Wong’s Murray-Darling plan:

Keith Thomas writes: Re. “Wong goes to water. Is this the best they can do?” (Yesterday, item 11). As with all programs the outcomes will depend on the integrity with which it is managed. Certainly if there is a valid dollar for dollar investment by farmers to upgrade irrigation infrastructure then there is an incentive to make it effective and use 50% of the water saved intelligently to extend production from which the Government again benefits via taxes. The issue then becomes how arms length and professional is this approval process. Similarly, if the Government ensures it gets its 50% savings for environmental flows it should not have to buy too much extra water at speculators’ prices. However the big failure is an absence of any recognition that they are a managing a system in which the crisis issue is a lack of water and the imperative is to minimize the biggest loss — evaporation — which is five times the water received in good times and 10-20 times that received in drought. Rather than arguing about dividing the drops at the end of the pipe they also need to focus on enhancing and buffering the reliable input supply via shelterwoods to reduce wind speeds and desiccation and soil structural improvements to aid infiltration, retention and availability.

Geoff Russell, Animal Liberation SA, writes: I keep reading about water “infrastructure” and seeing pictures of it on the TV. I guess it means drippers and pipes and so on. But the bulk of the water in the Murray Darling Basin goes to pasture irrigation. You don’t use drippers to water a pasture — you damn near flood the paddock. 75% of all Victorian water use in the MDB is for dairy — and dairy isn’t like rice which doesn’t get planted if you can’t get the water. Dairy uses more water every year than rice uses in a good year. Spending money on infrastructure is like BHP saving money by buying cheaper letterhead. “Penny wise, pound foolish” is what my mum likes to say. So Victorians use 1700 billion litres per annum to run dairy cattle and Adelaide spends $1.4 billion to provide 50 billion litres per annum because there isn’t any water in the Murray. I bought three water tanks last year to water my back yard fruit trees and veggie garden, I reckon I should send the bill to Dairy Australia — but any reader who eats cheese/drinks milk is welcome to send me a donation.

China’s Australian resources grab:

Steve Martin writes: Re. “China’s unprecedented Australian resources grab” (yesterday, item 2). It would be very easy to label opposition to any Chinese takeovers, or of major investments in Australian companies as a racist reaction; after all much of Australian assets are already controlled by foreign companies be they US, British, or wherever. But allowing Chinese government controlled companies into this country must be viewed with suspicion. Being government controlled their allegiance is to the interests of Chinese government primarily and not to the wellbeing of the shareholders or Australia. I might add that my view on this also applies to other foreign governments controlling Australian assets. Singapore for example comes readily to mind. With the ownership or control of strategic companies foreign governments are in a position to apply pressure on Australian government policy; surely something we could do without. It’s worth remembering that FIRB refused Shell’s attempted takeover of Woodside for these sorts of reasons.

A Charter of Rights:

Shirley Colless writes: Re. “What’s so wrong with a judiciary dealing with rights?” (Yesterday, item 15). Stephen Keim is spot on in his analysis of this very interesting question, and Cardinal Pell is spot off, way off, when he argues against a Charter of Rights when he claims that “democratic law-making is imperfect, but preferable to rule by the courts”, and then goes on to cite that Zimbabwe had a Bill of Rights and points to what has happened there. Zimbabwe is a classic case of a total distortion of democracy by an “elected” government that has viciously and unconstitutionally muzzled the “unelected” Courts. In Australia, under the current protocols, an elected government can quite deliberately stack the High Court so as to ensure that its programme of legislation can guide that Court into decisions that counter both democracy and civil rights. And it is far easier for any lobby group, whether it is commercial or religious, to manipulate a government to fall in line with its way of thinking than it is to manipulate the courts. The United Nations Charter of Human Rights provides a basis on which such a charter for Australians could be developed. And it’s about time people started thinking not only about “rights” (and some of the claims I have heard have been ridiculous) but also about “responsibilities”, not to ourselves but to our community.

Obama and the Dr Wright:

Marilyn Shepherd writes: Re. “US08: “Look forget the Rev, he’s just a tool. Tool. Tool. Tool.” (Yesterday, item 5). Why is Guy Rundle jumping on the racist bandwagon to scam Dr Wright? If you read his speeches, sermons and interviews he is spot on with everything he says. What was particularly interesting in an easily available interview with Bill Moyer is that Wright helped to save Lyndon Johnson and was then set upon in the hospital by racist guards. When Wright speaks, people should open their eyes and ears and listen instead of drivelling out their rubbish.

John Goldbaum writes: It’s all in the headline. CBS News led in the USA with “Obama washes his hands of his pastor”, Crikey tried twice with “Look forget the Rev, he’s just a tool. Tool. Tool. Tool.” (Item 5) and “Obama slams his pastor” (Item 17) which could be taken the wrong way, but ABC News led it in Australia with “Obama turns on former pastor” which definitely explains his appeal to most voters. He turns me on too. The only pollies who turn me on even more are Robert McClelland and Kevin Rudd for yesterday’s announcement, as headlined in Crikey (Item 4): “ALP gives same-s-x couples some love”. I love to party with a party which loves me. All you need is love. I’ll love Brendan Nelson and Malcolm Turnbull if they also come to the party.

NSW power privatisation:

Gordon Pears writes: Re. “Conflicts aplenty in NSW power privatisation debate” (Tuesday, item 8). I am saddened that Stephen Mayne should be perpetuating the myth being put around by many of the less intelligent media that the NSW power privatisation conflict is essentially between the Electricity Trades Union and a government with the best interests of the State at heart. Many thousands of non-union ALP members are opposed to the privatisation for a number of reasons. For me, much the most important is that it is virtually impossible for what we have ben told about the terms of the privatisation (which is not very much) to be compatible with the far-reaching reform of NSW electricity production that will be essential to cope effectively with global warming.

The Australian Film Television and Radio School:

Gary Nicol writes: What wouldn’t you give to be a Senator? I go along with Mark Freeman’s suggestion (yesterday, comments) to ditch the Australian Institute of Sport as well but I support Arts Watcher’s views about the Australian Film Television and Radio School (“Our old-school film school is a waste of $20m”, Tuesday, item 18). Ignore their boosted numbers with short courses. “Please can you tell the Senate the amount of subsidy we’re spending per person for each course?” They charge a commercial rate for short courses, but I think full-time students used to be paid to be there. Check their annual reports. Total full time students in 2005, 106, and 17 of those are radio. In 2006, total full-time students 115, with 21 radio. $400k is probably on the steep side, but a Senator should ask both schools for an accurate cost per student of this elite education.

The Republic:

Joseph Ryan writes: Thomas Flynn, executive director of Australians For Constitutional Monarchy (yesterday, comments) wrote: “In 1907 the High Court of Australia declared the Governors of the States to be Head of the State and the GG to be ‘Constitutional Head of the Commonwealth’. That sounds like ‘Governor General is Head of State’ to me”. Thomas, I respectfully disagree. If the High Court believed the GG was head of state, it would have used the words “the Governor General is the Head of State” and not words that “sound like” it. The Head of State is the Queen. That’s why when visiting dignitaries toast our head of state; they toast the Queen of Australia. That’s why the only reason the GG opened the Olympics in 2000 was when the Queen said she wasn’t coming. Oh, and that’s why on Page 3 of the notes to my copy of the constitution, as published by the Attorney General’s department in 1999 (when a pro-monarchy government called a referendum on this issue), it says “Australia’s Head of State is Queen Elizabeth II.” If it was any different, your organisation would be named “Australians for a Governor General as Constitutional Head of the Commonwealth”.

Michael Rook writes: Like fingers down a blackboard. I’m as happy as a swine in merde for Thomas Flynn, executive director of Australians For Constitutional Monarchy, to have us all ignore sections 1, 2 and 59 of the Constitution, the oath of allegiance, former High Court chief justices, even Her Majesty’s own frigging website, if he will just explain who represents Australia as Head of State outside of Australia, or when the Queen visits Australia. Without once making any reference to David Flint, Indonesians, or Bob Hawke.

Nathan Landis writes: I have been reading with amusement the debate about “where in the Constitution does it say the Governor-General or the Queen is the Head of State?” Well, the simple answer is that readers will need to go no further than section 1 which states: “The legislative power of the Commonwealth shall be vested in a Federal Parliament, which shall consist of the Queen, a Senate, and a House of Representatives, and which is hereinafter called The Parliament, or The Parliament of the Commonwealth.” But for those intrepid readers who wish to continue, section 2 provides “A Governor-General appointed by the Queen shall be Her Majesty’s representative in the Commonwealth, and shall have and may exercise in the Commonwealth during the Queen’s pleasure, but subject to this Constitution, such powers and functions of the Queen as Her Majesty may be pleased to assign to him.”

Catholicism:

Alfredo Nistico writes: Re. Ignaz Amrein (yesterday, comments). As an ex-Catholic who spent the best part of 20 years looking for God in the “God industry”; the Catholic Church, Anglican church, Uniting Church, Assemblies of God, Cross Road Christians, various unattached Pentecostals/charismatics organisations, Home Prayer Groups, any number of conventions/contacts with Brethren of various extractions (Exclusives/Plymouth/Friends) and majoring in religion studies all I can say to Ignaz is Catholics protest the loudest when the spotlight is on ‘their church’ and they know the least of how it works and what it does in the world. Nowadays I go with the bumper sticker “Jesus save me from your followers”: try it, it might help you lighten up and see what you are looking for.

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.

Get more Crikey, for less

It’s more than a newsletter. It’s where readers expect more – fearless journalism from a truly independent perspective. We don’t pander to anyone’s party biases. We question everything, explore the uncomfortable and dig deeper.

Join us this week for 50% off a year of Crikey.

Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
50% off