Brendan Nelson’s speech:

John Walters writes: Re. “How Rudd saved Nelson from the Coalition of the Irreconcilable” (yesterday, item 1). Supposing Brendan Nelson had had the guts to stick to his guns, tell the nay-sayers to go stuff themselves and given the speech he wanted to give? What would happen? Would the dreadful right have demanded a spill? And if they had, would Brendan have been rolled? Maybe not. Maybe giving his speech would have delivered to his side enough of those who had previously voted against him for him to be re-elected. But now he is in the worst of all worlds reviled by the right (still) and despised by many of the others. Entrance stage left Malcolm Turnbull? I would be interested to see the comments of those politically astute.

Stuart James writes: When I arrived as an emigrant from South Africa 25 years ago I was appalled at the circumstances most Aboriginal people were living in. Far, far worse than the average black South African despite the institutional racism that existed in that country. And so it has remained with, apparently, no acknowledgement of bad policy by those in power. Then Wednesday happened! For the first time in many years, I felt extremely proud of my adopted country. Brendan Nelson obviously learnt a lot from the previous regime in South Africa. I recall that, on one occasion, the cabinet minister Pik Botha, when asked to respond to a Time magazine article pointing out that Soweto, a township of over 2 million people, only had one swimming pool replied indignantly that the magazine was completely wrong and that Soweto actually had two! He, and Brendan Nelson, would live happily together in Never Never land.

Chris Hunter writes: I can only hope Brendan Nelson reads Possum Comitatus.

The Howard years:

Vincent Burke writes: Re. “Learning from Howard’s record on reconciliation” (yesterday, item 13). Chris Graham has reflected to perfection my own views of Howard and his treatment of the indigenous communities of Australia. I actually felt a bit sorry for Brendan Nelson, although it is hard to feel much sympathy for such an unashamed self-serving turncoat. But the truth is that those who turned their backs on him yesterday were actually turning our backs finally on the weasel years of John Howard and his gutless cronies. The sooner the architects of the other shameful policies of the last government (Ruddock and Andrews), scuttle away the better. Let them join Amanda Vanstone in Rome, guzzling through her tax-payer-funded supply of Chianti. Their treatment of refugees and Australian citizens of a different racial background was equally shameful.


Jim Carden writes: Re. “Faris: Aboriginals must be compensated. Here’s how” (Wednesday, item 13). Those tying apology to compensation are wrong — one cannot lead to the other, but what it can do is create seriously unrealistic expectations and cause some political awkwardness down the track when the same government that apologises then finds itself (through the Crown Solicitor) defending a wave of cases driven by the emotion of it all. I hope Rudd has a plan, because this could cause some severe political heartburn.

Aboriginal Australia needs to step up:

Terry Wills Cooke writes: Re. “Um, that’s not what “sorry” means, Dr Nelson” (yesterday, item 14). This item is not up to Crikey’s usual standard by a long chalk — on a day when you wallowed in reconciliation but when nobody at Crikey had the fortitude (or guts) to state the obvious: that until Aboriginal Australia is prepared to accept responsibility for themselves then nothing much will change. Many Aboriginal leaders recognise this and are trying to bring it about such. I am fully in sympathy with reconciliation, I applaud Wednesday’s actions, but I am furious with the lack of respect shown, in return, to Brendan Nelson. This graceless action was led by Rudd’s appalling press staff who clearly were never taught good manners and was enhanced by an equally bad mannered article from the item’s author, Stephanie Lusby. Crikey would be better advised to find quality contributors, not those who offer the sort of divisive nonsense which this particular commentator has done.

Crikey’s editorials:

David Hand writes: Re. Yesterday’s editorial. Your anonymous editorial writer seems to have an obsessive compulsive pre-occupation with Howard. Two editions in a row, at a point of major significance for our country and you have not much to say. May I point out that Howard is a private citizen now and rapidly fading in our nation’s political consciousness? With Christian Kerr departing, you are in danger of decaying into a ghetto of shrill, left wing troglodytes with nothing particularly significant to say- a sort of electronic version of The Monthly. Compare your coverage of Sorry Day with your synopsis from the rest of the media. In general, they focus on the historic occasion, the new beginning, the hope of progress to end the distressing state of the aboriginal community, the bi-partisan spirit of the day. You just continue to gratuitously kick the corpse of a past coalition government. If you want to stay relevant, change your anonymous editorial writer to someone who is aware that it’s 2008. There’s a new government with plenty of issues requiring insightful comment, in case you hadn’t noticed.

Moira Smith writes: Crikey’s editorial stated: “To listen to Tony Abbott on radio this morning, fuming that the thousands in all capitals who turned their backs yesterday on Brendan Nelson amounted to little more than an activist renta-crowd…” “Activist renta-crowd’ – clearly untrue. Alone in my kitchen on Wednesday morning, after listening to the graciousness and authority of Kevin Rudd’s apology, I realised Brendan Nelson was saying the wrong thing, at the very same time as (unknown to me) crowds of people in Canberra, Perth, Melbourne and many other places across the continent turned their backs and gave him the slow hand-clap. And I’ve since spoken to several (non-aboriginal) friends and colleagues who in their various places — and entirely unsupported and unaccompanied — instantly came to the same conclusion, as Brendan’s words hit the airwaves. Not rent-a-crowd, more like the verdict of history.

Geoff Tapp writes: Them’s my thoughts exactly. I felt almost sick after hearing Tony Abbott’s response on radio to the overwhelming rejection and condemnation of Brendan Nelson’s “sorry” speech. If Abbott and his ilk cannot come to terms with their new-found irrelevance and rein in a severe case of hubris I would suggest they get used to the view from their side of the House.

Michael Carey writes: Re. Philippa Cooper (yesterday, comments). You’re complaining about Crikey’s restriction of free speech? We have just come out of a decade where John Howard’s truth squads were unleashed on anyone who held an opinion which differed from his extreme right wing view and were brave enough to make it public. The barrackers and propagandists attacked everyone from the CSIRO, to the churches, NGOs or government departments who had a view, the Howard government found inconvenient. These campaigns were not spontaneous but well planned and executed.

Fay Sharp writes: I agree with Noel Courtis and Garth Wong (yesterday, comments). Quit kicking the corpses. Your ‘Kev worship’ doesn’t worry me but try staggering the wearing of those rose-coloured-glasses, a bit, or you’ll ruin your eyes.

ABC’s rebranding:

Michael Tunn, former Triple J presenter, writes: Re. “New logo: taking aim at the ABC’s rebranding” (yesterday, item 19). Andrew Dodd made some excellent points about the ABC’s future. The ABC has already signalled that television production will be outsourced, and since funds are tight, no one argues that we don’t get value from ABC TV, the idea of independent producers making low cost drama and documentaries for the network is one whose time has come. While I have been critical of Triple J in the past, there is one development that was revolutionary at the youth broadcaster, moving Unearthed from the Mailbag to a web2.0 model, where artists could upload, and be constantly rated by listeners. The time has come for television to do something similar, effectively giving access to everyone, and loads of almost free content.

Parliamentarians with military service records:

Neil James, executive director, Australia Defence Association, writes: Re. “Rating the maiden speeches” (yesterday, item 11). Richard Farmer was both incorrect and unkind in stating Dr Mike Kelly “was not aware of Stuart Robert’s history when he [Kelly] told the house he was ‘highly conscious of the fact that I am the only war veteran represented in parliament since the retirement of Graham Edwards.'” Robert served with the Peace Monitoring Group (PMG) on Bougainville as a peacekeeper but did not have the opportunity for combat service before resigning from the Army in 1999 before all our wars over the last decade occurred. Kelly is well aware that he is Parliament’s only war veteran and very conscious of the importance of this in terms of both the government and the parliament understanding what is really involved when we send our troops in harm’s way. Edwards was the only combat veteran in the last two parliaments (Tim Fischer having retired in 2001). Both Edwards and Fischer were highly respected across party lines for their experienced counsel on defence and veterans’ matters. If Kelly had not won Eden-Monaro in the recent election we would have had the first parliament since federation without a single war veteran as a member. This scares many in our defence force. Purely for information, the last Cabinet member (or indeed junior minister) who was a combat veteran was Fischer (retired July 1999). The last Minister for Defence with combat service was Lance Barnard (retired July 1975) and the last PM with any war service was Gough Whitlam (ministerial commission withdrawn November 1975).

Pass the pigs:

Greg Samuelson writes: Your resident cartoonist has developed a habit of portraying bank executives as pigs. This is childish and offensive. The pig makes do with a humble life of confinement in its own excrement feeding off slops before nobly sacrificing its very life to provide rashers for the breakfast plates of ordinary, decent Australians as well as those of bank executives, lawyers and politicians. Lay off the pig!


Tom Kenyon writes: Re. “The quitters quit” (yesterday, item 11). Paul Keating served as a backbencher in the Whitlam Government, was promoted to Minister where he served for a grand three weeks before the Government was sacked. He then stayed on during the time in opposition before joining the Government as Treasurer with the election of the Hawke Government. It’s a bit harsh to say that Keating just slunk off. Richard Farmer should know that.

Tag clouds:

Niall Clugston writes: Re. “Rudd and Nelson: The tag cloud comparison” (yesterday, item 11). Am I the only reader to find your “tag clouds” irritating and pointless? As a one-off, it might have been interesting – except the results are entirely predictable. Is there any chance these clouds can blow away?


Mark Wallace writes: Thanks to Foxtel spin doctor Kristen Foster (yesterday, comments) for pointing out the obvious regarding our decidedly dodgy ratings system. For the record, I had not missed that point; I was merely accusing her boss, Kim Williams, of perpetrating the same distortions that Foxtel has so often whinged about from the “free to air” sector. Just goes to show that we simply can’t trust either side of this argument. Glad I’m not trying to find the best value for my advertising dollar there.

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Peter Fray

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