The Liberal leadership:

Leah Marrone writes: “Brendan the bold. Brendan the risky” (9AM SPECIAL: Wall Street melts, Brendan goes for broke, item 6). It is possible that Nelson is “punishing disloyalty” by holding this spill on the day of the Costello book launch- maybe he is trying to limit publicity for the man who has, by not clearly stating his intentions and remaining silent, been a key destabilising factor in the past months.

John Goldbaum writes: Re. “Costello’s slow revenge on his own party” (yesterday, item 2). Crikey’s Friday editorial said that “for the past two weeks three people [Michelle Grattan, Shaun Carney and Peter Hartcher] could have stopped the speculation on Liberal leadership in its tracks”. Actually, that would be four people if you take Brendan Nelson at his word that he knew from his recent conversations with Peter Costello what Costello’s true intentions were. Therefore, Brendan Nelson has directly contributed to the leadership turmoil because he failed to share his knowledge with his party colleagues, probably because he thought that not revealing Costello’s intentions would protect him from a challenge by Turnbull.

On Friday Bernard Keane debated the pros and cons of a quick kill versus a lingering death but failed to analyse the stalling tactics employed by Nick Minchin, who is now calling for “clear air” in which Nelson is “given a chance to turn around disastrous opinion polls”. Minchin’s infectious optimism makes him the Pollyanna of the Liberal Party but Peter Costello made it clear on Friday not to expect his departure from parliament any time soon.

There will be no “clear air” for either Nelson or Turnbull while Costello lingers on the backbench and lobs verbal hand grenades at past incumbents and other rivals, so there is no advantage for Turnbull in postponing the challenge. Although Turnbull himself wants to delay his ascendancy until Nick Minchin falls in behind him, that is not in the best interests of the Liberal Party and as any pig hunter, such as Bill Heffernan, would tell you, a quick and clean kill is better than a slow, painful and messy death. Brendan Nelson was foolish to rely on the presence of Peter Costello to shore up his own weak leadership. He created his own clear-air turbulence and is responsible for his own demise. The voters don’t want Nelson; they want to test drive Malcolm Turnbull, instead.

Chris Johnson writes: If Cossie ran second in the 2006 cabinet relay around Parliament House we’d still be getting permutations and combinations of why he got the silver medal. “Someone greased the baton or a palm, they passed a kouchie not a duchy or Janette laced my Dunlops”. Bottom line is that the guy’s a poor loser in tantrum-chucking form that we either ignore or distract. Is there any better time to induct him into the Parliamentary Hall of Fame with a Gold Mace for compelling performances? Pete’s without peer as the here, there, everywhere and nowhere MP who went from back to front bench, from Opposition to Government into and out of Cabinet and back into Opposition with a spectacular reverse dive and desire to do it all again!! Sure he’s a trusty sage longing to serve Higgins forever just like the other remarkables from across the nation. Whether he likes it or not Cossie is grand dragon of these strikingly curious commercial servants tarred with the one brush – all grown up and no place to go.

Denis Goodwin writes: Re. “Costello’s view of reality doesn’t quite match up” (yesterday, item 11). The current state of the Liberal Party and Peter Costello’s inclinations appear to me to indicate that Costello is waiting for his tilt at the leadership. He will not rule out being drafted, opposes Turnbull ascendancy to the job, defends the indefensible Nelson and has put forward an alternate direction for the party through his memoirs. All the while the opposition has plenty of time. Recent events in state elections indicate that going early might not be an option for Rudd and hence there is more than enough time for Costello to make a charge at the top job. Staying on the backbench is surely the giveaway. He could make a lot more at the bar if he wanted and book sales aside it is not a big earner being on the backbench. Why else not rule out staying in Parliament if not to keep his options open? I think the media through exclusive deals on book extracts and bias from the usual suspects has lost sight of the most obvious strategy from camp Costello.

Margaret Dingle writes: Let’s believe Peter Costello and let him get on with being a good local member. It’s ironical that members of the former Howard Government front bench are being expected to leave politics while other MPs retiring mid-term are criticised for causing expensive by-elections.

Tim Villa writes: Re. “Liberal leadership: the board game” (yesterday, item 3). Listening to Bernard Keane go on and on about the imminent demise of Brendan Nelson (imminent since last November, it would seem) is like listening to Glenn Milne go on and on about the imminent rise of Costello. Guy Rundle would say Alanis Morrissette would call that ironic!

NSW politics:

Bruce Graham writes: Re. “The NSW Labor party implodes” (yesterday, item 14). Please do not write more about NSW Politics. It is beyond satire. There is no humour. The Labor Party is a dead man walking and the Liberal Party don’t know where to find the on switch for the electric chair. The state is rooned anyway. Write about foreign politics: it is a spectator sport we can all enjoy in comfort, raucously barracking for our respective teams before going home to a warm bed.

Niall Clugston writes: I have to respond to Noel Curtis’s claim (12 September, comments) that “After reading the NSW government’s disasters it certainly seems that the Joh days in Queensland were pure as the driven snow”. The recent scandals have concerned an office party and an argument in a restaurant. With the exception of Milton Orkopoulos, who clearly led a private life at odds with his public functions, no one has been charged and no one has gone to jail. There have been no suggestions of brown paper bags — declared donations don’t cut it — and no suggestions of links with organised crime. Which past or present ministers are being investigated by ICAC? Which should be?

WA politics:

Steven McKiernan writes: Re. “How close did WA Nats come to falling in with Labor?” (Yesterday, item 15). Thank you for William Bowe and Poll Bludger. Please no more Noel Crichton-Browne.

Colin Norris writes: Why would anyone expect young Grylls to go with anyone other than the WA Nats. All the heirachal dinosaurs from the Nats trowelled on the pressure to conform to the long held tradition of hating the Labor Party. I cannot imagine a hayseed from east of Perth who spends most of his time grinding flour to have any ALP persuasions ( perish the thought). He eats the same meat and drinks the same water as his ancestors so why would he be any different. It was the biggest opportunity for the Nationals to identify with themselves and truly make an impact in WA but like a dog returning to his vomit, political gravity pulled them free from the clutches of that Cancer on Society, the Labor Party. After advertising themselves as the “independent” Nationals, nothing they say can be taken serious, ever again.How do those coolies feel that supported them for that reason alone. It also proves what untrustworthy lackeys the Nationals really are. He knew prior to the election who he would support but those poor suckers didn’t. Like the NSW ALP, there is bound to be some skeletons somewhere.

Gareth Cleeves writes: Really guys? Two articles about the WA election result, and four and half about the Costello tome? You aren’t helping the situation.

David Begg writes: Re. “Richard Farmer’s political bite-sized meaty chunks” (12 September, item14). Typical of the new left Crikey. Imploring the Nats (“Two things going for WA Labor”) to support that bastion of good governance, the Carpenter ALP government. What I think is fairer would be a straw poll of everyone who voted National last Saturday. I wonder who would win that — Alan Carpenter or Colin Barnett. But that would be too democratic for the leftist cabals of the Crikey publishing house. Next thing you’ll be endorsing the Carr/Iemma/Rees/ government in New South Wales. What comes next — North Korea?

Race for the White House: 

Justin McMurray writes: Re. “Rundle 08: Front row seats at Glaciergate” (yesterday, item 4). Just a thought. I really hope you’ve ensured that Rundle has been nominated for a Walkley Award. His US Election reporting and commentary is the best Australian journalism I have had the pleasure to encounter. It deserves wide recognition and celebration.

Judith Pratt writes: Re. “Sarah Palin: V-agra of the people” (12 September, item 11). The only hysterical fool here is your fool, Bernard Keane, who can’t see what every other intelligent person can. As we have no intelligent persons in government or the media here in this country we all sail on like blind dogs waiting to be drowned. I will not be subscribing again to this useless rag, when all you can do is reflect the same ignorance and bias of the major dailies. It is a sham.

Toorale buyout:

Rod Macqueen, who resides in the country, writes: Re. “Toorale buyout an environmental disaster in the political making” (11 September, item 13). Boy, something sure crawled up Michael Pascoe on Thursday. No doubt the NSW government cannot get much right at the moment, and that probably includes the grossly underfunded NPWS, and nobody can make it rain more, but it’s a bit rich to come out with “without water storage, invaded by woody weeds, Toorale will become rubbish” — where’s his crystal ball? I fly over that area regularly and it must surely be an act of blind (literally) faith to hold that cotton farming has benefited the environment in any way. And “woody weeds” — I assume this means native Australian bushes and trees, like wattles and eucalypts that have lived here these last few million years. Funny how they are the Majestic River Red Gums and Iconic Coolibah when we wax all sentimental and woody weeds and “big scrub” when we want to kill them. Buying this property may yet turn out to have some problems, but I think there are enough skilled and interested people around to look after matters well. This could actually be the start of a good thing. Or are we all just “city environmentalists”?

Sarah Bradley:

Jim Hart writes: Re. “The Robing Room: Geoff Eames defends Sarah Bradley” (yesterday, item 18). In his slightly self-serving postscript about Judge Sarah Bradley, Greg Barns quotes an unidentified “senior member of the Victorian Bar” as saying that retired judge Geoff Eames had “an extraordinary depth of knowledge and insight gained from literally working at the coal face with Aboriginal people for 30 years.” I am astounded but impressed that an eminent lawyer and judge might have been moonlighting for so long as a coal miner. I am not so astounded by the alternative possibility that his anonymous learned colleague does not know the meaning of “literally”.

Not related:

Helen Suttie writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (11 September, item 7). Just as a heads up, my name is Helen Suttie; I am the sister of Christine Suttie who is married to Nick Berman. Just in regards to your tip about Nick Berman marrying the niece of David Clarke, you had better check the truth of your story as David Clarke is definitely not related to our family.

The end of the world:

An anonymous reader writes: I’m responding to Martin Hungerford (12 September, comments) who wrote: “News Flash! BOOM Found, Shockwave recorded! At approximately 5:30pm yesterday afternoon the oven door at Reynolds Rd Fryerstown suddenly exploded.” You think that’s weird? When I got home on Wednesday evening I noticed that my undies were inside out. Now I know they were the right way around when I left for work that morning. The only logical explanation is that a black hole played havoc with my foundation garments. Damn those Swiss!

The Hollowmen:

Mitchell Holmes writes: Re. “Last night’s TV ratings” (yesterday, item 24). Glenn Dyer — we’ve got the message — you hate the Hollowmen. Well, I like it — a lot. I agree that the Rob Sitch character is a lot more vague and stupid than I would expect from a person in that position. However, the rest of the characters seem to be plausible. It is the attitudes of the party hacks compared to the career public servants that I suspect are close to the mark. The main concern of the party hacks is how it APPEARS their side is doing. If things are going badly, what needs to be done to manipulate the media/public perception? And the behind the scenes minions are 1) constantly pandering to the egos of their “bosses”, the politicians and 2) believe they are smarter than their bosses and the public.

Final word — Vietnam:

Neil James, Executive Director, Australia Defence Association, writes: Surely among fair-minded people it is time to call a halt to a disturbing trend among people submitting comments to Crikey. Too many resort to ad hominem attacks, and even then often against straw men they invent, rather than intellectually engage the subject or interlocutor concerned in the manner expected in informed public debate. Criticism should employ facts and reasoned argument politely expressed. Instead there is often resort to emotional diatribes and false accusations based entirely on straw men, red herrings and the prejudices or biases of the attempted “critic”. Such “critics” need to remember that just because you might disagree with someone it does not make them somehow evil or their arguments automatically wrong in either sense.

Criticism in a forum such as Crikey should also surely concentrate on what others actually said in Crikey, not on what the “critic” pretends or misrepresents what they said. Or on what the “critic” might believe their motivation to be – or in the case of spokespersons for apolitical public-interest guardian organisations such as the ADA what the “critic” might misunderstand about who they represent and why.

Robin Wingrove (12 September, comments) and Humphrey Hollins (11 September, comments) are good recent examples. Wingrove accused me of somehow “justifying the slaughter of millions”. Hollins accused me of somehow being someone who “defends any war”, who “spruiks for war” and who “conveniently ignores collateral damage to the innocents”. None of this is true (and this is easily checked), none of this was fair comment; none of this was justifiable or reasonable behaviour in informed public debate. Both simply chose to spray abuse and red herrings rather than make an effort to disprove my arguments with facts (relevant or even otherwise) and logic as wrong, irrelevant, incomplete, exaggerated or mistaken.

It is particularly hypocritical, and can be only the arrogance of extremists or moral cowardice (or both), to ignore facts, logic and decent standards of debate and instead deliberately choose to put words in the mouths of others and direct vituperation at them for something they have not said, do not believe and clearly would never say.

Chris Hunter writes: How extraordinary it is. The old Vietnam bogey still brings it out in us. As a Vietnam veteran I’ve long given up on the morality of it all. I now accept that war is mad and mad we must continue to be. It’s the way of this whacky planet — ever since we rose from the fecund ocean, standing triumphant.

Send your comments, corrections, clarifications and c*ck-ups to [email protected]. Preference will be given to comments that are short and succinct: maximum length is 200 words (we reserve the right to edit comments for length). Please include your full name — we won’t publish comments anonymously unless there is a very good reason.

Peter Fray

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