Apology to Grant Williams:

An item ran in Friday’s edition of Tips and Rumours alleging that A Current Affair Executive Producer Grant Williams had posted a headline on the door of two senior female reporters. Crikey accepts that this claim is entirely without foundation. Further, we apologise unreservedly to Mr Williams.

Asylum seekers:

Mark Hardcastle writes: Re. “Asylum cover up? What asylum cover up?” (Yesterday, item 1). To make his argument against the Government’s refugee polices, Malcolm Turnbull made the centre issue to be stopping boat people arriving in our waters. Many have justifiably argued that this is the wrong priority because the number of asylum seekers arrive by boat is small compared to those arriving by plane. (boat arrivals make a more exotic picture for the news).

To make his case for the Government’s policies, Prime Minster Rudd said that people smugglers are “the scum of the earth” and they should “rot in hell”.

Both parties striving to sound the tougher on border security. Yet in the race to exploit fear or deflect a political attack, the foundational problems are overlooked. Turnbull’s priority to stop boat arrivals, is couched in defence of Howard’s detention polices. By attacking the Government for change from Howard’s damaging punitive treatment of refugees is the callas inhuman strategy.

If Turnbull sincerely wants to make a difference to protect potential asylum seeker he should attack the Government for failing to meet the resource allocation quota (0.7% of GDP) for peaceful development and civil engagement. He should also attack the government for failing to provide sufficient legal avenues (cues) for asylum seekers when and where they need assistance.

Finally Turnbull should attack the Governments attempt of pre-emptive sabotage to the multilateral agreement on science based targets for greenhouse reductions. Putting a 15% upper limit cap, undermines the global progress made at Bali multilateral reductions of 25 to 40%. Failure to meets science based CO2 targets increases the risks of making hundreds of millions climate refugees.

Andrew Dempster writes: Australians have everything to fear from boat people. Australians have everything to fear from economic migrants. I know, because my family came here as boat people, as economic migrants. And yes, people like me have made life very unpleasant for Australians. You can identify “people like me” because of the colour of my skin. Yes, I am white. My family came over in boats in the 19th century, from Scotland and Ireland, looking for a better life. Like the family of Mr Howard, of Mr Turnbull, of Mr Rudd. And like all migrant groups, we are often judged by the behaviour of the worst of us, like that Hanson woman. We must apologise to Australians for her.

David Havyatt writes: Bernard Keane misses half the story in lambasting Turnbull for his “incessant demands for the Government to reveal what happened aboard the vessel”. The contrast is with the Howard Government that insisted in telling us what happened before they even knew. That was the disgrace of children overboard. That was the disgrace of Kovco. Sorry, we don’t want a repeat of Government by mis-statement.

As Bob Debus kept repeating on Lateline when you have an event like this with lots of people with parts of the story and physical evidence, the way to the truth is a forensic reconstruction conducted by experts (the police). Anything less and anything pre-mature is the action that misleads and mis-informs the public.

Harvey Tarvydas writes: Re. Yesterday’s editorial. Albeit succinct I congratulate you on a potent and powerful editorial statement today on this subject.

Having arrived in Australia in a big boat as an infant in 1949 with parents who somehow survived years of an extremely dangerous war environment, which included seeing the inside of concentration camps, so that I and my famous sister could be born and become Australians.

Thank you again for your intelligent and humane contribution.

Tea Bagging in the USA:

Alan Kennedy writes: Re. “Letter from… Richmond, Virginia, USA” (yesterday, item 16). Karyn McDermott’s letter from the Tea Bagging front was hilarious. Poor old gullible Karyn thought it was a grass roots thing when all the evidence is that it was funded by a large number of wealthy Republican and far right groups. Fox News gave free advertising and its presenters Glen Beck and Sean Hannity drove themselves into such paroxysms of hysteria I wondered if they were going to make it to the big day without being medicated.

The joke on Karyn is that I suspect she is one of the 95 per cent who had their taxes cut by Obama but still went along for the ride. Then I see she worked for John Howard and it all becomes clear. As with Johnny she can just say nobody told her. Good to see her over there still fighting the good fight for her old desiccated boss and the incredible shrinking man George W down in Dallas.

Kayrn do a bit of research before trying to unload this delusional garbage on us again. We may be in Australia but we do have the internet albeit a terribly slow one (thanks again Johnny).

P.S: The Tea Bag parties did allow me to learn a new expression Tea Bagging although once I knew what it was I wished I didn’t.

Bill Priestley writes: Patrick Henry’s famous speech was made in Williamsburg. Richmond did not become the capital of Virginia until 1780.

The National Broadband Network:

The Inquisitr publisher Duncan Riley writes: Rob Pickering (yesterday, comments) argues that “6 million Australians is less than a third of Australians signing up” in context of NBN signups, confusing the number of Australians and the number of households. 6 million connections would be from 8.3million households (ABS 2009) and 2 million businesses (ABS 2008); the business number includes all businesses, so includes duplication at shared locations for the NBN (units, high rise buildings), so at best 6 million connections would be around 60%, but more towards 70% of the market.

Those figures are unlikely given most expert opinion, and even a highly optimistic guess is 50%. Notably as of July 2008, penetration of “broadband” including ADSL 1 was 52% ABS. If we take a line at 30% signing up (which is fairly optimistic and might take years to achieve), using Rob’s numbers we’re at $119.40/month, presuming Rob quotes at a 60% signup rate initially (6 million connections from 10 million).

His sums don’t allow for the NBN being a wholesale and not a retail network. 10% extra for management, maintenance/upgrades and billing costs? Maybe in the wholesale calculation. At 30%, supply goes out to $131.40/month (based on Rob’s numbers), but we still haven’t got to the cost of retail purchase. The NBN might not involve wiring up a house (internal connections), and providing the equipment for connection (Broadband Connect under the previous Government mostlydid.) 10% retail margin with equipment and internal connection included? You’d give Sol Trujillo a heart attack!

But still we’ve missed two calculations: the NBN will be borrowing money to roll out the network, and the NBN Company will be run as a commercial enterprise, which implies that it will (or needs to) run at a profit, at least at some stage. $4.3 billion a year for the NBN covers the cost of the roll-out, but the calculation of cost is more likely $4.3 billion a year plus running cost plus interest plus profit. Note the Minister clearly states that the NBN will invest “$43 billion over eight years to build the national broadband network” and makes no mention of accounting for supplemental costs.

We’re close now to $150/ month at 30% for supply, but what will be the retail cost of access?

Paul Broad, chief executive of AAPT quoted in The Daily Telegraph April 11: “broadband bills will rocket to at least $200 a month under the Government’s … consumers simply won’t pay.” On Lateline Business:

“I always get reminded of the Cross City Tunnel … You know, wonderful piece of infrastructure, but no one wants to use it for the price.”

Simon Rumble writes: Rob Pickering has left a few rather important details out of his back-of-envelope calculations showing our shiny new NBN connections will be about $60 a month. Most important that gives you the pipe — but you then have to pay for the data that comes across it and with most of this coming over the long and expensive fibres running to the US. So think of the $60 as the “line rental” component.

Secondly you’ve missed the cost of funds component — that money being paid off over ten years isn’t free, you need to factor in the interest that is being paid on it, or if it’s a gift the interest that would have been earned if it was kept as cash.

I’ve done some equally-dubious back-of-envelope calculations myself — which only look at the cost of servicing the interest and not paying off the debt — and come up with the figure of about $23/month just for the interest on the $43 billion.

Ralph Norris:

Warwick Sauer writes: Re. “Norris’ pay cut just a shrewd sales pitch” (yesterday, item 23). Bravo to Adam Schwab for highlighting that Ralph Norris’s $300,000 pay-cut is just chump change to him. Schwab’s article is the only one I’ve seen that doesn’t trumpet Norris’s move as being akin to the second coming.

The mainstream media has lapped up this stunt without giving it a moment’s thought, which is symptomatic of their general approach to such fodder- reprint a press release almost verbatim, sell more papers, who cares if it’s utter garbage, the end.

Plimer’s Heaven and Earth:

Gerard Henderson writes: Re. “Plimer’s Heaven and Earth: a conservative coup?” (Yesterday, item 3). Contrary to Andrew Dodd’s assertion, I am not “desperate for a counter view on global warming”. Anthony Cappello suggested that I should put Ian Plimer on The Sydney Institute’s program and I agreed. Why not? Unlike such entities as The Monthly, Eureka Street and New Matilda, the Institute is a place for genuine debate and discussion. Past speakers at The Sydney Institute on climate change include Dr Graeme Pearman and Senator Christine Milne.

Professor Plimer is well qualified to talk on climate change and I look forward to hearing his views. By the way, I am surprised that Andrew Dodd should attempt to demean Professor Plimer’s book by depicting Connor Court as “a small backroom publisher” which lacks a “sophisticated marketing strategy”. The fact that Heaven and Earth has achieved so much publicity suggests that Plimer has chosen well in so far as publication is concerned. In any event, what’s wrong with small publishers — whether of the backdoor or frontdoor genre?

David Lodge writes: In typical Crikey style you give, then taketh away. Look at item 1 (“Asylum cover up? What asylum cover up? Yesterday, item 1); fair, balanced and interesting. It certainly focuses on important points on immigration that the mainstream media have ignored.

Then look at item 3; ideological bashing. No critique of the book in question, only that those nasty conservatives have come out of the wood work to give their take climate change (and of course, by default, must be wrong).

Does Crikey seek to paint itself, like the greens, as obstructionist or is it plainly just lazy journalism?

Health IT systems:

Kieren Diment writes: Re. “Health IT systems” (yesterday, comments). I was doing some work last year on a Health IT project (primary care) in regional NSW that was at least moderately successful in the first couple of years of the 21st Century. One of the actions flagged in one of their implementation reports was that there was a need for NSW health and the feds to talk to each other in order to implement a unique provider number across the different health systems in the country.

Fast forward eight years, and I came across a conference paper that flagged the very same thing. Despite a lot of money going into HealthConnect and other initiatives, it seems nobody can scale up from local to national initiatives. I’m willing to bet $20 that the problems surrounding this are generally political in nature rather than technological.

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

Mark Byrne writes: Peter Logue, PR Director for Australian Coal Association (yesterday, comments) asks: “If CCS [Carbon Capture and Storage] will not work… what is [the] solution for dealing with coal fired power stations in China and India which are growing at a rate of several new large plant every month?”

The answer to this question has been presented for a number of years. It is understandable if Mr Logue isn’t aware of this modelling, given that the PR budget of volunteer groups and NGOs is modest compared to the PR, lobby budget, and think tank funding of the coal industry.

Here is a brief run down of the solution:

  1. Stop subsidising the use of fossil fuels.
  2. Fund renewables R&D properly (and belatedly join the International Renewable Energy Agency).
  3. Put a price on carbon to a degree that will drive serious investment in efficiency and the roll out of renewables.
  4. Telegraph to investors that this price will increase overtime –inline with scientific targets.
  5. Cooperate with our brothers and sisters to build an equitable multilateral agreement to reduce emissions (ditch plans for 2020 target that are any less than the 25-40% reductions agreed at Bali).
  6. Wealthy nations to reduce emission to the global per capita average. Thus ensuring Indian and China are not incentivised to grow emission per capita has high as us.
  7. Instate a WTO agreement to tax exports from nations that free ride in terms of per capita carbon emissions.
  8. Reconstitute the WTO as a union of democracies to protect sovereign nations from multinational threats, and speculative finance attacks which force a downward auction on policies for worker and environmental conditions.
  9. Increase the price of carbon to displace the use of emission intensive fuels etc on a global scale, to a degree that is consistent with science based targets.

If the coal industry can fund a solution to extend the life of its revenues then that is up to them. As far as our limited public resources, it is a better public investment to develop renewable solutions- that last forever.

Importantly, Mr Logue as the public spokesperson of coal mining, what percentage royalties do coal miners pay Australians for liquidating their national resources? Is it as low as 10%? 8%? 6%? Surely not that low? Given that climate change is a monumental market failure, perhaps Australia would be better served by taking an 80% royalty for our resources and using the revenue to drive the necessary energy revolution. That would make a difference to our emissions, and a real boost to the job-rich renewable sector.

Send your comments, corrections, clarifications and c*ck-ups to [email protected]. Preference will be given to comments that are short and succinct: maximum length is 200 words (we reserve the right to edit comments for length). Please include your full name — we won’t publish comments anonymously unless there is a very good reason.

Peter Fray

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