The Yogyakarta crash:

Thomas Parkes, acting director of communication services for the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government, writes: Re. “Yogyakarta Airport in safety breach when Garuda jet crashed” (yesterday, item 1). The Indonesian National Transportation Safety Committee (NTSC) is responsible for the investigation and reporting of transportation in the Republic of Indonesia. The Australian Transport Safety Bureau has provided assistance to NTSC in relation to recent safety investigations. Like NTSC, it has no role in the licensing and regulation of airports. The NTSC’s Final report concerning the GA 200 investigation was released in October 2007 and is available at here . The report did not conclude that airport deficiencies were responsible for the accident. The report, however, stated that the airport did not meet ICAO standards including the Runway End Safety Areas, Emergency procedures, services and equipment. The Report provides advice concerning the effect of these deficiencies on the aftermath of the accident. Safety action to resolve these and other deficiencies identified by the NTSC report are matter for the Indonesian Directorate General of Civil Aviation.

Fixing Australian politics:

Terry Quinn writes: Re. “Politics is broke. Let’s fix it” (yesterday, item 3). Bernard Keane’s item is healthy food for thought, especially because he acknowledges “the media’s insistence on the adversarial nature of politics”. The arrival of TV in the fifties prompted newspapers to become, to varying degrees, less the reporters of news, no matter how humble, and more the egocentric, personality-obsessed analysers, commentators and self-proclaiming “agenda-setters” of more recent years — a virus that seems to be mutating with the onset of an already artery-blogged worldwide Web. It’s interesting/worrying (take your pick) to compare the reporting of parliament, government, and issues in all their detail in pre-TV or early-TV years with today’s limited coverage. And count the by-lines, then (limited) and now (they’re everywhere). The attitude of some editors seems to be, more then ever: If there isn’t a gotcha headline in it, and a pick can’t be driven through someone’s standing or reputation, it’s not a story. It’s not news. As for the mushrooming legions governments employ to “manage” media, and to some extent ferment an already noxious brew, that’s another virus and another problem.

David Hand writes: I suddenly feel old. It’s possible that Crikey editors and correspondents are too young to remember the 70s and the economic and cultural turmoil we faced then. If you think the price of petrol, food etc is unprecedented; you weren’t compos mentis in 1973. The oil shock of that year basically stuffed most western economies for 20 years and it was the reforming governments in the 80’s, Thatcher, Reagan, Hawke and Lange to name a few, that put in place the necessary changes in how we run our societies. And while you worry about climate change, in the 70’s and 80’s it was about 1000 nuclear warheads that could theoretically go off over our heads before anyone had a chance to tell us they were coming. That’s not to say today’s problems are trifling or insignificant. They are very real. I think it will take about 20 years to work out how to tackle climate change as well as peak oil. If the people who say we don’t have 20 years are right, then it’s already too late so take a chill pill. Your opinion about Rudd’s short term perspective has, in my view, more to do with the fact that he’s not doing what you think he should. Remember, as he said on election night, he’s governing for all Australians, not just those who like their lattes and live close enough to city centres to view public transport as a preferred option. As for Rudd and Nelson, there were a lot of duds in the 70s as well but we adapted eventually, as we will in the decades to come.

Suresh Pathy writes: Re. Yesterday’s editorial. It is hard to believe, but it looks like Rudd had achieved what seemed impossible six months ago: the real possibility for the Liberals to regain government in one term. Let’s look ahead three years from now to a fairly probable scenario. Real interest rates remain high, the world economy in the gutter with Australia bearing at least some of the pain, unemployment becoming a real threat again, house prices dropping and no bottom in site, at least one bank has failed due to the fallout of the global financial crisis. In the meantime the issues that existed prior to the Rudd government continue unabated: climate change has knackered our food and water supply. Fires have raged through the previous summers, the ski season is a thing of the past. Fuel prices have remained at over $2 per litre and look like going higher. The voters are not totally stupid. If the current regime does not provide a raison d’être, nor show that all this pain has some gain then they will replace them with someone else, the Liberals: especially if Peter Costello is the leader. We can only hope that Julia Gillard is awake to this and realize that the only way she is going to become PM is to replace Rudd soon. The back benchers had better realise that they will only be remembered as being part of a party that was given an opportunity to do some good and turned back at the first hurdle. They made a great start with the apology but nothing since then. They will be remembered as the gutless wonders that did not take control back from a bullying control freak who was afraid to stand up to the current powers that be (coal, oil, woodchippers etc) and give the power to someone who would do something.

Dealing with peak oil:

Tim Kimpton writes: Re. “Kohler: Oil and the pandering paradox” (yesterday, item 22). Congratulations to Alan Kohler — best article I’ve seen on this subject in weeks. Can I suggest Kevin Rudd might actually have earnt some public support if he’d stuck to his original “there’s not much more we can do about oil pricing” position. And on top of that infuriating week long exchange with Brendan Nelson on whose silly scheme might just save 10 cents/litre, what a stupid waste of tax-payers money sending Martin Ferguson on what was always going to be a futile journey to the Middle East. I agree that most people particularly politicians just don’t seem to see what an incredibly timely and convenient segue the soaring price of crude is to the inevitable taxing/trading of carbon inside two years — assuming Canberra takes the slightest bit of notice of Ross Garnaut’s recommendations. It also helps make alternative technologies more viable. Can I suggest the words “Hubbert’s Peak” or “peak oil” get used a bit more in media discussion. The era of cheap energy is coming to a close. I haven’t found a single oil geologist of global renown to dispute we hit this sometime between 2005 and the present — world production has begun its inexorable decline and global demand keeps on climbing — the results are pretty obvious, even to an economically challenged scientists like myself.

ABARE and energy exports:

John Poppins writes: Re. “Australia still raking it in thanks to energy exports” (yesterday, item 21). In his item Glenn Dyer marvels at the good news. Are our economic commentators and politicians deluded or just relentlessly dependent upon ignorance of our adverse balance of payments? It seems they cannot see beyond today’s corporate media releases, next year’s salary review or election. Added to this they are blind to any limits to consumption growth imposed by global warming, water and “environmental services”. ABARE’s history of boosterism disguised as forecasting cannot change the fact that we are exporting basics such as coal, iron ore and agricultural commodities at good but likely volatile prices only to re-import much of it at far higher cost, with a great deal of labour and intellectual value added by overseas manufacturers. Our economy is being progressively distorted in favour of diggers of holes who employ a very small proportion of our workforce and add decreasing value. Any vestiges of the clever country with a sustainable future for our descendants are evaporating as many of our brightest young scientists or their inventions are being recruited overseas. This is well exemplified by our experience in the renewable energy industries in which Australia should be exploiting its overwhelming long term natural advantage.

Mark Byrne writes: The energy price boom (as reported by Glenn Dyer) gives rise to some interesting questions; what percentage does the citizen get for this windfall profit? Finland is renowned for its far sighted policy of reinvesting profits from its non-renewable exports (oil) in to renewable wealth generation (electronics, health, social programmes). Consequently or coincidentally Finland is top in the world in indicators such as literacy and numeracy. Can Crikey publish the percentage going to the public purse for a range of non-renewable commodity exports (fossil fuels, minerals etc)?

World Youth Day:

Kristina Keneally, Iemma Government spokesperson for World Youth Day, writes : Re. “Tips and rumours” (yesterday, item 7). The Catholic Church, the Event organiser of World Youth Day, tells us they are on track to deliver 225,000 people for the event next month, who when joined by Sydneysiders will mean crowds of up to 500,000 people in the Sydney CBD. As announced on June 4, up to 10,000 people will be accommodated in 93 state schools, less schools than originally planned because the event organisers have found an alternative place where their pilgrims will fit – indoor venues at Sydney Olympic Park. Organisers have also increased the number of people who will stay in Catholic schools, up to about 70,000 people. The full list of schools was outlined yesterday in a state-wide media release. Most of the temporary showers and bathroom facilities which were earmarked for public schools will be available to World Youth Day visitors staying at Olympic Park or Catholic schools.

Jim Hanna director of communications, World Youth Day Sydney 2008, writes: Some of the people who feed your “Tips and rumours” section are really on the ball. Yesterday’s piece about “several public schools” in Sydney being told they’re no longer needed to house Catholic pilgrims was announced by World Youth Day in a media release on 4 June. The release explained that instead of needing more than 400 public schools, we’ll now need fewer than 100 because we’d secured sites within Sydney Olympic Park for more than 10,000 pilgrims (it makes sense to consolidate sleeping places across fewer venues — fewer delivery points for food, easier pilgrim transport arrangements, etc). We also said we’d secured 7,000 extra places in Catholic schools and pointed out that we’re working with the NSW Government to re-direct temporary facilities because “we still need to provide the same number of shower and toilet facilities for pilgrims.” Yesterday we announced that we’ve got almost 197,000 registrations (our target is 225,000 with three weeks left — come on Aussies!), so the crack that there “seems to be fewer visitors than anticipated” is also wide of the mark.

Red meat and cancer:

Walt Hawtin writes: Geoff Russell (yesterday, comments) asks me on what basis do I claim that are his arguments are emotional in relation to his assertion that red meat causes cancer. Here is the answer: Russell said: “… eating red meat is like smoking cigarettes through your an-s.” This is an emotional comment from an animal liberationist. It is unscientific and rhetorical, rendering it pretty meaningless. Here is what Russell’s authority, the WCRF, say on their UK site: “We recommend people limit consumption of red meat to 500g per week (cooked weight) and to avoid eating processed meat.” Sounds reasonable. But back to Russell’s claim that eating red meat is the same as smoking through your butt? Why would the WCRF recommend the consumption of any red meat at all if it was as dangerous as cigarettes? They certainly don’t recommend smoking any number of cigarettes per week as a healthy intake, so the clear message here is that red meat in moderate amounts is okay. This is not remotely what Geoff argues in his article. Therefore the parallels drawn by Russell are emotional and unscientific. And yes, I am aware that I have become a mere pawn in Russell’s propaganda campaign by even replying to him again, but he works for a good cause and deserves the PR.

Schapelle Corby:

Chris Hunter writes : Re. “After the boogie bag: curse of the Corby’s haunts Aussie TV” (yesterday, item 19). Glenn Dyer wrote: “The [TV] show shot down the ‘baggage handler’ defence, with Corby’s former Gold Coast solicitor fessing up to inventing the whole thing.” Is the Corby defence team going to apologise to Australia’s baggage handlers? After all, were they not defamed by their outrageous slur?

Jim Hart writes: If Schappers’ lawyer invented the baggage handler defence, you’ve got to wonder if he has any kind of pecuniary relationship with those guys who shrink-wrap your suitcases.

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