Joe Hockey:

Matthew Abbott (Joe Hockey’s adviser 1998-2002) writes: Re. “Joe Hockey: say hello to Frat Boy Slim” (yesterday, item 4). I am not sure who Bernard Keane is, but obviously he has never met Joe Hockey. Crikey’s uncharitable piece on Joe today says more about Keane’s jealousies than it does about Hockey’s abilities as shadow treasurer. Thanks for the tutorial, Bernard, but Joe is quite familiar with treasury policy. You might not know, but Hockey was Minister for Financial Services and Regulation and oversaw reforms in corporations law, trade practices, financial services and taxation. Also, Hockey did not fluke his way into Parliament. At preselection, he beat – on the first ballot – a string of stellar candidates. And as for Joe’s ‘rich background’ – Joe’s dad came to Australia as a Palestinian immigrant in the 1950s and built up a small estate agency.

John Craig writes: Bernard Keane speculated about the reasons that Mr Turnbull and Mr Hockey are rich, but said nothing about Mr Rudd whose family wealth (ironically) seems to be partly the result of what he criticised as the ‘market fundamentalist’ policies of the previous federal government.

Shirley Colless writes: I am very, very surprised to learn that Joe Hockey knows anything whatsoever about tilling the soil and planting a crop. I doubt whether, when living in Blues Point Tower, he even had a windox box in which to plant some pansies — or that horrid excuse for greenery called Mondo Grass. I would be equally surprised to learn that Joe has ever loaded his family into the off road vehicle (that has never gone off road or had a proper dusting on an unsealed road) and transported them to the far side of the sandstone curtain.

QLD Catholic rebellion:

Ken Lambert writes: Re. “The Catholic Church rebellion is getting out of control” (yesterday, item 17). Fr Peter Kennedy apparently has spent a lifetime in the Roman Catholic Church and hates the outfit! He has gathered a following amongst those disaffected of Roman Catholic doctrine, and set about making up his own religious practices. He also does Christ-like work amongst the poor, sick and unwanted. “What would Christ do?” is his guiding light.

Well for a start Christ would surely not have taken a lifetime of salary and sustenance from the Roman Catholic Church. He would not have inhabited its buildings and used its facilities. He would probably have led his followers up to the local School of Arts hall and run his un-orthodox services there. And what’s more he would have done it 30 years ago, and not spent a lifetime defying the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church.

Fr Peter, take your following up the road and set up Kennedy’s Klan of rebel Catholics. See how long you last without the poor old Roman Catholic Church to kick around any more. In the first week 2000 would turn up and passing the plate would raise $5000. Next week 500 would turn up — the week after 100 hard core and after that poor Fr Peter would starve.


James Holyoake writes: Re. “The bushfires, the pain, the climate change” (yesterday, item 6). I can forgive Liz Conor, given her pathos, for stating: “But common sense dictates that climate change is undeniably a major factor.” It is hard, however, to forgive a university research fellow who perpetuates the line that the fires “incinerated as many as 300 Victorians in our worst Australian peacetime disaster…” Our worst peacetime disaster was the storm surge of a tropical cyclone in north Queensland in March 1899, which killed at least 400 people. Just type Cyclone Mahina into Google.

Gideon Polya writes: In late January 2009 SE Australia suffered a record-breaking heatwave (3 days in Melbourne with temperatures over 43 degrees) that killed over 200 Australians in SE Australia and a consequent devastating bushfire tragedy in Victoria on Saturday February 7 that killed more and left 500 injured, 100 in hospital with burns, over 1,830 homes destroyed, thousands of homes damaged, and over 450,000 hectares burned.

Top Australian climate scientists are saying that this dual tragedy is associated with man-made global warming due to human greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution. However, while top UK climate scientists have calculated that a 6-8% annual reduction in GHG pollution is needed to avert a catastrophic 450 ppm atmospheric CO2 concentration, Australia (the world’s biggest coal exporter and a world leading per capita GHG polluter) is committed to increasing Domestic and Exported GHG pollution by about 2% annually and ignores pleas by top climate scientists for reduction of atmospheric CO2 to about 300 ppm.

Biochar (rejected by the pro-coal Australian Labor Government but advocated by the Australian Greens and the Liberal-National Party Coalition Opposition) can be made from pyrolysis of biomass from expertly-advised bushland fuel hazard reduction harvesting (e.g. from straw, wood waste and woody weeds) and thence (a) reduce bushfire threat; (b) provide a valuable, soil-enriching product for producing bountiful “terra preta” soil; (c) help combat man-made global warming by drawing down atmospheric CO2; and (d) provide rural employment and farm income supplementation.

Penny Wong:

Peter Lloyd writes: Re. “Penny Wong is a cipher for Kevin Rudd” (yesterday, item 10). Of course Penny Wong, promoted beyond any position deserved to ensure there was a roadblock in place — lest Peter Garrett get crazy ideas about living up to his former principles — is a mere cipher for Kevin Rudd. The wider problem is that we can go to any parliament in Australia, follow the trail of yes-(wo)men upward and always end up with a leader who stands for pretty much nothing anyway.

In analyses of the financial crisis various commentators have made the observation that while the neoliberal orthodoxy took over, what was once called the left quietly crawled out the back door. The two-party system is irremovable — infinitely more durable than communist Russia itself — so we until now had labour parties with no ideology, and conservative parties with an unchallenged extremist position.

It is only now that analysts are starting to note that we have been dudded by the false dilemma, in which the death of socialism was used to force us to swallow the Friedmanite dream of no (economic) regulation. We are beginning to recognise that regulated capitalism is the system we’ve always had and we might as well get the balance right. Unfortunately, we will need decades to breed a new generation of political and business leaders capable of understanding this. Perhaps this will determine the duration of the crisis.

Channel Ten:

Andrew Brown writes: Re. “Fairfax Financial eyeing off Canwest” (yesterday, item 22). Glenn Dyer’s comments regarding Canwest accessing funds Ten Network may have raised in the aborted placement via an inter-company loan are totally bizarre and incorrect. Such action would have required a shareholder meeting since it would be a material transaction with a related party. Moreover, who would subscribe equity to Ten, when it would have to be fully disclosed that the funds would loaned on to Canwest? The other comments regarding Fairfax’s Cash Generating Units – a defined term in IFRS accounting — suggests Glenn had one too many cynical pills today. If we are going to critical and lay it on, let’s at least get the basics right.

Climate Change:

Tony Kevin writes:Hamilton: Why we should stick to carbon trading regardless” (yesterday, item 11) Clive Hamilton, please expand on this statement: “A case could be made to modify the CPRS so that those who want to do more than respond to higher energy prices can do so. In fact, they can do that already, by clubbing together and buying emission permits that they simply retire so the aluminium smelters can’t get their hands on them.”

Are you suggesting that people who plan to spend $20,000 on a solar cell home electricity generating system should then spend another $20,000 on buying emission permits to retire the carbon pollution CPRS credits that their financial sacrifice has generated, so that others cannot just take these credits up in buying more coal-fired air conditioning from the utilities?

Or that public-spirited people should not install the home solar cells at all, but simply spend their $20,000 personal savings money in such emissions permit trading, while continuing to use mains coal-fired electricity? A sort of virtual-reality solar cells installation?

What exactly are you (and Penny Wong in her equally unclear opinion piece in The Australian) advising public-spirited people to do? I see a basic illogicality in your and Wong’s argument, but maybe I am stupid. Please explain to Crikey‘s readers how I am wrong. Or if I am right, why can’t the CPRS correct this obvious defect, by the government retiring CPRS credits for every approved home solar cell elecricity installation that reduces measurable amounts of carbon emissions?


Luke Miller writes: Re. General knowledge question (yesterday, tips and rumours) I presume you didn’t attend the memorial service or read about it in the papers afterwards, Princess Anne’s neat little speech included the following:

It is indeed a great honour for me to represent personally the Queen of Australia at this event today … Her Majesty is very well represented here in Australia by her excellency the Governor-General and his excellency the Governor of Victoria … and it is why I am particularly honoured to represent Her Majesty personally … My visit comes with the personal best wishes of Her Majesty to those who are recovering from this tragedy. And to encourage all of those involved and with her thanks for all that has been achieved.

In my Republican opinion, dignitaries rocking up to a disaster zone for a photo op is exploitative, but I’m also underwhelmed when journalists can’t maintain a bit of respect about a memorial service.

Advertising health:

University of Sydney School of Public Health Researcher and PhD Candidate Becky Freeman writes: Re. “Are breast cancer screening benefits being oversold?” (Friday, item 3). When I read the informative piece on the harms of breast cancer screening on your website, I was also treated to a video ad featuring Smirnoff Vodka. Alcohol consumption is one of the most important modifiable risk factors for preventing breast cancer. This health warning doesn’t appear in the ad. Will your next story on smoking feature Google ads for cheap smokes? Or, how about a KFC or McDonald’s ad on an article about childhood obesity? I appreciate that Crikey needs to sell advertising space to keep the place running, but surely this doesn’t mean selling out?


Ava Hubble writes: At the weekend the Australian Hotels Association called on the workforce to help bail out our floundering tourist industry by spending their accrued leave and holiday pay at some of Australia’s great vacation destinations. The association was even reported on ABC Radio as suggesting that workers be forced to take a portion of their accrued leave each financial year.

Yet research carried out by the University of Newcastle has revealed that one in three Australian workers is now employed on a casual basis. These workers include members of the hospitality and retail industries, as well call centre and bank staff. In effect, they don’t get annual leave. Okay, so they may get a loading for holidays in their weekly or fortnightly pay, but since most casuals receive little more than the basic wage, the vast majority can’t afford to save for dental treatment for themselves or their kids, let alone a couple of weeks off at a resort.

Most casuals don’t work a full week, much as they would like to. Many report they are lucky to be rostered for five-and-a-half hour shifts, four days a week. They don’t even get paid for Christmas Day and other public holidays unless they are rostered to work on that holiday. That is why so many of the working poor dread public holidays. A compulsory day off can mean the loss of a day’s pay.

Obama and Rudd have promised us change. Surely changes here should include the re-introduction of decent working conditions for all Australians and the end of the Dickensian conditions that have been introduced in many other countries in the interests of 21st century globalisation.

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