Enough is enough on Haneef:

Bob Smith writes: Re. “Haneef verballed? It’s evidence overboard” (Friday, item 2). Enough is enough. If the federal government wants people to let the judicial process handle the matters alleged against Dr Haneef, they should clear the way for him to have a fair trial. I began by trusting that the AFP and the courts would handle the case with fairness and despatch. The actions of the federal government have put that trust to rout. If they want to learn lessons from the case the government should also ask: First, if he really is a risk did they know enough about him in advance, and if not why not? Second, if he turns out not to be a risk, what do they need to do to give him a fair go to rebuild his career? Someone in the government might also like to think about the consequences of official ignorance of major Asian languages. In some of the weekend press “sources” were quoted as saying that Dr Haneef was communicating with people in Urdu and that it was hard to understand. Given his background it is not surprising that he used Urdu. It is after all a major language in India, with a justly admired literary canon. If Australia is to hold up its end in the necessary struggle against terrorism, more official in-depth knowledge of major Asian cultures than has been displayed in the last few days is not an optional extra. It will show that we are really serious.

John Parkes writes: We read in the papers that the Magistrate who granted bail to Dr Haneef has not seen all the evidence. That may well be so, but could it be because the evidence has yet to be manufactured?

John Willoughby writes: Re. “Yet again, Kevin Andrews drops the ball” (Friday, item 9). Surely a judge would find it easier to link Kevin Andrews with a campaign to instil fear into Australians about terrorism and boost the Liberals’ re-election chances than to link Dr Haneef to terrorism!

Shirley Colless writes: As the Minister for Immigration, Kevin Andrews may justly claim responsibility for breaking the nexus between too many immigrants and not enough houses.

Surprise that the poll swing wasn’t bigger:

John Fraser writes: Re. “4.5% gain: Morgan Poll puts government on the up” (Friday, item 1). Anyone who has listened to talkback radio lately will be very surprised by the latest Morgan poll. Surprised that the swing wasn’t bigger that is. I’m personally amazed the swing back is — so far — limited to 4.5% I don’t know whether Haneef’s intentions were good or bad. Only he knows that. I do know that I can’t stand lynch mobs and I like people to be dealt with using due process as I imagine most Crikey readers do. I’m not naive enough to think this opinion puts me with the majority though and I am relieved we haven’t seen a 2001 style rush of support to the government — yet!

Gil Lambert writes: What’s the bet that the poll boost gained from Dr Haneef’s arrest will turn into a headlong dive now that the Attorney-General, Immigration Minister, and the AFP have now all been shown to be totally inept. Also, I reckon I’d have a real good bet against Mr Keelty keeping his job as head of the AFP for more than two weeks if a new Labor government is installed.

Resurrecting the Senate:

Bill Edwards writes: Re. “Time to uncork the enormous potential of the Senate” (Friday, item 6). Klaas Woldring wrote expressing views about a role that could be played by the Senate in effectively restoring to the Australian parliament some semblance of what amateur citizens, like me, think the Westminster system of government was meant to deliver. Applause, from me at least. How great would it be if Crikey readers would create such a debate about this hypothesis that a groundswell would arise in the wider Australian community with sufficient vigour to achieve the Woldring objective? First though, we have experienced more than just a fleeting period when such a force existed in the Australian Senate. The Don Chipp-led Democrats did form a major third bloc with absolute capability to influence, for the better, Australian parliamentary democracy. This did not prevail or last. It seems we must ask ourselves: 1) what was the actual result for Australian parliamentary democracy when an identifiable, organised and well-led party (The Australian Democrats) controlled the Senate? 2) Did this put significant pressure on the two major parties during this time? If YES — What were the measurable positive outcomes? If NO — How did the party in government overcome the problem for it? And, how did the party in opposition help to thwart the Democrats’ efforts to introduce lasting reforms? I think, for what that’s worth, this “Woldring Objective” is spot on, precisely what we need for Australia to achieve significant political reform. I doubt that it will get up without a great deal of realistic debate. Who better than the Crikey subscribers to lead such a debate?

Ailie Bruins writes: The sentiment of Klaas Woldring, about the potential for smaller parties in the Senate to expose governments to greater scrutiny, is an excellent solution for reversing the decline in Australia’s democratic process brought on by the dominance of the two major parties. The problem is, how do you get this idea out to the electorate? We have a media who give minor parties next to no exposure and only seem able to report what is fed to them by the enormous PR machines of the major parties. This results in an uninformed electorate who go to the ballot uninformed and we get more of the same and less diversity. A good example is the loss of the talented Democrat upper house MLC in the last NSW election — Dr Arthur Chesterfield-Evans.

Graham Tappin writes: One possible reform to the Senate, and one that is cost-effective and simple, is to ensure that no Senator is ever appointed as a Minister of the Crown. There is something inherently wrong with a Senator/Minister not being subjected to the same pressure of the will of the voters as are those in the lower house.

CASA and the cone of silence:

Stan van de Wiel writes: Re. “CASA calls for the cone of silence” (Friday, item 4). Am I glad I reported the deliberate Fuel Contamination issue back in 1999 whilst the new rules didn’t apply? They could have thrown the book at me. But then again looking back that’s just what they did, taking away my investment and livelihood and that of 30 employees and only because I had inadvertently exposed extensive cover-up by our buro-rats. This by using a Compulsory Incident Reporting system… It is great to note though that after 7 years and a damning report by the ATSB, CASA still hasn’t got around to ensuring fuel quality or for that matter taking the perpetrators to court. But then the annual turnover of Exxon Mobil is a little in excess of the Australian budget. So what does a little Safety matter between associates, as long as the pay-off is good. It would appear that Bruce Byron, not unlike Dick Smith is hitting his head against an immovable object – bureaucracy! Ben Sandilands wrote: “Some of those experts say it renders their participation in delegated safety functions useless, because they will not be able to criticise or even critique CASA without its prior approval.” What’s the difference? Previously they just made life unbearable and removed privileges – a real world class safety regulator! Isn’t it great that most pilots respect life, especially their own!

Labor is not a party of reform:

Martin Gordon writes: Re. “Margin notes for John Winston Howard: The Biography” (Friday, item 8). The media will feast on the Howard biography and the conjecture about who said what etc. The failure of reform in the era of the 1970s and 1980s was bipartisan. In fact it is surprising anything much occurred at all, the Labor Party as opposition opposed everything including banking deregulation and all the deregulatory measures that it later enacted in government (changes which are to be commended, as they made sense including enterprise bargaining). Malcolm Fraser was too timid in view of the circumstances that brought him to power, and it is ironic that those on the left who laud him now but despised/hated/detested him then. Since 1996 the ALP in opposition has opposed everything in the way of reform, and most of its current proposals such as prices and workplace changes are reversals not reforms. In many ways the contemporary reactionary party is the Labor Party; it is not a party of reform.

The failed state of Iraq:

John Craig, Centre for Policy and Development Systems, writes: Re. “Who’s running scared in the war on terror?” (Friday, item 14). Guy Rundle wrote: “With the public singularly failing to be terrified by the very sporadic terror attacks – in western cities at least – sections of the Right have been forced to do all the work of being terrified for all of us”. I suspect that if the public aren’t seriously worried, they aren’t paying attention. There was an article the other day suggesting that Iraq has become a “failed state” — because there is no framework within which the institutions of government that are being created can develop legitimacy in the community’s eyes — and that ethnic and tribal conflicts have thus no means of resolution. In this (created) situation, Al Qaeda’s slogan “Islam is the answer” (ie. to create unity) will be heard by many — because it has actually become true. The problem with this is (a) Islam is not “the answer” in terms of setting up an effective government or creating the basis for long term economic success (see Discouraging Pointless Extremism) and (b) many people also intuitively know this. Thus there will presumably be really serious wars in the Middle East — in which many millions could die. And the West’s unavoidable need for the region’s oil will require that it attempts to stabilise the situation, and (unless the standards of diplomacy all around suddenly become fantastic) the West will thus attract terrorist attacks in which thousands will die (presuming Islamists don’t gain access to nuclear weapons in which case hundreds of thousands or millions will die). A little public “worry” about what is happening would seem quite rational.

Attacking the wrong gulf:

Nic Maclellan writes: Re. “As Tony once said to Rupert, take me to your leader” (Friday, item 5). Jeff Sparrow says that in “one of the more remarkable statistics from the Iraq invasion… all 175 Murdoch papers serendipitously decided that war would be rather a good thing.” In fact, in the lead-up to the invasion, one paper owned by Murdoch’s News Limited — the Post Courier in Papua New Guinea – issued an editorial opposing the invasion. This reflected widespread opposition in the Pacific to the flouting of international law – in February 2003, at a time when millions of people were protesting in London, New York, Melbourne, Jakarta etc, there were also small anti-war rallies in Noumea, Apia, Dili and Suva. The concern in Papua New Guinea also reflects the power of the media – during the 1991 attack on Iraq after Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait, there were reports from PNG’s Gulf Province of food hoarding and people moving from their villages to sheltered caves — they’d heard on the radio the Americans were about to invade the Gulf! Memories of World War Two, when thousands of islanders died as the United States island-hopped through the Pacific in the war against Japan, still have a historic resonance.

MacBank’s millionaires:

Ange Kenos writes: Re. “MacBank’s millionaires can’t ignore shareholder revolt” (Friday, item 25). As usual, the financial writings of Stephen Mayne both illuminate and intrigue, and for that we must all thank you. But sadly, his words fall on deaf ears if the only ones who listen are the shareholders of MacBank who are not happy with the games that their directors play, and the rest of us who care about good old Aussie values of fairness and decency. If only we could force some serious politicians to take heed and ask the right questions. How can anyone take pay/wages/salary whatever we call it of over $30 million every year or $500,000 plus each and every week when there are so many battlers struggling to pay off their home loans, their transport costs and just to survive. In each and every one of these areas one of the major Australian corporate beneficiaries is the very same MacBank. And it might not be so bad if the profits were used to help out charities, to build children’s parks, to establish kindergartens for the struggling young families and nursing homes for those who are older. But no. While you and I look to cereal for breakfast, the directors of the Board of MacBank probably begin with oysters kilpatrick and a bottle of Dom Perignon 1967, followed by what we would call a banquet. But which they would argue is but a snack of no significance, just as they treat their shareholders. It is the mark of self importance and non belief in one’s staff and shareholders when MacBank refuse to divulge the proxies prior to the AGM, and then, making matters worse, refuse to have a media conference after all the details are known. Or are they? Are there elements of the annual report that are not as clear as they should be? Certainly if you go to the average report of almost every major company you will struggle to clearly identify how much they spent on entertainment, and why. Or how much the directors have taken in fringe benefits, in expensive free meals and drinks, in wonderful gifts, in travel to exotic locations for alleged meetings and so called briefings. If our Federal parliamentarians were truly representative of the majority of the people then they would act accordingly. They would ensure that directors were fully open and divulged far more than we see today. And they would strengthen the power of the shareholder to ask questions and receive reasonable responses. Who knows — maybe the federal election might even bring some such MPs into the public arena.

Inspector Rex:

Steven McKiernan writes: Re. “Germany reacts badly to le Tour’s drug bust” (Friday, item 20). Thomas Hunter wrote: “If those suspicions reach the Germans, there could be a few programming gaps this weekend. Best dust-off a few pre-loved episodes of Inspector Rex in readiness.” Mr Hunter, the Germans have enough current TV production without dusting off and repeat imports. Inspector Rex is made in Austria, not Germany.

Meat is murder:

David Donohue writes: Re. “State of the Planet (Friday, item 17). Crikey wrote: “Meat is murder. A kilogram of beef is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions and other pollution than driving for three hours while leaving all the lights on back home.” But it tastes so much better than exhaust gas.

Who gives a Tosca?:

John Taylor writes: Re. “Cross words over another howler” (Friday, item 22). See Glenn, anyone who knew stuff all about Opera got “Tosca” very quickly. Only smart a-ses who knew every opera Rossini wrote had any problem.


Friday’s typos (house pedant Charles Richardson casts an eye over the howlers in the last edition of Crikey): Item 12: “… it is they that are in the sites of Howard and Brough’s intervention.” Could be “are in the sights”, or “are the sites”, but not “are in the sites”.

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