The Age:

Will Hagon writes: Re. “Kirk: Fairfax Media has never been in stronger shape” (yesterday, item 16). Your story on the ructions at The Age, as well as other criticism of Fairfax and its magazine/lift out advertising specials rightly draws attention to what sort of a base this once great and caring empire is setting for future credibility and therefore, survival in a changing media world. Hopefully it’s not exemplified by the front page story in the Sun Herald of 6th April. They must have thought this would interest at least a reasonable number of its allegedly more than one million readers; if it did, heaven help us and them! Along with a pic of two stupid hats with women underneath, it was headed “A day at the races is back in fashion”. As you can imagine, I was already beside myself with excitement. Aspirational, imitative bosh. The lead par, from a newspaper that surely would like to think itself accurate, valued and possibly influential, said “Jennifer Hawkins has declared glamour is back at the races.” Wow – and she a known authority on something that doesn’t matter anyway! A much bigger par told us who she was and what the event was. Then she set the news and fashion agenda for – months? – “It’s such a glamorous field – today’s been all about a 1950s look,” she said. Naturally in the way of Fairfax today, it had its usual coterie of lift-outs, supplements and advertising brochures. Whither the “news” part of the paper – or is it now just a container for the other? With that sort of garbage I was sorry I even committed to $1.50 a week for Saturday to Monday Fairfax papers for six months. When will they wake up? When will they get serious again? And when will The Australian start to capitalise on its lack of advertising – a gain for the reader, a loss for the publisher – by advertising “More reads, more info”?

Brendan Nelson’s leadership:

David Liberts writes: Re. “The Liberal leadership beyond Nelson. Discuss” (yesterday, item 2). In an environment where the Australian people are adjusting to a new fresh Government, oppositions can’t seriously expect everyone to pay too much attention to them. As such, Brendon Nelson is neither succeeding nor failing. History suggests that it would take an extraordinary catastrophe for the ALP to lose in 2010, because voters almost always give governments a second term. The Liberals need to be focussed on themselves and their relationship (as a party) with the broader electorate (here’s a hint fellas, when you can fill your polling booth volunteer rosters with enthusiastic volunteers and not badly paid students you’ll know you’re getting close). They need to honestly assess the last two years. They need to assemble ambitious and credible policies for 2010 to minimise further losses, and perhaps even find some talented candidates to pick up a few seats. Then, and only then, will the question of who can best lead them to the 2013 election as an alternative Prime Minister even become significant. Any Lib pollie who has undermined Nelson to the media recently needs to understand that whomever they replace Nelson with won’t be the Messiah either, and that the Liberal Party as a whole needs to do the work to get into a position where winning government becomes a possibility. Any Lib pollie undermining Nelson (or any other senior figure in the party’s current state) needs to ask themselves what they’ve personally done today to put the party in a winning position, because else they’re just part of the Liberals’ problems.

National security:

Brian Shoesmith writes: Re. “Howardist hold-outs still driving “national security” agenda” (yesterday, item 8). My Australian born niece lives and works in the UK and in 2007 married a UK national. They recently returned home and my niece thought it an opportune time to change her Australian passport to her married name. She was informed that this is not possible as Australia no longer recognises marriages contracted by its citizens outside of Australia for security reasons. When she offered to have a second marriage in Australia she was informed that would be illegal as she was already married. However, she could have an Australian passport if she changed her name by deed poll. She asked if she if she changed her name to Mickey Mouse by deed poll would she get a passport. Silence! I believe Petro Giorgio has taken the matter up. One is driven to ask what is next to make us more secure? Can Crikey conduct a competition?

Clean coal:

Robbie Kelman writes: Re. “Divisions on clean coal won’t sink the enviro movement” (yesterday, item 9). To be fair to WWF and the Climate Institute, establishing some rigour and transparency around so called “clean coal” research and development makes absolute sense. Neither of these organizations (or the rest of the environment movement for that matter) is enamoured with coal or have a lot of faith that Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) — the success of which would define “clean coal” — can in fact be bought to market and/or at the kind of scale required, or within reasonable timelines. The fact 30% of the energy of the power station would be required to do the job of capturing, piping and burying the CO2 is just one of the early warnings. But let’s get real. The global agenda around the notion of CCS and “clean coal” is unstoppable — so tantalizing an idea is it to keep using ancient carbon for power without the “side effects”. Governments and industry will pursue and substantially fund this project — and we need to ensure matching funds for renewable energy development! The agenda of WWF and the Climate Institute is to “put up or shut up NOW”! Let’s not let this perhaps misguided idea of effectively capturing and storing CO2 dawdle and distract us for decades to come. Make it happen now or let’s move on – quickly and with transparency and rigour.

China and trade:

Tamas Calderwood writes: Re. “US08: Free trade, protectionism and taking on China” (yesterday, item 3). Guy Rundle needs to swot up on his economics. The West didn’t rise to its current level of economic prosperity by rigging the international trade system through protectionism and captive markets. Quite the opposite. The post-war economic boom was built on free trade and open economies via GATT and the WTO — multilateral rules based system whose agreements all members are obliged to implement. And far from the “myth of free trade” having being debunked, it has never been stronger. The US and the West can easily compete with low Chinese and Indian wages because its workers are far more productive and have a much bigger capital stock to draw on. The law of comparative advantage – one of the most sublime ideas in economics — says that high income nations like Australia and the US will switch to making higher value-added goods and services and trade them for low value-added goods from China and India. As a result, all will become richer. For evidence, take a look at the economic histories of Japan, Germany, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong… or to prove the opposite, Argentina.

Barack Obama:

Les Heimann writes: Re. “US08: What was Obama thinking?” (Monday, item 3). Well finally — Barry has begun to show his real self. Elitist, fey and just not the real deal folks. I for one am simply not surprised and I suggest that many who follow this US election saga are also thinking ‘I thought so”. Reference was recently made to Occam’s Razor. That is an apt approach to Barack Obama. Better the realist, the bullsy battler, the get down and dirty but genuinely committed and intelligent Hillary than a living piece of cellophane. Unfortunately for us if the US sneezes… Well folks we can not do with just a great orator at the wheel.

Howard’s speech:

Stephen Cannings writes: Re. “Richard Farmer’s political bite-sized meaty chunks” (yesterday, item 10). John Howard’s address to the faithful in Brisbane last night was amusing for its hubris and ignorance. There are two key qualities a truly great leader – whether government, business or community – should have. They should leave their party, company or organisation in a better shape than they found it, and they should find a suitable successor. A bad leader leaves a smoldering bonfire, with neither kero or water at hand. Thanks for the pep talk, John.

Pat McGrath writes: John Howard consoled his party Brisbane on Monday night with the words: ‘”Just as we came through the difficult years long ago, we’ll come through these difficult years again.” Years? I thought the Libs had only been in trouble since last November’s election. How long does Howard hope for this difficult time to continue?

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