Dr Fiona Stewart writes: Re. “Publish and be censored: Coonan moves to regulate everything you see and read” (yesterday, item 1). Crikey runs Coonan as No. 1, but in the same breath seems to have missed the banning of my book on voluntary euthanasia, The Peaceful Pill Handbook? It’s all the same brush, guys, what’s happening? We’re swamped with angry Australians who a) can’t believe a book banning has happened and b) want to order the PPH – still – and can’t comprehend the fact that Ruddock and Right to Life (the appellants) have ensured they cannot. The “win” has been referred to by the Australian Christian Lobby as “encouraging.” Who is pulling these strings? It’s been interesting answering public enquiries this week. People don’t understand the word “banned”; they still think they can order the book, that they can see a loophole. Alas, no. We tell them to try Amazon. I know VE is not something that Crikey fully gets (Christian by name, Christian by nature tiff several months ago), but whether you agree with the sentiments of a book (which, by the way, does not instruct – a two part legal test, inform and encourage – on matters of crime but one whose ban has been driven by the Catholic Church) these machinations surely deserve critique? Australia is the ONLY country ever to ban an end of life choices information book. Fascinating times indeed, we tell people who call, email and write. Anyway, enough from me… I’m just a tad amazed at the positioning of your radar.

Brad Ruting writes: I was absolutely gobsmacked to read of the proposed laws to make all published material in all forms subject to government classification clearance. Surely this is some twisted joke by a bureaucrat working on the Government Bulletin to find out who actually reads it. The logistical cost that such a scheme would impose on the government and media would be enormous. Classifying absolutely everything would send our democratic freedoms hurtling back into medieval feudal times. Who would decide what gets classified as which rating? What a subjective system this would be, reliant on the judgement of whoever’s assessing content. Say goodbye to anything anti-American, pro-choice on abortion, discussing the discussion of euthanasia, anything s-x-related that doesn’t involve “having one for the nation”, anything pro-Labor or Greens, anything anti-Christian, pro-interest rates, or anything that doesn’t fit with what Australian values are (or ought to be). Then, to get fast-track censor approval, you’d have to heap praise on our Dear Leader. “Welcome back, Dr Goebbels?” Sounds more to me like Kim Jong-Il. For the survival of Australia as we know it, vote this government out NOW! 

Michael Fisk writes: The implication in your editorial yesterday, that you are revealing what the impact of Helen Coonan’s Content Services Bill is likely to be, is somewhat exaggerated. Ross Fitzgerald was well and and truly on the case in his column for The Australian on Monday.

Stephen Bolton writes: Re: State of the Planet – “Australia’s first wave power plant ready to roll” (yesterday, item 18). Did I read this correctly? A device that, for the paltry sum of A$6 million sits offshore, produces sufficient power for 500 homes as well as desalinating sea water for household consumption has been made and is in use at Port Kembla (a prototype for a much larger device capable of powering some 15 000 homes according to the report). Why, if this is the case, are we even bothering with a nuclear/clean coal/dirty coal/ windfarm/solar farm/ recycled water debate with such a heroic device in use? Wind and waves drive the turbine, so as long as the tides keep turning (something that I think we can all be fairly confident of) we can have both power and drinking water. From the report, the locals are happy with it, even the surfers don’t mind it. One would think that such a contraption would be ideal for a large island with the vast majority of its population only a short distance form the coast.

Andrew Mack writes: What happened to the million trees that Justin Madden (ex-Victorian Minister for Sport) was going to plant for the Commonwealth Games? Did they get planted?

Brendon Jarrett writes: The responses in yesterday’s comments section to Evan’s “Nine Points About Climate Change” tend to support his contention and that of Bob Carter and the Lavoisier Society that “global warming” has become the new religion. Instead of looking for information on which to base a rational discussion, your respondents’ immediate reaction was to hammer the messenger but ignore the message. Much of the rebuttal being rolled out by global warming believers rests on the tired old argument: “Never mind the quality – look at the width.” The assumption that might is right has never had credence and has none in this case. Whether global temperature is increasing or decreasing, or if it is anthropogenic, has not been proved either way, despite strident claims to the contrary. The Lavoisier Society has a case to make for one side of the debate and the links Crikey provided were well worth following, cogently argued and informative – unlike your correspondents whose principal aim seems to be to shut down discussion rather than open it up. As with the reception of Bjorn Lomborg, it seems the loudest critics never read a book, having been too affronted by the cover.

Dave Fawkner (ranting doomsayer, rainwater collector, solar aficionado, Nimbin resident, etc, etc, etc. You know the type…) writes:  How can anyone object to having a nuclear power station in their backyard? I’ve been operating a perfectly adequate fusion reactor at home for nearly 30 years. Granted it’s in the front yard in the morning, and turns itself off at night, thereby cooling the local atmosphere, but even within these constraints it manage to provide enough energy to run a fridge, washing machine, non-incandescent lights, stereo, DVD player computer (yes, Crikey, this message has been produced using solar power) and enough TV to cover the programs actually worth watching. It also heats adequate water for washing. Of course trying to run all of these devices at once simply provides a timely metaphor for impossibility of unlimited consumption. However, according to Andrew Bolt, even this can be alleviated by preventing Peter Beattie stealing an hour’s sunlight off us each afternoon. PS: Any truth in the rumour that climate change sceptics take longer to break down in the compost heap than economic rationalists?

Bernadette Clohesy writes: Re. “Thorpie and the passing parade” (yesterday, item 20). It’s fine to give Billy Thorpe a bit of media space as a way of a send-off. But it’s a disgrace the way Elizabeth Jolley has left us with barely a mention in the press. At least The Age published an obituary and a tribute to her literary skills in the A2 section. The Herald Sun, has not written one line – much less a headline – about the passing of one of Australia’s greatest writers. Shame on them.

Frank Golding writes: Figures from Media Monitors raise as many questions about the media as about the public’s affection for late legends. Steve Irwin (2,701 media mentions in two days), Peter Brock (1,273), Billy Thorpe (1,543 and still counting) while author Elizabeth Jolley had 72 mentions over a much longer period. Colin Thiele, author of nearly 100 books, many of them translated internationally, died on the same day as Steve Irwin.  A couple of newspapers and the ABC noticed. Who decides who is an Australian legend?

Lindy Morrison writes: Re. “Billy Thorpe: most people I know are 60” (yesterday, item 19). Ms Hardy, some of us wise baby boomers know that youth is entitled to be cynical about the older generation. We encourage it; we were the generation that didn’t trust anyone over 30. However to use Billy Thorpe’s death as an excuse to belittle his generation of musicians is a sense of entitlement gone quite mad. Billy Thorpe participated in the Australian music industry as a consummate musician, composer and performer, advocated for Australian content on radio, and donated his time and resources to help out dying performers because omfg he just took a wild guess, Marieke, that they were not immortal. Baby, next time you take aim with that youthful, foolhardy loose-tongued arrogance, choose an appropriate target.

Mike Burke writes: Kay Fisher (yesterday, comments) seems not to have taken into account that there is no valid comparison between MPs and “lazy public servants and bludging welfare recipients”, and such simplistic rants really don’t add anything to the sum of our knowledge or understanding of the issues involved. MPs simply fall into neither group so ranting about their relative conditions is simply politics of envy nonsense. (I hope that it is not necessary to lay out a tedious laundry list of the essential and largely self-evident differences between the groups.) MPs travelling and travel-related allowances are independently determined by the Remuneration Tribunal. Don’t believe it’s independent? Show us some evidence. Don’t like its decisions? Show us a better system. Andrew Gordon’s assertion that such allowances are, unlike Departmental allowances, unaccountable is a red herring. Politicians are not public servants and should not be compared with them in any way. Their travel allowances are not a departmental expense. Their allowances are “fully accountable” in that they are paid the allowance without any requirement to acquit it. To assert that there should be some such requirement is to raise a completely separate issue. 

Chris Harrison writes: I was surprised to see that Richard Farmer in his piece, “Punting on the PM” (yesterday, item 16), misspelt Maxine McKew’s name as McHugh. Surprised because Farmer is a respected political journalist with inside knowledge of the ALP. McKew has a big reputation and is not a new public face. McHugh is not a typo.

Chris Colenso-Dunne writes: James Dunn wrote (yesterday, item 10): “There may be a good chance that the outcome of the NSW coronial inquiry into the killing of Brian Peters at Balibo in 1975 will offer a measure of closure for the relatives of the victims. It is, however, unlikely to bring justice”. Brava Shirley Shackleton, wife of killed journalist Greg Shackleton, who on RN’s “Breakfast” program retorted to Dunn that “closure is a gobbledegook word”. Shops may close, events do not, nor do our memories – the past forever affects the future. As Shirley Shackleton has insisted for over 30 years, the only thing that matters is that justice is done and that justice is seen to be done. For there to be justice, it is necessary but not sufficient that there be truth. Anyone who worked for the Whitlam government, or for those succeeding, who has read anything, heard anything or seen something that can shed light on the killing of Brian Peters and his four fellow journalists at Balibo has the duty to front up to the inquiry and spill the beans. Life without justice is life not worth living – closure be damned.

Fenge Shave writes: Just read your article on bank penalty fees and the millions if not billions of dollars they’re raking in due to the lack of any challenge or refusal to pay said fees. Well, it would appear that AAPT is now getting in on the act with a new $10 flat fee for anyone going a minute over the “payment due” date when paying their telephone bill. I was charged $10 a few months ago for being a couple of days late in paying my bill, which was on top of the $2 pay-by-credit card fee that AAPT also now charges. When I called up to complain I was told that AAPT would waive the fee, which got me wondering if this late fee is as unenforceable as the banks’ penalty fees?

Mark writes: Re. Refunded bank fees. Are you on a commission for all fees reversed by banks? If not, you should be. Just rang Westpac to “enquire” about a $500 fee I was charged for a dishonoured direct debit from an Investment Loan Account – not enough funds to cover the debit. No sooner had I asked which bit of documentation I received details this fee then the consultant advised me she would resend the schedule of fees, but as I am now aware of the issue, she would also arrange reversal of the fee. I don’t know if it’s the Crikey Army or bank attitudes have changed, but I do know I’m better off thanks to your article.

Tom T writes: Crikey should consider charging a success fee! Reading the story’s re reversal of bank fee refunds this past week motivated me enough to get off my fat a-se and do something about my own bank charges. I have just spent 27 minutes on the phone to Westpac… And guess what… two $35 overlimit fees were reversed in my favour. That’s a rate of $155 per hour, which is not bad going I reckon. Of course, I first had to listen politely to a lecture on how it was my responsibility to ensure that I did not over reach my credit limit, blah blah blah. I pointed out that the bank had allowed me to overspend this “limit” by over $10,000 , which I considered to be security risk. I was then informed that Westpac do allow credit card holders to go “overlimit” by a certain percentage, for “emergency” reasons or due to transactions being under merchants “floor limit”. When pressed to tell me what my particular percentage overlimit allowance was, she was unable to give me that information. But “as a goodwill gesture the bank will credit back the $70 fees (over) charged previously”.

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Peter Fray

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