Peter Costello’s religious fever:

Mark Duffett writes: Re. Yesterday’s editorial. Your attack on Peter Costello (Peter Costello? As if there’s nothing else more important going on in the world at the moment) is unjustified. You seem to take Costello’s statement that Australian society and law are founded on Christianity as indicating insanity. If that’s the case, then just about every Western legal thinker from William Blackstone to Michael Kirby (Thomas Jefferson notwithstanding) should have gone in the loony bin as well. This is literally Law 101 stuff.

And Costello is not excluding indigenous Australians in saying that we are a blessed (as opposed to lucky) country. Rather, “hundreds of years of Australian history” encompasses them. Certainly this does not imply that indigenous Australians were here long before God. Costello’s presumably orthodox theology would have it very much the other way around.

You say you can tolerate Costello “declaring” his faith, but what you’re also effectively saying is that it’s not okay for him to practice it. If you had to sum up the entire Old Testament in one sentence, it would be something like this: When God’s laws aren’t followed, things go wrong. Costello is simply pointing this out. I would expect no less from someone who takes their faith seriously.

Michael Byrne writes: Frame it, and put it on the wall. Therein lies the next, or is it the first, really serious debate to be had in Australian modern civics. The essential question to be put is “are we of God, or not?”. This will be a debate inclusive of all religions in the face of the rampant secularism that has debauched our secular state freedoms. The rational without the divine and the sacred has proven to be barren ground. Hearts and minds and souls are there to be won. And it appears Peter Costello has a finger on the pulse of a stirring giant.

David Havyatt writes: That was weird — but it is not the message I find strange (well, I do find it a bit strange, modern Christianity can’t be literal) is the fact that the shelves behind him ONLY contain photos. Strange for two reasons. The first is that you’d think you’d put books or something there. The second is that it would be cheaper and prettier to have the pictures on the wall and no shelves. Maybe it used to house all that stuff that he was supposed to know about as Treasurer, and houses nothing now because he stands for nothing and knows nothing. Any other ideas? Why are there no books on Costello’s bookcase?

David Lenihan writes: While Howard didn’t get much right, he certainly saw what a disaster Costello would have been if given the Prime Ministership. It beggars belief the Coalition backbencher cannot see the stupidity of his claim that only Christianity is for the good of this nation and to hell with the rest. What an ignorant insult to tens of thousands of non Christians who have contributed to the shaping of this country, will continue to contribute, regardless of Costello’s declaration and deserve much better from a so called senior politician who sits back taking a salary for doing sweet nothing.

Can it be the sour, down in the mouth, spineless former Treasurer has had a love in with Abbott, Andrews and other religious fanatics in the Liberal Opposition. While President Obama breaks new ground by inviting dialogue with Muslims worldwide, this clown expounds a separation. He has obviously learnt nothing observing the world from his years in Canberra. It’s game over Pete, pack your bags and head for the hills you have lost the plot completely.

Chris Johnson writes: Costello’s sermon to the Catch the Fire Congregation in Melbourne on Australia Day certainly was epic. Full of grammatical, conceptual and lexical errors the so-called ‘historic message’ now ranks as a worst-ever speechifying attempt. The MP for Higgins struggled with language and theology in a ramble of simplistic drivel that has him now looking like a seedy political and evangelical charlatan.

Myer’s cost cutting war:

A former Myer Stores Ltd employee writes: Re. “Are you being sacked? Myer’s cost-cutting casualties” (yesterday, item 3) This is the fourth time since the Brookes-managed TPG consortium took over that Myer has cut 20% of part-time shop staffers’ hours in its Melbourne City store, to take but one example. The now very outdated EBA stipulates that Myer can’t force cuts to hours more than once every 12 months: sure enough, every year since the takeover, most Melbourne City store departments, already infamous for the inability of shoppers to find customer service assistants, have seen staff hours decimated.

The real tragedy here is that the union representing Myer staff, the SDA (Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association), has developed a poor reputation (arguably well-earned) through years of ineffectiveness, and therefore has a very poor membership rate. At a time when pay rates have been all but frozen for years, and when working conditions and rights are being constantly attacked, union membership and effectiveness should only be increasing. But Myer, now one of the least staff-friendly companies in the country, got lucky: it can implement its wholly regressive HR policies because there’s no serious collective opposition to stop it.

Perhaps if the SDA stopped funneling its resources into ALP right faction games, and instead got serious about addressing some of the worst attacks on the working conditions of any of their members, Myer staff wouldn’t have to endure such debilitating annual attacks on their morale and income.

Hal Patrick writes: Nothing unique about the Myer staff wipeouts, DJ’s has been in the virtual self-serve mode for months.

“Grumpy” writes: Extremely difficult to part with our payment for a new frying pan in Northlands Myer this weekend as “assistant” (who incidentally was NOT young) began a loud phone chat about coffee and cakes as we finally reached the counter after queuing. I had to intervene in the phone chat to get served very grumpily.

Climate change:

Ken Lambert writes: Re. “Cold comfort from sun spots and the El-Nino cycles” (yesterday, item 13) What Dr Glikson did not say in his technical defence of the IPCC ‘AR4’ was that Antarctica was not behaving according to the script until just last week when ‘scientists’ found warming after all — for the last 50 years! Cop that! And furthermore, the Antarctic sea ice is above average for the last year and on an increasing trend for the last 25 years – despite the fact that IPCC models predict declining sea ice in both hemispheres. Clearly sea ice builds up in Antarctica when its getting warmer.

A layman’s look at Fig 2.4 (pp39 of AR4) is indicative of the scientific rigour of the IPCC. All the heat-up forcings (C02, N2O, Ozone) have high and medium levels of certainty (LOSU – level of scientific understanding); and all the cool-down forcings (surface albedo, direct aerosol and cloud albedo) have medium to low LOSU. So the arithmetic sum of the averages of unequal terms is taken and the result of 1.6W/sq.m positive forcing obtained. It could 0.6 or 2.4 – so lets call it 1.6. For a start, adding in high certainty positive forcings and subtracting low certainty negative forcings is bound to produce a slanted result; in this case on the positive side. Think about it!

But to cap it all – the Earth has been 1-2 degrees warmer than now (2007) at least 4 times in the last 10000 years (NGS data) and Dr Glikson has yet to cite an IPCC climate model which has accurately explained how this happened when humankind was still lurking in caves.

Tamas Calderwood writes: Re. “Stop press: the sun is cooling” (Tuesday, item 4) Andrew Glikson takes aim at Ben Sandilands by asserting that “solar variations are one order of magnitude lower than the effects of rising greenhouse gas levels, in terms of temperature effects on the Earth”. This is nonsense. Neither Glikson nor anybody else know what the effects of rising greenhouse gas levels are in terms of temperature effects on the Earth.

Computer models attempt to estimate that effect but computer models are not evidence, they are just conjecture and their projections are shown to have no skill in predicting climate.

For example; despite an increase in the concentration of atmospheric CO2 of 4% in the past decade (from 0.00037 to 0.000385!!), the Earth has actually cooled. This was not predicted by the models and at minimum must mean natural factors have outweighed man-made factors in the climate system for the past decade — ergo the “denial syndrome”, “skeptics”, “right-wing agenda” etc… otherwise known as rational debate.

The Opposition:

Mark Heydon writes: Re. “Open letter to Malcolm Turnbull and Julie Bishop” (yesterday, item 2) Hear hear, Bernard Keane. It is a pity that the “quality journalists” we keep hearing about in Crikey don’t take this line with the government (and/or opposition) contemporaneously rather than retrospectively.

Zachary King writes: Cracking stuff Bernard, well done. I am so tired of hearing about how the Howard/Costello act were such great economic managers when it was raining money, and you captured their hypocrisy perfectly. At least the global financial crisis (GFC) has shut up those echo chambers whose political arguments consisted of nothing more than ‘yeah but interest rates were lower under the coalition’. Silver lining and all that.

Melbourne public transport:

An infrastructure policy expert writes: Yesterday the Minister for the Obvious Lynne Kosky blamed underinvestment over a long period of time for the virtual meltdown of Victoria’s public transport system. And that was BEFORE the temperature reached 43.4 degrees Celsius (110 Fahrenheit) IN THE SHADE — it hit about 60C (140F) on the train tracks, causing them to melt and buckle. 

I’d have a bit more sympathy for Lynne Kosky being scapegoated over the trains if she wasn’t simply the latest in a long line of government ministers who had put public transport in the too hard and too expensive category. Even if you don’t care about the environment, a well-maintained public transport system makes good economic sense — but only in the long term.

Most politicians can’t see past the next election. Public transport use has jumped 30% in the past few years due to increases in the cost of petrol — and would be higher still if it were reliable. The economy is rooted, more and more people are giving a damn about the environment and demand for public transport is only going to increase. So how about a few extra dollars for improving and maintaining and fixing and extending Melbourne’s rail network?

Much of the infrastructure is over 100 years old and being held together by the engineering equivalent of band aids and string that were never supposed to be long term solutions. Engineers who actually understand how these things work say the fact it hasn’t all fallen apart completely is a bloody miracle and testament to the ingenuity of their predecessors.

Our trains are made of components that were originally designed for the cooler German and French climates where it is reasonable to engineer tolerance to a temperature of 35 degrees because the climate is cooler there. In Melbourne you can pretty much guarantee at least a couple of weeks in summer of temperature exceeding 35-40 degrees.

Every day we hear about how the economy is in free fall and the governments need to bail out yet another industry or sector. Now here’s an idea. Instead of bailing out a sector that is in global decline (sorry auto-makers), how about pouring some of that cash into the rail system?

The engineers and technicians and tradespeople currently working in the auto industry have the intellectual aptitude to be cross-trained in the skills needed to build and maintain the tram and rail network — surely it makes more economic (not to mention environmental and political) sense to do this?

Fat kids:

Elizabeth Wardrop writes: Re. “Exercise will do Queensland kids a fat lot of good” (yesterday, item 14) I disagree with you Mr Gillespie: Just getting kids into a physical routine, proving that they can associate fun with physical exertion and activity is a good idea to set up a lifelong love of the outdoors. Physical exercise gets the brain pumping, burns off nervous energy that distracts from concentrated classroom work, and allows kids who are not academic leaders to participate in something that may give them daily experiences of joy and success. So what if they don’t lose weight?

It’s the overall benefits that contribute to health. I have no problem with this new initiative, I hope it allows kids to experience good sportsmanship, teamwork and mateship, respect for physical skill and strength, goal setting and achievement, cooperation, respect for rules (of the game), disrespect for cheating and rule-breaking, and a love of moving around and playing with their friends. I am looking forward to my kids taking part in this scheme. Sounds great to me!

ABC funding:

Glenys Stradijot, Friends of the ABC writes: Friends of the ABC wants to move on from arguing with Bernard Keane (Tuesday, Comments) about what the Howard government did to the ABC — a new government has been elected and it is more important to know what it will do to rebuild the national broadcaster and ensure it remains relevant. Nevertheless, the public is entitled to the facts and needs them to understand what happens to the ABC in the future.

The Howard government funding figure that Bernard Keane provides for comparison with its predecessors is misleading. It includes funding for the ABC to purchase its transmission needs — funding the ABC did not need until the Howard government privatised Australia’s national transmission system.

It is Broadcast Australia/Macquarie, and not the public broadcaster, that is the beneficiary of transmission funding which is paid in lieu of transmission once provided to the ABC and other essential services. Yet another example of public monies that look to be going to public bodies, but which are in fact enriching the private sector. (See Stephen Mayne’s item 20, in Crikey 22/5/06 ‘How ABC transmission towers have made Macquarie Communications rich’.)

Without transmission funding included, the ABC’s real level of funding drops to around $680 million per annum. (Portfolio Budget Statements, May 08 Budget). It is no surprise that leaks from the KPMG Report, which the Howard Government commissioned and then refused to release, reveal the public broadcaster is seriously under-funded.

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