Stephen Conroy and appointments to the ABC and SBS Boards:

The office of Stephen Conroy, Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, writes: Given Crikey’s apparent interest in the Government’s policies regarding the national broadcasters throughout the year we thought your readers might appreciate some information on the recent, quite significant developments in this area. Far be it from us to accuse Crikey of a lack of attention to an area in which it claims a specialised interest, but we were bemused at its failure even to acknowledge the developments for which Crikey’s been agitating for months — namely the announcement of the new board appointments process, the reinstatement of the staff-elected director, and the launch of the public discussion paper and review of the national broadcasters. The ABC and the SBS are two of Australia’s most important and loved public institutions, and the Government is committed to ensuring their future strength and independence.

The new appointment process will ensure that all appointments to the ABC and SBS Boards are conducted in a manner that fosters independence, transparency, accountability and public confidence. The outcomes of the review will be considered by the Government in the context of the upcoming triennial funding round for the ABC and SBS, and will contribute to policy decisions for the long-term future of national broadcasting. Submissions to the review process from Crikey readers would be very welcome, so we thought we’d better let them know.

Internet filtering:

Alan Kennedy writes: Re. “Conroy thoroughly tangled in his own Rabbit-Proof Firewall” (yesterday, item 20). Stilgherrian claims baby boomers don’t understand the Internet. Indeed they do. They are what are known in the trade as late adopters. They are big users for all manner of commerce from buying cars to booking holidays. They also have found it a wonderful way to be serial pests when it comes to letters to the editors and rude letters to politicians and patronising bast-rds like the vowel challenged author of the aforementioned item. Boomers don’t see the need to put their whole personal life up on Facebook and make minute by minute adjustments to their list of lovers, friends partners and others. Is this what whatsisname means by not understanding the Net? When you get to our age listing your friends, lovers etc becomes a zero sum game. But the marketers know who we are. Some of us can still buy things. For how much longer is moot.

On Conroy’s idiocy don’t forget it is Steve Fielding who is smacking his lips at the prospect of being Obergruppenfuhrer in chief. That clown shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near parliament let alone my service provider. And please don’t forget that apart from the censorship level of North Korea the filter also has the effect of seriously slowing your download speeds.

Colin Jacobs writes: Re. “Conroy a fearless combatant in the war against free speech” (yesterday, item 13). Two excellent pieces on Conroy’s filter by Bernard Keane and Stilgherrian. They highlight what has been frustrating to those following the issue from day one, the lack of clarity on what is to be filtered (and how). It’s worth remembering that the policy was taken to the election as a cyber-safety measure, in which the clean-feed was to filter out all material “inappropriate” for children. This is still on the cards. It’s only recently that the secondary mandatory filter has come to light, and now the rhetoric has changed to talk of illegal material, and “enforcing existing laws”.

This is still disingenuous due to the rather broad mandate the ACMA has when blacklisting sites, which can include R18+ material. This new tactic amounts to just a slightly more sophisticated version of the “our opponents are suggesting there should be open access to child p-rnography” line, which Conroy has not been shy in using thus far. Really, rather than having a definite policy agenda, it looks as if the Minister just wants to see what he can get away with. This should make one even more unwilling to trust the Government with new censorship powers.

Michael Latz writes: Thanks for the two excellent articles on Labor’s/Conroy’s internet filtering plans. Conroy’s performance on RN’s Media Report yesterday morning was truly disgraceful – his response to most of the questions was either evasion or flat-out lies. Admittedly, that’s pretty much par for the course these days, but still… Seriously, there is simply no way that what he is proposing is technologically ready, economically appropriate, or morally acceptable. To be blunt, the man is either incompetent, or he’s trying to conceal some really insidious and undemocratic motivations. This is the final straw for me, I’m joining the Greens.

Lucas James writes: One thing I haven’t see mentioned anywhere: The blocking of illegal material also includes discourse that comes under the sedition laws. Way to block dissenting opinion! Another point that should be made: The Bible is full of debauchery, sodomy, murder, smiting, and even cutting a baby in half. Would this mean that the Bible and bible study sites be banned under the scheme?

Carbon abatement:

Jim Hart writes: Re. “Government in a FiT of confusion over carbon abatement” (Wednesday, item 11). As I write this solar photovoltaic panels are being installed on my suburban roof. The decision to go solar is a bit like buying low-energy light bulbs — there’s an up-front cost which is offset by long-term savings and a community benefit. But I’m not doing it for any personal economic gain, nor do I think my one kW system will reduce the CO2 output in Yallourn next week any more than a single low-flow shower will save the Murray. Nevertheless I think it’s worth doing because any kind of major social shift usually starts with individuals and minority groups leading the way.

Yes I’m part of the better-off end of society; otherwise I wouldn’t be able to outlay $5,000 for an environmental statement. And yes, my installation is subsidised by the federal government and next year I should benefit from the state feed-in tariff. Is this a good use of public money? I believe so (but then I would say that, wouldn’t I?). As for feed-in tariffs, it seems absurd that there is no single federal system rather than a mishmash of state systems. You’d think we’d learn… it’s a wonder we don’t still have separate state postal systems and rail gauges.

The issue net v gross metering is not really all that arcane. If the ultimate purpose is to encourage off-grid power generation then the gross tariff makes sense as other countries, notably Germany, have recognised. Every watt coming from my roof is one less coming from the Yallourn coal-burners, regardless of whether it’s powering my fridge or my neighbour’s air-con. The net tariff appeals if, like most Australian legislators, you take a more narrow user-pays view of life and ignore the wider benefit.

Nigel Martin writes: The introduction of a FiT is not exclusively about greenhouse etc. A solar power system should be rewarded by any “green” benefit that is put in place, whether that is emission reductions or ‘green power’ or whatever. But additionally a kWh of electricity produced at a time of peak demand is not worth the same amount as one produced at times of low demand. This is already a principle in the national electricity market. The current load profile matches the generation of a solar power system reasonably well (depending on installation/location etc) so they should benefit from producing electricity at the right time of day.

However when it comes to small embedded generation such as solar power systems on household roofs that are not a despatchable generator they cannot benefit from producing electricity at higher prices and at peak times. There is also the murky issue of extracting the value of demand side generation and how much that it contributes to the efficiency of operation and potentially the reduction of capital spending on upgrading of the electricity network. Generally speaking these costs (any they are huge at the moment) flow from the public purse in one way or another, so any improvements should benefit the whole community. In summary, its not a subsidy, a “gross” FiT should be in place to account for these issues.

Niall Clugston writes: Re. “ETS modelling heralds a green collar job boom” (yesterday, item 1). There’s such a thing as a bad argument in a good cause. The Treasury report on carbon emissions reduction is an example. How many of the past recessions have their modelling predicted?

Fixers:

Justin Templer writes: Re. “Yuendumu: the pool, the press, protocols and permits” (yesterday, item 21). Bob Gosford, writing for Crikey from Yuendumu about local concerns over the media reporting of the opening of the Yuendumu swimming pool, tells us that media organisations need to follow the protocols set by the local media and communications organisation. This organisation, PAW Media, “was established specifically to ensure that yapa (Aboriginal people) could gain at least some degree of control and participation in how they were represented by the media and to make their own decisions about what was appropriate to record and report on”. But apparently the most important role for PAW Media’s is its offer to act as a cultural “fixer”.

This is a paid role in relation to “foreign” journalists where a guide can “make the difference in getting the story or not getting the story”. This is a troubling view of the role of the media. It is bad enough that the press requires entry permits to some parts of our country — but even more disturbing is the sense that, where the media is permitted, there exists an assumed right to “fix” or even block the news.

Bob Gosford writes: Crikey has recently reported that the hard work behind development and construction of the Yuendumu Pool was solely the work of a small group of dedicated locals, who found funding and in-kind support from a number of sources. Crikey reported on this to correct the assertions of some representatives of the mainstream media that the Yuendumu pool was directly or indirectly the result of Jenny Macklin’s Intervention into NT Aboriginal communities. Earlier today I received a phone call from Noel Mason, the local Australian Government Business Manager. Noel explained that, while he was prevented from talking to the media, he wanted to indicate that there had in fact been some contribution from Macklin’s NT Intervention to the Yuendumu pool project. He was, understandably in light of his ban, reluctant to talk on-the-record, but agreed that I should talk to the local Government Indigenous Coordination Centre in Alice Springs to get a breakdown of financial contributions to the pool project. I then called Ms Andre Burgess, ICC Regional Manager based in Alice. She explained the the initial total cost of the pool project was $2.4 million, being split three ways with contributions of $800,000 from a Federal Government (non-intervention related) program for remote community pools, $800,000 from the NT Government and $800,000 from funds raised by locals at Yuendumu.
This last component was made up of $400,000 contributed by Warlpiri traditional owners from royalty payments under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act and $400,000 in cash and kind from local business and philathropic friends of the community.

In February this year it was apparent that a further $200,000 was need to “get the project over the line” — for fencing, landscaping and shade. Noel Mason made application for that money through the discretionary Flexible Funding Pool and, following assessment for merit and necessity, the money was granted. This $200,000 was the only Intervention-related contribution to the Yuendumu pool project.
If Minister Macklin had made this clear to the Yuendumu community, and the press in town on the day, a lots of the hurt and anguish felt here over the past few days may have been avoided. And if the mainstream media, and the Minister’s staff, had followed the sensible and long-standing protocols developed by the locally owned and operated PAW Media, well, they might have ended up with some better and more accurate stories.

Crikey, Woman’s Day and Evelyn Waugh:

Lorraine Pavsic writes: Re. “Two’s a mass for Michael Willesee and Cardinal Pell” (Wednesday, item 7). Crikey, which is my great link with Australian and world news has wasted some cyberspace with totally trivial dribble about a celebrity and a notable. Crikey … send Evelyn Waugh back to Woman’s Day. Throughout the Roman Catholic world it is not unheard-of to have a home mass, generally for a special reason, (even the visit of a dear friend, a priest). Being a celebrity has nothing to do with it, and George Pell is first and foremost, a priest.

John H Williams writes: What a hoot regarding Catherine James (yesterday, comments) on Evelyn Waugh! A little checking on his gender and non-existence for 42 years might have helped. Maybe if someone had used his full name (Arthur Evelyn St John Waugh) her blushes might have been spared? (Even “St John” is a trap for the unwary, being pronounced “Sinjen”, I believe).

Keith Van Driel writes: Catherine James, bravely attempting to shield the Catholic Church from ridicule, shows her ignorance of English literature by not realising that Evelyn Waugh, he of the male gender with the feminine first name of Evelyn, was the author of Brideshead Revisited [1945]. This novel is best looked up at, which will explain the reasons behind the Crikey article by ”Evelyn Waugh”.

Rich pollies:

Kerry Lewis writes: Re. Yesterday’s editorial. I’m with you, it’s just that some millionaires seem to enter parliament for the cherry on top of their careers. There’s nothing wrong with them entering for the good of the community. It’s when they treat it as some sort of hobby, trying to pass themselves off as something they aren’t. Working votes off it. And how many of us have their retirement benefits for our later years to look forward too?

Viggo Pedersen writes: Crikey wrote: “…the politics of what might reasonably be thought to constitute ‘envy’ sometimes raise their head … as they did yesterday, when Treasurer Wayne Swan poked at Turnbull.” Wayne Swan was not making Turnbull’s wealth an issue, only his politics: “the global financial crisis is over-hyped: I’m moving my funds out of the system.”

Grace Gorman writes: How naive! Both Turnbull and Rudd are “investing” their time in the much more lucrative activities, to them, of making laws that give them more freedom to screw the workers, so they and their rich mates can just get richer and richer. Do you really think they are so altruistic they would be in Parliament for anything else? Apart from the apology, not much of what Rudd has done so far has given me any reason to start “treasuring” any of the feather-bedding bloodsuckers.

Julie Bishop:

Rowen Cross writes: Re. “Julie Bishop: stop me if you’ve read this before” (yesterday, item 5). What a bunch of self indulgent dribble. I couldn’t even finish reading this cryptic piece of rubbish. Who writes like this?

Julian Gillespie writes: Walter Slurry you’re a funny bastard — your poison pen is sweet reading.

Chess:

Duncan Beard writes: Re. “World Championship Chess: Anand takes world title” (yesterday, item 6). Thanks for the chess (it takes a bit of chutzpah to feature a column on chess in this day and age), and big wraps to Ian Rogers for making this an unexpected highlight of Crikey.

Hedge funds:

Bruce Graham writes: Re. Terrence Kidd (yesterday, comments) on hedge funds. It is easy even for common people to sell things they do not own. If only becomes a breach of contract if you fail to have it on hand for delivery. Many Internet businesses run on this principle. Crikey gets your subscription by promising to provide something not yet purchased from its suppliers. Of course, if you have a run of sales of Persian jewellery, and then spend the proceeds on cocaine, and your jewellery shipment gets lost on the docks, you are as equally sunk as if you sold some shares you did not actually yet own…

New Zealand:

Neil James, happy resident in NZ from 2001 to 2003, writes: Re. “Mackerras: Why NZ’s MMP voting system sucks” yesterday, item 17). Malcolm Mackerras is correct in his analysis of New Zealand’s electoral system but the situation of national decline is even worse than his psephological analysis indicates. New Zealand is a unitary state with a single-chamber legislature whereas MMP was developed by the Germans for a federal system with bicameral parliaments at both state and national level. The effect of MMP in terms of forming governments is that all Kiwi administrations are now coalitions with disproportionate power wielded by minority and often quite extreme groups on both sides of politics.

As governments in the Westminster system (and most others) are made and unmade in the lower house of their parliament, this could only be fixed under MMP by separating the party-list MPs into an upper house where they could still influence legislation but not hamper effective government. Furthermore, within MMP, each constituency member is still elected by an unfair and ineffective first-past-the-post system, rather than preferential voting. Many NZ constituency MPs are elected by well under a majority of the vote and often where a majority of electors clearly prefer another candidate even if he or she is not their first choice.

Interestingly, many Kiwis also believe, oddly, that preferential voting is unduly complicated — to the regular scorn in letters to the editor in NZ papers from all those Kiwis in Australia who use it regularly. Those MPs elected on party lists under MMP are selected by the party entirely, with voters for any party having no ability to over-ride the party machines in deciding the order (and suitability) that MPs within that party are elected. This is one of the great boons of Hare-Clark systems, when used intelligently to free parties of the grip of extremist factions or to reject party-hack candidates in favour of real representation.

Finally, New Zealand is predominantly a bicultural rather than a multicultural society, many Kiwis are somewhat introverted and isolationist in their world view and its electoral spectrum is markedly to the left of Australia’s. Playing the race card is also much more politically prevalent there on both sides, including strongly expressed anti-Asian feelings among many Maori. (There is also so much institutionalised anti-Australian racial hatred that most Kiwis no longer consciously recognise it).

All of these factors unfortunately mix together to undermine New Zealand’s long-term prosperity, cohesion and stability. This is a pity as Kiwis and Aussies generally have much more in common than they are different — and NZ remains my favourite third-world country.

Climate smackdown: the response:

Jeffrey Coombs writes: Adam Rope, Matt Andrews and Mark Byrne (yesterday, comments) all refute Tamas Calderwood’s observation on the decade long trend of global non-warming by saying there is a “steadily rising long term trend”. Reference to the attached links seems to indicate 30 to 50 years as a suitable time span to eliminate “natural climatic variables” and establish “meaningful underlying trends”. But why take 30 to 50 years, which conveniently excludes other recent non warming cycles? Why not take hundreds of years and go back to just before the last mini ice age? Better still; why not use undisputed geological data from the last 600 million years? Then you would notice there has been only one other period in the Earth’s 4.5 billion year climatic history where the Average Global Temperature and the Atmospheric C02 Levels have been as low as they are today, the Late Carboniferous-Early Permian Period (300 Million Years Ago).

Further investigation shows curiously, the Ordovician-Silurian Period (450-420 MYA) and the Jurassic-Cretaceous Period (151-132 MYA) experienced glaciations when Atmospheric C02 Levels were more than 4000 and 2000 parts per million higher than they are today. Today, at 380 ppm, our atmosphere is CO2-impoverished, although certain scientists, environmentalists, political groups, and the news media would have us believe otherwise. This graph shows the obvious disconnect between Average Global Temperatures and Atmospheric C02 Levels. So tell me, is 600 million years enough of a trend?

Eric Brodrick writes: If I see or hear one more hand wringing Chicken Little claiming the sky is falling and that we’re all going to die because of climate change I will put my foot through TV. Proliferating like rabbits, they appear in the media, each one trying to out do the other in the predicting the blackest outlook. This is probably because their livelihood depends on keeping their face in front of a TV camera and claiming that climate change is solely due to human pollution is one way of scoring more grant money as they look for a “solution”. Even if mankind is the sole cause, do any of these “gurus” REALLY think that we can turn around 300 years of industrial pollution in less than 50? I don’t.

Face the facts ladies and gentlemen; the climate of this planet has always been a dynamic system. The geological evidence shows that the planet has been alternatively much warmer and much colder than it is currently. It’s only the relative shortness of the human life span that gives it the appearance of any stability. The mini-ice age in the middle ages brought changes which climatically, socially and politically the planet is still recovering from. This time, it’s warming instead of cooling. As the Earth gets warmer, some areas of the planet will become less habitable while other areas will become more liveable. As in the Middle Ages there will be mass migrations, warfare and general disruption as people move from one area to another in order to survive.

Never mind Carbon Trading Scams, the money should be spent preparing for these eventualities and preparing to develop the “new” areas. At least this would give the climatologists something positive to do and would stop them from sounding like a bunch of Southern Baptist tent show preachers threatening their congregations with Hellfire and brimstone if they don’t accept their particular version of “The Faith”.

Tamas Calderwood writes: I’ll ignore the usual personal insults from Adam Rope and Matt Andrews and stick to the facts: Take a look at the satellite temperature record since 1979. Do you see, as Crikey put it, “a world getting warmer and more climactically extreme at an alarming rate”? I do not. The record in fact shows that as of 2008 the world is basically the same temperature as it was 30 years ago. Mark Byrne (politely and reasonably) argues all the heat is being captured by the oceans == but ocean temperatures as measured by the Argo buoy program show cooling for the past few years as well. So, phew, apocalypse delayed. Here’s the satellite temperature record. It’d be great if you could print it as I think it speaks volumes.

Send your comments, corrections, clarifications and c*ck-ups to [email protected]. 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.

Peter Fray

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