Ben Haines writes: Peter Faris’s comment on “how is that at a coke user can get so high so quickly?” reeks of an astounding ignorance. Drug use is alive and well at all levels of society, including in the legal circles with which he is presumably familiar. There is a reasonable body of evidence that drug use is even more common in intelligent high achievers than it is in the general populace. Mr Faris seems unaware that the majority of illicit drug users, just like the majority of alcohol users, suffer no significant harm from substance use. The logic that “because a drug user rose quickly, it may have been because she was a female Muslim” is both astonishingly stupid, and highly offensive. Being a recreational drug user is no obstacle at all to rising quickly, as many of Mr Faris’s fellow lawyers prove.

Christine Harris-Smyth writes: The despicable piece by Peter Faris today, targeting rather than examining the Hage-Ali story, would be more at home on tabloid TV. Shame on Faris for penning such claptrap. Shame on Crikey for publishing it. Some of the nation’s finest cocaine wafts up the well heeled nostrils of the legal fraternity. Pick on someone your own size next time.

Tom Dawkins writes: I write in response to item 6 in Friday’s newsletter on the media circus currently surrounding Iktimal Hage-Ali. In particular, I find objectionable Peter Faris QC’s comment, “If these admissions have been made to police, the question should be asked of the Federal and NSW governments: how it is that a coke user can get so high so quickly (so to speak).” Does Mr Faris believe that people who consume small personal quantities of recreational drugs have some sort of mark on them such that they should be easy to spot in job interviews? Does he believe that such personal use of drugs is so uncommon among people in high places, including police and lawyers? Does he believe such personal use disqualifies someone from making substantial contributions to our society or serving in meaningful roles? The more relevant question, I think, is how a supposed admission made to police was leaked so quickly and the presumption of innocence abandoned so blithely? I know Ms Hage-Ali and am aware of her energetic efforts to promote greater understanding between people of diverse cultural backgrounds in Australia, and her contribution to a number of youth initiatives. These efforts and contributions, it seems, count for nothing against a run-in with the law (she has not been charged, remember) over supposedly, personal use of cocaine. By contrast, one of the favourites for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States, Illinois Senator Barack Obama, has, in his latest book The Audacity of Hope, admitted to using “a little blow”. And, surprise, this hasn’t disqualified him from serving his community at the highest levels.

Frank Ashe, Associate Professor, Applied Finance Centre, Macquarie University, writes: Re. “Michael Costa: not the smartest guy in the room” (15 December, item 15). I have no brief to defend Michael Costa, but will correct the comment from Crikey’s moles at the 19th Australasian banking and Finance Conference. Costa did not advocate a state-based interest rate regime.
He merely observed that if we applied the Taylor Rule to individual states based on their individual inflation rates and Gross State Products then the nominal interest rate that would follow would be different for WA and NSW. This should be patently obvious even to your anonymous moles, perhaps academic economists so desperate for their free lunch, and impatient that Michael was holding them back from it, that it impaired their hearing.

Martin Gordon writes: Re. Health scare for a South Dakota Senator (15 December, item 14). Charles Richardson makes an interesting observation regarding appointments of replacement Senators. While Charles refers to a Republican replacement for a Democrat, it has happened the other way around too, and in quite recent times, and on more than a few occasions. It has affected the Senate balance and undoubtedly legislative outcomes as party loyalty is very weak. As long as there is only one Senator, and given the difficulty of changes in the US system, it seems likely to remain. Australia used to go to elections where additional Senators would be elected (eg, six instead of five), for example Senator Neville Bonner was elected at the 1972 election, which was a Reps only election otherwise. Whitlam tried to engineer such an election in 1974 by appointing DLP Senator Vince Gair to an Ambassador post, but was thwarted by Joh Bjelke-Petersen. In Australia we are aware of the Millner and Murphy replacements. But on the other side there was the replacement of a SA Liberal Movement Senator, Steele Hall, by a Democrat, Janine Haines. This was a bit irregular too, but carried out by the ALP.

Jim Hart writes: Many years ago I was working for a company that got taken over several times. The new head honcho flew into town to tell the assembled staff what a great company we had and how proud he was to be associated with such a respected name and don’t worry, nothing is going to change. That last bit was when I knew I had to get out ahead of the rush. Well, deja vu all over again. The CEO of Qantas has just written to me as a frequent flyer to tell me that the “new owners recognise that Qantas is one of the most valued brands in Australia” and it is “business as usual at Qantas, with no changes currently planned to any area of the business, including the Qantas Frequent Flyer program.” And I’m sure they will love me in the morning too.

Trevor Best writes: I wish you would desist from publishing comments which misuse both English and the facts. Cait Calcutt (15 December, comments) must surely know that “fertility” is the ability to be fruitful or to bear (offspring). The fact is it has nothing to do with chemical/mechanical/surgical interventions before or after the fact, to prevent or interfere with “fruitfulness”. No one has any freedom of choice over our (male or female) inherited fecundity, and I certainly believe DLP policy would be for complete freedom to reproduce. Except for rape and abuse victims, women generally have full command over what they do with their bodies, and if they copulate without effective contraception the fact is they have made that choice at that point. Anything else (ie, unprotected copulation, especially outside a sworn lifelong commitment) is gross selfish irresponsibility at the least, and criminally uncaring for the welfare of the potential unborn child at the worst. 

Lisa Crago writes: Re. Positions vacant (15 December, item 3). Many people can be forgiven for not fully understanding the implications of the amended Workplace Relations Act, and Christian Kerr is no exception. Totalling over 1700 pages of legislation, regulations and associated explanatory memorandums, even Flinders University Labour Law Professor Andrew Stewart was at pains to instruct our 2006 Labour Law students in how to understand and interpret this legislative instrument. However, what is very clear is that all new Federal System employers have two legal instruments available for a new employment contract: a collective agreement or an AWA individual contract. Therefore there was nothing earth-shattering in this story other than the heads-up on what top jobs ALP hacks will be applying for over January.

Alex Can writes: The administration of justice continues to be a problem in Queensland, not just a hangover from the Bjelke-Petersen days but more as a result of a unicameral parliament. Political appointees continue to fill the positions of power. It is patently obvious that DPPs are meant to oversee prosecutions, not second-guess jury decisions in serious cases. Power without responsibility is not just the preserve of politicians, but of lawyers and judges. At least the Rodney King police were tried. The Premier, while requesting others to allow the system to follow due process, last week wanted Robbie Williams fined for … smoking!, thus usurping the DPP’s role. Perhaps we need to go down the US path of elected senior officials. At least then they would be answerable for their decisions.

Denise Marcos writes: With regard to SBS’s new advertising regimen: I believe SBS management have seriously misjudged their audience over this woeful decision to bastardise programmes with crass commercial interruption. Their defence has been to cite more programme commissioning and international film and sporting event purchases resulting from the extra revenue management imagines it will generate. Alienating a viewing audience in order to bring them more programmes… mmmm, it’s an innovative concept which may not guarantee any of the current executives great career paths in the medium. A diminished audience will ensure sponsors reassess the value SBS offers for their advertising dollars. Special Broadcasting Service? Not so special now.

David Hardie writes: Re. “The Mat Rogers decision – a victory for common sense” (15 December, item 29). Jeff Wall made an astute observation in picking common sense as the winner in the story and he is right but the extent of Mat Rogers’s loss was underestimated. In turning his back on Union he turned his back on untold lucrative job offers in the finance sectors, untold number of hot investment tips and advice on tax minimisation. The real loss for Mat Rogers is that post-league, and the $500k PA contracts, he will have to work for every dollar that he earns.

Simon O’Toole writes: “A-League’s NZ Knights fall on their sword” (15 December, item 30). I think Francis Leach is being a little unfair on the New Zealand Knights by saying “With a team predominantly made up of British journeymen, Australian fringe players and the odd local”. For a start, is Francis aware that since the team is playing in an Australian league, any NZ players are counted as foreign nationals? This season the Knights have one of the most diverse squads in the league: two Chinese players, a Brazilian, a Portuguese, a Canadian, an Ivorian, and Ghanaian-born Brit. Certainly there is some deadwood there as well, and several players on too much money, but former coach Paul Nevin was trying to improve on the disastrous situation he inherited. I think it is a positive move from the FFA to get NZ Soccer involved. Oh, and great to see some consistent football coverage in Crikey!

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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