News Ltd and The Lodge:

Barry Everingham writes: News Limited’s egg-beater mentality knows no ends … witness Wednesday’s really outrageous story about what it costs to leave The Lodge empty.

During the Howard years the real story about costs and rorting the public purse by John and Janette Howard’s decision to live in Kirribilli House (so their kids education wasn’t interrupted!) didn’t see the light of day in any of News’s publications.

The misuse of RAAF VIP flights to ferry the stellar couple between Sydney and Canberra alone ran into millions — to say nothing of the travel costs of public servants who were bidden to Sydney while the ruling duo lived there.

Both establishments needed a full staff — in Canberra if John and Janette made spur of the moment decision to camp there even for the odd night. Janette was a stickler for personal comfort; whatever the cost.

It might not have occurred to the hacks of Holt Street that Julia’s decision to leave  the move until she is elected at the forthcoming election should be applauded and the  security detail at Altona is foistered on her — PM’s don’t have options about their personal security.

How the 24/7 media cycle helped kill off Rudd:

Jim Hanna writes: Re. “How the 24/7 media cycle helped kill off Rudd” (yesterday, item 5). Rudd’s sinking poll ratings were merely the cover that justified the party’s removal of a leader that had alienated many of them. He was safe as long as he commanded high approval ratings.

Even when the polls did turn against him, he and the Government were still ahead of Abbott and the Opposition — and in a much better position than John Howard had been as PM just before several election wins. Rudd was on track to win the next federal election and boost his authority if it was a fairly solid result. He was removed before he (and the voters) could be given that chance.

No, the polls weren’t the reason he was removed; the fact that he couldn’t muster 30 votes (out of 100+)  in the caucus showed he had long ago lost the support of most of his MPs and the party hierarchy because of his leadership style.

Julia Gillard won’t make that mistake.

FTA v Foxtel:

Matt Cowgill writes: Re. “A toxic relationship thaws, but Gillard will have News on her mind” (yesterday, item 2). Is Bernard Keane trying to set himself up with a post-Crikey job at Foxtel? His relentless one-eyed spruiking for subscription TV suggests that he is.

The majority of Australians choose not to subscribe to Foxtel. Many of us could not afford to subscribe even if we wanted to. In recognition of this, Governments mandate that certain sporting events must be available for broadcast on FTA TV.

Quite why that is such a repugnant idea has never been adequately explained by Keane.


Blogger Gabe McGrath writes: Re. “The great brawl of China: Google may lose its licence” (Wednesday, item 2). Margaret Simons wrote:

“[Google has reinstated] as a ‘landing page’. This means that rather than being automatically redirected, Chinese users wanting to have unfiltered search results have to make just one more click to achieve the desired results.”

One thing Margaret didn’t seem to consider, is the effect of “Just one extra click” on the user. From now on, Chinese citizens who want “unfiltered” results in Google will need to actively indicate that desire.

Hmmm… What’s going to happen to those people when the government sees them exercising this “preference”?

You don’t think they’ll be watching?

Immigration & population:

Dick Smith writes: Christine Black (yesterday, comments) accuses me of having the blinkers on in suggesting we need to reduce our current record immigration levels.

Ironic that this comment comes on the same day that the Bureau of Statistics releases figures showing Australia’s population is growing at its fastest rate in decades, eclipsing that of nearly all other developed countries. The Bureau confirms Australia is currently hurtling towards a population of around 40 million by 2050, even greater than Kevin Rudd’s “Big Australia” of 36 million.

I have suggested we reduce our immigration numbers in a non-discriminatory fashion to around 70,000, much closer to our historic levels than the current 300,000.  I have further called for an increase in our humanitarian intake.

Ms Black claims I’ve got my history wrong. In fact the best analysis of Australia’s historic immigration levels has been done by Dr Katharine Betts at Swinburne University. She’s shown that even allowing for the massively inflated figures of the past few years, our average intake over the years 1947-2009 was 97,196. As recently as 1997 the annual figure was as low as 72,400.

So yes Christine, I do support a reduction in our immigration to less than a third of its current unsustainable levels. You may be surprised to learn that the average figure in the decade between 1991-2000 was about that: 85,518. We need to get back to these levels and preferably a little less, depending on natural increase, if we are to build a sustainable future.

I will leave it to Crikey readers to judge if I’ve been making false claims. But one thing is beyond doubt: the consistent result of polls over the past year shows that the great majority of Australians agree with me.

A choice correction:

Chris Hunter writes: Re. “New Zealand no longer the land of the long black cloud?” (yesterday, item 11). Sorry to be picky Tom Cowie but Jenny Shipley was New Zealand’s first female PM not Helen Clarke.

Peter Fray

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