Australia Day:

Elaine Spicer writes: Re. “Black promises are little white lies” (yesterday, item 3). I agree Kevin Rudd was terribly disrespectful to Mick Dodson and to all of us who rankle at this day. I’m not sure whether the 26th  January public holiday celebrates Cook or Phillip’s arrival but the whole settlement of NSW process was geared to establishing a 19th century Gitmo for British prisoners and their minders — hence the flag which is still appropriate for celebrating that date.

Let’s keep “Transportation Day” to remember the fate of these exiles. We should and have an Australia Day at some other time to celebrate all Australians, those whose ancestors were here before, those who came on that date and all those who have come since or who descend from later arrivals.

Could it perhaps coincide with the introduction of a republic and a new flag or some other truly Australian event?

Sunil Badami writes: It’s well known that the American flag, Old Glory, is protected by laws regarding its treatment, including prohibitions against letting it touch the ground, flying at night, being burnt or worn as a costume. However, given the recent phenomenon of young, usually drunk, mobs wearing the Australian flag in raucous and often debauched displays of national fervour, I and my friends, not wishing to appear any more “unAustralian” than we already do, (another recent phenomenon which we find difficult to understand), would like some enlightenment in the event we too plan our own patriotic rampage, given that there seems no guide yet to dressing for such occasions.

Given that the consumption of massive amounts of alcohol seems a prerequisite for such exhibitions, we wonder: in the event that the flag is inadvertently (albeit exuberantly patriotically) flecked by spilt beer, sweat, blood or vomit; accidently caught in your thongs, or fallen upon when you finally succumb to the ecstasy and pass out outside the pub, does the violently rabid nationalism — sorry, joyously inclusive patriotism — of wearing it as you sit on it in the beer garden and accidentally letting one rip outweigh any such unintended slights to it and to those brave diggers who we’re told died for it?

Shane Walsh writes: Regarding the article in Sunday’s Herald Sun about Ron Barassi’s view that Australia Day should be changed to May 27. Among other things, Barassi says that moving Australia Day to ANZAC day would be wrong because “we were fighting a stupid war and we lost”. Fair arguments and the only hint of negativity in the article is the last line: “Barassi admitted he expected criticism for his stand”.

My question is this: how would the Herald Sun have treated it if it had been Paul Keating or Germaine Greer making those comments? Actually I think we already know; when Keating made similar, albeit more detailed comments a few months back the Murdoch stable employed editorials and even Gerard Henderson to dismiss him.

Similar to the episode a couple of months back when Andrew Bolt absolutely tore the film Australia and its stars to shreds. Fair enough, but I did have to laugh a couple of days later when the front page featured the caption “Germaine slams Our Nic, Hugh”. Hilarious.

Arley Moulton writes: So Chris Graham cites a poll where 80% of people (an online Channel Ten poll I know but the lack of an alternative poll showing 80% believe it SHOULD be moved means I have to go off this one) believe Australia Day shouldn’t be moved and is calling it a back flip on promises?

Heaven forbid that the government would bow to the will of the people. Quick, Somebody call the police! Democracy is up to its nasty tricks again.

Protecting quality journalism:

Mike Crook writes: Re. Yesterday’s editorial. Very interesting editorial on the Nicolas Sarkozy and Eric Beecher views of the need to protect quality journalism. I, for one see no benefit in supporting any commercial advertising medium because its agendas are always driven by its commercial clients. The commercial media exists solely to make a profit for its owners by selling advertising; it also attempts, and often succeeds, in setting a cultural agenda that will enable it to flourish. Any other motive or worth ascribed to its existence is a nonsense, and that this is a viewed as debatable is a sign of its culture setting successes.

I have often campaigned within the ALP for support for a national newspaper similar in operation to the ABC, but with a real independence and obviously not as corruptible as the ABC we see after 11 years of Howard. Should the government establish an independent non commercial newspaper commission I would suggest that it be delivered free to every Australian household as a way of encouraging people to take some interest in their world and the forces that shape it.

Mitchell Holmes writes: I found yesterday’s Crikey editorial very curious. Your call for Government financial support for newspapers in the same manner as bail outs for car manufacturers and banks would appear to signal a change of stance. Your editorials on the subject of government bail outs in the last year have used terms like rent seekers and commercial enterprises on the public teat.

You have also previously noted that while traditional media outlets (and especially newspapers) are in trouble with regard to diminishing advertising revenues, you have also editorialised that it is up to these businesses to either remake themselves to remain competitive in the online era or to yield the market place to those enterprises that are willing to adapt.

Why the change of heart now?

Gavin Moodie writes: Elite music academies, orchestras, opera, ballet, theatre, the film industry, galleries, libraries, universities, the ABC and now broadsheets, for chrissakes. All are claimed to be central to the national well being. What feeds the elite’s conceit that their favoured forms of cultural and political expression are so vital that they MUST be subsidised by governments?

The death of broadsheets isn’t the death of “quality” democracy but signals its change to other forms of information and political discussion, of which Crikey is a good exponent. Which makes Crikey’s promotion of a new handout whinge in favour of the “quality” print media all the more quizzical.

John Richardson writes: If Eric Beecher could tell us which of our “big and serious papers” are in the business of providing “a stream of quality information” to our democratic culture, perhaps we might be more sympathetic to his thesis that government (taxpayer) support for those of them that are “in trouble” would be good for our health and not just that of tired and discredited fund managers or self-serving proprietors?

A cooling sun:

Stephen Luntz writes: Re. “Stop press: the sun is cooling” (yesterday, item 4). I was extremely disappointed to read Ben Sandilands’ piece of pseudoscience in Tuesday’s Crikey. If I want multiple scientific errors pumped out to serve a right-wing agenda there’s plenty of Murdoch publications to fill that overcrowded niche.

Crikey is supposed to be better. I counted four serious mistakes in this short article, but I may have missed some:

  1. The current solar minimum is longer than usual but from exceptional. So far it is yet to match the minimum of 1910-1914, which certainly was not followed by a decline in solar irradiance, still less global cooling.
  2. The Maunder Minimum was in the 17th century, hundreds of years after Sandilands placed it. You don’t need to be particularly scientifically literate to pick this one up. This year is the 400th anniversary of Galileo turning a telescope to the skies (thus making it the International Year of Astronomy). We couldn’t have “directly observed” a minimum 150 years earlier.
  3. With 700,000 square kilometres less Arctic sea ice in December than normal the outlook this year is certainly not “lots”. Even if the extent of the ice is higher than in recent years (a big if) it will certainly be thinner than anything we saw last century, making for near record low volumes.
  4. Finally, no one claims that “there is no proven nexus between small scale solar variability and climate”, just that the effect of this variability is small compared to anthropogenic influences. The only reason for attributing such a view to anyone is to make the rival position — that small solar variations operate through some unexplained multiplier effect to outweigh well understood physics — appear less barking mad than it actually is.

Melbournians need to recognise this week is just a taste of things to come.

Deltoid‘s Tim Lambert writes: The NASA report that Ben Sandilands mangled to produce his scare story about an impending little ice age actually said this: “However, let’s assume that the solar irradiance does not recover. In that case, the negative forcing, relative to the mean solar irradiance is equivalent to seven years of CO2 increase at current growth rates. So do not look for a new ‘Little Ice Age’ in any case.”

Sandilands should avoid writing about stuff he does not understand.

Turnbull’s green near-miracle:

Peter Wood writes: Re. “Deconstructing Turnbull’s green near-miracle” (yesterday, item 9). Turnbull and Hunt are correct that there are huge opportunities to store carbon by changing our land use practices. Some sort of carbon pricing in the land use sector is an important policy tool for helping make this happen. This does not necessarily imply that including these activities in the ETS is a good idea – including these activities in the ETS is not the only way to apply carbon pricing.

One reason for keeping land use outside the ETS is the uncertainties in measurement. Also, keeping land use outside the ETS will mean that carbon sequestered through land use will be additional to emissions reductions from the ETS. If land use was included in the ETS, it is likely to transform the market in carbon permits, and reduce adjustment pressure in fossil fuel sectors. An international agreement on reducing greenhouse gas emissions may not include land use sectors, or may only include some of them.

Keeping land use outside the ETS will mean we can be more flexible about land use policy and work better with international arrangements. Biosequestration could be funded by using some of the revenue raised from auctioning permits in the ETS.

Internet filtering:

Stilgherrian writes: Verity Pravda (yesterday, comments) has hit upon one of the core objections to the Rudd government’s internet filtering plan: despite the endlessly-repeated focus on child-abuse and other illegal material, the ACMA blacklist isn’t limited to Refused Classification (RC) material. Irene Graham’s well-researched description of the blacklist, and the incident Crikey reported on Friday, both show that it covers much more. Verity and I are reasonably close to agreement there, though I personally reckon some things like “f-tish” material shouldn’t be RC.

However as Graham writes, “In stark contrast to the offline censorship regime, the online censorship regime comprises an additional layer of censorship. Not only is online content censored, information about what is censored is also censored.”

Items are added by an un-named ACMA employee without right of appeal or due process. ACMA isn’t very good at getting it right, either. Of the 28 items submitted to the Censorship Board for classification in FY2007, only 11 were RC; the others were 4 PG, 5 M, 2 MA15+. In FY2008, 7 of 14 were classified not “prohibited” (5 G, 1 PG, 1 M). It’s just like all the fuss over Bill Henson’s supposedly-p-rnographic photographs, which ended up being PG, the n-dity “mild”.

 If the government really did mean to make the internet censorship regime just like TV, film and books”, then they’d actually be removing this secret, unaccountable mechanism, not adding yet more blocks. If the government really did want to child abuse, then it would re- instate the planned funding increases for the AFP’s OCSET unit, as we’ve reported before.

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