The Left:

Peter Jones writes: Re. “Rundle: A vision of the future, written by the Left. Part III” (yesterday, item 5). It’s very refreshing to see a piece about the future of the anti-capitalist left published in Crikey. It’s particularly refreshing to read an analysis of the economic crisis recognising that it is the result of tendencies inherent in capitalism (although the analysis itself has flaws I won’t discuss here). But Rundle’s account doesn’t tell us much about what to do when the big crisis finally hits. It’s not even clear whether he thinks workers will need to fight a revolution to take power.

It sounds a bit like Rundle thinks capitalism will keel over and die by itself. But crises don’t automatically lead to victories for workers. They also strengthen the appeal of fascism, and make the ruling class act more ruthlessly. In revolutionary situations, workers have to fight against these threats. Unfortunately, these efforts are usually opposed by reformist leaders and intellectuals. This can even lead them to actively side with the forces of repression.

We can’t predict what will happen in future revolutionary situations, but I can’t see any material reason why these dynamics won’t emerge again. Certainly nothing in Rundle’s account of hyper-modernity suggests otherwise. Alienation is a barrier to participation in mass political parties, but it’s hardly a new one. Members of Marxist organisations like Socialist Alternative spend time discussing the history of crises and revolutions.

They don’t do this because their ideas are “cryogenically frozen” in the past, but because they think learning from history can help us to avoid repeating it. More importantly, their activists learn from and fight in left wing campaigns in the here and now.

Does Rundle?

Niall Clugston writes: Guy Rundle’s envisioned future doesn’t seem to amount to much: “Would a transformed post-capitalist economic and social system abolish money, markets and property? Of course not. These things pre-date capitalism and will continue after it.”

In fact, the role of money and markets was quite constrained in medieval Europe, and feudal property relations were quite different. A similar argument could be made for the varied pre-capitalist societies across the world.

Rundle, on the other hand, is proposing a rebranded remix of the post-war “mixed economy”. That’s hardly post-capitalist.


Joe Boswell writes: Re. “Religious people have rights too — even in Victoria” (yesterday, item 10). Tim Wilson’s discussion of the politics of discrimination lacks logic.

“Few argue with the basic principle that we should have a society free of discrimination…” reminds me of a UK employer who boasted of a hiring policy that was entirely free of all discrimination. Jobs were presumably handed randomly to anybody.

“If people really want to discriminate, they will. But in doing so they’ll sell themselves short, and should suffer the consequences.” If true this is all the reason we need not to legislate on the issue. If a private club wishes to impose some discrimination on who is admitted, it should suffer the consequences. What possible concern is that of anyone else?

“So Hulls has compromised and allowed religions to discriminate against non-believers, gays and single mums, but has made sure they cannot discriminate on the basis of race, disabilities etc. Understandably gay groups are furious. But in their outrage they’re missing a central point — religious people have rights too. And that includes freely practicing their religious faith.”

I’m not sure gay groups have missed the point. Why should religious groups, and only religious groups, be discriminated for by having their right to discriminate respected? Surely we all have a right to discriminate, whether we are religious or not, or else nobody has such a right?

Alister Air writes: It’s a loss to me as to why Crikey publish Tim Wilson. It takes him three sentences to be factually incorrect. Wilson is presumably aware that it’s not just privately-funded organisations that are legally allowed to be bigoted, both currently and under Attorney-General Hulls’ proposals. If he’s not aware, it would take reading to the end of yesterday’s Crikey to Kathleen Maltzahn’s piece for him to realise it.

Wilson is, as is perhaps typical of an IPA-type, only in favour of one group’s rights in an employment situation — the employer. The employee is irrelevant to Wilson’s view of the world — she or he can go get another job, or go on the dole, or die in a gutter; whichever best suits.

We don’t allow these types of discrimination in employment generally, because we’ve decided that arguments like those Wilson makes are facile, and that employment discrimination is anti-social, hurtful, and simply uncivilised. The greater harm is caused by unfair workplace discrimination, and so we make it illegal.

That doesn’t stop all discrimination, in the same way that speed limits don’t stop all speeding. But Wilson’s alternative ensures entrenched discrimination can survive forever. This is a bigger problem than infringing the rights of (some) religious bodies to try to block out the real world. P.S: In the interests of complete disclosure please note that I’m assisting Kathleen with her campaign for Richmond.

Sally Goldner writes: Tim Wilson claims “Hulls’ plan is to scrap the exemptions that stop the government telling private organizations what they can do, with private money on private property.” Um, Tim, if governments fund religious welfare services that’s not private money. Your comment is almost as idiotic as the claim you once made publicly that it was the Liberals who were responsible for including gender identity and sexual orientation in Victoria’s equal opportunity laws back in 2000. Keep rolling out the comedy, you’re cracking us up in here in Melbourne’s GLBTI community.

Nick Evans writes: Why do the morons from the IPA insist on parading their stupidity in Crikey? “The biggest loser from discrimination isn’t the person who is discriminated against, it is the discriminator.” Sure, Tim, because the big losers from apartheid was the white minority who stripped the country of its wealth. And I’m sure those bogans out there bashing gay men are really hurting inside. And the bloke who shot Martin Luther King was, no doubt, quietly sobbing as he pulled the trigger. What a pile of bollocks.

Ron Boswell:

John Goldbaum writes: Re. “Liberals will pass ETS to avoid Ruddquake” (yesterday, item 1). Bernard Keane was far too tactful in his mild description of the recalcitrant senator Ron Boswell as displaying “ignorance, innumeracy and stupidity…[and now stooping to] outright deception”.

I’m with Kevin Rudd when it comes to bad-mouthed bullying. As one of my former high school teachers would have put it, Senator Boswell is a helpless, hopeless, useless, senseless, miserable, wretched creature. He is so low that he could crawl under the belly of a yellow bellied black snake whilst wearing stilts. Wow Kevin, you don’t need to swear in order to put someone down.

Climate change:

Rebecca Short, Media Officer for World Wide Views on Global Warming, Australia, writes: Re. “Richard Farmer’s chunky bits” (Monday, item 12). I have just been sent Richard Farmer’s critique of the global climate change consultation Australia was a part of. Great that you got to check out the ISF latest newsletter on their general research work, and their somewhat tongue-in-cheek headline (“Zen and the art of transdisciplinary studies”) about the nature of sustainability research.

The ISF is however, just one national partner in this project “World Wide Views on Global Warming” which happened in 38 countries on the same day on the weekend and covered nationally on ABC news.

In Australia, people were actually selected at random, far from hand-picked, we had participants attending and from every State and Territory, and I can only assume of varying political persuasions. There are some FAQs about this process here. Still the group came out in favour of strong cuts in emissions 89%supported cuts of 25% to 40 % and higher for developed countries. You can see the full media release here.

There are global results available here — click the results link to see how groups in 38 countries came out 90% in favour against the question: “If a new climate deal is made at COP15, should the politicians in your country give high priority to joining it?”

Far from cynical, the Australian participants were taken through a very extensive process of education and deliberation, following a method developed by the Danish Board of Technology. The material and the questions were constructed very carefully, using international focus groups and professionals in the field of citizen consultation.

The surprise really is just how “green” the results come out – when you go through this process. I would be more than happy to put you in touch with some of the people who have been through this experience or someone to give you a project overview.


Geoff Russell writes: Re. “The Australian Coal Association’s CPRS contradiction” (yesterday, item 9). Here was I reading the Australian Coal Associations talk of 16 mine closures and thinking “Golly, I must have been wrong about the CPRS, maybe it will actually do something.” But then along comes Bernard Keane to tell me the inconvenient truth … my gut feel about the CPRS was spot on and it won’t shut any mines. I kind of liked believing the lies.


Michael James writes: Groan, it is Groundhog Day again reading Don Grover of Dymocks (Monday, comments). As several readers pointed out yesterday Dymocks, and presumably Grover as CEO, has managed to turn an interesting bookstore chain into a completely superfluous destination for booklovers. Frankly the discounter Bookstar that has temporarily replaced them in the swanky Brisbane premises from which Dymocks were expelled a few months ago, has about as much interest as Dymocks (now in a temporary, cramped little store with raw concrete floor, a curious inversion of venues and ambience).

Anyway, Grover proceeds to ignore all the evidence-based arguments made about the PIR. He raises again the irrelevance (to the PIR argument, not to the survival of bookstores) of Amazon. No bookstore can easily compete against Amazon/BookDepository/Fishpond, as shown by the downsizing of Borders-USA. The abolition of the PIR cannot make much if any difference, especially since (as revealed in Crikey here, and here) there is not as much price difference for the top sellers (where the booksellers make most of their profit).

The really outrageous price mark-ups in Australia concern books not subject to the PIR which reveals the hypocrisy of Dymocks and those corporates supporting its abolition. Also as we showed, Dymocks was one of the least competitive in the Australian market (though since A&R has taken control of Borders-Australia that chain has noticeably reduced its email offers to loyal customers, instead flooding my inbox with worthless “special offers” on Dan Brown. Stephanie Meyer and other dross).

Perhaps Grover’s remark that most Dymocks stores are franchises points to the problem: is Dymocks just an additional middleman in the supply chain (taking their cut and with shareholders to support), which makes it impossible to compete with the likes of independent bookstores let alone Amazon?

If his argument was valid then why are Dymocks’ Hong Kong stores (no import restrictions of any kind, no GST) not significantly better than Australian book prices, and still uncompetitive with Amazon?


Mitchell Holmes writes: Re. “Dealing with Centrelink is a full time job for some pensioners” (Monday, item 14). I think we need to acknowledge that government agencies like Centrelink are simply in love with their forms and red tape — they admire form over substance.

Almost four years ago, I married and commenced to co-habit with my wife. Being a low income earner and a single parent for several years before we met, my wife was in receipt of some Centrelink benefits. Her re-marriage changed her circumstances. Being a good citizen, she called into a Centrelink office to make her new circumstances known. It was a long and frustrating process to get OFF Centrelink benefits.

Without recounting all the details, Centrelink was most interested in, and required endless details of, my income and assets. Centrelink’s interest in my affairs extended to their intention to send a Government valuer to inspect and value my rental properties! Similar intrusive enquiries into my financial affairs were made by Centrelink, before my wife’s benefits could be cancelled! I simply refused to comply when I was NOT a client of Centrelink.

I was quite prepared to sign a declaration that our joint incomes and assets were in excess of the applicable thresholds. However, the system simply does not accept such a straight forward solution. The ONLY way to leave the system is by neglect — do not answer ANY correspondence from Centrelink.

Eventually, after several more letters, Centrelink writes to tell their client that, until the previous queries are answered, the benefit is suspended.


Robert Johnson writes: In my letter (yesterday, comments) under the heading “The G20, the UN General Assembly and Rudd”, I was quoted as preferring “Palestine” as a one-state solution. What I wrote (in the context of Gaddafi’s preferred “Isratine”) was “Palestein”, and would appreciate this being known before I’m accused of some sort of denialism. And as a postscript comment on ‘G20 rising’, it should be acknowledged that Kevin Rudd doesn’t deserve all the credit: Silvio Berlusconi’s hosting of the recent G8 was also a major contribution.


Russ Hermann writes: Re. “Finding succor at the Valley by the freeway” (Monday, item 18). Could you please inform TP Maher, that the trifecta song was written by John Dengate, folksong writer and singer, and trifecta tragic from Glebe, Sydney.

Television News:

Tony Stower, Program Communications Manager, Channel Seven Brisbane, writes: Re. “Last night’s TV ratings” (yesterday, item 18). Glenn Dyer wrote: “Seven News again won nationally and in every market but Melbourne. Today Tonight won everywhere bar Brisbane.” Please see all people ratings for south east Queensland last night (323,346 for Today Tonight in Brisbane vs. 255,697 for ACA). We smashed them!

Santo Suriano writes: Channel Nine has taken to running inaccurate and particularly embarrassing ad spots proudly proclaiming that the network brings viewers more news and current affairs than any other network. Interesting claim, given that a significant number of Australians subscribe to pay television and have access to the 24-hour news channels offered by such services.

Even excluding subscription television, it remains pretty obvious that SBSOne is the network that features the most news and current affairs on Australian television. Seven hours of international news programming each morning from 6am to 1pm, The Journal and NewsHour in the afternoon, World News Australia for an hour every evening and a half hour World News Australia at 9.30pm. Not to mention Dateline, Insight and Living Black every week as well.

Nine long ago gave up the “Still The One” mantle in News and Current Affairs long ago, despite its deluded protestations to the contrary.

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