Sophie Cunningham writes: Re. “Black Adler v. Little Britain: Conflicts in the Meanjin takeover” (Tuesday, item 2). As an author who has been very happily published by Meanjin — as well as being an enthusiastic reader — I am concerned about the impact of Meanjin‘s absorption into MUP on the magazine. Ian Britain has produced a high-quality, well-edited journal, and I must say I have sympathy — if it is the case — for the fact he did not want the board’s input, especially given the obvious tensions that have emerged on that board. Should editors be a polite extension of the views of their board if they are to receive support? It seems the answer is yes. I was particularly concerned to read in Crikey that MUP has invested in a three-year sponsorship deal with The Australian Literary Review — a magazine that is, as Simon Hughes says, a rival to Meanjin. Surely that puts Meanjin in a very difficult position once it is a part of MUP’s stable.

Former Eureka Street editor Morag Fraser writes: Meanjin is a vital part of Australia’s literary heritage. Rather than see its masthead in jeopardy, the University of Melbourne could make a substantial investment in Australian public culture by defending the magazine’s in-print editorial independence, and a further contribution-this time to Australian history-by putting Meanjin’s extraordinary archives online.

Sara White writes: Reading Meanjin engages me with the intellectual life of this country. There is no equivalent journal in Australia in terms of its quality, history and independence. I am not interested in another online journal. I am not interested in another commercial publication from MUP. How can a sensible decision be taken with such a clear conflict of intererst on the Meanjin board? Meanjin, its literary and cultural inheritence, its independence, must be preserved. The publication makes a unique contribution to the intellectual life of this country. It is run on a shoe string budget; a quality publication that is working; a journal treasured by readers. Please don’t give it away.

Nicholas Jose writes: A little magazine is a little magazine. Any move to turn it into something else destroys the things that make it valuable. When a little magazine survives, as Meanjin has done for years, through successive editors – none better than Ian Britain – it gathers an extraordinary degree of esteem. That’s the very thing that universities are fighting for and that Melbourne University gets in spades through Meanjin as it is now. How about asking shareholders what they think, as with the Qantas bid? I mean us readers. For us, Meanjin is a cultural force and a core Melbourne contribution to national literary life. As a long-term non-Melburnian subscriber, I’d vote to sack any board that put the magazine’s quality and independence at risk.

Francis Zemljak writes: It is surely extraordinary that nowhere in this sorry saga do we appear to have a clear statement of MUP’s vision for Meanjin. How has this literary Anschluss even come close to implementation without a clear idea of what it would entail having first been communicated and discussed? I have attempted, without success, to locate a clear statement of intent on the part of MUP in all that has been written over the past few weeks. The opportunity for MUP to set out clearly and unequivocally its plans for Meanjin has been repeatedly presented and repeatedly not taken up … a most concerning approach, particularly when public funds are involved. In addition to the concerns that have been expressed about conflicts of interest, the lack of transparency that has accompanied the process is something that demands further explanation and investigation. The obligations that accompany the management of public monies include openness, a keen awareness of potential conflicts of interest, accountability and, not least, the exercise of due care diligence and skill. The challenge for MUP is to state clearly and categorically what its plans for Meanjin are and why/how such plans would further both Meanjin’s interests and those of its many and varied stakeholders. If MUP cannot do so it should back off!

Michelle de Kretser writes: Thanks for Simon Hughes’s article about Meanjin. Meanjin’s role in Australian cultural life is beyond question, and Ian Britain is one of its great editors. Under his editorship, the quality of the magazine has been consistently outstanding. Why does Melbourne University not give Meanjin at least the same level of financial support it gives the ALR? And although Hughes’s article focuses on Dr Britain and Dr Adler, it seems to me that quite irrespective of the personalities involved, there is a conflict of interests when the head of MUP is a voting member of the Meanjin board. I hope you can persuade the university to reconsider the board’s decision — after protracted debate and by a voting margin of one — to hand Meanjin over to MUP.

Helen Garner writes : Hey – what’s going on here? The magazine has never been so attractive or so in touch with the outside world.

Gratuitous Liberal leadership speculation:

Mark Kulasingham writes:  Re. “Gratuitous Liberal-leadership-speculation special” (yesterday, item 2). Pulling an unpopular rabbit called Costello out of a hat is probably not going to reverse the polls. My money is on a “credible terror threat” to be unmasked around APEC time …

Paddy Forsayeth writes: What about Kevin Andrews? I think he will forge to the front, in the same mould and as ruthless as Howard.

Kerry Lewis writes: Just a couple of observations on the Liberal “leadership” topic. If John Howard does avail himself of that backdoor, before the fire reaches him, won’t he be, thence forever, seen and branded as actually having “cut & run”. Or don’t these observations apply to people as important as him? The other regards “Blundstone” Abbott. PM? What a joke. What a hypocrite. Besides, which, when he was addressing that mass “last night” what evidence is there that a lot of these politicians would actually be able to secure jobs earning at least the same money, in the business world? Ambassadorships, conferred for services to the party, do not qualify. “Comedians”? Maybe but the successful ones (on the good money) make people laugh, more than snigger. “Politics” is a calling, the successful ones do the job for a real will to change society for the “better” (whatever their bent may be — some are obviously more “bent” than others of course), and this commitment shines through as a “passion” people can discern (as Christian Kerr referred, Costello’s self-interest is too obvious to make him a “winner” here). If it is the money, at the low rate in politics that he bemoans, there are similarities between that attitude and the actual “oldest” profession — and the reputations, not to mention antics, of late have not been that disparate.

Bob Weis writes: Christian Kerr wrote: “Costello has only ever stood for his own career… In the eighties, he was the new right firebrand of the Dollar Sweets case.” The Dollar Sweets case was argued and won by (now) Justice Alan Goldberg. Costello was the junior that carried the bags and then took the credit much as he has for the good Australian economy handed to him by Keating’s years of change. You can fool some of the people some of the time. 

Defending Pell:

Tim Baker writes: Re. Yesterday’s editorial. Crikey’s thinly veiled comparison of George Pell to Sheik Al-Hilali was simply farcical. The sheik whipped up furore when he compared scantily clad women to uncovered meat, while Pell is simply weighing in on what quite clearly is a moral issue — the creation and consequent destruction of human embryos for scientific research. The suggestion that the two comments are comparable requires a suspension of all critical faculties, which Crikey appears quite happy to do in its ongoing efforts to demonise Christians. Additionally, as the leader of his church, the cardinal is fully entitled to say what the church’s position is, and suggest that consequences await members who dissent from the official line. If we substituted “Catholic Church” with some other non-religious organisation, Crikey wouldn’t even be reporting on the issue. In so many areas Crikey outperforms the mainstream media by delivering less ideologically themed news, but whenever it comes to Christianity, Crikey is at the bottom of a pretty pathetic heap. Yes, there is some bigotry running through this issue, but it isn’t Pell’s, it’s Crikey’s. Incidentally, I’m not Catholic, nor have I ever been, though I am a Christian.

Stephen Magee writes: Ha bloody ha! I’ve gone back through George Pell’s comments and I can’t find any instances of his having advocated or excused criminal activity. It’s funny how Catholics are willingly embraced by the commentariat when they claim theological backing for “progressive” views, but damned as extremists when, on the basis of the same theology, they oppose the bastard (or should that be hybrid?) offspring of modernism.

Dan Carton writes: The point you were trying to make was clear but it was the kind of “cleverness” one would expect from a 15-year-old. Where are the editorials deploring the hypocrisy of leftie sub-cultures like the sisterhood who scream blue murder about one thing but won’t defend a high-profile women like Janet Albrechtson (who should be the poster child for the cause) when she is called a “skanky-ho” in Parliament? Where was the ALP sisterhood when Pru Goward spoke up about sexism upon her entry into the NSW State Parliament? Where was the editorial on that? All I can say is that I feel privileged to wander through life without a paralysing hatred of John Howard or a patronising, paternalistic or zealous attitude to whatever scared cow is flavour of the month, blinkering my response to any political or social issue.

Willem Schultink writes: So George Pell is now an “extremist cleric” just because he stands up to defend the helpless babies that are being killed just so that we powerful adults can have an easier life? Is he “un-Australian” just because he wants a bit of “fair go” for those who have no power? I thought it was very Australian to stick up for the underdog. Good on you George Pell for having the courage to stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves! To protect the little Australians from those who want to steal their stem cells for their own selfish purposes.

Michael Harvey writes: Hilarious! Pell is still trying to throw his skirt-clad weight around and convince people that the Catholic Church is relevant. Is he after Jones’s job on Today? He should check out Youtube. As any young person knows, there’s much better money to be made as a hypocrite in politics, or as a con-person in real estate, or fiction writing in Hollywood. If altruistic, they can join Medicins Sans Frontiers and attempt to clean up religion’s messy and extensive legacy. Religions are still trying to assert themselves even though the garbage they believe makes the average manga cartoon look like the Origin of Species. Arrogantly trying to control science is a little like interfering with altar boys — both have a habit of growing up and exposing you. No wonder Catholics are feeling sh-tty — they used to have real dictators listening to them — now they just get interviewed by Borat.

Green energy:

Gerard Brody, senior policy officer, Consumer Action Law Centre, writes: Re. “Consumers are already paying more for green energy” (yesterday, item 14). While some consumers are able to pay more to care for the environment, not all are. Electricity is an essential service integral to health and wellbeing, and for many low-income consumers, it is increasingly unaffordable. The question of who should bear the costs of our failure to address climate change is difficult – but it is a cost that must be borne by all – consumers, industry and government. It is not fair that consumers alone bear these costs, nor is it fair or realistic to rely on consumers’ goodwill to pay more for “being green”. Government and the energy industry must do more to address the affordability of energy in the face of looming price rises, including rises due to passing on the price of carbon emissions. Responsible actions include not only assistance for consumers to purchase green and become more energy efficient, but also ensuring that energy businesses have fair billing and collection processes, and that there are sufficient government subsidies for the poor through concessions and income assistance. Jane Nethercote is correct in saying the Government’s response to LPG rebates was a political reaction – it is time for government and industry to recognise the political fallout that will occur if energy becomes unaffordable for many consumers.

Wayne Robinson writes: I don’t 100% know if global warming is fact or not, but I do know that the reserves of fossil fuels are finite, and that we have used the more easily accessible 50% in the past 100 years, and we are starting on the less accessible and more expensively acquired remaining 50%. It seems to me rational that we should be sparing in using what fossil fuels we have left, until we definitely know we have substitutes, regardless of concerns about climate change.

Tom Richman writes: I always thought that the movie Jaws offered the most astute political analysis of my generation, now John Howard is daily proving this view: Cover up or ignore the danger to our planet from the shark of global warming and you won’t upset the locals about the ramifications.

Matt Hardin writes: I have read the paper that Jon Jenkins recommended (yesterday, comments). The so-called cooling that is asserted is not backed up by any evidence. The 60-year cycles show that each peak is higher than the last (although I have my doubts about using 120 years of data to generate 60-year cycles). The authors’ predictions for temperature for China and the rest of the world (figures 3 and 6 in the paper) show a generally increasing trend from 1881 until the present day. The non-cyclic data shows an increasing temperature trend and this accounts for 40.19% of the variation. The authors say that can all be laid at the feet of carbon dioxide making it the single most important influence on temperature (the sixty year cycle contributes 24.15% of the effect). It seems if we are to have cooling it will not go back to the way things were and the next time it gets warmer it will be worse than this time and carbon dioxide is to blame. “I know … I know … It’s those pesky facts interfering with the social and political agendas of the far-right again but nevertheless it’s still important to report the scientific facts … isn’t it?” to borrow a phrase. We know that Greenhouse gases make the Earth warmer, if other things are contributing to that as well should we not at least control what we can instead of making things worse.

More songs for John and Kevin:

David Flude writes: Re. “Crikey Army strikes up the band for John and Kevin” (yesterday, item 15). Well for whoever loses, Leslie Gore’s, “It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to, You would cry too if it happened to you.” I bet John Howard has a copy tucked away amongst his Pat Boone records. Now for the Rockwiz questions. What was the first album you ever bought? John Howard: The Chipmunks. Kevin Rudd: Pet Sounds. What was the first concert you went to? John Howard: Little Richard (just kidding) actually it was The Pretty Things. Kevin Rudd: Cher.  


Andrew Maiden, Telstra’s news services director, writes: Re. “Major parties narrow their differences on broadband policy” (yesterday, item 10). The G9’s latest tactic is to argue its case for a broadband monopoly by resorting to – wait for it — public opinion polling. Everyone knows polls can be doctored to show whatever you like. Telstra’s polling shows a miserable 1% net public favourability for the G9 plan. Another poll released yesterday showed 34% of people think the earth is visited by space aliens. Like the weird G9 poll, all these polls prove nothing. So let’s please put aside opinion polls and deal with serious issues. Surely what matters most is each company’s ability to get the network built, the broadband speeds available to consumers, the legislative preconditions and whether retail prices will stay flat (Telstra’s position) or climb (G9’s position).

Ross Copeland writes: Margaret Simons says “Labor proposes to build a [broadband] network covering almost all of Australia”. As I understand it, Labor proposes a network which can be accessed by 98% of the population  — but given that there are vast tracts either unpopulated or sparsely populated, the network wouldn’t be covering almost all of Australia or anywhere near it.

Hugo Chavez:

Matthew Weston writes : Re. Guy Rundle (yesterday, comments). What about the oath of personal loyalty of the judiciary? The military? The ruling by decree (which was not put to the public prior to the election). More to the point I asked what would happen if John Howard closed the ABC and gave the licence to a station that only broadcast what he approved? Maybe you would prefer if we compared it to that other social democratic state, North Korea, or perhaps compared his efforts with that wondrous provider of social democracy, Pol Pot?


Jody Bailey writes : I agree with Ruth O’Neill’s position (yesterday, comments), but as has become common usage, she idly describes the Ueber-Wowser Christopher Pyne and the Dogma-Dog Tony Abbott as being “pro-lifers” because they oppose the general release of the abortifacient RU-486. How those gentlemen get away with such a friendly sobriquet eludes me. Only anti-abortionists who loudly and often decry any form of killing deserve that title. Tibetan Buddhists come to mind. When in 2003 John Howard stoically and noisily backed his best mate’s decision to shock-and-awe Baghdad (with the minor consequence of somewhere between 60,000 and 600,000 civilian deaths) the only response I saw from the two men-of-conscience was a stiff upper lip, jammed hard against a shut gob.

The Parrot:

John Taylor writes: Re. “Raising the standards: CVC plucks the Parrot” (yesterday, item 6). Stephen has completely missed the relevant point about Jones’s removal from the Today show. Lisa Wilkinson is married to Peter Fitzsimons who shares the 2UE breakfast show with Michael Carlton, who never misses an opportunity to rubbish Jones in his satirical “Friday News Review”. He also crusades, regularly, against Jones favourite ex-cop Tim Priest and never misses a chance to mention Jones’s (alleged) gay leanings. There would have been no way Lisa and AJ could be on the same program and I’ll betcha her contract negotiations were on these lines.

Harold Holt:

Dean Felton writes: Re. “Film financing merger delays Holt doco” (yesterday, item 26). If next year is the 50th anniversary of the former PM’s disappearance, as claimed, I must be older than I thought! I can remember at age six watching live coverage of the scuba divers on the bleak beach at Portsea on all four TV channels, but I think it was more like December 1967 — not 1958.


Jim Parker writes  Re. “Election 2007: Five scenarios with a grain of salt” (yesterday, item 13). If Mark Nicholls is head of cinema studies at the University of Melbourne, how on earth did he anoint Bruce Beresford as maker of Gallipoli, when even a half-knowledgeable student of Aussie cinema knows it was Peter Weir!

James Vernon writes: Dr Mark Nicholls should know more then anybody that Bruce Beresford did not direct Gallipoli. So there is a sixth possible outcome; John Howard directs that Dr Nicholls is relieved of his position as head of cinema studies in the School of Culture and Communications at the University of Melbourne.

Another lookalike:

Mark Hyland writes : Re. “Lookalike” (yesterday, item 16). A subscriber wrote: “Have any of your readers noticed the similarity between that nice young man, Minister for the Ageing Chris Pyne, and the Flight Centre pilot? Could they possibly be related?” Doesn’t anyone remember Michael Lee?


Russell Bancroft writes: Re. “AFL out of bounds with hands in the back rule” (yesterday, item 24). Couldn’t agree more with Nahum Ayliffe. The key to any rule is consistent application, and the very nature of this rule is its inconsistency, not just on how it is applied, but on how it compares to other rules. Why can’t you touch a player in the back during a marking contest, but can touch them in the back during a (non-centre square) ball-up or throw in? Why can you blatantly push a player in the back with your forearm, but the lightest of touches with your hand is penalised? I think the AFL was right to do something about the marking contest. But as is their wont, they went way too far. Pre-2003, we had the ridiculous spectacle of ruckmen grabbing the ball from ball-ups/throw-ins and making no effort to get rid of it. They were deemed not to have prior opportunity and so another ball-up followed. But instead of changing the rule to deem prior opportunity, thus forcing the ruckman to dispose of the ball properly or be free-kicked, the AFL went one step further, so now if the ruckman grabs the ball and is tackled, they are penalised even if they dispose of the ball immediately. The AFL had to do something about players unfairly pushing out their opponents. It was getting to the ridiculous stage where forwards (notably Fraser Gehrig) could get away with grabbing their opponent round the waist and hurling them out the way. Commentators labelled it “strength”. So what does the AFL do? Allow the push, as long as you use any part of your body but your hand. Players are now being forced to keep their hands where the ump can see them, or face the consequence. The rule must go.

Paul Ryan writes: What a load of drivel. A quick history lesson from one who enjoys a “fair” contest. It started with Ross Glendenning pushing people in the back and not being penalised. This was taken to another level with Jason Dunstall pushing his opponent out of the contest at every opportunity. Then we often saw the ridiculous sight of Alistair Lynch throw his opponent out of the contest and apparently this was okay, too. Barry Hall has now taken over where Lynch left off. Finally the people who control the levers have seen the light. Hooray! In fact the rules committee haven’t gone far enough. They should ban all forms of pushing unless you take possession of the ball aka Gary Ablett pushing away a front on tackle. The spirit of the game is to use the hip and shoulder. If you want pushing, then may I suggest you go watch grid-iron.

Champion Data general manager Tim Kelsey writes: Re. The AFL article published yesterday. Can you please get someone who knows what there talking about to comment on this. This article is flimsy and a joke.

Sandy Logan from DIAC writes: Re: “Charity Case” (Monday, item 13). You asked why the “Government was handing over taxpayers’ funds to the Footscray Football Club.” What a poor attempt this was to present a grant from the Department of Immigration and Citizenship as a donation to an AFL club which has not kicked a ball since 1996. As the settlement grant list you directed your readers to said, this grant was made to Spirit West Services – the not-for-profit community services arm of the Footscray Football Club, better known as the Western Bulldogs. Among the programmes to be funded under this grant will be an eight week schedule of sporting activities in different sports to young refugee arrivals in Melbourne’s west with scope to offer school-based traineeships, possibly in sport administration. The grant has everything to do with helping out disadvantaged new arrivals through the nation’s social conduit of sport and nothing to do with funding Jason Akermanis’ pay packet.


David Hawkes writes: Re. “Crikey Army strikes up the band for John and Kevin” (yesterday, item 15). Loved the new word coined by Richard Farmer yesterday! I shall try to use it daily. And the words is… beoaned, as in “Yesterday Richard Farmer beoaned the lack of anything.”

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