Haneef, “elites” and Professor Flint:

Brendon Hedgcock writes: Re: “It’s the elites who debase the law” (yesterday, Crikey) Enough already from David Flint. How long do we have to be subjected to his rants? First off how can the Government and others in positions of authority continually deride others as “elites”? They are the ones in power making the decisions, so aren’t they the elites? Isn’t Flint himself a classic example of the elite? Secondly no-one says we shouldn’t have control over our borders. The basic point for immigration and criminal justice is that we should treat people fairly and have a defined independent process with checks and balances. It may be unfashionable but I would rather five people are given the benefit of the doubt by an appeals court, than one innocent person be failed. Two new words for David Flint — empathy and compassion.

Jenny Morris writes: Goodness gracious me! What a spray from Professor David Flint, who presumably needs to hang on to the meaningless pejorative “the elites” in order to promote his book. There are so many points to take issue with, in such a poorly written and reasoned morass; one hardly knows where to start. I’m only surprised there aren’t some capitals, underlined and italicised words, and many exclamation marks, like the nutty letters one sometimes receives complaining about something or other. Or did Crikey do some editing? On the issue of “immigration control”, one only needs refer to Richard Farmer’s sensible piece (yesterday, item 1). The Privy Council refers to “the State”; Prof Flint refers to “the government”. What is of concern is when “the government” forgets that it is meant to govern in the interests of all, and not for political advantage, especially when the liberty, livelihood and reputation of an individual such as Dr Haneef are concerned. We could all be Dr Haneef, in one way or another. Why does Crikey print poorly written nonsense like this?

Mark Perica writes: Thank God we have those two knockabout blokes, Alexander Downer and David Flint, to save us from those awful latte sipping elites who debase the rule of law by insisting that there must be some evidence against an accused person before s/he is locked up or deported. Flint’s argument is entirely unconvincing and shrill. I cannot remember any article by Mr Flint when the rule of law and the rights of an Australian citizen, David Hicks, were egregiously debased but we wouldn’t want to “fall on the ground, grovel and eat dirt” would we?

Mike Martin writes: David Flint is absolutely right. These elites go offshore to study un-Australian subjects like law, economics and international relations, aspire to board positions on exclusive bodies like the World Jurists Association and the English Speaking Union, and come back here to criticise and try to wreck proper operation of the rule of law in this country. Congratulations David, for speaking out for the rights of ordinary, common Australians like you and me.

Luke Forsyth writes: I always get a chuckle when I hear right wing conservative’s rail against the “Elites”, and almost as frequently, the “intelligentsia”. Such pejorative terms clearly delineate our society into two groups. I always wonder whether any consideration is given by ramblers such as Prof Flint et al. to the antonyms of the pejorative classifications they use, which presumably they classify them outside of. Does Prof. Flint really classify himself (to use an antonym of Elite) as proletariat or working class? Or have users of the phrase intelligentsia considered its antonym — dunce. Oh, and Professor? Can I have some of what you’re smokin’ comrade?

Kevin Andrews – to sacrifice or not:

Martyn Smith writes: Re. “Evidence is in: Kevin Andrews must be sacrificed” (yesterday, item 1). Richard Farmer yesterday got it right when he stated that Kevin Andrews should be sacrificed. Of course Andrews should go, under the Westminster system of Ministerial responsibility we once had in Australia, ministers accept responsibility for their actions. It wouldn’t be a sacrifice, more like a sacking for gross incompetence. It should be remembered that our public service has been heavily politicised by this government, so it’s not good enough for the ministers to try and hide behind “advice they’ve received”. Was it unbiased advice, or was it ‘advice’ these ministers wanted to hear from their brow beaten underlings or maybe it was via the resident (unaccountable) staffers they strategically placed in their departments? There is more to this matter than just the anti-terror laws or a twit of a minister. The whole system is suspect, probably institutionally corrupt.

Noel Tarlinton writes: You got it wrong regarding Kevin Andrews (justification for charges been laid and cancelling visa) — will the person on the Crikey staff responsible for suggestion Andrews be sacrificed, now them self, be sacrificed? The doctor is not denying the emails. Can Crikey do a poll of its subscribers and ask do the general public have more trust or respect in the Media (including Crikey) or the Federal Police?

Viggo Pedersen writes: Is whoever interpreted the chat room files a native speaker of Urdu? Are they totally familiar with the social and family norms of the society of which Dr Haneef is part?

It’s not Hannef, it’s the law:

David Havyatt writes: Re. “Bartlett: Don’t sack the minister, change the migration act” (yesterday, item 12). “Hear! Hear!” to Andrew Bartlett’s call that in our post Haneef wash-up we need to look at the legislation not the actions of the Minister. But if anything he doesn’t go far enough in his scope. This Government has been quite notable for its transfer of power from independent statutory bodies (including courts) to the executive. They will justify almost anything by the line that something should be a Ministerial power because matters should be decided by elected people. But as we know, this just makes all decisions political. And even if they aren’t actually political, they taint the decision with the thought that it might be political. That’s where we are with Andrews – he acted to revoke the visa on evidence he claims he still can’t release because it will compromise an investigation. What investigation we don’t know – except that it is not a plot to blow up a Gold Coast building because Mick Keelty has told us this. And of course for Kevin Andrews telling us the information on which he made the decision might still not save his skin – after all this remains the Government that told us children were thrown overboard and there were WMDs in Iraq.

Richard Lawrie writes: It is not Haneef; it is the laws that make such an event possible. Everyone now can be in fear of someone making a case against them and being incarcerated for as long as the government chooses. It is now rule by fear! Governments who make such laws need to be feared and disposed of as soon as humanly possible. Words can’t describe the impact of these laws.

Are you mob all lefties?:

Beverley Prescott writes: Are you mob all lefties? I suppose you would rather a bomb to go off under your seat before anyone bothers to check these suspects who enter this county? All you do is knock the Government from what I can see.

The trouble with Triple J:

Owen Maher writes: Re. “The trouble with Triple J” (yesterday, item 19). A few things Michael Tunn fails to point out in his attack on his former employer: Yes, the Hottest 100 number One are usually also played by commercial radio. But usually only after Triple J has been playing them for at least a couple of months. And, Triple J has an excellent internet stream and podcast service constantly available. I myself know a large number of people who use both of these. I suspect they are not included in the local ratings figures.

Tim Mackey writes: I agree completely with Michael Tunn’s comments. I have been a Triple J/Double J listener since day one and still am. But it’s getting worse. Some gripes: A very tight playlist, with many tracks not as good as those played on commercial radio, as anyone with two ears can tell; the ‘cool’ issue, why is it cool to play a Regina Spektor cover of a John Lennon song but not the original, many people 18-24 grew up on the Beatles and play them at home sometimes, they do not listen only to alternative or indie music, let alone the weird collection chosen by Triple J, they listen to everything and anything, categorisation is bad anyway, and Triple J have invented a category known only to them. They rarely announce what the songs are before they play them, only afterwards. This is extremely annoying, and unfathomable. What’s wrong with saying as a matter of course, in advance, as the Commercials do what they’re going to play? The morning show is their worst ever; whoever thought of the ‘Humpty Doo’ thing should be banished there.

Ian Nearhos writes: Triple J is a breath of fresh air compared to commercial radio. In addition to music they have great shows on covering areas such as science and current affairs. They also push new Australian music and bands more than any mainstream station that I know of. Commercial and mainstream music assaults us everywhere from TV shows, to ads, to background music at work, to cafes, to pubs, to shopping centres and the list goes on. I love that I can turn on Triple J and hear something new, and different, and often Australian. The fact is Triple J breaks new songs and artists before they hit the mainstream. These are then picked up by the commercial stations anyhow. So in reality Tunny, Triple J already often plays the ‘mainstream’ music you’re talking about, but they do it six months before the rest of the country catches on.

Julien Marr writes: Not sure if I call myself ‘young and hip’ any more (27 and expanding) however going from a dedicated… almost fanatical listener to a sporadic browser of Triple J has been quite sad for me. The thing that annoys the most is the on-air talent… or lack thereof. Merrick and Rosso in the late 90s, Adam and Will as well as a couple of guys from The Chaser were quality reliable entertainment between songs. Now I find myself switching in an unholy alliance between Triple M and Triple J. The Tony Martin show and the Wil Anderson show on Triple M would have worked well on the Js, and believe it or not probably fit the budget. Maybe. Triple J music is generally fine… somewhat esoteric, but quite interesting and entertaining for an ‘old’ ex-regional codger such as myself.

Peter Lloyd writes: Oh, the irony of Michael Tunn being the bearer of sage advice for Triple J. Many of us remember Michael as the epitome of the ‘new broom’ that swept through Triple J in the early 1990s, a teenager (no problem with that) who was artistically and musically illiterate (less forgivable, and the first of many). Triple J stopped all serious news and current affairs. Merchandising became everything. And ‘aging hippie’ program director Arnold Frolowes took a very aggressive approach to setting the musical agenda. No longer did Triple J reflect what was happening in the pubs and clubs in Sydney and Melbourne, it ignored hardworking bands with large live audiences in the name of creating its own clique of ‘unearthed’ and flogged-to-death bands. Silverchair might be a competent band today, but they short-circuited the grind and discipline of the music circuit as Triple J thrashed their regrettable early efforts in the then-new high rotation format. Sydney hard rockers Front End Loader were moved to add the song ‘Arnold’s a Genius’ to their Last of the V8 Interceptors CD after being consistently refused coverage on the youth network, despite their large audiences, catchy tunes and excellent musicianship. Regional bands that had made the move to Sydney or Melbourne to follow the dream at great risk were bypassed in the name of whipping the latest Big Things who stayed in the garage in Toowoomba of Horsham or Lismore. Triple J should have been sold off and privatised and replaced with something closer to the original brief then. All the problems Tunny mentions started when he arrived as the next Big Talent.

Steve Wolff writes: I disagree that Triple J should not be afraid to be mainstream. They should be very afraid. Leave the mainstream to the commercial stations, where they have existed to survive. Government media should be progressive and cutting edge, spinning off the stuff that works to the commercials. That’s good for economy and good for culture. The commercial media can’t afford to take big risks with content, but the government media can and should. The government media can afford to do that because they don’t (or shouldn’t) have to make a profit (or break even). In my view, the government media should not be concerned with ratings. In fact they should be banned from the ratings count! Where I do agree with Michael Tunn is that Triple J should be manned by people in the relevant age group, not oldies. And it should be manned by avant garde, risk takers.

Shrek and junk food:

Nutritionist Dr Rosemary Stanton writes: Re. “What the Shrek is the deal with this junk food ban?” (Yesterday, item 10). As a market researcher, Dr Stephen Downes must know that today’s market pushes kids to pester their parents to buy far more junk food than ever existed in the 1960s. Supermarkets in the 1960s had about 800 foods. The average supermarket now stocks 30,000 items, including 1,800 different snack foods. Excess weight was uncommon in the 1960s — partly because kids were more active, but also because they consumed fewer kilojoules and much less junk food. A quarter of all Aussie kids are now overweight or obese, and this is causing them health problems now as well as increasing their risk of future poor health. We need to do everything we can to encourage kids to be less sedentary and to cut their consumption of energy dense junk foods. Children in NSW are playing more sport (and are fitter than they were eight years ago), but they’re still getting fatter because they consume more kilojoules in treat foods (often those of the sport’s sponsors) than they expend playing sport. There is no single remedy for obesity, but stopping advertising would almost certainly cut children’s consumption of junk foods. Do we need any more proof for this than the outburst from the junk food companies and marketers whenever advertising bans are mentioned?

Elizabeth Chamberlin writes: Please! How can a lecturer in postgraduate advertising write an article questioning the effectiveness of linking popular culture figures to junk food advertising and expect us to take him seriously? Say for example McDonald’s came to him and said “Say Stephen, we were thinking of linking Shrek to our latest happy meal campaign, what you think of the strategy?” Clearly Dr Downes would tell them that there is no link between the use of cartoon figures and pester power, that children cannot be tricked into eating unhealthy food just because Shrek says so, and that a high intake of junk food has yet to be genuinely linked to child-hood obesity. I love it. These are the types of arguments that seek to blame tired busy guilt-ridden parents for allowing their billion dollar highly researched and tested advertising campaigns to actually work.

Christopher Ridings writes: Wherever we draw the line of whether it is Shrek or Brett Lee promoting breakfast cereal, the emphasis should not necessarily be on who or what is promoting it but the actual product being promoted. It is hypocritical of governments and opposition parties to give advice on lifestyles while hitting advertisers over the knuckles with all the force of a wet lettuce. We need to see advertisers told in no uncertain terms where they get off. Since they will again be lining up to help sponsor the major parties for the coming election, what evidence is there that I need hold my breath to see this enjoyable event happening? Along with junk foods can we please include violent computer games, suburban 4-wheel drives, and anything else which makes us less than responsible mature human beings? Can Crikey devise a list of these parasitic products to challenge these competing political parties to ban the advertising thereof?

Peter Cohen writes: Re. Tarax and the free cricket game mentioned in this item. I don’t remember collecting bottle tops to exchange for a cricket game. But I do remember in the mid-60s exchanging a moderate collection of bottle tops for an Aussie Rules board game. It was an absolute beauty. I wish I still had it.

The risk society:

Les Heimann writes: Re. “John Quiggin: The risk society, part four” (yesterday, item 7). Yesterday’s episode on the risk society is a particularly unedifying leap in recognising the obvious and I look forward, not, to tomorrow’s “case for a social democracy”. I wonder whether the author has actually realised that the breakdown of “all men are islands” concept that has anchored supply side economics since its rise in “Friedmanism” et al — is inevitable! We can not function in isolation and most of us will not function purely for material gain. “No man/woman is an island” is a self evident truth and to posit otherwise is to pretend. True it is that supply side economics has raped and gouged the individual and in the USA as well as Australia recently we are seeing the beginnings of the result. Politically the fall out has also begun — why are Bush and Howard so on the nose — it’s not just them being war challenged. In Australia — a country that has a natural history and predilection toward egalitarianism — economic controllers will suffer most from allowing household debt to be at an historic and horrifying high. After all, we Australians rely on our governments to deliver us form temptation; not the opposite. Meanwhile, I urge the author — and others — to consider demand side economics. This is again developing apace in Australia, possibly leading the world. Study community banks you will really learn.

Amir Abadi writes: I am really enjoying John Quiggin’s article on “The risk society”. I am learning from it too. Well done.

The ATO:

Peter Evans writes: Re. “Vizard, Wheatley, Gerard: Haneef just another DPP c-ckup” (yesterday, item 11). I thought Chris Seage’s article attacking the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions was quite unfair in relation to the part concerning serious fraud cases, and rather misses where the core of the problem lies. If only one of the 437 Australian Taxation Office cases referred to the CDPP during 2006 related to a large business, the problem is with the ATO not giving serious resources to criminal investigations. It is there that any inquiry should be, and with the government’s refusal to take these matters seriously, not with the CDPP. The CDPP decides if someone should be prosecuted under Commonwealth law and conducts those prosecutions. Substantial investigations are not part of its brief as: (1) Independent DPPs are designed to assess fairly the evidence available, at arm’s length from investigators, to prevent or terminate over-zealous prosecutions which lack the necessary evidence to back them up (and we’ve had a good example in the last week), and (2) Legal representatives must withdraw from cases if they become material witnesses, and performing the role of an investigating officer is an excellent way of getting yourself forced off a case. It is scandalous that so few tax prosecutions, and so few serious tax prosecutions, make it to court. But the fault lies firstly with the politicians who know this state of affairs and do nothing and secondly with the ATO.

Housing affordability:

Gavin Putland, research officer, Prosper Australia, writes: Re. Christine Hyde (yesterday, comments). Housing in Texas would be even more affordable if the property tax applied only to land values (aka site values or unimproved values). At present the tax applies to the combined values of land and buildings, so that anyone who builds or extends accommodation is hit with a tax penalty. Removing this disincentive would increase the supply of housing and thereby improve affordability. Of course if the tax base were land values alone, the tax rate would have to increase in order to maintain the same revenue. But this can be done in such a way that no property owner is worse off: a tax-free threshold can be set for each site so that the total tax payable on that property does not change in the transition to the new system. This concession does not alter the fact that future buildings and extensions on that site are tax-free. I have been trying to encourage a reform of Victoria’s local government rates along these lines. So far, I have been ignored.

Austar and Foxtel:

Chris Gibson writes: Re. “Virgin deal might steer Austar to Foxtel” (yesterday, item 25). As I am a long suffering client of Austar I would welcome a takeover from Foxtel. I might then have access to the improved service that Foxtel offers and that Austar keeps promising. It would appear that Austar keeps delaying the introduction of its promised MyStar service to defend its bottom line while trying to wring a better deal from Foxtel.

The C7 case:

Justin Templer writes: Re. “The C7 case cost taxpayers $3 per head” (yesterday, comments). Andrew Lewis writes that the C7 case cost each of us $3 per head due to the $200m legal expenses being tax deductible at a corporate tax rate of 30%. Wrong, Andrew. The costs would have been revenue in the hands of others and therefore taxed – possibly even at a higher tax rate, being the top marginal rate paid by QCs in their personal capacity (assuming that the QCs elect to pay tax). Therefore a zero sum game to the taxpayer.

Adam Dunsford writes: Don’t legal firms pay tax? Maybe I should become a lawyer?

Airport security:

John Parkes writes: Re. “Airports not planes the new terror target” (yesterday, item 6). Following up on the latest inanity in the name of airport/airliner security we still have the idiotic situation of the checking of all people going into airport terminals, not just those flying. The checking should be done immediately prior to entering the boarding lounges, and then only those actually flying would need to be checked. At the moment we waste tremendous resources checking everyone, then allow them to go to the stores inside the terminals where at inflated prices they may buy any weapons, sorry, cutlery, glasses, liquids gels etc, from the franchised stores and carry them onto the aircraft because there is no further checking. Presumably it is thought that terrorists are not smart enough to work this out or that they are too cost conscious to use materials bought at ridiculous airport store prices. Senator Vanstone blew the whistle of this process some time ago but was promptly silenced. When will the commentators take this up seriously? The other problem is, just how well are the $15 per hour security guards who do the security checking vetted — or shouldn’t that question be raised either?

Amanda Vanstone, Ambassador to Italy:

Betty Collins writes: In regard to the item from your Rome Correspondent: I thought I was going to read something about Australia’s contribution to the L’Isola del Cinema festival. Instead I read a nasty little piece of writing of which it seems that the only purpose was to ridicule our Ambassador & her husband, both for their size (he small, her large) , and her speaking Italian . And to add insult to injury this correspondent seemed to think we would all enjoy a good laugh at the expense of the Italian Director of the Festival for a claimed mispronunciation of our Ambassador’s name What an utterly gormless, nasty & b*tchy little piece of reporting this was. Any correspondent that reports that our Amanda “seemed to be overwhelmed” by anyone, let alone a “super-chic Roman crowd”, should hand in their journalist’s ticket forthwith! As a rusted on old Labor voter, even I can see the prenicious nature of this report. Amanda Vanstone has far more intelligence, ability and get up & go, in her ample bottom then your so called Rome Correspondent has in their tiny mind.

An arts correspondent writes from Rome: Last night was the premiere of the Aussie film Razzle Dazzle in Rome. Loved the film. First official presentation of our svelte new Ambassador Mrs Amanda. She is wider than I had remembered …  when I was introduced to MandyVan, I said welcome to Rome and asked how were her first weeks. “It’s been hot,” she said, unnecessarily. I mentioned it was a lovely city anyhow, and she said, “Well, I’m gonna start studying Italian seriously in a week. Or two.” I told her that I supposed that communication could not be undervalued as an ambassador, and she said, “Yeah”. Oh we have so much to be proud of as Australians. The film was cute, and I laughed at all the cameos. The main sponsor was Emirates, and there were big logos all over the place. Of course, Qantas would have been silly as a sponsor, since we are only at war with the Arabs. Australian Wool was a good choice of sponsor for an event in sweltering midsummer. Foster’s was a sponsor too, but they only had XXXX beer. They ran out of the Rosemount white wine early on. They served dry little pizza things, which I thought was very suitable. The microphone didn’t work properly during the speeches before the fillum. My favourite bit was the long, tedious speech by the guy who was, I vaguely recall, the head of South Australian Tourism in Europe. He lost the audience when he mentioned several of the world class South Australian tourist attractions, and the “deep links between Adelaide and Italy”.You should have been here. The gorgonzola dip with the wilted celery was world class too.

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Peter Fray

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