A correction:

Crikey last week published an article by Phillip O’Neill of the University of Western Sydney that, republished out of context, misrepresented his views on the state of infrastructure policy in Australia. The article was the second of a four-part series of articles published in Business Spectator, that together give O’Neill’s actual views of this policy area. A sub-editor’s alteration of the first paragraph may have been construed as an attack by O’Neill on federal Labor infrastructure policy. This was not the author’s intended meaning. Crikey apologises for conveying this impression. The full series of articles on Business Spectator begins here.

Nancy-Bird Walton:

Don Wormald writes: Re. “Flights of Nancy: A colourful life” (yesterday, item 13). A bloke named Sqd Ldr Robert Henry Maxwell “Bobby” Gibbes DSO & Bar, DFC, AM — our 3rd last WWII fighter ace — who died nearly two years ago told me this one (in Nancy’s presence).

After WWII Bobby set up an airline in New Guinea, Gibbes Sepik Airways. This was the little airline responsible for opening up vast tracts of the New Guinea Highlands from impossible airstrips. Some of these strips carved into mountain tops were challenging to say the least. Bob had trouble getting his (male) pilots to fly into some of the worst strips.

Being a lateral thinker, Bob knew what to do. He hired Nancy to blaze the trail into the worst of them. From then on his male pilots flew into each and every strip without any demur. They couldn’t be outdone by a female!

Conflict in Gaza:

Harold Thornton writes: Re. “Faris: Hamas must be removed” (yesterday, item 15). Peter Faris stakes his claim to a plane of wingnutdom out there in the void beyond the lunar orbit with his comment that Alan Dershowitz is a “noted US left wing libertarian”. That’d be the Alan Dershowitz whose libertarian credentials include passionate advocacy of torture and a longrunning (and successful) campaign to get fellow academic Norman Finkelstein sacked on account of his anti-Zionist views. But for Peter, he’s a zany leftie. I look forward to future Faris descriptions of John Howard as “notorious anarcho-syndicalist rabblerouser” and Robert Mugabe as “cautious moderate”.

Duncan Beard writes: Please, oh please, stop publishing the muck written by Peter Faris; if I wanted to read simplistic clichés written by ideologically blinkered simpletons then I would have subscribed to The Australian. I’m aware that his recent inclusions must have something to do with appearing to be “balanced”, but at very least you could attempt to supply an alternate voice from someone with the barest modicum of intelligence and perspicacity.

Patrick Cross writes: Re. “Rundle: The comic tragedy of Gaza” (Tuesday, item 2). Do people like Guy Rundle et al, who attempt to trivialise the rocket attacks on the Israeli population, think that the “harassment” is as bad as it could get? Hamas have stated they wish to destroy Israel. Attacks from Palestinian territory have escalated over the years of “tolerance” from sniper fire to mortars to rocket with small ranges to rockets with longer and longer ranges and larger and larger warheads.

Is this escalation likely to stop? Hamas is backed by Iran who continues to develop their rocket technology and who is also in the process of developing nuclear technology. Is it really that much of a stretch to see a few more years of tolerance will result in a couple of low yield nukes dropping out of the sky onto any location in Israel? I doubt that Israel who get any sympathy from Rundle et al then either… they’d probably be criticising Israel for not acting earlier before the situation got out of control.

Scott Daniels writes: Re. “Gaza calling: Twitter, blogs and the old fashioned telephone cover the crisis” (yesterday, item 18). Eleri Harris writes “The Israeli military yesterday allowed a journalist to join their ranks and file a (censored) report from the Gaza Strip — the first professional media report from the area since the present conflict started on December 30.” I should point out that Al Jazeera, both the English and Arabic versions, has reporters inside Gaza and has been producing professional reports since the start of the conflict. They’ve been doing a damn fine job as well.

Sandra Kanck writes: If, as Roger Mika has done (Tuesday, comments), one is to quote the Bible to attempt to explain the current situation in Gaza/Palestine, a little more information is needed. The Abram he refers to is revered by the Islamic religion as Ibrahim, and the by Jewish religion as Abraham. The message that this God gave to Abram did not say that the land would in future belong to only one half of the family!

NSW politics:

Mathew Jones, former media advisor and Chief of Staff to Michael Costa, writes: Re. “Expect fireworks between Ferguson and new Rudd appointee” (Tuesday, item 11). Alex Mitchell’s piece of armchair commentary can’t go unchallenged. Not only is John Pierce a dedicated public servant in the mould Mitchell purports to support (unless they don’t follow some outdated ‘70s notion of what constitutes public policy), as head of the Treasury he oversaw the biggest increase in infrastructure spending in NSW ever.

A quick look at NSW Treasury’s budget papers shows that infrastructure spending in the current four year forward estimates is $57 billion, compared to $36 billion in the previous four years, an increase of 58 per cent. Yes, there’s an argument that the change in focus from paying down debt to increasing infrastructure investment could have happened earlier, but to say “the maintenance of basic public infrastructure came to a virtual halt” is demonstrably wrong.

Pierce’s trip to the US was central to the development of the 2006 budget paper on long-term fiscal pressures, which looked at the impacts of an ageing population on the economy and on the budget. It’s an alarming read, and a good example of a government thinking decades beyond the current electoral cycle.

Performance bonuses for agency heads were abolished in 2000. As a former press gallery journo Mitchell should know that. And the staff that worked under Pierce weren’t a “mini-empire”, they were an executive team. Every DG has one.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised at Mitchell’s article. Prior to the 2004 state budget he wrote a front-page story in the Sun Herald that claimed then Transport Minister Michael Costa was going to sell off state forests to pay for new rail carriages. He then went on Sydney radio and said if his story was proved wrong on budget day he’d walk naked down Martin Place.

It was. He didn’t.

Climate change:

Ken Lambert writes: Re. “Leading climate scientists call for an emergency ‘Plan B’” (Monday, item 8). I watched Crikey responses for a couple of days after Dr Glikson’s latest message of doom. It seems that even the climate change disaster enthusiasts are yawning at the latest escalation of violence Dr Glikson’s predictions will bring upon us. Radical intervention to cool the Earth with vast sprays of volcanic like aerosols is Dr Glikson’s latest prescription. Fortunately mad scientists have always been controlled by saner and cooler heads such as pragmatic politicians — like Kevin Rudd. The IPCC’s 2007 report is such a politician’s document.

Is the Earth heating up at 0.6W/sq.m. or 2.4W/sq.m? Who knows? So the IPCC averages it at 1.6W/sq.m. and extrapolates from there. Even then, the sea level rise is predicted at something like 2mm per year. In 50 years that is 100mm (about four inches). Are you going to be able to escape from a raging sea which rises at the thickness of a matchstick every year? Does your tide move up and down 1500mm to 2000mm (1.5m to 2.0m) every 6 hours – right here in Brisbane it does. Will your Pacific Islanders be able to run from a rising sea chasing them at 4 inches every 50 years? Even Dr Glikson has broken down his 25+/-12m sea level rise to ‘many metres’ over his recent ravings.

If you look at the temperatures and sea levels of the last 10000 years, the amazing thing is the relative stability compared with the previous 400,000 years. Perhaps Dr Glikson could address this fact with a reasoned explanation, and a dissertation on climate change models which have accurately tracked temperatures and sea levels for the last 10,000 years and the previous 400,000 years to boot.

The Catholic Church:

Paul Gilchrist writes: Re. “Catholic Parish faces “excommunication” or is it extermination?” (Yesterday, item 11). Jeff Wall talks about PR problems the Catholic Church in Brisbane might have in getting the priests and parish of St Mary’s to ask themselves if they share the beliefs of the Catholic Church. Frankly, PR doesn’t matter; it is the truth that matters.

From what I have seen and read, the St Mary’s parish does very good charitable work in helping people in the area and in that they may be an example for other parishes to follow. However, judging by the books they promote and the ceremonies they perform, the priests and leaders of the parish don’t believe Jesus Christ is God, don’t believe in the special graces given to ordained clergy and don’t believe in the Real Presence in the Eucharist. That’s fine, many good people share their beliefs, but those people don’t regard themselves as members of the Catholic Church.

I think it would be best for everyone to be clear, to say clearly what they believe and accept each other’s beliefs with love. However, it doesn’t help to pretend to be part of a Church whose core beliefs you don’t share. It is not a matter of “giving in”, of “compromising” or even of Public Relations. It is all about being honest with yourself.

The USA:

Dan Cass, Communications manager, Greenpeace Australia Pacific, writes: America’s Ambassador Robert D. McCallum, Jr., defended its moral leadership on ABC Breakfast yesterday by pointing to its aid and philanthropy around the world. Summer Breakfast presenter Steve Cannane was pushing McCallum hard on big issues like Iraq & Gitmo (although he omitted climate change). Don’t Bomb Iran has a post today that puts the Ambassador’s claim in perspective. The US spends more on nuclear weapons than aid and diplomacy combined and has plans to spend even more in the future, modernising its arsenal. If the US wants to wield a chequebook in its campaign for “soft power”, how about giving developing nations clean energy?

Stillgherrian:

Telstra spinner Rod Bruem writes: Re. “Telstra holds back broadband speeds. Again” (Monday, item 1). Who is this “Stillgherrian” and why do you let him post reports on Crikey anonymously? His rants and raves are certainly not of the calibre of the legendary Hillary Bray. Could you please explain the rationale to your loyal readers?

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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