Dick Smith:

Dick Smith writes: Re. “Greens go soft on Dick Smith” (yesterday, item 17). My “tactics” in relation to the planned development of an eco-lodge in the Tasman Peninsula are hardly as “aggressive” as Greg Barns makes out. It is an “eco-lodge”, not a paper mill, and it was Tasmanian conservationists who first approached my son-in-law with a proposal that we build the lodge on freehold, degraded farming land on the Tasman Peninsula. Maybe the Greens are not “taking me on” because they believe that the future of Tasmania should be eco-tourism, with sympathetic construction on freehold land — not in National Parks. Have an appeal process by all means if it is limited to the appellants only being able to make claims of fact — not on an emotive basis that would stop any development (even a house) that could be viewed from the coast. If the Greens have indeed “taken their gloves off”, it is probably because they can see some merits in the proposal. Surely it is better to send a message that Tasmania does not just support paper mills — it will indeed occasionally allow a sensible development that complies with all planning conditions and is environmentally positive.

The Nats, Nelson, Labor and reform:

Alan Kennedy writes: Re. “Nationals resurgent after a weird weekend on unwanted hustings” (yesterday, item 3). You have to wonder how smart the leaders of the National Party are. In Western Australia a National is now the king maker, able to have some clout in the political process. In South Australia they have a minister in a Labor Government. But it seems the penny has yet to drop about the power they have in the Senate. In return for a little of the pork they love so much they could help Kevin Rudd get his legislation passed. And yet they blindly sit in coalition with the Liberal Party which has always treated them as hayseeds. What has the partnership with the coalition ever got them but a few ministerial perks for the chosen few? Out in the electorate they are seen to be as useless as a pocket in a singlet. So the voters choose an independent who will represent their interests. The rural seats are changing with the influx of sea changers, tree changers and town-based workers. It seems the WA Nationals tapped into that and it is this constituency that supports Rob Oakshott. A little bit of independent thinking in the Senate by the Nationals over the next two years may get their old electorate thinking that they are worth another chance.

John Goldbaum writes: After the whacking Brendan Nelson received in Mayo, his exit strategy appears to be to talk about the NSW constitutional arrangements and then jump from the federal party leadership to the NSW state party leadership. John Howard will be pleased as Punch that Brendan is about to answer his call for more talent in the NSW party. The former PM said, ad nauseam, that you have to have policy consistency and show the voters what you stand for. The Liberal Party used to stand for electricity privatisation until Barry O’Farrell’s attempt to attack Labor from the left. Now that the NSW Labor government is led by the left, there is room for the opposition to attack it from the right. Brendan Nelson is the ideal person to lead the opposition in NSW because he doesn’t believe in anything any more but he can pretend to believe in everything.

Les Heimann writes: Iemma, Carpenter… the list grows. But no, this is not the beginning of the end of Labor dominance – that started with Bob Hawke embracing and spreading the NSW McKell school of Labor politics; it’s just taking a lot longer to reach the inevitable. Why? The McKell theory is based on seizing and holding ones opponents base whilst keeping ones own base. Add to this mix — as Crikey has rightly pointed out — only factionalised party hacks or chosen specifics get to be pre-selected and you have a situation in Australia where both “major” parties live only for the moment, attempt to satisfy the amorphous “middle mass”, don’t care about anyone else and by and large are populated by a very narrow cast of scared little weird people.

Is it any wonder that Australian politicians rank somewhat lower than used car sales people? Oh for a real choice! Yes Labor is sliding away but let’s be fair the Liberal party has already gone — so also gone are the Democrats. Were we to experience a political party with a genuine platform and genuine people life in Australia may become balmy and sunny again — until then — if then — bring on the inevitable death by climate change.

Simon Rumble writes: Re. “Where do they find state politicians anyway?” (Yesterday, item 11). Bernard Keane clearly has a different definition of “reform” to my definition when he claims Jeff Kennett and Nick Greiner are the two state leaders with “serious reform credentials”. I’ll let a Victorian comment on the much-hated Kennett’s sins, but Greiner is known for flogging much state infrastructure to his mates in the corporate world. Just have a look at the M2 motorway contract and its compensation provisions should government build public transport anywhere in its catchment area. After being given the arse over quite serious corruption allegations (ironically brought to the Independent Commission Against Corruption he formed, possibly his only “reform”) he went to work as a tobacco lobbyist. Nice guy!

ABC advertising:

Chris Harrison writes: Re. “New ABC mobile service to include advertising” (yesterday, item 2). Andrew Dodd’s piece on advertising on the ABC is another nail in the ABC’s coffin when it comes to political interference. Many of us thought that the Rudd government would leave the ABC alone. Perhaps even increase its funding which it desperately needs. Stephen Conroy, the minister for the ABC, doesn’t seem to have the slightest concern about what the ABC’s hierarchy is doing to the independence of the corporation. I can’t remember when he last commented on the ABC. I haven’t seen any press releases. Nothing has changed from the policies of the Howard government towards the ABC.

From the many stories we are reading about ABC management steaming ahead to bring advertising to the national broadcaster, it would be nice to know Stephen Conroy’s views on the subject as well as other uncomfortable decisions that the ABC management is making seemingly with Conroy’s blessing. As it is, the public can only assume that this government tacitly agrees with the policies of the former government and that the ABC will slowly lose its independence and viewers will lose a great and highly respected institution paid for by the tax payers.

An ABC watcher writes: One subtlety you’ve missed about the ABC Hybrid Mobile site is the “Powered By”. The content on THOSE pages isn’t technically ABC content. It’s bought in from Cadability (sports) and some weather provider. What they’re going to claim is, this gets around the problem, because ABC editorial isn’t on the same page as a third-party ad, as if that super-fine distinction is going to be understood by the audience. Some years ago, the same people came up with a plan that Triple J’s front page would have a link to Ticketek to buy tickets, or to HMV to buy CDs. Didn’t this violate the ABCs policies? Oh no, they said, because there would be a “you are now leaving the ABC” page in between and a short delay. Voila! No editorial issue. Needless to say it got shot down. This is just more of the same, an attempt to weasel around policies.


Steve Martin writes: Re. “Mungo: Give it a go Garnaut” (yesterday, item 10). Mungo wrote: “Professor Ross Garnaut’s conclusion that the best Australia can manage in the fight against climate change is a policy that condemns both the Great Barrier Reef and the Murray-Darling system to extinction was never going to gain universal acceptance.” Perhaps Mungo should read a little more on the subject of Climate change before condemning Garnaut out of hand. For example he might like to read a copy of New Scientist dated May 1 2008 of which the following by Fred Pearced is an extract:

Politicians seem to think that the science is a done deal,” says Tim Palmer. “I don’t want to undermine the IPCC, but the forecasts, especially for regional climate change, are immensely uncertain.”

Palmer is a leading climate modeller at the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts in Reading, UK, and he does not doubt that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has done a good job alerting the world to the problem of global climate change. But he and his fellow climate scientists are acutely aware that the IPCC’s predictions of how the global change will affect local climates are little more than guesswork. They fear that if the IPCC’s predictions turn out to be wrong, it will provoke a crisis in confidence that undermines the whole climate change debate.

Geoff Russell, Animal Liberation SA, writes: There is an interesting statistic that is relevant to both the Garnaut report and climate change. It comes from a large European cancer and nutrition study group of about 60,000 meat eaters, vegans and vegetarians in the UK — 41% of vegans are single, compared with 13% of meat eaters and 25% of vegetarians. Why is this relevant to Garnaut? We vegans aren’t very good at compromise, so living with a non-vegan is unlikely and finding a mate is statistically harder for us. Our diplomatic skills are dismal. That little bit of bacon added to a salad tends to make us froth at the mouth and protest to an otherwise genial host: “How could you f-ck up a perfectly good salad with dead pig?”

This tends to earn us a limited social life so we spend a lot of time reading and thinking and getting really p-ssed off with hypocrisy and compromise. We are p-ssed off with people who pretend to care about the planet but won’t forego the primary driver of deforestation and biodiversity loss — meat. We are p-ssed off with people who tell everybody to turn off lights when they leave the room but conveniently forget to mention that Australia’s biggest contribution to global warming is livestock. We are especially p-ssed off that Ross Garnaut has caved in to the politics of compromise by arguing that success is unlikely so lets opt for guaranteed failure.

Peter Costello:

Walt Hawtin writes: Re. “Courting Costello with Ray Martin” (4 September, item 18). Peter Costello’s PR campaign-by-epithet must be wearing thin on his moderate supporters by now. We know that his fair weather supporters are long gone, and that those who saw him as the Conservatives’ answer to Paul Keating while he was Treasurer are now accepting that Costello under-achieved on his own stated ambitions. So why are we listening to this guy now? Even Banquo’s ghost, though as pale, still went away when his job was done. I’d love to think that the cynicism could be reversed, but it is hard to believe that Peter Costello has any other aim but to collect his public backbencher’s salary while writing his version of the Howard Government’s performance, and collecting the royalties that will invariably come from its publication. Perhaps Costello plans to donate the royalties to the “John Howard Prime Ministerial Library”?

Keep maintaining your standards:

Paul Gilchrist writes: Re. Yesterday’s editorial. You want to write your daily cynical editorial. What to say? Oh! Kevin Rudd mentioned Morris Iemma’s connection with World Youth Day. We at Crikey know that WYD was all nonsense. Heavens! We said it for months and we must be right. And, to quote your elegant phrase, WYD was represented by “a gaggle of over-excited Namibian Catholics” Not only Catholic, but black and excited, how contemptible! Well done Crikey, keep maintaining your standards.

Need opera? Try Adelaide:

Ewart Shaw, opera critic at The Advertiser writes: Re. “Letter to Opera Australia” (yesterday, item 22). Your disgruntled Opera Australia subscriber should have come to Adelaide in November of 2006 to hear Maria Pollicina as Abigaille in the state opera production of Nabucco…the David Freeman production. This is the company that also mounted the complete Ring twice with the second production being a new Australian Ring, and has also mounted Parsifal and Dead Man Walking.

Things can only get better:

Kirk Muddle writes: Re. “Big bang boffins’ black hole to swallow earth on Wednesday” (yesterday, item 19). Whilst I should be disturbed by the possibility of a Black hole on the French/Swiss border swallowing the planet, I was more disturbed by references of D:Ream, and equally disturbed to find both (both!) of their CD’s in my collection. I think from their second album (World), the more appropriate song for this life changing event should be Shoot me with you Love

AFL in Sydney:

Shane Nixon writes: Re. “AFL ignoring the ‘not interested’ message from Sydney” (yesterday, item 21). One thing I haven’t heard mentioned much in the media about Sydney’s Friday final was the price of tickets. We payed $75 each for “premium” tickets. “Premium” conveniently covered half the available seating. Why did we in Sydney have to pay, on average, $20 per ticket more for a ticket than the finals in either Adelaide or Melbourne? It would cost a family (two parents and two children) $250 just for the tickets for a night out at the footy for what looked like was going to be a miserable night. I know a number of people that balked at the price and did not go. I asked people around us what they thought and the consensus was why did loyal members who fork out for memberships year after year have to pay a hefty premium for finals tickets? Most people I know felt the game was under promoted — seeing an ad on TV after the game promoting the game was hilarious. The blame for the whole debacle should be laid squarely on the AFL.

Patrick Belton writes: Look, I understand and can cope with the fact that Glenn Dyer dislikes both AFL and Melbourne, and I think he makes some good points about the AFL’s potentially wasted efforts in Sydney. However, just a little research — free research, even, available from the ASIC homepage — reveals that the AFL is a public company, limited by guarantee. So, the reason the shareholders are not up in arms, Glenn, is because there are no shareholders, and all your references to “if the AFL were a public company” can safely be deleted. The AFL may make distributions to its members, the 16 (17… 18…) clubs, but probably does not pay dividends in the strict sense. Those members should be up in arms, if anyone is to be, as the distribution stream is likely to be cut by West Sydney and the Gold Coast. Crikey, perhaps could you make an offer to some of those retrenched Fairfax subeditors.

Tony Barrell writes: Glenn Dyer is right about the AFL. Just another delusional juggernaut about three years behind reality. The western Sydney idea is complete madness, but what seems to escape notice is that one reason why TV viewers are deserting AFL coverage in Queensland and NSW could be the appalling quality of the way the game is covered by Channels Seven and Ten. AFL does doesn’t suit TV at all. And we used to be able to dispense with the blathering of the TV commentators and tune into ABC radio but sadly due to the use of the satellite the TV pictures can be as much as five to seven seconds behind the audio. The TV channels have a lot to answer for as well as the AFL. They take us for granted and they don’t really care, and like politicians they don’t seem to notice until it’s too late.


Neil James, Executive Director, Australia Defence Association, writes: Hal Colebatch (yesterday, comments) makes the simplistic error of comparing apples and pears — and then in isolation from their strategic context. The wider strategic consequences of the Vietnam War, both eventual and potential at any given time, are not as clear cut as Hal wrongly posits and depend in large part on when the consequences occurred or when they were effectively understood. As former Singapore Prime-Minister Lee Kuan Yew noted many years ago, the allied effort in Vietnam, although unsuccessful there, did buy ten years for the rest of South-East Asia.

In this period the non-communist states were able to develop their economies and broaden their political participation enough to offer a viable alternative to authoritarian Maoist societies. In turn, the burgeoning middle classes demanded greater accountability from their governments and democracy started to grow firmer roots, especially in Thailand (the really vulnerable state if South Vietnam had fallen in 1965 not 1975) and Malaysia. Australia’s world might look quite different if communism had triumphed throughout SE Asia in the late 1950s or early 1960s, especially before the 1965 civil conflict in Indonesia.

Leave Midsomer Murders alone:

John Peak writes: Re. “Last night’s TV ratings” (yesterday, item 24). Can I put a word in for Midsomer Murders, which Glenn Dyer describes as, “the most boring, predictable UK crime show for a while.” I have fair respect for my own tastes in television and I have to say that I found Sunday night’s Midsomer Murders episode absorbing, funny, subversive and very well written, with some very fine performances. No murky, metallic sets, no zooming through blood vessels and abdominal tracts, or hacking at breast bones and forking through intestines. People and place and weather and plot, and it works.

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