Soaring petrol prices and Rudd’s plan:

Martin Gordon writes: Re. “Want to pay more for petrol? Cheer for Rudd’s plan” (yesterday, item 2). Having just elected a government to sign the Kyoto and Bali agreements where Australia basically agrees to increasing energy prices to include the full economic cost of carbon emissions, it seems a little odd that Australians are now supposedly obsessed about the odd cent a litre savings on petrol prices with Price Watch. Full marks to the Labor Government for creating this huge distraction. The claimed reductions in petrol prices seem to be based on repeated assertions, the representations I have seen of the likely new price cycle (a fortnight or more) will see prices been much less variable than now. Over the new cycle the saving may be pretty modest. This petrol price distraction like the inflation bogeyman that is flogged regularly by the Treasurer seems eerily like the price watch distraction of the Hawke years. If food prices seem to be on the rise it is actually a global phenomenon not the “wicked supermarkets”, and if petrol prices rise it is a global phenomenon (well the “wicked oil companies” can do their own PR on that). But when the electricity prices and energy prices generally rise and the cost of everything rises, the recently discussed “revenue bonanza” for government from emissions trading will be at the cost of higher prices from consumer pockets. Can we blame the wicked Labor government for that?

Steve Martin writes: It should not be too difficult for the Federal Government to subsidise the price of fuel for socially deprived citizens. If Woolworths is able to provide swipe cards that discount four cents off the price of fuel at their service stations surely the government could issue swipe cards with the owners photo, and the relevant vehicle’s registration embedded, to discount say 10 cents from the fuel by way of excise reduction.

Steven McKiernan writes: Regarding the rise in petrol prices. You are your car’s b-tch. Do you drive a car, do you buy petrol? Well suck it up, princess. Bleat all you want about how you have been sold a dummy and bought a rusting piece of climate changing infrastructure. Climate change begins at home people, and if you are concerned for your children and the environment, then don’t listen to oil companies (who claim victim status) about your lifestyle. Ditch the car and live without it.

Alan Hatfield writes: If Peter Anderson is right then all of his predicted problems should be eminently observable in Western Australia where this exact same proposal has operated for some time. Are they?

Barry Hall – gladiator slave:

Katherine Stuart writes: Re. “Barry Hall, the problem the AFL has to have” (yesterday, item 19). Thomas Hunter wrote: “It highlights the problem the League has in selling a contact sport which expects players to be aggressive and fearless, but also expects them to curb their natural and often justifiable urges to clobber one another. Human nature will make the occasional cameo.” Oh really? Who says? I wonder what other criminal (under Australian and international law) behaviour Thomas Hunter might categorise as “natural and justifiable urges”. Barry Hall’s punch would have been categorised as grievous bodily harm — a punch (considering his size) capable of killing. I don’t understand why criminal charges aren’t being laid — this did happen in Australia right? Under the jurisdiction of Australian law? While we as a nation consider violence in sport as being “human nature” or in any way “justifiable”, we are also giving subtextual license to other forms of violence in our society. Playing sport does not have to be violent, and there is an enormous difference between the rough and tumble of contact sports (I played women’s hockey for years and have some scars to prove it – none inflicted intentionally) and deliberate violence, whatever lame excuses Barry Hall might have proffered to get himself off the hook. Worse still, it serves to dehumanise Barry Hall and his fellow players — much as the Romans did with their gladiator slaves. “They’re just animals really, those AFL players, what can you expect”, allowing spectators to feel smugly satisfied from their bums on those seats or the couch at home while channelling their own violent urges through good old fashioned catharsis — been around since the Ancient Greeks. They might be getting paid reasonably, but nothing like the billions being made off them.

How letters editors work:

Gideon Haigh writes: Re. “How letters editors work” (yesterday, item 22). Crikey reader Peter Vaughan is mistakenly sent an internal communication between staff members at The Age: a letters editor advising a colleague that Vaughan’s letter, critical of him, is to be published. Said letters editor adds that she will “tone down the insult” at the start. Vaughan forwards a communication clearly not meant for him to Crikey – and Crikey publishes it under the headline “How Letters Editors Work”. Well, yes, it IS how they work. The first two sentences of Vaughan’s message are not just insulting and condescending but defamatory – and of a staff member at that. They can be deleted at no expense to Vaughan’s argument, being gratuitous and puerile in the first place. The letters editor is guilty of a simple mistake in pushing the wrong button; Vaughan, untroubled by the ethics of distributing for wide readership something sent him in error, shows an unhealthy malice; Crikey displays a lack of judgment in publishing an item that actually reveals nothing except someone doing her job properly. If only others at The Age performed their tasks so conscientiously.

Free trade – Australia’s comparative advantage:

James McDonald writes: Tamas Calderwood (yesterday, comments) says that the law of comparative advantage will save us all. But in Australia’s case, “comparative advantage” is at least partly a glorification of enormous gaps in living standard between us and the manufacturing countries. As those countries close that gap, our mark-up of prices on the Asian goods we trade will be squeezed down to very little, and our value-adding will come under increasing competition. We’re not smarter; we just had a head start. What’s more, in concessions to free trade agreements, our governments have all but abandoned our primary production sector for not being “competitive” (i.e. comparatively advantageous). We have very few manual skills left except those we import for free (by virtue of having a living standard that is still enviable). So when the booming countries have matured and our iron is no longer the new oil, what tangible production are we going to offer the world from our side of the “comparative advantage” equation? Free trade has never been stronger, yeah. But in Australia’s case, will it ever be so strong again?

John Button:

Noel Courtis writes: Re. “Mungo: Button was a truly good human being” (9 April, item 15). I was rather shocked that Kevin Rudd did not attend the funeral of John Button. John Button was a very significant Labor man. Just as Rudd had past Labor PMs at his policy launch for the election it is important that past members be honoured in their passing. One would hope that it wasn’t arrogance on Rudd’s part that his 2020 talkfest planning didn’t take precedence over Button’s funeral.

Cults and religions:

Willem Schultink writes: Re. “Religions, cults and politics” (Tuesday, comments). After my letter recently there seems to be some confusion as to the difference between a religion and a cult. The difference is that a religion has a basic set of beliefs that everyone in that religion adheres to. For instance, all Christians, from charismatic to Catholic, believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, that He is Deity incarnate. Cults, on the other hand, are groups that have grown out of a certain religion, but do not hold to its basic tenets. This is a phenomenon not limited to Christianity, but an example from Christianity will illustrate. The Jehovah’s Witnesses arose from the Christian church, but they do not believe that Jesus is the Son of God, they do not believe that He is Deity. Therefore they are regarded as a cult. There are far more extreme cults than the JWs out there, some of whom hold some pretty horrendous views. I do not know what particular variation of Christianity Steve Fielding holds to, but his views are within mainline Christianity and do not constitute those of an “extremist cult”.

Alexa:

Rory Delaney writes: Re. “Richard Farmer’s political bite-sized meaty chunks” (yesterday, item 12). I respond to Richard’s use of Alexa internet survey which I think is fundamentally flawed and misleading. While I agree it can provide some vague degree of relative comparison, the trends post-2005 have shown pretty much constant decline for most Australian sites. Look at the below comparison of what I would consider to be four relatively “unfashionable” and “core” websites: bom.gov.au, national.com.au (NAB), commbank.com.au and whitepages.com.au. All show a similar decline from 2006. The BOM site has seasonal peaks, probably due to interest in summer thunderstorm seasons, and the White Pages decline could be explained by growth of other business search facilities. But the bigger question has to be asked about Alexa and its penetration of Australian web users and their correction/adjustment of figures to reflect the survey sample size. Bet you they don’t do anything.

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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