Politics staffers do it tough:

A former staffer writes: Re. “Staffers must be better protected from chair-sniffing MPs” (yesterday, item 12). Your article does justice to a topic on which justice isn’t served! I always believed I worked for the State Parliament and only in recent years, did I realise the position was purely party-political and obsolete. There are no opportunities for ongoing employment even if the incoming Member is from the same party. Despite years of parliament-funded training in HR management, problem/resolution, extensive IT programs, policy and legislation and managing thousands of constituent cases, my MP’s office after almost twenty years, simply shut down with not just staff being replaced, but also records that constituents identified as “not for the new MP” were removed. In effect, the interests of the party faction in my case were more important than the constituents or the “party’s” long term employees. If the same party together with a parliament can’t guarantee job security or an ongoing presence in an electorate, party factions have gone too far. The cost to government of funding these party activities is monumental. Adding insult to injury was the certificate of public service handed me when it was the party that I’d been serving. It’s heart-breaking stuff to see colleagues lose jobs because of the political influence on their positions. Their mortgages, the future of their children and their lives depend on an MP and a party — not the parliament. It is well out of step with any industrial relations agreement, particularly after the last election.

Mark Freeman writes: Dear Crikey, where has this word “staffers” come from? The US media or some other language mangling backwater I suspect. In normal English it’s “staff” or “staff members”. I never hear “staffers” out in the real world of work, rest and play, so what’s going on in mediaworld? I know Crikey isn’t the only guilty media outlet, but perhaps you could redeem yourselves by dropping this silly, grating term and lead by example. But please just do it now, not “going forward”.

An inflated sense of self:

Nick Gardner, business editor at the The Sunday and Daily Telegraph, writes : Re. “No inflation? Check the oil lads” (yesterday, item 22). Didn’t you read The Daily Telegraph yesterday? You’re supposed to be sharp media critics! You have a go at the daily Tele for blaming the RBA about inflation and seem to think we’re ignoring oil prices! You’re as bad as Turnbull and Nelson. See yesterday’s front page of the business section! How much more prominent do you need it to be!

The media and the Liberals:

Jason Groves writes: Re. “Time to stop hugging the Liberal corpse Dennis” (yesterday, item 5). I remember in the early days of Crikey that it used to bemoan the lack of diversity of opinion in our newspapers and criticise journalists for taking the pack mentality. Now I see that policy is to bash the few journalists not worshipping at the altar of our new PM. When it is difficult to read any criticism of the new government in the papers, I found Bernard Keane’s effort today most disappointing.

John Taylor writes: Bernard may have missed another hold-out against belief that the Liberals actually lost the last election: Piers Akerman. Piers continues to push the conspiracy theory relating to the shredding of the “Heiner Documents” during a Wayne Goss Premiership of Queensland, when Kevin Rudd was Chief of Staff. Those who were born to rule won’t give up without a fight.

Asylum seekers:

Ross McGillivray writes: Re. “Rudd harder than Howard on asylum seekers” (yesterday, item 1). So Margaret Simons reckons the Rudd government is tougher on asylum seekers than Howard’s was. For doing what? Dealing with their applications promptly? I would reckon it’s doing people a favour to get claims sorted quickly. It’s drawing a long bow to compare a speedy resolution of an application for refugee status with locking up the applicants (and their children) behind razor wire in the desert for a couple of years. It may well be that the refugee advocates are unhappy that people are having applications denied, but at least they are being dealt with. Do they want the camps reopened? I would think not. The refugee camps are a blot on our history and I hope I live long enough so see Howard, Ruddock et al held to account for what went on there. But the refugees and their advocates need to understand that there is a process that must be followed and accept they won’t win every time.

David Jones:

Alan Kerlin writes: Re. “David Jones drops corporate paedophilia case against think tank” (yesterday, item 2). Clive Hamilton may be happy that advertising standards have improved when it comes to presenting children in quasi-sexual manners for marketing purposes, but there is one area that clearly has not got the message — TV stations Ten and Seven promoting their soap operas. The ads for Neighbours and Home and Away have become more and more overt in promoting their young female cast as objects of desire, in various states of undress. Is this really acceptable? They are after all supposed to be representing school kids.

Indigenous abuse:

Dave Liberts writes: Re. “SA’s Indigenous report confirms: we must act now” (yesterday, item 14). Why does Peter Faris need to state, in respect of the abuse of Aboriginal children, “This is not the White Man abusing them, this is their own people”? While the Mullighan report does deal extensively with child abuse by and of aboriginal people, there are a host of other reports which reveal that, contrary to Faris’ statement, there is a lot of abuse of Aboriginal children by white people too. A quick Google search brought me to this recent ABC radio piece. I agree with Faris that cultural reasons for child abuse are no excuse, but his selective approach of protecting Aboriginal kids from Aboriginal abusers while letting white abusers continue as normal is no solution.


Luke Hughes writes: Re. “Burma battling dual natural and political disasters” (yesterday, item 15). Tragic though the Burma Cyclone obviously is, with the suffering of innocents made worse by the actions (inactions?) of the corrupt and illegal junta, why has Crikey fallen for the dramatic but easy, lazy and wrong line that this is ‘”Asia’s worst natural disaster since the 2004 tsunami”. It isn’t, as the families of 80,000 people, mostly dead Pakistanis, killed in one the deadliest earthquakes in history would agree. Pakistan? That would be in Asia too. That’s about 2-4 times the measure of those believed killed by Nargis, the devastation absolute across a bigger area (I know, I went there). The official numbers in Burma may eventually top the Pakistani toll but they haven’t yet and until they do, let’s qualify it with “one of the deadliest disasters” or get specific with “South-East Asia’s deadliest disaster” since the tsunami. This is not to de-emphasise the clear horror of what is happening in Burma. Facts are a wonderful though often forgotten bedrock of journalism, lacking in the Burma story.

Catherine Deveny:

Paul Gilchrist writes: Re. Yesterday’s editorial. You quote Catherine Deveny saying that women are still being threatened by men, examples being Sam Newman and Josef Fritzl. I certainly hope Fritzl is an exception, but as for Sam Newman…isn’t there just a little acquiescence by some women? The last time I looked, an AFL crowd has a large proportion of women, so I suppose so does The Footy Show. How about the women taking a stand? OK, a soapie starlet wins the Logies, but how about women voting for a 50-something female journalist instead? As far as I can see, feminism was only ever about equal pay, and the sisterhood has been complicit in accepting bimbos as role models, claiming that they are powerful, self-actualising bimbos. Oh yeah? Ask the nearest man what he thinks.

Michael Rozen writes: Your editorial, a take from Age columnist Catherine Deveney, is truly an appalling piece of disproportionate writing, joining up in association — I know not why — a sexist politician, a TV clown and a winner of a popularity poll, all linked with the most gruesome sadist the modern world has seen. This is a low point in clarity of ideas and has no redeeming features. As such it is a winner for your editorial space.

Chris Cory writes: Is it only because she is dull and uninspiring herself that Catherine Deveney feels it is OK to insult other women in her articles?

The ALP:

Greg Samuelson writes: Re. “Conflicted Keating’s retro-analysis does him no favours” (Tuesday, item 2). Bob Carr and Paul Keating are both great communicators, and their recent stellar confluence (a rare astrological event) in the media has no doubt illuminated millions of minds and set as many straight. For example, I used to imagine that the Australian Labor Party was about working people. Now I understand that it is just another career choice for the aspirationals. You pay your dues, mouth a few platitudes about a light on a hill; basically, you pretend to care. When your electoral use-by date arrives, you know that if you’ve been smart and taken the right approach to your job you’ll be parachuted onto a leather chair at the big table in the corporate world, where the real dollars and decisions are made. And then perhaps your recurring nightmare about life in the ‘burbs amongst ordinary people will be over.

James McDonald writes: Matt Hardin (yesterday, comments) addresses my point about separation of Party and State: “Representatives of the ALP, sworn to follow the policy platform of the ALP were elected at the last election. Those people are governing the state … [The ALP is] trying to ensure that the policies that voters thought they were getting at the last election are carried out.” A fair argument. But consider separation of church and state as an analogy: how would you feel about a religious party winning government and then being controlled by their church’s priesthood? Parties are practically the new churches of the secular age, providing ideological frameworks and guidance for their members and inspiring great loyalty. If you don’t accept that, consider a scenario where hidden interests – through bribes, branch-stacking and so on – take over the Liberal Party during a Liberal government’s term, and then suddenly step in and take over. If the legislature is synonymous with the party that won, why bother having a Lower House at all? Simply appoint the winning party to raise bills from its headquarters and send them to the Upper House for review. Your information that members are “sworn to follow the policy platform of the ALP” is news to me and not encouraging. Parties should help the electorate find the best candidates, but upon taking office MPs need to be free agents who can respond to changing circumstances and information to the best of their judgement. In doing so they are answerable to all the people of their electorates, which includes many ALP members but also includes other groups and even those who voted against them.

PR – not the dark arts:

Ernie Biscan writes: Re. “Life in PR? It’s a gas, says golden boy Hedley Thomas” (yesterday, item 19). Can Crikey stop referring to PR as a “dark art”? Anybody can do a PR course; there are hundreds of books and blogs on the subject and a conference about it every other week. Hardly something that should be considered “dark” or mysterious. It’s time to trash the use of the word “spin doctor” and stop portraying PR people as operating in the shadows, when in fact they are, with journalists, more or less in the centre of the news industry in Australia.

Guy Rundle:

Julian Zytnik writes: Les Heimann (Tuesday, comments) is far too tough on Guy Rundle. Guy produces plenty of his trademark scathing wit about both Democratic candidates. It’s doubtful an Obama sycophant would write lines like this (24 April): “To see this man approach a waffle is to see elitism in action, he’s a sad loss to forensic medicine.” And on 14 April after “bittergate”: “What was he thinking? He wasn’t thinking. He loosened the screws about five per cent, relaxing back into his old West Coast persona — Barry Obama, the Occidental college student, steeped in the new left and post-modern classics…” But to focus on bias or shallowness basically misses the point about Guy’s writing. Guy has fashioned himself as a kind of gonzo-comic “colour writer” for whom the best observations are immediate and nothing is sacred. In-depth analysis can be done by others.

Same-s-x rights:

John Goldbaum writes: Re. “Same-s-x rights” (yesterday, comments). Are same-s-x rights the new black? Remember the good old days when gays only asked for tolerance? Then they wanted acceptance. Now they want equal rights and equal marriage Remember the good old days when blacks only asked for freedom? Then they wanted civil rights. Next you know, they’ll want to run for president! Oh for the good old days when gays and blacks knew their place. Especially swarthy gay Jews! I’m not homophobic, racist or anti-Semitic. Some of my best friends are gays, blacks and Jews. I even like women and Christians — well, maybe not extreme Right-wing Christians.


Rosemary Swift writes: Derryn Hinch’s contribution (yesterday, comments) leaves us with a wonderful picture: “And Atkins filmed a dance sequence with a broken foot.” Why wouldn’t he just use a camera like anyone else?

I saw a sign:

Frankie Lee writes: Re. “The Daily Reality Check” (yesterday, item 10). Regarding the humorous road signs in Frankston, Victoria, the below road sign is from north Queensland, in Cow Bay near the Daintree where wild cassowaries run free… The speed humps slow down drivers in the areas that the birds frequently cross the road. I took the photo in 2005 but I’m sure it’s still like this! The original two signs had the plain hump sign at the top and the cassowary sign below. The artist has nicely added just the feet, beak and the “casque” (the hard crest-like bit on a cassowary’s head) to the bump sign and written the words “after” and “before”.

More limericks:

Richard Morris writes: Re. “There once was limerick by Crikey…” (Yesterday, comments):

Troy Buswell confessed and then wailed,
“My life as a poon’s been unveiled!
As you’re well aware
I did sniff her chair,
But swear that I never inhaled.”

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