Markets, Chicken Little and the war on inflation:

Pete Kerr writes: Re. “Victims everywhere as panic selling sets in” (yesterday, item 1). Talk about Chicken Little… Stephen Mayne wrote: “Rudd will be struggling to post any sort of surplus in 2008-09, especially if the Reserve Bank’s woefully inadequate foreign reserves need to be topped up because of the worsening credit crisis. And state governments will only move further into deficit when the contagion spreads to the housing bubble – as it will inevitably do.” On what basis will the contagion spread? Um, sorry to break this news but Victorian, SA, Tasmanian and NSW property markets not exactly in bubble mode, and in QLD the govt has the best net debt (i.e. debt free) position of any State. And why are RBA’s reserves inadequate when the AUD is at 90cents?? Um, I don’t think they’ll be buying any AUD at these levels. And Stephen’s final cringeworthy line: “Remember all those bogus Howard Government claims about having paid off Labor’s debt. The Rudd Government is scheduled to borrow $300 million in five-year bonds today.” Do some basic research. The Federal government has a positive net debt position. They only issue government bonds to help other financial markets with pricing. Without a government debt market, financial markets would not have a “risk-free” benchmark to base their pricing off. Embarrassing stuff.

Martin Gordon writes: Critics of the previous government accused it of waging “so-called” war on a noun (terror) but we now have a new federal government waging war on a statistic (inflation). The rather beat-up rhetoric given to this “effort” seems absurd, at least with Islamic fascism there is a real enemy and it’s a real war. Given the strong state of the economy and the in fact modest cuts actually needed to produce an even larger surplus you might be forgiven for thinking we were in the depths of a depression rivalling the 1930s. On which beaches, landing fields etc (in Churchillian flourish), will this grandiose “effort” be waged? The casualties presumably will be rendered unemployed (as opposed to dead or wounded), insolvent, or homeless and then you will be visited by your local ALP member, which should cheer you up no end! We could of course categorise all of this abuse of language as Rudd-speak. Given the new government is only two months old, they may need to relent on the rhetoric before they become the subject of ridicule.

The US primaries:

Moira Smith writes: Peter Byass (yesterday, comments) has complained about the space you give to USA politics and the Presidential race. We’ve had similar complaints in the Canberra Times. To those who resent our attention to these events, I’d say: (1) the USA is the current Superpower – yes, declining, but even its decline is interesting and relevant to our affairs; and (2) just see how USA foreign policy has dictated Australian foreign policy. Look at our involvement in Iraq, for example. See all those cartoons featuring Howard as a miniature poodle in Bush’s handbag or Howard as Bush’s gun-toting sheriff. Those cartoonists were getting at something. Or look at our reaction to climate change. This is an event that could affect the future of the human race. Everything that happens in the USA is a major world influence. The stripe and colour (no pun or innuendo intended) of the new President will affect the destiny of the world. We may like to think that what’s happening in Australia is profoundly significant but I think those following the primaries in the USA are more in tune with the hard reality.

Peter Hill writes: I’d like to defend Crikey’s coverage of the circus masquerading as the US primaries. Guy Rundle’s contributions beat the vacuous 30 second bites delivered by the MSM hands down. Boring? C’mon. Informative? Absolutely. Rare to read? Yessiree.

Elizabeth Wardrop writes: I agree with Peter Byass. When I first subscribed I would eagerly squeeze in every article between my work (I read fast) and feel a little sad when I got to the end. Now I scan through and find that I’m getting to the end sooner and sooner. Maybe I’m just jaded – over the whole election thing for the time being and want something juicier to get into. But these topics are continuing to take up a lot of your space – The US election (please – it’s all over everywhere we look!), the sub-prime market crashes (Ok this is important, and I do appreciate the information but can’t you limit your reporting to just a few articles a week?), endless November election break-downs (They won OK? Surely we have enough statistics), and for some reason endless airline reporting… Not sure what I want to read about – because I’ve stopped watching the news too… Keep up the good stuff though – thanks Crikey.

Infrastructure and reform:

Les Heimann writes: Re. “Infrastructure Australia could come back to haunt Rudd” (yesterday, item 10). David MacCormack’s piece is highly informative – not at all because of content being quite unremarkable but because it displays attitude – an attitude that portrays government as totally political and in no way interested in genuine improvement. A glance at the previous Liberal government’s record during its occupancy easily demonstrates that the Howard years were wasted years and were indeed “politics uber alles”. The Menzies era was like that and so were the Fraser years although not as blatant and perhaps of a higher ‘human standard.” Essentially, Labor governments are reformist – not so much through idealistic “hilltop illumination” but because every time a Labor government comes into power it has to restart the country. The n-ked truth fellow citizen is that conservatives have no vision or mission and thus ultimately always achieve nothing, create nothing and leave a mess. I have a “solid gold” confidence that this government will perform and will reform as have all previous Labor governments – and it will not be “politics uber alles”. More likely tread softly with a big stick. Thus the almighty cynicism of the David MacCormacks is quite misplaced and deeply disappointing – don’t judge others, support their efforts.

Press freedom:

Chris Fowler writes: Re. Yesterday’s editorial. Crikey wrote in regard to the Murdoch/Packer deal: “Democracy in Australia is becoming more like a toll road”. Not sure if you mean “democracy” really; should that not be “press freedom”?

NT permits:

Graham Ring, National Indigenous Times, writes: I live in the NT too, Steve Martin (yesterday, comments) and I reckon Mungo got it pretty right with his comments on the permit system in Crikey on Monday. Just for the record, it’s not necessary to go the Northern Land Council for permits to visit Aboriginal-owned land on the northern mainland of the NT. In fact, a substantial number of permits are issued directly by the Traditional Owners. For an extended sermon on the permit system, check it out here.

Greystanes’ billions:

John Taylor writes: Re. “No deal without Rupert’s say so” (yesterday, item 4). Hey! I reckon you’re being discriminatory about Western Sydney in Glenn Dyer’s item today! I know, personally, several plumbers in Greystanes who would have no trouble borrowing a billion at the drop of a hat. With the prices they charge they’d pay it back, too.

Arts in Crikey:

Nicholas Pickard writes: Re. “Edward Primros” (yesterday, comments) who wrote: “Finally an article on the arts in the arts section”. As a regular contributor to Crikey, it would be of interest to note that since September I have written over a dozen articles for Crikey all to do with the arts or arts industry. There have also been regular contributions from Benjamin Eltham, a Melbourne based arts writer.

A comments stoush:

Marilyn Shepherd writes: Re. Daniel Lewis (yesterday, comments). There is an ugliness in this land that is exemplified by the Lewises who add nothing to any debate but are very good at demonising innocent children. Palestinian children are all terrorists to Daniel and the Bakhtiyari family are liars and frauds according to him. Let me see now. On 20 June 2000 ASIO cleared Ali Bakhtiyari as an Afghan refugee and let him out of detention. On 22 March 2001 DIMA deemed Roqia and the children to be Afghan refugees and refused to release them from detention. DIMA now concede “we have never claimed Roqia was not from Afghanistan”, Paul McGeough found the documents in Afghanistan proving they were telling the truth all along, some in the senate have issued apologies in an investigation and called for them to be returned. But Lewis decides that I am such an “angry old boiler” that he attacks me through 6 young kids. I won’t eat whale veal, the whale sanctuary is still not ours and still not legal and on Monday I turned a mere 55. If Crikey wants to print lies and distortions in ad hominem attacks by Lewis they are entitled but they better publish my right of reply.

Neil James writes: In talking about Marilyn Shepherd, Daniel Lewis (Comments, 22 January) presents a refreshing contrast to the invariably humourless and usually paranoid contributions of his subject. But the real problem with Ms Shepherd is that she never actually defends her fantasies when subject to the challenges expected in reasonable public debate. Over the years, for example, Marilyn has progressively accused the ADF, ASIS, AFP and Uncle Tom Cobleigh of “murdering” the Iraqi asylum seekers tragically killed in the 2001 sinking of SIEV X by the extreme ruthlessness and criminal ineptitude of Middle Eastern and Indonesian people smugglers. When her constantly mutating conspiracy theories have been challenged she never answers facts and logical arguments but merely responds with invective, red herrings and abrupt changes to the focus of her accusations. An irony seemingly lost on Marilyn Shepherd continually is that her freedom to hold and propagate extremist, and often distasteful and simply weird, political views is ultimately owed to, and continues to be protected by, those of her fellow Australians who have defended us all on various battlefields fighting aggressive totalitarian ideologies such as militarism, fascism, Nazism, communism and now Islamist terrorism.

Adrian Miller writes: Daniel Lewis appears to have made it his mission in life to stalk poor Marilyn around cyberspace, grabbing every opportunity to rubbish and counter her various contributions, and to enlighten us all. If you must do this Daniel, please do so without resorting to s-xist and ageist insults and gratuitous provocation.