Clarification: On  December 7, 2009 Crikey published an article titled “Inside Dirt on Kristina Keneally’s Rise to Power”.  Mr Ben Keneally has pointed out to Crikey that Ms Keneally was entitled under ALP rules to appoint a person to represent her at internal ALP dispute resolution procedures. Further, he rejects any suggestion that this involvement caused the process to be “absolutely bastardised”, pointing out that he held no position of power or authority within the ALP beyond the level of his local branch, and was then, and had always been, employed in the private sector. Mr Keneally also points out that Ms Keneally’s preselection opponent, Ms Deidre Grusovin, was represented by her brother, the senior Labor figure, Mr Laurie Brereton. Mr Keneally also rejects suggestions in the article that he has ever been  subject to any improper influence by or obligation to Mr Tripodi or anyone else in the ALP.  Crikey acknowledges that the story was based on the perceptions of the sources interviewed and that Mr and Ms Keneally should have been approached for comment for this story and regrets their views were not published in the original article.

Dads getting a raw deal:

Chris Lehmann writes: Re “Family law legislation is putting women and children at risk” A dad being  involved in the lives of his kids after a divorce is not a hardship or a negative outcome for kids.

The overwhelming majority of fathers are loving, hard working, positive role models for their children (married or divorced) and the end of a marriage does not mean that this changes.

And I’m sorry to burst the bubble of the hysterical feminists who equate male with being violent and ascribe positive child rearing only to females/mothers.

Most marriages that end do not have any undertones of violence or abuse, and it is not always the fault of the man, women can also be adulterous, duplicitous, aggressive or ambitious as well, and wish to end or leave a marriage for their own personal or selfish reasons.

The statistics show that children are safer physically and emotionally in the care of their natural fathers than with any other males.  Stepfathers or mum’s boyfriend are the most likely candidates for harm by males, and the presence of an involved and watchful father is the most potent inoculation against abuse in these circumstances.

I am a divorced and re-married father of four, who has had shared care of (four nights a fortnight and half school holidays), and joint responsibility for my kids since 2000. I see or speak to my kids every day and do the mundane things such as sport drop-offs and helping them with homework and assignments (even if it is over the phone half the time).

This arrangement has not always worked smoothly, and it was a very difficult deal to negotiate in the wake of a marriage break-up, but I know that my kids are much more rounded and well adjusted, and more equipped to lead a life with positive messages about men/fatherhood/marriage than they would of been if they had seen me only twice a fortnight and  had one or two phone calls a week.

Neil Pentecost writes: As usual it’s only mothers who are fit to have custody, we are just the wallets!

The law was changed by Howard because he realised that fathers were getting a hugely raw deal, and in many cases being denied due access to their children, yet they are forced by the Child Support Agency (CSA) (who are hopeless!) to keep paying, even when a mother violates a Family Court order. I fall in to that category, where the CSA continually steps up and says I have no responsibility for the children or custody for more than three years.

Despite the fact that the Family Law Council said I can have all the access I desire and time as the children are old enough to make their own decisions, the CSA refuse to assess me as anything other than a father who spends no time with his children. I have killed an entire huge forest of my own writing fruitless letters.

The good thing is now that one daughter just turned 18, so is no longer a child, and my 15-year-old comes and spends all the time she wishes with me, which turns out to be more than 50% now, as she considers her mum to be an unreasonable pain in the arse. Her words, not mine.

Despite all this, and the fact that my ex-wife and I have a “private agreement”, which is permitted under the relevant Acts, and the fact that I have always paid far more than required by the CSA formulas (whatever they are), recently they had the ATO take 50% of a tax refund cheque, which although they now admit they were in error to do.Their best suggestion was to go and ask my ex for the money back. They would do nothing.

So one has no way to seek recompense without going before the courts, which would cost me more than the amount in question.

Fathers are sick to death of being told they are the problem. I’m sure there are some bad fathers, just as I’m equally sure there are bad mothers; drive out to Campbelltown or Deer Park to see the professional “mothers” who start having kids at 14/15 and live off our taxes.

Age shall not weary their denial:

John Hunwick writes: Re. Age shall not weary them: this is the face of climate denialism (Friday, item 3). Again Bernard Keane draws our attention to the generational source of much of climate denialism. People who are really concerned about climate change and their children and grandchildren would do well to read James Hansen’s latest book Storms of my Grandchildren.

He has written just because he cares about his grandchildren and I have read because I care about mine. It is not for anyone who doesn’t have some scientific knowledge of climate change. If you do have a basic understanding of it all then it will inform you even further about the way science has gone about addressing the issue and why Hansen for one is now an extreme alarmist.

He has now adopted this position because the science as he understands it (better than anyone?) brings him  the point that drastic action must be taken now, even before more symptoms of climate change becomes apparent because when changes like the loss of sea-ice, melting of ice-caps and glaciers, and changes in ocean currents and more frequent storms, it will be too late to stop it all and go in reverse.

He also draws attention to the great difficulty of adapting to climate change because once sea levels begin in earnest no amount of “adaptation” will stop the inevitable flooding of hundreds of millions of people’s homes and businesses. So forget those Queenslanders, read James Hansen and then see if you can honestly support any opposition to acting now on climate change regardless of cost — after all it’s only our children and grandchildren’s quality of life at stake.

Tony Kevin writes: A timely and politically important article. I think Bernard does believe in anthropogenic global warming (AGW).

We oldies are by no means all rabid denialists . As author of the recent book on AGW Crunch Time, I fit Bernard’s demographic here : “Some of the most determined and energetic climate change activists I’ve met are retired and elderly Australians determined to put their spare time to use combating a problem that deeply, deeply concerns them. With their investment of time, money and effort, they make most of us look like dilettantes on the issue.”  But sadly, a few of my friends are in the group Bernard describes — I’ll keep trying to convince them of the truth of the IPCC science.

Now, there is policy-important new science — published in the peer-reviewed Science journal — about the short-term dampening effect on global warming being created by an unexplained reduced concentration in recent years in the upper atmosphere of water vapour, which acts as a greenhouse gas. There was a most interesting news story on this on ABC News Radio, from US National Public Radio “Atmospheric dry spell eases global warming”, Richard Harris, All Things Considered, January 28, 2010. Read the text here.

It’s an important report, because the effect reported here would have helped dampen in recent years the CO2- global average temperature increase link,  which simplistic denialists such as  Senator Fielding have challenged as “not happening”.

But as the scientists interviewed on the NPR program said, while the water vapour decline in the upper atmosphere would have this dampening effect, it must sooner or later swing back the other way, as it is a short-term oscillation around a longer-term trend.

We need to educate the public more on the complex array of shorter-term oscillations, positive and negative feedbacks, dampenings etc involved in tracking and projecting global AGW.

Over-simplification of the science gives the denialists easy targets and lends public credibility to their foolish ideas.

League tables:

Don Cummins writes: Re. “Don’t let NAPLAN tests be misunderstood”  (January 28, item 11). And what did the Victorian Herald Sun do with the Naplan results — exactly what teachers feared — they printed a list of the “best” and “worst” schools. And wow! MacRobertson Girls High — a selective school — was tops. Yes, well I suppose that’s what selective means doesn’t it? I take it they haven’t been selecting them on their ability to fail the Naplan tests!

But just consider the mood in the staff rooms and playgrounds of the “bottom” schools this morning. All that effort with difficult kids from sometimes appalling backgrounds and you as a teacher or student are held up as, well, hopeless. These bottom schools are selective, too. They are selected from the poor, the weak, the disadvantaged, the socially left out and left behind — not all of course — but enough to bring the mean down towards the bottom.

The only justification for this stratification is if action is taken. So here is a suggestion. Let’s do some integration, some bussing, as the Americans called it. Let’s take half the funding from MacRob where they are obviously don’t need it and give it to the bottom school. And send half the staff there and give the ones from the bottom school a holiday by sending them to teach eager, interested kids at MacRob.

And do some real selection — send the poorest Naplan performers off to MacRob and see if they improve under the gentle influence of middle-class confidence, money and ethos. This would at least justify the otherwise cynical release of this information with no intention to take any real action to address the root cause of these differences.

Henrie Ellis writes: Much of the commentary about the publication of each school’s NAPLAN tests on the My School website has centred on the creation of “League Tables” naming and shaming failed schools and what mischief it might cause.

The fertile, albeit overheated brain of Russell Davies, the creator of the Doctor Who spin-off Torchwood concocted a wonderful new use for school League Tables in the episode aired on Friday the 29th January on ABC2.

It seems a horrid alien has demanded that 10% of Britain’s children have to be handed over to the alien being/s or the world will be destroyed. Despite Torchwood’s best efforts, the politicians and civil servants feel powerless in the face of the alien’s destructive power and canvas options meant to appease the being/s.

A female member of the high-powered committee charged with such a difficult decision came up with a unique solution, why not hand over all the children in the lowest 10% of schools underperforming in the UK League Tables? Bloody brilliant! You wipe out the under-achievers thereby allowing government to close failing schools, in other words the final educational solution.

The actress playing the part bore no resemblance to head mistress Gillard, nor could there ever be, God forbid, that our federal Government could ever contemplate such a callous, murderous, fantastical approach. However, in the real world, the misuse of that data is already evident with some sections of the media, including some of your own commentators, calling for a spirited round of teacher bashing for raising concerns.

Transparency and accountability for schools — balderdash!  Accountability for resourcing public education by state and federal governments — a fantasy just like the Torchwood solution.


Les Heimann writes: Re. “AussieBank: the Government thinks it’s a good idea – does Ahmed Fahour?” (Friday, item 1). Australia Post running a bank? You have to be kidding — they can’t run the postal service efficiently and exist only because of  myriad external contractors propping them up. Would they also contract banking services? No wonder they are saying no, they know the truth about themselves.

In any event Australia is quietly taking back its ownership of the banking business already — albeit slowly but it’s happening.

A new Community Bank opens somewhere in Australia every 20 days — yep, tick-tock count the days, every 20 days. The thing is community banks are owned by ordinary people directly and the profits they make are distributed right back to the communities that gave birth to them.

There’s more than 230 already and, tick-tock, they just keep growing.

It’s called “people power” and slowly, inexorably the power of the big four is being eroded. Think this is ridiculous? — well even ants can eventually bring down the Eiffel Tower and these community banks are giving back to their communities about $15 million (estimated) a year now.

Ask any of the big four for $15 million annually as a donation. No, they consider spin adverts and footy cups as more worthwhile.

We don’t need an incompetent public service run stuff up as a bank — “working families” already have a community bank.

Comments on comments on comments:

Sky News Contrarians correspondent Luke Walladge writes: Justin Templer (Friday, comments) asks me, why the outrage? Simple — Tony Abbott shouldn’t have opined on the subject of women and their virginity. I wonder if Australian conservatives are experiencing what their US counterparts used to call the Silk Purse/Bush’s Ear syndrome; the phenomenon of having to defend their leader when he says things even they don’t think are defensible.

If you doesn’t think Women’s Weekly counts as an official interview, perhaps you’d be so good as to provide a list of publications that aren’t “barleys” as far as criticism goes? Or are the only ones that count the ones where Abbott doesn’t stuff up?

Also, if you could see your way clear to recognising the difference between a washed-up political junkie on TV and the office of Prime Minister, that’d be great. I only wish I’d known that getting rid of John Howard was as simple as turning Sky News off. Or that we got to pass legislation on the Contrarians panel … easier than negotiating with Nick Minchin, no doubt.

Reality’s a pesky thing, Justin. It’s all on the record now, and if Twitter accounts and moments of ear-wax hunger are fair game then so are sanctioned, organised and recorded interviews, be they in Crikey, the Australian or the Citizens Electoral Council’s newsletter.

Finally, you seem to be labouring under the misapprehension I’m an ALP apparatchik. I must be the cheapest one going, as I don’t get so much as a cent from any party, government, union or like organisation. (Maybe they’re just paying me what they think I’m worth). You might like to know that I vote Labor because I believe in the same principles as they espouse, rather than the other way around.

Harold Thornton writes: I’m glad Tamas Calderwood (Friday, comments) airily dismisses death threats received by climate scientists as mere “moaning”.  Recent subscribers won’t have been exposed to his similarly airy contempt for Dr Haneef’s rights a year or two back, and may have been labouring under the false impression that Tamas possesses a full set of human attributes.

Anne Moore, meanwhile, finds Monckton’s talk “disturbing”.  As well she might, considering most of it is made up.  Take, for example, his recycled Lyndon LaRouche line about environmentalists having caused millions of deaths by banning DDT for use in controlling malarial mosquitoes.  This never happened, and Monckton knows it.  Crossword clue:  telling a story you know to be untrue, 3 letters, L–.

John Kotsopoulos writes: I have just two questions for arch climate denialist Tamas Calderwood to ponder before he pumps out yet another of his posts.  First, how long does he think that the so-called developed world can afford to continue using more than its fair share of energy resources in the face of growing demand from  the burgeoning middle classes in India and China.  Secondly does he believe that the Chinese Government and NASA are dupes or in a joint conspiracy given that they seem to regard climate change with equal seriousness.

So You Think You Can Define Masculinity:

A Crikey reader writes: So You Think You Can Dance (Australia) started again last night, with its usual oddball mantra that they want ‘their male dancers to be masculine’ (in the words of that permanently hatted judge).

Meanwhile, over at the tennis on Channel 7, we could happily accept that loser Andy Murray did cry and Roger Federer might cry. Neither man, the latter being the greatest athlete in the world, seems anything less than masculine.

Someone should tell whoever produces that dance show that pushing the line that only ‘real’ men dance is pretty bad code for saying, we don’t want effeminate fags on this show.

Australia is a country that suffers immense harm because of the rigidly enforced, traditional masculine ideals: strong, silent, tough. Men too afraid to show their emotions would prefer to kill themselves than to shed a tear in front of a mate (men thus, outnumber women when it comes to completed suicides, by 4:1).

So just as that dance show has quite rightly done this year, by taking up the issue of women’s body image as a central theme, it should abandon this dangerous dichotomy between men who it defines as masculine and men it denigrates as not.

Of course, what constitutes masculinity as such is a highly contested field. Like when it comes to Australian rugby league footballers, who are held up as the personification of masculinity, how do they show that they are real men? When it comes to dancing, the only thing that should matter is: can he dance?