Bali, Kyoto and Rudd:

Dr Peter Christoff, Vice President, Australian Conservation Foundation, writes: Re. “Kevinpasar07: Rudd’s doing what he said he would” (yesterday, item 3). Christian Kerr has placed himself firmly in the two thirds camp, knowing sod all about what is happening on the ground at Bali but shooting from the keypad anyway. The negotiations here in Bali are NOT about committing individual developed countries, including Australia, to specific and mandatory targets. They are about ensuring developed nations as a whole show sufficient good faith for all countries to proceed to cut emissions together. As required by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Annex 1 (developed countries) group are being called on to promise to do some heavy lifting on emissions reductions during the next Kyoto commitment period (after 2012). In return for this promise, major emergent emitters like China are prepared to commit to “policies and measures” that will curb their rising emissions. Specifically, the debate is about whether or not developed countries will commit, collectively, to negotiating using an aggregate target range of -25 to -40 percent below 1990 emissions levels by 2020. This was the range for developed countries recently nominated by the IPCC as necessary to hold global temperatures at 2-2.4 degrees above pre-industrial levels and, hopefully, avert dangerous climate change. It was also the range broadly agreed as necessary in UNFCCC climate discussions in Vienna in August. There is no interest among Australian environmental NGOs in seeing Rudd commit Australia to mandatory targets now, preempting Garnaut and the close domestic analysis required as the basis of good domestic climate policy. Nor is this commitment required at Bali. What Australian groups do want is Australia to support the broad negotiating range mentioned above, which will allow China and others to also begin to engage. There is considerable additional concern that the Australian delegation has been following a line closely supportive of the United States and Canada, retarding and undermining the evolution of a reasonable roadmap for international climate negotiations over the next two years. The delegation seems to have provided incorrect advice to Australian ministers about the opportunities for progress here, and its negotiating position does not seem in keeping with the current government’s views or Australia’s longer term interests. It is this crucial set of distinctions which Kerr doesn’t get.

Colin Jacobs writes: As someone who’d like to see a bit more leadership on climate change (and still holds out hope that Kevvy can deliver) I’m a little bewildered by this piece. Some “sudden, swathing cut to emissions” may not be feasible, but being willing to entertain a target for 2020 is hardly “sudden”. The Garnaut Report’s ongoing status does not preclude entering into the Bali talks in a spirit of leadership and cooperation, putting Australia forward as a developed country willing to do what the science says we must and to help developing countries do the same. Speaking of hurt to the economy and working families is the same rhetoric we had from Howard, as an excuse to do nothing. Leadership of the kind we desperately need would sign up to save the planet regardless of the economic belt-tightening we must endure.

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Kevin Cox writes: In your Tuesday newsletter Christian Kerr says “we hear less than two-thirds of sod all from the Utopians on how poorer people are supposed to deal with increased power costs”. While not a Utopian here is a suggestion of which they would approve. It achieves the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in a socially equitable way, at a rate needed to stop global warming and in a way that makes everyone richer. The principles are: 1) We pay people whose activities generate few greenhouse gases (generally the poor or frugal); 2) To get the money to pay the frugal we impose a surcharge on greenhouse producing energy (generally the rich or profligate); 3) The money received by the greenhouse frugal has to be spent on infrastructure to further reduce greenhouse gases. Back of the envelop calculations indicate that a 10% surcharge on energy whose production creates greenhouse gases will reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero within 20 years. A 30% surcharge will reduce emissions to zero within 10 years. The same principles can be applied between countries with a small adjustment to make it politically acceptable. The earnings on the money invested in (3) are returned to the donor country. The approach solves the “prisoners dilemma” outlined in a Prof Garnaut speech and can supplement emissions trading schemes. It incidentally guarantees that Australia can meet any emissions target with a positive effect on our economy if we as a country get “first mover” advantage and use it as a way to get into the business of exporting renewable technologies.

Louise Crossley writes: It seems to me that Christian Kerr is one person who knows sod all about climate change and the available strategies to achieve significant emission reductions. Clive Hamilton actually does know quite a bit; and Kerr obviously has not noticed that Hamilton’s piece today is all about process, and how the media (Crikey and Kerr?) frequently stuff it up. On matters of fact, if the NGOs gave Howard a hard time, it produced no tangible change, largely because Australia’s position was indeed dictated by the greenhouse mafia through DFAT – and the same people are still at the table, and have had almost zero time and training to work out the new game. And why does no one in this debate ever point out that the quickest and cheapest – and with greatest benefit to low income earners – way to reduce emissions is through energy efficiency? Energy efficiency simply means not paying for energy you don’t need to use – it saves you money, at the expense of very cheap material and costless psychological, “retrofits”. Apart from anything else, it helps to think differently – especially to spend more effort on demand management instead of increasing supply.

The HR manager who stole Christmas:

Kerry Lawrence writes: Re. “The HR manager who stole Christmas: Part II” (yesterday, item 20). As a great fan of Crikey’s, I find myself disappointed at your reactions to various companies’ efforts to limit the excessive use of alcohol and drugs. I love a glass or three of wine and would hate to do without it – but maturity has helped me see that more than this is senseless in too many ways to count. I also have a daughter who has finally beaten 20 years of drug addiction, the last seven on heroin – an incredibly painful time for me (and no doubt for her) – and I can now rejoice at her rejoining life: she has just successfully completed a year of a TAFE course. Does Crikey see it as (horror!) “un-Australian” to drink responsibly? I’ve got no idea what the answer might be to the misery caused by drugs (of all kinds) to both addicts and their families. But to promote the excessive and unnecessary use/abuse of drugs is irresponsible and contributes to the pain families’ face when loved ones succumb to addiction.

Moira Smith writes: You have to understand this is a very serious issue. We already know that any unfortunate non-smoker who comes within 10 metres of an evil smoking-type person (standing in the sleet, wind and rain outside their workplace, to have a fag, for example) will instantly fall down dead with a number of complaints including stroke, cancer, heart attack and infant mortality. Just so will any Christmas party-goer who consumes more than the two (or three, if male) standard drinks risk brain damage, car accident, inappropriate s-xual engagement, reproducing inappropriate images on the company photocopier, and so forth. We need to protect these people from themselves. Why can’t we all remember at all times that the true meaning of Christmas (discarding any religious/spiritual element entirely) is to buy a new plasma TV in the New Year sales that so conveniently now precede 25 December rather than waiting till January?

Kirribilli:

Jane Connor writes: Re. Monday’s editorial. Crikey, you do make me laugh. It is hilarious that you think it is okay to have a go at John and Janette for a) wanting to live in Kirribilli and b) failing to want to move out. Let’s not forget they made the ultimate sacrifice serving the country that they live in – why can’t they be rewarded? Kirribilli House? What else would it be doing apart from collecting dust? We (the taxpayer) still have to pay for the gardens, upkeep etc. regardless of whether anyone lives in it or not. What other ideas did you have for that wonderful estate? Crikey head office? Oh please…

Justice, Tasmanian style:

Lynn Good writes: Re. “The Tasmanian Compliance Corporation and justice, island style” (Monday, item 4). Greg Barns’ coverage of the John White/TCC hearing in Tasmania managed to remove much of the odour. White and former Deputy PM Bryan Green had planned to saddle the public with a $2 million bill if they attempted to remove an illegal monopoly cooked up by the two. $2 million is not petty crime, particularly when public trust has been betrayed, yet DPP Tim Ellis did not oppose letting White escape any conviction being reported despite a guilty plea. The judge then made the extraordinary ruling that White, a solicitor and former state govt minister, had not realised the illegality of the scheme. Underwood CJ further stated that an arrangement White had made with his TCC partners to have $60,000 of his legal fees paid by the tradesmen licensed by the TCC in the event no conviction was recorded, was in no way related to the charge of impeding an officer of the crown. The judge claimed that neither he nor the DPP were aware of the arrangement, but did not expound on what it would mean to what he said was White’s alleged good character in respect to having apparently withheld this evidence from the court, and to the dropped conspiracy charge. Also not explained is why a conspiracy charge against Green was dropped by the DPP when an illegal intent to obtain public funds was spelled out in writing. Meanwhile, the Mercury journo, Sue Neales, who broke the story, is being threatened with contempt by Underwood. Tasmania to the third world core.

Becoming a republic:

Lyn Petrie writes: Re. “Flint: Republic a barnacle on the bottom of victory” (7 December, item 19). David Flint, if not for the fact that I think your contributions add to the comedy relief in Crikey, I might be offended by the assertions you make in your item. There are a multitude of incorrect statements, but the one that needs correcting first is that the republican movement doesn’t know what sort of republic they want. Well here’s the thing – democracy, which is a cornerstone of the Australian way of life dictates that it is the people who decide the sort of republic they want. The ARM is open to whatever model the Australian public want. This decision will be made after information is provided to the public, and after considerable debate. The first step however is to ask the simple question “Do you want an Australian head of state” This can be achieved by a non binding plebiscite and will finally put to rest the fallacy that only a minority of people want a republic. I am not going to go over old history, but we all know the silly games that were played to split the vote over different models. I am not going to play in to your hands by going down that path. Even you have to admit that the monarchists were in the minority on that occasion. I suspect you are trying to put the cart before the horse to create confusion, and defeat the attempt to finally have a representative, who is an Australian, one who understands us, and shares our values. As far as the comments that there would not be a referendum in the first term, that does not preclude a plebiscite and the rider “if at all” is certainly not something that I would read too much into. The will of the people can be a powerful force, so your “defending the crumbling castle” actions can only hold off the inevitable for so long. Perhaps it is time you realised the inevitability of the cause and were with us rather than “agin” us. You can be pro British and still desire an Australian head of state.

Lobbying:

Neil James, executive director, Australia Defence Association, writes: Ian Lowe from the Australian Conservation Foundation (yesterday, comments) wanders quite a way off from the issues raised by Julian Fitzgerald’s article on the need to regulate lobbyists so as to stamp out conflicts of interest and corruption. But he does highlight, perhaps inadvertently, that comprehensive regulation would also increase transparency generally by exposing other dubious practices, such as lobbies with agendas favouring one side of politics masquerading as apolitical ones. For example, does anyone who really keeps up with Australian public debate seriously believe the ACF is still the non-partisan lobby it once was and was intended to be? For well over a decade or more the public stances of the ACF have overwhelmingly tended to favour one side of politics. There is nothing wrong with partisan lobbying in itself of course, except where the organisation concerned seeks to hide it or is in denial internally about being so partisan. In contrast, the genuine national public-interest lobbies like Taxpayer’s Australia, the ACS, ADA and National Trust go to great lengths to remain non-partisan, including no-fear-or-favour criticism of the inevitable failures of all political parties. Finally, in regard to Ian’s odd claim about the ADA, national defence is a fundamental and universal civic responsibility of all Australians (like jury duty) not just an issue concerning serving or former members of our defence force. Moreover, the ADA does not “lobby for more funds to go to the military” but we do stress the need for adequate investment in our common defence after decades of sustained neglect.

Peter Burnett writes: Neil James (Monday, comments) from the “community-based, non-partisan” Australian Defence Association says that his group is a “public-interest guardian organisation” which “may do some lobbying on behalf of all Australians equally.” As a card carrying peacenik, I feel that Mr. James is lagging behind in his advocacy of policies congenial to my good self. I look forward to him “lobbying on behalf of all Australians equally” and spending at least half his time pushing for an international treaty banning nuclear weapons – over 60% of voters in the last election supported parties with that policy, half our ANZUS partners support it and we expect equal time from the ADA! All in a non-partisan way, of course.

Google:

Richard Stapley-Oh writes: Re. “Why everybody should calm the Yahoo down about Google” (yesterday, item 28). I know it’s almost Christmas, and I recognise that you do a sterling job of getting your copy away on time, every day, but I can only assume that someone was asleep at the wheel when Adam Schwab’s article was submitted for publication. I didn’t see any disclosure of interest in respect of paid advertisements or personal shareholding (Schwabby seems to have even foregone his usual “Corporate Lawyer” tagline) so I can only assume that this article was some sort of charming job application. Sadly, Schwabby, Google already has a corporate communications and public affairs guy. Let me point out some of the grovelling corporate lapdoggery that Schwabby laid out for us: 1) “Further, there is the likelihood that Google’s existence has not necessarily led to increased plagiarism, but rather, an increase in its detection” (evidence?); 2) “Leaving aside Google’s “Don’t be Evil” mantra” (it’s good of you to bring it up); 3) “The study got its criticisms of Google badly wrong; it’s the problem with coming from an academic, rather than a commercial viewpoint” (luckily for the Crikey Army you are here to explain the results of such blatantly “uncommercial” academic articles for us, Schwabby. Don’t leave us in the dark, what exactly is “the problem with coming from an academic, rather than commercial viewpoint”?), and my personal favourite: 4) “It is incorrect to criticise Google for revolutionising the search function and gaining market share by simply providing a better service” (Google group hug time). I don’t subscribe to Crikey to read such rubbish. By the way, I use Google products from time to time and consider them to be very useful. I’d have the same bad taste in my mouth if the article was written in respect of any other commercial venture.

Mungo and cricket:

Norman Churcher writes: Might I comment on two items? 1) Re. “Mungo: Howard’s decline and fall, part 2” (yesterday, item 7). From the two extracts you have published of Mungo MacCallum’s book, it comes across as something fairly shoddy rushed out to capitalise on the federal election before it is forgotten. I don’t think I’ll be buying Poll Dancing. But then, I also note what I take to be an advertisement for the book that quotes The Age as saying of Mungo: “Australia’s closest approximation to Hunter S. Thompson’s gonzo journalist.” Really? When can we expect Fear and Loathing in Byron Bay? 2) Re. “Cricket in crisis: Call in the handicapper” (yesterday, item 25). I don’t think Norman Abjorensen is much of a sportswriter. Otherwise, he’d know that what goes up always comes down, often with a massive thud. The present Australian cricket team is top dog but let’s not forget the thrashing its predecessor copped in South Africa 37 years ago from a side that, arguably, was just as good as the Aussies now. Then there was the loss of the Ashes to England much more recently. The amazing St George rugby league team with Gasnier, Raper, Smith, Wells and the others swept all before it for years. The club has won hardly anything since. In the AFL, the must-beats for a long time were Melbourne and their inspirational leader Ron Barassi. When was the last time they won anything? As for the much-touted All Blacks … What it all proves, Norman, is that no one stays on top forever.

The AFL:

David Lodge writes: Does John McDonald (Monday, comments) wonder at any point what continued subsidisation is actually going to do for the ailing Victorian clubs? One only needs to look at the performances of the poorer clubs to see that bumping up their pithy memberships and financial support is like giving money to rice and cotton farmers – a complete waste of time and money. Whilst said Victorian clubs are having such terrible trouble balancing the books, the non Victorian teams (the backbone of this nation wide league) have been stunning role models on how to run successful football clubs, not only winning premierships and attracting continued financial support but more even more telling, achieving all this without financial help from the Victorian-centric body that is the AFL. You see mate, the original idea of an AFL, as my old man tells me from his years of working with a South Australian league club, was for a few teams from each state, not this pathetic mis-match of rightly great Victorian teams steeped in tradition, and pathetic excuses for clubs which simply wouldn’t exist in the real world without subsidies form people such as yourself, who are so far stuck in the past. They have only the stench of nostalgia to keep them going. Your remarks about Victoria’s “suburban game history” at the expense of SA and WA’s own rich history only further add weight to the argument that, even after putting club performance aside, Victorian football truly is run by a bunch of morons.

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