Labor communications spokesman Stephen Conroy writes: Contrary to the assertions in yesterday’s Crikey (editorial) that Kim Beazley had yet to release “A logical media/communications policy which fast tracks high-speed broadband”, Labor has made broadband a centrepiece of its infrastructure investment agenda. Kim Beazley gave prominence to Labor’s Broadband Plan in this year’s Parliamentary Budget in Reply address and he’s one of the few leaders of a political party anywhere in the world explicitly to put broadband in the centre of the national infrastructure debate. Kim Beazley has made it clear that a Labor government would view broadband infrastructure as an investment in sustaining the prosperity of the Australian economy and he deserves credit for it. Labor’s Broadband Plan committed to a series of regulatory reforms and public funding. It calls for the creation of a joint venture company that would own and operate a national open access fibre to the node network. The joint venture infrastructure owner would be separated from retailers to ensure competition. Investment certainty would be delivered through prospective access terms and exemption from Part XIB and XIC of the Trade Practices Act that would allow investors to recover their costs. These regulatory reforms would address many of the concerns Telstra has had about investment incentives in the Australian telecommunications sector without sacrificing competition. Labor’s plan also involves a nation building public investment to lift Australia out of the communications dark ages. Labor’s Broadband Plan makes available up to $2.7 billion in public funding to extend the reach of this fibre network to as many people as possible and to ensure 98% of Australians have access to a minimum of 6mbps broadband (with the vast majority receiving access to much higher speeds). If Crikey had cared to engage in real journalism instead of settling for a lazy and ill-informed attack on Kim Beazley’s leadership, you would have seen that Labor’s Broadband Plan was extensively covered at the time of this speech and has subsequently been prominently commented on in the media. Labor has done exactly what an opposition should do in the area of telecommunications — we have held the government to account and proposed a substantive alternative. Crikey should correct the record appropriately. The basic details of Labor’s Broadband Plan can be found on my website.

Peter Kell, CEO of Choice (the Australian Consumers’ Association), writes: Here at CHOICE we enjoy the infamy of a Crikey mention as much as the next limelight-deprived NGO, but several assertions by Stephen Mayne in Tuesday’s article (“Can the Australian consumer movement be saved?” – item 10) need to be corrected for the record. I am not, as asserted by Mr Mayne, “withdrawing” from the important struggle to improve consumer rights. Quite the contrary. Under my leadership CHOICE – the Australian Consumers’ Association – continues to strengthen its presence in many areas including the toughening of food labelling requirements, fighting conflicts of interest in financial services or pushing for the set-up of the Do Not Call Register which will help protect consumers from incessant telemarketing. We continually expose dodgy service industries and shonky manufacturers. And regularly take governments on of all persuasions. We do all this without any government funding – and we don’t seek it. We derive all our revenue from subscriptions to our Choice Magazine and Choice Online. Many businesses would envy our 200,000 strong subscriber base and our 35% annual growth rate. Mr Mayne’s article also derided industry ombudsman schemes. This is surprising as these schemes, for which the consumer movement fought over many years, now deal with complaints from more than 150,000 consumers each year for free. The schemes certainly could be improved, but the reality is that most of these consumers would simply have nowhere else to go in the absence of such arrangements. And while CHOICE staff do not hold any directorships on these schemes (and we are not seeking such positions) substantial consumer involvement in their governance ensures they are not simply run by industry for industry. I would have thought that Mr Mayne, of all people, would be in favour of wider representation on governing bodies. Mr Mayne, you and your readers can rest assured that CHOICE is very much alive and well. We’ve never been more committed or better placed to protect the nation’s consumers.

Sam Palmer writes: Re. “Advocates or whingers sucking on the taxpayer teat?” (yesterday, item 12). Christian Kerr writes: “So if we’re being ripped off, we can join together and do something about it ourselves. We don’t need to take public money to fund professional activists – with all their ideological baggage and prejudices – to do it for us.” Despite being in a free market, a consumer may not always have choice nor the capacity to determine they are being ripped off or treated unfairly. Funding consumer advocacy is one way to help even the balance. Let’s not get overly dramatic CK – we’re not talking about a large advocacy group by any means. We’re talking about a small passionate group of people who give up their own time in the main to help vulnerable consumers around the country. Ever get badly treated by a car hire company and felt powerless to do anything about it? Ever researched a internet or financial services contract only to find once you’ve signed up that they change the fees, conditions et al and you can’t do anything about it? There’s still a lot that can be improved in our marketplace. And yet, much has been done. Many improvements in consumer protection delivered in Australia in the past decade have occurred thanks to the advocacy of a very small consumer movement, and their contribution has been valuable. When consumer and fair trading agencies seek consumer input on policy changes, they get very little – except from the passionate and committed consumer movement. Instead of suggesting they are whingers, we should be thanking them for the fact that practically every time we put our hands in our wallets we are benefiting from their contributions.

Peter Burnett writes: It seems to me that the swift dispatch of Patrick Cole as Australian High Commissioner in Honiara needs to be kept in perspective. Most of our regional neighbours find the patronising and condescending tone of media commentary in Australia a bit much, especially from journalists who never visit the islands or talk to the locals – see for example Greg Sheridan’s latest comments on how the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) halted a looming “genocidal civil war” in Solomon Islands or the Lowy Institute’s puff piece for RAMSI, embarrassingly published just before the April riots in Honiara. One of the major complaints from the region concerns Australia’s overbearing dominance of regional processes – in RAMSI, 152 civilian advisors are Australian while there are only four Pacific islanders – so much for regionalism! Greg Urwin, the Australian diplomat who heads the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, must be a bit anxious – he’s seeking renewal of his position at this year’s Forum in Fiji, but the Solomons dispute might reinforce the notion that Australia is trying to run a bit too much (the police commissioner in the Solomons, the police commissioner in Fiji, the Special Co-ordinator for RAMSI etc). Friends in the Pacific are amused that Alexander Downer is slapping visa restrictions on Solomon Islands ministers. Given the ALP’s new policy, we might all have to get used to visa restrictions while travelling in the region. Yesterday, a friend in Papua New Guinea asked me whether I’m willing to sign up to PNG values next time I visit – my missus is not impressed that I seem enthusiastic about bride price and polygamy!

Mark Byrne (candidate for the seat of Fisher in 2006) writes: Peter Phelps, chief of staff to the Special Minister of State, yesterday (item 8) took exception to my “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”. Phelps chose not air my invitation to: “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 [of assuming remuneration is the critical determinant] , we might increase the selection of psychopaths in suits, which is a real problem for many.” Instead he proclaims, “however much you may enjoy a job, you should demand to be paid what you are worth.” Demanding “what you are worth (sic)” is a privilege only for those with power. People with less access to power or advantage are less able to demand what they are “worth”. I would feel embarrassed if anyone were to direct Phelps’s “paid what you’re worth” rhetoric towards the Lifeline volunteers for whom I work. Many of them, either sole parents or with disability, are facing income support cuts and breaching under the Coalition’s new welfare regime. Working for Mr Abetz (Special Minister for Forests), Dr Phelps would know many executives who are earning a motza through policies allowing them to plunder and profiteer from the destruction of irreplaceable old-growth forest ecosystems. Meanwhile, those who selflessly battle to save these global treasures are not paid according to the immense value of their contribution. A test of appropriate representation in high public office must be a declination of blatant self interest. Public office ought not be a place for those who are “in it” for what they can individually get. Phelps also went for “some personal invective”: “If it is so friggin’ easy to be an MP, then I look forward to seeing each of these wackers running for public office. If the remuneration is so healthy, then why don’t you sign up and run in 2007? Go on, put your money where your mouth is. But, of course, they won’t do so. Far too easy just to sit on the sidelines and whinge, from a firm position of uninformed prejudice and wilful ignorance.” Dr Phelps, it would be more responsible for the Chief of staff to the Special Minister of State to check facts about who one is accusing and abusing. Shooting off, ill informed, might leave oneself open to accusations of suffering “from a firm position of uninformed prejudice and wilful ignorance.”

Steve Moriarty writes: Is it only me who is completely shocked regarding the Special Minister of State’s Chief of Staff’s responses to the comments of others regarding pollies’ super. I am a former senior policy adviser to a current Queensland Minister and he would have have my “guts for garters” (as any minister would) if I had made responses that contain such vitriol and contempt. Before you roll your eyes and say “yes well he would say that – he is Labor”, I agree with most of your comments. However, debates are won by convincing those who are undecided and want to hear all sides of the issue. Ranting and spewing will not bring anyone (undecided) to your side. Debates and differences of opinion are fine. Contempt for the public and those who don’t agree with you will see you quickly in opposition. As a final note, surely the Minister does not agree with the tone of Peter Phelps’s responses. If he does then there is some substance to accusation that the government is arrogant. The excuse that these are “personal” comments does not cut the mustard either.

Andrew Lewis writes: What a monumental whinge-a-thon from Peter Phelps with his oh-so-cutting remarks regarding comments punters made on pollies’ superannuation. To suggest that the Remuneration Tribunal is “independent” because an act of Parliament is just laughable. The Tribunal is made up of ex-pollies and pollies’ mates. How independent is that? How do they get on the Tribunal? (which earns a decent whack for attending a few meetings a year) It’s one of the many sinecures of government patronage. Independent indeed! As for the idea that a pollie’s base salary, at a bit over double the average wage, is a paltry remuneration, sorry Peter, but we the people think that is not so. That someone might work for reasons other than money is apparently a reason for mirth and pity in equal measure. Peter thinks having job security for three years does not represent security at all. Hey Pete, wait till you get out into Johnny’s new IR world. Three years’ job security is a dream for most Australians today. But as for the idea of a politician’s bloody minder on the public purse skewering the punters for daring to question whether the useless dills we now have are worth the excessive salary and perks their job attracts, well, that is a lesson in chutzpah indeed. And apparently you aren’t allowed to voice an opinion unless you want to become a politician. Sorry Peter, but that would mean that I would be running into more d-ckheads like you. Take a flying leap you goose.

Diana Lyons writes: Peter Phelps is very wrong when he says “as a Federal MP you get you salary, an Australian-made car, and an electorate allowance which, if you don’t spend it, is treated as taxable income. That’s it. Finito. Nothing else.” He is either stupid or incompetent or both or maybe he ‘s just using the Howard excuse of “nobody told me”. He failed to mention that the electoral allowance can be spent on anything at all, so having to pay tax on anything not spent is not going to be an issue. What MP is going to have any left? He forgot to mention the free travel to and from Canberra and the accommodation and travel allowance of about $170 a day while in Canberra or on parliamentary, electoral or party business in Australia. He forgot to mention the taxpayer-funded overseas “study trip” – one in the life of each parliament – which also includes reimbursement of all accommodation and other expenses. He did mention the car but he forgot to say that it’s fully maintained, replaced every 40,000 kilometres and comes with a fuel card that covers both work and private use, and that the car can be used any time by family members, all for a token payment of less than $1000 a year. He didn’t mention that what he describes simply as “an Australian-made car” can be a petrol-guzzling 4WD, even for city-based MPs, and can have whatever extras the MP likes, all at taxpayer expense. He forgot to mention the mobile and residential phones, the laptop and the palm pilot. He forgot all about the $150,000 a year “printing allowance” and the $45,000 a year “communication allowance”. He didn’t mention the private use of frequent flyer points, the use of Commonwealth cars as taxis, the Cabcharge, the subsidised food and alcohol in Canberra and the free travel allowances that become more generous the longer you serve and continue long after the MP has resigned or retired or been kicked out by the voters. All this and we haven’t even started on superannuation. Barry Houlihan’s Visa card looks safe to me.

Colin Cook writes: It would be most enlightening if Peter Phelps, chief of staff to the Special Minister of State, would explain how minister’s pensions are calculated, why pollies pensions are tax-free, why some perks extend to members of their families, how overnight expenses are calculated. He left so much unsaid.

Ian Newman writes: If the petty and immature responses from chief of staff to the Special Minister of State , Peter Phelps, are indicative of the level of professionalism and maturity within this government then god help us all. I would say there’s a good argument that could be made that it is people like you in government Peter, as well as the “factional headkickers” within the Liberals and the ALP, that turn a lot of people off standing for government – not the remuneration. Only a fool would equate money earned with level of intellect.

James W Matthews writes: I’d like to thank Mr Peter Phelps, for his most illuminating insight into the culture of Ministerial staff in this most arrogant of federal governments. I suppose the failure to respect and engage with the views of others and the reliance on ridicule is to be expected, since that also appears to be Howard’s debating style, but it’s disturbing nonetheless. This impression of not wanting to hear is even more alarmingly reinforced by Ruddock’s warning about interviewing “terrorists” and the power Howard’s government has given itself to arbitrarily destroy a normal person’s life if it chooses, as it apparently intends to do if some poor academic wants to research a subject of which the Minister disapproves. I blame it all on Beazley really. If he did the right thing, either by stepping aside or by demonstrating an effective policy-based opposition, perhaps we, as a community, might have an opportunity to return a government which still at least had its toes in the deep waters of ethical behaviour. 

Nick Shimmin writes: The pathetic sensitivities of Peter Phelps’s feeble attack on those who criticised politicians’ superannuation benefits are only matched by the staggering arrogance of the man. So the “critics just sit on the sidelines and whinge”, do they Peter? And the only way we can justify criticising you is if we run for office, is it, petal? Nothing else anyone might do with their lives makes them capable of criticising you and your mates, is that right? Well Peter, I work for two not-for-profit organisations, and though I’m sure you think that makes me an insect of utter insignificance compared to the grand and high office at which you and your mates selflessly slave for your pitiful salaries, I will maintain my right to criticise you and your ilk. Especially when your responses selectively choose to answer only those comments you can spin numbers over, and not the substance of the criticism. Most of us in the public service don’t get your 15.4%, Peter. And can you tell us how few currently sitting politicians are actually on just that 15.4%? Virtually none. And the rest of us don’t get to take our super early, Peter. And in any event, 15.4% of $100,000 is a little different to 15.4% of $40,000. And some of us still remember the case of Bill O’Chee. Well, I suppose you do work in politics, after all.  Anyway, thanks for alerting us to how much we got under your skin.  It’ll certainly inspire us to keep up the good work. 

Peter Lloyd writes: As a populist laughing hyena, I especially appreciated the risible nature of the comments of the chief of staff to the Special Minister of State, who also happens to be my local MP – who gets around in a definitely NOT Australian made Toyota Land Cruiser. Now I’m sure Mr Nairn works his precious little bum off for his meagre income, what with having to offer up all those new printing allowances and so on, but the simple and blindingly obvious fact is that the reason there is so very little political participation in Australia is not the level of remuneration, but the fact that to get anywhere one has to join a political party full of stinking hypocrites and narrow-minded morons who can’t think beyond the line elucidated by the very highest levels of party leadership. The population elects party representatives – not individuals of great personal merit. Displays of personal merit and unsolicited contributions to the debate are not welcome and parties are adept at preventing them. His claim that the electoral process functions as a performance review is ludicrous because that would mean our most talented MPs are those with the largest majorities. But of course, being parachuted into a safe seat is all about the ability to play the system and manipulate the minuscule party membership, it’s not about engaging with the electorate. His use of public service and MP’s staff as wage benchmarks is in stark contrast to policies his party imposes on real workers in the real economy, who are forced onto contract work and into one-sided negotiations with the boss to justify their own pay. And of course real workers can be sacked at any time, as opposed to politicians who only face a performance review every few years. Maybe it’s time for Mr Nairn to get an advisor with real-world experience, rather than a petulant fool who regards politics and universities as industries relevant to the rest of us.  And Mr Phelps’s implication that Mr Nairn only wins thanks to the “arbitrary, fickle prejudices” of the people of Eden-Monaro was probably a little too honest.

Brian Galbraith writes: Congratulations on your editorial in yesterday’s Crikey. The extent to which Kim Beazley is an embarrassment not only to his own colleagues but also to the nation as a whole could not have been better demonstrated. While few would argue with the desirability of those coming to Australia for whatever purpose subscribing to our core values (assuming we can articulate these in a way acceptable to the whole of Australian society) surely Beazley himself must now see how irrelevant he has become to political debate in this country. That there is no clear alternative to Beazley as leader is no excuse for leaving him in-post. Even a shared leadership arrangement would be a better alternative, signalling at the very least the party’s taking seriously its obligation to present a credible opposition to the government of the day.

Former Liberal candidate Irfan Yusuf writes: Kim Beazley’s call for tourists to sign off on Aussie values couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Australian tourism industry. After the disastrous multimillion-dollar “Where the bloody hell are you” campaign, tourism gurus are now faced with the prospect of having Lara Bingle add words to the effect of “What bloody values are you bringing with you to our bloody country”! But Mandy Vanstone’s attempts to paint Beazley as some sort of xenophobe in today’s Age smack of glass house hypocrisy. In May 2004, also writing in The Age, former Howard Chief of Staff Gerard Henderson commented on “the one significant blot on [Howard’s] record in public life … a certain lack of empathy in dealing with individuals with whom he does not identify at a personal level: for example, Asian Australians in the late 1980s and asylum seekers in the early 21st century”. Vanstone points to Beazley’s apparent attack on racism in 1988. What she didn’t mention is that most likely Beazley was echoing other Hawke Government ministers who were appalled by Howard’s call “for a reduction in the Asian component of Australia’s immigration intake ‘to ensure the maintenance of social harmony and cohesion’. At the time he did not seem to understand just how offensive such a statement was to Australians of Asian background.” Virtually every criticism Vanstone makes of Beazley and other ALP figures could just as easily be made about John Howard. She says Howard should be given credit for disendorsing Pauline Hanson in the 1996 election. I wonder where Vanstone was in the 2001 election when Howard’s NSW campaign manager Scott Morrison threatened me with disendorsement if I so much as spoke about the grief of an Afghan Australian who had lost two nieces when they drowned with hundreds of other asylum seekers fleeing the Taliban.

Andrew Fenton writes: Christian Kerr wrote yesterday (item 17): “I believe we are at war with Islam.” Sadly, Christian, this is exactly what the various terrorist groups want you to believe – and they’re attempting to manipulate the Muslims of the world to believe it to. The “West” is not at war with Islam. We’re fighting against Islamic extremists. If we starting fighting a war against the Islamic religion itself, such a war would never end. And while I’m on my high horse, the very notion of a “war on terror” is ridiculous… Terrorism is a method, it is not a thing that you can declare “war” on. You can declare war on terrorists, but in doing so, you first have to identify which terrorists you’re talking about. Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq, Hezbollah in Lebanon and al Qaeda in Afghanistan all have different aims and different ideologies. Lumping them all in together under the banner of “terror” and fighting them like they’re a homogenous blob is unlikely to succeed.

Niall Clugston writes: Christian Kerr argues that the recent Hezbollah rocket strikes on northern Israel were an attack on the West.  Actually, these strikes were in response to Israel’s assault on Lebanon, which was in return in response to Hezbollah’s capture of Israeli soldiers. Similarly, the list by Christopher Hitchens that he endorses is largely a list of unrelated acts committed by Muslims. For instance, the assassination of a Shiite cleric in Iraq is hardly anti-Western. And while Theo Van Gogh’s murder is considered important, the murder of his associate Pim Fortuyn is ignored – because the murderer wasn’t Muslim. Nevertheless Kerr is confident to assert that “we are at war with Islam”.  This, however, has serious ramifications. The West should stop cooperating with the Pakistani Government in the search for Osama bin Laden, for instance. In fact, we should break off all relations with governments throughout the Muslim world. But perhaps none of this was meant to be taken seriously. Maybe it was just a rhetorical hand grenade. Maybe some of the self-proclaimed realists should start taking the issue seriously, rather than just trying to annoy “bleeding hearts”.

Tom McLoughlin writes: We are at war with Islam, asserts Kerr with hyperbole of the century. Talk about right wing fantasy. 1.3 billion Muslims in this world (the vast majority of moderate disposition), say 10,000 hardcore violent fanatics, say a few million active sympathisers, to quote the concentric circles metaphor of one Richard Clark, former US Presidential adviser on defence strategy. That’s a crackpot religious sect, not the grand global religion of Islam, and take away their guns and bombs and you have something that looks suspiciously like our own Exclusive Brethren for intolerance. Given 35,000 people die in horrific circumstances worldwide every day from preventable disease and poverty, to quote Dr Keith McNabb of the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at Sydney Uni, it’s pretty obvious what the real war is: first world versus third.

David Mendelssohn writes: Re. “Elections in Black Mountain” (yesterday, item 14). Unlike Charles Richardson, I see nothing strange or contradictory in Serbia’s determination to have Kosovo remain part of its territory, even though it has allowed Crna Gora to become independent with apparent equanimity.  Kosovo has been part of Serbia as long as there has been a Serbia. One of the defining events of Serbian history, the defeat of the Serbs by the Ottoman Turks in 1389, took place on the Plain of Kosovo. The fact that Kosovo now has an ethnic Albanian majority is irrelevant and the Albanian claim to independence or integration into Albania absolutely without any merit whatever. To give an analogy which may make sense of the Serbian position to Australians, if the Top End of the Northern Territory were to end up, after many years of immigration, with an ethnic Indonesian majority, would or should Australia accede to a claim by the ethnic Indonesians to excise the Top End from Australia and absorb it into Indonesia?  I don’t think so and I don’t think many Australians would think so.

Geoff Baars writes: Kevin Brady’s comments on learning Aboriginal languages in schools (yesterday, comments) were spot on – in fact, one of the most balanced and insightful contributions I’ve ever read from a Crikey reader. I spent the first 25 years of my life in apartheid South Africa; I’m deeply ashamed to admit I cannot (and never could) speak a word of any black African language. The (white) schools simply didn’t teach them, and unless you lived on a farm or the mines, you had no opportunity to learn. With the benefit of hindsight, I’m wish I had made extra-curricular efforts at learning to converse with the majority of our population on their terms. (And although there are many black African languages spoken in South Africa, Zulu is mother-tongue to 8 million and widely understood by most non-Zulus.) I have absolutely no doubt that efforts by Australian children at acquiring some Aboriginal language capability will narrow the cultural (and consequently, socioeconomic) gaps that clearly exist. When black Africans speak English (and for that matter, when white Afrikaners speak English) their accents and grammatical errors often receive derision; when the completely different grammatical structure (and immense nuances) of their mother-tongues is understood (as has been explained to me in detail, and as would be clear to someone learning the language), these English “mistakes” can be put into context. All this is directly relevant in the Australian situation. I’ve been impressed by how much my children (at private schools in Perth) do learn about Aboriginal history, culture, beliefs, etc., but a few years of Noongar would have a much greater impact.

Julian Gillespie writes: Just a quick question for everyone – how much does a State funeral cost on average? A dime a dozen, you’d think, with how readily the Fed and State governments are offering them these days. Like most of us I thought Brocky and Irwin were great guys who did heaps for the country and the community, and they will be sadly missed, but as the Baby Boomers accelerate towards their respective graves, (with the greatest respect), I can foresee dozens and dozens more great guys and gals passing away – which leaves me to ask – will younger Gen Xers like me be paying the bills from here to eternity for who knows how many State funerals if this present trends continues? What I see now for each new celeb death is a whipped-up media produced frenzy of community grieving, that enables television stations opportunistic ratings from hastily produced “life & times of…” specials – correct me if I am wrong, but the letter pages of most national papers were all that was needed to for the community to express their sorrow once, and perhaps a kind note sent to the next-of-kin – but if this is the new standard for grieving, (“just have accumulated five minutes of fame and you too will be entitled to a State funeral!”), then I expect to be popping off this mortal coil in say, 30 years (touch wood), so send Crikey your details now and I’ll reserve you a seat at my “memorable and touching” State funeral after I first make sure my name is at least half well know about Aus – beauty mate!

Tony Ryan writes: Re. “Can Bolt and McCrann hold the pro-polluting line?” (yesterday, item 19). Having read you comments on Andrew Bolt, I took the trouble to check his column of 13 September. He makes ten points that deserve serious discussion. Let’s leave personal feelings out of it and address the issues he raises. I consider Al Gore was given very gentle treatment by the media in Australia. It appears that many lost the ability to question and were in awe of “the guru” from across the waters. Ask the questions, eg: “Mr Gore, point me in the direction of the Pacific Islanders who were evacuated to New Zealand because of rising sea levels”. Simple. 

Nick Place writes: I’ve been told that the head of the F1 Renault team, Flavio Briatore, is not a billionaire, as reported yesterday (item 31), but owns a nightclub called The Billionaire. My mistake.

Christian Kerr writes: One of our latest contributors, Katherine Wilson, in her Helen Dale/Darville/Demidenko item on Monday (item 18) described the blog Catallaxy as “comprising largely Centre for Independent Studies men”. This is untrue. Only one Catallaxy contributor is employed by the CIS – Andrew Norton, who now has his own blog at www.andrewnorton.info. And if Wilson is afraid of CIS taint, she should avoid Crikey. Charles Richardson has contributed to their magazine Policy, I attend their functions whenever I can, was delighted to be quoted in the introduction to the local edition of Conspicuous Compassion and am always grateful for the support, advice and encourage given by the Centre’s director, Greg Lindsay.

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Peter Fray

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