Peter Costello:

John Goldbaum writes: Re. Yesterday’s editorial. Your editorial was correct to point out that Peter Costello is “damaging his own party to maximise the sales impact of his book” but if he also thinks his impersonation of Banquo’s ghost will stop Malcolm Turnbull from claiming the Liberal leadership throne, he hasn’t read William Shakespeare’s play, Julius Caesar, in which the soothsayer warned Caesar to “beware the ides of March”. Of course, that was set in the northern hemisphere. The Australian equivalent is 15 September which is the date of Peter Costello’s book launch and the resumption of parliament. Peter won’t be there to protect Brendan. If I were Malcolm, I’d challenge Brendan on that day. Peter will face the choice of continuing his six week book promotion tour or nominating for the leadership. That should resolve the matter.

Chris Graham writes: Crikey’s editorial, as usual, has hit the mark. That said, I don’t quite share the outrage. Costello hanging about and damaging the Liberals is not, in my view, a bad thing. Indeed anyone damaging the Liberals is not a bad thing. That said, no-one catches and kills their own like a Liberal. The best part is, we’re all going to get to watch ‘conservative feast on conservative’ for at least the next decade. We have truly entered a Golden Era.

Mick Keelty:

Andrew Lewis writes: Re. “Time for Mick Keelty to spruce up his resume” (yesterday, item 3). I just wanted to support Bernard Keane’s call for Mick Keelty to be sacked. I can’t imagine how the reputation and effectiveness of the AFP could be any lower. While the Haneef affair has been the final straw for many, he lost me with his organisation’s incompetent work in relation to the Bali Nine, where mere drug mules (and Australian citizens) may face the death penalty and not one person up the line was caught. In fact, he should have resigned when he admitted openly that our involvement in Iraq had made us a bigger terrorist target, and then was forced to swallow his words by John Howard. If he was ever a leader before that point, he certainly wasn’t after. For the sake of us all Mr Keelty, hand in your resignation now.

Chris Davis writes: Go Bernard Keane for getting stuck into Keelty over Haneef. Shame on all our media for letting him off with the Bali Nine. I am amazed that we even knew these kids were conspiring to import heroin but then set up a sting operation with the Indonesian cops, knowing they would face the death penalty. They surely broke laws here first? That a concerned parent sought help from the AFP to rescue their child from the trouble, but got sent over anyway is atrocious. Go quickly Keelty — you have not made me feel safe with our federal police but instead disgusted.

James McDonald writes: Bernard Keane goes too far in calling the Haneef investigation “one of the worst stains on Federal law enforcement in its history”. A sense of proportion please: it was a stupid, wasteful, embarrassing investigation, which became political because of the magic T-word and severely disrupted an innocent man’s life, but the system did work in the end and Dr Haneef will no doubt be approached by litigation lawyers wanting to represent him pro bono. No one was shot dead for running to catch a train, no one was wrongly convicted. A darker stain, if true, is the allegation that AFP used a tip-off from the father of one of the Bali Nine (on the understanding the information would be used in Australia and thus save his son’s life) to engineer death sentences for the drug-smuggling group in Indonesia rather than harder trials and lighter sentences in Australia. Much darker again has been the silence following Senator Faulker’s call for an inquiry on whether the sinking of the SIEV X people-smuggling boat in 2001, drowning 353 unauthorised immigrants en route to Australia, was caused by sabotage in the joint Australian-Indonesian “People Smuggling Disruption Program”.


Gerard Henderson writes: Re. “Fairfax bosses put strikebreaking to good use” (yesterday, item 17). Crikey editor Jonathan Green yesterday bagged the quality of last weekend’s Sunday Age — asserting that it provided “a little window on the world of journalistic practice as senior Fairfax managers see it”. He objected to the fact that the Sunday Age Page One story during the journalists’ strike featured “the routine weekly compilation of Melbourne house sale results”. Well, at least house sale results are news.

This cannot be said of the Sunday Age’s lead story in the two weeks before the strike. On 17 August the Sunday Age ran a Page One lead by Tom Hyland, with a flow-over to Page 8, on the fact that freelance journalist Sasha Uzunov had opposed the involvement of one time leftist Garrie Hutchinson in Vietnam Veterans Day. Gee wiz. There was also an editorial on this. Hutchinson has never denied the fact that, at Melbourne University all those years ago, he took the fashionable leftist line and supported the Viet Cong, Ho Chi Minh and all that. In view of this, it is hardly surprising that a returned serviceman like Uzunov would object to Hutchinson’s involvement, as a Victorian public servant, in Vietnam Veterans Day. In any event, the Vietnam War ended over three decades ago. For the record, on 17 August the Sunday Age reported Russia’s contemporary invasion of Georgia towards the back of the first section. How’s that for news sense?

Then on 24 August the Sunday Age ran Michael Bachelard’s whinge titled “Going for gold, but at what cost?” as its Page One lead. This was the familiar we-spend-too-much-money-on-sport mantra. With the help of a self-declared “sports academic”, Bachelard calculated that “taxpayers have forked out $16.7 million for each of the 13 gold medals won by Australia’s Olympic team in Beijing”. This analysis implies that silver and bronze gongs were won for zip. How’s that for logic? And it’s certainly not news. This suggests that and Page One of the Sunday Age is more newsworthy when the likes of Hyland and Bachelard have downed their computers and are busy on the picket lines. Fancy that.

Print Man Forever writes: It’s hard to decide which is more ridiculous — Fairfax’s CEO David Kirk ringing up News Ltd executives to whinge about their coverage of his badly handled dispute with journalists or News trying to take the high moral ground over quality journalism and industrial relations. There have been plenty of examples over the years of News’ ruthless approach to industrial issues and staff changes. Old China watchers used to work out who was out of favour in the leadership hierarchy by seeing who sat where at the next Communist Party gathering.

News announcements of reorganised senior editorial positions often required the same analysis. And News’ lack of open and frank coverage of its own business results has often been lampooned in Crikey. However, despite News Ltd’s clear tactic of trying to damage its competitor during a time of turmoil, its publications were the only ones where you could read any debate about the future of newspapers. And the silliest headline of the year must be page two of Saturday’s strike edition of the Sydney Morning Herald which proclaimed that it was “not affected” by the dispute. How dumb does Fairfax think its readers are?

Dan McNutt writes: Re. “Canberra Times the new model for The Age, SMH” (yesterday, item 16). Incredible as it may seem, the front page of today’s SMH actually features something cultural. It’s Cate Blanchett and Andrew Upton who are now running the Sydney Theatre Company! This beats the endless chest-thumping brain-dead Olympic “heroes” and the spitting Rugby League hooligans of recent times. Maybe there is hope for this country yet…

WA election:

Ian Pavey writes: Re. “WA Labor’s reactionary smoking gun” (yesterday, item 13). Noel Crichton-Browne got it wrong when he attempted to castigate the WA government’s prior reluctance to ban high-powered cars from P-platers. He describes the car driven in the weekend’s tragic crash as “high-powered”. It wasn’t. It was a 3-series BMW with approximately the same power-to-weight ratio as a standard Corolla. Commentary on the WA election, whether it is from the conservative or progressive side of politics, is welcome on Crikey. But surely it would be possible to get it from a source a bit more credible than Browne, a character who is pretty much as reviled as Brian Burke here in the west.

Cold War warming:

Tony Kevin writes: Re. Friday’s editorial. Nobody reacted to your sage editorial on Friday and yesterday’s Crikey has no further word about Cold War issues in the coming US election. Yet NATO is now dancing in tune to the Cheney drum. UK Foreign Secretary Milibrand, looking and sounding eerily like a mini-Blair, is pugnacious in the Ukraine, Obama is forced to talk tough about defending Georgia’s sovereignty, the usually more sensible French and Germans (and we) are also falling into line behind the Cheney version of Georgia. Putin’s warning — whatever one thinks of him — is indeed on the money.

A Cheney-contrived new Cold War is building over the next few weeks. It will help McCain and his gun-toting new lady deputy, and hinder Obama’s and Biden’s efforts to paint a new national security vision of cooperation and dialogue with others. It will lock the foreign policy debate into the old channels of US aggressive exceptionalism in a dangerous world. Obama wanted a different kind of foreign policy debate. Fairfax journalists would, I hope, normally follow this, were it not for the present management-caused disruptions there. It is an important story.

Martin Gordon writes: It seems that the intentions of Russia in respect of South Ossetia and Abkhazia were not that honourable after all! We now have reports that Russia is to incorporate both territories and place military bases in them. Having moved to exploit their obvious military strength against a puny state of Georgia they now will incorporate these territories into Russia proper. Will the usual anti US, anti Bush brigade welcome whatever so called act “act of free choice” that Russia will no doubt engineer to justify its invasion and annexation? If they don’t what a surprise that would be!

Fred Nile:

Bev Kilsby writes: Re. “Fred Nile’s coup inside Christian Democrats” (yesterday, item 10). I just hope the Rev Fred Nile has a great influence on Christians and Muslims, he has certainly been around many types of people and he is very good when it comes to understanding people with needs. I just hope he gets a good hearing that he deserves.

League tables:

Bruce Graham writes: Re. “League tables in schools” (yesterday, comments). Most of the criticisms which have been levelled at “league tables” for schools are probably true. Simplistic measures are likely mislead, and to be abused. But in the absence of transparent externally comprehensible measures of effect, a large bureaucracy such as education of health simply obfuscates to disguise its own incompetence. And well intentioned employees collectively may become similarly complicit in fooling themselves that the service they provide is good — or at least as good as it can be.

If you dislike the measures of education outcomes suggested, please suggest better. They should be objectively auditable, transparent, and capable of being explained to a non expert. The outcomes measured should themselves be important, because staff will inevitably work to the outcomes measured. When tested against peer reviewed anonymous assessment, there should be a clear positive correlation. Risk weighting of average educational outcomes is not a fundamentally flawed concept.

Missing link:

Ray Moynihan writes: Walt Hawtin (yesterday, comments), thanks for your comment on the story. In particular, thanks for pointing out that one of the links in that story was to a BMJ article, which in fact requires payment or BMJ subscription in order to read it. When I suggested the hyperlink for the GP story, I hadn’t actually thought through the issue you raise, in part because for many of the years I have been associated with it, the BMJ was free full text for everyone. In light of your comments I will think much more carefully about hyperlinking to a locked site in the future.

CASA and Qantas:

Ross Davidson writes: Re. “CASA Qantas audit suppressed … QF30 ricochet revealed” (Friday, item 2). Maybe the Union for the Aircraft Engineers will be put back in their box now that a CASA report has given the overseas maintenance a clean bill of health following a spate of incidence. The Union has continually blamed the overseas maintenance for the problems facing Qantas aircraft. This is clearly rubbish. The overseas maintenance is being conducted by some of the best airline engineering forms in the world. Furthermore, all aircraft which have experienced issues over the past few months were serviced by Australian engineers. The Union needs to find a new argument because their current argument is “out of commission”. I hope the Union takes notice of the report and start doing the right thing by their members instead of looking after themselves. Work with Government to ensure their engineers can compete commercially against overseas competition would be a better stance.

Bentley Smith writes: Brad Hill (yesterday comments) needs to factor in that on most planes there is an extra mask for an infant in most banks of seats. I don’t know what the exact configuration is on a 747, but on most planes it is an extra mask for every two to three seats (so more than 100+ extras on a 747 sounds right). You would be a bit worried that if you were sitting in a bank of three seats with a baby and only a mask for each seat dropped. Given that there are widespread passenger reports about the oxygen not flowing or crappy elastic, it isn’t surprising that there were more than one mask pulled per passenger.

Jim Hart writes: Brad Hill, when reading the ATSB report on QF30, seems to have skipped over the bit that says there were 346 passengers and 16 cabin crew. So there were more seats than passengers (no strap-hangers or double-dinking) and way more oxygen masks than either seats or people — a comforting level of redundancy. Nothing wrong with the arithmetic and if there were some spare activated masks dangling from the roof I don’t think anyone would complain about an over-supply of oxygen.

Mark Hurd writes: It’s been a while since I’ve flown, but I seem to recall part of the emergency procedures speech is something to the effect of: “There’s a spare mask in every row.” Just before it says something about if you are nursing a child affix your own mask first before attending to your child’s. I guess that explains most of the extra 123 masks.

The Fair Trade Coffee crowd:

Tony Barrell writes: Re. “Influence and the ABC board: A short history” (yesterday, item 18). I see Bernard Keane (writing about the ABC Board with that egregious disdain outsiders who know very little like to adopt) has moved on from slurring “latte sippers”. Now it’s the Fair Trade Coffee crowd who are Friends of the ABC. Finally I get who he has in “mind”.

Global warming cage match:

Shay Gordon-Brown writes: I am not certain whether Tamas Calderwood (yesterday, comments) is deliberately obtuse or just likes to hear the sound of his own typing. I believe it is the former, as any basic understanding of science and mathematics can refute most of Tamas’s bizarre beliefs such as CO2 not being a pollutant. Tamas, for your enlightenment any substance in large enough volumes can be a pollutant if that large volume causes harm. Whilst carbon dioxide has its benefits it can also have its problems. When carbon dioxide is dissolved in water in turns the water acidic. We all know CO2 as carbon dioxide but until the early 1900’s it was often referred to carbonic acid gas. If we had stayed with that naming convention, I think, most people would consider any increase of CO2 concentrations as being adverse.

If I was being really critical I would bother explaining how we know what the earth’s temperature has been for the last 8000 years based upon the correlated information of gases trapped in ice cores. Tamas must understand a little of this as he bleats on about only having 150 years of temperature data but then mentions the temperature of the Holocene optimum a millennia ago. Tamas’s other claims to fame include his dubious understanding of why he thinks 10 years of statistical data overrides both 30 years worth of data and 8000 years of data. If I had time I would try to explain critical limit theorem and the minimum number of samples required to predict a mean, with a known error rate and a known confidence interval but it would bore. However it does go along way to showing why 0.7 degrees global temperature increase in 100 years can be very terrifying.

I will leave you with this thought: a 0.7 degree average increase could be due to having 100 years that were 0.7 degrees warmer each or 99 years that were not warmer at all and one year that was 70 degrees warmer. It may not be that terrifying Tamas, as your blood would only boil one year out of 100 and then probably only in summer!

Matt Hardin writes: While it would be wonderful if global warming and climate change weren’t occurring, there is plenty of evidence that they are happening and not much evidence that they’re not. The cooling of the last decade is too small and occurs in data with far too much scatter to be able to comment one way or the other as the Australian Bureau of Meteorology points out here. Another 20 years of cooling might be enough to tell. The cooling from the 1940’s onwards coincides with massive releases of particulates and aerosols particularly sulphur dioxide which have been shown to cause cooling. The same effect is observed when there is a very large volcanic eruption. The elimination of these through clean air acts in Europe and the US in particular coincides with the resumption of warming in the 1970s. As for the medieval warm period and the Holocene maximum, both of these events coincided with massive changes in climate which today would cause chaos with our tightly coupled civilization.

The effects on agriculture, water availability and the environment (remembering that at these earlier points in time, humans were in much smaller numbers and consumed far less resources) would probably be beyond the capability of our civilization and some ecosystems to absorb. This would result in massive financial loss, famines and incalculable damage to existing political and civil structures. The earth would go on, humans would survive but the damage to Western Civilization might well be fatal. I am happy to pay extra for energy and be more moderate in my consumption to avoid this; I wonder why others resist so fiercely.

Ken Lambert writes: Tamas Calderwood is right! If increasing atmospheric CO2 and global warming are in deadly lockstep, as the IPCC, Gores and Garnauts would have us all believe, are we to accept evidence of a slight cooling as yes indeed; still good old global warming? German climate scientists are now saying that in about 10 years, good old global warming will be resumed after this inconvenient cooling period. No one would sensibly argue that energy efficiency and rapid adoption of new technologies should not be encouraged, but the idea that Australia; a 22 million blip on the world screen of CO2 emitters should commit economic blood-letting by the hurried adoption of Garnaut’s carbon trading scheme is nothing but certifiable madness.

Michael Rook writes: Tamas Calderwood, don’t be such a bore. Carbon-dioxide may not be a “pollutant” strictly speaking, but excess concentrations in confined spaces can be lethal (who could forget Tom Hanks in Apollo 13?). Indeed it is an equally boring fact that all of the major elements comprising the earth’s atmosphere when breathed in excess concentrations for long enough can be harmful or lethal. I think it’s reasonable to call carbon dioxide a “pollutant” if rising concentrations in the atmosphere from anthropogenic sources causes the frigging global climate to be changed, because that sounds pretty bad, doesn’t it?

Schwab, Groves and ABC Learning:

Warwick Sauer writes: Re. Adam Schwab (yesterday, comments). In “Eddy Groves: ‘It’s the auditor’s fault’” (yesterday, item 25) your biased comments seek to attach a level of scandal to Groves’ share trading which is entirely unwarranted. Eddy Groves “claims” [sic] to have fully believed in ABC Learning because, on the evidence as a whole, he did believe in it. He also “claims” [sic] to have bought tens of millions of dollars of shares because (again) he did– as shown by the change of director’s interest notices lodged on 24 May 06, 25 May 06, 16 June 06, 30 May 07 (1m shares), 31 May 07 (1m shares), 18 June 07, 27 June 07, 28 June 07, 9 July 07, 11 July 07, 17 July 07, and 29 Nov 07.

It’s irrelevant where he got the money for those purchases. If he borrowed it (as you’ve suggested he might), that’s his business. He wouldn’t be the first director to have borrowed money to buy shares, and he won’t be the last. He also won’t be the last director to (for whatever reason) sell shares at one point and then buy more later. Again, there’s nothing scandalous about it, and to try to attach such a spin (e.g. your use of the emotive and pejorative adverb “feverishly”) is irresponsible at best, and deceitful at worst. Your motives for your phraseology and selective fact reporting are cast into further doubt by a statement in the final paragraph of the article: “It appears that Groves legitimately believed in ABC Learning (and still does)“. Adam, if you do recognise Eddy’s belief in ABC, why did you spend 90% of your item questioning it?

As I pointed out some months ago, your negative commentary on Eddy’s options package collapses under the slightest scrutiny. The options were priced at their true value. They could only serve to encourage Eddy to improve the share price. How can that be a bad thing? More importantly (and as I’ve queried before) — what would you have said if he’d chosen to take the money and not the box? If he didn’t think the shares were worth more than their current market value, surely cash-in-hand is the option he would have taken?

It is understandable that you’ve mentioned my having worked at Dibbs Abbott Stillman, and it is fair for you to have questioned my motivations in attacking your reporting. Rest assured, they’re noble (even if I do say so myself). You may find the following information relevant: 1) By my recollection I worked on only one ABC related matter whilst at Dibbs Abbott Stillman, for less than a week in 2003. I’ve not worked on any ABC related matters in any other capacity. 2) I have never worked for Eddy Groves, nor have I ever communicated with him. 3) Moreover, I actually lost a substantial amount of money on ABC Learning stock. I haven’t tallied it all up, but it’s a healthy 5 figure sum. I bought at around $4 and also at $7, and I sold out at $1.40. So I’m certainly not motivated by commercial or personal relationships.

I’m also not a true believer in ABC — my selling out at $1.40 should put paid to any suggestion of that. Put simply, I just think it’s reprehensible that you are attacking a soft target by twisting evidence to fit your argument. I read Crikey because its items are (usually) well-researched, rational viewpoints. Sadly, neither of those descriptors seems to apply to your stories, and I’d be pointing that out to you regardless of who you were reporting on. P.S — thanks for calling me pugnacious. That’s a label I’d wear with pride.

Send your comments, corrections, clarifications and c*ck-ups to Preference will be given to comments that are short and succinct: maximum length is 200 words (we reserve the right to edit comments for length). Please include your full name – we won’t publish comments anonymously unless there is a very good reason.