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Letters to the Editor

From time to time, a commentary on the world will bubble up inside of me to the extent that I'm forced to write a letter to my local, metropolitan, daily newspaper, The Age. This is where I blow of some steam. Feel like venting too? Add your own comment or visit my homepage.

Friday, November 26, 2004

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A Ticket to Ride

One of the great strengths of our public transport system is its universality - highly-paid executives and pensioners ride next to each other on our trams, trains and buses. However, this is also its weakness as "one size fits all" means that the price/quality point is averaged out. In other words, half the commuters feel that the quality (frequency, comfort, reliability, coverage) is too low and would happily spend more to improve it, while the other half feel that the tickets are too steep and would accept lower quality for a price cut.

Surely in this age of smart cards, intelligent transport networks and paradigm shifts we could have a public transport system that accommodates the very different needs of its users? Price discrimination sounds ugly, but then, we're not forced to the average when it comes to tickets for The Eagles, the Commonwealth Games, a flight to Sydney or indeed anything else.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

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Radio Hosts Silenced

Finally, John Laws and Steve Price have been zhuzhed.

Friday, November 19, 2004

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Only in America - For Now

Right now, the US Senate is debating the Intellectual Property Protection Act (HR2391) that makes it a criminal offense to produce, market or use technology that can skip "commercial advertisements, or ... promotional announcements" in television shows. In other words, it becomes a crime to fastforward the ads.

Some may see this as proof of the extent to which US politics is driven by greedy corporate interests at the expense of the common person, or indeed common sense. Others (who take their VCRs and TiVos for granted) will simply shake their heads and say only in America.

But is it? Sadly, as "the Australia-US FTA harmonises our intellectual property laws more closely with the [US]" our legislators will criminalise ad skipping here too. But don't worry: with the new local content requirements, these compulsory ads will mean we'll still hear Australian accents on television.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

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A Balanced View of Creationism

While it may come as no suprise, weshould still retain a healthy skepticism about Family First's Peter Harris' call for balance in teaching creationism to school children (The Age, 18/11). If their American counterparts are any indication, we can expect this Pentecostal lobby group to push their beliefs at the expense of mainstream biology under the rubric of intelligent design. This idea - that life is so inconceivably complex that something must have designed it - is an appeal to the failure of our imaginations. Hardly inspirational stuff for curious young minds.

To ensure a balanced view of creationism teaching, we need some safeguards. Firstly, that contact hours for science aren't reduced. Secondly, that a range of creation myths are explored and compared, including Australian Aboriginal Dreamtime stories. This will go someway to ensuring that students have a broad perspective while retaining critical scientific skills and knowledge.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

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Water Water Everywhere

I'm disappointed that I have to resort to the international press to read the truth about our water situation ('Plunder Down Under', The Guardian, 8/11). Why are we spending tens of millions on advertising and regulation to drive changes in urban water consumption when it amounts to a meagre couple of per cent of what we waste on agriculture? It is manifestly inefficient and unfair for millions of suburban householders to subsidise the poor practices of a few thousands of cotton, rice and sugar farmers. Why is our media keeping quiet about this rort? I hope it's not the lucrative government advertising contracts.

Let's deregulate water and use market mechanisms to determine its allocation. We will very quickly find out if it makes sense to have one minute showers and a cactus garden while exporting rice to China. Let the market decide: Australia's suburbanites have never shied from an auction.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

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Policy Agenda - This Is It?

I'm disheartened by the recent opening of the abortion issue. The Liberals have had several weeks to plan how best to take advantage their historic seizure of power. While I wasn't expecting the agenda to be the republic, refugees or reconciliation, I was hoping it might be state/federal relations, the greying of the workforce, or even water. Instead, their opportunity will be squandered on a devisive issue dealt with a generation ago.

John Howard admits to struggling with "the vision thing" - with his GST implemented he was happy to simply give free reign to his culture warriors. Now a stronger, socially conservative and illiberal clique has filled his vision vacuum to impose their morality on a largely reluctant public - in direct defiance of the traditional Liberal values of individual choice and responsibility.

While never that interested in social policy, it is nonetheless suprising that such an astute operator as Mr. Howard has let the idealogues in his party off the leash, damaging the Liberal Party's long-term interests for such little electoral gain. Or was he just caught napping?