Sam Stafford writes: Sheik Taj Din al-Hilali certainly knows how to paint a word picture. While he claims to have been misinterpreted, he hasn’t resiled from the use of “meat” as a metaphor for women. He has been properly and widely condemned for his degrading metaphorical flourishes and the insidious views they seek to illustrate. Sadly, firebrand misogynists like the good Sheik are not the exclusive purveyors of this tripe. The view that “immodest” women are “asking for it” is as outrageous as it is common. It is a view still prevalent in our community and one expressed by many Australians, including those who roll up to sermons on a Sunday, not a Friday. It knows no cultural or class barriers. The Sheik’s version is an extreme example of the fiction I have heard put by men and women in pubs, trains, the MCG, restaurant kitchens and (otherwise) convivial dinner parties. Woman depicted as foul temptress and man as an automaton with an appetite. So I disagree with Pru Goward’s reported view that Australia had “moved on” from that thinking a long time ago. This is not a Muslim issue. Our own Governor-General, Dr Peter Hollingworth (a former Archbishop) opined that a girl of 14 could “lead on” a priest. It would be a tragedy if this incident became yet another flimsy excuse for a Muslim bashing instead of a chance to reflect upon the prevalence of this view, and its derivatives, across the whole community.

Greg Barns writes: I note that Prime Minister Howard has been vociferous in his condemnation of Sheikh Hilaly’s comments about women. The problem is that this is the same Prime Minister who refused to condemn Pauline Hanson in 1996 when she whipped up fear and loathing in the community about Indigenous people and Asian immigrants. And this is the same Prime Minister who demonised desperate asylum seekers and even went to the extent of accusing them of throwing their children overboard when he knew that wasn’t the case.

Kathryn Burr writes: Re: Helen Barnes’s comments yesterday that “most of us find it just plain rude” when dealing with women wearing a veil. Unless Helen can back up her statement that most of Australia has difficulty talking to women wearing veils, I’d appreciate her not lumping me as one of those confronted by something that she considers to be ridiculous. Personally I find narrowmindness and intolerance ridiculous, but I still believe that people are entitled to act they way if they want. And her assertion that we have the right to look at someone’s face when we interact with them is interesting – where exactly is that right enshrined?

Jim Spithill writes: Once upon a time society used to force people of particular religious persuasions to identify themselves by wearing particular symbols or items of clothing. This process was demonstrated in an exhibition called “Marking the Stranger” which was re-presented earlier this year in Melbourne. Curious that in these times the pressure is to stop people from identifying themselves, as seen in the debate about the wearing of head scarves. And in a time when life is all supposed to be about the individual and his/her self-expression.

Andrew Giles, CEO of the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia, writes: Re. “Philanthropy through rose-coloured glasses” (yesterday, item 20). As an organisation also representing 10% of our population, we commend efforts of the National Breast Cancer Foundation. The Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia (PCFA) is for the 10,000 men and their families affected by each year. That’s as many men diagnosed with prostate cancer as women by breast cancer – and as many male deaths as female. But that’s where the similarity ends:

  • There are more than ten organisations for breast cancer in Australia – PCFA is the only organisation to raise both funds and awareness for prostate cancer nationally
  • Jane Nethercote’s excellent article also raised funding available for other female cancer organisations. PCFA is the only organisation for male specific cancer – we also look at testicular and penile cancer
  • We receive less than 0.01% of our funding from government and rely entirely on the support of business and the community
  • With just five fundraising, marketing and admin full time staff we have raised more than $3 million in the last year and manage more than 80 support groups nationally

Hopefully some Crikey readers will grow a mo as part of our Movember campaign. And check out on other ways to help us or call us (02) 9438 7040. And for you Crikey readers – male, 40ish and over – if you haven’t spoken to your doctor about prostate cancer – it’s about time to do so.

NSW MLC Jon Jenkins writes: Your editorial yesterday was just plain stupid with the assertion: “Or will they have accepted the overwhelming consensus of most reputable scientists”. This is plain wrong and the fact that scientific debate is not over is displayed by reading the article just published in the Journal of the Royal Society below. If you want consensus, see the review about the latest meeting of worlds climatologists at the KTH Institute in Stockholm in Sweden: almost half the presentations did not support the AGW theory! But best of all the Russian Academy of Science has just issued a formal warning not about warming but about an oncoming Ice Age!! Get real, the only consensus is that there is no consensus! Further to deny the impact of the left wingers on the climate debate is scurrilous. The Canadian Environment Minister said in Parliament: “it does not matter if the science of climate change is all phoney, it is the best chance we have to achieve social justice in the world”. But Crikey’s continued refusal to publish any balancing view is most distressing of all. I expect censorship from the left wing dominated ABC and others like the “save the koala” crew at some Fairfax pubs but if Crikey has finally capitulated then perhaps we should all just give up.

Ian Ferguson writes: I have been a recipient of Crikey squatters for at least a year and have noticed your publication appears to becoming more hysterical in its campaign for action on climate change. Contrary to your assertions, there is no overwhelming consensus on the causes of global warming, yet your editorial is more frequently advocating a near universal agreement from the scientific community that not only is the planet warming, but human caused carbon dioxide emissions are to blame. My opinion of Crikey prior to the advent of this campaign was one of respect and admiration based upon your precedent of present the facts without fear or favour. This has changed significantly because there appears to be no balance to your coverage on this issue, particularly due to the fact that there are many independent studies showing that: 1) The planet has been warmer than it is today in the recent past. 2) Other factors including increased solar radiation and natural climatic oscillations may contribute to increased warming. Despite this, many publishers including yourself are pressuring government and business to implement policies at, great public cost, to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and change fuel technologies. Surely it is time to question all sides of this debate and ascertain whether we humans truly have the ability to control the climate, for good or bad. One could start by asking the Environment minister by how much will global temperatures reduce if the Kyoto Protocol is adopted in full by all signatories, the US and Australia.

John McCubbery writes: I hesitate to say this in the face of the now standard Crikey “it is obvious to us so it must be true and correct” approach, but many of us so-called sceptics of global warming have no troubles acknowledging that there is immense damage being caused by carbon emissions. This has never been the issue. Our concerns are the consequences. Since no one really knows the extent of the consequences and the timing of these consequences, I for one am uncomfortable with dire predictions being made without question and analysis. When commentators forecast we will be out of water in X years and out of food in X years, surely these claims must be scrutinised? Not accepted as fact because to question them is to deny “global warming”. As obvious as this issue has apparently become for you Crikey, your role is multi-faceted and must include analysis and scrutiny of dramatic claims especially when they border on the hysterical. And you should do so without fear or favour, and most certainly without resorting to dated “left wing/right wing” branding. And although it might be difficult for you ideologically, you should also search for possible solutions that include cuts in emissions (and economic activity) for countries like Indonesia, India and China. Yes, the evil USA and evil Howard’s Australia should be changing their ways – but they are not the only offenders in excessive carbon emissions, as critics of the Kyoto Protocol keep saying. Lastly, you should be asking why those vociferous opponents of Australia’s current energy use were so committed against nuclear power in Australia all those decades ago when countries like France invested so heavily (and conveniently for Kyoto) in nuclear power, now making up over 60% of the energy consumption in France? I remember when advocating nuclear power was seen as a right-wing conspiracy. Even when the issue is so obvious as to be tiresome, dear Crikey, try to be objective and analytical. Not everyone who disagrees with you is stupid.

Sarah Clarry writes: This week’s announcements of drought relief and an investment in a solar power plant is more evidence of the Federal Government’s current epidemic of “economic solutions”. John Howard has had access to the science on climate change for years, not weeks, despite what one might infer from the flurry of recent activity. But what we are witnessing here is an ecological problem, not an economic one. The government behaves as though this country is an ageing machine whose efficiencies are sub-optimal… and certainly nothing that a capital upgrade can’t solve. But it is not. The planet is a vast dynamic and delicate interdependent living system. Start to understand the ecological imperatives, and shape the economic solutions to fit. Any other way and the planet simply won’t cooperate. After all, you can’t pay it to rain.

Peter Scruby writes: While I enjoyed the sentiments of cyclist Daniel Kogoy (yesterday, comments) and the dilemma he has with energy, showers etc, I question either his logic or his obsessiveness. I venture to suggest that many of us have two showers per day… does Daniel have a shower BEFORE riding to work as well as when he gets to work? If so, this is obsessive behaviour, if not, his logic is flawed and he can cycle with a clear conscience and a clean body.

Mungo MacCallum writes: Re. “The Democrats are suffering an identity crisis” (yesterday, item 9). Guy Rundle’s history of the Democrats does not go back far enough. Their original begetter was the Liberal Reform Group, formed in 1968 by Gordon Barton and a few fellow Liberal dissidents to protest against Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam war. Like the DLP, Liberal reform was essentially a negative force: its aim was to siphon votes from the coalition, not to act as a genuine third party. Over the last years of the Gorton-McMahon regimes it gathered support among malcontents including the maverick senator from Tasmania Spot Turnbull; when he joined the group gained, briefly, a parliamentary presence and was reborn as the Australia party. Another maverick, former South Australian Steele Hall, added some respectability. But it was never bound together by anything more than dissent; it had no more claim to a class base, or indeed any kind of social base, than any of the short-lived independents who cropped up from time to time. Indeed, Barton admitted as much; asked by sceptics how the party could survive without a socioeconomic base, he retorted famously: “I’ll be its socioeconomic base.” The Australia Party was effectively political history by 1977, when Chipp tried to position the Democrats as a genuine third way, combining small “l” liberal social policies with large “L” Liberal economics. While the Democrats remained a centre party they had some political traction, but once they drifted to the left of the ALP they were doomed. Even if the Greens had not emerged to fill that niche, the Democrats had essentially lost their raison d’etre. Today it could be argued that the gap between the coalition and Labor is so narrow that even if the Democrats had kept the faith with their supporters they would have been squeezed out of existence anyway. With the coalition staking out the right, the Greens the left and Labor positioned somewhat uncomfortably in the middle, it is hard to see anywhere the Democrats could find a foothold. I suspect that any future new parties in Australia will be, like Family First, no more than single-issue opportunists.

Damian Skinner, proud Canberra resident who is embarrassed by the Howard government, writes: I know you’ve probably heard this plea before but could you please stop referring to the federal government as “Canberra”, as Michael Pascoe did yesterday (item 11) – “Behind smoke and mirrors, Canberra still misses carbon plot”. Canberra is a city with its own identity with people who are certainly not conservative and don’t have a lot in common with the federal Liberal party as you can see from our elected representatives. Can I assure you that I, as a resident of Canberra, have not personally missed the plot on carbon.

Chris Ridings writes: Re. Christian values. Bert Van Manen (yesterday, comments) presents me with a dilemma. Like him, I am a Christian. However, to impose values, even Christian ones, is not Christian. Centuries of the Inquisition proves that. Imposing values takes away the Christian spirit. However, being Christian does motivate me to become involved in politics, not to impose, but to take my place in the struggle for values of integrity, compassion, and tolerance alongside those from other faiths or of none. We do that whether we win or lose, and that is the risk we must take. After all, the great founder did not impose his values but was prepared to pay dearly for them. Nothing of value comes cheap.

Doug Hynd writes: “What if the Republicans don’t get whupped?” (yesterday, item 8). Christian Kerr might well be right about the question he raises about the outcome of the US election and the Republicans retaining control of both houses. A careful reading of the analysis on the websites of major media outlets in the US suggests that a wide range of outcomes is possible, but to pick up the Connecticut Senate race as an illustration of the case that Iraq doesn’t matter is entirely the wrong example to support his case. The former Democrat Liebermann running as an independent after being beaten (narrowly) in the Democrat primary by an anti-war Democrat is in a great position to win – Republicans can vote for him. Indeed he might well be picking up the votes of Republicans dissatisfied with Bush on the issue of Iraq. That way they get the benefit of kicking the administration and defeating the Democrat candidate. A real no-brainer.

Stephen Morris writes: I admire Christian Kerr’s obviously total (but not always logical) commitment to the conservative cause, particularly in his piece “What if the Republicans don’t get whupped?”. If he is truly serious in his views, he could supplement his journalist’s salary enormously by fleecing those obviously deluded online betting sites. They foolishly are offering a odds of $400 for a $100 bet if the Republicans retain control of the Congress, but only $125 for a $100 bet if the Democrats win control.

Colin Ross writes: French farmers would be delighted to read of Fraser Crosier’s plea (yesterday, comments) to pour capital into rural farming communities; and the arguments he uses are almost identical to those that extract extremely large subsidies from the EU. Unfortunately, the last time I looked, Australian farmers were vehemently opposed to the EU subsidies.

Crikey’s retail expert Rob Lake writes: Re. John Richardson’s comments (yesterday, comments). I am very familiar with remuneration strategies. As a recruiter of retail management, I am discussing and negotiating the salary packages of senior retail people on a daily basis. John has missed my point. I was talking about Coles having conflicting descriptions of their targets. We have a higher set of numbers ($1b) being described as “reasonable” by the board when telling the market how well they were going to perform; and a lower number ($893m) being described as “stretching” in the remuneration strategy. As to the description of me as “Retail Expert”; I believe it was bestowed on me by Stephen Mayne, rather than a term I chose for myself. I would prefer retail dilettante, eclectic, observer, innocent bystander or perhaps even recovering retailer.

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