Kindle winners:

Crikey writes: As if a subscription to Crikey isn’t inherently valuable enough, there’s a reasonable chance you could pick up your very own Amazon Kindle 3G+Wi-Fi, too. We’re giving away 10 over 10 days. Wednesday’s winner is Vincent Black. Two to go now – get your entry in today.

Andrew Bolt:

Julian Riekert writes: Re. Yesterday’s Editorial. Your editorial was quite one of the most bizarre bits of journalism that I have encountered in recent times. That it came from Crikey made it even more remarkable.

What a peculiar argument to be advancing in 2011. It is inevitable, given the competing contentions of rights versus obligations (a balancing act which News Limited and Andrew Bolt purport to espouse) that freedom of speech will collide from time to time with anti-discrimination and human rights legislation, just as it does with the law of defamation. I don’t hear you saying that the law of defamation is an unwarranted interference with free speech?

This decision will not sink the boat of human rights — it will keep it afloat by making it clear to bigots that their right to freedom of speech ends where they adversely affect the rights of others (including reputational rights). Along with the Mabo decision and Kevin Rudd’s apology, this decision represents a beacon of hope that there is still a prospect that Australia can become a world leader in the advancement of indigenous people and the protection of their rights instead of being towed along like a dinghy in the wake of News Limited and its paid provocateurs.

Andrew Bolt is no martyr. For a brief moment we just see him clearly for what he is — a modern incarnation of the emperor who had no clothes — and a rather pathetic figure.

Ken Lambert writes: Re. “Bolt decision: guilty of discrimination, judge declares” (yesterday, item 1). The principles now enshrined by the decision against Bolt are a clear and present danger to free speech.

For a start there has been created a new class of citizen — an indigenous person who might not appear so by their skin colour or physical features, might have some Australian Aboriginal genetics but who carries a special right to be able to prosecute anyone under the Racial Discrimination Act who expresses doubt about their heritage or motivations on the grounds that they feel offended. And how do we objectively define what is offensive or insulting? Well the test seems to be whether or not the “victim” feels themselves insulted.

A legal system cannot base its rules on the subjective feelings of any individual. It must strictly define what actions are a crime, what words are proscribed, and these “crimes” must be proclaimed for all citizens to know and understand.

Bolt’s crime appears to be the expressed opinion that Aborigines with mostly European genetics, have identified themselves as Aboriginal to access benefits and prizes and because it is fashionable. He might be in error. The persons involved might, or might not have that motivation — who could objectively decide that? Bolt was being judgemental, wrong on some facts and he might even have been deliberately provocative. But free speech is not only for those who never make errors, who are scrupulously fair, who have no prejudices and who never make anybody feel insulted.

My brother has calculated that we have 62% Irish genetics. The Irish have suffered discrimination and genocide over centuries. People tell offensive Irish jokes that suggest the Irish are ignorant and stupid. Is not the Irish race is entitled to equal protection of the Australian Racial Discrimination Act? The next person who insults me with an Irish joke — watch out — I’ll see you in court.

Silly analogy? I don’t think so. Bolt’s crime is no different in principle than an Irish joke. It is a joke — a travesty of free speech but dangerous like a Salman Rushdie fatwa.

Jim Hanna writes: Tempted as I am to quote Julia Gillard’s line “Don’t write crap. Can’t be that hard”, I suspect the real shame for Andrew Bolt is having the laziness of his research exposed so publicly.

That the “evidence” he used to support his claims was so easily dismantled — and apparently not defended during the court case — makes you wonder how poorly researched and thinly based all his commentaries are. His aura as a conservative champion is severely diminished by his own flimsy fact-checking.

Bolt is paid handsomely to write and broadcast his conservative opinions and he will continue to be. All he needs to do is get his facts right. It’s not the end of the world for journalism or free speech.

Michael Uniacke writes:  Could people please stop referring to Andrew Bolt as a “journalist”. He is nothing of the sort. He is merely a personification of a major objective of Murdoch tabloids — keep readers in a perpetual state of outrage. He deals in labels and absolutes, so of course he will label his good self as a martyr in the cause of “free speech”.

I’m more interested in the question: why has someone like Andrew Bolt been granted so much power and influence?

Women on the front line:

Neil James, executive director, Australia Defence Association, writes: Re. “Front-line women: if they’re good enough, they’re good enough” (yesterday, item 9). Geoff Lemon’s failed attempt at whimsy concerning employing women in every combat role exemplifies the high levels of misinformation, confusion and ignorance that bedevil effective debate on this issue.

As with most defence subjects the actual Australia Defence Association stance, and the factual and conceptual background to the issue — both mostly the opposite of what Geoff so misunderstands — can be found in the relevant discussion paper on the issues index page of the ADA website.

In summary, the longstanding ADA position is that:

  • There are no psychological or emotional barriers to employing female personnel in combat. Australia does this now and has done so for many years. Arguments commonly mounted to oppose female participation on psychological or emotion grounds are invariably incorrect factually [we then include a link to the detailed commonplace myths section of the paper].
  • Once trained and qualified, female military personnel should be allowed to undertake any military task where the current government policy limitation is due solely to physicality, rather than bio-mechanics, and where female personnel can meet the physicality standards needed.
  • We support female personnel also being employed in any situation where technology, training or other means can effectively render bio-mechanical differences gender neutral so that overall operational capability is not affected.
  • In combat roles that incur additional risks for female personnel due to their gender (such as disproportionate casualties, more disabling injuries generally or s-xual assault if captured), we support the right of female personnel to choose whether to accept such extra risks or not. However, we believe that the exercise of such choice needs careful monitoring to ensure it is truly free and reasonable in the circumstances — and that it does not incur unintended, inequitable or unfair results for such females in practice.

Geoff also professes, and then aptly demonstrates, an inability to understand the need to avoid increasing, however inadvertently, the risk of an equity intent — inequitable result paradox concerning female personnel suffering potential disproportionate casualties to males doing the same job. This has nothing to do with training standards as Geoff mistakenly believes. It does have much to do with jobs involving a high risk of encountering one-on-one direct physical combat against an actual enemy, especially against enemy male soldiers and fought continuously over prolonged periods rather than occasionally and briefly. They are called the laws of physics, ballistics and probability, Geoff.

Similarly, the current ratio of load-bearing injuries in training between female and male soldiers is up to 7:1 due primarily to basic bio-mechanical differences between the genders, not the physicality standards applying. Many bio-mechanical differences can be eradicated by technology, training, tactics, etc., but at least some cannot. This naturally incurs both OH&S responsibilities to the individual and operational capability ramifications for the defence force. Ignoring them (as some do) does not make them go away.

Maximising the employment of females in combat is not a simple issue, nor one solved by the simplistic and long discredited nostrums regurgitated by Geoff Lemon.


Andrew Lewis writes: Re. “Flagging labour productivity is understandable: report” (Tuesday, item 8). Congratulations to Glenn Dyer and others who have been covering the issue of productivity in Australia. Ross Gittins has written with clarity and insight on the subject of late also. As someone with 30 years of HR experience, I am personally and professionally interested in the subject.

Nothing is more apposite then your typo from Tuesday’s email, namely;

“Peter Reith’s call to return WorkChoices and of others, such as conservative economists, are based on freeing up labour markets, getting rid of regulations and allowing the cost of labour to steady or to fall. They claim to be wanting to give employers and employers greater freedom …”

Indeed it is true, it is largely about giving employers and employers greater freedoms.

The whole question of productivity is much more complex than most consider.  It concerns me deeply that not just Peter Reith but “captains of industry” still labour (pun) under the delusion that IR reform is going to deliver productivity improvements. It is a wonderful example of something appearing to be axiomatic, but in fact is closer to non sequitur.

The management class in Australia is fundamentally ignorant in this most important of subjects. Improving productivity is not likely to result from squeezing more blood from that human stone, and it would appear that the supreme management class in Australia can’t approach the problem of productivity from any other perspective. They are devoid of imagination and seem to be unaware of how human beings function. In particular they are completely ignorant of how their exponentially rising pay packets may affect the demeanour of the average worker, despite there being much research on the subject.  Gittins specifically refers to this in his article in the SMH on Monday, September 26.

Congratulations to those managers who have a bit of flair and imagination, and perhaps even empathy.  I don’t doubt that they will do well in the new economic world order, whenever that comes, which seems to be imminent.

But those who espouse IR reform as a means to boost productivity appear to me to be as doomed as the dinosaurs, as fated as the dodo. I hope so.

Climate change et al:

Matt Saxon writes: Tamas Calderwood’s latest response (yesterday, comments) suggests to me, instinctively, that he belong firmly in the first of category of Guy’s Spotters Guide. Just to make sure it’s not one of the second two, or, you never know, to prove that he is right and thousands of professional scientists wrong, I ask, nay demand, Tamas respond to one of these three challenges:

  1. Please provide us with a copy of the spreadsheet/mathematical software output file where you have calculated this figure of 0.07 degrees or provide us with a detailed description of the methodology and process you used to arrive at the same. (As a stern and unrelenting critic of those evil men and women at the University of East Anglia who apparently refused to produce their raw data I cannot envisage any possible objection you could have to such transparency.)
  2. Assuming you did not make these calculations but are instead quoting directly from the dataset please point us at exactly where in the file it is or exactly which multiple figures you used to make a simple calculation.
  3. If you can not satisfy point 2 or 3, please refrain from quoting your own figures in correspondence on the topic. Ever. Or, alternatively, place a disclaimer in such correspondence to the effect that any unattributed figure you provide is made up. Notes to be in-text. I.E. footnotes are not acceptable.

James Haughton writes: Highly amusing to see Tamas shifting his goalposts from “No warming since 1997-8” to “Only 7/100 of a degree warming since 1997/8”. Tamas can’t actually refute anything Guy says, just claim that it hasn’t warmed as fast as he apparently thinks it should have.

On what basis he thinks this (if you call it thinking) is, as always, unclear, since an OLS regression on Tamas’ preferred data set over the past 14 years shows a clear warming trend of 0.1 degree over the 14 years, even given that it started with an El Nino and finished with a La Nina. 0.1 is not 0.07, as he claims. Perhaps he doesn’t have the maths.

Tamas also notes that “All while sea levels are rising at their long-term average of about 2mm per year” as if this somehow supported the claim that the globe isn’t warming — an impressive act of doublethink, to be sure. Perhaps Tamas thinks sea levels just like rising for fun, or that all that water is being displaced by the steady rise of Great Cthulhu of R’lyeh — it would make as much sense as anything else he’s ever written and possesses that vital “certain thickness”.

Luckily, Tamas can embrace both the data and his own contrariness by accepting that the short-term levelling of temperatures was due to a surge in piratical activity in Somalia. Now that the pirates have been suppressed by better naval patrols, warming will resume as scheduled.

Chris Hawkshaw writes: Tamas Calderwood pops in to make Guy Rundle’s point perfectly. He cherry picks 14 years instead of 10, true, but the density of the thought processes is the same. Tamas would have us draw a line between the peaks of Mount Everest and K2 and agree the Himalayas are a plateau.

Peter Fray

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