Journo union goes after late fees:

Lizzie Franks from the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (yesterday, item 8). Crikey published:

“I work as a journalist and decided I wanted to renew my MEAA membership, which I hadn’t used since I was a student several years ago. Rather than being welcomed back with open arms, I was told I owed hundreds of dollars in membership fees for all the years I hadn’t paid.”

Your unnamed tipster had it exactly right yesterday when stating we had offered to waive unpaid union fees in return for signing up for a direct debit membership. For some time we have been trying to encourage members to sign up via direct debit because it is more cost effective — and if it is more cost-effective for us, then it benefits all our members.

If offering to write off “hundreds of dollars” is not “welcoming back with open arms” your tipster has obviously not been approached by a debt collector. For the record, it is our policy to waive unpaid fees if an unfinancial member chooses to return to membership via direct debit. About 70% of members now pay their fees this way.

By doing this you gain access to all the benefits of membership: advice, industrial and legal representation, access to our professional development programs, myriad discounts and special offers and, of course, the warm fuzzy feeling you get when you work collectively alongside the majority of your peers for the good of your industry.

Scott Morrison:

John Taylor writes: Re. “Hockey stands aside from Islamophobia campaign — and where was Labor?” (yesterday, item  1). I agreed with Bernard Keane’s lead item until the second last line where he implied that supporting those who attended yesterday’s funerals would upset the Western suburbs of Sydney.

My Western suburban Golf club survey yesterday disclosed a huge majority who thought Scott Morrison was a dickhead who showed no compassion to people, under devastatingly sad circumstances. The consensus was that in recent weeks the Liberals, mainly Abbott but now his Immigration spokesman, have done themselves irreparable harm with their dealings and statements, firstly about  seeking donations to oppose the flood levy, then the foreign aid nonsense and now this.

Now, Golf club members, whether in Sydney’s west or elsewhere, are a generally senior, conservative bunch and if my reading of their mood is correct Tony Abbott is history as far as Prime Ministerial potential is concerned.

Andrew Haughton writes: Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey have praised Scott Morrison for expressing his regrets for speaking insensitively on the day of the asylum seekers funerals. That’s like praising him for not mugging an old lady.

Of course he had to apologise. There was nothing manly about it. He had stuffed up. And let’s not forget he only regretted the timing of his remarks not their substance and their substance is racist.

Rundle (and Middle Earth):

Victoria Collins writes:  Re. “Rundle: the multiculti waters run deep and warm” (yesterday, item 6). I had a wry smile on my face yesterday when reading Guy Rundle’s piece about the faux dismissal of multiculturalism by David Cameron in the UK actually being a covert anti-Islamism, as opposed to being a true refutation of the many and different cultures which make up the population of his country.

A wry smile due to his reference to the fact that Cameron actually embraces Sikhs and Hindus while talking down multiculturalism. Just the way that I have noticed the Liberal Party doing it here in Australia.

Jack Nicholls writes: Re. “Rundle: helping to form the resistance is the Right’s legacy in Egypt” (Tuesday, item 4). While we all appreciate Guy Rundle’s globetrotting antics, you can be a gonzo journalist without sounding like a Socialist Alternative banner waver.

Could we have a little less FIXED News and FAUX News barbs? When bloggers start using “humorously insulting” names for their opponents, I immediately tune out.

We’re not living in Middle Earth, where just naming the Evil draws its attention.

Water:

Brett Gaskin writes: Joe Boswell (yesterday, comments) states in relation to wireless making the NBN redundant — “but just look how many people don’t want a mains water supply now they can get bottled water and carry it about anywhere”.

Joe, I suspect you may be the only person in the country who doesn’t want a mains water supply. Most other people may like to take a shower or wash the dishes every once in a while.

As in the climate change debate, why does anyone with a mouth think they are qualified to have an informed decision?  Virtually every telecommunications expert has stated wireless technology should be complimentary to a wired infrastructure.

So the only question that remains is whether it is cost effective to actually build the NBN in a country as large and sparsely populated as Australia.

Murdoch:

Kim Lockwood writes: Re. “Two stories you won’t see doing the rounds of News Ltd papers” (yesterday, item 18). Elisabeth Murdoch (twice, so not a typo), not Elizabeth. Just like her mum. I thought every cadet in Australia was taught that.

Wivenhoe Dam:

Michael R. James writes: Re. “Wivenhoe release could’ve prevented floods? Nonsense, say experts” (yesterday, item 4). In Sophie Cousins’ report on the Wivenhoe dam releases both Crikey and some of those professors are muddying the waters. No one is saying that some kind of flood event was entirely avoidable under any condition.

So Professor Neal Ashkanasy’s statement that “claims that the flooding of the Brisbane River was avoidable” is rather valueless. Every 10cm of flood reduction would have made significantly less impact and the release of vast amounts just before the peak of the flood does raise serious questions. Even if News Ltd said it, it doesn’t mean it is wrong.

Here is a summary from my Crikey post of 14 Jan:

“One would not want to be the manager(s) of Wivenhoe during the enquiry. Looking at the release schedule published by The Australian today, it does look like they left it dangerously late to start really serious releases: 172 GL on Monday and lower before that, then a whopping 645 GL on Tuesday. Cut back to 200 GL on Wednesday. It takes water 36 h to travel from Wivenhoe to Brisbane City so depending on when that cutoff on Tues/Wed occurred, that large wollop of water could have coincided with Bremer & Lockyer flood inflows (downstream from Wivenhoe, thus independent), exacerbated by Wednesday’s high tide.”

The two issues are whether there should have been much bigger releases over the 3-4 days prior to the actual big release, and whether the giant release beginning Tuesday did contribute to the height of the flood. To the first, it really does seem obvious that there should have been bigger releases.

Everyone in Queensland was already apprehensive on that weekend and the dam was already at 120%. The real reason behind the delay was almost certainly political timidity (and heavy political pressure on the dam managers) which is summarized in my second post of 14 Jan:

“Southern readers might need to be reminded that Brisbane gets most of its annual rain in these short, intense bursts. Thus governments and water managers are always reluctant to throw away any water captured water because we just never know when the next rain will come.”

Jeff Seeny (LNP Qld MP) is in Hansard as demanding that the water supply compartment of the dam (by definition, 100%) be increased to avoid future water shortage and restrictions. It is unavoidably true (even if The Australian says so) that the releases starting this week to reduce the level to 75% is a de facto admission that the levels should have been reduced earlier.

I suspect the government would have delayed even these current releases except for what I can see out my window today and yesterday: heavy rain. Just as the BOM warned, the wet season is not over yet.

As to the second point (absolute flood levels) I do not know and it is obviously critically dependent on the timing, given it takes released water 36 h to reach Brisbane. Did they get the timing right—it had to be extremely tight—or were they driven (perhaps correctly so?) by worries about breaching Wivenhoe’s safety plugs?

For the record, as a Brisbane resident (but in a flood-free suburb this time) and one who lived through the 1974 flood (which was much, much worse than this one no matter the hysterical media coverage), I am not going to blame the dam managers or the politicians (except the irresponsible LNP). But I really hope they learn from this event and are much more prepared to do big pre-emptive releases in future wet seasons.

Peter Fray

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