Howard, Rudd and the cult of personality:

Robin Wingrove writes: Re. Yesterday’s editorial. What I find totally amazing about the Howard phenomena is the following: A party that supposedly has as its core value its devotion to each person’s individuality totally and absolutely abnegated their own individuality, beliefs etc in their devotion and following of their leader; A country that prides itself on the above virtues practically did the same for 11 years. Those that didn’t were known as “Howard Haters” or were ignored as they didn’t follow the mainstream as perceived by the ex leader; The media, which should be extolling these virtues of individuality and freedom of thought extolled the virtues of this leader and mirrored his prejudices, some even doing so to this day. If it wasn’t so frightening (devotion to the cult of the leader) then it would be a joke. What is even more amazing is that we have a different version of it with Rudd. It’s bloody unhealthy.

Lynne Blake writes: Crikey wrote: “… an entire country was bent to the ideas and prejudices of just one man. Amazing.” And now you try to bend a nation’s beliefs to those of your own? Yes it was amazing that one man had the courage of his convictions, had the courage to stand up for what he believed in and more importantly what he believed was best for the people of this amazing country – for Australia! That the spineless twits occupying these positions now do not have the courage is not an indictment on John Howard it is an indictment on those who do not have the courage of their convictions – are so busy trying to swing the voters back to “like them”, they have completely lost track of what matters and what matters to the people of this fine country! Before you criticise John, take a close look at the spineless lot left! And then watch the total devastation that follows in the wake of this Labor Government as the good times we have come to take for granted are slowly but surely eroded away until we are back in debt, as a nation and individually… tighten your belts Australia – Labor is here!

Paul Byard writes: What’s truly scary, and a terrible indictment of our system of “democracy”, is that for 11 years the political dialogue of Australia was bent to the ideas and prejudices of just one man’s wife.

Jeremy Bath writes: Newsflash. A majority of Australians decided John Howard was no longer our PM of choice on November 24 last year. Even his local electorate decided they wanted to give someone else a go. Why can’t Crikey move on like the rest of us?

Kyoto and climate change:

Peter Wood writes: Re. “Kyoto: What exactly have we done so far?” (Yesterday, item 3). The Australian Government has now released its initial report under the Kyoto Protocol. According to this report, Australia has not elected to account for any activities under Article 3.4 of the Kyoto Protocol. Article 3.4 allows for activities such as forest management and grazeland management. Because these activities are not included it means that when we log forests, then provided that some sort of forest grows back, the emissions will not be included as part of our greenhouse accounts, even if the forest that grows back does not store as much carbon as before. This effectively means that none of the old growth forests logged in Tasmania will count towards Australia’s greenhouse accounts

Barrie O’Shea writes: Crikey needs to do some serious research into hybrids. These vehicles are vastly more costly to the environment in their production and recycling than “ordinary” cars. History will judge them as a technological dead end. They are powered by petrol and ONLY petrol. They do not have some magic ingredient that enables them to ignore the laws of physics. Overseas research is showing that they rank well behind many other vehicles in their total impact on the environment. Put the public servants into small diesels with particulate filters, not into hybrids. If the Rudd government wants some quick and useful measures to really help the environment, try basing vehicle FBT and registration charges on carbon emissions as in Europe and removing the 5% tariff preference on 4WDs. As some 50% of a vehicles lifetime energy usage is incurred in its production, set an example by keeping vehicles for five or six years rather than the current two to three years. Now that we have wall to wall Labor governments, Rudd should be pushing the States to put more money into public transport and less into freeways.

Peter Clarke writes: Why not be part of the crusade against the climate change industry? Because an industry is exactly what it is. Millions being made out of “research” and the resulting reports and even more out of the publicity and sales opportunities that follow. And don’t forget all the “green tax” benefits of the world’s governments. As usual, follow the money. Global warming is promoted by the same group, the scientists, who only 25 years ago were warning us of a new Ice Age! And there hasn’t been much reporting of the fact that Mars has warmed up by 2 degrees centigrade since the 1970s. I don’t think humans quite arrogant enough to claim credit for that!

John Seip writes: I see no sense in your writers wasting precious time and space on such an unprecedented fake subject as climate change. It will vanish as fast as it arrived — in the wake of the absurd Y2K bug — to be replaced by yet another fraudulent scare campaign, providing occupational therapy for such loud mouthed professional unemployable and unproductive parasites as Al Gore and Peter Garrett.

Adam Rope writes: Re. “Debunking climate change on Commonwealth Day” (Tuesday, item 18). I wonder if the assembled Commonwealth Day dignitaries were really “shaken out of their complacency on climate change.” David Flint. I am sure Ian Plimer is solid in his science and firm in his beliefs, but many other equally qualified scientists have reached different conclusions – which is what scientists do, examine evidence, make experiments, and reach a conclusion based on their own research. I am also sure the majority of scientists are well aware we live on a dynamic planet – even though plate tectonics is still a relatively new branch of Geology. And yes, change, geologically speaking, is inevitable. But given mankind’s extremely short time span against that of our planet – several thousand against 4.5 billion years – and especially the impact we, as a species, have had in the last 200 years of industrial revolution, then one logical conclusion is that mankind has potentially effected the rate of that change.

Brendan Nelson:

John Goldbaum writes: Re. “Nelson goes the censure, but what’s the point?” (Yesterday, item 8). The problem with Brendan Nelson is that he is prepared to prost-tute his beliefs in order to further his ambition. One only needs to look back to this medical scientist’s support for the inclusion of intelligent design in the science curriculum when he was education minister for proof of this statement. Watching his face turn red while invoking God in yesterday’s censure motion made me realise he’s out of control and has lost the plot. Shouting doesn’t win the argument but children continue to shout nevertheless. The front page of today’s Wentworth Courier is spot on in saying the leadership is Malcolm Turnbull’s whenever he wants it.

The ABC expands:

Julie Posetti writes: Re. “Auntie expands: coming soon, ABC8!” (Yesterday, item 2). Margaret Simons wrote: “Meanwhile another new service is under construction – a 24/7 news service, initially providing content to all other parts of the ABC. However, it is clear that this is preliminary to offering the service direct to the audience online and via digital television, meaning that Auntie will be giving Sky News a run for its money.” Err…it’s not the first time Auntie has dipped her toe into the 24 hours news scene. Anyone remember that little disaster called TNC (The News Channel) which the ABC ventured into with CNN, Rupert Murdoch et al way back in 1995? It was a classic ABC stuff-up: David Hill’s vision left with him and someone forgot to get Rupert to sign the paperwork before the money was spent and the staff were on site. They also forgot to get the support of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance and many ABC staff were hostile to the venture. But, here’s wishing Auntie all the best as she tries again – 13 years later – to enter the now mature 24/7 TV news environment. It’s a long overdue move. And, let’s hope the ABC’s more than able to give Sky News a real “run for its money”.

Binge drinking:

Doug Pollard writes: Re. “Rudd’s binge crusade: footballers first” (Tuesday, item 2). The culture of binge drinking would be much easier to tackle with New England style “grog shop” laws. In that US state, the last person to serve alcohol to someone who then commits a crime is equally guilty of that crime, and subject to the same penalty. About time we had that law in the City of Melbourne too. We are far too tolerant of drug dealers when the drug they sell is alcohol.

Joe Hockey:

Livinia Power writes: I must comment on the letter from Peter Lloyd (yesterday, comments) advocating that Joe Hockey be parachuted into the state opposition leadership position. Really? This is the same man who after the federal election defeat of his party asked how long the Liberals had been getting bad polls and even asked why the Liberals had not been told about the bad polling. One wondered at that time what planet the man had been living on in the lead up to the election. Furthermore, same man again who now openly states that Liberal MPs who allowed the so called WorkChoices laws to be rushed through the Senate, had no clue that these laws might hurt workers or take their entitlements away. Hardly leadership material. Mr. Hockey now appears to be a serial nitpicker in Question Time, lurching to his feet to object to just about everything said by the Government and calling up questionable points of order totally unnecessarily. Putting Hockey in a leadership position would ensure his party remains in opposition for the foreseeable future, methinks.


John S Dowden, Editor of Australian Prescriber, writes: Re. “Crikey essay: The fiction of impartial Australian science” (yesterday, item 5). Science is not only under threat from commercial interests, but also from legal intrusions into the publication of research results. An editorial in Science reports that lawyers acting for a multinational drug company are seeking access to the files of the New England Journal of Medicine. They want to examine the confidential reviews of some of the journal’s articles which are now being quoted in product liability lawsuits against the company’s products. Editors of scientific journals use peer review to help them decide which papers to publish. Submitted papers are sent to expert reviewers to give an independent assessment of the papers’ scientific merit. Most journals use “blinded” or “masked” peer review so that the author does not know who has refereed the paper. Reviewers can criticise the papers without fear of damaging any relationship with the authors who may be professional colleagues. Although anonymous peer review is not a guarantee against the publication of questionable research results, it is accepted as standard practice. Most scientists consider refereeing articles to be part of their role and they often do this without any payment. If reviewers can be unmasked by legal proceedings they may be less willing to give critical opinions freely. A similar attempt to seize confidential reviews a decade ago failed (Subpoenas and Science-When lawyers force their way into the laboratory). Science editors everywhere will be hoping that this year’s subpoena is also quashed.


Andrew Spiers writes: Joseph Palmer’s letter regarding youth hostels (yesterday, comments) is offensive and ignorant. I have stayed at many youth hostels in Australia and overseas and have always found them to be friendly, calm, and peaceful. Many people would be distressed and a valuable part of the tourist industry crushed if Joseph had his raving way.

Gavin Robertson writes: “A lot people would be happy if backpacker tourism was stopped and all hostels were closed” wrote Joseph Palmer. That group presumably won’t include the “nearly one in ten working Australians (who) rely on the tourism industry for their livelihood”.

The razor’s edge:

Bill Brady writes: Re. “Carers and politics” (yesterday, comments). Reading about the razor gang cutting the money for carers and pensioners it is disgusting, I think it would be better and I am sure the people of this country would agree it would be far better if all the money ex politicians get for there offices and free travel and other expenses they get was cut off, considering it is the taxpayer who is paying for it. These people are no longer politicians so why should they get all these extras, they do not need this money as they are all well heeled, and some of them were useless whilst serving in parliament, It is nothing but a rip off and I am sure if a vote was taken it would be 100% against these ex politicians getting what they get at the taxpayers expense.

Martin Gordon writes: I was surprised when David Lenihan and Alexandra Penfold (yesterday, comments) took issue with my comment on the demographics and the politics of the population. Alexandra is correct about why carers are carers. Basically support for non-Labor party’s increases with age, any opinion polls will show a basic incline over the age profile in support for the Coalition Parties in Australia. With carers and pensioners the criticality of this older demographic to the Coalition was demonstrated by the beneficial changes the Coalition bestowed on them over the last 11 years, the bonuses, indexation increases, compensation for tax reform and seniors health care cards and some beneficial carers changes etc. The Labor Party has less to lose as they have fewer supporters in this age cohort and also this carer and pensioner profile. Whilst these people may be enraged the impact on a changed voting pattern is small as they have a short life expectancy. If it sounds cynical I suggest you seek advice from your states respective ALP Headquarters. They might express soothing noises but the campaign logic is pretty sound.


Mary Sinclair writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (yesterday, item 7). Crikey published: “Is our new PM prone to plagiarism? Seems so. He talks endlessly about ‘working families’.” There is a simpler explanation: Perhaps there’s only so many ways you can express a concept, especially when you are a politician. We elected our government to govern and not to win the Noble Prize for Literature. If they can govern well and honestly, do we really mind they speak banal, trite clichéd phrases?

Steve Johnson write: The top secret “mole” who provided their shocking evidence has been whingeing about Kevin Rudd’s plagiarism in the form of “working families” (Bill Clinton) and “turning a new page” (Barack Obama) and even … hang on … I have just heard that the complainer might be Bill Heffernan. Sorry to waste your time … carry on, then. “Turn a new leaf” and stick to a “level playing field” and just “collect the low hanging fruit”. Crikey! We don’t want to “boil the ocean” here. Jeez.


Paul Hampton-Smith writes: Re. “Throwing in the Towle at tragedy” (Tuesday, item 16). A test of consistency and impartiality of courts is to contemplate whether ten trials with the same defendant and charges, but different defence, prosecution, judge or jury in each case, would come up with more or less the same result. Peter Wilms’ reassurance that Justice Philip Cummins is a “hanging” judge who is more likely to dish up a maximum sentence is a disturbing example of how this test fails. So too is the common idea that one needs to secure “a good lawyer” in order to maximise the chance of walking free. Justice is served, on average, and particularly if you’re rich, or lucky.

Melbourne Grand Prix:

Tony Wheeler writes: In a few years time, when the world economic centre of gravity has shifted to China and India, will the Europeans have to run all their Grands Prix in the middle of the night so it fits in better with Beijing time (and by the way ours?).

Send your comments, corrections, clarifications and c*ck-ups to [email protected]. Preference will be given to comments that are short and succinct: maximum length is 200 words (we reserve the right to edit comments for length). Please include your full name – we won’t publish comments anonymously unless there is a very good reason.

Peter Fray

Save 50% on a year of Crikey and The Atlantic.

The US election is in a little over a month. It seems that there’s a ridiculous twist in the story, almost every day.

Luckily for new Crikey subscribers, we’ve teamed up with one of America’s best publications, The Atlantic for the election race. Subscribe now to make sense of it all, and you’ll get a year of Crikey (usually $199) and a year’s digital subscription to The Atlantic (usually $70AUD), BOTH for just $129.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey