Cash splash:

Murray Massey writes: Re. Yesterday’s editorial. You’re so right about the narrow media focus on the politics of economic stimulus. This time last year we were all in a state of economic and political panic and now we’re having a mindless superficial national debate based on an assumption that nothing but economic growth, recovery and stability lie ahead. Hopefully that assumption can prove to be right, but many average Aussies have serious doubts, and wish to see a complete, detailed and truthful evaluation.

The market has largely taken over what traditionally has been the principal role of the media: to investigate, report, analyse and comment on the entrails of the national economy. The CEOs, corporate PR machines and market analysts and commentators are setting the agenda for debate and the media is mostly regurgitating it or following their themes.

Today it’s all so rosy we can afford to argue about when the stimulus package should be wound down. Tomorrow it will be concern about weakness in the US banking sector or perhaps signs the US housing market is headed for a double dip, spilling over onto our economic outlook. Our shares go up, our shares go down and the fees and commissions continue to flow to the brokers and banks.

I and my mates look through the top 200-300 public company listings and wonder why, with few exceptions, the key indicators like price, earnings, interest costs and debt seem to be in a worse state than prior to the global financial crisis when optimism for continuing growth and accelerating earnings — “stronger for longer” etc – was so high. And why should we be so confident there won’t be a collapse in the housing market in Australia when Australians have such historically high personal and household debt, our housing prices are among the most unaffordable in the western world and the next change in interest rates is expected to be an increase?

Many I chat with want to see the media reassert control over a genuine national economic debate, and perhaps journalists could start by taking back control of the English language. The market urgers now have many journalists reporting “negative growth” when there is no growth, and companies “going forward” when they are “going backward”.

It’s very important there should be concern about the ballooning level of Australia’s national debt, but let’s see the full picture and the evidence that confirms it’s the priority issue right now.

“Pat Cash” writes: About this term “cash splash”. Your use of it yesterday in the your editorial prompts this note…

When first used by the Libs I thought that’s a neat political rhyme, it simply suggest that the money has been carelessly splashed around by Kev. Why even Steve can probably understand it, although that’s worth checking because he may be opposing it because he thinks it’s a Cash Pash or worse a Cash Lash. But later when a sneer was added to the phrase by Turnbull and Hockey (trying to add a Costello flavour to their delivery?) I thought it took on a different meaning.

It now sounds like an accusation that Kev has been so careless with “our” money that some has splashed onto the ungrateful and impliedly undeserving rabble. What a waste to splash good money on bogans. Or as in, it’s just a splash of money (insignificant to real people of substance) that makes no real difference to those sorts of people (this version is an appeal to money snobbishness). Even conjures up that old blue blood phrase, “let them eat cake” when the sneer is at its worst. I.e. the sneer appears directed to the recipients.

I suspect the sneer is meant to express personal contempt for Kev being better at politics than the banker or the buffoon, but it looks like they are sneering at the little people. I suspect the sneer is noticed by all those to whom an extra $900 or more was a very welcome if temporary, relief from fiskal (I’m sure this will soon make the Macquarie) gloom, and they are aware it comes from a former “merchant banker”.

No-one knows what a merchant banker actually does but everyone knows it involves some sort of money making scam by spivs. Malcolm is so unaware of the image he projects.

So what meaning is Crikey trying to convey when it uses the term in its little editorial piece?

Angus Sharpe writes: No-one is seriously arguing that “the Government’s stimulus should be withdrawn” as you indicate in your leader today. The Liberal Party certainly isn’t, as can be seen from this interview with Malcolm Turnbull today.

But the thing is. The thing is that we don’t just blindly trust uncle Kevin. I know. I know. It’s hard to say. We want to. He’s such a nice guy. He has a very trustworthy face. But we worry. You know. Us Liberals. We’re out of fashion at the moment. But we worry because there is no serious debate about where our money. Yours too. Is going. We worry because uncle Kevin has a tendency to borrow money and … you know … hand deliver personal cheques to every Australian (socialism anyone?).

We worry that he will keep splurging indiscriminately in Labor and marginal electorates. We worry, frankly, that he will back up the Reserve Bank trucks, and dump piles of money into Martin Place. OK, that last one is a bit farfetched. But are you deliberately misunderstanding the debate? Are you pandering to a chunk of the public who love, just love, their magic cheques sent from Kevin?

Like children, who don’t understand why their parents cannot just go to the magic ATM machine and just get more money? Like children. So can we please please please have a serious debate about where (as opposed to if) Kevin points the stimulus fire hose?


Steve Fielding:

Cathy Bannister writes: Re. “Steve Fielding is just a media torte. Sorry, tart.” (yesterday, item 3). It’s highly probable that the learning disability which Steve Fielding claims to have is dyslexia. My father is profoundly dyslexic, yet is intelligent, and has been highly successful in his field, thanks to spell checks and wonderful secretaries. There are brilliant dyslexics everywhere; in fact, often their difficulties in reading and writing are coupled with strong visual intelligences. Know someone who can’t get to the end of a shopping list without misspelling most of the words, but can decipher a circuit board at a glance? Chances are, they’re dyslexic. Chances are, they struggled through University, but made it. Physics and Engineering departments are full of them.

Although it makes it harder, the condition doesn’t even prevent a career in writing, as Jackie French and John Irving will testify. So when Bernard Keane claims that someone who has difficulty with spelling and grammar ought not even bother with a career in politics, he’s being ignorant and patronizing. As long as there is someone to treble check all written correspondence, and a candidate is able to read, understand and recall relevant papers, then the dyslexia should be no barrier.

I’m not about to stand up for the man’s bizarre Climate Change blinkers, nor his antediluvian social policy views. However, my discovering that he can’t spell doesn’t change my opinion of him either way, and Crikey‘s attacking him on those grounds is an insult to dyslexics.

And a bit cheap, really.

John Kopcheff writes: I agree with your piece on Steve Fielding and people “hiding” behind “learning disabilities” and wearing them like a badge of courage, when they really shouldn’t. Let the people who have overcome real disabilities wear the badge of courage. On excuses, read “avoiding accountability”. Another excuse that gets right up my goat is the old and still used “he had bad potty training as a five year old, so it’s not his fault he is a 30 year old serial killer!”

Brian Mitchell, grammar Nazi, writes: Good yarn by Bernard on Senator Fielding but writing “effects his ability” while going on about the importance of spelling and grammar was a real clanger. That’s not a typo that made it into copy in the mad rush to beat a deadline. That is, like a Cruciatus curse, an unforgiveable.

Nigel Brunel writes: I have a question for Steven Fielding. How does it change many dyslexics to take a light bulb?


Robert Johnson writes: Re. “This time Loewenstein, you went too far” (yesterday, item 17). David Imber’s presumably confected outrage seeks to divert the focus of Antony Loewenstein’s important raising within Australian discourse (more common elsewhere) of the one- versus two-state solution.

It’s Imber’s prerogative to advocate the Thatcher option over the Mandela option on sanctions (Thatcher’s compassion for black South African suffering was just as touching, and apartheid-era South Africa also called itself a democracy). But at least Loewenstein is searching for just and sustainable solutions whilst Imber seems more concerned about temporary inconvenience to people who continue to overwhelmingly support an unjust regime, regardless of who his family there votes for.

It’s disingenuous to portray Israeli supporters of Palestinian oppression and expanded occupation as minority extremists; the three main parties’ candidates went into the elections earlier this year trying to outdo each other on the Gaza atrocity and none promised an end to expansionism. External pressure remains essential and is long overdue.

And, of course, to suggest, as Imber does, that to care about present-day Palestinian suffering means that you care less (read “don’t care”) about the perpetrators’ greater suffering in a different time and place goes to the core of how intransigent and ruthless the continuation of Palestinian oppression will remain without such intervention. Given that the two-state solution contains major difficulties (how can it not be a three-state solution with Gaza’s isolation?

Israeli agreement will require trading the best land it has illegally occupied in the West Bank for some unwanted land elsewhere; Israel will have ringed-off and isolated Palestinian East Jerusalem from the West Bank as it is doing right now (four-state solution?); will all major Israeli parties renounce mainstream support for expansionist “eretz Israel” ideology (notably, Likud and Kadimah)?

What about the Palestinian refugees’ right of return? Would a Palestinian state have the right to mount a nuclear defence against its militant nuclear-power neighbour? Is a two-state solution thus compatible with a durable regional peace? etc).

A sustainable peace demands the sort of dialogue which Lowenstein’s article called for and Imber’s response sought to kill off.

Benjamin Teale writes: Of course a boycott of Israel punishes the whole of the country, but have you considered the possibility that the whole is not being punished simply for the extreme views of the few, rather that the whole is being punished for not doing enough to express and act upon their more moderate views and hence, banishing the views of the extremists to the sidelines where they belong?

Mike Carey writes: Recently 10,000 Israelis urged a boycott of Volvos and IKEA homeware products. This was not in response to hundreds of civilians killed or illegal suburb building on occupied land but in reaction to a Swedish newspaper article alleging Israeli Defence Force soldiers harvested organs from slain Palestinians. Insert something about goose and gander here.

Detention debt:

Martin Gordon writes: Re. “Detention detainees tell: how it feels to have $260,000 of debt slashed” (yesterday, item 2). It is ironic that the ALP is claiming credit for abolishing migration detention debt, when it was the ALP that introduced it back in 1992! It has not been a greatly successful policy, as it is hard to collect. The emotion attached to unsuccessful asylum claimants specifically has dogged the policy.

However with its complete abolition I assume that tourist visa over stayers and the like will also enjoy our free accommodation before their departure from our country. There seem to be some mixed messages in there?

Mike Carlton:

Mike Carlton writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (yesterday, item 6). Such grisly cynicism in your Tips and Rumours yesterday. For the record, I told 2UE as long ago as last January that I had no intention of signing another breakfast radio contract, with them or anyone else, for any money. I have a new baby approaching his 1st birthday ; I would like to get my life back. 2UE was happy to accept this. We part on amicable terms.

The offer to return to The Sydney Morning Herald was indeed welcome but entirely co-incidental. Fairfax can speak for themselves, but I doubt that they are in the business of throwing lifelines…

Nuclear power:

Peter Kemp writes: Well I tried to sit back and say nothing but I can’t. I did not advocate anything last time, I merely tried to inject a little bit of fact into the debate. If I were backed into a corner NOW I would have to say that nuclear is the only mature technology that can replace coal for base load supply. This is does not say that I like it. This is does not say that other technologies should not be aggressively pursued. This is does not say that we should not invest heavily into research, indeed we should as ownership of the intellectual property and expertise will ensure our future wealth and position in the world.

Our politicians want a quick fix that does not hurt (their chance of re-election). For now they are pursuing “clean coal” technology in the desperate hope that king coal can continue to make us rich – it can’t. They are trying to kid us with a carbon trading scheme that will allow us to increase pollution while pretending otherwise by paying other (poor) countries for carbon credits. We will pay for the credits and many sellers will cheat on their side of the bargain to make even more money. Long term storage of nuclear waste is a problem but who in their right mind would expect a third world country to lock up a forest forever.

There are some storage technologies that can help (e.g. making ice in the day for air conditioning at night). Pump storage can store energy from electricity and return it as electricity when required but the scale required to make solar/wind a total solution would involve pumping huge dams full of salt water in the day and emptying them overnight (environmentalists would love it). Of course we could help the situation with aggressive “demand side ” management but it would very unpopular (courageous in politician speak).

And they don’t even want to know about transport and livestock.

First Dog on the Moon:

Nadia writes: I find this t-shirt offensive. If you’re going to mock a female politician, why resort to this kind of base misogynist jibe? It’s not intelligent. It’s tedious, and it’s been done to death. I am so tired of women being constantly evaluated by our physical appearances rather than who we are or what we do.

I expected better from you. But still, Crikey upholds the misconceived belief that a women’s appearance is her most important feature, above all else. Perhaps you could ask how some of your female writers how they feel about this t-shirt?