Costello and pandimensional politics:

Christian Kent writes: Re. Yesterday’s editorial. Did we just miss an auspicious date in pandimensional politics? With all this talk of Costello’s new job, I just remembered John Howard’s public promise to resign by now. Does Costello have a calendar with today’s date circled?

Niall Clugston writes: A cynical interpretation of Kevin Rudd’s bipartisan appointment policy is that he’s trying to store up treasure for himself in the political afterlife. I’m sure that the ex-diplomat would like nothing more than spend his later years in a plum overseas posting … Ambassador to Beijing, perhaps.

Shirley Colless writes: So far I have not noticed anyone commenting on Rudd’s ultimate smarts in kicking various of the coalition parliamentary exiters into government-funded jobs. Surely the key factor is, while they are taking money from the government they are, effectively, gagged. No more sniping from the sidelines about the Rudd-Labor government programmes, policies, initiatives or even failures.  Brilliant!

John Goldbaum writes: Kevin Rudd’s appointment of Peter Costello to the Future Fund sends a third signal. It tells us voters that Rudd believes Labor is bereft of talent and policies.

Asylum seekers:

Brian Reid writes: Re. “Mungo: Tough stance on boat people borders on the ridiculous” (yesterday item 13). Sadly, asylum seekers arriving by boat are being treated poorly to discourage others from doing the same thing. It is sad because it is necessary. Australia cannot take an unlimited number of asylum seekers. It doesn’t matter what the limit is. Once the limit is reached another one will arrive. Should Australian (or any country) declare that all asylum seekers arriving by boat will be accepted, the Sri Lankan Tamil communities around the world would charter cruise ships to get them here. Indeed, the Sri Lankan government would probably do the same.

Andrew Lewis writes: I have to take Justin Templer (yesterday, comments) to task. Justin wrote: “A distressing aspect of the asylum seeker debate is that the strong emotions bring out a very ugly side of the Australian character — (an) inability to frame a logical argument under pressure.”

May I just suggest that this is neither peculiarly Australian, or particularly ugly. Umm, nor is it in any way observable. In fact, it is a complete fiction. There isn’t a culture or race on the planet that displays this characteristic, nor are any immune to engaging in non-sequiturs under pressure. Individuals, sure, but an entire populace?

I’m so over these stereotypes that people make up, they’re worse than self-generated statistics. I’m bored with people that ascribe to an entire nation a characteristic that they have observed from one Australian at one particular point in time somewhere in the dim past, and decided that this was quintessentially Australian.

It may have all been lighthearted, in fact he may have been trying to display this very characteristic (irony?), as certainly he has gone so far into the non-sequitur paddock he can no longer see any fences,  however I’m at a loss to understand what pressure he was under.

Anyways, I’ll throw in an apology along the way for not picking up the razor-sharp satire inherent in the statement, assuming he was taking the p-ss. So sorry about that Justin, maybe you are a clever little saint!

Cubbie Station:

Glen Fergus writes: John Clements’ rant (yesterday, comments) on Bernard Keane’s piece is incomprehensible: “I was unaware the Culgoa passed through St George where the triggers and storage for the … Cubbie group river water licenses are held.”

Huh? The Culgoa is an anabranch of the Balonne, which sure does flow through St George. The two diverge at a place called Whyenbah, 45km downstream. So nearly all Culgoa water flows through St George.

Cubbie Station is on the flood plain between those two rivers, 40k further down. It draws water directly from both via huge banks of metre-plus diameter suckers. It also collects so called “overland flow” from bounded-off flood plain areas, as Bernard says. And if a flood conveniently fills those bunds, they of course release it all immediately…

Cubbie’s dominant impact is on the desperately dry Darling, which is completely unaffected by Clements’ “huge southern NSW water diversions”. The station’s own web site says, “…looking at the entire Condamine Balonne River System (contributing maybe half the Darling’s flow) the Cubbie Group equates to approximately 20% of the total licensed extraction.”

Geoff Russell writes: John Clements almost makes me feel sorry for Cubbie … no really. The lavish attention focused on this single Eiffel Tower of a poppy has lead most Australians (judging by Letters to editors in many papers) to believe that cotton is the biggest user of Murray Darling Basin water.

Cubbie with its opportunistic wasteful shallow reservoirs has overshadowed the day in day out extraction of far more water by thousands of dairy farms, none remotely the size of Cubbie but collectively far more damaging to the Basin.

If the tale of Cubbie is one of failure to adequately regulate a powerful player, then the tale of dairy in the MDB is a tale of failure to appreciate that lots of small allocations can be just as damaging as one big sucker.

Part time work:

Jenny Ejlak writes: I completely agree with Georgie Smith (yesterday, comments) about the lack of part-time professional jobs.

I, too struggle to find meaningful work at part-time hours and have to give up any hope of career progression if I do find part-time despite my skills and years of experience. If I want to go part-time I have to take casual, temporary and low paid jobs way below my skill level. What is most ironic is the number of organisations that have “family friendly” or “work life balance” policies — but they are just there for show — not worth the paper they are written on.

Let me outline some of the many considerable benefits of spreading a workload over more people — each working less hours:

  • Increased job satisfaction
  • Increased morale
  • Increased productivity
  • Reduced sick leave due to decrease in stress and increased work-life balance
  • Reduced key person dependency
  • Reduced impact when one person is on leave (e.g. 0.8FTE less in office rather than 1.0FTE less in office)
  • A more rounded workforce developing skills elsewhere
  • Increased time for professional development or other study
  • Increased staff retention due to all the positives listed above

For society more broadly if most workplaces introduced part-time hours as a matter of course— reduced unemployment, reduced stress, less strain on public transport and better mental health across the community — possibly also with an accompanying reduction in alcohol consumption!

Ray Quigley writes: Re. Georgie Smith. Hear hear! 15-20 hours per week of work that keeps me stimulated, whilst being meaningful for the client/boss would be nirvana.


Jackie French, author of The Chook Book, writes: Re. “When is a cage egg green? When it plants trees” (29 October, item 14). One square intensely cultivated metre can give human food AND chook food i.e. you feed the chooks the bits inedible to humans and/or the leftovers, as well as pests like grasshoppers and snails that would otherwise eat your tucker.

Backyard or village chooks are the most ecologically sustainable way to get protein, plus fertiliser, pest control.

Battery chooks, fed grain and meat or fish meal, are a disaster; but don’t denigrate the humble backyard chook.

Waiting on a prayer:

Richard Hurford writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (Friday, item 7). Crikey’s tipster’s claim that the Cathedral of St John the Evangelist in Brisbane is “the last Gothic cathedral to be built in the world” is overblown. What about the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York City?

Under construction since 1892 and known affectionately as St. John the Unfinished. Even the reference to Brisbane edifice taking 103 years to complete isn’t that impressive. For long construction jobs on Gothic cathedrals, it’s hard to pass Cologne Cathedral — 1248 to 1880 — only 632 years.

And you thought you’re builders were slow!

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