Rundle on Higgins:

Angus Sharpe writes: Re. “Rundle: The Oz has been sipping Abbott’s Kool Aid” (yesterday, item 4). Guy Rundle’s characterisation the new Liberal member for Higgins (Kelly O’Dwyer) as “Tracey Flick” summarises the level of debate in the Crikey by-election articles today. Two words. Bad losers.

I happen to live in Higgins, and voted for Kelly O’Dwyer. Labor didn’t put up a candidate. Whoops. So we had a choice between Kelly O’Dwyer, who has been campaigning for months. You couldn’t miss her people outside the local train stations at 7.30am in the mornings, or outside the local markets. Talking about local issues. Talking about police presence, and the clearways down Toorak Road. Not saying “I deny that climate change is happening”. But instead saying let’s talk more about it. Let’s get the right result. Not the Kevin Rudd (and Turnbull) result that doesn’t do enough. Not a result that is a direct payment to the big polluters.

We have money. We are happy to pay the right climate change tax. But let’s get it right.

Were we expected to vote for a fly-by-night Greens candidate (Clive Hamilton)?  Who we did not hear from until three days before the election, when we received a one page pamphlet with a loonie quote from Abbott (fair cop), and a request to vote for the Greens if you care about the environment. Clive doesn’t even live in the electorate. And Higgins voters are way too smart to vote in a minor player in a minor party who will have exactly zero influence on climate change (or anything else).

Please stick your head out of the Canberra bubble every now and then.  Kevin and Julia are smug and self satisfied.  And the voters don’t like it.

Abbott:

Peter Maddern  writes: Re. “Abbott’s Catholicism fair game” (yesterday, item 3). Bernard Keane, give us a break that Rudd doesn’t put his religious views as his personal political views. Rudd has taken to every week making great statements with his church steeple behind him. If that isn’t linking his political views with the authority of God or the church what is?

When has Abbott done that? Given your selective quoting from the Laurie Oakes interview, I think this piece is hardly about being sooky but what is balanced comment. Who cuddled up to the right wing churches at the last election and still pretends to speak with their authority? K Rudd!

I enjoy most of your columns — this one is simply wrong or unfair.

I agree with Abbott — start questioning Rudd about his positions instead of this lazy “let’s criticise the opposition” caper (who by definition are not in power.)

John Goldbaum writes: Tony Abbott’s Catholicism might be fair game but Laurie Oakes’ question was decidedly unfair.  How could the Mad Monkey possibly say he believes in evolution when he sees the evidence against evolution staring back at him in the mirror?

Telstra and iPhones:

Rod Bruem, Corporate Affairs Manager at Telstra, writes: Re. “Telstra’s iPhone stuff-up: network is no (3) gee whiz” (yesterday, item 22).Yesterday’s Crikey story  incorrectly asserted Telstra’s Next G™ network “sagged under the weight of increased data use”. The popularity of the iPhone and its lack of carrier exclusivity in Australia certainly lends itself nicely to network speed comparisons. Unfortunately, when tests are devoid of any real technical rigour they can lead to damaging statements such as those made in this article. In all cases, there are many factors affecting a handset’s performance — such as device configuration, location, and time of day.

Telstra’s Next G™ network covers more than 2.1 million square kilometres, more than twice the size of any other 3G network. An iPhone 3G on the Telstra Next G™ network performs better in more places as the iPhone will operate in 3G mode across the entire Next G network rather than dropping back to 2G as it does with some other networks outside major cities. Independent surveys support Telstra’s superior performance and value.

A recent study by APC Magazine across 150 locations found the iPhone 3G on the Next G network outperformed any other Australian mobile carrier.

“Others would fluctuate results even in the group of tests at one location. Meanwhile Telstra almost never dipped below four-figure download speeds.” The author concluded: “you get a lot more for your money (with Telstra) … Not just in terms of speed, either. What was really impressive was the consistency.”

Michael Tatas writes: Doing a quick search, as suspected, I believe Adam’s “test” may be a little flawed. And if consumers were clever, they would discover that if they owned the phone outright, there are some decent prepaid plans which rival the others.

I am of course stuck on the crappy Optus network.

Namibia:

Robert Johnson in Namibia writes: Re. “Letter from Namibia: a first for the born-free generation” (yesterday, item 12). Further to my Letter from Namibia yesterday, an important correction and an update.

Monday’s local media in Namibia report that the new opposition party, Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP), in fact won eight seats in the new National Assembly (not none, as I said yesterday). SWAPO lost just one seat, to win 54 seats in the 72-seat parliament.

Media reports as results dribbled out over the past week were noting RDP’s failure to win a seat, and the Electoral Commission website still only provides national totals per party.  It is also now reported that eight opposition parties are taking the Electoral Commission to court for allegedly contravening the election law.

Whilst commentary last week regretted Namibia’s inability to produce final election results within the 48 hours that it took Zimbabwe’s electoral authority in its last elections across a much larger population, it may now start pondering the  political consequences of a possible emergence of the Rally for Democracy and Progress as a national counterpart to Zimbabwe’s Movement for Democratic Change.

The SWAPO leadership is strongly allied with Zimbabwe President Mugabe and his Zanu-PF Party and this could thus make the symbiosis “complete”.

Tax:

Shirley Colless writes: Re. John Mellor (yesterday, comments) wrote that Kevin Rudd’s biggest problem is that he now has to fight the next election introducing a completely new and huge tax; and goes on to justify John Howard’s introduction of the GST as a tax REPLACING a tax (Sales Tax). Not quite, Mr. Mellor.

While replacing the old sales tax, which was levied on the wholesale cost of goods, with a tax on the much greater retail cost of goods (remembering that the retail cost to the consumer includes the retailers’ costs plus their profit margins) thus in fact greatly increasing the ‘replacement’ benefit, John Howard did in fact introduce a great big new and fat tax by introducing a tax on services that had not previously been subject to the sales tax.

And don’t forget, the original GST was supposed to be charged on all services and on all goods, including all food. This, it was claimed, would enable the States to stop charging stamp duty.  However, when public outrage removed the GST on some foods and some services, the Howard and his acolyte Costello cried poor and cut the amount of GST money remitted to the States to such an extent that they —certainly in New South Wales — retained stamp duty.  So now one must pay both the GST and the stamp duty on the total cost of the service.

And this was not a Great Big New Tax?

Women in theatre:

Gillian Appleton writes: Re. “Sexism, it seems, is a long way from a final bow in Oz theatre” (yesterday, item 16). I have just seen Steve Dow’s report on the “Where are the Women?” panel discussion at Belvoir St Theatre, in which I participated. I would like to take issue on two points. He refers to television being a “boys club”.

The discussion concerned theatre/drama, not news and current affairs, which may indeed be a boys’ club. But distinguished playwright Katherine Thompson made the point that women are prominent as writers and directors in drama for television, both ABC/SBS and commercial.

Dow bemoans a failure to raise mentoring (my recollection is that Alison Croggon and floor speakers in fact did) or to call for the appointment of an EEO officer. I had mapped out a set of strategies — flowing to some extent from those developed by women’s theatre groups in the early 1980s — to address the serious under-representation of women in creative roles in theatre.

Regrettably, I did not get an opportunity to raise them in the limited time available. Plans are already in train for keeping this issue firmly on the public agenda.

Oil pollution:

Joe Boswell writes: Re. “Oil pollution visible from Exmouth, WA, to Queensland” (yesterday, item 5). Perhaps Bruce Hogben’s report provides a clue why he is a former journalist, but it does not explain why Crikey thought it worth publishing such feeble tosh — the sort of maundering that brings green activists into disrepute.

“Flying fish emerge from the muck [and] plop back into it, probably blinded by the chemicals.”

Why “probably” blinded? What is the basis for this claim? It looks like a wild and prejudiced guess. What “muck”? What “chemicals?”

“It’s sickening to think what must be happening to the marine life in Australia’s once pristine northern waters now polluted over vast areas stretching from Exmouth in Western Australia to Queensland’s Gulf of Carpentaria.”

Is Mr Hogben a reporter? If so, why is he reporting his personal feelings? Is that news? What evidence is there for the extent of the pollution he describes like an established fact?

“And where are the birds? I did not see any sea birds from Exmouth until we reached the Gulf waters, as meanwhile over three days my camera recorded the pollution — slicks stretching to the horizon.”

How does he know these are slicks? What does the place normally look like? How many birds were there this time last year?

“Is it all from the 10-week Montana oil rig leak finally plugged on November 2 or 3, days after a massive fire broke out on the PTTEP Australasia rig, 690 kilometres west of Darwin in the Timor Sea? Or are there more leaks that we are never told about?”

What sort of swivel-eyed lunatic could believe that an oil leak comparable to Montana could be any sort of secret? What sort of writer describes fire as “massive”? Why doesn’t he know the oil platform’s name?

“As Dawn Princess cruised up the WA coast at a steady 19 knots, I was amazed to see how many oil rigs are out there.”

Did it never occur to Mr Hogben to look at a chart? Every fixed oil platform is marked. Perhaps he’s as much of a sailor as a reporter.

“PTTEP claimed the well lost about 400 barrels a day (for 10 weeks) but some observers have estimated a flow up to 2000 barrels a day.”

Yeh, right. Who are these observers who think the flow from the well could be five times that calculated and what is their credibility? What did they “observe” or are they as fanciful as Mr Hogben? There are some basic rules of physics that set limits on the rate at which fluid could flow from such a well.

“And now we have toxic oil pollution visible over thousands of square kilometres of the Indian Ocean, Timor Sea and Arafura Sea.”

Ah yes, “toxic” oil pollution. Not like the other sort.

“The federal government has promised us a full and independent inquiry, but the damage is done. And nothing can guarantee it will not happen again. Cyclones sweep through this vast area every year.”

I’m trying to think back to when there ever was an inquiry before the damage was done, without much luck. But Mr Hogben’s bit about the cyclones — well, who knew? Cyclones! Every year! This changes everything.

“A recent report in Crikey complained that the media had largely ignored or downplayed this horrifying event. I am from Adelaide, where The Advertiser demonstrated this with its report that the rig had caught alight — three paragraphs buried deep in the newspaper. Pathetic. Apathetic.”

Pardon me for my pathetic apathy, but when the platforms caught fire there was nobody hurt and the leak from the well, so far as anyone knows, did not get any worse. Environmentally, the biggest regret might be it did not happen sooner, as it would have turned a lot of methane into carbon dioxide, which on balance is a better greenhouse gas result. Apart from that, the owners of the rigs lost some valuable assets, which they no doubt care about deeply, but it’s not obvious why anyone else would be much bothered.

“The cruise ship is circumnavigating Australia, having left Melbourne on November 18. We are due to dock in Brisbane on Tuesday.”

That’s ok, no hurry.

Climate change:

Tamas Calderwood writes: Geoff Russell and Matt Andrews (yesterday, comments) assert that Earth is receiving more energy than it is emitting because of human produced CO2.  This claim is false because it would breach the first law of thermodynamics (conservation of energy principle).

The satellite record shows the atmosphere has cooled since 1998 and the Argo buoy program (which measures to depths of 2km) shows the oceans have cooled since 2003, so the planet must be emitting more energy than it is receiving — despite record human CO2 production.

The leaked Kevin Trenberth email shows the huge amount of uncertainty surrounding this “settled science”.  The world’s top climate scientists – on whose say-so we are about to spend trillions of dollars — have no idea what is going on in the climate system.  Why is it naughty to point this out?

Keith Binns writes: I hadn’t actually read the Green’s manifesto before. Which ideas specifically doesn’t Justin Templer (yesterday, comments) like? They sound good to me.

Peter Fray

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