Fairfax subbing:

Crikey writes: Re. “Media briefs” (yesterday, item 17). Yesterday we cheekily suggested Age journalists Emma Quayle and Michael Lynch were perhaps blaming their colleagues in the subediting department via Twitter for mistakes in the paper. We’re happy to clarify they were merely pointing out anomalies in the copy, not apportioning blame. Both love and appreciate their subeditors very much. Now more than ever…

Carbon Cate and climate change:

Bill Williams writes: Re. “Carbon Cate: just who does the media think it’s stumping for?” (yesterday, item 2). Crikey disappointed me yet again with it’s incredibly shallow analysis of the government’s carbon policy advertising. Crikey and its editorial team seem to have taken the decision that the carbon tax is a good thing, and the government is doing the right thing in trying to implement it. The main consequence of this position is that it seems to have left Crikey unable to provide critical analysis of anything pro-carbon tax including this most recent advertising, and focuses instead on criticising those sections of the media that do provide criticism.

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Of course Cate Blanchett has every right to support the campaign and her wealth should be irrelevant to the debate. But why is Crikey so uncritical of the assumption that  climate change action = carbon tax and an ETS? Why can’t someone on the Crikey editorial team analyse the government’s advertisements critically? Couldn’t someone from Crikey have at least pointed out  the patronising and simplistic cowardice of  advertisements that don’t even mention the word tax, and lay the blame for carbon pollution at the door of industry rather than on our Australian way of life? Doesn’t anybody on Crikey’s editorial team see the elements of anxiety, guilt, denial and projection implicit in the ad campaign … all played out in a national advertising campaign?

The really unfortunate outcome of Crikey’s pro-Labor, pro-carbon tax position is that the lack of critical analysis is helping Australians to deny their own personal responsibility for consuming less and taking action to address population growth.

The carbon tax shares many attributes of what D.W. Winnicott described as a transitional object. Transitional objects are most commonly understood to  help babies and young children to relieve separation anxiety from their mothers and include dummies and comfort blankets with a satin edge. Various writers associated with the Tavistock Institute, drawing partly from the object relations school of psychotherapy, have applied the concept of transitional objects to organisational change, particularly in response to changes in the business environment.

The carbon tax in some ways is a beautiful transitional object to help us cope with our anxiety and guilt about human induced climate change. For pro-carbon tax supporters at least, it fulfills  the basic security need to see some action. It also very conveniently lays part of the blame at the door of what Michael Caton calls “big companies” who “pollute our skies”. The carbon tax also taps into that biblical human instinct for sacrifice as a way to assuage guilt and achieve reparation. A little self flagellation via the tax system seems a small price to pay alleviate our guilt  about four or five air conditioners and a new Commodore or high carbon mile  imported European car … especially when those really naughty guys who mine and burn coal to generate electricity or make steel are singled out for much greater punishment.

But the really nice part about a carbon tax as a transitional object to manage our anxiety about our personal contribution to climate change and environmental degradation is that it is nice and simple. It allows us to focus on the symptoms of the problem and maintain our denial of the need to tackle the much more difficult problem of the real causes of the problem: a plague of humans on the planet whose very survival is dependent on an economic system based on growth and unsustainable consumption of the earth’s biomass, and non renewable resources.

It enables us to feel like we are at least “doing something” while ignoring the fact that more tax must be sourced from even more economic activity and therefore causing even more carbon pollution. A carbon tax also helps us to forget about the need to create a structure of global government in order to be able to implement globally coordinated action.

So although the carbon tax (and the ETS) are effective transitional objects to relieve our collective anxiety about the climate change and environmental degradation, they are unhealthy transitional objects because they also help us to scapegoat big companies our den focus on the symptoms of the problem rather than to address the real causes.

All of the elements of this denial are on clear display in the government’s advertising campaign: guilt, projection, sacrifice and a fantasised hope for reparation. Surely a critically thinking Crikey journalist could have had a field day. At least Crikey blogger Leigh Ewbank drew attention to the fact that the campaign is unlikely to achieve any significant result in terms of carbon reduction.

In the interests of some semblance of critical journalism, why don’t you ask Richard Farmer for a comment about the advertisements themselves?

CRIKEY: The Say Yes campaign is not a government funded advertising campaign. The organisations behind the $ 1 million campaign include the Australian Conservation Foundation, The Climate Institute, The Australian Council of Trade Unions, the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, Climate Action Network Australia, Greenpeace, the World Wildlife Fund, GetUp and Environment Victoria.

Maree Whitton writes: My feelings are; sure, Cate has the right to speak her mind, but so does every other Australian taxpayer. Why is it that public figures offer themselves and their points of view on vital issues and what they have to say is supposed to influence the rest of us?

I personally believe we all should do everything we can to save the planet for future generations, but we should be told how much our sacrifices the government is pushing onto the Australian  taxpayer will affect the overall situation worldwide. These questions should have been answered when the carbon tax was first raised.

What the government and the likes of Cate and her friends would like for all of us to sit back and be taxed or have to pay higher and higher charges to cover the costs of goods and services, without asking questions.

The carbon tax debate is a huge conversation with everyone I speak to. Why can’t we all be heard? Why hasn’t the government come forward with just how much this carbon tax is going to cost us? How is it going to work and how is it going to save the planet? I notice Cate has solar panels on her home; is the New South Wales taxpayer paying her power bills?

John Hunwick writes: The problem facing the world is even greater than portrayed in the The Guardian and relayed in Crikey. It appears to be common practice now to refer to 2 degrees warming as the outer edge for saving Earth from catastrophic disaster.

Recent discussions by Clive Hamilton and James Hansen make it abundantly clear that for the Earth to remain anything like the way we inherited it, any rise above ONE degree is to be resisted and CO2 reduction must be urgently brought back below 350pm. While it might be comforting to think that we still have a reasonable margin of time and level of CO2 emissions within which to act.

Like Beaverbrook (quoted by Dick Smith) we need the truth — and it is not pleasant, nor cheap. Failure to take decisive action within the next few years (even 2017-18) could be optimistic will herald disaster for all future generation. Even the predictions by the IPCC are coming quicker than forecast.

If we must mention 2 degree warming it should be accompanied by the statement that many scientists believe that this is too high and we should be working frantically to keep it below 1 degree.

Niall Clugston writes: Re. Yesterday’s Editorial. Regarding Monday’s editorial, the fact is that pessimism sells. Bad news beats good news, problems are more credible than solutions, and the seeds of doubt are hardier than those of faith.

In the climate change debate both sides appeal to pessimism.

Not only is Australia enjoying wonderful terms of trade, but we also are members of a global community that is the wealthiest in world history.  But our constant refrain is: We can’t afford it!


Justin Templer writes: Re. “FIFA-fi-fo-fum, we smell the blood of scam artists” (yesterday, item 15). Regarding Australia’s bid for the soccer World Cup, Luke Miller writes that “Australia must have a very unpleasant conversation about the episode” and how the $45m of taxpayers’ money was spent.

But first we would need to get the co-operation of Frank Lowy who, when interviewed last year by the Australian Financial Review about Australia’s World Cup bid, stated that: “We need Australia’s full backing.  The issue doesn’t need to be in the public arena because that doesn’t settle things.”

Quite so.


Warwick Fry writes: The Middle East is so much in the mainstream media focus that events similarly, if not equally dramatic were played out in Honduras unnoticed. As is often the case, the effects will (perhaps) be noticed later, decontextualised and leached of the immediacy of daily trauma endured by tens, often hundreds, of thousands of people extending over weeks, and in the case of Honduras, over years.

During March and April of this year, the teachers of Honduras were on strike. Had been for three weeks. Students and parents of students joined in to fight pitched battles with police, to prevent their illegal entry into schools and Universities. This was after police had fired massive amounts of tear gas (hundreds of canisters at over US$120.00 a pop) on teachers and lecturers staging a peaceful sit in at the offices of the Providence and Pension fund that was looted after the 2009 coup (now declared bankrupt by post coup administrative appointees), and demanding back wages owed them for over a year.

It is just one of a long a litany of outrages against people and organizations in resistance against a post coup regime that has seen the resurgence of 1980s style death squads, small farmers evicted and assassinated when they resist the claims of corrupt agro-business bullies, 13 journalists assassinated in less than a year, independent radio stations burned down and/or trashed, and death threats common currency.

Typically, the response of the post coup government of Honduras to the teachers’ strike was to raise the pension age to 70 years (average life expectancy in Honduras is 68.7), pass legislation privatising the entire education system, and to sack or suspend over 300 teachers known to be involved in the strike.

Mel Zelaya, the ousted former President of Honduras, with the FNRP (National Popular Resistance Front) were able to negotiate a return to his homeland, free of trumped up charges by the post coup regime this week. The exclusion of Honduras from the OAS (Organisation of American States) was beginning to punish the regime financially, and US pressures for the readmission were failing. The first condition to be negotiated was the return of ‘Mel’ Zelaya,  now the titular head of the FNRP. The other conditions are; recognition of human rights, recognition of the FNRP as an active political movement, and a commitment to calling a democratic Constituent Assembly to reform the constitution.

It remains to be seen how far the regime will go in recognising the last three demands, and how far the OAS will go in imposing those conditions, but the return of Zelaya is seen as a great victory for the hugely popular resistance front of Honduras, with perhaps one of the biggest street parties in the world out to greet him.

Two million people turned out to welcome back the former President of Honduras, ousted in the coup June 28 2009.  (Honduras has a population of 7 million of which between 1 and 2 million live outside the country).  The absence of those two million voices in our mainstream media is a blackout that speaks louder than words.

In Their Footsteps:

Jonathan Harley, Series Producer, In Their Footsteps, writes: Re. “Last night’s TV ratings” (yesterday, item 18). I’d be grateful if you could correct an error in your TV Ratings wrap. Glenn Dyer wrote:

“Nine stuck an ‘encore’ (i.e. repeat) of In Their Footsteps’ second episode in the 6.30pm slot last night.”

This is incorrect. Sunday night’s episode was brand spanking new — the extraordinary story of Major Albert Moore, a Salvation Army welfare officer who cared for Australian servicemen along the Kokoda Trail. It was the fourth episode of In Their Footsteps.

You may have been confused by the incorrect listing in the Ranking Report as “In The Footsteps -Encore -Ep 2″.

I would be grateful if you could clear this up with your readers.

Lord Monckton:

Harold Thornton writes: H S Mackenzie (yesterday, comments) is quite right to say that Monckton’s claims to a peerage are legitimate. I suspect, however, that Andrew Crook was referring to Monckton’s repeated false claims to be the possessor of a seat in the House of Lords.

When the chamber’s constitution was changed to limit membership to life peers and a set number of hereditary peers a decade back, the incumbents were given a vote on which of their colleagues would be so honoured.

Monckton received only his own vote, a sure sign that his self assessment is shared by no-one who knows the man.

Unfortunate typo:

Julian Zytnik writes: Re. “Richard Farmer’s chunky bits” (yesterday, item 10). Richard Farmer wrote:

“I suppose the good thing about not being housebound watching Andrew Bolt on Sunday morning was that I was able to make the screening of Mrs Carey’s Concert where I was introduced to a natural star named Iris Shit.”

Just noticed a rather unfortunate typo in Richard Farmer’s piece about Mrs Carey’s Concert. See Iris Shi’s name.