Mike Martin writes: In all the recent bleating about David Hicks I’ve seen no discussion of the fact that he is being kept in solitary confinement. Even if one were to accept David Flint’s point yesterday (comments) that, “[Hicks] is at best a prisoner of war, and as such the US are legally entitled to hold him until the cessation of hostilities” (which I don’t), it still does not justify locking him up 23 hours a day. This is not war prisoner protocol. It is simply frustrated vindictiveness being expressed against someone who is charged with nothing.

Adam Rope writes: I see, albeit late, that David Flint is once again showing that masterful tactic of some media commentators, being more than economic with the facts, in his comments about David Hicks yesterday. I’ll just offer two more accurate rebuttals. David Hicks is not “at best a prisoner of war” as no legally defined war was being undertaken at the time of his arrest at an Afghani bus stop. And when calculating a release date for David Hicks, can the eminent David Flint pray tell us his no doubt accurate prediction as to the exact date for the “cessation of hostilities” of GWB’s “War on Terror”? It’s all so tirelessly predictable.

Kay Fisher writes: Oh David Flint, you sound so wonderfully relaxed and comfortable! It is good of you to show how a Liberal impression of liberal can always be found if you try hard enough. I think your explanation that Guantanamo-is-fair-and-lawful-and-it-is-in-Hicks’s-interest-to-stay-there
provides an excellent example for school English classes to try out their new-fangled critical analysis skills. How to select the right facts or, when necessary, make them up authoritatively. Why not? After all, our public deliberations wouldn’t be the same without this cutting-edge innovation and flexibility, not to mention choices, in styles of truth-telling. No-one can accuse Australia of being behind the times any more – by skipping most of modernity we’ve gone from pre-modern to postmodern public sphere before you can say FOI.

Barry Everingham writes: Re. David Hicks. John Howard and Philip Ruddock, aided and abetted by the ridiculous Alexander Downer, must know what David Hicks is suffering at the hands of those running Guantanamo Bay; Major Michael Mori is a man who doesn’t pull his punches. The three amigos who continue to pander to the most unbalanced and unpopular United States president ever should release, without further delay, the notes made by the Australian consular officials who they claim have access to Citizen Hicks. Frankly I don’t believe he has received any visits, but this could be a way finding out.

Lisa Crago writes: Re. “Howard deregisters 19 federal political parties” (yesterday item 6). Don’t panic, minor and micro parties, you can re-register if you meet the 500 member rule and your name is not considered to be misleading. If your party successfully re-registers within six months, your registration fee will even be refunded. Unlike Stephen Mayne, I would hardly call an audit on the status of political parties “abusing control of both houses,” rather an overdue measure to ensure the integrity of the electoral system and the public funding of political parties. What is much more of an assault on democracy in the recently amended Commonwealth Electoral Act is raising the amount of anonymous donations to political parties from $1 500 to $10 000. With such large anonymous sums of money changing hands it is no wonder the government has legislated for a party audit.

David Havyatt writes: Stephen Mayne has claimed: “The Howard government is known for its cynicism but the deregistration of 19 political parties when the nation wasn’t paying attention on December 27 must surely go down as one of its lowest acts.” And then he asked: “What sort of democracy allows a government to unilaterally and automatically deregister all political parties that don’t have an MP? Talk about abusing control of both houses.” As I’m sure Stephen knows, the deregistration wasn’t a consequence of an executive decision but a consequence of legislation. The timing of the registration was in the legislation, scheduled to occur six months after the Bill received assent. The Bill was debated in June, but most of us focused on things like increasing the donation disclosure limit. I think the fact the deregistrations occurred in the quiet period was fortuitous, not designed.

Megan Yarrow writes: “What sort of democracy allows a government to unilaterally and automatically deregister all political parties that don’t have an MP?” A diminishing one. The Howard Government has control of both houses. The highly concentrated media either don’t know or don’t care about the ramifications of the Electoral and Referendum Amendment (Electoral Integrity and Other Measures) Act 2006, and the Opposition is simply waiting for its turn in the chair.

Jaan Torv writes: Re. “Are stingrays the new sharks?” (yesterday, item 3). Stingrays are dangerous. Make no mistake. Anyone who has disturbed one submerged in a sandy floor while snorkelling knows. They are quick, skittish and potentially deadly. Steve Irwin’s shocking death has elevated our awareness of these potentially deadly creatures. Your article, while on the money in terms of  interest, lacks detail. If you want to bone up on this boneless creature, check this out. It does not get much better – or closer to an accurate description of what happened to Steve Irwin – than this. The message is – be careful. Be VERY careful. And you blokes really ought to go the extra yard when it comes to providing information.

Simon Chapman, School of Public Health at the University of Sydney, writes: Re. “Fake guns, real control” (yesterday, item 12). Disappointing to see Charles Richardson uncritically rehearse the gun lobby canard that more guns in a community have a deterrent effect on gun crime. Gun lobby gurus like Lott & Mustard have tried to argue that packing heat deters gun crime and that US states with “right to carry” legislation are much safer. The US has 14.5 times Australia’s population, 102 times our total firearm deaths, and 173 times our number of firearm homicides. The deterrent argument coming from such a situation is like arguing that Baghdad is safer than Bogota. The US National Academy of Sciences (2004) found no evidence showing right-to-carry laws have an impact, either way, on rates of violent crime.

John Taylor writes: If I were a bank teller and someone was pointing a gun at me, does Charles Richardson really think that I would take a punt on it being a fake? Not a chance. For the first time in living memory a NSW Minister has said something sensible. Ban the bloody things.

Ignaz Amrein writes: Could anybody point out to John Howard that his love affair with nuclear power will increase the potential targets for terrorists. Considering that he said that the war on terror will last for decades, it doesn’t make sense to create more targets for any would-be terrorist by building a lot of nuclear power stations. Wouldn’t that increase the cost of nuclear power even more because of the extra security measures required? But then again, John Howard has always been struggling seeing the bigger picture beyond his political desires.

Troy Williams, Liberal Party Candidate Fraser Federal Electorate, writes: The poster is now receiving death threats (not me, the poster). It seems to be a specific threat to one poster, not all of them. The demands are vague, but the recycled paper indicates a Green-leaning local insurgency. 

Steve Johnson writes: Roger Cooper (yesterday, comments) urges us not to ignore Shane Warne’s indiscretions, which he believes should have ended his career ten years ago. I certainly would not like my professional mistakes to be judged by you, Roger. Warne is not a murderer, a drug pusher, or even a tax evader as far as I know. He’s a very high profile sportsperson who is, on occasion, a naughty fella. But to cut the guy from his profession for taking a simple diuretic, instead of the one year ban he did serve, is coming it the curmudgeon, surely. 

Emma Francis writes: Re. “Warnie unplugged on Parkinson makes great telly”. I too was impressed by Shane Warne’s eloquence, candour and wit during Michael Parkinson’s interview on Monday night. What a pity Parkinson was such a s-xist prat. While he was right not to dwell on Warne’s numerous infidelities, he certainly let him off lightly by suggesting he was merely the foolish victim of a series of “stings” orchestrated by manipulative femmes fatales. What about Warne’s own predatory behaviour, which is well documented? Please tell me the Eve Myth – that all women are secretly out to destroy men using their feminine wiles – is not alive and well in 2007. This is not the first time Parky’s misogynistic tendencies have shone through. Remember THAT Meg Ryan interview? Am I alone in thinking his line of questioning – that Ryan was somehow damaged and bitter because she’d dared to ditch her usual Kewpie Doll role and take on a female character with a bit of substance (that of boxing manager, Jackie Kallan in Against the Ropes) – was highly insulting? No wonder he elicited those excruciating one-word answers and icy stares. Parky, take a leaf out of Warnie’s book – hang up the bat.

Mark Bahnisch writes: I very much like the idea of publishing the two opposing perspectives on Santamaria’s influence in yesterday’s Crikey (Item 8 & 9) from me and Christian Kerr. However, Christian is wrong to think that I’m arguing that Santamaria had no political influence, and that legacy doesn’t continue. I might have confused matters by excerpting a quote from Dennis Shanahan which referred to both his political involvement and his political thought. It’s the latter I consider to be of passing concern. Obviously the Labor split continues to create waves in electoral politics. But, much as Cardinal Pell might wish it otherwise, Catholic political thinking hasn’t made an enormous mark. Contrast the principle of subsidiarity with today’s Coalition centralism. And Santamaria selectively interpreted Papal social teaching, which is my point regarding the influence of early 20th century French Catholic philosophers and writers.

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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