Crikey’s Therese Rein editorial:

Don Armitage writes: Re. Yesterday’s editorial. Dear Crikey editor, “Today, we’ve seen too many cheap headlines and not enough facts.” This is a great line in Stephen Mayne’s piece on Ray Williams with which I concur. However Stephen’s line could aptly be applied to yesterday’s Crikey editorial on Therese Rein. She, like at least a third of the Australian community, have private health insurance, because of the policy settings of the Howard government together with the continual admonitions from Abbott and co that people who can afford private health insurance have a duty to do so rather than “clog up” the public health system. I would guess that most Crikey readers have private health insurance and would therefore be in exactly the same position as Therese Rein. Do you use DD McNicoll as one of your anonymous editorial writers?

Peter Williams writes: For sheer spiteful hyperbole, your remarks as to the prime minister’s wife’s gall stones operation would have to take the cake. Ms Rein has, as I understand it, earned her fortune honestly and accordingly I would argue is fully entitled to any benefits that wealth may bring. I am not wealthy, and am myself presently awaiting the pleasure of the public hospital system – however I see no inconsistency in this. If I were wealthy, I would take my problems to the faster (and no doubt better) operating private system, as has Ms Rein. There has to be some benefits gained by paying whatever the price may be to obtain wealth – a price that neither I nor (apparently) you have chosen to pay. Perhaps you believe that Ms Rein should also travel to hospital via the public transport system rather than using her privately owned car because there a people who do not have a car?

Peter Burns writes: That’s an awfully cheap shot you had at Therese Rein for getting private treatment of her condition. She didn’t “sidestep the process” as you so hurtfully claim. We all know there are two processes in the Australian health sector, with the private one heavily subsidised and, under the Howard ideology, almost compulsory for all but the poorest of us. Therese Rein merely exercised her rights as a private health insurance customer to get treated now, just as anyone who has the right cover would do. No pulling of strings, no favouritism, no queue jumping. I expect you to apologise for the slur, unless of course you’re simply trying to get at the PM through his wife. Timing indeed!

Chris Kelly writes: Your “editorial”, for want of a better word, on Therese Rein’s gallstones was beyond contempt. Would we have heard from the increasingly latte-sipping editorialist if Ms Rein, who is perfectly capable of affording private hospital treatment, had taken up a desperately needed bed in the public hospital system? Or are you really saying that every citizen is entitled to a private room? Perhaps we can transport them all to hospital in a taxpayer funded limo? Grow up, Crikey, you are losing the plot. My squatter status is not likely to change while you wander into the bottom of the garden with the fairies.

Margarete Henley writes: I found your leader yesterday a bit nasty. I am of pensionable age, not a millionaire, but I have always found the monthly payment to cover private health costs. If I needed treatment tomorrow I could probably get it. If your leader was to point out how badly the system is treating non-insured patients fair enough, but to have a go at Ms Rein is a bit much!

Ray Williams:

Warwick Sauer writes: Re. “Ray Williams is no Bondy, Steve, Dick or Jack” (yesterday, item 2). Somehow a fraudster has doctored the Crikey that hit my inbox yesterday. You’ve just got to read it – its author has got Stephen Mayne defending Ray Williams! Talk about inspired comedy. The only thing is, it’s so extreme, and it’s too clearly a satire. For example, it implies Williams isn’t such a bad guy, because about six other dudes did some stuff worse than him (conveniently ignoring the 99.9% of Australians who haven’t committed indictable offences). And it says he owes residual creditors a maximum of $5m (conveniently ignoring the claims for many, many millions of dollars that victims of the HIH collapse might have sued him for if he hadn’t obtained bankruptcy protection). And THEN it says Ray is, like, poor and stuff, and he is being forced to live in a shabby shack in Seaforth because he doesn’t have his Mosman mansion no more. No really, I’m serious! Just hilarious stuff.

Corey Delaney, Party Liaison:

Josephine Kneipp writes: Re. “Corey Delaney, Party Liaison: “get me to do it for you”” (yesterday, item 6). Thanks, Sophie Black, for your rational and entertaining take on Corey’s party. After reading it, I had a couple of thoughts: 1) Why on earth would little Corey owe an apology to “the community” via Channel 9? Sure his parents and their neighbours might have some gripe against him, but Leila?! Get over yourself. Have we really turned into such a country of wowsers? Or is it just the tabloids trying to pretend we have to gain an audience? 2)  Aren’t the police supposed to provide, you know, police services? Don’t we pay taxes that pay their wages, operating expenses, etc? Sure, this particular party got out of hand and the way the kids attacked police and vehicles wasn’t anybody would call acceptable behaviour, but at what stage does that give the police the right to ask for Corey or his parents (whom I assume pay their share of tax) to pay their costs again? Did they ask for all the rioters at Cronulla to reimburse the costs of policing related to that? Surely the user pays idea is out of control…?

John Mair writes: Unfortunately the basic truth of this is the parallel to Paris Hilton’s fame for doing stupid things and saying silly things. A lot of people find it funny and famous because they wouldn’t dare do it… celebrity creates celebrity.

John Howard:

Dave Liberts writes: Re. “Nelson? He might as well reign until September” (yesterday, item 9). It was John Howard’s outstanding political judgement between 1995 and 2006 which saw him live up to his self-created reputation as “Lazarus with a triple bypass”. His decision to stay on in 2006, which Downer seems to have admitted was about punishing Costello more than acting in the best interests of the nation or the Liberal Party, marked the end of this amazing run. Perhaps Howard felt that with Beazley as Opposition Leader, the Liberals could afford to let him do this. In the end, all Howard proved was that folks who have maintained healthy lifestyles after recovering from triple bypass operations should never revert to the habits which got them into trouble in the first place.

Qantas maintenance problems:

Richard Letts writes: Re. “Cracks appear in Qantas truth shield?” (Yesterday, item 12). Re. The Qantas maintenance problems: last year I was on an afternoon flight to LA. After take-off, as the wheels were raised, it sounded as though the mechanism was grinding up a Coles supermarket trolley. An hour later, the plane turned back to Sydney. In the ensuing three-hour wait for an airworthy plane, there was an announcement to passengers on a Qantas flight to Thailand, also delayed due to mechanical problems. In the choice between larger Qantas profits and safety, I’d rather not be dead. By the way, on this competition-starved route, Economy costed $3,000 and Business upward of $13,000. At those prices, one would hope the planes would at least be dependably airborne.

Organ donation:

Les Heimann writes: Re. “Is it time to make organ donation compulsory?” (Monday, item 13). As parents of a son on dialysis waiting for a kidney -and we being unable to donate – it is frustrating to see our son’s life, at 38, go “on hold”. He starts each day with the thought of “that phone call”. People should be aware that on death, taking their organs with them, is a waste. Alternatively to give someone else a new start in life or to save a life should give the grieving family the honour of knowing that one or more people have benefited from the death of their loved one – the recipients will never forget the chance they have been given. Let’s concentrate on the positive side of organ donation – it’s about help not hindrance.

Climbing Everest:

Nick Place writes: Re. “Hillary or Mallory? We’ll never know” (Monday, item 5). Cracking yarn by Ben Sandilands on the whole “Hillary-Mallory: who made the summit first?” debate. But I have a different take on it. Does it matter if Mallory did make the summit if he didn’t get back? Since when do you get credit for half finishing a job? I would have thought that in such extreme pursuits as exploring or space travel, you only get the kudos if you manage to make it there AND back. We don’t tend to recognise the deep sea free diver who went down and down and down but didn’t come back up … We don’t salute the idea of an astronaut heading as far into space as possible before dying… Even in AFL, you have to jump onto a guy’s head, actually catch the ball AND land with it to be feted for a great mark. Only a few of those parts isn’t enough. I know it’s harsh, I know it’s romantic to think of Mallory standing on the Everest summit all those years before Hillary, but sorry, George, you have to successfully land the motorbike after jumping all the buses before you get to wave to the crowd. (Thankfully, I think I’m running out of metaphors.)

Chris Hunter writes: Sorry to be picky but in my published comment on Mallory (yesterday, comments) I did say “and scaled rope free” not “and scaled THE rope free” as quoted in your corrected version. Maybe I didn’t put it quite right. Mallory did not use a rope on his fabled climb at the “pipe”. The guy was nerveless. He loved to stop on his climbs and have a puff. Perhaps that was why his glove was off and his fingers curled in death. He was smoking his cherished pipe when “Sandy” went over?

Nuclear power:

Michael Angwin, executive director, Australian Uranium Association, writes: It is a pity Mark Byrne (yesterday, comments) has dispensed with argument and resorted to rhetoric, which is all his questioning of the motives of Australia’s uranium industry is. I would have particularly welcomed his response to the British Government position – made public last week in support of its nuclear power industry – that nuclear power is safe and poses only “very small risks to safety, security, health and proliferation” and that “… nuclear power is the most cost effective low-carbon generation technology. It has an estimated abatement cost …equivalent to £0.3/t CO2 compared to onshore wind power, the next nearest currently available low-carbon electricity generation technology, which has an estimated abatement cost equivalent to £50/t CO2.”

Plastic bags:

Giuseppe De Simone writes: Plastic bags are back in the news. Is there an opportunity for someone to do some good old fashioned research and use Australia’s natural resources and technological prowess to produce a more acceptable result than either a legislative ban (bad for poor people) or a fee per bag for recycling (even worse for poor people)? I use my plastic bags as kitchen bin liners and use my cloth bags when I have a surplus. Now, I am not going to use any fewer plastic bags (I’ll just have to buy them for around $2 for 80). Quite frankly smelly kitchen bins need to be disinfected and washed so a liner is a good idea to prevent water and chemical use (very bad in a drought). Paper liners don’t work very well and due to their thickness actually use more resource than plastic (but paper does biodegrade more easily to lovely green house CO2 and water vapour). Are we just fixated on the rather rare instance of fish and native fauna getting stuck in the occasional plastic bag? This appears to be a relatively small problem compared to global warming issues and the plastic does eventually degrade under water – just the UV takes longer to have any effect. Almost all plastic disposable shopping bags used in Australia by the main chains are UV degradable. Is this just the trendies due to bad science and logic wasting more world resources for a less elegant solution to an insignificant problem? I think plastic bags littering the street are ugly but I also think cigarette butts and used syringes are awful too. Not to mention ice-cream wrappers, nappies, old newspapers and the other detritus of society’s littering classes. The chattering classes are choosing to pick on one minor aspect of the litter problem because it just seems to be initiated by large corporations driven by profits. By weight and negative environmental effect, plastic bags would rank quite low on the list of global crap.

Bloody colonials:

John Mellor writes: Re. “Crikey for the defence: Why a bastard isn’t a bad thing” (Monday, item 17). I might have missed this – being on holidays – but I am surprised that it has not been raised that the Indian cricket team are about 75 years late in taking on Australian cricketers over the term “bastards”. Wasn’t it during the bodyline series in the 1930s that Douglas Jardine the England captain marched up to the Australian dressing room to complain about the Australians calling Harold Larwood a bastard? Aussie skipper Bill Woodfull called into the dressing room: “Hey, which one of you bastards called this bastard a bastard”. Jardine retreated. Bloody colonials.

A possum’s correction:

Possum Comitatus writes: Re. “Comitatus: Danger lurking for Liberal leadership hopefuls” (yesterday, item 10). In yesterday’s story, a certain possum had a bout of psephological innumeracy by stating that a swing of 2.7% was all that is needed for the Coalition to regain government at the next election. While 2.7% would certainly achieve that, the actual figure is in fact 1.4% – my humble apologies to all.

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Peter Fray

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