Peter Dowding SC writes: Investigative reporters are not what they used to be especially if they come from Queensland or work for Murdoch, it seems. On the front page of the Oz Kevin Meade and Tony Koch report incorrectly that “Hurley became the first policeman in Australian history to be charged over the death of a prisoner in custody”. Well guys, why not try this link, where you would have seen that in 1983 when John Pat was killed in Roebourne WA, the new West Australian Labor Government provided the Coroner with the unprecedented support of a senior QC to assist him, and following the inquest five police officers were charged and tried before a jury for Pat’s killing. They were ultimately acquitted in a trial held at Karratha in 1984. Gee, Queenslanders obviously are from another country.

Trevor C Rowe AM writes: Re. “Why did the PM’s mate pull out of Qantas?” (yesterday, item 11) I confirm that I was approached to be considered for an independent director role with APA. However, after due consideration, I decided to decline the invitation to serve on the board in a non-executive director role. My advice that I had declined this invitation was forwarded to the APA consortium prior to the article in the Australian Financial Review on Wednesday 31 January, 2007.

Michael McAllister writes: Re. “Degrees of denial: climate change, HIV and the Holocaust” (yesterday, item 4). Conventional wisdom says that HIV causes AIDS. Anyone that disputes this given is a denier or, as Charles Richardson asserts, someone whose “views are beyond respectable opinion”. The Perth Group, who have been tactfully questioning the conventional wisdom of the cause of AIDS for 25 years – purely on the empirical evidence available, deserve better. They do not, as Richardson implies and the mainstream media and their experts assert, claim that HIV doesn’t exist. They do not claim that AIDS doesn’t exist. What they do argue is that there is “no proof that a retrovirus HIV does exist” and by extension is the cause of AIDS. They freely admit that they could be wrong but they also insist “there is a tradition in science that those who propose theories provide the proof”. This seems to be an unquestionably sensible and reasonable thing to ask for and beyond the scope of conventional wisdom and the “opinion” of Charles Richardson.

Neil Allen writes: Jennifer Marohasy’s comment, referred to in the Crikey editorial yesterday, that ocean temperature measurements since 1998 have not supported any climate warming since then, is interesting in the light of some information suggested by an examination of three Tasmanian tree ring chronologies. I do not know if Jennifer’s reported statement is correct or not, as the tree ring data I have only goes up to 2000, but it could well be correct – and misleading. An analysis and reconstruction of three Tasmanian tree ring chronologies, one for the west coast (3600 years long) and two shorter ones for the east coast (838 and 300 years long) (unpublished as yet), indicates a sudden increase in the natural variation of Tasmanian temperatures between 1950 and 1980, followed by a resumption of the natural climatic variation up till at least 1995 for the east coast and 2000 for the west coast of Tasmania. The indication is that the pattern of natural climate variation shifted upwards in temperature by about one centigrade degree over the period from 1950 to 1980. I do not know if the same upwards shift in the natural variation occurred elsewhere in Australia at this time. The point I am making is that there is some evidence that climate does not change in a continuous way, but rather in a series of steps probably associated with changes in one or more atmospheric or oceanic circulation patterns at a time. Therefore, one set of measurements over one restricted time period may indicate no climate change, while another set of measurements over a different restricted time period may indicate a global warming that is alarming. This situation is unfortunately one that can be exploited by both sides of the debate, with equally valid scientific credentials on both sides. I do agree that the climate debate, across the world, has often degenerated into something like a war between two fundamentalist religions, assisted on both sides by a media and politicians who would not know a spectral analysis from a flathead.

John Kiely writes: While the expert opinion on global warming certainly is piling up, it’s curious that Crikey would run an editorial using such language as “denial hucksters” to attack people who argue that the case is not closed. I notice the Stern review is coming in for criticism from experts, not just media “hucksters”. We should continue to hear all sides. Or is Crikey planning to issue a list of its subjects on which the cases all are closed?

David Donohue writes: I’m sure that anyone who knows Jennifer Marohasy’s environmental and scientific credentials found it hard to accept your description “global warming denial huckster”. Bearing in mind that she was commenting on a precis of a yet to be released document, her comments are quite measured and realistic. Attempting to reduce scientific, environmental or climatic debate to a simple black or white polarity is a simplistic and ultimately doomed enterprise. Jennifer, in the tradition of Bjorn Lomborg the sceptical environmentalist, seems to be one of the few more concerned with weighing the empirical evidence rather than simply jumping on the nearest bandwagon.

John Robinson writes: I have been a subscriber since before Stephen’s first baby. Crikey had a broad range of perspective and a tolerance of many views which is of no little import and increasingly hard to find. Yesterday’s editorial, and Charles Richardson, exposed feet of clay I had not expected. I admit to scepticism that the religious fervour and simplistic overstatement of climate change believers will lead to any useful result. I am sceptical that we have any real understanding of a complex issue in our social and environmental position. I am sceptical that we are intelligently served by our researchers when a scientist can say “the global warming debate is over” with a straight face. The redneck “if youse not for us youse agin us” stance you have now joined makes me sceptical that any threat to the thin veneer of our civilisation is in competent hands. The family that doesn’t know where the next meal is coming from, the sweatshop worker waiting for the sea level rise to swamp the boss in his waterfront mansion, the angry individual that thinks blowing up stuff makes a political point. They are unlikely to be much interested in longer term climate change and increasingly unlikely to have the education to understand it. I saw a report that suggested that poverty and inequality, while hard targets, might be a necessary and more effective fix in the aid of environmental and social continuity. This seemed to get roundly condemned as “Oil Company Propaganda” by the Climate Change Believers. The zealous embracing of an abatement strategy rather than also pursuing one of adaptation makes me sceptical that we actually know what to do. Evolution does teach us that adaptation selects survivors. Religion tends to favour abatement. In the face of that and the stuff you daily see in the mainstream press, how can one claim to be even a little sentient yet not be sceptical? Yet I am “huckstering till there is nothing left” and patronisingly allowed (after comparison to a Holocaust denier) “the views of cranks should not be suppressed”. I think history will judge this period as the start of one of those ages of intolerance and ignorance of which our species is so depressingly capable. Crikey is now just another in the crowd. I retire hurt and saddened at the loss.

John Richardson writes: Those pesky rocket launchers are back again. On 9 January, Christian Kerr joined Neil James, from the Australian Defence Association, in an indignant attack on the “hacks” at the Sydney Morning Herald for being “confused” about the facts surrounding the disappearance of our weapons of mass destruction. James absolved both the Department of Defence and the ADF from any responsibility in the affair, arguing that: “It is therefore very galling for the members of the ADF when there is constant incorrect or sensationalist media and political commentary criticising the defence force for things they are not guilty of and not responsible for.” Mmmmnn ….. Defence Minister, Brendan Nelson, today confirmed that one of the M72 launchers recovered from a Sydney man “was from Australian army stocks”. Galling indeed.

M. Gordon writes: Re. “First by-election for the year, and it’s a humdinger” (yesterday, item 6). Charles Richardson’s observations about the Peel by-election being disappointing for the Liberal Party are fair enough. History is full of parallels however. Early in the Richard Court Coalition Government (1993-2001) the ALP suffered having to fight a by-election caused by the resignation of a certain Graham Edwards (to switch to Federal politics). The ALP suffered a swing against it then – to such an extent it lost the seat to the Liberals! There you have it the unusual event of a Government winning a seat from the Opposition at a by-election! Western Australia is also the most notable “deviate” state federally, showing the greatest propensity to swing against the national trend. Locally the Liberals like the ALP will need to get their act together.

Kathryn Franco writes: I used to work for David Jones and did a lot of work which related to their brand, including working with their agency. The David Jones brand is very clearly articulated within the organisation and most employees know what it stands for (eg, “trust” is one quality). It is fiercely protected by all executives and its agency acts as a custodian. I can understand why David Jones has decided to take the Australia Institute to task – because the idea of exploiting children would not even enter the minds of people who work there, and certainly wouldn’t be deemed to be within the spirit of the brand or the company’s values. I say this even though I didn’t necessarily find it to be a great employer – for other reasons. If the Australia Institute were saying that children’s clothing designers seek to s-xualise kids, then they should have been more precise. Pointing the finger at DJs is like shooting the messenger.

Lauren Dimas, Chair of Women’s Council, writes: Was a branch of the SA Young Liberals holding a lingerie party at the Bath Hotel, in Adelaide? This question was posed in Crikey yesterday (Tips and rumours, item 5). The answer: No, the credit has been misdirected! Women’s Council (Liberal Party of South Australia) held a Lingerie Fashion Parade at the Bath Hotel on Saturday 3 February. Both women and men (we don’t discriminate on who we accept donations from) attended, however… sorry to disappoint, but we did not auction off any lingerie! We did have lots of other auction items though, donated from supportive South Australian businesses, which were actively bid on by many in the room. I am confused by the author’s comments though. I fail to see how men buying lingerie is an act based on political ideology – I think there are other forces at work when men buy lingerie. Obviously, to go to the effort to publish such a comment, the gossip merchant is disappointed they missed out on this fantastic Women’s Council function. If they would like to contact me I am very happy to keep them in the loop about upcoming events. Sorry you missed out this time.

Reg Katte writes: Re. Yesterday’s “Tips and rumours”  “AFR Access has 892 paid subscribers with a target of 20,000. That’s less than 5% of the target. It cost $11 million to build.” Who is AFR?

CRIKEY: AFR is the Australian Financial Review. AFR Access is its interactive web-based toolkit for investors.

Richard Lawson, editor Dubbo Daily Liberal (1996-2005), writes: Nice to see Keith Perkins (yesterday, comments) is still agitating the Nationals mafia in Dubbo. Jen Cowley (the last of four Liberal editors in less than a year) should have a dream run leading up to the 24 March NSW election. For a start, she won’t have Rural Press management legitimising every National Party whinge about the newspaper’s political coverage. At the 2003 poll, in which the Nationals failed to win back their once-safest seat in Parliament, the Daily Liberal’s election coverage was audited following a complaint by the party’s federal president Helen Dickie. Nothing was found to be untoward and Ms Dickie’s allegations, to use the words of the person who conducted the audit, were “malicious” and “mischievous”. That, of course, didn’t deter management. Unable to find facts to support the complaints of Ms Dickie and other Nationals, they resorted to suggesting there was “a perception of bias”. To her credit, Jen Cowley was not a Nationals malcontent despite her loss to Dawn Fardell at the 2004 by-election. Keith Perkins should pin his faith, firstly, on the prediction of ABC election analyst Antony Green who thinks Fardell will retain the seat of Dubbo next month and, secondly, in the sometimes under-rated wisdom of local voters that no amount of real or perceived bias can influence.

Allen Kavanagh writes: Re. “Rodney King being played out in Queensland” (2 February, item 9). Good Lord, does Mirko Bagaric work for the Queensland Police Union? He sounds as if he is trying to put their spin on the Chris Hurley case. In NSW, we have highly skilled and highly paid men and women who wear bright red coats and funny wigs, and whom we have adjudicate on a person’s guilt or innocence. And that’s the way it should be. All that we, as members of the public ask, is that the Chris Hurleys of the world be allowed to defend themselves in such a place, and not have a single lawyer [the DPP], who has heard one side of the case, say Chris Hurley does not have to answer. After all, another lawyer [the State Coroner] was of the opposite view.

Michele Stephens writes: Re. Terry Kidd (yesterday, comments). Australian citizens are innocent unless proven guilty, not “until proven guilty”. As previously pointed out, “unless proven guilty” means one trial (usually) establishes guilt or innocence whereas “until proven guilty” implies a never-ending series of court trials in order to prove only guilt.

Simon Hoyle writes: Re. “Does Cricket Australia condone ‘getting blazed’?” (yesterday, item 18). Rolling up big jays, “sparking up them flames” and “getting blazed” almost certainly would enhance the cricket viewing experience. But then again, so would having a limb amputated without anaesthetic …

Andrew Mosey writes: Just writing to let you know how disappointed I am by your decision to downgrade sports. The additional sports coverage was the main reason I subscribed to Crikey, and on some days when busy at work the Sports is all I read. Not to worry, my account is due to lapse in six days, If you decide to reinstate the sports please let me know and I’ll re-subscribe.

Denise Marcos writes: Bravo and good riddance! You’ve excised sport and are (almost) a sport- free zone. My compliments to the Crikey publishers and editor on a groundbreaking albeit “brave” decision as Sir Humphrey would say. A niggling thought: could you now be persecuted for being un-Orstrayan?

John Woodward writes: The postscript to yesterday’s editorial informed us that only sport stories with “merit” will be published. All sport stories have merit (except for the American gridiron stories). The editorial then went on to say that Crikey readers are interested in “politics, government, business and the media”. I’m a Crikey reader and I’m interested in sport too (except for the American gridiron) and would like a dedicated sports section to be retained.

Jason Bryce writes: Not happy, Jan about the reduced Crikey coverage of sports. The mainstream press are too often just cheerleaders for our spoilt cricketers and pampered footballers. I enjoyed your sports coverage immensely because it was not the jingoistic cr-p we get fed elsewhere.

Peter Scholl writes: I subscribed to Crikey hoping for more arts coverage, which you seemed to have for a while. But now you lump it in with sport so you can disguise the fact that you have paltry arts coverage. Come on, get a good journo or two to cover music, visual arts, theatre, etc. Lots of politics there, if you need that. At least give some of us the illusion that Australians care for more than sport.

Jim Hart writes: Don’t know whether to laugh or cry now that the prime minister of the Crikey bunker has created a Department of Media, Arts and Sport. When sport (yawn) had its own section it was easier to scroll past it. But I can see the logic of the change since most of your media coverage relates to TV ratings (double yawn) which in turn relate closely with sport especially in summer. I would skip the whole section except that I still live in hope that you might one day get a bit of arts coverage again. Come back Stephen Feneley, all is forgiven.

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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