Howard’s NT plan:

Rose Connolly writes: Re. “Territory ALP approved the Howard plan — in 2005” (Wednesday, item 17). As a member of the ALP branch in Alice Springs I was present at the meeting where Tricia Smith’s motions were passed. In fact, Tricia was in Sydney at this very time and I suggested to the meeting that we ring her to confirm her motions. The meeting was somewhat stunned that I make such a suggestion and approved of the call.The motions that were passed in Darwin at the conference still stand as ALP party line. This remains so until another conference rescinds them. The problem with the rest of the Australian public is simply if you haven’t lived in Alice Springs, town camps or surrounding remote communities, you would not comprehend or understand the depth and magnitude of these identified problems. I am not talking about those who care for their kids, the safe kids who appear to be vocal at this point in time, but of the victims identified in the report (and Smith’s motions). As a cab driver for 20 years in Alice Springs I witnessed and heard the stories first-hand, which fully supports Smith’s motions.

Jan Forrester writes: Having lived in the Northern Territory 20 years ago and regularly heard disturbing stories of community grog abuse/child abuse/incest from indigenous mates, I’m not trivialising the PM’s response. However, the vast majority of us city-dwellers know less than minus about indigenous communities in remote and regional Australia and urban debate has been laced with predictable panic which supports action, any action. (Few Sydneysiders have met an indigenous person in this city even though the largest concentration of Indigenous Aussies in the country live in the city’s south-west). Meanwhile, in my eastern Sydney beach suburb, surrounded by seven grog outlets within a half-mile, binge-drinking and outbreaks of male-on-male violence are weekend sports practised primarily by visitors. I often wish we had the community permit system the Federal Government wants to overturn in the NT. The quietest summer Saturday night in years was when police closed off the suburb following the Cronulla riots further south. It kept the wannabe drunks out. They went somewhere else. Drunken behaviour is not simply an issue of too much grog in non-indigenous society either. Neither is it conducive to merely policing solutions.

Chris Hunter writes: Re. David Lodge (yesterday, comments). Thanks David for your interest. Firstly, if corruption is what invalidates an institution there wouldn’t be any. As far as ATSIC’s “abolition” being supported by both sides of politics goes, no such animal exists. Ideologically both Labor and Liberal morphed into one party during Tampa — didn’t you notice? Secondly, as far as modern examples of apartheid go, try these — Pine Creek NT in the late ’90s. No Aboriginal is allowed more than a six-pack a day. So they sit in a variety of locations around the pub in the hope of getting some unsuspecting whitey to buy them the extra they invariably seem to require. Never mind the usual suspects (white), p-ssed faceless every night, often argumentative and rearing for fisticuffs. For whites there is no limit. Nhullunbuy, NT, 1972: I’m arrested for protesting an arrest. I’m locked up in the white cells. But my arresting officer had a vicious streak and with another officer removed me (about 2am) from this open cell containing half a dozen non-indigenous construction workers. I am then taken to the black cells containing about the same number of Yirkkala men. They are locked in individual cells. An inmate is woken and removed from his cell. I am placed in this cell and then assaulted by the law enforcement officers. The whites in the white cells begin to riot. They can hear the bashing. The blacks are silent. I related the whole thing to the circuit judge so it was all written down. I did not call on black witnesses. They were suffering enough and seriously, do you think their evidence would have mattered? Jesus, David, what country have you been living in — Disneyland?

Bias-o-meter:

Humphrey Hollins writes: Re. “The Crikey Bias-o-meter IV: the blogosphere” (yesterday, item 3).  Too much praise for smart a-se Tim Blair. I enjoy the cut and thrust of the comments to the blogger but our Tim censors any divergent opinion. When I chipped him on this censorship a couple years ago he responded by saying “get your own blog, this is mine”. A more childish response is hard to imagine and the result is a host of sycophantic comments on Blair’s blog.

Jon Case writes: I’m firmly in the camp that the old flavours of “left” and “right” no longer apply consistently across people, parties or policies. Ideology, policy and realpolitik have moved a long way from the “old” more clear-cut dichotomies towards a colourful spectrum of reality + political convenience + new colours of ideological thinking. How else do you explain a “right-wing” (therefore a supposedly free-market oriented) government supporting the full or partial retention of a monopoly in AWB? How else do you explain a federal coalition supporting a winding back of “states’ rights” towards a centralised governmental control model for education? … or reducing “free-speech” and imposing restrictions on individual rights? … or the growth of the largest federal bureaucracy in Australia’s history? How else do you explain a Labor Party winding back the power of the unions and supporting business in some circumstances? … or supporting competition for Australia-wide broadband against supporting a potential monopolist (Telstra) in “the greater good”? Picking a number of ideological and policy areas and aligning the commentariat on those factors would be a more real-world application: national security, foreign policy, macro-economic policy, micro-economic policy, individual rights and freedoms, states’ rights, industrial relations, freedom of information (government and corporate), governance & ethics in business and government, environment, etc. Assessing commentators along multiple dimensions would give a better view of where reside their individual “biases”, and perhaps show where they switch in favour of party support vs. inner consistency. I think we see these days more “pro-Coalition” and “pro-Labor” commentators who absorb all the ideological inconsistencies these parties now encompass. Not all fit this but a significant number do. We now see many harping from the “right” that the “left” is moaning about Howard’s “tough, pragmatic and necessary” breach of fundamental freedoms in favour of restrictive government. Those same people would likely be bleating about loss of individual freedoms and the imposition of “big brother government” if a Labor government had imposed the same regime upon the Aboriginal communities and sought buy-in from Liberal-run state governments, who would no doubt have resisted with equal fervour on the imposition on “states’ rights”.

Dan Carton writes: Where would Crikey itself sit on a Bias-o-meter? Perhaps 3 or 4 positions to the left of centre? And should all the Crikey Bias-o-meter results be considered with such a Crikey bias in mind? If Crikey thinks you are middle-of-the-road, are you really middle-of-the-road? The contributions of Christian Kerr and Stephen Mayne aside, Crikey has sadly morphed into quite the thriving collection of all manner of Howard-haters, lefties, cranky boomers, people who wished they worked for GetUp, and erudite megalomaniacal clowns like Guy Rundle.

Lex Biggar writes: I might be missing the point but Crikey would have to be the most biased media in Australia. How come that in all the articles published, it is rare to see anything but “left-wing journalism”. Crikey wins the bias award hands down! 

Crunching the census numbers:

Kenneth Cooke writes: Re. “2006 census confirms multiculturalism is alive and well” (yesterday, item 9). While the proportion of the Australian population declaring themselves as Christians may have dropped from 71% to 64% (a “7% drop” as Irfan Yusuf wrote yesterday, “2006 census confirms multiculturalism is alive and well”), in raw number terms there has actually been been a small increase by 0.8% in the last 10 years. Certainly the increase over the last 10 years of 110% for Buddhists, 120% for Hindus and 69% for Muslims sounds impressive. However, in raw number terms, their increase is dwarfed by the tectonic shift in the number who now see all religions for the lot of old cobblers that they really are. The number calling themselves atheists, agnostics, humanists, rationalists or “no religion” has increased by 800,562 since 2001 compared with just 58,814 more muslims, 60,983 more Buddhists and 52,646 more Hindus. Isn’t statistics fun! These numbers are taken from the data available on the ABS website.

Comparing treasurerships:

Ian Pavey writes: In yesterday’s Crikey, Martin Gordon (comments) wrote: “It is a bit unreasonable to compare two such disparate periods, I would not be so dishonest.” Indeed Martin, but John Howard has no such qualms. He shamelessly distorts historical facts regarding comparative interest rates between the nineties and now, as a comparison between Liberal and Labor economic nouse. Here’s the irony: in the UK, Blair has used precisely the same argument about high interest rates to rubbish the Conservative government’s record under Howard’s poster girl, Margaret Thatcher! The truth is, rampant, unfettered, unregulated growth and the subsequent recession was an international event. And it was certainly not “made worse by Paul” in Australia. Not when compared with the UK experience, where the Conservatives’ legacy was extreme poverty and social despair. And, incidentally, a hitherto unheard-of phenomenon where homebuyers, saddled with negative equity, actually did a “runner”, leaving the banks to pick up their empty houses and hence their debts!

Misleading graphs:

Tim Willis writes: Re. “Afr.com loses readers — the proof” (yesterday, item 22). I enjoyed reading Ben from LawFont.com’s article on AFR.com’s loss of readers. I agree with the main point of the article that AFR has lost significant traffic since the launch of AFR Access in 2006 and has not recovered since the relaunch of AFR.com. However, the the AFR.com, smh.com.au and theaustralian.news.com.au graph does not accurately compare the the traffic for the SMH and The Australian websites. Alexa graphs traffic data for an entire domain eg. smh.com.au or news.com.au, not a sub domain eg. blogs.smh.com.au or theaustralian.news.com.au. According to Alexa, theaustralia.news.com.au traffic is only 9% of that reflected in the graph, while the smh.com.au traffic line should be 87% of the size. You can obtain these sub domain figures by going to the following alexa urls — smh.com.au and news.com.au — and scrolling to the bottom of the page and reading the Where people go on section. If you combine the alexa figures for smh.com.au, theage.com.au, brisbanetimes.com.au and graph these against the news.com.au figures, a more accurate comparison of the networks traffic might be obtained. Yes, I am a nerd, and I did once work for Fairfax, but I think the misleading graph should be pointed out. When the truth is in the data, you can always stretch the truth.

What about expelling the Lib tax cheats?: 

Tony Thompson writes: Given that mainstream media and the Liberal Party are pushing so hard for the Labor Party to expel any union official that uses an expletive in a meeting will they push as hard to establish if any of the business leaders identified by the ATO as failing to file tax returns and of cheating the tax system are members of the Liberal Party or the National Party and move to expel them? If no action is taken can it be interpreted as John Howard approving of, and answering to, tax cheats? This will be a real test of the Bias-o-meter.

Oi, stop ignoring Adelaide:

Steve Gale writes: Re. Yesterday’s editorial. The preface to yesterday’s edition of Crikey mentions all mainland state capitals but one. Although you may have little or no interest in Adelaide some people who subscribe to your paper live here. This city is often overlooked in the reporting of national interest stories by all forms of the media, hence my complaint. I just wish we had a decent local daily newspaper so eastern state bias wouldn’t be so much of an issue.

Tax deductions:

Peter Hill writes: In response to David Maguire (yesterday, comments), allow me to clarify my earlier comment that “tax deductions reduce taxable income, not tax”. I meant to say in dollar-for-dollar terms, because the original point asserted by Thomas Hunter was that the overseas conference fees would be “covered” by the Australian taxpayer by virtue of being tax deductible. That is, it was implied we would fund the conferences dollar-for-dollar. I said this wasn’t correct. Say, for example, you pay $10,000 all up to travel overseas for a conference. Let’s assume the cost is fully tax deductible (as if!). Let’s ignore Medicare levy for the moment and also assume you are on the top marginal rate of tax of 45% (lucky you!). Your tax deduction is $10,000. This reduces your taxable income by $10,000. It doesn’t reduce your tax by $10,000, and the absolute best monetary outcome possible in this scenario is that your net after-tax cost of the conference is $5500 (ie most of it!). In other words, the Australian taxpayer has not “covered” your jaunt, not even by half. You don’t get dollar for dollar back with tax deductions, only rebates. The other point I tried to make was that your $10,000 tax deduction is looking decidedly not allowable in any event if you end up on the ski fields for most of the time!

Oops:

Yesterday’s typos (house pedant Charles Richardson casts an eye over the howlers in the last edition of Crikey): Item 1: “… the ability of drafting interstate coppers to operate successfully in the wilds of the Territory was in doubt.” “Power of drafting”, perhaps, or “ability to draft”, but not “ability of drafting”. Item 2: “There are a few with a few simple rules apply to proposed legislative amendments to check if they are valid and worthwhile …”. A few with a few?

Send your comments, corrections, clarifications and c*ck-ups to [email protected]. Preference will be given to comments that are short and succinct: maximum length is 200 words (we reserve the right to edit comments for length). Please include your full name – we won’t publish comments anonymously unless there is a very good reason.