Putting politics before health:

Ange Kenos writes: Re. “The Abbott plan puts politics before health” (yesterday, item 2). Having once served on a hospital board, only to be unceremoniously dumped when Liberals took over the state and determined to corporatise us, I can only laugh at the utter garbage that I have heard from Abbott and Howard. Our board had staff, business and community reps under a truly brilliant CEO. We worked exceptionally well and the hospital received the highest possible accreditations in the nation time and time again. Then Mr Howard’s state colleagues became the government and all staff reps and all community reps were kicked out without even a thank you, only to be replaced by senior business figures. Bang, standards began to drop and mistakes were made. Thankfully today this nonsense has been reversed under a state Labor government albeit I have not been reappointed due to the ALP’s own politics. But my point is that Howard and Abbott have no idea what makes for a good board and certainly would never back community reps having any real power. Or would they also now invite civil celebrants to have a say in the federal Attorney General’s marriage program? Would they invite retired and lower rank defence force personnel to review defence force procurements and dispositions? Of course not, but in this unofficial election period they are so desperate for any news stories that they will say anything, even things that I guarantee will not be core promises.

Paul Macken writes: Melissa Sweet must surely be joking (or exercising the usual level of Crikey objectivity) in blaming the Federal government for the state run hospital crisis. And as for a plan that risks taking the hospital system back several decades, those of us old enough to remember understand what a substantial improvement this would be!

Minor parties and Senate preferences:

Nikki Mortier, State Convenor for the Australian Greens (South Australia), writes: I am writing in response to the comments by Lisa Crago (yesterday, comments) concerning the Australian Greens in South Australia. Most of the statements made are so blatantly erroneous they hardly need comment. They are, in fact, so totally off the mark I can only presume that they have sprung from some personal bitterness harboured by Ms Crago. However, I would like to clarify two issues. First, the Greens are eager and willing to talk with the ALP. It is, in fact, Labor which has shown a reluctance to open a dialogue with the Greens. This is despite the fact that Labor cannot gain control of the Senate in this year’s federal election and, even if Labor wins government, will in all likelihood depend on the support of the Greens in the Senate if any of their policies are to be implemented. Secondly, the Greens at no time entered into preference negotiations with Family First during the last State election (nor at any other time) and any assertion to the contrary is completely false. It is not the Greens who have a track record of doing preference deals with the religious right – that territory is the preserve of Labor and the Democrats. The Greens stand for social justice, respect for the environment and a strong economic future based on sustainable sources of energy. We are united in our commitment that Australia will be a fair and just society built on compassion and respect rather than on greed and fear. We ask ourselves, “will people in 100 years time thank us for the decisions we make today”. The Greens offer the promise of a better future for all and a world of peace and hope. We will work with all who can bring this dream to fruition.

Alister Sholl writes: Like it or not, the Democrats have always negotiated with both big Parties, to make legislation fairer, economically sustainable, or environmentally better. It appears that they are the only minor party with any expertise in drafting or re-drafting faulty legislation served up by arrogant governments. For example, they stopped Howard abolishing unfair dismissal laws around ten times up to 1995, for instance. The Environment and Biodiversity Protection laws were weak as water until they tightened them up. The list of improved legislation is quite long. Hawke and Keating didn’t fare any differently with Don Chipp curbing their excesses. They are still the only genuine centre party, although they are probably left of Rudd on some topics. The ALP would get better value in the Parliament by preferencing the Democrats, rather than Greens or Family First.

Zionists in politics – AIJAC responds:

Bren Carlill, Policy Analyst with the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council, writes: Re. “Howard and Rudd show their love for Israel” (yesterday, item 11). Antony Loewenstein’s spray about the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) in yesterday’s Crikey was fairly typical. Reacting to questions answered by John Howard and Kevin Rudd for AIJAC’s monthly magazine, Loewenstein slams both for wanting Hamas to remain isolated as long as it refuses to recognise Israel. He claims this position is lifted from George Bush’s manual, but declines to reveal it’s also the position of the European Union and the United Nations. He then asks “which Israel” Hamas is supposed to recognise, given Israel’s changing borders over the years. How about any Israel? Hamas’ charter maintains that Israel shouldn’t exist in any borders. I’m all for talking to my enemies, but only when those enemies no longer want to kill me. And Antony, one talks of the 1949, not 1948, borders. Excuse me for being pedantic, but I think if one wants to be accepted as a serious commentator, it’s important to have the basic facts correct. It astounds me that Loewenstein is invited to make comment on anything to do with the Middle East. His bias isn’t the problem. It’s his lack of knowledge. Dozens of factual errors in his book My Israel Question remain in the second edition, despite a year passing since the first was published. At least he managed to correct a map placing Haifa in Lebanon – but that wasn’t the only mistake on the map, sunshine! In yesterday’s rant, Loewenstein was troubled by Rudd’s call for legal proceedings against Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for inciting genocide. Loewenstein seems indifferent to the fact Ahmadinejad regularly calls for Israel to be wiped off the map, in blatant disregard of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. But Loewenstein is right in pointing out Iran is more than just Ahmadinejad. The Iranian nuclear project began before Ahmadinejad was on the scene. Likewise Iranian military parades featuring missiles with signs declaring their desire to be fired at the Zionist Entity. Iran’s Supreme Leader said last year, “There is only one solution to the Middle East problem, namely the annihilation and destruction of the Jewish state.” Howard and Rudd’s answers represent the vast majority of Australians – that Israel has the right to exist in peace; that a two-state resolution is desirable; that Iran shouldn’t have nuclear weapons; and that Australia should be tough on terrorism. And Loewenstein thinks there’s something wrong with that!

Daniel Lewis writes: Antony Loewenstein is spewing, that a Zionist organisation dares to circulate a list of questions for Howard/Rudd and their respective responses. Further proof he feels, of some grand Zionist conspiracy. One can only assume he has no similar problem with the Muslim community, Union movement, churches, nurses organisations or any other lobby circulating “how to vote” guides to their members, or political parties attempting to attract them. Heaven forbid however, that Jews… Sorry, make that “Zionists” dare get involved in politics. Particularly, when you consider how (according to some anyway) they must be so busy poisoning wells, running world banks and controlling the media! On the other hand, it was nice to see Loewenstein flogging someone else’s “best selling” book about the “Israel Lobby” for a change, rather then continuing to flog his own, err… best-seller yet again.

Maybe we need more immigrants, not less:

Despina N Anagnostou writes: Re. “… and then, thanks Kevin, race entered the race” (yesterday, item 10). I too would like to reply to Kevin Andrew’s comments that “some groups don’t seem to be settling and adjusting into the Australian way of life as quickly as we would hope and therefore it makes sense […] to slow down the rate of intake from countries such as Sudan”. Perhaps the problem is that we don’t have enough immigrants from Sudan. If we opened our country to more Sudanese immigrants, no doubt that would help those Sudanese already here feel more at home, and to that end assist them in creating their own Sudanese Australian community. This has been the experience of other ethnic groups that have arrived in an already-populated Australia before them – from the British (who arguably made themselves a little too at home) onwards. Further, I am disgusted to read that the focus is on the Sudanese for having difficulty adjusting to life in Australia rather than on the Australians who murdered him for being – to adopt a much misappropriated label – “unAustralian”. But then, it should not come as a surprise to find such small-mindedness inherent in a Cabinet led by the man who pronounced in 1988 that there was too much “Asian” immigration – and in a year when immigration from Great Britain was greater than that from Asia.

The Flint Fan Club and Crikey bias:

Paul Brennan writes: Re. “Flint: The real campaign is yet to begin” (yesterday, item 12). I always find it immeasurably easier to take in David Flint’s meandering thoughts by doing the following: as soon as I spot an article written by the good professor, I immediately don a silken cravat (preferably something in regimental colours), fire up a pipe filled with the finest port tobacco, mix up a gin & tonic and start humming the theme tune to The Dambusters. I highly recommend it to all Crikey readers… especially the gin part. Helps no end.

Nick Evans writes: Folks, I think it’s probably my turn to complain about the missives you publish from that incorrigible idiot David Flint. Honestly – I don’t mind conservatives, guys, but can’t you find one that doesn’t write such utter drivel? David, dearest, if you must use footballing analogies in your political analysis, you really should check the recent scores before you do it – the polls showing Rudd ahead may well be only the score from the opening quarter, but neither of the grand finals held over the weekend was a last-gasp come-from-behind triumph by the unfancied underdog, now was it? Quite the reverse, in fact. Why don’t you just publish the Government’s talking points unvarnished? It’d be quicker reading in bullet point format and it would almost certainly make more sense.

Neville McCloy writes: Do you think that in order to appear “balanced” you can choose another arch – conservative other than David Flint? Crikey doesn’t need balance and it certainly doesn’t need this man’s opinion. His battle for relevance is pathetic. His choice of adjectives annoying, Gillard’s “ultra left background”, “terrifies voters”, are all so completely transparent in Flint’s attempts to create debate. He pictures himself as the moral authority on conservative issues, his “don’t forget me” opinions. I bet he writes for Piers Akerman and Andrew Bolt in mind, looking for their doting approval.

Steven McKiernan writes: What has happened to Crikey media? Having abandoned diligent and unbiased reporting, campaigning journalists have become unelected and unaccountable participants in the political process, requisitioning the columns of once great online independent sources of information as well as the airwaves of the public broadcasters. Crikey better lift your game, the opinion pieces are becoming repetitive and predictable. The double team of Flint then Mungo, (though in Mungo’s favour he does have a sense of humour) does not constitute balance. Flint is seemingly incapable of keeping to one point for more than the life span of a mayfly, Mungo cannot get through a column without automatically referring to Saint Gough at least once. Are all the coherent columnists signed up to News/Smage etc? Why be content with the also ran offerings of these two, spend more time looking through the blogosphere and get some writers with humour and a streak of wickedness to add some spark to the discussion, because these two are irrelevant. Oh and I may have ripped off the first sentence of the email from the synopsis of Flint’s new book.

Brian Baxter writes: I am a right wing always liberal voter, but I hope with an open mind. I enjoy Crikey most of all the print I read because of the diverse opinions of the contributors. It is highly amused when a reader is going to cancel his or her subscription to Crikey because they disagree with a certain commentator’s views. This policy of offering wide ranging opinions greatly increases you subscriber base. Keep up the good work.

Christian Kerr v GetUp!:

Alan Hatfield writes: Re. “So think global, act local isn’t enough?” (yesterday, item 8). I think Christian Kerr is being a little precious – poor petal – in his criticism of the recent GetUp ad on TV. His conclusion that the ad mocked ordinary Australians is stretching credulity – and his credibility – to breaking point. The ad clearly mocked the ineffective positions on climate change adopted by the Government thus far (eg. as in the last line of the ad: “vote for a party that’s serious about climate change ? I can do that !”). It is a bridge too far to construe this (and other lines in the ad) as a shot at ordinary consumers (and voters). It is nothing of the sort!

Ian Pavey writes: Christian Kerr spectacularly misses the point in lambasting GetUp!’s television adverts whilst fawning over the Howard government’s lame “I can do that” campaign. The government’s adverts are patronising in the extreme. They paint ordinary people as naïve, even stupid – barely capable of turning off a light switch; while apparently knowing nothing about the hi-techery such as the greenhouse effect or “clean” coal. The GetUp! advert hits this nonsense straight between the eyes, and adds more than a touch of Chaseresque humour, which these days can hardly be considered “elite”. Oh, and by the way, please let’s remember that we citizens had no choice whether to fund Howard’s expensive spin pieces or not. By contrast, the GetUp! adverts were funded by donation, like my twenty-five bucks.

Jeremy Scrivener writes: Yeah yeah yeah, Christian. Environmental campainers are “elitist”, “self-righteous” “zealots”. Your choice of words, straight from the Albrechtsen/Jones/Bolt lexicon, shows once again that your objection to “shrubhuggers” is based soley on emotion, and anything you write on the subject is not worth the paper its not written on. In that respect, you and the Murdoch hacks you love to bait are indistiguishable.

John Hunwick writes: I try and reduce my own CO2 emissions, and I am a great believer in encouraging all members of the community to take action to reduce the impact of climate change. The recent plethora of booklets, adverts, and articles urging each member of the community to do their bit is great. However, I notice that among the actions we are urged to take there are two major gaps. The first relates to action in the community itself. How many local councils encourage an increase in population in their district? How many councils demand that new houses have rainwater tanks of at least 5000 gallons, if not more? How many have changed their requirements to insist that new houses reach an energy conservation standard of five stars? How many insist that when houses come on the market they meet the minimum of water and energy conservation requirements? How many are seeking to use stormwater and to recycle clean water from sewage treatment plants using recycled energy? Secondly, here in South Australia we have a progressive and concerned government that publishes all sorts of booklets dealing with natural resources management, ecologically sustainable development, reducing CO2 emissions, campaigning for no species loss, measuring ecological footprints etc, etc, etc. – the list goes on. Yet that self same government wants an increase in the state population, has failed to encourage renewable energy sources to the maximum – there could be more wind farms on Eyre Peninsula, a plethora of solar catching schemes, an advance in geothermal energy and a great expansion in tidal energy use. They are allowing desalination in the Spencer Gulf that will increase salinity, they have extended the water pipeline from the River Murray even further than Whyalla down to Kimba to supply water where it would be better and cheaper to use clean water from sewage plants using less energy. This in a state that is supposedly on its knees because of lack of water from the same River Murray. Of course their federal colleagues in the Liberal party have barely acknowledged global warming preparing to sell more uranium. So, when individuals have completed their list of what they can reasonably be expected to do around the home – the real task of dealing with climate change begins – trying to convince our community leaders to ease up on the individuals in the community doing their bit and for them to stop lying about what they intend to do and to actually do what everyone else can see is staring them in the face but which they refuse to see.

Bombing Iran:

Steve Martin writes: Re. “Bombing Iran – is the US getting serious?” (yesterday, item 15). Isn’t this similar to what the Japanese did at Pearl Harbor. Admiral Yamamoto said “I fear we have awakened a sleeping giant”. The idea that Iran will be supine after a pre-emptive attack seems to be pretty naive.There are many ways that Iran could retaliate. For example the recent experiment in the USA that showed how hackers could disable a power station, and put it out of commission for months while it was essentially rebuilt. The economic consequences of an attack of this nature would be horrendous. And then of course there are terrorist attacks on US interests world wide.

How low can politicians stoop?:

Chris Saunders writes: How low can politicians stoop to win a vote? Peter Costello uses the death of Chris Mainwaring to bag what the AFL does with drugs but seriously since when did the AFL drug policy extend to ex-players and news presenters? Chris Mainwaring was a member of the media. He worked for Channel Seven as a sports reporter and news presenter but I don’t see anyone asking whether channel Seven’s Illicit Drug policy worked. Why? Because I bet they don’t have one. Whatever this bloke did or didn’t do, surely media and politicians can show some compassion instead of using the tragic death of a poor bloke suffering from depression and a marriage breakdown to score some cheap and nasty points. It is absolutely disgusting how the politicians use the media. Why doesn’t the media have some guts and actually point out how disgusting it is to use mainwaring’s death to try and sound tough on law and order? Costello might get the votes of some simpletons who don’t understand what they are talking about but it is the lowest of low acts to use a bloke’s death to try and win some votes. Can’t wait for the same journos who carry on about players being tested to start calling for more testing for television news presenters and reporters. Don’t hold your breath waiting for that one. Politicians disgust me.

Farming business:

Ian Farquhar writes: Thank you, Chris Brown, for your reply (Monday, comments) to my letter to the editor (Friday, comments). I would suggest that Chris takes his own advice and get around a bit more, as he’s clearly had little to do with small business in Australia. Brown claims that the difference between a farming business failing and a non-farming business doing so is the loss of the family home. Many failed small businesses, city or rural, who used their homes as security and lost them when their business failed will be very surprised by this revelation. Brown also makes a point about spoilage, suggesting that as farm output spoils, farmers are entitled to special treatment. Apparently processed food producers, who aren’t beneficiaries of rural subsidies, have become immune from food spoilage! I’m sure they’ll be pleased. It also neglects non-food products whose value drops fast after release, an example of which would be computer game software, whose value can halve in a month after release. Suggesting that spoilage and product depreciation is a problem unique to the rural industry is breathtakingly naive. I actually agree with Brown’s concern, but not with his solution. I don’t want to see the country’s farms owned by Coles and Woolworths, but the current proposal is yet more unjustified pork-barrelling to a bunch of small businesses with an over-inflated sense of entitlement. It’s also curious, but hardly surprising, that Chris Brown failed to address my proposal that the issue can be addressed by using other legal mechanisms.

Milne v Mayne

Chris Hunter writes: With regards Glen Milne’s “infamous, intolerant lunge” towards Stephen Mayne. When I first fleetingly saw it on the news I assumed the whole thing was choreographed. It was only later that I realized the awful truth — that Mayne was genuinely attacked. But you have to give Milne some credit. From a purely military point of view his blatant terror tactic was a raging success. If only Mayne could have raised an effective counter attack — perhaps by gratuitously placing Milne in a sleeper hold until help arrived — that is the white coat variety. We can but dream. Ah well, hope the therapy works out for all. Are they both going again this year?

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