Wilson Tuckey:

John Goldbaum writes: Re. “It’s Tuckey time! Wilson’s email on Turnbull and climate change” (yesterday, item 2). Dear Wilson, hon, here is my detailed response.

Emissions will be capped at a certain level which will be less than the current level and this will be put in place by a global agreement and then the caps may be reduced further over time by subsequent global agreement. I’m sorry to hear that you keep getting arrested in the street and in the airport by strangers who recognise your mug shot.

They are probably too afraid to raise their concerns with you. I would suggest you ought not talk to them.

Nigel Brunel writes: The ignorance and hubris of Wilson Tuckey is nothing short of breathtaking — I can smell the carbon on his breath from here in NZ. Wilson is a relic — he gives old people a bad name.

Guy Rundle, space travel and Jefferson Starship:

Jim Hart writes: Re. “Rundle: stuff the Moon, stuff Mars, let’s go to the stars” (yesterday, item 11). Guy Rundle wasn’t just smoking a funny cigarette before writing item 11 today. He was also playing his old Jefferson Starship album “Blows Against the Empire” that he’s had since 1971…

You know — a starship circlin in the sky —
it ought to be ready by 1990
They’ll be buildin it up in the air even since 1980
People with a clever plan can assume the role of the mighty
Carry 7000 people past the sun
And our babes’ll wander naked thru the cities of the universe
free minds, free bodies, free dope, free music
the day is on its way the day is ours

OK, so they were a bit optimistic in their timing but what’s a decade or two when the universe is waiting. The day is on its way.

Michael James writes: Noble ideas, Guy, and from a science-geek kid that was sent home from school to watch the Moonwalk I reckon I can match your romantic imagination. But yes, we have a few problems on the little garden planet, and if we (H.sapiens) want to be around to see it in another 100 years perhaps we should focus a tad more on those problems and get ourselves back to the garden.

(Actually the two things are not mutually exclusive; let’s send Wilson Tuckey, Ron Boswell, Barnaby Joyce and Steve Fielding to Mars! Please.)

Benjamin Teale writes: Guy Rundle’s piece describes a vision that any global Technocratic movement should aspire to. I’d gladly donate 12.5% of my income for such a purpose, perhaps Guy should set up a charitable trust?


John Bostock writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (yesterday, item 6). I think Telstra’s Memo service has gone down hill. It is a service which provides a real person to answer your mobile if you are not available. That person sends a text with a message if necessary. It might have been moved to Bangalore because I feel that the people, when they eventually take the call seem remote. One does not often ring oneself but I suggest that you try it and see if you agree that the answering service, which could be your business front door, should be improved.

Latte watch:

Tony Barrell writes: Re. “Tuckey and co: nine MPs Malcolm Turnbull should remainder” (yesterday, item 9). I know that Bernard Keane regards it as a mark of honour to be seen parading contrary positions and good luck to him. He’s often funny. But in his piece about coalition dead wood in the federal parliament he has once again relied on that untrustworthy social stigmatiser “the latte set” to make a point about Ron Boswell’s view of people who live in cities.

As I have suggested on frequent occasions “café latte” (i.e. coffee with milk) is the preferred beverage of all kinds of suburban and regional caffeine addicts living within range of an espresso machine. People on farms even own their own.

To be trying to define your position with such outmoded sneers is much like Ian Plimer blaming the drive to stop greenhouse emissions on a hysterical conspiracy of pseudo scientists with a sinister anti-human gender.

Well, not really, but maybe you can persuade him to dig up another term that might amuse us and prove how original and sharp he really can be.

“Forgettery” and Therese Rein:

John Bennetts writes: Re. Megan Stoyles (Tuesday, comments). French accents in the name of an Aussie, whether or not she happens to the the PM’s wife and has a net worth a hundred times my own are affectations. I have consigned the accents on Therese’s name to the Forgettery.

The public service:

Cynthia Kardell writes: Re. “The role of the public service: Crikey readers respond” (Tuesday, item 15). The public service should keep the public’s interest uppermost in considering and providing the government of the day with information and advice and the government, in its turn should openly discuss it in Parliament, with the media and more widely as and when required and why they intend to follow some or none of it.

There should always be a tension between recognising that the government has a party political interest (in wanting to do a particular thing) and knowing that that interest, should be tested against the wider public interest. Advices should always be provided in that context, because public servants exist, like the government, to serve the public.


Simon Hughes writes: Re. “Literature? What’s that got to do with the price of books?” (Tuesday, item 18). While one or two authors, under strange imperative of the muse, have inveighed against the Productivity Commission in such terms as at to make themselves look like prats, this should not be the occasion for commentators like Stilgherian to sink the boot into literary production itself. It is really very surprising the sneering regard Stilgherian and the leader writers of The Australian newspaper, as another example, hold writers and their literary efforts.

Almost as surprising as the low opinion those same writers entertain of economic levellers like the so-called Coalition for Cheaper Books and the Productivity Commission. It is as if the one group believes that literature is next to sodomy (the up-itself factor) while the other clearly has determined that the un-lit masses are mere hoi polloi. Both sides are in danger of pole-axing the local publishing industry through mutual loathing.

One of the worst jobs I ever had, in the Derek and Clive tradition of such reminiscence, was working as a reader for a large Australian publishing house. O, all right, it was Allen & Unwin. Daily, unsolicited manuscripts, over-wrapped and addressed in that particular hand which is a warning to all publishers, tumbled from the courier’s sack. I think in an 18-month period, only one of many dozens of manuscripts was approved for publication. Stilgherrian, playing the iconoclast, fervently wishes for the demise of houses like Allen & Unwin. In their place, he foresees a brave new world of electronic publication without elitist gate-keepers enforcing outmoded literary standards.

In fact, Stilgherrian should be forever grateful to me (and all the other readers at publishing houses) that he did not have to read the shit I did in order that ungrateful bastards like him be spared that experience. And what credentials do I and other professional readers possess that permits us to make such judgements of worth? Let’s just say that if it looks like a turd and it smells like a turd you can be pretty certain that it is the steaming article.

Stilgherrian is right on one point at least. If the recommendations of the PC are accepted by the government without demur from voters and Australian publishing houses are allowed to wither on the vine, then local readers will get the literary product they deserve. Undifferentiated and prolix, you may be sure, if oh so wonderfully cheap. As for the suggestion that authors of literary product should be content with the virtual abandonment of copyright (after all, musicians have been ripped off by the new technology for years) what writer is willing to endure poverty for years at a stretch in order to make decent books? Stilgherrian is determined to deny the starving writer even that pleasure. I mean the codex is so medieval, yeah?

There are anomalies in the pricing system of books in this country. One would suggest, though, that the fat built into the RRP of a book is designed to help cover the cost of the risk of publishing. (Not to mention design and promotion.) And the fact is that the unit cost of a book does not automatically signal profit. I once wrote a lovely book (RRP $29.95) whose sales no way equated to the generous advance I received. And for fuck’s sake, it’s not as if consumers don’t have access to cheaper books through outlets like the estimable Book Depository anyway. (Many thanks to Bob Carr and Co for pointing me towards this supplier.)

We live in a country which over the past two decades has been at pains to destroy its theatre and film industry in the service of a dubious economic nostrum. Now it seems it is literature’s turn to mount the scaffold. Other countries actively and generously support their art and artists, so why not we? It is a mystery and a disturbing one at that. As my old mother would have pointed out, folk like Stilgherrian and the PC know the price of everything and the value of nothing.

Stephen Luntz writes: I’m rather surprised that none of those responding to Stilgherrian’s ode to electronic publishing picked up the essential mistake at the heart of his argument. Take this quote “Apple’s iTunes music store, for instance, whatever faults some may point out, can still profitably distribute a musician’s creations for 30% commission compared with the traditional music trade’s 90%.”

Really? Are musicians getting seven times the share of music sold at iTunes they get from shops? Regrettably not. When a musician signs with a record company the company pays for a producer, recording time, music videos (perhaps), distribution and promotion, CD production and distribution. For this they take the bulk of the cover price of the CD. Amazon or your local record store take a minority. If you sell through iTunes, Apple gets 30%, but most of the other 70% still ends up the company. You save the printing and distribution costs, but not the other items. It’s a small saving compared to the fact that the sale price per song is only about half as high through iTunes – out of necessity because they’re competing against free copies made without the author’s consent.

Many of these contracts are exploitative, and more and more artists choose to go it alone. If they do they shell out for these things themselves, and get a share of the cover price more similar to that received through iTunes than the 10% Stilgherrian claims.

With books the cost of printing is a larger share of the costs than for CDs, but the fact remains that using electronic distribution will still not eliminate the need for skilled editors, promotions, book tours etc. It may be that technology such as the Kindle will prove a long term boon for authors, but there is at least as much reason to suspect it will see their incomes hammered. It’s understandable that authors such as Winton aren’t rushing towards it with Stilgherrian’s open arms, and apparently shut eyes.

Climate change:

Ben Aveling writes: Re. “Opposition suffers another climate change brain explosion” (yesterday, item 8). It’s time to accept that we, as a species, are not going to take the necessary steps in time to avoid serious levels of climate change. Yes, we should keep pushing for lower carbon emissions, but it is clear that only the naive can hope that serious impact can be avoided.

Domestically, we are going to have to deal with increased levels of tropical diseases and bugs, reductions in the productivity of our current crops, the partial or total loss of the Great Barrier Reef, rising sea-levels, more cyclones, increased rainfall in some regions and reduced rainfall in other regions.

Internationally, the same factors will cost lives and livelihoods, putting some currently stable societies under population pressure, and driving increases in conflict, refugees and, yes, terrorism.

We are going to have to invest in our military, in seawalls, in tropical disease prevention and treatment, in new crops, and in desalination on a massive scale, not to mention refugee camps.

The total cost will be much greater than the cost of preventing climate change would be — were there a way to share that cost fairly. Sadly, the benefits of reducing carbon emissions are spread widely, the cost is not, and there is no real hope that will change any time soon. As with the tragedy of the commons, what is good for the collective is bad for the individual and vice-versa.

Realpolitik dictates that what we cannot prevent we must endure, and the sooner we accept that, the better prepared we can be.

Marilyn Shepherd writes: I do get weary of stupid comments like “big polluters will be able to pollute more” when single people cut down their own emissions because it has no basis in any fact. Every person in Australia are the big polluters, not one company. Coal fired power stations cannot store power, it is only supplied on demand by customers. All customers reduce their own emissions, less coal is burnt, and fewer emissions all round.

Oil companies? Everyone stops driving so much and takes buses and trains – less oil used, less emissions, less greenhouse pollution. Aluminium companies? Boycott the bloody stuff, less aluminium produced, less emissions, another product will have to be invented or they will go broke.

See how easy it is instead of the bleating about so-called big emitters? No-one has a clue who Crikey are talking about because we are all the big emitters — except me of course.

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