Alexander Downer:

Shirley Colless writes: Re. “DFAT bemused at Downer choice” (yesterday, item 12). Given Alexander’s consummate skills as a diplomat, has he checked whether or not either the Turkish or the Greek Cypriots would approve of his fishnets and high heels?

ABC Learning:

Michael Vanderlaan writes: Re. “ABC Learning’s generous use of play money” (yesterday, item 22). A 10% increase on ABC Learning fees? Maybe on average… but at Mona Vale in Sydney they have slugged us with 15.5%. If it’s 10% across the board, I’d like to know who we’re subsidising…

Curious people are the good burghers of Gippsland:

Steve Blume writes: Re. “Gippsland votes against the tough decisions” (Monday, item 1). In the general election in 2007 the voter turnout was 95.67% while turnout in the by-election last weekend was just 84.07%. So fully 11.6% of voters who voted in the 2007 general election couldn’t be bothered to turn up to vote in the by-election — three times as many voters did not vote in 2008 as did not in 2007. Those who are opposed to something are generally more prone to turn up than those who are OK with how things are or simply don’t care (comfort breeds apathy), so we might reasonably assume that those people who voted six months ago and didn’t this time are happy enough with the Federal status quo. The obverse conclusion, that they are opposed to the Rudd Government so didn’t vote at all, would be hard to argue. All the angst and chest-beating stories about the supposed threat to the Rudd government by the TPP swing of 6.42% and the larger drop in the primary vote might be well wide of the mark, or not, but who is investigating this to inform the punters? Perhaps I have just not been paying enough attention so have missed something, but I have not seen this significant voter gap discussed or analysed much in the media — is it too much to think it ought to be?

Fixing politics:

John Goldbaum writes: Re. “Fixing Politics: in the wake of the 2020 Summit” (yesterday, item 3). Fixing politics is easy. Only taxpayers should be entitled to vote and the more tax you pay, the more votes you should have. Just like shareholders in public companies.

The National Film and Sound Archive:

Ray Edmondson writes: Re. “New start for film industry?” (Yesterday, item 17). Your piece about the commencement of Screen Australia misses half of the news. Yesterday also marked the inauguration of the National Film and Sound Archive as an independent statutory authority. It has been one of our major national memory institutions for some time, but has been a pass-the-parcel entity for the last 24 years, the most recent five of which saw it inappropriately yoked to the Australian Film Commission – becoming a division of an organisation that was far smaller than it and marched to a different drum. The AFC has now disappeared into Screen Australia and the NFSA has been “de-merged” in that process. This was the fulfilment of Labor election promise and, to the government’s credit; it wasted no time in fulfilling that promise, once elected. It is easy to take our memory institutions, such as the National Library, National Museum and so on, for granted. Yet without statutory independence, they are vulnerable to political whim which puts their collections, functions and professional integrity in danger, and renders their activities opaque and unaccountable. The NFSA’s recent history is a set-piece case study of those dangers. The public lobbying of grass-roots advocacy organisations, such as Archive Forum, the Friends of the NFSA and the Australian Society of Archivists proved essential in protecting the institution until it could reach statutory independence. This came with the passage of the National Film and Sound Archive Act, with bipartisan support, in March. In an interesting display of bipartisanship, Minister Peter Garrett has appointed former Liberal senator and shadow arts Minister Chris Puplick as the chair of the NFSA’s governing board, which took office yesterday.

Chris Harrison writes: David Curl gives us only half of the picture. The other exciting and very significant change on July 1st was the recognition of the National Film and Sound Archive as a statutory body. It is once more independent, released from the bureaucratic shackles of the Australian Film Commission under whose authority the previous Howard government placed it. It was an odd thing for that government to do. It served no purpose and endangered it to many restrictions which alarmed the film and sound recording industries, filmmakers and others associated with the film and recording industries as well as archivists from all over Australia and the world. Bad and illogical decisions were made by the AFC who directly advised the federal Minister. As from now the Archive has its own council made up of people with a sound knowledge of film and sound archives and the film, television and recording industries. Disclaimer: I am a committee member of the Friends of the NFSA who campaigned for the statutory independence of the Archive and against government interference in its day to day running.

Offensive words and censorship:

Michael Woodrow writes: Cathy Price (yesterday, comments) writes in response to Greg Barns that no one amongst the group of friends she surveyed seemed “able to identify exactly why they hate the word [c-nt] so much.” She goes on to say that it shouldn’t matter why they “find it offensive, the point is that [they] do.” I would have thought that it mattered somewhat as to why they found the word offensive because people finding words offensive in an arbitrary and unjustifiable manner is symptomatic of the clouded and irrational thinking that allows people to find other things arbitrarily and unjustifiably offensive. Being arbitrarily and unjustifiably prejudiced against other people because of their race, religion, s-xuality or politics are obvious examples of clouded and irrational thinking and makes as much sense as finding offence in the arbitrary conjunction of vowels and consonants. Words mean what we decide they mean. The word could just as easily be one of endearment, encouragement or praise. The arbitrary finding of offence in the use of the word is symptomatic of our inability to think clearly and rationally about our own motivations. Our inability to think clearly and rationally has obvious consequences. Cathy Price goes on to say that if a 6-year-old girl saw anything rude in a “fcuk fashion” t-shirt then maybe there was a larger problem that the girl’s father needed to address.

Kate Newton writes: Re. “On wayward teens and their offensive T-shirts” (yesterday, comments). Your correspondent yesterday denigrated the c-word, but also seemed to think that anything else a group of people found offensive should be banned. For a moment I thought this was meant to be satirical, but apparently not. My friends and I find hairpieces, people scoffing pies in the street, muffin-tops and beer-guts offensive for starters, and we don’t want to miss out. We demand the police do their job properly, ban the lot and remove them from our sight. Actually those things just annoy us, but that should be enough to have the perpetrators arrested in Sydney next week. While society goes down the economic and environmental gurglers, we desperately need an Orwellian police state to protect us from the irritating people on our way. And locking everyone up would certainly avert the housing crisis.

Housing affordability:

Ben Eltham, fellow at the The Centre for Policy Development writes: In responding to my article (“Fixing politics: the housing affordability crisis” 26 June, item 10) on housing affordability, Adam Schwab (Monday, comments) argued that I “over-complicated an issue which isn’t really that complicated.” Schwab is right to argue that removing CGT and negative gearing tax concessions on housing won’t help to increase housing supply. But it will help moderate housing demand, by removing an important tax distortion that encourages real estate speculation. Since the late 90s, demand for housing has mainly been driven by speculation on increasing house prices rather than the fundamental rental yields that housing assets generate. As I suggested in my article, the tens of billions of dollars in tax concessions the Commonwealth gives away to landlords could be far better spent on increasing the public provision of housing — either directly by the states and Commonwealth, or through grants to non-profit housing collectives. Finally, thanks to Robert Murfutt who has caught me using an imprecise phrase. The ABS estimates there are around 100,000 homeless people in Australia, of whom only 14,000 can truly be said to be “on the streets.” Robert rightly observes that even this figure is a “critical issue” that deserves immediate attention.

Public broadcasting:

Kirill Reztsov writes: Re. “ABC take note: French TV juggles public and private” (yesterday, item 18). Has Charles Richardson actually watched TF1? I’ve lived in France for a year on exchange, and TF1 seems quite right-wing and the people in charge have close ties with Nicolas Sarkozy. It’s hardly the best source of news critical of the government. If Richardson is right that the government controls the content of public broadcasters, then why are there all the complaints about the ABC being left-wing? Why wasn’t the ABC playing “Situation in Iraq: awesome” when Richard Alston was the piper?

The race for Mayo and McEwen:

Cameron Sharrock writes: Re. “Forget Mayo, what about McEwen?” (Yesterday, item 8). Malcolm Mackerras got it wrong — there can’t be a simultaneous contest: Iban Mayo is a climber; Robbie McEwen is a flat-stage sprinter.

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