Japanese whaling:

Geoff Russell, Animal Liberation SA, writes: Re. “Time for Rudd to get legal to save the whales” (yesterday, item 18). Sue Arnold can’t really expect the Antarctic Treaty System (ATS) to help save whales, can she? The problem with the ATS is shown clearly in the names of one of its treaties: “Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources”. So whales are just “living resources”, which is exactly how the Japanese view them. Sue and I obviously think of whales as conscious intelligent beings with a definite interest in not having a harpoon explode in their guts — which is how anyone with an ounce of compassion will see them.

What do the Liberals stand for?

Ignaz Amrein writes: Re. “Liberals afraid to stand for anything” (yesterday, item 11). The federal Liberals not only lost the election they also seem to have lost the ability to choose a leader. Brendan Nelson has “lemming” written all over him. As a tax payer I feel cheated paying the wages for what supposed to be an opposition. The same applies to the “opposition” in Victoria. I haven’t got the faintest idea what their policies are, all they do is whinge about everything the government does, even if they do what they’ve done when they had policies and were in power. I reckon the best thing to do for the Liberals, state and federal, is to join the Labor party. This would solve their policy problems and the Greens could take on the role of the opposition and we would have once again an opposition that seems to know what they stand for.

IR and WorkChoices:

Damien Anderson writes: Re. “IR: Read the fine print, brothers” (yesterday, item 8). Though the previous Federal Government studiously ignored the fact, the technical and trade skills shortage referred to is based on the fact that technical trades deliver much lower earnings across a working life than degree qualifications. It has nothing to do with “Labor state governments and left leaning state education bureaucrats”. These same state governments and bureaucrats have, for example, had to deal with the explosion of information technology in schools, which hadn’t even begun 15 years ago, and which certainly has not been well supported by the Commonwealth. Christian also advises “local State Labor MPs” to accompany their Federal colleagues on school visits for the sake of their “electoral self-preservation”. If he were better informed about the issue, he’d find almost all state MPs are well known in all their local schools. Perhaps the lesson from Howard’s end is that it’s the Federal pollies who are too remote from their communities and a little too impressed with their own importance.

Terry Costello writes: The IPA Leader Ken Phillips’s very belated bagging of WorkChoices sounds a lot like some of the rumblings of culture warriors such as Gerard Henderson and others who have waited until after the election to put their criticisms of the Howard Government and their policies on the public record. These belated criticisms by cultural and in this instance industrial warriors like Ken Phillips have been prompted by the election result and their furious attempts to reposition themselves and curry favour with the incoming Labor government. As far as the Liberal party’s WorkChoices and the ALP government’s WorkChoices Lite is concerned the only major difference appears to be abolition of AWA’s and even then there is a long phasing out period. Maybe the cultural and industrial warrior class have realised there is not much difference between Liberal and Labor and that their best option to retain their “relevance” and sphere of influence is to change trams so to speak. Watchout for leopards with changed spots coming to a media outlet near you – Crikey excepted of course.

Misreporting science:

Dave Liberts writes: Re. “Second-hand factoids as harmful as second-hand smoke” (yesterday, item 5). Having graduated from uni with a Bachelor of Science (and despite having never set foot in a lab since), I frequently experience similar frustrations as Becky Freeman. It seems to be an unwritten rule of journalism that any maths or science must be totally misreported. Journos almost always stuff up percentages (“Mortgages rise by 1%” – oh yeah, then how come my interest payments are up 10%?), basic biology (Channel 9 in Adelaide once spent weeks reporting an incident relating to E.coli bacteria as “Ecoli virus”), basic chemistry (Matt Price once wrote an article about the politics of ethanol being mixed with petrol and bemoaned how boring this ethanol stuff is without realising it’s the same alcohol we find in beer, wine and spirits) and their work with anything to do with recent discoveries in astronomy is invariably hilarious. I often wonder if Isaac Newton spent his later years having to tell journos that he hadn’t actually invented gravity, just explained it.


Malcolm Borgeaud writes: Re. “US 08: Enough to make a grown woman frown” (yesterday, item 12). Keep this email somewhere safe. My prediction – Gore will be Democratic nominee and President. I just don’t think USA is ready to elect a woman or an African American. Additionally, both have some baggage – Clinton more than Obama. As I understand it, Gore could be nominated from the floor of the Democratic Conference thus avoiding the hassle of a lot of nominee campaigning and a lot of mudslinging from members of his own party. He would be seen as the “saviour” of the party and would appear to be a natural unifying voice. Immensely popular and with a higher profile than the other candidates, with a Nobel Prize and an Oscar, he would appear to be the natural choice. I think there would be many in the Democratic party that would be immensely relieved if Gore would throw his hat in – especially the leadership of the party.

The Oz op-ed page:

Chris Ward writes: Re. “Dear Oz op-ed page, please stop the Pravda treatment” (yesterday, item 22). For the benefit of your younger readers, in the good old days that some of us called the Cold War, the 2 major Soviet newspapers were TASS (news) and Pravda (truth). Most Russians being cynical had a saying to the effect that there was no news in TASS and no truth in Pravda. The op-ed page of the Oz is scrambling for identity, like an old reactionary looking back to “good old days” and some of them can’t believe the election result. I find it hard to understand why the fossilised Wood is still writing for them. What next – bring back Des Keegan?

Provisional voting:

John Tokarczyk writes: Re. “When is a vote not a vote? When it’s provisional” (yesterday, item 10). If the Feds had provided polling staff with Electronic Rolls as was the case in recent NSW State elections the incidence of wasted votes would have been drastically reduced. A search of the elector’s name would have told them where elector was enrolled, if at all.

A new airport for Sydney:

Gavin Findlay writes: Re. “Richmond Air Force base won’t be Sydney’s next airport” (yesterday, item 17). Sydney’s second airport could be an expanded Canberra International, with a VFT link. The cost of an expanded Canberra would be far less than building a new airport from scratch, perhaps enough to cover the cost of building the VFT and the shortfall from domestic travel that stopped the VFT idea in the first place. Somebody do the sums please…

Maxine and Bennelong:

Charles Richardson writes: Peter Hill (yesterday, comments) asks a series of good questions about Bennelong. Fortunately, most of them can be readily answered. (a) It’s not particularly unusual for a party to be behind on primary votes but win on preferences – in the old days it used to be mostly the Coalition that did it, now it’s generally Labor. Bennelong was one of nine seats where it happened this time (the others were Bass, Braddon, Corangamite, Deakin, Hasluck, Page, Robertson and Solomon). (b) The reason is the Greens; they had 60% of the non-major party vote in Bennelong, and although the AEC hasn’t released the full distribution yet, we know that something like 80% of those will have gone to Labor. (c) The Labor primary vote in Bennelong is way up because the Greens vote (Lindsay Peters, not Peter Lindsay) is way down, and the main reason for that is they had an especially high profile candidate in 2004, Andrew Wilkie, who scored 16.4% (see the 2004 result here). (d) The difference in enrolment figures doesn’t make a difference to the swing, because the swing is calculated on the 2004 figures adjusted for the redistribution, not the actual result in the old Bennelong. (e) Yes, most of the new territory came from Labor-held Parramatta, although the net difference from the changes was quite small: this is explained in great detail in Shane Easson’s paper, which I linked to. (f) The informals plus the no-shows do typically add to about 10% of enrolment, although it varies a fair bit by electorate. There are also of course people who are eligible but not enrolled. (g) Turnout in Bennelong was almost identical to 2004, but the informal vote was up by about 0.2% (in most seats it was down significantly). That could be some sort of protest vote, or it could be due to demographic change, or just statistical noise. (h) Yes, any statistic can potentially be taken out of context, but I try hard not to.

David Lenihan writes: Wonderful mix of figures Peter Hill, as my dear old dad always said, figures can be used, twisted, rearranged, erased, put in disarray, invalidated, even counted. But, and isn’t there always a but; at the end of the day its points on the board that count. Maxine first, goodbye John.

The House always wins:

Keith Binns writes: Re. “My favourite shows of 2007, by Glenn Dyer” (Tuesday, item 24). I know this is a day late but how do you do a “best of” on TV for 2007 and not mention House? In my view it was the only must, must see series of the year.

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