Burma and the media:

Jonathan Holmes, Media Watch presenter, writes: Re. “The Daily Reality Check” (Friday, item 13). Richard Farmer’s Daily Reality Check says “Perhaps it’s simply the absence of any Australians on the death list. Maybe we need dramatic pictures on the television like those of that tsunami to stir our sympathy. Whatever the reason, the tragedy in Burma is passing us by.” Of course we need dramatic pictures on the television — and dramatic accounts by reporters on the ground, for that matter. The lack of attention being paid to the Burmese tragedy by ordinary folk — in dramatic contrast to the tsunami — can be blamed, like the lack of urgent water, and food, and field hospitals, and all the rest of it, firmly at the generals’ door. No reporters, no story, no sympathy, no aid — and no nasty invasion of foreign snoopers.

The Republic debate:

Thomas Flynn, executive director, Australians For Constitutional Monarchy, writes: Jonathan Matthews (Friday, comments) wrote: “…seeing that all ties were cut in 1986 (as you consistently state) the Queen would automatically grant the request made by the PM surely? In that case, then the current model (which you so wholeheartedly support) allows the PM the sack the GG without notice and without reason? However if the Queen was not to immediately acquiesce to the request by the PM, then surely she is being politically active, which rather belies the notion that ‘ties were cut in 1986’ doesn’t it?” There is nothing automatic about the appointment or removal of Governors or Governors General. Perhaps Prof Flint assumes too much knowledge on the part of his readers. He refers to the Australia Act 1986 which finally removed the power of the British Government to advise the Queen on the appointment of State Governors. Earlier in Australia’s history the Government of the UK was able to advise the Monarch whom to appoint as Governor General of Australia. By 1930 this practice was stone dead and the Monarch would only take advice from Australian ministers. However the position was different for the State Governors. Most premiers rather blithely assumed that the Monarch would appoint a governor on their advice alone. However this had no basis in law. Premiers had no right to advise the Queen in the way that Prime Ministers had. The views of State governments were taken into account but they had to be passed through the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office – a practice the latter increasingly disliked. This was tolerated by the State Governments of all parties because State Governments refused to countenance what was thought to be the only alternative: having the advice passed on by the Government of Australia. In other words the FCO was used to protect States’ rights. The impasse was resolved when it was agreed that Premiers could advise the Queen of Australia directly on the appointment of State Governors, hence the Australia Act 1986.

Brendan Nelson’s polling:

Stephen Luntz writes: Re. “Comitatus: Bad polls, worse than bad news for Brendan” (Friday, item 7). It’s a delight to have Possum Comitatus back I think that every psephologist’s favourite marsupial somewhat overstated the Liberal Party’s “base” vote on Friday. Possum uses the lowest state-wide vote the Liberals have achieved at recent state and federal elections as his measure of their base. However, using state-wide averages hides some variation. For example, in Victoria the Liberals’ lowest state-wide vote was at the 2002 state election. However, in about a dozen seats they did worse, after preferences) in either 1999 or 2006. In other words their base is lower than ‘02, at least in those areas. Summing the lowest vote achieved in every seat, or even every booth, would be painfully time consuming, but it would accurately measure the Liberals’ historical base. The good news for Nelson in this is that his polling might not be as unprecedented low as Possum believes. The bad news is there may be even further to fall.


Harold Thornton writes: Nice of Daniel Lewis (Friday, comments) to confirm that, to be fair, Israel can only be judged by the standards of neighbouring dictatorships. So that’s all right then. And there was I imagining that Israel fancied itself an advanced democracy. We all owe Daniel a debt for sorting that out.

Hemp and saving water:

Bernard Kealey writes: Re. “NSW legalises hemp crops — what part did the Greens play?” (Friday, item 15). Alex Mitchell wrote: “What commercial hemp growing has to do with emergency services and/or water wasn’t immediately obvious.” How about the alleged huge savings in water for the same yield compared with cotton?

Staffers and other annoying words:

Diana Simmonds writes: Re. Ewart Shaw (Friday, comments) on the terminology of “staffers” and “pressers”. Can’t pretend to offer a sensible explanation for these, aside from bone idleness and an inability to face life without inane baby words/ nicknames etc, but I can offer another – equally irritating and lazy. “Bedder”, as in “two bedder” or “one bedder”. In case you haven’t been in the market for somewhere with bedrooms lately, it refers to the room where you sleep, according to real estate junkies.

First Dog on the Moon:

Mingus Drake writes: Re. “Video of the Day” (Friday, “Holy vegetable, animal and mineral, it’s the very model of the modern Crikey Weekly News”). First Dog on the Moon’s video news review has just justified my ongoing subscription. There are no words.

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