Correction:

Dr Sue Page writes: Re: “Rural doctors sprung on push for more cash” (29 May) It is always worth seeking more information before criticising. In this instance, had I contacted the Rural Doctors Association of Australia prior to making my comments they would have been able to point me to the pre-publication copy of a different report. While I still believe that too much attention has been paid to financial incentives while not enough to working hours and conditions; and too much attention to doctors while not enough to the entire team needed to deliver sustainable health care services, my criticism of RDAA was incorrect and impolite. I offer my unreserved apologies.

The public service, leaks and petrol:

A senior public servant writes: Re. “Petrol, leaks and p-ssing contests: the week in Canberra” (Friday, item 2). I say “hooray” for Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. I am tired of hearing about “poor old public servants” having a hard time adapting to life under the new government. No-one has any right to be upset for having to work hard for a change. For years I have witnessed public servants promoted well beyond any level of competence, rapid promotion from within and appointments not based on merit. As a direct result this has caused a lack of depth and breadth in the ranks. Now they can no longer hide behind the bureaucratic machine they want to have a bleat how hard they have to work. Well I say “boo hoo” to them quite frankly. For too long inefficiency and ineffectiveness has been the order of the day. I have managed through Labor and Liberal Governments alike in an apolitical manner and will continue to do so. There is nothing wrong in the demands and expectation of the current government, only the inability of the current rank and file to deliver results. If my colleagues cannot handle the pace then they should give up their salaries, superannuation, perks, vehicles and conditions that they have taken for years and get into another line of work. It is an honour and a privilege to work as a public official. A bit of hard work and long hours is par for the course. It is about time senior public officials had to “again” earn their pay packets. I certainly will not pay any lip service to this rubbish about being overworked. If leaders in the Commonwealth public sector made decisions, delegated appropriately and managed the performance of all staff there would be no issues and there would be plenty of time to deliver government policy and provide advice. I am more than comfortable with the demands being placed on my department. Like my counterparts I have also been hit by staff cuts, efficiency dividends and higher demands. Surround yourself with the best minds, recruit effectively, lead by example and remain true to core business. Keep the pressure on Prime Minister Rudd.

Shakira Hussein writes: Like our Prime Minister, I escaped an unhappy adolescence in Nambour by enrolling in Asian Studies at the ANU. The son of a Eumundi dairy farmer is hardly visible in the adult Kevin, but for a hometown girl, there are still occasional glimpses to be had. Take the current focus on Kevin 24/7, throwing hissy fits at public servants who don’t understand the need to start the working day at sparrowfart. You can take a boy off the dairy farm, but you can’t take the dairy farm out of the boy. I spent my childhood being woken up at ungodly hours by dairy farmers’ offspring (“Were you STILL in bed?”), so I have some sympathy for the public servants. But having spent many happy holidays with dairy-farming relatives, I have some sympathy for Kevin 24/7 as well. Dairy farmers just don’t do work/life balance. My dairy-farming great-uncle was still out spraying blackberries on the day he dropped, at the age of 84. Work-live balance, forget it. The cows need milking, for God’s sake, twice a bloody day. So my advice to weary public servants is to try to channel your inner dairy farmer. Imagine those incomplete reports as a herd of cows, udders bursting with milk, lowing outside your window. They’ll get mastitis if you don’t go and milk them. They’ll need milking again in the evening, and all day and night there are fences to mend, poddy calves to feed, wild dogs to shoot, neighbours to feud with. You just can’t afford to oversleep. It was my heart’s ambition to marry a dairy farmer when I grew up. As a social leper with foot and mouth disease, I can’t imagine why I thought that I could afford to be fussy, but I turned down the boy who wanted to marry me in Year Five because he planned on taking over his family’s pineapple farm. Pineapple farms are bor-ing. No poddy calves, no horses, no working dogs (I had picked up the dairy farmers’ contempt for lazy, non-working dogs), no shiny vats of fresh milk – forget it. I can still hear the poor boy’s protests. “But dairy farms are a lot more work than pineapple farms!” There must be public servants in Canberra wishing that Rudd’s father had had been a pineapple farmer.

David Lenihan writes: One point that concerns me and as yet has had little attention, in the long working hours etc debate… The majority of Public Servants are on Collective Agreements which would include the maximum number of hours per day to be worked, Monday to Friday. Of course there will be variations such as approved/agreed overtime, travel time etc, but the majority of PS will work 7.30 hours a day, five days a week. Those on contracts, senior management, C.E.O.’s will work as directed by their masters. I presume the majority, not on contract, are not starting work at 5.15am (Rudd’s sparrow fart time) and remaining at their desks until 11pm or beyond. It is my understanding those on contracts are being paid vastly superior incomes, than your run of the mill Mary/Joe Bloggs at the coal face. If the PM is demanding those on contract burn the midnight oil, tough bikkies. You do as the words in the contract say you do. The alternative is to resign. Of course should the band of top execs band together then Rudd does have a problem, can’t get rid of them all to ferret out one. He may not have had the “Night of the Long Knives”, but it appears he has been shafted by one of those; a knife would have eliminated and eliminated this current shambles before it started. Without the leak, Nelson would still be groping in the dark, that he has made a little progress, which will not eventually save him, has given him more breathing space, for now. The lurker is still in the shadows. Is the leaker of the document friend or foe of the ambitious figure biding his time in those shadows? What a wicked web of intrigue.

Tony Barrell writes: It seems that “the media” assumes that politicians will get into trouble if they tell the truth — Barack Obama certainly did. So when Kevin Rudd said he had done all he could regarding petrol prices he was simply being straight. After all, no matter what the post-facto commentariat are now saying about what he and the ALP “promised” about petrol prices during the election, it was never to cut world fuel prices, but to bring in a system which would monitor those weird day-to-day fluctuations in price which have been occurring, unexplained, for years. Whether or not FuelWatch can do anything about them, that was the issue, not the world price of oil, which, if the truth be told, and despite the theory that world supply has supposed to have “peaked”, has been jacked up by the disastrous war in Iraq, supported and justified by the emotional one and the rest of the clownish tribe we call the Opposition.

John Goldbaum writes: Bernard Keane wrote Rudd “can’t have a pissing contest with his own Public Service… [lest there]… be a whole lot more leaks”. My advice to Kevin 24/7 is to cross swords with his boffins and then, when they least expect it, turn towards them. Why give them a golden handshake when you can give them a golden shower? After all, Australia is the home of water sports.

The Henson fracas:

Peter Scott writes: Re. “Bringing down Henson: Police, politicians and pester power join forces” (Friday, item 1). Alex Mitchell wrote: “On 22 May, columnist and ongoing Howard propagandist Miranda Devine triggered the witch-hunt …” Forgive me for wondering whether any media personality will ever be described by your esteemed publication as, say, a “Labor propagandist”? From the perspective of someone who looks on from afar, it may be safe to chance the somewhat clichéd statement — the more things seem to change, the more they stay the same back home. Certainly, they do in the media. If ever I doubt it, all I have to do is get a quick refresher from Crikey, or Alan Ramsey. It’s almost like time travel.

Justin Templer writes: I have been prompted by the witch hunt over kiddie p-rn to come clean and confess that I have circulated over the internet photographs of n-ked children, some without even a carefully draped hand to cover their g-nitalia. My mother thought the snaps were quite cute but I must admit that, had these images fallen into the wrong hands, they might have encouraged licentious behaviour. It’s all about context — isn’t it? That is, family snap is not equal to Paddington art gallery is not equal to p-edophile web site. Can we all just have a bit of a lie down now?

Wayne Bennett writes: With the hoo-haa over Henson, I am waiting for the AFP to arrest anyone else who owns the 1990 Nirvana album Nevermind, and confiscate the cover displaying the image of the naked child in the pool.

Obama:

Martin Gordon writes: Re. “US08: Obama caught between a range of unholy unions” (Friday, item 4). According to Guy Rundle apart from a speed hump of gay unions Obama appears to have the Presidency sown up. With due respect to Charles Richardson vox popping in Montana there is this perception that winning the Democrat Primary there means a victory in the general election, it does not. Whilst Montana is of interest for the Democrat primary it is a reliably Republican state usually. The 1992 result reflected the impact of Ross Perot who won 27% of the vote there his sixth best result. Using a Mackerras pendulum, Montana requires a 10.5% swing and is the Republicans 12 th best state. The oddest thing is that the media has ignored the Obama has won small and usually Republican states Democrat primaries, whilst Clinton has won the larger Democratic ones. If the Democrats ran their system the same way as the Electoral College and basically like the Republicans primaries, she would be the victor in the primaries not Obama. Obama’s best results were where there are large black voter blocks and wealthy whites, and places like Utah and Wyoming that are solid for the Republicans. All the polling be the Cook Report, YouGov shows McCain streets ahead of his party label. Whilst Rupert Murdoch is reportedly toadying up to the Democrats, he has business interests, and he does not need a hostile, isolationist, protectionist, regulatory Democrat Congress making his life miserable. The Democrats are expected to do well in Congress, which does not mean a lot for Obama. Whilst some mountain states (such as Colorado) may run better for Obama than before, he looks likely to lose working class white Pennsylvania and possibly Michigan as well, and not win Ohio, Florida etc. As well the college tends to slightly favour the Republicans which might matter again in November. The polls show Clinton running stronger against McCain than does Obama. I don’t know how many latte sippers there are in Montana, but I would suggest very few.

Rudd jumps the shark:

Michael Latz writes: Re. Friday’s editorial. Thanks for another great edition. I couldn’t agree more with your opening comments on Rudd’s shark jumping. As far as I’m concerned, the most important qualities of any good government are integrity and transparency. Against all reason, I hoped that Kev might just be wonky enough to rise above populist politics, and not get involved in one-upmanship on trivial issues like tax breaks and cabinet leaks — if only for the first year or so. Unfortunately, despite some promising early signs, it’s becoming increasingly obvious that he’s descending into the political mire. Apparently he thinks a good whack on the jukebox of fuel prices will get us all singing along to the same old tune, happily oblivious to the incredibly serious and immediate issues of oil dependency and climate change. For crying out loud, what can we do to get politicians to look beyond the next bloody opinion poll?

Les Heimann writes: Well I told you so — and often! Rudd has always been “just another politician” and not a very good one either. There is no question that the real leader should be Julia Gillard. Let’s start barracking for a Gillard led revolution.

ABARE:

Steven McKiernan writes: Re. “Addressing ABARE’s serious flaws” (Friday, item 17). Bernard Keane’s report on the Estimates questions by Senator’s Milne and Siewert is revealing. How can the Government’s chief internal research organisation get it so wrong so often and so repetitively? What have been the costs to the nation from this economically radical think-tank’s policy failure in determining a precautionary approach to tackling climate change? There should be a serious investigation into the budget of this organisation for its consistent failure to produce any meaningful and reliable data and predictions. Its connections to organisations such as the Lavoisier Group have delayed Australia’s policy response to climate change should also be examined.

SBS doesn’t know what it is:

An SBS employee writes: Re. “SBS shows the way ahead for commercial public broadcasting” (Friday, item 22). So Glenn Dyer, what exactly is “commercial public broadcasting”? The contradictory phrase sums up the problems at SBS. It doesn’t know what it is. The reason we have public broadcasters is to provide programming to audiences which commercial television shuns. This was and should still be the whole function of the Special Broadcasting Service. It is clear from even the vaguest familiarity with the Charter. In becoming Australia’s fourth commercial network, however, SBS has become obliged to show the same kind of programs the commercial stations show in order to attract revenue. Quite simple. Therefore SBS should be closed down now if it cannot survive without government support, because taxpayers should not be supporting a broadcaster which purely and simply wishes to maximise advertising revenue. Dyer shows himself to be a complete economic rationalist philistine (hardly surprising given that Dyer styles himself a business commentator as well as a media pundit) in measuring SBS “success” purely on the basis of whether in-program advertising has earned more money. Well of course it has! If this is “showing the way ahead” for broadcasting, God help the ABC…

Interest rates:

Bronwyn Mcdonald writes: Re. Humphrey Hollins (Friday, comments). How lovely it must be to live like a prince off the monkeys back. I do wonder though how even the minimal flights you make (or at least have made) between Australia and Cambodia might impact on your ecological footprint. I too am not “affected” by interest rates (except for a better return on savings) or fuel prices as I rent, don’t own a car or have a drivers licence, and I haven’t hoped on a plane in close to a decade. However, those topical problems you refer to are hardly isolated. I do not chuckle at the misfortune of those for whom these are problems. I also do not take pleasure of seeing grimaces at the grocery checkout. Enjoy Cambodia.

The end is nigh:

Mark Hardcastle writes: John Bowyer (Friday, comments) sets a pretty high threshold for the suffering he is willing for us to endure before he would change his mind. Seemingly nothing less than his own destruction will persuade him of the need to improve our care for our ecosphere. This is a rationale that we could ride to a very bitter end. “[All] the doom-sayers are full of it” is Bowyer’s hypothesis, his evidence is that he has not died, despite dire warnings. One problem here is we have no control group against which we can test variables. There is no equivalent planet with less public activism for peace or against nuclear options. No comparable ecosphere, equivalent except with less people struggling to maintain our ecosystems. Regarding motivation for “a handsome living”; unfortunately our current economic order does not reward action in proportion to contribution in sustaining/maximising our natural capital. Many will go unrecognised for invaluable contributions. This is in perverse contrast to the rewards for military profiteers, or the world record $50 billion profits for Exxon in 2007 (reward for campaigns to shape policy to increase oil dependence and demand). With better account of genuine progress it becomes apparent that as a whole we enjoy a more “handsome living” as a direct result of many under-valued efforts of activism.

Dave Evans writes: I sincerely hope you are right, John Bowyer as I and my children, being much younger, will live for several decades after your demise. However, if it is the doomsayers’ who are correct we will have to pay the price for the previous (and current) generations’ wilfully ignorant and negligent over-consumption. Of course all those photos of disappearing sections of forest and retreating glaciers could have been faked for profit by those uber-hippes, NASA. I do not live in the vicinity to visually confirm this, so it has no immediate impact on my life. Oh and if there is not going to be a nuclear war, the US government should stop wasting their taxpayers’ money and terrifying the rest of us (the disbelievers excluded of course).

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