Telstra spin:

David Havyatt, GM public and regulatory affairs, AAPT Ltd, writes: Telstra’s Andrew Maiden really stuck well to his company’s well-ingrained xenophobia in his reply yesterday, the skill they learnt no doubt from Crosby-Textor (we will determine who comes to this country and the terms under which they come). So, firstly, he repeats the cracks about “Singapore” and what could or couldn’t happen there. Then he labels Investec as “dodgy African bankers”, which I think David Gonski would take exception to. Is sexuality and religion going to follow race? The substance of his claim rather than the puffery was that the difference between the G9 proposal and the Telstra proposal was that under the Telstra proposal we would see greater innovation. The bad news for Telstra is that the innovation in the Australian market has come from competitors not Telstra. Competitors of Telstra were the first to offer high-speed internet (ADSL 2+), 3G mobile, capped mobile plans and unlimited broadband plans. Even Maiden’s two historic examples — phones like bricks and using fax — were technologies first replaced by competitors — GSM mobile and the first ISPs when Telstra was off trying to build a walled garden called “On Australia” in the days before Bill Gates had discovered the internet. As for Mick Rocca’s memo about the world ending if anyone touched their network, we were told the same thing about competition in long distance and the proposals for the unbundled local loop used for ADSL today. Guess what, the world didn’t end — customers just got better services at cheaper prices! Disclosure: AAPT is a G9 member and a participant in the Tell the Truth Telstra campaign.

Tim Marsh writes: Andrew Maiden (yesterday, comments) is a pretty funny guy and a bit of a scallywag methinks. But then, a lot of them over at Telstra are, aren’t they? Maiden’s claim that G9 would give us “…no choice or technology upgrades for fully 20 years…” is a stretch at best and a bit of a wool-over-the-eyes act at worst (well, we could probably call is worse). It’s also a fair case of pot calling the kettle black, Andrew. One of the reasons we have high-speed xDSL is because the local loop was unbundled and ULL offered to the Nextep’s/Optus’/iiNet’s etc of the world. Without these guys we’d still all be stuck with vanilla 256k “broadband” connections from Telstra or at best your artificially limited 1.5Mbps ADSL connections. Thanks to the other players we have ADSL2+, 4W SHDSL and the like. The market demanded innovation and continuous improvement and these players delivered. There is no reason that this could not happen again.

Roy Travis writes: Andrew Maiden’s comments yesterday displays the arrogance for which Telstra is justifiably famous. To suggest that Telstra is the only one that can supply a state of the art service is easily disproved by examining the history of Telstra which is littered with examples of providing a product that it wants to supply not what the customer wants. I am old enough to remember when they finally allowed us to have coloured phones. Today we get a broadband service which is inferior to that enjoyed by many of our third world neighbours. While claiming that, if Telstra is allowed a monopoly control over a new broad band service, it is ready to be rolled out, he fails to mention what Telstra propose to charge for the service. However it is not difficult to imagine what we will be charged if left to the tender mercies of Telstra. As a final observation, Telstra is nowhere near good enough to operate in the Singapore market.

Lucas James writes: Does this guy get dizzy from all that spinning? Just swap G9 and Telstra, and it still rings true. And another point that doesn’t seem to be mentioned in the debate: If Telstra can switch on the network within 48 hours, that means that it is already in place, the money has already been spent (so much for whining about not being able to invest in the “new” network). And as to their “oh we can’t make money with the current regulatory environment”: Whatever happened to competing with the best product (and service) for the best price?

The 1967 Referendum:

Ian Fairnie writes: Historian Humphrey McQueen wrote: “Its probable intent had been to exclude Aborigines from calculations about how much customs revenue was to be returned to each state. In this case, the founding fathers discriminated against Aborigines in a fit of absent-mindedness. Its removal in 1967 had no effect on legal status though its rejection added a moral impetus towards assimilation.” Actually the counting of Aborigines after 1967 rendered previously “uninhabited” areas into areas of population devoid of basic state government services such as health and education, which states like WA were now morally obliged to provide. For example the small WA community of Laverton’s population increased overnight by a factor of 12 with the passing of the referendum, with local government now being obliged to treat all as citizens accessing services.

Niall Clugston writes: In his most famous work, A New Britannia, Humphrey McQueen wrote that Australia was founded by racists. Now he writes that “the founding fathers discriminated against Aborigines in a fit of absent-mindedness”. But anyone reading the Constitution would notice a strong xenophobic streak. For instance, the ‘corporations’ power to which the WorkChoices legislation refers is principally concerned with ‘foreign corporations’. And since the Constitution singled out the Aborigines twice, it is hard to believe in ‘absentmindedness’. McQueen repeats the anti-furphy furphy that the 1967 Referendum did not give Aborigines the vote (or citizenship). While this is technically true, the power it gave the Federal Government over Aboriginal affairs did allow the removal of the last vestiges of legal discrimination. According the article, ‘Voters and the Franchise: the Federal Story’, on the Australian Parliament’s website, ‘Formal equality for indigenous voters at Commonwealth elections did not come about until 1983’. And the fact remains that until 1967 — legally at least — sheep were counted in the census but not Aborigines.

John Bannon writes: Humphrey McQueen speculates that the intent of the clause in the original Constitution excluding ‘Aboriginal natives’ from being included in the census was “probably to exclude Aborigines from calculations about how much customs revenue was to be returned to each state”. “In this case,” he says “the founding fathers discriminated against Aborigines in a fit of absent-mindedness.” Actually, as with most of things they did, the founding fathers had a defined purpose. The number of seats that each state had in the House of Representatives was based on the population of the state — “the respective numbers of their people”. Although there was no precise count of the number of Aborigines in each colony, it was clear even from conservative estimates that Queensland, South Australia (which included its Northern Territory), and Western Australia had many more such residents than Victoria and New South Wales. The 20,000-plus Aborigines in each of those colonies would probably have entitled them to at least an extra seat each. This would have been at the expense of the Victorians in particular (who had less than 1000) and they would have none of it. Humphrey rightly points out that 1967 was not really about voting rights. SA delegate Cockburn was concerned in 1897 that the exclusion clauses would debar Aborigines already on the rolls from voting and was assured it would not affect their rights. So those in South Australia who already had the vote had it preserved. (Ironically, a substantial majority of them had voted ‘Yes’ in the constitutional referendums.) As a footnote, this section 127 and s. 51 (xxvi) were one of the main reasons that New Zealand, with a very different attitude to the Maori, would not join the Commonwealth. We fixed it up 67 years too late for them.

Ken Lambert writes: Looking at those grainy black & white pics of the 1967 referendum and the quiet dignity those indigenes involved in the campaign, I wondered what benefit there was being counted in the Australian population. Similar era pics of the Gurindji of Wave Hill walk-off fame show a fairly lean and healthy looking lot compared with the bloated diabetic drunks which media cameras capture in our time. It has all been said before, but not heeded — 40 years of welfare dependency, booze, poor diet and no work has turned a late sixties model Gurindji into a Fats Waller lookalike without the charm. And as with all things bad in Australia, it started in 1972 with the election of Gough (Go Vitlam as the French Le Monde reported), with equal wages for unequal work which drove the outback Aborigine out of work and onto sit-down money and degradation. As Noel Pearson frequently says, welfare and no work is the white man’s poisoned flour. Those we whiteys would destroy we first, count, give them a vote and then make welfare-mad.

Alice Springs:

Alan Hatfield writes: Re. “Alice Springs town campers take a principled stand” (yesterday, item 4). I wonder if there are a million Australians who would be prepared to give $60 each to allow the Alice Springs town camps to receive their $60 million they need but without any strings attached?

Simon Mansfield writes: Once again the Government of Australia has shamed us all in its Aboriginal policy development and communication. Today’s issue of Crikey should be dedicated to the black armband version of history. It’s the truth and nothing the white man thugs from the Howard Government and its foul supporters can say will ever change that reality of history. Virtually everything that all Australian governments do in regards to the Aboriginal population of Australia is aimed at divesting them of any remaining power and culture. It is pure ethnic cleansing with the aim of achieve a genocidal outcome. Lay out the charges and show how the evidence clearly fits the description of ethnic cleansing. The Alice is under siege from a booming white man’s mining economy and the remaining blacks just have to be pushed out of the way as quickly as possible and be stripped of anything that might own. It really is a foul country. And everything the Howard Government has said and done in the past day, week, month on this issue has been shameful in intent and desired outcome. Call it what it is: genocide, nothing less nothing more. Just the plain dictionary version of ethnic cleansing.

The pursuit of Allan Kessing:

Greg Angelo writes: Re. “The pursuit of Allan Kessing is a national disgrace” (yesterday, item 5). After following the case of Alan Kessing for some months I was very pleased to see the substantial article yesterday’s Age in relation to this travesty of justice. “Justice” in this case is being served by the narrowest of legal interpretations and the public interest derived from the disclosure of the unbelievably crass a cover-up of deficiencies at Sydney airport is being totally disregarded in the legal process. Notwithstanding approaches to several politicians on both sides of politics, nobody at the political level appears to be taking any position on this matter. The recently reported activities of Kevin Rudd in Queensland in the narrowing of FOI entitlements reminds us that both sides of politics are complicit in reducing access to information for political ends. Repeated approaches to my local MP, Petro Georgiou, in relation to Mr Kessing have been totally ignored despite several requests for a meeting on this subject. Neither Kevin Rudd nor Julia Gillard has responded to requests for support. May I issue through the pages of Crikey an open invitation for any politician from any side of politics to make a statement on this case? I am almost certain that this challenge will not be taken up as neither side of politics appears willing to commit itself to open government despite the rhetoric at election time.

The PM and the Chinese letter:

Anthea Parry writes: Re. “They all look the same to me” (yesterday, item 12). I was shocked and appalled to see the final sentence in the PM’s letter to his “Chinese” constituents. Perhaps he thinks that if English is not their first language they may not notice his cringe-worthy mangling of it. Whoever wrote “I look forward to hopefully seeing you and your family at this event” should be taken out the back and shot. Not only did they split an infinitive (“to hopefully seeing”), and not only did they display their ignorance of the actual meaning of hopefully (in a hopeful manner), but the sentence actually would have sounded better if they simply wrote “I hope to see you and your family there”. The only possible reasons for having a Tory government are that they’re usually better dressed and better educated; John Howard has now put paid to both advantages, with his tracksuit and his graceless English, and so will certainly be thumped by Rudd in November.

Mark Kulasingham writes: Sounds like a determined push for the vote of the very same group he expressed concerns about in 1988 and their levels of their migration to Australia. Hope it’s a good party, should be a treasure trove for more of the PM’s “So, where do you come from?” questions to 2nd generation Australian migrants!

Johnston Taylor writes: Just as an aside, since this letter/invitation would appear to be written on the Electoral Office paperwork of John Howard, I wonder who is paying for this community event.

Leadership speculation:

Maire Mannik writes: Re. “Leadership kite-flying: the Canberra festival of the winds” (yesterday, item 1). Christian Kerr’s options for Howard’s departure miss one vital factor: Lady Howard has no intention of giving up harbour views and butlers. And there is still the much-campaigned-for-personal-gift-of-the-Queen-imperial-honour to come. No, the old boy has no immediate option of giving it all away. And any truth in the rumour that the lawyer daughter and lawyer son-in-law last seen in the wedding of the century followed by taxpayer-funded reception have moved back into Kirribilli.

Jody Bailey writes: Is there any provision in our Constitution that would prevent Peter Costello being offered and accepting the job of Treasurer in a Labor government, training Wayne Swan, then moving on to Governor of the Reserve Bank? Win-win-win, win!

Martin Gordon writes: Re. “Crikey Election Indicator remains steady” (Tuesday, item 8). Richard noted that of the 23 elections since 1949 that five had a winner with more than 54% of the vote. Most elections are in the 53-47 range. Of the “big” five the last was 30 years ago in 1977, the second big humiliating defeat for Whitlam, prior to that they were in 1975, 1966, and 1958 and 1955. The ALP split accounted for the size of the earliest two, ALP foreign policy for 1966, and Whitlam for the last two. Richard notes that the Coalition can win with less than 50% of the vote. Whilst the Coalition will struggle to catch up, the recent polls, Galaxy, ACNielsen and the latest Newspoll which was carried out a week early, all show an ebbing in the tide and the Coalition gaining ground. 2007 will be quite a year for the commentators like Richard, pollsters, the bloggers and the political parties.

Bob Johnson writes: Why does everybody want to be “The Underdog”? Apparently they have never seen two dogs really fighting or they would know that the Top Dog is very rarely the loser as he gets to tear his opponent’s throat out while in the superior position. Another overused phrase is “a backflip” to denote when someone has changed his opinion, when in reality, if a person does a backflip he always comes up facing in the same direction.

The IR beauty contest:

Sandra McKenzie writes: Re. “The IR beauty contest” (yesterday, item 9). All I hear is he/she’s for big business, he/she’s for the workers, what about the ones who say: without business there would be no work for workers and without workers there would be no business, lets get some practical compromises going on both sides, for the good of both the “workers” and “big business”.

The Bulletin, Bennelong – and a bunged poll:

Ashley Manicaros writes: Re. “The Bulletin, Bennelong – and a bunged poll?” (Yesterday, item 15). Agendas abound when it comes to polls and politics and now it seems the journalistic professionalism has been brought into question. Dr Rebecca Huntley is quoted as saying in the Daily Telegraph (24 May): “I don’t think there is a conflict of interest. The questions were requested by The Bulletin and I reshaped them and made them more objective.” She made them more objective! Is she suggesting, as I am interpreting, that The Bulletin supplied her with biased questions against John Howard? Is she suggesting The Bulletin was trying to offer up something that would have been skewed by the manner in which it was presented, and she saved the readers from this professional failing? She goes on to reconfirm this point: “My involvement in the poll was framing them to make sure they were balanced. The actual data goes straight upstairs,” she said. The Bulletin has some serious explaining to do. Not only did it engage a person intimately involved in the election of a political candidate but that same person has suggested that she added balance to the questions they wanted asked.

Where in Crikey’s world was Therese Rein?:

Leigh Busby writes: As I get older I am finding I have the propensity to forget things and only half read or miss read articles. For instance, on reading yesterday’s Crikey I seemed to have missed the article on Kevin Rudd’s wife’s business dealings, I believe it was front-page news elsewhere? And surely would have been covered by your good selves, but for the life of me I couldn’t find it. Oh yes good old Henry Thornton had two lines, as I seem to recall; it is tiresome, getting old. Oh, yes,I forgot, there has been a lot written about the PM’s squandering our hard-earned on advertising, I was wondering whether your good readers recall seeing full-page ads in various national media yesterday about how well the Queensland Premier is spending Queenslanders hard-earned, or did I miss read that as well? Help.

Queensland councils:

Dave Dawson writes: Raymond Marx (yesterday, comments) wrote yesterday that the average Queensland mayor is on an $80,000 salary. I can’t help but wonder what he’s got to back that up. As far as I’m aware, most of Queensland’s 157-odd councils have part time councilors, and outside of the populated SEQ region I think you’d be hard pressed to get any full-timers. Aside from pretty liberal use of the word “average” I don’t think there’s any basis to his claim there, and I’m curious as to why he drops a $120,000 figure. Actually, amalgamated councils will probably require full time councilors. They’ll also need just as many “on the ground staff” as Beattie has guaranteed for two years, and senior staff is likely to need more senior assistants to handle the workload and greater diversity. Never mind the fact that in rural areas, senior staff are likely to be consolidated in more populated areas which will inevitably lead to a plethora of issues such as reducing the skills base and revenue spent in regional areas. The State Government’s attacking councils for being unsustainable, yet the state hasn’t introduced depreciation models for asset management over the last few years, while councils have been made to do so to assess their sustainability and plan for the future. I can’t help but wonder what the state’s status would be if they were made to play by the same rules.

Chris Lehmann writes: In response to the posting of Raymond Marx: “Most local government councillors in Queensland have their salaries tied to state government backbenchers at around $80,000, your average mayor is on around $120,000 plus.” I suggest that Raymond does not understand that for the vast majority of non-metropolitan councillors in Queensland, that the average remuneration is only a fraction of what he is claiming. The vast majority of councils in Queensland are part time and do it mainly as a part time community service. Typically councillors in rural shires receive about $6000 pa, and mayor’s $45,000 pa. Don’t get the metro councils mixed up with the kinds of councils that the Queensland Government wants to amalgamate. The figures that are quoted by Raymond aren’t factual. My father is the deputy mayor of Kingaroy Shire, and I can assure you that the majority of people who go into local government at this level do it as an extension of community service and are not affiliated to any political party. So the statement “it is the loud cry from parasitic councillors that is deafening the argument”, is offensive to the people who serve country Queensland who are the target of these remarks.

Howard’s dining room, a costly renovation:

David Lenihan writes: Re. David Havyatt’s observation (yesterday, comments) on the cost of decorating or whatever the PM was going to do to his “Private Dining Room”. While I have no problem with the decorating, I certainly do have a problem with the half a million plus price tag. The assumption, “as for the cost being ‘about the price of a house’ anyone who has compared the cost of alterations to new structures would know the former is more expensive”, do I take from that we are comparing the cost of a house to a new structure? My impression was one wall was to be removed to extend the present setup to enlarge the room to accommodate four more diners. Hardly a new structure and given there would be new furniture and fittings, I am sure there would be change from $250,000 and some. I recently oversaw the complete remodeling of a three-bedroom home, new floor coverings throughout, tiles in wet areas, resheet walls, replaced all cupboards, new appliances and fittings, new Formica bench and sink, new laundry, complete internal paint, total cost $40,000. While all that glittered was certainly not gold, I will take some convincing the expenditure on Howard’s dining room was a fair call. For that price it would want to glitter and brightly. Did someone mention new chairs? Best we do not go there. Enough is enough.


Dean Galloway writes: The commentators who have applauded the decision to retain “the N-word” have simply missed the point (yesterday, comments). The point is that the word is a swear word, and quite a strong one, too. The context is irrelevant. I’ve worked in places where even Africans have been given warnings for using it to refer to themselves, just as warnings (or worse) would be issued for publicly using the F or C words. I know people with spectacularly racist or crude nicknames (I’ve had a few myself), but it doesn’t mean that they’re going to use them on their tombstones. Society has its conventions and, for better or worse, this is one of them. Why the people of Toowoomba feel this doesn’t apply to them is beyond me.

Grant Butler writes: Note to Chris Graham (yesterday, comments): “…let’s instead debate its merits with the 750 members of Toowoomba’s Sudanese community. Or don’t they count?” Well, in this context Chris, no, they don’t. I don’t expect a smattering of people recently arrived from another continent to have any right to comment on whatever historical artefacts they find in the country that is offering them protection. And I also guess that they couldn’t care less. And if we start bowing to such groups the moment they arrive, then we are setting ourselves up for further dilution and apology for our own culture; a sickness which has gone far enough.

Tasmania and Gunns:

Andrew Cameron writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (yesterday, item 7). The extremely wordy defence of Tasmanian Premier Paul Lennon in yesterday’s “Tips and Rumours” column was neither a tip nor a rumour; the internal machinations, bullying and power plays within the Labor Party are only too well known. It did, however, provide anonymity for the writer who was perhaps reluctant to put his name to it in “Comments Corrections and C*ckups”. As to a reason for a change perhaps they lie in the poor polling figures for the Premier (61 per cent not satisfied with his performance – Examiner, 24 May 2007), or the recognition that the handling of the pulp mill issue displays an arrogance, inherent in longevity, that grates with the general public. For my part, I hope there was more than rumour to the earlier tip.

Luke Miller writes: Barry Chipman (yesterday, comments) says Australians should be “satisfied with the 47% of native forest already in reserve” in Tasmania. This figure has the amazing advantage of increasing with every non-protected tree Gunns converts into woodchip. Soon we can be satisfied that 100% of native forests in Tasmania are in reserves. Of course, Tasmania will have lost 53% of its unique and irreplaceable forests, but never let pointless environmental destruction get in the way of useful rubbery figures.

Lynn Good writes: Call it alchemy, but forestry spruiker Barry Chipman’s account leaves reality for dead. “Tasmanians Against the Pulp Mill” achieves the universality of “Tasmanians Against Pulp Mills” through Barry’s artistry. Widespread opposition to a Lennon Government ploy to bar legal protection of the 1 million hectares of bush on private land becomes a green plot to “lock up” the bush. Despite the developed world’s most intensive native-forest logging, Tasmania’s pristine woods continue to endlessly expand in Barry’s realm of magical realism. Holy writ, we learn, is the Gunns pulp mill web site, where there are such miracles as the mill’s power to actually decrease overall atmospheric pollution levels in the Tamar Valley, despite a smoke stack one half the recommended height. All this has been achieved, Barry tells us, without any recourse to hidden agendas, possibly such as bogus grass-roots enthusiasts.

Tom McLoughlin, ecology action Sydney, writes: Barry Chipman is an expert at statistical deception. The genius is in his simplicity. Here’s how the trick works. Limit the area of comparison in order to expand the proportion of forest allegedly protected. Here is the real statistic your readers need to know — in 1788 Australia only ever had 10% forest cover. By 1992 this was halved to only 5% forest cover. These figures come from the Resource Assessment Council Reports of 1992 (C’th Govt). In 2007 there is likely even less than 5% forest cover but it may be still be a reasonable working number. Last time I looked, Tasmania was part of Australia, not an isolated geographical construct not least sucking tax dollars out of the mainland. Then there is the global loss of forest cover. That’s an even worse story of numbers. Keep your grubby hands off our forests, Barry.

Lefty writers? Really?:

Writer Chris Hawkshaw, writes: We’re all deeply grateful to Dermot McGuire (yesterday, comments) for pointing out that the writers of McLeod’s Daughters may lean a teeny bit to the left. Astonishing. Lefties in the arts industry? Surely not. Well here’s another newsflash. Henry Thornton up there, would you believe it — he’s a Liberal Party supporter? But while Henry manages to get a bit of Tory economic philosophy and Government PR into every piece he knocks out, we McLeod’s writers had to wait an entire 134 episodes and six years to squeeze in one delicious boot up this miserable Government’s bum. And, crikey, it felt good (not that I had much to do with it, sadly). But Dermot, next time it happens, say in 2012, feel free to write in with another bad-tempered, sneering, ill-informed spray at an Australian drama now cheerfully exported to over a hundred overseas markets.

McGuire v Leckie:

Denise Marcos writes: Re. “McGuire v Leckie” (yesterday, item 25). While I am no supporter of Nine Network executives’ business practices, I wholeheartedly agree with Ian Law’s (alleged) disapproval of eating during meetings. My layman’s understanding of the effect of sugar (contained in muffins and juice) is a dramatic and immediate drop in the human brain’s concentration level. It’s nothing short of a mystery why board rooms and convention venues supply those ubiquitous dishes of mints or boiled lollies to attendees who are there specifically to process information. In an increasingly obese Australia why have business meetings evolved as occasions for idle grazing? Better to lay off the sugar and keep your wits about you in these competitive times. And don’t get me started on eating in cinemas …


Neil James, executive director, Australia Defence Association, writes: Many of your recent correspondents on the subject of David Hicks, both for and against him, appear to ignore the principles and practice of international humanitarian law involved. No serious legal authority doubts that a war between an Afghan faction (the Taliban) and various internationally proscribed terrorist organisations on one side, and a US-led and UN-authorised coalition of 37 countries (including the widely recognised and UN-endorsed Afghan Government) on the other, has been occurring in Afghanistan since September 2001. This war has been affirmed by the international community in several UN Security Council Resolutions. Whether a wider war on trans-national Islamist terrorism is also occurring remains a matter of dispute among international lawyers, not least because international practice always lags behind the evolution of international law. No serious legal authority also doubts that Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions applies to those detained at Guantanamo Bay, whether captured in the war in Afghanistan — or in any wider war against terrorism that might exist. In June 2006, in the Hamdan test case, the US Supreme Court struck down the original military commissions largely because they contravened the Geneva Conventions. Following longstanding international precedent, the court also again confirmed the right of the United States to detain enemy belligerents captured in war — until either the war ended or (as has happened in the case of David Hicks) a combatant status review tribunal convened under the conventions determines they could be released earlier on their parole not to resume hostilities. Whether Hicks should also have been separately tried, convicted and sentenced on criminal charges is a fundamentally separate issue. On this most international lawyers agree no matter how much they may disagree on the validity of the criminal charges, trial and subsequent sentence. They also disagree about whether the gag order is part of his parole or part of the plea bargain from the separate criminal proceedings (if the former it is probably enforceable in Australian as well as international law). Irrelevant claims by Marilyn Shepherd and others that Hicks was somehow not a belligerent in the continuing war in Afghanistan (at least) fail both the legal and commonsense tests (even ignoring Hicks’ testimony and subsequent plea bargain). Moreover, it is membership of a combatant organisation alone that determines your belligerent status and even Hicks has long admitted serving with the Taliban (however unwillingly perhaps in the end). In 1945, all members of the Axis armed forces became prisoners-of-war on capture no matter whether they were typists or infantrymen. Following Marilyn’s strange argument, SS concentration camp guards who never got around to actually firing a shot in anger could not have been detained as PoWs when captured.

Marilyn Shepherd writes: Tamas Calderwood (yesterday, comments), name one Afghan who had anything to do with September 11, just one. The fact is that the so-called Taliban had nothing to do with it; they don’t know if Bin Laden did, they don’t know if he was still in Afghanistan, but they are not even looking anyway. Tens of thousands of innocent Afghan women and children have been slaughtered due to the US belief they could blow up a nation to kill one man. As for David Hicks. I find it astonishing that every country on the planet complains about and deplores the whole illegal process of Gitmo Bay, the torture of everyone there as approved by Rummy and so on but all Australian’s like Tamas can do is whine about Hicks taking up arms against non-existent coalition forces. Hicks was not ever charged with hurting a solitary soul and I fail to understand which part of the US prosecutors saying “Hicks is not dangerous” people do not understand. There was and is no crime called “being in Afghanistan in late 2000 and early 2001”.


Shirley Colless writes: Re. “Wilson Tuckey: Wetting the tent” (yesterday, item 8). This was a good one on Bob Hawke — combing (rather than combining) the popularity of a knockabout reformed drinker … Well, with Hawkey’s hairdo, a good comb would be as essential and necessary as the sartorial guidance noted.

Yesterday’s typos (house pedant Charles Richardson casts an eye over the howlers in the last edition of Crikey): Item 3: “… the 40th anniversary of the Aboriginal Referenda this Sunday”. Why the plural? As the article explains, there were two changes made to the constitution, but they were made by just one referendum question. There was a second question, about abolishing the nexus between the Senate and House of Reps (it was defeated), but it had nothing to do with Aborigines. Item 17: “Oh, there’s an old piles of papers of unknown authenticity floating around …”. Should be “an old pile”. Item 23: “Well, the Cricketer’s Arms Hotel in Hoddle Street will think it’s a grand idea. And so will the Cricketer’s Arms in Punt Road …”. You’d hope so, since they’re the same place. And the rogue apostrophe is in item 25: “So isn’t it time they put their money where their mouths’ are …”.

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