The US shootings:

Stuart Boak writes: Re. “Virginia Tech students liveblog the shootings” (yesterday, item 1). Yes, these deaths are tragic. As are all homicides. What has got me really annoyed is stupid polls in other publications on the tightening of Australian gun laws. How can the average “Aussie” Joe make an informed decision straight after an event like this? Especially when they are being asked to compare American gun laws with the Australia Firearms Act, which no one is publishing. Our gun laws are fine (maybe a little too tight…) No one ever wants to quote the statistics that the gun buy-back and licensing schemes have cost the Australian taxpayer $500 million, with no reduction in homicides involving a firearm. Suicides involving a firearm have dropped, but the overall suicide rate is static.

Greg Angelo writes: The tragic events in Virginia require some comment. The death toll in this suicide-massacre was around 33 people including the killer. This is the equivalent of an everyday suicide bombing in Iraq, and to the families of victims it is equally tragic. Unfortunately, the attention paid to these events by the media is quite disparate. A similar suicide-related death toll in Baghdad hardly rates a mention. This calls into question considerations of the relative values of a human life in the eyes of the media. It should also be noted that one of the prime motivations for this type of massacre is the probability of posthumous publicity. The killer in Virginia certainly got his dividend. It really is time for the media to examine their competitive motivation in the amount of prurient publicity given to these tragic events. There is a strong probability of a linkage between frequency and magnitude of these events, and the publicity provided by compliant media eager to outsell their rivals and maximise their associated advertising revenue.

Craig Moore writes: Re. Yesterday’s editorial. For the record, as a guy with friends at Virginia Tech would it not have been best to get the full story on the shootings before taking up your FAQ stance. No one really knows what happened yet, nor the circumstances of the shooters weapon. Has Crikey become The Chaser?

Combet for Canberra:

Jacqueline King writes: Re. “Why waste Combet on just one seat?” (yesterday, item 7). The beat-up about Combet having to wait to go into Parliament is a simple plot by some individuals within the ALP right to stop him going into a ministry spot. If he stays, fantastic for the union movement. If he does go, he’ll add credibility plus to an incoming federal Labor government. You can be assured that Combet has the interests of workers at heart. Combet’s credibility is not on the line. But whose is? Ask yourselves, who are the so-called anonymous ones backgrounding the media undermining the Your Rights at Work campaign and if so, where’s their credibility? Maybe Combet’s mooted elevation has ticked off a few wannabes who also want to go into a new Labor ministry who might just have to get in line behind him.

Sensis:

Michael Lee writes: Re. More executive turmoil at Sensis (yesterday, item 25). As a long-time advertiser of Sensis’s yellow pages, the calibre of their premium accounts sales teams have diminished greatly. Their product now has measurable and alternative cheaper alternatives (Google, industry-specific online directories); no wonder people are leaving in droves. I spent over 100k with them last year, and still can’t get a senior executive to respond to the dishonourable actions of a premium account manager.

Virgin Blues:

Steve Sagar writes: Re. “A whiff of “McCarthyism” at Virgin Blue” (yesterday, item 3). It’s a pity that Ben Sandilands continues to peddle the lazy media myth that there was a pilots’ strike in 1989. As ex-Ansett pilot Alex Paterson explains in such detail in A Pilot’s Perspective of the Australian Pilots’ Dispute of 1989, AFAP pilots imposed on their employers (Ansett Airlines, East West Airlines, IPEC, and Australian Airlines) a limitation on the hours they were prepared to work in the form of only making themselves available for flying duties within the normal business hours of 9am to 5pm. That was not a strike, only a mild form of industrial action. Alex Paterson points out that the dispute, which has never been resolved, resulted in nearly 80% of the pilots involved not returning to their former positions. Whilst some of these pilots may have been blacklisted from working in Australia, a list of the “scab” pilots has supposedly been maintained and was reportedly used against some of them when they sought overseas employment after the Ansett collapse in September 2001. What goes around comes around.

Gary Carroll writes: With reference to Bob Hawke and the pilots’ dispute, you may, or may not, recall that Bob Hawke strongly advised them not to walk away from the ACTU. McCarthy, or who ever was advising him [members of our current Government], thought they knew better. The pilots committed industrial hari-kari.

Damien Harris writes: I was a victim of the Virgin fatigue factor, stuck in Melbourne after my Adelaide-bound flight was cancelled. The checking staff looked stressed from the moment they arrived at the boarding gate counter. First a change of gates then a delay. Why is all the staff running back and forth I thought. Then another delay. The unprofessionalism of the attractive yet hopeless staff was beginning to take its toll on me and the passengers. I tried to have a beer but the the bar was shut ( Melbourne Monday night at 8:50pm) and then it was announced due to technical issues the flight has been cancelled. They were lots of upset people. But… A woman roughly 19-22 years old was crying in the line. I firstly laughed at how upset she was, but then, after asking her if she was ok, she broke down and fell on her knees. “It’s my Dads funeral tomorrow,” she said. Shaking and trembling and obviously emotional. Another man walked up to four or five Virgin boys standing around laughing and talking and advised them of this poor girl’s situation. One handsome Virgin boy tried his sincere side, something I haven’t seen from the Virgin staff for years. He walked her to the check-in as she was only hoping to get home to be with her family. But believe it! They told her to jump in a taxi and go to the city and come back to catch the red eye flight at 6:30am tomorrow. I wanted to pay for this girl to get back home, but not Virgin. This, along with the pure arrogance of the hostie has made me tear up my Velocity points card. I don’t want anything from them. If they can’t show empathy they don’t have mine.

F-ck the planet:

Andrew Dempster writes: Your F-ck the planet campaign (Monday, item 9) was launched in jest but I feel there are grounds for some serious philosophical discussions here. For instance, does anyone seriously think we can save the planet? I don’t, because humans are extremely selfish animals and will not forego that last foie gras, 4WD or round-the-world trip, regardless of how much misery and destruction to which we know we are sentencing future generations. Democratic governments that legislate against their subjects’ comforts are removed from office; despotic governments don’t need to act. So in my view, the planet is f-cked anyway, or at least humans are. The question is — how best, morally, to react to this fait accompli? Do we accelerate our own demise, so that fewer other species are taken with us? Or do we drag it out, buying water tanks, eating vegetables, delaying the inevitable, but also maximising the damage we do before we go extinct?

Booze ban:

Ben Andrews writes: Re. “Family First dips deeper into prohibition” (yesterday, item 16). Charles Richardson writes, “raising the drinking age: it doesn’t stop young people drinking.” Great logic, Charles. Since drinking-age prohibition has no effect, let’s do away with a drinking age altogether. “Prohibition doesn’t work” is the biggest furphy in political argument at the moment. It doesn’t work 100%, but it does reduce the amount of alcohol consumed. In Aboriginal communities it has been highly successful at reducing crime and domestic violence rates, but occasionally someone does sneak a bottle in — so in Charles’s twisted logic we’d better do away with the system altogether.

ANZAC dawn:

Ken Lambert writes: Re. “False dawn: was there really a story?” (yesterday, item 20). I admit to a sneaky peek at Sunrise on most mornings — strictly to get the traffic, news and weather. Kochie’s stand ’em up and knock ’em down style deflated gradually as more tabloid pap, and tame pollies infected the organism. Kochie went along with the sentimental, shallow cr-p which passes for social analysis, and waded chest-deep into the celebrity two-penny circus which Sunrise has become. Kokoda Track excursions with lurid boot and mud scenes crudely aping the real thing; Hockey & Kruddy as mates; Anzac bent into service to make the sentimentality almost unbearable — these are the realities of pandering to the feeble-minded by the manipulative money men who run commercial television. Authenticity is a precious thing, and fakes are eventually found out, if only by the stray email or the compulsions of prime time and ratings. Kruddy, Hockey and Kochie flew too close to the media sun and their chocolate coating has drizzled off revealing the party hacks and the celebrity compere — pygmies in a land of authentic Anzac giants.

John Kotsopoulos writes: Howard and his stooges are the one using the ANZAC legend for political purposes and they have been found out in the court of public opinion. Serves them bloody right. And another good catch by Christian Kerr; I hope his small band of small-minded critics are paying attention.

NSW politics:

Peter Felton writes: Re. “Della Bosca and Coutts-Trotter: safety in numbers” (yesterday, item 9). The more I look at this question, the stronger becomes my feeling that the old criminal conviction is a strategically placed, highly odifereous red herring which is diverting attention from the most important issues. We have excellent, explicit guidelines covering the advertising, selection and appointment of public servants. In the case of Michael Coutts-Trotter, no such process has apparently taken place and this appointment was made without being advertised and without any search for qualified candidates. As a result, the man now running our state Education Department has no qualifications or experience as an educator. How can he hope to be able to direct and co-ordinate the activities of senior department staff if he has no idea what is involved in the job. Answer here, is that he cannot. In the SMH, Mr CT says: “Two-and-a-half years at the head of the Department of Commerce has given me a solid grounding in general management and leadership. I’m not an economist, and had to understand what Treasury did. I used that experience to educate myself in economics, accountancy and, most importantly, the operations of state government.” That’s well and good. On the job training is fine if you’re say, flipping burgers, but let’s be honest, it does have its limitations. I have a real problem putting our kids education on the line while this man is still on a learning curve. There is almost certainly a pool of qualified, experienced and skilled educators out there any one of whom should have been considered for the position. Then there is the question of the appointment process itself which is in clear breach of PS guidelines. This matter needs to be referred to the ICAC, whose job it is to investigate apparent failures in the observance of proper standards of public administration.

Abbott’s kidneys:

Anne Wagstaff writes: Re. “Tony Abbott’s kidney punches” (13 April, item 12). Graham Ring from The National Indigenous Times wrote of the epidemic rates of diabetes in the NT. Could this epidemic be linked to an excessive consumption of Coca-Cola? Sydney’s Sunday Life (3 October, 2004) stated, “The Northern Territory has the highest consumption rate of Coca-Cola Company products in the world. Every year, the thirsty buggers chug down an average of 529.7 drinks each.” This disturbing and depressing fact was confirmed on Coca-Cola’s own webpage “Interesting Facts About Coca-Cola”. However, it appears that there are now no interesting facts about Coca-Cola because this webpage can no longer be found. In 2001, the Harvard School of Public Health found a link between children’s soft drink consumption and obesity, and acknowledged “Childhood obesity can lead to adult obesity and chronic health problems.” Could the obesity and type 2 diabetes epidemic in the general Australian population be linked to the fact that Coca-Cola is the product most likely to be found in the supermarket trolley? From 1998 to 2006, the major political parties received over $1,500,000 from Coca-Cola Amatil. In the light of this and all the other information that is available to the public (and therefore to the federal and state Governments), it is bleeding obvious that we, the public can not rely on our governments to help us. And a community campaign against Coca-Cola would be a good start.

Tassie pulp:

Peter Lloyd writes: Barry Chipman (yesterday, comments) is now taking us on nice little walks through history rather than dealing with the very specific questions I have repeatedly put to him in Crikey. No matter. He must be a little upset that Malcolm Turnbull appeared in Launceston on Friday and promised the Federal Government’s environmental impact analysis of the Tamar Valley Pulp Mill would indeed be rigorous, and not the watered-down study requested by project manager Les Baker. I congratulate Mr Turnbull on making this promise and look forward to its delivery. Of course, the analysis could take some time and Gunns have already indicated that the project will not be commercially viable if the analysis takes until the end of the year– this was their excuse for pulling out the the rigorous RPDC process. So if the federal analysis will take this long, Gunns might as well pull out now — but then the Federal Government isn’t as immediately susceptible to blackmail as the Tasmanian Government, so I won’t hold my breath as yet another logging industry lie is clear-felled.

Mark Byrne writes: Barry Chipman’s Orwellian use of the term “sustainable” is disturbing. Four months ago, the Federal Court found that wrecking the habitat of endangered species such as the destruction of Wielangta is not sustainable and is outside the law. Bob Brown pointed out the Federal Court “judgement flays Forestry Tasmania and those of its expert witnesses, who claimed logging, burning and chemical applications at Wielangta did not harm Tasmania’s Wedge- tailed eagle, the Swift parrot or the Wielangta stag beetle.”

Deborah Hurst writes: How I was looking forward to Barry Chipman’s response to the hard-hitting questions from Peter Lloyd, but all we got was a potted history of the logging industry in Tasmania! While there is no doubt that Tasmanian timber is a useful commodity that enjoys a rich history, Mr Chipman really should answer the question as to why Gunns could not respect the Tasmanian taxpayer and wait for the RPDC to finish its work. Many other businesses around Australia need to wait for the wheels of democracy to turn, however slowly, so why not Gunns? Surely it is in the best interest of Gunns, the Tasmanian Government, the people it represents and the people who will be employed at the pulp mill (ie: everyone) to support the utmost transparency in the approval process? Even with all the contributions from Mr Chipman, we are all still in the dark.

Scott Zackeresen writes: This Barry Chipman stuff is getting tiresome. No wish to stifle comment, but this bloke effectively has a dedicated column in comments. Why not give him a column? Or just turn the page.

Good for Nine:

Gareth Lott writes: Re. “Australian Story triumphs over commercial pap” (yesterday, item 21). What arrogance on Channel 9’s part to assume they have the authority and knowledge to proclaim “What’s Good For You”. Asides of the factual inaccuracies and biased opinions within many of their stories, how can anyone take health tips from someone with such bad plastic surgery as whats-her-name. It’s a pity though that Australian Story and 7.30 Report beating this 9-tripe has to be seen as “a rare example” — it should be par for the course. Whilst we’re on 9, do they not realise that the constant carry-on between 9 and 7, and 9’s verbal bashing and innuendo, particularly on the idiotball show, is of no relevance to anyone but themselves? They are like politicians…

The Selwood sledge:

Russell Bancroft writes: Re. “Selwood’s sledge plumbs new depths. Even for Eagles” (yesterday, item 23). I cannot believe all this fuss about some harmless sledging. I mean, my 11-year-old daughter does calisthenics and you should hear some of the stuff said by those little darlings during competitions. Not to mention the parents. Makes what the Eagles player is alleged to have said sound like a quote from Play School. Since the year dot, sports people have tried to get under the skin of their opponents. I played cricket for many years and in accordance with our strictly amateur status rarely progressed beyond “he’s swingin like a rusty dunny door”. But one expects more from professionals, and McGrath, Sarwan and Selwood (allegedly) have thankfully delivered. My all-time fave though is Ian Botham. In response to the (alleged) question from Rod Marsh “How’s your wife and my kids” Botham is (alleged) to have said “Wife’s fine; kids are retarded”. And those who have seen the original MASH film would remember the scene during the gridiron match in which one player makes a comment to another about his sister. He elicited a Headland-like response, which was his aim all along. The AFL (and other sporting authorities) should, I suppose, draw the line at racial/religious abuse, but if a professional sportsperson is not disciplined enough to turn the other mouth guard at personal comments, then perhaps they need to examine whether the big league is right for them.

Oops:

Lee Tran Lam writes: Re. “A wink and a nod from Rupert to Rudd?” (yesterday, item 14). In your story quoting “A new generation waits to pick up JFK’s torch” by Irwin Stelzer, you wrote… “Look around the English-speaking world at the rising stars under 50. In America, Barack Obama has stunned the political establishment by matching Hillary Clinton in the fund-raising race for the Democratic presidential nomination. In Canada, Stephen Hayes was sworn in as prime minister last year.” The Canadian Prime Minister is actually Stephen Harper. Boring correction I know, but FYI.

And finally:

Yesterday’s typos (house pedant Charles Richardson casts an eye over the howlers in the last edition of Crikey): Item 10: “The same applies with Philip Ruddock — 64 and also an MP since 1974 …”. 1973, actually — he won Parramatta in a by-election.

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Peter Fray

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