David Jones:

Cathy Bannister writes: Re. “FOI reveals DJs kids were supposed to be ‘adult and sexy’” (yesterday, item 1). You know what I see in the Alison Ashley ad? Two beautiful young girls looking into the camera, wearing clothes a heck of a lot less revealing than the boob tubes and mini skirts I wore as a kid in the 70s and 80s. The way the Australia Institute report described it, you’d expect the girls to be wearing skimpy red satin shorts suits with plunging necklines, torn fishnets and stilettos.

If a paedophile gets off on that picture reproduced in Crikey, the programming error is in the paedophile’s head, not in the ad. Emma Rush and Andrea La Nauze need to do more than to demonstrate elements within the ads which might be considered “adult” or “sexual”, and then talk about the harms of early sexualisation. Possibly without realising it, they’ve just assumed the fashion precipitates early sexualisation.

For the argument to be anything other than a prudish witch hunt, they have to prove a causal link. An alternative explanation is that these are just trends and are no more sexualising than the traditional game of dress ups. Without that proof, either explanation is possible.

Indian students:

Alex Joseph writes: Re. “Richard Farmer’s political bite sized meaty chunks” (yesterday, item 12). As a migrant from India (1983), it was with more than just passing interest that I read the bit in today’s issue about the problems some Indian students are facing in Melbourne. You did point out that our pollies are under-estimating the seriousness of this matter, and you are spot on. This is the main news item in many newspapers in India, not just the English language papers, but also in the local language papers.

I call friends and relatives in India every weekend. Last weekend, the only thing people wanted to talk about was this issue. My 93 year old father and my 84 year old mother rarely talk politics, but even they wanted to know whether I, my wife, our children and our Indian friends were safe. The impression being created in India is that Indians are being beaten up everywhere in Melbourne, and that the authorities cannot or will not do anything about it.

There is already a feeling among educated Indians (and consequently, among the ruling elite), that Australia, led by our Mandarin speaking PM is soft on China, even selling it uranium, whereas democratic and generally peaceful India is treated as inconsequential.

I cannot understand why Victoria, which earns billions of dollars from the nearly 40,000 students in this state, cannot allocate more money to this problem. Do they want to kill the education industry? It is the ONLY major industry in Australia that has not been affected by the GFC. They better act soon.

I personally know at least three potential students who are having second thoughts about coming to Australia. There must be several thousand more with similar feelings.

Swine Flu:

Niall Clugston writes: Re. “Swine latest: why quarantine doesn’t work” (yesterday, item 5). There are a few problems with Hudson Birden’s arguments. To start with, his statement “quarantine won’t work” relates to “stopping an epidemic” as if limiting it isn’t worthwhile. He then qualifies this by saying quarantine was “partially successful” for Australia in 1919. He argues, however, it can’t work now because of “today’s speed of travel and volume of human movement”. But this is paralleled by faster communications and a larger government.

I think it would be easier to monitor a modern airport than a seaport of a century ago. Birden then resorts to stereotypes, arguing quarantine won’t work with “larrikin” “Aussies”. In fact, Australians have been chiding the authorities for not being strict enough. Furthermore we are told, “The public now perceives swine flu as being no worse than seasonal flu.” Well, that’s in no small part due to commentary like his! But his most amazing argument is that a partially successful quarantine would carry with it no “glory”, “glamour”, or “praise”.

No, this is not a briefing from a spin doctor; it’s an article by a health academic! Hopefully there won’t be an epidemic, but let’s not disarm society in advance.


Sally Goldner writes: Re. “‘Rip and read’ world coverage at the SMH” (yesterday, item 21). If you ever wanted more proof of how Fairfax papers continue their slide into tabloid oblivion, take a look at coverage of transsexual issues in The Age Monday 4 May and the Sunday Age 31 May.

The weekday Age disrespectfully uses inaccurate pronouns, in a possible breach of Victorian Equal Opportunity Law, due to pressure from editors and quotes well-known hotline from down under to the Vatican, Nicholas Tonti-Filipini as an independent ethicist. A respected investigative journalist like Karen Kissane must be reaching for the bottle at having this sort of sensationalist drivel under her by-line.

The Sunday Age coverage gives about 10% of print space to those supporting transgender lives and mainly at the end of articles after emotive language. Both ignore critical evidence linking depression and suicide in transsexuals to discrimination. The Age – or the Daily Telegraph in drag?

The economy:

Matthew Brennan writes: Re. “Why didn’t we hear about ‘grateful dead’ under the coalition?” (Yesterday, item 10). The Federal Opposition may beg to differ but I have to assume that tax rebates would have been made to estates of recently deceased tax payers primarily because the ATO had not been notified that the tax payers in question were dead by the date of payment. I don’t doubt that Mr Hockey will fulminate that the ATO is supposed to be notified when tfn abc-xyz-pqr shuffles off his/her mortal coil.

However this is the responsibility of the executor of the estate, and if the stages of administration of deceased estates on the ATO’s website are a guide, I rather think Mr Hockey (and his opposition colleagues) ought to shut up and consider there would be assorted unavoidable delays before the ATO learns the sad news, like having the funeral, appointing an executor, and the courts granting probate.

An educated guess would be that the estate of just about every Australian taxpayer who passed away in the month prior to the date of the rebate (and then some) would have received a payment. I wonder what all the surviving relatives think of the Federal Opposition’s attempt to make political capital out of the grateful dead. Trashy perhaps?

Martin Gordon writes: Media coverage of the extent of Rudd Government ministerial advisers flying first class (at $14,729 each) to the G20 meeting to discuss the global financial crisis seems to suggest an expectation of better judgement. Given payments to the dead, foreigners, prisoners, new toilet blocks for schools about to close why is anyone surprised anymore?

As for aircraft travel, the ALP is leading by example, i.e. leading from the front of the aircraft that is, and clearly stimulating the global aviation industry! As for the PM, after a while of his absurd photo shots in hard hats, it looked more like he was auditioning for the Village People!

John Kotsopoulos writes: Bernard Keane asks: “Why didn’t we hear about ‘grateful dead’ under the coalition.” C’mon Bernard that’s not fair. That was then and this is now. Given his propensity for delay and double talk, (what GFC?) I am sure the ex-merchant banker and one-time HIH advisor would have waited until everyone had finished dying before handing out the tax bonus.

Jobs for wonks:

Brian Mitchell writes: Re. “Jobs for wonks: do you want to work for Wayne or Malcolm?” (Yesterday, item 17). My expertise in economic forecasting is unsurpassed. The secret is to only use orange pekoe tea leaves.

Moira writes: I hereby apply for the position of Policy Adviser. I watch Insiders and I am fully conversant with all seven series of The West Wing.

Internet radio:

Stilgherrian writes: Gabe McGrath points out (yesterday, comments) three aspects of broadcast radio which he reckons will keep it alive — though they really boil down to two: emergency information and companionship. Yes, they’re important. But McGrath’s analysis still imagines “internet radio” as one centrally-produced feed that’s the same for everyone. That’s why I reckon calling it “internet radio” blinds people to the possibilities of a new medium. With portable location-aware smart devices and pervasive two-way broadband, that all changes.

That $160 plastic rabbit assembles your very own audio feed. Imagine it shuffling through your music, just like your iPod does now. It knows you like news at 7.30am, so it grabs a dozen headlines and reads them. One piques your interest. “Rabbit, more please!”, and it breaks out to read the full story. All the while, it’s monitoring traffic and emergency feeds and will interrupt to tell you anything relevant — but not about a traffic jam on the other side of the city.

As for companionship, with two-way bandwidth people can interact directly with their actual friends. They don’t need the faux-companion of a radio presenter leading them through the same mass-produced reminiscences as everyone else. Sure, there’ll still be conversation-leaders. But with the barriers to entry almost non-existent it needn’t be a stranger in a darkened mid-dawn studio funded by erectile dysfunction products. It could be that Sharon they’ve known since childhood, and who always did tell a good yarn.

Consumer spending:

Will Fettes writes: I’m not sure whether John Goldbaum (yesterday, comments) is coming from the point of view of a Malthusian critic of consumer spending on the left, or an exotic Austrian business cycle theorist on the right, but one thing is sure: reducing spending and increasing saving is the exact opposite of what you ought to do during a downturn. Basic macroeconomics tells us that governments play a counter-cyclical role in managing the business cycle. When times are good, the economy’s automatic stabilisers push the fiscal position into surplus, and fiscal restraint is necessary to prevent the economy overheating with inflation or a crowding out effect on private sector activity.

Conversely, when times are bad, those same stabilisers push the fiscal position into deficit, and depending on issues of timing and severity, the government may need to be more activist to stimulate demand. Usually timing issues are enough to deter a reasonably activist fiscal policy, because recessions can be over before they begin. However, the scale of the present crisis puts the need for activism beyond doubt, and governments of all stripes, both conservative and liberal, are sensibly churning out huge deficits around the world. The real debate here is about the nature of the stimulus, its size and timing.

Incidentally, the last time anyone followed Goldbaum’s advice was FDR in 1936-37, when he attempted to cut spending and raise taxes to restore the budget position in the midst of the Great Depression. That attempt crippled the US economy over 1937-38, reversing the trajectory of economic recovery under the New Deal, until unprecedented WWII public spending restored the recovery.

Goldbaum’s sentiments are probably good advice when limited to personal finances, but if applied to the broader economy they would be disastrous.

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

Tamas Calderwood writes: Re. “Global warming toward the EU’s upper limit” (yesterday, item 16). Andrew Glikson says we may be under the impression that temperatures have only risen by 0.8C since the dawn of the industrial age, but really it is much warmer because cooling from aerosols ‘masks’ this warming. He also says that global warming “may include periods of cooling”. In other words no matter what the temperature, it shows global warming.

He also asserts that Arctic Sea multi-year ice cover decreased from 2000-2009 and that solar sun-spot cycle effects are an order of magnitude less than the global warming effects of greenhouse gases.

So take a look at Arctic sea ice levels over 30 years on this Youtube time-lapse video: Can you see a trend?

As for the Sun, so far we have had 638 spotless days in the current solar minimum compared to an average of 485 over the last 10 minima. The Maunder Minimum of zero sunspots from 1661-1671 coincided with the coldest part of the little ice age, so Andrew’s assertion that solar activity has little to do with our climate is being tested right now. If temperatures continue to drop then the global warming hypothesis is toast.

Peter Fray

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