Mandatory detention:

Tony Kevin writes: Re. “Mungo: Howard’s detention regime diminished us all” (yesterday, item 7). Mungo MacCallum wrote: “There was much to loathe about the Howard years, but two things were utterly unforgivable. One was the abandonment of Australian citizens to illegal imprisonment and torture — David Hicks and Mamdouh Habib. The other was the incarceration of children behind razor wire until they went mad”. So, were Operation Relex’s abuses of the duty to protect human life at sea, and the AFP/DIMIA people smuggling disruption program in Indonesia “forgivable” acts? Was the drowning of 353 people on SIEV X “forgivable” too? But Mungo need not worry — he is joining many other senior journalists in Australia in self-censoring such recent disturbing memories. One wonders, why did David Marr and Marian Wilkinson bother to write Dark Victory? Why did I bother to write “A Certain Maritime Incident”? Was it just to help Labor get into government, so that Labor could itself promptly gloss over these facts of the recent past, whose airing now might disturb important voting constituencies in the ADF, AFP and federal public service? Seemingly it’s OK now to “loathe” the cruel mistreatment of Hicks, Habib and refugee children in detention, because the approved media script has sheeted those human rights abuses home to Howard and his political cronies. Somehow, senior bureaucrats had nothing to do with implementing them. Or if they did, our media have conveniently forgotten that too. The hypocrisy of recent days’ media self-congratulation over the end of the abuse of refugees under our squeaky-clean new Labor Government leaves me more than a little sick. Labor and its media friends are simply helping to shield the Howard regime’s self-protective lies about what was really happening on our maritime borders between 1998 and 2001; they won’t rock this controversial boat. And all Australians are diminished by that cowardice, too.

Alan Hatfield writes: Thank you Mungo for the most concise statement yet of the worst of the Howard years. “There was much to loathe about the Howard years but two things were utterly unforgivable. One was the abandonment of Australian citizens to illegal imprisonment and torture — David Hicks and Mamdouh Habib. The other was the incarceration of children behind razor wire until they went mad.” There was plenty else to complain or be ashamed about (or both!) but those two stand clear as his absolute worst! We need such statements so that we remember how bad it was!

Chris Hunter writes: Good on Mungo for smacking the nail on the head as usual. Nothing irrelevant here. Howard, Ruddock, who were those guys… oh that’s right, they were part of a former Australian government I’d almost forgotten about, or at least am trying to forget about… just occasionally I wake up sweating and trembling having hallucinated the face of a screaming child or a tortured parent driven to suicidal despair. Remember Mr Kurtz? His final words — “The horror! The horror!” Suitable epitaph for the Howard Liberal Government I reckon.

Adam Rope writes: John Shailer (yesterday, comments) wrote yesterday that our PM is “releasing most of the illegal immigrants currently in detention, so that they can disappear into the wider community and undercut the pay of working families”. Apart from the disturbing paranoia and retrospective xenophobia in the comment, I thought there were only about three hundred migrants left in detention centres these days, so it’s hardly an alien horde. I also wonder what he makes of all those immigrants who’ve come to Australia under 457 Visas, introduced by his hero John Howard, and also undercutting the pay of the same working families? Oh, and finally, how many “working families/battlers” live in East Lindfield these days, Mr Shailer?

Mark Freeman writes: Oh dear John Shailer (et al), let’s spell it out one more time. Seeking asylum with or without papers is totally legal in this and most civilised countries by international convention. This is the category of detainees subject to the government’s current changes. Illegal immigrants — such as those who’ve overstayed, defrauded or committed other crimes under immigration law will stay in detention pending their right of trial under Australian law. Got it now?

Nuclear power:

Nic Maclellan writes: Re. “Ok folks, it’s time to talk about nuclear power” (Wednesday, item 10). Bernard Keane says “we need to drop the ideological and emotive approach to nuclear power”, but then goes on to promote “moral” arguments on our obligation to make Australia a nuclear waste dump. I’d be more convinced by his pro-nuclear polemics if he could provide some evidence for his assertion that “its polluting by-products are far easier to geosequestrate”. Does he mean that nuclear waste can safely be buried? Can he provide evidence that safe and economic underground storage of high-level radioactive wastes is occurring anywhere in the world? (I also await his interview with Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory, to back up his assertion that “Australia is about the best place for one you could find” for a nuclear waste dump).The suggestion that nuclear power is the “least-worst option amongst technologies of varying levels of utility, pollution, cost and development” is fanciful. Between 2004 and 2006, wind power alone recorded an average annual increase of 13,300 MW around the world — more than 6.5 times the increased nuclear generating capacity in the same period. Keane’s vision of a nuclear renaissance doesn’t mention who will pay for the looming cost of decommissioning existing reactors built in the 1960s and 1970s (which are at the end of their safe operating life) nor who will provide the nuclear technicians and engineers. Spinning “the nuclear solution to climate change” may help the share prices of Australian uranium producers, but it’s no substitute for hard analysis of the ongoing subsidies to the nuclear industry by global taxpayers, let alone issues of nuclear proliferation and waste storage.


Ian Farquhar writes: Re. “Keane: This Wiki sh-t is really Whack” (Wednesday, item 3). So is Bernard Keane going to test the efficiency of Parliament House’s grounds staff by spray painting graffiti and seeing how long they take to clean it off? Whether Keane “gets it” it or not, Wikipedia isn’t a playground for irresponsible journalists to deface in the pursuit of a story (and barely one at that). Defacing Wikipedia to time how long its corrective actions take, and then insulting Keane’s so-called “Wikinerds” who fixed this vandalism, is gutter journalism. Crikey Editor, can you explain to us readers how Bernard Keane’s actions here are compliant with the AJA Code of Ethics? I’m particularly looking at section 2 (the wikinerds reference), section 4 (Keene’s opinions towards Wikipedia), and most definitely section 8 (committing vandalism to generate a story). By the way, don’t bother sending me renewal notices. I won’t be resubscribing to this trash once my current subscription expires.

Frank Lowy:

Andrew Elder writes: Re. “Shock. Horror. Australian to run top 10 company” (yesterday, item 24). Stephen Mayne should note that Frank Lowy was born in what was then Czechoslovakia, which is not, even post-Ruddock, part of Australia. Lowy has contributed much to this country and is no less Australian for not having been born here, but please stop referring to him as “Australian-born”. I would have pointed this out yesterday, but I assumed every other smart-a-se who subscribes would have pointed this out to Mayne. You don’t get an accent like Frank’s if you were born and raised in Glen Waverley.

The West Wing and Obama:

Duncan Fine writes: Re. “Why US08 isn’t West Wing the Sequel” (yesterday, item 14). Hey Loki Carbis, in the West Wing, Matt Santos made Arnold Vinick Secretary of State, not Defence. Sheesh! And I suppose he also made Bruce Wayne his UN Ambassador and got Austin Powers in to shake up the CIA. Hang on a minute…

Leave Jim Stynes alone:

Marcus Gordon writes: Re. “Chairman Stynes puts the Hollywood back into Melbourne” (Wednesday, item 5). Charles Happell, you must be a miserable man of little football knowledge. I have been associated with the Melbourne Football Club since I was a young child. The Melbourne Football Club supported my family through a very difficult time and I am sure my family is not the only one the club has assisted in times of need. You don’t write articles about this do you. Jim Stynes is a legend of the club and so are the rest of your so called Hollywood set. 12 flags in the History of the club is not bad, a meddle for the best player in the grand final named after the best coach ever, and a ruckman from another club came to Melbourne and won a Brownlow not bad hey. The Melbourne Football Club will soon be a force in the AFL as it was in years gone by, so get ready Charles to run out of ink in your little pen writing articles about Melbourne winning flag after flag. Get a life Charles.

Journos and spooks:

Graham Bell writes: Re. “Turning journalists into spooks?” (Yesterday, item 5). So, as Melissa Sweet wrote, “if a company that professes to value confidentiality and discretion is prepared to send such an indiscreet email to an unknown journalist…” Oh dear, oh dear. My guess is that any intelligence firm, such as Hakluyt, that sent such an email would have already done enough checking to know shoe size, beverage preferences, granny’s birthday and so on… and have a pretty good idea of what the reactions would be to such emails. Be flattered at the attention.

Iemma gets advice from Carr?:

Keith Binns writes: Re. “One man standing in race to replace Morris Iemma” (yesterday, item 11). And while we’re talking about NSW Premiers, did I really hear Bob Carr trying to tell Morris Iemma what to do about public transport the other night? The mind boggles!

Crikey’s consumer corner:

Julian Gillespie writes: With the greatest respect, Alan Phillips (yesterday, comments) was seeking to put forward the position known legally as an “offer to treat” which applies to goods simply sitting on a merchant’s shelf — that is, you walk off the street into any shop, look around, see something you like with a certain price tag on it, then you take it to the counter. Now at law the customer is deemed to be presenting the article to the cashier and saying in effect “Will you sell me this article for the price shown on the tag?”, which is deemed to be an “offer” by the customer to buy at the price shown, and the counter clerk is deemed to say “Yes I will sell you the article for the price shown”, which is seen as the clerk’s “acceptance” of the offer.

Now the important difference at law with an advertised sale like the Big W story featured in Crikey, is that the merchant has expressly stated in effect “Come on in and we will sell you a tele for $10” — where the distinction is that by so advertising the merchant is in this example deemed to have provided an “offer to sell” at the advertised price — and this is how the ACCC usually approaches advertised sales that bait people to come into a merchant’s store(s). So typically advertised sales are not an “offer to treat” as can be the case put forward by Alan Phillips — so as my Monday comments went on to state, “where in the absence of any qualifying statements in the advertisement like “Until stocks last” etc, then all the consumer has to do is front-up and say “I accept your offer for that tele at the advertised price”, and then quite simply the deal (rather contract) is done”.

The simple difference is advertised sales break the usual legal view and replace it with one that any canny customer can benefit from with a little knowledge of the law. (BTW: I was wrong to cite the Carbolic case, but the above still holds true).

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