Saying sorry:

Carl Mather writes: Actually I’m still at a loss as to why this apology is only for the stolen generations. Surely any apology would be more credible if it covered the entire history of invasion, theft, rape, torture, murder and, even though many don’t like this word, genocide. Given the documented events in Tassie this can’t really be denied, not to mention the charming practice of giving poison laced sugar to walkabout-ers. With all that has been done to the Aboriginal people I think they are remarkably tolerant. I know I wouldn’t be. Perhaps our apology should include admitting the crimes and asking for their forgiveness. Frankly I don’t see that anything less would have much meaning.

Dave Liberts writes: Re. “Possum Comitatus: What a Coalition apology would look like” (Friday, item 10). Possum’s article prompts a big question for me. Could Howard, say in 2005, have wedged this issue by offering an apology on behalf of Australian governments (not the nation as a whole) for policies which have proven detrimental to Aboriginal Australians? Without stepping on the toes of Howard-supporters who felt they couldn’t apologise for the actions of previous generations, Howard could have offered a very decent apology (including a ‘Sorry’) from the Australian Government in respect of the Stolen Generation (and qualified it in the same way Nelson is now), crimes against Aborigines by soldiers and police, electoral disenfranchisement, policies relating to alcohol and (this is the bit Howard would have loved) policies relating to welfare payments which amounted to ‘sit down money’. The Libs could have used this not only as an opportunity to progress reconciliation and paint themselves as a bit compassionate, but they could have used it to bash the old left in highlighting the destruction caused by 40 years of welfare in lieu of useful training and employment opportunities. Sure, they’d have had to choose a smarter ‘intervention’ policy which didn’t shut down employment programs and stick folks on welfare, but it could have kept Howard looking relevant and even been a vote winner.

Martin Gordon writes: The impending apology to Indigenous Australians like most apologies is more about symbolism than substance. US and UK ones for slavery for example were quite meaningless; particularly as all the slaves were long dead. While a substantial sector of the population support it, on the day after all the same problems will still be there. A new round of legal compensation claims will probably arise but the same health, education, housing, employment, life expectancy, welfare, child abuse, domestic violence, etc problems will still be there. Whenever there are clashes of cultures there are conflicts, but claims of genocide are overblown, and still today due to socio-economic circumstances an indigenous child is about 10 times more likely to come into the care of the state. Down the track there may be a sense of deja vu when the current children taken into care cite 13 February 2008 as an authority for their claim. As well the ALP itself will have much to apologise for, it was the author and supporter of most of the indigenous legislation around Australia which is now denounced. If all problems could be solved by the simple passage of legislation there would be no problems in the world. Which probably means that the apology will actually solve very little. By all means apologise but don’t expect it to herald any sort of new era or close one off.

Chris Hunter writes: Most interesting logic applied by Possum Comitatus. However, more about the definition of that word “stolen”. There seems to be some real misunderstanding in this area. A Wave Hill elder once told me about her abduction. Certainly she believed they were going for a bus ride and would return that evening. It was a harrowing, never to be forgotten experience. They were stolen alright. Listen to their stories. It is part of the healing process. The wound is intergenerational, so must be its acceptance.

Jim Hart writes: Since Brendan Nelson has “great difficulty with the idea of intergenerational responsibility for the good or not-so-good things done in the past”; I assume that means we won’t see him at any Anzac Day functions this year.

John Ford writes: Perhaps rather than the “stolen” generation, the Liberals might like to refer to the “five finger discount” generation, or the “lifted” generation, or even, if semantics is their game, the “liberated” generation, in the sense of “This necklace was liberated from Myers”. The possibilities are endless.

Housing affordability:

Gavin Putland writes: The Reserve Bank raises interest rates in response to inflationary pressure. A major cause of that pressure is scarcity of accommodation in suitable locations. A shortage of commercial/industrial accommodation is a “capacity constraint”, limiting the supply of goods & services and raising prices. A shortage of housing pushes up rents (which feed directly into the CPI) and forces employers to offer higher wages in order to attract workers to locations within commuting distance of the available jobs. So if the production cut by Brickworks Ltd and the recent falls in building approvals and home lending are symptons of rising interest rates, they are also causes of rising interest rates! An essential part of any cure is to boost the supply of housing. One way to do this is to make the First Home Owners’ Grant available only for new homes, so that it works on the supply side instead of the demand side. Another is to deem every investment property to be earning, for tax purposes, a minimum of (say) 3.5% of the site value per annum, so that the owners of idle properties, in order to cover their tax liabilities, will have to generate income from those properties (or sell them to someone who will). Then land approved for development will be developed (not hoarded), and vacant suburban lots will be built upon, and boarded-up buildings will be opened to tenants and buyers.

The ASX:

Greg Yanco, CEO, AXE-ECN, writes: Re. “US Justice Department slams ASX” (7 February, item 22). ASX has made it clear both publicly and in their dealings with AXE ECN that they will fiercely protect their monopoly. Since AXE ECN announced its intention to launch, the ASX has dropped their prices twice. A recent analyst’s report indicates that it’s still twice as expensive to trade on the ASX as it is with other global exchanges. The US DOJ statement and Crikey’s analysis are timely. Our recent request for access to the ASX clearing house (ACH) has been met with a list of complex issues that will need to be addressed. In reality we are asking for ACH to clear trades in ASX listed securities with the same counter-parties they have today (ASX have been on notice re. competition for market services since 2001, when the Government launched the Financial Services Reform Bill and again in 2006 during the ACCC review of the ASX and SFE merger). They also tell us that it’s “not yet clear” that the information we have requested to help us apply to be a market cleared by ACH “will provide the best starting point and framework for our ongoing discussions”. I’m afraid the most ominous word here is “ongoing”.

Japanese whaling:

Richard McGuire writes: Re. “Richard Farmer’s political bite-sized meaty chunks” (Friday, item 11). In future, please no whale meat with my “political bite sized meaty chunks.” Richard Farmer last Friday opines the anti whaling campaign threatens to get out of hand. Accuses sections of the media of stirring up anti Japanese sentiment with their “bleeding heart whale picture.” The bleeding heart whale picture was taken from an Australian Customs vessel, operating in a whale sanctuary, in a part of Antarctica, Australia claims as its territory. Is Farmer seriously suggesting the Australian public should not be kept informed of the situation? As for stepping on Japanese sensibilities, it should be remembered that it was Japan who upped the ante on this issue, by including endangered Humpback and Fin Whales in their so called “scientific” cull. Through robust diplomatic efforts the Humpbacks were given a reprieve. Not so lucky were the Fin Whales. Either Australia takes an active interest in the Antarctica territory it claims for itself, or walks away from that claim. The large whales having been driven to the brink of extinction once and now have climate change casting a shadow over their long term survival. The last thing they need is humans shooting harpoons at them. Do humans really need to harpoon whales?

Terrorism:

Steve Martin writes: Re. “NZ airline stabbing: fasten your seatbelts for hysteria overload” (Friday, item 12). Any terrorist worth his salt would find many better targets, and easier ones, than commuter aircraft flying out of rural airports. For example how about lighting fires all over the place on days of extreme fire danger; or bombs on trains, such as in Madrid, Spain. The object of terrorism is by definition to spread terror amongst the population.

Qantas:

John Walters writes: Re. “Qantas memo: ’30 aircraft in the fleet had similar defects'” (Friday, item 3). I was fascinated to read the last dot point of the leaked Qantas memo and I quote it: “Boeing has been approached for expanded guidance for pilots on operations on Standby Power and potentially, beyond.” What is beyond Standby Power? Not a lot I would guess. Maybe as a last gesture the pilots are told to go to the tail of the aircraft so that at least they are the last to arrive at the scene of the accident?

Frank Yourn writes: The heading to your story and the Qantas report are inconsistent. Heading: “Qantas memo: ’30 aircraft in the fleet had similar defects'”. Actual report: “some of the 30 aircraft in the fleet had defects”. Big difference. Crikey is only too happy to be critical of other journals for inaccuracy. It therefore behoves Crikey to report accurately. This is tabloid headlining!

Commonwealth Bank’s ads:

The Andrew Lewis with a sense of humour writes: Re. “Which bank spent $50 million on crappy ads then raised rates?” (7 February, item 4). It’s hard to know which is more worthy of lament, the stupidity of the “determined bank” advertisements or the grotesque and ridiculous claims. “Determined to be different” is as likely to “cut through” to the general population as the Pope is to renounce Catholicism. It’s a bloody bank for gorrsakes. The bank’s statements of intent at the end of Jane Nethercote’s article seem to me the natural end point of 25 years of listening to consultants telling us all that ‘visions’ and ‘mission statements’ are meaningful. They aren’t, and we don’t care about your mission statements, visions, declarations, statements of intent or any corporate claptrappery. If a bank is out there that is determined to be different, you could try customer service, and answering phones, and lowering your fees and interest rate differentials. Perhaps the most pathetic aspect of the story was the commentator on your site, obviously from the bank, suggesting that the ads were funny. Say what?

Underbelly:

Craig Goddard writes: Re. “They should have seen this underbelly coming” (yesterday, item 5). How can it be OK for the two journos to write the book, Leadbelly, but then for the TV dramatisation to be in trouble? Surely if there’s anything the TV show is defaming then the book has already defamed it first?

Public service savings:

Megan Kimber writes: Re. “Key to public service savings is to cut functions, not just shift them” (7 February, item 8). I read Stephen Bartos’ article with considerable alarm. Serious consideration of abolishing the APSC’s functions should be actively resisted. The APSC’s role in monitoring and promoting practices such as equity in employment is central to meritorious employment and anti-discrimination not only in the APS but in Australia more generally. Without a central body that can ensure that Codes of Conduct are adhered to, and amended when necessary, and can promote an ethical culture within the APS, then the fibres that ensure an impartial and apolitical public service will be further eroded.

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.

Peter Fray

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