Corrections:

Senator Penny Wright writes: Re. “Gays jilted at altar: how serious is Labor about marriage?” (yesterday, item 10). In Brian Greig’s article on the Jones’ marriage equality bill I was intrigued to see myself described as a “Labor MP”. I am actually a Greens senator through and through — or I definitely was the last time I had a good look at myself …  (And shouldn’t all politicians do that, from time to time?!)

I wasn’t really offended, I hasten to add, because I’m not easily offended. Indeed, some of my best friends are … Labor MPs. But, for the sake of pinpoint accuracy, I’d like your readers to know that I’m definitely “wedded” to my Greens identity, especially given our proud record of consistently championing marriage equality over many years.

As the Greens spokesperson for Social Inclusion, I especially look forward to the inevitable day when the Liberals live up to their name and the ALP upholds its own policy. Then we will finally see all Australians being able to stand up proudly and marry the one they love.

As Oscar Wilde may have been tempted to tell those who are against marriage equality: There may be only one thing worse than encouraging loving, committed relationships — and that is not encouraging them!

Bob Smith writes: Brian Greig wrote: “Chief government Whip Joel Fitzgibbon has announced his intention to join with Liberal Warren Truss and bring on a federal bill for same-s-x civil unions.” When I last heard of Warren Truss he was still a National Party MP.

Leadership speculation:

Julian Zytnik writes: Re. Yesterday’s Editorial. So Crikey speculates on leadership last Monday, speculates some more this Monday, then uses Tuesday’s editorial to launch a speculative semi-defence of its decision to speculate! Heaven help us. Is this what Crikey has come to — the place where thousands of us turn to get some substance and escape the dizzying nothingness from the press gallery? While Crikey did start out as an irreverent pot-stirrer site, surely it has evolved.

The thing about these leadership stories is just how empty they are. Without anything of importance to anchor them, they rely on hunches, polls and click bait-opinions (from other journalists or the inevitable “unnamed sources”), circling each other in dust devils that their makers desperately hope become tornadoes.

Your editorial yesterday insists that this time the speculation is “not made up”. What does this mean, other than that the circle work continues between the journalist-players? Who’s speculating? About what, why, and on what basis? What’s going to change for ordinary Australians?

Every one of these fairy-floss pieces written through the “politics as Australian Idol” lens is a wasted chance to discuss a real policy issue that affects people’s lives — pokies, the health system, the NBN, disability reform — and therefore a moment where voters miss out on developing informed views on these issues.

Memo to journos: name me a single leadership speculation story that improved our lives. Name me one that added to our knowledge, or in which a concrete policy separated the candidates (Abbott v Turnbull a notable exception). Name me an article that people will remember (without the help of Google) next year, or even next week.

Airport scanners:

Alex Mandl writes: Re. “The $28m pantomime of airport body scanners” (yesterday, item 1). What’s really interesting is that three years ago, I and my business partner introduced, or tried to introduce body scanners to Customs and Qantas at Sydney Airport.

The technology was from a FSU country, world class, and surprisingly inexpensive. Absolutely no interest at all. Sure, from a technology point of view, they thought it was really interesting, but in terms of cost benefit, we were told it was unnecessary. And now here we are. L-3 Comms again.

So, far from wanting to be a conspiracy theorist, why is all our security equipment from US companies? Why are there no open tenders? Why do we pay a multiple of real world costs for equipment that has no technological, cost or utility superiority? I can tell you, it is because the US machine has its hooks into the federal government through Defence and other agencies like you wouldn’t believe.

It is, of course, an absolute disgrace.

Jim Hart writes: Why am I not surprised that the latest episode in the long-running airport security comedy is no better researched than its predecessors? We’ve put up with illogical and inconsistent scans for dangerous weapons for over a decade and they don’t get any better.

Last week in Melbourne, on my way to rainy Sydney, I had to take my umbrella out of my hand luggage so it could be opened and checked for a concealed shooting-stick or sharpened spokes. Coming home the next day I was ready to take it out for inspection but Sydney security wasn’t interested. I no longer expect logic but I do expect consistency.

On the other hand when I unpacked later I realised I had unknowingly taken a small retractable blade on both flights. It was in among some pens and pencils and is about as lethal as a pen-knife.

So excuse me if I’m not too optimistic about the effectiveness of the next $28 million gizmo to keep me safe in the sky.

The Greens:

Matt Davis writes: Re. “Greens: we are not hypocrites when it comes to donations” (yesterday, item 9). Crikey‘s headline suggested some sort of defence would be mounted on the Greens’ behalf after Paul Barry’s spurious allegation of hypocrisy.

Unfortunately Dr Thompson (sadly not able to match the prose of his namesake) offers only platitudes and confuses the issue more by noting that many green members — including now Senator Lee Rhiannon — had “queried the value of accepting this donation”. The value of the donation was clear at the time as it is now .

The question remains. What makes the Greens different from the established parties when it comes to political donations and how can they refute the claims of hypocrisy?

I doubt anybody — including Barry — would argue that our current system of political donation and the long delay in the reporting of donations, contributes to the uneven playing field in Australian politics. The Greens suffer under this disadvantage and actively campaign for change. Donations are needed to take the fight up to the vested interests of those in power and those who would purchase influence. Graeme Wood’s big cash injection was an epic windfall — should it have been rejected?

In the Greens defence, (a) if Wood were seeking to influence public policy, he would hardly waste his money on the Greens. (b) The Greens donor list is updated quarterly and is publicly available to any who wish to view it. As Wood’s donation was more than $1500 it would have been public knowledge within a couple of months of the cheque being banked. I don’t recall Paul Barry making a fuss about it at the time. Other parties may choose to keep their donations out of the public eye for as long as possible i.e. until February 1. The Greens, at least are honest about their wealthy benefactors.

It disappoints me that no one from Greens HQ has come forward to point these things out. The Greens are no stranger to public criticism based on poorly concocted evidence and will have to work hard not to lose their activist base as their Canberra presence increases.

I have been a member of the Greens WA and remain an active supporter.

PV panels:

Dr Bro Sheffield-Brotherton writes: Re. Bruce Graham (yesterday, comments) about the Grattan Institute’s quoted prices for the cost of photovoltaic panels already being out of date and providing a significant over-estimate of cost.

Three years ago when I had 1.02kW of PVs installed on my roof, the panels retailed at $5.29 per watt. The additional 3.80kW installed a little over a week ago cost $1.17 per watt.

If only Australian governments were basing energy policy on realities such as this rather than on the pleadings of vested powerful vested interests shoring up their investments in dinosaur technologies.

Peter Fray

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