Speed cameras in NSW:

Kate Mellis, Media Advisor to NSW Minister for Roads Michael Daley, writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (yesterday, item 7). It’s a shame Crikey ran the M5 and the M7 are now equipped with Point to Point Speed Devices story on its tips and rumours section without contacting the Minister for Roads’ office to check the facts.

Had you contacted Mr Daley’s office you would have been informed that the email is a hoax. The M5 and M7 are not equipped with point to point speed devices.

The email did the rounds in March 2008 and again last month and journalists who came across it contacted Mr Daley’s office and quickly realised that it was a furphy.

Angry at people that don’t know Jack:

Simon Wilkins writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (yesterday, item 7). Last week Crikey had Clive Hamilton wringing his hands over the future of blogging, with an interesting counterpoint this week from Jeff Sparrow. Both have now been shown up as hacking amateurs by yesterday’s rumour poster who only refers to themselves as ANGRY AT PEOPLE THAT DON’T KNOW JACK.

Unfortunately I also don’t know who Jack is, or why I need to know him, but AAPTDKJ has at last made it clear to me that you don’t need to make sense to get your point across (whatever it was).

To this end, Crikey could assist readers to submit future incisive comments/rants/flames/etc, by posting the following email template on its website:

Dear Crikey, I am ____________.

a) From (insert name of area affected by current outbreak of ignorance)

b) Of dubious evolutionary selection

c) Alarmed and alert

d) Angry at people that don’t know Jack

How dare you ______________.

a) Malyn, maleiron, magli, take the piss out of (insert name of favourite event/celebrity/media personality/commentator)

b) Publish anyone else’s point of view

c) Blacken my name (that’s my job)

d) Not like Ladette to Lady

The reality is ________________.

a) Vaccination is Government control by microscopic robots

b) Rugby League is a game played by gentlemen

c) Peter Costello will lead the Liberals to victory in 2010

d) (Insert current unsubstantiated minority-position here)

Submitters can then finish by rounding out with their favourite insult (it doesn’t need to be directed at anyone specifically). Then, a quick checklist (for things like turning off spell check) and all they need to do is hit the send button.

I am sure Crikey and everyone on the interweb will thank you for streamlining this process.

Peter Costello:

John Goldbaum writes:

How do you solve a problem like Costello?
How do you catch a cloud and pin it down?
How do you find a word that means Odd Fellow?
A flibbertijibbet! A will-o’-the wisp! A clown!

Many a thing you know you’d like to tell him
Many a thing he ought to understand
But how do you make him pay
Attention to all you say
How do you keep a wave upon the sand

Oh, how do you solve a problem like Costello?
How do you hold a moonbeam in your hand?

When I’m with him I’m confused
Out of focus and bemused
And I never know exactly where I am
Unpredictable as weather
He’s as flighty as a feather
He’s a starling! He’s a demon! He’s a sham!

He’d outpester any pest
Drive a hornet from its nest
He could throw a whirling dervish out of whirl
He’s relentless! He is wild!
He’s a riddle! He’s a child!
He’s a headache! He’s an upstart!
He’s absurd!

Wong’s ETS:

CEO of the Australian Industry Greenhouse Network Michael Hitchens writes: Re. “Wong’s ETS is better than nothing, but not by much” (Wednesday, item 3). The claim has been made, and repeated by many commentators, but correctly challenged by Bernard Keane that any saving of emissions by individuals simply subsidises higher emissions by industry.

The claim is based on a number of false premises.

First is the premise that industry is the “polluter” and hence only they are responsible for saving emissions under the CPRS. It is important to remember that, on a production basis, only about 45% of emissions covered by the CPRS are attributable to mining and manufacturing industry. The rest are attributable to households, and the commercial and government sectors (where households shop, work, go to school etc). On a consumption basis, excluding exports, all Australian emissions are attributable to households as consumers — if Australia stops producing cement or even cans of soup because of the CPRS, Australian consumers will still buy (import) cement and cans of soup. It is crucial that industry, households, commerce and governments respond to the emissions price signal and reduce their emissions.

Second is the premise that the CPRS mandates emission saving by ‘polluting’ industry and hence savings by households are voluntary. Nothing in the CPRS mandates emission savings by anyone. Under the CPRS, the number of emission permits a company has to purchase to meet its liabilities is directly related to its own emissions and unrelated to household emissions. The financial incentive for households and companies alike to “voluntarily” save emissions, and in the case of companies to therefore avoid the need to purchase permits, will be that a price is put on those emissions.

Third is a misunderstanding created by the use of the words “target” or “cap” to describe the number of permits that will be allocated under the CPRS. To meet the very difficult “targets” the Government has nominated for Australia will mean that permits will have to be purchased and imported from overseas if a least-cost outcome is to be achieved. As a consequence, any emission savings voluntarily made by households and industry will reduce the number of permits imported. This will not reduce the price of permits in Australia, and therefore subsidise anyone, because under the CPRS that price will be set by world markets.

Finally, if the claim were true, then equally it would be true to say that every tonne of emissions saved by industry will subsidise higher emissions by households. Clearly the claim is a nonsense.

Donations transparency:

Peter Lloyd writes: Re. “Coalition stymies donations transparency. Again” (yesterday, item 2). Bernard Keane is really hitting his stride, his vitriol and eloquence reminding one of the days of Henry Mencken (or what I imagine those days were like, anyway…).

Yesterday he noted that the media response to the Coalition/Freaky Fielding defeat of the political donations bill was “bizarrely muted” given a “normally febrile press reaction” could be expected.

The problem, of course, is that the media would much rather waste a few hundred column-metres on leadership speculation, approval ratings, and all the garbage that passes for political analysis in this country. Regardless of the news source, chances are this is the content, with obvious results for real discussion of real political events.

The public have been trained by years of this to the point they probably are mostly incapable of following an issue anyway, and prefer to view politics as sport, barracking for the home team they support for no particular reason, with endless pointless statistics replacing any real moral or intellectual content.

The Dalai Lama:

Alex Butler writes: Re. “The Dalai Lama’s Tibet: now that was hell on earth” (Wednesday, item 6). What exactly is so dubious about the Dalai Lama’s cause? What is there not to like about universal responsibility, active compassion for all living beings, and justice for those steamrolled by imperial might?

Greg Barns sees conspiracy and hypocrisy where others see a spiritual leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner capable of smiling even when all is lost. Do we need to be reminded that Tibet fifty and more years ago was backward and materially poor?

Barns chooses three sources of hundreds available to depict old Tibet as hell on earth and to pin the blame on the Dalai Lama who was 15 when the Chinese army invaded. However, even if all the highly selective assertions Greg Barns makes were true, does that justify foreign invasion and occupation for fifty years? Does it invalidate the dislike, felt by almost all Tibetans, for living under an occupying power which treats them and their culture and religion with contempt?

Old Tibet is gone, and, having worked with Tibetans for 20 years, I know no-one who pines for the old days. This is especially so of the Dalai Lama, who often amazes his own people with his farsighted thinking, and wholehearted embrace of democracy, science and global citizenship.

If anyone is mired in old thinking and clichés, perhaps it’s Greg Barns.

The NRL:

Margot Saville writes: Re. “It’s time to change the NRL ‘boyz’ club” (yesterday, item 20). There is little need to impose more rules and regulations on rugby league players. The game is dying out because most women will not allow their sons to enter such a toxic culture.

Listen up boys — you have alienated almost all women, and we have withdrawn your future income stream and signed them up for soccer and Aussie Rules and hockey and basketball and competitive knitting; actually, anything but thugby league. T

he game lost goodwill when it abandoned its traditional Australian working-class roots in order to chase revenue.

It is now recruiting from the underclass.

Fake Stephen Conroy:

David Havyatt writes: Re. “Conroy: Unchecked, 100 megabit Internet will ruin us all” (Wednesday, item 22). I am probably inviting retribution on myself from a horde of Conroy haters if I note that I find fake Stephen Conroy unfunny wherever I encounter “him” (e.g. Whirlpool), but the quality of the satire falls so far short of the normal standard of Crikey I remain simply bemused by the recent decisions to include the shoddy work in Crikey.

I find it more offensive when the subject line of the daily post includes the line “Conroy on fast internet threat” because it will influence my e-mail prioritisation. While the heading seemed illogical it could have been the threat of the Telstra DOCSIS 3.0 announcement to the NBN.

I usually try to resist writing this kind of “I expect better from Crikey” comment, because Crikey like any media outlet needs to have an approach broader than the interests of just one reader. But fake Stephen Conroy (in fact all the fake xs recently appearing) are unfunny at best, and weirdly delusional at worst.

Can we leave them to the fringe media (Twitter, blogs and forums) where they belong and can only pester their own kind?

Fuzzy wuzzys:

Julian McCrann writes: Re. “Rundle: ‘fuzzy-wuzzy’ explained” (yesterday, item 21). At least in an Australian context, the term “Fuzzy Wuzzy” has most often been used in the descriptive phrase “Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels“which has absolutely nothing to do with a 1970s sitcom. It was the terminology given by Australian forces battling in such places of Australian folklore as the Kokoda Trail to the local tribesmen and women who helped Australian troops in all sorts of ways including assisting sick and dying troops in their times of need.

I have heard many a tale from my now deceased grandfather feting the “Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels” for the way they selflessly helped out these foreign troops primarily from the South fighting a foreign foe from the North.

This was not their battle, but many “Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels” risked, and lost, their lives helping our Australian troops deal with the tough conditions they faced in New Guinea as they fought the Japanese.

Anthony Loewenstein:

Ashley Browne, National Editor, Australian Jewish News, writes: Re. “The peace activist the Jewish News rejects” (yesterday, item 13). Having Anthony Loewenstein report on the affairs of the Australian Jewish community is a bit like having Joffa report on the Carlton Football Club. Lots of bias, a bit of hatred and little intellectual rigour.

I can help you find plenty more creditable commentators on our community, with a similar ideological bent to your otherwise excellent band of commentators.

Philip Mendes or Mark Baker from Monash would do the job, for starters.

KB’s not dead:

Adam Perrett, Newtown Jets fan, writes: Re. “Richard Farmer’s political bite-sized meaty chunks” (yesterday, item 12). Excuse me Richard Farmer, KB is not dead. Sure, in this age of your fancy imported and boutique beers, sales aren’t what they used to be. But it is still available.

Come on down to Henson Park in Marrickville one Saturday arvo when the mighty Newtown Jets go around and I’ll buy you a cold, gold can of KB.

And if you are really lucky, you might score a snag off the barbie as well.

Rudd money:

The master of the mint writes: A friend of mine made this in order to celebrate the government’s generosity.


Peter Logue, Director, External Communications at the Australian Coal Association, writes: Dan Cass’s remark about the coal industry (yesterday, comments): “…once we solve it, everything else will be easy to fix”, is one of those scarily glib comments that drive people into the ranks of more sensible pro-environment groups.

Why won’t Greenpeace make the effort to get better informed about Carbon Capture and Storage, not just for the coal industry, but others like gas and steel and cement that will also need it? Maybe even talk to the CSIRO or the CO2CRC or even Tim Flannery, or the WWF or the Climate Institute, hardly citadels of right wing thought and expression.

Coal is a global issue and, in the context of climate change, an acknowledged global problem. The International Energy Agency (IEA) projects global energy demand will double by 2030 and the share of coal fired power will increase from 40 to 45%. Global demand for coal will grow by 2% a year to 2030, driven principally by China and India.

How is Greenpeace proposing to deal with this — by demonstrating in Tiananmen Square or chaining themselves to the boundary at the cricket in New Delhi? These rapidly growing economies have made it clear their priority is to raise the living standards of their people and they will rely on their abundant coal resources in pursuing that objective. He asks about a “Plan B”, without trying to find out what’s happening with plan “A”.

Blanket opposition without looking at the facts or talking to the experts is a political stance, not a practical or even a sensible one. This is a technology issue and brighter people than me and, respectfully, you Dan, say that it will work at scale and that a commercial scale power plant with CCS that gets rid of up to 90% of carbon dioxide, will be operating in Australia before 2017.

After that, choices will be made by energy producers and sellers based on what makes economic sense in a world where there is a carbon price. Whether that is within Greenpeace’s climate change timeline or not, it has to happen because this is the technology that will help clean up the countries with the seriously big emissions, China, the United States and India, to name but a few. The ACA would be delighted to arrange a briefing for you Dan and anyone else from Greenpeace who would like to get a better understanding of the efforts going into ensuring this technology works at commercial scale.

Finally, I won’t speak on behalf of the workers. I’ll leave that to the CFMEU, strong supporters of, and prominent activists in, the development of low emissions coal technology and carbon storage.

Ghandi & India:

Alan Kennedy writes: Peter Lloyd (yesterday, comments) has an odd view of Ghandi claiming he was a proponent of Hindu nationalism. Last time I looked Ghandi was assassinated by Hindu nationalists who thought he was too secular. Ghandi opposed the splitting up of India along the Hindu Muslim divide which gave the world the horrors of partition. And the first couple of decades of Indian rule were very secular and it was a secular Mrs Ghandi who presided over the destruction of Indian democracy.

In the 70s the country was covered in posters of her looking like a Hindu deity although she was never a radical Hindu nationalist. She was blown up by Sikhs angered by her attack on the Golden Temple in Amritsar. Her son was blown up by Tamil Tigers.

Then came with the rise of the Hindu fundamentalists such as Sri Ram Sena who have decided to revisit the joys of the bloodshed seen so dreadfully during partition. They are the ones who rioted through many places destroying mosques and slaughtering Muslims. They are the ones who changed Bombay to Mumbai. Their wonderful religious fanaticism encourages the fanatics in Pakistan to match them killing for killing.

Ghandi was never a supporter of this sort of politics. He was a weird little guy who had ideas about drinking urine, s-x and food but a Hindu extremist I think not.

Michael Feller writes: Some readers would be interested to know that not only were both Hitler and Mussolini very au fait with Indian affairs, but there was actually a burgeoning fascist movement in India during the 30s and 40s. Not only did the Axis powers find many willing anti-British recruits from Indian PoWs, but before the war there were more than a few Indians attracted to the “efficiency” and unifying forces of fascism as a model for an independent India.

Stranger still perhaps — but not unsurprising considering the shared symbolism — a number of Hindu Brahmins were attracted to Hitler’s use of the Swastika and the idea of an Aryan race (from the Sanskrit Arya). There was even an openly Nazi newspaper, The New Mercury, published in Calcutta by a Bengali. History is always stranger than fiction.


Alex Joseph writes: I wholeheartedly endorse a phrase by Ken Lambert (yesterday, comments): “the British were the most benign of colonisers”.

I grew up in India, leaving the country for the first time when I was 33 to work in Indonesia as an expat. Subsequently, I migrated to OZ. While I grew up in India, I was fed the usual stuff about how nasty the British were, how wonderful independence was, etc…. I did not realise how bad colonisers can be till I reached Indonesia.

The Indonesians positively hated the memory of the Dutch. So much so, that they got rid of even the Dutch language on achieving independence! The Dutch did not develop anything in the country except the cash crops which they forced the Indonesians to cultivate. Very few roads, hardly any railways, hardly any higher education, etc…

Indonesia had only three native engineers when the Dutch were kicked out by the Japanese, one of them, Sukarno, became the first President. There were no Indonesians of officer rank in the military, no Indonesians of high rank in the civil service, the judiciary etc… There was no stock exchange (the Jakarta stock exchange actually opened while I was there in 1982!)

In comparison to this the British were just the opposite. I do not need to list the British achievements in India; they are public knowledge, especially the magnificent railway system, the civil service and the professional, non-political, military. True, all colonisation is in a sense evil, it is meant primarily for the benefit of the coloniser. However, if a country had to be given a choice as to whom they would choose to be colonised by, in hindsight, I am certain that every country that had to suffer colonisation would choose Britain.

Gandhi would not have survived in any country colonised by the Dutch. Much less in a country colonised by the French, the Spanish, the Italians, the Portuguese, the Americans, and of course, especially by the Germans!

I am no Anglophile, but India is today what it is, largely due to the British. They literally made India. When they came in the 1700’s India was nothing but a group of states ruled by mostly despotic nawabs and maharajahs, most of whom were more interested in their harems than in modernity, democracy and the uplift of the common folk.

I cannot imagine that bunch ever coming together to create modern India!

Nic Maclellan writes: I generally avoid arguments about which colonial empire was worst, as every nation has practices — past and present — it should be ashamed of. But it’s a bit rich for Ken Lambert to describe the British Empire as “the most benign”.

Is this the same benign empire that brought us: the Irish famine; the Opium wars; the crushing of the Taiping rebellion; the conquest of central Asia; first invasion of Burma (1824-26); invasion of Afghanistan (1839-42); conquest of Sind (1843); occupation of Gwailor (1844), first and second wars against the Sikhs, second invasion of Burma (1852-53); the crushing of the Sepoy rebellion (1857); the deaths of thousands in the bombardment of Alexandria and the massacre of Tel-el Kebir (1882).

In the interests of brevity, I won’t get into the 20th century. So, in these enlightened times, with British squaddies still dying in Mesopotamia and Afghanistan as we edge towards war on the North-West Frontier (again!), we might recall the response of the Chartist Ernest Jones to the claim that “the sun never set on the British Empire.”

Jones noted: “…and the blood never dried.”

Mark Hardcastle writes: Re. “Hitler, Gandhi, Churchill et all” (yesterday, comments). I’m astounded at the self serving victim blaming that imperialist apologists are serving up on Crikey’s comments pages.

To break down their puerile analysis; the story begins with the well meaning imperialist in situ and life is as good as it gets. Their story ends with everything bad that occurs since imperialist leaving, being proof of how justified the imperialists were.

What bollocks!

India was the largest trading power in the world before they were occupied and exploited by the Brits.

In 1810, India was exporting more textiles to England than England was exporting to India. By 1830, the trade flow was reversed. The British had put up prohibitive tariff barriers to shut out Indian finished goods and were dumping their commodities in India, a practice backed by British gunboats and military force. Within a matter of years, the great textile centres of Dacca and Madras were turned into ghost towns. The Indians were sent back to the land to raise the cotton used in British textile factories. In effect, India was reduced to being a cow milked by British financiers.

It works like this: China sees that Australia is struggling and needs “assistance” to be globally competitive. Fortunately China is in a position to help Australia; proof of this is their superior weapons and power. After an initial transition of power, Australia begins to learn the superior ways of their new master’s institutions, and in compensation for this development, Australia sends her goods and minerals back to the mother country under “special agreements”.

Unfortunately after several generations some Australian’s begin to whinge about so called “fairness”. There was a long uprising and after decades of struggle for “utopian dreams” the well meaning Chinees decided to leave Australia. China was quite drained after a major war and decided against extending their military crackdown on the Australian whingers. Such violence would have been diplomatically embarrassing at the time. And the bleeding hearts in China get all chattery when they see pictures of dead Australians.

Since leaving the Chinees hawks have been proved justified in their “special assistance” to Australia, as Australians have shown they cannot govern themselves properly. Their economy had grown to be structured around serving the interests of China, rather than then that Australians. Australia has no skill-bases (because the good jobs went to the superior Chinese). All her infrastructure is now decrepit or redundant and the minerals are gone. Australia is another example that some people are not fit to govern themselves.
No wonder there is so much strife in that wretched country.

Climate change sh-t storm:

Tamas Calderwood writes: So in response to my pointing out how little the planet is actually warming, Tim Marsh (yesterday, comments) lists a bunch of apocalyptic events that haven’t happened yet (but are predicted by models, I’m sure) and insists I “get on board” or be blasted out of the way.

Wayne Robinson (yesterday, comments) can’t be bothered with an argument and just tells me to shut up.

Mark Byrne (yesterday, comments) at least makes a clear case but completely ignores other factors that may be driving the climate apart from CO2 and states that “hidden warming” is about to be unmasked. We shall see.

Interestingly, not a single comment challenged me on my central claim that a rise in temperature of 0.36C in thirty years (and less than 1C in over a hundred years) is not a crisis.

Stephen Magee writes: Any chance of having audio letters in Crikey? I’d love to have heard Tim Marsh actually read out his letter on ACC (yesterday, comments).

As it was, I was reduced to imagining how it would sound — John Wayne on Bataan? Bill Pulman in ID4? Hitler at one of his One People/One World rallies (“Move out of our away or be blasted out of the way” would sound soooo much more menacing in German)?

I started to tend towards Rik Mayall, after reading that Tim is going to “bust his bum” — before ending up with Malcolm Turnbull, when Tim revealed that the cause of all his angst (and upcoming rectal trauma) is his fear that ACC might mean that his kids will not be able to go skiing.

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