’s speech, but not with his reported comments about Costello, whom I believe (given the chance) might have “done a Keating” by working to educate Australians about the economy, campaigned on ideas for the future and been a more humorous, less smirkful Prime Minister than many would have suspected, thus producing a closer election result than we actually saw.

Missing newspaper readers:

Roger Colman, Director, Media Analyst, CCZ Statton Equities, writes: Re. “Sydney vs Melbourne: the missing newspaper readers” (yesterday, item 24). Why does Sydney not read English language newspapers? Simple: Sydney has the highest overseas born population percentage (31%) versus Melbourne (28.5%). Media advertising is also therefore less efficient in this market than any other market in Australia – often explaining the weak advertising data for mainstream media ad spend in Sydney. Advertisers simply do not get their bang for bucks in Sydney because, few of the ethnic minorities in Sydney, would read a SMH or even a Telegraph. Could you imagine the average Lakemba Mosque reader reading the Tele, let alone the “socially progressive” SMH?

Brad Pace writes: I believe the difference in newspaper circs between Sydney and Melbourne can be put down to three simple letters, A-F-L. Melbournians voracious need for every snippet of AFL news cannot be serviced simply by the nightly news bulletins. The Herald Sun and Age cover all teams almost daily. The Herald Sun, especially, is majority read back to front. Sydney people love their League, but do not have nor crave a constant stream of news on new recruits, club politics, player injuries and the lives of former players. As a Melbournian living in Sydney, I’m constantly ridiculed for lugging three papers around each day. Old habits do die hard.

Jerome Ehlers writes: Reading about football is much more important in Victoria, SA and WA than in NSW. Reasons? Here we go: AFL plays a more complex game, and its practitioners, (some) fans, coaches and club board members are possibly from the more complex end of town… The rugby codes have only 3 moves once possession is attained: left, right, or straight into that big guy, until finally the game is decided by the team with the best individual kicker. It doesn’t require a lot of analysis… Is that a kind of bigotry?

The 2008 ABC Board:

Margaret Simons writes: A reader, Tan Lee Lin, pointed out (yesterday, comments) that in my piece on possible candidates for the ABC Board I failed to declare that I have published articles in the Griffith Review, edited by Julianne Schultz, and published a book with Patrick Gallagher’s Allen and Unwin. Others are making something of this. I believe in thoroughness in such things, and so should have declared these facts, and apologise for the oversight – but the degree of real conflict should be seen in context. It is true I have published articles in the Griffith Review, and expect to do so again. As a freelance journalist I have also published articles in The Monthly, The Age, The Australian, The Sydney Morning Herald, The West Australian, The Bulletin, the Guardian, – and many other publications. It is also true that in 2004 I published a book with Allen and Unwin. Since then I have published books with Pluto Press and Penguin. Before that I published books with Angus and Robertson Bookworld, Reed Books, UNSW Press, New Holland, Hodder Headline (now Hachette Livre) and Black Inc. I presently have two book contracts with Melbourne University Publishing. Meanwhile, more on the ABC Board tomorrow…

The Nats:

Charles Richardson writes: Ah yes, the ambiguity of our rich and wonderful language. Louise Crossley (yesterday, comments) evidently read it differently, but to me, “beating someone into fourth place” means that they finished fourth and you finished ahead of them, i.e. third. That’s certainly what I intended to say about the Greens and the Nationals.


Guy Rundle writes: Tamas Calderwood (yesterday, comments) still has not understood the difference between “participating in an invasion” and “not sending combat troops”. Spain was actively involved in the process of the Iraq invasion in the same way that air force ground staff are involved in a bombing raid, even if they don’t fly the plane. The Islamist terrorists knew this because, surprise surprise, they watch cable news. To date, all the major successful post 911 terrorist attacks in the West have been against Coalition of the Willing states – even if the Bali one was done offshore. I don’t believe it is the sole root cause of most Islamist terrorism, nor that a foreign policy should be shaped by fears of terrorism. But Madrid and 7/7 were undoubtedly successful in persuading the public that invading other peoples’ countries is more likely to get you bombed than not doing so – which is why the western military cheer squad will resort to fudging the facts to play it down. We’re seeing it again in Iran, with Bush now publicly ignoring advice that the country has no nuclear weapons program, because he needs the threat for domestic political purposes. Really Tamas, if the half-dozen attacks since 911 genuinely pre-occupy you, then it sounds like an expression of personal cowardice, not policy. Most Londoners, including occasional ones like me, pay it no heed.

Tim Mackay writes: The continued use of the emotionally loaded term “Islamofascism” by Tamas Calderwood and others is intellectually lazy. In the words of Professor Niall Ferguson:

… what we see at the moment is an attempt to interpret our present predicament in a rather caricatured World War II idiom. I mean, ‘Islamofascism’ illustrates the point well, because it’s a completely misleading concept. In fact, there’s virtually no overlap between the ideology of al Qaeda and fascism. It’s just a way of making us feel that we’re the “greatest generation” fighting another World War, like the war our fathers and grandfathers fought. You’re translating a crisis symbolized by 9/11 into a sort of pseudo World War II. So, 9/11 becomes Pearl Harbour and then you go after the bad guys who are the fascists, and if you don’t support us, then you must be an appeaser.

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Peter Fray

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