Little Children Are Sacred:

Laurence Rowland writes: Re. “Despair and loss of meaning: Aborigines caught between two worlds” (yesterday, item 7). Guy Rundle notes, “Having made visible the problem in all its appalling detail, [the Little Children are Sacred report’s] use is at an end.” Some value indeed. His analogy with London has some appeal, too. Dickens, inter alios, brought issues to popular attention and began to allow people to think of “the poor” as fellow Londoners instead of an abstract and intractable “problem”. Insofar as Mr Rundle is suggesting that the problems of remote Australia are susceptible to rational analysis, away from terms implying a special cultural inevitability, I am happy to follow. However, condemning, “better education”, inter alia, as an equivalent of, “self-pathologisation” is self-indulgent, lazy and unhelpful. As for Mao as a role model for champions of the rural poor… There are many clever and committed people on the “front line” working very hard. They may not have global solutions, but they have some excellent ideas for specific problems. These people are underfunded and unheard. Their ideas may even be dismissed because of the colour of their skin. Bring on more reports; bring on public scrutiny; bring on a sustained national outrage. Maybe, we’ll see an informed debate about how Australians want to fund their public services. Optimistic, perhaps, but where will despair get us?

Bill Parker writes: I was in Cue, Western Australia, several weeks ago. This is a town in the Murchison that has seen much better days. Nowadays the Aboriginal community such as it is, can be seen on the streets in a hopeless state. Everything about the place is derelict except the round the clock road trains delivering ores to Geraldton. The two worlds could not be more different, yet the one world could make very small efforts and shift things significantly for the other. The miners take the ore, leave the holes and piss off. They contribute virtually nothing — not even upkeep of the Great Northern Highway it seems. In their terms, what would it take to build a swimming pool in Cue? The petty cash? For the people of the shire that would change a lot, for the aboriginal community it would contribute significantly to better health (as it has done elsewhere in WA). Our Prime Minister was saying the best prize of a robust economy was full employment. That’s OK if you are just about anything in mining but the streets of Cue tell another story.

Paul Howorth writes: The country may despair, but there are many of us working away with Indigenous and non-Indigenous people to find the right strategies for the way ahead. Sadly, I’m not all that convinced that there is a single government at any level that is truly prepared to back the long-term strategies that are required with the resources needed. Not enough votes in it you see. Sick isn’t it? So it is now getting close to the time when we the people must leave our ship-wrecked, poll-addicted, managerial politicians and their media lackeys behind. To those of us prepared to see a different picture somewhere down the track – I fear many in power in this country do not have the values, the patience, the knowledge or the experience to address the future we want for our Indigenous heart. Let’s partner up, black and white, knuckle down, work hard, be clever, be committed, be calm… there’s a big job to do. Yes lives are at stake, but history shows this path is paved with the bones of those who freaked out, flew in, messed up, and finally abandoned the cause.

Chris Hunter writes: Good stuff from Guy Rundle. The Aboriginal Nation has many eloquent representatives sick and tired of waiting for the Great White Hope to appear. They stoically bide their time. They wait in heartland while we wait for a taxi. A Mao, Fanon or Guevara? Where is that person now? Chez Johnnie just doesn’t seem quite real, although Chairman Rudd does have a certain ring to it. Kevin, I’m sick of being a white loser. If you’re given the job and say “Sorry” and set to work with the living revolutionaries I promise I’ll vote for you. Like start now!

Stagnant polls:

Robert Milliken writes: Re. “Stagnant polls and the rise of meaningless commentary” (yesterday, item 1). Congratulations to Guy Rundle on his pertinent observations about polls and poll watching yesterday. It’s about time someone said it.

Stephen Holt writes: Guy Rundle says that “Gough Whitlam took 32 seats from the Coalition in the 1969 poll, and Kevin Rudd needs, erm, 16.” In fact in 1969 Labor went up from 42 to 59. And one of those seats was a safe Labor seat (Batman) which was won back after an independent (Sam Benson) retired. So that makes 16 under Whitlam as well as Rudd — and the House was smaller then.

Ashley Midalia writes: Re. “Forget the spin: it’s an electoral landslide” (yesterday, item 2). Christian Kerr makes a fair point about the media analysis of yesterday’s polls. But he should not underestimate the task in front of Labor. Plug a two party preferred vote of 52 per cent for Labor in the Oz Politics election calculator (to which Christian refers) and you get an interesting result: 75 seats all. A hung parliament. In other words, in addition to the ground Labor has to make up since the last election to get back to 50-50, it needs to overcome a 4 point handicap before it can even think about forming a majority government. On these figures, 52 per cent is no more than break even for Labor. And we can be sure the Government knows it.

Prostate cancer:

Patrick Foley writes: Re. “Hands off our prostates, says infectious diseases specialist” (yesterday, item 4). I am 48-years-old and have been having annual PSA tests since 40. A few months ago my annual PSA registered an unexpected reading and I was referred to a specialist doctor for prostate cancer. He did a biopsy test and there were definite signs of significant cancer. The prostate has to come out to rid my body of the cancer. If I did not have PSA test, or waited until I was 50 for the tests to begin I would have had advance prostate and subsequent bone cancer, full stop. Let the neigh sayers say what they want, but let me live. This is life and death stuff and people like me are not a percentage statistic, I am a real person with real prostate cancer. I would not have lived until 50 if I did not have regular PSA tests from 40. Let me see, would I like to take the low probable chance of an infectious disease, or the very real alternative of sticking my head in a hole and being dead within two years from prostate cancer, the second biggest killer of men in Australia.

Lifesavers aid Turnbull:

Alan Kennedy writes: Re. “Lifesavers aid Turnbull” (yesterday, item 15). The item about the leg up for the North Bondi Surf club created amusement among the weathered winter swimmers and walkers on the prom at Bondi. As an aside I will say we haven’t sighted Peter Debnam, he of the Speedo-led election campaign since the ungrateful voters of NSW turned their backs on him. Was it all just for the cameras Pete? Surely not. But I digress. North Bondi is the toffs club. We suspect they are mostly from Woollahra and hence are bludging on our beach which is controlled by Waverley Council. They often complain about having to pay for parking while Waverley residents get an annual ticket of $25 for unlimited parking. To this we say “get your own bloody beach”. But the toffs club certainly doesn’t seem to need the dough and as such it is another outrageous piece of pork barrelling. Meanwhile down the Prom at the workers surf club Bondi they always need a bit of money to help them along. If North Bondi is tatty then Bondi is pretty disgraceful. No amount of sausage sizzles will get it up to being as “tatty” as North Bondi. The toffs club is the sort of place Malcolm would be comfortable. Not sure though if giving it money will woo over the swinging voters. The clubs also used to be divided along sectarian lines Bondi being ALP Catholic the Northerners the dreaded Protestants. The story goes that one Bondi Clubby was attacked by a shark which took away his leg and as he lay bleeding on the Prom it was decided he needed a transfusion. The only suitable donor was a member of North Bondi. When told, the old Bondi clubby replied “don’t bother.”

Going backwards:

Gary Carroll writes: Re. Yesterday’s editorial. How right you are! And in order to have matters of health, education, environment, indigenous people properly addressed we have to get rid of Howard. He’s had 10 years plus and no noticeable improvement in these areas, in truth we have gone backwards.

The Millionaire Factory:

Julian McLaren writes: Re. “Rome Airport pay-day delivers humble pie for Macquarie critics” (yesterday, item 3). I have read Stephen Mayne’s continuing analysis regarding the criticism of Macquarie Bank with interest and Stephen is well entitled to have an opinion about how they operate. Yesterday’s article advising the critic’s of Macquarie Bank to “eat humble pie” has driven my pen to paper to urge a copious amount of Bex and a good lie down. I fear that Stephen may be missing the point regarding the critics’ accusations. No one is disputing the right of a company to make re-valuations to enhance company profits. No one is doubting that Macquarie are not making these revaluations based on true and accurate assessments. However, what is in doubt is the sustainability of the current asset price boom/bubble. Also in doubt is the ability for Macquarie to sustain its booming profits should this bubble burst. It sometimes takes a long time to be proven correct. However, we are all entitled to an opinion, which is how capitalism works. And the Macquarie share price did rise yesterday (not that a serious investor would pay much attention to daily price movements), but that was probably Chanos closing out his profitable short positions!

The Kirribilli cookout:

Ray Quigley writes: Re. “Coming the raw prawn: was the Kirribilli cookout kosher?” (14 June, item 8). Being a simple chap, I thought I would pose these questions to see if any Crikey reader could help me. “We” (the Australian tax-payers and “dodgers”) are the owners of that lovely mansion on Kirribilli. “We” are forced to rent it out to tenants to help pay upkeep etc. NOTE: must ask accountant about the negative gearing implications. Are “We” able to ask the managing agent (who is that?) for an inspection? Do we have a note in the tenant’s residency agreement about parties, especially those with a commercial intent?

Justin Templer writes: The excitement over the Kirribilli cookout seems a tad overdone to me. We have employed John Howard as Prime Minister and, as part of his overall remuneration package, given him a house to live in. While he is Prime Minister it is his home – as we all have homes where we can escape the madding hordes, dress in daggy clothes and be kings or queens of our own castles. Although many of us seem to think it important that John Howard and his family be forced to reside in Canberra, it is nevertheless true that he has made his (and his family’s) home in Kirribilli. And, in my view, if he chooses to entertain in his home either the Ayn Rand Society or the CFMEU it is really his business – as it is his home.

Bad lands:

Lonely Planet founder Tony Wheeler writes: Re. “Chaos reigns as Gaza becomes Hamastan” (Friday, item 4). No State in Iraq? No State in Somalia? I hate to have to correct both Guy Rundle and then Nigel Catchlove (yesterday, comments) but haven’t either of them heard of Kurdistan or Somaliland? I had a very interesting time travelling around Kurdistan last year (and wrote about it my book Bad Lands – A Tourist on the Axis of Evil) and Lonely Planet writer Jean-Bernard Carillet visited Somaliland for the about-to-be-published new edition of our Africa guidebook. For something completely different I’m travelling around the US at the moment promoting Bad Lands and I’ve been noting the bumper stickers which enigmatically announce: “1 20 09”. Seems to be a date a lot of Americans are looking forward to.

Guy Rundle writes: Nigel Catchlove argues I was in error to suggest that Somalia was some sort of utopia before the Ethiopians invaded a couple of months ago. I would have been, if I had. I simply pointed out that order of a sort had been established by the Union of Islamic Courts in a part of Somalia in 2006, and that for the first time in many years, some sort of sustained everyday life was possible. Falsely portraying the UIC as a new “Taliban”, the US has tormented Somalia by sponsoring warlords for years, and the UIC was the first chance at establishing some stability. So they had to be crushed. Both Ethiopia and the US would prefer Somalia to be in a permanent state of chaos, than have a government they don’t like. That’s the reality of “the long war”.

Fortune telling:

Russell Bancroft writes: Re. “Howard v. Rudd: Uranus rising” (yesterday, item 11). There was quite a famous fortune teller back in the 80s whose name escapes me. He used to run ads in the Sun (as it was) advertising his services and boasting of his predictions. One ad in mid-’87 claimed he was the man that predicted that the Tories would win the UK election (who didn’t predict this?) and that John Howard would win the federal election (he looked pretty hot at the time). Post-election, the same ad continued to appear but with the Howard reference removed. I just had to ring the number and ask the obvious question. The person who answered (was it the great man himself) had a great response to my question about the removal of the reference to a Howard win; “You win some, you lose some”.

The internet:

David Havyatt, General Manager Public and Regulatory Affairs, AAPT, writes: Re. “A potted history of the not-so-fast Australian internet” (yesterday, item 14). Optus and Telstra started the roll-out of their HFC networks in 1994. Both were offering Broadband via HFC in 1996 I think, certainly not as late as 1998. You also seem to have forgotten the role that OzEmail played in popularising the internet or that Connect and UUnet played in providing backbone competition to Telstra. A couple of other interesting tit-bits that should have been added to the list. December 1994 the Aust Govt Broadband Services Expert Group reports under the title “Networking Australia’s Future”. You might find the attached fax from Minister Bedall to AAPT of interest – the Minister actually sought industry comment on the terms of reference, something that simply doesn’t happen these days. Also 2002 the Aust Govt Broadband Advisory Group reports under the title “Australia’s Broadband Connectivity”. Both these expert groups included – well – experts. The latest is a collection of current and retired bureaucrats together with two commercial people from “non-cognate fields” as they call it on university selection panels. The timetable says Telstra announced plans for an FTTN network in 2006. They didn’t – they announced it in November 2005 “subject to satisfactory regulatory outcomes” and announced they weren’t building it in December 2005. The rest of the industry thought five weeks to change Government policy had been one heck of a “stretch objective”. And I hate to be narky but not one of the significant events includes a decent quantified instance of the benefits of broadband (including the two government reports) and certainly not of 12Mbps over 512Kbps. More importantly none of them explains why any economic resources should be deployed above and above those resources that can be justified to meet consumers’ preferences as demonstrated by their willingness to pay for the service – including in rural Australia where you have to pay to be connected to electricity.

Mike Martin writes: Re. “Telstra’s broadband push: A classic case study in spin” (yesterday, item 5). Margaret Simons quotes a report of John Howard talking about broadband speeds of “12 megabytes per second”. Howard does not understand his subject and the actual speed under discussion is 12 megabits per second, or 1.5 megabytes per second, one eighth as fast. This confusion between bits and bytes seems endemic in recent reporting about broadband by most media outlets. Patrick Devery repeats it (“A potted history of the not-so-fast Australian internet”, (yesterday, item 14)) when he writes, “the speed of many Australians’ internet connection is 56 kilobytes per second”. No it isn’t. Dial-up at best is 56 kilobits per second. A speed of 56 kilobytes (450 kilobits) per second almost qualifies as the Telstra version of broadband. For the record, I get (nominal) 12 megabits per second delivered at home via plain old Telstra copper phone cable, courtesy of iiNet.

Chris Mitchell:

Scott Howard writes: Re. “Chris Mitchell: Criticism is not a gag” (yesterday, item 21). No outrage here, feigned or otherwise. Primarily I was perplexed at the illogicality of The Australian’s position. And the fact of personal attacks in a broadsheet such as The Australian is more of a disappointing weakness than a source of outrage. Very happy to take Chris Mitchell at his word and retract the first point of my comments. In any event the second sentence should havtee had a question mark as it was not a statement. And a rap on the knuckles for Crikey for not adding an Editorial comment to the effect mentioned by Chris Mitchell. But Chris Mitchell, what of hyperbole and hypocrisy, what of the supposed distinction between politics and the public’s right to know, what of the alleged misrepresentation?

Mark Byrne writes: It is interesting to find Chris Mitchell writing in Crikey. Obviously, the position of editor-in-chief of Australia’s only national paper does not provide a sufficient vehicle for a person of such expansive opinion. A tactic employed by Mitchell and Co. in their attack on “the left”, is their attempt to re-define the positions held by the protagonist. Mitchell has attempted to turn the debate away from the core complaint: that The Oz has participated in, or (at best) shown complacent disregard for the dismantling within our society of some checks of power in our fragile democracy. Mitchell ought to have been raising the public awareness to the power transition underway, the erosion of structural independence of the very institutions that strengthen our democracy. Instead The Oz has been too busy sending out the ideological scripts to dismiss or smear public advocates who articulate this power transition. It seems for the Editors at the Oz it doesn’t matter that Clive Hamilton said, “I have never claimed that I have been silenced.” Mitchell and Co. continue to work to portray the whole argument as Mann and Hamilton claiming they have been gagged. Is Mitchell’s failure to engage critics on these substantive issues a sign of his unchecked power in a consolidated media sector? Has Mitchell learned that in his privileged position he can control the debate? And therefore, is Hamilton on a lost cause when he says his concerns are regarding “the dozens of instances detailed and documented in our writings of others who have been silenced, including academics, NGOs, public servants, and military and intelligence officers”?

Michael Fisk writes: Chris Mitchell is like the man who thought he could stick a pile of feathers together and convince the world it was a rooster. He “thought the paper’s position on climate change had moved on two years ago and Clive (Hamilton) had not noticed”. Hamilton is not the only one who had not been fooled. The Australian under Mitchell has run a denialist agenda for years and he now points to the occasional dissenting voice in a pathetic attempt to claim even-handedness. If Mitchell wants to emerge from the global warming debacle of his own making with any credibility he should honestly acknowledge his failed judgment on the issue, and explain why he ignored scientists who as far back as 1989 had convinced Margaret Thatcher to take the issue seriously. When Mitchell has finished that large dose of humble pie, he could then apologise for supporting George Bush as a capable US president, for supporting the invasion of Iraq, and, let us not forget, for falsely claiming that Manning Clarke was a Soviet agent. Just by the way, in what other profession could such a long-term serial failure survive among its senior ranks?

Brothel industry lobbyists:

Peter Wood writes: Re. “Rupert’s rivers of illicit adult gold” (yesterday, item 23). Chris Seage, former ATO auditor and legal brothel industry lobbyist, would like the NSW government to crack down on illegal brothels, and their advertising. This is not surprising, as it would increase the market share of the legal brothel industry. Chris Seage is doing his job. What matters is how government policies impact on issues such as occupational health and welfare, s-xual health, working conditions etc. I would be much more interested in the opinions of s-x workers on these matters that those of brothel industry lobbyists.


Terry Davis writes: Re. “Big game match-up exposes ‘best-fit policy’ as an AFL ruse” (yesterday, item 25). Adam Schwab mentions a “ground record” crowd at Telstra Dome for the Hawthorn v Carlton game last weekend. Has he forgotten or simply knows nothing of the 55,436 at the A League Grand final in February? (the 2001 rugby union “record”? doesn’t count as the stadium was reconfigured as a temporary rectangle). I certainly agree with the thrust of his article, but for real football fans it’s kind of amusing to witness the present AFL executive constantly shooting itself in the foot. For over a hundred years VFL/AFL has had no competition. Well, the world has changed and it seems the AFL hasn’t.

Aaron Baddeley:

Julien Marr writes: Re. “Things go from Baddeley to worse” (yesterday, item 24). Charles Happell quoted Aaron Baddeley as saying, “It’s the 2 Timothy 1:7, it says, ‘For God has given us a spirit of fear but power of love and a sound mind’. I constantly quote that verse to myself.” I read it, and I was sure it was wrong… maybe that is why he lost! Not that us religious folk have a predilection to superstition. It should be something like “For God has given us not a spirit of fear, but of power and love and of a sound mind.” Also, “sound mind” can also be “self control” which might be more in line with a pro golfer.


Yesterday’s typos (house pedant Charles Richardson casts an eye over the howlers in the last edition of Crikey): Item 1: “… slightly undercut by the fact that Gough Whitlam took 32 seats from the Coalition in that [1969] poll”. No, this is another variation on the “John Howard one-seat Senate majority” fallacy. The government had a 39-seat majority going into the 1969 election, at which it was cut to just seven, but that doesn’t mean the opposition gained 32 seats. To reduce the majority by 32 you only have to gain 16 seats – which, as he says, happens to be Labor’s target this year.

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