Dean Galloway writes: Re. “Still waiting for the left to see the light on Hicks” (yesterday, item 15). Who is this mysterious “Left” Peter Faris refers to? If he is waiting for Left to admit David Hicks is evil then at least let us know who Left is. Is he referring to a particular organisation, or media outlet, or politicians? From reading his comments it would appear that Mr Faris has tarred all those who are a bit wary of the goings-on over the last five years with the same brush. I have no issue with him holding such views, or any other views, but I would have expected someone with such an impressive resume (as spruiked by Mr Faris himself in previous columns) not to fall back on that outdated left/right crap. Just because someone thinks Hicks has been badly treated it doesn’t automatically follow that they despise the federal government, adore trees and spend their time planning the next anti-globalisation protest march. For the record, I’m in the middle on most issues which means I’m sick to death of the simplistic labels that are being applied left, right and centre (pardon the pun) by lazy columnists.

Tom Munro writes: What is it with Peter Faris and the normal rules of discussion. “The left” does not do things, have opinions or argue things. “The left” is a description of a group of people not a thing. As to his ravings about David Hicks being a terrorist, is he? The evidence so far is that he trained in al-Qaeda camps learning infantry tactics. He attempted rather comically to fight for the the government of Afghanistan. That would not make him a traitor or a terrorist. One rather thinks of George Orwell who in the 1930s fought in the Spanish Civil war for POUM, an armed Marxist organisation. George Orwell fought along side anarchists and communists yet no-one suggested that he was a terrorist or even a communist. In fact, he is the most articulate foe of communism produced in any country.

Jim Hambrook writes: If only Peter Faris could get right the facts relating to the guilty plea of Hicks. Hicks did not acknowledge that he was a “terrorist”; nor can he fairly be said to be a “confessed and convicted terrorist”. He pleaded guilty to one count of providing material support to a terrorist organisation. The admitted facts constituting this “support” (for example, guarding a Taliban tank for a few hours) did not involve Hicks doing anything in the nature of a terrorist act. Further, Hicks did not acknowledge that he advocated or supported any acts of terrorism. On the logic of Faris, anyone who provides material financial support to a political party must be held accountable for the acts and policies of that party. That is patent nonsense. The comments of Faris (and others) to the effect that Hicks is a self-confessed terrorist may well be actionable.

Helen Barnes writes: “The Left are up in arms about the ‘gag agreement’ for their returning hero, David Hicks” – who is this “Left” he raves about so often? Who had ever referred to David Hicks as a “hero”? Sarcasm is cheap and Faris’ arguments are pathetic. Crikey, why do you persist in publishing this uninteresting man? Being balanced doesn’t mean you have to balance every interesting, fair item with a piece of d-ckwittery like this.

Steve Johnson writes: Mr Peter Faris QC has talked himself into a corner. Would Australian law recognise the process that extracted a guilty plea from David Hicks? I suspect that the answer is “no” because the system operating in Guantanamo fails to satisfy most of the conditions that any Western standard would require for a fair trial. I assume that Mr Faris QC, as an Australian lawyer, upholds the basic tenets of a fair trial and a due process of law, but by referring to Hicks as “a terrorist and a traitor” he appears to be behaving in a very subversive and anti-establishment manner. Rather than being touched by silk, Mr Faris QC may actually find he is touching cloth in future.

Jenny Morris writes: The piece by Peter Faris QC was long on spray and short on reasoned argument. Mr Faris did not address the allegation that the Howard and Bush governments did a deal on Hicks to meet short-term political objectives, other than to assert that “any Australian Government would not have interfered, one way or another, with the details of the plea deal”. Quite a statement, given the short distance between the dots on this one — 12-month gag, nine months or so to the election, changing tide of public opinion… Mr Faris neglects to address the many serious defects in the Military Commission process that would tend to influence anyone (especially one who’s spent five years at the Guantanamo prison) to plead guilty and get the hell out of there. Would Mr Faris stand on principle and bed down for another five years? A disappointing piece of invective against “the left”– whoever the hell they are.

Gary Carroll writes: The actions of the PM and his merry band of dills have turned Hicks into being perceived as a martyr. He is a confessed terrorist and deserves to be dealt with accordingly. The PM deserves to be heavily criticised for the way in which the Government has mishandled this whole affair. Heads should roll, with the PM first cab off the rank.

David Hill writes: It is interesting to read arguments in many forums regarding David Hicks. Frequently the arguments don’t even touch one another as they pass. There is the-Hicks-is-a-rat-bag argument that will be accepted as proven if he makes a million out of his experiences and the other that concerns legality and justice. There is no doubt in my mind that Hicks was originally a minor points winner for Howard, but now the worm has turned due to Michael Mori. Howard was forced to back-pedal extremely fast. Howard and Ruddock’s legacy will be a mini-micro footnote in history. The legal systems of the US and Australia may yet demonstrate that at the last round, they provide protection against the excesses of populist politicians.

Mike Cowley writes: Re. “Readers respond to special Hicks edition” (yesterday, item 17). Jason Atwal says that there is bugger all difference between Crikey and Murdoch or Fairfax. Not true — does he really think his little rant would be published in the Oz or the Smage? Other outlets often give short shrift to points of view that differ from their editorial line, only grudgingly offer apologies for errors, and flat-out refuse to publish direct criticism of themselves. While plenty of daft or incorrect material makes it’s way into Crikey at times (Peter Faris is a regular example), at least Crikey is not afraid of a warts and all display of reader feedback.

Alison Gilmore writes: Even funnier than the special David Hicks edition Tuesday were the responses yesterday… some people are certainly lacking in the sense of humour department. And as for the South Australian whinging about the Adelaide sarcasm….you live in South Australia — what else can you expect!

Rob White writes: Ah the neocon fun police are alive and well, all indignant because you dare use humour to make a point about the Hicks’ gag order. And Peter Faris is right — it’s just a coincidence the gag order and sentence expire after the election.

Michael Darby writes: Re. “Hicks, medievalism and the rule of law” (yesterday, item 5). In respect of admitted terrorist David Hicks, Malcolm Fraser wrote, astonishingly: “What has happened has stained Australia’s reputation”. The discredited former prime minister will say or do anything to harm John Howard, whose success he bitterly resents. The real stain on Australia’s reputation has been Malcolm Fraser’s uncritical and enthusiastic support for Robert Mugabe’s rise to power, and his continuing refusal to criticise the wicked dictator.

Randy Rose writes: “What man would have pleaded otherwise?” states Malcom Fraser and this is an echo of most of Hicks’ supporters. The proof will be in the pudding, if it is sooooo bad in Gitmo we should expect all the other 70-80 prisoners to plead guilty! Don’t hold your breath.

Doug Melville writes: Neil James and Peter Townley get it wrong again (yesterday, comments). David Hicks was never a “Prisoner of War”. If he had been, he would have been subject to the Geneva Convention. He was an “Enemy Belligerent” — a term dreamed up to avoid those kidnapped and “processed” by “rendition” from having access to either normal civil protection and rights as common criminals, while not giving them the status and rights of a prisoner of war. The British Government fought a lengthy battle with extremists in Northern Ireland, the West German Government coped with RAF and Baader-Meinhof without turning their own justice system inside out. Why aren’t terrorists treated as common criminals and murderers? To treat them otherwise gives legitimacy to their claims.

Duncan Beard writes: Re: Neil James, “At no stage has Hicks been ‘imprisoned without trial’.” What a load of semantic obfuscation. Five years spent in international limbo without charges being laid and we’re expected to be distracted by the distinction between “detainment” and “imprisonment”.The association of Hicks’ stint in Guantanamo with “Italian prisoners-of-war [being] released, before hostilities ceased, to work on Australian farms in World War II” is completely surreal.

Jim Hart writes: Re. “Lib or ALP, it’s still Telstra’s broadband” (yesterday, item 6). As Senator Coonan acknowledges, the bump on the road to competitive broadband is that Telstra owns the copper wire network on the final leg from the node to my house. So, Senator, all you have to do is buy back those copper wires. I know you can afford it – just spend a bit of that cash you got from selling Telstra in the first place – but if that sounds too socialistic for your free-market principles then sell the wires to an independent body. These days I have a choice of electricity retailers (lucky me!) but none of them owns the wires in the street. Leaving Telstra with the copper wires is like letting the old SEC keep the wires and poles while competing at the meter with Origin and AGL.

Brefney Ruhl writes: Blind Freddie can see that in a country the size of Oz with only 20 million people, it makes economic sense to have a government body organise the roll out of FTTN or FTTH broadband infrastructure and service it, the cost can be amortized over years and spread fairly across the entire user base. This government in their wisdom chose not to do this and now has to live with the consequences. Helen Coonan seems to be moving us inexorably toward having the worst kind of US style deregulated monopolistic communications system. This would be another serious mistake, the mal-regulated US broadband network is in shambles. Some US cities are seriously considering setting up their own broadband systems to get themselves out from under the yoke of intransigent monopolies. But it doesn’t have to be this way. In Europe, telcos, while mostly privatised, are highly regulated and can incur heavy penalties if they don’t toe the line. Telstra is now a good old fashioned monopoly with all the trappings. Profits, director’s salaries and shareholders are all that matter and the customer is merely the cash cow. I wonder if the Howard govt has the fortitude to deal with this monster of their own creation and put it back in its box.

Richard McGuire writes: Margaret Simons describes Telstra as “the new bully boy in Australian public life.” Well Margaret, who created that bully? More importantly what role did the media play in the past decade to prevent such an outcome? Blind Freddy could have or should have foreseen the current scenario with high speed broadband. Unfortunately Freddy was to preoccupied working out how much he would make on his Telstra shares. The fact is just beginning to sink in, that a massive part of this nation’s infrastructure, probably only a third in importance, behind the national road network, and national power grid, has slipped forever from public ownership and control. How did the goverment get away with it? The sad fact is that during all stages of the Telstra privatisation debate the media went along for the ride. In it’s justification for the sale of Telstra, the government was allowed to dish up arguments like fixing the environment, and paying off the national debt. The closest we got to a serious investigation about the nation’s future telecommunications needs was the Estens Inquiry. Unfortunately Estens was largely about mollifying the National Party and “the bush.” It has been quite a while since we’ve had a Crikey List. My suggestion would be a list of those political and business journalists who stood out from the pack and seriously challenged the assumptions and arguments put forward by the goverment for the Telstra sale. I suspect it would be a very short list indeed.

Barry Chipman, Tasmanian State Manager, Timber Communities Australia, writes: Timber Communities Australia critics and pulp mill critics (yesterday, comments) need to get up to date on issues. These few critics appear to totally ignore the balance between conservation values and wood product values in our forest estate where 45% of all native forest is managed for the full range of conservation values. Our State’s working forests and plantations can easily cope with the 3.2 million tonnes of pulp wood needed for the mill to operate. They also fail to acknowledge the RPDC’s emission standards for the mill. The assessment panel, including Dr Raverty, found that “Evidence before the Commission” supports research into ECF (elemental chlorine FREE) that evidence states: “ECF satisfies European standards and produces pulp in terms of strength and brightness that is acceptable in the international market. Research regarding ECF reports that because the process no longer uses elemental chlorine, it has effectively eliminated dioxins which was a key issue when the Wesley Vale mill was proposed in the late 1980s.” In regards to water use, the mill will use less water per tonne of pulp produced than the Louisiana Pacific Mill in California (advocated by the National Toxic Network and others). In fact it will use only about 1% of the flow into the Trevallyn Dam where the water is to be sourced.

Lynne Good writes: Re. “Seeing the wood for the litigation: Gunns deserves its day in court” (yesterday, item 19). Greg Barns does his usual yeoman service for the Tasmanian logging industry, but he leaves the road littered with credibility. If SLAPP suits (usually corporate defamation actions against critics) are such a basic democratic right, why have so many US states banned them as an abuse of legal processes? And why do SLAPP’s survive despite an 87% failure rate? Gunns has a tireless cohort of cheerleaders such as Greg, Barry Chipman, Eric Abetz and Paul Lennon, but the quality of their routines has become an asset to their critics.

Nicola Burgess writes: Re. “No, Mr Costello, we don’t need more babies” (Tuesday, item 5). What a crock Charles Richardson wrote “we don’t need to return our womenfolk to domestic drudgery” to increase our domestic birth rate, just increase immigration. What emotive drivel to say that those who don’t support immigration but rather want to keep women “barefoot and pregnant, and keep the dark-skinned foreigners away” are racist and out of touch and the message is not getting through! What’s wrong with being “domestic” and pumping out the babies. What’s wrong with focusing on little Johnny, and making sure he gets the best start possible in life. Being a mother or father doesn’t have to be a bore and just because you support “in house breeding” doesn’t mean you are a misogynist or a racist. Parenthood can actually be quite satisfying – why is there such a stigma on staying home and looking after your kids, or even trying to work and have kids at the same time – it can be done. But then again maybe he does have a point. If we didn’t breed we would not need child care. We would not need to juggle the work life balance. We can keep on spending all that glorious money we make, we can keep on boasting that my career progression is better than yours. No hair to pull out, no baby’s vomit or dribble to clean off our Armani suits! No stress! Ahh now I get it. OK, bring on immigration, no need to breed. I just hope when I’m 90 that these immigrants will be there to visit me and hold my hand when I am the one vomiting and dribbling on my Armani suits!

Karen Hardwick writes: Charles Richardson is spot on the money. There is no shortage of human beings, of all ages, to populate our great southern land. This obsession with the so-called fertility crisis seems to me a purely male obsession, as if it is some kind of slight against their virility. The fact is, Australia is not a family-friendly country in which women with children have the ability to work as they choose. It is easy to be insulated in Australia and forget that other countries have more progressive policies. Food for thought, if we reversed the sexes for a moment (and forgive my rough estimates): 90% ASX directors female, upwards 10 men on the BRW rich list, average male wages 10% less than female wages (part time or full time), overwhelming representation in Parliament female (with the best looking bo hunks seated in the front benches for the camera, of course). I really wish men would think about the way society is structured at the moment and understand what it is like to be in the shadows. Perhaps Peter Costello (and his ilk) would shut his trap about fertility and focus instead on the rights of women as human beings, not just reproductive units. Seriously, if child rearing and household chores are so fulfilling, wouldn’t it be that men would be rushing forth to do so, rather than mouthing off “motherhood” platitudes, again? I have no doubt that Peter Costello would be just as happy at home raising his spawn, without the glittering (pathetic) political career … or perhaps not.

Anthea Parry writes: I note with amusement that no less than five men wrote in to object to Charles Richardson’s erudite comments on population policy, making such claims as feminist thinking is the enemy of the family and raising children shouldn’t be described as drudgery. No women wrote in to object to this description. That’s because those of us who have actually stayed home to take care of our kids know that – despite the enormous love we feel for our children – the daily work of caring for them couldn’t be described as anything else. Perhaps some of these blokes should volunteer to stay home and care for the children, if they don’t want us evil family-hating feminists refusing to pop out “enough” sprogs. If you want someone back in the home, caring for the children and washing the dishes, and it’s all such simple joy and wonder – well, fellas, you can bloody well do it yourselves.

Donald Allison writes: On the economic aspects of more babies vs. migration issue; migration appears to offer the prospect of society avoiding the cost of raising and educating children, which is a substantial saving by reducing much of the “non-productive” years of a citizen (childhood), where they are a net expense. Unfortunately, where these migrants come from developing countries, it could be characterised as reverse foreign aid. That aside, there seems to be a brutal economic argument (if not demographic) for selective migration over increased birth rates.

Colin Ross writes: There is a convention that commentators should disclose any possible conflict of interest when their opinions are published eg. share holdings if commenting about a specific company, or formal party political affiliations if commenting on political matters. Using the some principle, and judging by the shrill responses to Charles Richardson in yesterday’s Crikey, contributors should should also indicate their religious bent.

John Walters writes: Re. Yesterday’s editorial. What this will lead to is a dumbing down of the media. The big boys will be fighting it out for market share leading to a steadily decreasing quality of reporting and writing. It won’t be long before my state’s only newspaper (The West Australian) will seem to be subversively intellectual. However, the upside for those of us who care (and even Crikey readers – OK that’s a joke) is that smaller publications in the electronic media will pick up readers who a driven away from the daily drivel of the majors. So Crikey, you are well placed. Any shares available?

Matt Hardin writes: Bob Hawksley (yesterday, comments) raised the same question that occurred to me when I saw film of the Earth Hour. Estimating carbon dioxide production from a generic candle is difficult as local conditions (e.g. breezes, wick length, whether the candle is in a glass holder or not) affecting burning rate immensely. At short notice the best I can come up with is 5-7 oz (142-198 g) of candle wax burned per hour for large wick (hence bright) candles. If we assume that candles are made of Parrafin (formula is CnH(2n+2) with n lying between 25-36) and is completely combusted to carbon dioxide and water, this represents 310-620 g of carbon dioxide per candle per hour. I don’t know how many candles were burnt that hour but they are far less efficient at lighting than electricity.

Ross Copeland writes: Re. “Rates and the economy: in the long run we’re all dead” (yesterday, item 2). Henry Thornton suggests a Fair Go Commission for disgruntled employees. We used to have one of those until it was gutted by Workchoices. It was called the Industrial Relations Commission.

Mike Shuttleworth writes: At what point should the bipartisan approach to IR begin, Henry? Before or after the current laws, drafted by the lunar right, came into force? No sign of bipartisanship there, old chap.

David Havyatt writes: Re. “What do the polls say about the Senate?” (yesterday, item 13). Charles Richardson asks the question “What do the polls say about the Senate?” The correct answer is, usually, absolutely nothing. The reason being that Senate voting intention is very rarely polled – and certainly never as part of the published polling by Newspoll. We do know, from both the Morgan polls and the one privately commissioned Newspoll that The Australian reported on 25 January, that the Green and other party vote goes up considerably when Senate voting intention is questioned. Maybe Crikey would like to start a trend and start commissioning Senate voting intention polls – and actually ask about all the registered parties not just the big two and the Greens.

Peter Gregory writes: Dear Crikey, please no more NGV stories. I find them as interesting as the gridiron reviews you used to run.

Michael Hutak writes: Re. “Back to back Brack at the NGV” (yesterday, item 25). Just a note to say i’m lovin’ Geoff Maslen’s excellent and informed coverage of the local art market. Just about makes up for having to scroll thru Kerr to get to him.

Yesterday’s typos (house pedant Charles Richardson casts an eye over the howlers in the last edition of Crikey): Item 24: “But, and it’s a big but because there is a certain Eldrick ‘Tiger’ Woods in the field, this year we have some sort of chance of breaking our Masters duck.” Surely that makes it a small “but” rather than a big “but”? The “But” is setting up a contrast with the fact that we’ve never won it before, so if there’s a factor like Woods that makes it hard to win this year, then that weakens the contrast rather than reinforcing it.

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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