David Broadbent writes: Re. “Baillieu spinners in a spin over resources, as Nine veteran tapped” (Tuesday, item 11).In his article, Andrew Crook wrongly says I am a former roommate of Jeff Kennett. For nine months in 1966 we were both residents at ANU student hostel, Bruce Hall Annexe. We were never roommates.

More seriously Andrew Crook also wrongly says I have been working at the Education Department since 2006 adding: “Broadbent’s recently updated Linkedin page cheekily lists his employer as Arts Victoria” clearly implying  the update was designed to cover my short-term secondment to  the Premier’s office. (The Victorian Press Gallery has know an about the secondment for two months).

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The fact is I worked at Arts Victoria for more than two years before moving to Education in July 2009 and only recently updated the page to record that move.

I would have happily explained this to Andrew if he had called me.

Nuclear power:

Guy Rundle writes: Geoff Russell (yesterday, comments), like many in the  pro-nuclear lobby, continues to miss the point I’m making about nuclear power (other commentators labelled “hysterical” can speak for themselves).

I took no position on the real statistical risk of any given nuclear plant causing death or injury. I was commenting on how the public perceives risk, and why this is a problem for the nuclear lobby. It is an undeniable fact that any single nuclear power plant carries a catastrophic risk, in a way that any individual coal mine etc does not; the risk includes not merely individual deaths but the mass poisoning of whole areas of land, including those places people call home; the risk is carried invisibly in a manner which renders the whole means of life — drinking, water, etc — suspect.

My argument was that such risks undermine the basis of meaningful life, because it is to invite the potential of annihilating catastrophe into the centre of your existence. Twenty years ago, those of us opposed to nuclear power were criticised for proposing outlandish disaster scenarios — such as a  tsunami hitting a poorly maintained coastal reactor. Yeah, imagine that. Now that it’s happened, and is continuing to happen, we don’t need to argue. We just need to point.

It’s the pro-nuclear lobby who need to work out a way to sell the idea of publicly subsidising a potentially catastrophically lethal technology that a clear majority of people don’t want.

I’m glad they’re so bad at doing it, so uncomprehending of the values and priorities ordinary people bring to decisions affecting their families and communities. Makes our job a lot easier.

Jim Green, national nuclear campaigner with Friends of the Earth, writes: Geoff Russell points us to a UN report on the death toll on Chernobyl. Unfortunately the UN report shies away from estimating the death toll. It counts the short-terms deaths and puts the number at 43. It refrains from estimating long-term cancer deaths caused by Chernobyl fallout because of the uncertainties involved in those calculations.

While there are certainly uncertainties (known unknowns), we can still come up with defensible estimates of the death toll. These range from an estimate of 9000 deaths in the most contaminated areas to 93,000 deaths across Europe.

Geoff puts the Fukushima death toll at zero. The radiation release from Fukushima has been estimated by the Japanese government at 10 per cent of the Chernobyl release. It is far too early to estimate the long term death toll but clearly the figure will not be zero. Moreover radiation releases are continuing — indeed a TEPCO official said at a media conference on Wednesday that: ”The radiation leak has not stopped completely and our concern is that it could eventually exceed Chernobyl.”

Geoff says that nuclear power “is the only technology with a proven ability to scale to the levels needed to replace coal”. But on the same day figures were released on China’s expansion of wind power — an astonishing 18.9 gigawatts of new capacity last year and a total installed capacity of 44.7GW.

Kicking the bludgers:

Marcus L’Estrange writes: Re. “Sydney’s sparkling elite gather to hear Julia kick the bludgers” (yesterday, item 8). Julia Gillard can have all the wars against idleness she wants but she is showing that she has learnt nothing and forgotten everything when it comes to treating people on one of the six dole payments.

Earlier in the year, PM Gillard, in a major speech, admitted to the real unemployment figure of 2 million plus. We also know from the ABS that we have around 200,000 vacancies, advertised and not advertised.

You can divide the figures anyway you want; you will still have 1.8 million unemployed. Yes, the situation should change in 2018 when the ageing of the workforce problems start to kick in but until then we will continue to have mass, depression levels of unemployment we’ve had since the 30 year golden age of employment ended in 1975.

Until then all the redneck nonsense by Gillard (and Abbott) is just bread and circus nonsense designed to hide the real unemployment figures and a massive shortage of vacancies.

“Work for the Dole” (Liberal) is pointless because if a job is worth doing it’s worth paying a real wage, not a slave wage one. Labor’s “train harder for nonexistent jobs” program is also pointless.

One “good” thing is that this latest round of putting the boot in on welfare recipients is that it will collapse. Just like the thousands of schemes I saw collapse when I worked in the old Commonwealth Employment Service over 25 years.


David Rutter writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (yesterday, item 5). Crikey published:

“Recently I had two missed calls from an unknown number (no message left) and then a week later a call came through from the same number — the caller turned out to be from UNICEF Australia. The call centre staffer asked me point blank, and quite demandingly, if I wanted to donate more to UNICEF.”

I too am a regular monthly Unicef donor and have been for over five years.  Every year they call and politely ask if we would be able to increase our monthly donation, clearly outlining why they are requesting the increase.

Your tipster sounds like they have just been unlucky and if it you haven’t received a plethora of such “tips” it is a bit rich to imply Unicef has some systemic cold calling problem.

Climate change:

George Crisp writes: Would it be too onerous to check the validity of Tamas Calderwood’s post (yesterday, comments)?

The data is available here and the assumptions (or accusations) that Mr Calderwood uses are entirely testable.

In addition the figures he quotes from UAH, e.g. “the world as a whole was only 0.06C warmer than average” can also be easily checked:

The 13 month running average late 2010 from UAH was 0.42 C . Perhaps Mr C “cherry picked” a particularly anomalous month to support his absurdly low figure (0.06 C).

Overall Mr Calderood suggests that the NASA data is inaccurate  to the point of incompetency. Casting serious and unfounded aspersions as to Prof Hansen’s credibility despite his long record of eminence at the forefront of climate research.

Direct temperature measurements are the gold standard, whereas UAH calculates inferred atmospheric  temperature at various levels from satellite measurements of radiance. There have been significant and documented inaccuracies with the method in the past.

It would be helpful if Crikey was a little more discerning in their publication of this type of skewed polemic. I hope it is not the same political correctness of false balance that has paralysed much of the mainstream media.

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Peter Fray
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