The ETS:

Simon Mansfield, Publisher of,,,, et al, writes: Re. “Under Rudd’s ETS, it will pay you to drive your car” (yesterday, item 2). Yesterday’s analysis on ETS and Penny Wong is simply junk. It’s called compromise and starting a process that will take years to ramp up. I really wish Crikey would put some effort into lifting the level of the debate it is conducting.

On Monday, your coal man was on the money about the need to perfect a better coal technology. But he was playing wedge politics with his James Lovelock quotes about wind. Lovelock is deeply invested in Climate Change science and has jumped on the nuclear bandwagon as a political ploy to win broader support. Wind is going gang busters all around the world and with broad electrical grids the idea of it not being windy all the time and needing conventional power stations on automatic standby is just a ruse. It is sunny and windy in many places at the same time and a large grid enables power to be pulled in from a very broad geographical area.

Natural Gas is the real story here and when wind and solar supply does dip it can be quickly compensated for by cheap natural gas. Again it is all about compromise and making sure we have lots of different energy supply sources. And all this silly stuff about the evils of biofuel — please spare us this nonsense. When can the Greens be relied upon to provide any reliable information on virtually any topic? Hating biofuel is simply a follow on from the anti car lunacy of the Greens.

How dare we humans figure out a way to beat peak oil. And even that’s a questionable assumption. Many geologists will readily say we have no idea how much oil is on this planet. Overall your environmental science and technology reporting has become way too skewered to the easy thinking. And it does no one any favours to dumb this debate down.

Earth is a very complex place and while everything might be connected — in Gaia fashion — you can never assume what the outcome of those connections might be. The world is not going to end if global warming melts all the ice. Bad stuff will happen — but it ain’t the end of the world. Having spent years covering the environment and technology I’m happy to offer my services to Crikey as a regular contributor in the hope that we can increase the quality of these debates.

No matter what, it’s time some more considered thinking went into how Crikey is reporting on ETS.

P.S Lionel Elmore is a true breath of fresh air on these environmental debates. His writings are exactly the sort of well considered reports that we need to see more of in Crikey.

Bruce Messmer writes: Introducing widespread road tolls is unnecessary. The original reason for the introduction of a fuel tax was to provide funding for roads. With the passage of time, governments have abused this principle and turned the toll system into a source of general revenue. By reverting the fuel tax back to its original intention, a fair system of road funding is available.

Furthermore, It does away with the necessity of an increased bureaucracy necessary to run a national toll system – i.e. increased staff, construction of a multitude of toll booths and , no doubt, the introduction of some sort of e-tag system with a heavy investment in otherwise unnecessary technology and probably a system of confusion and unfair discrimination in implementing its use.

The Tampa myth:

Marcus Vernon writes: Re. “Mungo: Boat people crisis sham” (Monday, item 12). Let’s bury the Tampa incident as the great political myth that it is. The Left wallows in Tampa in an attempt to deal with its fury at losing the 2001 election to John Howard. ALP propagandist Mungo did it again in crikey on Monday this week, and both Richard Farmer and Charles Richardson couldn’t resist themselves yesterday.

Yes, as a prosperous, generous nation we should have done better for asylum seekers then, and we should now. But the fact is that ALP Leader Kim Beazley supported Howard’s handling of Tampa as part of the ALP’s ill-fated small-target policy, so there was nowhere for angry voters to go on that specific issue. In any event, Tampa did not dominate the entire campaign, with general economic policies, petrol prices, interest rates, health, education and the 9/11 attacks much more influential.

If you’re still not convinced, try what I call the Tampa Test — attempt to find anyone (family, friends) who actually changed their vote over Tampa. It doesn’t matter who they voted for, simply whether they actually changed their vote — you will spend a long time asking, without success. What Tampa did was reinforce voting intentions — people either supported Howard over the issue, and were always going to, or Tampa just gave them another reason to hate him. But they didn’t change their vote, not over Tampa.

And that means it wasn’t decisive in the election result. What the electorate did do in 2001 was deliver the ALP its lowest primary vote in nearly 70 years and returned Howard to office with an increased majority.

And the Left still hasn’t got over that.

The RBA:

John Kotsopoulos writes: Re. “RBA rate cuts recede further from view” (yesterday, item 1). Glenn Dyer wrote: “…if the economy bottoms in the next quarter and is dragging along the bottom, there might not be a rate cut for months, if at all.”

He fails to understand that we already have interest rates that are close to zero in real terms and below neutral (i.e. expansionary) in their effect on the economy. If the economy improves then rates will have to rise to neutral to keep inflation in check.

Any further move downwards is a sign of a worsening economy and why he should want to wish that on us is a mystery to me.

Tea Bagging in the USA:

Twiggy Scott writes: Re. “Re. “Letter from… Richmond, Virginia, USA” (Monday, item 16). Karyn McDermott’s article on the Tea Party protests in the US is a great example of spin. Tea Bagging is not a genuine grassroots movement it is an Astroturf operation set up by the right-wing think tanks Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Works and pushed by Fox News. Karyn’s estimate of over a million demonstrators is much bigger than less disinterested observers.

Nate Silver (whose predictions during the last presidential elections were absolutely spot on) has city by city estimates that give a total of 262,000 demonstrators in the whole of the USA. Compare this to a real grass roots campaign such as the anti-Iraq war demonstrations in February 2003 which drew 600,000 demonstrators in Australia alone.

An interesting comparison doing the rounds of the blogosphere is that the 7000 people who attended the Boston Tea Party in 1773 represented 46% of the population of Boston. Whereas the 500 people at the Boston Teabaggers’s Party in 2009 was 0.08% of the present population of Boston.

There is still a way to go before Karyn’s fantasy of a huge popular uprising becomes reality.


Jackie French writes: Re. “Prescribed burns are prejudging the bushfire inquiry” (yesterday, item 11). It appears from yesterday’s press release from the Victorian Bushfire Commission that there is considerable official confusion between “hazard reduction burning” and “backburning”.

“Backburning” i.e. burning a “break” when a bushfire is already in progress, saves lives. “Hazard reduction burns” are fires that lit to reduce flammable material. Sometimes they make an area safer; sometimes they make more flammable material available for burning.

Ecology is never simple. I suspect it’s far too complex for the Victorian Commission.

Book politics:

Jacqueline Kent writes: Re. “Pens at 10 paces: Rival writers in Gillard life story stoush” (yesterday, item 6). Andrew Crook does me slightly too much honour by identifying me as the phantom behind the books of Graeme Richardson and Tom Uren. In the case of Richardson, I did impose order, form and structure upon his words, but cannot take credit for their frankness. In Uren’s case, I was the editor of his memoir Straight Left. Both mss were hugely enjoyable to work on.


James Holyoake writes: Re. Yesterday’s editorial. Mathew Kenneally starts off his “intercepted” letter: “I am an Afghani…I want to live in Australia” etc etc. Even funnier is that the Afghani is the currency and Afghans are the people. So it’s not clear which we intend to import, especially in these times of fiscal prudency.


Chris Rowe writes: Re. “Tucker: five broadband myths busted” (16 April, item 2). I’ve never read such a load of crap in all the time I’ve been reading over and analysing the NBP. Please do you’re website a favour and get someone to debunk this ridiculous article.

A few truisms:

Simon Wilkins writes: In the interest of reducing journalistic attention to much of what is in the news at the moment, a few truisms:

  1. Football players have no sense, but get paid a lot of money and have a lot of spare time.
  2. Television is a manipulative and cynical medium that can somehow manufacture “genuine” surprise when real people don’t have to be good looking to be talented.
  3. For the supposedly “smartest people in the room”, business people sure pretend to be dumb when it suits them.
  4. Scientists and lobby groups both know how to use “research” to “prove” their point, but that doesn’t mean you can give up on thinking (and really thinking hard) for yourself.

And lastly, politicians and those in charge never seem to focus on the really important issues. But surely Crikey will?


Moira Smith writes: Re. “Bishop hunted by pen-ses: another Liberal c-ckup” (Monday, item 4). Memo to Bernard Keane (or his sub-editor if there is one) “BSD acquired rather more cache than the family-friendly ‘Masters of the Universe’….”

The word is “cachet” (pronounced “cashay”). Therefore, nothing to do with storing computer files, or hiding guns (or even burying food under the snow for the journey back from the North Pole). It means “style” (in this context). The issue is not correctness per se, it’s about conveying the meaning you want to convey. And I do think you meant something like “style” or “distinction” or “prestige”.

Crikey used to have a pedantic anal retentive commentator on such things, maybe time to bring him or her back.

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

Michael James writes: Peter Logue’s question (Monday, comments) about the huge number of coal-fired power plants in China and India is more correctly addressed to himself to answer, as the coal industry are the ones claiming the world can continue building such plants. Can he confirm that he seems to believe, contrary to anyone in the CCS industry, that all those plants are capable of being retrofitted for CCS? And that retrofitting will be economic?

Technically they can’t and it would be economically infeasible. Today, no credible figure in the industry makes such claims—which is kind of obvious when the technology is still in the concept phase and is so complex and expensive. Existing coal-fired power plants have a typical working life of up to 40 years and this stark fact has made some experts despair about the ineluctable rise of atmospheric CO2 to beyond critical thresholds.

Every such plant built is more CO2 released for up to 40 years that must be compensated for elsewhere. Obviously the sooner everyone stops building such plants the better.

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