Frank Lucy writes: Your editorial yesterday re Howard’s attack on Obama fell victim to a sadly typical Australian delusion, when you posed the rhetorical: “just imagine Howard’s own response if a notable foreign political opponent made derogatory comments about the PM or one of his colleagues in the heat of an Australian election campaign? He would be justifiably outraged”. It is just ludicrous to describe Howard as “notable” figure in the USA. Blair, Chirac, Merkel or Putin, yes – not not the PM of Australia. The equivalent over here might be if the PM of Tuvalu or Nauru attacked Kevin Rudd. It would get about the same coverage, and receive a similar level response from Rudd, as Howard’s words did.

Mike Smith writes: Re. Yesterday’s editorial – “just imagine Howard’s own response if a notable foreign political opponent made derogatory comments about the PM or one of his colleagues in the heat of an Australian election campaign. He would be justifiably outraged.” You mean like the former US ambassador to Australia, Tom Schieffer, criticising Mark Latham for wanting to withdraw troops by Christmas 2004? Surely that wasn’t what you meant. The reality is that politicians are going to comment on other countries’ policies. We criticise the USA’s trade barriers, they criticise us for the AWB bribing Saddam’s company. What goes around, comes around.

Jody Bailey writes: How is it that our Prime Minister can give the impression that the disintegration of law and order in Iraq is the fault of the Labor Party in Australia and the Democratic Party in America? The evidence supports the position that the main fault lies in the half-baked thought processes that led to a pre-emptive invasion, the premise of which was false, and the gross underestimation of the policing job to be done after dismantling a stable, if ruthless regime. And how is it that our statistically near-non-existent presence in Iraq can be championed by our Prime Minister as vital in holding together the front against world terror? Our Prime Minister is grandstanding by exaggerating his contribution to the War on Terror. It seems, and I would love to hear a coherent rebuttal, not the dismissive sloganeering rants he gave in Parliament today, that our Prime Minister is at best an obfuscator and, on the evidence, quite possibly a liar.

Steve Johnson writes: It was fascinating to see how quickly the US Democrat Presidential-nominee Barack Obama responded to John Howard’s comments on Obama’s potential US withdrawal policy for Iraq. What was even more surprising was Obama’s critical comment regarding Australia’s commitment to Iraq with 1,400 troops versus the US commitment of 140,000. The failure of our own media to pick up on this seemingly skewed statistic is interesting, but it only resonates when extrapolated to coalition hostility losses of 2,726 versus Australian hostility losses of nil. While it is reassuring that Australia has no combat fatalities to date, I wonder how long it will be before Mr Howard’s lock-step march with the US becomes a crazy dance to avoid the issue of parity of sacrifice in the so-called War on Terror. The US and UK have both paid a price for their policy, but these statistics make it appear as if Australia hasn’t. John Howard has made great political mileage out of this Coalition of the Willing rhetoric, but the paucity of Australian combat deaths has also consequently seen him suffer the least damage, electorally, compared with George Bush and Tony Blair. A strange conundrum which may catch up with the wily leader this year.

Jack Herman writes: The silliest thing about Howard’s rant on Barack Obama’s Iraq policy is that Obama cannot be President before 20 January 2009. So he will have zero influence on US troop commitments in March 2008. The Iraq insurgents will be aware of that, even if the Prime Minister isn’t.

Martin Gordon writes: Barack Obama’s Iraq comments appear to reinforce perceptions of his political inexperience. The US primary system for candidate selection may see candidates making statements pitched at their target party loyalists, but the impact on perceptions abroad can be significant, particularly as the US has such a critical influence in the world. A good way to assess a policy and its impact is how your allies and enemies respectively view your views. Al-Qaeda will be delighted with his comments; there is no escaping that conclusion. If Obama actually understands what he has said and believes the war against Islamic fascism is hopeless, why does he not apply the same withdrawal logic to Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan where the same foes are been fought? But he has criticised the US for not doing enough in Sudan (which is a bit rich given the US has been outspoken, but blocked by the obstruction, weapons and money of China and Russia). In the case of Somalia, of which he has said little, the lesson to be learnt from its abandonment in 1993/94 by Clinton and the UN is that we saw the whole country slide into an Islamist failed state and terrorist haven, which is only now being dealt with. Perhaps Obama is making an opportunistic pitch, but a dangerous one for US and other troops in Iraq, and other theatres in this war, which reinforces his opportunism, inexperience and irresponsibility.

Bruce Withers writes: Speaking as a person of precisely John Howard’s vintage I am very conscious of the need for mental exercise to keep the grey cells fighting fit. A daily power walk is just not enough. To be brutally frank, our noble leader no longer seems to be cutting the biscuit, or whatever. Several of your commentators noted that it is extremely difficult to suspend one’s disbelief to the extent of accepting that anyone no matter how hard of hearing could mistake “emissions” for “the drought”. But none seemed to notice that the contention that “the jury is still out on the connection between the drought and climate change” is absurd if not inane. Does one have to point out the obvious that drought is a part of climate like storms and air temperature? It doesn’t take a jury to make the connection. Having lived in Iraq for four years in the days of the notorious Saddam Hussein and travelled widely, I can assure the PM (and tried to at the appropriate time through our respected MHR, Neil Andrew) that there was a time pre-Bush when that country was very safe and free from terrorist attacks. The person who opened the country up to al-Qaeda and very effectively forged unlikely links between that group and Saddam’s dispossessed followers was Howard’s mate, George Dubya, with Howard’s unquestioning assistance. Like the flowers that bloom in the spring, Barack Obama has absolutely nothing to do with the case.

Greg Poropat writes: Re. Is John Howard losing it? Last week John Howard claims he mistook (not misheard, as quoted in many sections of the media including your esteemed online journal’s editorial today) a question about climate change. Today (Monday 12 February) in parliament he twice quoted Kevin Rudd as having used the term “imperial fact” when the actual expression was “empirical fact”. And at least eight times during question time and the censure motion debate, he referred to “three years ago” when the case of the Iraq war was made. This was, in fact, four years ago. Having lost most of his hair, is the Prime Minister now losing the stuff it used to hold together?

Noel Tarlinton writes: My tip is that Crikey will become a failure if it continues to throw mud (unwarranted) at Mr Howard. He cops it enough from mainstream media – you should be able to do better. We the readers just want the facts and information, not editorial. “Embarrassing attach” and “Arch stupidity” are way off the mark – i strongly disagree with these words. If you are going to give an editorial, put it under that heading and leave all other sections to information only.

Anthea Parry writes: Why, oh why did you have to bring Christian Kerr back from holidays? I was enjoying the improved standard of political coverage in his absence. He claims (“Political bite-sized meaty chunks” – yesterday, item 9) that “pals” tell Crikey Carr is to advise Rudd, and then claims: “And the talk seems sure – Simon Banks, former adviser to Simon Crean, David Cox, Rob McClellan and Stephen Smith, looks likely to be appointed Rudd’s chief of staff” – as if this was reported to him by secret high-level sources, and not just something he read in The Age four days ago. If I want to read The Age rehashed, I’ll… actually, I won’t want to read Kerr’s rehashing of The Age, because I read The Age. C’mon Crikey, what happened to the inside tips and gossip? Put Christian Kerr out to pasture and find some real journalists who have contacts on BOTH sides of the Parliament.

David Murtagh writes: Re. Barry Everingham. You missed nothing, Mr Horkan (yesterday, comments). Everingham is a busker with one tune and his delivery is getting worse every time he plays it. Maybe he has some dirt on someone in the Crikey bunker; there can be no other excuse for using his contributions which add nothing to any topic he tries to address. In fact, let me summarise his next five “articles” for you: the monarchy is bad. Everingham, you lost the referendum; even Malcolm Turnbull has moved on. It’s time … to get over it!

John Macdonald writes: Re. Coal exports. Applause to Bob Brown for kicking the debate in the shins but I’m not sure he has thought it through. Coal mining is just a response to market demand. Unless the demand is removed, a ban on coal mining would be counterproductive – coal would just travel further to its markets and it would be poorer quality, meaning higher emissions. Domestic coal fired power stations may be fair game but exports are a different matter. About 60% of Australia’s coal exports by volume and about 80% by value are used to make steel. Without Australia’s coal the cost of steel production would skyrocket as Australian coal is the most efficient and the closest to market. If Australia’s coal was removed from the market, steel making would go on with dirtier, more far flung coal. The misdirected headline attack on coal mining leads nowhere. Suggestions are still some distance from reality, and from the complexities of the problem: either spend money developing a replacement for coal in steel making – and then pay for it to be used overseas, or lobby against the overseas production and consumption of steel.

Michael Keizer (former aid worker in Congo, Burundi, and Uganda) writes: Re. Revisiting Rwanda’s Genocide (yesterday, item 12). Charles Richardson tells us that Bruguière’s conclusions about Kagame’s responsibility for the downing of Habyarimana’s plane reminds us that the world is not neatly divided into good and bad guys. Anybody who has ever worked in Africa’s Great Lake Area (Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya) would already have known this is definitely true there, and even more so when considering Paul Kagame. Those who did not believe the persistent rumours about his involvement in the assassination of Habyarimana definitely would have been persuaded by his ordering an ordinary land grab in 1998, when Rwanda invaded and captured mineral-rich areas in Congo. UN and Amnesty International reports allege mass scale looting and the deliberate killing of thousands of civilians during the invasion. Rwanda is still involved, although mainly by proxy, in Congo’s bloody (and very under-reported) conflict that has caused the deaths of millions of civilians. All this does not detract from the fact that Kagame has been able to reunite (although with an iron hand) a country in which ethnic divisions led to one of the bloodiest and most shameful chapters in modern history. Truly, not a good guy nor a bad guy.

David Hawkes writes: Richard Farmer (and the Prime Minister) have both recently referred to NSW as the biggest state. It isn’t. It is the most populous state, but nowhere near the size of Western Australia. This is not pedantry, simply accuracy.

John Bowyer writes: Geoff Russell (yesterday, comments), it beggars belief that the timber industry can use more carbon than it sequesters? Think about the massive “young” acreage of trees and all the carbon they contain being only one fifth of what the harvesting is burning? The CSIRO is paid to propagate this sort of nonsense and was shown by the Sunday programme last year to be incompetent in its analysis of the water of the Murray River. And now this rubbish. Geoff may be impressed by white coats, clipboards and tonnes of paper wasted on these neverending reports, but the rest of us actually know when we are being snowed (mostly). Leave thinking to the grownups, Geoff.

Chad Ravlich writes: Re. London papers’ coverage of one day finals (yesterday, item 14). I do not know where your writer looked for the cricket final coverage. The match was well covered by the Times, Guardian and Mirror and I expect other London papers, not, as implied by your writer, as an afterthought.

Seven Network spinner Simon Francis writes: Re. Roger Moll on Seven’s V8 coverage (yesterday, comments). We suspect Roger Moll may be parked in the wrong garage. Seven will be unveiling its broadcast schedule for V8 Supercars in the coming days. We have been quite clear on several fronts: we’re expanding our coverage by 50-60% on that offered by Ten, it will be coverage across Saturdays and Sundays, there will be full event coverage and yes, it integrates seamlessly with our AFL commitments. Any claims to the contrary are purely ill-informed. We have been quite clear about our commitment to V8 Supercars and AFL over the past twelve months.

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