Peter Simpson, General Manager of the Manildra Group, writes: Re. “Manildra’s fuel ethanol grant will increase inflation” (yesterday, item 15). I refer to your article in yesterday’s edition. This company does not as a general rule respond to allegations from anonymous informants particularly when such allegations are absolutely false. However the following points will serve to correct the factual errors contained in the points raised by your anonymous informant:

Biofuels Grant: Manildra does not retain the ethanol producer’s credit of 38.143 cents per litre. Not less than 112.5 per cent of this producer’s credit is returned to major oil companies and fuel wholesalers to pass on to Australian motorists. In other words 100 per cent of the Government subsidy paid by taxpayers is returned to the motorist together with another 12.5 per cent paid by Manildra It is for this reason that ethanol blended fuel is able to be sold cheaper at the petrol pump. Additionally, whilst it is true at the moment that this company produces the major part of Australia’s ethanol production, there are a number of new plants on the drawing board as well as other plants already in production. For example, Department of Industry, Tourism and Resources data shows that in 2006/2007, the total volume of ethanol claimed by producers Australia wide under the Ethanol Production Grants Program amounted to around 83.5 million litres of which around 53 million litres were claimed by Manildra. That is, Manildra only claimed 63 per cent of the total subsidy claimed.

Balance of Statements: Manildra does not import tapioca chips and has no intention of doing so. Corn starch imported by Manildra is used for the manufacture of modified products other than ethanol. Manildra is not sending sugar from the Harwood sugar refinery to Nowra.

I will not make further comment on this or the other statements made by your informant as frankly they do not make a lot of sense. I trust that in the interests of fairness you will publish this reply in today’s edition.

What a disgrace, Crikey:

Mark Alexander-Erber, founder and CEO of the PUBBOY Group of Companies, writes: Re. “Pubboy collapses, BRW redfaced” (18 February, item 20). What a disgrace! I have worked my ass off for 11 years building up my business and have recently restructured and wow!, if you read your article I must be living on the street eating dog food. How can you print such crap with no real information? Who is Adam Schwab? Get him to send me an email and I would be happy fill him in with the truth but he may not like that as it isn’t a story. How can you publish those emails from so called ex-staff? It’s a shame as I don’t mind Crikey… but get your facts straight.

Glenn Milne and Peter Costello:

George Penney writes: Re. “Peter Costello: My Part In His Downfall, by Glenn Milne” (yesterday, item 2). Regarding Bernard Keane’s comments that: “There was nothing in John Howard’s entire career that ever suggested he would stand down from the Prime Ministership”. That may be true but there was plenty in John Howard’s career to suggest that he would be prepared to make a deal to vacate the Liberal party leadership after a term and a half to maximize his chances of winning, then renege when the time came.

David Lenihan writes: The amazing life and times of Glenn Milne. Refugee from late night binges, would-be sparring partner for Sylvester Stallone, hair stylists nightmare, potential recipient of ding dong fanciful writing award, self proclaimed Cossie confidant and muckraker supremo. All qualifications that are symbolic of Mr Milne’s ongoing contribution to making an ass of himself.

Steve Martin writes: You can put me down as a Howard hater who is more than pleased to see the back of the former PM; but where are all his cheer squad these days, almost everyone criticises him now, the latest being the Business Council of Australia, for his spendthrift ways, and missed opportunities for the country? Isn’t it amazing how everyone is rushing to get on side with the new government? It’s a pity that some of these critics didn’t have the stomach to take him on in the past, (with particular reference to Peter Costello).

The Wong decision is right:

Geoff Russell writes: Ken Lambert (yesterday, comments) can put as many wrongs and Wongs as he likes in a sentence, but it doesn’t make it right. If someone offered to donate a bunch of nuclear power stations to Australia, then I’d think the offer worthy of consideration. But we have to pay for it. How do we pay for really big things shipped in from overseas? We dig up more coal, make more aluminum or produce more beef and dairy products – all of which are a greenhouse disaster. So I reckon the Wong decision is right after all.

Bruce Graham writes: In suggesting that photovoltaic cells are net energy negative, Ken Lambert is about 25 years out of date, and is punching a straw man. Photovoltaics are both highly energy positive, and increasingly important commercially, but are limited by supply. The more important point, though, is that solar thermal systems are cheaper, and are able to store energy for electricity generation at night. For some strange reason, nuclear advocates choose to ignore the observation that Australia, has vast amounts of unused and extremely reliable sunlight, but Mr Lambert seems almost delusional in suggesting that there is not enough sunlight to go around. Moderately sized solar thermal electricity generation systems are in use, and more are being built. The only one under construction in Australia is a small (10MW) installation in Cloncurry (Queensland). Isolated inland towns are prime sites where solar thermal power is cheaper than local fossil fuel powered generation, and both cheaper and more reliable than long distance supply through high tension lines. Twenty years ago, nuclear power was truly the only available alternative to coal. That time is past. The industry never found an economic way to dispose of waste, and so ignored it in their costings. ‘”Clean coal” is an uneconomic non starter. Commercial solar power is available now.

Margaret Dingle writes: Ken Lambert’s comments about using fossil fuel to produce renewable energy is a dangerous half (or quarter) truth. At present (since I believe the “Solar Breeder” in the US ceased operating) fossil fuel is used for energy to manufacture solar cells, wind turbines etc, but wind generators produce as much power as was used to make them within a few months and even solar arrays using mono-crystalline silicon solar cells pay back their energy use within a few years, long before the system ceases operating. When renewable energy becomes more widespread the use of fossil fuel to produce equipment will no longer be necessary. I agree about ethanol from corn, however. There is a case for producing biofuels from crop wastes, and in some cases from trees, if the trees produce a benefit for other reasons, e.g., oil mallee hedgerows, which also serve as windbreaks, provide habitat for wildlife, reduce erosion and shelter stock. Production of biofuels should be evaluated on a case by case basis, with effects on the environment and food production taken into account. Felling tropical forests to grow palm oil is an obvious case where production of biofuels is damaging.

Kieren Diment writes: Ken Lambert wrote: “Burn more fossil fuel than you need to so you can get less back from a wind powered solar panel!” That stinks. Ken, have you got some figures to back that up? There are obviously problems with CO2 accounting (e.g. my recent submission to the ACCC re some billboard advertising BP were doing around Sydney), but cheap rhetoric won’t get to the bottom of the problem, so put up or shut up. By the way, plants are exclusively solar powered, and they manage to generate enough energy in the day time to keep themselves going at night. If we’re lucky and we haven’t missed the CO2 and peak oil boats, we might be able to invest in technology quickly enough that humanity gets an easy solution like that (let’s brush the ecological problems under the carpet for now). Personally with a family of 2 young kids I give it 50/50. The question is, do I feel lucky?

Garnaut and nuclear power:

Marlene Hodder writes: I can’t believe people are still spouting nuclear energy as the answer to this country’s (and the worlds) climate change/energy crisis problem. To think it is a quick solution, for one thing, is wrong. To think it is greenhouse friendly is quite erroneous as the amount of water and carbon-emitting energy required in the extraction and processing of uranium is exorbitant (check Olympic Dam, SA). The issue of long term storage of nuclear waste has still not been resolved anywhere in the world. The issue of nuclear proliferation is a relevant one. Governments, planners and people need to become a great deal more informed, educated and willing to take the short term and longer term steps to reduce carbon emissions and live in a cleaner, less wasteful way in our consumer-driven “buy one and get one free” world.

Mark Byrne writes: The urgency of rapid deep cuts to greenhouse emission called for in Professor Garnaut’s review makes the case for nuclear power less feasible. Garnaut calls for a peaking of emission by 2010 and rapid reductions thereafter to reach 80% cuts by 2050. The limited emission reductions possible with nuclear power are too slow compared with the timescales highlighted by Garnaut. The lead times necessary for the planning and construction of nuclear power plants would take us well into the next decade. In addition, once up and running, each nuclear plant must operate for 6 to 14 years to payback the energy inputs. Plainly nuclear power cannot deliver the 50% cuts called for by 2030. Contrary to the assertions of some nuclear advocates, renewables actually have a faster energy payback time than nuclear. Wind turbines payback their energy inputs in less than one year. Even solar PV cells, the most energy intense renewable, has a better Energy Pay Back Time (EPBT) than nuclear. Solar cell energy payback has dropped from 8 years in the 1990s to less than 3 years with current thin-film technology. Sliver cells in current development will reduce this even further. For renewables energy payback time is low and rapidly dropping, for nuclear it is high and set to worsen as the richest uranium ores are consumed.

MacCormack revealed, what about Flint?

Kevin Tyerman writes: Now that Crikey has revealed that David MacCormack is not the former frontman of Brisbane pop group “Custard” following in the footsteps of ex-wife Emma Tom, and that Crikey uses the names of minor celebrities as aliases for it’s writers, will Crikey now be revealing who the left-wing satirist was who spent much of last year signing articles as “David Flint”. Flint proved to have an ability to use right-wing terminology in such a way as to render it hilariously meaningless, and finished the year on a high by using “logic” to argue that now that Kevin Rudd had won the election using me-tooism, he had a mandate from the people of Australia to specifically carry on the policies of the Howard Government. Hilarious stuff indeed, and as far as left-wing satirists go, David Flint was certainly among the elite.

Ralph Nader:

Chris May writes: Re. “US08 media wrap: Hillary crashing, Nader cashing in” (yesterday, item 16). The somewhat tedious US pre-selection process is where a whole lot of stupid people get to choose between Tweedledum and Tweedledummer – there being no discernable difference between the two main parties. Ralph Nader is the only real hope of a desperately needed about-face. He won’t get in of course and, even if he did, wouldn’t be allowed to do anything, so it’s just more of the same until the US self-destructs. If it hasn’t already.

SBS advertising:

Darce Cassidy, Secretary, Save Our SBS, writes: Re. “SBS’s “ad islands” are an inconvenient truth for Senator Conroy” (Friday, item 23). Glenn Dyer’s suggestion that a ban on interrupting SBS programs with advertisements will cost the organisation between “$5.5 million and more than $10 million a year extra” is exaggerated. SBS CEO Shaun Brown told Senate Estimates that the additional $5.5 million earned in the past, and the additional advertising income projected for the current year were gross figures. He mentioned that the SBS advertising agency took some 20% of the gross. To ascertain the true net value of the advertising income it may also be necessary to deduct from the gross figure the salaries and oncosts of those SBS staff whose job entails organising the program interruptions.

Ned Lander writes: I am writing to clarify my position at SBS. I am partial to growing a few tomatoes but I am not on “gardening leave” as one writer so quaintly put it. Late last year I decided to step down from the position of General Manager, SBS Independent, with the intention of returning to a closer relationship to production. (Prior to joining SBS in 2001, I was an independent filmmaker for over twenty-five years, producing features such as Radiance and documentaries such as the Logie winning 50 Years of Silence.) I am thrilled with the success of the work that I and my Commissioning Editors have overseen at SBS under both Shaun Brown as the former Head of Television and Matt Campbell as the Director of Television and Online Content. I also firmly believe that it is good practice for the network to renew commissioners on a regular basis. Over six years, I had been Senior Commissioning Editor Factual, Deputy General Manager SBSi, Acting General Manager SBSi and General Manager SBSi. It is in the interests of both of our audiences and the industry for these key commissioning positions to turn over regularly. SBS have responded generously by offering me a first look arrangement in relation to new work I develop. New projects can take several years to come to fruition, so I was very pleased to be asked to continue to act as an Executive Producer for SBS overseeing a number of significant commissions. These include Who Do You Think You Are series 2 which is currently financing and a second series of The Circuit. I continue to look after the major indigenous documentary history series, First Australians. I work closely with Matt Campbell and the new Manager of Commissioned Content, Denise Eriksen. (Incidentally, Denise’s beautiful ABC series Choir of Hard Knocks is one of the most moving pieces of television I have seen.) Shaun Brown and Matt Campbell have fully supported all the series I’ve mentioned and on a personal level, Shaun is a huge fan of Who Do You Think You Are. Whilst I have a significant slate of around 25 hours of top quality SBS drama and documentary productions, I now also have a little time to start developing new projects of my own. Naturally there has been the occasional difference of opinion between myself and other executives at SBS – it would be unrealistic to imagine that this would not occur between creative individuals who hold passionate views. Ultimately it is the work we commission on which we should be judged. SBS should be applauded for continuing to commission many of the most exciting programmes on Australian television and an extraordinary amount of top quality Australian drama. Audiences have registered their approval – it would be great to see the industry also get behind SBS on the same basis.

Binge drinking:

Prof Simon Chapman, School of Public Health, University of Sydney, writes: Re. “Drink less but worry more” (yesterday, item 10). Richard Farmer thinks Rudd is off-target by saying Australia has a binge drinking problem. Farmer provides data on annual adult per capita alcohol consumption, concluding “There has been virtually no increase in per capita alcohol income over the last decade.” An increase in binge drinking, which has been increasingly documented by drug and alcohol researchers, is not incompatible with a plateauing in total alcohol consumption. Farmer’s website tells us he’s the “Architect of Victory”. He once assisted Rothmans launch a 10 day wonder brand called “Freedom” in 1995. The website says that he has “worked” as a lobbyist for brewers. Is he still working as their errand boy? If so, can we have a competing interest statement next time he runs their lines?

ABC logo:

Tony Barrell writes: Terence Hogan (yesterday, comments) has at last put the finger on the ABC logo dilemma: too many messages. Either ABC 1 or the worm and a 1. But no, they just can’t trust us to not get it wrong.

Rog Cooper writes: Before the ABC fix up the “design mistake” of their new hideous logo, could they fix up an even more annoying “design mistake”. Namely the graphics on Gardening Australia showing the sun travelling from west to east.

Genesis of the next Liberal PM:

John Goldbaum writes: In the Beginning there was Brendan, and in the Middle there was Malcolm, but in the End there was only Christopher and He was Created the next Liberal prime minister.

  1. In the Beginning, Brendan created the Heavenly mirth.
  2. And the mirth was the norm, and darkness was upon the face of the sheep.
  3. And the sheep said, Let there be Malcolm: and there was Malcolm.
  4. And Malcolm saw the light at the end of the tunnel.
  5. But the tunnel was long, and after six long years He was still in the tunnel.
  6. And Malcolm was the first opposition leader to have a Seniors card.
  7. And Malcolm’s travel allowance seemed a pittance compared with His dry cleaning and movie discounts not to mention the savings on His bus travel.
  8. And the sheep turned, for Malcolm was too old to be of any more use.
  9. And they Pyned for a leader who was not yet fifty years of age, so they Created Christopher the Young.
  10. And in the seventh year, Young Christopher Pyne began to climb His Everest.

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Peter Fray

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