Westpac’s St George takeover:

Bob Cole writes: Re. “Rudd should block Westpac and St George love-in” (yesterday, item 1). There is actually a simple answer to this vexed question – tell the banks that the market will be opened up without further consideration of the current players, by allowing further full banking licences. The infrastructure can be in place if alliances are formed with other financial institutions. Australian banks have ripped off the Aussie consumer for too long and those added competition elements would be by allowing banking from overseas banks and not allowing further takeovers or mergers in this country.

Maria Conidaris writes: The learned Crikey army knows that before Westpac became the bank of the Western Pacific, it used to be the Bank of New South Wales and that the Red Dragon is the symbol of “Old North” Wales. It’s too delicious for words to think that St George will finally be done over by the dragon. Also, as a customer for 32 of my 37 years, if St George does get done over by the Red Dragon, I’m shifting my assets. Cheers, and congratulations for finally making into the Budget lock-up.

Ross Whitby writes: I don’t often care what Stephen Mayne has to say but he is right to call for the blocking of the merger of Westpac and St George. We need more, not less banks and less big banks to push us round. Mayne seems to have woken up to Graeme Samuel as well – the sooner he goes the better.

Peter Debnam resigns:

Shirley Colless writes: Re. “Debnam resigns over NSW electricity privatisation” (yesterday, item 4). I didn’t think I would live long enough to see a NSW Labor or Liberal party politician put principle before party. I haven’t thought much of Peter Debnam to date, but my opinion of him has definitely improved to the point where, if I lived in his electorate, I would vote for him next time around. There are, reportedly, a number of people on Morris Iemma’s back bench who could follow his example, ditch the party, go independent and vote against what will turn out to be a disaster for NSW consumers.

The media’s love of Obama:

Martin Gordon writes: Re. “US08: Hillary goes well beyond the pale” (yesterday, item 3). The media tends to focus on government leaders rather than oppositions, and some political figures rather than others. The rather overwhelming and biased coverage of Barack Obama is always perplexing too. He is masterful with rhetoric and quite opportunistic, but his website is short on detail. A recent bit of media coverage was a standard rant by Obama against John McCain; he claimed he had superior Iraq, health care, tax and petrol prices policies. I know on the last two he believes in higher fuel prices and taxes which is odd in a recession with falling demand. On health care his policy is rather overstated, as it is quite modest, as it would be vastly expensive to be anything else. As for Iraq he pretends to favour a withdrawal, but is elusive about details, and he would never suggest defeat, but that may well be the consequence of a precipitate withdrawal. He has secured an endorsement from Hamas which is a disturbing thing for starters! Previously his own party had voted for regime change (removing Saddam Hussein during the Clinton Presidency) in Iraq but appears he and they don’t actually support it. He has taken to appearing with ordinary folk, having recently attacked them. The man of the people image is usually used by those who are not men of the people. Orwell observed that only a socialist could show such contempt for ordinary people. It is not odd that Obama exhibits the same trait as in American politics he is very to the left of it. People on the extremes of any nation’s politics are rarely successful, unless people are not aware of what the candidate really thinks. The media don’t seem to asking serious questions

Unemployment figures:

Niall Clugston writes: Re. “There are two million Australians out of work. That’s the truth.” (yesterday, item 15). Marcus L’Estrange has a point when he says the official figure understates unemployment. But his argument doesn’t clearly differentiate between unemployment, underemployment, and voluntary casualisation. The fact is that employment status is really too complex to be summed up in any single figure.

Requesting a sense of proportion on Israel:

Daniel Lewis writes: Harold Thornton (yesterday, comments) deliberately (and badly) misrepresents me by suggesting I inferred “Israel can only be judged by the standards of neighbouring dictatorships”. I didn’t. Were it so easy, Israel would surely have to rank pretty well. Unfortunately, the reality is too many people are happy to hand a free pass to the Arabs, yet will condemn Israel without any sense of proportion. Case in point, the current ‘almost’ civil war in Lebanon. You’d barely have read about it in this country, despite the massive implications. Were Israel to deny a Hezbollah terrorist a sandwich however, it would provoke howls of outrage and unending letters to the editor. The contrast between the treatment of Israel, a democracy which obeys rule-of-law and has freedom enshrined in its society, and that of headchoppers, oppressors, dictatorships and serial human-rights abusers – not only in the Middle East – brings to mind Thomas Friedman’s observation: “Criticizing Israel is not anti-Semitic, and saying so is vile. But singling out Israel for opprobrium and international sanction out of all proportion to any other party in the Middle East is anti-Semitic, and not saying so is dishonest.” My criticism was against the so-called “anti-Zionists” who have plenty to say about the world’s only Jewish state, Israel, ostensibly under the pretense of caring for human rights, but nothing at all to say about any other country, including woeful Arab treatment of Palestinians.

Noel Hadjimichael writes: Harold Thornton is all sarcasm and sweet humour. Israel is not only better compared to its neighbour nations (those icons of democratic pluralism and civil society) but also can be better understood if we consider its social, security and civil society attributes by reference to similar liberal democracies in a declared war or conflict environment: 1940-1945 Britain (detentions, trials of subversives, effective counter-terrorism or espionage efforts, the defence of the realm act etc); 1940-1945 USA (FDR’s treatment of combatants, Japanese citizens, German sympathizers, use of lend lease in violation of normal neutrality rules etc); the Irish State in the follow up of the 1922 treaty; the Italian State facing urban terrorism; and the Malayan political entity post independence facing totalitarian Maoist insurgents. Fighting to save the State and its citizens’ freedoms comes at a terrible cost.

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