Peter Dowding writes: Re. “David Hicks – just a (relatively trivial) piece of collateral damage” (yesterday, item 9). What planet has Mirko Bagaric been living on in his exculpatory piece on David Hicks’s imprisonment and the failure of the Australian Government to object to his treatment? One would expect that a professor of law would be able to recognise that Hicks’s treatment violates international law and by any standard has been barbarous and unnecessary. Furthermore, neither the US nor the Australian Government can think of any offence that Hicks might have committed which would stand up in court, which in part makes his incarceration even more untenable. And the US is determined to avoid a real court and so pass the Military Tribunal Law that will not apply to US citizens because it breaches their constitution, but Ruddock et al don’t seem to be bothered that it might also breach ours. Mr Bagaric might be the ultimate pragmatist and justify the appalling attitude of Howard and Ruddock on a sort of ho hum who cares basis but there are many lawyers and others who believe that the rule of law is what separates our country’s behaviour and values from that offered by some terrorists. Adherence to the rule of law requires commitment and sacrifice, from law professors and by democratic countries.

Peter Mansour writes: I was mildly stunned by Mirko Bagaric, who presents as professor of law and head of the Deakin Law School, and wrote of Hicks: “in the big scheme of things, the harm sustained by Hicks is piffle compared to the tens of thousands who have lost their lives.” and “The Howard government was right not to risk souring our relationship with the US by throwing a hissy fit at the treatment of a citizen who preferred to spend his spare time training with terrorists rather than watching the footy.” He lightly dismisses issues of law and human rights as “pragmatism wins the day”. If I need a lawyer to fight for my rights and freedom, I hope not to have one of Bagaric’s graduates; or if I do, to get one who repudiated Bagaric’s pragmatism, and consequently sharpened his knowledge on law and human rights.

Stephen Lambert writes: I am shocked by the lack of logic or compassion in Mirko Bagaric’s piece on David Hicks. How can it be that the Howard government was “right not to risk souring our relationship with the US by throwing a hissy fit” at the treatment of David Hicks, when appropriate political and diplomatic discussions meant the UK were able to have released their nationals who were not to be charged in a reasonable time frame? How can a professor of law make the statement “When the global stakes are high, international law goes out the door”? If he isn’t going to defend the system and rule of law, why should anyone else? The conclusion that the detention of David Hicks deserves negligible sympathy because people are dying in Iraq is laughable. As an Australian citizen David Hicks is our government’s responsibility, and similar to our role in the coalition of the willing, it is a responsibility they have managed poorly.

John Richardson writes: Mirko Bagaric, would have us wrong-headedly accept the notion that political pragmatism should be allowed to trump “the rule of law”. But the idea that hypocritical, self-serving politicians, such as Howard, Iemma, Rumsfeld, Blair & Bush, along with their philosophical out-riders, should be above the law, is to vest in them the power of kings & is surely a greater threat to our democratic traditions than any perceived criminal threat. Perhaps the media focus on the treatment of David Hicks affords us a symbol of our discomfort with that trend, whilst, at the same time, its relative silence on the deaths of tens of thousands of innocents conveniently helps us ignore our culpability in such crimes?

Harold Thornton writes: So, law professor Mirko Bagaric could not care less about the rule of law in regard to David Hicks. Given his moving words about the use of whips in horse races, perhaps Bagaric would be more concerned if the US had incarcerated a horse in Guantanamo instead of an Australian citizen. And in another uncanny equine parallel, Bagaric’s legal opinions on this subject seem almost exactly equal the worth of a steaming pile of what horses leave in their stables.

Liz Johnston writes: The campaign to free David Hicks is not about sympathy, it’s about self-interest. It’s about abuse of human rights and denial of a fair trial. If it can happen to Hicks without any objections from the Australian government it can happen to any Australian.

Michael Pelly, Media Adviser to the Office of the Attorney-General, writes: Mirko Bagaric wrote that Mr Ruddock was paying David Hicks a visit. Perhaps he meant to refer to the Attorney-General’s meeting with Terry Hicks in Adelaide later this week. Mr Ruddock did press the issue of David Hicks during his recent visit to the United States and Professor Bagaric is right to point out that the Australian Government continues to ask the US government to deal with his case expeditiously.

CRIKEY: Mirko Bagaric is no longer head of the Deakin Law School, he’s now just a professor at the law school.

Peter Faris QC writes: Orkopoulos’ suicide attempt is a terrible personal and political tragedy. We will probably never know what drove him to it. Plainly being publicly charged with homosexual sex offences was part of it – but of course these matters can be fought in court. An equally probable cause is the treatment handed out to him by his party, the NSW Labor Party, which he has served for most of his life. With an election approaching, the Comrades are less than loyal. As I wrote for Crikey on 9 November 2006, Premier Iemma behaved disgracefully in this matter by absolutely denying this man any vestiges of a presumption of innocence. He was convicted in public by the premier. Undeterred, Iemma went further. The Australian reports that, in Parliament yesterday, Iemma said that the allegations “make us sick … If you are a pedophile, I am your enemy”. If Iemma has a conscience, I hope that he is examining it.

Dave Dawson writes: Your global warming pieces and Thomas Hunter’s “coca colanisation” offering (yesterday, item 12) both point to the Federal Government U-turn on policy, but I can’t help but feel you’re missing where they’ve been taking their cues. Howard’s a shrewd politician, and has it occurred to anyone else that he’s been taking notes on the election experiences of his close Texan friend? Everywhere I look regarding US rhetoric is heralding a return to “centre” politics, as embodied by the Schwarzenegger effect. A conservative run, no matter how successful, can only last so long. Perhaps we’re not seeing Howard’s U-turn, rather, his attempt to parallel parking.

Tim Le Roy writes: Surprise, surprise! Sophie Black’s un-named and therefore obviously unbiased and unaligned commentators have pilloried John Howard’s announcement to investigate emissions trading (yesterday, item 4). Ian McHugh has slagged off Senator Ian Campbell’s comments at the Nairobi climate talkfest (yesterday, item 13), which I trust has a suitable level of carbon credits purchased for all attendees to offset the air travel, five-star accommodation and possible trip to have a look at the retreating ice cap of Kilamanjaro. I wonder how many of McHugh’s sources come from countries that have exceeded their Kyoto targets? I understand that most of the climate headlines are based on temperature measurements taken from 1960, about a 40-year period. Assuming the earth has been around for about 4.6 billion years these headlines reflect a climate period of 0.000001% of earth’s existence. Hmmm. Yes, I am worried that it is dry in Southern Oz (but looking good in parts of the North). I’m also worried that it is bloody freezing in Melbourne and the weather people tell me we are going to hell in a hot bucket in 100 years but can’t tell us what will happen tomorrow with any remote degree of accuracy. I’m very happy that John Howard is prepared to take a calm approach to the science and economics of climate change and particularly the green taxes of emissions trading, which I note has failed dismally in Europe. Anthony Albanese is happy to put out hysterical headlines at every opportunity but ask the ALP to detail the real cost of his climate mantra and the hot air just disappears into embarrassed silence. Climate change poses significant challenges for everyone, the least advocates could do is be totally honest about the science and real costs.

Phil Teece writes: Re. The IR decision. Why would Peter Faris QC say (yesterday, item 2) that Justice Callinan’s dissent from the majority decision was “surprising”? Callinan, a “conservative” judge, in fact, stuck with his principles and delivered a “conservative” judgement. No surprise there. And, while Faris thought the whole thing was just “boring”, I suspect that, when the political wheel eventually turns and the right turns back from non-left radicalism to actual conservatism – as is about to happen in the USA – true conservatives will be ruing the broader implications of the WorkChoices adventure and lamenting that “it seemed like a good idea at the time”. A bit like Iraq, really.

Martyn Smith writes: Crikey will never be considered left wing while it keeps Christian Kerr on the payroll, which is probably a small price to pay to avoid allegations of bias from the Lunar Right. In Item 1 yesterday, Christian opines in an article about the IR Laws that, “The High Court has dealt a blow to Labor’s and the unions’ credibility by supporting the laws”. Other commentators have said that the Court ruled on the Federal government’s ability to override State laws when it involves corporations, which is a different thing entirely. The Court didn’t rule on the IR laws themselves. In essence it means that there is now another precedent for a future Labor Federal government to centralise power at the expense of the states. As someone who thinks state governments are a superfluous tier of government in Australia I’m quite sanguine about it, despite my sympathy for the poor people at the bottom of the industrial food chain. As said elsewhere, the decision on IR and lots more will be made at the polling booth.

Nahum Ayliffe writes: George Bush and John Howard will meet in Hanoi on Friday to discuss their very own Vietnam. And ironically, it is the same imperialism that led to the defeat in Vietnam, which is causing the US-led Coalition difficulty in Iraq. Tony Blair realizes this, and has been talking up the possibility of including moderate Islamic states in the solution to Iraq. He believes Syria and Iran are crucial to overcoming the morass that is Iraq. But Howard is defiant. At Mr Murdoch’s American-Australian Association love-in, Howard urged Australians to stick by the US. But for how long, Mr Howard? US $6.4 billion a month is a hefty invoice for an experiment in imperialism, particularly when such foreign policy has failed so spectacularly in the past. And just like Vietnam, support for Iraq is crumbling. And our men in Hanoi are bunkered down, bravely holding out against public opinion. But surely now is the time to start reconsidering whether the “Axis of Evil” is a productive basis for foreign policy. It hasn’t worked in Israel-Palestine, and it’s never going to work in Iraq. Surely the Age of Imperialism has passed. How long before our men in Hanoi will realise that the West versus the Rest doesn’t cut it anymore?

Bruce Smith writes: Re. “The 300-pound gorilla in our cosy magazine duopoly” (yesterday, item 19). Sorry, Glenn, but I’m another who thinks you have it wrong regarding News Corp and magazines. News didn’t sell any magazines to Seven. News spun-off what is now PMP Ltd, which consisted of its magazines and printing assets, in late 1991. From memory, they sold 60% initially and the balance in 1997. Seven ended up buying the magazines from PMP after many years of poor management, financial underperformance and share price degradation in 2001. 15 years after the initial sale, PMP’s shares are trading not much better than half the price News received. That’s not a bad outcome for News, I’d have thought.

Niall Clugston writes: What kind of an economist is Henry Thornton? In commenting on the Dismissal (yesterday, item 23), he writes: “Do not forget inflation reached 17% then, making John Howard’s ‘inflation will be lower under the Liberals’ a safe bet for all time!” In fact, my trusty interest rate calculator (courtesy of Howard’s 2004 campaign) confirms that interest rates under Whitlam peaked at 10.4%. Whereas under Fraser’s Treasurer, what was it? 22%?

Guy Rundle writes: The Pope’s divisions were moving in fine formation following my article (10 November, item 8) on the beliefs of some traditional Catholics, and whether this would affect decisions on health care policy. I stand by my account of Catholicism, and interested readers can judge by consulting the catechism online at www.usccb.org . Section 494 (sinfulness of women) and 1035 (mortal sinners condemned to hell) are of particular interest. As to Clive James and Sid Vicious (yesterday, comments) Clive makes it pretty clear that whoever was bollocking him in the green room was in the band who had just been interviewed on TV.

Greens member Daniel Kogoy writes: Stephen Mayne and People Power appear likely to gain seats in the Victorian Upper House as a result of favourable preferences flows. Stephen has carved out a market niche for himself through his journalist activism, informing people of conflicts of interest in corporate and political Australia. If elected to the upper house, how will Stephen balance his role as Crikey founder and surely still its strongest voice with that of his work representing the interests of Victorians in the Upper House? Will Crikey’s journalists be free to criticise Mayne’s party? Is the Upper House a stepping stone on Stephen’s march towards the Lodge? Is Stephen modelling his career on the likes of Mussolini and Berlusconi, using his media profile and money to catapult him to power? Stephen, surely your readers need to know.

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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