Obama:

Susan Lee writes: Re. “Rundle: the crowded, inspiring, end of the beginning” (yesterday, item 1). As Melbournians slept on a balmy summer night, a small assembly of about 70 kindred spirits arrived at Federation Square to witness history in the making, the Inauguration of the 44th President of the USA. Under the starry Southern Cross sky we came by foot and some cycled across the suburbs, all driven by the innate need to share this historical moment with our fellow Australians.

Bleary eyed and tired we sat on the roughened stones of the people’s square and gazed hopefully at the splendour, a fulfilment of the promise for equality. Assuming his role as leader of the free world, Barack’s clear voice echoed across the stillness of the Yarra River and Flinders Street Station. He spoke to the world, he spoke to us and for that suspended moment in time we were no longer just Melbournians but global citizens celebrating with the nations across planet earth.

As our southern sky turned to shades of blue washed with amber, a new day dawned and Australians woke to the proclamation of a new American leader, President Barack Obama.

Pimienta writes: I believe that the content of the inaugural speech by the 44th president of America goes beyond just rhetoric. It is a sincere example of the plans of Barack Obama to open up the channels between the people and those entrusted as their elected. These issues were well featured in his address. In our own society here in Australia we suffer from many of the causes and results of the plight of the USA and the world.

Let Australia move to improve it’s truth between electors and elected by ensuring the media in all interviews DEMAND the interviewee answer the question correctly with brevity. If this is not done then the interviewer will advise the audience that the question was not answered. It is time to see the accountability of our leaders is opened up and more accurate detail will be available to interviewers and the public.

Ari Corcoran writes: None of your commentators passed judgement (or even appeared to notice) the staggeringly awful poem that was recited in the lead up to the official oath. Just what was Obama’s team thinking in including this sort of dross? From a country that could produce Ginsberg’s Howl, and any number of Bob Dylan lyrics, why was the watching world subjected to this egregious crap? Obama claimed that US “power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please”, why did he allow bad poetry to be imposed on us so early in his regime?

Peter Henderson writes: One lasting image of the inauguration was to see my 90 year old mother-in-law smiling like the Cheshire cat to be watching such an eloquent African American man and his family making it to the White House. Without any racial prejudice, despite her age and the world she had been born into, she was so delighted to have finally seen in her long life such a profound moment.

John Pasquarelli writes: Obama says he is “the son of a black man” — what about his white Mum?

Michelle Gapes writes: Re. “Somewhere in New York, an Australian cries” (yesterday, item 12). Despina Anagnostou wrote: “Perhaps Australia could do with a little such pride, a dialogue led by our Prime Minister about how we see ourselves, what our vision of our future is and how we think we’d like to get there — even if it is only in broad, lofty terms upon which we can all agree and which bind us all, into which we can all impute our own values.” I’m sure there were a lot of people (mistakenly) thought that was Kevin Rudd was doing with the 20/20 summit. All we’ve ended up with in Australia is a Prime Minister who runs the country by personal media grab and self serving headline. I genuinely hope Obama does more for the US than Kevin is doing for us.

Stilgherrian writes:

Black man swears an oath.
The Earth smiles, expecting Change.
Disappointment looms.

Oz economy

Peter Rosier writes: Re. “NSW: it’s in a different state to the rest of us” (yesterday, item 3). Possum Comitatus has demonstrated clearly how the national economy can be prey to that of NSW. Whilst the Labor government of the last decade or more must shoulder a good part of the blame, it shouldn’t be forgotten that the Howard/Costello government played its role in providing NSW with considerably less than its share of the GST and other Commonwealth revenue whilst giving the resource booming states of WA and Queensland a much greater share than their populations deserved.

The task of meeting all of the present and the future needs of a fast-growing state had to be borne by a state with less revenue per head than the others. So if NSW needs a bit of a boost, frankly we deserve it. And, on another point, whilst Victoria hasn’t done so badly this time round, it was a rust bucket after 1990/91.

Keith Thomas writes: Re. “Ruddonomics delivers the worst of all worlds” (yesterday, item 4). Malcolm Turnbull wants tax cuts to stimulate the economy. Bernard Keane says they’re neither disciplined nor focused which Malcolm claims to want. They could be focused if they simply raised the tax-free threshold as the poorest tax-payers are most likely to spend rather than saving. But a better approach would be some sort of subsidy on Australian-grown fresh food at the supermarket (not as an input into processed food). This would benefit farmers as well as our health and waistlines.

ABC funding

Glenys Stradijotm, Friends of the ABC Victoria, writes: Re. “Van Onselen picks over the Liberals carcass with mixed results” (Tuesday, item 8). Bernard Keane wrongly implies that ABC funding was not cut by the Howard government. Shortly after the Howard Coalition was elected in 1996, with a clear promise to maintain ABC funding, it slashed the ABC’s annual budget by 12% (two per cent in 96-97, then a further 10 per cent in 97-98). By the time the Coalition lost office it had restored the ABC’s funding, but not in real terms which reflected increases in production and other costs over that period. And since ‘96, the public broadcaster has had to do more with less, with the introduction of new services like online.

Furthermore, the 12 per cent which had been cut from the ABC’s base funding — important because it promotes the independent broadcaster’s arms-length operation from government — has not been restored. Instead, the funding which drifted back was directed to specific areas for political advantage and as a means to control the ABC. Some of the funding was even provided on the basis it was to be used only to purchase programming from the private production sector.

The level of ABC funding and the manner in which it is delivered in the forthcoming Federal Budget will be important indicators of the standing in which independent public broadcasting is held by the new government.

Nancy-Bird Walton

Peter James writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (yesterday, item 7). Did they really not allow Kamahl and The Australian Chamber Orchestra to perform Wind Beneath My Wings as planned, at Nancy’s funeral at St Andrew’s Cathedral? How appalling! Fantastic though to see that Qantas A380 “Nancy-Bird Walton” do a long, slow pass over the city. Vale Nancy.

Climate change loonies

Stephen Magee writes: Re. “Comments, corrections, clarifications, and c*ckups” (Monday, item 24) Responding to my attack on “climate change loonies”, Tim Marsh advocates the use of “Fuels from Heaven” in place of “Fuels from Hell”. On the evidence of Tim’s comments, I’m happy to change my terminology to “climate change loonies and related religious nutters”.

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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