Conspiracy theory derailed:

Asher Moses, technology reporter, The Sydney Morning Herald, writes: Re. “Media briefs: White House plane detained, Phuket, let’s pun and more” (Friday, item 20). Sorry to derail your conspiracy theory but the Tom Piotrowski quoted in the iPhone story you refer to in Friday’s newsletter isn’t from CommSec. He is the managing director of a Sydney company called Unixpac. I would have been happy to enlighten you if you bothered to call me before you published.

The Olympics:

Gary James writes: Re. “$40 million: it’s how much each gold medal costs us” (Friday, item 10). With all the media becoming fixated by the Olympics for the next two weeks or so, I had hoped that Crikey would be an Olympics free zone. I was therefore, disappointed to find that your lead article on Friday was about the Olympics. You should realise that people subscribe to Crikey to get information and commentary they can’t find anywhere else. Commentary on the Olympics is everywhere at the moment and we don’t need anymore. That said, I agree with the views expressed by Dr Connor. I think it says a lot about Australia that we subsidise elite sport with taxpayers money.

Justin Templer writes: Dr James Connor is spot on. The Australian Olympic dream — multi-million dollar athletes funded, trained and equipped by the strangely obsessed citizens and corporations of one of the wealthiest countries in the world, competing against clones of themselves in a carnival atmosphere hosted by a repressive and murderous regime. Live the dream.

Pat Berzin writes: “H.G.’s Golden Nuggets: tonight’s the night, Australia” (Friday, item 1). I’m refraining from watching television until the nonsense is over. But I just want to say that the “Birdsnest” stadium look like a crocheted doughnut to me.

The Murray Darling Basin:

John Caldecott writes: Re. “Water buybacks are not an overnight solution” (6 August, item 17). This is perhaps one of the best editorials from Adelaide’s Advertiser that I have seen from the newspaper that started the global News Corporation, one that is with the people of South Australia and saying the things that need to be said. COAG needs to call a State of Emergency of the MDB, take control of all water resources, properties don’t need to be bought as the states own the water, and work out what can be done to save the Murray Darling system and what needs to be collectively sacrificed in the short term to ensure the vital environmental needs of the Murray Darling and vital needs for Australians who depend on the Murray Darling for food and water.

Those who depend on the Murray Darling to produce products for export must be put on hold until the current crisis has been solved, so too must Brumby’s plan to pipe water from the Goulburn River to Melbourne. COAG’s invention of “Critical Human Needs” is a meaningless concoction of a COAG and Murray Darling Basin Commission that has failed the Murray Darling and failed Australians. Any thorough audit of the MDB needs to not only determine what resources are available but what the resources are being used for. The Rudd Government needs to show leadership and call a Royal Commission into the MDB. Let’s be clear as the polling for Karlene Maywald’s electorate demonstrates federal and state Labor governments will only get one chance to get this right as the people are starting to mobilise and will be in no mood for politicians that have failed them.

Greg McFarlane writes: Barry McMillan (Friday, comments) is simply wrong. Cubbie Station’s dam doesn’t hold eight times the volume of Sydney Harbour. Cubbie hasn’t planted cotton (or anything else), for years, before putting in a small cereal crop this year. Why you might ask… because they have had no water for years. Two years ago the dam’s actual extant volume was around 50,000 gallons. The main dam on Cubbie is filled by rainfall and groundwater flow harvested on the property. These are facts Barry. The design work involved in establishing Cubbie was considerably more sophisticated than most people seem to understand, and rigorously overseen by Queensland water resources.

According to Howard’s inquiry last year, agri-business in south east Queensland drew 2.7% to 3% of total volume in the regional Murray Darling system. I’d suggest people look downstream from Queensland, Menindee lakes and all that irrigated fruit grown in semi desert conditions, all the irrigated vineyards that have sprouted over the past decade courtesy of Costello’s interesting tax investment schemes. There are no easy answers but many in the cotton growing industry are leading the way in conservation farming techniques and practises in this country and the proposition that releasing Cubbie’s stored water would flush the Murray/Darling system is a quaint fairytale.

Electric cars:

Alan Kennedy writes: Re. “Time for carmakers to plug electric cars into the transport grid” (Friday, item 24). Adam Schwab’s plea for electric cars is heartfelt I am sure but he is mistaken about the environmental effects of these vehicles. If you flooded Sydney streets with electric cars, if every one owned one, the environmental impact would be disastrous. These things have to be recharged and the thought of plugging them all into the coal-fired grid would send Al Gore into hyperspace. It just can’t be done. The Germans did the estimates years ago and ran a mile from pushing for electric cars. Electric cars are an answer if they are recharged by some means other than base load power which is invariably polluting. The energy has to be self creating as in a hybrid or come from something like solar or wind… Otherwise it is an idea whose time will never come. And another thing… the electric batteries are the big unspeakable polluters that present more than just minor problems.

Tim Falkiner writes: I am not going to tell car makers what sort of cars to build. But I am not going to buy a new car until I can get something efficient. Maybe electric with a top-up diesel engine. The car makers have a huge gap to bridge before I give up my reliable Falcon dinosaur. The Who Killed the Electric Car? video makes it clear that we need to bring our intellectual property laws into line with modern areas of law to give manufacturers the right to use modern technology upon payment of a reasonable fee. Intellectual property rights should carry with them obligations and be balanced against environmental and social considerations.

Paul Keating:

Ross Davidson writes: Re. “Keating, the greatest hits so far” (7 August, item 17). I generally do not follow politics but have made a conscious decision about a time where I was better off. I personally feel my family was better off under a Howard coalition for several reasons. I could not believe my ears when former Prime Minister Paul Keating gave Peter Costello a roasting in the media. The poor fellow must have dementia. How soon he has forgotten his years in the job. I remember them well; 17% interest rates, massive country debt ($Bs), no surplus budgets, high unemployment, “the recession we had to have and high taxes. Mmm, those were the years. If memory serves me it was Mr Keating’s arrogance that saw him run out of office by Australian voters. The Howard and Costello years were much better in my opinion; lower interest rates, lower unemployment, budget deficits, lower taxes and inflation was stable.

In only eight months the new Labor Government are already putting Australia back into the same situation as that of the Hawke/Keating years; job losses in the Commonwealth Government, increased interest rates, higher fuel costs, higher grocery costs, unemployment on the turn, inflation on the rise and new taxes. They cannot blame the previous Howard government. Things were not perfect but certainly were not as bad as what they are today. Mr Keating has lost touch with reality and should stick to his broken marriages, managing pig farms, selling off his properties, writing books and staying out of politics. His years of poor governing are long gone but not forgotten. This government will be a one term government because they have not learnt anything or listened to the Australian people for the 12 years they spent in opposition. I generally decide my vote on the day. I have no allegiance to any one party. The Rudd government are making my choice easy. The past eight months have been the worst I have had for over a decade.

David Lenihan writes: Rather than Roy Travis’ observation (Friday, comments) that, “It would seem the Paul Keating doesn’t like anybody, except himself of course.” Perhaps it’s the sense of humour of the former PM that niggles some of us? Politics is all the better for his quips, for mine.

Noel Crichton-Browne:

John Kotsopoulos writes: Re. “WA part II: this election is Barnett’s to win. Or lose” (Friday, item 16). Former WA Liberal Senator Noel Crichton-Browne’s description of the Alan Carpenter as “grubby and tawdry” really takes the biscuit. It’s Crichton-Browne and with his direct links to Brian Burke and his string pulling antics while in the Liberal party that most reasonable people would label as “grubby and tawdry” rather than Carpenter who has done his best to cleanse his party of the Burke taint.

Focus on Peter Costello:

Ross Wallace writes: Re. “First Dog on the Moon’s Focus on Peter Costello” (Friday, video of the day). Bravo! Hilarious and to the point. My compliments to the Foley artist for the Andrew Bolt “insiders” sequence. Toi Toi Toi!


Embedded reporting:

Stephen Magee writes: Re. “And the Wankley Award goes to… Paul Sheehan” (Friday, item 5). So Angela Bishop embedded herself “with the paps” when Sunday Kidman arrived home? Wow — that’s really getting up close and personal.

A nitpick:

Hayden Gullefer writes: Re. “Lowbottom diaries: Janelle’s ‘special gifts’” (Friday, item 19). Trevor Diogenes wrote: “In fact, for all the politesse of these interviews, the temperature continues to hover around 0 degrees Kelvin.” Just to nitpick for a moment. When measuring in Kelvin, you don’t add “degrees” (or alt+0186 which brings up the [º] symbol). You just say “0 Kelvin”. But then I think “absolute 0” sounds better…

Electoral reform:

Robert Johnson writes: Re. “Tasmanian politics and the unfortunate vignette of Paula Wriedt” (yesterday, item 17). Bruce Montgomery’s report on Liberal/Labor cooperation in Tasmanian electoral “reform” 10 years ago is not dissimilar to what Nader/independent candidates may feel at the US Presidential polling booth in November. My sister-in-law in Virginia is applying to be an Election Officer. Two of the questions on the application:

On Election Day, I would like to represent: (*Must Check one*) [ ] Democratic Party [ ] Republican Party

I also agree to represent either party when so needed at the polls: [ ] Yes [ ] No

Of course, non-two main party votes are far less numerous in the US Presidential elections than in Tasmania, but — as we’ve seen — can be far more catastrophic in their consequences than a mere balance-of-power outcome.

Rugged individualism:

John Goldbaum writes: Living in an inclusive society and rugged individualism are not mutually exclusive, as Brefney Ruhl (Friday, comments) would have us believe. Even some communists like the idea of all the comrades owning a Rolls Royce. Rugged individualism empowers those who are able to fend for themselves and restricts government activity and support to the group comprising those who are not. Middle class welfare is a waste of economic activity. Upper class welfare (such as taxpayers’ support for top private schools) is obscene.

The key to rugged individualism is to encourage economic and social participation through the provision of public education and public health for up to 85-90% of the population of minors (the rich will always pay for private health and education for their children) and adequate social support (such as supervising housing, clothing, nutrition and role-modelling) for the small number of minors with drop-kick parents (the vast majority of the parents in the middle socio-economic category will always be trustworthy as parents), and also to encourage a habit of savings and investment (15% compulsory superannuation contributions and receiving the benefits of good and speedy health care) for those whose wages make it possible to look after their own health needs and their own economic consumption in retirement. The disabled and the unlucky can be provided a safety net from the taxes of the fit and healthy, but in the past the state has provided a safety net from cradle to grave for everyone. Public hospitals would still be available but they cannot provide a Rolls Royce service on a beer budget.

I thought I would cop a spray from someone who was opposed to eliminating FBT as one of the inefficient and distorting taxes which should be replaced by a higher GST. My defence, in advance, is that I would make fringe benefits not tax deductible for the employer so that there is a disadvantage or at least no advantage in salary packaging and all salaries of the future would be paid entirely as cash and therefore be subject to income tax. How you spend your salary should be your own choice. If we can lower the number of people dependent on the government, we can lower the tax rates for the rest to the extent that there won’t be much incentive to avoid paying those taxes.

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