Dr Peter Phelps, Chief of Staff to the Special Minister of State, writes: It’s good to see that the loony Left have refilled their tanks of froth and bile (14 September, comments). But let’s look at some, for want of a better phrase, “inconvenient truth”. Most of the moppets who wrote in have no understanding of what MPs do in the course of their work or what MPs actually receive by way of practical remuneration. It’s just a sick recitation of incorrect facts – myths and prejudices clothed in (self-)righteous indignation. My basic point, which remains unchallenged, is this: MPs’ personal remuneration is barely adequate (and inadequate for Ministers) for the job that they do, the hours they put in, the disruption which occurs in their families and for the cr-p they have to put up with from those pig-ignorant whingers who write absolute blather in the letters section of Crikey. If it is such a good life, if the incumbents are so feckless, if it’s all so damn easy, then why don’t they run for office themselves? I’ll answer my own rhetorical question: because those who would wish the hair shirt on others seldom seek to wear it themselves.

Richard McGuire writes: Well done Sophie Black, with your list of prominent climate change sceptics (15 September, item 17). But where, pray tell, was the name of Christian Kerr, Crikey’s very own in-house climate change sceptic? As Crikey’s national affairs editor, surely Kerr’s influence is not insignificant. It will be Kerr’s responsibility to see that Crikey readers are accurately informed as matters relating climate change are debated nationally. A sobering thought, almost enough to cause one to consider cancelling their subscription, which I very nearly did, in response to one of Kerr’s pieces, that appeared on 4 September (item 1). Here are some gems from that article. “Global warming exists. But what causes it ? Is it man made or natural?” … ” Forecasting the apocalypse is normally a nice little earner. It’s doing wonders for Tim Flannery’s career. The Earth’s future may be grim, but saying so has done wonders for Al Gore’s.” And this: “We don’t hear as much, though about the Bob Carters and Ian Plimers – the local scientists who argue that we need to examine the long term geological record to learn about climate.” To learn more about Bob Carter and Ian Plimer check out the Crikey sceptics list. Hang in there Sophie, Crikey readers are going to need you.

Carl Brauhart, geologist, writes: I am nobody in particular but add me to the list of skeptics on global warming. Here is a challenge for you. Compile a list of eminent geologists who are convinced that global warming is caused by mankind. I don’t think that you will get very far. I am a geologist and all I can tell you is that our perspective is sadly neglected in this debate. For once, I am afraid, you are off course with your attacks on the Oz. They’ve got the balance about right on this one.

Cameron Crouch writes: Pray tell what is the point of your “global warming sceptics list”? Is it an attempt to shame global warming sceptics? To bully them into accepting the “official” party line? I can only imagine that Crikey will soon run a campaign against those scientists who believe in global warming, but do not portray it in an alarming enough fashion. One result from your witch-hunt, however – you have finally given me enough motivation to unsubscribe from what has steadily become a worthless and pointless exercise in journalism.

Alan Kennedy writes: Re. “Should the judge in the Jihad Jack appeal be disqualified?” (15 September, item 1). Is Peter Faris a lawyer? If so he shouldn’t misrepresent the case on which Maxwell sat. As I saw it he and two other judges, who all agreed, were deciding on the admissibility of an interview at the trial of Jack Thomas. The court didn’t use the new anti-terror laws to decide the interview was inadmissible; rather they used the existing laws about the inadmissibility of interviews done under duress. So it is unfair but not unexpected of Faris to misrepresent the matter in such a way. He should know this. People also forget that this dodgy interview actually was part of the evidence in the case against Thomas and, flawed though it was, the jury didn’t buy it and only convicted Thomas of lesser offences. What is it about Faris and his ilk who claim our way of life is so much under threat that they want to destroy it by doing away with our freedoms? I know they think they are being hair-chested but in effect they are only doing the terrorists’ work by ensuring we create a society in which it is almost unbearable to live. They remind me of the General in Vietnam who said in order to save the village we had to destroy it. I look forward to Faris investigating all judges in the way he seems to have trawled over Maxwell’s life. Of course he will only look at judges with whom he disagrees. Those with whom he agrees will not warrant investigation because they will be pillars of the law without a blemish on their characters.

Chris Davis writes: Surely the commentary being driven about the judges is purely political, with the instigators of these stories and arguments doing so because politically and ideologically they disagree with the verdicts or the participants? I am no legal expert, but if just one side of the spectrum wants something changed or overturned this is by definition a political or ideological position, and therefore a very bad way to discuss matters judicial? With an obvious bias, or at least a perception of bias, driving the attacks we must surely ignore them and try and hold our institutions, that we cherish for our civility as a nation, above tawdry party politics?

Katherine Wilson writes: Peter Faris is suggesting the judgment made by the Court of Appeal in the Jack Thomas case may have been “wrongly upheld” because Maxwell P could be “disqualified for bias”. Why? Because the judge is a member of Amnesty International and campaigned against the Howard government’s participation in the Iraq War. Again, I find myself, a layperson, advising this QC on a pedestrian point. Three Appeals Court judges threw out Thomas’s conviction. Not one. Were the other judges “biased” also? Granted, Faris’s tactic has a precedent: it was the one Pinochet used.

John Walters writes: Peter Faris is levying a heavy charge here. He is saying in effect that because Justice Maxwell is known to oppose certain laws he is deemed incapable of of carrying out his duties as a lawyer and a judge. A grievous attack on his professionalism. Would, for example, a member of the criminal bar known for his opposition to say, drug dealing, be incapable of defending a client charged with just that offence? Perhaps if Mr Faris could define “an appearance of bias” it would be helpful. And if it appears that it would not apply in the case of Justice Maxwell then Mr Faris is perhaps showing some bias?

John Smith writes: Re. Peter Faris QC and Jack Thomas. Judges who have sworn to uphold laws are not prevented from doing so by having political views. Surely this piece is simply based on Faris’s bias the other way and his continual push to discredit judges and lawyers who are clearly intent on letting go as many Muslim terrorists as possible. Surely Faris is not arguing that Maxwell is biased against admitting evidence obtained by beating. And if he is arguing that Maxwell made the decision simply to subvert the law, he is just kidding himself. If they ever made Faris a judge, would he excuse himself from terrorism cases on the basis that one would apprehend a wild bias on his part? Or does it not matter as long as we get them all behind bars where they belong? The decision was based on admission of evidence, not whether the law under which Thomas was charged was nasty. If Maxwell was a High Court judge deciding on constitutional validity, people may apprehend bias. However, how can he be seen to be biased where he was deciding on admissibility? A narrow decision to exclude evidence is all this case was about, and if every judge who actively disagreed with bad laws before they were appointed to the bench was biased when deciding a case not on the law itself, but a completely different point of law, we would never get a case heard in Victorian courts. Get over it Faris.

Trevor Kruger writes: Let’s take Peter Faris and his argument about Justice Maxwell to its logical conclusion and focus on members of the High Court and the pattern of its judgements – especially with the recent farcical judgement on Freedom of Information. Is he willing to shine a little light on that corner – or is he just indulging in more cherry-picking in keeping with his own conservative bias ? What we both might agree on is that it is time to remove the taint of political patronage in the appointment of the judiciary.

Lindy Golding writes: Peter Faris QC yesterday mounted an argument about bias in part centring on a judge’s declared membership of Amnesty International. Faris fails to mention that the leading lawman in the nation, Attorney-General Philip Ruddock, is also a member of Amnesty and has steadfastly rebutted suggestions that he should resign. Comment please, Mr Faris?

Troy Rollo writes: Christian Kerr seems to be using a definition of the word “war” that is different to that which is being used by the rest of us. He even alludes to this “That is what makes this war different… But it is still war… but not as we know it.” But calling it a war, however many times you repeat the word, does not make it one, nor does it change what “war” is. Moreover saying we are at war serves to elevate the status of the “enemy” to something much more glamorous than the truth. It treats them as valiant soldiers rather than as common criminals. It is true that their crime is shocking, but they are not military commanders leading an army. They are criminals – mass murderers.

Scott Wiltshire writes: Re: The weekly rental price of Kirribilli house (15 September, item 8). I think its time to stop pretending that Kirribilli House could be rented for $2000 per week. This article, dated 1997, argues the weekly rent for Kirribilli House should be around $21,000 per week; that’s more than ten times Stephen Bartos’s conservative estimate almost ten years ago!

Greg Dickson writes: Re. Teaching Aboriginal languages in schools. I would like to make the point although it would be great for everyone in Australia to be learning Indigenous languages, I believe it is a bigger priority to ensure that Aboriginal people are given opportunities to learn their own languages in their own schools. Generally it is a huge battle for schools with predominantly Aboriginal students to be able to incorporate their own traditional languages in their own school curriculum. (I won’t go into the many reasons for this). Surely we need to make sure that owners/custodians of Aboriginal languages are learning their languages in their schools before we think about the huge task of implementing school-based Aboriginal language programs for outsiders.

Felix Ratcliff writes: Re. The death of Socialism (15 September, item 15). I believe you fail to make the necessary distinction between the idea of “socialism” with a small ”s” – in its many guises and varieties – and the very different agendas of totalitarian dictators such as Stalin and Hitler who justified their mass killings and militaristic states on the basis of perverted and politically opportunistic notions of “class” or “race” purity. There is a world of difference between these definitions and the generalising and associational broad brushstrokes you choose to employ do you no credit. It is interesting to note that a glance at the historical records of Russia and Germany will show that these late-industrialising “nations” with little or no history or experience of democratic politics, institutions or culture both followed similar extremist socio-political paths, as also did Japan and Italy. Does this backward glance at history not put current Western efforts to introduce such systems of governance (and economics) into states predicated upon largely tribal and sectarian cultures into a wholly different light?

Ross Copeland writes: If Christian Kerr thinks Hitler was a socialist his credibility is even lower than I thought. Hitler’s Nazi Party might have been called the National Socialist Party but it had nothing to do with socialism as generally understood. Hitler was a fascist. A core element of fascism is integration of government with big business. Hitler wanted to destroy unions and communism. Bush, Blair and Howard are closer to fascism in their policies than Hitler was to socialism.

Joseph Palmer writes: Re. “Wal-Mart’s interest in Coles: what does it mean for workers?” (15 September, item 21). I have to agree with Thomas Hunter on Wal-Mart. In 2004 poorly paid Wal-Mart workers claimed over $US800 million from charities and welfare to survive while it reaped billions in profit.

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 (we reserve the right to edit comments for length). Please include your full name – we won’t publish comments anonymously unless there is a very good reason.

Peter Fray

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