Malcolm Turnbull:

John Goldbaum writes: Re. “Malcolm Turnbull — time to go for the full Nelson” (yesterday, item 1). Bernard Keane is right to advise Malcolm Turnbull to move quickly next week to challenge for the Liberal leadership. There is no need to count the numbers as they will certainly fall his way. It is still a two horse race and Turnbull only needs a few votes to drift away from Nelson. Costello will be absent on Tuesday and unable to cast a blocking vote, and Abbott now prefers Turnbull. Even if Turnbull lost, he’d be in a good position to challenge again in 2009 which is still one year out from an election and he will have demonstrated, unlike Costello, that he has the ticker. Brendan is already dead in the polls and won’t be coming back to life next year. I’d be surprised if Brendan could muster more than a few votes in a spill this time and I’m certain Costello could no longer persuade his own support group to vote for Nelson.

Turnbull has been loyal to Nelson, hasn’t destabilised him and has been a team player and supported his leader’s many crazy and impulsive policy U-turns at great personal cost to Turnbull’s own credibility and, for that matter, the party’s reputation. In return, a weak but treacherous Nelson waited for Turnbull to holiday overseas before undermining the Liberal Party’s and Turnbull’s position on pensions. Not just bad populist politics, but cowardly timing too. I can’t predict how long before Dennis Shanahan starts beating the Costello drum again but Tony Abbott, the Liberal Party’s very own Dusty Springfield, has learnt by being humiliated in public that “wishing and hoping and thinking and praying, planning and dreaming each night of his charms…won’t get you into his arms…[or] his heart”. This is the worst case of spurned love played out humiliatingly on our TV screens since Pitti Pat’s plea to her Prince Lorenzo to run from his best man and back into her arms.

The end of the world:

Martin Hungerford writes: Re. “Things to do before you die: Crikey readers brace for the end of the world” (yesterday, item 5). News Flash! BOOM Found, Shockwave recorded! At approximately 5:30pm yesterday afternoon the oven door at Reynolds Rd Fryerstown suddenly exploded. No obvious reason was found by attending fire crew and the residents are considering suing the Academies of Science of France, Italy, Switzerland and the UK – at least for a new stove. “There was no reason for it to go boom, so it must have been a black hole”, said one resident, after a settling bottle of red wine. “I mean, why else?” Police are not investigating.

Gerard Gleeson writes: You see, this is the thing. The world DID actually end at 5pm on Wednesday but nobody noticed because we were immediately shuffled off to the parallel universe that we most deserved. Bugger!! Disappointed? Well, yes I was! I was fully expecting to meet Slartibartfast, or at least Marvin the Paranoid Android.

Peter Costello:

Gavin Greenoak writes: Re. “Costello overlooks his own unpopularity in memoir” (yesterday, item 9). At the recent Beinale (or Banally, as some dubbed it), there was a dead horse slung up high in one of the galleries. It made me think of someone. For how long is Crikey going to be kicking this one?

Keith Binns writes: All you atheists out there, look out! The age of miracles is not past! In Peter Costello we seem to have a politician who actually meant what he said. I’m still in shock.

NSW Labor:

Noel Courtis writes: Re. “NSW Labor: where scandal = another day at the office” (yesterday, item 3). After reading the NSW government’s disasters it certainly seems that the Joh days in Queensland were pure as the driven snow.

Anonymous angry Crikey reader writes: What about the mess that the ALP is in NSW … funny nothing in your garbage publication about it. No wonder you can’t be taken seriously when all you do is muck rake the RIGHT of politics. PUBLISH THIS!

USA not to blame:

John Craig writes: Re. “Wall Street drags globe down the gurgler” (5 September, item 29). Glenn Dyer’s recent article apparently ascribed all responsibility for global economic troubles to US government/financial institutions. I beg to differ — the US was only one part of the problem. East Asian economic systems (most notably those of Japan and China) are structurally unsustainable because (being based on various forms of communitarian crony capitalism) they require a demand deficit to prevent financial crises like those that engulfed much of Asia in 1997. The offsetting demand surplus (mainly provided by the US) has been funded by large capital inflows which have been attracted by (and are closely linked with) the asset bubble that has been emerging in US. The world is currently experiencing the effects of the bursting of the US asset bubble – but could well find that much more damage will be done when resulting changes to the US economic / financial system (i.e. deleveraging, weaker $US, reduced current account deficit and capital inflows) remove the protection that been provided to sustain growth in East Asia despite the lack of serious concern to ensure the profitable use of capital.

We’re fat — but not that fat:

Dr Rosemary Stanton, nutritionist, writes: I have no problem with Sharon Hutchings comments about the environmental effects of current methods of animal production (yesterday, comments), but can we stop repeating the myth that Australia wins gold for obesity. We’re fat — but not that fat. World Health Organisation data gives gold to Nauru , with the next five spots going to other Pacific Island countries, followed by various West Indian countries, Kuwait, then Egypt. Aussie men come in at number 13 and women rank 44. A new Aussie study shows our men are moving into 12th spot, but they’re still way off the gold.

Pensioners:

Les Heimann writes: John Goldbaum (yesterday, comments) wrote that pensioners should wait their turn as they didn’t vote for Labor. Frankly that’s rubbish! The voluntary work I do puts me in touch with literally hundreds of pensioners and, from my experience and knowledge, I suggest more than 70% of those pensioners I know voted Labor. Some people actually believe the nonsense peddled by many and have this mistaken belief that older people are arch conservative, grey pants Liberals. It would be a good idea, but I daresay quite a shock, to do some volunteer work amongst the real people. Take it from me — and I challenge any Crikey reader on this — the vast majority of pensioners are suffering, in Melbourne’s cold winter many can not afford to turn on their heaters until after 3pm — and turn them off when they go to bed. Many have only two meals a day, and not by choice, many attend the various Council functions, Neighbourhood Houses, Elderly Citizens and other such functions — just to get a feed.

These people are not bludgers, nor are they undeserving — they are simply poor! And they are not all single either as Brendan Nelson would have it. It’s not just the single pension that is inadequate! At the risk of not for once being cynical I believe that what makes this country different and better than the USA and the UK is that we look after our mates and we respect one another (more or less). The two groups that need to be treated as our “best mates” are the poor elderly and our veterans. That there are some Australians who do not think so is a sad reflection on the rest of us for not speaking up. Get real!

Vietnam:

Neil James, Executive Director, Australia Defence Association, writes: Ignoring the childish insults and misrepresentations, Humphrey Hollins and Mark Schneider (yesterday, comments) attack the straw man they erect rather than what I actually said concerning H.K. Colebatch’s errors of historical fact about the progress and eventual failure of communism in SE Asia. But the essential point I made, and which remains unrefuted, was that the Vietnam (and Laos and Cambodia) of 1975 constituted a very different Indochina to that of the 1950s and 1960s. Humphrey also conveniently ignores that the communist threat to Thailand during the 1960s and 1970s came from its own communist party (the CPT), not from the North Vietnamese Army (NVA). Furthermore, the CPT would undoubtedly have greatly benefited from NVA logistic support, and might even have triumphed, if neighbouring Laos and Cambodia had been dominated by communist regimes in the early 1960s rather than the mid 1970s.

The potential domino effect in the early 1960s came from neighbouring example and the regional support this offered not just the threat (exaggerated or not) of invasion by foreign communist armies. Humphrey also wrongly assumes I have no longstanding personal knowledge of Thailand and Cambodia (and of Malaysia) when the opposite is the case. Finally, Messrs Colebatch, Hollins and Schneider appear to suffer from the “Vietnam prism” — the tendency for those who were at university during the Vietnam War (or younger people now aping them) to look at Australia’s current strategic circumstances, and regional history, through the passions and idealised memories of their youth rather than the facts that have subsequently emerged and the strategic realities Australia now faces.

Robin Wingrove writes: It appears that Neil James (yesterday, comments) justifies the slaughter of millions in the Vietnam War in speculative terms only. All I see from him are phrases like “all the possibilities that might have occurred” which merely reinforce my point. The fact is, he is only guessing. From my perspective, Communism was attractive to the newly independent states like Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia and the like precisely because it offered an alternative to the colonialism that they had just been liberated from via the events of World War 2. Let us not forget that the French tried to reinforce their presence in Vietnam post WW2 as did the Dutch in Indonesia and in both cases the locals rebelled.

In the case of Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh tried to get US assistance in the early 50s but they wouldn’t talk to him because they were in the grip of an unholy paranoia about Stalin and the USSR (which was wholly justified) and saw anyone else who called themselves Communist as their natural enemy. In truth, if they saw Ho Chi Minh as he truly was, that is, a nationalist, then maybe we wouldn’t be debating this 30+ years after the event and all those innocents would have had the chance to live out their lives naturally. Maybe we wouldn’t then still have to be listening to Neil James tired drivel about the domino theory and his justification of an unjust war.

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Peter Fray

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