A 21 August 2010 election?:

Malcolm MacKerras writes: Re. “Rudd will go to the polls on August 21, 2010. Here’s why” (yesterday, item 2). Wishing, as I do, to keep my Crikey contributions short yesterday’s article omitted a point I now wish to make. If one looks at the calendars for 1943 and 2010 one notices that they are identical. Consequently the great John Curtin landslide occurred at a House of Representatives plus half-Senate election on August 21, 1943.

Almost certainly Kevin Rudd will have a choice not available to Curtin. He could cause a half-Senate election or a general election for the whole Senate following a double dissolution. For a variety of extra reasons I lack the space to elaborate I expect him to double dissolve. Since so many people ask me how the long-term and short-term Senate places are determined in such a case I decided to give a brief run-down for Crikey readers.

I wrote extensively about this in 1987 so I can give any reader interested in this subject a reference to my 1987 analysis of that double dissolution.

Martin Gordon writes: Malcolm MacKerras’ comments are instructive. I am not entirely sure that there will be a double dissolution (DD) as Malcolm suggests. Likelihood is that Labor and the Greens will indeed have a Senate majority in July 2011. The problem with a DD that Labor will form a smaller part of its Labor/Green majority, and be more beholden to them as a consequence.

Secondly as I discussed with Malcolm, S.282 is assumed to operate. The problem is that it assumes the ALP is decent, etc (form your own view on that?). Having secured a six year advantage in the Senate in 1987 I am sure the ALP would never miss an opportunity like that again. If the Greens do well, they could have two Senators in some states with six year terms, plus they could win a seat at the subsequent half Senate election and in some states have three Senators as a result.

If Rudd wants to give the Greens a huge platform, have a DD, I suspect that he is smarter than that.

Ageism and politicians:

Steve Blume writes: Re. “Special report: How to become a federal MP. Part 1, ALP” (yesterday, item 3). Curious that in a country that is rapidly ageing that some seem to imagine those with wisdom to accompany their years ought to move aside for some reason — I think there should be more “grey-hairs” offering themselves for public office, especially women, who live longer and remain vastly under-represented. In any case merit and talent should be the touchstone of political candidate choice and Bob McMullan and Annette Ellis have heaps of each and more.

Andrew Crook might not be aware, but the ACT has rank and file preselection for all public office positions — fought for by Bob McMullan against great factional opposition — twice! Few things are impossible, so a national intervention to impose candidates on the ACT could happen — with a mass exodus from the ACT Party and probably a Green lower house candidate or an independent, in Fraser at least, as a consequence. But I think that is fanciful — Bob McMullan and Annette Ellis will retain their preselection and seats while each of them wishes to, and while they do their job superbly as they have so far.

Disclosure: I am an ALP member and a former adviser to Bob McMullan and proud to be a friend of both. Oh, and BTW — I am close to Bob’s age, but remain happy to compete on merit and talent, as do Bob and Annette.

Disaster warning:

Jackie French writes: Re. “Australia isn’t ready for a tsunami” (yesterday, item 1). Please please please don’t rely on mobile phone warnings for natural disasters. Most of Australia’s coastline, and the majority of its bushfire prone areas, have no mobile phone coverage; those that do may not have the capacity for large scale warnings.

Executive pay:

Alan Lander writes: Re. “PC pushes for executive pay transparency” (yesterday, item 22). I, too, am disappointed at the response to executive pay, especially senior bankers’ earnings. But then, advice from central bankers, whose backgrounds are not exactly likely to be from mining or flower-arranging – must surely have a benevolent eye toward their former workmates.

In these days of acronymic, short sound-bite recall, we should drop the GFC reference to the recent “crisis”, which is as misleading as KFC’s relationship to real food. Perhaps BGC – Bankers’ Greed Crisis – can go down in the annals for future generations to be reminded of the real cause of all the global losses, upheavals and human misery. Lest we forget.

Influenza vaccination:

Melissa Sweet writes: Re. “Influenza vaccination: the case for” (yesterday, item 15). No-one can doubt Dr Michael Wooldridge’s commitment to the public health benefits of vaccination; one of his widely acknowledged achievements while federal health minister was a boost in childhood immunisation rates. But I can’t help wondering if CSL or any of its agencies had some role in his Crikey piece yesterday?

This is a fair question to ask for two reasons. Recent research and court cases have made clear that ghost-writing by the pharmaceutical industry is prevalent. Secondly, Dr Wooldridge has a long association with the director of public affairs at CSL, Dr Rachel David. She was one of his senior advisors when he was Federal Health Minister, and in 2000, he appointed her to the inaugural Board of the National Institute of Clinical Studies.

Perhaps Dr David or Dr Wooldridge could clarify whether CSL or its agencies had any hand in his piece, either suggesting it, drafting it or providing information for it? Another reason for asking the question is that there are others who would also like it answered.

The National Broadband Network:

John Tevelein writes: Re. “Conroy’s internet filter dread” (Monday, item 17). The scary thing about the NBN is not that it will be built over the dead carcass of a great Australian company; it’s not the cost or whether it’s actually necessary; it’s not that Telstra shareholders are to be robbed by their Government; and it’s not that taking Telstra’s core network assets (possible 60-70% of what is needed for the NBN) is akin to Robert Mugabe gifting successful farms to incompetent despots.

No, the truly scary thing about the NBN is that it will be controlled by the internet censorship zealot Senator Stephen Conroy and the faceless apparatchiks of his Ministry of Truth. Visited upon our wide brown land will be a dystopian nightmare in our very own Oceania. Totalitarianism will be complete under the omnipresent Krudd using NBN enabled “telescreens” to hector and endlessly monotone “Detailed Programmatic Specificity”. All the dark forces of our totalitarian State will revel in the complete power to censor all communication, creativity and thought. The politicians work will be done.

Just as the Howard Government inevitably came to espouse the indifference of a patrician ruling class, our Labor governments it seems cannot resist their Leninist urgings for state control. Fortunately we had Citizen (Ewart) Smith to save us from Hawke’s national ID card. But who will be our Winston Smith of the NBN. Could a real “Julia” step forward to impart some reality?

Telstra is the best option to deliver the NBN. Senator Conroy should set a fair pricing policy and get out of the way.

Gordon Brown:

Joe Boswell writes: Re. “Rundle: nothing that Brown could say would save him” (yesterday, item 6). Guy Rundle wrote:

Brown has also added a whole series of measures Labour should have put through years ago — abolition of the 97 hereditary peers who amazingly continue to rule on the laws passed by an elected parliament … in 2009! … after 12 years of a Labour government!

There was also a commitment to not bringing in ID cards, and a referendum on preferential voting, Labour’s preferred option — not, it would seem multi-member proportional electorates the genuinely democratic option.

Although there is no good theoretical argument in favour of putting people in the upper House because of a mere accident of birth, the sad fact is the remaining hereditary Lords have been conspicuous among the best members of either house in holding the UK executive to account during the current administration (but you might say it was not a high bar). Rundle is plain wrong about ID cards, unfortunately.

Brown only promised to delay making them compulsory, a typically cowardly and shifty tactic. If the ID cards are anything like as good as Brown says, a delay is obviously bad policy, and if the cards are not good, why have them at all?

Brown’s suggestion that there might be a referendum on one form of proportional representation after the next general election was clearly designed, in Australian terms, to be a non-core promise.

Not that any of it matters. Brown’s political doom is obviously upon him, and it’s all his own work.

Discrimination:

Melissa Donchi writes: Re. “Religious people have rights too — even in Victoria” (Tuesday, item 10). I was disappointed to read Tim Wilson’s hollow sentiments on the Victorian Government’s proposed amendments to the Equal Opportunity Act.

It is not good enough to say men who seek the exclusivity of men’s clubs don’t know what they’re missing out on. Likewise it is not good enough to say religious groups will be punishing themselves if they don’t hire single mums and homosexuals.

For every outstanding gay, unmarried applicant there will be ten more applicants with just as impressive qualifications. It is somewhat farcical to believe that the minority applicants will always be the best and thus choosing any other applicant would leave a giant hole in the company of the discriminator. Are we really supposed to be believe the discriminators will suffer any consequences other than an overwhelming feeling of joy at having their ugly ideals enshrined in the law?

All it does is clear the conscience of the Victorian Government to pander to the unethical demands of religious groups. Everyone has rights and everyone’s rights conflict with someone else’s rights. It makes no sense to allow religious groups to discriminate against marital status and sexual orientation. Tim’s way of thinking reflects why it has taken so long to get laws against discrimination accepted. Minority groups have been insulted enough and suffered long enough for us to stop make excuses.

Crikey’s lack of Respectember:

Wayne Smith writes: Mark Edmonds (Tuesday, comments) must have a lucky history on the employment front if he can’t see the worth of F-ckofftober. Perhaps Respectember is “daggy and awkward” due to it having elements that are patronising, demeaning, insulting and — get this — disrespectful (oh, the irony!). It’s the edge of the saccharine-zoloft underbelly of the workplace — a place none of us want to be (generous pay and conditions not withstanding) but many of us are held. A place conveyed to us in pop-cultural offerings such as Dilbert, Nathan Barley, The IT Crowd* or The Office.

Before being accused of being overly cynical, can I add the somewhat flowery suggestion that workplace respect begins with the maturity of the people in the workplace? Or, going the other way, how can the ABC become an organisation that people will want to work for? It is not something that can be brought in via a few emails or bought in ready-assembled (and Respectember sure quacks like an out-sourced Human Services Workshop, only conducted via Intranet 1.0 (corporate email) instead of dragging everyone to the conference hall).

In my almost two decades working in and around the public service (and I respectfully request any prospective future employers to not look negatively upon these comments) “initiatives” like Respectember were precisely the kind of HR/Human Services waffle that induced baffled moans and muffled laughter from my most interesting (and talented and productive) colleagues.

Any organisation that sees fit to implement a programme like Respectember has either been conned by some HR-snake-oil sales force (probably with a name like “People-to-the-power-of-1” — just when WILL snake-oil peak?) or really does perceive problems with disrespect within their workplace. Either way, churning a few key positions is always the best remedy, although this requires patience for the affected staff when a public organisation is involved.

Mark questions Crikey‘s values. Yes Crikey can be overzealous at times. However, perhaps that’s part of what comes with their position and perspective within the media landscape — and their being in that position is why we like ’em. There’s mileage in F-ckofftober yet. If you don’t agree, think of it as at least bumping a couple of articles on the Fairfax board or wacky columnists/items in The Australian.

*Actually, I could hack working at this place (no pun intended)

Jenny Morris writes: Mark Edmonds’ plea that Crikey, ahem, show some respect for Respectember, is touching, if naïve. Mark, Crikey isn’t dissing respect as a concept, in fact, just the opposite. It’s one thing to have values, it’s another thing to practice them, and mean it. I think what Crikey is poking fun at is the gauche campaign that talks a lot about values in an organization that apparently hasn’t always shown that respect to others (Hi, ABC Board!).

If the ABC and its management want to introduce positive change, perhaps it could consider leading by example, practicing respect, until staff (and viewers!) notice. Then’s the time to maybe talk about how  respect is an ABC value. Model first — talk about it later. A wanky title and a few events are bound to put peoples’ backs up.

The AFR:

Gavin Robertson writes: Re. “Fairfax knee-cappings and The AFR’s power lunch” (25 September, item 3). Why did Stephen Mayne insist on referring to the AFR as “the world’s most expensive financial daily”? At $3 here, it’s still less than the Financial Times in its home market — UKP1.80, or AU$3.32.

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