Firefighters:

Mick Farrell, Aviation Branch Secretary/National President, United Firefighters Union of Australia, writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (Monday, item 9). I write to offer feedback and seek the right of reply, regarding anonymous and erroneous comments published in Crikey’s “Tips and rumours” this week, concerning Australia’s Professional Firefighters.

Specifically, the disparaging remarks posted about the Aviation Rescue &Firefighting Service Firefighters stationed at some of Australia’s Airports and the Metropolitan Fire Brigade Firefighters both of which, are highly trained to protect, serve and where possible save lives within the Australian community.

The same people that are rostered on duty twenty four hours per day every day of the year, the same people that will be on duty every minute of this Easter break and the very same people that will come to your aid should their expertise be required.

Firefighters nationwide are generally held in very high esteem by the public and in fact, have also been identified as one of the most trusted occupations in Australia hence; I will not be entering into written debate in respect to any further uneducated remarks posted, particularly by a person or people that do not have the courage to provide their identity to those they malign.

Save to give the salient and sad example that, members of many professional Fire Brigades/Fire Services around Australia including those referred to above were also involved in fighting the fires during the recent Victorian Bush Fire disaster.

One of those professional Firefighters and cherished UFU of A members gave his life carrying out his duty on behalf of the community.

Vale David Balfour.

How soon some forget.

Ruddstra: The National Broadband Network:

Kevin Cox writes: Re. “Huge, historic and nationalised: broadband goes ballistic” (yesterday, item 1). The government can fund the broadband network and give the economy an immediate stimulus without going into debt. To do this the government issues every citizen in Australia with shares in the new Company with a face value of $2500. Anyone who wants the shares registers to obtain them. Many people will keep them and many people will sell them for whatever the market will pay them. Probably most will sell.

This will create an immediate stimulus to the economy. The company will have a large amount of shares and when it needs some funds it will convert some of the shares to cash by asking the Reserve Bank to issue it with zero interest new money equivalent to the face value of shares. This increases the money supply but only as assets are created to back the money. Because the money in the company will be spent on producing an earning asset this will not be inflationary. Thus the government can at one stroke solve the ownership problem of the new company, not go into debt, stimulate the economy, and fund the broadband infrastructure.

This is a variation on increasing the money supply without creating loans as explained here. The whole idea of the broadband network is to provide infrastructure at a reasonable price for all Australians and if you remove the capital cost then the last mile becomes very cheap. This means we can have broadband at very low prices which will increase productivity (and taxes) because the price of communications will drop. If the last mile is already in place, such as in Canberra with Transact, then those assets can be purchased from TransACT with shares in the new broadband company.

Similarly Telstra in those places where fibre is to the home can be given shares of equivalent value. This would accelerate the introduction of broadband through existing Telstra infrastructure as they would soon put in the 30 meters of fibre from a box along my street to my home and increase my broadband speed by 100 times. As long as the broadband company ONLY owns and builds infrastructure and does not get into selling what is sent along the wires then this will give us the world’s cheapest communications infrastructure with all the economic benefits that will come from low priced communications.

Giving shares to both the general population and to those whose assets can be used as part of the network is the fairest way of dividing up the ownership of the new asset created through increasing the money supply.

Politically it should be an easy sell.

Les Heimann writes: $43 billion dollars! Wow! It’s not a bridge or a dam or a new road system or even a tunnel. It’s a whole hunk of glass snaking its way through the byways and alleyways of all of Australia. $43B to pay for image speed — pictures and words. Information sure costs!

Senator Nick Minchin expressed his amazement at such a massive waste on something utterly stupid. Is he right (no pun intended) or is he committing political hari kari? $43b and it’s not a bridge!

So OK I haven’t got a clue why this stuff costs so much and nobody is telling me either. I also don’t know why it is so damned important and that’s why the Nick Minchin’s of the world will keep on getting traction on this — or is he right? What will it cost me? More or less? Sure I have cable TV, cable broadband a conventional land line for a phone and a mobile — just like millions of Australians. And just like millions of Australians I am most unhappy over the cost of these services — they are bloody outrageously expensive and we all know we are being gouged big time.

Then there is wireless technology — growing like mad and what happens with this stuff if we become tied to a glass snake. Mobile phone costs are of course off the planet cost wise but Australians seem blissfully careless in paying these outrageous prices. That’s my point — all of this stuff costs the earth now. For $43B dollars will it cost more? Of course it will — and who can afford this extra cost?

Please someone — anyone — tell us consumers how we will be better off — in our pockets and in our lifestyle — from this massive — absolutely massive — expenditure; and if we will not be better off tell us that too, before the next election.

Colin Prasad writes: $43b divided by 9 million households = $5k per household. On what sort of time payback? On anything less than 10 years it will more than double my current cost, and I am quite happy with my current speed. For more than 10 years I suspect the technology will be superseded. And I am yet to see a coherent business case that proves we need this to add to our productive capacity; other than for consumer video on-demand.

I very much doubt most businesses need this speed, unless they themselves are in visual arts and entertainment business in which case they can pay for it and get it now. Even with Cloud Computing, the static screen images and data being transmitted over the net are very small and are not bandwidth intensive. $43b would be enough for about 21,500 MW in green energy capacity at $2m per MW — about half the current installed capacity in Australia.

Perhaps you could start a list on what else $43b would buy.

Crikey: Great idea Colin. Email [email protected] with what you could buy with $43b and put “$43b” in the subject field.

Julian Gillespie writes: It has often been said that every great nation that experiences a great recession needs a great war to pull itself out of its economic hole, while hopefully becoming victors in the process. Well it seems that Commander-in-Chief Rudd has found his great war with his NBN announcement and been able to claim victory at the same time.

Whether the NBN will be seen on the same scale as the great Snowy Hydro project is a matter for our children to debate some day, but for today and presumably for the next eight years we can do nothing but all hail the Commander-in-Chief … while off in the distance is heard the faint murmur of the Turnbull bird’s sorrowful song of “drats, drats and double drats…”

Colin Park writes: Irrespective of which method is subsequently used to connect homes under the now announced NBN, how exactly will that connection be made physically. If fibre lines [FTTH] are to be used will trenches be dug to carry the feed from the street terminal as for existing copper wire telephone lines?

What if permanently laid terracing on concrete foundation lies between the home and the street [as in a property having rear access only to motor vehicles with no front drive]?

David Hand writes: Bigger, brighter, breathtaking, $43b. This has an eerie resonance with a Morris Iemma NSW infrastructure announcement. If it’s all the same to Mr Rudd I’d rather the $43 billion was spent on hospitals, medical care and education.

Martin Field writes: Prediction: The NBN commissioning will be over time and over budget, the promised speeds won’t be available and in 10 years newly developed technology will have made optical cable broadband old hat and obsolete.

Christian Kent writes: I can only hope the Rudd government can show the sort of intrusive restructuring with the New South Wales infrastructure grant proposals, as it has with RuddNet.

Afghanistan:

James Burke writes: Re. “Rundle: Are allied troops dying for an Afghan man’s right to r-pe his wife?” (Monday, item 7). Even for those nutty neo-cons (who would rather have invaded Iraq straight after September 11), the invasion of Afghanistan wasn’t undertaken out of some urge to transform the country into a free-market democracy, but in response to the threat posed to the wider world by the Taliban/al-Qaeda complex. The neo-cons then went off on their Mesopotamian crusade and abandoned their responsibility to prevent history repeating.

Guy Rundle wants to do much the same thing, but claim the moral high ground for doing it. The failure of the half-arsed neo-con attempt to transform Afghanistan into Switzerland is a cue for surrendering it to the Taliban and their mates, who are already introducing large swathes of Pakistan to the joys of their righteous totalitarianism.

Along with such arch-reactionaries as Barack Obama and Kevin Rudd, I happen to think that abandoning Afghanistan and Pakistan to the likes of Mullah Omar, Ayman al-Zawahiri and Beitullah Masud would be not only morally reprehensible but strategically reckless. Can we imagine the consequences of Osama bin Laden making his triumphal entry into Islamabad, to accept the keys to the nuclear toy box from Dr A.Q. Khan?

The moronic Bush and his lackeys have left us with a hell of a mess on our hands. But we have a duty to do what we can, if not to clean it up entirely, then to stop it spreading. We can’t just throw a tantrum and run away, eyes shut tight and fingers in our ears, humming the mantra “it’s not our fault, the neo-cons did it”.

Rockdale Council:

Terry Costello writes: Re. “Rockdale Liberals have difficulty reading and writing” (yesterday, item 22). Why is Crikey surprised that the Liberal and Labor party have a coalition going on the Rockdale Council. They certainly have got more in common with each other. They both support extreme economic rationalist policies which are anti-worker and pro-corporate in nature. The Liberal and Labor parties are really two factions of economic rationalism which has got nothing to do with meeting the needs of the majority of people or operating in the National interest.

The Greens do not support the more extreme aspects of economic rationalism, nor do I suspect most independents so once again why the surprise. What I am surprised about is that in Rockdale Liberal party candidates dare to call themselves Liberals.

In Victoria Liberal Party candidates for local Councils do not run under the banner of the Liberal party because they say they want to keep the politics out of council. It’s more like they want to pull the wool over the voters’ eyes which sadly in many working class councils in Victoria over the years have worked a treat with members of the Liberal party winning seats on councils who wouldn’t have a hope in hell of winning if they ran under the Liberal Party banner.

Weasel words:

Simon Rumble writes: Re. “The Liberal party’s long history of playing the race card” (Monday, item 12). Why was the weasel word “perceived” added before “racist” in this line of Greg Barns’ piece? “The Howard government did enormous damage to Australia’s reputation around the world with its xenophobic and perceived racist stance.”

Earlier in the piece he gave a clear example of the Howard government’s racist stance: White European wrongful detainee Cornelia Rau gets compensation and an inquiry, dark skinned Asian wrongful detainees get … vilified and deported.

So why the weasel word? I expect more from Crikey.

Climate change cage match (now with its own blog):

Mark Byrne writes: Below is the data from which Tamas Calderwood’s asserts that (yesterday, comments) “we’ve had zero warming in the past 10 years”. To make this assertion Calderwood ignores the continuing trend in global warming (0.15 degrees/ decade) and instead latches onto to the freak temperature of one year (1998). In previous Crikey comments, Calderwood has show he is not interested that 1998 was a freak El Nino year, nor is he interested that the warming trend continued after the time where he says it stopped.

Calderwood has also avoided consideration that the global temperature continues to trend up despite being in a La Nina (surface cooling phase), combined with a solar minima, and a decade long up turn of global diming from Asia’s aerosol pollution. Under this triple combination what is it that is keeping our temperature trending up?

Most evidence indicates that growth in the production of gases that have the property of trapping heat is resulting in the trapping of more heat.

Harold Thornton writes: Tamas Calderwood aspires to be the Fred Astaire of the climate change debate, seeming to defy all laws of logic and consistency as he leaps effortlessly from factoid to unrelated factoid. His latest tour de force cannot pass unremarked, lest Crikey readers mistake it for reasoning.

Tamas scoffs at concerns about atmospheric CO2 levels by pointing out that these levels were “ten times higher in the past”, deftly avoiding the uncomfortable backdrop to those levels: an utterly different world hundreds of millions of years in the past when Antarctica was a tropical paradise and flowering plants (let alone primates) had not yet evolved.

Having pirouetted around in the deep past, he then asks us to focus only on the last decade, a decade that conveniently began with the hottest year on record. Dazzling, audacious, but on a moment’s reflection, specious.

Ken Lambert writes: Thank you Mark Byrne (Monday, comments) for pointing out that “steadily rising CO2” is not ‘linearly rising CO2’ over the last 8000 years. If we are to believe the ice core proxies, the CO2 rose from a low of 260ppm at about 8000 years ago (e.g.; Taylor Dome CO2), to about 280ppm at 2000 years ago where it flattened somewhat and then started a sharper and sharper rising about 250 years ago to the 380ppm of today. There are ‘deniers’ and other ratbags out there in googleland who claim that the ice core proxies underestimate CO2 over most of this period. There seems to be negligible cyclical or downward fall in CO2 levels over the 8000 year period. Hardly a ‘misleading claim’, Mark (the sensitive warmist, who sees a good point coming).

Thank you Stephen Morris (Monday, comments) for highlighting that the authors of the Wikipedia Holocene Temperature Chart limited the temperature change resolution to no better than 300 years. That is probably because they might be honest about the limitations of the data. I had rather hoped that if this data were doctored, it would be in favour of the warmists.

The very telling Chart insert of the last 2000 years shows a rise of about 0.4 degrees (in the last 40-50 years) of recent proxies. Proxies are just that – proxies. Proxies should be compared with proxies, not the smoothed average of all. The smoothed average of all gives a temperature range of about -0.5 degrees C (450 years ago) to +0.3 degrees C (7800 years ago). The proxies range from about -1.3 degrees C to +1.5 degrees C in the same time periods.

If a proxy swing of 2.8 degrees C in the last 8000 years is “remarkably stable”, then what is 0.4 degrees in 40-50 years? The steepness of the proxy peaks and troughs show several 1 degree C movements in time scales of about 200 years. One has a 1.5 degree C rise in about 150 years very similar to the rate of recent proxies (last 40-50 years).

Meanwhile proxy CO2 is sitting quietly in small bubbles deep in the ice at concentrations which are remarkably stable with little if any cyclical variation, while temperature proxies are bouncing about the average up to +1.5 degrees and down to -1.3 degrees, seemingly uncorrelated.

And that is the killer point Stephen.

Stephen Morris writes: Thanks Tamas for picking me up on my lack of precision in language about “unprecedented” concentrations of carbon dioxide, I was referring to the last 400,000 years which was the period of data covered in the graph I was discussing. I fully agree that levels of carbon dioxide have been much higher in the past. The only slight problem was that when levels were 10x higher as mentioned by Tamas was at the beginning of the Silurian period about 450 million years ago and according to the fossil records from this time, there was nothing living on the land, with primitive life only possible in the oceans. Good point though!

Tim Marsh writes: Sigh. I promised myself I wouldn’t do this but I will anyway. Tamas your tiresome gish galloping is, well, tiresome. Magnitude is important, yes, context in relation to the ability of that magnitude change to flick the switch on dangerous tipping points is even more important. I wish you’d take a more holistic view on this rather than cheerfully ignoring all the observational evidence, but I shan’t die waiting.

Meanwhile, on planet earth, people who Acutally Know Stuff are having an effect (Chu, Obama, US EPA) on policy. Fortunately for us, people who Actually Know Stuff For Realz are in charge, and not denialists and obfuscators. I constructed a gentle Haiku for you:

Killing Earth softly,
With your denialism,
Killing us softly.

I realise it doesn’t strictly comply with Haiku rules, but oh well.

Tim Deyzel writes: I groaned when I saw Tamas Calderwood mentioned in Monday’s Crikey as I guessed there would be a letter from him in yesterday’s edition. I’m starting to think that “Tirade Against Mainstream, Accepted Science” might be a suitable ‘backronym’?

Is there any chance that the new Crikey website is going to have a two-column Climate Change page where the ‘arguments’ of the deniers can be debunked or at least set in context in one place?

Crikey: Hi Tim, we’ve heard your plea and as always, we’re here to help. We’ve set up a climate change cage match blog on our environment blog, Rooted.

Enjoy.