Telstra spin doctor Rod Bruem writes: Going on my own focus group tests, I reckon Mark Bahnisch is spot on when he says the Liberal’s Queensland ads calling for “more real doctors” and “fewer spin doctors” might not be working. (Incidentally the Libs in NSW are running the same ad with Peter Debman.) When I meet people and tell them that I’m a Telstra spin doctor, half the time they ask me what a spin doctor is. Clearly it’s a term insiders are familiar with, but the masses are not.

Brad Ruting writes: Mark Bahnisch writes of a Coalition billboard on Ann Street, Brisbane with the message: “We want real doctors, not spin doctors” (1 September, item 11). Sounds eerily similar to a billboard that’s just gone up on Sydney’s Parramatta Road at Concord, featuring a rather large image of Peter Debnam and the words “Nurses, not spin doctors.” Have state Liberal oppositions across the country regressed so far that they’re even copying each others’ failing strategies? No wonder premiers such as Beattie and Iemma can dawdle around, stuff things up and make lots of airy promises when they know their opposition hasn’t the foggiest. Peter Debnam’s policies range from war on spin doctors to vowing to lock up “Middle Eastern thugs” for arbitrary reasons. Let’s hope the Queensland Libs don’t catch onto the latter.

Moira Smith writes: Mark Bahnisch writes of the “huge billboards” strategically placed around Brisbane featuring Peter Beattie. Not that I’ve anything against Beattie as such, but I’m so glad advertising billboards aren’t allowed in Canberra. Normally, I don’t even realise they’re not there. I drive around Canberra enjoying the scenery. But when I fly to another city, the first thing I notice – even as I leave the airport – is the visual pollution of the ubiquitous advertising hoardings – enormous words and faces demanding my attention, impossible not to register (whether I’m interested in the product advertised or not). And concealing any architectural merit or scenic views that might otherwise please the eye. Perhaps billboards are the visual equivalent of tele-marketing calls. We have to answer the phone, even if we’re in the middle of making dinner … and even though we have no interest at all in what the call-centre employee is pushing, and wish they would just go away.

Peter Shaw writes: The Sandra Kanck episode brings out again the same old arguments about suicide, from Kerr and others, which overlook the sizeable minority who are in favour of it for themselves. Suicide is not illegal. In fact it is a rational and sensible action for people who don’t need or want to stay alive. There are many reasons for suicide. Anticipated terminal pain is just one. Others are anticipated dependency, helplessness, incontinence, incompetence, or just boredom, or depression. There are those of this opinion who are not irrational and vulnerable: quite the opposite. They are deliberate, thoughtful, and in command of themselves. They just want to enter the Big Sleep at a time of their own choosing. And they resent the difficulties that do-gooders put in their way to find suitable methods of suicide. The information can be found, but it requires a lot of burrowing, and it can be quite expensive. Sandra Kanck has performed a public service.

Sharon Segler writes: Christian Kerr’s disparaging commentary of the assisted suicide speech made by Democrat MLC Sandra Kanck would be laughable if it were not so dangerous. On any day of the week politicians of all persuasions make ridiculous proclamations about a variety of issues AS IS THEIR RIGHT under our democracy. Yes, we can laugh at the moral platitudes of the Tony Abbotts and Pauline Hansons of Parliament, but that does not give us license to censor or edit their viewpoint. This latest episode of parliamentary censorship on top of our recent sedition legislation and control orders is edging Australia closer and closer towards the very autocracies and dictatorships we fight to oppose. And that makes it dangerous.

A former Senior Public Servant writes: Re. John Delofski’s comment (1 September, comments). I am well aware of the irony of anonymous comments on FOI. This former bureaucrat is retired and doesn’t give a stuff about whether or not their name appears but, unlike Delofski, they are not prepared unilaterally to have other parties in matters mentioned identified as a consequence of that.

Bruce Graham writes: Re. Peter Faris. Peter Carlisle (1 September, comments) makes a good point. Deliberately goading your opponents into tactical errors is, of course, a key skill for any competent barrister, and frankly, one of the foundation stones of adversarial law. Many barristers get a simple joy from the game. It is a pleasure to read an acknowledged expert demonstrate his skill. It’s a pity about the content.

Scott Wiltshire writes: Roy Travis (1 September, comments) wants to know if David Tanner (31 August, comments) actually believes that the purpose of Jihad Jack’s training was the same as the training undertaken by our armed forces. Phil Atkinson (1 September, comments) thinks terrorists are too gutless to wear uniforms and only serve their own self-interest rather than their country. Perhaps both Roy and Phil would be interested to know that part of the Australian Army’s Special Forces mandate is to train indigenous guerilla armies in the tactics of unconventional warfare, not only train them but support them and fight with them just like they are doing now with the Mujahideen in Afghanistan. It is also common knowledge that it was western government army’s and agencies that financed, armed, trained and supported groups like al Qaeda during the Cold War era when these terrorist groups were referred to as freedom fighters. Al Qaeda’s stated aim is to expel western influence from Islamic countries, when we go to war its to establish our own system of government in a foreign land. I don’t support al Qaeda or any of their tactics, but there are plenty of reasons to condemn them and others like them but let’s try using fact rather than fiction.

Gordon Wakelin-King writes: The endless fuss over scalping tickets (Friday Item 27) for concerts/sport/whatever underlines the simple economic truth that when you fiddle about with a market the wrong people prosper. Artificial prices create a secondary market which the supplier then tries & fails to heavy out of existence. The price of a ticket is what someone will pay for it, be it on eBay or anywhere else. Cricket Australia should auction all the tickets from day one. They would make more money, and the final average price for all the tickets would be (by magic!) exactly the true market price for a ticket to the cricket.

John Parkes writes: What is wrong with ticket scalping? If someone is too lazy or too slow to buy a ticket direct, and is willing to pay someone else for same what is wrong with that? In the case of the cricket fiasco it is clear that a very significant number of people are prepared to pay more than the original asking price for tickets. What that really means is that the promoters seriously underestimated how much they could have charged for them in the first place. One description if this is that they are incompetent. If they truly aim to give the general public – or to use that terrible term creeping into use, punter, – access to the cricket why not make the tickets free? That would mean that anyone regardless of wealth or social standing could see this entertainment or is that a bit too egalitarian?

Gerard McEwen writes: Re. “The real reason Don Chipp started the Democrats” (1 September, item 6). Noel Crichton-Browne’s memory is failing him. Whilst Bob Ellicott resigned as A-G following a dispute with Malcolm Fraser over the Sankey v Whitlam and Others case in 1977, he seems to have forgotten that in 1981 Andrew Peacock resigned as Minister for Industrial Relations citing Fraser’s constant interference in his portfolio and challenged for the Leadership. He was, as expected, defeated. This incident followed Peacock’s request to be shifted from the Foreign Affairs portfolio following the 1980 election in the wake of disputes with Fraser over the recognition of the Khmer Rouge – not Fraser’s high point in foreign policy and probably the last time he caved in to U.S. bloody-mindedness.

Willem Schultink writes: Adam Michel, Michael Jones and Geoff Preston (1 September, comments) miss the point entirely in their statements that atheism is not a religion. I never said it was. It is a religious persuasion, a belief system that has faith that there is no God. As such it is no different from a religious persuasion that has faith that there is a God. The real problem comes when they say that people who believe in God should keep their beliefs to themselves and not allow those beliefs to influence public policy, for that in effect marginalises everybody’s opinion except for atheists. That is both unfair and undemocratic.

Colin Cook writes: Re. “Talk is cheap – but what about housing affordability” (1 September, item 9). Matt Price and David Imber are perfectly correct – the house/land price crisis is Tax Induced; and with it the escalating, record, personal indebtedness. Genuine tax reform would place much greater emphasis on sources of revenue that could not be moved off shore – eg Land, licence fees – gambling, TV, taxi, fishing, minerals etc. A national flat rate, land value rental would be fair but would so impinge on the big-end-of-town/developers/party fund contributors that it doesn’t stand a chance of being brought anywhere near the Statute Book. Consider this: the BRW Rich 200 lists 44 billionaires and half-billies. Nearly half, 21, list “property” as their first or second source of wealth (First, 17; Second, 4). With a national, flat rate land tax, for every dollar an owner of property worth $20 million paid, a lessor mortal with only land worth $400,000 would be called to pay just 2c! Such a ratio would fairly represent the demands made on society in respect of defence and infrastructure of the landlords concerned.

Tony Sadgrove writes: Re. Real Football arrives. I took my family (five of us) to the phone dome on Saturday and we were thoroughly entertained. Ninety minutes of pulsating football that had everything. Goals; silky skills – audacious at times, especially from the Brazilians; toughness and controversy to appeal to the Aussie spirit and above all, passion. Putting the game on at the dome on a vacant night must have been a huge gamble but it paid off. The weather was very kind – 25 degrees inside the stadium throughout and the crowd was huge, and also passionate and knowledgeable. I could not help but compare this night with AFL matches I have attended. The contrast was stark. There was no bad language, no verbal abuse of players or officials, no unruly crowd behaviour. The crowd was family, it was young. Boys took their girlfriends, parents took their children. The ‘feel’ was positive and ‘up’. And at the end, both sides were warmly applauded in the mood of sportsmanship. On the way out of the ground, the singing and chanting continued all the way to the railway carriages. Real football arrived on Saturday night and what an immense pleasure to have been part of it.

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Peter Fray

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