Jay Walker, former Australian correspondent for High Times magazine, writes: Re. “If the great “Ice War” is over: who won and who lost?” (yesterday, item 9). It is difficult to know where to start in correcting the drug-related factual errors in the Kooka Brothers piece yesterday: “If the great “Ice War” is over: who won and who lost?” At the most basic level, the actual name of the drug is “methylamphetamine” not “methamphetamine” and it doesn’t equate with “ice” which is a crystal form so-called because it looks like crushed ice. According to the latest Australian Illicit Drug Report which is produced by the Australian Crime Commission and is a collation of all state and federal police intelligence: “While the majority of methylamphetamine consumed within Australia is produced domestically, the majority of crystal methylamphetamine is imported” which makes it unlikely that the “Melbourne gangland wars were all about controlling the production, distribution and sale of” ice. Amphetamine is known for decades to be produced in volume in Melbourne by the “biped bandits” among others, and methylamphetamine in powder form, sure, but not ice. The Kookas possibly show their age when stating with no apparent irony that using such drugs “somehow translates as something ‘cool’ to take with your friends when you are in party mode”. As for all mind-altering substances, like, er, alcohol, people take them because they are fun and enjoyable and the vast majority do so in a safe and responsible manner. If the tabloid media and fear-mongering politicians were to be believed, we’re in the middle of an “ice epidemic” whereas the reality was indicated by a doctor working in the Emergency department of Sydney’s St Vincent’s Hospital last week on ABC Radio when he stated that “for every three admissions for ice-induced psychosis there are hundreds admitted every weekend for alcohol abuse”.

Dr Peter Phelps, Chief of Staff to the Special Minister of State, writes: Re. “The real scandal of political printing” (yesterday, item 8). Charles Richardson’s bald assertion that “Federal MPs use their newsletters and their staff time to assist their state colleagues” is without either merit or evidence. A number of other luminaries (Young, Orr, the usual suspects) have made this assertion but, sadly, have never backed this up with any facts. You may not use your entitlements to endorse the candidature of others or work for the election of people other than yourself. That includes use of staff. If you have evidence – as opposed to assertion – that this has occurred, then pony up, cowboy, and we will investigate the allegation.

Donald Allison writes: Re. The good ol’ days of lobbying by Richard Farmer (yesterday, item 1) when “… Public servants got their jobs working in bodies like the Tariff Board on merit… “. No Richard, it was seniority (defined as time served in a position) and merit. Merit alone did not become the criterion until much later (1980s I think).

David Havyatt writes: Kevin Tyerman (yesterday, comments) has written suggesting that Crikey writers need to “disclose their vested interests”, and he notes that “Active members of the Democrats have not declared their interests while defending their political party in the past”. It is an interesting standard to adopt that every member of a party should declare their membership when commenting. And given that “everything is political”, that would need to be always. There is a real difficulty with the alternative, because not all the views of members of a party are the collective view of “the party”. The Democrats themselves have had recent difficulties with people signing themselves off with a party title when not being an authorised spokesperson. Oh. And a declaration – I am a Democrat. Also, I don’t know who your source is for the idea that permanent unescorted visitors passes are easy to obtain (yesterday, item 6). In fact, they are quite difficult to obtain. The person needs to be sponsored by two MPs, they are a photo ID that brings up a photo of the pass holder on entry – just like MP and staff IDs. The Parliamentary Pass office knows who has one. Do they always get cancelled if someone moves from one job to another? No, not necessarily. Are they a risk or threat? No. The bigger threat is NOT being able to get one. That way our politicians could really lock themselves away from the real world.

Harold Thornton writes: Tamas Calderwood (yesterday, comments) seems dead keen on indefinite detention in solitary confinement with torture. How else to explain his increasingly shrill denunciations of Hicks for crimes no-one is charging him with? According to Calderwood, anyone condemning Hicks’s treatment needs to remember that Hicks once boasted of firing shots across the Kashmir Line of Control. So what? India isn’t charging him over it. Neither is the US. There are lots of Australians out there you wouldn’t invite to dinner. I don’t want any of them locked up for years without charge, tortured and then subjected to a kangaroo court process, even if they’re mates of Tamas’s.

Andrew Lewis writes: The inference from Tamas Calderwood’s comments is that it is all right to incarcerate someone for five years without trial if they write a letter home to dad saying they fired bullets across the Pakistan border. Fair enough. The question is, what jurisdiction does the USA have over alleged incidents between India and Pakistan? Let’s face it, that seems to be the best evidence they have, uncorroborated as it is, and every attempt to make a case against him has had to be downgraded until finally he is being charged with aiding an enemy combatant, apparently unconcerned about the fact that he doesn’t seem to have been doing that at the time the enemy was the combatant. Mere details. The final statement gives the game away. How difficult is it to understand that supporting the concept of rule of law does not make one a “Hicks” defender’? Either we have “rule of law” that applies universally (to us) or we don’t. David Hicks is the latest example of abuse of that principle by notionally democratic governments. To paraphrase a complete idiot I know, “Either you support democracy and the rule of law, or you’re agin us.” Which part of that don’t you get?

Peter Lloyd writes: Re. “The Economy: Global economy and IR, Labor’s achilles heel” (yesterday, item 27). Henry Thornton really needs to get out of the lobbyist eateries and learn a thing or two about real Australians before he continues dispensing advice on electorally acceptable IR policy. The new regime erodes the rights of ordinary working Australians, because the power relationships in negotiations are skewed without statutory help for the weaker party. Even with the protections Howard and Andrews trashed, plenty of unfairness goes undetected and unreconciled in Australian workplaces. His suggestion of a tribunal to allow wronged workers to state their case is ludicrous. The majority of minimum wage workers don’t know where to start if they are wronged. In the absence of unions, they tend to rely on employers to explain their rights to them. To imagine they can saunter along to the tribunal, after looking up their local retired union lawyer in the phone book, and articulate their case just shows that poor Henry probably hasn’t stepped into a real workplace or spoken to a real worker in years. And to suppose such a tribunal wouldn’t be stacked with political appointees by the government he loves so much (or their opposition for that matter) displays a naivete that beggars belief. Henry, having a “freed up labour market” doesn’t give working Australians the buzz it gives you: they are the ones fearing removal of penalty rates, conditions and benefits. After a year of WorkChoiceless, we are seeing this in action. The big end of town has done very well out of the boom: how much is enough?

Alex Flood writes: Perusing the website of “Honest John’s” market research and election campaign gurus, Crosby Textor, one cannot be too shocked to discover that nuclear power plant spruiker, Robert Champion de Crespigny AC, is Chairman of the Board. I wonder how much lobbying is being done behind closed doors? Prizes for anyone that can guess who’s going to directly benefit from “Nuking Australia”. Is this the “nuclear debate” that the PM says Australia is having?

Bob Raftopoulos writes: This week I was confronted with “my solicitor did not pass on this correspondence”; the Howard defence is now being used by business and I believe this legacy will now be used widespread throughout Australia. What a legacy Howard will be leaving!

Roslyn Pike writes: Re. “What you don’t know about Australian women…” (yesterday, item 11). What a wrist slitting rundown on the downside of being a woman. No high achievers, great women, oh no! Jane, what did Thomas do? Thomas what the … Just one example: Yes, women live longer but they don’t have to be lonely at the pointy end. After all the work of career, husband/s, children, career and et cetera. it’s wonderful to be free of the timewaster who’s snoring, bossing and timewasting. Yes, I know I have repeated myself but it’s the same with a career – things keep on happening. These things keep getting in the way while you are young and responsible. Children are great but so much more wonderful when they are adults. Now, having outlived all the required reading/experiences et cetera at 60, life is what I make of it, which is catching up on all the films, books, thoughts, feelings, cooking things I like, doing things I like when I want to do them. The list just goes on and on. Lonely … I’ve got too much to do to be lonely. Jane and Thomas, get a grip – there is an UP side to Australian women outliving their men.

Barry Chipman, Tasmanian State Manager, Timber Communities Australia, writes: Marshall Roberts (6 March, comments) wrote that in Tasmania the weather break is sponsored by Gunns, the timber giant proposing a new pulp mill. He claimed that this results in an almost nauseating irony when the IPCC blames human use as a case of climate change. Is he actually suggesting that Gunns is causing climate change or that the proposed pulp mill is causing the weather to be come unstable? If he is, he wants to have a good hard look at his claims. Tasmanian is leading the nation in reducing greenhouse gases. Since 1990 (the Kyoto base year) Tasmania’s emissions have reduced by 25% and the major driver has been planting trees by Tasmanian forest companies. As for the pulp mill, it will be greenhouse friendly, it will produce power from the waste product of the pulping process and from wood wasted from harvesting residue. Up to 200 megawatts of power will be come from this green source, 100mW to be sold to environmentally conscious consumers. In fact, the mill power generation will remove 416,000 tonnes of CO2 every year of operation. If the IPCC is right, it and anyone concerned about global warming should be congratulating a Tasmanian forest company committed to reducing greenhouse gases for sponsoring the weather report.

Geoff Russell writes: Tim Thomas (yesterday, comments) is right in saying kangaroos don’t produce methane, but to suggest they can replace beef doesn’t survive close examination. A 1996 study by QLD DPI (J.R. Hardman) calculated the maximum sustainable harvest of kangaroo meat at 57,000 tonnes per annum. They are actually quite small animals and not much of the meat is “human quality”. Current quotas are rarely filled because shooting roos is a lonely, hard, pain in the back job. We currently get 2,000,000 tonnes of beef, and it’s a much nicer job (until they hit the cattle trucks). Two-thirds of this beef is exported but the emissions appear on Australia’s balance sheet. In essence, beef producers are getting a carbon subsidy from the rest of us – including people like me who don’t even eat the stuff. In any event, the heme iron in roo meat still causes the same DNA damage that all red meat causes and which gives Australia (with NZ) the highest rate of colorectal cancer in the world.

Peter Wilkinson writes: Manning Clark wrote “faction”, a type of historical novel based on fact (go to “faction literature” in Google). His History certainly reads well, indeed, much better than dry old books painstakingly setting out research. it took me a few volumes to realise that I was being conned.

Tony Barrell writes: I know Crikey needs every subscription it can scrounge, but some of your letter writers we could all do without. See how eager they were to kick Manning Clark because “he wasn’t there”. Well he was. He may have got the date wrong but he certainly noticed there was a lot of broken glass and unhappy faces when he did get there two weeks after Kristallnacht, which as one of your saner correspondents pointed out, was only the beginning. The others are beneath contempt, in their precipitous and vulgar enthusiasm to have a free kick at the great man. Ugly and barbaric too. And cheap. And sadly typical of the hyperactive bullying brain-dead.

James writes: A couple of weeks ago Michael Pascoe wrote an article that said (more or less): “You’re a mug if you’re paying the advertised rate on your home loan”. That inspired me to talk to my home loan provider and now I’m paying 0.4% less (it will save me thousands over the longer term). So, thanks Michael, I owe you a beer.

CORRECTION: We wrote yesterday (item 11), “The Australian Senate is 25% female, the House of Reps 36% (according to Sarah Maddison and Emma Partridge’s report, How Well is Australian Democracy Serving Women?)”. Due to a clerical error, we mixed up the statistics. The Australian Senate is 36% female, the House of Reps is 25%.

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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