Nick Cater, The Australian‘s Deputy Editor (Weekend), writes: Re. “The debate The Oz doesn’t want to have” (yesterday, item 4). Antony Loewenstein is correct to point out that the debate triggered by Jimmy Carter’s latest book is an important topic which has been overlooked by every newspaper in Australia except The Australian. But Antony is incorrect to suggest that his voice is being silenced. The Australian‘s opinion pages under Tom Switzer’s stewardship provide a forum for rigorous and intelligent debate. The number of pieces submitted each day far exceed the space available ensuring healthy competition among contributors. We set the bar high and on this occasion Antony’s piece failed to clear it. I also part company with Antony on his assessment of Geoff Elliott’s piece on the Carter debate in The Weekend Australian‘s Inquirer section (January 27/28). Elliott captured the essence of the Carter controversy – the use of the word apartheid in the context of modern Israel – in a fair and balanced feature. The Australian encourages open and frank discussion of the Zionist issue and it would be false to claim we only cover one side of the debate. We ran two of Antony’s pieces after the publication of his book last year together with an extensive review. We were the first newspaper in Australia to pick up on the London Review of Books essay “The Israel Lobby” by Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer. We ran a number of comment pieces and an extensive extract from the book itself. More recently we ran Elizabeth Wynhausen’s piece assessing the influence of the Jewish lobby in Australia. The Australian‘s decision to post a senior correspondent to Jerusalem shows our commitment to informed coverage of Israeli and Middle Eastern affairs. The debate over the issues raised by Carter and others will continue in The Australian.

Sharon Lapkin writes: Re. “The debate the Oz doesn’t want to have” (yesterday, item 4). So, here he goes again. Antony Loewenstein complains yet again that the Jewish lobby is gagging him. Despite being commissioned by MUP to write a book and appearing on numerous radio and television shows (and yes, in Crikey regularly) he continues to claim that he is discriminated against because of his anti-Zionist views. From where I sit, I see him being given a soapbox to promote both his book and his views on many, many occasions in many different modes. Could it be that The Australian simply didn’t consider his work up to par? He claims that it published his opinion pieces three times in 2006 and yet he cries foul now because it didn’t publish something else he wrote. It’s time Loewenstein understood that freelance journalists don’t get every piece they write published. Sometimes editors change their minds and sometimes they don’t like what journalists produce. To point his finger at the Jewish lobby every time the newspapers don’t publish his work is a reflection on his own inability to take the criticisms and rejections on the chin like a professional. It really is time Mr Loewenstein stopped throwing tantrums (and knives) every time someone doesn’t publish or approve of his work.

Chris Willis, Seven’s Director of News in Sydney, writes: Re. Glenn Dyer’s criticism of our lead stories on Tuesday night (yesterday, item 18). You may not remember it, but one of the definitions of news is “something the public didn’t know when they tuned in/ read the publication”. Our first two stories fitted that category. The first laid out the facts and questioned the culture of a prominent Australian sporting team that allows its young men to drink and drive. It’s an issue that has some currency in the community, especially at a time when our young people are killing themselves on the roads through a combination of speed and drink driving. And we featured this in our story. We didn’t break any laws. New South Wales allows reporting on traffic offence proceedings involving a juvenile (other than in the Children’s Court). It seems the law recognises that if someone is old enough to be licensed to drive then he or she is old enough to be reported on when the Court deals with them for motor vehicle offences. We spent two days checking the facts and the legalities before running the story. Our second story certainly was about “beer and cigs up” but the main point was about double taxation. Our story pointed out that excise on these products is levied after GST. So there is a tax on a tax. We also pointed out that this was the case with petrol until it became a political issue, when the federal government was pressured into changing the tax regime, saving consumers billions. As to quoting John Thorpe: he is the head of the AHA, the Australia wide organisation representing hoteliers, and was committing his organization (for the first time) to campaign against the federal government on the issue. That’s something we think people ought to know about. You never know it could force the federal government to change the tax regime on beer, which could save more billions. A final point: if we based our content on whether we personally approved of the people we were quoting, there would be a lot of blanks in our stories.

Lion Nathan’s Corporate Affairs Director, James Tait, writes: Re. “The cricket beer war gets serious” (yesterday, item 27). Please note that the comment within the story that “Foster’s range of beers now overtaking XXXX for the number one spot in the Queensland market” is completely inaccurate. Castlemaine Perkins’s portfolio in Queensland remains the largest by some distance with almost two of every three beers drunk in Queensland a Castlemaine Perkins product. XXXX Gold is the largest beer brand in Queensland with approximately one in every three beers a XXXX Gold.

Alister Air writes: Re. “Education: make the rich pay” (yesterday, item 13). Charles Richardson and John Roskam are both wrong about means tested public school fees because they misunderstand the nature of public education, and at least in Roskam’s case, deliberately blur the nature of equity in an underhanded manner. Rich parents do pay more for public education through a progressive taxation system, just as rich people pay more for health care through the same mechanism. There’s no equity issue in parents not paying school fees for a public education for this reason. Just because Richardson and Roskam state that the time for universal free education has passed doesn’t make it so. The argument that an education system is a subsidy for childbearing is also problematic. What happens with the parents who don’t pay their fees? Does their child go uneducated? And who pays the ultimate price for this? If there’s not enough money for school education (and I believe there isn’t) the way to raise more money isn’t through cost shifting to parents, as parents are not the sole beneficiaries of an educated population. You get more money to put into education by prioritising it over, say, a $55 million WorkChoices campaign, or the billions of dollars spent invading Iraq.

Matt Hardin writes: There is a huge gap in the understanding of the world demonstrated by Charles Richardson and John Roskam. Child bearing is not the public good being subsidised. Free public education is a public good. The skills learnt at primary and secondary schools are used by the students as citizens and workers and hence benefit everyone (including the individual being educated). The cost of allowing the market to completely determine education would be the splitting of society into the well educated and the poorly educated with the well educated (rich) people continually defending themselves against the poor (For an example, see South Africa and the results of their segregated education system, or the poorer parts of the US). This is not a society that appeals to many. The other argument (contributing by capacity to pay), I have no real problem with that (To each according to their ability…) but I was under the impression that our progressive tax system already took that into account or is this an admission that a flat tax structure needs to be made progressive in other places.

Anthea Parry writes: Roskam and Charles Richardson have got it entirely wrong. Not only are public schools not free, they’re also not government funded. They’re taxpayer-funded. As such, not only do I know that I’m paying for my kids’ educations (even though they’re at private schools) and therefore I do not take their education for granted, I am also paying proportionately more than the parents of less well-off children, because I am paying more tax. If people think richer parents should be paying more for their children’s education, perhaps they should put their efforts into tax reform rather than making ill-founded claims that parents of kids in public schools don’t value their education because they’re not paying for it.

Mike Smith writes: Re. “The sectarianism behind the anti-Hicks campaign” (yesterday, item 2). “Further, on page 292, Begg relates that Hicks ‘declared that he was not a practising Muslim any more’. Other former inmates have reported that Hicks had abandoned his Muslim faith altogether”. I am reminded of the “conversion” of Michelle Leslie to Islam during her trial. Is this another such “conversion” or similar of convenience? So far he’s been an Australian citizen, then a British citizen, now an Aussie again and appears to want to cop a guilty plea while proclaiming his innocence. I’m not really surprised that the prosecutor isn’t willing to go along with that. But it is in nobody’s interests to keep him for five years without a trial – his, our government’s, the US government’s. Get it moving!

Tamas Calderwood writes: Irfan Yusuf can go ahead and count me among the “tiny minority” who condemn David Hicks. I’m completely indifferent to Hicks’s faith or even if he chooses to practise it. But anyone who fights for the Taliban, keeps counsel with Osama bin Laden and seeks the downfall of the West has lost the support of this Australian citizen. The US sent an American, John Walker Lindh, to prison for 20 years as punishment for fighting with the Taliban. When they finally get round to trying him, a similar sentence for Hicks sounds about right to me.

Graham Marshall writes: Re. “Terrorism: why did America overreact?” (yesterday, item 8). I think you will find the purpose of the 9/11 attacks was to provoke an overreaction and by doing so drive more radicals into the arms of al-Qaeda. I forget where I read it, but after the attack on the USS Cole in 2000, the heads of al-Qaeda were disappointed at the muted reaction of a pre-Bush White House. The chatter picked up prior to 9/11 was that there would be a big attack, one that would be so big that the White House would have no choice but to react. And now George W has become the best ever source of al-Qaeda recruits.

Ross Copeland writes: I assume that to qualify for Serbian citizenship, Robert Jovicic will need to meet residency requirements, show proficiency in the Serbian language and commit to upholding Serb values ie the same standards as if he was seeking Australian citizenship. I hope that the DIC heads can see the need for consistency. If he can’t or won’t get Serbian citizenship he can be held in a detention centre, eg Baxter, Villawood or Christmas Is, for the rest of his life. That will teach him how to behave like an Aussie.

John Williams writes: The comment in yesterday’s Crikey (item 20), “Most major banks are doing a little bit better at projecting a better image of themselves” is probably true but that may change if the current review moves responsibility for losses of their customers through net fraud to the individuals. The banks say that they did not ask for this almost certain change, but who else would want it to happen? No individual Australians and very few businesses would have the knowledge, time and computer power to protect themselves adequately to a rapidly growing threat. But, the banks that set up the systems and feverishly promoted them on the basis of convenience and, especially, safety are now likely to be absolved of responsibility for flaws in the system they run. This will have a huge dampening effect on the amount of online business activity for many Australian consumers and throttle attempts by Australian businesses to earn a good share of the fast growing marketplace available to them.

Peter Barnhurst writes: Re. “In defence of Lucas Neill” (yesterday, item 28). Why does Mick Reid feel so affronted by the Jeff Powell article on Lucas Neill? Any suggestion that the media in the UK is anti-Australian is, I believe, very wide of the mark. Of the high profile Australian players currently plying their trade in the EPL, Kewell, Schwartzer, Viduka and Neill have all featured in the media as wishing to leave their current clubs, and this is inevitably followed up in the Australian media as them being pursued by most of the top clubs in Europe. One assumes it is their agents drip feeding the media, as it is with many other players. Rumour has it the West Ham players are on a massive bonus to retain their Premiership status, so who wouldn’t be tempted? But isn’t that what Powell was alluding to? Lucas Neill is just one of many players he puts into this category, regardless of nationality.

Andrew Robertson writes: Your columnist, Mick Reid, has totally missed the point on Lucas Neill and totally misrepresented Jeff Powell’s views. I have followed British football for more than 30 years while living in both Australia and England. Powell argues his case well about the impact outrageous player payments are having on the game and Neill personifies that. And Powell was not Aussie bashing as Reid suggests. It’s incomprehensible that you turn down a once in a lifetime opportunity to play for one of the biggest clubs in the world (Liverpool) which is always challenging for the biggest trophies in club football and instead choose a club which is always fighting against relegation (West Ham)? Neill has been very badly let down by his advisers (exploited even??) and needs to ask himself why he plays the game. I’m off my soapbox now.

Jennifer Dillon writes: Re. “Hewitt is the Lone ranger. Who will play Tonto?” (yesterday, item 27). Nick Place – what is it about the name Luczak?? It’s like he’s invisible. Peter is Victorian, was a successful junior, has performed consistently well at open level, has made third round singles at the Oz Open twice, plays doubles with Wayne Arthurs and would walk over hot coals to play Davis Cup. All that puts him in the role of Tonto for mine! Have a look at the few players who beat Gonzales on clay (or indeed anywhere else) during the past 12 months. Well I’ll be – there’s that name Luczak again! Thanks to the woeful coaching programs put in place by successive regimes at Tennis Australia, we don’t have many home grown options at the moment, but Luczak is right up there and deserves recognition and commendation for continuing achievement.

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

Get your first 12 weeks of Crikey for $12.

Without subscribers, Crikey can’t do what it does. Fortunately, our support base is growing.

Every day, Crikey aims to bring new and challenging insights into politics, business, national affairs, media and society. We lift up the rocks that other news media largely ignore. Without your support, more of those rocks – and the secrets beneath them — will remain lodged in the dirt.

Join today and get your first 12 weeks of Crikey for just $12.

 

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

JOIN NOW