Barry Houlihan writes: Re. Politicians’ salaries (8 September, item 3). It’s the perks which really get up the nose of ordinary taxpayers, so kindly make Jane earn her keep and list all the perks and calculate/estimate the dollar value. I’ll shout her a lunch if this doesn’t come to at least 75% of the base salary. Mark Byrne writes: Re. the issue of politicians’ remuneration. I agree with Crikey that “[t]he quality, maturity and effectiveness of a polity depends on the quality, maturity and effectiveness of its practitioners.” I also agree that “Australian democracy needs best possible leadership”. However I have serious doubts with the assumption that the level of remuneration is the critical determinant for recruiting the best leadership. Above a foundational level of comfort, people often move to careers for higher order reasons. Altruism, stimulation, wellbeing, prestige, conviction or authority are some of these motivations. Think of the great leaders in the past: which of them would have been swayed by the issue of pay? I suspect few of our greatest heroes had high personal remuneration on their must do list. If we were to follow this flawed monetarist dogma, we might increase the selection of psychopaths in suits, which is a real problem for many.

Nick Shimmin writes: For all those, including Crikey editorial writers, who seek to justify politicians increasing their own pay on the basis that “we need to attract the best leadership”, presumably you apply the same principle to schools and hospitals, to state confidently that “we DON’T need to attract the best nurses and teachers”, so we can pay them appallingly. The really offensive aspect of the politicians’ remuneration process is the lack of accountability. They vote for THEIR OWN super package. I’m sure every other worker, in every other industry, would like the opportunity to do just that. I believe there’s now something called a “Fair Pay Commission”. Perhaps they should be setting politicians’ salaries, and those for nurses and teachers — and not just the lowest paid — on the basis of contribution to the community, and to civil society.

Peter Faris QC writes: To Leila Ismail & Steve Johnson (8 September, comments): Ismail argues that International Law means “genuine intervention”. Short of invading Indonesia, Australia cannot intervene in Indonesia’s internal affairs. The only course available to the Australian Government is diplomacy and I am confident they will do everything possible. For my part, I support capital punishment in some instances (terror, murder of police) but not for drugs. I do not believe that the Bali Nine “deserve it” but I do believe they tragically gambled and lost. To Tony Slevin (8 September, comments): Most international crimes are committed in a number of jurisdictions – but plainly the main part of this crime was committed in Indonesia. The AFP behaved correctly. I have no idea what is meant by my being “so close to the Government”. I have absolutely no connection to the Government. They have their views and I have mine.

Leila Ismail writes: Oh dear. The people who were so deeply offended by the Steve Irwin jokes (8 September, comments) had better protect their delicate sensibilities by crawling under a rock like many of the critters Steve harassed no doubt wished they could. Satire about sad events has always been an important medium through which people try to lighten a situation and stimulate conversation on the subject. Many were similarly outraged about the September 11 jokes that began circulating – but with such a talked-about, high profile event, responses were always going to come from every quarter, including the humorous one. Crikey gave air to the full gamut of these responses, serious and not-so-serious. Sir Joh jokes started circulating before he was even lowered into the ground, and I didn’t hear many complaints then. Admittedly Steve was much more likeable (and subtle), but the principle is still the same – humour is a valid part of human expression and it shouldn’t be suppressed or censored. After all, plenty of jokes were made about Steve while he was still alive! It might even be claimed that Steve deliberately invited parody and humorous responses with his over-the-top Crocodile Dundee on speed persona. And Germaine is right – we do tend to revere dead people without holding them up to any kind of scrutiny. Her comments were bang on – Steve did barge into animals’ precious natural habitats, grab them around the throat and shove their terrified critter-faces into the nearest camera while telling the world how “deadly” and “lethal” they were. Of course I feel sad for Bindi, Bob and Terri. They lost a loved one. But let’s not go overboard – Steve Irwin was a larger-than-life TV star, who often treated animals in dubious ways for entertainment value. No-one’s perfect of course, and he certainly was a character (and quite possibly a good bloke)… but he wasn’t a national hero. Let’s not go all Beaconsfield on this situation, please. Who knows, Steve himself might have found some of those jokes funny – he certainly wasn’t as precious and fragile as some Crikey (ex-) readers seem to be.

Kevin Tyerman writes: I am not quite sure why the quintessential Aussie larrikin sense of humour is deemed inappropriate when it applies to death, even that of quintessential Aussie larrikins. I did not know Steve Irwin, but can’t help thinking that he would have fully appreciated the sunscreen joke. Personally, if my death is observed, I would prefer that my wake is full of jokes and laughing at my foibles and the things that I did in my life, rather than people I care about being tearful and sad. At funerals I tend to mourn for those that are left and are adversely affected by the death, rather than the person who died. This may be considered tasteless by some, but I take the view that death is inevitable, and that mourning for a person instead of appreciating who and what they were, will not bring them back and will not change the person that they were. My honest opinion of a person also does not change with their demise, and I have never really understood the attitude that considers that criticism of a person should cease on their death – to me that is hypocrisy rather than respect.

Helen Barnes writes: Please don’t be swayed by sentimental idiots cancelling their subscriptions because of the jokes about Steve Irwin. What’s really offensive is the absurd overreaction of the media and the saturation of news for days with a sad, but not very important, story.

Michael Jones writes: What a lot of two-year-olds you have reading Crikey, or used to have. All those subscriptions being cancelled over the Irwin thing, you’d think Crikey had put on a burlesque show or something. Sure it was tasteless and disrespectful to the family. The guy is dead, after all. The Daily Telegraph‘s use of the phrase “grieving nation” was also disrespectful, to the intelligence of just about anyone reading it. Cutting yourself off from every source of comment you might potentially disagree with is not very smart, though.

Rob Lake writes: 42 years have passed, so my memory of the exact quote is almost certainly incorrect, but in 1964 when Lord Beaverbrook died, Private Eye put a very unflattering headline on their front page along the lines of: “Lord Beaverbrook is a dishonest, immoral drunkard”. It was over-printed with: “We have learnt of Lord Beaverbrook’s recent death. See inside for apology”. Inside they apologised for their appalling lapse, saying it should have read “Lord Beaverbrook WAS a dishonest immoral…” We just cannot speak ill of the dead. It seems to me that those wailing about Crikey and what Dr Greer has written are the same lot who would wail about political correctness. How much time must elapse before we are permitted to examine the life and work of Steve Irwin? Good piece in The Spectator on Saturday but not written by an expat female Aussie, so it won’t draw any fire.

Claire Tedeschi from Reconciliation Australia writes: The Crikey discussion about Aboriginal PR was an interesting exercise. Everyone agreed that for the good of the nation there was a need to balance the overwhelmingly negative media portrayal of Australia’s first peoples. And there were lots of live options for doing that put forward by clever, committed people, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, who took part in the discussion. So why stop at an academic exercise? Next year’s 40th anniversary of the 1967 Referendum, the most successful in our nation’s history, which voted to acknowledge Aboriginal people as Australian citizens, is an opportunity to make good on all that we’ve learned in four decades, mostly through failure but also some success. The campaign around the referendum wasn’t a government campaign – it was very much led by the people. The advertising and PR industry, in cooperation with the media, could make a great contribution by drawing on the ideas put forward in Crikey over the last five days (particularly in the brilliant piece by Kirstie Parker last Thursday) and building a campaign to communicate the essence of next year’s anniversary.

Peter Wood writes: When I was in school (between 1982 and 1992) I had opportunities to study Indonesian, French, German, Mandarin Chinese and other languages. Not once was the opportunity presented to study an Aboriginal language. There should be the opportunity to study at least one Aboriginal language in every Australian school. The language taught should be local to the area of the school’s location.

Bruce Gregory writes: In summarising the ABC documentary on the Bogle and Chandler case (8 September, item 4), Adrian Tame leaves out an important fact that helps make the theory put forward by the documentary a little more convincing. Tame mentions that the greyhound owner who found the bodies did not report it. However, he does not explain that a possible reason why the greyhound owner didn’t report it was because he didn’t want to draw attention to the fact that he had been illegally training his greyhounds on a nearby golf course. This may be a lame explanation, but at least it’s plausible. This suggestion for the greyhound owner’s behaviour was not stated explicitly in the documentary, but was certainly implied.
Former Daily Mirror journalist, John Wilson, writes: There is one question about the Bogle-Chandler murder that thoroughly mystifies me. Where did the so-called puritanical greyhound trainer exercising his dogs in the area find the cardboard box sheets to cover Mrs Chandler? Was there a box just lying about next to the river? I doubt it. Did so-called puritanical greyhound trainer race to find a box in his garage? I don’t think so. So, where DID the controversial box materialise from?

Jennie Bremner writes: Why has the normally opinionated Gerard Henderson become so reticent that he needs to send his wife out to do his dirty work for him? Anne Henderson’s piece (7 September, item 20) is a total distortion of the points which Monica Attard made on MW about the Jack Thomas case. The point which she made was that Jack Thomas was tried on terrorism charges and acquitted. In our legal system that means that he is not a terrorist. Her criticism of some media coverage was that it disregarded this inconvenient truth and continued to smear him as a terrorist. She and her producer are quite right in saying that this is factually and morally wrong. That the Federal Police are seeking to mount a further case against Jack Thomas based on the Four Corners report does not change the fact that he has been acquitted of all charges and is therefore entitled to be regarded as innocent until the Court of Appeal decides differently – if indeed it does. I appreciate that Anne is motivated by loyalty to her husband in trying to discredit Monica Attard but I do think that the personal insults are reprehensible. Catty remarks about this award-winning journalist’s hairstyle and personal mannerisms do her arguments no favour. In my experience Gerard Henderson feels comfortable about using his privileged media access to dish out scathing criticism of others; I’m sure that he is grown up enough to be able to deal with a bit in return – particularly when he is as clearly wrong as he is in this instance. I am surprised that Crikey felt that this tripe deserved publication. I would ask that Monica Attard be given the opportunity to reply.

John Taylor writes: How about next year you get someone better than Jeff Wall to enlighten us about the NRL’s McIntyre playoff system (8 September, item 24). It’s actually a very simple system but not when Jeff describes it.

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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