Summer news:

Melanie Farris writes: Re. “News goes on holiday” (yesterday, item 14). Well sure, you can take the piss about the lack of good journalism at this time of year (just Christmas? really?) or you could goad someone into writing a real story — like why, after over two years in the seat, the government has in reality done didly-squat about health reform and improving hospitals in this country, meaning that people are still dying in ED corridors and mothers with perfectly healthy unborn babies are not being given proper antenatal care which leads to the most horrible thing a parent will ever go through, the death of their child.

  • In 2006-07, public hospital admissions grew by around 3% — this is more than twice the rate of population growth.
  • In 2006-07, there were 6.7 million presentations to emergency departments — the equivalent of a third of Australia’s population.
  • The number of patients presenting to emergency departments between 1998-99 and 2006-07 increased by over 34 per cent.

Yet where are the beds? Qualified Nurses? Real Doctors?

Now that the PM has some more time on his hands after the failed Copenhagen and finishing off the kids book, maybe he could pull his “buck stops with me” finger out and ACTUALLY DO SOMETHING.

Why do journos not write it? If the media can make Jessica Simpson lose 10kg, they should surely be able to shame a PM stop people dying in hospital corridors.

Happy new year Crikey.

Hate groups:

Nick Place writes: Re. “Australian hate-groups, viral expansion loops and Facebook” (yesterday, item 3). How depressing are those Hate Groups? The fact that there are Australians who would proudly sign up to such a page sickens me. On the not very bright side, I set up “Melburnians Against Racism” on Facebook … A whole 100 members so far.  Man, I hope that membership ratio isn’t correct in non-virtual Australia.

Tim Villa writes: Bob Gosford’s article focuses on the growth of numbers in these Facebook hate-groups, pointing to them as massive value for the company.  These don’t however represent value at all; simply compare the number of contributors in group discussions to the number of group members.

It becomes obvious pretty quickly that people are only following their friends into a group as a statement that takes all of three seconds of their time.  After that, they don’t contribute or participate, almost certainly forgetting that the group even exists.

Gabriel McGrath writes: There’s one thing Bob Gosford didn’t mention. Facebook does something very sneaky with the way the groups are set up. If you see a group like “F-ck Off We’re Full” or “SPEAK ENGLISH OR PISS OFF!!!”, and disagree with it, you’re stuffed. Why? In order to make a comment within the group, Facebook makes you “join” the group. This has two very bad side effects.

  1. The group gets bigger, and thus it *appears* more people agree with the sentiment.
  2. All your “friends” will see a message saying { (your name) has joined the group “F-ck Off We’re Full” } — and think you’re a moronic racist.

So — we’re left with two possible outcomes…  These groups have nobody arguing against them — or — appear to grow bigger than they are. Either way, decency loses.

The PR abuse of science:

Simon Wilkins writes: Re. “Death star: a case of disaster porn gone wrong” (yesterday, item 11).  Firstly, Mazel tov on turning 10. Secondly, on the PR abuse of science, while removing PR from science might be a noble goal in theory (some researchers need all the grooming/sock-sandal-combo-control/stay-on-message prompting they can get), the more pressing concern is the severe under-supply of journalists in the general media who understand the science they report (which ultimately colours public perception).

Biotechnology (and no doubt other fields as well) is littered with examples of media over-reaction to buzzwords, or a minor aspect of what the researchers actually work on, and completely missing the real story. The fact that universities have wised up to the media’s tricks and are training the next generation of scientists in how to get their message across (without getting derailed) should therefore not be seen as an example of undue interference.

It may sound crazy/revolutionary, but I would think the better “way forward” would focus on specialisation of journalists into areas they, at least partially, understand (combined science/journalism training) and a deeper appreciation for scientific methods and outcomes. In the Utopia such a change would herald, I also propose that researchers would NEVER have to hold aloft a test tube filled with blue liquid, or pipette red liquid onto petri dishes for the evening news EVER AGAIN!!!

Personally, I think the revolution can’t come soon enough.

Executive pay:

Niall Clugston writes: Re. “Productivity Commission strikes out on curbing runaway exec pay” (yesterday, item 17). The debate about executive pay is based on the assumption that there is a shareholder revolt.  There isn’t. It is the general public and the union movement who are up in arms. Shareholders have shown little concern about the excessive salaries paid to company directors, and if the government gave them increased powers they are unlikely to use them.

As Adam Schwab says, “shareholders virtually never vote to remove directors (even for legitimate reasons such as business failures at other companies)”.  So what’s the point?  Another unproductive exercise by the Productivity Commission.

What happened?

Jenny Cullen writes: Re. “Richard Farmer’s chunky bits” (yesterday, item 8). Whatever happened to Crikey?  I have been a subscriber for sometime but increasingly it is lightweight, filled with opinion and prints news AFTER the event, rather than before as it did in the past.

Inaccuracies such as naming the Minister for Sport Sue Ellis instead of her correct name, Kate Ellis as happened in yesterday’s Crikey email is unforgivable particularly when there is a link to her website where her correct name appears.

From being an outspoken champion of Crikey and what it was trying to do and frequently achieving, I have become disenchanted and unless it lifts its game considerably over the next few weeks, I will not be renewing my subscription or giving gift subscriptions as I have in the past.

Climate change:

Viv Forbes, Chairman of the Carbon Sense Coalition, writes: Imagine conditions in the once Great Britain. Ice laden wind turbines sit idle in the still air; solar panels covered in snow; gas reserves down to 8 days; pensioners burning books to keep warm, and a bankrupt government.

This is happening because politicians have been conned by anti-industrial greens to neglect the UK’s reliable and economical coal and nuclear generators, while wasting time and money on pointless climate crusades.

Australia is treading this treacherous path. The Wong energy plan will consume our savings, uglify our headlands with wind turbines, cover our deserts with solar panels and entangle our countryside with a spider-web of costly and poorly used transmission lines. And still we will need coal and gas to deliver power when “the wind don’t blow and the sun don’t shine”.

When this global warming madness passes, future generations will remove this derelict solar/wind infrastructure and return to the only reliable and economical electricity options for Australia — coal, gas, hydro and nuclear.

Reality exists, even if there are few who recognise it.