Film Australia and Accidental Country :

Film Australia writes : Re. “Film Australia should cop a grilling” (Wednesday, item 26). Accidental Country is a Film Australia production, developed and produced with Essential Viewing Group (EVG) and due to screen on ABC TV. Prior to photography a cost overrun was projected. The series is being reworked within approved budget parameters. There are no co-producers and no hurried trip to Glasgow as reported. The director was not removed, he resigned despite requests to stay. The executive producer did not insist on drama re-enactments. The series is being overseen by executive producers from Film Australia, the ABC and Essential Viewing Group, not British executives. Regarding your final paragraph, there is no delay in financing or production on any documentary, including the proposal regarding Harold Holt. It is also the 40th, not 50th anniversary of his disappearance.

Prostate cancer:

Professor John Shine, executive director of the Garvan Institute of Medical Research, writes : Re. “The pointless hyping of prostate cancer” (yesterday, item 4). Much of Garvan’s work is about finding the genetic basis of disease, searching for clues as to what might constitute a new drug target and discovering markers that will allow accurate assessment of disease prognosis for individual patients. For someone with prostate cancer, for example, this can help determine whether that person has a particularly nasty form of the cancer that needs more aggressive treatment like a prostatectomy; or where it is more benign and may not require surgery. In working hard to actively promote proper awareness and understanding of such an important disease, we often use statistics taken from a variety of respected sources; Australian and overseas-based charities and government reports. Simon Chapman has questioned our use of the statement, “Every hour, at least one man dies of prostate cancer”. This statement is extrapolated from a Prostate Cancer UK statistic: “One man dies from prostate cancer every hour in the UK”. Although we did not intend our statement to be read as “Every hour at least one man dies of prostate cancer in Australia, we understand it could have been misinterpreted in this way. Clearly, worldwide, the figure is much higher.

Jenny Morris writes : Simon Chapman’s correction of the figures in relation to prostate cancer is all very well – I’m all for truth in public health campaigns – but maybe a scare campaign is what’s needed to get men (and their doctors) to take prostate cancer seriously? My father was diagnosed with prostate cancer last year and since then has suffered the range of treatments usually thrown at the disease including radiotherapy – none of which have been pleasant, and then there’s the constant worry. Dying is one thing, but living with cancer isn’t much fun either, and like any cancer, it’s better caught early. Screening would have picked my father’s cancer up before it advanced. Prof Chapman’s piece reads as if individuals are nothing more than statistics, and does his cause no good.

Liz Swanton writes : While hype is one thing (and chasing research dollars is probably the reason), choosing to remain blissfully ignorant is another. Perhaps men need to acknowledge the need to take responsibility for their own health and stop being childish about a finger up the rear end! Imagine the state of the human race if women went weak at the knees about pelvic examinations! Having gone through prostate cancer –and surgery — with my husband, I know it’s not a pleasant thing to face, but a simple blood test once a year can make a difference between having a future and not having one. My husband had no symptoms at all, just a smart GP who has insisted on an annual blood test since he turned 45 (he was diagnosed at 52). Had he waited for symptoms to appear, his prognosis might have very grim. Even once diagnosed (and a biopsy is unpleasant), and then finger-checked by various experts whose opinions we sought before choosing the right option for him, there was nothing to feel. However, once inside, the tumour proved to be larger than expected. The good news is the surgeon is very optimistic he will be fine. How about some balance — less hype, more honesty … and more responsibility. Forget community screening. What price the peace of mind from a blood test once a year, even if you do have to pay that price out of your own pocket?

Rob Stephenson writes : Whilst I wouldn’t argue with the statistics you cite, perhaps it should still be recognised that there is value in building awareness if we are to any long-term public health benefits. I also understand that the deaths from prostate cancer are roughly equivalent to those from breast cancer, and if so, this would certainly be an indicator that there is a need for increasing awareness or research of prostate cancer (a quick read of www.prostate.org.au  shows that there remain plenty of unknowns about the causes and progression of this disease). I’m on a bit of a crash course at the moment – my father has just been diagnosed – unfortunately not early enough for any preventative treatment, as it has spread to his bones. He is currently waiting to be given an estimate of time left with us. I believe he has had plenty of symptoms, none of which he thought should be discussed. am starting to think that there is some value in a bit of hysteria if it gets more of us bloody silly men to take the time to look after ourselves a bit better – we might think we’re too busy now, but I’m sure we’ll get a lot more done if we have the occasional visit to our doctor, and manage to squeeze a few more years in to this one brief chance we have to play on Earth. Know that’s not a dispassionate argument refuting your contentions, but that’s the trouble with such statistics – every one of them relates to a person.

Ian Vagg writes : While I partly agree with your argument I am one of the unlucky ones who would have benefited from a regular PSA testing – when I was diagnosed with metastatic prostate cancer in August 2005 it already had spread to the bone so I had limited options – there is no cure at this stage – the only treatment available was hormone therapy but median life expectancy is only three years so it appears I am going to be one of the unlucky ones although the cancer is in remission at present. However, as we are only a small group around 10% of those diagnosed I guess there is an economic argument for your proposal. It is important that men talk about it – women have a monopoly on government funding for breast cancer – you do not find men promoting the screening of cancer – they tend to avoid the issue.

John Cormack writes : As a sufferer of prostate cancer at a relatively younger age, it was picked up by a PSA test, diagnosed by a biopsy. The cell structure of my diagnosis according to my urologist was such that approx 20% get ( a poorly defined cell structure ), that’s the one that kills, 80% of men get a highly defined cell structure and that’s the one men die of old age, again according to my urologists and other specialists. The lesson to me, according to my urologist was early detection was the key. I just love comments from some doctors that we have to “die of something”; what an academic load of tripe, one needs to face death personally before one makes comments like that.

David Flint and Alan Jones:

Mike Carlton writes : Re. “Alan Jones’s sacking will please the elites, but not his fans” (yesterday, item 18). Naturally, I am flattered that dear old Professor Flint believes a Carlton-FitzSimons family conspiracy is behind the Parrot’s sudden departure from the Today show. Someone should tell him, though, that “psyco-babble” is normally written with an “h” in it. We can leave him to work out where to insert it.

John Kotsopoulos writes : According to David Flint “Alan Jones presents views that challenge not only media orthodoxy, but also many in the financial, political and economic establishment of the country. He is not afraid to take on leading brokers, the retailers who are driving small business out of suburbs and towns across the country, the ACCC, union bosses and politicians everywhere and from all parties.” Another view might be that he misuses the bully pit of his radio program to distort events and promote short term ‘solutions’ to problems that require far more analysis and balance than he is willing or able to bring to them. Weak-kneed politicians can as a result be forced into changes just to get a matter off the Jones agenda. Good radio it may seem in some cases, but it is a cr-p way to develop good and lasting policy.

Ian Pavey writes : What a meandering mélange of media conspiracy theory and monarchist drivel. Not forgetting his usual syrupy support of the Parrot’s daily droppings. Flint writes “He is not afraid to take on leading brokers, the retailers who are driving small business out of suburbs and towns across the country…” Except, of course, a company which he may be spruiking for his own personal gain. Like the property investment fiasco that recently went belly up, leaving many of his faithful bereft of their life savings. Perhaps the reason for the Jones bone is that his audience, like those in politics, industry and public service, have finally woken to the fact that his supposed power and influence was nothing more than a mirage, and he’s really nothing more than an obsessive, whining bore.

Steven McKiernan writes : Really Dave you need to get your own network and get all your mates working for you and then you’ll be happy. And Crikey, more articles like this thanks, I spat coffee over my monitor when I read this paean of unrequited adoration. Great smiles were had around the office.

George Worthington writes : David Flint’s unsurprising attempt to support his mate Jonesy, lament his departure from telly, and deride Chris Masters without mentioning his name falls somewhat flat as it was not “a university publisher” that published Jonestown — presumably snidely suggesting that it was an unprofitable proposition — but rather commercial giant Allen & Unwin.

Catherine Phillips writes : Crikey please … Enough is enough! I am so tired of the David Flint’s puffed up, defensive, hagiographic pieces on Alan Jones. It is just plain boring, boring, boring. Would much prefer to read Carlton anyway!!!

Diana Simmonds writes : Re. David Flint. Comedy corner. Okay – please admit it, this is really John Clark and Brian Dawe …

Meanjin :

Tom Cho writes : Re. “Black Adler v. Little Britain: Conflicts in the Meanjin takeover” (Tuesday, item 2). As both a member of Meanjin’s editorial advisory board and a writer, I am very concerned about the threat to Meanjin’ s independence that comes with the Melbourne University Press takeover. As it is, the physical independence of the journal would be compromised via the staff working in an open-plan office in the MUP building. In 2004, I collaborated with Ian Britain and others on the journal’s “Australasian” issue (as a guest consulting editor with Chris Raja). Having gained a deeper insight into the processes involved in producing Meanjin during this time, the idea of producing the journal in an open plan office is alarming. While collaborating on this particular issue of Meanjin , I was also able to see first-hand the quality of Ian’s editorial skills. Ian commenced his editorship of the journal under difficult circumstances following the departure of then editor Stephanie Holt. When the situation behind Stephanie’s controversial departure unfolded, a few members of the editorial advisory board resigned in protest. At the time, after some thought, I made the decision to stay. While I certainly was sad to see Stephanie leave, I am glad that I have stayed around to see Ian make his mark on the journal. Meanjin has acquired a strong and distinct identity under his editorship. It would be a shame to see the Meanjin Board tied to another unflattering situation involving an editor’s departure. To borrow a slogan from Canadian journal The Modern Review , Meanjin is “independent literature for the literature-dependent”. It is critical that the independence of this iconic journal is protected.

Tony Moore, commissioning editor, Pluto Press Australia, writes : Australia needs more diversity of ownership and management, not less. Oh why must our sad national tendency to oligopoly be translated into high end literary publishing? The beauty of Meanjin is that it publishes “never-heard-ofs” who write brilliantly (as well as established writers), and therefore creates the future, just as it grasps the past. Rather than getting caught up with national preoccupations, Meanjin chases rabbits down holes to reveal the extraordinary, and that’s why it startles and provokes. This quality is a reflection of the curious and ecumenical mind of Meanjin’ s editor, Ian Britain. How sad if Meanjin ended up circulating the same names as the ALR and the Monthly , or became a clone of Griffith Review (as excellent as all 3 of these are). I have no problems with Meanjin going online (contributors’ citations will go up!), but please preserve its print-identity as well. Whatever its bottom line Meanjin compounds cultural capital that is the envy of other journals and universities. A civilised country and one of the world’s great universities should invest in that capital by guaranteeing Meanjin’s editorial, managerial and financial autonomy.

Dr Chris Andrews, School of Languages, Melbourne Uni, writes : Your story indicates that there was a clear conflict of interest in the board’s decision to hand over Meanjin to MUP. It would be very sad to see Meanjin’ s editorial independence compromised for want of a little support from Melbourne University. It’s true that Meanjin doesn’t offer an exciting new branding opportunity; it just has excellent and innovative content that isn’t on offer elsewhere.

Penny Hueston, associate editor, Text Publishing, writes : Meanjin has been doing extremely well under Ian Britain’s editorship (just as it was under Stephanie Holt, despite the board’s position). There seems no reason to change the way the magazine is published, and MUP has provided no convincing rationale for doing this. It is not at all clear why Meanjin needs to be ruled by MUP for some of its content to be published online. Tampering with its form of publication is in this case a way of compromising its independence. Has anyone asked the subscribers how they would like to receive their magazine? And how can the editor of Meanjin be certain of his editorial independence when MUP is at the helm?

Sara Dowse writes : Meanjin has been the premier literary journal in Australia since the 1920s, when my former father-in-law designed one of its covers. That one, fitting the times, had a drawing of Lenin on it and, as things go, would never grace the magazine today. Over the years Meanjin has been many things, but why it has to justify itself with mega-sales is beyond me. I thought, too, that Louise Adler was too smart to want to get rid of one of the best and most hard-working editors the magazine has had. Writers and readers alike are going to really miss Ian Britain.

John Bartlett writes : I have been both a contributor and volunteer for Meanjin and it is its independence that I believe needs protecting. To be subsumed into MUP would totally change the nature of this magazine. Doesn’t the board of MUP that Meanjin has been gaining the attention and respect of critics now for many years. Do they want to turn this magazine into a sort of literary Dolly ? At a time when ideas and discussion is relegated by some to the ‘chattering classes’ I would have thought magazines such as Meanjin should be protected and not thrown to the corporate wolves.

Mary Cunnane writes : Regardless of the contretemps — which is not insignificant — surrounding Meanjin (the details of which I do not know) it should be noted that Louise Adler is an exceptional book publisher –passionate, courageous, decisive, and dedicated. Her contribution as the head of Melbourne University Publishing to the life of ideas and intellectual discourse in this country is a very important one and should not be devalued or ignored.

Pell and Hilaly:

Tom Colebatch writes : Re. “Pell, Hilaly and a surfeit of hypocrisy all round” (yesterday, item 1). Terrific article by Irfan Yusuf in yesterday’s Crikey about the hypocrisy of senior federal ministers in refusing to slam Cardinal Pell in the same way they do Sheikh Al-Hilaly. As a young Australian (born in 1985) I have grown up considering the separation of state and church as a fundamental principle of the Australian political system as I know it. While it must be conceded that the level of offence caused to the general community by comments on abortion as opposed to women bringing s-xual violence on themselves by wearing what we consider normal clothing are nowhere near equal, I find it hard to believe that nonetheless a veiled threat of excommunication to a politician for exercising the legislative power vested in them by the popular will of the people at the poll booth can be seen by even the most faithful catholic as permissible public conduct. There’s a reason why we are seeing an increasing apathy of young people towards religion, and it’s precisely because of issues underlying comments like those of Cardinal Pell. The Church’s inflexible and frankly extreme views on homosexuality and abortion are prime examples (although I’m obviously generalising here). Young people and the Australian people generally, consider that unlike Cardinal Pell’s personal views (and the Howard Government for that matter), homos-xuals are human beings with equal rights and that women should be able to control their own lives, including when they chose to bear children.

Ben Davies writes : Consistently tenuous comparisons to claim double standards, such as the Sri Lankan terror arrests are getting boring. If Crikey had someone equally opposed to Yusuf it might be interesting — the way it is we’re just getting a raving polemic most times he submits to Crikey. “Restoring the balance are we?” I don’t agree with Pell, but I find the comparison between the virtual advocacy of rape made by Hilaly, and Pell’s belief that Catholic schools shouldn’t teach homos-xual values a bit rich. From a culturally relativist point of view, I can accept things like sexist beliefs, if that is how a community chooses to live they can maintain those views within the community as far as I’m concerned, despite finding it unacceptable in my own culture. Moreover, I don’t accept homophobia, but I accept the rights of a Catholics to teach the values they choose within their own community. This of course presents greater problems for people outside of those communities affected by such beliefs, and we soon find ourselves in a moral and ethical humanist/ relativist dilemma. Homophobia (extreme in some Muslim communities by comparison to ours — you don’t get the death penalty for it here), and sexism, I can accept in the contexts of communities other than mine. But rape? You’re drawing a long bow, Yusuf.

Doug Harper writes : I have been in contact with the AFP, the Ombudsman’s office, the NSW state premier’s office, and the Qld Police. No one can explain to me the difference between Cardinal Pell’s threats to the NSW MPs and a threat that I might make to the MPs to influence their votes on an issue. Threat or bribery attempt towards an MP is a crime. I am trying to alert the authorities to this. I have been told that since it was not I who was threatened I can not make a complaint. A crime has been committed in full public view and there seems to be no way to have the perpetrator charged. Have not given up here. I want to know why Cardinal Pell and Archbishop Hickey from Perth are not right now in jail for threatening MPs. Maybe you could help me in this quest?

James Guest writes : Irfan Yusuf misses a major difference between George Pell’s intervention and that of Hilaly or any imam. The Cardinal speaks for a church where the very definition of doctrinal truth is what the Pope says it is, and George Pell is like a minister bound by Cabinet solidarity and also licensed to speak authoritatively about on policy. An imam is just an opinionated imam. So George Pell can say what to most Australians is outrageous and ridiculous but he is only doing his job. Remind Fr. Frank Brennan SJ and other sophisticated critics of Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens et al. that the problem they can’t get over is that some religions seek to use authority to force on the utilitarian majority of Australians criminal laws which, despite God having signally failed to tell anyone, even Popes, about his wishes or the underlying facts (eg. of conception, blastocysts etc.) for over 3000 years of alleged communication with variously chosen people, the Pope and his team insist on, despite those affected having a conscientious contrary view. So in some ways George Pell represents something worse than Hilaly, but it is different.

Homer Paxton writes : What is being displayed here is a complete ignorance by “Catholic” politicians of what is involved with Catholic doctrine. Protestants can individually interpret the Bible; however, only the church can do this for Catholics. It does appear as you and the “outraged” so-called Catholic politicians should go back and understand what the reformation was about. George Pell has every right to do what he did. He is merely upholding traditional Catholic practices.

Matthew Hall writes : What really bothers me about all this is that the church supports IVF. Producing offspring (new members!) at any cost is fine – despite the fact the surplus embryos derived from this process are simply discarded. Is it ok to discard lives if you make one along the way? I’ve longer for a politician brave enough to stand up and state that IVF kills, and whether or not embryonic stem cell research is conducted in Australia in any scientifically meaningful/useful way, why is it that the few scientists would utilised (that would be discarded anyway) are far worse then the original source of embryos?

Alcohol and PR:

Martin Palin, Sydney PR consultant writes: Re. “Alcohol V: It’s our shout – free advice for the alcohol industry (25 May, item 4). For reasons related to modesty, I know I need to be careful not to overplay the value of my PR advice to the alcohol industry so entertainingly summarised by Melissa Sweet. But neither did I expect them to kick the advice back in my face with their own crazy approach that aimed to reframe the passive smoking debate as an opportunity to showcase the industry’s “Responsible Serviing of Alcohol” credentials as a key weapon to reduce domestic violence. Smh.com.au reported on 3 June that the Australian Hotels Association had claimed “the indoor smoking ban in pubs and clubs will cause a spike in domestic violence because more people will choose to drink at home”. State deputy chief executive of the AHA, David Elliott is reported as arguing that increased smoke-free areas would increase the likelihood of people choosing to “drink at home where there is no Responsible Service of Alcohol guidelines, leading to more domestic violence”. But is he crazy or brilliant? I’ve been in this PR game for 15 years and this guy has managed with one audacious piece of reframing to fill me with professional self doubt bordering on envy. I mean there was I offering sage, considered, conservative counsel, and this guy comes out in the Herald and goes “Wham – join these dots!” Should I really be giving him advice? Or hiring him?

Judging police effectiveness:

Nigel Savidge writes : Re. “Overland over the top with Mokbel” (yesterday, item 5). Greg Barns’s implication that effective crime fighting can only be judged on convictions is truly problematic. While there is no argument that it is up to the courts, based on the evidence gathered by the police, to determine the guilt or otherwise of suspects, to suggest that this should be the main measure of police effectiveness is fraught with danger. The partisan role of the police in the investigation of crime within an adversarial system of criminal justice has long been the subject of much criticism. This criticism has primarily revolved around a “presumption of guilt” mind-set and the gathering of inculpatory evidence alone to support convictions. Numerous police Royal Commissions, judicial inquiries and appellant court decisions have identified that this approach to criminal investigation has led to such inappropriate or unethical investigative practices as verballing and the fabrication or planting of evidence. From an operational policing perspective, which is what Simon Overland is referring to, Purana appears to have been quite successful. The murders have stopped, evidence has been gathered, arrests have been made and charges have been laid. Which is precisely what the police should be doing. What happens now is up to the courts. Whether Purana has been “successful” from a judicial perspective, however, is another issue. While this may seem like a semantic argument, it goes to the heart of one of the fundamental problems of measuring police performance and the way that the police see themselves. To focus on convictions alone as the primary measure of police effectiveness is to risk returning to the dark ages of policing.

Politics et al:

Anthea Parry writes : Re. “Doing Rudd slowly while the economy boils over” (yesterday, item 3). It’s becoming increasingly obvious why Christian Kerr comes out with such half-baked political commentary – he’s clearly never talked to anyone who isn’t a white-collar worker, ever. Comments like “If you’ve ever watched Jamie Oliver, you’ll know how all the different people in a commercial kitchen have to work in unison” give you away. It may surprise you to know, Christian, that some people have actually been forced to work these sorts of “menial” jobs – with nary a celebrity chef in sight – and that work is not just something you watch the great unwashed do on television from your ivory tower. No wonder the right squarks about media elites – you lot wouldn’t know an honest day’s work if it whacked you over the head with a Jamie Oliver Professional Stainless Steel Non-Stick Frypan.

Liz Johnston writes : Re. “Is profit suddenly a dirty word in an election year?” (Yesterday, item 24). Yes it is. The country might be doing extremely well from the resources boom, but a vast number of retirees and workers living in it are not. That is why they will vote for anyone who can convince them that when they use the word “fair” they mean it.

Alan Hughston writes : Re. “Gratuitous Liberal-leadership-speculation special” (Wednesday, item 2). Christian Kerr speculates that the Mad Monk (aka Tony Abbott) could well tip a bucket on Cossie’s leadership aspirations. If Abbott wins the Liberals are guaranteed victory at the next election. Who in Australia could resist having a government run by Abbott and Costello.

Victoria Collins writes : Re. “Words fail Peter Costello” (yesterday, item 8). Peter Costello’s rhetoric is in danger of becoming as overheated as the economy is. He and the rest of Howard Government are incredulous as to why the polls are so bad when the economy is so good. Let me enlighten him. Firstly, the opinion is abroad in the community that the economy could pretty well run itself at the moment (with some adept co-ordination from a well-managed beaurocracy-thanks, Christian!). Such are the flow-on effects of the resources boom. Secondly, there is unease in the community because it seems as though the Howard Government has squandered the dividends which they have received from this successful era, whilst at the same time they have also become the highest-taxing government in Australia’s history. Yet, we see our services and infrastructure falling into disrepair and we feel the pinch in our hip-pocket nerve should we wish to access a quality (ie. Private) service, such as education or health. We also must confront increased mortgage repayments since the last election, ever increasing housing unaffordability and longer work hours for the same, or less take home pay as a consequence of WorkChoices and the increased flexibility we must now show our employers. Thus, contrary to Mr Costello’s sunny outlook, I feel a chill in the air as the winter economic sun shines.

Rupert Murdoch:

Nigel Brunel writes : Re. “Murdoch: People quite like it when I show an interest in their work” (yesterday, item 6). What a load of bullsh-t – God forbid that he takes control of the Wall Street Journal – if he does – News Corporation will be free of any true unbiased journalistic criticism. Look at what he has done to the media over the years. The Daily Telegraph is a sick joke – rarely does it cover anything beyond idiot news – even with the Kerang Rail disaster as the major news item of the day (and week) – News.com.au had Paris Hilton as the lead item. Fox News is a diatribe – it’s so right-wing – there is only a right viewpoint and the other right viewpoint – watching screaming right-wing heads like Hannity and others almost makes me throw up in my weetbix. Their slogan should be “We Report and You Decide What’s Bullsh-t.” He treats the public like 7-year-olds. The Wall Street Journal will become good for one thing if he gets hold of it – wiping my butt.

Advertising in books:

Rosemary Stanton writes : Re. “Time to book some ad space between the covers?” (Yesterday, item 19). Contrary to your claims, some popular nutrition-based books do contain advertisements. The Australian Institute of Sport’s two books Survival for the Fittest and Survival from the Fittest (both published by Murdoch) are peppered with ads from Nestle, extolling the virtue of their products. Catherine Saxelby’s popular books Nutrition for Life and Food – What’s in it (both published by Reed) have ads for pork, specific oils and margarines. Nutrition Australia’s book The Secret of Healthy Children (Focus Publishing) also has heaps of ads. I was originally approached to write the foreword and promote this book, but was dropped. I understand that the publishers decided to accept advertising, but any involvement from me was unacceptable to the advertisers. (Their involvement would also have been unacceptable to me.)

Chris Edwards writes : You forget yourself; Matthew Reilly had advertisements in his internet version of Hover Car Racer . Canon Printers and Universal Pictures (I think) sponsored pages of his books so he could distribute it for free, as it was. He was then able to sell it in a print version. Perhaps this is the way forward for books.

Mike Smith writes : Interesting question. Some ads would work, some not, lots of ads would become dated quickly in the lifetime of a book (consider an ad for a particular model of car), on the other hand, an ad for Coca-Cola would probably work. Consider that there are many subtle ads in some books in the actual plot (aka product placement) that are working far more effectively than overt ads would.

Telstra:

Sarah Dingle writes: Re. Andrew Maiden (yesterday, comments) on polls – “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 why did Telstra commission a poll in the first place? Surely that’s (another) waste of money… which could be more usefully put towards, say, a national broadband network?

Hugo Chavez:

Doug Melville writes : Matthew Weston (yesterday, comments) writes: “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).” If I recall, Australians and British citizens also had to swear an oath of personal loyalty to their head of state, one form, for parliamentarians used to go something like: “I … swear by Almighty God that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, her heirs and successors, according to law. So help me God.” As for ruling by decree, well this isn’t unusual in a presidential system. And he is an elected president.

A Paris solution:

David Hand writes : Perhaps Crikey could lead the way in the recovery of the much abused honorific “news and current affairs”. You could create a new section called something like “Tabloid TV / chequebook / fluff / gossip / freak shows”. Then take every single news/ca program on commercial TV and a good slice of ABC and put them in there. The news and current affairs section would then only have news and current affairs in it. This would bring into sharp focus the dismal take up of current affairs by the viewing public. I can see Tracy’s promo ad now “Shock! Aussies preoccupied with banal fluff! We bring you the shocking proof tonight at 6.30!!!” The remaining issue to solve will be what specific criteria can be used to fend off producers campaigning to get their tabloid programs into the news/ca section. You could publish their fawning and plaintive letters for our amusement (even though that’s a bit banal and fluffy). Requiring ratings down in the cellar is a bit elitist. Well, hey, I don’t have every answer.

More songs for John and Kevin:

David Menere writes : Re. “Crikey Army strikes up the band for John and Kevin” (Wednesday, item 15). I suspect Joe Strummer and the Clash has already written the soundtrack for this year’s election. John Winston will be Should I Stay or Should I Go . Joe Hockey will be Career Opportunities. Alexander Downer will be London Calling (reprising his father’s favourite). Kevin might be Groovy Times (are here again). If Peter Garrett isn’t reprising old Oil’s songs he might do Stop the World . And when the smears start flying, someone will be singing Julia’s Been Working For The Drug Squad . Pauline will be singing White Riot – until someone finally tells her the lyrics aren’t about skinheads; then it’ll be “please explain”.

More lookalikes:

Kerry Lewis writes : Re. Lookalike (yesterday, item 12). Don’t know about Mick Molloy, but I thought Fat Tony could have gotten away with using Rod Marsh’s passport!

Ben Fishlock writes : Stephen Papas (AKA Tony Mokbel) looks way more like Dave Grohl, lead singer of the Foo Fighters than Mick Molloy!

Nick Smith writes : Re. Lookalikes. Please stop publishing these. Crikey could never reach the journalistic level of Private Eye and should not use its more low brow elements without that context.

Oops:

Yesterday’s typos (house pedant Charles Richardson casts an eye over the howlers in the last edition of Crikey) : Item 3: “The economic Escoffiers and political patisseriers just can’t do their own thing.” No, the making of pastry is pâtisserie , but a person who makes (or sells) pastries is a pâtissier ( pâtissière if female), not a patisserier .

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