How can we trust the Government?

Are we expected to
believe, once again, our PM’s claims that his Government was not
advised of prisoner abuse in Iraq. Lets see, core promises, children
overboard, it appears to once again be a case of not wanting to know,
ie. we never had this conversation. Surely the Government’s credibility
is rock bottom, again.

More Abu Ghraib deliberation

noticed you, as with most of the media, are getting stuck into the
Australian Government with Watergate-style questions of “Who new what,
and when” over its knowledge of abuses at Abu Ghraib.

Nobody is saying Australians were involved in the abuse.

else seemed to care much about the abuse allegations, which were being
dealt with by the US military and widely reported in a low-key way
early this year, until the photos came to light last month.

the Government’s responses so far might seem a bit inept, even if it
failed to pick up on the political importance of the abuse allegations,
as did virtually everyone until last month, it still begs the question
– “So what?”

Aaron Hall

Radical politics and terrorist wings

Dearie me, one would like, if not expect, a little more depth in your
(Crikey’s) political analysis. You say Hezbollah is not a “proper
political party” because it has a terrorist wing. We’ll leave aside
the possible argument over whether a militant wing that opposes, with
crude military actions, occupying forces from another country, is

We will remind you that Hezbollah has eleven
elected members in the Lebanese parliament: five from the south, four
from the Beq’a Valley, one from Beirut and one from Mt Lebanon (the
heart of the Christian heart of Liban!); members who caucus just as if
the Party of God, to which they belong, was a real political party.
They think it’s a party they ought to know. And I seem to remember the
Communist Party of the Soviet Union had a terrorist wing, as did the
Bolsheviks before it.

Contemporary saint Nelson Mandela’s ANC
had its militant (= terrorist, by your lights) wing. Even the
Australian Labor Party, some might say, had a terrorist wing, still
has: the left wing of the union movement, though they don’t go in for
suicide bombers.

Nor do Hezbollah , for that matter. Not these
days. And only for big deals in the old days: such as blowing up 241 US
marines in 1983, which led directly to the US withdrawal, which was, of
course, the aim of the exercise. But no, they don’t need suicide
bombers these days, and haven’t for years. Perhaps if you got your
facts in order wisdom might follow.

Hezbollah has grown up quite
a bit since the 1980s, when it may have been – no one is sure – been
responsible for some of the kidnappings of foreign newsmen. It is not
the most attractive of political groupings religious parties rarely
are, but it is not Hamas, it’s Shi’ite for starters, nor is it Islamic
Jihad. It represents the aspirations of a significant section of the
Lebanese community: the poor Shi’a of the South, many of whom escaped
bother the Civil War and the Israeli occupation by coming to Australia
… and living in places like Leo McLeay’s electorate.

I thought
the proscribing of Hezbollah by this government, which I think has
occurred, was an error brought about by irrational fear, ignorance and
propaganda from the Pixies who live to the immediate south of Lebanon.
You, too, have been sucked in.

Hezbollah and leaping Leo McLeay

I fail to see how Andrew Bolt could ever describe you as being from the left. Your piece on Leo McLeay today fails to:

  1. Differentiate between Hezbollah the political party and
    the militant arm of the same organisation (shades of Sinn Fein and the
    IRA) leading to a completely incorrect assumption that Hezbollah is not
    authorised to speak to political activists from other nations on behalf
    of their citizens.
  2. Recognise that the majority of ALP members and for
    that matter Australian citizens, share the belief that our troops
    should vacate Iraq at the earliest possible opportunity.
  3. Recognise the systematic human rights abuses
    perpetrated by the Indonesian Government against the Achenese people as
    “the bruvvers” as you refer to them, from the MUA have.

Political bias often gets in the way of good journalism, you
generally do a very good job of exposing hypocracy and political
skulduggery, however, you have a very distinct blind spot where trade
unions and their officials are concerned. This blind spot leads you to
dismiss anything that the unions are concerned with. It would serve you
well both professionally and personally, to start with the premise that
union officials are people first and as with any group, there are good
ones and bad ones, genuine ones and hypocrites. The MUA has always
stood up for oppressed peoples from countries all over the world and
are to be congratulated for their tireless defence of human rights.

am neither a union official nor a political heavyweight, but I do not
dismiss out of hand any deed undertaken by someone in defence of others
simply because of my personal bias against them.

Lorie Werner

Re Leaping Leo and Labor’s foreign policy

no friend of Leo McLeay and certainly no fan of Hezbollah but how did
suicide bombings get into the story? Hezbollah conducted a fairly
brutal and vicious guerrilla war against the Israelis but is a war
against an occupying army and it did not use suicide bombings. It never
carried any such attacks in Israel (Nor was it accused of it) and there
were no Israeli civilians in Lebanon – only soldiers. While in the
early ‘eighties Hezbollah’s precursor did use suicide bombings to blow
up the Israeli secret service (and torture centre) headquarters it
found in later year that classical guerrilla war worked much better.
(Hit and run, roadside bombs etc.)

Hezbollah has been accused of
terrorism and they may well have been guilty of it in relation to the
blowing up of the Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires in Argentina
but even that was not a suicide bombings.[Nor was their guilt ever
established in a court of law]

Hezbollah certainly doesn’t
advocate attacks on civilians. In fact last year Hezbollah’s leader
Hassan Nasrallah called on Hamas and the other Palestinian organisation
that use this form of terrorism to cease such actions. It wasn’t so
much moral compunction but he told the Palestinians that they will win
much more world sympathy by duplicating his own organisation’s tactics
of confronting the Israeli military head on.

It may be a pure
coincidence but the Israeli media has been full of alleged Hezbollah
involvement in Palestinian organisations lately. This taking place when
the Hamas has killed 13 Israeli soldiers by using guerrilla tactics.
The switch of tactics by the Hamas was noted by that The Economist a
publication that cannot be described as a student Trot magazine.

for Laurie Oaks. Didn’t he venture into Lebanese Hezbollah politics in
an interview with Alexander Downer not that long ago? And didn’t
transcript he was quoting from turned out to be [According to Professor
Ahmad Shboul and SBS News] not quite Kosher?

Maybe Leo McLeay is not as silly as Crikey made him to be.

The Hebrew Reading Media Watcher

Distrust and the Newspoll

If my memory fails me, no doubt one of your erudite readers will enlighten me.

Sol Lebovic’s Newspoll come out with at least one aberrant poll result
EVERY time we are getting close to an election, and usually one in the
middle of the real campaign as well.

I’m sure he has a poor (or
fantastic) record for pulling out a shocker every now and then. Of
course, subsequent polls inevitably straighten things out and by the
time the election has been run Sol can come out with the line “Our poll
of xx/xx/xx was the closest poll of any of the major polls prior to the

Inevitably Sol is correct because he just has to find
the right date. His polls seem to fluctuate between landslides for
Labor followed by landslides for Liberals and every increment in

Of course it could be that I am being unfair. All I can
say with some certainty is that I have a mantra implanted firmly in the
back of my mind that says “firmly disregard anything that comes out of
Sol Lebovic’s stable.” I just can’t remember the exact details of why I
put that little mantra in the back of my head.

Andrew Lewis

Natasha’s baby news and big workload

I think that Crikey just ends up seeming a little petty and
mean-spirited. Surely Natasha Stott Despoja and Ian Smith have the
right to control the manner in which a story like Natasha’s pregnancy
is released to the media. Especially a pregnancy where it would appear
there are complications. Many people choose not to tell anyone of their
pregnancy until they are well out of any potential danger, let alone
the entire Australian public – note the story is the most accessed on
the SMH currently.

Crikey seems even more petty to spout the
line about “retired” politician when someone is in hospital with
overwork no doubt contributing to the danger to herself and her
pregnancy. I sure if Crikey put aside the easy snide bitchiness and
actually did some empirical research, comparing the hours worked,
speeches made, questions asked, functions attended, Committee hearing
attended, motions and amendments moved and press releases issued,
Crikey would find that Natasha Stott Despoja works a hell of a lot
harder than the vast majority of parliamentarians. Just because a
person is no longer leader of their party and does not currently appear
to wish to regain that position, does not mean they are retired. Rather
it means that they can devote their energies to other work. I don’t see
that comment being made about other former leaders still in Parliament
like Crean, Beazley or Downer. And Stott Despoja is expected to cover a
much wider portfolio load than any of these people.

Melissa McEwen
I am happy and proud to disclose that I am a good friend of Natasha and Ian

They may sell computers but …

Gerry Harvey is still in the dark ages somewhere. Check out the Harvey Norman website

ACP ripping of mag subscribers

Freddy Krueger, Thank you so much for writing an article about this!
When I contacted the subscription company I got the exact response that
you stated, I was actually made to feel that I was silly for making a
complaint. After reading your article it reinforced to me that I am
being ripped off here.

This magazine has only been around for a
few months and I bought my subscription from the first issue because I
thought it was such a good mag. They should treat their subscribers
better, after all, high subscriber figures equal advertising dollars.

first bonus (in last issue) we missed out on was a funky ring from
Kookai. Now I see the new issue is out and we are missing out on some

I won’t be renewing my subscription, I’d prefer to
just buy it over the counter than miss out on the goodies. Yes, we may
get a small discount but so we should also get the other extras, you’re
right, subscribers are meant to be ‘insider’ and get special
‘benefits’. I will be sending another complaint through to the magazine
and I will also link it to your article. Hopefully enough people will
complain to make ACP change their ways.

Kristi Parsons

Bravo Outside Centre

to Outside Centre and his passionate column calling for the rugby
league administrators to be held to account. It appears that the trusty
adage/exhortation of President Truman (right or left handed?) that THE
BUCK STOPS HERE has passed into the world of the arcane.

It is
absolute nonsense for coaches and players to be fined for commenting on
referee decisions/the state of the game/ the likely VP candidate on the
Kerry ticket or anything else they want to comment on. Who the hell
does the NRL/ARL think they are? Have they ever heard of Voltaire…no
he was not outside centre for Newtown in ’72 and he did not play
outside JS Mill at five eighth….

What do they actually think
will happen if coaches of the stature of Wayne Bennett speak out
without fear of pecuniary penalty? Do they think that this will bring
the game into disrepute? Of course it won’t, if there is one thing
which NRL fans have it is opinions – we enjoy sharing them, arguing
over them, getting passionate (and drunk?) whilst exchanging them… To
the extent that a disgruntled coach is seen as a sore loser he will be
treated accordingly in the court of public opinion. The only people
whose interests are protected by this illiberal and anti-democratic
prohibition are the administrators themselves. The prohibition should
be properly named for what it truly is: a prohibition against bringing
the administrators into disrepute and, to be frank, the game should be
strong enough to survive a free and frank exchange of views.

Belmore boy

What’s going on with the Electoral Commission

writing to you last week about Wilson Tuckey doing his worst for the
Australian Electoral Commission, blow me down if I didn’t receive a
standard letter from the AEC this week asking me to inform them about
eligible electors at my address, whose names were listed on the reverse
of the letter. I should cross out any who don’t live there, and add the
names of any eligible electors not shown, and return the letter. Oh,
and thanks for your co-operation.

In my case, the my name and
the name of the previous occupant were listed. I know he has left
Australia so I crossed out his name. Then bugger me if he didn’t get a
letter too, no doubt with my name on it, etc etc. So if the previous
occupant had had his mail redirected and received this letter, what’s
to stop him from crossing out my name? And if I don’t send my letter
back, what does the AEC do then? If I do send it back, who does the AEC
believe? Does it drop me off the roll? Can I just make up names and get
them on the roll in this way? (Perhaps that’s how Sir Arthur Fadden got
on the roll.)

No wonder Wilson Tuckey is recommending they
start fining people – the costs of all the potential running around
confirming details could be quite high. Or they could just tidy up the
rolls after the next election and strike off all the no-shows and query
the absent voters.

And whatever happened to privacy? I know that
the roll is a public document, but usually people have to go and look
at the details, not have them mailed out to them on form letters. I’m
not very happy to have my name mailed out to people I’ve never heard of
who used to live at my house, regardless of whether they receive the
letter or not.

So should I uphold the purity of the electoral
roll by sending back the letter, or should I throw both my letter and
the previous occupant’s in the bin?

Corinne Gepp