Akerman on the Heiner Affair:

Piers Akerman writes: Re. “Digging deeper into Kevin Rudd’s past” (20 August, item 16). Per usual, your story is wrong. There has never been a thorough investigation of the Heiner Affair. The issue has not been raised at this time as part of some fantasy conservative cabal. On 16 August, a number of Australia’s most respected legal figures sent then Premier Beattie a letter about their grave concerns of the criminality involved in this issue. They could not be categorised as conspiracists and nor are they political activists. I was extremely disturbed by their views and wrote about it. Others followed. Last week, a nine volume, 3000-page audit of the case was completed by senior Sydney QC David Rofe. He identified 66 prima facie breaches of the law. He began his project two years ago and was certainly not contemplating that it would be politicised. Queensland Senator Barnaby Joyce attempted to table that document in the Senate this week and was blocked by the ALP and received no assistance from his Coalition colleagues. Senator Joyce crossed the floor to lend his support to the cause of David Hicks, a man who turned his back on Australia and vowed to destroy Jews and Western civilisation. As far as I’m concerned, Hicks made a choice and should have paid the consequences, but Senator Joyce and I are as one on the need to pursue justice in the Heiner matter. Finally, I have always believed journalists should seek information, not attempt to suppress it as Mark Bahnisch recommends. Or is he suggesting that justice is a commodity which should be delivered only to those of a particular political persuasion?

Adler is not scheduled to appear on Enough Rope:

Robyn Sefiani of Sefiani Communications Group writes: Re. “A media melee over Rodney Adler’s release” (20 September, item 28). I refer to Alex Mitchell’s story. Contrary to the article, Rodney Adler is not scheduled to appear on Andrew Denton’s program Enough Rope. While many requests for interviews by different members of the media have been conveyed to Mr Adler, he has not agreed to any at this point. Please also note that Mr Adler’s earliest release date is 13 October 2007 and subject to parole, he will be released on that day.

Brough’s take away grog rules:

Tom Sallet writes: Re. “NT grog special: a bottle short of a Brough” (13 September, item 3). A week after the beginning of Brough’s take away grog rules, things are settling down to a generally bad taste. It’s all dog whistle politics, of course. Henri Ivrey emphasised the $100 limit on grog sales before you have to show ID, give them your address, and where you are going to drink the stuff. What he didn’t point out was that these regulations apply if you are buying more than five litres of “cask or flagon wine”. Good go: that’s clear code for blackfellas, whose preferred tipple is inexpensive wine rather than Johnny Walker Black Label or Moet. Equally offensive in the dog whistle stakes is the fake “Aboriginal” design on the cards with the new rules now being issued at bottle shops. Ochres and a gammon central Australian design and the message is clear: these inconveniences are all down to your inconvenient fellow Territorians: the Aboriginal mob. It’s a bloody joke really, and will do nothing to stop grog runners, let alone “protect the children”, and seems more designed to build resentment of Aboriginal people.

James Harper writes: I thought I should check out the Centre for a Civil Society whose Director, Vern Hughes, took Crikey to task for criticising the Government’s NT Intervention (Friday, comments). Having had a look at the Society’s web site, I wonder if Vern could explain how exactly the intervention helps in establishing the following Civil Society “core values” in NT Aboriginal communities and wider Australia: self-help, empowerment, community, smaller government, inclusion, relationships and social capital, and ethical conduct. As far as I can see the intervention overtly works against all of these admirable values and that is precisely why it deserves all the criticism leveled against it.

Lois Achimovich writes: The horror of what happens in some Aboriginal (and white community) in relation to child abuse is real. What is unclear to me, perhaps Mr Hughes will enlighten me, is what in tarnation this has to do with removing land rights, sequestering welfare payments and ceasing CEDP? This is what Crikey has legitimately addressed, for the simple reason that the mainstream media ignores it. Get a life, Vern!

Soft Labor votes:

John Irving writes: Re. “A hard look at the soft Labor vote” (Friday, item 1). In the context of asking voters whether Australia is “going in the right direction” I would have thought the probability of getting rid of the Howard Government was very definitely “going in the right direction” and so there is no conflict whatsoever between voting for Labor and believing we are heading in the right direction!

Peter Smith writes: Being a stroppy sort of bloke, if anyone asked me “Is the country going in the right direction?” I would say something like “Towards Indonesia at 3 centimeters per year, that’s north, not right.”, or “What do you mean?”. The less stroppy populace probably gave a random answer. The question is meaningless, and so are the answers.

Australia’s foreign reserves are an economic non-issue:

Tamas Calderwood writes: Re. “South Korea versus Australia – our pathetic savings record” (Friday, item 17). I remain unconvinced by Stephen Mayne’s longstanding campaign for Australia to dramatically increase its official foreign reserves. His argument lacks economic logic: Australia has a fully convertible, free floating currency; large private foreign investments (all that super money invested overseas); a strong export base; and most of the liabilities that fund the current account deficit are denominated in Australian dollars. Why then does Australia need to tie up tens-of-billions in capital that would be invested in low-yielding US, Japanese or European government debt – thereby helping to fund those profligate governments – or if held in cash, would simply increase the profits of the ECB, BOJ and Fed via seigniorage? His argument also confuses Norway’s oil-driven external pension investments with Central Bank reserves, which have very different structures and objectives. Australia’s official foreign reserves are an economic non-issue and Stephen’s time would be better spent on other matters, as would mine I suppose…


John Ley writes: Re. “Local Jewish leaders warn off Labor’s “anti-Israel ratbags”” (Friday, item 14). As always, Anthony has written a courageous and insightful piece on current Australian Jewish establishment lobbying on behalf of Israel. The attacks they mount on free speech and open debate on issues concerning the Palestinian Territories and Israel are refreshing. The declaration of Gaza as a “hostile territory” and the intended severe collective punishment of all Palestinians in Gaza by cutting off their electricity supplies for a certain period each day will cause severe hardship, is contrary to international humanitarian law and must be condemned, as the UN Secretary-General has done. All Australians should support the Secretary-General’s call for Israel to desist.

An impartial speaker?:

Amanda Raunjak writes: Re. “Flint: Labor’s Bennelong vote could go soft” (20 September, item 8). I had to laugh when reading Crikey last Thursday at an article that said the Speaker of the House, David Hawker was completely impartial. This is certainly not the case as he is a sitting Liberal member of a Victorian seat. Another Howard plant. He is absolutely not impartial, he is most biased and unfair, and clearly the worst Speaker they have ever had. He continually throws Labor members out for very little reason. I just cannot believe anyone would think him impartial.

Let’s blame Grandma:

Katherine Stuart writes: Re. “Get grandma off the couch and back to work” (Friday, item 26). Part of the reason Swedes work up into their 70s is that the official retirement age (now 67) has been moving up in pace with people living longer and being healthier for longer. But with Australians one of the most obese nations on the planet these days, you can hardly blame people for needing to retire early. By contrast in Sweden, preventive health measures have been given top priority for decades by businesses through significant tax breaks for encouraging your workers to remain fit and healthy. And from early childhood kids are taught that sweets and treats are a “Saturday” phenomenon only. It’s the extraordinarily outdated, obsolete ideas (or lack thereof) of Grandpa Howard’s government, whose conservatism seems to me, as a recent re-import back from Sweden myself, to knows few bounds, that have left Australia ill-prepared for the future or the present. And what’s the government’s visionless answer? Go back to importing expertise like we did in the post-war period, while education spending has been cut to one of the lowest among the OECD countries. I’d really like to know where the sense is in that, except the good old superficial political points scored for cutting taxes. Or is it the war in Iraq that’s eating up our education money? Yeah, let’s blame Grandma. What did she ever do for this country anyway?

Poodles and Alexander Downer:

Barbara Boyle writes: Re. Holger Lubotzki (20 September, comments). From one who has fostered a standard poodle for the past four months I can accept Alexander Downer’s antics as those befitting a smallish old dog of indeterminate philosophy, but I would never compare him to a poodle. Poodles are loyal, strong, intelligent, co-operative, a pleasure to be with. Comprendez-vous?

Housing affordability:

Brian Reid writes: Re. “Housing affordability – is it really the big question?” (19 September, item 17). We bought our house (in Sydney) in 1982. At that time only 25% of my wife’s income was included in the calculation to determine how much we could borrow. A few years later (with bank deregulation, I think) this restriction was removed. Once it became possible to use 2 incomes to buy a house it became (almost) necessary to have 2 incomes to do so. House prices rose because more money was chasing the same number of houses. The only people who benefited from the change were the people who already had houses (particularly investors). People are willing to experience a certain amount of financial pain to own a house. Any attempt to lessen this pain is temporary as the house prices rise until the pain threshold is reached. More money is chasing the same number of houses. The exception is the first home buyers grant as it benefits directly only a small percentage of the buyers so does hot have the same affect on demand. Housing supply is inelastic, the time lag between increased demand and the availability of more houses is several years. So a relatively small increase in demand (as has occurred in Perth) leads to a much greater increase in price. I think this is correct: between 1960 and 1990 the average number of people per dwelling reduced by half. This meant twice as many dwellings were required simply to house the existing population. This expansion has resulted in the shortage of land in the major metropolitan areas such as Sydney and Melbourne, in 1982, house prices (at least in Sydney) were falling. It was standard practice to offer the vendor 10% less than the asking price. There were reports of “reverse gazumping” occurring, the buyer would lower the offer just before finalising the sale.


Dave Horsfall writes: Regarding John Parkes’ comment about the rubbish published about the Y2K bug (Friday, comments), as a programmer involved in that I can assure him that it was indeed a real problem (although it had its amusing aspects such as cheques being printed for the year 19100, on 3rd January 2000). Sadly, such programming sloppiness still continues, as evidenced by a squadron of F-22 Raptors being unable to cross the International Date Line until they’d received a software upgrade.

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