The US shootings:

Stephen Morris writes: I am continually amazed by the gun lobby and their inaccuracies ie. Stuart Boak (yesterday, comments). His first comment about the supposed secrecy involving the “unpublished” “Australian Firearms Act” is laughable, since there is no such act. The Federal Government act is called the “National Firearms Program Implementation Act 1996” this covers the overall principles and buyback, while each state (as they are responsible for policing) passed identical Firearm Acts based on an agreed model. (I suspect this is well know to Mr Boak, however a bit of mischievous spin and conspiracy theory is not unexpected). Secondly, the totally inaccurate comment about there being “no reduction in homicide involving a firearm” after 1996 Gun Law reform is totally wrong. An excellent recent paper which discusses the data together with statistical analysis shows that all firearm related deaths have nearly halved in Australia since 1996 (from 2.85 per 100,000 to 1.45, or from 521 to 289). This is very obviously in the attached figure, where even “blind Freddy” could see something dramatic has happened in 1996. Within the firearm death category, gun related homicides have also halved (104 to 54) as had gun related suicides (382 to 193). While it is true the trend for firearm related deaths has been declining in Australia for many years, it is undeniable that the law reforms in 1996 had a major impact. Probably, the most telling fact in this paper is that in the 18 years before the gun reform laws there were 13 mass shootings, but in the 10.5 years since the gun law reforms (up to the publishing of this paper) there have been 0 mass killings.

Chris Buckridge writes: In response to Stuart Boak, a quick Google search reveals a decade long study of injury prevention in Australia that indicates that “the chances of gun death in Australia dropped twice as steeply after… [the] national firearm ‘buyback’ and amnesty”. This includes homicides, with “the number of murders using guns [falling] from an annual average of 93 to just over 55.” Some clue as to your sources, Steve, might help clear up this confusion.

David writes: Once again all the side issues are paraded — gun control, campus security etc. But there it is in the text, Cho Seung-hiu’s problems were noticed, he was being treated for depression. So the real questions are what drug, dosage, how long and the correlation of that treatment with the perpetrators of other “school” massacres.

Refugee swap:

Marty O’Neill writes: Re. “Swapping their tired, poor and huddled masses” (yesterday, item 5). Let me get this straight. Two groups of people apply for asylum, some of each group are assessed as being suitable. The people who applied for asylum in Australia are sent to the USA; the people who applied for asylum in the USA are sent to Australia. I simply don’t understand. The sooner the bloody election comes, the better!

Marilyn Shepherd writes: The US is not a signatory to the refugee convention and as such can refoule any refugees in her territory and very often does. I wonder if those held in the Gitmo prison for the past 5 years because “they cannot be sent home or they might be persecuted” will be in this people trading scheme. We have signed a convention to protect people who are trafficked or smuggled into Australia but we have got it spectacularly wrong. In the case of refugees on boats the Darwin Justice says of the Indonesia fishing crews “this is clearly NOT a people-smuggling operation, there is nothing covert about it, the people want to be found”, something Amanda Vanstone confirmed to Senator McTiernan in estimates on 10 February, 2000 in response to Beazley’s call for a coastguard. I wonder though — it is legal in international law to pay to travel, it is legal under the refugee convention to arrive without documents, (indeed that is considered normal), it is illegal to punish people for arriving without papers under Art. 31 of the convention so are we illegally trading people to try and stop the legal travel of refugees? What will they do, play a game of poker — I give you 83 Sri Lankans and the US will say I raise you by 85 Cubans? On the other hand s-x slaves are trafficked into Australia at a rate of about 20 per week and not a thing is done about it except to lock up the victims and then deport them before they can give evidence.

The Virgin Blues continues:

John Gillman writes: Re. Virgin Blues (yesterday, comments). The company I worked for up until last year had a policy that we had to travel with Virgin. In my job, I would have flown with the (not very) “fun” airline up to 40 times a year for four years, mostly between Melbourne and Sydney. One thing airlines don’t quite get is customer service, and one thing they really don’t get is the need to openly and honestly communicate with their customers — even if it’s to say they don’t know what the hell is going on (which would be the truth most of the time). I have many Virgin horror stories, but my two favourites are: (a) While waiting for a very delayed flight from Melbourne to Sydney, I was told by three Virgin staff members that the flight was delayed due to very bad weather in Sydney. I got to Sydney about 90 minutes late and it was the most beautiful day. Shock, horror – a lie! You’d think they could be a bit more creative (and realise how easily they could be caught out). (b) My winner story occurred at the tail end of the post 9/11 white power scare days. I was waiting at Sydney for a flight to Melbourne (late, of course). The plane arrived at the gate (we could see it through the windows on the concourse), and just sat there. We could see the passengers in the plane but the aerobridge was not rolled out. No announcements. Nothing. After about 10 minutes of nothingness, and with people in the terminal becoming increasingly concerned, the departure board announced a delay but no reason was given. Ground staff were telling frustrated flyers nothing. This went on for another 10 minutes when all of a sudden, the plane was surrounded by fire engines, police, ambulances and HAZMAT vans, so yes something was going on. Ground staff, who seemed oblivious to fact that crowds had gathered around the windows to watch the unfolding drama, were still telling waiting passengers nothing. It was the most bizarre and surreal episode and clearly showed that Virgin had no idea how to deal with customers in the face of a crisis.

The Qantas art collection:

Jim Hart writes: Re. “Brett Whiteley a key to latest Qantas profit forecast” (yesterday, item 4). Nice to learn from Geoff Maslen that Qantas earns about $5 million “from flying a full complement of passengers from Melbourne to Cairns”. Now 250 passengers at $20,000 each seems a bit steep so maybe they reconfigure the seats for extra leg-room so it’s only 100 passengers forking out $50,000 each. Either way that would be gross revenue, so earnings after paying for a few litres of jet fuel and some sandwiches could be a little less, but on those margins who cares what happens to the art collection.

Children of the Zimbabwe regime:

Robert Johnson writes: Re. “Zimbabwe leaders’ children in Australia: are we letting in corrupt money?” (Tuesday, item 2). I live in Namibia, but am presently working in Madagascar, and was yesterday telling a UN colleague here of your report on Zimbabwean politicians’ children studying/living in Australia. My colleague is an Asian resident in Zimbabwe, and told me of the problems in the USA and European countries for ‘ordinary’ Zimbabwean residents such as opening/operating bank accounts etc, let alone for senior Zimbabwean politicians or close family members. I’m therefore puzzled as to Downer’s claim (in Jane Nethercote’s report on Tuesday) that Australia is “at the forefront of countries that have taken a strong stand against … the Mugabe regime”. Well, puzzled as to what it means, not so much that he would (as usual) make such a claim.

Inside team Rudd:

Mary Barram writes: Re. “Inside team Rudd: meet the Fockers” (yesterday, item 1). Crikey’s and Ramsay’s recent pieces attacking the tactics used by Rudd’s media team were all very interesting but how about a bit of balance, I’d like to see a bit more expose of the last 10 years of ongoing media manipulation and bullying / black-banning of journos / attacks on the ABC in Senate hearings etc conducted by Howard and the Libs since they got in. It looks like you guys in the media have got used to being abused by the federal Libs and don’t even think to expose it any more but are determined that you won’t be bullied by Rudd’s lot as well. Rudd has learnt at the feet of the master media manipulator (Howard). Take care, expose the abusive media tactics on both sides, this is what I thought Crikey was meant to be about.


Jesse Wyatt writes: Re. Ben Andrews & prohibition (yesterday, comments). I’d like to see the rate of success prohibition in Aboriginal communities has had, if you have a link handy. I know when I started drinking recreationally my rationale had little to do with the legal aspect, and further I suspect should the drinking age be removed, nine-year-olds will not instantly begin binge-drinking because suddenly they think it’s perfectly fine. Sociological factors such as peer pressure and parental upbringing have a far more significant effect on drinking habits than legislation does. Prohibition generally cuts consumption in the short-term, but only while new avenues of access are created. In the long run it only removes regulation, making whatever does get consumed more dangerous, while consumption increases to often higher than pre-prohibition levels. This is matched by an increase in high-school-age recreational drug users, possibly due to the desire to look “hard” in front of your mates — something you don’t quite get from consuming underage legal fare like Jolt Cola. So the argument “prohibition doesn’t work” should indeed be raised by anyone who wants to actually reduce harm from recreational drug use, licit or illicit, rather than make it worse for everyone by suggesting kneejerk cumbersome legislative responses to a moral panic.

Mike Burke writes: I disagree with Charles Richardson about many things but experience over many centuries tends to demonstrate that his attitude to prohibition is spot on. It never works, and it never has worked. That has been proven over and over again. The situation in some Aboriginal communities does not amount to prohibition. The people concerned can get alcohol any time they want to simply by travelling somewhere that it’s freely available. These, like age limits elsewhere, are restrictions, not prohibition. And Ben would do well not to criticise others’ logic while demonstrating that his own is quite laughably deficient. His attack on Charles’s comment that raising the drinking age doesn’t stop young people drinking is a classic “straw man” fallacy. The rest of his arguments are simply irrelevant.

What our pollies are driving:

Andrew Stewart writes: Re. “What pollies drive, cont’d” (yesterday, item 14). I was interested to note that many federal politicians do not have a private car (and that only Labor’s Steve Gibbons at least admits to being a petrol head). This would suggest they use the government-supplied car for private use. Could you find out whether they have to go through the paperwork intensive routine of Fringe Benefits Tax — or are they exempted? Having just collected the “logbooks” and reconciled the miles and paid more than $50,000 in FBT, partly because so many employees are just unconcerned about the “real cost” (today’s boss’ dollars) let alone Greenhouse and other costs of the “company car”, I wonder of the politicians may not mind spreading their car system to the rest of us?

Schwarzenegger, the penguin:

David Iron writes: Re. “Tips for a political penguin” (yesterday, item 12). The article by Sophie Black refers the reader to a speech on the environment by Arnold Schwarzenegger. Now Arnie may not be everyone’s cup of tea, and some of you may share my scepticism about how much of the speech he wrote, but there is no escaping that what he has to say makes a lot of sense. He is a conservative politician who understands that it is not impossible to protect the environment and foster economic growth at the same time. His mantra is “mandates and markets”. This is something that John Howard is avoiding at all costs. Arnie also believes that the groundswell of public concern for our environmental wellbeing combined with the power of the free market will create dynamic price signals to manage our environment better. He also uses a very powerful analogy of a seesaw to explain the concept of taking small and positive steps to improve our environment that eventually build up to a “tipping point”. As individuals we can significantly advance the tipping point through our daily choices but the biggest choice we need to make is to select a political leader who truly understands the imperative to implement “mandates and markets”.

The RAAF and Super Hornets:

Peter Driscoll writes: Re. “Careful with that Hornet’s nest, Eugene” (yesterday, item 11). Some serious questions that your writer may wish to actually answer with facts and not slur or innuendo are: Why did he not mention the fact that there have been significant problems with the forthcoming AEW&C capability project Wedgetail? An original justification to retire the F-111 force was to be the fitting of a stand off missile to the P3C Orion fleet. This idea was dropped. Why? Up until last year defence and the minister were assuring all and sundry that no interim fighter was required. With the purchase of the Super Hornet would your writer concede that non experts sit and scratch our head’s as to what changed so rapidly? Were the usual Kinnaird review protocols followed regarding this purchase (Super Hornet)? Was a formal competition launched pitting manufacturers against each other like the Singaporeans and Koreans did with their fighter fleets? I agree with your writer that the Super Hornet won’t be a hard next step for the RAAF but it won’t be a walk in the park either. A lot of hard effort and work will be required to integrate this new aircraft and its highly complex systems into the RAAF. I am not a fighter expert but the Super Hornet as compared to the classic hornet is 30%+ bigger, has different engines and a new very advanced AESA radar (which the US Navy is still having a few problems with software bugs). Apparently when working the performance of this radar is staggering. If the Super Hornet had of been selected after an extensive and thorough examination of all of the choices would we be having this debate? I think the same could be said about the JSF decision. Finally would your writer concede that out of three original decisions made to justify the retirement of the F-111 that two are running late and one was dropped. This has very much left the door open to criticism in my view. Would he concede that? I will concede to him that once delivered to the RAAF this system will make the RAAF a more effective force, I agree. At the very least the RAAF should start taking a leaf out of the book of some of the stirrers in this debate and start improving their communications. If the decisions of defence are as solid as I hope they are then the sort of low comments made by the writer would not be required. My old mum use to say to me that when someone starts abusing you in a argument it means they have realised they have lost the argument!

The Parrot and the big house:

David Lenihan writes: Re. “Porridge for the Parrot? We’ll know tomorrow” (yesterday, item 3). Now I wonder just who will have the guts, sorry intestinal fortitude, to send Jones to jail. What a joke! If Jones is detained at HM’s pleasure, then John Paul II is alive and well, swinging along with Elvis in the members bar at the 3W’s stand at the World Cup in the Windies.

Stephen Matthews writes: Of course, it is not unknown for a high-profile broadcaster to go to jail for contempt of court in Australia. Remember Derryn Hinch? Remember me too. I got three jail sentences (two suspended) for three findings of contempt… concerning postings in a high profile stockmarket internet chat room The Chimes. I have never seen AJ looking worse than recent TV appearances… maybe the sentence hearing is weighing upon him. It should be because evidently the judiciary retain a special dislike for those asserting a right to free speech… and given the vituperous tenor in his voice he is making it easy for them.

The Selwood sledge continues:

Kate Deakin writes: Re. Russell Bancroft (yesterday, comments). I really have no interest in what these footy boofheads say to each other, on or off the field, but I have to say that Russell Bancroft has pretty disgusting priorities if he thinks that one player’s (alleged) claim to have f-cked another’s six-year-old daughter is mere “harmless sledging”, whereas “racial/religious abuse” (of one adult to/about another) is unacceptable.


Peter Olszewski writes: Re. “Brisbane AWAs the thin edge of a Fairfax wedge” (yesterday, item 20). Re. Your sentence: “Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance Queensland branch secretary David Watson attempts to meet with staff of the new Fairfax digital operation The Brisbane Times.” Actually it’s David Waters.

John Young writes: Re. “Business, it’s time to hire Getup! on the broadband front” (yesterday, item 25). The byline: “Matt Marks, former Macquarie, Citigroup and Merrill Lynch alumni…” Come on, Crikey. Wasn’t it Stuart Littlemore in his Media Watch days who once mixed up alumnus and alumni?

Richard Farmer writes: Re. Inside team Rudd: meet the Fockers (yesterday, item 1). On the question of the senior Kevin Rudd press secretary I got it wrong yesterday and I’m the first one to admit that. For the record it is Walt Secord not Walt Second and I promise to turn a new leaf and get it right in future.

Yesterday’s typos (house pedant Charles Richardson casts an eye over the howlers in the last edition of Crikey): Item 5: “And setting aside the America’s very magnaminous offer for a moment – what’s in it for them?” Looks as if singular & plural got mixed up; best make it “the Americans'” instead of “the America’s”, or else knock out “the” and switch “them” to “it”. Incidentally, “magnaminous” should be “magnanimous”.

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