Community highlights 15 – 22 May, 2014

We receive a lot of comments each day and it can be difficult to keep track of them, so it stands to reason you’ll miss some interesting stuff. That’s why we run community highlights posts every now and then that share some of the brightest comments around the site. Taken part in or read a discussion you felt illuminating? See a post you think gets right to the heart of a topic? Email me and let me know.

Last week’s budget brought about a lot of interesting analysis (and comments) to our 6 expert panels, our infographics, and our expert commentary about what was in the budget (and what was missing)

In one of her articles, Michelle Grattan questioned how the government could manage negative reactions to the budget. In his comment Peter Ormonde expanded on the article, commenting about how he thought Labor could respond to the budget, looking at the tactics of Chris Bowen, Wayne Swan and Bill Shorten:

Deeply conservative politicians like Bowen (not in the social conservative sense, but economically and politically) there is an overwhelming temptation to fight on the landscape as provided, to contest ideas by competing with the government rather than by seeking to contests the ground itself. They work within the “context of public opinion” and that is determined by the government, by business thinking and “common sense”. The last few years have seen the media and politicians and some business leaders be most successful in turning an enviable budget and economy into a miserable crisis.

Swan and Shorten and certainly Albo are adopting a very different approach - contesting the very idea that there is a crisis - and that responses to structural spending problems in the economy are best solved with careful rebalancing - including through tax reforms - but not by savaging living standards or “entitlements”. They say, yes you are bloody entitled - it comes with being Australian, a citizen and a taxpayer.

Also on the budget, Alan Pears wrote about budget cuts to renewable energy and then participated in a Q&A with our readers.

JB Rawson

Hi Alan, I’d be interested to know what ‘on the ground’ effects you think we’ll see from the existing cutbacks (assuming - fingers crossed - the RET remains in place). Will there be impacts on existing wind? Will rooftop solar be affected at all by these cuts (or any other household-level renewables)? New wind? What about large-scale solar? Or do you see it more as preventing us developing technologies we haven’t yet refined: concentrating solar thermal, geothermal, wave power and so on? And do you see any effects on community renewable projects following the Hepburn Wind model (or do those just rely on RET and goodwill)?

In other words, how do you see Australia’s energy mix in ten years if this is the trajectory we’re adopting?

Alan Pears

Jane, it’s a really tricky situation, and I don’t believe anyone can predict where things will go. But I can hazard some guesses. First, with regard to your PS, there are some technical issues with grids, but they seem to have been overstated in the past. And rapid cost reduction of storage and belated action to actively manage demand, as well as upgrading technology at wind farms etc seem likely to address issues. AEMO’s 100% renewable electricity study looked at a lot of the tech issues and seemed to think they could be dealt with - although some costs may be involved. But if we stop expanding networks, a lot of capital could be diverted to such things.

Alan’s answer goes on for another five paragraphs – it’s an article unto itself. Want to see the rest of it (and more questions and answers)? Read on.

Author Dean Brough unbuttoned the male white shirt and tore apart its historical and social significance. In the comments, Dean expanding on the shirt’s history, noting what was a symbol of high-class men meant for working-class women:

Interesting to note that for women in the late Victorian era the white cloth for the ‘shirt-waist’ was also linked to ideals of cleanliness and purity. This period witnessed the advent of the ‘new woman’ and the white shirt-waist was an iconic symbol of the new independent working class woman. The white shirt-waist was a powerful representation of a new ethos and as a result became, like the men’s white formal shirt, an archetypical and ubiquitous garment to be worn in the early part of the twentieth century. Paradoxically, the shirt-waist also became a symbol of poor labour conditions, with many women sewing these garments in factories with deplorable work practices. In particular, the tragic fire in the Triangle Shirtwaist factory in New York City in 1911, with the death of 148 workers, acted as a catalyst to highlight poor labour practices.

You can read the whole discussion here.

Elsewhere, Patrick Stokes wrote an article about how society thinks about and remembers the dead.

Edwin Flynn shared his experience:

How to remember the dead? Two years ago I lost my sister to cancer. In the later part of her life she had a presence on Facebook. Her account remains and every year I receive a reminder of her pending birth date. At first I was a little annoyed that I did not know how to stop her Facebook account. Now I no longer mind the annual note from Facebook, as it reminds me of my beautiful sister who once lived, loved and laughed.

Did we miss anything you found interesting? Get in touch and let me know.

Cory Zanoni, community manager