Julia and the asylum seekers:

Colin Prasad writes: Re. “Gillard on asylum seekers: time for an East Timor Solution” (yesterday, item 1). What’s with “processing” people offshore?  Is this really a concern for people making a dodgy boat trip, or is that a cover for keeping bulging detention centres out of site?

A more humane policy would be to assess unauthorised people on shore, with access to support from those that want to support them and a transparent and efficient court process; with onus on them to prove their claim. Charities can post “bail” — a similar policy announced by Abbott.

Oddly enough this sounds a lot like the policy of the Liberal Democrats, who I reluctantly find myself agreeing with on many policies, (except for the kooky ones on smoking, guns and seatbelts … but overall I am finding them less kooky than the Greens).

I think their line sets the right tone:

“It is important that Australia provide a sanctuary for people who are fleeing political oppression and persecution, both on compassionate grounds and to demonstrate to the rest of the world the attractions of a free and democratic society. Such people can also become fierce advocates of freedom in Australia, having experienced its loss…”

Brett Gaskin writes: Re. “Richard Farmer’s chunky bits” (yesterday, item 10). Couldn’t agree more with Richard about Labor’s tragic move to the right in the asylum seeker debate. This country is crying out for a politician to lead us, not pander to our base fears.

I’m now looking forward to Richard’s take on the Liberal Party’s role in using racism as an election tool.

Labor are, without an argument, an absolute disgrace. However they’ve learnt much in the last 15 years from the Liberals on how to whip up racism and xenophobia for electoral gain. Or don’t we expect anything better from the conservatives these days.

The third instalment will be on the role of the media in this spreading stain on our country.

Australia is an island:

Gavin Greenoak writes: Re. “Australia is not an island — how to embrace a bigger Australia” (yesterday, item 13). I live in Byron Bay.  On a clear day you can see the high rise towers someway north, of the Gold Coast. For years people have being saying to me, “It’s only a matter of time, before this will be that.” In so many words.

The floor level limit has gone up from two to three, but still no high rise in Byron Bay. The reason for this is that the place is very beautiful without them, it stirs love, it stirs passion — to maintain beautiful things. And I have always felt that the effort by human beings to create beautiful things is possibly their sole justification for existence.

My work entails international travel. Traveling the world, visiting distant peoples and places is always interesting, but frequently, amid the thrash and buzz of the excited post-modern cities I visit I have a panic attack. What if I was to be stranded in such a place, and unable to get home to my beloved Byron. I would of course probably be okay, and certainly survive, but I feel in that panic that I would die.

Most of these sprawling cities are not built with any kind of beauty in mind. Though their histories often retain some. No, mostly it’s an intimidating mess of concrete and glass, and far far too many people scrunched into hugely stressful densities.  The effect of this, on human sensibilities I would not call a good thing. The inurement to ugliness is not so many whiskers from inurement to atrocity (like BP’s!).

Australia is an island, and it is largely because it is, and so distant physically from anywhere else, that it retains a pristine beauty, comparatively unspoiled. I for one, am passionately unapologetic about my love of this country’s splendour of space and all the other living creatures we share it with.

We can be rational and response-ible about how we grow. But if hordes begin massing at the borders of Byron Bay, with a view to nothing more than exploiting its beauty until it is as ugly as everywhere else, then I will not only be at the barricades, I will be shouting wildly for my fellow Byronarchists to join me.

Mindless protection, is as bad as mindless expansion, but thoughtful we can be about our choices, and when the sign says: WRONG WAY, GO BACK, it’s not because the road is a dead end.

Gay marriage:

Gregory Long writes: I can think of a few words that describe my feelings after I read Marcus Vernon’s letter (yesterday, comments) describing how “gay marriage just doesn’t fit in Australian society”. Shocked. Angry. Appalled. Befuddled. But ultimately I have to say my primary feeling is that of disappointment. I am yet to hear a sensible reason for why gay marriage is illegal in this country.

Daniel Nguyen writes: Marcus Vernon could have made a very poignant contribution had he left out his last paragraph. Instead he mars his contribution with typical over-the-top scaremongering. As far as I’m aware there have been no “radical, frightening overhauls of democratic government” in Belgium, Canada, Iceland, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain or Sweden.

Justin Templer writes: Marcus, thanks for your response to my comment — you write with rare elegance and cogency. At the end of the day I agree with everything you said.  So does my wife.

Cosmos magazine and National Science Week:

Niall Byrne, Science in Public, writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (yesterday, item 6). The anonymous tipster’s attack on Cosmos magazine and National Science Week is wrong in fact and flavour.

National Science Week is managed by the Commonwealth government and guided by a national management committee representing ASTA (science teachers), CSIRO, the ABC and others. It’s always had a strong community component.

Each State then sets up an ad-hoc volunteer committee which is open to anyone. Each State also gets a little bit of money but not much. Cosmos is a sponsor — providing free advertising and other support for the Week.

Kylie Ahern — the publisher of Cosmos — is the volunteer chair of the NSW committee. It will be a lot of work for little reward and is unlikely to give Cosmos much commercial advantage — and none outside NSW.

I’m involved in  some activities in Science Week in Victoria including promoting our Fresh Science competition which is supported by New Scientist — a competitor to Cosmos. No one has  told me I can’t hand out New Scientist magazines or talk to other media.  Last year I understand that there over 2000 Science Week stories across the media.

Luna Media and Cosmos have been strong supporters of science and science communication in Australia. They’ve helped my business out from time to time even though in some areas I compete with them. They deserve better than this anonymous attack. If you want to change Science Week then volunteer for your state committee and get involved.

Niall Byrne is the creative director at communication consultancy Science in Public. He assists the Innovation Department with some of their projects but not currently with Science Week.

Spelling Bees and the Courier Mail:

Youspell.com Director Creig Adams writes: Re: The Courier Mail‘s Samantha Clark (yesterday, comments). The limiting factor for spelling bees in Australia has always been the logistics of moving students, teachers, guardians and administrators around the country to attend “live” spelling bees. Without solving this problem by moving the contest online you have a traditional spelling bee like the Times UK one and in Australia this type of contest will not work.

It is curious that in the 15 or so years that the internet has been a part of our everyday lives no one in the world has come up with the idea to move the traditional school Spelling Bee online until the two of us did so within days of each other in the same geographic location. Unfortunately mine clearly made it to the public domain before News Ltd’s.

In terms of the sites bearing no resemblance to each other not only is the online concept similar but so are the teacher reports and certificates neither of which are present on the Times online site, a site that has repeatedly been offered as the parent site upon which the Courier Mail have modelled their site. The Times is also a school team site not an individually competitive site like both the Courier Mail site and www.youspell.com.

If the site has been in development for two years and The Courier Mail has a team of talented graphic designers, web developers, teachers and marketing experts working for it and, given News Ltd’s protectiveness of its intellectual property (see below), wouldn’t News have had ample time to develop their own graphics and register them as trademarks or registered designs?

Why borrow them from Capilano? Why not use Lexie the very cool animated bee from the Times website (another News Ltd entity so no problems with IP)? Why not reuse the Times logo’s etc and simply paste the Courier Mail masthead over the top of The Times masthead? Why not develop their own database of words that they would own and not simply use an off-the-shelf database from Collins?

A relevant quote:

“News Corporation chief executive Rupert Murdoch has recently spoken out against content aggregators such as Google, saying he would seek to “stop Google and others from taking our content” without paying to do so. Mr Murdoch has set a target of June this year to erect a pay wall around the company’s global mastheads, starting with London’s The Times newspaper.”

My site was registered in July, 2008. Why redesign and rebuild a site over a lost sponsor? Wouldn’t you just replace the graphics with the new sponsor’s details? I have simply reproduced the disclaimer that was present on your spelling bee website when it initially launched in April, 2010. Now I read it again, maybe you are going to give them away for free.

Here it is again…

Disclosure Statement: The Courier-Mail collects your personal information to assist us in providing the goods or services you have requested, to process your competition entries, and to improve our products and services. We or any of our Australian related companies may be in touch by any means (including email or SMS) at any time to let you know about goods, services, or promotions which may be of interest to you. We may also share your information with other persons or entities who assist us in providing our services, running competitions or with other companies who provide prizes for competitions or reader offers.

Peter Primrose:

A Labor veteran writes: I notice Peter Primrose, Labor MLC, (yesterday, comments) is clear and definite that the reports [Crikey, etc] about him resigning in the future are wrong. But that is meaningless because he can always say later that he has changed his mind.  Will Peter now make a clear and definite claim the rest of that story is also wrong? We wait with bated breath.