Crikey: Yesterday in our editorial we incorrectly attributed these dead fish to the BP oil spill. The article that we referred to originally raised the oil spill as a potential cause for concern, but then later issued a clarification/update at the bottom of the story. We’ve now taken out the reference.

Gillard, Abbott, the Greens et al:

Martin Gordon writes: Re. “Labor risks forgetting who the enemy is” (yesterday, item 10). The article by Charles Richardson was an interesting read. Whilst there is a superficial attraction about Green Labor cooperation, the reality is that the two parties are in fierce competition with each other because they are fighting for the same voters. For Labor to placate/pacify/ally with the Greens will alienate mainstream voters costing them seats to the Coalition.

At the risk of sounding circular or repetitive often relations between parties with close political spectrum positions are worst, as they are fighting for the same votes. The best illustration is the new Senate (from 1 July 2011) of the 9 Greens, only two are at the expense of the Coalition (just as Xenophon and the new DLP Senator are), and the other seven are at the expense of Labor. In fact the entire ALP/Green majority there is due entirely to Tasmania (Greens waffle about electoral fairness would seem hollow with the small enrolment of that State); otherwise the Senate would be pretty well tied up.

The Greens will draw their support from the left of politics and the largest party to lose there is Labor. I expect that the Greens will shrink a bit in the future; as scrutiny is applied to them it will raise more doubts about their agenda. This is the pattern elsewhere.  There was a book written by a Green insider called Green Politics, which pointed out “greens have put energy into their rhetoric rather than into concrete policy initiatives”.

Which may explain why in the ACT the Labor Government is not too troubled by them, and why the Gillard Government is happy for the airtime to be taken up, whilst it avoids serious scrutiny in Parliament.

Perhaps the Greens do serve some purpose after all, just not the one people think.

Chris Hunter writes: Re. “Mungo: all bets are off for PM, Abbott still locked in the past” (yesterday, item 13). Mungo assumes that Tony Abbott will lead the Liberals for some time to come and he may well be right. But the real paradigm is that both Abbott and Gillard have already proven to be inept at leadership. Unpredicted by both parties was the huge swing away from Labor in Queensland due to the sacking of Kevin Rudd.

The Labor party is now a laughable bunch aboard their crippled ship and the Liberals (who inherited the swing in seats won) are also dead in the water. Not until both Abbott and Gillard (along with the faceless men) have been given the unceremonious boot will this country get the clear air that it need to sail in the right direction.

The economy:

Niall Clugston writes: Re. “When it comes to jobs, the real economy isn’t what you expect” (yesterday, item 1). The economy gets talked about a lot, but little analysed, and so Keane’s contribution is welcome. But parts of his picture seem out of focus. Describing manufacturing being in “historic decline” obscures the fact its workforce is not far below that of retail and “healthcare and social assistance”, the latter anointed by Keane as “Australia’s biggest employer”.

The point is that they are heading in opposite directions, but how long can this go on?  “Healthcare and social assistance” is basically the welfare state, dependent on revenue diverted from other sectors.  On the other hand, mining, which produces plenty of revenue, employs few workers. The obvious explanation for all this is that manufacturing can be moved to low-wage countries, but mining, agriculture, construction, retail, and various commercial services can’t.

Employment in Australia is dependent on these sectors of the market economy providing enough revenue to fund the welfare state and the rest of the public sector. It seems like the golden edifice of Australia’s economy has feet of clay.

The Real Estate Institute of Victoria:

Robert Larocca, Communications Manager, The Real Estate Institute of Victoria Ltd, writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (yesterday, item 7). Crikey published:

“Why is the Real Estate Institute of Victoria allowed to peddle their unreliable data to paint a completely different picture of the Melbourne property market? Taking into account “no result” auctions over the past five weeks, the clearance rate is falling — now to below 60% — yet the figures the REIV present indicate a clearance rate at more than 70%. “

Your anonymous tipster should do their homework. The REIV does not massage the results to manipulate the market. We transparently report the results that we receive, changing them on Saturday, Sunday and as we collect more information. We clearly report the number of results even when an auction occurred and we did not get a result by publication time (hardly the action of someone trying to hide something).

Those results are followed up and if they change the clearance rate we report that, too. And as for ‘how is the market going’: the clearance rate has been between 65 and 76 per cent for the past four-and-a-half months. That’s pretty stable, really.

Cricket bats for asylum seekers:

Troy Wright writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (yesterday, item 7). Crikey published:

“Australian immigration officers are giving out free cricket bats in Sri Lanka emblazoned with messages to deter asylum seekers. The town of Negombo was provided with 700 of these cricket bats courtesy of the Australian government.”

Having visited Sri Lanka a few years ago, I have a few questions about the efficacy of what appears to be a clever ploy to deter asylum seekers from travelling to Australia by boat.

Firstly, your article says the bats are being distributed in Negombo.  This is where the international airport is located, and from memory it is not a major sea-faring centre.

Further, it is on Sri Lanka’s west coast … surely most boats launched to Australia would be departing from somewhere on the closer east side?  Perhaps even more curiously, given we are told the majority of people arriving in Australia by boat are Tamils escaping ethnic prosecution in Sri Lanka, why are the bats then printed in Singhalese and not Tamil?!

The National Broadband Network:

Adam Schwab writes: Re. “Possum: cost benefit delusions of the NBN” (yesterday, item 11). Possum Comitatus wrote a fascinating article regarding calls for a cost-benefit analysis of the National Broadband Network, pointing out correctly that a pure economic CBA would ignore flow-on benefits of the NBN. However, while Possum made some valid points and there certainly are non-economic benefits that would flow from the NBN (and such those benefits may outweigh the positive quantitative flow-on effects of the project) a CBA can still consider those benefits, even if a direct monetary value may be difficult to determine.

However the key issue which Possum ignored was that the NBN was policy made “on the run” by a Prime Minister desperate to come up with a political solution in the midst of the GFC. Not only has no CBA been conducted, but it appears that no economic evaluation was undertaken, rather, a self-serving McKinsey report was produced stating that the project was able to be constructed. The project, Australia’s most expensive ever, was concocted in a very short time frame by a Prime Minister who was deposed shortly after by his own party.

Few doubt that a nationwide broadband scheme would provide many benefits. But the scale of those benefits, and who the real beneficiaries of such a plan are should be given great consideration given the enormous cost.

Male same-s-x couple adoption:

Guy Rundle writes: Re. “Same-s-x adoption: exposing the myths in Rundle’s stance” (yesterday, item 14). Tad Tietze makes several claims against my argument against male same-s-x couple adoption. Some get to the heart of the debate; others seem to me patently wrong, or based on misunderstanding.

Tietze quotes adoption practice to suggest that same-s-x adoption represents no major social shift. This is asinine. Homosexuality wasn’t even legal in some Australian states a generation ago. To go from that marginalisation to the possibility of adoption in 25 years is a major and epochal shift, whether you’re pro- or con- same-s-x adoption.

Tietze says we shouldn’t retroject current parenting arrangements to past societies. I agree, which is why I had a whole long paragraph saying precisely that, and distinguishing my argument from knee-jerk familialism. He should do me the courtesy of reading me properly.

Tietze’s central argument is that expert knowledge shows us that care giving can be far more fluid and various than we think, without loss to the child. Well, I don’t see any such consensus in attachment theory, but nor can we steer major social and cultural shifts by expert knowledge canons. My argument is that the given biological features of human existence may (note, may) predispose us to certain developmental needs, focused on a female body — and that the best interests of children dictates we err on the side of caution in these matters. Because let’s face it, expert knowledge can shift pretty dramatically.

Psychiatrists classed homosexuality itself as a “mental illness” until 1974 — and “treated” it with everything up to electric shock treatment. Tietze would presumably say they were utterly wrong, as would we all. I wonder which of his profession’s current assumptions will seem obviously wrong in thirty years’ time?