Peter Costello:

Angus Sharpe writes: Re. Friday’s editorial. Loved the Costello leader. Raise him up as president for life (i.e. sack the entire ABC)! Or burn him as a witch (i.e. the ABC should sue him for libel)! There can be no middle ground! Give. Me. A. Break.

Perhaps, compared to … say … the USA, Australian mainstream reporting (including Crikey) does have a left leaning, and while we are at it sports obsessed, bias? Of course, you (Crikey) will say that you are in the “centre”, and it is me who has the right wing bias. But the debate is still worth having. And Crikey, you shrug off any suggestion of left leaning bias (or a male dominated approach). But are you sure?

You have your share of left wing nutter articles (which I like — bring them on). But how many right wing nutter articles do you have? You had a fantastic (hopefully sarcastic) tirade about female football commentators recently, but that was an oasis (or spikey death hole depending on your point of view) amidst wall to wall “Oh my God, won’t someone think of the children, and how oppressed and misunderstood Kevin Rudd is?!!”.

Or maybe I’m being a bit one eyed?

James McDonald writes: On Peter Costello’s “insinuations” of a left-biased ABC, Crikey‘s editorial on Friday screams: “if his allegations can’t be substantiated he should be sued for libel.” Crikey! When did they stop teaching defamation law in journalism classes? It’s not defamatory to accuse a public organisation of abusing its public duty. It’s a good thing Costello is as thick-skinned as they come. I would have thought a newsletter fond of writing like this would be pretty well read up on the defamation law:

  • “Turnbull accused me of not having the strength of character to actually challenge Howard. I used my Blackberry to Google ‘strength’ and ‘character’ before responding.”  — “The Costello diaries Part 3: Election night 2007” (15 August 2008, item, 6).
  • “You have to wonder what mental state Costello is in — whether … this rather shallow man is now at an utter loss as to what to do with himself.” — “Keane: Peter Costello moves further into deficit” (12 May 2009, item 10).
  • “His efforts in recent days must have done a lot to impress future employers. Let’s see: he can’t write, is disloyal, conniving, self-absorbed, all-but terminally indecisive, smug … the list goes on.” Crikey’s editorial, 15 September 2008

Did Crikey learn anything in that week of web-server problems after recommending that readers should hack Chinese websites?

Greg Williams writes: “Costello’s insinuations (of ABC pro-Labor bias) which he presents as facts, are an outrageous attack on the ABC’s most senior journalists”, blah, blah, blah. With respect, three of the five “insinuations” raised:

  • “Several senior Labor politicians like WA Premier Alan Carpenter … used to work at the ABC”;
  • The 7.30 Report is hosted by “former Labor staffer Kerry O’Brien”; and
  • “Phillip Adams … broadcasts on Radio National “five nights a week”.

Surely are facts that can be acknowledged or disputed on their veracity or otherwise — and are not “insinuations”. Of course, there is no doubt in anybody’s mind that the ABC is in fact a bastion of blue-ribbon, conservative political thought, just like … um … er … say … Crikey. And if this can be verified, Crikey’s editorial staff “should be sacked and (content) should be overhauled” and anybody who suggests to the contrary, should be “sued for libel”, (not to mention thrown in the stocks and forced to listen to Guy Rundle yelling Bernard Keane’s autobiography “Confessions of a Closet Liberal” at them until they recanted).

Tom Osborn writes: Forget Hockey, Costello, Turnbull or Abbott. Is Howard planning a comeback?

The Kennedys:

Roland Lever writes: Re. “Teddy Kennedy and Chappaquiddick, the true story” (27 August, item 2). You really shouldn’t leave Bob Ellis without a minder! Apart from the wrong age for Mary Jo Kopechne (28 year old virgin doesn’t really sound as credible as 19, does it Bob?), which he claims is a typo, there never was an autopsy at all.

Her parents refused permission, and a later application for exhumation was denied. Enquiries found Mary Jo left her purse and hotel key at the party, and she told none of her close friends she was leaving with Teddy.

This story is an appalling lapse of basic journalistic fact-checking, and reflects poorly on Crikey as a source of reliable independent news (which is why I subscribed).

David Long writes: Oh, the problems of the blind leading the blind. Derryn Hinch (Friday, comments), always so keen to remind us that he once was a real journalist while giving the impression that a young Kiwi hack working for an Australian paper was at the fulcrum of world events, corrects Guy Rundle’s take on Ted Kennedy’s demise, pedantically pointing out it was just Chappaquiddick where Mary Jo Kopechne came to grief — “not Lake Chappaquiddick Mr. Rundle”.

The National Beard then joyously relates how he was virtually witnessed it all, doing this and that, interviewing various comers, and recreating Mary Jo’s fateful journey into the drink, with Peter Costigan. But Derryn, if you are so sure about all this as to need to break into Crikey‘s letters to one-up the admittedly often mistaken Rundle, why did you say it was “Pucha Pond” where Kopechne died — er, its Poucha Pond — that Kopechne was 29 when she died — er, she was 28 — and that Teddy K’s car was a “Caddy” when even the most casual student of monumental US political moments knows he was driving an Oldsmobile Delmont.

Nigel Brunel writes: Christ almighty – enough already – the Kennedy brothers were skunks – good riddance – adulterers the lot of them. Let’s call a spade a spade. The world is better off without them — now we can unlock our daughters.

Indigenous Australia:

David Hand writes: Re. “Racist and not working. UN calls us on our intervention” (yesterday, item 1). I found reading your lead story tiresomely predictable regarding how badly the indigenous people of our country are being treated by the government. I looked for one practical suggestion the good professor might make about what we should do differently. The only thing I could find was that we should restore ATSIC or a clone thereof. Yeah that’s right. He spent 11 days surrounded by rent seekers campaigning for the re-despatching of their massive and discredited gravy train and that’s the best the professor could do.

Chris Graham takes a swipe at Mal Brough saying the coalition “did nothing for 12 years”. This is patently untrue. They got rid of ATSIC, which in my view is the single most progressive measure taken to help aboriginal people in the last 20 years. This “12 years of inaction” was mostly filled by, what was it the good professor suggested? Activity that is “best achieved in partnership with indigenous peoples’ own institutions and decision-making bodies, which are those that are most familiar with the local situations.”

Yeah, right. It would be nice if the professor spent a bit more time here and then said something that took us forwards, not backwards.

CRIKEY: This article also received a lot of comments on the Crikey website. To read the discussion, click here. Here are a couple:

JaneShaw writes: As with almost every indigenous population in the New World, what happened to the Australian aborigines is an appalling tragedy. And, as many well meaning but possibly misguided folk have discovered, there is no easy solution. One thing I don’t understand though: we acknowledge that the indigenous population is severely disadvantaged and needs assistance that is not required by the rest of the Australian population, but every time someone attempts to do this, it fails and the 20/20 hindsight folk tsk tsk about racism.

I daresay there are some truly racist people about, but I also think that this is not true of most Australians. It’s not racist to acknowledge differences, it’s not racist to admit that particular sections of the community need specialized assistance and try to find a way to do that. It’s not even racist if you try to do this and fail. It’s misguided, ill informed or even incompetent, but it’s not racist. Genuine racism, like genuine sexism, is utterly abhorrent, but it’s trivialised when the word is applied to anyone who acknowledges that differences exist.

Veronica writes: I read articles like this with a feeling of helplessness. Yes, Professor Anaya has correctly found that there is entrenched racism in Australia. It is undeniable. But I see little about what we can do about it. There seems to be a chicken and egg argument going on about whether Aboriginal people need a fundamental recognition of their rights through a treaty first, or whether we should concentrate on improving the state of basic things such as health, housing and education. I think the two are interlinked… (Veronica’s comment is in full here)

Sensis:

Danielle Horan, Corporate Affairs at Sensis, writes: Re. “Tips and Rumours” (Friday, item 6). I was quite surprised to read your “Cop that Telstra” article in the Tips & Rumours section on Friday. The post is certainly not conducive to “independent and lively debate” given it contains information that is inaccurate and old.

In fact, the above information has been circulating via viral email, without merit, for almost four years. Accepting information without checking the facts doesn’t do much for Crikey‘s credibility.

Allow me to clarify a few things.

  1. The information Crikey published about the 1234 number replacing 12456 is incorrect. 1234 has not replaced 12456, both services are available to consumers depending on the kind of service required.
  2. The cost of 1234 is $1.40 — a flat fee, so the information about charging per second is also completely wrong.
  3. This incorrect information has been circulating for roughly four years and it is very disappointing to see a media outlet like Crikey publish it as news. To set the record straight, Call Connect on 12456 provides connection to numbers from the Yellow Pages and White Pages directories. It costs $1.25 cents to call and an extra 88 cents for connection.

1234 provides a whole range of information such as what’s on in your city, the latest sports results, movie session times, street directions, as well as phone numbers and a connection service. In December 2006 Sensis altered the price of calls to 1234 to a flat fee of $1.40 enabling callers to obtain as much information as they like in the one call. This service incurs an extra 88 cents fee for connection.

And don’t forget there’s Directory Assistance on 1223, which is free from Telstra home phones and payphones. Calls from Telstra business and mobile phones, a flat charge of 50 cents applies.

For more details on Sensis’ phone information services (we don’t hide them) you can visit www.voiceservices.com.au.

Qantas:

Steve Tucker writes: Re. “Tips and Rumours” (Friday, item 6). I have had virtually exactly the same experience as the “Qantas Diaries” in Friday’s Crikey. I joined the Qantas Club member in well over a decade ago and for most of the time since then a Platinum FF, sometimes slipping to Gold.

Last year they wrote to tell me I was a lifetime Silver member but despite that and almost a million FF points in the bank from flying QF exclusively, were they prepared to let me use the Qantas Club? No way, you need to pay now. I think this is what we call asymmetric loyalty.

Last week I needed to fly to the USA at short notice. Unable to secure a Classic award seat with Qantas (no surprises there) and with no special offer seats left (no surprises there either) I flew Virgin. Cheaper than the Qantas equivalent ticket, on time, friendly, and clean. I’ll be flying Virgin again. I was tempted recently to transfer my AMEX points to Qantas but am glad I didn’t.

Loyalty has to be symmetric.

Frequent Flyer Fred writes: Qantas diaries 1 and 3 on Friday were negative. Qantas diary 2 was positive. Let’s make it 2-2. I am a Gold Card Frequent Flyer. My year ends on July 31. This year I knew I was well short of the 600 status points needed to retain Gold, but had 320, enough to keep Silver. I run a one-man business, so was not going to spend thousands of dollars just for a Gold card.

Lo and behold, an email arrives from my favourite airline saying that if I could outline appropriate trips for the coming 12 months I could keep my Gold. I did so, honestly — I could have lied — and bingo! I still have Gold.

I suspect that if I do not take the planned trips I will be busted to Bronze, but it’s an attitude from Qantas that many people don’t know about.

Nuclear energy:

Peter Kemp writes: Re. “Crunching the numbers on nuclear energy versus renewables” (27 August, item 13). Michael James accuses proponents of nuclear energy of bias but he is pretty one eyed himself.

  1. The stated capacity of a wind generator is related to an optimum wind speed which is rarely achieved over a large portion of our coastline at any one time and in fact may not be achieved anywhere on some occasions. This is not to say that I disapprove of wind power, on average it can be a profitable business, but it is on average and there will inevitably be times when it does not serve the community adequately.
  2. The same comments apply to solar power except the periodic lack of capacity is somewhat more predictable.
  3. Both the above and other “green power” sources would be much more viable with a method of storing energy in some form. At present this is problematic for short periods and rapidly gets worse as the time span increases.
  4. I suppose Mr.. James would approve of carbon sequestration but has he done the sums here. One generator at Eraring (~ 5% NSW peak usage) needs 60Kg/sec coal. Let’s say 30% ash and 10% volatiles this leaves 36Kg/sec carbon. When combined with oxygen This makes 132Kg/sec or 7920Kg/minute CO2 let’s say 7tonnes/minute. This would fill a B double tanker in six minutes after it is liquefied. In short I believe carbon sequestration is not practical except for new plant built in suitable geological areas and even then it will take 30% (good guess) of the output to make it happen. I worked at a power plant in Vietnam for a period and they weren’t even using their sulphur scrubber which doesn’t use much power at all.
  5. The health effects of coal power is not in the public eye but when the total fuel cycle is considered it is orders of magnitude worse than nuclear even when you include Chernobyl which had a badly designed old fashion reactor operated in a way that was forbidden by its designers. Modern designs are passively safe. With regard to proliferation the genie is already out of the bottle and in any case selling our uranium offshore is surly less certain than using it ourselves. The problem of so called nuclear waste (including existing stockpiles) may recede in 15-20 years if new reactor designs live up to promise.
  6. When the true cost of carbon sourced electricity is realized I suspect nuclear power will become economical, if not politically acceptable, and some “green power” sources will be very profitable albeit with their inherent limitations.

Peter Fray

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