Politicians:

Kim Lockwood writes: Re. “Richard Farmer’s chunky bits” (yesterday, item 12). Richard Farmer offers “evidence of how politicians lie”, in which he contends, no doubt rightly, that Gillard, Rudd, Smith et al will deny the effects of the Afghanistan troop withdrawals after 2014.

Yes, of course they will. But what perplexes me is the strident “Juliar” mob, those claiming the Prime Minister lies. They never mention any previous PM (or any MP, for that matter). Is Gillard the first PM to lie? Did Rudd not lie? Did Howard never lie? (Don’t mention children overboard.) Did Keating, Hawke, Fraser, Whitlam, McMahon, Gorton, etc, never lie? None of these is ever mentioned, not even in passing. The “Juliar” crowd seem to believe she is the only PM ever to have lied. Weird.

As for Tony Abbott …. oh, never mind.

Niall Clugston writes: Wendy Cousins (Friday, comments) makes a good point about the way right-wing politicians use “frames”.

John Howard was the past master of this. The Great Pedestrian framed the refugee issue as “border security”, and it ended up the name of a TV show. Now people debate “food security”, a non-issue if ever there was one. Debating these issues in these terms serves to reinforce the right-wing agenda in popular consciousness.

There is nothing that makes this strategy the natural domain of the conservatives. Hawke and Keating harnessed totemic issues. But, when not spouting bland bureaucratese, Rudd and Gillard seem to pick weak slogans such as the “Education Revolution” that their opponents can turn against them, and then abandon these lines as soon as they come under fire.

Australia Day sickies:

Ava Hubble writes: On Friday, the ABC’s The World Today program included a segment that claimed that more Australians than usual took a sick day on the day following this year’s Australia Day. According to one of the show’s guests, Australian workers take nine “sickies” a year, including “non-essential” sick days. He said this is well above international levels of absenteeism. It was also suggested that Australians tend to be “strategic” when they “chuck a sickie”, opting to work on a public holiday to reap double time and overtime, and then taking a recuperative catch-up sick day later in the week.

Yet there was no mention of Australia’s growing army of casual workers or the fact that they are not entitled to either paid sick leave or paid public holidays. During the show no one made the point that casual workers who took the day off on Australia Day, let alone the day after, would have done so at their own expense.

At least one in four Australian workers is now employed on a casual basis. Many of these workers are parents who worry about the financial and other ramifications of taking time off to care for a sick child. Casuals can be legally laid off at five minute’s notice. They do receive a loading for every hour they work, but this is in lieu of a raft of benefits that all Australians once took for granted, including paid annual leave and termination pay, as well as paid public holidays and paid sick leave.

The World Today‘s audience was also informed that sick leave costs the Australian economy $26 billion a year. It was not mentioned that ACTU research has revealed that Australians, including those in relatively secure employment, are so concerned about holding on to their jobs, that they are collectively working millions of hours of unpaid overtime each year.

But one of those interviewed, professor John Buchanan of Sydney University’s Workplace Research Centre, did suggest that employers are taking advantage of workers’ insecurity. “They manage by stress,” he said. “They cut staffing levels, see how far the organisation can limp along with as few as staff as possible and then respond. This has significant impacts on the workforce.”

The show’s reporter, David Taylor, also referred to the fears being held for bank workers who are currently labouring under the stressful threat of hundreds of job cuts. Yet it does often seem that the mainstream media is more inclined to accept, rather than challenge, spin doctors’ ongoing claims that Australia has a labour shortage and an urgent need to import even unskilled workers.

Climate change cage match:

Tamas Calderwood writes: Re. “Climate change cage match” (Friday, comments). Nigel Brunel argues that the 2000s were “the warmest on the instrumental record” and that “natural variability induced by the ENSO cycle and the 11-year sun-spot cycle, superimposed on the greenhouse warming trend, results in transient reversals of warming”.

OK, so Nigel admits there has been a “reversal” in warming. The UAH satellite data clearly show that temperatures have flatlined since 1998 and saying that the 2000s were the warmest decade is meaningless. It’s like confusing the difference between speed and acceleration. Yes, the world is a bit warmer (0.7° since 1850!) but the warming stopped in 1998. And while he argues that natural factors can cause “transient reversals of warming”, couldn’t they also cause warming?

Stephen Darragh accuses me of cherry picking from the NASA article and quotes their conclusion that “the slowdown of warming is likely to prove illusory, with rapid warming appearing over the next few years”. Um, but … NASA admits that there has been a “slowdown of warming”, right?  I mean, it’s right there in that quote!

Peter Lunt says that NASA did not conclude that warming has stopped and that over the longer term the “charts all seem to show a distinct upwardly curved trend.  Again, yes;  There has been 0.7° warming since 1850, but it hasn’t warmed since 1998.  He even quotes the paper saying “the five-year … running mean global temperature hints at a slowdown in the global warming rate during the past few years”. Allow me to repeat the key part of that sentence: “slowdown in the global warming rate”.

Finally, Andrew Davison posts a graph showing temperatures from the CRU that confirms exactly what I said — the ’40s were warmer than the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s.  Thanks Andrew!  And for those who are interested, I have a more detailed response on my blog.

Peter Fray

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