A fair and just society?

Kirstie Wallace writes: Re. Wednesday’s editorial. Firstly I have to say how much I enjoy my Crikey subscription — it is so refreshing to read different points of view from the mainstream media. Keep up the good work!

However, when I read your editorial on Wednesday, particularly this bit “Australia is a significantly wealthier society than it was 30 years ago, and both sides of politics should take credit for achieving that. Consider most other developed countries as G20 leaders gather in Pittsburgh this week: mired in recession, with economies that remain sheltered and uncompetitive, public debt at crippling levels.

That Australia is such a glaring contrast is thanks to the Labor and Liberal reformers of the 1980s and 1990s, and to the Rudd Government and the Reserve Bank’s boldness in striking early and hard against the oncoming recession”, I just thought (again!) why do so few media commentators, even Crikey ones, fail to mention Australia’s massive private foreign debt as an economic indicator when they
talk about the overall health of our economy. I recall only having seen it mentioned on Crikey when Stephen Mayne talks about who owns what mining companies.

If it wasn’t for Wikipedia’s entry on Australia’s economy [“Current areas of concern to some economists include Australia’s large current account deficit , Australia’s current account deficit for the 2007- 2008 financial year was up 4% to $19.49 billion (according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics), the absence of a successful export-oriented manufacturing industry, a real estate bubble , and high levels of net foreign debt owed by the private sector”] I would wonder if just a few others and I are on a different planet in Australia when we keep worrying about our staggering private foreign debt and the fact that it just doesn’t go away, but keeps getting higher and higher. I know that if I lived in Singapore or China where having and maintaining a trade surplus is seen as one of the most important economic objectives, my concerns would be the norm.

Australia can’t keep importing more than it exports, at some point, like climate change, our country will reach a “tipping point” where foreign companies can’t keep funding our lifestyle and current account deficits by buying our companies, as there will be less and less of the farm to sell off. When we reach this point, there will be a huge impact to the Australian economy and Australians’ prosperity as a consequence.

Perhaps you see that Australia’s high private foreign debt is no concern or fault of Australian politicians or their policies from previous years, and is the fault of Australian businesses and individuals actions only and any form of regulation or government management to try and address this issue would be seen to be reverting to protectionist and archaic practices?

I don’t know, but I do wonder without any form of government guidance, management, or regulation on managing our increasingly high private foreign debt levels, given what we’ve just survived this past year, then we may face our own AFC (Australian Financial Crisis) down the track.

Mike Crook writes: I find it difficult to believe that the Crikey readership allowed this line in Wednesday’s editorial to slip by unchallenged. “We’re also a healthier, fairer and more just society than a generation ago.”

Obviously Crikey didn’t watch 4 Corners on Monday night, but that aside, I was around in the late eighties and I witnessed a societal movement towards a society exemplifying justice and fairness. This movement included such desirables as improved OH&S, Equal Employment Opportunity, assistance in the workplace for Women, Indigenous, the disabled and people from Non English speaking backgrounds.

Industrial democracy was being practiced more extensively, and I myself was applying real consultative processes at The Department of Social Security. This movement was too good to last and it allowed its opponents to define and defile the movement. They did this by applying the term “political correctness” or PC to every decision that even hinted at empowering those without power. They destroyed the movement toward justice and fairness and rubbed our noses in it by introducing the infamous and deadly 12 hour rotating shifts into industry, emergency services and mining under the guise of “flexibility”, an employer’s word if ever there was one.

Further they ramped up commercialism and the pursuit of personal self gratification, destroyed the effectiveness of the ABC, demonized refugees through governmental policies best described as xenophobic, engaged in barbaric and illegal wars, ended any attempt at workplace health and safety, reduced educational opportunities by destroying the TAFE system, threw poker machines at us to give us a prospect of wealth, and consigned hundreds of thousands of Australians to life on the margins, where it is easier to demonise them.

Crikey may not but I would love Australia to go back to 1989 and try again.

Dirt music:

John Poppins writes: Re. “Dust storm 2: a health hazard beyond comparison” (Wednesday, item 6). There is a new form of dust being generated out in South Australia. It is finely ground, and it is radioactive. It is being piled up high above the natural land surface. Right now it is held down by copious volumes of water. If the current proposal for its expansion is any indication, the uranium mine at Olympic Dam might close around 2050.

At that time BHP’s interest in maintaining the water flow, and in maintaining any rock covering will evaporate just like today’s water. The radioactivity will remain for thousands of years. Erosion of any covering by wind and occasional rainstorms will occur within this timescale.

Dust storms of the far future will include some of this radioactive material. Yet another unhappy legacy we bequeath to the future.

Viv Forbes, Chairman of the Carbon Sense Coalition, writes: Dust on a solar panel will reduce its efficiency by up to 50%. In the brave green Australia of 2020, just a decade away, Canberra has mandated that about half the Simpson desert will be covered in solar panels. Have they allowed for the army of cleaners and the giga-litres of water that will be needed to clean the panels after every dust storm? Maybe this where the Green jobs are coming from, and where the Cubbie Station water is going to?

Jackie French writes: It’s only dirt? Ahem. Things live in dirt, from wombats to microbes. No, it wasn’t raining wombats, but has anyone tested exactly what was in that red air, and how it may have changed as it flew across Australia?

Rundle and Mark Day:

Alan Kennedy writes: Why has Guy Rundle dropped the ball and decided to ban Mark Day from Crikey? As I understand it he was running a précis at the bottom of his entries so that Day could keep up with the game after wondering in print “What is Rundle on about anyhow?” I think this discrimination should end. Crikey should be open to all, even those who move their lips when they read. Indeed a line of First Dog lip salve should be offered for those thus afflicted.

Nathan Rees:

Mark Heydon writes: Re. “Pig-headed hold-outs refuse to deal on Murray Darling” (yesterday, item 2). Not sure if it was intentional for Bernard Keane to say “Acting Prime Minister Gillard and acting NSW Premium Nathan Rees”, but it gave me a laugh. It’s a wholly unconvincing act, by the way.

Climate change:

David Hand writes: Re. “Youth Decide: can climate change really be slotted into three neat worlds?” (yesterday, item 18). One aspect of the whole climate change debate that interests me is the suspension of reality by many people regarding the radical change being called for and people’s individual commitment to it. There seems to be a complete blind spot about what a change like a 40% reduction in carbon emissions actually means to people’s lifestyles.

The beatific description in the 40% option seemed to lack details like “A tank of petrol will cost your weekly wage” or “If you want electric lights, it’s nuclear power, baby”, or “you can watch telly on windy days only”. A whopping 91.5% of young people voted for 40% cuts in carbon emissions by 2020.

It might be tempting to dismiss those respondents as having the depth of 1970’s beauty pageant contestants pleading for world peace. So I wrote to the Australian Youth Climate Coalition and asked “How many of the 37,432 respondents to your survey own a car? How many have taken an overseas holiday in the last two years. Did you ask these demographic questions?”

Their reply was “Unfortunately we haven’t been able to engage all of these thousands of voters in questions like those.”

Hey, maybe our young are already taking action and changing the evil carbon polluting behaviours their elders are daily castigated over. But maybe not. I don’t know and nor does the Australian Youth Climate Coalition.

Thinking about the children:

Jenny Ejlak, Convenor, women’s health special interest group, Public Health Association of Australia, writes: Re. “Child sex offenders: a dangerously ill-informed debate” (yesterday, item 5). Thank you, Crikey, for running intelligent and balanced articles on the Fergusson fiasco by Brett Collins followed by Greg Barns and Wendy Northey.

Childhood sexual abuse is widespread, serious, damaging and inexcusable and while I can understand parents not wanting a repeat offender near their children, nothing is achieved by the sort of vigilantism we’ve seen in NSW fuelled by the tabloid media. Collins eloquently made the point that childhood sexual abuse goes on in suburban homes every day. Not only are insufficient resources put into investigation and early intervention into abuse, but programs for offenders are defunded.

Ignoring all this, the media demonise one man as if he were the sole perpetrator of this crime in Australia. Barns and Northey turn the blame-game around and ask “what can we do to prevent reoffending” and offer practical suggestions. Way too little is done in this country in prevention, detection and early intervention of childhood sexual abuse.

Child protection services are notoriously and chronically under-resourced. If only we could channel the energy of the vigilantes into constructive action of the sort promoted by Collins, Barns and Northey, society would be a lot better off and our children would be safer.

Greece is the word:

Pamela Papadopoulos writes: As the Greek elections are to be held on the 4th of October and Mr Karamanlis has been embroiled in numerous scandals during his term are we to expect more of the same from two political dynasties that has ruled Greece forever? Furthermore does the Greek Diaspora in Australia care any-more about the upcoming elections and if allowed to vote as Karamanli proposes would they?


Josh Landis writes: Re. “Saree Makdisi: Obama won’t solve the Middle East crisis” (yesterday, item 19). I don’t get it. What does Crikey see in Antony Loewenstein and why are his rants continually published?

The latest offering says almost nothing. Summary: 200 people including about five Jews turned up to listen to an American literature professor, who happens to be nephew of a famous American of Palestinian extraction, talk about a country he doesn’t live in. Jewish representative indicates the speaker is one-sided, which is proof positive that Jews want to shut down debate and Obama can’t fix the Middle-East conflict. Hold the presses!

Loewenstein’s articles, which are generally little more than self-publicising reports of his attendance at pro-Palestinian events or his meetings with other pro-Palestinian thinkers about the Palestinian cause, contribute little in the way of news (which Crikey is about). It can’t be said he’s in any way an objective or a knowledgeable journalist on the Middle-East, on Jews or Palestinians.

His reports are just Palestinian advocacy, and not so subtle advertising for his book (each missive ends “Antony Loewenstein is a journalist and author of My Israel Question“). Can we move on?

Column 8:

Maurie Farrell writes: Peter Rosier (yesterday, comments), Column 8 is now again available on the internet due, I am sure, to my missive to them of Sept 16th…