The Haneef fiasco:

Ivan Matthews writes: Re. “Haneef, Andrews and the web of hypocrisy” (yesterday, item 2). Is it me or is becoming a father for the first time not as good as it used to be? Greg Barns starts to highlight the reasons why the good Doctor may wish to return to India, but completely neglects to note that he was originally trying to leave our shores on July 2 to catch up with his new born daughter. Does it not occur to anyone, especially the Minister for Immigration who finds it suspicious that he wanted to leave the country – pronto – that he might just be excited to be a Dad and want to meet his little girl or has the Cabinet been so busy demonising those of the Muslim faith that they couldn’t possibly believe that Muslims would even have emotions? Dump the Terrorism laws; they are affront to Australian values, democracy and justice. Then dump the Government who introduced them and the gutless opposition that supported them.

Elizabeth Vorrath writes: I am concerned about the impact of the Haneef travesty, on the many decent Aussies who happen to be Moslem, and have relatives in Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Indonesia – or even Britain? The word is that many are now terrified. They worry that some distant cousin back in their homeland might take it into his/her head to do or say something nasty or stupid. Can they expect to have the AFP banging on their doors and whisking them off to solitary confinement for an indefinite period and without charge? Can they suddenly be found, on the strength of consanguinity and the sociability attached to normal family ties, to be no longer of Good Character? If this happens, is there anything anyone can to about it any more? Has the government considered that their Haneef adventure might actually have put people of good will, of any faith, right off mentioning to the authorities that they have worries about someone being a terrorist? This repercussion would be directly counter-productive to the intent of the new, draconian Anti-Terrorism laws. I am reminded of something about a little boy somewhere, crying “Wolf!”

Geoff Croker writes: The issue for Kevin Andrews and John Howard to now consider is not whether Andrews should resign and/or apologise to both Haneef and the Australian people but what India thinks. This is a nation with 130 million Muslims. If only 0.01% take umbrage then that’s 13,000 potential terrorists now looking at Australia. This is exactly what George Bush did not understand. If Kevin Andrews resigns it will not bring resolution to such a stupid act which appears to be officially sanctioned by our government for political gain. Andrews must publicly admit that he was wrong. Then Howard needs to propose amendments to any acts that relate to the case so this cannot happen again. John Howard needs to talk to Haneef with the hope he will make a public utterance in India saying it was all a bad mistake but he held no grievances with the people of Australia.

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Greg Wood writes: So Kevin Andrews damns Dr Haneef if he does or if he doesn’t. Take away a visa and the Doctor must leave, the doctor leaves as requested and it heightens the arse with ears level of suspicion. Here we go yet again in the long line of non-accountable actions by Howard govt ministers and bureaucrats. Will they get away with it? Who knows, but what we do need is for Rudd and Co to stop being frightened by the Howard media bleaters and actually take a stand on an issue that is crucial to the defence of justice in this country.

Diana Simmonds writes: On the ABC news yesterday evening, Kevin Andrews says he has “nothing to apologise for”. Well actually, yes he has. He’s a federal minister and he should apologise for his slavish use of Grecian 2000 (or maybe he’s borrowed the barnet from Ray Martin). Please investigate.

Robert Molyneux writes: Andrews is right! An Indian coming from a city called Bangs Galore must be treated with great suspicion!

Faris, Haneef and Dancing With The Stars:

Solicitor Paul Bullock writes: Re. “Political interference: blatant and damning” (yesterday, item 3). If you must continue to publish the remarks of Peter Faris, please remove the letters “QC” from his articles – they carry a connotation of understanding and respect for the law which is clearly lacking from his politicised and logically incoherent pieces in Crikey. Without those letters, his articles are more easily identified as the words of an individual with an obvious political agenda. With them, they masquerade as informed and objective legal commentary, which they certainly are not.

Eric Mack writes: Surely Peter Faris has got it wrong. If a Federal Court reinstates Haneef’s visa, Howard won’t sack anybody. Certainly not Andrews. To do so would be to admit Howard’s own complicity in an outrageous injustice and a questionable Cabinet. Instead we’ll get another load of flannel about information too secret to reveal even to a Federal Court, and the whole show will be shifted to the backburner while Little John finds other decoy ducks to shoot at, with the media as gun-carriers. Then, perhaps, when and if there’s a profit in it or to add to the confusion, Andrews might fall on his own sword. But not soon, I’d bet.

Glen Parkes writes: Peter Faris says the left was bound to get something right sooner or later. Not sure I agree with you Pete. Children overboard, Weapons of Mass Destruction, The Iraq War, Global Warming and now Haneef. It seems Peter that yourself, and Howard and his band of merry charming misfits (read fools), get a lot of things wrong. Let me restate this. Name one thing from the list above you have got right. You supported Haneef’s detention Peter, so cut the crap, take some blame and go back to demonising those folk who aren’t like you.

Gerard McEwen writes: With regard to the matter of Dr Haneef, I have been mightily impressed by the gyrations of the voluble Peter Faris QC. I look forward to his appearance on the next series of Dancing With The Stars.

A damning indictment:

Tony Kevin writes: Re. “Prejudging Haneef” (yesterday, item 14). Congratulations to Crikey’s item today – Sophie Black and Jane Nethercote’s incisive compilation of key public statements about the Haneef affair over the past three weeks by our political leaders, senior law and police officials, and in news stories… What a damning indictment of official cruelty and incompetence it offers – out of their own mouths. But should I be surprised?

We don’t all agree with you, Crikey:

Meredith Jackson writes: This campaigning for Rudd stuff goes on just day after day after day. It’s an insult to your readers. We don’t all agree with you, ok? Could you mix it up a little, maybe? Cut the undergraduate snigger?

Too much faith in the Australian voting public:

An ALP insider writes: Re. “Green preferences could swing the Senate” (yesterday, item 9). Charles Richardson places too little faith in the discrimination of the Australian voting public. He writes that if the Howard government is returned, it means it will probably also keep its Senate majority. I don’t think this is the case at all. I don’t write Howard off at being re-elected, despite the polls, but I think the Liberal Senate vote will plummet and we will see more Labor and Greens senators than might otherwise be the case. Perhaps even one or two more Family Firsts. Howard badly misjudged the Australian people when he ruthlessly exploited his unexpected majority in the Senate after the 2004 election. His ramming through of the Telstra sale and then WorkChoices have been as popular as a pregnant blowie at a barbie. I think Australians like it that the Senate can give the Government the shits. It appeals to our larrikinism, and I think most of us don’t like the way the Senate’s review role has been ignored by Howard. I sincerely hope a Rudd Labor government is elected but it’s no certainty. But whether Labor or Liberal wins Government, I hope the Government of the day has a minority in the Senate because it will require an otherwise haughty Executive to negotiate to achieve its aims. In this way, the aspirations of most Australians – not just those who vote for the Government – are best served.

The C7 case cost taxpayers $3 per head:

Andrew Lewis writes: Re. “The C7 case: Driven more by ego than commonsense” (yesterday, item 20). Justice Ron Sackville estimated that the C7 case would cost somewhere north of $200M, and Glenn Dyer sympathises with shareholders who will have to bear the costs for this action. Methinks Glenn may have missed someone who had everything to lose and nothing to gain from this farce, namely the Australian taxpayer. Perhaps your correspondents could correct me if I’m wrong, but these “legal costs” will all be written off as business expenses subsidised by the taxpayer to the tune of 30% ($60M and counting). Theoretically at least the shareholders had a chance of gaining something out of this. No taxpayer stood a chance of gaining anything, and each of us will contribute $3 or so per head. Does the judge have the capacity to consider this legal action “vexatious” and possibly disallow tax deductions (for the plaintiff of course)? If not, perhaps some legislation should be considered to allow judicial discretion to declare an action “undeductable” for tax purposes. I frankly don’t care how much it cost the shareholders. I am extremely concerned about how much the taxpayers are ultimately slugged for this one.

No smooth leadership transition for Wran:

Andrew Thomas writes: Re. “Factional triumph in the seamless Brumby changeover” (yesterday, item 7). Norman Abjorensen’s point about the factions delivering Neville Wran a smooth leadership transition is slightly misleading. Wran was elected leader after a split in the Right. The old guard in caucus – Catholic types who had remained with the party during the DLP Split – stuck with then leader Pat Hills. Wran’s sliver of right-wing support came from younger MPs and upper house MPs appointed by the right-wing party boss John Ducker. In a deal with Ducker, the left’s Jack Ferguson was responsible for delivering most of the votes to Wran in return for the deputy’s job. The party room vote was actually a tie but Wran had one more primary vote – enough to get home.

There must be some brilliant drugs in Singapore:

Roger Cooper writes: There must be some brilliant drugs still available in Singapore if Graham Hayward (yesterday, comments) can rave about “the honesty of the government” there. Then again maybe the media there never tell him about opposition politicians being bankrupted via shonky defamation cases. The tame media probably haven’t informed either about the nepotism in his fabulous little corner of paradise.

Jason Thomson writes: It was Lenin who described Soviet-friendly foreigners as “useful idiots”, a term, given the antecedents of Singapore’s long-ruling People’s Action Party, might be appropriate to Graham Hayward’s description of his adopted island home as “close to perfect.” What Hayward neglects to mention is his senior role at the Singapore International Chamber of Commerce which, lo and behold, boasts “Virtually all of Singapore’s GHLC’s (government-linked companies) are members of the Chamber, including the Development Bank of Singapore Ltd, Keppel Corporation Ltd, PSA Corporation Ltd, Singapore Power Ltd, Singapore Telecommunications Limited, Singapore Technologies Pte Limited, Singapore Airlines Ltd and Temasek Holdings (Pte) Ltd.” Might they be some of the same GLCs ultimately run by Lee Kuan Yew’s daughter-in-law Ho Ching at Temasek, who have been busily buying the Australian farm? Then again, full disclosure, like democracy and human rights, is something Singapore doesn’t specialise in, as Hayward, a recent executive director of the said chamber, seems to have embraced …

Yee-haw, Texas has affordable houses:

Christine Hyde writes: Re. Housing affordability (yesterday, comments). The go-ahead city, Houston, Texas, pop 6,000,000, has affordable houses, prices held down by an annual property tax of almost 3% of the value. Houses do not gain value over the years but depreciate and after 30 years might as well be bulldozed, the land is more saleable without the ageing house that does not have the now essential two storeys, three-car garage, four bathrooms, theatre and optical fibre that you can build for around $300,000. You more or less get your money back if you sell a house that is not too old. Houston spreads ever wider over farmland and plantation forest with few restrictions and six and four-lane roads follow with somewhat greater speed, to say the least, than the road to Frankston. From there rush hour is more or less manageable to and from the large industries that are dotted about the city. Except for school buses there is no public transport but there are plenty of affordable used cars. Developments for low-income earners are arbitrarily placed by the County in unoccupied paddocks between existing developments near schools and shopping centres; the developer tells the unimpressed neighbourhood that the new houses are for fire-fighters and schoolteachers. This overview describes the situation of outer suburbia, other than the trailer homes that are chronically in the paths of tornados. Areas closer to downtown have had long term poverty and now have refugees from New Orleans. The people there have difficulty accessing the beltways, there is very little development and often you see Longhorns grazing in swampy pastures. There are other more solid, older established suburbs around universities and the medical centre, but nothing much dates before 1912. A surge up the Gulf of Mexico drowned some thousands in Galveston so Houston became the main city when the population relocated further up Buffalo Bayou. Hurricane Rita, in 2005, would have annihilated areas of south Houston. Tropical Storm Alison, 2004, dumped 30 inches in a day, trucks floated down highways. Houstonians do not have an overdeveloped sense of permanence about their houses. The population also comprises the tycoons in River Oaks who frequently replace their dwellings and the folk who live among the petrochemical industries down south whose homes are corroded by miasmas. The property tax applies to one and all with very few exceptions. The fact is if you want affordable houses you cannot use them as investments, only as taxed shelters.

A bad idea to let a Sydney organization run a Melbourne newspaper:

Alan Morison writes: George Soropos (yesterday, comments) seems to go along with the Fairfax management line that both capital cities are best served by having broadsheets that substantially carry the same content. In the thinking city, Melbourne, this is not seen as being such a good idea. What next, George, one Canberra bureau? Two points of view will always be better than one, although if you live and work in Sydney and therefore assume you know it all, that may be a difficult principle to absorb. Perhaps George needs to spend some time in Melbourne to understand this, and thus shake off his petty paranoia. The differences between The Age and the SMH go back a long way. I can remember SMH executives being riled in the late 1970’s when The Age was included in a volume listing the 25 best newspapers in the world, while the SMH was left out. I can also remember commissioning Blanche D’ Alpuget to interview former Prime Minister Bob Hawke for The Age, allowing the SMH to share costs and publish the interview, then being told by someone at the SMH how fortunate The Age was that the SMH allowed us to publish it. Why? Because the skewed view is that anything half-decent simply has to originate in Sydney. The fact that the rump of the Syme family sold out to Fairfax and that both papers are generally below their best seems to indicate what a bad idea it is to let a Sydney organization run a Melbourne newspaper.

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