Bruce Smith writes: Re. Could the Rudds have built a more government-dependent share portfolio? (yesterday, item 2). Mayne is off the planet with his attack on Kevin Rudd’s and Therese Rein’s share portfolio. Where is the conflict of interest? Surely there is only a conflict if Rudd can make decisions that make an impact on the shares in question. Rudd is leader of the opposition, not the government. What could he possibly do this side of an election? And why condemn them for supporting a company which even you say generated such a “wonderful Australian innovation” like Gardasil?

Steve Moriarty writes: Stephen Mayne needs to pull his head in. Isn’t anybody allowed to make a profit if one of their relatives is in politics? If Ms Rein is an astute businessperson then that is tribute to her. Correct me if I am wrong but I thought that what capitalism was about? Stephen, can you kindly list Malcolm Turnbull’s assets and how they relate to government? Or maybe Janette Howard’s assets. BHP shares are connected to government? Wow, I bet many of us didn’t know that. If this is the best you can do Stephen, then toddle off and concentrate on People Power. Is it still running by the way?

Mike Lloyd writes: We all know that the Liberals have a dirt squad targetting Kevin Rudd. Fair enough, politics is a big boys game and Rudd is hoping to make a whole bunch of Liberal politicians unemployed. However I am most surprised to see Stephen Mayne and Crikey assisting the Liberals in this project with daily exposes of the Rudd’s families share holdings and the potential conflicts this will cause. As an example of some missing balance, when are we going to see Turnbull’s fortune exposed? Surely he has shares somewhere in a infrastructure company that could potentially, if you draw a long enough bow, benefit from the water projects he will initiate? Or are you not being supplied with this information from your friendly sources?

Tom McLoughlin write: Stephen, while always in awe of your business research skills and know how, has it occurred to your goodself the federal ALP leader is benefitting no end from your profiling of his savvy share portfolio business performance? Eh, benefiting from Crikey’s probing, prodding and paroxyms of transparency? Yep, in the minds of the bizoids, the BCA, the business establishment, whatever they are called now: now we have a real capitalist in charge of the ALP they will think, and a muscular Christian too. As long as he times his blind trust just in front of when his actual conflicts get sticky, I do think, yes, you will be on his Christmas card list. Or is that your plan anyway, raising up Ruddy to shove Howard where he belongs? Go laddy, go.

Michael Walker writes: Re. “How the Rudds profited from Janette Howard’s cancer scare” (yesterday, item 3). Stephen, are you considering a career change to writing headlines for the Hun? This headlines is absurd. How tabloid and overly dramatic can you make a simple story about a single holding in an ex-government authority? Get over it.

Liz Johnston writes: What a divine irony that John Howard’s highly unpopular dismantling of the old Commonwealth Employment Services into a money machine for private operators may now indirectly be funding Kevin Rudd’s bid to take away John’s job. Perhaps Therese Rein’s Igneus can find a job for Mr Howard if he has to leave Kirribilli House after the election. Because of his age he might need some re-training, a costly exercise for which the government will have to pay Igneus even more. He’s too old for hard physical work and given his government’s slackness in recognising the need for high speed internet in Australia I suspect he’s not all that IT-literate. Does anyone know if the PM can do word processing and send and receive his own emails? If so perhaps employers might consider him for the maximum two hours a fortnight regarded as fully employment.

Lawyer Katy Barnett writes: Re. “Kirby part two: Extreme Islam is no friend of Dorothy’s” (yesterday, item 14). Peter Faris QC suggests that it is hypocritical of Justice Kirby to question the “War on Terror” because His Honour is homos-xual, and if fundamentalist Islamists invade Australia, Justice Kirby would be one of the first to suffer. But Justice Kirby’s question is important: What poses a risk to Australians (and the free world in general), and what measures should we take to combat these risks? I’m glad His Honour raised the question. Both sides of politics use particular events as examples to create “moral panic”. The right use the example of September 11: those terrorist bastards will stop at nothing to get us, so we have to pull out all stops to prevent them acting. The left use the example of David Hicks: the USA is the moral equivalent to Al Qaeda because it locks up men without charge and without trial. Some perspective here, please!

Andrew Dempster writes: Peter Faris wrote, “One problem is that, if we lose the War, homos-xuals like Kirby will swing by their necks in public executions.” I note yesterday’s comments about Mr Faris’s QC moniker being no guide to the quality of his work and was rewarded with more of the same rubbish from said QC. He refers to the War on Terror, a fabrication of a discredited president of the US, used as an excuse for pre-emptive defence, which has no basis in international law. The war in Iraq was about weapons of mass destruction, remember – there is no evidence of a link to terrorism. Of course now there is a link – it is the best recruiting campaign Al-Queda have ever had. But there is no “War”. Islamists have not invaded anywhere. Terrorism is not a military problem – it’s a police problem. It is just another crime, albeit a serious one. Terrorism is being prevented by police arresting suspects, while the actions of the armed forces abroad act simply to recruit more of those suspects. Islamic leaders who inflame hatred against non-Muslims, women or homosexuals can be dealt with under existing laws. It’s disturbing that someone so senior in the legal profession chooses not to see how the law can solve these problems, deciding instead to believe Bush’s fairytales.

Mike Martin writes: Peter Faris writes (yesterday, item 14), “if we lose the War [against Terror], homos-xuals like Kirby will swing by their necks in public executions. Kirby is concerned about the AIDS epidemic. Islamic extremists would go a long way to solving that problem by executing all homos-xuals.” Apparently he imagines that, should we lose the WAT, London, Madrid, Los Angeles and Melbourne will fall under Shari’a Law, women will be required to wear burqas and prevented from contributing to Crikey (er, how awful would that be?) and the after-dinner drink of which he may have liberally partaken while penning his post will be banned. His hope however that this will stamp out AIDS is sorely misplaced. AIDS is a rapidly growing if little acknowledged problem in the Muslim world. Rather than executing homos-xuals, a more effective strategy for Al Qaeda would be the banning of opium poppy farming. I personally don’t care whether Al Qaeda, the Taliban or whoever win the WAT. Everyone knows that terrorists can’t swim. In the part of Sydney where I live, I am safe. Rising sea level consequent upon global warming would certainly drown the b-rstards.

Marc Thomas writes: Mr Faris, you overlook the fact that HIV/AIDS affects far more heterosexuals than homosexuals. Executing every friend of Dorothy will do little to alter the impact of the disease in the most affected parts of the world. I also struggle to follow your leap to the conclusion that losing the “war on terror” will result in Australians living under Sharia law.

Matt Forbes writes: Peter Faris is an irrelevant, short-sighted and generally hateful nutjob. His paragraph yesterday embodies this. I can find this cr-p easily enough on the street, and don’t need it in my inbox. If you think this poor man’s Andrew Bolt brings in more readers than he loses — and I doubt that he does — then continue with him. I, for one, will not renew my subscription if you persist in publishing his ill-thought and simplistic rubbish.

Mike Burke writes: Bravo Peter Faris. It’s heartening to see that Mr Faris, unlike Mirko Bagaric, is not so enthralled by Michael Kirby’s status as an icon of the chattering classes that he failed to see the dazzling irrelevance, let alone the sheer offensiveness of Kirby’s despicable and grossly ignorant comment about “the Americans” (all 300 million of them, no less) being completely obsessed with September 11. Some might be; most probably aren’t. It is hardly a surprise that Mirko Bagaric’s view of “ethics”, as set out in his starry-eyed homage to Kirby, amounts to nothing more than the old and long-discredited view that the end justifies the means – the mantra of dictators throughout the ages.

Peter Haydock writes: Dean Wiles (yesterday, comments) asks if legal eagle Faris QC thought the Taliban were “vile, despicable, abhorrent creatures” when they drove the Russians out of Afghanistan. My memory of events is somewhat hazy 20 years on, but wasn’t it the mujahadeen under the command of the legendary general Masood who actually drove out the Russians? The Taliban then arose from the ashes and took on Masood’s forces, eventually assassinating him with the help of Al Qaeda and a convenient suicide bomber. Judging by his contributions I doubt that Faris QC ever felt warmly towards the Taliban and, in fact, it’s hard to think of anyone who might. Masood’s forces were hardly enlightened either, but they were not completely medieval. As for the comments about QC after Faris’ name, isn’t it about time those who disagree with him get over this childish obsession. If he wants to use it, how does this diminish his arguments? 

Mark Byrne writes: Re. Kirby part one: Ethics is universal, not provincial (yesterday, item 13). Mirko Bagaric’s argues that David Hick’s “ongoing detention should barely register as a micro-dot on our [Australian citizens] moral radar.” Instead we ought to see his “suffering is piffle compared to the pitiable lives endured by hundreds of millions of people around the world, 30,000 of whom die daily from hunger and other preventable causes”. I now look forward to all of Mr Bagaric’s future articles and work to address the plight of those who face the greatest disadvantages. To get to the root of the disadvantage, I suggest Bagaric focus on the structures that enable abuses of power. Such abuse justified slavery and the imperialist dispossession in Africa. Dispossession of Aboriginal people around the world. Power structures that permitted the stolen generations. There is moral argument for many Australians taking a stand against recent abuses of power that lead to atrocities, including the killings, destruction and poverty in Iraq. The abuse of power surrounding Hick is intermeshed with Iraq and the “war on terror”. All of which is costing resources that could be improving the situation of those with the least advantage.

Peter Mansour writes: Crikey, I just renewed my subscription last week, and already begin to regret it. How many more times will you go to the trough of Mirko Bagaric for comment on serious issues? His latest on Hicks’ suffering as “piffle in comparison to the 30,000 who die daily from hunger and other preventable causes” has the logic of ” bad is trumped by worse, so then bad is not bad at all”. Even if that twisted logic was remotely acceptable, it ignores a basic principle in ethics: that harm deliberately done to another human being makes the perpetrator guilty. The injustice to Hicks is imposed deliberately and in the name of a just society, by the US adminstration. That is morally reprehensible. If their governments are deliberately starving the 30,000, that too is morally reprehensible. Ethics considers freedom of will and intention. But the real Bagaric thinking has shone through when he writes: “Some ethicists prefer theories based on abstract notions such as rights; others, like myself, are only concerned about maximising good consequences – even if it means trumping the occasional right”. Even Machiavelli would have been less blunt when stating that consequences alone determine the moral value of the means by which they are obtained. Bagaric may choose Machiavellianism, but he ought to know it is almost universally condemned as a moral principle. Give him a rest. Give us a rest.

Michael Cordover writes: Re. “Banks gouging millions on penalty fees — but is it legal?” (yesterday, item 1). I do hate bank fees as much as the next broke sucker but it seems to me that bank fees couldn’t possibly be illegal. I’m not a lawyer, but a law student who’s just completed a course in contracts. My reading would be not that overdraft/late fees are damages for breach, but rather that they are fees for a service – a loan of money for an extended period of time. Failure to repay does not constitute a breach, rather it constitutes an acceptance of a new contact (or another part of an existing one) – to borrow the money for longer, at some particular cost. Acceptance by conduct is quite well-established. It sucks, but courts aren’t the solution. The solution is proper fee regulation by government.

James Wade writes: Michael Pascoe’s analysis regarding the issue seemed to be a little shallow – perfectly suited to Sunrise’s format (ie. lowest common denominator), but I thought it was a little out of place for Crikey, particularly since it was in the number one slot! I work in a credit union, so I feel a little inclined to weigh into the debate…Firstly, concerning the legality — upon joining a financial institution, you sign off saying you agree to the terms and conditions of the financial instituion, which are outlined in that particular financial institutions Conditions of Use (COU) or Product Disclosure Statement (PDS). This is a requirement of the Financial Services Regulation Act (FSRA). In these COU and PDS documents, the rights and responsibilities of the financial institution and end user (ie customer) are outlined — one of which being that the customer is required to keep their account in order, otherwise penalties or fees may be imposed at the discretion of the financial institution. My other gripe is in regard to the actual cost to the financial institution when an account becomes overdrawn past its limit. Typically, collections officers get paid somewhere in the area of $20-$30 an hour (I am quoting casual rates, as this “includes” the cost of sick and annual leave). A collection officer essentially chases people with overdrawn accounts: sending letters, making phone calls, and generally running around chasing people who don’t want to hear from them. I wouldn’t be surprised if the average time spent on one account would be in the vacinity of 20 minutes to an hour…Hence, we are starting to see how these costs become justified. And really, do you want banks to be encouraging un-financed debt (because that is what it is)? If a overdrawn fee was only 30 cents or $2.50, like Michael Pascoe suggested it should be, debt levels would spiral out of control — particularly for those in the community who can least afford it. 

John Hunwick writes: Re. “Needed – new green economics” (yesterday, item 25). Matt Marks should acknowledge that so-called “greens” have led the thinking on economics and the environment. Supporters of the environment movement are probably more aware than he is of the works by Herman Daly, and the latest offerings of Lester R. Brown “Eco-Economy” and Jonathon Porrit “Capitalism as if the world matters”. It’s not the “greens” who do not understand environmental economics and the power of the nmarket place, it is Mr Howard and President Bush who have failed to harness carbon trading, not working through Kyoto with other trading nations, and dismissing the environment as insignificant. Any way, both will be gone in the next few months.

Andrew Burke writes: Matt Marks isn’t completely wrong, but he is very annoying. You can summarise his position as: “Those bloody greenies, they may have been right all along about climate change but now they can’t fix it for us.” How about this for an approach: 1) The world’s right-wing economists issue a collective apology and thankyou to the green movement for alerting the world to climate change, despite the abuse we copped from them along the way. 2) Said economists then do their bit by coming up with some brilliant solutions that will fix it whilst maintaining our economy. Just because we were right doesn’t mean that we’re somehow responsible for finding all the solutions.

Niall Clugston writes: Re. “143 years on and still talking on the Murray” (yesterday, item 7). Richard Farmer echoes the chorus of commentators praising centralisation of the river system as “commonsense”. In fact, the Murray is one of the rare cases where federalism makes sense. The state governments do not create the “parochialism” that Farmer attacks; they just represent it. Even if the states were abolished there would still be fundamental conflicts of interest over water use between those up- and downstream. At least at the moment there is a mechanism in which all parties get to argue their case on a roughly equal footing. And, yes, in practice that might not be pretty, but is “co-operation”. A central government imposing a grand plan or playing favorites isn’t.

David Heckendorf writes: Just to keep things in perspective about global warming and climate change, please find attached, a photo of an Easter picnic party in the dry bed of the Murray river in 1914.

This photo was taken at a place called Koondrook, just below Echuca. Considering that 2007 is the worst drought on record, the old Murray is really not in bad shape, relatively speaking. Also, for all of Tim Flannery’s flummery on his trip down the Darling, when Charles Sturt made his first exploratory trip to the Darling about 1928, the water holes were so salty that his horses couldn’t drink it. His journals record that salt was seeping out of the banks into the waterhole. On his subsequent trip down the Murray, a couple of years later, he took a DESALINATOR with him. He didn’t have to use it though.

Richard Kazimer writes: Re. “10 Things…about Richard Cheney” (yesterday, item 12). Mary Cheney is actually pregnant with her and her same-sex partner’s first child. Not “adopting” as reported. The who-how-where particulars of the pregnancy remain a family matter. But one can only gloat in the consternation the blessed event is causing Grampy Dick.

Cameron Bray writes: Tamas Calderwood (yesterday, comments) made a very revealing statement that cuts to the heart of the moral vacuum of the so-called “War on Terror”. To quote, referring to a prominent 9/11 plotter: “[he] 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.” This encapsulates the double standard that is corrosively eating away the West’s moral authority in any “clash of civilisations” The point of Western political and legal institutions is that they espouse a universal set of rights. The Western tradition that Bush, Blair, Howard et al. claim to be defending extends basic freedoms of expression, assembly and legal due process to all people. That is what makes Western values worth defending. The proponents of the so-called “War on Terror” are in an oxymoronic position of applying universal rights selectively. From this we get the horrors and hypocrisy of extra-judicial detention, tolerance of torture, restriction on rights to protest and dissent and criminalisation of free speech. Tamas Calderwood is dead wrong. Deny anyone access to our “institutions and laws” and they lose their value. Everyone has legal protection in Western society. That is what makes it unique and actually worth fighting for.

Ross May writes: Re. “The Qantas Mile High Club — how many points to join?” (yesterday, item 24). Crikey’s tongue in cheek piece on the Qantas “in flight service” was a disgrace. It’s not news and it’s not funny. Leave the trash in the gutter – there’s already too many media voices happy to dwell there, please don’t become another.

Dave Horsfall writes: Terry Maher (yesterday, comments), what do you suppose “fussball” and “futbol” mean in their respective languages?

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Peter Fray

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