ACT Health Minister Katy Gallagher writes: I refer to the article contained in the Tips and Rumours section of Monday’s Crikey (2 April) concerning telephone calls to Mental Health ACT, where you state, “this means that any staff member can listen into calls made to the mental health crisis line without the knowledge of the caller”. The fact that such a practice would be at odds with the best interests of clients of Mental Health ACT and that it would breach provisions of the Privacy Act 1988 are among a range of reasons that that ACT Government has not, and would not, do anything of the sort. Had Crikey sought to confirm the accuracy of this rumour with my office it would have been informed that it was completely untrue. Publication of this story has led to considerable disquiet amongst clients of Mental Health ACT, their families and carers, and others working in the best interests of those with mental illness in the ACT, as you would imagine. I expect that you will ensure that the record is corrected.

Ken Oliver writes: Re. “No, Mr Costello, we don’t need more babies” (yesterday, item 5). When I read the first paragraph of Charles Richardson’s piece in Peter Costello’s enthusiasm for getting Aussies to have more babies, I nodded in agreement. But then he went right off the rails. Ken Henry, his Departmental Secretary, has already publicly pointed out the real problem with any rise in fertility. It only helps in the very long run, and in the meanwhile it seriously worsens things for the taxman. Having an extra baby doesn’t reduce the number of pensioners we’ve got, the kid won’t be paying any serious amounts of tax for two or three decades and in the meanwhile we all have to pay even more tax to raise and educate the little blighter. And it also interrupts mum’s career so she pays less tax. But Costello is right, and Charles wrong, about migration. Migrants grow old too. If you crunch the numbers you’ll soon see that even a huge influx of migrants wouldn’t make much difference for very long to our age profile. Charles should have chatted with one of the many excellent demographers in Australia (it’s a national academic specialty) before he put pen to paper.

Dan Carton writes: In response to the three points in the piece from Charles Richardson. CR: “Decreased birthrates are associated overwhelmingly with two things: increased standards of living and improved status of women. The demand to increase birthrates is, consciously or not, a demand to reverse one or both of those trends.” Reversing the standard of living? Replacing the population — perpetuating the next generation — ensures that the current standards of living are maintained into the medium and long term, and is a crucial ingredient in continued future growth in the standard of living. I am at a total loss as to how Mr Richardson presumes that making having children more affordable presumes that this would reduce the status of women. Is it a vision of households across Australia full of misogynistic males and weak women who cannot think for themselves? CR: “The world does not suffer from an underpopulation problem. We can argue about how big a problem overcrowding is (I’m not a doomsayer on this), but it’s pretty clear that it’s more to be feared than the reverse.” What has the world’s population got to do with the issue at hand? The Australian government is primarily responsible for policies pertaining to Australia — not the whole world. Current demographic trends in much of the West and China indicate that the over-population issue in many parts of the world will resolve itself. The irony being that this pending reality raises issues such as the one Treasurer Costello is seeking to address. CR: “Australia is not an unpopular place to live. On the contrary, there are millions of people who would like to come and make this their home — we spend a small fortune on patrol boats and detention centres to try to keep them out.” Australia brings in thousands and thousands of migrants both skilled and through refugee programs each year, and it is something as a nation we should be very proud of. There are arguments for increased refugee intakes but this debate needs to be distanced from the “throw open the gates” self loathing romanticism dressed in rhetoric that aches and strains to help make the case for why John Howard is the Great Satan.

Michael Byrne writes: What a lot of baloney Charles Richardson writes. It is not “racism and misogyny” that underpins the advocacy of those that see a richness in the simple life that is expressed in mum, dad and the kids. It is rather a recognition of the malaise of the empty promise in personal autonomy and the pursuit of comfort. Such advocacy sees the naturalness of personal responsibility and the pursuit of happiness in life, and appreciates its simplicity and universality. It is a fact, a truth, that societies which have seen the pro-generation of hundreds of millions of “white Christian babies” across millennia have been best to display the most simple and universal good — freedom of speech and freedom of worship — achieved with pain, but from which so much good has flowed, and which promises to underpin unfolding good in the human story. Mr Richardson displays the modern heresy of man, not being of God, but being his own god — to master and control things he cannot.

John McCubbery writes: This has to be the most stupid comment in the media today, and I say this not having even seen the latest Pauline Hanson release: “If Australia wants more people, we don’t need to return our womenfolk to domestic drudgery in order to get them.” Having children is only domestic drudgery? What, unlike being a call centre operator or secretary? Our womenfolk get “returned” to make this happen? What, all of them? Charles, you poor b-stard, you need to get out more, your views are making you sadly out of touch with people as against ideologies.

Patrick McCauley writes: Charles Richardson notes that the more we increase standards of living and improve the status of women, the more our birthrate declines. He eulogises our fast disappearing non-indigenous population as something sublime if not sophisticated, and admonishes Peter Costello for calling for Australian women to have more babies. He argues that we should continue to seek wealth and status, rather than motherhood — that we should continue to become a society that imports new citizens rather than create and educate our own. Richardson believes that we should help reduce the burden of an overpopulated world, and that any fear of “changing the composition of our population” is a statement of racism. That “womenfolk” who have children, have been returned to “domestic drudgery”. This is the thinking of a man who does not even suspect that the individual may never be realised without being destroyed by their progeny — that the child grown within a landscape will not only nurture it, but will know that landscape profoundly. This is the dangerous thinking of the decadent who believes he is progressive. It is thinking driven by naked ambition, self obsession, greed and vanity. It is the feminist thinking that is the enemy of the family because it believes that the family oppresses women. Charles Richardson displays the non penetrating thought of a new age male — the male lesbian.

David Freesmith writes: Please pass on my thanks to Charles Richardson for his outstanding commentary “No, Mr Costello, we don’t need more babies”. It was spot on – short, sweet and definitive.

Ronald Watts writes: Re. “Costello’s runaway population train” (yesterday, item 8). Gordon Hocking offers timely but unfashionable remarks on population. The problem is that no political party, not even the Greens, wants to touch the issue. The Greens’ population policy is (or will be, when it is republished) a collection of unaccountable clichés. It’s easier to label advocates of reduced immigration as racist, as opposed to conservationist. Business wants cheap labour and more consumers, because that’s the brainless way to grow a business. Unions are fearful of job losses, but these days, it’s too easy to ship almost anything but bricklaying or bar service offshore — and for those, there are 457 visas. Who to vote for? Or, how to change the mainstream parties’ views? GDP per capita and well-being matter much more than total GDP. Yet more immigration stuffs up both.

Anne Keane writes: Peter, why do you think families should have more children, including one for the country? The family who wanted to know when you were picking up the third child were not joking… We do not have family friendly work places and until paid maternity leave, a gradual return to work made easier by job sharing which allows parents to maintain and update their skills, a child care system which works side by side with the early child education system and more permanency of employment for a working mum, that third child will not be a priority.

Gary Carroll writes: Costello is trying very hard to curry favour with the electorate. Banging on about the baby bonus, children are a 20 year+ commitment, spread the bonus money over the term of the commitment. It takes more than money to raise children.

Neil James, Executive Director, Australia Defence Association, writes: Re. “Gagging David Hicks might not be that simple” (yesterday, item 1). Greg Barns, has fallen into the trap of listening only to domestic “human rights” lawyers rather than specialists in the applicable part of international humanitarian law known as the Laws of Armed Conflict (LOAC). He also confuses Hicks’ recent sentence on criminal charges with his separate detention under LOAC as a belligerent captured in the continuing war in Afghanistan. At no stage has Hicks been “imprisoned without trial”. Irrespective of the criminal sentence, or where it is served, Hicks is also being released from this detention on parole (just like Italian prisoners-of-war were released, before hostilities ceased, to work on Australian farms in World War II). Gagging him could be made a condition (among several) of such a parole and enforced by a control order. Breaking the parole before the war ends would render him liable to further detention under LOAC. Whether a gag is logical or necessary is a separate issue. Mamdouh Habib was a cause celebre until he returned to Australia and Australians quickly formed a view of him based on what he said and what he refused to say. The same is likely for David Hicks. The bottom line is that Hicks has now given up the Islamist cause and no longer needs to be detained to stop him rejoining the war in Afghanistan on the other side.

Tony Adams writes: Re. The Hicks gag (yesterday, editorial). If the Hicks ban on free speech is unconstitutional in the US, what would be the outcome if Hicks were to give an interview to a US media outlet, for broadcast in that country? If he was detained for breaching his gag, presumably he’d stand a pretty good chance of having both the gag and detention thrown out in a US court. If the interview was then circulated in Australia after it had already been aired elsewhere, how would the Australian Government respond?

Peter Townley writes: Get real. There is no new or novel issue. The so called “gag order” is a voluntarily assumed limit on Hicks’ behaviour and is enforceable as a normal condition of his early release. Prisoners of war (such as Hicks has been) and civil criminal prisoners (such as Hicks will be) are subject to limits on their access to the media and to limits on their freedom of expression. It’s a plea agreement. Hicks gets a reduced sentence in exchange for admitting specific facts and making specific agreements about future conduct, including the agreement to keep his mouth shut for 12 months. Hicks can say whatever he wants, whenever he wants, after he is out of gaol (and so not subject to the usual restrictions affecting criminal prisoners) and so long as he is willing to go back to jail as the price of speaking out contrary to the terms of his plea agreement. Obviously Hicks felt it was worth the agreement to get out that little bit earlier. Tough. Live with it, control your impatience and wait to see what the macrencephalic idiot has to say once he has served all aspects of his time.

Colin Prasad writes: The David Hicks “gag” and the condition of the est. $1m proceeds from any book he writes going to the Australian Govt could be gotten around by him writing a “fictional” account of a similar story? The term you reproduced in yesterday’s Crikey seems to be quite specific in that he cannot communicate about his conduct pertaining to the charge and circumstances. I think there have been similar precedents with eg, Chopper Read avoiding profiting from crime laws. I can see a book title “The unbelievable life of David Trix as written by David Hicks”. This would present the government with an impossible conundrum. They couldn’t possibly try to ban it as to do so would be suggesting its contents were true and something to worry about. Under what law could they deprive an author of writing a fictional work anyway? Mr Hicks could not state publically its true, but with a nudge-nudge and a wink the whole world would believe much of it anyway, given the deep suspicion of the process he has undergone. The book could still be published before the election which would throw a spanner in the works. And later on, he could fight to have a “true, authenticated” version published if he wanted to. Mind you, like Chopper’s book, it might actually be a fairly wonky read…

Christopher Ridings writes: Maybe it’s just Easter coming on, but the picture of David Hicks in long hair before a kangaroo court gave me that chilling sense of deja vu. It brought to my mind that quote of the Duke of Bedford in George Bernard Shaw’s classic play, Saint Joan when he asked, “Must a Christ be crucified in every generation for those who have no imagination?”

David Lodge writes: Re. “What happens when our little bit of Talitrash talks?” (Monday, item 8). I really don’t understand some readers’ objections to Christian Kerr’s article on “Talitrash” and David Hicks. Yes, he should have deserved fair and due process a long time ago but the guy was training for a terrorist group in Afghanistan. It’s pretty simple. If people don’t want to hear the answers to the questions Christian posed then people obviously still aren’t interested on the facts in this matter.

Tamas Calderwood writes: Re. “Hello sailors: Iran the clubhouse leader” (yesterday, item 13). Guy Rundle equates terrorists in Guantanamo Bay to captured British sailors in Iran, as if captured terrorists are the same as British sailors working in Iraqi waters under a UN mandate. He equates the Mohammed cartoon controversy to the Iranian Holocaust cartoons, failing to remember that the Islamofacist protests demanding the execution of unbelievers had no equivalent in the West after Iran’s cartoons. But he completely gives himself away when comparing Iran’s flouting of international laws with actions in the West to disrupt terrorism. If these societies are so morally equivalent, why aren’t writers like him allowed to express themselves freely in the Islamic world? Guy should hope that the West doesn’t “get used to” the outrageous actions of rogue regimes over these next “exciting decades” because self-loathing journalists will be among the first targets of tyranny.

Peter Lloyd writes: While I am flattered that Bazza Chipman (yesterday, comments) implies I am part of a “Greenie rent-a-crowd” I am saddened to report that I don’t receive income for putting forward my views, as rent or otherwise. I do, however, note that the only pulp mill supporters are those salivating at the prospect of turning public assets into personal income. Barry’s mobilise-a-mob can only get a hundred hardy souls (no doubt the whole local membership of the Howard-hugging CFMEU) to its pro pulp mill rallies, whereas Sunday saw at least 3,000 (according to the decidedly pro-mill Launceston Examiner) rally to oppose it. And Barry skirts the issue regarding the duration of the RPDC analysis — Dr Warwick Raverty established a network of electronic “sniffers” to scientifically determine the atmospheric conditions in the valley, which would shed light on whether the emissions from the mill would be dispersed. On 26 March Dr Raverty told a poorly-reported but well-attended public meeting that these emissions, while not especially toxic, would certainly stink. By pulling out of the RPDC process (and the Lennon Government’s immediate acquiescence in this) the Gunns gang have prevented this information getting out. Because it might make a mockery of the economic assumptions supporting the development — like zero impact on tourism and increased property values. Despite a barrage of advertising designed to keep the local media quiet, Tamar Valley residents are waking up. I can see why the Chipmeister is upset at the work of those meddling greenies.

John Day writes: Only Barry could write so many inexactitudes in one article and get it published outside of The Examiner newspaper. The pulp mill will take 7,000,000 tonnes of green timber per year for at least 30 years. In the first year 80% of this will be “native forest” timber reducing to 20% by year 20 and remaining at that level there after. At a yield of 200 tonnes per hectare, this is equivalent to 292,000 hectares of “native forest” being clear felled and subsequently burnt in the first 20 years. Barry and others call this event “sustainable”! Anybody can check this out by visiting the Proponents ILS submission. Recently the Federal Government has stated that 65,000 hectares of native forests are clear felled nationally, and this has to be reduced to counter act global warming. The proposed pulp mill project will in its first year increase this by 35,000 hectares. However all of the above points will not be considered by the Federal Governments Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC Act) referral stage, as the Tasmanian Government has specifically excluded the wood supply component of the Pulp Mill project from any assessment. The flora and fauna on the pulp mill site (100 hectares) has to be assessed, but not the 292,000 hectares “of native forests” for the wood supply. Why do politicians think they are addressing “the problems” by assessing 100 hectares when literally over the hill 290,000 hectares will be destroyed and burnt.

Deborah Hurst writes: Barry Chipman of the Tasmanian Timber Communities sounds very much like a lobbyist, as he casts aside critics as merely part of the “greenie rent-a-crowd”. He might like to inform the Crikey readership of just where the dioxins from the mill will go to, and how much water will be necessary to run it?

Gary Price writes: Re. “Earth Hour — the great CO2 con” (Monday, item 2). Michael Pascoe – You stated that on Saturday night, power consumption dropped but generation stayed the same. Where did the excess power go? It certainly can’t go out on the grid. I guess it must have been converted to heat and used to warm something up. No — the truth is that power stations have control systems that respond quickly to changes in demand. A simple arrangement to achieve this is that, at any given time, one generating unit in the system is responsible for “following” the load. This unit responds quickly to changes in demand by changing its output to keep system frequency constant (50 Hz in Australia). The others stay fairly close to constant output. The only question is, was the load follower a coal fired or hydro plant. I don’t know. If it was coal fired I would have expected that for a one-hour reduction in demand early on a Saturday evening the consumption of coal to have been reduced. If it was hydro the reduction in usage would have left some extra water in the dam, which can be used to offset coal burning later in the week. Either way there should have been a reduction in CO2 production either immediately or soon after the event on Saturday night.

Bob Hawksley writes: I was out to dinner on Earth Hour night. All the electric lights were out but 30 candles blazed within. How much CO2 is generated by one candle please?

Simon Hoyle writes: If it’s true, as some would have it, that turning off the lights for 60 minutes during Earth Hour resulted in no less power being generated by coal-fired power stations, and therefore no less carbon emissions, then why the hell did I bother changing all my light bulbs?

James Stracey writes: I can assure Iain Dunstan (yesterday, comments) that Colgate has had for a number of years quite a selection of toothpaste tubes under 100ml, but solution for disposable contact lenses, that’s another story.

John Kotsopoulos writes: I think Marcus L’Estrange (yesterday, comments) has missed the point and may have been better informed if he had spoken to someone in authority. It’s not products that can be purchased after you enter the departure lounge that are a security issue, it’s the material that could be disguised in containers brought from outside the secured area and taken on board. Would he prefer to pay for more security and have even longer delays while people were allowed to bring in anything and everything?

Frank Golding writes: Dear Crikey team, this is a request for you to send my copy of Crikey each day with anything written by Christian Kerr struck out. I find him often callow, ill-informed and predictable, and frequently offensive. I can find that sort of Kerr-crap in any number of loony right websites and don’t want to waste my time or my Crikey subscription. If there are technical difficulties in customising my copy of Crikey, can I have a pro-rata reduction in my subscription at say $1 a week discount. Failing that, I would be willing to receive the sum of $50 as a compensatory reading fee for each of Mr Kerr’s articles.

Yesterday’s typos (house pedant Charles Richardson casts an eye over the howlers in the last edition of Crikey): Item 4: “… the focus is on pilot standards and training, for which the airline is responsible for maintaining and the safety regulator is responsible for enforcing.” Too many “for”s there; get rid of the first one.

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