Manne vs Henderson:

Robert Manne writes: Re. “Gerard Henderson: If I’m a liar, where’s the evidence?” (Yesterday, item 6). As I said, “There are lies, damn lies, and Gerard Henderson. He is in a category of his own.” His response is an almost perfect illustration of what I had in mind. In Wednesday’s Australian Henderson argued that I was wrong to claim that anticommunists had to pay certain “social costs” at universities and among the intelligentsia in the last two decades of the Cold War. He claimed that following the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 there were no such social costs. Henderson was disputing my hardly controversial claim about the atmosphere at the universities and among the intelligentsia between the late 1960s and the late 1980s. As Henderson knows, what he argued in his letter to The Australian is breathtakingly false. He now pretends that the issue is really about my political life as an undergraduate (an irrelevancy, concerning which he anyhow gets almost all his facts wrong). I do not know what amazes me more about Henderson–his capacity to twist the truth because of personal animus, or his incapacity to apologise when challenged and proven wrong.

Henry Rosenbloom writes: I’ve got no idea why Gerard Henderson wants to drag me into his argument with Robert Manne, but he’s doing so on totally spurious grounds. Despite Henderson’s assertion, I never belonged to the Labor Club (or any other club) when I was at Melbourne University during the 1960s. As it happens, I never have had any idea of most people who did belong to it (and didn’t care), and I certainly had no idea then or afterwards whether Robert Manne had ever been a member. Astoundingly, Henderson has now falsely attributed my membership of the club to provide me with credentials for an allegation I didn’t make about Manne having ‘supported sending aid to the NLF’. The quote comes from a piece I wrote in The Age almost thirty years later, in 1994, but Henderson misses the point I was making. I wasn’t alleging anything of the sort (as I’ve explained, I had no grounds for doing so). I was, instead, making the rhetorical point – against Manne’s own argument at the time – that it’s not right in political argument to hold people to account for youthful statements or positions that they recant in later years. For what its worth – and this is something I do know about – there is no doubt that Manne was indeed “an anti-communist at a time when, among the intelligentsia, there was a social cost to pay”. Manne was reviled and shunned for many years by people on the left who should have known better. Now he’s being reviled by The Australian and its fellow travellers. That’s not much of a reward for being a man of principle and courage over a lifetime of political engagement.

Simon Nasht writes: It’s quite hilarious to see these so-called intellectuals squabble about their recollections of the 60s, speaking of the “social costs” they suffered for the youthful allegiances. Goodness, being napalmed by US war planes is nothing compared to the embarrassment of ostracism from an upstairs table at the University Café. Oh, the shame of Lygon Street slings and arrows. Professor Manne in particular (and Hendo not far behind) does nothing for his current reputation by continuing vilifying those truly prepared to put their lives on the line in opposition to the Vietnam War. While Manne was chugging down short blacks and deciding which banner to carry on Moratorium Day, Wilfred Burchett was under daily fire reporting the other side of the Vietnam War at immense personal risk. And it was the same Burchett he so eagerly dismisses as a “traitor” who, long before anyone else, (Pilger included), was alerting the world to the ghastly evils of Pol Pot. Meanwhile Australia’s government was still recognising the madman because it suited our so-called Real Politik, while our bovine intellectual class were so obsessed with attacking Burchett the messenger they failed to read the message. It is only for the fact that both Manne and Henderson have been such steadfast defenders of refugee rights that prevents me from calling for a lifetime ban from Toto’s Pizza and Café Sport.

Andrew Dempster writes: Look, I don’t really care about the spat between Gerard Henderson and Robert Manne; what I object to is that you print it in the “serious article” section rather than the “wild and whacky” letters section. If the CSIRO could make membranes as thin as Gerard Henderson’s skin we’d be a much richer country so he invariably responds with “shock and awe” to any puff of breath his way. Can you please, please stop putting his bloated paragraphs in the “news”?

Mark Perica writes: Poor Hendo cannot let the cold war go. He demands that Robert Manne produce evidence that he never belonged to the “far left Labor Club”. Hendo, I hate to break it to you mate, but “actually existing socialism” has been vanquished and Santa and Joe McCarthy are no longer with us.

Peter Walters writes: Does anybody really give a sh-t about what Gerard Henderson and Robert Manne did or didn’t do in the 1960’s? Give us some gardening advice instead; anything really would be of more interest.

Tony Abbott:

Adam Rops writes: Re. “”You’re a liar!” Tony Abbott strikes again” (yesterday, item 2). Like him or loathe him, at least Tony Abbott has again showed that he is a living breathing human being – with all the usual associated problematical personality traits – simply masquerading as a politician. As opposed to all the other de-humanised, programmed, polled and “on message”, “political class” politicians who seem to have left their humanity behind. Mind you, you do have to laugh at Abbott’s hide in saying to Nicola Roxon that “you’re being deliberately unpleasant. I suppose you can’t help yourself, can you?”. Pots and kettles Tony?

A slap in the coal face:

David Loone writes: Re. “Is Rudd’s plan really a slap in the coal face?” (Yesterday, item 17). Even if the most optimistic expectations of the Clean Coal advocates comes to be (which won’t happen of course, but that’s beside the point for now), Clean Coal still does not qualify as “renewable” energy. You cannot substitute one for the other. Indeed, it’s a zero sum gain for the coal industry anyway. If we start sourcing a proportion of our energy from renewable sources, the coal not burned stays in the ground, where it is still available be dug up one day and sold (that is, burned) to make electricity. When we’ve got Clean Coal technology working maybe…

Kevin Cox writes: Add up the total amount of energy consumed by industry, farmers, coal miners and people in Australia and it averages out at 90,000 kwh per person. It costs $3,000 to build either a geothermal 24 hour per day energy plant or a 24 hour per day thermal solar plant (you store the heat in water or salt for use when the sun does not shine). This means we would generate enough energy for a zero emissions target if we invested $32K per person or taking into account an increase in energy per person about $4,000 per year for each of us for 10 years and that is without increases in efficiency due to the large scale construction. We would need about 2,500 square kilometers (50 by 50 kms) piece of land if it was all solar thermal. We could generate enough energy for the rest of our region with another couple of cattle stations. This is not unaffordable and is doable within 10 years.

Christopher May writes: Or the miners? How many “ordinary hard-working Australians” are employed by the mining industry? I don’t know, but people actually moving the stuff around my guess would be about half-a-dozen, all driving enormous earth-moving machinery. And I doubt whether and of them is so emotionally attached to the job that they wouldn’t prefer to be doing something else.


Kirsty Gowans writes: Re. “Maningrida v the government: it’s the vibe” (yesterday, item 4). I find it amazing that Bawinanga is litigating this case. Bawinanga has no legal title. It has squatted on Aboriginal land for almost 30 years, despite repeated requests that it enter into a lease with a traditional Aboriginal owners of Maningrida (who are not just Reggie). Bawinanga has consistently refused to pay a commercial rent and has never agreed to anything other than “mates rates.” In fact, without the threat of Commonwealth takeover, Bawinanga has not agreed to any legal contract at all. The reality is that little, if any, of the property listed belongs to Bawinanga. As always, fixtures on land belong to the owners – that is, the traditional Aboriginal owners. It wouldn’t surprise me if the traditional Aboriginal owners applied for a strike-out!

A sticky situation:

Bob Hulands writes: Re. “MacCormack: Does anyone not want to be like John Howard?” (Wednesday, item 8). I recently purchased a Kevin 07 shirt and some stickers for the window of my car but since putting the stickers on the car it has begun lurching to the right and trying to follow the car in front… What does this mean?

The Crikey Cabbie Panel:

Peter Lloyd writes: Re. “Crikey Cabbie Panel: Rudeness and politics” (yesterday, item 14). The Crikey cabbie panel is really proving what a bunch of brainless, amoral turds the nation’s cab drivers are. Reinforced my already-strong determination to catch the bus, walk, or crawl rather than give them my hard-earnt.

First Dog on the Moon:

Rosemary Swift writes: Re. “First Dog on the Moon” (Early Campaign Edition: Day 17, item 4). First Dog on the Moon is truly inspired and reason alone to look forward to the daily early edition. I thought Wednesday’s binturong effort was brilliant (I would – I work at a zoo!), but the Tony Abbott funnel web was even better. Please keep First Dog forever!

Denise Marcos writes: This is one helluva cartoon series, congratulations to the artist/creator. Yesterday’s funnel-web offering was a gem. Please keep publishing First Dog post-election: regardless of who wins we’ll need all the laughs we can muster.

Keith Thomas writes: Sorry, I just don’t get it. To me First Dog on the Moon is about as vacuous as the wettest New Yorker cartoon. Are you sure the praise for it is not coming from a small claque of admirers? If not, will someone with the patience of a good teacher explain to me how one – any one – of these pieces is so brilliantly clever and funny?

Double jeopardy:

Wayne Robinson writes: Re. “Tasmania abolishes double jeopardy” (yesterday, item 22). I find the concept of abolishing double jeopardy to be deeply disturbing. I imagine that the new evidence that is being mentioned is DNA findings. I think that DNA evidence should be only supportive of a prosecution case, not the only evidence relied upon, because you can’t see DNA with the naked eye, you can’t absolutely exclude the chance of contamination, inadvertently or deliberately, and is difficult to disprove. With modern technology, it is unlikely that such forensic evidence would not be tendered in current or future cases anyway.

Fury on the Mersey:

Ian Yates writes: Re. “Fury on the Mersey: Nurses keen to avoid another fiasco” (Wednesday, item 20). Surely the elephant in the corner is the massive decline in the number of bulk-billing GPs which has sent people to hospitals with minor ailments? In ‘rural and regional’ Australia there’s hardly a bulk-biller to be seen and this is where there are also vast numbers of people who can’t afford to pay doctor’s fees for their ‘sick’ kiddies. Can’t blame them for panicking if the kids are sick but surely the governments and the opposition should be promising to fix this if they are serious about health instead of blowing wads on health fund rebates and extra training for more GPs that nobody can afford to visit?


Michael Carey writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (yesterday, item 7). Your tipster has it wrong. Dr. Shi studied at the UNSW in its renowned photovoltaic engineering department along with Prof Martin Green. He is, on paper, China’s richest man and provides engineering scholarships, at the UNSW each year, something many Australian based billionaires do not do! If you want to watch a good profile, go to SBS’ Dateline site for a report done last year by Dateline‘s Chris Hammer.

Peter Faris:

Adam Schwab writes: Steve Martin stated (yesterday, comments) that “since when can anecdotes be other than rumours; they certainly are not evidence and it seems strange for QC to call them evidence.” Steve, anecdotal evidence certainly is still evidence – it may not be scientific, and in certain instances it may not be accepted by a court, but that doesn’t mean that it is not evidence. For example, an eyewitness stating that he saw a murder take place would be deemed to be “anecdotal evidence”. If Faris had been told by a member of the bar that they saw another member of the bar snorting cocaine, that would be an example of anecdotal evidence. Simply because something may not be legally admissible does not change the fact that it is still evidence.


David Havyatt writes: Re. “The other trouble with WiMax…” (Yesterday, item 21). Katherine Wilson is no doubt well-intentioned, but she is seriously misguided. The scare campaign over WiFi and WiMax follows on from the similar campaigns that have been waged over mobile phones. The facts in that matter remain that no established scientific link between mobile phones and any disease have been observed. The claims that it is “the frequencies” involved is also difficult because the range of frequencies is from 850MHz for CDMA up to 2GHz for 3G, 2.4GHz for most WiFi and 5.8 GHz for the OPEL proposal (so far). The latter two are used for cordless phones as well, so maybe we should be banning them! Just below these ranges sit the TV and radio frequencies. We’ve been irradiating our cities for over seventy years with AM radio, over fifty with TV. Studies show that 80% of the electromagnetic energy at ground level is AM radio. I haven’t heard of any health concerns with radio. We should also note that mobile phones have been in use in Australia since 1981 and that the GSM networks were built fifteen years ago. When carriers build new sites for infill they turn down the power on neighbouring sites, so field strengths haven’t increased. Fifteen years is a long time to have seen no health effects. Could we please therefore not run around with fear campaigns and certainly not deny our kids access to the internet in their homes, schools and universities because of the same circle of fear mongers talking to themselves.

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