Rudd’s car plan:

John Tinney writes: Re. “Rudd’s car plan is Labor at its worst” (yesterday, item 1). Bernard Keane’s attack on the Rudd Government auto plan suggests we don’t need a car industry (what does he propose as a substitute?) and that the new plan is an “absurd” left-wing solution. But the grim global outlook is unprecedented and round the world governments of various political colours are considering massive car rescue plans which dwarf the Canberra package.

In the United States, industry executives have warned Barack Obama that up to three million jobs could be lost unless General Motors, Ford and Chrysler are bailed out with massive soft loans. GM alone is asking for $US50 billion ($A 74 billion). Obama’s chief of staff Rahm Emanuel has said the President-elect “has been clear (the auto companies) are part of any sustained economic activity in this country.” Sounds like our government!

In the EU, the European Commission has backed the idea of offering European car manufacturers 40 billion Euros ($A 75 billion) in low-interest loans to ease the transition to greener technologies amidst the ongoing economic crisis. Sounds like our government! And at the same time, Canberra has resisted calls for a protectionist response, sticking to the Button Plan’s reduction of car import tariffs to 5% in 2010. Bernard says “even with assistance, parts of the body have routinely died”.

That was precisely Button’s expectation. He was emphatic that Australia could not sustain five manufacturers producing a range of models and that the focus must be on specialisation and, yes, the death of parts of the body. As a result we have world class vehicles, as demonstrated by the fact that a growing proportion of total Australian production is being exported, even as imports are growing significantly…

Martin Copelin writes: To be regarded as a first world country, Australia has to be able to design and build cars. We are basically an island and if involved in some future global war e.g. against China if they invade Taiwan, will not be able to rely on imports. If we lose our expertise in building things, than this country could be doomed to third world status and be regarded as poor white trash. Also it is about time Australians realise that every time they purchase a new imported vehicle that a large proportion of the price goes directly to the overseas manufacturer.

It is much better to purchase an Australian manufactured car as nearly all the money spent stays here. For too many years we have relied on Queensland and WA mining plus the Hunter region in NSW to produce huge amounts of revenue — this will fall dramatically adding to our terrible balance of payment deficits. Why don’t you show some patriotism and urge your readers to buy Australian and hopefully save our country.

Les Heimann writes: Well I didn’t think Bernard Keane was a member of the failed free marketeers club. He disparages the attempt at maintaining 60,000 (actually make it over 200,000) jobs. This is Labor at its worst? Tell that to the workers comrade! Will someone — anyone — at Crikey please begin to understand reality? Now is about job retention — it’s not that we can afford to lose 200,000 jobs at the time of a recession.

Frankly, any fool understands that. Yes government intervention — yes everywhere. Please, please for once and for all forget “the free market”. Remember the Great Depression and remember 2008. Never, ever again should we rely on free marketeers. Get with it Bernard.

Colin Prasad writes: If Rudd is prepared to throw money at the car industry for reasons of national interest, why not just make an offer to buy the local operations out and nationalise it like the banks? GM US are likely to be a seller as they need the cash, so I am sure he could get a fire sale deal. The government could then on-sell it to the Falcodore loving punters in a privatisation listing. Rudd, the turn-around business king!

Tom Doman writes: I congratulate Bernard Keane on his article and couldn’t agree more regarding the economic insanity of continuing to prop up an uncompetitive industry — look at the tax payer subsidies thrown at Mitsubishi for years, which just prolonged the agony. Subsidies like this just distort proper application of capital and labour to what are productive and competitive sectors of the economy.

Barack Obama:

Ken Lambert writes: Re. “Mungo: Obama’s presidency faces a world of trouble” (yesterday, item 11). While Mungo MacCallum is still moist eyed about an Obama led USA being the last best hope of mankind, perhaps he could think of some things exceptional about Australia. My Yank mates want to move here when I tell them we spend $3500 annually for a family of four on private health insurance, while John and Peg Yankowski struggle to get catastrophic cover for US$12,000 per year with a $1,000 deductable per claim.

Despite the waves of trendy Yank inspired education theory, my kids are not doing too badly in State primary schools thanks to some good common sense teachers. Our cities are clean, bridges unrusted and our cabs have meters and handles on all the doors. No-one here works for $5 per hour plus tips. Australia is an exceptional place. We still have the capacity to cut through the swathes of American inspired BS (bullshit) spewed at us daily from the mass media.

Today our eyes will probably moisten in contemplation of the 325,000 volunteers who 90 years ago thought this self-governing commonwealth a pretty exceptional place too.

Jenny Morris writes: Regarding Stephen Magee’s comments on the relative merits of President-elect Obama and former VP candidate Palin (yesterday, comments). Palin has convictions because she shoots moose, spends lots of money on clothes and doesn’t know Africa is a continent? Obama hasn’t walked on water? I’d say winning the US Presidential election comes close. Sure, the expectations being piled upon him are unhelpful and probably unrealistic, but the guy’s got conviction in spades!

Trained as a lawyer, but takes up community activism; handles a gruelling 21 month campaign for the top job with unfailing energy and drive. Palin, on the other hand, parachutes in for a few weeks, plays the “Campaignin’ with the Stars” role, and jets off back to Backwater Alaska. Stephen, if you think Ms Palin is doing such a great job, I suggest you relocate to Alaska. Oh I get it! Come on First Dog, own up! Stephen Magee’s one of yours, right? Nice doggie.

Merran Williams writes: Stephen Magee, Barack Obama’s books Dreams from My Father and The Audacity of Hope show he’s that rare person who is in politics to make a difference rather than simply climb the ladder. I haven’t read any books by Sarah Palin, although I’d like to, but with convictions that include opposition to abortion even in cases of rape and incest, opposition to gun control (including the current ban on handguns in Washington DC) and support for the Bush Doctrine (now that she’s been told what it is) I think the US is better off without her either close to or at the helm of government.

Stephen Magee writes: James Harper (yesterday, comments) claims that the party which best protects the interests of American blacks “has not historically been the Republican Party”. James presumably thinks that the Civil War was initiated by a Democrat President and that the post-bellum disenfranchising and segregation of Blacks was the work of Southern Republicans.

Bob Smith writes: Re. “Rundle08: Sailing into the harbour of grace” (7 November, item 3). Congratulations to Guy Rundle. His day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute journal of discovery, reflection, horror and admiration during the US elections is the standout piece of social reporting for 2008.

Charles Richardson writes: Garry Muratore (yesterday, comments) is puzzled that the Courier Mail has Bart Cummings on the front page instead of Barack Obama in the world newspaper collage. So was I, until I looked at it more closely: very few of the Australian, Asian or European papers have Obama on them, because they’re in the wrong time zone. Whoever did the collage has just taken all the papers for Wednesday 5 November, which in most of the world was too early to have the results in morning editions. Not really the Courier Mail‘s fault.

Illegally copied DVDs:

Simon Bush, CEO of The Australian Visual Software Distributors Association, writes: Re. “The inflated cost of illegally copied DVDs” (yesterday, item 19). The Australian Visual Software Distributors Association (AVSDA), representing the home entertainment film distributors, is certainly impacted by lost sales due to film piracy. I would not suggest it is the $1.7 billion as quoted but is large enough for the industry to put their hand in their pockets to fund million dollar consumer education initiatives. We would not do this if we did not think it important.

In terms of the links between DVD film piracy and organised crime, I believe the AFP and Interpol have confirmed this. As for this comment by Stilgherrian: “If they’d rather slip a disc into their PC and burn Dark Knight for a mate rather than pay full retail, it means they don’t think the price is right” this is irresponsible at worst and ignorant at best. If you don’t like the cinema ticket price for a film do you sneak in for free? If you don’t like the cost of a product do you steal it? If you wanted to watch the $185 million cost to produce Dark Knight on DVD and you thought buying it for $25 too steep then rent it for $5.

Don’t promote stealing and why is intellectual property seemingly worthless — or is it only Hollywood that is fair game?

Stilgherrian writes: Minister Bob Debus’ office has told us the $1.77 billion cost to the industry quoted in the media release about illegal DVD copying came from Australian Institute of Criminology report “Intellectual property crime and enforcement in Australia”. The report’s Executive Summary says:

The negative impact of IP [intellectual property] crime includes adverse effects on business, the national economy, and consumer health and safety. For example, the software industry has argued that a 10-point drop in piracy globally could create 2.4 million jobs, $400b in economic growth and $67b in additional taxes.

Estimates of the loss to various sectors in Australia include the following:

  • $233m per year due to the piracy and counterfeiting of films (LEK 2006);
  • $677m of lost sales, in 2002, in the Australian toy, software and video games industry. This includes $445.7m lost sales in the business software industry (Allen 2003);
  • $515m in absolute losses in software piracy in 2006 (BSA & IDC 2006);
  • $45m per year as the cost to Australian subscription television industry (ASTRA 2006a);
  • $300m per year in breaches of trade mark as losses to the textile, clothing and footwear industry (ACAG 2000).

So, only $233 million was about copying films, which matches Screen Australia’s analysis. The remaining $1.5 billion has nothing to do with DVDs. I reckon that’s a tad misleading. The numbers are also sourced from “industry estimates” without any sign of critical analysis, but being requoted by the AIC gives them the air of officialdom. Screen Australia provides some lovely graphs which show a DVD industry that’s positively booming.

Ricky Ponting:

Tony Barrell writes: Re. “Ponting cops it for picking self-preservation over victory” (yesterday, item 6). Too much has been written about poor Ricky Ponting’s blunders in trying to speed up the over rate but nobody seems to have noticed a couple of reasons why it has slowed down so much in he first place. Why do all the bowlers need to turn their arm over for two or three trial balls to a close by fielder at the start of every spell? That’s a real time waster that has crept into the game over recent years.

Even slow bowlers feel the need to “warm up” and the commentators let it pass as if it has always been “part of the game”. What need would there be for these pointless exercises? They are athletes and they’ve been on the field for hours so why do they need to indulge in this futile procedure?

The other problem is Ponting’s own interminable discussions with his bowlers about field placings, sometimes in mid over (after he has had to trot to the top of the bowler’s run-up for the chat). Why can’t he set the field quickly (and even stick to it) without all this fastidious procrastination? And why don’t the umpires speed things up rather than standing there waiting for the talks to end? They should tell the bowlers to get on with it.

I’d say hours are lost in every Test series thanks to these tedious digressions. It indicate the powers that be don’t care a stuff about test cricket and just want the cash they think is coming with yet more Twenty20.


Chris Hunter writes: Re. “Death to working families: Rudd gets decisive” (yesterday, item 12). Okay Bernard Keane; the government uses rhetoric — its keywords shape public perception — but what’s this “plasmas’n’pokies” thing all about? God knows I’ve read that “keyword” enough lately. Is it your invention Bernard? If so it’s a pretty sad insult. Just for the record our family is in line for the pensioner supplement you so flippantly refer to. At 60 years of age and in receipt of a disabled war service pension I just happen to qualify. But none of it will be going towards a plasma and not a cent of it will be spent on the pokies. In fact it will act as a 40% down-payment on my year 11 daughter’s orthodontist bill.

Crikey’s balance:

Martyn Smith writes: Re. Michael Cavanagh’s call for more balanced reporting from Crikey (yesterday, comments), which he considers to be too left wing. With due respect to Michael Cavanagh, I don’t think Canberra correspondent Bernard Keane or Glenn Dyer are rabid left wingers, to name just two. The difference between these two gentlemen for me is that I respect Glenn Dyer’s views though I don’t always agree with him and I think Bernard Keane has missed his calling. He should join Christian Kerr and work for Murdoch. When Janet Albrechtsen or another of Murdoch’s tattered lackeys implodes, he can take the spot.

Yesterday’s editorial in which Crikey refers to our PM as a “loose lipped braggart” sounds like a typical Keane rant. I submit that whilst you have Keane writing for you Crikey has fulfilled its function of balance as far as Lunar Right views is concerned. All in all, I find Crikey has right and left views and tries to be fair and well balanced. Michael doesn’t have to read the lefties, moderates in my opinion, anymore than I have to read the rubbish Keane spews out. I just look at the headlines where Keane is concerned and keep scrolling.

A difference of programming:

Jonathan Holmes, Media Watch presenter, writes: Re. “TV09: ABC spins soap, Ten goes for the hip pocket” (yesterday, item 20). Glenn Dyer wrote: “…it is a sign that the ABC is desperate to invoke the Andrew Denton name in 2009, even though Enough Rope ends in several weeks time. Difference of Opinion will have 32 programs next year and could slot into the Monday night 9.35pm timeslot to replace Enough Rope.” I’m sure plenty of others have pointed out that Glenn Dyer doesn’t mean Difference of Opinion, a show that died unmourned at the end of its 2007 run, but the much more successful, and interesting, Q&A.

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