David Penberthy, Daily Telegraph Editor (and Crikey’s Editor of the Year), writes: Re. “Drugs and Islam – the ultimate tabloid combination” (yesterday, item 5). Crikey’s account today of The Daily Telegraph’s coverage of Iktimal Hage-Ali is an absurd and baseless conspiracy theory. This newspaper did not know of Ms Hage-Ali’s cocaine arrest when it published a news story, editorial and opinion piece defending her earlier this month over attacks from hardliners within the Muslim community for her drinking champagne at the NSW Australian of the Year awards. We had been strongly supportive of her candidacy – and defended her against those subsequent attacks – because we believed then that she was an excellent role model and an articulate, moderate voice for her community. To suggest that we would somehow deliberately build her up – and even give her a blog – knowing that she was under a serious cloud is ridiculous. It was only because of our support for her that we were contacted by persons with information about her cocaine arrest who rightly told us that we had not published the full story. We then contacted her and asked her whether it was true that she had been arrested and interviewed by police in relation to using cocaine; she told us that she had not. We continued to work on the story for another week and it was only after we corroborated it through three different sources that we decided to publish, despite her (false) denials. Every word we have published is true. It’s also wholly in the public interest. Not only was she the NSW candidate for Young Australian of the Year, she was also handpicked by the PM to serve on his Muslim advisory council. Any other person of similar prominence and standing would have received the same coverage if they had been arrested as part of a drug raid. The truth is that other media are so paralysed by political correctness that they would rather miss the story and then take pot-shots at us. Irfan Yusuf’s contribution to Crikey’s coverage of this issue is unusual, as The Daily Telegraph’s attempts to silence his views have so far comprised the publication of many of his opinion pieces and hosting an online forum on his behalf. I note he claims to have been subjected to nasty feedback while online – surely this is the risk you take if you set yourself up as a commentator. Perhaps he can soothe his feelings by reading the equally vicious messages which we happily publish about the likes of Piers Akerman, Luke McIlveen, or our entire paper and by default our staff – because we subscribe to the old-fashioned notion that it’s not our job as a newspaper to censor people’s views and shut down debate.

Mungo MacCallum writes: Re. “Howard the politician turns commentator” (yesterday, item 7). Howard’s political commentary in yesterday’s Australian is rightly ascribed to a ghost writer, and there is even a clue to the ghost’s identity. This is the clumsy use of the word “hyperbolic” in the introduction. “Hyperbole” is an almost obsessive favourite of Howard’s former staffer Gerard Henderson, who can barely pen an insult without it. Can Gerard have been summoned back to the fold in these difficult times?

John Kotsopoulos writes: Richard Farmer’s piece, “Howard the politician turns commentator”, points to more than a hint of desperation on the part of the rapidly rusting man of steel. All the polls suggest that the public at large have finally grown tired of Howard’s message and no amount of spin will stop his deserved trip down the gurgler along with those other two miscreants Bush and Blair.

Edward James writes: I am extremely angry that any death in police custody may appear to be used as a tool to promote division among the peoples. What happened to those calls for a civil action against Queensland police officer Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley for the wrongful death of Mulrunji Doomadgee in his police custody on Palm Island? It is an affront to all the peoples that Warren Mundine, National President of the ALP, would be reported by Christopher Ring in a Crikey article (yesterday, item 8) polarising what has grown to be an important issue uniting the peoples against the lack of action on deaths in custody. It smacks of the worst sort of wedge politics. Mundine’s description of the Queensland DPP ‘s recommendation as a “disgrace” is well supported by everyone, not just the Aboriginal community. Beattie’s no truck with “political interference”, on the other hand, seems to betray the confusion which has brought Labor to this point. Justice delayed is justice denied.

Greg Angelo writes: After following recent events in Queensland I am now firmly convinced of the possibility that Joh Bjelke-Petersen has been reincarnated and has returned to Queensland politics in the form of Peter Beattie. In living memory, only Joh could have comfortably presided over events such as stage 4 water restrictions a week after an election, the “Doctor Death” scandal, no trial for Senior Sgt Hurley in relation to Domadgee’s death, and no effective environmental testing for lead pollution in Mount Isa, to name but a few. Something is really rotten in the state of Queensland. (Apologies to Shakespeare.)

Alex Lubansky writes: Yesterday, Guy Rundle (item 12) showed that he has decided that he is an arbiter of levels of Jewishness. To claim that “you don’t get more Jewish than these guys – they live by the word of the book” shows a great deal of ignorance, both of Judaism and of “The Book”. However, given the 200 word limit and the esoteric nature of the argument, I won’t elaborate here. Similarly, Rundle’s claim that these people are anti-Zionist “since it has turned them into thugs and oppressors” ignores the actual Messianism-derived reasons for their beliefs. I couldn’t find the phrase “thugs and oppressors” anywhere on the site Rundle linked to, and would be interested to know whether this is just his interpretation. Additionally, Rundle’s interpretation “For this reason, they’ve been pretty much excluded from the range of debate on Israel” is quite funny coming from someone who doesn’t think Catholic literalists should have a say in medical matters (Crikey, 10 November, item 8). Does Rundle think all extremists should be included in all debates, or only those that share his anti-Israeli sentiments? It is ironic seeing someone who is normally so against religious extremists decide that these ones need legitimising…

John Parkes writes: Cynic that I am about the salaries paid to some CEOs of public companies, especially the “bonuses” for simply doing what a CEO is paid to do, that is manage well, the latest permutation is breathtaking. While I am sure there are some plans in place to reduce taxation as much as possible already on a multi million dollar package, the fact remains that someone such as the CEO of Qantas would be paying very significant amounts of tax. However if someone comes along and makes an offer to buy the company, and offers said CEO a very large amount of extra payment just to stay on, truly that would be a bonus for him. Then if he elects to give this unplanned-for and unexpected windfall to charity, it would give him a huge taxation deduction. As the bonus was unexpected, giving it away is no real loss, but more importantly in this case the bonus makes it possible to reduce the prior taxation dues, thus possibly making his “old” salary or most of it tax free in effect. Not a bad deal I suspect.

Julian Cram writes: Re. “Old media needs to take a look in the mirror” (yesterday, item 17). OK, I know it was a Monday, but why is Christian “need to change my first name to Wayne” Kerr so cranky about the Time article? Sure, the “traditional” media is under threat, but they also do have a point, although technically they’re 3-5 years too late. As someone who has been involved with the Net since its fairly early days in the early 90s, I have noticed that the utopia of a free media and information promised in early scholarly articles hasn’t come from w-nker academics or journalists like Kerr, but from ordinary slobs like myself. I was the one responsible for leaking the Ratbag sellout of Midway to the major news sources via my blog. I was the one who got the Hilltop Hoods recognised by Melanie Safka (my review is on her website). Sure, it may not be uncovering Howard’s illicit liaison with Bob Hawke’s wife or anything mindblowing like that, but it DID get international attention, something impossible ten years ago. And that’s Time magazine’s point. If Kerr is too up himself to accept this, maybe he should write his own blog in his own time and with his own money like the rest of us, instead of riding the coat-tails of an organisation that has to beg for subscriptions to a newsletter full of pompous asses and half truths!

Dunley Voss writes: Re. “Breaking up Belgium?” (yesterday, item 15). Although Charles is correct in saying Belgium is “an accident of history”, it would be wrong to suggest the country has been cobbled together from parts that do not share a common past or indeed a strong independent heritage (eg, 14th Century Flanders). The unifying element is precisely the fact that all parts of present day Belgium have changed hands (French, Spanish, Austrian, Dutch) on numerous occasions over the last 1200 years and that this has created a strongly held conviction among all Belgians that Wallonia nor Flanders (or the small German-speaking community in the east) should permanently become part of France or the Netherlands (or Germany). Therefore, there is no more artificiality here that in our own backyard, or, consequently a “logical argument” for a division among neighbouring countries. Nor would there ever be any popular support for it as any conversation with a Belgian would quickly demonstrate (it would in fact be similar to asking a New Zealander whether he or she would want to see NZ annexed by Australia).

Gareth Cleeves writes: Re. “2007 looms as Year of the Job Shortage” (yesterday, item 6). I found Rob Lake’s comments in Crikey – “But as labour shortages bite, advertising a job and waiting for a response will be largely ineffective. It will only attract the unemployed and the desperates.” – particularly distasteful. If the situation is as dire as he suggests, perhaps employers could consider training new entries into the field from the “unemployed and the desperates” rather than poaching each other’s staff.

John Goldbaum writes: Christian Kerr’s happy Christmas advice to Glenn Milne (“don’t get pissed” – yesterday item 11) reminds me of a slogan on a T-shirt I saw on the weekend which read: “Rehab is for quitters”.

Phil Sutherland writes: I wonder if the Queen of Australia has sent a congratulatory memo to Her cricketers for successfully regaining the Ashes, as the Queen of England did when the Ashes last changed hands?

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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