The Green Paper:

Rowen Cross writes: Re. “Is Rudd truly serious about climate change?” (Yesterday, item 2). This is not the first time Rudd’s Government has sprung policy surprises on us. It is early in Rudd’s term, but the Government already has a nasty habit of putting policy into place without consulting anyone.1) Tax on Alco-pops: Speaking to my local alco-pops dealer I was shocked to hear that the liquor industry was not consulted on the policy. Amazing given that liquor store owners and the liquor industry generally is very well placed to predict the effect the tax will have on drinking habits. As it turns out, the tax has done little to curb binge drinking by teenagers. This is what happens when tee-totalling bureaucrats make policy on issues they don’t understand. 2) Government screws Woodside: On Budget night Wayne Swan announced changes to the tax treatment of gas condensate from the NW Shelf, Australia’s biggest single resource development. The tax represents a major shift in taxation policy and will go directly to the bottom line, to the tune of $2.5 billion over the next four years (and much more $$ over the 20-year life of the development). Did the government consult Woodside or the other NW Shelf partners? No. You can imagine Woodside’s response when they read the budget papers: “multi-billion increase in taxes courtesy of tax receipts from Woodside… WTF?”. Companies need government certainty in order to do business in Australia. Decisions like this do nothing to foster confidence in the business environment. The Rudd Government seems more interested in pushing through its policies, no matter how flawed, rather than having them stand up to the rigours of public scrutiny and expert assessment. Sadly, Rudd doesn’t seem to realise that the crash-through or crash approach serves nobody’s interests, including the Government’s. It only makes for bad policy and bad government.

Ian Coombes writes: Your regulation model is what was used in the north of the USA in the 1990’s to stop acid rain, as that started to become a serious problem. It caused a cost of about 1% pa in the region as I recall, which the economy did not notice at all, lead to money saving efficiencies and costs reverted to a better or even level quite quickly. A great success. I support it as the most sensible approach now. All companies are audited, much of which can be done by formula in transport and other industries on the basis of publicly known science, and given that level as a quota. Then their quotas reduce by a set amount every year with a tax to be paid on any over-quota outputs. Quotas can be traded. This creates a level playing field so all companies know they won’t be disadvantaged in their cost base if they take action, which is the current situation.

Mark Hardcastle writes: If open markets are the most “efficient” way of allocating emissions, then gifting free pollution permits to coal-fired generators will increase the net cost of emission reductions to consumers. This extension on existing subsidies for coal will continue the suppression of renewables and stunt our position in the global renewable economy. If the Rudd government enforce a scientifically credible carbon cap, but give free license to coal, then consumers will need to dig deeper into efficiency measures to meet the caps. Improving efficiency is fantastic, but the eventual effect will be dimensioning efficiency gains, delay of renewable competition, inducing a disproportionate rise in costs to enforce the caps. Free permits to coal effectively protect the investment choices (and resources) of those whose profit from delaying action. There was no such care for solar cells, where emerging solar business had their orders slashed by 90% overnight with Labor’s first budget.

Greenhouse cowboys:

Geoff Russell, Animal Liberation SA, writes: Re. “The Crikey Green Paper II: who’s in, who’s out?” (Yesterday, item 3). In his item Bernard Keane ignored a whole AGO Greenhouse Inventory sector (“Land use change”) currently generating more emissions than all the cars in all of our towns and cities. Land use change is what we call deforestation when we do it here. It is considered separate from Forestry by the AGO for the simple reason that we only have two million hectares of forest plantation, but the livestock industries have deforested about 72 million. The logical thing, of course, would have been to put LUC in with agriculture, but that would have made livestock’s contribution to the whole heating up the planet thing way too obvious. Your line about there being a lack of evidence relating to agricultural emissions smacks of an association with a tobacco company and solid training in the art of the “smoking doesn’t CAUSE cancer” line. There is perfectly solid evidence about livestock production of methane. The lack of solid evidence is about the possible credits for pasture carbon sequestration. I.e., the cow boys knock down a forest, shunt the emissions into another sector (LUC) and then want credit for what some kinds of pasture might sequester under some weather conditions. This is particularly irksome when the cowboys are from the dairy industry. These particular cowboys use the lion’s share of our nitrogenous fertiliser, generated using bucket loads of energy from natural gas which really could be put to much better use. And being multi-skilled, the dairy industry does all this while totally drying out the Murray Darling Basin and making a product that probably causes prostate cancer with its dairy protein and definitely causes erectile dysfunction (a first stage of vascular disease), to name but one disease, with its saturated fat while doing absolutely nothing to prevent osteoporosis.

Rudd and the Pope:

Magnus Vikingur writes: Re. “WYD Web 2.0: questions for priests on pashing, s-x and climate change” (yesterday, item 9). I just watched Rudd officially welcoming the Pope. It reminded me of the time Molly Meldrum interviewed Prince Charles on Countdown. Rudd very badly attempted to change his manner, diction, voice and accent to suit the occasion. He sounded cheesier than Alexander Downer! Somebody get me a bucket.

Defence funding and the media:

Neil James, executive director of the Australia Defence Association, writes: Re. “Why the media is a barrier to health reform” (yesterday, item 5). Professor Katherine McGrath’s very able analysis of how media coverage and commentary concerning public health services exacerbates rather than assists reform would have resonated with many of your readers with experience of defence issues. In virtually every one of her 12 paragraphs with the simple substitution of “defence” for “public health”, and similar terms either way, her analysis bears up just as well for media coverage and commentary on defence issues. But to cheer Professor McGrath up a bit, at least some media commentary of health issues is still by health specialists with hands-on knowledge whereas the defence correspondent with real defence expertise and understanding (and combat experience) has virtually vanished from the scene. It is also worth noting that at least public health services (a mixed Commonwealth and State responsibility) are now funded nationally at around four and a half times the national funding for defence (a wholly federal responsibility). What’s more this reflects a major change over the last 40 years in the traditional 1:1 ratio for funding both these major government responsibilities.

Coal mining:

Mark Byrne writes: There was a gaping hole in the figures for coal mining emissions provided by Peter Logue, the director of external communications for the Australian Coal Association (Tuesday, comments). Missing were emissions resulting from energy used for mining, transport and processing. Moreover, CCS (Carbon Capture and Storage) requires 23%-40% more energy. This means 23-40% more mining, transport, processing and fugitive emissions. It also requires more coal plant. When the full lifecycle is considered the GHG (greenhouse gas) reduction potential of CCS is limited to between 65% and 79%. (Australia needs to cut emissions by 90%). In comparison, renewable electricity emits only 1%-4% of the GHG emitted by CCS-plants when their entire life cycles are considered.


Ross Copeland writes: Re. “Last night’s TV ratings” (yesterday, item 17). Rather than giving Glenn Dyer’s TV Ratings a segment of its own, I suggest it should be put out to pasture a la Big Brother. Apart from people working in TV and/or advertising/marketing/PR, who gives a toss about what other people were watching last night? I would guess that maybe five million people might be watching Seven, Nine, Ten, ABC1 and SBS at any point in peak hour evening time. That means 16 million people are doing something else with their time of an evening. Some could be watching pay TV (30% of households have pay TV) or the digital/HD channels now available but which never even get a mention in Glenn’s ratings. In our house 95% of viewing is via Foxtel — I might get banished to the other TV if I want to watch the footy while my wife wants to watch something on UKTV, or we might put on Lateline when we have gone to bed, so the ratings of the FTA channels mean very little to us. One advantage of having a separate segment is that I can skip directly to the next heading.

Declaring interests:

Glen Frost writes: In Monday’s editorial, you mention the apparent close relationship between some advertisers and some media organisations, and you mention the Apple iPhone and Fairfax and the Pope/WYD and News Corp. I am keen to know about Crikey’s relationship with Media Monitors; the company that regularly has banner adverts in your newsletter and on-going (often daily) articles about how many times Aussie pollies get mentioned … in the interests of declaring all our interests, I think we (your loyal readers) should be told.

Crikey: Fair point Glen. Crikey does indeed have a commercial relationship with Media Monitors in which they supply us with media monitoring services and we contract to provide an agreed amount of on-line advertising.

Peddling hysteria:

Benn Barr writes: Re. “Dark night: the economic bad news spreads” (yesterday, item1). In relation to Glenn Dyer’s article today on current US Economic position, it has been 15 years since I studied economics but I’m not sure I can recall how rising unemployment can put upward pressure on inflation. The two things existing at the same time does not signify a causal relationship. Please tell me it’s a misprint or is Crikey now just in the business of peddling hysteria?

The resources boom:

Tim Don writes: Re. “Resource boom hits rock bottom for zinc and nickel miners” (yesterday, item 20). Glenn Dyer may consider getting his facts straight. Lennard Shelf was one of the highest operating cost operations in the world. It was no news it was destined for closure at this time. The more of these high operating operations close down, as they will, then the profits of many of our own Australian zinc projects will be enhanced. Thankfully the resource boom is not over in Australia, thanks to India and China.

A whinge:

John Kotsopoulos writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (yesterday, item 7). It seems that the vituperative whinging tipster from Parliament House is much happier helping those who gave us the illegal Iraq invasion, Children Overboard, AWB and the highest taxing Government in our history. I have a message for him or her. Get over it.

Ban the balloon:

Patrick Belton writes: Re. “Richard Farmer’s political bite-sized meaty chunks” (yesterday, item 10). Richard Farmer may not recall the Environment Protection (Release of Balloons) Bill 2001 (Tas) (which was never passed), and the Protection of the Environment Operations Amendment (Balloons) Act 2000 (NSW) (repealed). California isn’t the first to ban the balloon, or at least attempt to do so. Interestingly, under both, it was “not necessary for the prosecutor to establish the exact number of balloons released”, and evidence that a balloon rose in the air after being released was, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, evidence that the balloon was inflated with a gas that caused it to rise in the air. Legislating against the wind, perhaps?

The Wilkins Ice Shelf:

Chris Hunter writes: Re. “Can somebody please explain the Wilkins Ice Shelf” (Tuesday, item 11). I can understand Richard Farmer’s line of enquiry about the Wilkins Ice Shelf. Not so long ago in Crikey I aired similar concerns with regards the Franz Glacier in New Zealand, where snow levels were recorded lower and the air cooler — apparently due to “anomalous” factors. Actually the word anomalous appeared quite regularly in the science of it all which left me none the wiser. But don’t get me wrong, I am not a climate sceptic or even a climate septic, I am probably no different to Richard Farmer in that we are just a little curious when certain evidence doesn’t attest to the general theory.

RACV and the Eddington report:

Brian Negus, general manager, public policy at the RACV, writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (Tuesday, item 7). Contrary to incorrect allegations published in Crikey, RACV strongly supports all the findings in the Eddington report and has been a vocal advocate for immediate action for both road and rail tunnels, as well as a number of other urgently needed improvements to public transport and roads within the corridor. RACV notes for the record that our position has been widely reported in the media since 17 March 2008. For details on our position, please read the RACV media release of 2 April 2008, available on our website.

Latte watch:

Tony Barrell writes: Re. “The word of God, brought to you by The Australian” (Monday, item 2). It seems the Bernard Keane’s recidivist penchant for categorising people by what they drink remains unchecked by both him and your editor (do you read before printing?) Otherwise how could he still be blathering on about “latte sippers” at the ABC? Surely it can’t be just to annoy me. By the way this is late because I am at present sipping a Greek coffee on a Greek island, but make no mistake, the gratuitous latte watch continues wherever, forever.

Bad cap watch:

Stephen Mayne writes: Re. “Media briefs: press release v newspaper, stipple ripple, bad cap watch” (yesterday, item 16). Crikey published: “…today we gong Stephen Mayne for his awful, awful cap … Unless you’re American, a golfer or there’s sun inside, we say boot the headwear.” Hey, the first cap was a Daily Telegraph collector’s item and the second is my treasured “News Ltd” cap. However, seeing as it is impossible to read the joke fails and you’re right.

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