Peter Faris QC writes: Writing for Crikey is refreshing. I know that the Left can (mostly) never grapple with my arguments. This is evidenced by their unremitting personal abuse. Examples yesterday (comments) were: I should be placed under a control order myself, that I advocate locking everyone up, that I am a nutcase, that my comments are misleading and libellous, that I have a role in “this government’s cultural wars”, that I am a disgrace to my profession, that “your voice and thoughts are monotone trumpets of immorality and injustice inspired only by fear and ignorance” (I really like that one – so poetic) and that QC stands for Quick-to Condemn. It must be very embarrassing to be on the Left and to see one’s colleagues make these sort of attacks in a serious debate. Here are my responses to those who deserve them:

To Dr Andrew Lynch – The whole point of a CO is that it is not conviction based, but neither is Mr Baldy’s supervision order (SO). Baldy completed every day of his sentence and was thus a free man, as we are. The SO is not based upon any criminal conduct in the past – it relates to apprehended criminal conduct in the future. So it is with COs. The comparison is valid.

To Irfan Yusuf – The best Yusuf could say is that I should be placed under a control order. How pathetic.

To Matt Hardin – “(T)he struggle is about a free society vs a bunch of nutcases who want to restrict freedoms and shape the world in their image.” – I agree, although I would reverse the roles.

To Katherine Wilson – Thomas trained as a terrorist in Afghanistan with al Qaeda. That makes him a terrorist (unless he was there for some other reason).

To Christian Farrelly – I did not say that Thomas was a paedophile –simply that our legal system has many types of orders which are similar in nature to COs in that they seek to prevent future conduct rather than punish past conduct. Thus the Victorian Supervision Orders, the Queensland Detention Orders, intervention and restraining orders in all jurisdictions, injunctions and so on.

To David Cox – I am entitled to have an opinion about Thomas. Everyone else does. I am entitled to express that opinion. I think he is a terrorist. Whether or not the AFP can produce sufficient evidence to satisfy a Court that the CO should be continued as a COO remains to be litigated in Court. Perhaps it should be understood that a murderer acquitted on a technicality is still a murderer in the eyes of the public (of whom I am one) even though strict legal theory says that he is deemed to be innocent. Thomas’s imminent acquittal will not convince the public that he is innocent.

To Tiphanie Acreman – The Left is a common expression – most people know what it means, even if you don’t. I think most people do think we have reason to be fearful of terrorists.

To Geoff Walker – Another Left insult. I earned my title QC and I am proud of it.

Brett Gallard writes: I consider myself part of “the Left” that Mr Faris maligns, and yet I agree with him. Jack Thomas’s terrorism conviction was overturned because his confession was deemed inadmissible, and rightly so. Mr Thomas has since repeated (freely) at least elements of that same confession. He is guilty of no crime, but it is an indisputable fact that he trained with terrorists, as one of them. Why is most of the left so willing to take it on good faith that he poses no danger to society? He is not a pin-up boy for our democratic freedoms – he is a threat to them.

John Crawford writes: The fact that Jihad Jack Thomas was found not guilty by the court is the very reason we need Control Orders. To continue the Mr Baldy analogy, attending an al Qaeda training camp is the equivalent of lurking in the primary school dunnies… no matter what the court says, you’d still want to keep an eye on the guy.

John Parkes writes: We have seen the furore about the Court ruling that evidence against Jack Thomas was inadmissable. It is clear and obvious that this is simply the application of long standing legal precedent in this country and is unexceptional in itself. However rather than the kneejerk reaction of those who would jail or otherwise prosecute Thomas because he espouses an unpopular view perhaps it’s time that the law was addressed. The law was put in place, rightly, to prevent unfairly obtained – and most probably incorrect – evidence being given against someone, based on the theory that anyone under duress or torture will say whatever they think will relieve the immediate pressure. Additionally, the main body of our criminal law comes from the days of the all-powerful kings and the subjects totally lacking in power. Things have changed: now defendants get legal aid paid for by the taxpayers if they cannot afford their own counsel so are nowhere nearly as powerless as they once were. This suggests that the goalposts could legitimately be moved more in favour of the prosecution without harm to the freedom of the average citizens. In the Thomas case it appears he willingly went on TV and confirmed equally willingly most if not all of the matters which were ruled inadmissible. That is, in this case the inadmissible evidence was largely accurate so the admitting of it would not really be unduly harsh in this case. Perhaps it’s time the Parliament addressed the evidence laws and codified them. Among other things, the trial judge could be empowered to rule on admissibility after considering the truthfulness or otherwise of proposed evidence rather than simply its basic provenance.

David Tanner writes: As I understand it, the training that Jack Thomas received while associating with al Qaeda was very similar to the training which we give to certain members of our own armed services. I don’t see any of them being made the subject of this type of control order. One hopes that he receives a fair hearing in the court, but I am not holding my breath.

Michael Jones writes: I have heard that we need all these new terrorism laws, ASIO powers, control orders and the like because it is the job of government to protect the most fundamental of all human rights, the right to life and safety for us and our children. Sounds good. Surely we can put up with some inconvenience for such a laudable end. OK, there are in excess of 1000 people killed in Australia every year in road accidents, and many thousands more injured. If we were to reduce the speed limit to 15 kmh, with massive police resources, cameras on every street, mandatory prison sentences, zero tolerance, etc. we could probably do it. Just think, all those lives saved, wouldn’t we all vote for a government who did that? It’s all about balance, I suppose.

Trevor Kruger writes: Where do I place a bet on P. Faris QC as a future Howard appointment to the High Court?

Michael Gilmour writes: Re. Justin Templer in yesterday’s comments: “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’m prepared to accept that terrorists do learn skills helpful when dismembering children, but does this mean that everyone capable of doing so should be under a control order, including those who are free of any convictions. I guess we shouldn’t include miners or demolition experts, but what about our trained military personnel? They have the ability, although perhaps not the intent, to blow up “our children”. But how do we predict intent? As we saw in the recent Israeli-Hezbollah conflict, an estimated 900 of Lebanese casualties were civilians, and 300 were children (most of whom were blown up). It is not justifiable to say that people capable of committing should be “controlled”, just as it is no longer justifiable to say that only terrorists kill “our children”. Has the risk of having “our children” blown up by terrorists diminished since we imposed these measures, or increased? I would rather see the legal system used to prosecute and punish those GUILTY of terrorist acts and war crimes, rather than trying to predict and prevent them arbitrarily.

Mark Duffett writes: Why on earth does Neil Robertson appear to think that peak oil is an environmental issue (comments, yesterday)? I hereby wager any stakes he cares to name that this planet’s crust will always contain some oil. Accordingly, Michael Pascoe is perfectly correct to say (29 August, item 9) that we will never run out of the stuff. The only question is how much it will cost to extract it – but that’s a technical and economic issue, not an environmental one, and therefore well within Michael Pascoe’s bailiwick. Though I think Mr Pascoe underestimates the short to medium term pain that will be induced by peak oil, as I don’t think new supplies and technologies can be brought on stream sufficiently quickly, I certainly value his opinion higher than that of the likes of Mr Robertson.

Robert Edgerton writes: Neil Robertson makes far more sense with his denigration of the Michael Pascoe piece on 60 Minutes coverage of “Peak Oil” than Belinda Robinson does with support for same (yesterday, comments). Surely as CEO of APPEA, Belinda should be aware that STATISTICALLY, in the last decade, we have for the first time failed to discover more reserves of crude than we consumed on this planet. What is found is at greater expense because most is in inhospitable territory, deep water, or politically unstable areas; sometimes a combination of those. With various estimates only putting oil reserves at 50 to 100 years and a few billion population in Asia with a fraction of the Western World’s per capita motor vehicle population, any claim that we will never run out of oil is only likely in one unfortunate, but probable scenario. That is the effective elimination of the human race via nuclear conflicts over who gets control of remaining oil either later this century or early next.

Stilgherrian writes: Re. “When a hoax becomes a column” (yesterday, item 16). Sophie Vorrath is way keen to attack Andrew Bolt – hey the gods know there’s plenty of reasons you’d want to. But Vorrath misrepresents Zombietime as “claiming to prove” the Israel-shoots-ambulance tale a fake “using photographs of an interior of one ambulance”. Zombietime actually presents a detailed forensic argument over 9000 words – starting with the supposed “missile hole” sitting right where other ambulances have a ventilator. Zombietime’s story certainly fits the facts better than any claim of “missile attack”. Why have a go at Bolt (or Alexander Downer) just because we don’t know who the messenger is?

Thomas Pietsch writes: Sophie Vorrath’s criticism of Bolt and Downer was a bit rich. She even managed to avoid the main piece of evidence – the hole in the roof being from a ripped off siren, not a missile. If we shouldn’t give credence to clear photographic evidence from a range of blogs, I don’t see why we should believe her opinion piece on an internet newsletter.

Phil Davey writes: Further to your “When the hoax becomes a column” item yesterday, I wish to advise that when I was in occupied Palestine a few years ago I walked past a row of ambulances that had been destroyed by the Israeli Army. From memory there were about six of them. I am not suggesting anyone had been in them when they were destroyed, but they were clearly marked as ambulances. For the record I also saw a school that had been destroyed by the Israelis, as well as a lot of houses and a lot of shops. I also witnessed a group of school boys being tear-gassed by a passing Israeli patrol while they played soccer. The Israeli soldiers thought it was hilarious. I also witnessed countless instances of really, really needless and cruel violence and humiliation against ordinary Palestinians (including a schoolgirl aged about 12) by Israeli soldiers at checkpoints. Most people in Australia have no idea what is really going on in the Middle East. If they did, support for Israel’s behaviour would evaporate.

Peter Phelps, Chief of Staff to the Special Minister of State, writes: Your journalists, Charles Richardson (29 August, item 10) and Mark Bahnisch (29 August, item 11), are a bit off beam in their assessments. Chuck’s main line of argument is that Dennis Shanahan is out of order for suggesting that a 51-49% lead to the Govt is pretty good at this stage of the electoral cycle. Well, it is. As Chuck himself points out, there is always a swing to the Government as you get towards the pointy end of an election. To be even – basically that is what it is – a year out from the election offers some degree of comfort that there will be a slight majority on election day. This is especially so if you look at every trend for every damn election in Australia over the last decade. Mark’s “interesting” theory is that “Just Vote 1” in Queensland is likely to hit the conservative parties more so than Labor. But is it so? At the 2004 Federal elections, the Greens managed to score a juicy 5.3%, while Family First took only 3.3%. Even if you look more broadly at the “Left” and “Right” minor parties (I use quotes because, in essence, all these are parties of Leftist worldview) then the Greens and Dems pulled a combined 7.5% while Family First and One Nation got 6.4%. It’s also worth remembering that there will be no three-cornered contests. The insurgency against the major parties is, rather, and insurgency from the Left. So I am not so sure that the “Just Vote 1” tactic is going to be that successful for Labor. And if the Left minors draw off too much support for Labor in Queensland, look for Morris Iemma to change the law back to compulsory preferential in NSW before March 2006.

Willem Schultink writes: The thing that seems to be overlooked in the discussion about religion and abortion is that atheism is as much a religious persuasion as any other religious persuasion. Atheism is not neutral; it has its own beliefs about God and is therefore a religious persuasion. This misunderstanding is also evident in John Goldbaum’s comment (yesterday, comments) that “religious adherents can practice their religion as long as they don’t force their opinions on the rest of us”. The effect of his position is that only the atheists have any say in the laws of the country. All other opinions are invalid, he reckons, because they are “religious”. So John Goldbaum is forcing his religion, which is called “atheism”, onto everybody else. The upshot of all this is that everybody’s religious persuasion influences their politics, whether we are Christians or Muslims or atheists, or whatever. For one religious persuasion, the atheists, to try to prevent all the other religious persuasions that they cannot let their religious persuasions influence their politics is unfair and undemocratic.

Simon Drimer writes: Michael Pascoe – your piece on AMP and the shonky planners (yesterday, item 22) is well-observed. I’m eagerly awaiting the day when we see the logical conclusion of ASIC’s scrutiny of financial planners acting in their own interests and not their clients: a massive financial planner purge that creates a delightful situation whereby investors can choose whether to retrospectively arbitrage the losses they have suffered because of improper advice. Can you imagine? Tens of thousands of investors levying claims with the largest financial institutions that their aligned financial planners misled them… I’ll be buying tickets to that show! I wonder if in 100 years’ time, commission-based financial planners will have their own special place in the history books next to slavery, walking the plank, and pavlova?

Tim Hollo writes: Tim Le Roy’s criticism of my arguments (yesterday, comments)based on my association with Greenpeace (which I have never sought to hide) would be more credible if he ever deigned to let Crikey readers know that he is the force behind the fervently anti-wind power Coastal Guardians. Instead of ad personam attacks, is anyone out there willing to challenge the CSIRO’s assertion that solar thermal can power Australia? If not, you can stick your anti-renewables lies where the sun don’t shine. And, by the way, anyone interested in eco nappies should check out this Tasmanian invention. I can recommend it very highly.

David Horkan writes: None of the thousands of words regarding Don Chipp that I have read or heard in the last couple of days mention his support for the Australian Constitutional Monarchy. I am disappointed, although not surprised. Has everybody really forgotten his role at the Constitutional Convention, to which he was elected on the Victorian ACM ticket, and his stirring contributions before the 1999 referendum? I doubt it.

John Taylor writes: In all the years of Crikey has there ever been a b-tch like Stephen Feneley?

Send your comments, corrections, clarifications and c*ck-ups to [email protected]. Preference will be given to comments that are short and succinct: maximum length is 200 words. Please include your full name – we won’t publish comments anonymously unless there is a very good reason.

Peter Fray

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