Peter Faris QC writes: Greg Barns has personally attacked me for being a QC (yesterday, item 4). Barns is a Tasmanian barrister, currently appearing in Melbourne in a criminal matter. He failed to disclose those facts. I have been practicing in Melbourne for nearly 45 years and I have been a criminal silk since 1986. I am an expert in criminal law, so I know what I am talking about on that subject. On the other hand, my writings on politics are only presented as my opinions. He says my office of QC is an anathema – meaning “someone or something intensely disliked or loathed”. His comment is stupid. Barns implies that he does not get a fair go in court. Judges will respect him if his conduct and arguments make him worthy of respect. The Victorian Bar is a truly competitive market economy – you earn what you are worth. If Barns is worth it, nothing prevents him from charging more than me. Maybe he does. The Chief Justice decided to appoint me. I earned my appointment and I am proud of it.
Age opinion editor Ray Cassin writes: Re. “Are Australian lawyers afraid of public debate?” (Yesterday, item 7) – “Interestingly, according to Faris, Age opinion editor Ray Cassin indicated he was being published in response to criticism of the paper’s one-sided coverage”. Now let’s see, what am I supposed to have ”indicated”? Would the request have been phrased like this: ”Peter, would you mind writing for us because our coverage has been very one-sided, as you know, and we’re getting a lot of flak about it.” Hardly. For a start, our coverage has not been ”one-sided”. It has represented the range of legal opinion on the question of control orders, which is more than can be said for some of our competitors. And, what I ”indicated” was that we were inviting Peter Farris to write for us because we concerned that our page should reflect the views of those who support control orders as well as those who don’t, or who are critics of the order imposed on Jack Thomas. I did not ”indicate” that we had only contacted him ”in response to criticism”.
Crikey editor Misha Ketchell responds: Nine times out of ten you’re going to get discrepancies in the way two people recall a conversation in which they were both involved. Apologies to Ray Cassin for not getting his version before hitting send.
Edward Stratton-Smith writes: I read with interest the views of Greg Barns about the usefulness of the title QC/SC (yesterday, item 4). Some of his comments require a reply. The assertion that QCs can charge more than their “junior” colleagues is correct but as in all markets, there is no guarantee that the QC will find clients at that new price. Many newly appointed QCs have difficulty because of the view that a senior junior can do an equally good job for less money. QCs therefore often experience a drop in income upon being appointed. I disagree with the comment that is much more likely to be treated with kid gloves than a junior advocate. There is no evidence of that at all. As to the process of appointment, it is actually a vigorous one. Each application will necessarily be carefully scrutinised before a recommendation is made to the Attorney-General. The appointment system may not be perfect and suggestions have been made for alternatives. The UK recently introduced a system involving an independent selection panel. Something similar could be introduced in the States here. For an argument in favour of the retention of the title, I would recommend a read of Jonathan Sumption QC’s submission on the future of Queen’s Counsel in the UK.
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Michael Vanderlaan writes: Has Greg Barns got his “ana”s mixed up? My pocket dictionary says that “anathema” is “anything detested, hateful”. While I don’t generally agree with Peter Faris QC, I don’t detest him… well, not yet… Perhaps he and his silken ilk are “anachronisms”…
Peter Evans writes: Re. “Are Australian lawyers afraid of public debate?” (Yesterday, item 7). I suspect the answer to Misha Ketchell’s question of why there were so few lawyers defending the government’s action in obtaining a control order over Jack Thomas is that most Australian lawyers would view such an order over someone not convicted of a criminal offence, obtained in proceedings in which Thomas was not represented, as utterly indefensible. One doesn’t have to be of civil libertarian leanings to believe this. It has nothing to do with defending “the government’s right to act to defend its citizens”. Telephone taps and police surveillance are quite sufficient if the authorities are worried, without resorting to legislation that would look more at home in an African dictatorship.
Niall Clugston writes: Misha Ketchell complains that Australia lawyers are avoiding the civil liberties “debate”. But, apart from lobbyists and commentators, lawyers generally don’t debate cases. The most obvious reason is the nature of their profession, in which they represent a variety of clients and keep their opinions to themselves. One of the hallmarks of this “debate” has been an attack on defence lawyers, which amounts to an attack on legal representation. Which brings me to the central flaw in the way this “debate” is framed: apart from loud assurances that they’re not Nazis, the proponents of winding back civil liberties have never explained how far they intend to go, nor why crimes such as murder and rape can be dealt with by our current legal system while terrorism needs an entirely new one.
Daily Telegraph columnist Joe Hildebrand writes: Re. “Would Aboriginal Australia benefit from better PR?” (Yesterday, item 3). Bronwyn Morgan suggests that the Walkley awards should include a category for coverage of indigenous affairs to encourage stories about Aboriginal people in the media. This is an extremely good idea. So good, in fact, that there is already a category misleadingly entitled “Coverage of Indigenous Affairs”. I know this because I was runner-up in this category in 2004 in a joint entry with Chris Graham and Brian Johnstone of the National Indigenous Times – who actually did all the work. While the judges were polite enough to describe our fate as “highly commended”, I could not help recall the words of my father, who told me: “Second place is first loser.” I still maintain we was robbed.
Tech journo Simon Sharwood writes: A Walkley for coverage of indigenous affairs? Great idea! But why not chuck in a Walkley for coverage of science and technology while you’re at it. Without wanting to run down some very fine industry awards, myself and many other tech journos wonder why a niche that keeps 20 magazines alive, plus newspaper sections that break stories galore, gets no recognition from the peak awards. And that’s without even beginning to consider the importance of communicating science.
Jacquie Thomson writes: I read with interest your recent piece about how PR hacks like myself might advise Aboriginal people to get better publicity. One of the ways that may be most effective is to find a way to convince metro and national media organisations like yourselves to run some of the excellent stories already available about Aboriginal business success or the everyday struggles for equality that still remain entrenched in our social institutions.
Cameron Donovan, The PR Edge, writes: What a ridiculous, fanciful piece of commentary from Bronwyn Morgan from Buchan Communications Group with her dot points on a “two-pronged approach” to encouraging media outlets to cover positive Indigenous stories. As a member of the PR industry I really do have to cringe at so-called industry “pundits” and wonder why Indigenous relations are being treated like some sort of commodity that needs a PR makeover. Furthermore, I wonder if Bronwyn has pitched a positive Indigenous story in her life? I’m by no means an expert but have experienced pitching positive Indigenous stories for The Fred Hollows Foundation and believe me, it’s a hard slog. Here I was highlighting their fantastic work, empowering remote Aboriginal communities in the Katherine region, in what could be described as a “good news” story with plenty of substance and angles ranging from nutrition and health to financial education programs. I won’t bore you with the endless calls to every major media outlet and the countless response of “sounds interesting, send it through and I’ll see what I can do” but suffice to say, after three weeks of hitting the phones day after day, SMH‘s Health and Science ran the first story of supermarkets stocking fresh fruit and vegetables in remote Indigenous communities. Two months later The Fred Hollows Foundation released a damning report into the state of health and life expectancy among Aboriginal communities. Launched in Canberra by Senator Aden Ridgeway, a panel of Aboriginal doctors and the support of ex-60 Minutes reporter, Jeff McMullen, the story went national across TV news, radio and print. Politics is where public perception of Indigenous relations needs to be driven and that’s why it’s so woeful. It’s common sense our history books should start with our traditional landowners but softly, softly won’t work. Shock, damning, crisis – people wielding influence and power should be our strategy.
John Crawford writes: Despite Bronwyn Morgan’s good intentions, the Australian history curriculum will always start with European settlement. With no written record describing seminal events, no names of important people, no dates etc. the historian has nothing to write about. Any Australian history book that tries to cover 60,000 years will either reach 1788 by page three, or more likely be an anthropological text of precious little value to school kids. Indigenous youngsters need a better future much more than they need a better past.
Richard McGuire writes: Reading Kerr’s piece on global warming yesterday (“John Howard and an inconvenient hypothesis” – item 1), was like reading a promo for Creation Science or Intelligent Design. Kerr’s hypothesis: “Global warming exists. But what causes it? Is it man made or natural?” It is a question long since resolved in the minds of the vast majority of the political, economic and scientific community. Not even Howard and Bush peddle the nonsense espoused by Kerr. After all, Australia and the US helped set up the Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate, the coalition of the unwilling’s answer to Kyoto. The proposition put by Kerr yesterday cannot simply be dismissed as nonsense. It is dangerous irresponsible nonsense. Scientists like Tim Flannery only need to be 50% accurate in their forecasts and a catastrophe looms, not only for humanity, but all life forms on this planet, not seen since the age of the dinosaurs. As your national affairs editor Kerr simply does not cut the mustard. I am no longer willing to give this clown oxygen. I am cancelling my subscription.
Graham Barry writes: I would suggest neither Christian Kerr nor Bob Carter and Ian Plimer have actually seen the Al Gore movie (An Inconvenient Truth). The truly terrifying thing is Gore does examine the situation in the context of the long-term geological record to show that our self-created crisis is growing exponentially worse than anything in prehistory.
Gary Price writes: Christian, here’s why it’s easy to believe homosapiens are causing global warming. Long ago the earth was really hot and wet and unpleasant and had a lot of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere – and no people. But plants saw this as a great opportunity and created a big demand for CO2, building a great plant kingdom in the process. But the plants didn’t count on fossilisation preserving them and gradually removing all that CO2 – putting it underground as nearly pure carbon – where it is not much use to plants. In the face of the new scarcity of the CO2 resource and other changes related to climate that removing the CO2 caused, the world changed, that mighty plant kingdom disappeared – and the world became friendly to a hardy and ingenious critter that was our ancestor. Time passed. Homosapiens discovered there was a lot of carbon underground. Some of it is solid, some a gas and some a liquid. The liquid is especially good. We sucked it up, dug it out and extracted it as fast as we could. And, we burned it, which is basically the opposite of the ancient plants’ original process. And now we have put back a noticeable fraction of the original CO2 into the atmosphere. Surprise! The climate is heading back to what it was back when the plant kingdom made its CO2 play. Demand for the convenient subterranean forms of C is getting close to the rate we can extract it. We might have already extracted more than half the available supply of C, but at any rate, we are close to that point. It will certainly have happened within a generation or so. Will we go the way of the great plant kingdom?
Mike Chamberlain writes: Please explain how, if we assume that global warming is indeed really happening, and it is indeed caused by the emission of greenhouse gasses, Australia can do anything at all to abate it, when its emissions are minuscule compared to those of the US (current biggest polluter), and China and India (future biggest polluters)? It would do virtually nothing to help the supposed problem, but would certainly damage Australia’s economy. I’m certainly no Howard apologist, but yesterday’s editorial vastly overestimates Australia’s potential contribution to global warming and therefore its potential to do anything about it, either politically or environmentally. In this case, and until the aforementioned countries show any interest in seriously cutting their levels of pollution, John Howard is correct in remaining skeptical, and in putting the interests of Australia before the supposed interests of the rest of the world. This is in contrast to Tony Blair’s typical hyperventilation. Also, please explain why Blair, the insincere naive warmonger, is suddenly your model statesman?
Winifred Fowles writes: Willem Schultink (yesterday, comments) splits hairs. Atheists have neither a religion nor a religious persuasion. Anyway, with thousands of possible deities from God to Ganesh, Aeternitas to Zeus, we are all atheists because we don’t worship all gods. It’s just that those who call themselves atheists worship one fewer gods than do Christians or Muslims or Jews.
Bjorn Bednarek writes: Re. Irfan Yusuf’s comment – “Muslims aren’t the only migrants in Australia who resist integration” (1 September, item 4): “But when he [John Howard] singles out Muslims for adverse comment, he is manufacturing a larger pool of marginalised Muslims. This only benefits extremists in the long run.” This does not only benefit extremists. It also benefits a government elected on national security issues, intent on adding to a culture of fear and reducing civil liberties and increasing federal powers. It benefits anti-terrorism related companies and the defence sector generally. Without an identifiable enemy, the War on Terror™ would just be a War on Liquids, a War on Islam and a War on Loners in Backpacks. And people wouldn’t be as easily fooled into supporting those who waged them.
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