Morris Iemma:

Alison Hill, media advisor to Morris Iemma, writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (yesterday, item 7). Yesterday you reported Premier Iemma’s mission to China had suffered its first “diplomatic stumble” with the Premier not attending an International Cultural Industrial Fair at Shenzen. Your informant is incorrect in assuming the Premier would be attending. The event was never in his very full itinerary.

No resignation at The West:

Robert Taylor, state political editor for The West Australian, writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (yesterday, item 7). Crikey published: “The scuttlebutt amongst Perth journos is that both chief reporter Mark ‘Bulldog’ Drummond, and senior political reporter Robert Taylor have handed their notices to West Australian editor Paul Armstrong recently.” Dear Sir, rumours in Crikey of my resignation are greatly exaggerated. I have not resigned, I’m quite happy writing for the State’s best newspaper and have every intention of continuing to do so.

Full disclosure:

Hendrik Gout, news editor at The Independent Weekly, writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (yesterday, item 7). Crikey! Yesterday you called me a “gun” reporter, but it was me you had in your sights. Your anonymous correspondent wrote that I’d done a story in the Independent Weekly about Adelaide’s FIVEaa radio announcer Leon Byner without mentioning his role in the cash-for-comment affair. It’s perfectly true that this particular story didn’t retread the already well-documented controversy four years ago which many journalists, including myself, have written about previously. I confess I’ve also done features from time to time about John Howard without mentioning Tampa, on Gareth Evans without mentioning his dalliance, and even on Germany without mentioning the war. But your correspondent goes on to suggest a motive in the Byner case. He claims it was because “Hendrik Gout does a lengthy Q&A with Byner every Friday on the show spruiking the stories coming up in that week’s edition.” In fact my Independent Weekly story had a stand-first in big bold letters right under the headline saying I am a regular on Byner’s program. I know because as news editor I also wrote the disclosure – I WANTED Independent Weekly readers to know. I am a regular (pro bono) current affairs commentator on various radio programs and stations, not just FIVEaa. Adelaide print and radio journalists suspect the item sent to Crikey had more to do with a turf war between FIVEaa and ABC radio than it does about the Independent Weekly. But in the spirit of disclosure, let me also confess to having written a story about Matthew Abraham, Byner’s equally competent competitor at Aunty, without mentioning that Abraham writes a paid column for News Ltd and spruiks that company’s product on-air almost daily. Perhaps to avoid a cash-for-comment allegation, the ABC could broadcast this relationship once per shift, as commercial broadcasters now do.

The media and Haneef:

David Hand writes: Re. “FOI documents: AFP changed its tune on Haneef” (yesterday, item 1). Greg Barns’ piece on the Haneef saga, like 99% of all media coverage, focuses on the civil liberties side of the issue. What is not discussed anywhere, including this item, is the public safety side of the issue. It is pretty clear by now that the AFP, DIAC and Kevin Andrews did not have any real evidence that could be sustained in court to detain or deport Dr Haneef. But from a safety of Australia’s population point of view, there was alarming information. The Glasgow airport bombing and the London plot foiled a few days earlier were carried out by doctors. Dr Haneef is a doctor and is related to one of them. He had left a mobile sim card, a popular device for setting of a bomb, with one of them. He was on a one-way ticket to India. None of this would convict him but there was in my view, enough information to create a real fear among security agencies here that a terrorist event might be developing in Australia. What seems clear to me is that they desperately wanted to keep Haneef in custody but did not have any legal basis to do so. The Haneef case provides a case study to a real event that impinges on both our freedoms and also our safety. I am concerned that we are being subjected to a media feeding frenzy, forensically dissecting the mistakes of some of the players, attacking their integrity, diluting the debate down to voyeuristic persecution of security people who may have made a wrong call. Erosion of our civil liberties is a real danger but if there was a terrorist act in downtown Sydney we would be persecuting the AFP for different reasons, wouldn’t we?

Bob Brown’s media bribe claim:

Jack Smith writes: Re. “Brown’s ‘$1m bribe’ claim lacks a who, what and when” (yesterday, item 8). I am so glad that Crikey has questioned the veracity of this claim. It is so typical of the Greens to use half truths, construct straw men or in this case just peddle an outright lie to garner attention. All too often Green claims on any number of issues are accepted as gospel trust because they were made by Saint Bob. Just think this through. Given the claim to political purity and high mindedness that the Greens often make does anybody honestly believe that if this were true Bob Brown wouldn’t have gone straight into the Senate chamber and placed it on the public record under privilege to then bask in the glory of St Bob the political purist that subsequent media coverage would have guaranteed? Oh no, we are expected to believe that he left it eight years to then make some half-baked slur and use innuendo to support his claim. Yeah right, and pigs might fly. The more the Greens are put under the political blow torch the more exaggerated claims I think the media will find.

Niall Clugston writes: The Brown bribe also lacks a why: if he feared defamation action why didn’t he make the allegation under parliamentary privilege?

Mem Fox on phonics:

Hilary Vallance writes: Re. “Who gains from the kiss of the phonics fairy?” (Yesterday, item 14). I taught children (mostly boys) with reading difficulties from 1975 until retiring in 1998. I cannot tell you the number of so-called “Reading Methods” I studied over the years. I did many courses in the latest “miracle” ways to teach reading. It is incomprehensible to me how the teaching of reading has been politicised. For most children, a phonics-based programme is sensible, simple and works well. This does not mean spending hours reading lists of nonsense words (Macquarie University program) or playing with coloured blocks representing sounds (Lindamood). It does not mean paying hundreds of dollars for classes embodying trampolining, balancing and rolling around. It just means sitting down, gaining a child’s confidence, explaining the sounds that letters and combinations of letters make, and going from there. For truly dyslexic children who may not cope with this, there are other ways around the problem, which must be tailored to the individual. I reckon that given paper and pen and no other material I could teach just about any child to read, though some may take longer than others.

Mark Freeman writes: Dear Crikey, Mem Fox took 316 words yesterday to tell us… what? A swipe at Dubya – gee, tough target. A long-winded diatribe against phonics unless it’s “our” phonics. Then on about “evidence based” stuff and disconnected literacy stats. Heaven forbid she should actually explain in a mere 316 words what she was on about. There’s probably a point, maybe even a good one, but Ms Fox certainly kept it to herself.

First Dog’s deceased cat:

First Dog on the Moon writes: Re. “First Dog on the Moon” (yesterday, item 6). Thanks to everyone for all of the lovely (and not so lovely but well meaning) comments and emails I have received after yesterdays cartoon about my cat dying (it was a true story by the way). Of all of them I think “chin-up dude, cat probably hated you anyway” was the most helpful.

Kirk Muddle writes: My deepest sympathies to First Dog regarding the euthanising of his cat. Having had to do the same things to a family pet that had been around for almost 20 years at Christmas, I understand the flood of emotion. My only advice is to not race out and buy a replacement, because it never feels the same.

Teachers are lazy sods, right?:

Dave Evans, currently undertaking the fourth year of a Bachelor of Education, writes: Re. “Mungo: Nelson joins the list of Budget losers” (yesterday, item 9). Mungo wrote: “…just because they were pulling in more than $150,000 a year it didn’t mean they were rich. Did it? Well, did it?” We now have evidence that teachers are not only lazy, but grossly naïve. In the week before the Budget we had graduate Victorian teachers ecstatic that they would be paid a decent starting salary at around $51K. Indolent fools! $150K will barely keep the SUV running. This obvious pittance proves that teachers don’t work very hard and so deserve what they get. Furthermore we should immediately halt any attempt to train nurses, childcare workers, et cetera. They will now get real hardworking careers.


John Kotsopoulos writes: Ryan Solomons ( yesterday, comments) suggests that Nelson is right in claiming that the alcopops tax is a bad thing. Since when is closing an anomaly that gives pre-mixed drinks a tax advantage over the equivalent in bottles of scotch and bottles of coke a bad thing. Using that logic we should fix all tax anomalies by reducing tax to the lowest figure and let the budget position go to hell, a policy that would no doubt appeal to economic dunces like Nelson.

Judicial independence:

Steve Martin writes: Re. “Judicial independence” (yesterday, comments). I am not a lawyer but it occurs to me that acting judges could be appointed for fixed terms by the state Supreme Court as required, surely this would do away with political interference. After all aren’t SCs appointed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court?

What Google tells us about Israel (and 007):

Noel Hadjimichael writes: Harold Thornton (yesterday, comments) should take his own advice about the use of words and getting the facts right. Firstly, he cites Google (wonderful information tool nevertheless) as the empirical evidential source to back Antony Lowenstein’s claims about ethnic cleansing. I should therefore, for my own sins, pursue the web for legal, lawful, correct and convincing argument that: Scotland has never ceded independence, the rightful claimant to the British throne is some European upstart from the Stuart dynasty and that Sean Connery was the best Bond! Secondly, ethnic cleansing is a term that emerged in the 1990s from the peculiar political and social factors arising from the disintegration of the former Yugoslavia. Forced population settlement (such as the dramatic and never properly compensated expulsion of Germans from Eastern lands under the early Soviet era) is a reality of historical and political circumstances. If residents of a locality or a State forgo citizenship, act in a disloyal and seditious manner, ferment terrorism and undermine the very democratic State within which they reside, with a stated set of behaviours that seek to destroy the State, there is argument that they have (in some form or another) relinquished their right to residence and continuance. The Palestine of the Peel Commission era had been subjected to some debate as to the desirability of major re-settlement of populations to allow a home for the Jewish people. It seems that more than 60 years and countless numbers of victims of terror are not enough to justify safe and secure borders with a population that is supportive of liberal democratic values.

Lowbottom High diaries:

Sasha Marker writes: Re. “Lowbottom diaries: An excursion in prose” (Friday, item 16). It was with great delight that I found myself reading aloud Friday’s “Execution in Prose” at work – all those English lessons of yore were not wasted after all.

The Olden Days:

Edi Winkler writes: Re. “Video of the Day” (yesterday, Baz Luhrmann’s Australia). Thanks Crikey! I couldn’t just watch one clip of The Olden Days; I had to watch all six! What a wasted afternoon!


Geraldine Pace writes: Re. “Lookalike” (yesterday, comments). Following on from the picture of Wayne Swan and Jar Jar Binks yesterday. What about Morris Iemma and Droopy?:

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