ABC election policies:

Cath Hurley, local content manager, ABC Victoria, writes: Re. “Melbourne poll: robocalls, ‘biased’ Faine, The Oz hit squad” (yesterday, item 9). I am writing in response to your article in yesterday’s edition of Crikey.

It seems as though there is a misunderstanding of how the ABC’s election policies apply in this case. Under these policies there are a number of guidance notes issued to inform staff.

Here is a par from the guidance note referring to election coverage:

“Minor-party candidates and Independents may of course be newsworthy. ABC staff are advised to determine coverage of minor parties and independents according to news value, and to provide coverage that is proportionate to the role of minor parties and independents in the campaign or in particular issues before the electorate.”

The full text of this advisory, which has recently been updated for the 2012 Queensland election, can be read here.

This is exactly what Jon Faine’s production team is doing to prepare for the broadcast on Friday.

There are inaccuracies in your article that we would like you to correct.

Jon has confirmed the following:

  • We are having a byelection forum at the Market on Friday.
  • We have invited the ALP and the Greens and Stephen Mayne who are considered the main candidates.
  • We have told other candidates who have inquired that they are welcome to attend and will be offered time on air, but not the same time as the main candidates.
  • Not once has anyone been told they will not be permitted to speak.
  • Family First have never been in touch with us, they don’t call, they don’t write, nothing.
  • The S-x Party have been told they can have time but not equal time to the main candidates.
  • Berhan Ahmed and his campaign manager have been told they will also be given time on air but not equal time.
  • There are 16 candidates. We could not possibly give them all equal time to the main parties and still conduct an informative debate for the audience.

Labor:

David Edmunds writes: Re. “Rundle: Labor’s genius war … cunning plan or just madness?” (yesterday, item 4). I would have expected Guy Rundle to have a more sophisticated understanding of why it is that some Labor heavyweights now have it in for the Greens.

It is all very well to say that the Greens identity is “crystal clear”, when it clearly is not. The Greens say the want to capture government, but feel not the slightest compunction to offer policies that might lead to that goal. That is, they do not know whether they are a ginger group, or a real political force.

Labor has a right to feel aggrieved. If the Greens had agreed to the CPRS, Labor would not be in the mess it is now. Of course, Labor did not play its cards as well as it might, but I cannot remember a major change of this sort that was not messy.

It would be wonderful if Australia could take in all 40,000,000 refugees in accordance with the Green’s policy, but the net result of this stance leads to the reopening of Nauru and “turning the boats back”. The Green’s purity does not acknowledge the quiet move to community detention and increased humanitarian intake. Currently it appears that the Green’s policy is to view the drownings as collateral damage, something they should not have to bring themselves to deal with.

Rundle comments about Labor’s attitude to employment: “Labor, for example, has suddenly discovered that ‘jobs’ are a value”. However, when Labor decided to counter the GFC by a quite astonishing investment in keeping people in work, this was a change from the Hawke-Keating response. Labor made this response in the full knowledge of the likely response from the right, the “debt and deficits” criticism.

Since 2007 under Rudd and Gillard, Labor has run a solid, consistent progressive government, characterised by nation building based on investment in education and infrastructure. These are investments that take many years for the gains to materialise. What Labor lacks, and the conservatives have, is interpreters. That is, progressive commentators sneer at the atmospherics and ignore the achievements and the underlying philosophy.

The Greens:

Simon Mansfield writes: Peter Christoff (yesterday, comments) basically argues that it is bad for Labor to scare or threaten the nation with an Abbott government by treating the Greens with the contempt they deserve, but it’s perfectly all right for the coastal waterfront Greens and their Gen X and Y children living in the inner cities to actually direct at the ballot box — their second preference to Abbott’s mob and make the 2013 election an even bigger defeat for progressive politics.

In 400 words, Christoff completely sums up the hypocrisy of the Australian Greens. The Greens national leadership have only one political objective at present — to permanently end Labor’s ability to govern in its own right and usher in a European style of democracy of multiparty government — where you walk out whenever the going gets tough and get voted back in by the same tribal mob who put you there at the last election and repeat the process year after year. To achieve this they will be as craven and duplicitous as Abbott in their quest to destroy Labor.

But what’s so utterly weird about progressive politics today in Australia is that about the only people still supporting Gillard remaining PM are the Greens and their hated opposites in Labor — the right-wing Catholic unions — who no longer trust Rudd on gay marriage.

When Abbott is PM there will be many to blame — but five people in particular — namely the Green Five — from the old Senate who sat on their backsides when Rudd’s ETS deal with the Libs was shot down by the faceless men of the Liberal Party. Thanks for nothing Bob, Christine, Sarah, Scott and Rachel. Meanwhile, the owning class (Liberal voters) of Melbourne are about to vote in a Green MLA to the Victorian Parliament. The caravan sure moves on …

Come in spinner:

Keith Thomas writes: Re. “Come in Spinner: out of caves our opinions come” (yesterday, item 15). In his opening sentence Noel Turnbull sets a frame that enables him to duck out of any commitment to what he is about to write. In fact, it’s a give-away that he will accept evolutionary psychology only on his (non-evolutionary psychology) terms.

His reference to “better angels” shows he a dilettante, dabbling in a discipline that he fails to understand; moreover, that he is using the article for [small p] political purposes. And his final sentence seems to cap it off with an unstated assumption of “human progress”.

Certainly we have choices, but the choices he describes are conscious choices and it requires constant (minute-by-minute) conscious vigilance to make choices that lead to behaviour that is contrary to the hard wiring of our brains. We can row a boat upstream, but eventually and inevitably we do something else — by choice or otherwise. The area of in-group/out-group relations is not tangible to the extent that we know for sure whether a particular thought or behaviour is consistent with our conscious wishes. So how are we to exercise this vigilance effectively? Ultimately, we can’t.

Take a clearer case: the issue of obesity. It’s very clear now that most overweight people are that way because they consume so much food that adding body fat is inevitable. But does this knowledge prevent them from doing so? Not for long. Their conscious wishes are over-ridden by less conscious but more fundamental desire and reward processes and mechanisms. So they buy enough food to over-eat, they take it into the house and they eat their way through it, all the while wishing to be slimmer. Their hormones, acting directly or indirectly on their brains do their job; the physical over-rides the mental, even the desire to be a “better angel”. They are not so much weak-willed as hard-wired to be hormonally responsive.

Shark attacks:

John Falconer writes: Re. “What the numbers say about the risk of shark attack” (yesterday, item 5).  From an article by Adam Turteltaub in the Economic Business Review:

“We also can be moved by the emotional risk equation more than the rational one. In his book Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk, Peter Bernstein tells the story of a famous Soviet professor of statistics who refused to go down to the bomb shelters during German air raids over Moscow in World War II. The professor’s reasoning: ‘There are seven million people in Moscow. Why should I expect them to hit me?’ Based on his study of statistics, he knew the chances of being killed on a given night were small.” When the professor suddenly showed up at the shelter one night, his friends asked him what changed his mind. He replied, “Look, there are seven million people in Moscow and one elephant. Last night they got the elephant.'”

The chances of being attacked by a shark in Australia are very small indeed. But so was the chance of a bomb hitting the elephant!

Humans are more motivated by emotions than by mathematical possibilities when assessing risk. That is why I gave up scuba diving.

John Porter writes: One of the troubles with journalists is that because they can write fluent prose they think they can write about any topic they like … i.e. they can write in a way that they sound authoritative.

The risk of shark attack can only be assessed by looking at how many people actually enter the water — and perhaps one also needs to look at where they enter the water, whether they dive or just paddle, how long they stay, etc.

My 89-year-old mother-in-law is at zero risk of shark attack when I last studied her habits and theirs, and she is at zero risk of dying from fall from a ladder, unless in a fit of frustration with her I actually lift her up one. Falling in the shower — now there is a risk!

Get your reporters to consult a person with some knowledge of the elements of statistical analysis.

Working Australians:

Justin Templer writes: John Richardson (yesterday, comments) queries whether Labor’s cause is indeed working Australians. Obviously the answer is “yes” — if you are in permanent full-time (or even permanent part-time) work and a member of a union.

If you’re not a member of a union or have been retrenched or are just making ends meet through casual impermanent work or you are simply just stupid or old, then you are not a working Australian. The Labor Party does not have time to waste buggerising around with losers like you, so rack off.  This was an official message from the Labor Party.

Super profits:

Brad Pace writes: Re. “Get a real job, Wayne — mining tax take won’t cut it” (yesterday, item 1). If a “super profit” constitutes a profit that is beyond what you’d normally get if you weren’t just digging up mineral resources on land a whole nation has some ownership of (and I’ll accept that this is a pretty rough summation of Marx’s theory), then I reckon $16.6 billion probably still constitutes a “super profit”.

Pretty sure a referendum asking “Do you support Rio Tinto paying a greater portion of tax from their $16.6 billion profit this year over an increase in GST?”would overwhelmingly achieve the Herculean task of garnering a yes vote from the Australian people (though granted, maybe not in WA).

Peter Fray

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