The carbon tax:

Andrew Whiley writes: Re. “Your survival guide to the carbon price apocalypse” (yesterday, item 1). Bernard Keane is being a little glib and unfair to simply blame our pollies for the less desirable features (aka go away money) required to gain passage of this reform: “unjustified compensation is simply the cost of our dreadful generation of reform-averse and inept political leaders.”

The prosecution of this reform is high risk, just ask Kevin and Malcolm. Lay the blame where it belongs: very powerful corporate bludgers, long versed in extracting handouts from the public purse, a media that (with honourable exceptions)  is either pathologically opposed to Labor in government or is afraid to challenge the aforementioned bludgers, some institutional investors who have hit the snooze button hoping when they wake up the heavy lifting will have been done, sections of the labour movement who have run dead on this issue for years and lastly a large segment of the population, convinced they are smarter than the world’s climate scientists but lacking the judgement to realise they aren’t.

No matter how many stumbles and fumbles along the way, the ALP in government has been attempting to begin to address climate change by the introduction of carbon pricing to our domestic economy. On the eve of the announcement  by the PM could we hear the sound of at least one hand clapping please Bernard?

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John Hunwick writes: Bernard Keane’s Survival Gide to the carbon price can be used by people like me to assess the worth of the carbon tax announcement on Sunday, and some time in which to prepare for BK’s comments early next week. H

owever, the main point of all this feverish activity is tucked away in the last paragraph (or is it subtly included in the title?) — we urgently need to reduce our carbon emissions between now and 2020. This is so we can avoid any temperature rise approaching 2 degrees.

Ecologists (and others) will tell you that the strands of life that hold our way of life together will irreparably break above that point in ways that will condemn most of earth’s living inhabitants to death. Once one of the numerous tipping points identified (or even one not yet recognized) starts to take effect there will be a cascade of changes that will put paid to orderly, predictable food production, will fan wars on fresh water acquisition, and cause panic migration that will be unstoppable by normal means.

Why Australians generally, and our politicians in particular, seem not to exhibit any real sense of urgency is beyond my present comprehension. The main feature of Sunday’s carbon tax package will need to be the extent to which it can be quickly ramped up as climatic changes become even more intolerable.

Keith Thomas writes: Re. Yesterday’s Editorial. Your editorial yesterday reported on weaknesses in “the carbon price debate”. But surely the biggest weakness is that the debate is about rent seeking and money and not about carbon emissions.

It should have been mandatory for all parties in the “debate” to include independent modelling of the consequences of their proposals for all carbon emissions (including fugitive emissions, including exported emissions). We need to be able to see that if industry sector A is given concession X there will be Y thousand more tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Without this essential information, we are floundering in total darkness.

Defame game:

Ian Robinson writes: Re. “Advice to Mick Molloy: fake your apology better next time” (yesterday, item 15). Andrew Dodd writes:

“The first [thing that stands out] is that Molloy’s intent was irrelevant. The fact that he and the program did not mean to imply that Cornes actually slept with Dew does not matter. What counts is how a reasonable member of the public interpreted the comment.”

To anyone who knows the history and laws of libel this is no surprise at all. A reasonable interpretation by any normal person is all it takes.

The classic case in the nineteenth century was the English travel writer at a resort on the Continent who spiced up his newspaper report by making up the name of a fictitious person who was supposedly there having an affair. It turned out there was someone with this name (who it could not have been on the Continent at that time) but he just had to produce one ordinary person in court who thought the article did refer to him and he won his libel case.

A “reasonable man” in British law is not a media-savvy sophisticate but the “man on the Clapham omnibus” of legal legend. The writer knows all about this at his cost!

Australia Network:

Ari Sharp writes from Jakarta: Humphrey Hollins in Phnom Penh (comments, yesterday) may well be a fan of the Australia Network, but it’s unlikely to be because of the AFL, NRL and Super 15 that it broadcasts.

As the AusNetwork’s website demonstrates, it doesn’t actually broadcast the NRL and Super 15. (Commercial subscription broadcasters take care of those in this part of the world).

On the topic, as a frequent AusNetwork viewer, I wrote my reflections on its offering earlier in the week on my blog. The verdict? Good, but could be better.

Tiga Bayles:

Queenslander Helen Kassila writes: Re. “Maroon-blooded rebel radio call sends Courier Mail, 2GB to court” (yesterday, item 4). General Manager of 98.9fm radio is Uncle Tiga Bayles — very much a male! Not ‘she said’ as attributed to his quote in your daily mail article today…

C’mon Crikey, I expected that with a  reputation for critical journalism that your team would have got that one right?!

Otherwise, good work keeping people updated with this ongoing saga which is providing 98.9fm with free, broad ranging publicity across Australia!

Climate change:

Tamas Calderwood writes: Justin Templer (comments, yesterday) identifies a key political problem in the carbon tax debate:  that cutting our emissions will do nothing to cut the planet’s temperature, even if you accept the global warming hypothesis.

But there continues to be a much bigger problem: the world’s refusal to warm. And before I’m accused of cherry picking again, here’s Michael “hockey-stick” Mann and his co-authors writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences last month:

“Given the widely noted increase in the warming effects of rising greenhouse gas concentrations, it has been unclear why global surface temperatures did not rise between 1998 and 2008.”

You can make that 1998-2011, actually, and I submit it’s very clear why there’s been no warming despite CO2 concentrations being up more than 5% since ‘98 – the global warming hypothesis is obviously, transparently and demonstrably false.

The biggest political problem is therefore the failure of the apocalypse to turn up – and the Green-Labor coalition will wear an albatross around their necks for years to come for peddling all this nonsense.

The IPA:

Guy Rundle writes: Re. “IPA: ‘we have not been missing in action‘” (30 June, item 12).James Patterson of the IPA rushes to the defence of his organisation, after I accused it and its writers — chiefly Chris Berg — of being passionately concerned about the freedom of corporations — whose interests are defended by catch-all attacks on the “nanny state” — while being unconcerned about the freedom of individuals under repressive governments, especially Liberal ones.

Patterson’s defence serves only to strengthen my case. All he can come up with by way of an IPA stance on the Baillieu government’s crackdown (laws on swearing, continuation and amplification of Brumby government laws regulating free movement, turning transport officers into quasi- police etc) is a few remarks on a couple of radio shows. In defending Chris Berg’s record on civil liberties he has to throw in stuff about immigration and gay marriage – matters which are separate to the core question of the civil liberties of citizens in a public space.

Indeed if you look at Berg’s website, you’ll see how appalling his record is on taking a stand on these matters. Of around fifteen articles published since the beginning of 2010 on civil and economic liberties (of a total of around 70 articles), ten are on regulation of industry — usually consumer industries such as tobacco, dairy etc who may or may not be clients of the IPA. Two are criticising the extension of terrorism laws, one on WikiLeaks, one on andrew bolt’s racial vilification problems, and only one of a recognisable ‘street’ civil liberties issue, the extension of stop n search power against youf, to combat knife crime (actually published in 2009 — I couldn’t find a single one in the last year and a half so extended the cutoff).

Given that Berg is the IPA’s gun polemicist, this simply reaffirms my earlier point – there is very little interest in baseline civil liberties, especially those which affect ordinary people, and none at all when those liberties are being curtailed by a Liberal government. Defending the freedom of capital demands greater control of citizens, and so its defenders will always be almost obsessively one-sided in the fights they pick. Our suspicions will always be that such defences are often for those industries willing to contribute to the IPA — given that one of their agents followed me to an airport halfway across the world two days after my article was published, their assets must be vast indeed.