Ian Thorpe:

Katherine Stuart writes: Re. “Ian Thorpe: Australia’s dirty little secret” (yesterday, item 4). Ian Thorpe’s speech is indeed laudable for its straightforward asking why is this so? And identifying that the usual rationale for white people in this country is that it’s inevitable somehow. Which sounds an awful lot like not much has actually changed in the attitudes of white Australians in positions of political power to the First Australians since the days of the stolen generation, when it was hoped that “Aboriginality” could be bred out of Australia, or rather subsumed into the white population. That the whole “problem” would somehow go away. That there has been no real cultural change in the politics of indigenous affairs in this country.

Such entrenched attitudes and political cultures are indeed difficult to shift, but one idea that my friends and I have often talked about is sponsoring an Aboriginal child (a lá World Vision child sponsorship) in remote Australia. Put Jamie Drury or indeed Ian Thorpe in an ad for child sponsorship in remote Australia on prime time TV. Not only would that be of instant assistance, it might also engender a wave of shame of sufficient size and with enough momentum to engulf the white population of Australia, and once and for all wash away those old entrenched attitudes and truly close the gap.

Vincent Burke writes: Like many of the readers who commented on Ian Thorpe’s speech which he actually gave two weeks ago, I was surprised not to have heard about it before now. What a pity it was given in London and not here in Australia. I encourage readers to look back at the extract and make sure to read the whole speech. It makes for very salutary reading and left me feeling ashamed. At the risk of seeming patronising, we owe Ian Thorpe a lot for speaking so bluntly. It is sadly rare for a sports person to have the courage to do so. I think also of Matthew Mitcham in this regard. Thanks, Ian.

Great Keppel Island:

Tower Holdings Development Manager Anthony Aiossa writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (yesterday, item 8). Crikey published:

Spotted around Rockhampton/Yeppoon over the past few days, representatives of Tower Holdings. Their latest attempt to re-develop Great Keppel Island — bought by the company for a steal two years ago, before shutting down the resort despite it contradicting their agreement with the Queensland Government — fell through because nothing could convince the Woppaburra Land Trust to lease the land handed back to them only two years ago. Present at the handing back of the land on Great Keppel Island two years ago was Anna Bligh. Gordon Nuttall has nothing on this boiling kettle, and it’s all about to implode.

Tower Holdings is working with the local community on its plans to revitalise Great Keppel Island off Queensland’s Capricorn Coast. The plans include the establishment of a 1300-acre (545 hectare) environmental park on the Island. These plans do not involve any of the Woppaburra Land Trust’s holdings.

Tower Holdings had discussions with the Trust in 2007, but our proposal was not accepted. Tower Holdings respect the Trust’s decision and they have moved on. Tower Holdings have been encouraged to pursue a revised plan for the Island by the recently re-elected Bligh Government and its commitment to create 100,000 new jobs over three years and establish a Green Army.

The proposed development will be subject to an Environmental Impact Statement and it has the potential to create hundreds of new direct and indirect jobs, boost the local economy and strengthen Queensland’s tourism industry. Tower Holdings appreciates the support and the encouragement they have received from representatives from government, local industry and business.

California:

Michael James writes: Re. “Rundle: what’s happened to the once great state of California?” (Yesterday, item 13). My own take last month on the chaotic state of California was not so much that it is democracy out of control (it is), or even the allergy to taxes (extreme) but the re-creation of a curious kind of neo-feudal state with extreme disparities of wealth (apparently more billionaires than anywhere else on the planet) and an underclass, many immigrants and illegal aliens that are so lowly paid that they do not contribute to taxes. Even that arch-capitalist Henry Ford recognized about a century ago that it was a good idea that his own factory workers earned enough to be good consumers (he could have added, good tax payers which is even more important).

In Jennifer Steinhauer’s update of this saga in Wednesday’s New York Times, the 250 reader comments showed the problem. Some blamed the immigrants (the “reconquista” by Mexico) and the strain they put on government services (and on politicians), without recognizing that the cheap labour they provide to some parts of California’s industry (agriculture and service industries) results in excess profits accruing to big Agribusiness that is very adept at paying low taxes (some of those billionaires).

Some readers — in one of the richest places on earth — actually want medical and educational (even teachers) services cut back (as it happens that is exactly what the budget impasse is forcing). Others blame the “incredibly powerful unions” which is true but only in the sense that the workforce is extremely unequally protected by unions — if all workers especially those on the bottom of the heap were protected by unions and had a wage that could pay tax the state would be in much better shape.

Like most Americans they appear crippled by their ideology, and the only real sense comes from those readers who have lived elsewhere such as “Global Yank Paris” who wrote:

There’s no free lunch, and anyone who whines about high taxes in the United States or California might wonder why most European countries, which have higher tax rates, are so much more appealing as settings for civilized daily life.

But it is not so much the need for higher tax rates but a wage which suffices for taxes to be paid in the first place. This would be revolutionary but it seems almost impossible to achieve, especially in the context of one state in the union. Perhaps they really do need to secede (another topic of the occasional reader comment). But it seems the California Dreaming of “no taxes” is going to continue, even as it turns into a nightmare with no obvious end.

Digital radio:

Paul Hampton-Smith writes: Re. “Digital radio democracy jammed by commercial stations” (yesterday, item 6). The turf warfare between Geelong and Melbourne radio stations highlights the old-style thinking of digital radio introduction. If I had one, my digital TV would allow me to listen to the ABC’s Dig and Jazz digital radio channels. But on my laptop I can navigate to abcdigmusic.net.au and listen to their streamed versions. Perhaps Dig is not your cup of tea? No problem: according to live365.com there are 6000 plus internet radio stations to choose from worldwide.

Hmmm, let’s get this straight: a digital TV receives digital radio from two stations and is fixed in the lounge, and my laptop receives internet radio from 6000 stations and I can walk around the house with it. The only block to having an internet radio in a car is the cost of mobile broadband. Blaupunkt even sell them!

Sure — digital radios will be installed for a few years in cars, but the future of radio broadcasting is clearly via the internet, and when that happens, stations will compete worldwide. The Geelong stations would do well to prepare by producing compelling local content to avoid irrelevancy, rather than the bunker mentality of jamming Melbourne.

Cartels:

David Havyatt writes: Re. “The ACCC is failing to rein in the cartels” (yesterday, item 23). Sinclair Davidson has displayed that he certainly doesn’t like our competition and consumer regulator, but it is unclear exactly what he really thinks should occur. His association with the IPA and his recent writing as disclosed on his RMIT entry discloses someone who takes an extreme version of laissez-faire and then makes it more extreme. Take for example his assertion over petrol discounts, the rather bald statement that implies that any discount must be good for consumers, even if its medium term effect is to eliminate competition.

Trying to press the Auditor-General, that is the auditor of Government accounts and businesses, to attest to how the ACCC performs its functions, seems to be a confusion of responsibility. The ACCC does not operate on an “all care and no responsibility system of law enforcement”. Unless their targets decide to confess the ACCC has to convince a court, just like, say, the police.

By all means criticise Graeme Samuel for talking up his big game on cartels. He has been talking about them for ages as if he has an endless stream of cases ready for prosecution. But he hasn’t. Business has only itself to blame, they pushed through the idea that mergers are okay because competition is only damaged by collusion not concentration.

And anyone who thinks that petrol “shop a dockets” have been good for competition in groceries or petrol needs their head examined. Let’s see how it works. If I buy $100 of groceries I can save $4 on petrol. So I’m prepared to spend $103 to save my $4 — I’m a dollar ahead. Armed with my docket (the first expenditure now being sunk) if I buy my $100 of petrol from my retailer’s outlet I save $4. In fact I’d be prepared to spend $103 to save $4. All up I’m prepared to spend $206 dollars to save the one lot of $4 — nett $202 instead of spending $200 at the competition.

This is the magic of bundling — the consumer ascribes the entire value of the discount to each product separately.

They should put a dog on the moon:

Alan Lander writes: Re. “Rundle: stuff the Moon, stuff Mars, let’s go to the stars” (Wednesday, item 11). While it is wonderful to celebrate the first man’s walk on the moon, what about First Dog on the moon? Could Mr Onthemoon tell us whether he in fact walked the moon before man, or did he catch a later flight, or was he the first dog to be walked on the moon? Did he know that poor girl Laika?

Perhaps Mr Armstrong really meant to say “It’s one small step for (a) man, and a giant leap to avoid the first dog turd on the moon”.

I would also know what Kevin Rudd’s cat thinks about this, because he usually has an explanation for these things.

Lance Armstrong:

Geoff Russell writes: Re. “The agony of the Tour de France (and middle-aged cyclists)” (yesterday, item 17). Nobody in the known universe likes exaggeration more than me, but if Margot Saville’s 12 year old is bigger than the 177cm (5 foot 9″) 75kg Lance Armstrong, then I’d be off to Bunnings for a stomach stapling kit. The median height and weight of a 12 year old boy is 150cm (a bit under 5′) and 42 kg.

The public service:

Mark Riboldi writes: Re. “The role of the public service: Crikey readers respond” (Tuesday, item 15). Exactly what is in the public interest is slippery to define. How can one person know what is best for the majority of people? Sure, we’ve all got opinions on how things should or could be done, but who’s to say that my or your or anyone’s way is the right way to do it? An action that is in the best interest of one group of people may be completely against what’s best for another group.

If anyone is going to decide what is in the public interest, it ought to be someone who has been given a mandate to by that same public. And this is what democratic governments, through elections, have. They don’t have a blanket mandate to do whatever the hell they want – there are a series of checks and balances, including an Opposition, the two houses of parliament, and also the media. It’s not just one person making the decisions.

In terms of public interest, governments and ministers have accountability. If we the public don’t like the decisions the government makes on our behalf, we can vote someone else in to do it. A public servant, with no accountability, has no such mandate to act in what they think the public interest might be. Their duty to the public interest, to answer Crikey’s question, is to do their job of advising the government of the day on policy (which is in the public interest).

But then is it ever appropriate for a public servant to leak information to the media? I would argue that yes, there are occasions where it is. The government is entitled to govern, definitely, but the decisions they make and they actions they take have to be within the law. When a government, or representative of that government steps outside of the law, no matter how much in the public interest their actions might be, anyone who knows about it has the responsibility to blow the whistle loud and clear.

Climate change:

Peter Finnegan writes: At last. Congratulations to Ben Aveling (yesterday, comments) for setting down in black and white just how inept all the posturing and humbug about the proposed fixes for Climate Change being postulated by those who simply deny human nature and commercial greed.

Nothing, absolutely nothing ain’t gonna change in those areas, very little curative measures will be successful, either in depth of endeavour or in time constraints, and the inevitable chaos can clearly be seen down the track.

As Ben said, “the sooner we accept it, the better”. Better start working on your personal disaster plans for your children and grandchildren now.

Peter Jones writes: Yesterday Marilyn Shepherd (yesterday, comments) repeated what is becoming a common line amongst right wing “greens” — that it’s consumers who are the real polluters, not corporations. This is nonsense. The term “big polluters” applies to polluting companies — and not to household consumers — because polluting companies continue to block efforts to achieve a transition to a zero carbon economy. Conversely, ordinary consumers are, on the whole, very supportive of such a transition.

We aren’t each individually responsible for “our own” pollution because the only conceivable solution to climate change is a collective one. Individuals quite reasonably take the view that there is no point paying extra for ‘green power’ when others aren’t required to do the same. Moreover, under capitalism, workers don’t make decisions about how the economy is run, so they can’t be held accountable (and shouldn’t be made to pay) for the fact that governments and polluters have failed to make the transition to a zero carbon economy.

Polluting companies are rightly demonised for profiting from the destruction of the planet, because they are actively preventing the radical collective change that is required. Believing that individuals can stop climate change by ‘reducing their own emissions’ is utopian.

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