Today’s typos (house pedant Charles Richardson casts an eye over the howlers in the last edition of Crikey): In Item 16 yesterday “Clean brown coal is… black coal” you misspelt energy expert Hugh Saddler’s last name as Sadler.

Mike Burke writes: Re. Today’s typos (yesterday, comments). In the context of the story, there was nothing wrong with the sentence as originally written. The Wikipedia sentence, as quoted by Charles, was far too simplistic. The actual situation is far more complex than that. The F/A designation is the clue that the Hornet – the fighter being discussed – is a dual-role aircraft, ie. both air superiority and ground attack. In Australia, suitability for the both these roles have been very important criteria in the selection process for every fighter purchased for the RAAF since the Mustang ruled the air in the late 1940’s.

Geoff Coyne writes: Re. John Taylor’s comments on running “amok” (yesterday, comments). Cyclone George did not “run a muck” but it did “run amuck” if you were writing for an American newspaper, otherwise it is “amok”. And “amok” or “amuck” is not Bahasa Indonesian in origin, it is Malay. The Macquarie dictionary offers this statement of the usage of “amok”: Amok and its anglicized form amuck derive from a Malay word. The first spelling is the preferred form in those varieties of English which have greater awareness of the Malay origin…Australian English has shifted from amok to amuck and back again to amok. American English prefers amuck.

Julie Lloyd writes: Re. “Howard on Hicks: the greatest spin since children overboard?” (yesterday, item 12). Peter Dowding SC documented some very valid questions and inconsistencies about the David Hicks situation. He concluded that “perhaps the time has come to demand that Howard formally request the return of Hicks or be exposed as a fraud on this issue.” Our leaders have facilitated the imprisonment of an Australian citizen without charge or a fair trial, in a squalid foreign jail, for over five years. They have had enough time. “The time” is well over due. So where is the accountability? Who is responsible for making that formal request that Peter Dowding refers to? Whoever that is; they should hurry up and do it.

Mercurius Goldstein writes: Re. “Another 10 MPs deny links to Burke” (yesterday, item 14). Crikey’s roll-call of the MPs who deny links to Brian Burke is cause for puzzlement. For the media feeding-frenzy and Liberal Party hysteria over “Burke-gate” is predicated on the notion that Brian Burke has a kraken-like grip on political and business life in this country. Yet Crikey’s survey reveals dozens and dozens of MPs in all political parties who have never had anything to do with the man. These scenarios cannot both be true. So which is it? Are we to take all these MPs’ denials as untrustworthy; or are the legends of this man’s influence completely overstated?

Russell Bancroft: I am surprised that Crikey would ask such a question of politicians (Have you met Brian Burke?). As Crikey should know, any half-decent polly would drive a truck through such a question. “No, I have never MET Brian Burke” (but I have spoken to him/emailed him/written to him/ met his representatives etc etc etc). You should have asked “Have you, or your representative had any dealings either with Mr Burke or one of his partners or representatives”. The answers may have been more interesting.

Val Schier writes: Peter Phelps, Chief of Staff to the Special Minister of State, wrote (Thursday, comments) that 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. He stated that parliamentarians may not use their entitlements to endorse the candidature of others or work for the election of people other than themselves. Well, I would like Mr Phelps to know that Warren Entsch sent out letters to constituents during the September 2006 Queensland State election campaign, telling them to vote for the Liberal candidate for Barron River, Stephen Welsh. I was incensed that his electorate allowance would be used for such blatant and open politicking but wasn’t sure who I needed to contact to make a formal complaint. I can dig out the letter and pass it on to Mr Phelps and would be interested to know what the penalty is for this misuse of electoral funds.

Dan Rotman writes: Re. Cars, underpants and the benchmarks of doom (Thursday, item 14). John Button is right to say that losing our automotive industry would be a bit like being pantsed in public. Its continuation is crucial to both our psyche and security. While the industry itself might not be important in terms of Australia’s defence, the capabilities it has, both in terms of skills and infrastructure, mean that an isolated Australia could defend itself. But our long term failure to create and nurture a truly home grown (and owned) industry means that we will forever be dependent on decisions made in Detroit or Tokyo. And they will always put self interest ahead of our national interest.
The Falcon, Magna and Commodore ranges are all world class and unique and could easily find a niche for themselves in the world market, in the absence of these overseas influences, but it simply doesn’t suit the Americans or Japanese (esp the Unions) to allow a free market in cars, so we keep ploughing money into propping up the local industry. Where does much of that investment end up? In the car company HQs overseas, of course. It’s ancient history, but Menzies missed a huge opportunity back in the 40’s and we’ve been paying for it ever since. Yes, product planning is partly to blame. So are the differential tariffs which allow 4WDs to be cheaper than passenger cars, and companies like Honda to source cars from ‘developing nations” like Thailand at zero tariffs. But the major issue remains that we cannot really control our own destiny when we are so reliant on strategies honed elsewhere. The industry will keep staggering on as it has until it suits those overseas interests to pull the plug. Then we’ll really feel the wind in our nether regions.

Marshall Roberts writes: Has Mr Chipman (yesterday, comments) mistaken me for a card-carrying member of the Greens? I have already acknowledged propaganda from both sides of the forestry argument. I also acknowledge that my lazy sentence attributing both of the two RDPC resignations to the Government’s Pulp Mill Task Force’s antics was, unintentionally, inaccurate – Mr Green cited interference, but Dr Raverty, while critical of the Task Force’s interference, was forced to resign due to Greens’ bias claims. However, this seems to have had little effect on his opinion of the Task Force, given that he since called for it to be disbanded. Contrary to what Mr Chipman seems to be suggesting, I welcome his bringing such corrections to readers. That’s because I’m an ordinary member of the public who fears that political transparency and accountability in this State is fundamentally eroded by interwoven interests and relationships that appear to go right to the top. The more facts aired the better. But perhaps it will make little difference, given that Premier Lennon has reminded the public that his Government can ignore the Commission’s recommendations anyway. No takers on a Gunns submission to the IPCC, Mr Chipman?

Peter Lloyd writes: Re. “The cold hard truth about mud-slinging in politics: it works” (yesterday, item 2). Richard Farmer is dead wrong if he thinks negative campaigning will necessarily help minor parties and independents. In 2004 I sat on a booth in Eden Monaro, and of the very few voters who expressed any opinion to those dispensing the how-to-vote cards, three were elderly voters criticising the Greens for “wanting to give our kids drugs”. They had obviously fallen for a sub-campaign first seen in the Adelaide Advertiser and run with by several Nationals candidates, including John Anderson, in last minute speeches. The Exclusive Brethren have also shown how negative campaigning can easily be turned on the minors- whose policies are less well publicised and thus more open to misrepresentation. If Rudd’s popularity holds up, he could well do the minors a favour by distracting the “Who Do You Trust” machine away from such attacks. But if Rudd has a comfortable lead, perhaps it will be Labor (again using their religious fundamentalist buddies?) engaging in this particular smear campaign.

Scott Buckby writes: Re. 457 visas. I follow with interest your various commentators on the topic of 457 visas. Our company has used them a bit and will probably use them into the future. One thing I note with interest though is the overseas born but Australian trained professionals who apply for relatively menial jobs when I advertise them. I have had people with dual law/criminology – from Griffith Uni – apply for part time administration jobs. There were masters of accounting, bachelors in multimedia – its almost unbelievable. I had people with masters degrees applying for graduate project engineer positions. I find this astounding.

Kevin Clarke writes: Re. Panama hats. Kevin Cox (yesterday, comments) has it all wrong. I checked with the best source at hand, my sartorially splendid father, aged 87, who has owned many panama hats over the years, and he assures me that the best ones come from Ecuador. Perhaps like Kiwi fruit originally coming from China?

Jay Walker, former Australian correspondent for High Times magazine, writes: While jaywalking might only be a  misdemeanor (Friday, comments) if the kooky Kooka Brothers really do know the whereabouts of Kelvin Thomson’s nemesis, Tony Mokbel, (more accurately the fellow solicitor who solicited the reference) and that it’s true that he first went to Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, one of the finest hashish-producing regions in the world, and is now on Spain’s Costa Brava and they haven’t passed this information on to the relevant authorities… More likely, fortunately for some and unfortunately for those trying to track down a known fugitive, it’s probably a work of fiction like this one: “Taking ‘party drugs’ is attempting suicide and selling them to kids is attempted murder”, and selected at random from a list of all the other “sunny places for shady people”. As for the nom de plume, let me guess, after a session at the local it was back to the retirement village where they were serving afternoon tea and the label on the cake-of-the-day was “Gateau Black Forest 1.5Kg Kooka Bros”. Perfect, they thought, we’re going to make the b-stards “eat cake”, “Gateau”, Mick Gatto, and black forest, black market, Melbourne ganglands, let’s go with the “Kooka Brothers”.

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