Neil James, Executive Director of the Australia Defence Association, writes:


Charles Richardson’s article “David Hicks stays
put in limbo” (6 June, item 8) misunderstands and misconstrues key points in the continuing
debate about David Hicks. Furthermore, his references to the Australia Defence
Association and its viewpoint on the Hicks issue were all incorrect. Richardson’s botched summary of various arguments
concerning Hicks might have been better formulated if he had compared like with
like, such as Alfred McCoy’s essay in The Monthly with the detailed
comment on Hicks on the ADA website, rather than refer to only a short ADA
opinion article in The Australian. The ADA and McCoy agree on several key issues, especially
the problems with trying Hicks by a US military commission. Differences on the international
trial option are minimal. The ADA is concerned whether, as a captured combatant, he
can be legally tried at all. But Hicks’ case is far more complex than the
inconsistent arguments and trite sloganeering of those wishing to see him freed
at all costs, or those wishing to leave him in Guantanamo Bay indefinitely. The fundamental issue is that Hicks remains a
captured combatant of some sort (as even the Green Left Weekly believes)
whatever else he may or may not be in terms of criminal charges. His detention as a captured combatant is wholly
legitimate under the Laws of Armed Conflict, especially the Geneva Conventions.
Hicks is not a criminal prisoner awaiting trial. Many misunderstand this. Which armed conflict applies and what type of captured
combatant he is must be decided before any trial, by anyone, because it is
generally illegal to try Prisoners-of-War for criminal offences that are
defined by the detaining power. This underlies the ADA’s call for the negotiation of a Fifth
Geneva Convention to cover captured combatants, such as David Hicks, who do not
appear to be adequately covered by the existing four Conventions. Irrelevant calls to “try Hicks or free him”
are simplistic in the extreme and ignore most of the complex international law
applying to his situation. Similarly, calls to leave him in Guantanamo Bay to rot ignore the principle that everyone
must have adequate protection under international law.

Mike Carlton writes:
Your
attack (yesterday, item 1) on the Queen’s Birthday award of an AM to Jeff McMullen was
unfair and, let’s be blunt, grossly ignorant. Jeff had a stellar career
in journalism: beginning as a cadet at the ABC newsroom in Sydney in
1965, I think it was, he rose, with extraordinary speed, to become the
ABC’s longest serving and arguably best-ever Washington correspondent.
At Four Corners and then 60 Minutes he built an enviable reputation as a television reporter with a pronounced social conscience and the skills to match. When 60 Minutes
inexplicably fired him, he was awarded substantial damages for wrongful
dismissal. Since then, he has quietly devoted his time and energy – at
considerable personal cost – to the welfare of remote Aboriginal
communities in the Northern Territory, principally through the
charitable foundation set up by Ian Thorpe. The work he has done there
is unsung but trail-blazing. Jeff happens to be one of my oldest
friends. There is no one in journalism I admire more. You owe him a
grovelling apology.

Andrew Lewis writes:
Your
editorial yesterday implies that AWAs have some inherent and intrinsic
worth beyond what is written in them. Others make this assumption also.
However, since they were introduced in 1996 the take up rate has been
ridiculously slow. Business didn’t want them and employees didn’t want
them. AWA’s potency and value is only in combination with recent
changes whereby the “no-disadvantage” test no longer applies. You state
that all companies need flexibility to survive in a volatile global
economy. The non-sequitur is the underlying assumption that AWAs are
intrinsically flexible, and that collective agreements, intrinsically,
are not. It doesn’t stand up to the mildest scrutiny. It’s accepted as
though it is axiomatic. Worse still, the laws are ridiculously
prescriptive (i.e. not flexible). By the way, are all you managers and
journalists keeping a diary of your hours at
work as you are now legally bound to do? As an HR practitioner of some
years standing, individual AWAs are an administrative nightmare and
not worth it except for very specialised roles. Of course, that assumes
we are talking about “productivity”, as opposed to just screwing down
costs. So let us “out” this word flexibility. When a boss is talking
about “flexibility”, (s)he wants to know how far you can bend over.
(S)he ain’t talking about introducing lunchtime yoga classes for your
mental and spiritual well-being.

Martin
Lawrence writes:

Does anyone else find it faintly
ridiculous that the business lobby (and Crikey too I am sorry to see) seems to
have this weird fetish for AWAs as a talisman of “flexibility” and labour market
deregulation, given AWAs are a government-designed, state overseen and heavily
regulated contract? If the “flexibility” lobby were really interested in
deregulation, surely they’d be happy with common-law contracts? Or maybe it is
just a reflection that the business lobby isn’t interested in de-regulation –
merely in regulating in its own favour?

Kev McMahon writes:

In yesterday’s editorial you have swallowed the Howard line that,
in protecting the interests of workers, Beazley is somehow “pandering” to the
trade union arm of the ALP. Pandering is a strong word. It implies,
beyond mere yielding to one’s wishes, a complete and uncritical acceptance of
them. In attacking the government’s farcical AWA system, Beazley is doing no
more than abolishing something that does not work and was never designed to
work; something that a tiny handful of Australian workers had agreed to (and how
many of those freely?) It’s incredibly ironic that you criticise
Beazley’s decision as an act of ideology and yet fail to see the AWA system as
being the same – before and after the misleadingly-titled “Work Choices”
legislation. As for the “flexibility for companies” argument, which 1960s
textbook are you still reading? The enterprise bargaining system showed itself
to be perfectly capable of providing flexible outcomes to all but the most
rapacious and Dickensian of employers. Arguably, the only organisation still
behind the times on their thinking regarding this issue is
Crikey.

Phil Teece writes:

In discussing Kim Beazley’s pledge to get rid of
AWAs you ask, inter alia, “And what about the flexibility all companies
need in a volatile and globalised economy?” Please get it into your heads that AWAs do
NOT, repeat NOT, provide any significant genuine ‘flexibility’ for the vast bulk
of organisations that use them. Leaving aside the few really specialised
high-pay employees, in almost all other cases AWAs are in fact identical. The
individual aspect isn’t in the conditions within the contract; it’s in
the contract itself. By having each person standing alone legally, the employer
gains greater capacity to prevent collectivisim in the workplace. Yet the same
employer demands a “teamwork culture”. Most of the really outstanding examples
of flexible approaches spawning innovative work come from companies taking the
entire workforce with them AS A GROUP. The idea that whole swathes of individual
Australian employees – or individual employers for that matter – are crying out
for AWAs is an absurd myth, demonstrated clearly by the pathetic AWA take-up
rate [2.5 to 4% depending on whose figures you believe] in the decade
1996-2006 during which time they have been fully available. The only difference
now is that under the new IR laws they can be used to heavily reduce benefits.
That is the attraction rather than any high-sounding “flexibility”.

Simon Mansfield writes:
Just for the record could the
Crikey editorial team tell us dear readers just how many people at
Crikey are employed under AWAs. Or are AWAs only for the great
unwashed, while us more important people in the professional class
continue to work under common law contracts as we have always done and
will continue to do no matter how many migrant women working in some
factory are forced onto AWAs. At least be honest and can call AWAs what
they are – industry awards without any awards – that are administered
by fanatics employed by a partisan government that hates unions with a
vengence. The neo con ideology that seeps out of Crikey would be fine
if it was presented with the fullness of the facts and not just the
frat house ideology of Christian Kerr – who has probably never seen the
inside of a real workplace in his life.

Brian Reid writes:
Yesterday’s story, “Solar on the roof…” (item 13) suggests solar panels are
energy (and, therefore, pollution) efficient because “Solar electricity panels
pay off their energy debt (ie the amount of energy needed to make them) in 18
months to two years”. But it also says “…one that generates a similar amount as our average
electricity consumption would cost less than $12,000 (after government rebate)”.
The article does not say how much the house in question was paying for
electricity before but I am certain it wasn’t high enough to repay the $12,000
capital investment. This raises the issue as to how much pollution is generated to manufacture
and install “environment friendly” devices such as solar panels. It seems to me
if something isn’t financially profitable then it isn’t “environment
profitable”. That $12,000 was spent doing something and that “something”
inevitably generated pollution. I have rarely seen the idea of “return on pollution capital investment”
discussed. Perhaps other Crikey readers could enlighten me.

NSW MLC, Dr Jon Jenkins, writes:
Re: “Solar on the roof…” The solar system
described generates about 2000W in peak sunshine and for a maximum of about 3-4
hours per day (the panels are north facing) and falls of dramatically at morning
and night. So for a few hours during the middle of the day the system can power
the fridge and a light or two or put a few kWh of power back into the grid.
Other than that they have no power for cooking, lighting, TV, computers or
anything else. To run a modern
house which has a working family requires about 50kWh of power per day. To set
up a solar system to provide this requires about 50m2 of solar panels with
sophisticated electronics and a large battery storage system for night-time use
because not all of us consider doing our washing by hand in cold water in the
dark entertainment! This system costs about $50-60,000 and has a life span of
about 10-20 years. The fact that
some people have made the decision to go back to the “mud huts” does not mean
everyone else should.

Bruce Graham writes:
In dismissing solar power, most
of what Dale Butler wrote (9 June, comments) was either misleading or
wrong. His most important error, though, was to misunderstand the role
of peak power generating capacity. Coal fired base load power
generators currently dominate Australia’s power supply precisely
because peak generating capacity is so expensive. Coal fired power
stations cannot be turned off at night, so all possible users are
driven to shift load, and off-peak power is sold at below average cost.
If priced equally, peak loads may be twice the off-peak load. In
Australia, the peak load is on summer afternoons and is driven by air
conditioning. Solar power availability happens to reliably match peak
load, so it is well suited to removing this peak load from the
equation. If PV starts to impact on total electricity usage, there
would still be a need for base generating capacity, but it would be
significantly smaller than the present fraction, and there would be
less capacity to cross subsidise. This would, coincidentally, have an
adverse impact on the (currently subsidised) large industrial night
time users of our excess base load generating capacity. Users such as
the ALCOA aluminium smelter in Victoria would presumably not be
pleased. Large scale installation of PV will not happen in Australia in
the next five years, because other countries will continue to absorb
supply at higher prices than are economic in Australia. Price forecasts
beyond that time frame are a guess. To suggest we should all go out and
install panels now ignores supply constraints. To suggest that PV will
never have an important place in the equation is equally unbalanced.

Denis M Podger writes:
Re: Bernie Masters’ comment (yesterday, comments). It’s a very sad state of affairs
when national comment on the deleterious genetic effects of radiation damage to
DNA and including its cancer causing effects is left to a geologist. My advice to Bernie is to stick to rocks.
Where are the Australian genetic
toxicologists adding to this debate? Does Australia have any? Cigarette smoke contains chemicals which
damages DNA that leads to cancer, chemicals added to drinking water increase the
cancer rate, chemicals in the air pollution increase the cancer rate. So does the radiation damage to DNA from any
source. Notice I am not talking about
the longevity of certain populations of humans!
My take-away message gained from Burnie is that, let’s keep smoking and
breathing polluted air (and take in all sorts of carcinogens) because it will
increase our life span. Others in the
past have suggested that a little bit of radiation is good for us. If I ask
anybody today to stick up their hand to say a little bit of cigarette smoke is
actually good for us, there would be a nil response.

Chris Colenso-Dunne writes:

Bernie Masters writes,
“in spite of numerous atmospheric tests of nuclear bombs and Chernobyl, human
life expectancies around the world are increasing (except in a few AIDS-ravaged
countries)”. And in Australian Aboriginal communities of
course.

Mike Burke writes:
Unlike his several supporters, Peter
Wesley-Smith (yesterday, comments) at least seems vaguely to understand
that I did not actually
accuse him of being “just another ranting left-wing dickhead”. However,
he is wrong to accuse me of thinking that to criticise other persons’
views is to be contemptuous of their right to freedom of speech.
Indeed, I was
at pains to support his right of freedom of speech, but contemptuous of
his
criticism of Christian Kerr for expressing an unpopular view. It was
precisely
because I believe that there is a general lack of respect for others’
views in
the media in general, and increasingly in Crikey, as well as in the
community
at large that I chose to buy into this issue in here. Rarely does a
Crikey day pass without somebody calling for Christian Kerr to be
censored, sacked or otherwise removed from the sight of the
self-appointed, and
oh, so self-righteous Keepers of the True Political Faith. Christian
Kerr’s
original article (7 June, item 10) was a fair summation of the reality
faced by Australian
governments. To suggest that there are (other than coincidental)
“morality-based” alternatives to our Government’s acting in Australia’s
politically determined best interests is naive. First define “morality”
and then tell us how we are to determine whose version of morality we
should
choose. The current fashion on the Australian left to scream insults at
Indonesia
and its leaders for not being sufficiently like “us” is as
counterproductive as
it is childish.

Niall Clugston writes:
The ethical vs realist foreign policy debate is a
false construct, and will remain so until someone advocates an unethical or
unrealistic foreign policy. The labels represent different kinds of arguments
that people advance for their foreign policy positions, but the positions
themselves relate to concrete world events. Britain’s Robin Cook broke with Tony
Blair not on abstract theory but on the reality in Iraq. In fact, people have
put forward both “ethical” and “realist” arguments for and against the war.
Likewise the Vietnam War – which is sometimes portrayed as “idealist” – was
supported by such well-known “realists” as Kissinger and Samuel
Huntington.

Jill Berryman writes:
Chris Seage’s expose on the seedy world of tax and the adult industry (yesterday, item 8) would have
been most titillating for some Crikey readers. However if you look at model 4
of the ATO GST guidelines in the story you will see that no GST is payable on
the girls earnings. In view of this have the ATO shot itself in the foot?


Ken Moore writes:

The tax office come out
blustering about unpaid taxes in the brothel industry and then
recommend they go on to model four which means the industry escape
paying tax on the workers income. This is all a bit silly as it seems
the ATO are promoting tax avoidance schemes.

Jim Richards writes:
Unfortunately
for the legal part of the adult industry, they are often tarred by the
same brush when targeted for bashing by the media and various social
crusaders as they suffer for the transgressions of the illegal industry
(s*x slaves etc). However the adult industry is entitled to the same
treatment from the ATO under the income tax assessment act and other
regulations as any other taxpayer. The tax system should have no
stratum.

Geoff Perston writes:
How many of
Helen Caldicott’s other data re the nuclear industry (9 June, item 10)
are unacknowledged “errors”, such as her doubling the death toll from
Indian Point? Surely someone with Caldicott’s self-alleged expertise on
the subject should be absolutely sure of her facts before proceeding to
decry nuclear power with such vehemence. Or are her assertions simply
beyond their use by date?

Lloyd McDonald writes:

Re: Wayne Sanderson on Downer the Neo-Con (yesterday, item 12). Did
Wayne Sanderson actually read the article? If he did he would realise
that Owen Harries comments about the policy showing “boldness and
courage” take on a completely different meaning in the context of his
following comments. “At a time when the American President and the
British Prime Minister are discretely modifying and qualifying their
position, Mr Downer has produced what is arguably the most unqualified
ideological statement of Australian policy ever uttered.” Professor
Harries said democracies took time to evolve in some cases, and could
not be created simply by the exertion of will “He doesn’t acknowledge
at all that democracies are a very difficult form of government to
establish,” he said.

Colin Simpson writes:
Why
does Crikey and the rest of the people who should know better persist
in maintaining the fallacy that contemporary unemployment figures in
this country are anything other than farcical? When the Howard
government shifted the definition of employed from someone working more
than ten hours a week to someone working one or more hours a week – in
addition to moving 200,000+ Australians off the unemployed lists and
onto the disability pension lists, of course Australian unemployment
figures looked pretty impressive – to everyone except those living hand
to mouth. Please make an effort – I think if you check ABS figures, you
find that “real” unemployment is much closer to 9%.

Steve
Johnson writes:

Alan
Fitzgerald writes disparagingly (yesterday, comments) of Sir Zelman Cowen’s
apparent hypocrisy in his changed attitude to the monarchy. Whether or not
Cowan personally supported a constitutional monarchy while he served as
Governer-General, his personal views on the monarchy are not relevant as long as
he performed his duties impartially, soundly and effectively. It is a symbolic
position after all. Equally, he is entitled to change his views in the
meantime, as are you, me, Bill Hayden and anybody else who lives in this free
society of ours.

Kim
McDonald writes:
Michael Pascoe is really being a bit
mischievous in yesterday’s crack at Eddie McGuire (item 16). I heard Eddie’s remarks and when
he was gently challenged by George Donikian on the Meakin comment Eddie pointed
that it was made tongue-in-cheek and intended as a bit of a wind-up for Meakin.
He then went on to roundly praise Meakin for the job he did at Nine, and is
currently doing at Seven. For Michael to maintain that this exchange constitutes
some sort of serious attempt to re-write history is drawing a pretty long
bow. Be fair Michael… don’t let your
personal experiences over-ride your normally sound judgement.

Alan Hatfield writes:
I note, appreciate
and don’t disagree with your comments in Crikey yesterday (item 1) about the process
and reasoning for awarding of Australian gongs. Really, though,
isn’t the bigger issue the almost complete irrelevance of this archaic link to
(or pale shadow of) the so-called “imperial honours system” ? Let them award
gongs to those they want to reward; if the recipients are so easily “bought” or
swayed that’s their problem. The best approach is surely is just to ignore
them. What do they mean ? What is the value (and relevance) in Australia today? They’re becoming a
bit like the Academy Awards or the Logies, etc, aren’t they ? Irrelevant to
most normal people.

Tim
Howard writes:

Poor Crikey, you can’t take a trick!
On one side you have drooling
flagwavers like Pete Secret (yesterday, comments) dropping off because of your supposed Labor bias and
on the other you have whinging latte sippers like myself dropping off because
(partly) of the infiltration of such drooling flagwavers. It would appear that
both sides do agree that the quality of the news delivered by Crikey has reduced
since its takeover. The result is that you seem to now hold the centre ground,
the much coveted territory of politics occupied by most of the population.
Congratulations Crikey, you have become a broadsheet, with all the pros and cons
that implies. Trouble is, there is no shortage of broadsheets, so where should
one go for the alternative side?

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Peter Fray

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