Correction:

Crikey: Re. “Call off the razor gang and fix the safety net: welfare groups” (Wednesday, item 10). The article misquoted Uniting Care Australia Director Susan Helyar as saying unemployment had not changed over the last 15 years. Hallyer in fact said that “longterm unemployment has not changed in the last 15 years.” Additionally, the Halmer Report was published in 2009, not 1998.

The Oz and The West Wing:

Niall Clugston writes: Re. “In the echo chamber, progressives need to muscle up on policy” (Friday, item 1). I agree with much of Bernard Keane’s argument.

I think, however, he overstates the power of “corporate interests” in public debate, as exemplified by the mining tax furore — as if Andrew Forrest dressed up as a worker represents an unstoppable propaganda force. Big business can command legions of warriors, but its champions are indolent and indifferent after decades of easy victories. They weren’t much help with WorkChoices.

As for The Australian, it is, as Keane says, a “ghetto of agreement”. Apart from its dwindling followers, no one takes the cult seriously, not even Rupert Murdoch. So why obsess over its pronouncements?

And this is the other issue that Keane misses. The progressive intelligentsia has formed itself into a rival cult, ritually denouncing hate figures such as News Limited columnists, spouting dogmatism laced with inane jargon such as “climate sceptic”, and last but not least over-intellectualising public debate.

A case of this last point is Keane’s assertion that “Successfully shaping public debate… requires tools like economic modelling”. Where was that in the campaign against WorkChoices?  That campaign was successful because it spoke to ordinary people about issues that mattered to them in a way that they could understand. I don’t think that the “progressive-minded” can do that at the moment. The greatest challenge they have to overcome is themselves.

Gabriel McGrath writes: Perhaps progressives should (re-)watch The West Wing, season 3, episode 6. (It’s the scene where Sam Seaborn asks Bruno Gianelli why he wants to fight far-right ‘attack leaflets’.)

Bruno answers: “Because I’m tired of working for candidates who make me think that I should be embarrassed to believe what I believe, Sam! I’m tired of getting them elected!

We all need some therapy, because somebody came along and said, “‘Liberal’ means soft on crime, soft on drugs, soft on Communism, soft on defense, and we’re gonna tax you back to the Stone Age because people shouldn’t have to go to work if they don’t want to!””

And instead of saying, “Well, excuse me, you right-wing, reactionary, xenophobic, homophobic, anti-education, anti-choice, pro-gun, Leave It To Beaver trip back to the Fifties…!”, we cowered in the corner, and said, “Please. Don’t. Hurt. Me.”

No more.

I really don’t care who’s right, who’s wrong. We’re both right. We’re both wrong. Let’s have two parties, huh? What do you say?”

Bank deposits:

Anthony Timmins writes: Why does Roy Ramage (Friday, comments) and others I have read get their knickers in a knot over the government’s (taxpayer) guarantee of bank deposits. They try to say that it was a cost to us taxpayers when of course the opposite was the case.

The banks paid several billion dollars in guarantee fees to the government (taxpayers) and the exercise ensured that they could borrow on level terms with every other borrower in the world thus ensuring a steady flow of relatively cheap loans to Australian businesses and the citizens.

It was a necessary and timely move by the government and they should be applauded for it , not made to suffer cheap ill-informed shots.

Rundle:

Brett Gaskin writes: Guy Rundle’s work is usually thought provoking even if I don’t understand some of the bigger words. However Guy’s tendency to continually reply (Friday, comments) to anyone who makes a comment is a tad unedifying. One reply is OK, but any more just looks like someone who has to have the last word. After all, two people can have valid but differing opinions (doesn’t include you Tamas). Hint — Guy, don’t reply to this comment.

Commonwealth Games:

Vincent Burke: It seems I’m one of the relatively small number of people who watch the Commonwealth Games on Channel 10, although I’m not tied to it. As sports coverage’s goes, it has not been so bad, although the sound of the opening night ceremonies was woeful.

What I don’t understand is why all four Channel 10 free to air stations are showing an identical program. I thought we were getting 15 free to air channels with the FreeTV provision of additional channels.

I don’t understand why Channel 10 could not have continued with its normal broadcasts and showed different elements of the Games on its other three channels.

Peter Fray

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