Petrol politics, Rudd, Nelson and emo:

Ricky Bryan writes: Re. “Oh the sausages! Nelson immolates on FuelWatch” (yesterday, item 2). May I just offer up one solution to the “petrol issue”, instead of a tax-cut (however it’s achieved) on petrol which does nothing to discourage consumption and little for people’s back pockets, why not a tax cut on cars instead? The policy would be two fold, firstly remove the tariff protection on 4WDs, this is a relic of the days when only 4WD’s were bought by farmers and mining companies (who hardly need the assistance) and then introduce a sliding scale where cars are taxed not on the basis of luxury car or not but on fuel economy, the more fuel efficient, the less the car costs. This way we are still doing something to help motorists, “don’t like petrol prices?”, “Well we’ve made it easier to upgrade to a newer, more efficient car!” (The subsequent dip in used car prices would also assist those at the lowest end of the economic scale). It also helps the environment, attacks inflation (more people buying cheaper cars) and encourages consumption, all pretty good things I’d have thought. Heaven forbid it may even encourage Aussie car makers to assemble more fuel efficient cars here. It’s the old “give a man a fish versus teach a man to fish” argument… If any of the Crikey readers can shoot a hole in this suggestion I’d love to read it.

Chris Johnson writes: Well the outpourings of grief from Emo Man Brendan Nelson and his stragglers are about to get a lot more… well, emo! If he thought images of endless lines of people in their 20-year-old Mitsus lining up for processed sausages was heart-rending, he’ll herniate over the mass walkout of key factional allies in the Party’s Sydney headquarters. While Emo Man was spruiking empathy for ordinary working Australians forced to Tarago their way with wheelchairs to petrol pumps in a quandary over snags or hotdogs – the last vestiges of his Party hierarchy in NSW quit the party. In this too ‘challenging political environment’ they decided to hoof it. We keep asking if it could get any worse – I think it can.

Christopher Ridings writes: With petrol prices rising like yeast all we are seeing from the politicians is panic and re-enactments of Pontius Pilate in hand-washing mode. There has not been a bleat about alternative energy resources. If the petrol is eventually going to run out, then it is time to invest in these alternative energy resources. Where are the hybrid cars when you need them? Are our politicians going to convert their guzzling Commonwealth cars into something more civilised for the 21st century and show some leadership or should we start rounding up those wild horses now unemployed in the interior? Every time I bus over the Anzac Bridge I look out over a wharf where some huge container ship, generally from Japan, is spawning hundred of new petrol consuming vehicles. The petrol car will some time follow the dinosaurs into mass extinction, so we need some leads into what is going to replace them. Our leaders had better get on their bikes and show us a viable way to go.

Tim Hollo, media and communications adviser for Senator Christine Milne, writes: Re. “Richard Farmer’s political bite-sized meaty chunks” (yesterday, item 10). Regarding your chunk yesterday, rest assured that the Greens have already been wholeheartedly attacking both the Government and Opposition on their populism on petrol (see here, here and here, for instance), although you won’t find us simply barracking for higher prices. Having been studying this issue for many years before most people cottoned on to it, we understand that what is needed is for governments to invest in providing alternatives such as mass transit, vehicle fuel efficiency, electric plug-in vehicles and alternative fuels. Only once those transport alternatives are actually available will price signals have a real impact.

Geoff Tap writes: Isn’t it time those stupid populist pollies stopped wasting their time and breath and our money on the will we/won’t we save two cents a litre on the pathetic petrol price points-scoring attempts. The price has probably almost doubled in the past year and they are squabbling over a $1.20 per tankful saving. Unbelievable. Well, sadly, probably not.

John Goldbaum writes: OMG. Has Brendan been sniffing petrol again?

Petrol prices in China:

Rob Pickering writes: I’m writing in reference to the comments by Phil and Marg Lawrence (yesterday, comments) about the petrol prices in China. I’m currently a resident in Beijing and they are in fact correct saying that the price of fuel in China is 93cAUD approximately. What is widely known is that the Chinese government subsidises the price of petrol within China to keep both inflation down and the residents reasonably happy. The oil companies within China are functionally broke and rely on these subsidies to continue to do business; at one stage last year the Chinese government threatened to withdraw these subsidies and the petrol stations supplied the very tiny amount of fuel they had left, leaving many stations without fuel and kilometres of cars backed up trying to get that fuel available. Malaysia, Indonesia and China (to a lesser extent India) within Asia issue fuel subsidies to keep the prices down and placate their nations of car loving drivers. Unfortunately this helps to drive the terrible smog haze which hangs over Beijing and most of China on any given day. Just thought I’d clear that up.

Gas reserves and gas cars:

Tim Le Roy writes: Re. “What about Victoria’s vast gas reserves?” (Yesterday, item 13). I was delighted to see that Stephen Mayne recognises that exotic renewable energy generators, such as windmills, struggle to provide reliable base load power. However, whatever merit arose from his article promoting coal seam methane is seriously devalued by this statement in relation to cutting greenhouse gases. “Australia should be closing down coal-fired power stations and building a stack of new gas-fired power plants right now. Instead, we’re years behind because John Howard was so captured by the carbon club. We’d actually make money out of the gas switch when you consider the increased coal exports – plus Australia would be feted the world over for achieving the biggest cuts in carbon emissions.” Stephen, if we replace coal fired power stations and yet continue to export the same amount of coal to be burned elsewhere surely the net effect is even worse because we have to transport the stuff? (Note: We ain’t going to be using ships with sails either!)

John Nielsen writes: Regarding advocates of compressed natural gas for cars (yesterday, comments); I suggest you research the history of this venture in New Zealand. Over 20 years ago it was tried with great enthusiasm across the Tasman and there was a whole new industry of gas converters created. Service stations throughout the country installed filling equipment and I had my own vehicle converted — the performance of my car was slightly lower but it was cheaper to run. The big disadvantage was a bulky cylinder which took up a lot of space in the boot. Some years later in order to have the cylinder removed and re-tested incurred a big expense. Today I understand that gas cars in New Zealand are practically non-existent.

World Youth Day:

Jim Hanna, director of communications, World Youth Day Sydney 2008, writes: Re. “Camden: a tale of cowardice and mortgage belt bigots” (yesterday, item 9). In a strong piece yesterday, Alex Mitchell asks: “What of Roman Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell, who has benefited from huge federal and state hand-outs to fund Catholic schools and the World Youth Day? Perhaps some spiritual guidance?” Alex probably wasn’t aware at the time of writing, but Cardinal Pell said in response to questions on the subject: “Everybody in Australia has the right to a fair go, and so do the Muslims.” The comments were made a press conference to announce the Pope would meet the leaders of other faiths – including Jews and Muslims – while he’s in Sydney. Some public figures would have pulled out of a media conference while such emotions were in the air or “adjusted” their views, but Cardinal Pell did not. Alex, please don’t resort to the knee-jerk prejudice of those you condemn.

Henson vs Rudd vs luvvies:

Ken Lambert writes: Re. “Attack of the luvvies fails to hit its target” (yesterday, item 8). It has been amply shown in the last two weeks, that our Mandarin Candidate (PM Rudd), hasn’t got any ideas of his own! The summit of the celebrities (complete with co-opted media coven) was called to fill the PM’s vacant lot. As the realities of difficult decisions on petrol, pensioners and pruning Howard’s pork start to bite, it looks like Winnie the Pooh is well ahead on points. The PM is just so bloody boring and we have only had him 6 months. How conventional can you get? Fancy thinking that some weird photographer who likes snapping trans-pubescent 13 year old girls is revolting. Get with the program Kevvie, these arty types and teenagers are the ones who voted you in! In fact I don’t think Kevin07 will last three rounds let alone to Kevin10. A sharp tongue-lash by Cate Blanchett, a furrowed brow from Gerry Doogue and a purring put-down from Phillip Adams — and the PM will be down for the count.

Michael Winkler writes: Spot on, Daniel Saks (yesterday, comments). The art versus p-rn debate is tedious and, in this case, irrelevant. I support the right of artists to create images of any sort, however unpleasant, and have them tested in the marketplace of ideas. The simple question in the Bill Henson debate — clouded by sanctimonious malarkey from both sides — is whether a 13-year-old’s consent to pose for Henson can be fully informed. I know some savvy 13-year-olds, but none of them would understand the full ramifications. To me the answer is a definite no.

Perry Gretton writes: Daniel Saks wrote: “Depiction of nakedness is about s-x and s-xuality – without question.” No it’s not. Ask any naturist how they regard n-kedness and they’ll tell you that it’s anything but s-xual. The real question is whether the images were p-rnographic, i.e. exploiting the subject for s-xual titillation. As far as I can tell – I’ve seen only one photograph – the answer is clearly not, and no-one else has suggested otherwise. The insistent concern about young people’s innocence is unfounded. Until told otherwise, children see nothing wrong in being unclothed. I saw that with my own children.

Public service leaks:

Andy Tee writes: Re. “Oh the sausages! Nelson immolates on FuelWatch” (yesterday, item 2). Further to Bernard’s comment yesterday that “leaks by public servants are few and far between”, I am a serving public servant and I suggest it is reasonable to assume that only a handful of my very senior colleagues would have central access to multiple sources of dissenting advice on FuelWatch such as reported by Laurie Oakes last night. It is also reasonable to assume that, at this stage, senior public servants remain eager to please the Rudd government and prove their fealty as the return for the renewal of contracts granted last year. So Rudd should look among his own ranks for the culprits(s). Or he could even consider that the leak was without malice but was the action of an inexperienced Minister or senior staffer who is just a little over-excited to have access to so much juicy material. More material is leaked to journalists to satisfy personal vanity – by demonstrating privileged access or as righteous contempt for rivals – than to serve some notion of the greater public good.

Meet the Press:

Vanessa Burt writes: In response to John Hughes’s lament (yesterday, comments) over Meet the Press no longer on CNBC, I have recorded it for many years on Channel Seven. It plays 4am Monday morning. Word of warning though: Channel Seven has recently taken to placing a continuous news crawl across the bottom of both Meet the Press and NBC’s Today show which mainly promotes mind-numbing segments on the upcoming Sunrise edition. I appreciate the network has the right to locally broadcast these US news shows, but does the inane crawl superimposed for the entire time by Channel Seven breach NBC’s intellectual property? I could care less what Kochie and Mel are up to at 8.10, 8.15 and 8.20 over and over when trying to watch Tim Russert grill (insert politician).

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