World Youth Day Sydney 2008:

World Youth Day Sydney 2008’s director of communications Jim Hanna writes: Re. “Visa charges waived for Catholic World Youth Day “pilgrims”” (Thursday, item 2). I’ll say a prayer for David MacCormack, but maybe the onus is on him to do a bit more checking before he complains about World Youth Day. As wonderful as the Scout movement is, “12,000 scouts in attendance” pales by comparison with 140,000 overseas visitors coming to Sydney for a single event. This will be more visitors than the Olympics in 2000, and if David thinks this number can be processed just like every other visitor to Sydney, I can see why he calls himself a failed public servant. Indeed, “one (may) wonder what risk assessment has been undertaken about the simplified visa procedures” – or one could simply ask the Minister’s office for a response and include it in one’s story. Likewise, one could contact the World Youth Day office before claiming Sydney will be “brought to halt” on the Friday night for the Stations of the Cross. Then one will discover that almost all of it will take place away from Sydney’s streets (we are actually looking for ways to minimise disruption as far as possible to the non-event community, you see). Oh, and the “symbolic giant piece of wood” was two pieces of wood AND a picture. Get it right, son!

Flint, WorkChoices and myth:

Tim Gamage writes: Re. “Flint: New book explodes WorkChoices myths” (Friday, item 20). It was not the law that did the damage – it was the symbolic unleashing of one sided power. John Howard refused symbolic gestures to Aboriginal Australians, but he gave one to employers. Even little coffee shops got on the band wagon – My 17 yr old daughter was very distressed with her $6.60/hr job. When I pointed out to the business that it was below the State minimum rate – my daughter was dismissed. David Flint’s huffing and puffing will not remove my story. Will it remove the memories of the many thousands of other parents with similar tales?

Andrew Whiley writes: David Flint barracks for his IPA comrades in their defence of WorkChoices and describes the “old system” as “appalling”. The reality remains that nothing in the old system prevented an employer from paying any worker more; it just prevented them from paying every worker less than the statute provided. The new laws are designed specifically to give employers the ability to reduce wages and conditions. Each new piece of research confirms that some employers are using the legislation precisely as it was intended. No amount of dissimulation from Flint or the IPA can conceal this reality. Does David have the intellectual capacity to acknowledge the truth or must we Crikey readers suffer more flounderings from this bunyip aristocrat?

Peter Rosier writes: I enjoyed reading Friday’s piece on the Paul Monk view of WorkChoices by David Flint. It powerfully demonstrates the depth of Flint’s intellect – if any of us were in any doubt. The reference to Paul Monk as “a public intellectual” is Monk’s own, as a visit to his Austhink website will show. Viewed from a more dispassionate viewpoint, Monk has, sadly for he of the rounded vowels, been described by a number of commentators as rather less intellectual and much more ideological (“rightwing propagandist” was one light-handed description). For instance, Monk appears to believe that the Vietnam War could have been won with more resolve and less wimpishness. Tell that to Nixon! Monk’s views on WorkChoices (I make no comment about his work on China and other matters) appear intuitive rather than researched, but even the intuition seems more like that which drives the urge to take on a fifteen stone bouncer after drinking fifteen beers. And, on topic, the hope of balance in Fair Choices will be dashed just a tad when one learns that it was launched by none other than the Treasurer. Given the Treasurer’s recent reaction to balanced researched reports which show WorkChoices in a poor light, readers can draw their own conclusions.

Adam Rope writes: Paul Brennan wrote an amusing piece earlier this week (3 October, comments), outlining his actions upon spotting a David Flint article in Crikey. I had also imagined a similar scenario, a sort of 1950s version of Brideshead Revisited, an old sepia tinted movie with wooden panelled college rooms, heavy stuffed chairs, and Spielbergian light tricks. Only difference was that in my version, the drink was not G & T, but absinthe.

Geoff Coyne writes: Wouldn’t David Flint’s contributions be even more entertaining if we could hear his 19th century voice on iPod?

Turnbull and the pulp mill:

Jim Beatson writes: Re. “A tall tree tumbles in Wentworth” (Friday, item 2). Malcolm Turnbull has been boasting since February that “We’re the first country to phase out incandescent light bulbs”, a boast repeated in a long Q & A interview in the October 2007 edition of [Bondi] Beast, a glossy distributed in Wentworth. In fact the small island of Cuba (population 11.2 million) leaves us years behind. Cuba switched from incandescent bulbs in August 2005 when Cuba banned importing and selling incandescent light bulbs. As a result you can’t buy or see an incandescent bulb in Cuba. The thousands of Aussies who visit Cuba annually will testify they don’t exist. They are worn out, gone. The transition is over. They have done it. While Malcolm and Howard are asking shops and people to take them up. And a look at the light bulb section of any shop reveals how feeble that effort is. But get this, Malcolm. In July 2006 Cuba provided energy saver bulbs to five neighbouring Caribbean countries without charge (Jamaica, Antigua, Barbuda, Guyana and Suriname). And in October 2006 Cuba commenced supplying Belize with free energy saver bulbs at a cost to Cuba of $US4.5 million. Makes you wonder what our World’s Best Practiced Liars are doing in our backyard (like PNG, Solomons, Vanuatu) on the light bulb front, aside from getting their feet wet from our coal exports?

Viggo Pedersen writes: The current pulp mill debate has brought back disturbing memories. In a previous incarnation I worked for a firm of consultants. Whenever I made recommendations I was told to tell the client that this was “world’s best practice”. This worried me on two counts. One, what was the empirical evidence for this? Two, it might be “world’s best practice” but would it actually be enough to fix the problem? To Messrs Turnbull and Garrett, please enlighten me?

John Lawrence writes: Re. “The Greens simply don’t want any forestry in Tasmania” (Friday, item 11). Khalil Hegarty sees the pulp mill decision as a victory over the Greens, but he is deluding himself is he thinks that the anti mill feeling in Tassie comes only from Greens. Sure, most Tasmanians support forestry (and motherhood for that matter), but he is fooling himself if he thinks most Tasmanians support the continued pulping of our native forests at hugely subsidised stumpage amounts, and the economic and social costs inflicted on the community by highly subsidised MIS companies. These are both inevitable consequences of the pulp mill. When the mill is operational the government subsidies via stumpage and MISs will be $50m to $60m pa. With a level of subsidies of this magnitude, it’s not too difficult to come up with alternative way of generating 280 direct jobs which will have greater community acceptance. I sincerely hope that as a consultant to the Tasmanian Government, Mr Hegarty is not hired to help heal the divisions in the Tasmanian community as announced by Paul Lennon on Thursday 4 October.

Michael McGuiness writes: Re. “After lunch in Wentworth, Turnbull calls for the cheques” (yesterday, item 7). The Bellevue Hotel, and Paddington generally, was in blue ribbon Labor seat of Sydney during the 90s, not Wentworth.

Job Network and single mums:

Marcus L’Estrange writes: Re. “Job Network not working for single mums” (Friday, item 17). Crikey’s article was very good in highlighting the cruelty of Job Network towards single mums but missed a key point. The key point is that Job Network providers have to get up to these doubtful, dubious practices eg. short term jobs, phantom jobs or inflating the number of special needs clients, hounding single mums, plus other tricks in order to survive. To do otherwise would mean commercial death. Both of the major parties know that to be honest about the real unemployment figures would result in such an outcry that the present economic order would have to be fundamentally altered. However as both major political parties are now so heavily indebted to big business for political “donation” both parties are so compromised that such change will not be allowed to happen. Hence the dubious practices, the Government’s frequent attacks on the poor and the “bread and circus” charade of the Government’s version of “Mutual Obligation” and Job Network.

More sustance, less carping in Crikey:

Peter McDonell writes: Re. Friday’s editorial. Your anti-Government, anti-Howard bias is unrelenting. On Friday your “naked sweaty John Howard” puerile attempt at humour clearly demonstrates that Crikey doesn’t understand grown-up humour. Your implication that those who shop at Target (such as Mrs Howard) are losers, further demonstrates how far you are removed from the real world. I’d also suggest that poll commentators rabbiting on ad nauseam is wearing thin. They add nothing to your newsletter. How about including a bit more substance and a little less carping from writers overly clever with adjectival colour. Yes the voters will decide, and you underestimate your readers if you think that your too clever little digs will influence them. Give them credit for having the intelligence to filter out that rubbish, and devote the wasted space to more perceptive journalism on subjects the daily media do not touch. That’s why I subscribed to Crikey.

Christine Beal writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (Friday, item 5). But what would be more frightening… Janette shopping in the menswear section of Target at Chatswood. JWH in Targét tracky dacks… Doesn’t bear thinking about…

Iran and Israel:

Zachary King writes: Re. “I didn’t know David Irving read Crikey” (Friday, item 19). Seriously, I almost feel bad responding to Christian Kerr. If he was a commenter on a blog I would ignore him as the obvious troll that he is, but I really cannot help myself. You point out Christian that Israel is the only functioning liberal democracy in the Middle East, and are therefore a ray of light, hope and justice in the region. You also mentioned that Hezbollah fired all those crude, 1970s technology rockets killing 43 Israeli civilians. Israel of course, has access to much more advance weaponry, and managed in that little exchange to kill nearly 1200 people and destroy or damage tens of thousand of homes and other civilian infrastructure – which you could have quiet easily have picked up from the Amnesty International website while you were cherry picking statistics to back your story. The report also states that Israeli forces committed serious violations of international humanitarian law, including war crimes, and that southern Lebanon was littered with around one million unexploded cluster bombs which continued to kill and maim civilians after the conflict. The Middle Eastern conflict is infinitely more complex than your childish “with us or against us” bush style rant suggests, and is at best inane and useless, at worst inflammatory. A Churchillian approach of to “jaw jaw is always better than to war war” is surely preferable in such an explosive environment, and cutting off all dialogue with Ahmadinejad is a blindingly stupid option.

Matt Longworth writes: In response to the contestation of a claim to fact by a third party, Christian Kerr writes, using lots of “f” words, of anti-American, anti-Semitic, holocaust denying Mahmoud Ahmadinejad fan club members and David Irving Doppelgangers at the cost of conceding that the contestation has some validity, even if only “strictly speaking”. Unsurprisingly, the widespread use of “wiped off the map” in the media overlies a diverse body of opinion in relation to it. That and the questioning of it as fact and Kerr’s denunciation of that questioning affirm the importance attached to what Ahmadinejad said. The mutual hostility between Ahmadinejad and Israel is clear. The Iranian regime’s animosity towards America is also clear and is reciprocated in kind by Washington. As Australia has much at stake in the play of relations between these nations we should ask how we can avoid repeating the mistakes of the recent past. And one small way that I think that can be achieved is by not being afraid to ask questions and not being cowed by bullies who let fly with formulaic cheap shots to deny the right to speak.

Sol Salbe writes: Ahmadinejad is indeed an anti-Semite but that is no reason to tell lies about him. In fact following the opposite strategy is wiser. Demonising one’s political opponents is a very counterproductive strategy – it usually ends up biting you on the backside. That said I really loved Christian Kerr choice of an example of what would make a regime vanish. Iran’s allies, the Hezbollah, did lobe some 3970 rockets into Israel killing 43 civilians. But the minor matter of that war having two sides seemed to have escaped Kerr’s attention. As Israeli journalists reported it, Hezbollah (which like its adversary, committed war crimes during the war) actually waited till Israel attacked civilian targets before launching its barrage. There were about 1200 Lebanese casualties in that war – the majority of them civilians. Do the maths yourself: at a ratio of casualties of at least 25 to 1, it would be a pretty silly you of Iran to engage in that kind of regime change. Its population is roughly ten times Israel’s so its own people would disappear long before any fantasies of removing Israel are realised. Kerr’s example shows plenty of hutzpah but it is a good idea to pick an example that enhances your argument rather than ruin it.

Polls and polling:

Ross Whitby writes: Re. “The Government 10+ points behind on its own polling” (Friday, item 1). Can someone a whole lot smarter than me please explain why John Howard is regarded as a leader? To me he is a man of retirement age who struts and strides out with his entourage every morning only to prove he can lead us up the garden path. He may have Costello fooled but how hard would that be.

John Shailer writes: In the past couple of weeks Me Too!, Kevin Rudd, has adopted the Coalition’s policies on the Medicare safety net; autism; Sudanese refugees; and the Tasmanian pulp mill. On top of that, in the past few months Kevin, instead of policies, has announced that he will set up 63 new bureaucracies and hold 96 reviews. His only policy differences seem to be handing over the workplace to the unions, and abandoning our American allies in Iraq. I always thought governments were supposed to have their own policies, and were elected to make decisions! This looks like being a classic Morris Iemma/Bob Carr do-nothing style government, with double somersault, twist and pike. Don’t let the Labor spin doctors give us wall to wall Labor governments, by handing power to Kevin Rudd and his union mates!

Name the shadow ministry:

Stilgherrian writes: Re. “Don’t I know you from TV? Name the shadow ministry…” (Thursday, item 1). Commenters are right. Most people couldn’t identify a front bench, government or opposition. Most don’t even know what a front bench is. In the late 1980s I did a vox pop in Adelaide’s Rundle Mall for ABC Radio. The question: “There’s just been a state cabinet reshuffle. Can you name any cabinet members, old or new?” 80% didn’t know what a “cabinet” was. “Oh like John Howard, you mean?” asked one. Well, kinda. Just a different parliament and (then) a different side. But that’s OK. The ABC’s internal audience research showed that a third of people couldn’t correctly say which radio station their favourite presenter was on. But they all get a vote. Democracy, y’ see.

Sudan:

Betty Hamilton writes: Re. “Kevin Andrews and the lonely fight for white Australia” (Friday, item 15). All the commentators keep saying that they don’t know where this new policy re. black Africans is coming from. I am almost certain that when Pauline Hanson popped her head above the parapet this year that this was one of her “policies”. I particularly noticed it as the ABC 7.30 Report had just done a piece saying how well the black Africans were settling into Toowoomba. It may be worth checking out – perhaps we are getting government by Pauline again.

Ronald Fox writes: Restricting the number of refugees from Sudan is hardly blowing the dog whistle. There should be a strict policy of deporting any refugee or migrant who has committed a criminal offence irrespective of race, one strike and they are out.

Public hospitals:

Niall Clugston writes: Re. “Insider tells: why public hospitals are crumbling” (Friday, item 16). The diagnosis put forward by Dr Rob Loblay is contradictory. He talks about the “demise of general medicine” and the “Balkanisation” wrought by specialisation and sub-specialisation, but then concludes “it’s the budget, stupid”. As if the bureaucratic malaise will be cured by percolating more money through the “15 layers” of management he speaks of! It’s the organisational culture that is the problem, not the funding. A cost-effective solution would be the reintroduction of departments of general medicine, which would immediately take the pressure off emergency departments, allowing patients who needed long-term care to be moved off the front line, and dramatically reduce the infighting by specialist departments.

Mungo MacCallum and elections:

Martin Gordon writes: Re. Mungo MacCallum and elections (Friday, comments). To set the record straight. The longest spell between elections was between 28 September 1946 and 10 December 1949, under Labor’s Ben Chifley. We don’t need petty descriptors of desperate and gutless do we? As for elections there have never been House of Reps elections in January, February or June. There have been 5 in March (the last been 1996), 2 in April, 4 in May, 1 in July (the Australia card poll in 1987), 1 in August, 5 in September, 5 in October, 6 in November, and no less than 12 in December. Only 1931 (the latest election on 19 December which was forced by the defeat of the Scullin government in the House), 1949 and 1972 saw defeats of governments. The other 9 saw governments returned. Both world wars commenced during election campaigns in Australia, a curiosity. And if Mungo is curious where such a wealth of data was retrieved from, it was no less than the AEC website!

Joe Mullett writes: I’ve waited for more than four decades to better the esteemed Mungo MacCallum. Menzies won the election held on 9 December, 1949.

Julia Gillard:

Cam Smith writes: The Sunday Herald Sun caught the Red Fever bad yesterday, after discovering Julia Gillard’s secret past as a filthy Commo. The article, which detailed Gillard’s involvement in the Socialist Forum (a tendency within the ALP) during the 80s, harkened back to a simpler time when murderous communist regimes were still bad (and certainly not acceptable trade partners) and the ALP was more than a pale shadow of the Liberal party. The editorial put it plain: “As deputy to Kevin Rudd, who believes he will be Australia’s next prime minister, Ms Gillard has an obligation to bare her soul and her agenda.” The inference seems to be that Red Julia’s dodgy past makes her unfit for higher office. Unfair? Very much so! With all the coke that was flying around the house on the hill how can anyone justly be held to account for what they got up to in the 80’s? Did Alexander Downer addressing the Australian League of Rights – a Holocaust-denial group who hate all non-whites and Jews – in 1987 make him unfit to hold the position of Foreign Affairs Minister? Of course not! Did Nick Minchin’s very cosy association with the local branch of the John Birch Society – a group which believes that a shadowy cabal called the Bilderberg Group secretly runs the banks (and indeed, the World) – during the early 90s (he was still coming down) make him unfit to hold the position of Finance Minister? Heavens forfend!

The electoral roll:

John Badham writes: I heard a news broadcast the other day that there are still about 1,000,000 Australians not registered to vote. I wonder if this figure includes all those who have changed address also. I know there has been advertising but the above figures, if correct, indicate that the advertising does not appear to be having an effect. By my reckoning that is about 8% of those eligible to vote. Can you see 1,000,000 registering within 24 hours of JH calling the election and how many staff the Electoral Commission would need to handle such a situation? The mind boggles. I recently changed address and even though I did not move out of my electorate I was required to re-register, not merely notify a change of address. How many people know this? I think an article in Crikey advising requirements for being eligible to vote, including address changes etc would be very interesting, not to mention surprising to a lot of your readers.

Australian Idol:

Emma Ashton writes: Re. “How to win Australian Idol” (Friday, item 23). It was indeed a shocking story when Today Tonight revealed the Christian influence on Australian Idol results. I look forward to more of Today Tonight’s gasp worthy revelations like “Arab Idol stacked with Muslims”, and “Israel Idol’s all Jewish”. The story we won’t see on the show is the Catholic Church’s influence on the Howard Government which resulted in visa fees being waived for people attending World Youth Day.

The Northern Hemisphere rules:

Mark Webb writes: Re. “Rugby: Time to believe in gold” (Friday, item 24). As a perpetually downtrodden Northern Hemisphere-ean you have no idea how much fun the Rugby was on Saturday night/Sunday morning. Not the games you understand, just the results. I don’t think I need to do any more than quote your puffed up arrogance back at you. Here goes: “We will win because our starting XV is a better overall unit and we have greater self-belief and a God-given right to beat the Poms.” (Let’s forget 2003 shall we). “…we’ll get to worry even more next weekend when Australia plays New Zealand. While we might hope for the French to do something special against the All Blacks at 5am Sunday, the Kiwi poise and talent must prevail. “… leaving Argentina to remove Scotland, the last northern hemisphere team, on Monday morning. You wouldn’t want to miss any of it. Believe in gold.”

Judd and Carlton:

John Taylor writes: Re. “Al Gore, Dick Pratt and the long chase for Moby Dick” (Friday, item 3). I have a friend who has kept his golf handicap above 20 since January so that he can play in our Club’s “C” grade Pennant team. It has required some judicious 3-putting. I thought that was stupid until I read Charles Happell’s item suggesting Carlton deliberately lost their last 11 games so as to be able to swap their No.1 draft pick for Chris Judd. Say it isn’t so Shoeless Joe! What the hell did the players on the field for the last 11 games think? Were the coaches instructions “lose it for the Judder”? If this is the case why shouldn’t everyone associated with this decision be barred from holding any AFL office forever. And if this includes Victoria’s richest man so-be-it.

Send your comments, corrections, clarifications and c*ck-ups to [email protected]. Preference will be given to comments that are short and succinct: maximum length is 200 words (we reserve the right to edit comments for length). Please include your full name – we won’t publish comments anonymously unless there is a very good reason.