Dr Andrew Lynch, Director of the Terrorism and Law Project at the Gilbert Tobin Centre of Public Law, writes: In justifying the scheme of control orders to protect the community from terrorism, Peter Faris QC points to similar orders available in respect of sex offenders (yesterday, item 3). He seems to suggest an incongruity in “the Left’s” discomfort with the former but acceptance of the latter. But this misses a vital distinction – orders for the control or preventative detention of sex offenders are available only when those persons have a relevant criminal record of those offences. The control orders which may be issued against persons as a means of “substantially assisting” in the prevention of a terrorist act have no such requirement – a point which the Attorney-General acknowledged yesterday when he said, “If you work on the assumption that only those people who could be convicted of an offence are subject to a control order then you wouldn’t have control orders”. Thus a control order may be made against someone who has never been charged, let alone convicted, of a terrorism crime. That is not so with schemes designed to deal with persons with a history of sex offenders, which presumably explains why they are more readily accepted by those in the community who see the terrorism control orders as a challenge to the criminal justice system.

Solicitor Irfan Yusuf writes: In the past, both in Crikey and on his blog, my colleague Peter Faris has argued in favour of religious profiling of anyone deemed Muslim. He argues that virtually all terrorists are Muslim, and so profiling Muslim-type people is imperative. Faris has now argued in favour of control orders to protect my safety from a possible future criminal act. If I support Mr Faris’s view, it would have to be on the basis that, in the event Mr Faris commits any kind of violent act or anything resembling a criminal action, he should immediately be placed under a control order. I’d be happy to act for the Commonwealth or any State government or authority in relation to a possible control order, and will happily argue the matter in any competent Australian jurisdiction.

Matt Hardin writes: Peter “lock up everyone else” Faris is at it again. While he is entitled to his opinion on how he thinks the Australian Justice System should be run, he should check some facts. The “Left” (whoever they are) did protest the indefinite detention laws in Queensland and there was some outcry. It was of course immediately drowned out by cries of “Think of the children”. I remember articles in the press and by civil liberties organisations expressing their fear at this beginning of a slippery slope. The “Left” is not about cuddling up to terrorists. There is an ideological struggle going on. However, the struggle is about a free society vs a bunch of nutcases who want to restrict freedoms and shape the world in their image. In a normal war there is a definite beginning and end and hence restrictions have temporal limits on their application. There is no defined end to the “War on Terror”. If we give up our freedoms in this fight and don’t get them back, what have we fought for?

Katherine Wilson writes: Peter Faris’s sentence, “The two best examples are dangerous s-xual predators (Mr Baldy) and terrorists (Thomas)” is misleading and surely libellous. Jack Thomas was never accused of any terrorist act, nor of planning a terrorist act. Given evidence later deemed inadmissible, a jury found Thomas not guilty of the two most serious charges against him, and three Appeals Court judges quashed the less serious convictions against him. Which parts of “not guilty”, “convictions quashed” and “rule of law” doesn’t Peter Faris, QC, understand? Continuing to equate the Thomas case with that of a s-xual predator, Faris writes “There was no protest from the Left that I can recall [to inhibit the freedom of Baldy].” May I, a layperson, remind this QC that one of these people is a convicted offender, the other isn’t? And framing this as a left versus right issue only reveals Faris’s own ideological biases and his role in this government’s culture wars.

Christian Farrelly writes: Peter Faris QC uses the stigma attached to paedophiles effectively to try and gloss over the real facts of Jack Thomas’s gross mistreatment. The facts are that Mr Baldy has never been tortured, that he received a fair trial and was subsequently found guilty on evidence which was not procured through means which are absolutely contrary to our long held views of justice, equality and transparency – values which are the cornerstones of our legal system. Jack Thomas was convicted on such evidence. Peter Faris, your article is a blatant attempt at deceiving the public; you are a disgrace to your profession. Your voice and thoughts are monotone trumpets of immorality and injustice inspired only by fear and ignorance.

David Cox writes: Re: Peter Faris. While control orders are not based on convictions, your defense of Joseph Thomas’s control order relies on your (obviously unassailable) belief that he is a terrorist. Since his convictions were either beaten in court or were overturned on appeal, you must have some other irrefutable evidence that hasn’t yet seen the light of day. So, while you fumble through your desk drawers to produce this evidence, let’s review your convicted-paedophile to accused-terrorist comparison for a moment (because, let’s face it, apples and oranges are both tasty, tasty fruits): while a preference for s-xual predation is unlikely to have been cured by even a harsh jail sentence, it cannot be established that Jack Thomas is likely to commit a terrorist offence based on his background, the evidence against him or his trial. The only thing that can do this is the evidence you have in your bottom drawer. Did you find it yet? I thought not…

Sue Harrison writes: Peter Faris’s assertion that we need to guard against the danger posed by suspected terrorists in the same way we guard against that posed by released paedophiles is based on a false analogy.  Paedophiles who remain a danger after release have persistent, uncontrollable urges to molest children. Even the most rigorous training in Afghanistan, however, can scarcely have induced in Jack Thomas a similarly ongoing, uncontrollable urge to engage in terrorist acts. If his activities do require monitoring, surely covert surveillance would be far more effective than the imposition of a control order (though perhaps not as appealing to politicians bent on demonstrating to the electorate how tough they are on terrorism).

Tiphanie Acreman writes: Two questions for Mr Faris: 1)  Who is “the Left”? 2) What legal basis do you have for referring to Mr Thomas as a “terrorist”? This is not a matter of morality or opinion. It is a matter of legality. Obviously we have every reason to be fearful of the enemy – terrorists and the mysterious Left. Who are they again?

Geoff Walker writes: I used to think that QC stood for Quite Clever, but after reading Peter Faris’s article I now believe it stands for Quick-to Condemn.

Justin Templer writes: Jack Thomas did not attend an al Qaeda training camp to learn the mysteries of Microsoft Windows. He attended to learn the art of blowing the arms and legs off our children. I for one am happy if special powers are used to ensure that these dark arts remain unused. And I also believe that Jack Thomas and his supporters should be thankful that our robust system of justice prevailed to keep him out of prison, allowing him a quality of mercy which his presumed intent would not have shown others.

Belinda Robinson, Chief Executive of the Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association, writes: Michael Pascoe’s cynicism over the recent media coverage on peak oil is warranted (yesterday, item 9). Working hard on a story and getting it wrong is forgivable. Working hard on a story that pompously dresses up sensationalist, alarmist nonsense as “investigative journalism” is not.  The recent 60 Minutes diatribe on the looming oil “catastrophe” seems deliberately to set out to create anxiety, fear, anger and hostility using illogical images, smug quips from presenters with no knowledge.  The “report” was striking in its absence of fact, statistics or evidence. This is at best irresponsible and at worst a gross and dangerous breach of the right to speak freely. Surely with freedom of speech comes some ethically induced sense of obligation to treat the subject matter, those who participated in the program in good faith (and at considerable inconvenience to themselves), and the general public with respect.

Neil Robertson writes: Michael Pascoe does not seem to understand the concept of “non-renewable”. He says, “The truth is that we’re not running out of oil and never will”. This kind of ignorance is not what I want to be reading in Crikey! I suggest Mr Pascoe stick with finance and refrain from commenting on environmental issues until he educates himself appropriately.

Tim Le Roy writes: Tim Hollo (yesterday, comments) just can’t leave his Greenpeace roots behind as he embarks on his nappy (not disposables, I hope) changing career. The reason why Four Corners gave renewable energy only two lines in their program “What price global warming” is very obvious. It doesn’t as yet remotely offer economic or efficiency solutions to modern or developing economy energy demands. Wind energy is intermittent, expensive and unreliable. The only renewable energy that meets modern society’s needs, hydro, doesn’t meet Greenpeace’s high standards. The program addressed the very real issues of coal emissions and deserves credit for not giving daylight to quack cures like wind turbines. Just in case readers think Greenpeace has elevated their campaigning to a civilised level, take a look at their latest rant against four-wheel-drives where they depict people spitting in a coffee cup of a coworker who owns a 4WD.

Jeff Bye writes: Michael Pascoe flippantly calls the NSW Minister for Roads Eric “whatever gets us re-elected” Roozendaal (yesterday, item 13). As a NSW voter, I take objection to your slight and wish you would get it right! Eric was never elected in the first place, having filled a casual Senate vacancy.

John Goldbaum writes: Christian Kerr asked “why can’t we cope with Christianity in politics?” (yesterday, item 14) and framed his argument in terms of democracy and the majority’s beliefs. In Australia, the majority believes that we have a Western system of representative liberal secular democracy with an imperfect separation of powers when it comes to the separation of church and state. One of the humanist post-Enlightenment concepts is the protection, or the non-oppression, of minorities. The “keep-religion-out-of-politics brigade” referred to by Tony Abbott is happy to allow religious adherents to practise what they preach provided they don’t try to force the rest of us, comprising 25 to 30% of the Australian electorate, to live our lives according to the rules which apply to their religions. Hence, the development of the further concept of individual freedoms so that the state only interferes in people’s lives to prevent harm being done to others. That’s where the “religious Right” gets it wrong.

Mike Burke writes: Charles Richardson demonstrates that blind anti-religious bigotry is as alive and well in Crikey as it ever was under Stephen Mayne’s regime. So Charles doesn’t know of any atheist “right-to-lifers” (yesterday, item 6).  Clearly he leads a very sheltered existence. Apart from myself, who am in principle opposed to abortion on moral grounds while being staunchly pro-choice, I know, or know of, many atheists who are firm “right-to-lifers” by any definition Charles cares to accept. None of them formed their views on religious grounds. His views on the Roman Catholic Church’s anti-humanism are simplistic in the extreme. Finally, his libel of James McAuley is simply stupid. Without naming the movement, he strongly implies that McAuley supported European fascism, and that is one accusation I’ve never seen anyone ever make before. For one thing, McAuley didn’t even convert to Catholicism until well after WWII, so he couldn’t possibly have been influenced by, or could himself have influenced, any Catholic organisation that support gave aid and comfort to fascist regimes before and during that war.

Catherine James writes: Charles Richardson has made a fundamental mistake in suggesting a person’s position on abortion is informed purely by their religious beliefs (although he probably only meant this if someone was against abortion). The answer to his question, “ever seen an atheist right-to-lifer?” is yes. So now what Charles? All you have demonstrated is your own lack of thought and incapacity for intelligent debate on the issue. Thanks for the revelation. I’ll take a grain of salt with any future comments you make on other ethical questions.

Sean Mulcahy writes: I was greatly offended at Stephen Feneley’s attack on Craig Ruddy’s painting/drawing (yesterday, item 19). Did this self-proclaimed art critic imagine for one second that the buyer bought the painting because he liked it? It makes me sick: these pretentious w-nkers only buy pieces of art for the “name” and grace their homes/galleries with utter cr-p that just happened to be painted by a recognised artist. I just happen to think that Ruddy’s Gulpilil was one of the best entries I have seen in an Archibald and stood out like a sore thumb this year. I do not profess to be a critic, nor do I know Craig Ruddy or for that matter anything about him. I just liked the portrait, and if I’d had a spare 300k lying around, I would have bought it myself. I remember the kicking and screaming that went on when the Whitlam government paid $3 million back in the 70s for Blue Poles number 11,1952. Last time I looked it was worth 20 times that. I guess my point is, sometimes beauty is solely in the eye of the beholder.

Rebecca Lang, editor of the Hawkesbury Gazette and Courier newspapers, writes: I haven’t spotted an obit on your website for the late Wally Brown, The Courier-Mail‘s former press gallery correspondent for 35 years (or, if you like, spanning ten prime ministers). As a young copykid/cadet journalist in Canberra, I had the privilege of knowing Wally, and it seems a shame his passing hasn’t made a blip on the Crikey radar. He was a journalist and a gentleman, and maroon to the core (a proud Queenslander to the last). His only fault would have to have been his beverage of choice – the dreaded “Black Velvet”, a queasy chemistry of Guinness and champagne that he regularly foisted upon the unwary.
Wally was a staunch supporter of News Ltd’s old wine and cheese nights of a Friday evening, with each hack throwing a fiver the copykid’s way so that a feast could thus be assembled. It was a nice way to end a hectic week in the House – and always amusing to see the expressions of those attempting to swallow a Black Velvet for the first time. While I haven’t seen Wally in many years, I have always fondly remembered his encouraging words as a young keen and green “hack-to-be” – a salve to the disappointment of knockbacks and false starts.
Vale Wally, it truly was a pleasure to know you.
(Not Fabulous) Philip Carman writes: Chris Canty was spot on in his assessment (yesterday, item 29) of the false bravado that is regarded as heroism in the AFL. I don’t like the game – I love it – and always will, but having seen the level of intensity of the game rise over the decades to what is now an almost ferocious level, I can tell you no one with any life experience and subsequent regard for their own safety and longevity would reasonably take the risks being asked of players today. Any coach who thinks his boys (and that what they are, boys at the beginning of their adult lives) should risk life and limb should take a good, hard look at how the AFL treats its injury-ravaged ex-players before doing so. Perhaps he should even consider whether he would ask his own son to do so if in the same position… I hope Mark Thompson will regret his clichéd comments if he takes a moment to think about it and I’d remind him that unless and until the AFL is willing to provide adequate medical treatment to those ageing former players who are now virtually crippled, it is unfair to question a current player’s commitment at the ball simply because he retains some intelligent sense of self-preservation. From where I stand it looks like neither the supporters nor the AFL give a rat’s about them when they’re no longer out on the park kicking or saving goals, so why should their commitment be superhuman? I wish Tom Lonergan a speedy recovery and hope he is able to enjoy some quality of life as he won’t be able to play footy again. And I wish Josh Hunt a more thoughtful and reasonable coach in his next AFL club.

Mark Bahnisch writes: Yesterday I stated (item 11) that Family First were running a Just Vote One strategy in Qld electorates where they are not allocating preferences. This was based on a media report. A subsequent inspection of their website shows that, consistent with their opposition to OPV, they are advising voters in these seats to vote one for FF and fill in the rest of the boxes. My apologies for the incorrect statement.

Crikey editor Misha Ketchell writes: An item in last Friday’s email (“DIMA — spinning the spin” – 25 August, item 15) inadvertently relied on off the record material without the consent of its author. We apologise for the error.

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