No shock in the electricity market debate:

John Richardson writes: Re. “Gillard finally shifts electricity debate onto the real problem” (yesterday, item 1). I reckon Julia Gillard’s protestations about electricity prices and the need to redesign the way the market operates are as feeble as her popularity ratings.

Julia and Giles Parkinson can dress it up any way they like, but the fact remains that Gillard and her mates had nothing to say about the grotesque acts of extortion perpetrated against the nation’s households by the energy sector for years, primarily because the main architects of the scam were her Labor Party fellow-travellers.

While the memories of some might have dimmed, the majority won’t have forgotten the predatory behaviour of successive state Labor governments as a major factor in their being consigned to the dustbin of history.

Of course, one issue that Julia conveniently forgot to mention, that routinely gets sliced and diced around a lot of kitchen tables, is the scandalous ongoing moratorium on electricity price increases routinely afforded to business: yet another consumer-funded subsidy for the rent-seekers.

Climate denialism no deal:

Paul Pollard writes: Re. “Green groups cop blame for sceptics’ rise” (Monday, item 13). Richard Denniss, in his article on global warming denialism, and those who responded, all assume that denialism is winning in Australia. This is not so.

According to a recent Lowy Insititute poll, over 80% of Australians accept that anthropogenic warming is happening and is a problem, though differing in the urgency of action to combat it. The remaining 18% agreed with the statement “until we are sure that global warming is really a problem, we should not take steps that would have an economic cost”.

This last category clearly includes both those who completely reject the idea of anthropogenic global warming, and the cautious undecideds. On this basis it is unlikely that as many as 10% of Australians definitely reject the science. This figure is backed up by a Pew poll in the US, which had figures for more narrow groups, which found that even there only 10% of Americans specifically reject the concept.

Given the endlesss barrage of denialist propaganda we have in the Australian popular media, from figures such as Alan Jones, Andrew Bolt and Piers Akerman, for which there is no opposing equivalent, the outcome is a tribute to the wisdom of the Australian people.

Bruce Graham writes: Tamas Calderwood (comments, yesterday) is wrong. Not so much about whether global warming is real, but about the far less controversial question of how to convince strangers of something they would prefer not to be true.  I suppose we should be thankful.  If Tamas was able to blend his clear belief, with an equally potent capacity to influence others, Crikey would have long ago purchased the Andrew Bolt song book.

Individuals rarely change emotive positions base on logic,  and almost never based on large amounts of information. Rational confrontation is, in general, counterproductive. Strident debate tends to harden opinion. Opinions are subtly weakened and sometimes abruptly changed, by discreet events of personal impact. In this case, a bushfire would be a good example. of something that would shift poll results. For a decade, Australia had (in historical terms) hot dry summers. The personal impact of directly experienced weather, influenced ( irrationally) a debate about climate. For the past year, eastern Australia has been unusually cool and wet. This has coincided with a fall in belief about global heating.

Meanwhile, belief in global heating has risen in the US, coincident with its unusually hot, dry weather. I hypothesise that the eastern Pacific oscillation will continue to  act in such a way that climate opinions in the US and Australia remain out of phase. Further, I propose that the southern oscillation index is leading indicator of  climate change belief in the Australian community. This index has recently turned sharply negative, suggestive of a dryer hotter summer than the last. One serious bushfire should be all it takes to flip public opinion. None of this has anything to do with long-term changes in climate.

Bolt and bike laws?  

Mike Rubbo writes: Re. “How Bolt got Abbott to start the Freedom Wars” (yesterday, item 4). You ask what other laws Andrew Bolt could work to overturn. Bolt has already said he supports bike helmet choice over compulsion. It’s one of the few things on which I agree with him.

We have the constrained bike culture we have today, all race and little transport, in larger part  because of the misguided compulsory helmet laws. True cycle safety is under the wheels not on the head, i.e. being able to ride on safe, dedicated cycle paths. By shifting responsibility to the rider, our respective governments have avoided the necessary expenditure on such paths.

In 1991 when the Commonwealth helmet laws came in, state by state, they did another unforeseen bad thing, they acted like a selective herbicide, discouraging schoolkids riding to school, mums  to shops, and all the other casual riders who’d never felt unsafe, while favouring those who already thought helmets a good idea, the fast sports riders.

In large part, this one of the key the reasons we have one of the lowest uses in the world of bikes as transport, and why our cycling is dominated by the bent-over posture and the Lycra look. In strong bike cultures, people sit comfortably up right , wear normal clothes, and let their hair blow in the wind.

And that’s all of Asia and the whole of Europe, where, despite the huge distances clocked up on bikes as transport, riders are much safer than they are here.

Recently our laws have have revealed another nasty downside. They make it impossible for public bike schemes to bring the numerous benefits to our cities that they are bestowing on 140 cities around the world, most recently showcased in London during the Olympics when the now famous Boris bikes have been a huge transport plus, helmet choice enabled.

So, go Bolt in pushing for a repeal of this law.

Robert Hughes:

Ken Lambert writes: Re. “Rundle: Robert Hughes, an obituary” (yesterday, item 5). Do we detect that Guy is trying hard to out-Hughes Hughes with florid prose and a bonfire of vain expression.

Well, aren’t we all trying to say something very literary about the Time magazine art critic?  Always interesting but a pretty conventional unconventional with a big red Irish appetite for all indulgences.

We would all love to be Hughes largeness with none of the humbug and eventual cliche.