Peter Rowley, acting CEO, State Transit Authority, writes: Re. “Sydneysiders wait as journos board the Fairfax Express” (yesterday, item 18). The 448 is not subsidised by Fairfax Media or any other company. It is available to everybody with a Pre-Pay ticket and is an express peak-hour only service intended to quickly take workers from Town Hall Station (QVB) to offices in Pyrmont in the morning and back in the late afternoon. The 448 express service will assist operation of the 443 service by providing additional capacity between the city and Pyrmont during peak-hours. The 443 will remain the primary fulltime bus route to and from Pyrmont. The 448 was put in service to respond to an emerging travel market, that is, people working in new commercial office space in Pyrmont Bay, Darling Island and Jones Bay Wharf. Businesses with significant numbers of employees have moved into this area including Channel Seven, Fairfax Media, American Express and soon Google. The Star City complex is also there. The service did run from 7am-9.30am from QVB to Pyrmont and from 4.30pm-6.30pm from Pyrmont to the QVB. However, with all new services we closely monitor them to assess patronage numbers and fine-tune the times of the service and the frequency of the trips to ensure that they properly service the public and run as efficiently as possible. Hence, from June 16, services will be amended to provide a seven-minute frequency from the QVB to Pyrmont between 7.50am and 9.50am weekdays and a 10-minute frequency from Pyrmont to QVB between 5pm and 7pm weekdays. This new timetable will see the number of buses used reduced from five to three. Thus freeing up two buses for use elsewhere in the network. The rationale for the 448 service is to provide a quick and reliable service for people traveling from the city to their workplaces in Pyrmont and back. This service is most efficiently and reliably provided by a small number of buses circulating as quickly as possible, which includes running back “Not in Service” to the city in the am peak and to Pyrmont in the pm peak. State Transit constantly reviews services across its network and makes changes when necessary.

Hetty Johnston on Henson:

Peter Wotton writes: Re. “Hetty Johnston: Henson debate a healthy sign” (yesterday, item 3). Hetty Johnson is reported to have said that “they were after all photographs of n-ked children”. This would certainly suggest that she views n-kedness, in itself wrong or evil. This does not appear to be either a balanced or a healthy approach. Two weekends ago, in one of the Sydney Sunday papers there was a photograph of Minister Swan pouring water over a n-ked baby. Indecent or obscene? You would have to be joking. It is time that the Press and the pollies regained a degree of perspective about the entire issue. We are told, after all, that we are made in God’s image!

Dave Liberts writes: I’m deeply concerned at Hetty Johnson’s lack of regard for the young models in Henson’s photos. They appeared in these photos on the basis that they were doing nothing wrong (according to their own morality, which whilst not adult is not insignificant either, also their parents were aware and by all accounts encouraging). Now Johnson is telling the world that they’ve appeared in pornographic images, implying that they’ve engaged in some form of s-xual conduct. Why has she not apologised to these girls for the distress she has caused them? I’ll believe Hetty Johnson cares when she apologises to Henson’s models for making them “friendly fire” casualties of her pursuit of Henson.

Linda Carruthers writes: Hetty Johnson wrote: “It is a contest between those defending the historical rights and freedoms of the Arts and those defending today’s rights and freedoms of our young. One can not be achieved without the sacrifice of the other.” While I can agree that the issues raised by the whole Henson debate are far more complicated than the “art vs. wowsers”, Hetty Johnson’s comment above is simply ludicrous. If Hetty thinks that we can’t properly protect children, unless we sacrifice the rights and freedoms of artists, and the role of the arts in developing a thoughtful and creative culture, then she is a danger both to society and to the children she purports to want to “protect”. Hetty is dead wrong. The whole debate will be worthwhile, precisely because the “Arts” and the role and rights of children in the representation and propagation activities of the arts, have been a prominent feature of the more thoughtful contributions to public discussion of this issue. Hetty has just established for a good number of people that she comes to this debate fired up more by her own self importance, than by any genuine attempt to grapple with the complex issues which this folderol has unleashed.

John Mair writes: Re. Wayne Bennett ( yesterday, comments ). Never mind the cover of the 1990 Nirvana album Nevermind — how about the self titled Blind Faith (the British supergroup featuring Eric Clapton) 1969 album cover! (A “Hetty Johnston Protection Strip” has been applied so as to not offend expert Labor politician art critics and other drum bangers who know better than we do.)

Oil, the future, and you:

Rhys Tate writes: Re. “Oil Futures part 3: A series on oil, the future, and you” (yesterday, item 15). It’s always good to see that the vaudeville act of the IPA hasn’t lost its ability to entertain, but I’d have Adam Carr from the UBS in the warm-up slot next time. Unfortunately he just doesn’t deliver as a headline act, although if you’re spending an hour on the freeway car park twice a day, you might find his making-sunshine-out-of-storm clouds statement that “if wages remain contained then rising fuel and oil prices act like a tax on consumption” more amusing. I ride a bike, so I’m not sure about that one. But I’m sure investment bankers are thinking of the little guys when they hope for lower interest rates on loans for the billions they’ve blown. Whoops! I mean on mortgages for working families. Sinclair Davidson, who shares a name with a once-popular but now obsolete computer, would like the benevolent private sector to lead us from the valley of expensive oil. I’ve got a good bedside story about that. There once was a company called Ovonic that made NiMH batteries for cars. You could run your car very cheaply on them! But in 1994, General Motors bought Ovonic and made GM Ovonic. Six years later, a benevolent private sector company called Texaco bought GM Ovonic and locked all of those silly batteries away. Not even Toyota could have any! I don’t know why, but people say it’s got something to do with all those big numbers on the signs outside service stations. The end. I bet all our drivers out there are feeling very sleepy after that one.

John Kotsopoulos writes: Sinclair Davidson wrote: “If you can accept the possibility that at $1.60, petrol prices may have temporarily overshot, then reducing tax distortions can go a long way in helping ease what may prove to be a temporary burden.” But what if you accept that oil companies are under no compulsion to pass on any reduction, that Nelson’s policy on excise will blow a $1.8b hole in the budget, and that Nelson’s gambit has been damned with faint praise as merely representing “good politics” by the Shadow Treasury spokesman who has pointedly refused to commit himself to its implementation? Nelson has made himself look like a complete mug and does not need any further help from the IPA.

Tony Kevin writes: After the two very good initial responses to “Oil Futures”, your current series on forecasting the economic and social effects of rising fuel prices, two disappointing ones today (“Oil Futures”, Part 3) from conventional market economists who cannot bear to look too far ahead under the cherished self-correcting economic model. The first two contributors understood that liquid fuel — petrol or diesel — is a finite resource, it is running down, it cannot readily be substituted at equal cost by another resource. There is no limit to how much more expensive it may get as we slide down the right hand slope of the world oil supply curve, and nobody can accurately predict how fast the price will rise. All we know is that the (fluctuating) price trend will be upward and may indeed become exponential rather than linear growth. The first two contributors gave honest, if shocking, answers to the crucial final question from Crikey — how would today’s society cope with petrol at $5 /litre ? The last two today simply ducked it — it was too hard for them to contemplate.

The public service:

Doug Melville writes: Sadly David Lenihan (yesterday, comments), for anyone above APS6 level, that is, EL1 and above, the junior management of the Public Service, there is no such thing as overtime, or maximum hours. Now many people would think these are people on big bikkies, perfectly adequately compensated for working 60 plus hour weeks. In actual fact an EL1 position is remunerated at around $75K. Yes, decent money, but not exactly a king’s ransom when my mate the chef gets $100K plus for 22 weeks a year on a rig, and drivers at opencast mines in WA with overtime can easily earn $100K. The worst result is that the people who should be the future of the Public Service are already showing signs of frustration and burnout. The resentment is not the long hours, after all that happens every year at Senate Estimates and Budget… it is the perception that they are to be expected to do this day in, day out, week in, week out, and not be adequately recompensed or even listened to. If I was a CPSU rep, I would be pitching my recruitment at these people. A work to rule would do wonders to change attitudes. After all, if you have to work 60 plus hours a week, every week, aren’t you just covering up for an incompetent employer with inadequate staff numbers?

Global warming:

Matt Hardin writes: Re. “Richard Farmer’s political bite-sized meaty chunks” (yesterday, item 11). Richard Farmer admits to not being a scientist (strange thing this global warming — more ice in Antarctic) but I would have hoped he would have been a better journalist. Five minutes with a spreadsheet and his figures showed me that sea ice in the Arctic is generally declining (despite some variable years) and that the sea ice area for the Antarctic appeared flat (in fact the figure for 2008 moved the gradient from about zero to positive). Of course neither of these numbers really means much at all as your correspondent would have found if he had researched more deeply into Antarctic climate literature. The volume of the ice is much more important particularly for the Wilkins and Larson ice shelves off Antarctica. If we get a cold year (and remember we have moved into la Nina conditions) variations in salinity and current can affect the areas of ice. There is evidence to suggest though that the thickness of these shelves is continuing to decrease and that has led to some major reductions in their volume (notably in 1999 and 2002) and a huge ice berg “the size of the Isle of Man” holding on by “a thread” report in March this year. To take one observation in isolation and out of context is the technique of the conman and the shyster and unworthy of Crikey. Global warming is real, is happening and is damaging the environment and our ability to live in a style to which we are accustomed. Cheap shots at denial only encourage those who have a vested interest in the status quo and no view for the future.

Australian troops in Iraq:

Tom Mitchell writes: Re. Yesterday’s editorial. It seems to me that as no Australians have been killed in action in Iraq then somehow our presence was only a token effort —  water boys as some have called them. The converse of this logic seems to be that if we had suffered casualties then our presence would have been more justified. Some are saying that the withdrawal is a victory for terrorism. I hate to say it but terrorism is way out in front as it has succeeded in turning most western “democracies” into police states that would do Uncle Joe proud. There’s more than one type of victory.

Sponsored Sydney bus services:

Jason Ives writes: Re. “Sydneysiders wait as journos board the Fairfax Express” (yesterday, item 18). I had to laugh at Ava Hubble’s article on the 448 Pyrmont Bus service suggesting that it is a Fairfax sponsored service — especially when reading about the “fury” of “long queues of Pyrmont residents haplessly waiting at the [QVB bus stop] for the comparatively infrequent 443 [service]” when the 448 departs to pick up more Fairfax journos. For all I know, the 448 is a service subsidised by Fairfax. However, as a former user (until very recently) of the 441 bus at the same QVB stop, I used to marvel at the sheer number of 443 Pyrmont/Star City Casino buses that arrived, each usually before the last one had left, on wet weekday evenings. Many of these buses departed empty and left long queues of hapless Balmain/Birchgrove residents wanting to know why there were so many unnecessary buses labelled “Star City Casino”. My fellow basket weavers and I used to joke that, in order to be justifiable, this service must have been sponsored by the said casino to freight in desperate gamblers. So if my conspiracy theory is right, and Ava’s conspiracy theory is right, is there a Pyrmont bus service that is not sponsored by some special interest group? There’s your next article, Ava; let us know what you find.


Jonathan Schultz writes: Re. Re. “Addressing ABARE’s serious flaws” (Friday, item 17). I can think of no better illustration of the ludicrous assumptions underlying ABARE’s dangerously optimistic forecasting than former Executive Director Dr Brian Fisher’s statement at Senate hearings in 2006, reported on Four Corners, that “if the price of eggs is high enough, even the roosters will start to lay.”

Guy Rundle in the US:

Joshua Barr writes: Re. “US08: Primary the Musical!” (Yesterday, item 5). Can I just join what I imagine is a legion of loyal Crikey readers in saying how great Guy Rundle’s column on the US presidential race is — it is pure gold and something that I eagerly look forward to each morning when I read my daily Crikey. Please start thinking now how you can keep him on the payroll once President Obama has settled behind his desk in the Oval Office, maybe even persuading him to apply the same analysis (the “you’ve gotta laugh or you’d cry” analysis) to Australian public affairs on a regular basis.

Alexander Downer (with apologies to Cole Porter):

John Goldbaum writes: Re. “Media briefs and TV ratings: Revising Henson’s history, Aussie shows go American” (yesterday, item 19). No wonder the Sunday program is slipping! Why did they bother to interview Alexander Downer when all he had to say was “Lord Downer decides he cannot decide today”? As Miss Otis’s luncheon secretary would have regrettably told Ellen Fanning:

Lord Downer decides
He cannot decide today.

Lord Downer decides
He cannot decide today.

He is sorry to be delayed,
But last evening in the Adelaide Hills, he stayed.

Lord Downer decides
He cannot decide today.

When he woke from his dream
And found that his job had gone,

He ran from the man
Who had led him so far astray.

And from under his imaginary crown,
He grew a red nose and became a clown.

Lord Downer decides
He cannot decide today.

Then the government came and got him
To give him away.

To fling him upon
A Cyprus across the bay.

And the moment before he’d decide,
He lifted up his lordly head and cried.

Lord Downer decides
He cannot decide today.

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