The idealistic and angry Brendan Nelson:

David Liberts writes: Re. “Brendan Nelson: idealistic and angry” (yesterday, item 4). Bernard Keane’s comparison of Brendon Nelson with Kim Beazley is interesting, but Simon Crean is probably the better comparison for Dr Nelson. Not only is he destined to never get the top job, but everybody on both sides of politics knows it. Meanwhile, Dr Nelson could do much worse than reflect on the Crean legacy. As unlikely as he seemed as Opposition Leader and alternative PM, Crean embarked on reforming the ALP and redefining the role of unions within the party. Only a few years later, with the unions still on-side despite reduced influence, Labor swept to power. Nelson should consider the state of the Liberal Party, and particularly the influence of the Right. Reducing the power of the conservatives and restoring the party’s moderate wing, as well as renewing its relationship with the business sector, could go a long way to re-establishing the Liberals’ relationship with the electorate.

Vincent Burke writes: I watched Brendan Nelson’s address to the National Press Club on Tuesday, with the same kind of reluctant compulsion with which I occasionally get mesmerised by The Bold and the Beautiful, (could Brendan take over the role of Ridge perhaps?) while waiting for the Channel 10 News. Nelson’s speech was laced with the confected emotion and anger so frequently seen in the daytime soaps. Throughout his address, a voice kept asking me “Have all these things that upset him so much happened in the last 3-4 months?” As your Canberra correspondent rightly asks, where has he been for the last 11 years? It’s actually very hard to take him seriously, but I did wonder whether (to coin the ever-repeated question of Opposition members) does the new Leader of the Opposition really understand why his Government lost office?

John Goldbaum writes: Dr Nelson hasn’t seen as much human misery as he claims. He was only a GP for 10 years and when he was AMA president, for the last two years of the ten he claims on his CV, he was a full-time president and a zero-time clinician. During four of his middle GP years, he ran an entrepreneurial after-hours service rather than a hands-on full-time practice. He’s practised politics longer than medicine. He’s no Mother Teresa!

David Markham writes: Brendan Nelson may be right that I will have to get used to him sitting in a gutter with a young man at 3am, although I would have thought Milton Orkopoulos would advise that this could lead to misunderstandings. But what of the poor young man? There he is, minding his own business in the wee small hours, and Brendan shows up. Can’t we get away from pollies anywhere?

Chequebook journalism and bad news:

Venise Alstergren writes: Re. “New lows in chequebook journalism — a Crikey list” (Tuesday, item 17). The stench arising from chequebook journalism is as odious as it is numerous. The thing that fascinates me is that for some reason New Idea is particularly loathsome. Is it because I expect tabloid journalism to be blatant and shonky and one of the reasons I won’t watch the commercial channels’ news and opinions is because I know they report the dregs of the days happenings and breathlessly palm it off to the mean -witted as being an analysis of the news. Where on earth did this craze develop? Is there anything the readers of this sleaze will not believe? It might have started out as a joke but oh Christ has it got serious. What on earth can be done about the problem?

Deborah Hurst writes: Re. Yesterday’s editorial. Why is the slow, agonising death of TV network news and the unhappiness of journalists somehow linked? Surely the demise of ridiculous “news” services should be celebrated? While big media try to out-compete each other to boast the most glossy, glitzy, showbizzy news service out there, they fail to realise that people are still switching off in droves, particularly those under 30. The growing popularity of programs such as The Chaser in Australia and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report in the US clearly demonstrate that news and current affairs programs should be presented intelligently and fearlessly. Viewers don’t need glamorous hosts, flashy sets, ticker tape headlines and feel-good stories but do like to be informed through good writing, clever links to related news stories, and informative debate. Surely this kind of trend should make journalists everywhere absolutely ecstatic?

The US election:

Roger Fry writes: Re. “US08: Supreme Court embraces America’s necrocracy” (yesterday, item 6). Crikey is not alone on the Australian media scene in publishing a lot of material on the US primaries. And today, Guy Rundle gets another batch of praise and approval for his coverage – praise most Crikey readers support, I imagine… For me it’s all a non-event. This is not the US election – just the skirmishing and posturing of the preliminary stages. There has been much reporting on people who will not be candidates for president. I can’t see how any of this affects Australia until we have the actual presidential election and a winner. Then we will know if our lives will be affected and we will have something to talk about. The only explanation for this over reporting as I see it is that Crikey doesn’t like Bush, and the heavy coverage is to paint a picture of his outstanding Democrat opponents in the primaries, alongside a Republican contender presented as a silly old man, rather than the heroic true believer which he is.

Tibet:

Nick Shimmin writes: Re. “Trouble in Shangri La: The latest on Tibet” (yesterday, item 10). How tiresome can the bleeding heart West get when repeating their anti-Chinese propaganda about Tibet? The comprehensive swallowing of the “big bad China, poor little Tibetans” polarity is so stupid and superficial it is astonishing how completely it is uncritically accepted. How much of the pre-Chinese “oppressed Tibetan culture” would these caring Westerners like to preserve? I’m sure you’d like to pick and choose, but if you’re serious about preserving the old Tibetan culture, you’d really have to advocate a return to the peasant/slave theocracy dominated by the monasteries. Read a bit of history before you jump on the issue du jour. What exactly would you like or expect the Chinese to do when the capital of one of their largest provinces is being laid waste in a calculated and staged assault by Western-backed agitators?

Patel:

Anton Goodrick writes: Re. “Mokbel cries foul, but it’s Patel who should worry” (yesterday, item 18). Congratulations. You are typical of the glorified media contingent who believes it has the right and duty to elicit every exposure in your own small part of the world. Maybe you could put some facts in you article on what Patel has done – in the US and Australia before you give his US lawyers High court precedent to back up their case. Not helpful.

Renewable energy:

Mark Byrne writes: Re. “Reading the fine print on emissions trading” (yesterday, item 11). Guy Pearse’s article (Reading the fine print on emissions trading) is most timely. It is deeply concerning, but not surprising, that the “Greenhouse Mafia” are working to undermine the Mandatory Renewable Energy quota. The MRET has been successful in rapidly growing the proportion of clean energy in Australia; so successful that its quotas were filled earlier than predicted and ought to now be greatly extended. If we take up the challenging task of stabilizing atmospheric greenhouse concentrations below dangerous tipping points, then it would be wise to not depend on one carbon reduction-mechanism alone. Multiple mechanisms can run in parallel. Some mechanisms to prohibit or limit certain activity (taxing and prohibition etc.). Other mechanisms to promote activity (subsidies, quota, infrastructure etc). And regulation to enable markets for rationing emissions. There are varying levels of uncertainty with each mechanism, but the most uncertainty in “real reductions” lie in the shadows behind carbon trading. Given the scale of risk it is logical to hedge our bets. If we were manoeuvred into picking just one mechanism than carbon trading would potentially be the mechanism most susceptible to manipulation and perverse outcomes.

Arthur C Clarke:

Stilgherrian writes: Re. “Remembering the Space Age: Arthur C Clarke dead at 90” (yesterday, item 5). OK, I screwed up. The Kubrick/Clarke film 2001: A Space Odyssey was originally planned for a 1966 release, but there were delays. I was, indeed, released in 1968.

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

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