Cubbie Station and water use:

Geoff Russell, Animal Liberation SA, writes: Re. “How Cubbie (and Labor) consumed the Murray Darling” (yesterday, item 2). Yes, Cubbie is huge and uses a mass of water which it pays bugger all for and it is indeed a scandal. But how about a little perspective. What if that 500 giga litres wasn’t used by one cotton farm but by 100 at 5 gigs each? Would those 100 be in the firing line? CSIRO data show the dairy industry using far more water than cotton and more than double that of rice and nine times more than fruit and veg combined. But I never see anybody (except me) pointing fingers at dairy. Are they the ultimate sacred cow? It’s hard to compare food use and fibre use, but of all the possible foods you could produce, milk is one of the least water efficient as well as being a major cause of methane emissions and probably a cause of prostate cancer and diabetes. The dairy industry also has plenty of dirty little secrets. For example, farmers like to synchronise their calving, so can inject “late” cows with hormones to induce the calves. Many are born unviable and may legally be bludgeoned to death with a hammer. Rice on the other hand has no welfare secrets, is far more water efficient than dairy, produces far less methane and doesn’t cause any diseases.

Barry McMillan writes: Congratulations to Crikey and Bernard Keane — at last someone is talking. Keep up the good work, and let’s pray that those who govern State policies are cast aside and the Commonwealth controls our waterways — at least then the buck can’t be passed.

Student unionism:

Simon Wilkins writes: Re. “Why Rudd shouldn’t introduce full-blown compulsory student unionism” (yesterday, item 13). I was an undergrad at the same time as Irfan Yusuf, but at a different Uni, and I have a different recollection of why Young Liberals couldn’t get elected (VSU or not). Their lack of support was only bettered by their choice of candidates that seemed to lack the full complement of social, political and possibly genetic abilities. If you can’t get elected without running as a joke ticket, perhaps it suggests that when voters recognise who you are, they don’t want to vote for you. This fact renders Irfan’s vague point about “subsidised political training” pointless. If Young Lib’s could have run a decent campaign directed towards the needs of students they would have received the same “subsidy” he is so upset about. As a result of VSU, student campus life and interaction has been significantly diminished by a petty policy that forces Universities to pay for the services that they actually care about (sport) and let shrivel the intangibles like student clubs and societies (including the young liberals, who also received funding from student union fees).

Lastly, comparing union services to textbooks is an odd analogy. Pro-VSUers always tried to convince you it would be a “user-pays” system when in fact it has resulted in complete denial of services. Also “second-hand” text books tend to be obsolete (by definition) and how you can get second hand union services is beyond me. But whether Irfan means it or not, the analogy exposes the true meaning of the pro-VSU position. Those students, and Universities, that can afford to pay from their own pocket get the new books and services and those that can’t lose out. What a great system. My advice to the PM? Take the word Unionism out of any Uni fee charge and prevent a repeat of the Liberal lie. An equal levy on all students would at least allow some restoration of campus life. If that means Young Liberals have to run as the “Party Party” again, then so be it.

Jim Hart writes: I suspect the biggest reason Irfan Yusuf and most of the Liberal Party don’t like student unions is the name. The word union has a fine tradition in universities but that doesn’t seem to stop the right-wingers from equating it with trade unions and from there it’s a short step to the Sandinistas in Nicaragua via Moscow. So Irfan thinks student services are like textbooks — either buy your own or use the library. But hang on, if the library had enough copies for every student who needed one those books would have to be bought by the university which gets its money from… oh dear, that means we all pay fees and taxes to provide books for students who aren’t prepared to look after themselves. Sounds a bit like socialism to me Irfan.

Sure, when you pay student union fees you don’t use every service. As a student I probably subsidised evil socialists at subversive lefty conferences but I also paid for teams of reactionary sexist footballers to get drunk at interstate competitions. Last year my taxes paid for propaganda for despicable IR policies, while this year I funded a porno art magazine and some Olympic medals. And every few years I am forced to participate in an electoral process dominated by factionalised parties with candidates that never totally represent my views. Many if not all student bodies are poorly run, lop-sided, driven my minorities, and a sandpit for playing with ideals and ideologies. What else would you expect from a bunch of kids who are barely past puberty? It seems like a pretty harmless way to start training the next generation of entrepreneurs, social workers, journalists and politicians. VSU weakens not just our tertiary institutions but society in general.

Piers Kelly writes: Irfan Yusuf wrote: “…nor should you have to pay for a representative body you don’t necessarily want representing you”. Isn’t it a little churlish to want to abolish student representative bodies just because the people you like to vote for don’t win very often? If students don’t want to be represented they can vote the system out of existence. Democracy is kind of clever like that.

The Olympics:

Walter Lees writes: Re. “What do you want? Gold medals or schools, hospitals …” (Wednesday, item 3). I do not think the government should give extra funding to any sporting groups as there is a lack of money in more essential areas – you mentioned a few like education, health, and others. If the Olympic people want more money do as the British have done, get the government to run a lottery — it worked for the opera house and it worked in Queensland, in the past, for the hospital system. I, as a pensioner would support a government run lottery, but keep the greedy profit grabbers out.

Suzie Gold writes: Re. “H.G.’s Golden Nuggets: Boomers the movie? Stephanie Rice Bubbles?” (Yesterday, item 5). Has anyone done an audit of where all the money that the Olympic Committee raises precisely goes? How much was spent on by the committee members on travel and accommodation for the games in Beijing?

Julian Gillespie writes: Well, Mr Michael Phelps: An interesting article in the Technology section of New Scientist this week mentions in part – “The Beijing pool is 3 metres deep, a metre deeper than standard competitive pools … The extra depth helps dissipate the turbulence caused by the swimmer’s movement, causing less resistance. In other words, they are being helped by the architecture.” I wonder if Mr Hackett agrees?

Kashmir:

Mark Freeman writes: Re. “Kashmir puts up its hand for self-determination” (yesterday, item 15). Kashmir is a fine example of a people’s tendency to want a political entity contrary to their own best interests. The bulk of the population are Muslim and live in the main Kashmir valley – which is naturally contiguous to Pakistan, the Jhelum River flowing north west through the “line of control” into Azad (Free) Pakistani Kashmir. To reach the valley from Indian Jammu means going up an enormous mountain range and then through a long tunnel at the top. However the Indian Jammu-Kashmir state has special constitutional consideration and has received huge subsidies for decades.

Despite many shortcomings, India is a remarkably democratic federation, unlike Pakistan which is a unitary state with strong military — central dominance, regular coups, woeful economic management and the main exporter of nuclear technology to rogue states. However India has made many terrible, heavy-handed blunders in Kashmir in the past 30 years and is further than ever from winning hearts and minds of the local people. There is no reason to think that current Indian Kashmiris would fare any better under Pakistani rule and plenty of evidence that they’d be worse off. There is also no way that India, Pakistan, China or the US would countenance an independent Kashmir for various strategic and military reasons. And there’s no way India will give up Kashmir any time soon.

Fruit picking:

Gregory Blackman writes: Re. “Fruit picking was tough … and then came tax” (yesterday, item 14). I just read a great article by Lionel Elmore on Fruit Picking and tax. I was one of those Gun Pickers with my record 17 bins in a day, that’s eight ton of fruit. I averaged 12 bins on apples and nine bins on pears. Tax file numbers killed off the industry, at first some would use several TFN to spread out the minimum tax overall. After all, we only got paid for what we did. There was no sick pay, holiday pay, travel allowance or dole — zip. I wonder how most people would stand up if they only got paid for the work that was actually done…

The world’s biggest radio telescope:

Matthew Brennan writes: Re. “So what’s so good about the world’s biggest radio telescope?” (Wednesday, item 12). Could I suggest to Eleri Harris that Mr Rudd might be in New Zealand for a variety of entirely legitimate reasons besides climate change and telescopes and that a media briefing about an OZ/NZ giant radio telescope might be just one thing. And what’s the problem? I’d much prefer my taxes paying for research into distant stars rather than research into designing armour piercing shells using spent uranium or laser guided missiles to achieve more productive kill rates. Perhaps Harris might see the value if he learnt a bit of astronomy. I could recommend The How and Why Wonder Book of Stars: A guide to Astronomy for children by Norman Hoss.

Don’t encourage them:

Philip Woods writes: Re. Video of the Day (yesterday, Crikey clickthroughs). Your video of the day is rather humorous. The fact however is that the person in the vid is a serial pest Rémi Gaillard, and is not so humorous with many of his activities. This guy is like the Australian Peter Hore (real name Peter Michael Howard) who has interrupted sporting events, funerals and any major public event that he can get his pathetic head into. We shouldn’t be giving airtime to these idiots who upset many people at times in their lives when they are most vulnerable.

Dive Shop Kevin:

Andrew Thompson writes: Re. Yesterday’s Editorial. I subscribed to Crikey to get away from cynical journalistic exhibitionism posing as news, a plethora of which infects what once was our quality press. I hope that “Dive Shop Kevin” is not a portent that Crikey has been infected too.

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Peter Fray

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