Apology to Anthony Otto

On 29 February 2008, Crikey published an article titled “Gong-gate reaches Haywards Bay”. This article made a number of allegations concerning the Chief Executive Officer of the Wintern Property Group, Mr Anthony Otto. In particular, the article stated that Mr Otto had attended the annual hoteliers’ lunch at State Parliament, during which he “offered the highest bid of $5,100 for a private lunch with Planning Minister Frank Sartor”. Mr Otto did not attend the lunch. The article further suggested that Mr Otto discussed the Haywards Bay project and other developments with Mr Sartor during the private lunch and that the Haywards Bay project benefited in some way either from the private lunch or from donations made to the Labor Government by Winten Property Group. This did not occur. Crikey now accepts that the article was false and totally without foundation. Crikey also accepts that discussions at the private lunch between Mr Otto, Mr Sartor and others centred on the state of development in NSW and that at no point were Winten developments that later came under Mr Sartor’s control discussed. Crikey completely withdraws any defamatory imputations and unreservedly apologises to Mr Otto for any hurt, embarrassment or damage caused to his personal or professional reputation by the article.

Apology to Anthony Otto II – Alex Mitchell writes: On February 29, 2008, Crikey published an article “Gong-gate reaches Haywards Bay” written by me making a number of allegations concerning the Chief Executive Officer of the Winten Property Group, Mr Anthony Otto. I stated that Mr Otto successfully made a bid at a 2005 hoteliers’ luncheon auction for a private lunch with NSW Planning Minister Frank Sartor. In fact, Mr Otto did not attend the lunch and therefore did not take part in the bidding. The successful bidder was the Winten Property Group. Subsequently, Mr Otto and other Winten executives attended a private lunch with Mr Sartor. I accept without reservation Mr Otto’s assurances that during the lunch there was no discussion of Winten developments at Haywards Bay or anywhere else in NSW. I apologise unreservedly to Mr Otto for any hurt or embarrassment caused by my article.

Rudd’s binge crusade:

Simon Chapman, professor of public health at the University of Sydney, writes: Re. “Rudd’s binge crusade: footballers first” (yesterday, item 2). Bernard Keane gets more embarrassing by the day. He’s sceptical that there’s much research out there documenting binge drinking, and that lesser research intrepids than him must have “spent last weekend looking for credible research” to back up the PM’s statements on a problem as conspicuous as the proverbials. Go to PubMed enter “binge drinking Australia” and read 23 research papers published since 2000 on the subject.

Melissa Sweet, health journalist, writes: Bernard Keane would be much better informed about alcohol policy if he read Crikey more closely. A series of Crikey articles last year revealed that: The public awareness campaign has been in planning for many months; the problem for the alcohol industry is that overall, Australia’s per capita consumption is falling, perhaps because of the population’s ageing and the general tendency for people to drink less as they get older. So the industry is keen to cultivate new markets — hence the ever-expanding range of sweet and potent ready-mix drinks, perfectly designed for young palates; Researchers who investigated alcohol marketing to youth concluded that self-regulation of alcohol advertising appeared not to be working and that governments should act; With evidence that young adults are most likely to drink dangerously, leading policy experts have been urging governments to: reform alcohol taxation; enforce stricter regulations on sale and marketing; ban alcohol sponsorship of sport; and run hard-hitting public awareness campaigns. I, for one, am glad to see politicians finally willing to tackle a significant public health issue long regarded as off-limits because of the conventional wisdom that it’s not politically smart to be labelled a wowser.

Kate Newton writes: What is Bernard Keane’s point, exactly? “Governments eager to regulate don’t tend to worry too much about the consequences.” Well I think the consequences are meant to be elimination of binge drinking. It worked for smoking and will eventually work for grog. Mealy-mouthed sceptics are either ignorant or in denial. If people were properly informed of the facts about brain damage and foetal damage (including embryo damage before a woman even knows she is pregnant – about 50% of pregnancies being unplanned) they would be shocked.

Moonlighting MPs:

Bill Cushing writes: Re. “Cleaning up moonlighting MPs is problematic” (yesterday, item 8). Please — it’s just a stunt. There is a “razor gang” exercise going on, don’t you know? There is no way that Rudd can stop “moonlighting” by MPs. Envisage, if you will, Malcolm Fraser, John Anderson, Doug Anthony, … Bill Heffernan, you get my drift, being told to stay off the tractor. Or George Brandis being told he can’t take on a court brief or two, “…to keep his hand in…” as QC, etc. Remember the fuss when poor Senator John Herron was told he couldn’t “practise” surgery and be a minister too. But it was OK when he was a backbencher. This latest kerfuffle is simply illustrative of the heights of hypocrisy being attained by the Rudd Government. Internet p-rn filters, “binge” drinking, pokies and political donations. Good grief, what next for these pathetic, interfering, moralising wowsers and god-botherers? Those late-night TV ads, maybe? So far, still Ruddy-dud-dud.

Peter Shaw writes: Whilst the recent outcry at former Liberal ministers taking advantage of their contacts to line their pockets is reasonable we should not use that as an excuse to ban all backbenchers from having second jobs, as it would effectively spell the end of the great tradition of amateur politicians. Historically most backbenchers have had second jobs and it has only been in recent times that there has been any expectation of them leaving those jobs when elected. To new members to divest themselves of their business, farm, or practice is harsh penalty that would backfire on the Australian people. The number and type of persons who would seek office under these circumstances would be reduced to the class of professional politician/staffer, unionist, or PR flunky of whom we already have to many. It is hoped that most aspiring politicians have had a life before they entered parliament and will have one when they leave. Further by forcing MPs to give up their job when they enter parliament you force them to capitalise on their contacts when they leave. As they don’t have a job to go back to.

Checking out at the Haven Hostel:

Steve Martin writes: Re. “The Alice Springs hostel that turns out blackpackers” (yesterday, item 1). Interesting defence by the Alice Springs backpackers hostel accused of discriminating against Aboriginal life guards. The hostel claims to be for international backpackers only, according to a spokesperson. In other words their defence against the accusation of discrimination is that they discriminate against everyone other than international persons. If this is their position is to be believed interstate backpackers must also be barred!

Joseph Palmer writes: It amazes me that any self respecting Aborigine would want to stay in a backpacker hostel, which are nothing but overcrowded dives for the dregs of the tourist trade, white trash lager louts and yobs mainly from Britian and Ireland. After a backpacker hostel opened up not far from where I live in Sydney, even public housing tenants from an adjacent Housing Commission block started moving out because of the all-night noise caused by the offensive and anti-social conduct of drunken tourist yobs. A lot people would be happy if backpacker tourism was stopped and all hostels were closed.

Carers and politics:

David Lenihan writes: Martin Gordon (yesterday, comments) wrote: “Firstly older voters and carers are more likely to be Coalition supporters and their views can be ignored…” Oh really? Says who? Apart from you. Where is the proof of such an absurd piece of conjecture? Too many, would-be experts leap into print with no support for their clap trap. If you’ve got it Martin then front up with it, or pull a wave over your head. I suspect you haven’t, I have searched available data and nowhere can I find a basis for your theory. Only to happy to withdraw should you enlighten us.

Alexandra Penfold writes: Martin Gordon’s comments is an interesting call – and supported by what? Carers are not from one or other side of politics or lifestyle. As a carer, that became very plain to me. Caring isn’t about how you vote. It’s a special vocation some people have or can find within themselves, when necessary. Like all other special vocations or gifts people have or find within themselves. Carers, the disabled and aged pensioners always deserve far more than they receive and my wish and feeling is that the Rudd government feels likewise. The Government has already promised that despite their “razor cuts”, carers and aged pensioners “will be no worse off in the 2008 May Budget”. Come 2009, we should expect a much better deal.

Geoff Russell writes: Apologies to Garth Wong (yesterday, comments) and anyone else I offended with my comments about carers adding to inflationary pressures with their $1,600. I should have added a preface to my comments along the lines of: “Warning, satire and sarcasm follows.”

The 2020 summit:

Kevin Rennie writes: Re. “Crikey essay: Beyond the 2020 summit, what then?” (Yesterday, item 6). There are two aspects you haven’t touched on which are vital to any post summit success. Who will control the process and how? I suggest that the participants choose steering groups from amongst their members for each topic area or sub-topics where desired. They would be supported by suits from the Minsters’ offices and the bureaucracy who might also be members of the steering group. The web would be used to enable wide ranging communication and collaboration. Different levels of access would be given depending on the role of the particular participants. The access levels of online applications such as Wikis or social networking could be adapted for this purpose. All of us could monitor and have input into the discussions and proposals. At the same time the distractions associated with some of commentariat could be avoided.

Iraq and McCain:

Chris Hunter writes: Re. “US08: Baghdad’s troubles are McCain’s” (yesterday, item 5). Guy Rundle is right in defining “Baghdad’s troubles are McCain’s”. As the Republican contender for the top job McCain will become increasingly answerable for the diabolical mess created by his side of politics. In the run up to the presidential election you can be assured the “allied” resistance will be creating as much carnage as possible to sway the US electorate. The US has lost the war in Iraq — it was an impossible venture from the outset — all that remains is the bruising retreat, not unlike McCain’s own war — Vietnam. As in Vietnam, the US has always equated control with massive physical domination. Unlike the English in Malaya, the hand grenade is option one, the clip-board an uncivilized bore. OK, so they use laptops now but the technique of compound and permit, as vast and unromantic as it essentially is, is the only way forward in complex occupation scenarios. As the British exemplified in the Malayan emergency, patience is a virtue. Like a creeping tide they documented everything, village populations, crop expectations, and assets in general. And it paid off. Anyone caught disobeying the nightly national curfew was liable to be shot. It was the clip-board that proved the ultimate weapon. But to a nation that hacked itself to pieces during the civil war, using your brains to solve conflicts has never been popular. It’s just not the American way.

The Towle case:

Peter Wilms writes: Re. “Throwing in the Towle at tragedy” (yesterday, item 16). While the families of victims of Thomas Towle’s involvement in the deaths of their children may be distraught and embittered at the charges on which he was found guilty, feeling perhaps that he may get a lesser sentence as a result, this is unlikely. Justice Philip Cummins, as a former prosecutor, is a “hanging” judge and will not only take count of previous convictions on a variety of charges but also judiciously reflect on the facts put before him. The families have nothing to be concerned about when it comes to his determination of the issues that have been put before him.

Flint on the environment:

Steven McKiernan writes: Re. “Debunking climate change on Commonwealth Day” (yesterday, item 18). David Flint has a go at climate change by going through Johnny Howard’s toy box and finding a discarded toy robot named Ian Plimer. He lovingly unwraps this relic of fifties spring-wound tin-plate technology, gives it a few cranks and sets it off. Plimer is a climate change skeptic/realist/optimist (take your pick) who was regularly unwrapped and cranked and set walking into the room by John Howard to poo-poo the hemp fueled vegetarians who bring attention to things like peak oil, rising temperatures, biodiversity loss and ice-cap reduction. The human population has never known so much about the planet than it does today, and the clear evidence is human induced climate change is going to affect billions of humans and all those pesky other things that move and don’t move about the surface and in the waters of the planet. To do nothing as we did for eleven long years is encouraging international pariah-hood. Plimer’s robotic skeptical advice is welcome in the debate, he knows his topic, and clearly Flint doesn’t. Flint does like playing with Howard’s discarded toys however it is a pity the instruction manual has been lost.

David Havyatt writes: David Flint is such an amusing man. For example, to provide us with an idea of whom Ian Plimer might be he gives us a link to an article from Plimer from the IPA Review, rather than say, a CV on a University website. Perhaps it is because the Professor is a specialist in rocks, not weather. It also seems the good Professor found it easy to speak “without notes” as he merely dredged his IPA article up from his memory, or that Flint quotes from the article rather than the speech as he asserts. I don’t think any climate scientist thinks the world is unchanging, nor are they not mindful that there will be another ice age. The issue with the greenhouse effect is that it is a process that can result in a rapid acceleration of temperatures, far faster than occurs in the non-anthropomorphic changes, and once it accelerates no amount of changing behaviour will reverse it. The theory could be wrong, but I’d far prefer to take some precautions than not.

Mark Byrne writes: David Flint’s report of Professor Ian Plimer’s views on climate change was quite telling. Plimer’s rationale for dismissing carbon dioxide induced warming appears to hang on the augment that those who disagree with him must all believe “that humans live on a non-dynamic planet”. This is a pretty feeble excuse for dismissing climate science, and does not stand-up to the rigor of fact checking. A brief review of the literature will show that the dynamic nature of our climate is integral to climate science. This is the very reason for the deep concern regarding tipping points leading to run-away climate change.

The Howard government roll call:

Maria Conidaris writes: Re. “Howard government roll call: Hugh Briss? Dougie Zonegrave?” (Yesterday, item 4). This was the best giggle I’ve had in a long while – but somehow it is way too multi-cultural to have been a “Howard” Government. Dewey, Cheatham & Howe, their lawyers, will, no doubt, shortly be writing to request a correction.

Jillian Skinner:

Peter Lloyd, former resident of North Sydney, writes: It was nice of Jillian Skinner (the State Member for North Shore in NSW) to drop you a line reassuring us that she will contest the next election (yesterday, comments). But what an opportunity lost! Given that Jillian et al have utterly failed to keep the NSW Libs out of the hands of the religious right, and thus been part of their condemnation to political irrelevance, perhaps parachuting Joe Hockey into the opposition leadership would be the best thing that moderate Liberals could do. Hockey would sweep away the nasty apparatchiks who would rather stay in opposition than surrender the party to secular progressives, and provide a beacon for the state parties generally. He would be a shoo-in in any election against the most cynical and ugly NSW ALP line-up in years.

Ned Kelly:

Ruth Davies writes: Chris Davis (yesterday, comments) wrote: “If you want to know how progressive or conservative someone is in Australia, just ask what they think of Ned Kelly?” It would be just as accurate (and just as stereotyping) to say that Ned supporters and detractors fall into the camps of Catholic and Protestant. You will find many old timer Anglicans who believed that Ned Kelly was a criminal because he was a “bog-Irish Catholic”, not because he was poster-boy for Republicanism. I personally think that anyone who robs banks and kills law officers is a problematic poster boy for anything.

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Peter Fray

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