Crikey‘s iPad winner:

Congratulations to this week’s lucky iPad winner: Lachlan Whitehead.

There’s four more up for grabs, get your entry in today by resubscribing to Crikey.

MDBA plan:

Norman Rich, a retired water engineer, writes: Re. “Murray-Darling plan: a disastrous process, a sliver of hope” (May 31, item 6). A conspicuous absence in all comments to date and even in the MDBA reports is the unarguable value of the irrigation areas of the basin in providing constant fresh food supplies at low cost to the highly urbanised coastal dwellers, thus helping to keep inflation down. The quarterly COL figures are very sensitive to the cost of fruit and vegetables and this point again was driven home as recently as March this year. City folk want their fresh local food and milk every day of the year but without irrigation, they would never get it in our drought-prone and unreliable rainfall regime

Most of our southern irrigation areas have low summer rainfalls, but they certainly are not semi-desert, while the northern irrigation areas are summer rainfall areas so irrigation supplies are supplemental to natural rainfall. Irrigation for dairying is mainly confined to the coastal rivers and north-east Victoria where there is a spring feed gap. but depths of irrigation are comparatively small. And just where are all these nice flat areas of good quality soils where equivalent production could be maintained, using significantly less water? Most of them are already growing unirrigated wheat or canola or other grain or oilseed crops.

A political disengagement:

John Richardson writes: “Major party politicians have the game rigged” laments Crikey (editorial, Friday).

Well, goodness me: a real “eureka” moment from Crikey!

Does Crikey really need to be told that it is the very “sameness”; the preoccupation by both sides of politics with making the differences between them seem to be as small as possible, so they can try and avoid having to stand for or do anything of substance, while continuing to slavishly serve their common masters at the big end of town, is precisely why the electorate is so cynical and fed-up and wishes a pox on both their houses?

In the information age, the electorate doesn’t need a degree in political science to see through the illusion of “democracy” and realise that our political system is a sham, designed with the same core features as a casino: it simply doesn’t matter which machine you play, the house never loses.

As for the solution … to start with, bring me a leader: someone/anyone who genuinely stands for something/anything. I’d be more than willing to support a politician who articulates a firm, honest position, attempting to address the best interests of the country, even if I disagreed with him/her, than someone who has more positions than the Kama Sutra and who is routinely comfortable with lying to me at every opportunity.

Niall Clugston writes: How can you argue that “major party politicians have the game rigged” because of compulsory voting and the preferential system?

The same rules apply to everyone, and major parties are only major parties because their primary votes are higher than the others, not because minor party votes “filter through”.

Arguably, the electoral system favours minor parties because compulsion encourages protest votes and the preferences mean that voters can choose a minor party without “wasting” their votes.

And, anyway, minor parties are hardly above parliamentary antics!

Positive feedback loop:

John Nightingale writes: Re. “A ‘patchwork economy’ could be just the ticket” (Friday, item 19). I would have thought Glenn Dyer and Bernard Keane would have known better when they wrote: “This can be what economists call a negative feedback loop, that a series of negative comments reinforce the feeling of doom and gloom (just as positive comments can feed a boom or bubble in a positive loop).”

A negative feedback loop, even for an economist, is where the looping converges on a value, higher, lower or same as before. A positive feedback loop is where the looping diverges, getting further and further away from wherever it might have been before the disturbance.

How TAFEs work:

Clytie Siddall writes: Peter Lloyd (comments, Friday) is evidently unaware of competency-based learning and how it is assessed. If you can demonstrate skills to a TAFE assessor, you don’t have to relearn them. I suggest Peter actually walk into a TAFE institute and learn about modern vocational services. He will also notice that TAFE students generally manage on very low incomes, acquire employable skills and only participate in charades if they choose to attend specialist organisations such as the National Institute for Dramatic Arts.