Bob Smith writes: Re. “It dawns on Rudd — the Sgt Schultz defence can be handy” (Friday, item, 7). Christian Kerr has quoted an informed source as saying about Kevin Rudd that: “The Canberra Press Gallery has a good idea of what a maniacal, dictatorial bully he really is” and that “The Public Service is already quaking in its boots at the thought of him becoming PM.” I cannot comment about the experience of the gallery but I have worked with him as a public servant. Rudd drives staff hard but drives himself harder. He knows the public service from the inside. And the experience shows — on the positive side of the ledger.

Graham Bell writes: Re. “Rudd starting to look more like Pinocchio than Tintin” (Friday, item 5). Laughs aplenty because of all the hysteria about that pre-dawn/post-dawn ANZAC Day service at Long Tan in Vietnam. Rudd is a politician, for Pete’s sake! That’s what politicians do. It’s no different to having notorious politicians who stabbed war veterans in the back after that war taking the salute at the ANZAC Day march … or making pompous speeches comparing Gallipoli with Afghanistan. Those of us who have been under enemy fire — and “friendly” fire, too — can get a good chuckle out of all the show-ponies and their performances.

Martyn Smith writes: Did you actually see Kochie, Mel, Hockey and Rudd on the 13 Friday April Sunrise? I did. It seemed to me that they all explained the facts calmly and honestly and as Joe Hockey said, “It’s time to move on”. Without wishing to let the facts get in the way of a good argument perhaps Crikey might like to eat a little humble pie on this one and accept the reality that the newspaper got it wrong — again.

Editor of the National Indigenous Times, Chris Graham writes: Congratulations on your editorial of Friday, Crikey. Couldn’t have said it better myself. I’ve been watching Rudd closely, wondering if he’ll “show enough tit” to woo my vote towards the Labor Party. But the Jones debacle confirmed everything I’d suspected — that Rudd is just a younger version of Howard, albeit with sillier glasses. I’d sooner vote for Pauline Hanson than a “Howard mini-me”.

Nerida Haycock writes: I’m disappointed that you started in on K-Rudd’s Ford Territory without investigating the specs of the vehicle. According to road tests and reviews, it would seem he gets about 12.9L/100km, which is less than the government standard-issue Holden Berlina at around 14L/100km. For the record, we have one vehicle in our household — a Toyota Hilux SR5 Turbo Diesel which averages 10L/100km. We have this particular vehicle as it is taken on fishing trips regularly, including one trip each year to the NT Gulf. I’m sure K-Rudd assessed the needs of his family as well and considered the Territory the best car for their purposes.

Brett Davidson writes: Graham Watts (Friday, comments) writes that he drives a “more economical and less polluting” LPG-powered vehicle and has “done so with no subsidy from the Federal Government for seven years”. Less polluting — definitely. More economical — only because LPG is cheaper than petrol. Graham will use more litres to drive 100km than he would with petrol, due to the lower energy content in each litre of LPG. The lack of federal subsidy is questionable; petrol and diesel fuels are subject to 38.143 cpL federal excise, to which GST applies — hence bringing the effective federal tax 41.96 cpL. This does not apply to LPG, and hasn’t applied over the past seven years. In light of this fact, some might consider that LPG is heavily subsidised by the Federal Government (even before they started dishing out thousands of dollars to offset conversion costs).

Stephen Matthews writes: When will Crikey cease its shameless ranting and raving against my former mentor, teacher and, dare I say it, friend Alan Jones. I’m referring to Friday’s “shamelessly trades his insidious, scheming and highly dubious influence” assault upon my intelligence. So AJ is a schemer. So what? Crikey is innocent of such a charge we’re supposed to believe? This continuous, pathetic display of jealousy has become tiresome. Please desist.

Michael Sanchez writes: Here’s my tip. People in glass houses… etc. There you are, the most insidious, left-wing biased, ALP lackeys and apologists that the media industry has yet produced (insignificant as you may be) bitching about a right-wing lackey. I mean fellers, you make Hawker Britten look look like members of the Family First Party and you go after Jones because he’s biased? Hello? Do you morons ever read your articles before you post them? Is there an editor anywhere in sight at Crikey? Struth!

Roger Colman writes: In the competitive Sydney talk radio market with two ABC talk stations, 2SM, and Southern Cross Broadcasting’s 2UE, Alan Jones garners typically 17.9% or better than 1/6th of the total breakfast audience on Sydney radio. People want to listen to what he says, and your team, and others are seeking to remove him from radio. How democratic is that. You may disagree with him, but you should defend to the death his right to say it. The fact that his political views do not agree with yours should not matter. With a young daughter who attended a school close to the notorious Southern West suburbs of Sydney, the behaviour of certain youths of Arab/Muslim background has been nothing short of disgraceful, and something that other races have not practised anywhere to the same degree. Alan Jones let a few people get their socks off on air, and then followed any incendiary remark with a sarcastic put-down, or counseled against taking the law into their own hands. So get the record of his interview in context.

Ignaz Amrein writes: All you Alan Jones bashers, don’t you know parrots are a protected species in Australia?

Greig White writes: My recollection of the derivation of Alan Jones’s Parrot nickname fall somewhere between those of Christian Kerr and Harry Goldsmith (Friday, comments). In the late 80s or early 90s, Stuart Littlemore’s Media Watch exposed plagiarism in a Sun-Herald column of Jones’s, wherein Jones had used several passages about space-based weapons systems from a Fredrick Forsyth novel (which may itself have been well-researched) and printed them — without attribution — as fact. I think the Sun-Herald unceremoniously dumped Jones’s column shortly thereafter. Soon after this, I heard Roy and HG on JJJ referring to Jones as ‘The Parrot’ in reference to his plagiarism. I think Stuart Littlemore liked the nickname so much he borrowed it for his own use. Christian Kerr’s citing of ‘The Parrot’ in reference to Jones’s rugby coaching days would probably precede this, so he may be correct, but I have not heard of this. Perhaps Roy, HG, Mr Littlemore (or Chris Masters) can clear this up.

Carmel Boyle writes: Re. Mike Burke (Thursday, comments). I don’t think you get it, Mike. You should consider the question — what Alan Jones is doing to Lebs and Muslims may well be done to you next. He is just as likely to sic his gang of morons on a group of young people or single mothers (groups targeted by the more hysterical media). Here’s an example of political incorrectness/holding an unpopular view: “I am not sure that Muslims display a desire to integrate into the broader community.” Rightly or wrongly, no one can reasonably say that a comment such as this invites violence. It may not be correct or an opinion you share, but it does not encourage anyone to commit a violent act. Contrast the above comment with a number of the Jones rantings and his comments are clearly an incitement to violence. It’s an absolute disgrace that the Prime Minister of this country chooses (for the most cynical of reasons) to comment on ACMA findings and that Kevin Rudd has shown himself to be a mealymouth. Either of them could have chosen the coward’s option and said nothing and yet still have emerged looking better that they now do. Jones is a malign force in our society and it’s to our discredit that we continue to tolerate him.

Martin Guthrie writes: Re. “Burnside puts the torch to the Jones boys” (Friday, item 15). Like Julian Burnside, I, too, was astounded by David Flint’s argument that the ACMA process was flawed because Alan Jones had no chance to face his accusers. It is the type of mistake that one would expect from an articled clerk, not from a person who proudly states on his website to have been recognised with the award of “World Outstanding Legal Scholar”. As Burnside shows, Flint does not understand the proper context of the principle on which his argument erroneously relies. To be fair, the laws of evidence are tricky, particularly the hearsay rule. Flint admits his difficulty with the laws of evidence in his opinion piece published in The Australian on 2 April this year where he stated in relation to David Hicks’ conviction that: “While the military commissions have to be fair and conform to international standards, they do not have to be a mirror image of an Australian criminal trial with all its imponderable technicalities, its almost impenetrable rules on the admissibility of evidence and its many indulgences towards the accused”. Perhaps another reason for the Flint’s confusion is that he only found the “fundamental principle” on which he relies in the last week or so. In his 2 April opinion piece, Flint approves of the US military tribunal that convicted David Hicks. In doing so, he approved of a tribunal in which hearsay evidence is admissible. Once it is realised that one of the primary justifications for the exclusion of evidence according to the hearsay rule is that an accused should be able to face his accusers, Flint’s argument used to defend Alan Jones looks hypocritical as well as foolish. Perhaps the good Professor could clarify whether he believes that a tribunal that allows for the admission of hearsay evidence is fair or whether he believes that there is a fundamental principle which holds that an accused must be allowed to face his accusers? He certainly cannot believe in both.

Michael de Angelos writes: Neil James’s response (Friday, comments) adequately demonstrate how the winner writes the rules in war (which doesn’t make it morally right). He cherry-picks moments in time that were authorised and isolates them from the “big picture” in the continuing conflict (War on Terror) which could be viewed like the Cold War — a concept that only ended when the media stopped using the term. In such an Orwellian world, whoever has the biggest guns writes and re-writes the rules daily as suits its purpose. The US were the ones who didn’t follow James’s concept of how Hicks should have been dealt with under the Geneva Convention. They simply saw a way out of their sticky predicament of having a unacceptable prisoner at this time-with an Australian election imminent. If James’s concept were true, anything Saddam Hussein did could be viewed as legal when he ran Iraq therefore his arrest, trial and execution was unjustified. Why does Neil James continue to defend Hicks’ incarceration for five years when the US doesn’t and changes the rules as it suits?

Neil James, Executive Director, Australia Defence Association, writes: Greg Poropat (Friday, comments) admits puzzlement at why the war in Afghanistan is classified as an international armed conflict in international law. The short answer is because it involves the UN and 38 countries. The UN has endorsed the participation of 37 UN member-states to assist another member-state, Afghanistan, under UN Security Council Resolutions 1386, 1413, 1444, 1510, 1563, 1623, 1658 and 1701. That the “other side” in this war, an Afghan faction and several international terrorist groups separately proscribed by the UN, are not your traditional nation-state belligerents does not appear to trouble the world’s many international lawyers unduly — probably because they consider that international law should, as it generally has, keep evolving to limit or prevent abuses in international practice. Marilyn Shepherd (Friday, comments) obsesses about the original intentions of the Bush administration to the extent she ignores the countervailing action of the US Supreme Court and its reasons for doing so. Her denial that the war in Afghanistan exists, and her opinion that the Geneva Conventions therefore do not apply to those such as David Hicks, merely mimics, however unintentionally, the original incorrect position of Bush et al. Luckily her opinions (or mine) do not change international humanitarian law. This is why the US Supreme Court in June 2006 ruled that Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions do actually apply to those detained at Guantanamo Bay, and why the Court rightly struck down the original military commissions primarily because they contravened the Conventions. Criminal trial of a small minority of detainees by military commission is largely unfair and perhaps illegal. But this remains a completely different legal issue to the separate detention under the Geneva Conventions of all captured belligerents to prevent them resuming their belligerency.

Dick Stratford writes: Re. Tamas Calderwood on Afghanistan (Friday, comments). One might ask how the now-loathsome Taliban were encouraged and funded when it suited the Americans to do so. The Karzai Government is riddled with corruption. Warlords and drug bosses do as they like. A handful of Aussie troops is not going to change that. Meanwhile across the border in Pakistan one finds the centre of terrorism. What happens in Pakistan in the next year could put events elsewhere into the pale. If anti-American sentiment in a clean election translates into a government of militant Islam owning the keys to a nuclear arsenal, anything could happen. Dick Clarke warned of this years ago. India would hardly sit by and watch. Aussie troops in Iraq and Afghanistan should be brought back, dressed in green and held in readiness for operations in our part of the world. That is our primary international obligation.

Alan Hatfield writes: I’m sure I’m as anti-war as Lynda Hopgood (Friday, comments) — and, I hope, many other Crikey readers — but I’m less confident than she is that women leaders would make that much difference. Examples like Margaret Thatcher (Britain), Golda Meir (Israel) and Mrs Bandaranike (Sri Lanka) tend (sadly!) to back up my view.

Mike Burke writes: Re. Graham Bell (Friday, comments) who wrote, “‘Defence Insider’ was spot on about senior officers coming from a very shallow gene pool. You bet it’s shallow! Regardless of what courses they may have passed, too many of them are not smart enough to be trusted running the family business but, hell, they are terrific at conformity and not rocking the boat.” Really, Mr Bell? And your evidence for these profound judgements is where? Oh, and your qualifications? All you have demonstrated so far is that neither you nor your brave anonymous “Defence Insider” have the faintest, foggiest idea of what you are talking about.

Anne Hughes writes: I would be interested to know Graham Bell’s military experience, and indeed combat record, before I put any weight on his opinion that defence force officers are necessarily unintelligent, conformist and the bottom of each family’s gene pool. Given his comments indicate no actual knowledge of the defence force and the people from all backgrounds who serve therein, it would seem Graham is really just one of those people whose freedom to hold even the silliest prejudiced belief has been won and continues to be protected by the exertions in battle over generations of better men and women than himself.

Peter Finnegan writes: Re. “The meat in the Qantas sandwich: passengers” (Friday, item 4). Now that it looks like the almighty dollar is going to win out in the Qantas debacle over common sense and national interest, we might have to look down the road a bit, and after Qantas has been stripped bare and all the goodies have been banked in offshore accounts. Who could be the buyer when Macquarie Bank and the other US jackals have had their fill and Singapore Airlines would loom large in that arena. And who would then be the beneficiaries? Why the travelling public here in Oz, who would then get some decent service and economies of scale, more capacity and something better than the very patchy and most times inadequate service that now applies. Ill winds and silver linings perhaps?

Barbara Bradshaw writes: I am a Qantas Platinum Frequent Flyer living in the NT which means that, like a lot of my colleagues, I spend a lot of time flying Qantas, on various classes. The service offered to the Territory has deteriorated significantly over the years. We have been taken for granted. Qantas has blamed it on the public’s desires for lower fares but that does not justify, in my opinion, the shifting of routes to Jetstar and the increasing number of flights occurring in the middle of the night — unsuitable of you have business commitments the next day. I believe this will only continue in the future as Qantas is driven by the need to meet the costs of the takeover including the debt incurred. I am also concerned at the implications for the hard-working staff of the organisation, noting some may appear to have already dropped their bundle and seem to be taking out their aggravation on the customers. I think the pressure needs to be kept up on Qantas to explain the consequences of the deal for customers, as well as staff and for members of the board to justify their support for the deal, other than on the basis of what may be perceived financial benefits to them. I think they have lost a lot of goodwill from the Australian public — not that seems to matter to the Board. I would ask Crikey keep raising these issues with Qantas.

Nicholas Latimer writes: Re. “The blogs that ate Fairfax” (Friday, item 23). What’s most noticeable in the development of blogging at Australian news websites is the divergence between Fairfax and The Australian. Whereas Fairfax appear to have taken the approach of catering to every conceivable interest — backpacking, gardening, music etc. — they have eschewed prompting any serious debate on their websites. The Australian‘s website is comparatively enlivened by blogs from Matt Price, Janet Albrechtsen et al. The Fairfax so-called quality broadsheets are left looking tabloid by comparison: when will they open up debate?

Keith Thomas writes: Re. “Tony Abbott’s kidney punches” (Friday, item 12). Graeme Ring went just a bit too far. It’s full of the stock innuendo which implies that we all agree with him about what the causes are of many Australian Aborigines’ ill health, but he holds back from the uncomfortable truth of spelling out the mechanisms so we’ll know, all of us, what he’s referring to. Ring reports as unreasonable Tony Abbott’s claim that Aboriginal people need to be more active and to eat well in order to avoid kidney disease. But we all know that Abbott’s right. Ring’s unstated plea seems to be that certain Aborigines can’t be active and eat well. He tells us about the Anangu peoples’ lack of services as if that in itself is a reason why being active and eating well is impossible. Yet 100 years ago, there would have been none of these services — and no kidney disease among the Anangu. Likewise petrol sniffing: there was none 100 years ago and it didn’t need Opal petrol to prevent it then. Clearly much Aboriginal ill-health might be exacerbated by “poverty, disadvantage, racism and disempowerment”, but until Aboriginal people themselves are prepared to come to grips with what the reason might really be for their decline in health and general well-being — that is — a weak-willed submission to the short-term dopamine rush of junk food, drugs, alcohol, gambling, sex, violence and a couch-potato lifestyle, and a rejection of the tough life of their forebears, we can we can only, sadly, expect more of the same.

Bill Smithies writes: Others (12 April, comments) have already refuted the urban myth that Lilian McCombs of GetUp tried to start on 11 April about needing a driver’s licence to get on the electoral roll. Another absurd myth was her claim that Australia was the first country to introduce compulsory voting. In fact, compulsion had been running in Belgium for more than 30 years before federal parliamentarians in Australia took it up. Australia also came behind a number of jurisdictions in Switzerland, Spain, Argentina, Chile and Holland (to name the most important). And at least one state in the USA enacted relevant law, though it was later struck down as unconstitutional. Neither, unlike Ms McCombs, would I want to brandish compulsory voting as if it were a worthy Australian contribution to democracy. I have a book in preparation on compulsory voting abroad and I can assure her that the history is about as sordid as any political saga can get, even if Australian politicians don’t want to know about it. Almost everywhere that compulsion ever turned up, it was introduced by the faction on the right wing — usually the far right — of the local political spectrum. A spectacular correlation exists between military coups and the imposition soon afterwards of measures to compel people to attend polling booths. Rarely has electoral compulsion been employed to get fair and democratic outcomes. Mostly it has been used for blatant gerrymandering — compulsion makes it enticingly simple to skew electoral processes in favour of particular groups linked by religion, language, race, gender, age or location. Australia is just about the only compulsory-voting country that has been relatively free of these evils — so far. Most countries that still have compulsion on their statute books have long since stopped enforcing it because of its anti-democratic associations and the stink attaching to it in most of the world.

Marcus L’Estrange writes: Re. “The Economy: IR — The economic and political battleground” (Friday, item 28). Henry Thornton is quite right to worry about Australia’s inflation figures as they don’t tell the full story. They leave out many things so consequently the real inflation figure is higher in Australia (and elsewhere). In the US, the official inflation figures leave out energy prices and some other volatile prices. The US Fed has also stopped publishing M3 — the best money supply figure. The probable reason is that it can inflate the money supply as soon as recession danger looms. These kinds of policies lead to a gradual escalation of asset prices, bubbles, and busts — as seen in the US housing price collapse. Australia follows a similar path, except that our central bank has normally been quicker to act on inflation figures by raising interest rates. The fact is they are both (Aust, US) flying in the dark and have little idea of the effects of their policies in the medium term, and little idea of the effects on particular industries and households. Because it uses dodgy unemployment figures, dodgy job vacancy figures and dodgy inflation figures it’s no wonder The Australian Reserve Bank Board (and the US Fed) comes up with dodgy recommendations and both should be sacked en masses and forthwith.

Peter Lloyd writes: Barry Chipman (Friday, comments) likes to talk about where the wood’s coming from, though given the 100-year life of a pulp mill that could be anywhere, but in well over a week of (what must be getting to be) rather tedious exchanges he is yet to deal with many specific issues that have been put to him in Crikey. But I’ll leave Barry with one question: if the mill has so many benefits, why doesn’t the industry use its massive PR spend to repay some Tasmanian taxpayer subsidies, and allow the mill to be assessed by the standard, independent RPDC process? And Barry,  the “commercial costs” lie won’t wash because: 1) Gunns gave the game away by telling the ASX that it was confident the mill would be approved at the same time Paul Lennon announced it was stalled, and 2) given a 100-year mill life, a few more months for a proper analysis would mean nothing.

Michael Fisk writes: Christian Kerr (Friday, comments) has taken a first step towards greatly improving the standard of Crikey with his written promise make no further denialist contributions to the climate change debate. Good. Ill-informed, fact-free, propaganda of this type is widely available for free on the net. Christian’s contributions were entirely surplus to requirements; or a case of supply greatly outstripping demand to put it in the market jargon with which he is no doubt familiar. Just wondering though, any chance that Christian could take his dummy spit one step further and make the ultimate sacrifice in the best interests of Crikey? There must be a right-wing think tank out there somewhere that would value his, ah, “talents”.

John Boyd writes: Come on Christian, what a dummy spit. You were caught out apparently deliberately selectively quoting an authority, the US NSF, to make a point diametrically opposed to the point they were making. Somewhat analogous to the Alan Jones affair, it is what you actually said that is the point, not the state of the argument about global warming.

Matt Randall writes: Christian, mate, a guy called Andrew Bolt already has your self-appointed gig as the “alternative voice to the doomsayers”, and not only does he do a better job at stirring the possum, but no subscription or fees are needed to read/ignore his blog. I became a Crikey subscriber to read the insights of such contributors as Hilary Bray, not those of an increasingly irrelevant Christian Kerr.

John Peak writes: If Christian Kerr’s dummy spit on Global Warming was in response to the preceding item by Mark Byrne, then he really needs his bottom smacked. Over and over again he meets reason with diatribe, illogic and just plain silly, well, dummy-spitting. “… they have stopped believing in free speech etc etc” — certainly Mark implied nothing of the sort. He presented an argument refuting a (less well-reasoned) argument from CK, pointing out that CK had both misread and misinterpreted his source. Isn’t that what “debate” would require? “Indeed, you wonder why they even bother to subscribe to Crikey.” Yes, Christian, indeed.’

Adrian Kitchingman writes: Oh come on, Christian. Debate is great if there’s something worthy to bring to the table. Just because all the tired old sceptic evidence/excuses have been disproved or laughed away shouldn’t stop you looking for more. When some credible and peer reviewed evidence refuting anthropogenic global warming arises I’m sure all will be happy for further debate. So put your dummy back in and go find something worthy of our attention. By the way, although I find some of the things you write quite repugnant, I have to admit you do provide a good devil’s advocate (and sometimes a great laugh). Keep up the good work.

Yesterday’s typos (house pedant Charles Richardson casts an eye over the howlers in the last edition of Crikey): Item 1: “Senator Coonan has refused to support ACMA’s its ruling against Alan Jones.” Just one possessive would be enough.

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