The Henson fracas:

Joanna Mendelssohn writes: Re. “Hamilton: Art or p-rn is not the question” (yesterday, item 2). The June/July issue of Art World magazine hit my desk today. The cover is a detail of the Bill Henson photograph that precipitated Hetty Johnson and Miranda Devine’s witch hunt. Inside, a photo spread of some of the images is followed by an appreciative interview between the artist and AGNSW Director Edmund Capon. Timing is everything.

Dave Smartt writes: With the whole Henson fracas over nude pictures of twelve and thirteen year old children, what about all the nude pictures of two and three year old children? Unlike the twelve and thirteen year olds, these children would almost certainly have had no idea of what was going on and could not have given informed consent for these pictures to be taken. I mean, these nude pictures of toddlers do show the vulnerability of youth to drowning and the transformation of children into adults by showing their development in self-care abilities. A paedophile could quite possibly find these sorts of images er-tic. So why not take this crackdown one step further and go into the homes of every Australian with pictures of nude young children?

Tony Barrell writes: Most politicians will seize any opportunity to bash the elites they consider to be out of touch with ordinary Australians. Especially snobby art freaks. So, anything that threatens the sensibilities of the middle has to be pushed further to the edge. Which is why Kevin Rudd hurried to the fray — to be seen defending the middle. Didn’t someone once describe Whistler’s Mother as a pot of paint thrown at the public? Didn’t Dada deliberately try to insult the bourgeoisie? I’m sure Bill Henson’s aims aren’t quite so crude but they have elicited the same response.

Keith Binns writes: Re. “Prime Ministering in the time of paedos” (yesterday, item 1). Bernard Keane wrote: “… (Darren) McCubbin is a director of a local cultural festival, and last year the festival included a group who sang a bawdy song. And worse, this was ‘in the middle of the conservative rural electorate.’ Apparently the cockies can’t handle songs about c-cks.” I had the following experience a few years ago: I was sharing the bill at a charity concert with Smokey Dawson. He would have been about eighty at the time. For no apparent reason that I could fathom, he told me that his doctor had him on a new pill and his wife was delighted. “It’s like I’m seventy again!” he told me. True story. I’d never dare tell it at my old church, mostly full of townies, but the little old ladies at the little country church where I now go cacked themselves, despite my warnings that it was a bit rude. Give me a well-adjusted country person any day.

The politics of petrol:

Greg Angelo writes: Re. “GST and fuel excise: A taxing argument” (yesterday, item 10). Now is not the time to blink on petrol and diesel pricing. Knee-jerk reactions to rising fuel prices by fiddling with the tax regime is a recipe for disaster. It will have an effect for only a few months, based on recent price movements, before the inevitable price increases overtake any feasible tax concessions. The result will be a permanent opportunity cost to the Federal budget. The community must become accustomed to the increase in price of fossil fuels. If greenhouse gases targets are to be met, there will need to be a radical reduction in energy usage whatever its source. Price increases are inevitable and are reflection of increasing scarcity leading in the long run to reduced consumption and lower greenhouse gas emissions. Unfortunately the corollary for this, not disclosed that the election, is that this means reduced consumption for all including low income earners. Adjusting prices at the margin by reducing fuel excise and/or GST will only delay the inevitable. It would be much more sensible if the government is going to sacrifice taxation revenue to channel it into energy-saving expenditure measures rather than populist vote buying.

Russell Ellis writes: The whole debate is a load of BS. John Howard elected to put GST on petrol which was then and is now, double dipping. At say $1.54 a litre, the GST would appear to be $0.14 a litre. Removing the GST makes economic sense in terms of inflation, but not in terms of a government. Who wants to outdo the Liberals budget surpluses? Inflation at higher levels than the Reserve Bank Fat Cats Board thinks is appropriate is inevitable given inflationary pressures of oil and interest rates. Removing the GST on petrol is justified — it was punitive in the first instance and is sustainable as a non-monetary anti-inflation measure.

Craig Iedema writes: Niall Clugston (yesterday, comments) states that peak oil is a fringe theory which gives no weight to the interplay of price, supply, and demand. Perhaps he should consider a read of the comments by Jeremy Bentham, Shell Vice President Global Business Environment found on the Shell website (, these comment and those made by other Shell executives would seem to make it clear that Peak Oil is not just a ‘fringe theory’.

Tamas Calderwood writes: Walt Hawtin (yesterday, comments) should read Daniel Patman’s (yesterday, comments) response to my Friday missive. Daniel says of carbon taxes: “Working families et al aren’t going to like it but they’re going to have to, so give ’em no choice: bipartisanship”. Says it all about the solutions the enviro-panic brigade are “offering” us without pesky adversarial politics getting in the way, doesn’t it Walt? To address Mark Byrne’s comment (yesterday, comments), energy resources from coal, tar-sands, shale-oil and conventional oil are equal to a few thousand years supply at current consumption rates while a high oil price makes it economic to extract a lot of that fossil energy. And who knows, maybe in the next few thousand years we’ll develop the technology to produce limitless energy without the unbounded hysteria we get from today’s energy and climate debate.

Ignaz Amrein writes: If this government or the opposition were serious about the pain that rising fuel costs are causing, they should encourage the switch to natural gas for running our cars. It doesn’t make sense that we flog off our natural gas to places like China for next to nothing and whinge about the price of petrol. One wonders if the silence about natural gas as an alternative to petrol has got something to do with the fact that we could fill our cars up at home and give petrol stations the two finger salute. Maybe the government doesn’t really like the idea either because they would have to think of a creative way of charging excise without it being seen as a tax on a tax. What about making natural gas, used for running cars, GST exempt and put a, let’s say, 14.99% tax on it that includes the excise and maybe another two or three other “levies” and call it GST (Gas & Sugar Tax, the sugar is in it to make it sweeter). The possibilities are endless.

Private health insurance:

Julian McCrann, Morgan Poll manager, writes: Re. “Why the private health insurance changes won’t break the system” (23 May, item 12). Jennifer Doggett writes that the proposed changes to the Private Health System will not have any great impact on the viability of the private health insurance business in Australia. Jennifer further claims that warnings about these dire consequences for the private health system, and indeed the public health system, are merely an example of “disingenuous postulating” on the part of the AMA and the health funds. Special Roy Morgan Research looking at the raw numbers shows over 1.6m Private Health Insurance customers will be affected by the changes to the Medicare Levy Surcharge. A significant proportion, perhaps close to 1 million – as suggested by the AMA – are likely to drop out of private health insurance in the wake of the proposed changes. That will immediately drive up costs for those still in private health insurance, then driving more people out as a strong second-round effect. This loss of revenue and customers will indeed imperil the Private Health Insurance industry and place it on its knees. The added burden of hundreds of thousands more people relying on the already over-stretched public sector will cause more problems in our hospitals. Roy Morgan data shows that the changes the Government is proposing will significantly change the cost structure of Australia’s health system which in the longer term will cost the Government a lot more than what they think they will now save.

Hillary Clinton and the Kennedys:

Ken Lambert writes: Re. “US08: pique, hubris, envy and Hillary Clinton” (yesterday, item 3). C’mon Hillary – you can offend better than that. One of my good old boys from Tennessee has by far the best Kennedy offence: “We keep shooting them but they keep coming”. And damn right too. Doesn’t anybody remember the execrable Jo Kennedy Snr – godfather of the clan? As Roosevelt’s ambassador to the Court of St James, he wrote off Britain, enriched himself and was loathed by those who saved the western world from Hitler. He sired John, Bobby and Teddy who in turn inspired a nation with their early hold on the celebrity media and appetite for sharing the same willing women. JFK’s exit made history, RFK’s made it personal, and florid Teddy’s punctured career and imminent demise will complete the trilogy of tragedy. Let us be thankful that Bill Clinton sired pimply Chelsea, and Hillary is nearly done for, or we might have the whole bilious American saga all over again with the Clintons.

Michael Tunn writes: Re. “Video of the day” (yesterday). Whose arm do we twist to get Keith Olbermann on our TVs, CNBC comes to mind, surely they can drop an hour of dull market watch reruns to give us a nightly dose of this living news legend, or maybe Foxtel can drop Fox in favour of MSNBC! Yeah I know I’m a dreamer.

The Liberal Party:

David Lenihan writes: Andrew Clarke (yesterday, comments) uses the usually informative contributions by Crikey’s Canberra correspondent Bernard Keane as a vehicle to lecture Bernard and Crikey readers on his hatred of Kevin Rudd and the Government. That would be well and good except as long as the “Opposition” is providing such tasty morsels for an enterprising journalist to devour, why the hell wouldn’t one? Rudd, Gillard and Co are not going anywhere soon, but where oh where will the daily antics of the rabble led by the Pretender take us? Your worrying about an opposition that is working through some issues, I take it is your little joke Andrew? Working through some issues is right, like the leadership of the party, who is staying and who is going, who agrees with who, just whether Minchin is running the ship or Nelson and more. Stick with it Bernard, you’re on the right track. Don’t think the Libs are though.

Tracking online readerships:

Michael Cooper writes: Re. “Are Nielsen Net Ratings bunkum?” (Yesterday, item 5). Margaret Simons wonders about the number of unique browsers reading online newspapers. Most web metric solutions use tracking cookies to determine if a visitor has been to the website before. Most security solutions like anti-spyware work by deleting tracking cookies, often when the user closes down the browser. When I close my browser all cookies are deleted. I visit the SMH website 4 or 5 times a day (at minimum) but without an active tracking cookie I am counted as someone new each time. Thus the figures will never add up or relate in any meaningful way to the percentage of the population reading websites.

Old news:

Alice Nixon writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (yesterday, item 9). Crikey published: “The new Australian Federal Police Headquarters will be the heritage listed Edmund Barton Building.” I’m not quite sure why this qualifies as a tip or a rumour since it was all over the Canberra news on the weekend.

The Footy Show:

Natalie Gilder writes: Gerry Costigan (yesterday, comments) — how beautifully put. I agree, we all know of rough diamonds, rough and tumble men who turned into Mallee bulls when they strapped on the footy boots and gave their all on the field. Most of these men were adept at telling a grand blue joke as well, but they always chose their audience and location wisely. While the Australian public has always admired the larrikin, the man who runs his own race — we don’t admire witless, crude, stride dropping twits like Sam Newman. It is well and truly time for the mantle to be passed. Where is the petition Eddie?

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