Allan Hogan, Executive Producer of Insight, writes: Re. “How I was ‘cancelled’ by the SBS politbureau” (3 November, item 2). It’s flattering to know that Peter Faris actually cares he was cancelled by Insight. At least he doesn’t accuse us of being irrelevant or boring or unwatched. He’s just mad he didn’t get a gig. Our crime, it would appear, is being a bunch of communists. Apparently, in a forum of 40 guests discussing the Muslim community, the absence of Mr Faris will tilt the scales dramatically in favour of Soviet totalitarianism. And I thought I had managed to keep my change of name from Stalin to Hogan a deep secret. My years at 60 Minutes (no communists there!!) taught me that mad, inflammatory people make great television forums — perfect if you’re looking for a heated stoush. It was with that in mind that I asked Associate Producer Anne Worthington to contact Mr Faris, following the publication of his intriguing views about rape and the justice system. For a while I thought he could make a useful, or at least noisy contribution to the debate. But, as is often the case in organising a guest list of 40 people for our forums, as some guests drop out and others become available it’s a challenge to maintain a balance between opposing voices. Sometimes the only way to maintain that balance is to uninvite people who have already been invited. It’s embarrassing, and I apologise to Mr Faris, but it would be more embarrassing to make an unbalanced program. Well, that’s what the Comrades of the Central Committee reckon anyway. Our program this Tuesday (SBS TV, 7.30pm) will include a range of voices on the role of women in Islamic societies, and on the reaction to Sheikh Hilaly’s controversial sermon. The success of the program will not be diminished by the absence of Mr Faris.

James Norman writes: The vanity of Peter Faris is staggering — to think that just because he is not allowed to participate in an Insight program after being initially invited, that SBS is a somehow ideologically flawed. As though he personally, and his particular input into one program, were a barometer of the station’s worth. Faris is clearly upset at the rebuke, perhaps because it undermines his conceited notion of having a “high media profile” whose views “reflect mainstream Australia”. Get out of your hall of mirrors and talk to people outside of the confederacy of dunces you surround yourself with. Wake-up call: your views represent a tiny, narrow-minded bigoted portion of Australia that is desperate to grasp onto whatever sprigs of cultural dialogue space you are afforded. Hats off to SBS for keeping you in your corner.

Greg Clark writes: Please spare us any more contributions from Peter Faris. Like many in his profession, he appears to suffer from an overdose of self-importance. This is illustrated perfectly by his contribution “How I was ‘cancelled’ by the SBS politbureau”. Could it be, Peter, that SBS did not require your views because you had nothing interesting to contribute? You state “My views, although conservative, reflect mainstream Australia”. There are probably a couple of million mainstream Australians whose views are probably of more interest to Insight‘s viewers than those of a self-declared conservative QC. You also state “Do I care? Not at all”. Well, Peter, you must care because you wrote about it.

Martyn Smith writes: My heart bleeds for Peter Faris who, despite being a legend in his own lifetime, failed to get a gig on SBS. I hope SBS executives look on his insults as a compliment, confirming to them that they made the correct decision and are not intimidated. Just because he writes for Crikey, Peter should recognise that it doesn’t automatically entitle him to peddle his biased opinions everywhere all the time. Peter should stick to the day job and to the straight stuff, and not attempt humour or sarcasm, because he’s not good at them. SBS invites commentators with a range of views, as shown by its Insight program, which this week featured Philip Ruddock, not generally considered Left-wing. It’s clear that no one screams “bias” as shrilly as a Right-winger who isn’t given as much “oxygen” as he or she demands. For Peter’s edification, there are a lot of other Australians who pay taxes too, and also support SBS and ABC, not just him, and who believe that making the public broadcasters mouthpieces for the Right or Left, is bad for our democracy. We don’t buy the nonsense that these organisations are anti the Right either. If anything, they are extremely “conservative” in their approach. Finally, if Peter doesn’t care about not getting his gig, why is he complaining?

Matt Hardin writes: Enough already! Peter Faris has been given a platform on Crikey that he now seems to be using as a blog. He claims he does not care about the incident and yet finds time to submit an offensive diatribe to Crikey. This is the same man who told me in personal correspondence that I had publicly insulted him via Crikey and was undeserving of courtesy (this was after I had apologised to him personally via email). Whatever his opinion about me, he obviously holds himself to a different standard in showing no courtesy or respect to the staff and viewers of SBS and the ABC. Stop printing this muck or you will lose a subscriber.

Gerard Henderson writes: Mungo MacCallum belongs to that group of sceptical journalists who made a career out of criticising others but who become super-sensitive when any one dares to criticise them. Contrary to MacCallum’s conspiracy theory, which was aired in Crikey last Friday, I do not trawl through the media seeking to discredit him. In fact, I do not believe that he is so important. It was Crikey who phoned me last Wednesday to check MacCallum’s assertion – which is presented as fact in the November 2006 issue of The Monthly – that “Sir Warwick Fairfax belatedly discovered that his first wife had conducted an affair with Menzies”. Before Crikey phoned, I had not read MacCallum’s article. Contrary to MacCallum’s assertion, I am aware that he has made this claim before – including in The Age. I was not phoned by anyone at The Age at the time to check the facts. Had I been contacted, I would have provided the same information which I gave to Crikey. Namely, there is no evidence of any kind that Robert Menzies had an affair with Betty Fairfax. The late A.W. Martin told me in 1993, at the time of the publication of the first volume of his Robert Menzies: A Life, he was irritated that so many journalists and others only seemed interested in this piece of gossip. Professor Martin added that there was no evidence about the friendship beyond a benign letter dated 6 August 1938 which Mr Menzies sent to Mrs Fairfax (it is quoted in a footnote on Page 302 of the first volume of Robert Menzies: A Life). The fact is that no scholar knew the Menzies family as well as the late Alan Martin did – so his view has considerable authority.  Last Thursday Crikey reported that Gavin Souter also has said that there is no evidence of such an affair having taken place. The fact is that no scholar knows the Fairfax family as well as Gavin Souter does – so his view also has considerable authority. Mungo MacCallum comes from the well-off part of Sydney’s Eastern suburbs which is replete with gossip. The same can be said of Parliament House in Canberra – where he worked as a journalist for many years. MacCallum is so addicted to gossip that on Friday he sought to justify his Menzies/Fairfax affair allegation by quoting unnamed politicians and political staffers, deceased journalists and – wait for it – nameless past Commonwealth Car drivers. Hang on a minute. Was not this latter (anonymous) collective the very same group which Liberal Senator Bill Heffernan relied on for his contemporary false allegations against Justice Michael Kirby? Sure was.

Mike Burke writes: Re. Friday’s editorial. You wrote: “The spectre of a grandfatherly-looking 67-year-old prime minister urging Australians – 62% of whom are under 45 – to be cautious over claims about the risk of climate change is absurd.” What’s absurd is your persistent misreporting of every utterance by just about anyone to the right of Philip Adams. What’s absurd is your appeal to “ageism” in trying to justify your specious argument that there is anything absurd or particularly generational about urging caution in dealing with issues associated with climate change and its possible outcomes. Young people in general are not as wise as you imply that they are; nor are older people as stupid. What’s absurd is the thought that this 66-year old will resubscribe to Crikey if this bullsh-t, hysterical, utterly irrational editorial regime continues. I want to hear both sides of every argument. I want it without any ad hominem or half-baked quasi-religious zealotry. Grow up and get a life, the lot of you.

Mark Byrne writes: James Eggins (3 November, comments) has taken a disturbingly gleeful tone towards the dangerous issue of global warming. Eggins also grossly misrepresents the Green movement’s position on CO2 sequestration. Eggins is way off target to insinuate that the Green movement isn’t already deeply concerned about the Howard Government’s faith in this unproven technology. One of the major problems with geosequestration is in carbon accounting. It is difficult if not impossible to prove how much CO2 remains successfully imprisoned underground and how much has escaped to the atmosphere. Those who take the issue seriously (and have for decades) continue to advocate for a suite of renewable, reliable, safe clean CO2 reduction measures to address this global problem. Eggins is half correct: solar will play an important role, but the nukes are for those with other disturbing agendas.

M A Smith writes: James Eggins asks: “Will [the Greens’] monotonous ranting about “high level nuclear wastes having to stored for centuries” be replaced by invective about “millions and millions of tonnes of CO2 having to be stored for ever?” … “If carbon is the new ‘environmental plutonium’, then how do we justify eternal storage of vast amounts of it in preference to the elegant principles of nuclear decay? Please explain.” Easy. Carbon has been stored naturally in the ground, in vast amounts, for millions of years. Our recent habit of digging it up (in the form of coal, oil and gas) and burning it for energy has led to our current problems. We are burning each day/month/year the stored sunlight of aeons past – releasing all that extra CO2 into the atmosphere – and global warming is the result. CO2 sequestration may or may not work, but if it does, it will only reverse what we have been doing.

Samuel Porter writes: Tony Berry (3 November, comments) lambasts Glass House supporters for “taking undergrad pot shots”, yet proceeds (in the same sentence!) to attack Corinne and Dave for…their “nervous giggle” and “grating whine”. Even the most unfortunate undergrads realise the logical lark of argumentum ad hominem. Pot… kettle… anyone?

Rita Tunstall writes: Stop the whingeing – the Glass House stopped being funny at about the same time as Mark Latham stopped being Labor leader.

John Taylor writes: You know why The Glass House was really canned? They moved it to 9.30pm on a Wednesday, prime time, when people like Connie Hyphenated were watching, instead of leaving it where it used to be, after Lateline on a Friday night when only those of us who were looking for a bit of vulgarity were there.

Margaret Simons writes: Re. “Are Australia’s political blogs there yet?” (2 November, item 18). A couple of bloggers have contacted us after our brief last Thursday reporting Mark Bahnisch’s claim that Larvatus Prodeo was Australia’s best read political blog. Tim Blair has provided statistics for his visitors, and Bahnisch acknowledges that they show Blair convincingly in the lead with 400,000 visitors in October. One other well known political blogger has credibly claimed to have figures roughly 50% better than LP’s, but since this blogger is shy of giving the details, we can’t verify this. Perhaps the significant thing is that all three blogs are clearly and steadily increasing their visitor numbers.

Clare Thompson writes: “Was Australia’s longest serving PM a philanderer?” (2 November, item 1). I just don’t care whether Menzies, or for that matter any other politician, had an affair. I don’t need to know it, unless there is some significant national interest implication, which generally there isn’t. I don’t want to live in a country where the private, consensual s-xual habits of public figures is regarded as open slather. Its not and if it is, it shouldn’t be. If public figures have affairs, subject to the arrangements being adult and consensual, then it is a matter for them. By this I am not condoning infidelity but saying that that is not my business, it’s an issue for the people involved: the politician, their spouse, their lover and families. Not me. Fascinating and titillating as it may be.

David Green writes: Re. Tim Warner’s comment on the global temperature map (3 November, comments). Tim Warner speculates that the cooling in the USA shown in the temperature anomalies map is because they have better corrected for “heat island effects”. I would point out that the USA made all the worldwide temperature measurements using space-based sensors. Perhaps a better theory for this cooling is that they emit so much particulate rubbish into the atmosphere, that atmospheric dimming is countering any warming effect. Regardless, I believe the burden of proof regards global warming lies with the climate sceptics. If they can’t prove that CO2, methane, etc. emissions are safe then a dramatic reduction is called for. Why should we risk everything on their say-so? The current evidence highlights a risk that must be managed.

Richard Hurford writes: In Friday’s comments Max Wallace of the Australian National Secular Association misunderstands the “no religious test” clause of s.116 of the Constitution (which I had earlier argued may be contravened by Howard’s proposal to put chaplains into state schools). The “no religious test” is wider than being just about eligibility for a public office. It extends to “public trusts” as well. What the founders wanted to prevent was the enactment of anything resembling the Irish penal laws of the 1700s that not only forbade Catholics and Presbyterians from holding public office, but also extended to banning them from being lawyers or guardians of orphans or serving in the army. There were also similar laws preventing Catholics and Protestant non-Conformists attending Oxford and Cambridge or holding positions in those institutions. The mixing of church and state in educational institutions is not new. I note that Andrew Lynch of the Gilbert + Tobin Centre of Public Law at NSW University in last Tuesday’s Age also thought that “no religious test” provision might “scupper the Prime Minister’s plans for the Commonwealth to exercise a veto over who may take up a position as chaplain.” Max’s talk of Archbishop Hollingworth as GG and an Anglican archbishop in NZ as their GG (as if the “no religious test” provision only prohibited laws that prevented clerics from holding public office) seems to miss the point. But we agree that the founding fathers intended at least some separation of church and state to occur.

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