Earth Hour:

Shirley Colless writes: Re. “Earth Hour just another innocent fad” (yesterday, item 6). So I turn my lights off for an hour. Do I also turn off the power, because during that hour I could be running my hot water service, my refrigerator, my TV, my computer, my radio, boiling the jug for a cuppa — whatever. So what is the saving? And anyway, I found Earth Hour last year a total shonk. We were told we could go out into our gardens and see the stars. Not at North Sydney, I couldn’t, with the street lights, traffic lights, rooftop and street business identification signs and still a lot of office buildings burning away brightly. And it’s still daylight saving, so it won’t be all that dark anyway at 8pm. If I want to see more of the stars than I usually do at North Sydney, then I’ll head for the rellos’ farms out Gulargambone way. Now there are stars, for you. But I’ll still turn off the lights, what the heck, go out into the garden and risk the mozzies for an hour. I could probably read a book by the street lights.

Steve Wilson writes: Finally someone trying to pop the balloon that is Earth Hour! One fact Michael Pascoe omitted is that while there might be less energy consumed, the same amount of energy must still be produced. And that’s where most of the greenhouse gases are emitted. Energy companies can’t just turn off their equipment for an hour — they need to keep producing. So it doesn’t matter if we turn our lights off, or leave them glowing on Saturday — electricity will still be produced so greenhouse gases will still be emitted. But at least we will all feel like we’re doing something.

From Tampa refugee to Kiwi spelling whiz:

James McDonald writes: Re. “From Tampa refugee to Kiwi spelling whiz” (yesterday, item 2). Afghani refugee Abbas Nazari deserves an award for diplomacy as well as spelling. Excusing Australia for our treatment of him and his fellow refugees during the Tampa affair, Abbas says “the whole thing occurred around 9/11, the Australian government had its reasons …”. The lad has a big heart if he can forgive us for our disgraceful treatment of him and others in that boat. But there’s a small problem with our excuse. The Tampa rescued Abbas and fellow refugees from a sinking Indonesian boat on 26 August 2001. SAS occupied the Tampa on 29 August. John Howard tabled the Border Protection Bill 2001 on the same day. By 6 September the Norwegian ship was being cheered from the dock in Singapore, the refugees were arriving in Papua New Guinea aboard the Navy’s HMAS Manoora, and John Howard was on his way to election victory as the hero who got tough on “illegals”. The mix-up in chronology is not Abbas’ fault. Australian public consciousness started dumping everything uncomfortable on the 9/11 account quickly and easily. With a “Me Too” opposition led by the coward Kim Beasley — a man whose moment had come but who shrank in horror from discussing any issues of conscience or human rights, calling repeatedly for “getting back to core issues” — the Howard government met no resistance as they proceeded to blur the sequence of events and evoke the word “terrorism” every time they needed to justify something, like a parent rattling off warnings about the boogeyman whenever reason fails. Good on you Abbas. All the best from Australia. One day maybe we can all face up to the real story.

Natalie Gilder writes: So Abbas Nazari can spell! The none too subtle inference is that as “Queue Jumpers” his parents can’t count. I fail to see this as either news or a worthwhile human interest story. As for me I am OK at missing out on one more astronomer.

Mark Latham:

Marcus Lestrange writes: Re. “Latham is the poltergeist of federal politics” (25 March, item 7). Bernard Keane wrote: “Latham himself lives hand-to-mouth, surviving only on royalties from his diaries and his fortnightly AFR cheques.” Correct me if I am wrong but Mark receives around $70,000 per year and CPI indexed from the Parliamentary Superannuation Fund. Ironically under the old rules he tried to change for all MP’s but now only apply to new MP’s.

Peter Lloyd writes: Deborah Hurst (yesterday, comments), in defending Mark Latham urges us to ask anyone in NSW about whether politics is, as Latham says, “sick and broken”. Well I would only add that Tasmanians can be asked that too. The major parties are locked down by narrow interests, generally amounting to the will of just a couple of individuals (the pulp mill will need hundreds of millions in subsidies and only produce half the jobs claimed last year, for instance). The problem with people like Bernard Keane is that they are so close to the “game” of politics that they confuse and interchange the concepts of good politics and good government. Thus, we have the cynical Machiavellians that are the only product the major parties are capable of producing. In times past we had the occasional revolution to clean out this riff-raff. Latham and Rudd have proven, in different ways, that we are stuck with them.

The Macquarie infrastructure model is dead:

Gavin R. Putland, research officer for Prosper Australia, writes: Re. “Babcock bounces as Bear Stearns extracts more value” (March 25, item 17). The Macquarie infrastructure model is dead, not because of any failure to “internalise management”, but because of a failure to tap the benefits of infrastructure in order to amortize the capital cost. The benefit of a new road, net of tolls, is manifested as an uplift in land values in locations serviced by the new road (or by other routes on which congestion is reduced by the new road). Hence, if the benefit exceeds the cost, the cost (net of tolls) can be defrayed by clawing back some fraction (less than 100%) of the uplift in land values. The rest of the uplift is a net windfall for the land owners — who therefore should enthusiastically support this financing method because it would finance projects that would not otherwise proceed, yielding windfalls that the owners would not otherwise get. But when a Public-Private Partnership builds a toll road, it doesn’t claw back any of the uplift in land values, but tries to finance the whole cost out of tolls. So the tolls are too high, patronage is too low, and the operators can’t pay their debts.

JP Morgan’s lawyers:

Bill Watson writes: Re. “JP Morgan’s lawyers cost them $1.8 billion” (yesterday, item 21). If only merger and acquisitions lawyers and tax advisers cost $500 an hour! Maurice Blackburn partners will charge $600 an hour for work on the Centro litigation. The going rate in for Australian tier one partners for M&A and tax work is in the range of $750 – $1250 an hour. I expect our American friends in New York are charging two to three times this rate.

Confusing sensibility with responsibility:

Alister Air writes: Re. “Richard Farmer’s political bite-sized meaty chunks” (yesterday, item 12). I never thought to read anything so touchingly naive in Crikey as this comment by Richard Farmer: “A sensible Minister would put the whole system back under his own departmental control.” Surely Mr Farmer knows that a ‘sensible’ (as currently defined) Minister would do no such thing. A “sensible” Minister would farm the whole thing off onto as many disparate (preferably private) bodies as possible, so as to have no responsibility for the current mess, and indeed any future messes. Richard Farmer is confusing sensibility with responsibility — certainly something no sensible Minister would do.

Justine Elliot:

Andy Royal writes: Re. “Walt Secord puts a bit of mate into aged care” (yesterday, item 8). You should be (and probably are) aware that the lovely Justine Elliot is, in fact, a northern NSW lass, from Tweed Heads, to be precise. Unless you know (or Bernard Keane knows) better than I, a banana bender she ain’t. Having the dear Justine as a local member is a source of great grief, gnashing of teeth and wailing by my beloved, aged in-laws, previously of Lismore and now of Tweed Heads. To put their politics into perspective, they once counted themselves privileged to be on the Christmas card list of one Doug Anthony. Losing Little Johnny as PM and, far worse, “Our dear Peter” as treasurer was “a disaster”. But they regard “having this Elliot woman” looking after their aging interests as a deliberate, calculated, and extremely cruel insult.

Russell Boyd writes: Crikey, do you know your arse from your elbow anymore? Your new man Keane is obviously off with the Canberra pixies and the general tone of your rag has tilted heavily to the Port side and turned deep green. Yes, very trendy, but baa, baa, baa. Remember, all that is Kevin is not necessarily gold, little Crikey. Wake up; you are starting to make me puke.

Wilfred Burchett’s passport:

Sally Goldner, Crikey subscriber and TransGender Victoria media spokesperson writes: Re. “The strange, shaming story of Wilfred Burchett’s passport” (yesterday, item 10). Obviously some people are still scared of difference. Transgender people in Australia are still considered ” undesirable persons ” for the purposes of receiving a passport. Ah, some people will find anything under the bed, won’t they?


Tamas Calderwood writes: Steve Johnson (yesterday, comments) should know that I’m quite aware the world is full of grey areas, unlike those who are so certain about the immorality of the Iraq invasion. He also attempts to pin me with the argument that only hindsight makes the Iraq war look bad. I actually made the point that Iraq looked pretty bad before the war, as the people who have been found in over 40 mass graves (so far) might attest. That’s why arguing that anyone who supported the invasion is immoral or has blood on their hands is absurd. Tim Mackay channelling Machiavelli (yesterday, comments) sounds like Saddam himself rather than Bush, Blair or Howard. And Mark Hardcastle (yesterday, comments) ought to take a look at South Korea, Germany, Japan, Eastern Europe, Taiwan, blah blah blah.

Daylight savings:

Wayne Robinson writes: Re. James Wade (yesterday, comments). To my eyes, the photo from the West looks right (in contrast to the opinion of the fanatical daylight saving supporters who take any criticism of DST as a personal affront). On the 16th of March, sunrise was at 7:17 (the sun is still shown below the horizon at 7am) and the sky is shown a blue colour so the exposure can’t be that far off, in spite of the fact that the bright lights on the surface of the poor would tend to shorten the exposure). As a comparison, the attached image was taken at 6:52 am (sunrise around 6:46, exposure 1/30, 5.6f, ISO 200 (unmodified).

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