Another great group of letters from our erudite and intelligent readers.

Saul Eslake’s comments are largely intuitive, I doubt that there is a great deal of research to back him up. Yet the Eastlake’s gut feel analysis does seem to be in tune with the type of simplistic and anti-intellectual culture that supports sport. Eddie Macguire’s piece self evidently demonstrates this, I don’t think Goebels could have done a better job of passing off such synchophantic drivel as a reasoned response to what was a quite measured series of comments.

More widely sport has been used over the last couple of decades in Australia to promote the idea that we have a standing in the world greater than our meagre population and economy warrant. This state of affairs is purported to uphold the universally accepted proposition that Australians are considered to be a somewhat special people, blessed with success brought on by unadulterated virtuosity.

Witness the avalanches of witless hagiography that follow (sometimes precede) an Australian win at the Hayseed Open or the clich riddled outpourings as a fellow countryman (or woman) hurtles to victory in the 125 -175 vintage 2 stroke ride-on-lawn mower world championship of Finland.

Frankly I’ve had a gutfull and I sincerely hope we elect a Prime Minister who is not afraid to openly flout the athletic physique.

Cheers, Patrick Brosnan

Crikey: Well said brother of Piers. Eddie McGuire was not even going to allow a debate on the subject. Sport obsession can be a dangerous thing and we should have a close look at it as a society. I devoted most of my youth to watching and playing sport and now wonder what those 5000 hours of cricket training left me with. Eslake worked for Kennett in the early 80s when Eddie’s brother Frank was covering state politics and preparing to become a Labor spin doctor. Maybe the attack can be put down to some old rivalries.

Bracks pays top dollar

Hi Crikey

This may not raise your blood pressure, but it sure made me take more than one look. The Victorian Government’s ‘Contract Publishing System’ website/page ( told me that an Executive Director, Rail Projects Group had been appointed. As someone with some knowledge of public service salaries and the transport infrastructure sector, I nearly choked at the package of $350,000 per annum, plus $150,000 as ‘performance payments’ for a two-year contract awarded to Barnwedge Holdings Pty Ltd.

But all is well. ‘The Age’ (12 March) comforted me with the announcement that an obviously senior and experienced person had pulled the job of being responsible for the State Government’s “planned $1 billion transport infrastructure projects”. He is Graham Cunningham, former head of KPMG’s financing group, etc, etc. He joins a heavyweight team of ‘executives’. What’s a million in a billion?

No wonder I didn’t get an interview!

ps. When I do get a job, I’ll subscribe. Keep up the good work.

Regards, anon

Crikey:Even Labor has to pay the big bickies to get these merchant banker and accounting high flyers such as Graham Cunningham. Still, if Bracks had any decent budgetary discipline he would only build what the public sector can afford. These private/public partnerships just end up screwing the consumer and the taxpayer. Look at Transurban and every other tollroad in Australia.

Grand Prix accident

Interesting article on the Grand Prix guys. Comments: the Grand Prix people have put up some information about Graham Beveredge on their web site now. It’s dated March 4th, but it sure as hell wasn’t there when I e-mailed that letter to the Age on the 5th. I can’t agree with your assessment that ‘censors’ suppressed his name. It’s pretty common practice with deaths to withhold this kind of information until the relatives have all been informed. Better that than have them hear the tragic news from their neighbours or something.

Keep up the good work.


Crikey: And now it appears that Graham was pronounced dead at the track but then he was transferred to the Alfred Hospital so he could officially die there and the race could go on. Hmmm, all very murky.

Lib, Lab, no difference

Hey! Isn’t it nice to know that the Coalition parties are not party to all this vote rorting skulduggery. Only those rotten-to-the-core Laborites!

Mind you, branch members flying in from Hong Kong don’t look too good, though.

Rorting is of course a curse to the working class, but please a little bit of even-handedness… The only difference between Lib and Lab is the vowel and not much else!

CU soon

Judy Hardy-Holden.

Crikey: Both sides do it but it is fair so say that Labor does it a little more systematically than the Libs. The Sheperdson Inquiry is the best evidence we’ve got at this point.

Tax cuts & Pork-barrelling

Ohhhhh, gawd Hillary, you always make me laugh, even if unintentionally.

“Tax cuts would show that there’s still some space for principal and policy – rather than populist pork-barrelling.”

Tax cuts are populist pork-barrelling, not a valiant act of idealism. The ‘principal’ involved is the apparently sacred right of the Coalition to govern Australia and the pragmatic ‘Policy’ involved is that Little Johnny wants people to believe that they’re finally ‘reaping the rewards’ of GST, two terms-worth of public asset stripping, etc, etc.

And re: the petrol excise cut, to paraphrase the late Paul Lyneham: talk about leading with your chin, or in this case, Peter Costello’s chin.

Keep me smilin’, mate…

Crikey: Australia is regarded as a socialist country by many Americans and the traditional pork-barrel has always been on the spend side rather than the tax-cut. Whitlam did it, as did Fraser and Keating leading into their defeats. Kennett is the only recent leader I know of who made a virtue of not spending. You are right though that the ultimate non-pork barrel would be to take a big surplus into an election like Clinton did and look what happened to the Democrats.

Ninemsn’s popularity explained

It has long been known amongst the Aussie Internet industry that the high ninemsn page and visitor count is due mainly to the fact that whenever an Australian computer user boots up a new machine, then opens the default MS IE web browser, their home page is automatically set to As many people do not know how to change the ‘Home’ page setting, collects dribs and drabs of worthless page impressions. These impressions and user sessions add up to ‘Australia’s most popular default web browser setting’ rather than ‘most popular website’.


Crikey: I’ll be raising this with young Daniel and Jeremy at the ecorp AGM, along with the tumbling share price and falling patience of one Mr K Packer.

Hillary is too left-wing…


I don’t know why anyone is trying to guess who you are. Just another left liberal flunkey who uses selective denigration which focuses on the messenger rather than the point at question. I have my nose buried in the newspaper (‘the Australian’) and listen enough to AM and PM, etc, and I can’t say that I have seen or heard too many articles or segments pushing the virtues of the ICC.

If the United Nations wouldn’t do anything for poor bastards in compounds under their protection, with Dutch troops who were withdrawn leaving those under their care to be slaughtered, I don’t think many take comfort that the key issue being pursued, is the possible prosecution of those responsible (if ever they are found), after the fact, under some new whizbang bureaucratic court in Brussels, Switzerland or the like. Sounds like the next posting for Billy ‘Sys..Sys..Sys..Sydney’ Dean.

Simplistic and selective notions about ‘who would oppose a special court to deal with those responsible for the world’s latest most horrific slaughters?’ or oppose a treaty just because it might bring one high-profile WWII war criminal to trial and to keep a Jewish-laden electorate on side, is no way to convince anyone that the ICC is something we must all support.

I guess you are Philip Adams in a pink shirt.

You can call me Al

Crikey:C’mon Al, you’re not trying to say you agree with Alan Jones. In a globalised world you need global courts to deal with crooks and warmongers. Surely Jones could find other things to get madder aboutlike the anti-gay laws in Tasmania for instance.

…yet Hillary is too right-wing

Dear Hillary

(the specifics refer to last week’s column)

Don’t get too excited, this is not exactly a piece of fan mail, then again, you Canberra boys are supposed to have leathery skins. I’m not so sure, all that posturing suggests that actually, you’re all harbouring rather fragile egos and barrows of insecurities. Anyway, it seems that your column has gone from offering the odd scintillating titbit of Babylon subterranean scandal, to just being a long-winded petulant moan about how unfair it is that the nice Liberals are losing the game big-time. Opinion pieces reeking of sour grapes do not an interesting gossip column make! The Cowardly Lion, the Rodent? These are hardly zappy put-downs. Your creative juices seem to be flowing in inverse proportion to time spent writing the column!

The fact that you were prepared to support Shier over the ABC staff, in the Australian Federal police matter and generally, suggests that you are bereft of original ideas, or even common decency. You right-wingers just have to stop being sooks and accept that just because the ABC tries to present a balanced viewpoint generally, it doesn’t mean that they’re a bunch of corduroy-wearing Commies being wet-nursed by an anachronistic public service culture! After all, Crikey is happy to take up time on Virginia Trioli’s program. Is that hypocrisy I can smell?

Imagine if your office (allegedly you are a Canberra staffer) got raided every time it sprung a leak, would that be fair?

It is not the ABC’s job to simply report the government line – you wouldn’t want that if the Libs were in opposition, so grow up and deal with it.

As some of you ABC-haters seem to genuinely prefer the vacuous, cloying mishmash of the commercial networks, particularly the bloated conceit of Laurie Oakes, it makes me wonder how many grey cells you guys have got left.

After all, Mummy and Daddy would have mainly watched the ABC, all the leafy suburbs conservatives of yore did, (of course I mean the genteel ones, not the nouveau riche johnny-come-latelys, they’re all stuck on ‘Who wants to be/Survivor’, etc).

Even De-Anne Kelly was outraged at the AFP investigation. She said “What will they be doing next, looking into Bananas in Pyjamas?” Ditto for Donald McDonald. So what’s your problem? The Jonathon Shier fan club must be a very lonely outfit.

Anyway you’ve obviously got too many carefree hours to fritter away – don’t tell me they pay you for your raves, in which case they should be splitting your fee with a sub-editor.

My suggestion is that you pull yourself together and adapt to the emerging political climate. Picture yourself as a spinner for Kim Beazley or even a genuine policy strategist (yeah maybe those 2 are interchangeable). I agree with you about how lacklustre and indecisive Kim Beazley is, indeed the whole party is simply a lukewarm version of the Libs. So as fodder for your Crikey column, your task is to come up with dynamic, authentic policies that will distinguish Labor from Libs and outshine the Libs, independents and minor parties at the polls.

People aren’t cheesed off with the Democrats because Meg Lees isn’t a babe, it’s because she paved the way for the GST. So give the people what they want – less rampant globalisation, pro-state education, pro-environment, less vindictive social security and anti-refugee policies, more genuine employment strategies. You could even remind everyone that touching the surplus is not sacrilege, governments are supposed to provide services. After all, if they deregulate everything, they’ll do themselves out of a job.

But this exercise in creativity is just too hard for you Hillary dear, isn’t it? ‘Cos you only know people like yourself so you wouldn’t have a clue why people feel disenfranchised. If the totally privatised economy wasn’t the main game, you wouldn’t even be in politics, would you?

Personally I don’t believe Beazley is a shoe-in as he hasn’t done much to deserve it.

Finally, for various reasons I was forced to use the Opera browser recently and found it ugly and confusing. So Hillary’s sentiments drifted into the rest of Crikey and it was hard to tell the two apart. Then it hit me, Hillary is of course, Stephen Mayne, relying on just a few titbits from his Canberra chums to create a new persona, then you beat up a storm about what a controversy this Hillary Bray was allegedly causing in the halls of Parliament House. Ho! Ho! Ho! You and your mates must be amusing yourselves to death about what a jolly clever bunch of chaps you are! The only difference is that Hillary isn’t obsessed with Steve Price.

Ciao for now, Kerry

Crikey:Actually, Hillary’s position on the ABC is strong proof that I’m not her. I support the ABC and will be giving the friends of the ABC a hand at an ABC AGM they are planning in Sydney in a few weeks. You don’t seriously think I could produce all the Hillary material and do five radio spots a week and produce another 10,000 words a week of non-Hillary material.

Crikey the new ‘Mediawatch’?

All I can say, Crikey, is loved it. I truly believe that a deeply held cynicism of all people who seek to convince us that they alone are right (and of course we all must be wrong) is the sign of a healthy society. Strangely enough I was checking out your website for the first time and it occured to me that it could go on to be new ‘Mediawatch’ of Australia (sorry about the comparison but I couldn’t think of any other way to put it) when I saw your review of Mr Littlemore’s latest endeavour.

Great stuff,

Mick Morgan, Port Macquarie

Crikey: We’re almost set to go with Crikey TV and could do a little webcast each week reviewing the media. Whilst Littlemore was a little leftist last night, the old broken tax cuts yarn was quite interesting. That’s where the corporate memory of someone like David Salter is useful. That old Howard footage was very interesting.

Sausage Software’s customer relations

I was and am a user of Sausage Software but stopped using their e-commerce software after I found out that they had stopped working on an upgrade which many of their customers considered essential. Actually I stopped using the product months after they made that decision because they let their customers go on believing the promised upgrade would be available ‘real soon’. It was quite strange to read last year in, I think, ‘The Australian’ that their MD said the company’s biggest problem was customers’ unreasonable expectations!

I also own copies of their web-site software packages and have been wondering why the promised upgrade for HotDog to 6.5 has remained so long in Beta. The news of their hard-times does not make me happy because I don’t like to hear of any lay-offs, especially in Australia. But I can’t say that I am surprised.

John Williams

Crikey: And to think, Sausage and Solution 6 were going to merge in a Telstra-inspired marriage to create Australia’s first $1 billion a year software company. Now both companies are on the mat with an uncertain future and Telstra has dropped a bundle. No tech industry equals no strong currency so this is all rather sad.

Belittling Littlemore

I disagree with Stupid’s claims regarding Stuart Littlemore’s new show, I thought it was pretty good – as did others. Stupid’s attempt at belittling Littlemore makes me wonder whether Stupid has been on the receiving end of Littlemore’s acid tongue??


Crikey: Not sure about Stupid, but Crikey has certainly copped a belting from the pompous git. Two months after rejoining the Herald Sun from Kennett and Stockdale, I wrote a piece praising Stockdale’s debt management. It was a bit of a square off after I’d burnt a few Liberal bridges in the first weeks back at the Hun. Anyway, Stu did me over and bagged the Hun for running my congratulatory piece without disclosing I used to work for Stockers. It worked in my favour for years because whenever the government complained of my negatitivity I ‘d say that Stu would go on the attack again if I said anything nice.

Human rights and Alan Jones

Why am I not surprised? Would you expect Alan Jones to champion any aspects of human rights apart from the right to own a Mercedes-Benz?


Crikey: Well done, bollock that pathetic parrot.

Sydney, Sartor, Sproats

Dear Stephen,

I’ve always enjoyed and when I noticed that your latest sealed section carried mention of Sydney Lord Mayor Frank Sartor I was tempted to splash out and subscribe to learn of Hillary’s insights into the Sproats Inquiry into Inner Sydney Local Government.

In the meantime it lobbed in my inbox courtesy of another source and if the inaccurate report of Frank’s appearance at the inquiry’s final session is anything to judge the value of subscription by then you are overcharging by about $55, give or take the value of a T-shirt.

Rather than turning up ‘sans script’ the Lord Mayor presented a prepared 4000-word closing submission. I’ve attached a copy as confirmation.

Further, “Sproats’ well-directed barbs” are another figment of ‘Hillary’s’ (in this case) overly-fertile imagination. In fact Professor Sproats’ only comments in response were “Thank you. Thank you very much. As I said before it was not my intention today to be asking questions.”

Perhaps Hillary should stick to gossip if simple facts are too difficult.


Craig Middleton

Press Secretary

Office of the Lord Mayor

City of Sydney.

Crikey: This piece actually came from a guest Hillary who advised the following: The 4000 words were regarded by the other councils’ representatives as generalised and Sartor did not address the core terms of reference. Sproats’ comments were made at various stages of his hearings including the final session. He certainly did not read 4000 words. Sartor’s denial of push-polling has been attacked by office proprietors who kept a copy of the phone questions. The community outrage at exclusion of their answers was acknowledged in the press by Sartor who said he had extra material that he may release at a later stage, and several community representatives specifically addressed this in their verbal presentations. We like Middleton’s combative spinning style. Very Sydney and very effective.

Ditch US-inspired drug policies

Dear Crikey,

I write after reading the letter from Pat who says that a Federal Labor government would be ‘soft on drugs’. Comments like yours Pat make my blood boil, ‘soft on drugs’ is too often the catchcry of our weak-kneed, unprincipled politicians. The current US-inspired drug policy is only good for the illegal drug industry, lawyers and police and prison unions, not the taxpayer. I suggest that a self-education process be undertaken by yourself Pat, and anyone else who is ignorant of the history of illegal drugs. Try reading ‘The Politics of Heroin’ by Alfred McCoy, and you will see that the world heroin problem is a product of US foreign policy that involves Lucky Luciano and the invasion of Sicily in WWII, US assistance to the French when they tried to hang on to Indochina and more recently CIA complicity with right-wing tyrants in many parts of the world.

Why do we have bulging courts and prisons and record crime rates caused by drug-affected people, when we could treat drug addiction as a medical problem like enlightened European countries?

Would you rather be bashed by a desperate junkie, Pat, or see the same person go to a chemist to procure their fix?

Humphrey Hollins:

Crikey: Can’t say I’ve read all that stuff but sounds like a big call blaming the current heroin epidemic on American foreign policy. Still, we like passion on Crikey so keep it coming HH.

GP death donations

Are you sure about those boys contributing $50,000 each? The way I read it, they were giving a total of $50,000. And for Bernie that is walking-around money, especially with the favourable exchange rate. In the Monza incident Michael Schumacher gave a lot of money to the family off his own bat.

People seem to forget that the FIA regulations are that tyres should not come off in accidents and yet this one did (in fact I think they all did), so someone must be responsible for that. Finally, having been in the press room at the time, we knew he was dead by around 2.40 pm and went looking for Grand Prix officials, but they had vanished and so Schumacher got to do the job.


Crikey:Nothing would surprise when it comes to Ron Walker who has just spent about $10 million building a new mansion in Toorak which has great big busts of him and Barbara when you walk in the front door.

Refugee detention centres or concentration camps?

Somehow in the last week or so I have sloughed off my blinkers. I don’t know how. I don’t know why. But it happened.

I am guilty of having been attracted to (but I hasten to say – not voted for) bits of Pauline Hanson’s rhetoric. If immigrants come to our shores illegally, by the back door – send them packing! What’s wrong with mandatory sentencing? The solution is simple – if you don’t want to go to prison, don’t break the law.

But it’s just not that easy is it?

It seems to me that we are guilty of putting our illegal immigrants into concentration camps. Let’s not forget that our British forebears invented concentration camps during the Boer War. And we are following in that British tradition – just as the Nazis did.

I have decided that I find the notion of putting people into concentration camps (however they are called) abhorrent. Even if these people have come to our country uninvited and illegally, they deserve better.

After all haven’t we tacitly invited them? On important civic occasions (sometimes broadcast to the world) do we not sing “For those who’ve come across the seas, we’ve boundless plains to share”? But of course no-one knows the second verse.

Yet when they answer that invitation we lock them away in a prison in the middle of nowhere. We should hang our heads in shame.

Let us not forget that the Pilgrim Fathers (where were the mothers?) that America remembers each Thanksgiving were boat people in much the same mould as our boat people.

We swallow the guff that the politicians shovel to us to justify this shameful practice. They tell us that these people aren’t refugees. They tell us that these people are wealthy and privileged.

If they are wealthy and privileged why do they feel compelled to run away on a journey that must be fraught with peril and uncertainty, to a place that they know will probably put them, at least temporarily, into a concentration camp?

I no longer believe what our politicians, of whatever colour, tell me. I don’t have the answers. But collectively we must be able to find answers. That’s what our governments are for. But our governments no longer seem to care about their constituents.

Individual politicians are very adept at looking grave and concerned when appropriate, and shedding crocodile tears as an earnest of sincerity. But I am persuaded that in the end all that interests them is power and the exercise of power. I have lost all faith in the notion that our governments are rooted in altruism.

I believe that our politicians and their governments are no longer fulfilling their part of the social contract.

Our politicians collect their handsome salaries and benefits but, in my opinion, are not doing their jobs. Collectively politicians seem to be more interested in self-aggrandisement and nest feathering than in providing good and responsible government.

Debate in our parliaments is a joke. There is no debate in the real sense. There is horse-trading and posturing.

We in Queensland ought to be shamed that we elected a government tainted by internal rorting. We ought to be shamed that the opposition could not provide a viable or attractive alternative.

We ought to be ashamed that we are attracted to extremist views that pose hard questions but provide no answers. We ought be ashamed that the Opposition (well, the Nationals) are muttering about moving closer to the right-wing extremists.

We ought to be ashamed that our Prime Minister allowed us to vote for a republic in a referendum that he engineered to fail.

We ought to be ashamed that large corporations are subsidised at taxpayers’ expense while they and other corporations pay little tax and wealthy individuals make a sport of not paying proper tax.

We cannot allow the politicians to glibly tell us what is good for us and what is not in 10-second soundbites. We must demand proper and reasoned explanation and debate. We must demand openness and accountability. If we don’t get it we have an obligation to force it from the politicians.

I am angry and I am not prepared to let them get away with it any more.

Tim W

Crikey: There’s nothing more to say at our end.

Liberal Students are not dills

To whom it may concern, (CC’ed: ALSF Secretary)

I have been reading with some amusement your ill-informed comments about the Australian Liberal Students’ Federation and their upcoming convention to be held in Sydney.

The conference is organised not by the ALSF itself, but autonomously by a constituent club of ALSF, with advice from other NSW constituent clubs.

Suggestions that the ALSF is the book burning faction of the Liberal Party are misguided on a number of counts. Firstly, the ALSF is not affiliated with the Liberal Party, and secondly, ALSF is more progressive than much of the Liberal Party and has a strong Libertarian leaning.

Nevertheless I considered your comments par for the course in shock-journalism until I read the following words “Stan Zemanek has been invited to speak to the Taliban of the Liberal Party, the Australian Liberal Students Federation,”.

While it is true that Stan Zemanek has been approached by those people who are organising the conference, I find it deeply offensive to refer to the ALSF as the ‘Taliban’ of the Liberal Party. You will no doubt be aware that the Taliban has recently destroyed 1500 year old historically significant Buddhist stone statues in Afghanistan, despite international pleas not to. As the President of ALSF and a practising Therevada Buddhist , I find the comparison deeply hurtful on a personal and religious level.

Furthermore, I had already planned to move a motion condemning the Taliban for this action and their stance on many other social issues at the upcoming Federal Convention. I have little doubt that this motion will be passed without dissent.

No doubt this is of little concern to you. If you wish to continue in this vein, then you may wish to call us Nazis and offend the Jewish Secretary of ALSF. Or you can make some comments on Hinduism, as one of the organisers of the convention and the president of a Liberal club is a Hindu. It seems that we at ALSF are far more tolerant than you at Crikey.

The internet has been a positive step towards a representative and free media, unfortunately it seems, it has been a retrograde step in accountable and accurate media. You may feel free to contact me at any time (I am on Perth time) to discuss or clarify any issues regarding ALSF.

Kind regards,

Matthew Fergusson-Stewart

President, Australian Liberal Students’ Federation

Crikey: You’ve explained yourself very well Matthew. Excellent letter indeed.