Sudanese gangs, Kevin Andrews and the media:

David Mendelssohn writes: Re. “Sudanese gangs: the story behind the story behind the story” (yesterday, item 6). I do not accept for one moment Seven News director Steve Carey’s defence of his racist scumbag attack on Sudanese refugees, which was correctly and appropriately torn to shreds by Media Watch of 8 October 2007. Despite what Glenn Dyer and Jane Nethercote seem to think, it was indeed “a sound debunking of the Channel Seven news intro which promised ‘Sudanese gangs caught on camera'”. The Victorian Police Commissioner, Christine Nixon, has categorically rebutted claims that Sudanese refugees are disproportionately represented in the crime statistics, as has Queensland Premier Anna Bligh. Only the mongrel dogs of commercial TV and radio and Murdoch press, as well as the disgraceful Kevin Andrews, are peddling this racist rubbish without the slightest shred of evidence to support it. If they had evidence, they would put it on the table for the rest of us to properly scrutinise. But they can only make their case by concocting or distorting evidence, as Channel 7 did, or referring to “Departmental reports” which he is not prepared to release publicly, as Andrews did. This leads to the inescapable conclusion that in fact there is no evidence.

Julian Cram writes: I find it absolutely atrocious that you’d even allow Glenn Dyer and Jane Nethercote to try and defend this disgusting pile of cr-p masquerading as a news report. The Australian Journalists Association code of ethics clearly states: “2. Do not place unnecessary emphasis on personal characteristics, including race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, age, s-xual orientation, family relationships, religions belief, or physical or intellectual disability.” This clearly occurred in this circumstance. As the police spokesperson states: “They’re just sh-t-bag criminals.” That should be the end of the report – race should not be raised as an issue, especially seeing as how the police were not informed of this tape going to air, possibly jeopardising any case the police may have against those involved in the crime. Regardless of the “evidence” on the tape, this vision was not presented to the public, and the truth of the matter is this was simply a report to inflame public opinion on the topic of Sudanese immigration.

Christopher Ridings writes: Our Minister for Immigration’s recent complaint about Sudanese settlers reminds me of a long-lost letter written by the Eora people to the British Secretary for Colonies a little over two hundred years ago. In it the Eora people are complaining about the behaviour of these white people who have landed on their soil. These English people have come out mainly with criminal convictions from their home land. They keep consuming great quantities of fire water where they become raucous, quarrelsome, and chase the womenfolk who are just as bad as they are. To make matters worse, there have recently been sent out people called Irish who reject any form of governance whatsoever and are a danger to any form of law and order attempted upon them. The Eora people beseech the British Secretary of Colonies not to send out any more of these white immigrants of any kind for they are unsuitable for settling among us. They are spoiling the neighbourhood and our long-standing traditions. Signed Bennelong, Australia’s first Minister for Immigration.

Matthew Levinson writes: Curious ad placement in the story on Sudanese gangs – Captain’s Choice tours to Asia and Africa.

McClelland’s gaffe and the death penalty:

Andrew Maitland writes: Re. “McClelland gaffe rewards Howard’s patience” (yesterday, item 2). I’m not even a Labor voter, but hats off to a politician who speaks with moral conviction irrespective of the political ramifications. The fact that his speech was poorly timed has nothing to do with the fact that Australia no longer condones capital punishment. What do you want him to do, Christian Kerr – hold off until after an election? You want me to assess that as admirable? The fact that it was poorly timed may have lost Labor some votes, but perhaps it has won them even more. Perhaps not, but give me a foreign minister with conviction over a political animal any day. Be careful, Kerr, about assessing moral conviction against political timing. If our society had any decency, surely the more worthy is obvious.

Ray Edmondson writes: The mock outrage of Howard, Downer, Costello et al, and Kevvie’s heavy damage control, over a section of Robert McClelland’s speech to the Wentworth Human Rights Forum – incidentally, quoted quite out of context – is unfortunate in more ways than one. It will have the effect of burying an excellent speech (downloadable from the ALP site) which demonstrates how Australia’s international stature has diminished under the Howard government. Perhaps the timing was unfortunate, but there is nothing in the speech to justify the spin which Howard and Co put on it. McClelland was offering no comfort to Amrosi, and as Laura Tingle points out in this morning’s AFR, Rudd walked straight into Howard’s trap. This incident should, instead, have been a downer (to coin a phrase) for the Government. The Liberals, like Labor, oppose capital punishment. But I can recall Downer and Howard publicly exulting over the death sentences handed out to terrorists. Such blatant hypocrisy stunned me at the time – but, at least by late last night, no one had retrieved and re-run that footage. These are difficult hair-trigger days for Kevin Rudd and Howard knows it. Rudd has to not scare the horses. But he also needs to project Labor as a party which, unlike his opponents, is principled as well as pragmatic.

James Matthews writes: Whilst I have the greatest respect for the victims of the Bali atrocities and I do understand the “practicalities” of politics I’m more than a little peeved to read that Robert McLelland’s principled stand on the death penalty should be considered a “gaffe”. I’m also saddened to see that 60% of people responding to a yahoo7 poll on the subject think we should support this form of revenge killing which has no real impact in the case of the Bali bombers, other than to make heroes of them. Is anyone else tired of feeling ashamed to be Australian? I support the honest and moral position adopted by McLelland. Why do I feel so alone Christian?

Christian Kent writes: Does Mr Howard think that a plea against the death penalty is “offensive to the whole community”? You’ll have to count me out … I heard about a “no killing” rule through a bloke called Moses, carved in stone we’re told.

A soldiers’ death in Afghanistan:

Neil James, Executive director of the Australia Defence Association, writes: Re. “Memo Brendan Nelson: A lesson in Muslim sectarian mechanics” (yesterday, item 14). Irfan Yusuf wrote, incorrectly, that “the 1,000-strong Australian contingent in Afghanistan has lost its first soldier to direct enemy action.” Irfan would appear to need a few lessons himself in military history and the mechanics of military action before he again tries to comment on military or related matters. Trooper David Pearce was in fact the second Australian soldier to be killed in action in Afghanistan in the current war. The first was Sergeant Andrew Russell of the Special Air Service Regiment (SASR) in February 2002. Moreover, the odd term “direct enemy action” is unknown to Australian custom and legislation. Both Sergeant Russell and Trooper Pearce were killed by enemy action when traveling tactically in vehicles attacked by explosive charges (Russell by a landmine and Pearce by what seems to have been a roadside bomb). Which particular weapon was used to kill them is irrelevant. As is whether the method was perceived to have been direct or indirect (both being terms impossible to define consistently in warfare). We dishonour their sacrifice, and insult their families and friends, by not having the simple courtesy to get such things correct.

Steve Martin writes: I would be surprised if Brendan Nelson is not aware of the facts stated by Irfan Yusuf, it is just that Brendan Nelson feels free to put his own interpretation on events in the knowledge that the average punter is not conversant with the niceties of Islam.

Pre-election promise electoral bribes:

Cathy Bannister writes: Re. “Not an election promise, just government” (yesterday, item 10). Regarding Richard Farmer’s list of pre-election promise electoral bribes, did Crikey, or anyone else, maintain a list of promises/bribes made in the lead up to and during the 2004 campaign, and then tally it up with expenditure after the election? How much was promised, v how much was actually spent? I’ve heard on the grapevine that much of the billions promised in environmental programs as part of Meg Lees’s GST deal, sat around in funds, unallocated, then was siphoned out into other funds, particularly defence spending (in the wake of 9/11). Tallying up promise with actual expenditure would be a fascinating exercise, wouldn’t it.

Go West:

Harry Lucas writes: Re. “Wild and crazy candidates” (yesterday, item 12). I take exception to Christian Kerr’s constant derogatory remarks of those who live in the West. Why so Christian? We are Australians after all.

Youthful indiscretions:

Vern Hughes, Director of the Centre for Civil Society, writes: Re. “I was a teenage Trotskyite and other youthful indiscretions” (Monday, item 14). Christian Kerr’s comment on Julia Gillard’s early politics misses the point. In this case it is not that “we all do strange things” in our youth and then see the light. Rather, Julia’s politics have remained absolutely unchanged for the last 25 years. I was secretary of left wing think tank Socialist Forum from 1988 to 1992 when Julia was a committee member. She was a devotee of Labor managerialism then, as now. The key debate in the Forum was whether managerialism of this kind was desirable or not. I left the fold when I concluded that this managerialism was intrinsic to ALP identity. Julia stayed with it. She is a true believer.

Russell Bancroft writes: I worked for the Australian Union of Students from about May 1984 until about June 1985 (although for the last few months we were actually paid by Student Services Australia, the AUS having faded into oblivion). President at the time I commenced work, and I’m pretty sure he had the unfortunate distinction of being its last President, was Michael O’Connor, now of the CFMEU. I have no recollection of involvement by Julia Gillard in AUS management, although she may have been an honorary office bearer. It was pretty obvious from the time I started that the organisation was in its death throes, and talks were already underway on a possible successor organisation. Julia Gillard had, to the best of my knowledge, no role in the AUS’ demise.

Turning water into profit:

Bernie McComb writes: Re. “Making hay in the dry: farmers turn water into profit” (Monday, item 6). Thanks for this news, in provocative style. But I believe it could be even more provocative if it’s true that punters who invest in these schemes only success is diversion of money from tax revenue. Actual return on investment has a bad history, taking many years before there’s any crop/income, by which time many organisers have gone broke. Scam organisers are the only ones who ever seem to make any money.

Casual workers:

Ava Hubble writes: Re. “Flint: New book explodes WorkChoices myths” (Friday, item 20). Despite all this talk of AWAs, the casualisation of the Australian workforce continues. Accordingly to the Australian Bureau of Statistics more than 25 percent of the workforce is now employed on a casual basis. In other words, these workers, one in every four, are engaged on a take it or leave it basis. They are offered no contract and have no right to negotiate terms and conditions. For example, they can be legally dismissed at five minutes notice. When is someone in the media going to tackle Joe Hockey and Julia Gillard about the plight of Australia’s growing army of exploited casuals?


Gavin Robertson writes: Re. “BankWest turns up the pressure on the Big Four” (yesterday, item 29). Michael Pascoe wrote: “To Parramatta this morning for the official opening of the first of BankWest’s east coast branches.” Actually, BankWest have had a branch in Sydney for at least eighteen months, I know this because I opened an account with them last autumn. Disclaimer – I am still a BankWest account holder. Of course.

Marion Jones:

Sean Stark writes: Re, Monday’s editorial. I’ve been awestruck by the slick PR management of the Jones announcement. What a crock! It was complete with a teardrop and the right moment and the reference to God. Absolute farce from start to finish, yet the world media lapped it up and reported it exactly as she’d hoped. She is a blatant cheat. Both her husbands were also cheats. She refused to cop the charge until utterly backed into a corner. And then… “retirement” rather than wait for the inevitable bans. I also noticed that no media outlet thus far has reported her earlier ban for using performance enhancing drugs. That’s right. As a college basketball player she copped a ban for a couple of years from that sport, and as a result threw her focus into Track and Field. Leopard, spots… none of it reported anywhere I’ve seen so far.

Drafts and football:

Sam Dawson writes: Re. “Free agency will destroy delicate AFL trade system” (yesterday, item 22). Go a bit closer to home in approximately 1990/91 when Rugby League rising star Terry Hill challenged the draft of the then NSWRL/ARL and won, therefore making null and void the last attempt at such a system within the League.

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