Andrew Lewis writes: Re. Friday’s editorial. Rudd may have moved to the right, as per your editorial. His policies may look like those of the conservatives, but unlike Howard, Rudd could use the argument that he actually means it. Howard talks big on economic reform but has done b-gger all, while meddling incessantly with social reform (or should that be “deform”). Howard talks big on fiscal responsibility, but like his hero Menzies he has p-ssed up against the wall years of economic sunshine allowing social and physical infrastructure to crumble. He talks about being corporate friendly, and interprets that to mean giving free kicks to big (and sometimes small) business mates. Howard talks big about the fair go, and then creates an IR framework that is an open door for industrial brutality (Tristar, anyone?). He talks big about the rule of law and democracy, and then allows our major ally to treat Australia like a flea and completely disregard human rights for one of our citizens, and watches idly as his attack dogs demonise refugees as queue jumpers and the type that throw their children into perilous waters. If Rudd can just convince the electorate that he means it, he may just do Howard with a “small target” strategy, proving the adage that if you can fake sincerity you’ve got it made.

Anthea Parry writes: Re. “A dam problem” (2 February, item 11). So Richard Farmer thinks the reasons Victorian and NSW Governments haven’t built new dams is nimbyism and the anti-development slant of the environmental movement. Obviously, he thinks water just falls from the sky. Which it does, but in increasingly finite amounts. Melbourne Water points out on its website that new dams don’t just magically fill with water – they take it from somewhere else. From farmers who are using it. From river systems that are already stressed. There is consensus among water experts – and the Victorian Government has some very senior water engineers advising on water policy – that new dams are not an answer to water shortages. Building them would be nothing but pandering to insane populist notions.

Tamas Calderwood writes: Re. David Hicks. I would point out to Steve Johnson (2 February, comments) that the Taliban are far from defeated and the war on terror is far from over. His point comparing Hicks to German POWs is moot anyway because many Germans were indeed incarcerated for war crimes long after WWII ended. Hicks should be tried and judged on the evidence summoned against him and the US must expedite the process. But give me a break – by his own admission the guy fought for the Taliban, sought to kill Australian and other allied soldiers and worked with al-Qaeda. He and his mob want to kill or enslave all of us so I don’t think he deserves much sympathy.

Terry Kidd writes: David Hicks may indeed have trained and fought with the Taliban. So what? He is a young man on his own and I seriously doubt that he is a danger to our society. The fact that an Australian citizen has been locked up for five years without charge or trial at a place operated by another nation (where it won’t even send its own citizens) and that our government has done nothing to gain his release and return to Australia is something that should concern every voter in this country. If this has been a conscious decision then it flies in the face of the very fabric of our society and is another chip in the edifice of justice and a “fair go”. Bugger US sensibilities. Bugger the stability of the alliance. The rights of our own citizens transcend everything else. The case of Breaker Morant prompted us to change our laws so only Australians could try Australian soldiers and that was “in the face” of arguably a more important (at the time) “Big Brother”. Bring David Hicks home now. If he has done wrong by our laws then charge him. If he hasn’t then don’t charge him. If he is deemed to be a potential danger then watch him. John Howard, this is real simple… he is an Australian citizen, he is innocent until proven guilty, by right of birth he gets the protection of our society whether guilty or innocent. Bring him home now.

Keith Binns writes: Re. “Small earthquake in Canberra: Michelle gets passionate” (2 February, item 6). Richard Farmer wrote:”there must be some within the Coalition who are becoming uneasy about the extent to which the David Hicks team are winning the publicity battle.” When a supposed liberal democracy allows a citizen to be incarcerated by a foreign power for five years with no charges laid and you toss in a bit of torture to boot, who needs a publicity machine? The stories write themselves. If Gerard et al can’t see that, then what can they see?

Robyn Seth-Purdie writes: I heartily endorse Friday’s comment by Lois Achimovich. In 1977 I worked with the Nagle Royal Commission, examining the situation of prisoners in NSW jails. The abuses that then characterised NSW jails as closed institutions – ie places not open to outside scrutiny – were horrendous. Such abuses have been found in every institution where one group – prisoners, patients, orphans – is subject to the arbitrary exercise of power at the hands of another group – guards, guardians, authorities, etc. Closed institutions are inherently unaccountable, and represent a moral hazard for those who run them, as well as a serious threat to the health of those who must endure them. Guantanamo, and the unnamed, unmarked places like it, herald the return of the dark days of attainder – of civil death, when certain offences could place the offender beyond the reach of law. Good governance requires respect for human rights, and respect for the rule of law, whose power, whether of prosecution or of relief, should extend to all.

Keith Perkins, Secretary of the Dubbo ALP branch and secretary of the Parkes Federal Electorate Council, writes: Re. your tips and rumours item on newspaper bias in Manly (1 February, item 5). The independents in Pittwater and Manly should consider themselves lucky they’re not contesting the seat of Dubbo. Our independent member, Dawn Fardell, won the 2004 by-election following the death of the sitting independent member Tony McGrane. Dawn comfortably won the seat from the National’s candidate Ms Jen Cowley. Ms Cowley moved on from being the National’s candidate to become the editor of Dubbo’s one and only newspaper, the Rural Press owned, Dubbo Daily Liberal. The recent political history of the Daily Liberal‘s new editor is as follows. 2003 – During the 2003 state election she was the most active, and most visible, campaign worker for the defeated Nationals candidate Mark Horton. 2004 – She was the defeated National Party candidate for the seat of Dubbo in the by-election. 2007 – She is the editor of Dubbo’s one and only newspaper and will be while the sitting member, Dawn Fardell, contests the seat against the editor’s party colleague, the Nationals’ Greg Mathews. The whole situation in Dubbo beggars belief. Only people reading the Liberal on a daily basis can appreciate fully just what is going on.

Cam Smith writes: Craig Trimble (2 February, comments) says I must be tripping to say that wizz presents a greater mental health problem to this great nation than horse. I said no such thing, but was merely quoting my addict correspondent. Although his health professional credentials are somewhat lacking – I believe he only has a Cert. III in pharmacy from the TAFE of Hard Knocks – he does spend a good proportion of his life consorting with users of a variety of chemicals and it is from this experience that he drew his conclusions. The purpose of the exercise was not to downplay the threat that ice poses to the community, but to present an alternative view to that which is normally seen in the media. That said, I believe that the intensity of the anti-ice rhetoric used by our fine Government (both at State and Federal levels) far outweighs the minuscule amount of action taken.

Mike Smith writes: In regards to Cam Smith (1 February, item 10) and Craig Trimble’s comments on ice, I think important issues are being ignored. It was again sensationalised in the Telegraph in Sydney on 1 February. Ice is a problem but it is by no means new. It has been in Sydney in the early 90s. The problem it the drug has now hit a population of people who often have aggressive traits prior to use of the drug. At present I don’t think there has been any updated research on amphetamine use. There is never a mention that people may be using multiple drugs, including alcohol, when presenting as aggressive and violent. Current affairs shows are often inaccurate and are selective in the facts that they release. Ice has become a convenient scapegoat as the new “bad” drug when the impact is still minimal on health services and the public when you compare it to addiction, violence, mental and physical health problems that impact on society from alcohol use. At present the arguments appear to be sensationalised and politically motivated. It is time that resources were used to address all drug and alcohol addiction-based research and established treatment methods. The impact on hospital emergency departments is an issue, as are intoxicated people with alcohol and other drug use. The major problem with emergency departments continues to be a lack of beds within wards – people remain in hospital longer and this results in fewer beds and resources available for presentations to emergency departments. I am a mental health clinician of nearly 20 years within Australia and abroad, and at present these are observations on my experience.

Dr Bruce Graham writes: As a practicing intensive care specialist, I can categorically state that the number one mental health problem with drugs in Australia is alcohol. It causes more brain injury, more social dislocation, more family and interpersonal breakdowns, more industrial and road accidents, and more direct health effects than every illicit drug combined. Any substance use in small concentration for a pharmacologic effect is a drug. The phrase “drugs and alcohol” is a tautology created for political comfort. Arguably, the number one general health problem with drugs in Australia is tobacco, but that is a different subject.

Laura O’Connell writes: Re. “The murky waters of being a lobbyist/journalist/columnist” (1 February, item 16). Our newspapers are being run by commercial lobbyists now? Win, win: lobbyist agendas get publicity; the papers get free stories. On 31 January, two articles appeared (on education in The Age, and on the Great Barrier Reef in The Oz) by representatives of the covertly funded industry group, the Institute of Public Affairs. Their conflicts of interest go undeclared because they hide the identity of those who pull their purse strings. IPA’s name implies authority and public interest. What other news infiltrations by lobbyists have Crikey readers spotted?

Geoff Russell writes: Kevin Collins (2 February, comments) seems to think Y2K was all hype. I was one of the thousands of programmers who spent many tedious hours checking and changing computer code to make sure the whole business stayed as hype so you could go out fishing. Likewise, if it wasn’t for the massive efforts of many people getting the Montreal protocol in place those ozone depleting chemicals would now be added into the climate change mix and be having an even bigger impact on climate than CO2. I guess you were fishing during that one too, Kevin. Oh yes, the Commonwealth Serum boys and girls have been pretty bloody busy making a vaccine against bird flu because Australia only has four million courses of Tamiflu in reserve and 20 million people. I guess if we didn’t put aside any Tamiflu for the fishing community, we could save a couple of million courses.

Nicole Watson writes: Re. “Rodney King being played out in Queensland” (2 February, item 9). It is unfortunate that Mirko Bagaric failed to acknowledge that like Hurley, Mulrunji was also entitled to due process, when arrested by Hurley for using language not unlike that used daily by police officers and no doubt, journalists. And while comparisons with the King case sound impressive, Queensland history is far more relevant, particularly the death of Daniel Yock in police custody in 1994 and the verballing of Kelvin Condren a decade earlier. The fact that none of the officers involved in either incident ever faced a jury was reflective of a belief within the Queensland police that those who brutalise Indigenous people should not be penalised. It is this belief that has spurred recent threats of industrial action by the Police Union, rather than concern for the rule of law. Finally, the words “long established criminal process protocols” are not synonymous with “sacrosanct”. It is commonplace for those in public office to provide written reasons for their decisions and for those decisions to be subject to external review. If there is a justification for the Queensland DPP to be immune to these processes, Mirko Bagaric failed to provide it.

Mike Martin writes: Re. “Sir Rod Eddington – the busiest man in corporate Australia” (2 February, item 2). While it makes for a nice snide jab, Stephen Mayne is wrong in writing, “Grounding Ansett was arguably the worst thing the Howard Government did to an individual corporate”. The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) grounded Ansett Boeing B767 aircraft on two occasions (December 2000 and April 2001) because the Ansett maintenance schedule for the aircraft had failed to carry out mandatory airframe inspections. In its report on the incidents dated 17 November 2002, the ATSB noted that, “it was critical that there were robust systems to ensure that the required structural inspections were carried out to detect the cracks before they exceeded acceptable limits”. These inspections were missed. If Mayne is implying that the groundings were politically motivated and that the Howard government somehow invented cracks in the B767 airframes, where is the evidence?

Ian Scott writes: I have my home page set to Bigpond and when reading the latest news items on Saturday afternoon (14:30), I came across an article courtesy of ABC News: “Australia ‘Must Adapt’ to Global Warming“. The prominent banner add on the page was for Daikin air conditioners! Although I must admit to having air conditioning, I only use it sparingly. Perhaps one thing most Australians can do to help global warming is change our typical house design to something more appropriate to our climate. Like the traditional farmhouse with 360 degree verandahs and high pitched roofs.

Arnold Ziffel writes: I note that nearly every time Crikey discusses the NSW Premier, he is called “Dilemma”. Is there a good reason for this? At best it’s a tired joke after a couple of repetitions. At worst, it smacks of making jokes of people with funny non-Anglo names. How about just using his actual name, to show that you’re addressing the issues of his or his Government’s performance in a mature way?

Gabriel McGrath writes: Glenn Dyer wrote (2 February, item 17): “24…… averaged a miserable 747,000 viewers from 8.30pm. It just doesn’t do it for Australian viewers – it is clearly too American.” Err, right.  Unlike those you-beaut dinky-di high rating shows like CSI, Law & Order, Ameri(oops) Australian Idol, etc? In my untrained opinion, 24 has three problems keeping the numbers down (which is a pity, because my wife and I are hooked)… 1) It’s a show that rewards viewers who’ve watched previous series. As each series screens, more people are likely to think “I’ve missed too much, I can’t be bothered”. 2) Channel 7 REALLY screwed the fans last year, moving the show from night-to-night, into later hours.  3) I’ve heard of figures that say 24 “tanks” with women. If that’s true, my theory is that it’s due to each series containing more, and increasingly graphic, scenes of torture.

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Peter Fray

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