“John” writes: I don’t think you should just publish the Adult Business Association’s statement (yesterday Item 4) that “the massage businesses listed in the health section of the Daily Telegraph are illegal brothels” without first checking it. I have rung them all and visited many. Probably 5% are true brothels mislabelling themselves. 20% would be pure massage with no extras. 75% are genuine massage places that perform a “hand relief” otherwise known as “happy ending” at the conclusion of what otherwise would be considered a therapeutic massage. Of the 75% where happy ending is offered, I would say in only 15% of these would you find “some” of the girls regularly will have s-x as well as massage – you have to ask it is not offered. In any case I don’t think you can equate this type of place with a brothel where s-x is the main business. They are definitely massage places. The operators of the massage places which offer a happy ending do not get any money if the girl offers s-x; in fact the tip for the happy ending goes straight to the girl, not the business owner.

Nicholas Gruen, CEO Lateral Economics, writes: Peter Saunders insists (again) on his point (yesterday in comments, corrections) that it’s better not to tax money from people than to tax it and give it back as family benefits. Couldn’t agree more. But if churning is really the problem, “churn” can be cut back with means tested tax credits. But that’s where we really differ. Peter could also be filling Crikey readers in on his own more concrete suggestions. They involve removing means testing (doing so would benefit the wealthy). To fund this, the after tax and benefits incomes of those on welfare, and for those with one part-time minimum wage earner would be reduced. (Welfare claimants with no other source of income are the biggest losers – a single parent with 2 children who has no other income is 13% worse off.) This is where the difference lies between us, not in the relatively uncontentious proposition that, other things being equal, reduced “churn” is a good thing.

Nick Green writes: Yesterday reader James Norman (comments, corrections) claimed the Brethren “demand their followers break the law (by not voting)”. This is incorrect. Under subsection 245(14) of the Electoral Act “the fact that an elector believes it to be a part of his or her religious duty to abstain from voting constitutes a valid and sufficient reason for not voting”. And in the Tasmanian election, the leaflets distributed by the Brethren all carried the legally required “Authorised By” information at the bottom. The Brethren haven’t broken any laws and are perfectly entitled to campaign against the Greens like any other group in a democracy should be, and likewise the Greens campaign against them. However, the Greens stepped over the line when they attempted to launch a parliamentary inquiry into the Brethren. This is clearly an abuse of their parliamentary position to suppress and attack a political opponent.

Gemma Tognini writes: As a former TV hack with more than a decade’s experience in a metro newsroom, I was a bit nonplussed by Glenn Dyer’s article (yesterday Item 19) on Terri Irwin choosing to talk to Ray Martin, especially his comment on her being “poorly lit”. That poor, shattered woman has had a large chunk of the viewing world grieving with her, feeling as if they know her personally. Though I never interviewed anyone of Terri’s celebrity who had lost a love one, I’ve done my fair share of death knocks…including many following the first Bali Bombing. One thing I know first hand is that irrespective of the wealth, status (or lack thereof) of the bereaved person, those who agreed to an interview, generally did it so they could tell the world how wonderful the person they lost really was. And I never got any complaints down the track about poor lighting or camera work…

Ross Copeland writes: I am glad to see Christian Kerr is only going to be away temporarily (yesterday Item 10). I rather enjoy seeing him make a complete goose of himself every day, showing his ignorance of politics and history. I hope Crikey is not sending him away to be educated!

Felix Ratcliff writes: CK — Enjoy your break, read a book or two and speak to a few people, preferably strangers, I am sure you’ll will gain some interesting insights. And one more thing, you’ve never been “in the ring”, like the majority of us you too are in the gallery. I leave it up to Crikey readers to decide whether you throw peanuts or other less useful items toward the combatants.

Daniel Kogoy writes: I have been subscribed to Crikey for two days and during these two days your contribution to Crikey has been some cutting and pasting from blogs and attacks on the Greens. Not a bad job you have there, Christian. However I am sure it doesn’t pay as much as the major parties do? It’s either that or you are Crikey’s version of Miranda Devine and Piers Akerman. The reason I subscribed to Crikey was to avoid such sensationalist, simplistic and poorly referenced journalism. Another thing. Religious cults such as The Brethren, Scientology etc recruit fragile, confused people who are easy prey. The Greens are not attacking religion. They are attacking this religious organisations underhanded involvement in Australian politics and terribly damaging treatment of its members. 

Andrew Owens writes: Regarding , “The Greens vs The Brethren: The Battle Of The Cults” (27 September, Item 5), I’m well aware of Christian’s frequently expressed anti-Green sentiments. But my objection is to the use of the word “cult”. Having been in one, and knowing others who have got out of them successfully and still others less so, I feel that to throw around these labels so loosely is to impugn the work of those who have dedicated their lives to fighting these organisations and helping those having left attempting to leave them and start a new life. I also appreciate the efforts of the Greens and the ABC to expose this mob and give them the attention and scrutiny they deserve but do not desire. 

Tom McLoughlin writes: Poor Christian, is he himself spinning an obligatory one week break, frazzled by the devastating 4 Corners expose of disgusting abuse of happy families by the Exclusive Weirdoes? (27 September, Item 5) Is he actually running and hiding from the gravity of the evidence quite distinct from brazen right wing flummery and red herrings like Janet’s hand-holding distractions? You know existential angst and all that. Or is he just keen to play golf? He has not mentioned one word of acknowledgment of the merits of the case against the EB, which gives him away. The Greens never claimed the right to split children from parents and spouses from each other but this business cult do. That’s extreme abuse more akin to slavery, but like PM Howard, he just can’t say it. Which is really sad, especially for Australia in Howard’s case. 

Brent Stowers writes: I am terribly saddened by the tragedy on Palm Island for the families of both men. As a former Queensland copper I can empathise to a certain degree with Chris Hurley’s situation. As a family man I can only try to understand the loss suffered by Mulrunji’s family in such terrible circumstances. However your erroneous editorial comment that ‘a kicking assault … split the man’s liver in two’ does nothing to enhance the situation or enlighten readers. I read the entire coroners report yesterday and feel that the injury was either caused by heavy contact during the fall or by subsequent punches to the body (which seems unlikely due to the extent of the injury). There was one mention by a witness of a kick which was not referred to by the coroner in the final analysis.

Sue Hardy writes: Death in custody on Palm Island; and your comment that most are on the side of the aggressor (yesterday, Item 3). Well not this little black duck, and regardless of legal niceties about evidence, I fully expected to see the offending officer stood down, until further criminal investigation. It seems truth is the casualty in both armed and police forces and until we get personally burnt… I’m with Steve Irwin, with regard to his favourite quote, something along the lines that evil develops and grows when good men see but do nothing.

Ian Smith writes: Who has egg on their face James Harper (yesterday, comments)? James takes Terry Maher to task for querying the use of “enquiry” in relation to the investigations undertaken by Barry Beach, QC. However, some quick Googling would have told James that the formal nomenclature was the “Board of Inquiry into Allegations against Members of the Victorian Police Force”. Score: Terry 2, James 0.

Terry Maher writes: James Harper (yesterday’s comments) chides me for my language-skills poverty. Where I went to school an “enquiry” was always a request for information and assistance. “Inquiries” were strong-armed probes carried out by burly policemen and Royal Commissions with compelling powers. The Beach Inquiry into the Victoria Police was never the former and always the later. 

Tamas Calderwood writes: Let’s stick to the facts, Harold Thornton (27 September, comments). I didn’t say the US equipped 2,000 divisions during WWII, merely that it produced enough armaments to do so. This figure comes from Sir John Keegan’s excellent book The Second Wold War (Viking Press, 1990). It is an established fact that the Soviets played the decisive part in defeating Hitler and that they built more and better tanks than any other nation. I never said otherwise. However, Harold’s contention that little allied aid was sent to the Soviets is factually incorrect. The Soviet army’s logistics depended on US aid in trucks, rails stock and other material. Stalin was always loath to admit the role the allies played in keeping the Soviets afloat – something Harold seems to have in common with him.

Jesse Richardson writes: Re: Andrew Smith in yesterday’s comments: “Alternatively it follows that if today’s childless need not subsidise today’s children, those same children ought not be made to subsidise any retirees other than their own parents.” Much as I’m on his side in terms of sentiment, this is a weak argument – childless couples are the ones with the money anyway… although, it does make long-term ‘rational’ economic sense for society’s children to be brought up as best as possible. The larger issue here, though, is why are we all so morbidly selfish? Shouldn’t we want to help those who need help, to help those burdened with bringing up the next generation or caring for someone? Capitalism, liberty and a free market are all fine; but rampant greed, individualism and a knee-jerk, adolescent ‘what’s in it for me’ predisposition are quite a different story. Grown-ups give a toss. 

John Williams writes: The “junk mail” that is referred to, which Australia Post (27 September, Item 13) delivers – is not regarded as junk mail, but is called “unaddressed delivery service”. Therefore if any item is delivered by AP, then it is not by definition junk mail. But if you elect to have one of the non-government commercial letterbox stuffers (e.g. Selmat) then the same product is junk mail. Yes, AP is exploiting a loophole in the law for them to ignore the NO JUNK MAIL stickers on letterboxes and deliver to PO boxes – but hey, what can you do about it? What annoys me is their insidious on-selling your details for a profit. Move house, get your mail re-directed and stand back watching addressed mail from removalists (a bit late?), pest control, carpet cleaners etc arrive quicker than the furniture! It is a bit of a worry to think who gets the details of those surveys (win a car!) where you fill in your name, address, income, spending habits, etc. When will Centrelink do the same and sell Baby Bonus recipient’s details to childcare centers, etc? Maybe they could sub-let unused floor space to bottleshops or have a few poker machines to save the punters the trip to the pub?

Victoria Collins writes: Is it just me or do I detect a whiff of hypocrisy in the Howard Government’s attitude to maintaining a proprietorial interest in Australia Post as opposed to its attitude to maintaining an interest in Telstra or Medibank Private? If you follow their ideologocical logic then it is just as wrong to regulate Australia Post and its prices for the various commodities it offers for sale, such as stamps and postage, as it is to seek to regulate the prices Telstra charges for their services, or that Medibank Private charges for their insurance, especially as the owner and regulator. That they do just that exemplifies what Sol Trujillo labels as a “unique” situation here in Australia, especially for a government that seeks to wear its free market credentials so prominently on its sleeve. However, considering the schizophrenic pronouncements over the past couple of days from the Prime Minister, the Treasurer and Finance Minister Minchin about whether the same Mr Trujillo’s “generous” salary is justified or not, then I guess it’s not surprising that they have such wildly divergent approaches to selling off those assets that remain in public ownership, or condoning the crass commercialisation of Australia Post at the expense of their small business, in this case newsagency owner, constituency. 

Roger Cooper writes: Perhaps Steven McKiernan’s postie heard about his British comrade’s troubles for an anti junk mail crusade but didn’t have the same level of courage. He could even see if he can opt out of Australia Post’s efforts to fill his mail box with garbage.

John Weir writes: Steven McKiernan should take his junk mail back to the post office and stuff it all back into the mail box. Anything that comes into my mail box with a reply paid envelope gets posted back.

Vivien Kluger writes: Yesterday’s comments by Anthea Parry and particularly Andrew Smith were fantastic justification for subsidising families. NOT! I like the way Andrew thinks! That old chestnut of “they’ll look after you when you’re old”. Yep, I understand the economics but it doesn’t make me feel better about supporting families that can’t afford kids but strangely insist on having them. Anthea and Andrew will also benefit from someone’s kids being their doctors, nurses, growing their food, paying for their dentures when they can’t eat anymore. If you can’t afford kids without handouts, chances are, you certainly won’t have money for your own retirement. Sounds like double dipping to me.

R Murphy writes: I am in my sixties and still hold hands with my husband when we go out (yesterday Item 8). I just hope Margaret Whitlam doesn’t see us as I don’t want her vitriolic barbs aimed at me. I think she should team up with Mark Latham – imagine the nasty vile they could emit. 

Rita Tunstall writes: What a sad old tart Mrs Whitlam is – she can certainly say what she thinks but whether anyone listens or cares is another. Just because Johnny is PM that doesn’t mean his wife is assistant PM. Shove off back to the nursing home Mr and Mrs Whitlam, you’ve had your day.

Chris Phillips writes: Richard Farmer suggests that the popularity of GWB and JWH (yesterday, Item 15) are controlled by the price of fuel. It seems obvious to me that political support tracks petrol prices not because the leader of Australia or the United states is blamed directly at the petrol pump, but because the fuel prices reflect what is happening in the world from a geopolitical sense. The population generally blames the government for decisions taken in the international arena and if they prove to be disastrous in some way, there is a correlation in oil prices. It is this that indirectly appears to provide the similarity. 

Jim Hart writes: Note to Senator Milne (yesterday, comments): Christian Kerr and John Howard are not the only remaining climate sceptics. Have you forgotten Andrew Bolt already? 

Jonathon Deans writes: Senator Milne wrote in the comments yesterday that Mr Kerr is “not prepared to take the advice of a consensus of scientists who all agree that climate change is real”. If climate change is only accepted by a consensus of scientists, what do the others think? If there are professionals who look at the same evidence and reach different conclusions, then we ought to take notice. When Senator Milne writes that “it seems that only Christian Kerr and Prime Minster John Howard remain climate skeptics”, it might be because she is not seeking out those with dissenting opinions to find out exactly why they disagree. Or not listening. 

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Peter Fray

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