Turnbull, Rudd, Bush, the G20 and a whole lot of hot air:

Katherine Stuart writes: Re. “Battle of the bulging egos: Malcolm takes on Kevin” (yesterday, item 1). Bernard Keane wrote: “He knows this is Canberra stuff, of fascination to the Press Gallery and political obsessives but without resonance in the community, and no amount of puffing from the Opposition will turn it into one.” Too right mate! As evidenced by “the opinion polls suggest (Turnbull’s strategy is) not working at all. Rudd is back to the sort of approval levels he reached earlier in the year against the hapless Nelson.” Yep. Nice indication that Australians (still — nearly 12 months on from the election) have had a gut-full of irrelevance, posturing and inaction in the political arena. At least Rudd is doing something.

And why shouldn’t Rudd be telling Bush what to do (particularly given how dim-witted Bush appears to be)? Isn’t it just that Howard got us all used to the most obeisant, obsequious kind of cronyism when it came to the USA? Aren’t you just indulging in another form of cultural cringe Malcolm, because of your very small ego? Sweden, a nation with less than half Australia’s population punches well above its weight in the world in many areas (although perhaps not in sport) in part because it believes in itself and its people, develops its own ideas and does world-class research — and brands itself as such.

Rudd spent a bit of time in Stockholm at the Australian Embassy there in his early working life. Perhaps some of that mindset rubbed off on him.

Alan Kennedy writes: The sad point about the leak of a conversation between Rudd and Bush is the lack of curiosity by Malcolm Turnbull about who else was at the party and whether they had anything to do with the leak. The smoking quill seems to be firmly in the hands of the Editor in Chief of The Australian, Chris Mitchell. Turnbull is studiously avoiding all this as he is The Australian’s new best friend and the paper seems to be working day and night to get Turnbull into the Lodge.

Sadly The Australian‘s Newspoll results seem to show the Australian public is less susceptible to Malcolm’s charms. They haven’t learned a thing at the Oz after trying to convince us that black was white during the election in 2007 when we were able to see that what their delusional scribes were pumping out was not consistent with the Newspoll numbers, now they trying it with Malcolm. At this stage he isn’t moving the polls and history would seem to show if you don’t get a first off bounce it is hard to get one later.

Viggo Pedersen writes: Kevin Rudd has said that the American President did not ask what the G20 is. He is either (a) telling the truth or (b) lying. If the so-distant mainstream media believes Rudd is lying then they should say so instead of trying to make a story out of nothing. If it believes he is telling the truth then they have two options: they can try to find out where story originated or they can shut up and get on with some important news and analysis. If they want to find out where it came from, I have two suggestions: tear into The Australian or have some meaningful dialogue instead of love-ins with The Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition.

Niall Clugston writes: Re. Yesterday’s editorial. It’s all very well for you at Crikey to be censorious about the “bizarre spectacle of our federal parliament obsessing on this moment of extraordinary pettiness”, but by your own account you are the cheerleaders-in-chief for G20-gate! And why can’t anyone admit that “What’s the G20?” was the smartest thing George W Bush has ever uttered?

G20, G8, Q7, OECD, APEC — they’re all just meaningless inkblots coughed out by the bureaucratic octopus that holds sway in the alphabet soup of the global civil society. When have they ever done anything? Most of them can’t manage a functioning website! As for Rudd’s ego, that was well exposed in Latham’s Diatribes. But of course “Iron Mark” is completely discredited, isn’t he?

Andrew Haughton writes: Malcolm Turnbull has a fine intellect but appears short of political nous. He reminds me of Lyndon Johnson’s comment on the Kennedy administration: “They’re sure bright enough but I do wish one of them once had run for sheriff”.

America 2012:

Martin Gordon writes: Re. “Beware media hype: Republicans are not doomed” (Monday, item 10) & “Republicans a good chance in 2012” (Tuesday, item 9). Peter Brent and Julian McCrann have both made interesting observations about the 2008 and 2012 Presidential elections. Working for Obama is the fact that incumbency is a huge advantage, and rarely do Presidents get denied a second term. But there are many observations to be made.

Several US writers have highlighted: the barely changed voter (up 1% to 62%) turnout in 2008 versus 2004 (Curtis Gans); that until the collapse of Lehman Brothers McCain lead the polls and then the economic tsunami put Obama in the lead (Scott Rasmussen of Rasmussen polling). Rasmussen also pointed out that Americans believe that Obama will cut their taxes, which is probably unlikely (in fact McCain’s health and tax changes would have helped typical families more than Obama). The Democrats themselves point out the unpopular Republican brand won’t be there in 2012 and the Democrats will have to perform (Donald Fowler former national Democratic Party chairman).

The impression most Americans and the rest of the world would have is that Obama enjoyed an overwhelming win, (whilst solid) would be an exaggeration. Five states actually swung to McCain, and to use the Mackerras pendulum the overall swing was about 4.7%, so you end up with a 46.7% v 53.3% result for Obama. Where the economy was in good shape such as in Oklahoma, there was a swing to McCain, the Republicans won additional State Assembly and Senate seats, gaining control of the legislature for the first time in the state’s history (Roy Jenkins of Associated Press).

A former Oklahoma based Congressman (1995-2002) and Chairman of the Republican Congress Conference and African-American JC Watts recognised the significance of the Obama win, but paid tribute to McCain as a good candidate. He noted the low turnout of evangelical Christian voters, in 2000 only 25% voted, 2004 some 48% voted, and in 2006 only 34% voted.

Gans and Watts observations about turnout mean that there are many Republican voters that did not turnout, if they do Obama and the Democrats may be in strife. To illustrate in Ohio turnout dropped 5%, and Pennsylvania 2% and these are critical states. Turnout increased in heavily black states and regions, but overall turnout was not overwhelmingly different to 2004. Given what the Democrats have won on discontent with the Republicans it would not be surprising to see the Republicans make gains in 2010 and 2012 in Congress and the Senate.

For Obama if he tracks too far to the left for his electorate he may find so-called ‘values voters’ (evangelical Christians) may come out in big numbers. If the economy does not improve markedly, Democrats don’t deliver to meet the high expectations they have created, and there are some foreign policy missteps Obama may end up following a Jimmy Carter trajectory rather than a Franklin Roosevelt one.

Alex Dundon writes: Regarding James Harper’s claim (yesterday, comments) that the US Civil War was over two hundred and fifty years ago. The US was declared independent in 1776, and it wasn’t till 1860 that Lincoln was elected POTUS. I don’t disagree with the point he was trying to make, but a bit of date checking might have made his argument stronger.

Wayne Robinson writes: James Harper’s typographical error in mentioning that the American Civil War was over 250 years ago, reminds me that February 12 next year will be the 200th anniversary of both Abraham Lincoln’s and Charles Robert Darwin’s births, so it now time to get ready to party.

Rental vacancy rates:

Enzo Raimondo, CEO of the Real Estate Institute of Victoria, writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (yesterday, item 8). Yesterday Crikey published the following:

The Real Estate Institute of Victoria is concealing private rental vacancy rates. Normally, at the end of every month, the REIV publishes the vacancy rate for private rental for the previous month. But now we’re well into November, but still no September Vacancy rate? For the last few years, the vacancy rate has demonstrated very tight rental condition. Are the REIV holding it back to prop up the market in what’s left of the 2008 selling season?

On behalf of the REIV I would like to advise that the September vacancy rate data was placed on the REIV website on the 31st of October so nothing is being hidden. The rental vacancy rate in Melbourne continues to be at a 25 year low with a drop from 1.4 per cent in August to 1.1 per cent in September. The highest the vacancy rate has been in the last two years is 1.7 per cent.

Forecasting forewarned:

Bill Cushing writes: Re. Tuesday’s editorial. You are spot on about “forecasting” — especially in taking it back to the Romans. In fact, one of the best critiques of the practice (in its many manifestations) was set out around 40BC by Cicero in his De Divinatione — by which time omens and auguries were “… often too obviously used for party-ends…” and, as was said, “…two prophets could never meet without laughing…” As with Henry and Stevens? Indeed, not only did Cicero see prophecy i.e. forecasting as useless, he went on to suggest that, if a genuine art, it would only add to our misery — “how wretched to know one’s fate beforehand”. Thank you, Ross Garnaut!


Belinda Adams writes: I believe Keith Thomas (yesterday, comments) would be surprised to learn that the majority of white people remaining in Zimbabwe are severely affected by the economic meltdown; as are all Zimbabweans. It is true that due to the vestiges of colonialism that white people continued to reap the privilege of their “whiteness” in myriad ways post independence in 1980. But Mugabe’s audacious clench on political power at any cost has eroded any semblance of a Zimbabwean “middle class” — be it black or white.

The entire infrastructure of the country is decaying at lightening speed — there are no doctors, nurses or drugs, there are no teachers, food and fuel are critically short, many tens of thousands of homes no longer have running water, there is no rule of law and yes, there are those that seek to profit from others misery — both black and white. The social repercussions are so broad-reaching and overwhelming I do not have the space to address them here.

But ponder this: over three million Zimbabweans have left their homeland to escape Mugabe’s rule; most of these black — most white Zimbabweans have also left; those remaining are less than 0.2% of the population and many were vulnerable anyway, like old age pensioners whose monthly pensions now cannot buy them one egg.

The death of marriage:

Duncan Beard writes: Re. “Boy meets girl (etc) … Senate does the hitching” (yesterday, item 15). Jessica Brown has some serious problems if she thinks that “the new legislation … devalues the institution of marriage. Why would anyone decide to get married when a de facto arrangement automatically gives you the same rights as a couple who have walked down the aisle and signed on the dotted line?”

Simple. People don’t get married for primarily economic reasons and marriage is not viewed as a primarily economic relationship. While I don’t know much about Jessica Brown or the Centre for Independent Studies, this sort of lazy generalisation and poor argumentative technique that dominates her piece leaves me less than trusting of the “facts” of the matter presented here.

Could we please have an intelligently written article on the new legislation that actually shows how the legislation will work instead of this very Today Tonight vision of the disintegration of society because of the “death of marriage”.


Tim Villa writes: While I would like to believe that it is purely unit price which is driving DVD sales, Mark Heydon’s graph (yesterday, comments) unfortunately fails to include the uptake of this technology in the form of DVD players. Naturally, sales will increase as consumers are able to use the product — consider LPs to audio cassettes to CDs. I would expect to see a stronger correlation between the number of DVD players in households and the number of DVDs sold, than the correlation between unit price and sales.

Some things climate change:

John Kotsopoulos writes: Re. “Australian Coal Association: climate change is happening and fast” (yesterday, item 10). Could someone please draw that serial climate denialist Tamas Calderwood’s (yesterday, comments) attention to Bernard Keane’s excellent piece on climate change in today’s Crikey. This quotes the Australian Coal Association as saying “Climate change isn’t just happening,”… “Many scientists think it’s accelerating.” The ACA’s new website also listed in the piece might help Mr. Calderwood develop a better understanding of the issue which even such bastions of left wing ideology as the Property Council of Australia are treating with the utmost seriousness for economic as well as social and health reasons.

Ken Lambert writes: While the AGW theorists are full of explanations of global warming, I can’t recall ever reading their story on global cooling. If you want to use the Earth’s historical record to draw parallels with warming mechanisms; you know — CO2 feedback loops, possible methane seepages, receding reflective ice etc, then you cannot avoid the fact that at some point the warming was arrested by natural mechanisms.

Cooling reigned on Earth for roughly 100,000 year periods of glaciation between short warmings. We are overdue for a cooling period if you look at the NGS data for the last 400,000 years. Given these indisputable historical facts, why do AGW theorists not draw parallels with the natural arresting mechanisms which peaked past warmings into coolings?

Surely ordinary logic would dictate that you cannot take the bits of the Earth’s warming record to support your warming theory, and ignore the Earth’s cooling record because; well maybe you don’t want it to spoil a good scary story by acknowledging that a natural mechanism is at play which has reliably cooled the Earth after all past warmings.

Richard Lawson writes: Sure, it’s cute to compare climate science to economic forecasting as some of your sceptical correspondents do, but from my admittedly amateur readings of climatologists predictions it’s a false analogy. Many of the scenarios are playing out roughly as predicted if you consider the published papers rather than the straw men so often erected. For instance monotonic or unbroken increases in temperature were never predicted, indeed greater variability and instability of climate is the expectation.

Secondly, the real science comes with margins of error and levels of uncertainty, even if this is lost in the secondary reporting. Finally, a Crikey apology to Augurs would be appreciated, unless you wish to wake up with a tabulae defixione on your doorstep — and I can see that you don’t.

Declan Kuch writes: Rather than checking and refuting T.V Segalstad’s assumptions, as Jonathan Maddox did so assiduously (yesterday, comments), I submitted his work to a much simpler test: namely that anyone who describes a substance, rather than a dosage, as “non-toxic” is usually either a dolt or more interested in pushing a particular technological agenda than promoting candid political debate.

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

Get your first 12 weeks of Crikey for $12.

Without subscribers, Crikey can’t do what it does. Fortunately, our support base is growing.

Every day, Crikey aims to bring new and challenging insights into politics, business, national affairs, media and society. We lift up the rocks that other news media largely ignore. Without your support, more of those rocks – and the secrets beneath them — will remain lodged in the dirt.

Join today and get your first 12 weeks of Crikey for just $12.


Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey