Grimshaw vs. Ramsay:

Derryn Hinch writes: Re. “Is Tracy Grimshaw the most powerful person on TV?” (Yesterday, item 4). It’s been great seeing a current affairs host actually having and voicing an opinion. And I’ve already sent Ms. Grimshaw a herogram. But, c’mon Glenn Dyer, don’t make it sound like trailblazing.

“It was a personal editorial, presented to camera, with frequent use of the word “I” instead of “We” which would have signified that this was ACA talking. Instead, Grimshaw took a leaf out of the Keith Olbermann style of news presentation and sprinkled it with a touch of Howard Beale by personalising the message — she made herself and the program one and the same”.

Somebody else did that every night for six years on a prime time top-rating program called HINCH.

Paul Howell writes: To compare Tracy Grimshaw with Keith Olbermann is akin to comparing Bob Dylan with Shannon Noll. I’ll presume you were suffering from deadline stress, intoxication (or perhaps both) and will let it slide for now, but don’t let it happen again. Wishing you the best in your recovery.

Bev Kilsby writes: I think it is a pity that Tracy Grimshaw had to be so upset by the comment by Gordon Ramsay; this can happen in the work force. And while quite a few people could be hurt, they discover ways of handling the problem. And I am sure that the Prime Minster does not speak on everyone’s behalf. We all have to cope the best way with one another; how else do you learn sometimes? By mistakes and sometimes new knowledge.

Keith Binns writes: Why are you wasting space on this story? Surely no-one intelligent and discerning enough to subscribe to Crikey watches A Current Affair or gives a toss.

Ian Sinclair writes: Re. Yesterday’s editorial. Come on Crikey. You blame defenceless Kev. How about blaming your profession? Your colleagues ask trite and puerile questions constantly. If he doesn’t answer them it provides a stupid story fir them “Mr Rudd failed to…” and if he answers them you preach from your pulpit.

How about looking past the superficial and considering what has made him comment? Your editorial is facile, comment that would be befitting of a shock-jock, another of your profession’s breed. You mob claim that you are valuable in restraining government yet so many of you appear to be experts on nothing and that includes writing and grammar. While I’m at it, Annabelle Crabb has been increasingly driving me mad with what is supposed to be humour. She criticised Rudd’s hair-do yet hers ain’t too dainty either. And I don’t like her choice in clothes either. An editorial there!

Regardless Mr Editor, bring your own mob into line. Personal opinions are fine when they are based on reasonably research facts but gratuitous advice on matters out of an interviewee’s control is rather silly. Yet I agree with you!

Just stop the ferals being feral … bring some tone to those journalistic occasions.

Of course they would love Rudd to spit the dummy so that could make such a wonderful headline.

Look in your own backyard.

David Lenihan writes: My impression is that Rudd comments when asked — so big bloody deal! It is not as if it’s happening every time there is a media interview, but of course there would be no need for you to write such rubbish unless it was exaggerated and dressed up.

Surely a good example in Crikey’s case of the pot calling the kettle, that you even waste your time commenting as a head article. Perhaps it would be more worthwhile to point out the trivial attacks by the Opposition on favourites being appointed to the Government front bench, or how dare Rudd say Julia Gillard will be the next Labor PM (shame), or disgraceful, a car given to the PM’s electorate office 10 years ago is a heinous crime, even though it was declared, oh my God.

This is the trivial rubbish being dished up by a washed up Opposition and they want to be taken seriously. If the PM wants to comment on whatever he wants, so be it … who gives a … except Crikey, obviously too lazy to comment on important matters of the day?

There are plenty of them.

David Hardie writes: How can it be said that Rudd’s social views are “conservative” when they “happen to align quite nicely with those of most voters”? That would make them “mainstream” social views. “Conservative” social views would be akin to a return of the “God, King and Country” mentality of the Howard era (e.g. here, and here) and it is a mistake to confuse them.


Sally Fielke, Chief Executive Officer, Australian Hotels Association (NSW), writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (4 June, item 8). Whilst it is not our policy to “nit pick” Crikey, we do need to pull you up on a significant error of fact.

Your recent “Tips and rumours” section incorrectly stated there were “more than 100,000” poker machines in pubs. The most recent NSW Government data reveals there are currently 23,793 poker machines in NSW pubs (down from 24,132 in March ’05).

NSW Clubs continue to operate three times as many poker machines as NSW hotels. Today there are 72,430 Club poker machines.

Bob Brown:

A Crikey reader writes: Re. “Bob Brown should pay his own legal bills” (yesterday, item 3). Why would Crikey publish this recent piece of drivel by Greg Barns which is clearly ill informed, as merely a simple reading of yesterday’s Crikey would amply demonstrate: This is the relevant extract from Bernard Keane’s initial article, “Howard’s Dead hand behind the Bob Brown Bankruptcy Scare“:

Forestry Tasmania is owned by the Tasmanian Government and has close links with logging company Gunns. Gunns unsuccessfully tried to litigate Brown and other environmentalists out of the forestry debate with a punitive lawsuit that has progressively collapsed, although the company is still pursuing seven individuals.

The Forestry Tasmania action, however, is a different matter. This is the Tasmania Government pursuing Brown for daring to beat it in court to such an extent that it changed the rules to ensure victory.

So, contra Barns, this demonstrates it’s not just a case of Brown taking legal action, being a sore loser and cynically appealing for support. Insidiously, Brown won initially — but the Tasmanian and Howard Government’s moved to change the legislation so that ultimately he lost at the High Court level…Greg’s analogies with ordinary punters losing legal cases are wrong.

Rule changes mid-stream are always suspect but are naturally a prerogative of power.

For Barns, who likes to champion himself as a fighter for human rights and the underdog this is a curious case.

The shame is its hard to tell whether he is just talking the book of the legal fraternity, i.e., that those who lose should just pay up (sotto voce — especially legal fees); that he sounds more like a right wing shock jock such as Jim Ball on 2UE who sprouted exactly this same line of attack against Brown (off the back of an Australian editorial, no less); or — and most lame of all — that he can’t see the wood from the trees and continues to let an unhealthy obsession against the Greens get in the way of good analysis.

Frankly there are lot worse abusers of authority and power Barns should train his not inconsiderable talents onto than the Greens, and he would do us all a great deal more of good.

Guy Rundle writes: I like about half the things Greg Barns writes — I find the other half so mad that I retrace my steps on the stuff I agree with him on, to work out where I’ve gone wrong.

Yesterday’s blast on Bob Brown was the maddest thing ever. Brown mounted a court-case, was done out of a victory by retrospective legislation and let his supporters know about it. It was a case in line with the things he was elected to advance and represent — he wasn’t appealing for support because he lost a car insurance claim. Supporters rallied round, seeing the incident as part of a continuum of fighting for green issues. Standard politics.

Barns’s animus stems from his impotent fury at the Greens for dominating Tasmania, at a time when Barns left the prime ministers office to join the AUSTRALIAN DEMOCRATS in TASMANIA, perhaps the dumbest move in political history.

Greg before writing about Bob et al, lie down with a cold flannel on your face. Otherwise all you do is embarrass yourself.

Keith Thomas writes: Greg Barns has, as usual, taken a stand which is blinkered, to put it mildly, under the misapprehension that he has gone to the heart of the matter. I have been a (very small) supporter of Bob Brown’s Weilangta campaign and was pleased to contribute on Tuesday a small amount from my pension towards the legal fees that Bob incurred in that campaign. If any of the “thousands of Australians who each day are sent bankrupt … because they too have to pay a legal bill” incurred their bill as part of the Weilangta campaign, I’ll be pleased to help them out as best I can.

I’m not sure there are “thousands” made bankrupt every day because they can’t pay their legal bills, but Greg is a lawyer, so I suppose he’d know the facts. What I do know is that there are not thousands of Australians who “every day” are prepared to make the sort of sacrifices Bob made to protect our environment. Most of us do little more than express our outrage over the internet. Bob actually does real things and I’m willing to overlook what I regard as Bob’s unsustainable and contradictory positions on social justice issues to support his strong actions and leadership on the environment.

Geoff Russell writes: If Bob Brown was threatened with bankruptcy because of a poor business decision or some silly defamation action he undertook, then I’d agree with Greg Barnes … it should be on his own head. But Bob Brown took action on behalf of all Australians who care about native forests, so it is perfectly reasonable that all those Australians contribute to his legal costs.

The added injustice of the manipulation of the legal system by John Howard (pointed out by Bernard Keane yesterday) is all the more reason why Brown shouldn’t suffer personally as a result of his actions … which, unlike most actions of many politicians, were not aimed a personal gain.

Tax rates:

Andrew Lewis writes: Re. “Looking out for the ladies: Australia’s future tax system” (yesterday, item 14). Good to see Eva Cox continuing her sterling work. It was noteworthy, and praiseworthy, that the Women’s Electoral Lobby lobbied the Review to the effect that “sustaining better societies requires tax policies that encourage judicious mixes of individual initiatives with collective inputs and sharing. How much is collected and what our representatives and servants do with it determine when the public sphere shares risk collectively and what levels of social equity are deemed necessary.”

That’s telling ’em! The mandarins will be shaking in their boots, egad.

But Eva does raise a strong point about representation, and alludes to a lack of representation that is even worse than the token women or two. Without knowing the list of invitees, I wonder how many of them are earning less than say $100k per annum? I’m sure there will be great diversity in opinions from these highly remunerated (Anglo?) males.

FWIW, I also sent a letter, as opposed to a submission, to the Henry Review. In 1 page, I enquired of them why Effective Marginal Tax rates continue to be ignored as a problem.

Simpler still, I asked them that apart from earning the country enough money to run a government, the tax system first and foremost should not distort decisions, so that income tax, capital gains tax etc are at the same rate.

Yeah, I’m not expecting any response from the Review. My message to the Review is the same one I would give to the Women’s Electoral Lobby; viz; “Simplify!”

The sexualisation of children:

Sean Hosking writes: Re. “Fine to Hamilton: No evidence media images cause child abuse” (yesterday, item 24). Thanks Duncan Fine for your cool and well crafted retort to Clive Hamilton’s “dull” and “conservative” views on the sexualisation of children. I like its hipness, kicking off with a short, sharp, (and ostensibly witty) opening line like something straight out of a punchy catalogue , quickly slipping into that informal tone that really relaxed people have — the sort of people that use the word “pally” … and then getting down to the business of hammering all those stiff old “dull” people who are so crass as to make judgements about the complex cultural filtering of commercial messages through the media in order to move product and its effect on children.

As you so forensically point out these people are always “self appointed”, “dull”, “neurotic” “sniffy”, “gullible” and have arms that invariably “flail”. They always want to ban things — which is just so crass and old world. And who the hell is so gauche as to talk about cause and effect nowadays. Come on.

They really should just get with it and let the great waves of commercial manipulations wash over them like tuned-in modern consumer/people do. At the very least a degree in cultural studies would help. Thanks Duncan, I feel strangely empowered in a kind of hopelessly naive but appropriately fashionable sort of way…

Solar power:

Michael James writes: Re. “Australia’s solar industry left in the shade” (yesterday, item 16). Laurie Mallia’s article in yesterday’s Crikey supporting Solar-PV subsidies is yet another confusing addition to the chatter on this issue. It is important that those who support renewable energy be absolutely clear and honest about the reasons and the radical differences between “rooftop solar energy systems”. There are only two main reasons to support heavy subsidies of solar-PV on private houses, neither of which relates to the meagre power they supply. The main one is to support a local solar-PV cell manufacturing industry — and for a proper assessment on would need to know how much of the gear being installed is made locally or is from Germany or the US (anyone?). The second and very much secondary reason is to promote awareness and participation amongst the population.

Many who support serious funding for renewable energy do not believe on balance that solar-PV warrants such support. It is very cost inefficient especially compared to solar-HotWater. The absurd situation that probably exists is that the government may be subsidizing the much higher-cost/lower power savings of PV in houses that do not have solar-HW! The latter almost totally replaces the single largest power consuming device in the home while the former barely boils an egg.

As Mallia points out, Australia has one of the highest insolation factors in the world which makes solar-HW extremely efficient and of top priority. (Solar-PV remains exceedingly inefficient anywhere in the world.) Of course solar-HW is a low tech industry run by small businesses, or even self-installed, so the big end of town instinctively dislikes it. Governments should be its best champion but especially state governments often have a secret aversion to it because of the very reason it is good: it permanently reduces power utility bills, and worse does not replace it with another pay-in-perpetuity system whose payments can be increased arbitrarily over time.

(In Queensland our electricity rates have just gone up 16%.) If you don’t believe governments can be so perverse just think about their support of the most fantastically inefficient water “solution” — desalination — which enforces us to pay, forever with no means of avoidance, for a service, from a for-profit private company, that may not actually ever be required.

Unfortunately Mallia’s article continues to confuse Australians by not being clear on the alternatives (solar-PV, solar-HW) and will no doubt spill over into confusion about government policy on large-scale (non-domestic) renewable energy programs. Solar-PV is not ready for primer time, especially in Australia where the insolation and the plentiful otherwise unproductive land, not to mention economics, greatly favour solar-thermal (a.k.a. Concentrated Solar Power, CSP, very roughly equivalent to domestic solar-HW technology).

So, for clarity, this logic implies that while the government should support research by CSIRO and others into improving solar-PV, the main thrust should be putting considerable resources into building actual industrial-scale solar-thermal power plants while also subsidizing domestic solar-HW. (For brevity, omitting discussion of worthy wind-power and geothermal power.)

Anything else needs special pleading and is of dubious worth, notwithstanding Germany’s example. Anyone who believes we should support a local solar-PV industry and who ever voted for John Howard, should immediately slap themselves around the head or repeatedly smash it against the nearest brick wall because their hero set back the industry years, if not actually dealing it a death blow.

David Wood writes: Laurie Mallia of the Clean Energy Council points out the capriciousness of government support for small scale renewable energy generators in the Federal Government’s summary removal of the solar rebate. Another example is the vast differences between the feed in tariff regimes in the different states. However in many ways the biggest example is the almost exclusive use of “solar” in conjunction with these schemes.

Australia is the only country in the world where governments discriminate in favour of one renewable technology, photovoltaics (PVs), in rebates and feed in tariffs. Other technologies, such as small scale wind, which can be much more cost-effective in appropriate locations, are locked out. Even more than it has for the PV industry, Australia has stymied the development of small-scale wind and further distorted the development of renewable technologies by attempting to pick winners rather than levelling the playing field by having non-specific feed in tariffs.

It would also be nice if the Clean Energy Council actually supported all forms of clean energy.

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

Stuart Moore writes: Despite Graham Major’s implied expertise (yesterday, comments) his demonstration using carbon dioxide and test tubes is flawed on a most fundamental, and inexcusable level — that is that the earth’s atmosphere is not constrained, or capped, like the test tube and is instead open to vacuum (space). Of course a close tube will simply get hotter and hotter.

But an open system such as the earth is much, much, more complicated with mechanisms involving water vapour and radiative transfer of heat to space, as examples, that assist mitigation of temperature extremes once the temperature forcing limit of Carbon Dioxide is exceeded. In the earth system temperature will not soar forever upwards simply as function of CO2 concentration. It is yet another serious flaw, like the famed hockey stick, of so called climatologists that the earth is definitely not a closed system like a greenhouse.

Matt Andrews writes: It’s quite remarkable how people who are so interested in climate change are apparently entirely incapable of actually familiarising themselves with the basic science (yes, Tamas Calderwood (yesterday, comments), I’m looking at you).

Tell you what, doubters, why don’t you go and read the latest IPCC report (it’s actually quite readable), or if that’s too hard, have a read through an introductory site like Skeptical Science which covers most of the claims made out there in the interwebs against the current science.

Then, if you still have any substantial doubts over anthropogenic global warming, and you can actually cite credible science supporting your claims, I’m sure we’d be all ears.