World Youth Day:

Jim Hanna director of communications for World Youth Day, Sydney 2008, writes: I always felt Crikey readers were better informed than talkback radio callers – until I read the comments from John Goldbaum (Friday, comments) who calls World Youth Day pilgrims “a bunch of free-loaders”. He also says “there will be no hotel rooms booked, no restaurant meals and no shopping sprees for us Australians to cash in on… they probably won’t event fly Qantas.” Wrong on all counts. All pilgrims pay a registration fee to cover their meals, accommodation, backpacks, healthcare, and public rail and bus transport. In fact, their fees will contribute nearly half the cost of staging the event. While most will stay in schools or billets, some 20,000 will stay in paid accommodation, including hotels – not bad for a single event (no Australian city has enough hotel rooms to accommodate all 185,000 international and domestic visitors). The Sydney Chamber of Commerce estimates WYD08 will generate $231 million in economic activity for NSW. With the largest source countries being the US, Italy and Germany, I’d be very surprised if 20-something pilgrims didn’t get together with new friends (and old) to eat at restaurants, meet at cafes and pubs and buy gifts for their families and friends back home. And Qantas, the event’s official airline, has had to put on extra flights to cope with the demand. All of this information is on the public record.

2020 Summit:

Paul Watson writes: Re. “Canberra agog as the gabfest clears its throat” (Friday, item 1). I don’t want to come across all anti because I think there is some merit in the exercise but where were all the big ideas? I’m all for a republic but that’s hardly a visionary idea. I thought the weekend was all about digging out big bold innovative ideas not motherhood statements like Australia being a world leader on climate change. I could have come up with that. Didn’t we already know that water scarcity was an issue and that reform of Federalism was well overdue and that Indigenous Australians aren’t doing so well? I can’t believe that this was all our “best and brightest” came up with so are all the ideas still floating in the ether above Parliament House. Unfortunately it seems style was preferenced over substance which makes me suspicious of the original intent. I didn’t expect all our problems to be fixed come this morning but I had hoped for the possibilities on how to tackle them to be endless. Instead to my eye we don’t appear any better off than we were Friday. Ah well maybe they’ll improve it next time, there will be a next time wont there?

The crazy world of food pricing:

Geoff Ward writes: Re. “The crazy world of food pricing: a Crikey primer” (17 April, item 23). Glenn Dyer wrote: “The rise of China and India, the extended drought in Australia and the pigheaded approach to biofuels in the US and Europe are far more influential factors.” Dyer’s concluding remark of Thursday’s Crikey is correct except for one thing, the NSW Government was not named. As you would know the NSW Government are proposing to bring forward their E10 mandate from 2011 to 2010 in the face of humanitarian effects of converting grain to ethanol. This is what I call pigheadedness in the extreme. In addition the effects on NSW agriculture could be disastrous. E10 would have taken 40-50% of the depleted grain harvest in three of the last seven years and that is just one effect that can be pointed out. Please, please get the debate rolling on the NSW Government E10 mandate. Find out who are pushing this stupid idea.

The direction of journalism:

Rod Raymont writes: While we’re in this debate about the direction of journalism in Australia can I refer you to an issue that’s been with us for years but remains disturbing. After the media accepted everything prejudicial that they were fed by the Federal Police about Haneef Haneef and ran it, they then started to identify a few holes in the story and turned on the Feds. This however has not stopped them convicting other “alleged” high profile criminals before they have been before the court. I refer to Olympian Scott Miller and ex-rugby player Mark Catchpole. Isn’t “alleged” a wonderful word. If you’re a journalist you can say almost anything about them – information usually handily provided by the cops – and you’re safe. And what could be more prejudicial than pictures/vision of the arrests and the allegedly discovered gun and money? As they carried no picture by-line or exclusive tag I assume they were also conveniently provided to print and TV by the cops. Presumably the cops smudged out Miller’s face in the picture to avoid any allegations of prejudice but of course the papers ran a stock picture of him right beside it! It doesn’t look good for Miller and co but that’s not the point. Some of us are old enough to remember celebrated cases where the cops swore they had their man and ended up with egg on their face. The case of Harry “the Hat” Blackburn in NSW comes to mind when the then Commissioner Tony Lauer made statements assuming the former senior cop was a serial rapist. Wrong. Isn’t it about time somebody, perhaps a Judge, called a halt to this, dare I use the cliché, trial by media?

Della Bosca:

John Goldbaum writes: Re. “Della Bosca set to do a Barrie Unsworth?” (Friday, item 9). Della Bosca may do a Barrie Unsworth but Barry O’Farrell (below, left) looks like Barrie Unsworth (below, right).

Barry O'Farrell Barrie Unsworth

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