Laurie Ferguson MP writes: Antony Loewenstein’s account of a Young Labor gathering last weekend (yesterday, item 15) was largely accurate. However, it lacks context. My original intention was to provide an historical overview. By my late arrival it had seemingly become an informal circle chat. While mentioning Jewish financial contributions, I was at pains to dismiss theories of Jewish media dominance. I stressed contributions was only one of a number of factors. The point I stressed but which was omitted by Antony was the interrelationship of Australia’s affinity with large aspects of US policy and America’s Middle East position as an crucial explanation of Australia’s line. I also note that to provide balance Mr Loewenstein might have conveyed that I entered into strong dialogue in support of a two state solution.

Meg Tsiamis, Managing Director of Obits Pty Ltd, writes: In your article on “Pushing Up Daisies Online” (yesterday, item 22), you wrote: “Within hours of his death, the site was using Brock’s name as a Google keyword search to publicise its online death notice business”. In response — yes, we are using Peter Brock’s name as a Google keyword search, however I dispute your claim that we are using it to “publicise” our business. People are looking for information about this death and funeral (when details are available), and we are merely directing the searcher to a place where they may quickly and easily find this information in a timely fashion. I notice you omitted to mention that visitors to the site may also leave a free tribute or message of condolence. There are many people in pain at the passing of Peter Brock, who have availed themselves of the opportunity to grieve publicly. Since running the ad, 9,207 people (or 8.87% of people who viewed the ad), have clicked on it, indicating to me that a large percentage of people were looking for this information. The reason we come first is not because we pay the most, but because the ad is most successful in terms of “click through rate”. Google has, and will remain a predominant advertising medium for this business, as we attempt to INFORM the online community about the information available at our website, and we target many hundreds of keywords. For this I make no apology.

Dr Malcolm Hunt, Research Fellow at the Australian Council for Educational Research, writes: In the most recent story about the Bogle/Chandler case (yesterday, item 5), the case for hydrogen sulfide being the cause of the deaths is criticised as it is stated the “Hydrogen gas is 20 times heavier than air, and only those sitting or lying on the ground would have been affected by it.” Hydrogen has a density of 0.0899 g L-1 which is much less dense than air. This is why the Hindenberg and all zeppelins filled with hydrogen floated in the atmosphere. The gas being attributed as the cause of the deaths Dr Bogle and Mrs Chandler is hydrogen sulfide, not hydrogen. The density of hydrogen sulfide is 1.539 g L-1at 0 °C, about 19% denser than air which is 1.2929 g L-1at 0 °C. The eruption of gases from under bodies of water is not unknown. For example, in Cameroon “on one August night in 1986, without warning Lake Nyos belched a deadly cloud of carbon dioxide that crept through the nearby valleys for 27 km, suffocating up to 1800 people in their sleep” (CRC Handbook of Chemistry & Physics [74th ed. Ohio: Chemical Rubber Co. 1993-94]). And this gas is not toxic as hydrogen sulfide is. Carbon dioxide kills just by asphyxiation as its density is 1.977 g L-1at 0°C, more than 50% more dense than air. It will really flow along valleys and fill hollows displacing the air which any gas more dense than air, such as hydrogen sulfide, would do if it were not subject to winds stirring it about.” The case is plausible as it is presented PROVIDED the correct gas is identified: it is hydrogen sulfide H2S and not hydrogen H2.

Dr Harvey M Tarvydas writes: Re. Bogle and Chandler. Everything that’s been said about the poisoning agent of these two is accurate and possible except for the description of the killer being “invisible”. The smell makes it as visible as anything. As a medical man and scientist I find it hard to believe that a scientist the calibre of Bogle would not have identified the gas and its danger. It’s hard to take, smells worse than sh-t and if you hang about you have to run somewhere to spew. I haven’t heard of H2S having erotic or arousal powers encouraging one to anticipate a top arousal outcome.

Bob Hogg writes: I’m somewhat sceptical about the conclusion of the ABC documentary on the Bogle/Chandler case. It was noticeable that the program’s theory about hydrogen sulphide poisoning wasn’t backed up with supporting evidence. Had it been the case that an eruption of H2S occurred early that morning and hung about on the river bank why weren’t there reports of dead fish floating nearby. Equally, for the theory to be validated, there would also have been noticeable evidence of dead insects as well as the odd bit of wildlife.

Alan Fitzgerald writes: The ABC and Peter Butt were dishonest in promoting the Bogle-Chandler documentary as “Who killed” the couple. It was soon evident on the night that the ABC had no suspect in mind, let alone were about to identify a person. The program should have been promoted as “What killed Bogle and Chandler”, but then I suppose many of us would not have bothered to watch it. Taking us for suckers is no way to build an audience. And the allegedly breathtaking solution — rotten egg gas — seemed pretty improbable to me. Poor show, ABC.

Justin Templer writes: Reading Stephen Mayne’s take on Ian Macfarlane’s failure to speak up during the 2004 federal election campaign (yesterday, item 1), I cannot tell whether Mayne is being startlingly naive, ingenuous or disingenuous. “So why didn’t he speak up?” Mayne asks, regarding Macfarlane’s apparent disagreement with the Prime Minister’s inference that the Liberals had control over interest rates. Well, Stephen, possibly it was because he was the governor of the (independent) Reserve Bank. Mayne goes on to attribute an agenda of pure self-interest to Macfarlane’s silence. Surely the most likely explanation is that, once the governor starts to comment on the claims made by either side of politics, he could never stop. Whether it be the first home owners allowance, ethanol subsidies, labour market reforms – as head central banker he would have a view on all issues affecting the economy. Stephen’s question would be better phrased as: “Why did he speak?” Macfarlane has opened himself to criticism – for being self-indulgent and mischievous. He should recognise that he is still in a position of trust and keep his own counsel.

Ian Nearhos writes: Don’t the Reserve Bank and Ian Macfarlane have an obligation to have their role in setting interest rates clarified during an election campaign if contradictory suggestions are being repeatedly stated? With the PM making claims during the election about keeping interest rates low, isn’t it just as political for Ian Macfarlane not to have said anything? By default you would expect the independence of the Reserve Bank would have given him the authority to comment publicly, particularly when it is in the public interest. Mr Macfarlane may have been wedged in by the government, but he could have and should have acted independently. If he felt the PM’s comments imply that the Reserve Bank does not have independence it does not mean that he should have simply relinquished that independence.

Stephen Luntz, Greens Victorian Electoral Analyst, writes: Re. “Time to take Family First seriously” (yesterday, item 6). Stephen Mayne makes the common mistake  of confusing correlation with causation. He points out that the Green in Queensland vote was lower where Family First ran than where the competition was restricted to the ALP, Coalition and independents. However, this does not necessarily mean that Family First won votes that would otherwise go to the Greens, as Mayne suggests. More likely Family First (who ran in less than a third of the seats) simply ran where they had the most support. Results from the federal election showed that, generally speaking, Family First’s greatest strength was where the Greens were weakest, and broadly speaking this appears to have been true again in Queensland. In other words, the places where Family First ran were, for the most part, places where the Greens would be expected to do badly anyway. Of course, a more thorough analysis would involve looking at swings to and from the Greens. If the Green vote fell, relative to 2004, in the places where Family First ran (against a general trend of a rising vote) then Mayne’s thesis is probably valid.

Leila Ismail writes: If Peter Faris supports capital punishment (yesterday, comments) perhaps he could clarify his ideas on who should decide which crimes are deserving of the death penalty and for what reasons? Faris cites “terror” as one of those crimes that should be punishable by death. What is “terror”? If he means the Bali bombings, these are just the people whose level we shouldn’t be stooping to by adopting their “eye for an eye” mentality and creating martyrs in the process. And he says that “drugs” shouldn’t be punishable by death. Why not? Many more people die from drug-related problems than do from terrorism. Besides, it still doesn’t address the fact that one innocent person erroneously killed by the state is one person too many, not to mention the fact that capital punishment is also open to abuse by repressive regimes. It is a ridiculously inconsistent and morally indefensible stance and one that is mirrored by the Australian Government. By supporting the death penalty for the Bali bombers, and by having allowed the Bali Nine to reach Indonesia before they were caught – knowing that this would leave them open to the death penalty – Howard, Downer and Co. are rendering completely ineffective and pointless their subsequent “opposition” to the executions.

Ashley Midalia writes: Having never studied economics, could someone (Stephen Mayne/Michael Pascoe, perhaps?) please explain to me why there isn’t the same clamour to flog Australia Post that there is/was to privatise CBA, Qantas, Telstra and now Medibank Private? With ideology at stake, it wouldn’t be a matter of political palatability now, would it?

Tony Ryan writes: Peter Wood (yesterday, comments) believes Aboriginal languages should be available in schools and that the local language should apply. And just what languages would they be, Peter? Considering the one hundred or so languages and dialects surviving are limited to the northern triangle demarcated by the Centre, the Kimberley and far north Queensland, with 83 located in the NT, are you suggesting we all move there? And then there is the problem of Aboriginal language speakers having insufficient knowledge of English to execute the teaching role. Finally, there is the minor obstacle of irksome parents and teachers who prioritise education curriculum in terms of useful life skills development, in a world which consigns those lacking in these to the scrap heap. The guffaws from the Bush provoked by this little gem may well drown out those which erupted at the city kid’s PR proposal.

John Scull writes: Re. Your story about Australia Post and parcel prices etc (yesterday, item 7). Where on earth did you get A$29 as a ticket price (one way or half way or whatever) from Australia to NZ? My family and self have flown Pacific Blue (Gold Coast to Auckland and return) before – and intend to travel again on the same route soon. Even with a family member being a long-term Virgin Blue staff member, there is no way one can do this for A$29. I appreciate it makes for a good story and a whammo comparison in the context of your story – but …

Matthew Chisholm writes: Just to clarify in yesterday’s story from Nick Place re “Ayrton Senna was killed in the Italian Grand Prix” (item 27). It was actually the San Marino Grand Prix of 1994 held in Imola. The “Italian Grand Prix” is held at Monza.

Simon Spencer writes: In your sports section can you please mention A-League soccer rather than EPL et al. Please give our local soccer a run rather than the OS stuff.

Michael Graham writes: This letter has no relevance to any of yesterday’s articles, however I feel compelled to get it off my chest. After another predictably ordinary performance against the Springboks in Jo’burg last weekend, Wallabies fans have to ask themselves if we’re really any better off under the Connolly regime than we were under Eddie Jones. There is a distinct pattern emerging that is rather frightening. We win the early season tests against the tired second stringers that the Northern Hemisphere continues to send our way, win a couple against the Springboks on our own turf but drop the big ones against the All Blacks and play like total strangers as soon as we set foot in the Republic. Granted there may have been some (very) slight improvements in the forward play but this is offset by the impact of the backs, who are apparently the best in the world. With less than a year to go now before the World Cup I can’t see the Wallabies mounting a serious challenge for the title.

Barry Everingham writes: The death of Tonga’s king has revived the memories of long time royal watchers and many can’t forget the sight of the dead king’s mother, the enormous and colourful Queen Salote, at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth. Salote, who like her son tipped the scales at 200 pounds, was in an open carriage with the diminutive Nizam of Hyderabad for the coronation procession through the streets of London. The famous composer and playwright Noel Coward, watching the proceedings from a window was asked: “Who is that with Queen Salote?” and he replied: “Her lunch!” So much for political correctness in those days.

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Peter Fray

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