Brad Sprigg writes: Re. “PM’s fake tears over Hicks – here’s how to get him home now” (yesterday, item 3). In regards to your article about David Hicks yesterday, one thing has been puzzling me for quite some time. Hicks has now been charged twice with attempted murder, yet the Howard Government maintains that Hicks has done nothing wrong under Australian law as it stood at the time. As far as I can see by this, the Howard Government is implying one of two things. Either it is implying that attempted murder was not illegal under Australian law at the time of his arrest, or that the attempted murder charge is bogus. Seeing Howard try to stumble out some half-baked explanation about what constitutes attempted murder on Monday’s Lateline was simply embarrassing, and if he really believes his explanation he should bring Hicks home to have him tried on an attempted murder charge here.

Graham Lapthorne writes: It’s clear David Hicks will not receive a fair military trial. That’s why US and other states’ citizens have already been released. Yet our Government allows Hicks to be served up to a second military-judicial charade. The Australian public is turning against John Howard and his despicable henchman Philip Ruddock in droves. Bring Hicks home! There is no conceivable danger to Australia if he is allowed to return, as ASIO can utilise him as a “make-work” surveillance project for its multitude of new recruits.

Lois Achimovich writes: Author and lawyer Dr Mirko Bagaric writes (yesterday, item 3) …” In relation to Hicks, the government should have run the line that people who leave Australian shores in pursuit of violent means of expression and are captured while being engaged by an enemy of Australian during a war are so culpable that they have no right to trial, let alone a speedy or fair one. Instead Hicks should be detained until the war in which he was captured had ceased.” First, there was no war with Australia or anyone else when Hicks was training in Afghanistan. Second, the war in which he was captured ceased three weeks after it began – Dr Bagaric, we have it on the best authority, the US commander in chief. So why wasn’t Hicks released then? Kafka live!

Andrew Ballem writes: Mirko Bagaric says that “Hicks should be detained until the war in which he was captured had (sic) ceased”. Could he please tell me the circumstances under which this “war on terror” will be declared “over”? Maybe when every last terrorist in the world is gone and we can be confident that there are no more to be created? This is a war in name only, a convenient phrase for a continuing struggle against terrorism and its supporters. It is not a war, and I wish the media would stop referring to it as such.

Eileen Roberts writes: Dr Mirko Bagaric referred to the war in Afghanistan when writing about David Hicks and his possible return to Australia. Dr Bagaric is not alone in his reference to war, but neither he nor anyone else has said when war was actually declared on both Afghanistan and Iraq. In the absence of any declaration of war, how then could David Hick become an enemy combatant, and how can his alleged offences relate to the “rule of war”? Perhaps someone can answer this without using weasel words to justify the actions of both the Governments of Australia and the US.

Deborah Hurst writes: If Dr Mirko Bagaric is correct in his quote of Philip Ruddock “The US made it clear early on that a detainee would not be repatriated unless the detainee would be prosecuted”, then anyone with a passing interest in the Hicks case would know that this assertion is rubbish. Many countries, including those allied to the US, asked for their citizens back unconditionally, and got them. Perhaps Ruddock can explain how Britain and other countries got their citizens back without satisfying this apparent US condition or compromising their alliance – but we apparently cannot. It’s yet more doublespeak from the Attorney-General, designed to confuse and muddy the waters of what is essentially a simple case of trying the man in a proper court of law, or letting him go.

Simon Sharwood writes: For me the “media saturation” about David Hicks is so not a “stellar example of misguided compassion and warped moral prioritisation”. It’s a sign of outrage that our government has created an undefined set of conditions under which it will allow an Australian citizen to be deprived of basic rights in a situation so far beyond the norms of Australia’s legal system that, were this taking place in any other regime than that of our great ally, the appeals to uphold basic legal principles would be long and loud. By abandoning the hard-won freedoms such as impossibility of detention without charge that the government professes to be protecting, we show ourselves as unprincipled. That we have abandoned our national principles in part to appease an ally illustrates a repulsively obsequious stance that further belittles our nation. Hicks seems to have done some very serious things. Let him be tried for them. But let him be tried fairly, under conditions that Australia insists on for its own citizens in every other case on the planet, instead of making a mockery of our history.

Greg Poropat writes: John Howard says that he could get David Hicks home any time but he won’t. It is abundantly clear that the Prime Minister and he alone has decided that Hicks must face a foreign court and be subject to a judicial process that could not exist in this country. (It couldn’t, could it?) But just when did John Howard acquire the authority to decide whether or not an Australian citizen should or should not be subject to the judicial system of another country? By what legislative instrument did Howard get the right to be an Australian citizen’s jailer and judge? We have reached a scary state when our Prime Minister can effectively breach the doctrine of the separation of powers and shamelessly abrogate the Federal Government’s responsibilities to protect the rights of Australian citizens impartially, non-judgmentally and to the fullest extent possible.

Di Parsons writes: Perhaps the Federal Government will take up Dr Mirko Bagaric’s suggestion about making law to try David Hicks in Australia. Or maybe not. But please, Dr Bagaric, the government is not, as you say, “disinterested in the plight of Hicks”. “Disinterested” means “impartial”, “even-handed” if you like – blind like justice. The Federal Government has been anything but impartial in regard to David Hicks. It’s had an axe to grind – the national security axe. Possibly it has been indifferent to the Hicks case, callous even. These days, when concerns about the treatment of Hicks grow louder (and an election is on the way), it appears a touch bewildered, confounded and confused, but “disinterested” – never.

Timothy Cleary writes: Re. The climate change debate. It is becoming tiresome having to put up with tirades denying the impact of fossil fuel burning on the Earth’s climate, or defending the rights of climate change deniers to put have their views heard with equal weight to those of the scientific community. While everyone is, of course, entitled to their own opinions, not all opinions are equal, and do not all deserve the same respect. In any field, the carefully considered views of the expert are more valuable than the “hunches” of the interested amateur. It is not the opinion itself, but rather the qualifications, experience and vested interests of the person expressing the opinion which should be the guiding principles in assessing whether it is a worthwhile contribution to a serious public debate.

Ewan Cameron writes: There is a scientific consensus that the atmosphere is warming faster than it otherwise would as a result of human agency. While there are qualified climate scientists who don’t share this view, the better reasons suggest that the rest of us us should accept it. However, there is nothing remotely approaching a scientific consensus about the long term impact of these changes on the environment. Much of what we read about this remains essentially speculation even if it comes out of the arse end of a computer model. Differences between worst and best case scenarios remain roughly equivalent to the difference between the midwinter and midsummer climates at the poles. And there is certainly no scientific case for any particular political response. Like other outputs from international diplomacy, the Kyoto Protocol may or may not be a good idea – it is too early to say and while we need to the listen to scientists’ views on that question, we should not imagine that it is one which science can settle. We should be suspicious of those who suggest that anyone who doesn’t support their preferred political responses to global warming is denying its reality. Unfortunately, this opens up a wide field for suspicion, even including many who write to Crikey on the subject, and the current Australian of the Year. This isn’t an argument for doing nothing – just for a little care and humility in working out what we should do.

Daniel Pitts writes: This week in Parliament John Howard said he was “sceptical at the capacity of the Australian Labor Party to provide an answer to the great challenge [of climate change] that doesn’t damage the long-term interests of the Australian economy”. I would have thought that the Stern Report has proven that it is in the long-term interests of the Australian economy to take tough decisions on climate change and reducing emissions. Instead Howard continues to kowtow to the powerful mineral resources and energy lobbies.

Mike Chamberlain writes: In the interest of editorial impartiality, could you please investigate the effect on global warming caused by the well documented increase in solar energy output over the last few decades? Or are you just going to continue the wide eyed mantra of “everyone says it’s the greenhouse effect so it must be true”?

Geoff Russell writes: “Cabinet can’t see the plants for the trees” (yesterday, item 12). Michael Pascoe wrote: “There was some ministerial chatter about tree plantations being important for greenhouse reasons…” Any minister who says this doesn’t understand “greenhouse reasons” (which is probably most ministers). If you grow a tree and cut it down, then the effect on CO2 is probably in the wrong direction. Some carbon will be sequestered in the timber products, but this will be more than wiped out by the emissions produced in the harvesting process (ie, HUGE machines guzzling lots of fuel). For trees to sequester carbon, you mustn’t cut them down – ie, timber plantations don’t count. So which minister was chattering?

Mark Byrne writes: In yesterday’s Crikey (item 5), Richard Farmer demanded that Tony Burke and Kelvin Thompson apologise for their “gross insensitivity” for, in effect, making fun of the PM’s hearing impairment over his comment about the jury still being out about “the connection between emissions and climate change’. But it isn’t Howard’s hearing that is impaired so much as his understanding of the problem. As someone who is deaf in one ear, I can assure you that there is no way the PM could have misheard Kevin Rudd’s question as “the connection between the drought and climate change”. Try it yourself: “emissions”… “the drought”. As he revealed when interviewed by Tony Jones on Lateline on Monday night, Howard still doesn’t get climate change, and likely never will. He’s hard of hearing all right, but not only in the literal sense. It’s all too much for him, and he’ll be long gone when the water starts to lap at the doors of Kirribilli House.

Frank Golding writes: In schoolmasterly fashion, Richard Farmer thinks the Prime Minister deserves an apology from Labor MPs for “their gross insensitivity” in not listening to his correction in Parliament on an answer about his recently discovered and wobbly interest in climate change. Surely the “jury is still out” on the merit of an apology. After all, while the PM has recently declared he has discovered actual climate change and seems to have discovered political climate change over David Hicks, he still hasn’t discovered longstanding Indigenous issues and refuses to apologise to Indigenous Australia for past injustices and continues not to listen to them.

Tony Barrell writes: Richard Farmer’s sympathy for John Howard’s hearing disability is touching and, he may be right, but in all honesty, can one really imagine a parliamentarian of his long standing enthusiasm for playing with words hearing “climate change” as “drought”?

Geoff Stennett writes: Re. Richard Farmer’s comments, “Labor thinks it is on a winner with its attack this morning on John Howard… but in truth the Labor spokespeople are showing appalling taste in attacking a man with a hearing disability”. When I read this I couldn’t stop laughing. Please tell me this was political satire at its most ironic… surely he wasn’t serious… he wasn’t, was he? I’m still laughing though.

David Lowe writes: So that famous “government relations consultant”, Richard Farmer, thinks the Prime Minister deserves an apology from Messrs Burke and Thompson for their gross insensitivity. Well, Richard your audience is intelligent and is well educated, but we are not a little drunk. Perhaps just a little merry – laughing at you and John Howard as you stumble toward retirement, deaf to the laughter and the squeaky voice and spittle on the lips. The audience thinks you protest too much!

David Havyatt writes: Re “A temporary Greens decline?” (6 February, item 7): It remains a great disappointment that commentators pay any attention to the published polls in relation to the position of those political parties whose interest is in contesting the Senate rather than the House of Representatives. As a consequence the position of those parties is usually under-reported. In particular the polls on Senate voting intention (Morgan and a private Newspoll reported in The Australian) both show the Democrats polling over 5%. Those votes the Greens are losing are going that way – to a party that is both more environmentally credible and can be expected to not to want to trash the Australian economy in the process. As we get closer to the election, that Democrat support can be expected to increase as people think about voting for parties that have told the truth about climate change. They will chose the one that hasn’t turned every issue of importance into a stunt.

Geoff Robinson writes: Re. “Now it’s a six-way race for the US presidency” (yesterday, item 13) A lot of conservatives are surprisingly sympathetic to Rudy Giuliani, presumably because he’s not John McCain. Giuliani looks like the US equivalent of Philip Ruddock, a former “moderate” who saw the light of political advantage on the hard right.

Michael McAllister writes: As I stated previously the Perth Group do not claim that HIV and AIDS do not exist. What they do unequivocally assert is that the theory that HIV exists and is the cause of AIDS has not been proven. They argue that the accepted and rigorous norms of scientific proof have not been met and I agree with them. Part of the process of proving a theory includes answering your critics. Science moves forward through debate. Arrogantly dismissing serious and legitimate concerns with tactics such as marginalisation, stifling of debate, personal abuse and the use of scientific terms such as “bullsh-t” is not answering your critics. As Dr Richard Smith, past editor of the British Medical Journal, points out to Professor John Moore in response to his attempt to silence debate by the Perth Group on the BMJ website: “As editor of the BMJ, however, I find it disturbing to see scientists arguing for restrictions on free speech. Surely open communication and argument is a fundamental value of science?” and “We should never forget Galileo being put before the inquisition. It would be even worse if we allowed scientific orthodoxy to become the inquisition.”  Mike Martin (yesterday, comments) joins the herd with his cheap shot about oranges, carrots and broccoli and his references to a river in Egypt.

Luke Draper writes: Re. Chinglish. Please refrain from indulging in childish and ignorant titterings at the sometimes less than useful translations of other language signs. It is not newsworthy, and if I wanted to see this I would go to the appropriate website where there are many of these signs to laugh at, not pay money to have someone else send them to me in a “credible” newsletter such as Crikey.

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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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey