Howard’s NT plan:

Dr Gideon Polya writes: The National Indigenous Times recently (14 June 2007) published an edition revealing the horrendous health conditions of Indigenous Australians under the Howard Government. The bottom-line is avoidable deaths (excess deaths, deaths that should not have happened) that total 8,000 annually or about 90,000 (out of a population of about 0.5 million) for the 11 year period of criminal Coalition Government neglect. In a letter sent to nearly all non-Government members of Federal Parliament recently I applauded the bipartisan support for more police and welfare personnel being sent to Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory but indicated my nervousness about the authoritarian flavour of the exercise, the use of uniformed military personnel and Coalition motives, the more so because of the complicity of the Coalition Federal Government in 1,600 avoidable under 5-year-old Indigenous Australian infant deaths and 90,000 avoidable Indigenous Australian deaths in total over the last 11 years. According to the Report Little Children are Sacred it was not possible to quantitate the extent of Aboriginal child abuse – however the report documented the shocking statistics for Australia as a whole that 34% of Australian females and 16% of Australian males experienced child sexual abuse. Will Howard now send the Army into high abuse incidence non-Indigenous suburbs? The horrendous living conditions of so many Indigenous children under the Coalition Government is an indictment of John Howard and the Coalition. The ultimate in child abuse is that causing otherwise avoidable death. The horrendous morbidity and mortality statistics published by the National Indigenous Times show that the principal abuser of Indigenous Australian children has been the Coalition Government.

Christopher Ridings writes: Howard’s “emergency” call to reclaim the Northern Territory with the might of Captain Brough and his men, with the backing of Opposition Leader Rudd, only shows their pathetic ignorance of Aboriginality. As one who was stationed as a callow young Methodist probationary minister in Mullewa, WA in 1966, I can well attest that being among Aboriginal people involves by necessity a steep learning curve which never ends. One can never forget that two cultures have not met well during 200 years of contact after 50,000 years of mutual isolation with each accumulating along the way vastly different histories. One has to respect that the indigenous people have been there first and that everyone is still reeling from the mutual culture shock of eventually meeting. Senator Lyn Allison’s account of a report from a former Remote Area Nurse makes sobering reading. Each person sent into an Aboriginal community needs about ten supporting and resourceful people to prevent burn-out and break-down, so great are the impossible mutual expectations. Listen to the local community elders and also to those who have worked there. One doesn’t gather any honey by kicking over the beehive.

Rodney Henderson writes: Most people other than Guy Rundle agree that violence towards women and children in Aboriginal communities is a very serious problem. Those who immediately attack the government on this issue must either think the bashing, rape and murder of Aboriginal women and children is trivial, or at least less important than Howard hating, moralising and political smart-arseary. This includes most contributors to Crikey in the last week.

Getting the costs right:

Len Moaven writes: Re. “What are Howard’s compulsory medical checks going to cost?” (26 June, item 7). Thought I would have a look at your website (as it is always in the news). I am a pathologist so I thought I would look for a pathology news item. This is the first one I looked at. Unfortunately it has some serious factual errors on the pathology billing. 1) The pathology item numbers are incorrect for some of the tests, for example syphilis serology as a single test is item number is 69384 which attracts a rebate of $13.40 (not $28.85). 2) If a GP ordered these tests it would attract the Medicare cone. This is where Medicare only pays up to a limit on tests. I cannot see this lot costing anymore than $100 (even if more tests are requested by a GP). Furthermore it is worth noting that the cone restricts most pathology patient episodes ordered by a GP to about an average of $60. 3) I suspect that if this work was put out to tender a private pathology laboratory would take the costs of transport and collection into this fee. So the pathology costs are probably less than $100 (I have also included a generous PEI in this figure which the author did not). So the author needs to take (at least) $130 off the total bill of $403. I am not passing comment on the sentiments of the article… only these specific facts… but inevitably (for me) it does detract from the value of the article and the Crikey site… but perhaps I am expecting too much.

The Bias-o-meter:

Brad Sprigg writes: Re. “Crikey’s Bias-o-meter Part V: the shock jocks” (Friday, item 4). The most interesting thing I have found in your Bias-o-meter series is the responses you have had from various readers. It seems to me that many people solely focus on the contributors who are on the other side of the spectrum to them and attribute Crikey’s overall bias as being one and the same. The Lefties focus on the likes of Mr Kerr and Mr Faris, while the Righties focus on Mr Rundle. I suppose many people are not used to a publication presenting a wide variety of views.

Mungo McCall writes: Re. “The Mungo-meter: Bias can be a matter of judgement” (27 June, item 2). Finally my years of protestations of accuracy have been vindicated! The Mungo-meter exists, and Mungos around the world rejoice that the world that we have been recognised for the empirical, unbiased and impartial lords of judgement that we are. Thank you, Crikey, and thank you Mungo MacCallum.

David Flint:

Mike Martin writes: Re. “David Flint: Healthy bias beats an ideological monopoly” (Friday, item 5). David Flint writes that “When the service of those robust columnists, former Labor minister Peter Walsh and former Nationals senator John Stone were removed from the Financial Review, the result was that almost no conservative commentators regularly appeared in any of our leading newspapers”. He must be trying to read the Fin via its web site. If he reverts to the classic (hard copy) edition he will find lavish servings of Michael Baume, Des Moore, John Roskam, Ken Phillips and Sinclair Davidson, to name just a few regulars. He has apparently also missed Miranda Devine and Gerard Henderson in the SMH, and on Fridays, Henderson on Radio National Breakfast. (Of course he may not consider that Miranda Devine’s efforts to impersonate Ann Coulter count as serious comment, and in that I would, for once, agree with him.)

Steven McKiernan writes: Dear Crikey, you do know I was only joking when I asked for more David Flint? How can you let him get away with egregious statement: “the result was that almost no conservative commentators regularly appeared in any of our leading newspapers.” WTF?! The Oz was dripping in neo-con libertarianism throughout the late 90s. Over here in the West there was nothing but conservatives lambasting the unions, the blacks, the wogs and reffos. Someone has replaced Flint’s prescription with an email account: they should hang their head in shame.

They have the internet on computers, now?:

Garry Muratore writes: Re. “The PM leaves the backdoor open” (Friday, item 14). It was Homer Simpson’s great quote “They have the internet on computers, now? ” that came to mind when I read Christian Kerr’s article on the PM’s website last Friday. The Lib’s still don’t get this “internet thing” so I can’t see how the public can take them seriously over important issues such as broadband infrastructure. My local member (a Lib) is using his site to poll the public on what government department is important to them, last count a total of 8 votes. Click to send him an e-mail and he responds (if at all weeks later) via the post, and my favourite, right click to copy his signature – a very unprofessional site. But what really takes the cake is member for McEwan and Tourism Minister Fran Bailey. Maybe it was a feeling of guilt over first class trips to London to rescue our tourism image, that she has saved money on the design of her website by using either local primary school kids or a Dummies Guide To Web Design. It is truly a “cyber-shocker”.

Census and religion:

Paul Gilchrist writes: Re. “Census debunks some religious myths” (Friday, item 19). Charles Richardson points to a decline in the number of people in the census who identify with a religious belief. This is true, but the numbers are still very high: 70% identify with a religion, 19% no religion and 11% no answer. Charles Richardson agrees with Cardinal Pell, who says religious people should attend church at least weekly, but I think he would agree that an overwhelming number of people still have a religious belief, even after many centuries of scepticism. Why? Are they lapsed atheists, or are they just not impressed with the promise of a guilt-free, happy and peaceful world without religion? What pressures were on them on the night they filled in the census?

The will (and ethics) of broader Australia:

Philip Carman writes: Contrary to Martin Gordon’s assessment (Thursday, comments), the present Coalition is not competent and nor has it produced a surplus. Not only has it failed to pay off the massive debt that is the unfunded Commonwealth Public Service super/pension fund, it has presided over its staggering growth to more than $100 billion. All this while selling off tens of $billions of assets – it’s hardly the stuff of responsible economic management. It’s almost Whitlamesque – but without the flair or imagination! And the myth that conservatives are better at managing money only continues because by and large the majority of economic commentators are conservative. Most informed and intelligent thinkers have more interesting stuff to consider than money! But, as someone whose 25 years’ experience in the money business has engendered very little regard for the capabilities of most conservative business people and economists (with a few notable exceptions) I can also say that by most measures of value, as opposed to price, this country has not prospered greatly under either the conservative government of Howard, Keating, Hawke or Fraser. We may have more TVs and cars but less quality of life (especially in terms of time to enjoy it), less security and less sense of well-being. Even Howard would attest to that – why else does he hanker for the ‘50s, so? Yet it is the narrow economic and legalistic thinking of Howard as both PM and Treasurer that is legend, while Keating is remembered as having some vision and for making a great contribution in both superannuation and indigenous affairs. But he lacked the fortitude to serve society ahead of business and would probably now agree that he was blinded a little by the business gurus who were less gifted than he imagined them to be. Today, so many economic statistics are twisted and tortured so as to produce the desired confession (eg. unemployment is no longer calculated with any semblance of reality, given that those who work for one hour are counted as “employed”) and blatant lies are considered to be an acceptable tool of political reality. We know we are governed by a cynical, self-serving executive but are we also aware that it simply reflects what it believes is the will (and ethics) of broader Australia. Perhaps they’re right? Certainly some of your correspondents tend to confirm that view.

The prince and the GG:

John Bevan writes: Re. Friday’s editorial. What a beat-up in your editorial! A royal says he would like the job and you have it as an accepted event. I cannot see that anyone of any substance in Australia thinks it is in any way a good idea. Your editorials are consistently pointless – why not save us the bother of reading them.

Smoking:

Stephen Hall, executive director, Australian Council On Smoking & Health, writes: Re. “A smokers’ guide to friendly places” (Friday, item 20). Before desperate smokers start converging on WA from the east, there is need to clarify the information published on Crikey. Your writer on smoking regulations in Western Australia is way out of date. He suggested that “from 1.1.2007, smoking permitted in single room of a multi-room venue”. We aren’t sure where he got that from, maybe he couldn’t read the correct information through the haze of smoke he was sitting in. The truth of the matter is that the WA hospitality sector has had smoke free regulations for enclosed areas since July 2006. The definition of what is enclosed is: “A public place is an enclosed public place if it has a ceiling or roof and is greater than 50% enclosed by walls, or other vertical structures or coverings”. And for all the gloom and doom merchants in the east – the WA hospitality is booming and reports suggest that the fact that pubs are more popular now they are smoke free.

Glenn Dyer:

Jason Atwal writes: Re. “Nine’s passing parade: Where are they now?” (Friday, item 6). I have written to you in the past about Glenn Dyer and obviously you haven’t listened to myself or others. I am sick to death of Glenn and his Channel Nine/Packer/Alexander bashing. It is really wearing thin. I am sure that if he did the same exercise with Channel 7 and 10 that was in Friday’s Crikey he would find a similar list of people who have left or been sacked. No wonder he no longer works for Nine!

Buffett:

Bruce Graham (no relation to Benjamin Graham) writes: Re. “Another global depression? Not likely, it’s not the 1930s” (28 June, item 16). It was Warren Buffett’s oft acknowledged mentor, Benjamin Graham who realised some years before the depression that “In the short term the market is a voting machine, in the long term it is a weighing machine”. It is a famous quote. Buffett is in his 70s, and learned his trade from Benjamin Graham after WW2.

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