Brendan Nelson and climate change:

Sean Hosking writes: Re. “Nelson opts for guano over Garnaut” (yesterday, item 1). Brendan Nelson’s craven attempt to leverage his short-term political hide with Australia’s long-term future presents a spectacle of the kind that previously one would have had to have gone to the gaming tables at Star City Casino to behold. You know, the unkempt sweaty faced punter, plunging further into the mire with every roll of the dice, hocking his wife’s jewelry and raiding his kid’s piggy bank for one last shot at redemption. Alas, there’s Nelson every night on the tele, knitted brow simulating statesman like gravitas, flailing about desperately for relevancy like one of those exotic creatures on Dr Who, hoping perchance to snare some Howardesque connection with hip pocket geared middle Australia, or short of that, maybe a kind word from the editorial staff at The Australian. If he wasn’t playing with our future Nelson’s lasting legacy would at best be some kind of tragi-comic rock opera staring Glenn Shorrock. As it is, given that he and his party are one half of the Punch and Judy act that constitutes parliamentary democracy in Australia, I suppose we’ve got to take him seriously. As Monty Python said: “life’s a laugh and death’s a joke its true, you’ll see it’s all a show, keep ’em laughing as you go, just remember that the last laugh is on you…”

Shirley Colless writes: You’re right, Brendan Nelson has his head so far into the populist sand that first his nether end is a dead sitter for an application of the good old Aussie boot, and second, he totally ignores that until recently, with the rise of the gen-Xers, Australians have made a heck of a lot out of doing it tough. Trawl back through Australian history (not the John Howard version) and you will find Australians battling to achieve everything we now take for granted, including for all adult men and women to vote, the development of health care, public education, the opening up of agricultural and pastoral land, the development of industries designed to replace imports, of fair pay, fair employment, and so on and so on. Yes, all of this was achieved with an abhorrent level of racism and with some levels of our society kowtowing to either Great Britain or the USA, but Australians were prepared to battle for their future. Now we have to do it again, and I personally find Brendan Nelson’s stance extremely annoying but more likely insulting. Australians, both the old comers (and that includes the indigenous people) and the new comers a bunch of talented, innovative, intelligent, creative, problem solving people whose skills and talents need to be put to work to solve the problems of today and tomorrow. We need leaders, both in politics and business, who can work with us to work it out. We should not be seen as a bunch of wimps who need someone else to show us what to do and how to do it.

Ignaz Amrein writes: Once again Dr Nelson proved his ignorance about global warming. How else can you explain that he demanded from Kevin Rudd to be a human blowtorch? Surely there are other methods to apply pressure without having to use heat; there is already enough hot air at gatherings like the G8. Then again, hot air pretty much sums up what the Liberal party is about these days!

Emissions trading, non-core promises and Michael Costa:

John Shailer writes: Re. “Coal industry shocked by unforseen ETS. Who knew?” (yesterday, item 14). A main plank of Kevin Rudd’s election campaign was the implementation of an emissions trading scheme (“ETS”) by the year 2010. He has recently downgraded it to an ‘ambition’, and his ministers are talking about an ‘intention’ to implement the scheme. Is this now a non-core promise?

Thomas Richman writes: Does Michael Costa’s refusal to debate Ross Garnaut mean he’s a “Little Chicken”?

Carbon capture:

David Lewis writes: Re. “Geosequestration — trickier than keeping a fart under the doona?” (yesterday, item 15). If they really wanted to do something about carbon they’d use something they could use a lot sooner — like this technology. If you really wanted to be cute you’d recycle the algal oil straight back into the boilers at the coal plant. Also, remember there are a few tonnes of carbon dioxide to each tonne of coal burnt because you’ve added those two atoms of oxygen. So you need to multiply the charge for each tonne of greenhouse gas sequestered. Be careful because the carbon charge is often quoted for the CO2 not per tonne of coal burned.

George Pell and the Catholic Church:

Michael Carey writes: Re. “Catholics, s-x and other major events” (Monday, item 10). While George Pell claims not to be a member of Opus Dei, he is certainly backed by this extremist wing of the Church. I note that the Pope will be resting up at an Opus Dei centre, at Kenthurst, on the north-west outskirts of Sydney, before WYD kicks off! My first experience of Opus Dei was hearing about the bizarre rules that governed my school friend’s life at Opus Dei’s Warrane College at the University of NSW. My second was as an American ABC reporter in Brazil, in the mid-eighties, when I was covering a story of peasant farmers thrown off their land in the “Parrot’s Beak” area of the eastern Amazon basin. The Sao Paulo businessman who had just acquired the newly issued land title, allowing him to evict the “squatters”, as he called them, was a member of Opus Dei, at least, that’s what he told me. Those who didn’t leave were threatened, or had their shacks burnt to the ground, hardly God’s work, I remember thinking at the time. The businessman had granted me an interview on condition that I wasn’t a communist and nor had ever been a communist. That phrase remains with me to this day! So this is the group which has papal preferment.

Terence Hogan writes: Michael Byrne (yesterday, comments), you say that “Only the unreflective fool admires the flowering of our humanity across time without appreciation of the roots that underpinned it.” The roots that underpin the flowering you describe are human imagination, compassion, curiosity, creativity, etc. These qualities are universally displayed in various degrees by people of all beliefs, religious or secular, across the world and throughout history, that is, including but not restricted to Catholics. However, concepts such as the virgin birth, fiery hell, transubstantiation, Papal infallibility, etc (there’s a lot of ‘em) are understandably considered by many folk to be part of a “strange belief system” and I would suggest that if no-one had ever thought them up an impressive flowering of humanity across time would have happened anyway. Whether all Catholics hold fast to such ideas today is beside the point. Strange beliefs like these are, and have been, the cornerstones of organised religions and are nothing to do with your “reasoned morality”; in fact they have often worked in total opposition to anything I would understand by that term.

An anonymous DEEWR insider writes: Re. “The great international student rort” (yesterday, item 5). I wonder what our compliance area would think, after spending the last six months trying to ensure that all the students from the Global College collapse were refunded, of the situation Alex Mitchell describes. As well as policy and compliance initiatives, there is a 6 million dollar tuition assurance fund to ensure student’s rights. It would be appreciated if anyone was to pass on to us the names of any provider keeping a student’s overseas health cover money. Particularly since this would probably require forging the student’s healthcare card, as the student should be aware of their entitlements. On this issue, Australian taxpayers would probably be surprised if the medical expenses of any person who was not a permanent resident or on a humanitarian visa were to be funded by the anyone other than themselves. Australian healthcover is comparatively quite reasonable. There are elements of truth with regard to the situation of individual students in this article, but the article is not well balanced. The rise of private colleges for international students is not merely a profiteering enterprise by people selling education. The fact that anyone offering education to international students has to be registered on the Commonwealth Register for International Courses for Overseas Students is essential to the international education industry. This is not even mentioned by Mitchell. All RTOs must be accredited by their state authority and approved by the Federal Government. The fact that there are accusations against ministers in the NSW government would have no bearing on the processes in place to register and monitor education providers. Jounalists may not receive a response from a government agency if it is clear that even the most basic research has not been undertaken. Furthermore, unbalanced reporting is not helpful. In the past, some good focussed reporting has brought to light a number of scams which have been followed up by government authorities. There are consumer protection mechanisms in place, which, though often drawn-out, can be accessed by international and domestic students, and do yield results.There is no doubt that there are rorts in the industry but it is disappointing that Crikey would publish such an ill-informed article. Some real research may expose actual issues that could be followed up by the correct authorities.”

Children and art:

Ashley Falconer writes: Re. “Banning n-ked kids would make the law an ass” (yesterday, item 12). I don’t think the community should suffer unworkable laws or standards of ‘morality’ because of the confusion that the Prime Minister or Hetty Johnston has over their s-xual instincts and responses to photographic images. By the same token, the rest of the community should not presuppose upon them any apparent depravity in their responses. Suffice it to say that certain artistic images trigger something within them that might not be what the artist intended to excite or that are not exactly appropriate. Their response is probably best tolerated and politely ignored rather than debated.


Andrew Lewis writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (yesterday, item 8). Great tip about investing in child care centres. Seems like Paul Keating’s parrot in the pet shop has moved onto the child care centre line now. May I just poke a few holes in the suggested business model? In NSW at least, you can’t get a licence for a 96 place centre, the staff ratios suggested are way under the legal requirements, other outgoings including meals, nappies, insurance etc of $105k wouldn’t get you through the first six months. If you are building in Sydney in areas of need you will be paying upwards of $2.5M to $5M for the land alone. You can open one out in Campbelltown or Penrith, where the land will be substantially cheaper, but the area is already over-serviced. Factor in two years minimum getting the building approved, built, and licenses organised, if you are lucky and don’t get extensive opposition from neighbours. Factor in that insurance has to cover the next 25 years of every child’s life in an increasinlgy litigious age, and child/staff ratios at least at the legal requirement, and you are looking at a profits that might struggle towards 5% p.a. rather than the suggested 50%. Add in risks associated with the cost of land, which for the first time in most of our lives is actually a risk, and the fact that nobody in the industry is making “real” operating profits, and you might be able to guess why investors aren’t rushing at the door. Our canny investor obviously has no experience in staffing these things, and the assumption of 100% occupancy rates into forever can’t be guaranteed anywhere, and are actually quite unlikely in some areas. Of course private schools can do it, they pay nothing for the land and are tax exempt, and they are your competitors! All these smarties should get on board and open their child care centres. I’d like to see that. What you won’t find is people with experience in the industry throwing their money at them.

Rural Aussies:

Peter Lloyd writes: Chris Blackie (yesterday, comments) might like to reflect that Bernard Keane’s depiction of rural Australians as “grasping and scheming environmental vandals”, while not “helpful”, is probably a good description of those in the country with political influence. One poignant example that comes to mind were those who successfully obstructed the Beattie Government’s proposed acquisition of the water-guzzling cotton mega-farm, Cubbie Station, around 2002. Here in Tasmania there are still a lot of suckers determined to fell everything in sight, no matter how many times Gunns and the major parties slap them with job losses in sawmilling and cuts to the tariff paid to transport contractors. There are certainly plenty of progressive voices in rural areas, but they are rendered mute by the interests of the, inevitably subsidy-dependent, boganocracies. Older residents who remember more careful methods of production are often very insightful, but usually conditioned to stand by the exploiters. I urge Keane to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Piers Akerman and fight political correctness!

Employment participation:

Marcus L’Estrange writes: Re. “ALP’s Participation Taskforce has all the wrong participants” (Monday, item 17). Eva Cox has missed the point. With a real unemployment figure of two million and 1.75 million on one of the six different dole payments and only 180,000 vacancies (all ABS figures) it doesn’t matter what Employment Participation Minister O’Connor does in this area. It will have no effect on anything except to ensure that the real unemployment rate will not change. Over the 25 years I worked in the old CES before I had to leave for being a whistle-blower I saw more Labour Market Schemes come and go than I have had hot dinners. They all collapsed in a heap because of the above numbers of unemployed vs. vacancies. What then is to be done? Read my paper: What then is to be done. I make about 24 proposals but in essence Job Network goes to be replaced by a small component added to Centrelink to help those who cannot help themselves, the Tax Office supervises dole payments via a guaranteed minimum income and a four day working week (36 hours) for most workers, at no loss of income, to be financed by the current and massive cost of unemployment, is introduced until 2016/2018 when the ageing problem may really hit and hours worked may then have to increase. If my proposals are implemented now then all will have some work to do rather than some doing all the work and we don’t end up simply with a clever dole queue. Eva rightly mentions the carpetbaggers who have latched on to the unemployment industry and programs like Job Network/ Work for the Dole/ Working Nation etc. Yes, she’s right. Avoid them like the plague. Their only intention is to gain themselves a highly paid job paid for themselves, of course out of money meant for the unemployed.


John Williams writes: Re. “Briefly Business: iPod index, Pratt pleads sainthood, eBay” (yesterday, item 24). A couple of years ago I ordered a clock from an eBay seller in Belgium. To pay for the item the seller only accepted direct deposits into their bank account in Belgium. Only problem was that it costs more in bank fees ($55) than the actual item ($42 including postage). I tried to pay by Western Union, but the seller heeded eBay’s warnings that wire transfer was unsafe (the buyer might get cheated) and refused. I ended up going to a Thomas Cook travel agency buying Euros and posting cash. It took a while but I got the clock. All pretty stupid really — I had to drive 45ks round trip to the travel agency, pay agency commission and posting the money. After that episode, I’ve stopped using eBay.

Copper mine fire:

Adam Michell writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (yesterday, item 8). Regards the “Tips and Rumors” about a fire in one of the African copper mines, Equinox Minerals (ASX code EQN) provided a release to the ASX late yesterday (~7pm on 7 July) that a fire had occurred in its yet-to-be commissioned Lumwana plant.

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