Gay marriage:

Marcus L’Estrange writes: Re. “ALP MP: Labor must tackle infrastructure, jobs … and gay marriage” (yesterday, item 9). As an ALP member I agree with the first two aims but not the third one of gay marriage.

Despite Stephen Jones’s claim of helping the battlers, the aim to legalise gay marriage shows that Stephen’s (and others) mind is not on issues of concern to the 97% of Australians who are not gay, why Catholic Labor is being drummed out of Labor and consequently the Federal ALP primary vote is around 35% and at a time when we still have a two or three speed economy and massive poverty.

When will the penny drop Stephen? Again as an ALP member I urge Comrade Jones to go out and consult the members of the ALP “rank and vile” and above all the battlers to see what they think. I bet they want real jobs, food on the table, coins that jingle in their pockets. Not the peripheral issues such as gay marriage which is not a normal or natural marriage.

After all people can choose their own lifestyles (e.g. civil union) but marriage is a moral and legal contract between a man and a woman, to protect the rights of children to know and be raised by their biological mum and dad, wherever possible. Parties voting to change the definition of marriage can expect a backlash and a drop in primary votes at the next election.

A. Drury writes: Would proponents of same sex marriage accept a position that every single aspect of the Marriage Act and everything related to or consequential on it should apply to the union of same sex couples exactly as it does to heterosexual unions except that such unions would  not be called “marriage” but rather be given another name. If not why not?

As Crikey says “Sometimes the symbolism alone is important” and there are symbolisms in the idea of marriage for heterosexual people as well as for same-sex attracted people and for society at large.

The words “Husband” and “Wife’ for example have more nuanced meanings and are more symbolic to some than the alternative and non gendered “Spouse” or “Partner”.

Council super-taxes on pokies venues:

Stephen Mayne writes: Re. “Has Brumby done a deal to strip councils of powers to super-tax the pokies?” (yesterday, item 8). Just a quick correction to the email version of this story yesterday about the Brumby Government potentially removing the ability of councils to levy super-taxes on pokies operators. I said it was a quadruple special rate when, in fact, Moreland City Council is levying a double rate in 2010-11 which is bringing in an extra $115,000 a year.

The Age also covered the story today where the Brumby spinner was quoted saying they were waiting to see if Woolies lobbed another Supreme Court challenge whilst the Liberals promised to leave such rate setting to councils.

The Greens:

Bruce Graham writes: Justin Wood (yesterday, comments) lays down a fair challenge when he asks “what Bernard (Keane) is referring to with the garden fairies jibe”, and he has kindly linked to the source document. I think that a bit of green has improved the colour of Australian politics myself, so I reckon I’m fairly qualified answer.

Here are a few I found.

  • Agriculture and Natural resources:  “Fund the transition from…..agrochemicals”
  • Peace and Security: “Work towards a nuclear free Asia-Pacific region”, “Support the right of ADF personnel to conscientiously object…”
  • Science and Technology: “Support measures that will mitigate the ‘nanotechnology divide”
  • Corporate Governance: “Introduce accounting practices which clearly identify the financial, social, and environmental consequences of business decisions…..” (This is an attempt to quantify quality. Health economists and ethicists have wrestled there for decades without real progress. Do you really believe that accounting bodies could achieve this? )
  • Introduce legislation to enable persons detrimentally affected by the operation of Australian corporations overseas … to sue those corporations in Australia.

I am not saying that any of these are especially bad ideas, just as Bernard is not saying that any particular garden fairy is a bad fairy. To be polite, these policies lack any sense of achievable reality.

Perhaps the policy statements of other parties are even worse, but at least I know that the Liberal and Labor parties ignore their official policies anyway, so I can spare myself the tedium of reading those.

Sufficient faith, it is said, can move mountains. Perhaps I just lack faith.

The Irish economy isn’t smiling:

Alister Air writes: Re. “Australia, Ireland parallels: watch out, there’s something in the Eire” (yesterday, item 23). It is odd to assume, as Adam Schwab does in yesterday’s piece that the current economic problems in assorted countries demonstrates that the modern welfare state is unsustainable.

Using Ireland as an example is particularly curious. A large part of the problem that Ireland finds itself in is due to its inability to manage its own currency. Ireland’s banks were irresponsible, and the Irish government’s guarantees expensive.

A brief summary of Ireland-specific problems may assist. In situations like Ireland’s, the currency would ordinarily lose value, making exports more competitive and helping to provide a buffer against further cuts to income. Ireland can’t devalue, and is left without a key economic instrument to help fight falls in economic activity.

Ireland isn’t Australia, in spite of the superficial similarity in house prices.  This is not to say that Australia is immune to asset bubbles, or that the housing market is in an asset bubble that will burst (I offer no comment on this).  But even a collapse in Australia’s housing market won’t see us in the same position as Ireland (see Paul Krugman for an interesting Germany-Spain comparison, with housing prices as the subject).

We haven’t been silly enough to enter into a currency union with economies that are many times our size.  Ireland gave up a lot to enter into the eurozone. I wonder if they think it was worth it.

Get lost:

Michael R. James writes: Re. “Daily Proposition: get lost in your own city” (yesterday, item 19). In yesterday’s Daily Proposition Mike Doman described nothing less than the philosophy of the flaneur — and eponymous title of Edmund White’s recent(ish) book subtitled A stroll through the paradoxes of Paris.

Flaneur: a stroller, a loiterer, someone who ambles without apparent purpose but is secretly attuned to the history of the streets he walks — and is in covert search of adventure, aesthetic or erotic.

A similar aesthetic is described in architect Michael Sorkin’s Twenty Minutes in Manhattan. The title refers to the author’s daily walk from home in Greenwich Village to office in Tribeca. “Sorkin takes us on a journey through eras and worlds in the space of just 15 blocks.”

Or even David Byrne’s (yes, the musician ex-Talking Head) Bicycle Diaries in which city cycling “felt more connected to life on the streets” and “serves as a ‘form of meditation’ that keeps him sane”.

In an epilogue on modern city planning, inspired by earlier luminaries like Jane Jacobs he writes “if a bike lane isn’t safe for an eight-year-old child, it isn’t really a bike lane” and “being in a car may feel safer, but when everyone drives it actually makes a city less safe”.

I am sure many Crikey readers are aware of these books and the aesthetics they describe, but these should be made compulsory reading by our politicians — and designers of Melbourne’s Docklands and Sydney’s Barangaroo — with mandatory examinations for eligibility to run our cities.

Climate change I:

Douglas Clifford writes: Re. Brett Gaskin (yesterday, comments) who wrote:

“Last week I wrote in to Crikey asking they cease publishing Tamas’s predictably incorrect climate change denials. So yesterday we get a very thoughtful and well written contribution from Viv Forbes.

Seriously Crikey — if I want to read this crap I can always visit the Hun.”

Au contraire, I think you should continue to publish Tamas. It is useful to be reminded of the lunatic fringe Also PLEASE bring back David Flint and the other fossils you used to publish Crikey is altogether too serious… we need the froth and bubble (and the laughs) that these writers provide(d).

Chris Hunter writes: Regarding Brett Gaskin’s comment “Last week I wrote into Crikey asking they cease publishing Tamas’s predictably incorrect climate change denials”.

Well Brett, I’m writing this letter in a jumper wondering if it’s ever going to warm up enough to go for my usual November swims.  Bloody freezing.

Climate change II:

Tamas Calderwood writes: Re. “Please ignore the UN climate deal” (yesterday, item 15). What a surprise:  another head-in-the-sand climate change piece in Crikey.

Georgina Woods readily admits to the utter failure of Copenhagen but completely avoids mentioning the leaked emails from the CRU as having any effect on the way climate “science” is viewed. She talks of the embarrassing position of Australia and the US in not having domestic legislation on climate change yet cannot bring herself to mention China, the world’s biggest emitter that is rapidly constructing hundreds of new coal-fired power stations and refuses to even contemplate winding back its emissions. And what about all those IPCC errors?

And then, of course, there is the “pollution” label for CO2,  which has supposedly caused this climate “calamity” that’s seen the world warm by a devastating 0.7C since 1860 according to the CRU’s “hide the decline” data, the oceans rise about 7mm in the past decade (meaning that by 2100 they could be a full 6.3cm higher!) and not a jot of warming since 1998, despite record human CO2 emissions.

Now, I get that a vast number of people have an enormous amount of prestige invested in the “calamity” of climate change being true. But like it or not the data just doesn’t support the hypothesis and that’s why Copenhagen failed, why public support is collapsing, why the Chicago Climate Exchange just folded, and so on.  2010 hasn’t been a good year for climate change activists and I confidently predict that 2011 will be worse.

Bring it on.

Peter Fray

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