Michael Pascoe writes: OK, mea culpa, I was hopelessly wrong in my allegations about blatant insider trading in Rinker shares on Friday afternoon. As so many wise subscribers have written to tell me, yes, the lucky few were those who read the online version of the Wall Street Journal when it was posted late in our trading day. And their success will mean more traders will become WSJ subscribers just in case the Journal hacks pick up another good rumour ahead of the local market. Well done the well-read. But hang on to the spray about the insider deals that break out ahead of takeovers – it can run legitimately and correctly next time more likely than not.

Richard Hurford (a government lawyer) writes: I wonder if John Howard and his Liberal Party advisors have run his “values” idea-of-the-week of school chaplains past the constitutional lawyers. Section 116 of the Commonwealth Constitution states: “The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth.” Surely, a government funded position of “chaplain”, where the government vets the applicants (as Howard said Monday would be done to prevent “extremists” – I assume he means extremist Muslims – being appointed), surely that is a “religious test … for [an] office or public trust under the Commonwealth”? The last time this section of the Constitution was seriously litigated in the High Court (the Defenders of Government Schools or DOGS case) in 1981, the issue was whether state aid funding to religious schools contravened this prohibition. It didn’t. Partly because the same funding was available to non-religious schools as well. Another reason was that the funding was for the educational, not the religious, activities of the schools. This may cause Howard a problem. To comply with that ruling, Howard may have to let schools appoint “non-religious” chaplains (if there is there such a thing?). Even the current High Court, with its “big C” conservatives, may not be able to help Howard out and may find they have to follow precedent on this one. Why not just give schools the money to appoint counsellors (whether religious persons or otherwise)? Is it because this would be harder to sell as a Liberal gift to “extremist” Christians (unlike those atheist Laborites)? Separately, and while on this “school chaplain” issue, can someone ask Howard if Scientologists, Wiccans and Satanists can apply?

Gareth Darlow writes: As a minister within a mainline denomination, my work is shared between school chaplaincy and a local parish. Like many chaplains, I work with young people from a variety of spiritual backgrounds, Christian and otherwise (increasingly pagan), and I work hard not to force my own perspective on kids I work with. The job is not conversion but conversation. I’m not horribly concerned about the evangelical aspect of John Howard’s plan, although I think the money might be better spent. I am worried, though, that the government, which criticises my church when among many it speaks out on issues of social injustice, is now planning to define what’s acceptable for people in my field. Will I be told to stay away from mentioning what Jesus had to say about treatment of the poor, the marginalised or the stranger?

Benjamin Payne writes: Re. “Sheiks in schools?” (yesterday, item 3). As a student attending an Anglican school where we are (apparently) all following the same religion, choosing a chaplain who represents the beliefs of both the school and the students hasn’t been easy. From the fire and brimstone preachers to the old and crusty, we’ve had them all. If a moderate grammar school without ethnic diversity is having problems keeping a chaplain that pleases everyone, I can’t begin to comprehend the difficulties that will face secular government schools in capital cities. Well done Mr Howard, why don’t we provide government funded phones to call Mr Abbott’s pro-life hotline while we’re thinking about it?

Michael Jones writes: Re. “Peter Faris QC: Why I no longer defend rape cases” (yesterday, item 1). As a lawyer I am profoundly dismayed at Peter Faris’s self-indulgent refusal to defend anyone accused of a “s-x crime”. I don’t practise in the criminal law, but I know that drawing the line between professional ethics and the interests of a paying client is what all lawyers have to know how to do every day. For a lawyer to deny the benefit of his or her skills to any person in need, within well-established rules of ethical conduct, is a betrayal of the profession. The fact that Faris is a QC is even more disappointing. Who does he think ought to defend these cases, first-year-out duty solicitors? If he is as good as he says he is, he should be in there showing us lesser drudges how to do it properly.

Leila Ismail writes: Peter Faris’s appraisal of the tactics used to “destroy” the character of an alleged rape victim was frightening, but his honesty was admirable. It is encouraging that prominent lawyers such as himself are willing to speak out against the methods he described, but one wonders how many lawyers out there have far fewer scruples – a lot, I’d imagine. It also emphasises the obvious fact that the retrograde attitude towards rape as expounded by Sheik Hilali’s reprehensible comments isn’t just confined to some Muslim clerics. Go to any place of worship in Australia (and quite a few pubs) and you are likely to hear s-xist, homophobic dogma. Of course though, inciting anti-Muslim sentiment is the Australian’s stock-in-trade these days, so what else can we expect?

Adam Schwab writes: Nick Shimmon (yesterday, comments) wrote that “everyone in Crikey and elsewhere is instantly willing, in the face of Hilaly’s comments, to start generalising about Islam and ‘the Muslim community’ and its attitudes to women, just as everyone was desperate to do in the dreadful pack rape case in Sydney. So why don’t all the same people argue that the DVD saga was evidence of general Western Christian attitudes to women?” Perhaps Nick, the reason for the difference in reporting was because Hilaly’s comments were made in his role as the “spiritual leader” of Australia’s 300,000 Muslims (he is the grand mufti of Australia) and leader of the largest mosque in the country. By contrast, the disgusting Werribee DVD was made by a group of irrelevant, deadbeat 17-year olds who aren’t even old enough to drive.

Jesse Richardson writes: Re: Christian Kerr’s “Who turns a buck from climate change?” (yesterday, item 7). It’s good to be sceptical, but scepticism should be tempered with rationality. Many of the same opportunists who will turn a buck from climate change would be turning a buck from climate abuse were the socio-political and environmental situation conducive to it, but this doesn’t change empirical evidence of which there is no shortage. Nothing in science should be entirely beyond doubt; but when your house is burning down it’s a good idea to get out before questioning the motives of the fire alarm manufacturer.

Tim Hollo writes: Re. “What matters: climate change v the politics of climate change” (yesterday, item 8). Christian Kerr has now taken the self-referentially absurd to new heights. It is painfully obvious that, despite his protestations, Christian himself clearly cares not a jot about climate change per se, only about the potential to score cheap political points through writing about it. I urge you, Christian, to take a good hard look at the evidence and tell your loyal readers if you have found any to contradict the need for cuts in global greenhouse emissions in the order of 60% by 2030. If we want to be fair to China and India, that means cuts of over 90% in Australia’s emissions over that period. Pray tell, how are we going to do that without changing almost everything that we do?

Graeme Major writes: Christian Kerr asks who turns a buck from climate change? Well, for starters you do, Christian. You earn a crust slamming the science of global warming, including the models of its increasing severity, and the sincere efforts of people doing something positive about it. No-one of your intelligence sincerely believes otherwise. You only take the denialist stance to be controversial.

Paul Harders writes: Christian Kerr has shown Steven Fielding’s seemingly foolish words to be quite true – the views of media owners do not influence those of its journalists. In the face of a growing campaign on the part of Crikey against those who doubt the seriousness of climate change, Christian Kerr has vomited some more of his now famous “climate change is a myth” rhetoric into the inboxes of your subscribers and squatters. Christian’s is one case where a bit of owner control would be useful. Please, keep him on a leash.

Keith Hammond (animal scientist recently retired from UN Food and Agriculture Organization) writes: The request to Crikey by Sharon Hutchings (yesterday, comments) for “some objective discussion and expert opinion… on the broader environmental impact of our dietary choices” is supported. However, please aim for more balance than shown by Sharon in her comments re. methane and animal agriculture. While methane is one of a good number of chemical contributors to global warming, CO2 has by far the major impact; and the main contributor to global methane is increasingly permafrost thawing. By far the majority of farm animals contributing globally to the production of a broad range of food and other goods for human usage support developing country communities. Poverty, food shortages and disasters in most if not all of these 140-plus countries would be much more serious if the farm animal sector was eliminated, with the sustainability of the agricultural systems involved becoming even more fragile. We should recall also that our species has evolved over several million years to be omnivorous, our bodies work best over a lifetime given a balanced intake of a range of plant and animal products. Of course, this does not mean it is not possible to live without animal-produced food but it may be somewhat more difficult initially, more costly, and, because of our very genetic makeup, is likely to impact quite differently the range of “lifestyle” diseases which impact us. Some of these impacts may well be positive over our lifetime, but the majority could well be negative. Here there is considerable uncertainty, for in this area we have very limited well-designed and documented research and understanding. Yes, in this comment my bias is also showing, but hopefully this helps to reintroduce some balance.

Andrew Lewis writes: I’m pleased to see Margaret Simons retract some of the foolish Crikey editorial regarding Chris Masters’s book (yesterday, item 4). I read the SMH articles, and then I read the book up to the point where he refers to Jones s-xual orientation, just to see if your argument held any weight. It doesn’t. But you and every other critic miss the most important point. If you weren’t aware that Jones “bats for the other team” the question has to be asked, “Why are you coming out from under your rock now?” Only the most obtuse would have been remotely surprised by the revelation. No doubt I’ll soon be hearing the cries of anguish as someone points out that David Flint may be a little “left of centre”, or that Carlotta was actually a man. And besides, it’s not as though there is anything wrong with being gay, is there?

Cameron Peake writes: Michael Roberts is reading far too much into Sepp Blatter’s comments (yesterday, item 22). He is a politician first and foremost and says what his audience wants him to say. Importantly, he knows his apology is inconsequential; that is precisely why he offered it. He is placating our grievances while he continues his tour of smooth talking until after next year’s FIFA election in May. After the election, which he will presumably win, his words, particularly around South Africa’s hosting of the 2010 World Cup, may actually carry meaning rather than for the purpose of political maneuvering.

Peter Scruby writes: Re. “Do we rule the sporting world or not?” (yesterday, item 24). A golfing Singh is not always a Vijay. Jeev Milkha Singh won the Volvo Masters… not Vijay Singh as your correspondent reported.

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