The Costello memoirs:

David Havyatt writes: Re. “Maybe this will be the book that gives Costello a spine” (yesterday, item 1). So Peter Costello has “beaten” John Howard to choose a publisher for his memoirs – a battle he only won because I don’t think Howard was contesting it. As Costello knew any head-to-head would go the former PM’s way. I tried to imagine the task of the editor of the Howard memoirs. I sat through my fair share of Howard speeches and could never understand the zeal of the audience for them. The fact he spoke without notes seemed to everyone else to make up for his unfortunate tendency to speak in sentences that never ended. They were just a seemingly directionless collection of phrases plucked together to in a stream of consciousness that would have done James Joyce proud. Presumably he would write differently, but it is hard to imagine there being any colour in the expression or originality in the phrases. Mind you Costello might be not much better, though he was able to construct new analogies and word pictures. The only remaining question is how you write a smirk!

David Hand writes: Re. Yesterday’s editorial. Once again your anonymous editorial writer is sitting in moral judgement over the hated Coalition government, this time fantasising about the contents of Peter Costello’s memoirs that he/she would like to see. Having elevated Costello to the heady status of “an abundant political talent” your editorial demands a frank, wart-laden account of a political tragedy. He/she then goes on to opine that this will do the Liberal party great damage and open old wounds. Failure to do so will show a lack of courage and honesty. So you have already boxed Costello into either a heinous traitor or a timid liar. The shrill call from the Left, led by Albanese, for Costello to announce his political future suggests a certain fear of his political potency. He owes no one, particularly the ALP, anything. Your editorial continues to have an unfortunate resemblance to Fox news.

Kate Wilson writes: I once suggested a title for The Latham Diaries: All Chip, No Shoulder. I was ultimately rejected, just like Latham and Costello – but since these guys have so much in common, MUP’s welcome to a second chance.

The 2020 Summit:

Noel Hadjimichael writes: Re. “Summit Idol: Mostly covers but some real gems too” (yesterday, item 4). The three Rs of the past (Republic, reconciliation and refugees) have reared their head a little during the 2020 talkfest. The idea of a non-binding poll (you know ask a simple question and argue that you have a mandate for what you want to do) makes East German town planning look good; no treaty because we have said sorry enough; and some nice ideas about being a border control state. The new three Rs were somewhat predictable: a rush to a Republic before get federalism, the treaty or accountability right; a rush to do preventative health that was crying out over 15 years of US style diets and reconstructed social systems; and a move to do tax big time to reduce the burden whilst not talking about the way we spend taxes. The 2020 consultation was sensible but had some big questions attached – who will implement, who was invited and where were the people from the 100 poorest postcodes versus those form the wealthiest postcodes (spare me the demographics about excellence, a best practice teacher from the NT will always get my vote before a Fox Studio actor)? A people’s summit – a random sample of 1000 voters – with 50 handpicked convenors and 50 of the best and brightest young Australians (say Rhodes Scholarship types) might be the next consultative process. The bloke from Bathurst or the mum from Melton deserve better.

The Republic debate:

Martyn Smith writes: Re. “The Summit and the Republic debate (yesterday, comments). Greg Barnes (“Barns: Don’t be fooled by Summit’s republican zeal”, Monday, item 15) is right to say an Australian republic is not a burning issue; there are more pressing matters to consider. However, David Flint (Re. “Flint: 2020 governance panel is a laughing stock”, yesterday, item 16) is kidding himself if he thinks that Australia will be a monarchy for ever. When the present Queen is replaced by King Charles and Queen Camilla, Australia will not stay a monarchy more than “five minutes”. I was told by friends, aged in their 90s that in 1939 over 90% of Australians were of British stock, and that apart from the Irish amongst us, felt they were British living abroad. They were surprised that someone such as me, who grew up in Britain, felt themselves to be Australian rather than a Brit. Flint should face it. The Empire has long gone; the Yanks have been our protectors since the battle of the Coral Sea. Britain has become part of Europe and is an American client state like us. Australia has become a racially diverse country. Also, an unelected official sacked an elected government back in 1975 (I remember it well) and the Republican debate was hijacked by Howard a few years ago, when he bogged it down in a mass of detail, putting the cart before the horse. Alexander Downer says that the present system has served “us” well. I assume that the “us” he is referring to is the Conservative side of Australian politics. Finally, the Queen represents Britain at British trade fairs etc., but she doesn’t represent Australia at our trade fairs etc. The lady has clearly already “given us away”, even as we cling to her.

Adam Rope writes: Sometimes I just sit back and admire modern punditry – any fact or figure can be used to bolster your argument. Don’t worry about the (mis)use, or the selective omission of, data, deliberate misrepresentation of facts, or overblown statements of dubious standing. Just get it out there. You can prevaricate again later. Such is the case with David Flint’s latest piece on the Republic debate, where he states that the “last Newspoll shows support is down to 45%” for a Republic. And? Does he point out that that poll is from January last year, when we had a different, monarchical, government? Or that of those polled only 36% were against becoming a Republic? So David, how about we have a new poll, one where the question is simply “Do you want an Australian citizen, or do you still wish to retain the Queen of England, as the Australian head of state”. No silly constitutional or legal arguments over who is currently head of state, or the status of “the crown”. Do we want an Australian citizen, someone who lives in this country, as the Australian head of state? Then we can argue how to go about it.

Ross Copeland writes: Yesterday’s West Australian (and maybe other papers) had a story about how Britain is planning changes to the law relating to succession to the throne so that females would not be supplanted by younger males in the order of succession, and also to allow an heir to the throne to marry a Catholic. But then the article goes on to say “Under the Statute of Westminster 1931 any change would have to be agreed by all countries which have the Queen as head of state” Now Flinty and his mates have been saying that the G-G is really our head of state. So will we have to agree with the proposed changes to British law or not? What do the constitutional lawyers think or, more importantly, what does Flinty think about this?

Alf Bock writes: Rob Williams (yesterday, comments) says “Why don’t Republicans learn a bit of history?” Perhaps he should learn a bit of current affairs – for his edification, Canada is not a republic, so how can they “rue the day” they became one?

Community radio stations:

Jessica Crouch, president of community radio station SYN 90.7FM, writes: Re. “Will digital kill the community radio star?” (Yesterday, item 16). Unless the government pulls a few rabbits out of a few hats and Minister Stephen Conroy starts answering the phone, it seems highly likely that digital radio in Australia will fail. This will mostly be due to the community broadcasting sector’s inability to access realistic funding to utilise the technology and convert audiences. But, on the other hand, maybe none of that matters. At my station, a youth community station based in Melbourne, we think the kids have already moved on. There’s this other really great broadcasting tool we’ve stumbled across. It’s called the internet. It has moving pictures and everything – and you can get it all on your mobile phone.

Opposition polling:

Ian Close writes: Re. “A terrible start” (yesterday, item 9). Richard Farmer’s figures on the level of support in the opinion polls for different Federal Oppositions after each election over the last 50 years are interesting. However his statistics can be read more than one way. Apart from the current Coalition, the next worst performers five months after an election were Labor in 1967, the Coalition in 1983, Labor in 1996 and Labor again in 2005. Yet in each case those Oppositions came back strongly at the following election. Gough Whitlam gave the Liberals the fright of their lives in 1969 with a 7% swing and set his party up for their famous victory three years later; Andrew Peacock brought the Liberals back in 1984 in a way no-one predicted 16 months earlier; in 1998 Kim Beazley won the two-party preferred vote and almost made Howard the first one-termer since Scullin. And we know what happened in 2007. I’m not suggesting that the Coalition is likely to be competitive in three years time, let alone win, but how quickly we forget the commentariat consensus of two years ago that the Howard government was well set for yet another victory.

Tax reform:

Philip Carman writes: Re. “Economists tell: How I would trim the tax tree” (yesterday, item 21). With five senior economists asked how they would change the tax system, only one gave a hard example of the sort of reforms required. Four waffled about anything but ideas and only Josh Williamson came out with anything concrete. What is it they say about economists? …ahh, nothing much.

Martin Gordon writes: Kevin Rudd now embarks on the long march of tax reform! He claims the former Coalition government was remiss in this area, despite initiating in the year 2000 the largest reforms for decades. All of which Kevin seems to have forgotten he opposed! Good one Kev!

How I should vote:

Marcus Westbury writes: Re. Peter Phelps (yesterday, comments). I can’t vouch for GetUp’s larger agenda but I’ll gladly vouch for the transparency of I was the project manager employed by GetUp in the lead up to the last election. I’ve not worked for the organisation before or since. The problem with HSIV not recommending Liberal candidates is of the Liberals’ own making. Jason Wilson and I wrote a joint article in Crikey warning in advance of the election that the Liberal Party’s decision to not supply answers from their candidates had meant “that the Coalition is not an option on the how-to-vote cards the system generates.” HSIV matched candidates to voters and required both sides to supply information for it to work – once supplied all answers were visible and the ranking methodology was clearly explained. In the few electorates where the Coalition did participate, the system freely, fairly and transparently recommended them. I was even taken to task on radio on behalf of a disappointed pro ALP supporter told to vote Liberal during the campaign. I am amazed that Dr Phelps as chief of staff to a Coalition candidate frittered away valuable campaign time comparing himself to the participating ALP candidate rather than filling out the survey on behalf of his boss. Given that over 150,000 people used the site it goes a long way to explaining why he and his colleagues are now unemployed.

The Olympic Torch and protests:

Mac Cott writes: Re. “Your Olympic torch relay questions answered” (yesterday, item 18). It is a matter of legend here in the fastnesses of the Southern Highlands in NSW that the late, splendidly monikered George Churchyard Turnnidge Sqd/L RAAF (ret), late of Moss Vale, flew the RAAF bomber (a Canberra, I think) which brought the flame to Melbourne from Darwin. While the Qantas plane from Greece had been pressurised, the high-flying bomber was not and thus George was horrified to find an air-starved, failed flame on his hands. Unfazed, he produced a handy cigarette lighter before landing and was able to deliver a steady, if recently-acquired flame on arrival. George was, as they say, a genuinely colourful character… not in the modern Sydney sense, of course!

Welf Herfurth writes: Re. “Torch protest: who’ll be there, from Amway up” (yesterday, item 10). As a Member of the National Anarchists, and a subscriber to Crikey for many years, I am disappointed that Crikey has not spent more time evaluating their articles by reactionaries like Cam Smith, who was quick to slander the Nationalist Anarchists, whilst at the same time over-looking the Nationalist implications of the Tibetan struggle. One is left with no other conclusion that a double standard exists for those fighting for freedom and self-determination is a struggle that those of European heritage have no right to exercise. The only thing Smith managed to correctly assess in his article about the ‘National Anarchists’ is that we are indeed planning on making an appearance at the Torch Relay in Canberra, in support of the Tibetan struggle for independence.

[The] charter of human rights (guaranteed by international law), says that indigenous populations have the right to resist colonisation and immigration. So the Tibetans are justified – legally – in doing what they do. So are we in the West: after all, we are being colonised: the massive flood of immigration in Europe, North America, Australia, is neo-colonialism. From the New Right Website – Tibet and the Lessons for the West

Every other comment is slanderous deceitful rubbish, used for intellectual repression of ideas that do not support Smith’s cultural Marxism. The New Right/ National Anarchists are about freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of association, and the right of national, ethnic self-determination for all peoples. I find it paradoxical that someone who preaches tolerance, diversity and racial harmony would use a racial epithet to criticise those he considers Nazis. The Australian people are intelligent enough to recognise Mr Smith’s hypocrisy. The National Anarchists are not Nazis, nor do we support Nazism, or supremacy of any race towards another, including Zionism. I cannot stress highly enough; violent racist action is as far from National Anarchist ideology as you could possibly be. For further information regarding the National Anarchists and the New Right, please have a look at our website. I would recommend Smith do so before writing any other articles about the New Right/National Anarchists.

The genealogy of nerd-dom:

Harold Thornton writes : Re. “US08: The Terminatrix is here (and eyeing off Pennsylvania)” (yesterday, item 2). Guy Rundle’s walk down technological memory lane was highly amusing but sadly erroneous on the genealogy of nerd-dom. VisiCalc was an Apple II application, also released for the Atari and Commodore 64, but never for the Mac, Classic or otherwise. Despite it being the first of the Killer Applications, and despite creating the whole personal computer revolution, it was already superseded by the time the Mac was released in 1984.

Babcock and Brown:

Adam Schwab writes : Marcus O’Callaghan (yesterday, comments) claimed that “I query the numbers used by Adam Schwab. More importantly the analysis seems flawed.” O’Callaghan is partially correct; however, he too used incorrect numbers. O’Callaghan claimed that the All Ords increased from 3,786 to 5,504. However, BNB listed on October 6, when the All Ords was 3,708 (rather than on 28 October). While the numbers were slightly off and the Accumulation Index would have provided a better description of overall returns, BNB has never been a significant dividend payer, so the change wouldn’t disprove the point of BNB’s relatively standard performance. While O’Callaghan is correct in noting writers with “short” interests should be backed by strong logic, the main theme of the article wasn’t a wholesale criticism of BNB but, rather, questioning whether CEO Phil Green deserved his $51 million remuneration given BNB’s performance since listing (the article was edited prior to publication).

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Peter Fray

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