The Garnaut Review:

Ronald Watts, Chairman of an energy market intermediary, writes: Re. “Garnaut talks tough — and looks north” (yesterday, item 2). There’s been lots of hand-wringing over how to react to climate change, with Garnaut provoking a new round. What is frustrating to many observers, economists and environmentalists alike, is that we’re not even doing the easy things. What are easy things? Those that cost little or nothing; those that can be implemented within current legislative frameworks; those that provide economic incentives for adoption, instead of coercion; those that tax plainly unsustainable practices; those that removes hidden subsidies. What are some examples? There will be many that readers can think of, but my modest starting point, with national implementation understood, would be these: Start treating aircraft fuel like every other fuel, and tax it. We can go it alone here, as there aren’t too many alternatives for refuelling when you fly from or within Australia. The costs to the traveller would be less than those imposed by the fraudulent frequent flyer schemes; Treat frequent flyer miles earned on employer-sponsored travel as a fringe benefit; Treat imported 4WDs as the Toorak tractors they are, and stop their favourable tariff treatment. Let genuine rural users claim the tariff back if necessary; Make building standards meet much better insulation and natural cooling standards; Make all land clearing reportable and subject to development applications; There are many other examples. Many of these measures can be done by executive fiat – i.e., quickly. What are we waiting for? Of course, many of these things would follow if we had a carbon tax (say, $50 per tonne). But that isn’t quick to implement. While we’re waiting, let’s not sit on our hands.

John Hayward writes: The big challenge for Ross Garnaut’s audience is how to transform greenhouse gasses into harmless spin in the face of increasingly serious scientific scrutiny. Perhaps the most embarrassing bulge in Aussie credibility remains the Gunns pulp mill whose outlandish claims to actually produce negative emissions is currently the subject of an ACCC investigation. In practice a major part of the forest felled, or something close to 10 million tonnes, will be immediately burned as logging waste, with over 90% of the 7m tonnes of wood harvested converted to pulp, then paper, and then largely to ash. 80% will come from Tasmania’s cheapest wood product but most efficient carbon store – native forest. Garnaut suggests that Australia’s greatest contribution to the global campaign may be as an international exemplar of disciplined best practice, a role that could be downright hilarious with Paul Lennon’s Tasmania belching and farting CO2 as if there were no tomorrow.

Alexander Downer, pass the Mayo:

Kerry Lewis writes: Re. Yesterday’s editorial. Alexander the Grate thought more of lunch with a Murdoch representative than attending to Parliament as the elected representative of the people paying his “allowances”, including meals – just like the “good old days”? He also absented himself from the condolence message for Peter Andren, who was a real gentleman and someone that took parliament and his role in representing his electorate seriously. His excuse: he’s done so much for Mayo in the past; sounds like he expects them to continue paying his way till he leaves, and how he wants to spend that time is his business – he’s in holiday mode. And Joe Hockey has been complaining about no Question Time on Fridays.

Karl Smith writes: The member for Mayo still “does a bloody good job” or at least his grimacing visage does – courtesy of a stray election corflute now atop a scarecrow keeping currawongs off the vines in our kitchen garden. He’s welcome to pop by anytime and help himself to table grapes, especially the more tart.

Cathy Bannister writes: As much as I’m loathe to stick up for Mr Fishnets, in this case he has a point. Julia Gillard on Wednesday, gloating about WorkChoices mouse pads, made my toes curl, and I’m someone who agrees wholeheartedly that WorkChoices was nothing short of evil. There is such a thing as winning with grace.

Mike Willoughby writes: I’ve never been a fan of the head prefect, but frankly I think your petty remarks about him missing question time, not to mention the inane persistence of the radio interviewer, indicated that it must really have been a bad day for news yesterday.

Jeff Ash writes: I expect my daily dose of left wing viewpoints in Crikey, but could the nameless hero that pens the editorial ease up on the Liberal bashing? There’s been quite enough Labor fodder to keep them busy this week that’s barely been touched.

AMI does give a fcuk!

Jack Vaisman, CEO, Advanced Medical Institute writes: Male s-xual dysfunction was a taboo subject in Australia when the Advanced Medical Institute first started advertising its services. It has since successfully treated thousands of men, who would have otherwise suffered in silence, battling depression and marriage breakups, and too embarrassed to talk to their GPs. Dr Stephen Downes (Wednesday) seems to argue yesterday that his right not to feel “uncomfortable” with AMI’s advertising is more important. There is far more explicit and confronting material being hurled at children. Even your headline used FCUK – a popular clothing brand, and your own media platform, the internet, is awash with it. AMI has a legitimate reason to mention s-x in its advertising because that is the medical issue it’s dealing with. It’s incorrect to suggest that the Advertising Standards Bureau doesn’t scrutinise this advertising, because last year AMI willingly withdraw an advertisement that unfortunately breached the code. AMI does not use sexually explicit advertising and it always aims to meet community standards set by the code. Surely the answer lies in parents taking responsibility for talking appropriately to their children when these issues arise, rather than censoring advertising about an important medical problem.

Interest rates, inflation and the RBA:

John Taylor writes: Re. “Kohler: it’s the debt economy, stupid” (yesterday, item 4). If Alan Kohler is correct and the RBA gets it wrong as often as it gets it right, why do we continue to allow them the enormous clout that they have in running the Australian economy? Interest rate rises have, to anyone who’s been watching, proved totally ineffective in reducing spending to control inflation (which can hardly be considered rampant at 3.6%). All the higher rates do is cause family distress to those who are the most unlikely to be contributing to the excess spending because every dollar they can find goes into keeping the home that they have mortgaged their future to buy. The Prime Minister, Mr. Rudd, speaks often about “working families”. If he’s serious in helping them he will curb the RBA’s interest setting authority before it destroys the fabric of his constituency. The fall in stock market values has probably slowed the spending of as many people as the interest rate rises and will not have caused as much pain in lost homes. If Alan Kohler’s correct the current interest rate setting regime will have us wallowing in recession by 2010, without our needing to concern ourselves whether the inflation rate is above 3%.

Barrie O’Shea writes: I wonder whether the RBA has modeled the effect of a 1% CUT in interest rates? Every interest rate increase in the current tightening cycle has been more than matched by increases in the value of the Australian dollar against the currencies of our major trading partners as currency traders make the most of the differences in interest rates. This has reduced the cost of imported goods, especially oil, and has meant that only those with borrowings are feeling the pain. Increasing the disparity between local and overseas interest rates will only exacerbate the problem. A short, sharp shock to the currency speculators could have a much more significant effect by decreasing the value of the Australian dollar and increasing the prices of imported goods. This would make exporters and the tourist industry more competitive. It would also spread the pain across the whole community. As Alan Kohler rightly points out, these debt stuffed chickens will soon come home to roost and our currency will suffer accordingly. It would be better to start the process now.

The ABC’s political coverage:

Luke Miller writes: Re. “The ABC gets off lightly at Senate Estimates” (yesterday, item 18). Further to your article on ABC bias in today’s Crikey, I ran “ABCwatch” during the last election. ABCwatch was an automated system that monitored the ABC’s politics RSS feed for key terms such as party names, party leaders and interesting battles (e.g. Bennelong). This feed provided all the election stories on the ABC news site and also many of the stories on radio and television. While the split between major parties was basically even, I believe the Democrats and Family First have legitimate reason to complain. Family First in particular was starved of coverage by the ABC. To redress the imbalance in political coverage, I believe the ABC should change its policy to 1/3 government, 1/3 official opposition and 1/3 independents and minor parties, instead of the current policy of only covering third parties and independents when they are “newsworthy”. However, the main evidence of bias by the ABC is not in politics, but in geography. The word Sydney appeared in political news stories three times as often as Melbourne, despite them having roughly the same population sizes and therefore an expectation of approximately equal coverage.

Section 501 of the migration act:

Re Wednesday, Item 10 “New immigration minister doesn’t want to play God”. Crikey asked Senator Evans’ office if he, or the department, will be reviewing Robert Jovicic’s two year special purpose visa with a view to reinstating his permanent residency. Media Adviser to Senator Chris Evans Simon Dowding writes:

Mr Jovovic’s case is under review. He currently has a visa which is valid until next year.

Guy Rundle on Kosovo, Obama and Euler’s constant:

Lizzie O’Shea writes: Re. “US08: New state sheds light on United States’ politics” (Tuesday, item 6). Right on Rundle! I’m not so sure that the differences in Clinton and Obama’s responses to Kosovar independence reflect any profound ideological divide. Clinton busts her ass to claim the “success” of NATO intervention in Kosovo, surprise surprise, Obama ignores it. Obama’s policy, after all, is that, had he been a Senator in 2003, he would have opposed the invasion of Iraq, but he would have supported the continuation of the Clinton legacy in Afghanistan. A convenient, yet still somewhat uncomfortable position – for left politicos, but also amongst right wing thinkers, given the nationalist political dynamic involved in the call to bring the troops home. A case by case approach to foreign conflicts is code for political self interest taking primacy. I seriously doubt that military humanitarianism would be off the books if Obama did decide to invade anywhere – North Africa especially. Am I a cynic? Or is Guy getting a touch of the old Obama fever?

John Boyd writes: Re. “US08: Obama riding the degrees of separation to victory” (yesterday, item 6). Very erudite, but I think the number rounded to 2.7 looks more like e, the base of natural or “Naperian” logarithms rather than Euler’s constant, generally written as the Greek letter gamma, with a value of 0.577218… Great article though…


Stan van de Wiel wrote: Re. “Re. “QF2 power failure “less serious than first reported”. Really?” (Wednesday, item 2). Meeting an aviation qualified friend off a QF flight on 15 December last year from Brisbane to Melbourne, I observed the crew inspecting the engines after landing. The aircraft had encountered a “birdstrike” departing Brisbane and the subsequent massive vibration in the cabin was the worst ever experienced by my friend. Naturally the aircraft continued on the flight, presumably on one engine. The aircraft had to be towed away for an engine change. No reports in the regular ATSB update though. But then again why “bite the hand that presumably feeds them”.

Cally Martin writes: Peter Wotton (yesterday, comments) wrote: “On a recent flight from San Francisco to Sydney, one of the toilets in business class in the bubble was out of service. I can remember some years ago when a simple flight to Melbourne from Sydney was delayed an hour because a fan in one of the rear toilets was not working. Earlier this week a flight from LA to Brisbane was cancelled (it should have arrived on Sunday) — 350 passengers were put into hotels for a flight the following day. What is the Qantas equivalent of ‘chance it with Ansett’?” Peter, as a former Ansett employee I can remember a few Qantas equivalents. The most memorable “Quite A Nice Trip, Any Survivors?”

David Hicks’ diary:

Matthew Weston writes: Re. “Crikey readers uncover lost diaries” (yesterday, item 13). Regarding David Hicks’ diary. So a diary needs artistic merit to be taken seriously? Did you read the excerpt you showed? Did you pay attention to the content? Such delightful ramblings such as the blast radius from the efflux when firing a rocket propelled grenade, notes on the mix of ingredients in high explosives, as well as the temperature of the blast? Aiming points on a tank, all the sorts of things that an average 8 year old is likely to record, or maybe, just maybe, they are details on how to kill people in a tank without killing yourself or your compatriots? And I note that you left out the pages mentioned in other media outlets that detail how to kill the 6 man security detail deployed globally for close VIP protection (another fascinating fact often discussed by 8 year olds in the playground). There is a huge amount of criticism that needs to be leveled at the treatment of David Hicks, but don’t window dress some of the truths about him. This book may not be a Rembrandt, but it does have a lot of detail to allow him and his former compatriots to kill people, soldiers, police whatever. The man is should not be beatified, even if, like many saints past, he has sinned before he was saved!

The new ABC logo:

Brett Davidson writes: Re. “The new ABC logo” (yesterday, comments). Good grief folks, get over it. I hope none of those who’ve been complaining about the distraction of the new ABC watermark ever drive a car. If a fixed object that partially covers such a small part of the screen demands your attention – to the extent that you cannot concentrate on the programs anymore – then how would you manage ignoring the inevitable insect smudge on your windscreen? No wonder it’s so frightening riding a bike on our roads.

The war on advertising standards:

Geoff Paine writes: Re. Simon Drimer (yesterday, comments), who’s in pursuit of consumer liberation in the face of poor advertising standards. Simon, I’m in. if you’re looking for volunteers to fight the good fight against crap advertising, there’s a few of us out there ready to FCUK things up for them.


John Hughes writes: Does anyone in the Crikey Army know how I can get my fingers on a WorkChoices fridge magnet? I’ve been scarred for years after not receiving my anti-terrorism fridge magnet. I need redress…

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