Burnside: I didn’t heckle:

Julian Burnside QC writes: Re. “You don’t become a senior judge this way” (12 October, item 15). There were a few inaccuracies in Christian Kerr’s report of the Higgins forum for The Justice Project. I was there, it is true. From that point on, the report is inaccurate. Alan Anderson was there representing Costello, not Ruddock. He spoke, on Costello’s behalf, of Costello’s interest in human rights. I did not heckle anyone. I did ask a question. I mentioned the discreditable fact that in 2005 a case went to the High Court involving an asylum seeker who had been refused a visa, but could not be removed from Australia because he is stateless. Although the man had not broken any law, and was not a risk to anyone, the Howard government argued for the right to hold him in detention for the rest of his life. I asked whether that case reflected Costello’s approach to human rights. Anderson said he would not presume to speak on Costello’s behalf (although that is why he was there). At that point I felt like heckling, but restrained myself. Anderson stepped around the question, because any answer would inevitably have been embarrassing. I mention these things just to set the record straight. Ruddock is a disgrace to the office he serves, but the Higgins forum was not the occasion for discussing him.

A cabbie’s say:

Qld taxi drivers association state president Paul Henderson writes: Re. “Crikey Cabbie Panel: Was the tax plan too much too soon?” (Yesterday, item 22). Just on Thomas Hunter’s “cabbie panel” story, for the record, I’m in Brisbane, not the Gold Coast and Thomas got a bit mixed up? He reported that I said “Rudd and Costello where trying to blast Rudd out of the water”? (Huh…) Slight error there, positive I said Howard and Costello, but that’s by-the-by. Thanks for allowing cabbie’s a say on Australia’s best independent news website.

Tax cuts:

John Shailer writes: Re. “Brent: Cut tax then wait six weeks” (yesterday, item 4). John Howard has taken a major step to reduce the burden on working families with his $34 billion tax cuts to offset household expenditure. Contrast Labor – Kevin Rudd has been making bold pronouncements on everything from grocery prices to car manufacturing, and his solution is always another enquiry, review, or some other excuse for doing nothing. The voting public is being conned! With economic problems looming in the US, it is the time for a safe pair of hands – John Howard and Peter Costello!

Mark Freeman writes: The obvious tax cut strategy of raising the tax free threshold has been missed – again. Such a plan would not only help those most in need but ameliorate the high effective tax rates of people moving off welfare to paid work and remove the need for expensive churn payment programs. This latest plan is mainly more tax cuts for the well off with a little bit for the rest. Just think how much less tax we’d have all paid but for the huge amounts wasted on desert and Pacific island gulags, TV propaganda, Iraq and Afghanistan, private health and school subsidies, Aboriginal intervention, the WorkChoices bureaucracy and on and on…

Sheridan Jobbins writes: Erm – The Tampa was stopped on 24 August, 2001. You don’t think the events in New York 17 days later may have had the bigger impact on the national psyche, and therefore election outcome six weeks later?

John Goldbaum writes: Peter Brent speculated that “the government is going to get extra mileage from something big, emotional and divisive in this campaign…about three weeks out from polling day.” My guess is a $10,000 baby bonus for the third child for everyone except Aborigines and lesbians.

Flint and Rudd:

Wayne Robinson writes: Re. “Flint: Surprised Rudd needs better intelligence” (yesterday, item 9). I am bemused that David Flint apparently believes that Kevin Rudd should know in advance exactly what John Howard is going to say, and should also be able to answer before John Howard has spoken. Or perhaps David Flint hears Voices all the time, which would go a long way to explain his articles.

Political advertising:

Martin Gordon writes: Re. “Rundle: No competing visions, just competing offers” (yesterday, item 8). The ALP seems to be following US style campaign tactics. Clearly the negative Coalition ads on the ALP frontbench have bite so the ALP is quickly running ads to “inoculate” themselves against them. The appearance of the talking head of Rudd is very interesting too, no one else features! Is it possible that the rest of the ALP front bench will be rendered mute in the campaign? The lack of detail in the ALP ads is interesting too. The Coalition is playing to its strength the economy, and the ALP has gone to ground. Where are the ALP “positive” policies? One thing that is certain despite ALP protestations they will be running negative ads too, lots of them, just like they do in every election!

The political junkie’s dilemma:

Andrew Lewis writes: Re. “Possum Comitatus: Howard’s Children of the Corn” (yesterday, item 12). I must admit that I am ambivalent about more election comment. The junkie’s dilemma, “one more hit, just one more” combined with the certainty that the next hit will be less than the last one. Kudos for the general quality of the analysis, and for some of the commentary. Possum Comitatus’ review of demographics being a text book example of quality analysis. David Flint’s offerings a perfect example of why today’s newsprint becomes tomorrow’s fish wrapping. Pray tell, is any television network or website planning on broad/narrowcasting the look on the faces of conservatives as election night wears on. I’ve been waiting a long time for this one, and would pay good money to watch the crests fall on the visages of John Howard, David Flint and other select conservatives as their mutual denial society comes crashing down. I’ve been living off the look on John Howard’s face from an election night barbie from 1993 and wish to savour every moment.

Howard’s history:

Jocelynne A. Scutt writes: Re. “Howard’s new history is a betrayal of history itself” (yesterday, item 25). Howard’s “new” history? “His” is the correct prefix. Wrong on the date for women of South Australia gaining the right to vote and to stand for parliament – 1894 not 1895 as stated in the text. And no mention in the “historical figures” or “identities” section of the women who played such a significant part in this great struggle. Yes, Catherine Helen Spence is listed – but as “writer”, ignoring her political scientist credentials: after all the Hare-Clark system of voting is based on her original voting plan. Then no reference to Jessie Street’s role in the United Nations framing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – the inclusion of equal rights of women and men, and no listing of her name. And what about 1942 as the first election of women to federal parliament – Dorothy Tangney in the Senate, Enid Lyons in the House of Representatives, and shouldn’t they be listed? Surely? As for the 1970s – the date line says 1974 saw equal minimum pay rates for women and men. The reality is that 1969 (re)introduced the 1912 principle of “equal pay for equal work” (for women and men), and 1972 the advance to ‘equal pay for work of equal value’. 1974 was a pyrrhic victory, for no sooner was the minimum wage extended to women (which is a more accurate identification of what happened that year), than it effectively fell by the wayside. And as for equal pay – why no mention of the woman who fought so strongly, over decades, only to die uncelebrated and in poverty in 1974, Muriel Heagney? What about the great struggle for Indigenous Australian rights – equal pay, repeal of oppressive state laws, land rights? Howard’s history is a parody of what could be and should be. Let’s hope that these sad little booklets, seeking to cement a restrictive notion of history, are recycled into cardboard – a fitting end to the cardboard cutout view they seem designed to impose.

James Burke writes: Guy Rundle’s spiel on high school history saddens me, because it seems the ground has apparently been conceded to Howard’s position: that all secondary students should be force-fed information which most will find stultifying, and will doubtless convince them that history is tedious nonsense, of interest only to nerds. This is partly because of the point Rundle makes – that subjects will inevitably be left out, or downplayed, because of politics. The political issues are what makes Australian history (especially since 1945) interesting – but try to teach them without taking a side! As Stuart Macintyre has pointed out, this compulsory Australian content will squeeze out other history, including that which should surely be the focus for any young person trying to come to grips with the world – the great global struggles of the 20th century. A year or two of study covering the causes, courses and consequences of the two world wars, and the Cold War and decolonisation, would not only illuminate our own history (after all, Australia was intimately involved in these thrilling and horrifying adventures), but might just keep kids awake for long enough to stimulate an interest in learning more of their world’s and their nation’s history. Given an alternative curriculum like that, what 15-year-old with any imagination would waste their precious time learning about Joan Sutherland or Johnny O’Keefe?

Marion Diamond writes: Sorry, Guy Rundle. The “hugely influential philosopher” who didn’t get a Guernsey in Howard’s history is John Anderson, not John Armstrong. Which only goes to show how silly the whole thing is, since it just goes to show how pointless it is to memorize a whole lot of names that mean nothing anymore to the general public.

The Rugby World Cup:

Terence Hogan writes: Re. “World Cup rugby: England just 80 minutes from glory” (yesterday, item 27). As a New Zealander and life-long All Blacks fan I’m wide open to cries of sour grapes here, but what the hell. Like many other people I was surprised by the outpouring of bile and schadenfreude from sections of the English rugby press (especially the Times) when NZ was eliminated, particularly as these sour rantings vigorously pointed the finger at the All Blacks for lack of sportsmanship. The glaring hypocrisy was eye-watering. However, since 2003 England have been thoroughly uninspired and often inept Cup holders and when their boosters have to spend so much of their time trying to defend mediocrity I suppose the resentment just builds and builds. At least the Guardian had the sense to question why there should be so much glee over such a dynamic and entertaining side being lost to the competition, and the dull football in the semi-finals speaks for itself. But credit to England for recognizing their few strengths and playing to them (tough forward pack and great kicker), it just might do the trick again this time round. But the odds are that if England wins they will quickly resume their role as spluttering also-rans, and should South Africa win… well, if the UK press thinks the All Blacks are arrogant then brace yourselves boys, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. So there you go, not too bitter sounding, was it?

The first indigenous army officer:

Steve Martin writes: Re. Neil James (yesterday, comments). The first indigenous army officer was I believe Captain Dave Saunders (or Sanders) who received a field commission. I remember him at Puckapunyal in about 1952 while doing my three months National Service. But what Neil James neglects to mention is that entry to RMC Duntroon, the then prime officer training school for the Australian army was limited to those of European descent.


Robert Johnson writes: Apropos Guy Rundle’s letter (yesterday, comments) citing evidence about Robert Menzies’ admiration of Adolf Hitler, I thought that the point of Australian Prime Ministers Centre librarian Campbell Rhodes’ defence of Robert Menzies in this regard was to point out that PM Menzies was probably naive, but anyway that he seemed to admire Mussolini’s administrative skills even more than Hitler’s.

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