Seven Network spinner Simon Francis writes: Re. “Another massive taxpayer subsidy for HRL” (Monday, item 5) and “Forget Santo, what about the PM’s conflict?” (yesterday, item 1). Almost 13 years ago, Kerry Stokes invested in a Bain & Co deal on HRL. He didn’t instigate the deal. The Bain syndicate beat out another two syndicates. At the time, Jeff Kennett was in power in Victoria (pardon the pun) and John Howard was not leader of the Opposition let alone Prime Minister. To now claim that the Prime Minister’s son is somehow linked to a government investment in “clean coal” is approaching ludicrous. Kerry Stokes’s private companies own a 20% shareholding in HRL, which has invested $130 million of private capital into developing a pilot plant to test new technology. This new technology has been shown to reduce emissions from wet brown coal by around 30% and there’s now a joint venture with the electricity authority in the Chinese province in Harbin to introduce this new technology. The technology works. Hence the government’s investment in the project after a private investment of $130 million over the past decade. Mr Stokes would like to counter the “particularly grubby deal” allegation in Monday’s Crikey with the point that it was a competitive tender against two significant bidders. He would also like to point out that at no time during the process did he speak to the Victorian or Federal Governments about his initial investment or the tender process. We suspect that private capital developing a new technology that reduces emissions from coal by 30% and a government commitment to further develop and take this technology to the world would be welcome. Not something – as Crikey would claim – you’d call grubby.

Jill Emberson, Head of Communications at Wizard Home Loans, writes: Re. “GE Money: Time to put the low doc loans genie back in the bottle” (Tuesday, item 5). Just keen to correct a couple of errors about mortgages and Wizard in Tuesday’s story from Glenn Dyer. Wizard does not offer no doc/low doc loans with 100% finance (ie, no deposit). Wizard only offers 100% finance to borrowers who are fully documented, ie, they have a clean credit history – no defaults, no unpaid bills, etc. Importantly they have to show sound and verifiable employment records. This gives assurance that they can hold down a job to meet their mortgage repayments. The article describes the sub-prime mortgage market as the no doc/low doc market. This is not correct. The sub-prime market refers to the market of borrowers with adverse credit histories ie unpaid bills, bankruptcy, defaults etc. Wizard does not lend to the sub-prime market. We operate in the prime market, ie we only lend to customers who have a clean credit record. The level of documentation – full, low or none – refers to the records of proof that a borrower can provide, ie, payslips, credit histories, etc, to support a loan application.

FightDemBack’s Brian Stokes writes: Christian Kerr got it completely wrong on his criticism of FightDemBack! (Tuesday, item 15)) – but far be it from Kerr to admit it. In reply to FDB founder Mat “Darp” Henderson’s letter of objection to Kerr and Crikey, in which Henderson made egregious error of admitting to being a student without simultaneously letting Kerr know that he’s a rather mature aged student, Kerr sends this little bit of uninformed personal abuse:

As I suspected. Student Trots who are either too young or or too dumb to know where the road to the gulag starts giving free publicity to scumbags. You poor, thick kids.

Wrong yet again, Christian. The more I read of Kerr, the more I think that Australia First’s Herr Doktor Jim Saleam’s fingerprints are on at least one of Kerr’s coffee cups. It’s Saleam who screams stuff at us like “TROTSKYITES!!” (and it’s really funny when he does, too). It’s Saleam who spreads defamatory libels about FDB being “criminal” or “violent”. It’s Saleam who can’t tell the difference between FDB and the youth group “Resistance”. Now we find Kerr parroting ALL of (racist website) Stormfront’s, Saleam’s and Australia First’s talking points about FDB. Just who is in Kerr’s bookmarks and dinner “A” list? Incidentally, while Mat “Darp” Henderson IS a student, he’s not 18. We ain’t kids… I’ve just turned 45, which makes me two years older than Kerr himself. In fact, the average age of the FDB core membership is a little closer to 35. We are not spring chickens as a rule – and a lot tougher to fry up than Kerr may think. What I find particularly amusing is that Kerr finds it convenient to personally abuse Mat, who identified himself as a student, from which Kerr took the notion that Mat must be a bit wet behind the ears (he’s not…), but the chickensh-t won’t take me on. I’m still waiting for Kerr to reply personally to my complaint. Kerr is just far too precious to be told he’s just flat wrong by someone who is clearly neither a student (of any age), a “Trot”, dumb, or in any way a “kid”. No matter how dead-to-rights you nail Kerr, he’ll never admit he blew it – and mother, did he ever stuff it up this time. Christian Kerr’s got no one to blame but Christian Kerr for failing to do any research on FDB whatsoever before spewing off about us – and not just once. We’re still waiting on an apology from Kerr for his patently false and defamatory insinuations that FDB is in any way “violent” in our anti-racist activism.

Iain Lygo (occasional researcher for FDB) writes: After reading Kerr’s article about FightDemBack, it is seriously time for the powers-that -be at Crikey to consider his future. Kerr’s complete lack of research resulted in a jackbooted article full of “if”s, “but”s and “may”s. If Kerr has any evidence of violent activity by any member of FDB, then publish it without the weasel words to protect him from a defamation suit. Otherwise an apology is in order.

John Kotsopoulos writes: Leave Christian alone. He has been through it all and knows what he is talking about, most of the time.

Christian Kerr writes: It was nice to hear from Cam Smith and the other two members of FightDemBack swearing that they’re gentler than Gandhi on a go-slow – particularly when you know the lyrics of the song they took their name from, Linton Kwesi Johnson’s Fight Dem Back:

We gonna smash their brains in
‘Cause they ain’t got nufink in ’em…

Racists, pretty obviously, aren’t the only thick b-stards around.

Bill Gemmell writes: As the former Greens candidate for the Queensland seat of Griffith, Darryl Rosin (yesterday, comments) should similarly declare his own political interests before blasting us (and poor old Christian) with rhetorical hogwash. Or perhaps Crikey could exercise editorial responsibility by placing some form of scold’s bridle on ratbags of any political persuasion who attempt to use these pages to grind their angry little axes. Anyway, what the heck was Darryl on about?

Robert Fisk writes: Talk about burying the lead! In yesterday’s item 2, “Kevin Rudd and the awful truth”, Christian Kerr tells us that he was contacted offering dirt about Rudd on Monday. Now there’s the story, Christian – who phoned, on whose behalf, who is paying them (Liberal Party or taxpayers) and what exactly were they offering? Or did you agree to go “off the record” for them? Crikey purports to be about breaking the cosy cone of silence that operates for the benefit of those inside the Canberra bubble. How about you sally forth young man, wear out some shoe leather, and tell the public what it is entitled to know about the “dirt unit”?

Martyn Smith writes: Re: Yesterday’s editorial and Christian’s comments on mudslinging. Crikey’s item of three weeks ago, updated on Wednesday’s editorial, about Tony Staley (the Pig, farm investigator) and the Coalition dirt machine he is running were obviously spot on. But, as Christian pointed out in his article, the Awful Truth is that when a swings on, its on. I am gobsmacked at the effrontery of people like the Mad Monk, the Lord of Baghdad and the Tip (with no Iceberg) lecturing anyone about truth and honesty, fairness and competence. Every time they open their mouths their appalling records come to mind. I didn’t think even they would sink this low. We are in for a long, long six months or so until we get to vote. We are watching the last vicious convulsions of a failed, desperate government. Their antics confirm that it is high time they went.

Marilyn Shepherd writes: Re. “Kevin Rudd and the awful truth” (yesterday, item 2). What a lot of kerfuffle about nothing at all and Crikey reading Akerman is the lowest of the low. Do any of you know how the share farming industry worked in the 1960s? My grandfather worked for the same family for 20 years after the war and part of his job was a huge old farm house in which all his grandchildren practically grew up. When I was about 11 the farmer kicked my grandparents out of this house with the bogus excuse that they wanted the house for their son (he was killed in a railway line accident), and sent him to live in a tiny little kennel of a house miles away. When he was only 61 and got sick they threw my grandparents off the farm and my 15 year old uncle was indentured to do the 60 hours a week work for the next five years with little pay or perks. Share farming is not sharing. It is the boss getting all the money while the croppers work all the hours with no security. In those days there was no dole, no benefits and no means of support for widows like Mrs Rudd. I find talk like this cruel and puerile and would never stoop to the level of reminding Abbott that he believed he was a child abandoner until he discovered he was only a cuckold.

Ann Orton writes: Confucius would have said if he thought of it, “Politician who throws mud when wind changes gets splattered.”

David Wawn writes: If Crikey’s daily State of the Planet section is meant to summarise the key climate change stories of the day, why didn’t yesterday’s State of the Planet (item 17) refer to yesterday’s front page Sydney Morning Herald story “This news is not so convenient, Mr Gore“. The article was actually from Tuesday’s New York Times and contained a number of independent scientists criticising Al Gore for over-egging the global warming case. For instance, even the IPCC estimates sea levels will rise by a maximum of 58 centimetres over the next century, but Al Gore is running the scare campaign that sea levels will rise by six metres. You can’t accuse the SMH or NY Times of being climate change sceptics, so if these newspapers are blowing the whistle on Al Gore’s hype, maybe Crikey should take notice.

Chris Seage writes: Jan Forrester (yesterday, comments), who has written many stories on Palestine, says the ATO should employ a more forensic approach to tax cheating (whatever that means!). The allegations of tax cheating were serious enough for the Minister to write to the Commissioner of Taxation asking him to investigate media reports that some radical Islamic clerics are encouraging their followers to avoid paying tax. I suggested a data-matching exercise to see if Lakemba householders were lodging income tax returns. If they weren’t then the audit exercise should be extended. I also hold the view that taxpayer funds should not be granted to communities who are opposed to paying tax. The tax laws have no stratum nor are they dictated by political correctness.

Chris Berg, research fellow with the Institute of Public Affairs, writes: Joshua Gans (yesteday, item 12) argues that if Australian broadband becomes an election issue, it could result in poorly conceived public policy. He is overly generous to the government – isn’t existing telecommunications policy already poor? But in order to avoid “haphazard” fiscal indiscipline, Gans recommends, as a solution, systematic fiscal indiscipline. Gans proposes a re-nationalisation of the telecommunications industry, with the government itself rolling out new communications networks across the country. He argues that a range of subsidies already exist for broadband investment, so why not just combine them into one massive subsidy? But it would be much better to simply eliminate those subsidies. In the United States, Verizon has invested US$18 billion in fibre-optic cable straight to the home. This investment would not have been commercially possible if the Verizon was required to give access to the facilities to all other parties at a price determined by a regulator, like it would be in Australia. It’s a risky investment. The industry is so dynamic that new technologies can outflank the best thought plans. But at least, if it doesn’t pay off, US taxpayers won’t be left with the bill. However, under Gans’ socialised infrastructure plan, Australian taxpayers will assume all the risk of network investment, and telecommunications companies will assume the reward. Instead, it would be much more sensible to allow companies to build networks free from the threat of over-bearing regulations. But Gans sets a high bar for regulatory reform, arguing that if a government ever amends the Trade Practices Act, it will compromise the independence of the regulator, the ACCC. This is to elevate the current law embodied within the Trade Practices Act to something other than what it is; an Act of Parliament. Problems with the Trade Practices Act are obvious from the fact that its provisions on such matters as forced access to infrastructure are far more draconian in Australia than in other jurisdictions. This is exacerbated by activist regulatory bodies wilfully interpreting the Act’s provisions to enlarge their own powers.

Darrel McGuiness writes: Re. “Don’t let broadband become an election issue” (yesterday, item 12). Broadband, election or not, should be an issue that was settled some two or three years ago. It should be very apparent to most thinking Australians that true Broadband is NOT a luxury; it is equal in necessity to the phone. It will take a true statesman to realise that this is the route that despises mediocrity, and the parasites that align with it, and thereby seeks nationality rather than a concentration by duplication in high density areas such as cities. I agree with the last paragraph, that the Government should take control and realise that this is its responsibility, NOT that of the market/equity groups.

Lisa Crago, not a member of any political party, writes: Re. Andrew Lewis’s comments on preference deals (yesterday, comments). You are right Andrew, the voters do hold the power to preference (or not as the case now is in NSW). Does anyone honestly believe that voting tickets printed by parties beforehand actually affect preference distribution? Is there any science behind this myth, any studies to support the argument? Yes, political scientists salivate over studies regarding voting behaviour as surveys are taken after every federal election by the ANU. However, as Andrew has rightly asked, are there any studies to support this argument? A study of 16 years of electoral survey data overwhelmingly shows that Australian Green voters DO NOT follow the how to vote cards for the House of Reps 76% of the time. Even more interesting is that 79% of those same voters preferenced the ALP anyway. In contrast, Family First Party voters follow their HTV cards 46% of the time. The only place this differs is in the Upper house where most would rather place a “1” in the party box than fill out the often gigantic number of boxes. Political parties like the Greens like to ignore these studies and pressure the ALP on policy; and the ALP falls for it every time. Does anyone remember the 2004 ALP forestry policy?

Robert O’Connor writes: Re. “In crosswords, accuracy is everything” (yesterday, item 22). All hail Richard Walsh, for bringing an important issue into the public arena. Crossword fans have put up with an increasing amount of crap from the Smerald in their daily offerings. Neglecting to print the key to one of DA’s Friday stumpers – which I look forward to all week – was bad enough, but that “pleural” really took it over the line. The fact that pleural is a real word with a meaning that could have been worked into the clue just made it more annoying. Frankly, if they can’t find themselves some decent setters I’d be quite happy if they just started resurrecting old LB crosswords.

Simon Rumble writes: Re. Courier-Mail and timestamps (yesterday, item 7). No need to suspect foul play; I think they’re just having problems with their web servers’ clocks. This story from the Terror on Tuesday has the time as “12:00” when I saw it early in the working day.

Jim Hart writes: Re. “How to win politicians and influence people: the winners” (yesterday, item 8). I loved the photos from the Burke archives, especially the one with a wetsuited Harold Holt. But no way could that be May 1967 – those are definitely summer bikinis. Anyway it’s such a famous photo, surely our National Library could be more precise than just “sometime between 1960 and 1967”.

Andrew Lewis writes: Charles Happelle might need to brush up on his mythology. Odysseus did not put wax in his ears. It was the other way around with his crew being ordered to wax up while he was tied to the mast, thus being able to hear the siren song and not succumbing to it.

Yesterday’s errors (house pedant Charles Richardson casts an eye over the howlers in the last edition of Crikey): Item 5: “… in which I poo-pooed plans for unemployed Aboriginal people in remote regions to borrow $400,000 …”. Maybe this is a genuine variant rather than a typo, but the usual expression is surely “pooh-poohed”.

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Peter Fray

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