NT politics:

The editor of Northern Territory News Julian Ricci writes: There are so many blatant falsehoods and inaccuracies in the dribble that appeared under David Curl’s byline (twice) that it barely deserves a response. But he, and Crikey, cannot be allowed to get off that lightly.

Curl (yesterday Item 10 NT washup:desperately seeking stability) writes that the recent Territory government crisis was precipitated by the resignation of two ministers who both resigned citing articles in the NT News, and not over some major policy issue. That bit’s at least true … well, at least, that’s what both former ministers are on the record as saying when they stepped down. He states that both pieces were written by senior journalist Nigel Adlam. Wrong. The first article was written by political reporter Nick Calacouras which led to the resignation of Minister for Indigenous Policy Marion Scrymgour.

The second was a commentary piece written by Adlam at the senior editorial team’s direction. It was the opinion of the newspaper. The new Minister for Indigenous Policy Alison Anderson blamed Chief Minister Henderson’s lack of rebuttal for her resignation. This reduced the Labor government to an equal number of members with the Opposition CLP. Labor needed a one-in-a-million series of events to keep it in power over the next two weeks, and the first happened when Scrymgour incredibly rejoined Labor.

But it remained a minority government. If the CLP had asked Anderson and the remaining independent, the conservative-leaning Gerry Wood, to support its motion of no confidence in the government and go to a fresh election, it would likely have succeeded. If it had gone to an election – which the NT News consistently advocated over a two-week period (in no less than five different editorials) – the CLP would have, in all likelihood, won in a landslide.

But, incredibly, the CLP came out saying it did not want an election and instead preferred to stitch up a powerbroking deal with Anderson and Wood. By the time the vote rolled around, the canny Wood had decided to give his conservative vote to Labor in return for an extraordinary series of concessions from Henderson and his government. The Labor government is now effectively hamstrung for the remainder of its current term.

Curl’s ludicrous tosh infers that the NT News, through Adlam whose wife works for the Chief Minister, had somehow concocted this whole scenario to the benefit of Labor.  Great plan. Force Labor out of office or cripple it for three years. Is it just me or does anybody else think how ridiculous this – and Curl’s conspiracy rubbish – sounds?

Adlam is also not the chief of staff, as Curl wrote. He stepped down from that role over a year ago. And, it‘s worth noting that before Adlam, the NT News’ chief of staff was Gary Shipway, who had formerly worked as a senior adviser for the CLP for many years. Both are first rate journos. And there’s no such thing as the “Darwin Parliament”. It’s the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. Gerry Wood is not an MP. He’s an MLA.

Finally, Curl states “free speech and independent opinion* are also in dangerously short supply” in the Territory. We say if Curl regards the NT’s non-aligned daily newspaper, a regional bi-weekly, four community newspapers, several regional weeklies, the ABC, three commercial TV stations and many more radio stations as a “dangerously short supply”, he must regard Sydney and Melbourne as the only population centres where people can relax, free of the misplaced fear of manipulated news coverage.

FOOTNOTE*: Over the last nine days of the political crisis the NT News published more than 100 letters and more than 350 text messages on the subject from its readers.

Cubbie Station:

John Clements writes: Re. “Cubbie Station out to con the taxpayer, says Heffernan” (yesterday, item 2). Cubbie Station out to con the taxpayer, says Heffernan. Only if the taxpayer wants to be conned, Bill, and there is plenty of political conning going on in water as Senator Bill well understands.

Cubbie are principally harvesters of overland flow water. To harvest that water they need to acquire non irrigated grazing country and justify their capture of water based on the overall area of scrub/grazing country that they own. Essentially the water they capture comes from water ponded on their owned landscape. Much of this water in natural undeveloped conditions would lay on this landscape and evaporate, it grew pigs and sandflies. Certainly water would also travel over the landscape and enter the Condamine Balonne but nowhere near a one for one equation.

So what is the interest in Cubbie? It is a visibly large one unit development in Queensland that captures on average far less than half of one percent of the total of water removed from the Murray Darling Basin for consumptive use. There is a great quote attributed to Bobby Kennedy (a truly great Senator, love him or loathe him): “In politics where there is smoke, there is usually a man with a smoke machine.”

Cubby is a political smoke machine for Messer’s Senator Bill and Senator Nick amongst many others. The core message by the smoke merchants? Centralise natural resource management decision making in Canberra because we pure senators don’t play politics — give it a rest please.

Regional communities have much to fear from centralised and heavily politicised decision making in regard of our industries that interact with the natural environment.

Marion Diamond writes: God alone knows the rights and wrongs of Cubbie Station’s water entitlements, except that anyone with half a brain knows they are excessive for the health of the Murray-Darling system. But so far, the discussion of whether the Federal and/or State governments should purchase the station has dealt only with the cost, and not with the benefit of acquiring a valuable asset that could be used for other purposes.

Yes, the water should flow again, but the station should become something other than another national park on degraded land. I’d like to see the argument turned around. Cubbie Station covers nearly 100,000 hectares in a region of strong sunlight and low rainfall and cloud cover; it has access to a labour force (currently it employs about 100 people); there is considerable infrastructure both on the property and linking it to the rest of Queensland; and as we all know, it has water storage and distribution facilities bar none.

If the government buys this asset, there is the capacity to convert a part of the land into a major source of solar power for the rest of the nation. By all means return most of the water to the catchment, but keep enough shallow water storage to develop algal pools for the production of hydrogen (the University of Queensland is currently working on this). Investigate wind power. Above all, think positive and see this as an opportunity, not just a cost.

Ken Jury writes: It’s a sad fact here in SA that the real stories behind the lakes and Coorong issue are yet to be tapped. Currently, it’s a one-sided debate leaving the public with only a single minded point of view. The fact is, there is no water to talk of upstream and we therefore have to resort to other measures to halt the world’s worst acid sulphate breakouts.

There’s a lot of money wasting going on because of a serious lack of understanding of the processes to halt acid. No one seems to care that there are world acclaimed authorities who have published data on the subject.

Furthermore, DEH publishes its stream of invitations for ideas in the region but they don’t acknowledge them.The governments wish for a fresh water result has been hammered in throughout the service.

This will end up destroying the system as we know it!


Ben Aveling writes: Re. “Mungo: Taking the RET out of ETS” (yesterday, item 13). Debating about when to start an ETS is like a chain smoker debating about when to quit. The answer is now. There is no single point at which damage occurs. Damage is cumulative, is happening now, and will accelerate.

Imagine if the government took the same approach to discouraging smoking: if you wanted to smoke on public transport, or in a restaurant or a doctor’s waiting room, you could, so long as you bought a permit. Except that if you were already a heavy smoker, the government would buy the permit for you. And if it didn’t have enough permits, which it wouldn’t, it would give money to foreign hospitals, to “offset” the damage being done here.

The government deals with the public health dangers posed by smoking with a tax. It’s simple, effective and is much more difficult to rort. Given that the ETS has become captured by vested interests, it is time to change course and tax polluters as we do smokers.

National security:

Niall Clugston writes: Re. “National Security Legislation: worst discussion paper ever” (yesterday, item 8). The counterpoint to repressive legislation, as exposed by Bernard Keane, is an equally extreme lack of intelligence, as shown locally in the Sydney Airport bikie brawl and the Haneef fiasco. Globally, it has been possible for the Russian freighter Arctic Sea to disappear for weeks.

The heavy hand of the law will catch the bigmouthed amateur, the innocent, or the bolshy building worker, but not a professional terrorist. It can catch a Bollywood superstar, but not a Hollywood super-villain.

Well, hopefully it’s all fiction…

Black Saturday:

Lyall Chittleborough writes: Re. “Black Saturday fires: more questions than answers” (yesterday, item 9). Why doesn’t the fire enquiry make solid recommendations that houses in fire-prone areas should not be built of combustible materials? Wooden houses may be cheaper than brick but they burn a lot easier and they aren’t safe. Lives are at stake in the choice of building materials and this should be recognised.

What is left visible in picture after picture of “lost” homes? The metal of the roof that wouldn’t burn. This issue is of crucial importance in any revision of the stay and defend or leave early advice. How can you defend a wooden house in the path of a roaring bushfire?

Brick, stone, rammed earth and so on give you a chance.

The NT:

Paul Dwerryhouse writes: Re. “Gerry Woods saves ‘peace, order and good government’ in the NT” (14 August, item 7). After reading David Curl’s comments regarding cronyism in small jurisdictions, I have to ask if it is necessary that the Northern Territory even continues to exist in its own right?

The ACT at least has a reason to exist, and Tasmania has constitutional protections that prevent it from being annexed by Victoria (as economic rationalism suggests that it probably should be), but in the case of the Northern Territory, I see little reason why it shouldn’t be merged with South Australia to form a central Australian state, spanning a single time zone.

Western Australia has already shown that a jurisdiction of that physical size is feasible, and the NT’s residents would benefit greatly from the accountability that being taken under SA’s wing would bring. And if Darwin is worried that such a situation might mean losing influence to Adelaide, I’m sure some sort of arrangement could be organised, similar to that which the EU has with Strasbourg.


Peter Charley, Executive Producer, Dateline, writes: Re. “Richard Farmer’s political bite-sized meaty chunks” (yesterday, item 12). I read Richard Farmer’s report in yesterday’s Crikey about the lack of television coverage of the plight of women in Afghanistan. In fact, SBS’ Dateline ran a story on this very subject on Sunday night. Check it out here.

Christopher Pyne:

Warren Grzic writes: As a keen political observer, I’m prepared to make the following prediction come the next Federal election — Chris Pyne will lose his seat. Sturt is now really marginal, whereas it was once safe for the Liberals. And because the inner east of Adelaide looks like trendy/cafe territory, it seems like an area where progressive voters abound, similar to inner Sydney and Melbourne, making Sturt like seats in those other areas.

Irrespective of what Malcolm Turnbull does on climate change, I can see preferences in Sturt being directed against Pyne, even though he’s as progressive as they come in Liberal ranks, because he’s in a mob full of people cynical of the whole notion of climate change.

As such, I can’t see Pyne holding on at the next election, whenever it’s called.

Les Paul:

Gerard McEwen writes: Re. “Vale Les Paul, symbol maker of rock” (14 August, item 16). Both Tim Dunlop and Denis Goodwin (yesterday, comments) have failed to appreciate the enormity of Les Paul’s influence on music. His contribution transcended his role in the invention of the solid body electric guitar.

Whilst J.S. Bach made a lasting and fundamental contribution to the nature of western music through the invention of the even tempered scale, thus transforming keyboard and fretted instrument music, Les Paul had a similar effect through his development of both the solid body electric guitar and multi-track recording.

Les saw beyond the mere electronic amplification of the guitar to the use of electronic processors and recording technology to create new sounds. This brought the cutting edge of electronic music out of the sound lab and into the popular realm. He was a man of vision and skill who created both the environment and the tools that made the popular music of the latter half of the 20th century possible.

What Bach did for the 18th Century Paul did for the 20th.

Calling football:

Tony Barrell writes: Re. “Keeping women in their place: on the Brownlow red carpet. Wearing dresses” (yesterday, item 17). At least the woman who does the footy commentary doesn’t tag every one of her standard operating clichés with an infuriating question as does the alleged doyen Bruce McAvaney. He keeps asking Dennis Cometti et al, “wasn’t he?” “isn’t it?” “wouldn’t they?” and many others every quarter — the list is endless and, so it seems, is his longevity in a craft he has yet to master.

As to the tedious wannabe coaches — Gerard Healy and James Hird — they spend most of their time ignoring the action trying to justify so fatuous strategy (or tactical blunder) they’ve just discovered.

More females please.

First Dog on the Moon:

Greg Williams writes: Re Jim Ivins’ (woeful) attempt (yesterday, comments) to deflect criticism of First Dog’s verging-on-fixation of Christianity to the apparent exclusion of other religions: Newsflash Jim:  being Vietnamese is NOT a religion — it is a nationality!

And as an aside, I’m fairly sure Steve Fielding isn’t a religion either (but may qualify for cult status, based on Jim’s fascination alone, with the good Senator).

And First Dog: approximately 33 days to Eid.