Audrey Raymond writes: Re. “Hicks is vile and despicable – but he must be released” (yesterday, item 11). I am appalled that a QC, viz Peter Faris,who presumably believes in the fundamentals of British law that one is innocent unless proven guilty, should describe David Hicks as “a vile, despicable and abhorrent creature”. He is presumably making those comments merely on the basis of the unproven charges America has made against him, which are of course biased, inaccurate and face saving. We have learnt that one of the charges made against him is that he played a part in planning to blow up an American Embassy where in fact there was no such Embassy at the time he was supposed to be thus engaged. We have yet no proof that all the stories we have been provided with concerning this young man, are true. Your publishing such grossly bigoted and unfounded comments does nothing for the veracity and standing of your publication.

Norman Livingston writes: Whilst I agree with most of this article, I do wonder if Peter thinks the USA is despicable for giving the same evil and abhorrent regime support when it suited its needs?

Peter Nicholson writes: Peter Faris QC describes David Hicks as a vile, despicable and abhorrent creature who chose to join the Taliban, but most Germans chose to support the Nazis. People can make terrible judgements because of the propaganda they’re fed or some blind ideology and not just because of some evil makeup in their nature. It’s the government’s willingness to take Peter Faris’s good versus evil view of David Hicks that allowed them to let him rot, and in turn get into their present mess.

Dean Wiles writes: Mr Faris should remove the pretentious pole he appears to have lodged somewhere unspeakable and get a dose of history. Who was he barracking for when the Taliban were involved in the removal of those “vile, despicable, abhorrent creatures,” the Russians? Who really gives a rat’s a-se what someone’s opinion is who has to put QC after their name to try and give those opinions credibility. Keep your QC on the plaque of your building, don’t bring it into the real world.

Tamas Calderwood writes: Peter Faris QC says that all the men detained at Guantanamo Bay should either be tried in civil courts or released. Let me use just one example of why I think his argument is wrong: Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM). KSM was the principle architect of 9/11 and has been involved in plots from the 1993 WTC attack to Bali and many others. It is absurd to think if KSM were released that he would live a quiet life and renounce terrorism. The war KSM started continues to engulf the world. Releasing him from Guantanamo would be equivalent to releasing Rudolph Hess (Hitler’s deputy captured in 1941) prior to the Nuremburg trials because the process was taking too long. As long as the war on terror continues, KSM can provide valuable intelligence and must be withheld from the battlefield. I’m not a lawyer but it seems to me that the likes of KSM present an existential threat to our society and I don’t see how common law applies to them. KSM actively sought the downfall of Western society and all its institutions and laws, so he cannot turn around and then seek the legal protection of that very system he sought to destroy. That’s not to say that David Hicks, one of KSM’s fellow detainees and a lower level offender, shouldn’t be tried as soon as possible.

Christopher Dunlop writes: Paul T Meakin wrote (yesterday comments), “John Howard’s announcement that some 70 more Army trainers will be sent to Iraq poses two important questions. The first is how long does it take to train Iraqis in police work or the basics of soldiering? In Australia six months would be considered a reasonable time even allowing for some further on the job training, but in Iraq this process has been going on and on now for three years! The second question is how can the Australian Army afford to lose 70 trainers while attempting to recruit and train an additional 1200 soldiers in order to increase the size of the Army? Does not make any sense to me!” Training in everything is ongoing. It doesn’t stop with six months training, otherwise Australia would have no military academy and no police academies.

Holger Lubotski writes: The UK is withdrawing troops to reduce their numbers from 7000 to 5000 and Lord Downer says this is a mark of the “success” of their mission. On the other hand, the US is adding 20,000 troops in a “surge” to boost the 170,000 already there. Is Lord Downer of Baghdad going to suggest that this represents something other than dismal failure in the light of his esteemed assessment of the UK’s “success”?

Athas Zafiris writes: Re. “How Victory snatched defeat from the jaws of Aussie Rules” (yesterday, item 20). Terry Maher, you are not a true fan of football as evidenced by your ridiculous rant. Worryingly, it also contained a what could only be called thinly veiled racism. “If ‘Abide With Me’ is good enough for the FA Cup Final, it is good enough for the A-League Grand Final. Show respect for tradition,” Terry implores with Anglocentric delusion. This is not England, Terry! It seems like you want the A-League to be a mini-version of the EPL. The A-League is two years old and “We Aussies” who are the supporters of MVFC are creating our own culture and traditions. For example, our chants celebrate the diversity of our backgrounds and pride in our club and city. Terry, as a true football expert, you should have at least been able to appreciate our Panathinaikos and Ascoli inspired chants but, alas, you only recognised “F-ck off United”. Even “The Cove” at Sydney FC are trying their own version of “horto magiko”, the fantastic Panathinaikos chant. “Oh, hang on. This is wogball,” Terry retorts. Yes, it is, Terry. This is Australia and you should celebrate it and when your club comes down next season it will be “Who the f-ck is Sydney FC” reverberating around the stadium.

Terry Maher writes: Dear soccerball and rugbyball pedants (you know who you are). Rugby football apocryphally started at Rugby School in 1823 when William Webb Ellis was seen to mark “the ball in his arms and ran” with it. But it is unlikely that he was the first to handle the ball in a “football” match; or that it was a prolate spheroid-shaped ball; or that he shared it among only 14 others on his side. Football in those days was only played by gentlemen from Eton, Harrow, Rugby and the like at the great English public schools. Gentlemen’s rules were mutually agreed before the kick-off. Most played a variation of the rules that three boys from the Rugby School set down in 1845. So when 12 clubs and schools from the London area met at the Freemason’s Tavern in 1863 to form the FA they were mostly “rugby football” clubs. There was nothing else. One, the Blackheath Rugby Club, formed in 1858, withdrew from the FA a month later when it became clear that the new “association football” rules would not allow running with the ball in hand (you could still catch it) and “hacking” to the legs (NB Kevin Muscat). As for England’s claim to have given “football” to the world, it has shown a remarkable reluctance to play the world game with the rest of the world. Its first overseas games were against “stiff” central European opposition in 1908. England did not join FIFA until after WWII and only made their its World Cup in Brazil in 1950. As for the spurious claim that 90% of the world call it “football” – you would get an immediate argument from 400-plus million Spanish speakers who call it “futbol” and the Germans who staged last year’s Weltmeisterschaft of “fussball”. So there you have it!

Bill Castleden writes: While assuring us it’s dead safe, Bernie Masters (yesterday, comments) omits to tell us the cost of capturing and geosequestrating carbon dioxide from coal fired power stations (it will cost about twice the current cost of coal-generated energy) and he skids over the fact that no insurance company will yet insure against the stuff leaking out. Presumably, as with insuring nuclear power stations, they are not convinced everyone can be guaranteed to do the right thing 100% of the time; and the liability has a very long tail.

Richard McGuire writes: Re. Telstra spin goes broadband (yesterday, item 20). In yesterday’s Media section, Margaret Simons bemoaned the fact that Telstra is playing hardball with the regulator, “the ACCC”. Well shut the gate Margaret, the horse has bolted. The government can no more compel a privatised Telstra to invest in infrastructure, under a regulatory regime not to its liking, than it can force BHP to make steel. When everyone’s done tallying their profits from the T3 float, the realisation may begin to sink in that a privately owned Telstra does not even have to be in the business of telecommunications, if it deems investment in that area no longer in the best interests of its shareholders. As for the G9 consortium rolling out its own fibre network, let’s just say I don’t expect to see them laying cable down my street any time soon. As the Telstra privatisation experiment rolls on, we will inevitably see the government, ie the taxpayer, pick up the tab for telecommunications infrastructure, that neither Telstra or its so called competition will invest in. Watch this space.

Julian Zytnik writes: Re. “Press Council muddies the waters of journalistic objectivity” (20 February, item 18). Margaret Simons all but gives up of hope of pinning down a solid definition of “journalistic objectivity”, in her piece yesterday on the APC’s recent Daily Tele adjudication. While pure “objectivity” is a bit of an Everest in this postmodern world, I don’t believe basic journalistic ethics are yet out of reach. The adjudication was quite clear cut: “In an era of journalism where commentary increasingly trespasses upon news reports, fact and opinion need to be distinguishable,” it states. Further, “the introduction of opinion into a news report makes it essential for the report to provide all the facts necessary for readers to judge the validity of the opinion. This news article fails this test.” I don’t agree the APC said it was “OK for a newspaper to be partisan, and OK to present opinion as news”. It merely said that opinion and news could coexist provided they were clearly identified and distinguished. Without getting into arguments over whether or not the APC is just a toothless tiger, if Margaret wants some ideas for a modern framework for journalistic conduct (whether this means striving for “objectivity” or not), how about starting with the APC’s own “Statement of Principles”, summarised as follows:

  • Don’t publish what you know is (or could be) false; take steps to check the accuracy of your report.
  • Make amends when you do publish something false
  • Respect privacy and sensibilities of individuals, except in cases of “obvious or significant public interest”.
  • Rumour and unconfirmed reports should be identified as such.
  • Don’t publish news obtained dishonestly or unfairly, and don’t breach confidences.
  • Clearly distinguish fact and opinion.
  • Don’t suppress or distort relevant facts.
  • Make headlines and captions reflect the tenor of an article.
  • Advise readers of potential conflicts of interest.
  • No gratuitous emphasis on race, religion, nationality, colour, country of origin etc, except where public interest overrides.
  • Ensure fairness and balance where people are singled out for criticism.
  • Failing that, provide reasonable and prompt opportunity for a balancing response.

This list still holds up pretty well, I reckon. It’s a question of actually applying it.

Simon Rumble writes: Re. Still got it wrong on Critical Mass/ Daily Telegraph . Chris Mosley is not a “spokesman” for Critical Mass (yesterday, comments). CM doesn’t have such people. He’s just a guy who goes along for the ride and happened to speak to the media about it. Critical Mass has no organising committee. It’s a group of people who meet once a month for a ride. There’s an email list, where some rough plans are discussed but decisions aren’t made. The media have a real problem accurately reporting groups without command-and-control structures, chiefs and indians, generals and GIs. Given it’s becoming a very common way of running movements of people, they need to get used to it.

D L Lewis writes: In response to Matty Price (yesterday, comments), if Mr Howard was to lose his seat, but the Coalition won the election – an extremely unlikely scenario, but not an impossible one – the Leader of the National Party would likely preside as Leader of the House and Acting Prime Minister until the Liberal Party members had met and elected a leader. It would certainly not be an automatic choice, though Mr Costello may well stand unopposed. The nearest historical precedents I can see are the deaths of J A Lyons and H E Holt, in which the above scenario was used.

Rosemary Swift writes: At the risk of being branded unbearably pedantic, could I point out that “myriad” actually means “a great many”, so “a myriad of reasons” (yesterday, Tips and Rumours) doesn’t make sense. There are myriad reasons, or a great many, not a combination of both!

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