The Olympic Torch, the Chinese and the protests:

Sandi Logan, national communications manager at the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (Thursday, item 9). Your “tip” alleging my video production team and stills photographer “posed as media” at the torch relay is wildly misleading, and plain wrong. The three-person crew was dressed in immigration corporate clothing, including an immigration-badged polo top and immigration identity badge, accredited by the ACT Government’s torch relay organisers to cover the event with the working media. Their torch relay accreditation card identified them as being from the Department of Immigration and Citizenship with the word MEDIA. This is a common practice for many event organisers when requiring all TV crews and photographers – be they from private media, government-funded (e.g. ABC) media, public service agency communications units etc – to be pre-cleared for security and planning purposes. If your informant doesn’t like the idea my award-winning team whose work is available online, in our annual reports, in marketing materials, and included as part of our in-house corporate TV news program Our People, was considered to be “media” for purposes of security clearance, then take up the issue with the organisers. Finally, I can categorically confirm that the only use of this material will be in department publications, department video productions and on the department’s website.

Martin Gordin writes: Re. “Torch watch: Chinese out in force; others stay away” (Thursday, item 3). As a resident of Canberra I expected the Olympic torch relay to be quite a spectacle. I did not expect it to be a completely overwhelming Chinese propaganda event with vast numbers of bussed-in flag wavers. I now understand how the Tibetans feel marginalised in their own land. The jackboot diplomacy did not work.

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Christopher May writes: When I arrived at work at 6am in Canberra on Thursday morning there was a crowd already gathered in the car park which was already well stocked with cars bearing Chinese flags. Bussed in some of them may have, but hardly against their will. And why would they not be proud to support their country? If you were overseas in 2000 and had the same sort of chance, what would you have done?

Matthew Weston writes: Re. “Australian sensitivity singles out the Yellow Peril” (Thursday, item 11). Ahhh, yes Jeff Sparrow, it’s obvious that it’s a hidden, racist taint in the Australian psyche that makes us react to China the way we have with respect to the torch relay. You are like so many others of the professional commentariat, quick to dismiss the Australian population with some sort of trite label, to claim that they are unable to make sophisticated analysis. If I took your rather trite example of using facile points I could argue the point that George W. Bush’s personal army were protecting a person, whereas the guards were guarding a flame. Perhaps the Australian population is uncomfortable with the rampant thuggery shown by the pro-Chinese protesters. And I don’t recall Bush’s security detail attacking people either in Australia or in any other country they have visited en masse. Nor do I recall them setting upon those who stood up and protested against the policies of the US. They protested against the torch because they felt strongly over Tibet, not because they dislike China, or the Chinese.

Ron Clifford writes: Crikey, could you point out to Jeff Sparrow that the Great White Fleet was thus named because the ships in it were painted white, this being an experiment in heat reduction and basic camouflage carried out by many navies at the turn of the century. To read Sparrow’s opening remarks you might think that Teddy Roosevelt sent off an all-Aryan battle fleet of Klansmen and race baiters. Perhaps he knew that, perhaps not.

Inflation, tax and the RBA:

Ben Scheltus writes: Re. “Inflation climbs, the Aussie dollar follows” (23 April, item 1). I am really struggling to understand RBA Governor Glenn Stevens’ approach to inflation. It seems there are two parts to inflation – the parts that can be impacted by the RBA and the parts that cannot. Surely the bulk of the “inflation basket” index – fuel, food, labour and bananas will be subject to continuing price pressure because of the increased prices of global hard and soft commodities? Stevens tries to control inflation by increasing interest rates and thereby reducing demand. The result is that people will borrow less and hopefully think twice before buying that second plasma screen. But will Stevens’ actions avoid an increase in the price of bananas? In fact, you could argue that Stevens should reduce the cost of money to compensate consumers for that part of the inflation basket that he does not control! How is an increase in interest going to reduce the price of goods in Australia? The likely Australian scenario is continuing price increases and a reduction in demand – exacerbated by Stevens’ strategy to increase interest rates.

John Goldbaum writes: Re. “Rudd plays both PM and opposition leader on tax” (Thursday, item 10). It seems Bernard Keane needs instruction from Bernard Woolley to correct his statement that “political capital…can’t be hoarded…[because]…it dissipates if unused.” Capital doesn’t dissipate, Bernard! It can be spent, invested or stolen. It can earn interest or dividends and be increased by capital gains if invested wisely, and can be lost or diminished if invested unwisely. If it is unused, the worst that will happen is that its real purchasing power will be eroded by inflation. Now that’s a problem for Wayne Swan and Glenn Stevens to prevent.

The Republic debate:

Bill Cushing writes: An Australian “republic”? That is a dumb idea. Think laterally, people! We don’t have to copy others. We can invent our own set-up, building on our own traditions that have evolved. I’m all for a “Commonwealth (sic) of Australia”, but without a Lord Protector, thank you. Instead, we should get, via a fairly simple Constitutional amendment, a McGarvie-type “Federation Council” of ex-officio former leaders and the like to whom we transfer the present Sovereign’s big red rubber stamp for appointing (and dismissing) the Governor-General and the State Governors (on advice from Prime Minister/Premiers). The “Fed Council” thus becomes “The Sovereign” (all the “Republicans” seem to overlook this necessary entity in our system) – our local substitute for a hereditary Crown – and our Constitution is thereby “patriated”. The G-G remains Head of State and Chair of the Executive Council, as do State Governors in their respective spheres. A more “democratic” procedure for choosing the person who the Prime Minister/Premier should advise the Fed Council (i.e. The Sovereign) to appoint as G-G/Governor might evolve, in due course, as a convention. No “el presidente” needed here!

Ross Copeland writes: If David Horkan (Thursday, comments) thinks our head of state is an Australian living in Australia, doesn’t that mean we are already a republic. And where does Horkan think the monarch fits into the scheme of things? Is she a super head of state sitting above our nominal head of state? As a constitutional monarchist who does he swear allegiance to, our resident in Australia head of state or the foreigner living in Britain?

Big ideas and sport:

Sean Fagan, rugby historian (of both codes) writes: Re. “The Big Ideas are in sport” (yesterday, item 19). The word picture painted by Spiros Zavos of Australia’s first rugby test team in 1899 propelling us into nationhood falls somewhat flat. He claims that the 30,000 Sydneysiders who witnessed Australia’s victory on June 24 were so consumed with patriotism they rushed out to vote for Federation. That the polls had been held on June 3 and 20, and that only 15% of voters bothered to turn out, escaped his attention. Indeed, far from “New South Welshmen and Queenslanders discarding their parochial colours” we find an “Australian” team wearing sky blue in Sydney, and maroon in Brisbane. Most disconcertingly, if Zavos had fully examined the mood of the time, he would know that the greater desire was to see an “Australasian” team that also included New Zealanders. However, the NSWRU wrecked that hope by refusing the NZRU’s request to allow the Englishmen to visit across the Tasman. Absolutely appalled by their treatment, a public outrage erupted, and the New Zealanders dropped out of the NSWRU’s plans for an “Australasian” team. Far from being nation-builders, the appearance of the Australian rugby union team in June 1899 was the final nail-in-the-coffin of any hopes we had for a Commonwealth that included New Zealand.

Chris Seage writes: I agree wholeheartedly with Spiro Zavos’s sentiments. There should have been more talk at the 2020 Summit about sport and its connection with the Australian way of life and keeping, in particular, young boys off the streets. Kevin Rudd was happy to have Elena Jeffreys, the President of Scarlet Alliance, the s-x workers organisation, in attendance at the Summit in preference to say, John O’Neill, an accomplished businessman and sports administrator. Jeffrey’s greatest idea was to allow overseas s-x workers into the country on work visas, a free kick to the people smugglers you might say. As Zavos noted, much in the way of taxpayer funds are wasted on alcohol and drug programs where this money could be spent on programs getting kids into organised sport. Many parents can’t afford to pay their kids registration fees for sport. It’s hard when you have four kids who want to play sport and parents have to find hundreds of dollars to get them into summer and winter sports. Surely government funds could be allocated to help struggling families. I’m sure Father Chris Riley who runs the Youth off the Streets Program and the volunteers who run Police Community Youth Clubs (PCYC) would agree.

The communications portfolio:

Ian Farquhar writes: Re. “Community radio loses the fight for digital” (Thursday, item 6). Upon reading this item and reminiscing about previous Ministers in the communications portfolio, I have to ask the obvious question: does this department routinely lobotomise their ministers upon being granted the Ministry? It’s really the only possible explanation. As soon as a Minister gets the communications portfolio, intelligence seems to plummet, as does their ability to make sensible decisions in this critical portfolio. Look at the succession: Stephen “Won’t Somebody Please Think of the Children?!?!?” Conroy, Helen “How Much More stuffed-up could I make DTV?” Coonan, Daryl “Seat Warmer” Williams and, let’s not forget, Richard “Internet-famous World’s Biggest Luddite” Alston.

Miranda Devine:

Tessa Pauley writes: Re. Thursday’s editorial. What a remarkably snide and in the main, disparaging piece of journalism in the opening (24/4/08) discussing the 2020 summit. The piece de resistance was quoting Miranda Devine who was a participant in this summit. Being so right-wing in her ideas, she was hardly going to say what a resounding success it had been – she is well-known for destructive criticism and she made the most of her participation by pulling it to pieces. The choice of Devine was very telling. What about some optimism? I found such criticism as yours very dispiriting. Get some alternative opinions of which there are several and cite those.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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