16 months in Baxter: $160K:

Justin Templer writes: Re. “16 months in Baxter detention centre: that’ll cost you $160,000” (yesterday, item 1). Kassian Wililo arrived in Australia from Tanzania as an asylum seeker in 2002. Although Tanzania is one of the poorest countries in the world it is peaceful and, for this reason, is host to the largest number of refugees in Africa. But Mr Wililo rejected the poor country of his birth, cherry-picked Australia as his preferred destination and was then held in detention until June 2005, when he married an Australian citizen.

According to Sophie Black it is an outrage that he has now been billed for the cost of his detention. I would make a few points: (1) Tanzania is a haven for asylum seekers, (2) Australia is not contiguous with Tanzania, implying some effort on Mr Wililo’s part to get here, (3) he broke Australian law on entry, and (4) if he does not pay then I must.

Steve Martin writes: I am sure that Mr.Wililo will be pleased to hear that the government is reviewing its policy, but meanwhile he is being effectively blackmailed into paying this outrageous demand. If murderers, thieves and assorted other villains don’t pay for upkeep (considerably more comfortable than Baxter) why should these poor souls? Apart from anything else how can you incur a debt without some form of contract being agreed to?

Chris Hunter writes: I can’t understand why the Federal Government is only billing former refugees. Why not bill those who have served time in state prisons? Or perhaps go a step further and bill the descendants of convicts for their forbears travel costs, including food and accommodation at Port Arthur and elsewhere. Kevin Rudd proudly claimed a family convict history before the last election — what would that bill amount to with all the accumulated interest over the years? For God’s sake Labor, get a bloody life!

Les Heimann writes: That the Australian Government charges for detention is not the issue; there needs to be some penalty for some cases. However, that a person is “detained” — in the very strictest sense of the word — for such a long period and then charged for this privilege is simply contemptible. This proven incompetent Department should have the “charges” taken out of their budget quite apart from the obvious unfairness of it all. What can fair minded citizens say? We have replaced a nasty lot with a group of frozen marshmallows. Another inquiry coming up?

Gordon Pears writes: The buck here seems to have been passed firmly to Lindsay Tanner. If he wishes to retain his reputation — justified, I believe — of being one of the most intelligent and humane members of the Rudd Government, he should wipe all such detention debts immediately and unequivocally without waiting for “reviews” or any other form of bureaucratic stalling.

Wajiha Ahmed writes: What a sad day in Australia to learn that we give bills to free citizens as a welcome note to our great land, yet we give no such bill to the criminals who populate our jails, remand centres and juvenile detention centres. Shame on you Mr Ruddock, Ms Vanstone and Mr Howard. Shame on you.

Faris the bearded fool:

Nanette Kerrison writes: Re. “Video of the Day” “Conflict of Interest on Sarah Palin” (yesterday, clickthroughs). I just watched yesterday’s Video of the Day. Get rid of that bearded idiot (Crikey: we assume Nanette means Peter Faris). I wanted to watch clean-shaven guy (Crikey: Greg Barns?) and woman (Crikey: Sophie Black?) have an interesting intelligent discussion (which they were trying to have) without that stupid bearded fool (Crikey: Faris, you get the idea) cr-pping on. I was interested in the subject of discussion and their take on it. Bearded fool seemed to be unable to move from his discomfort with a younger female speaking with authority and confidence? It wasn’t a pretty sight — it was characteristic of The Footy Show. Perhaps it was all some tremendous in-joke which I’m not just getting. If so, lots of other people wouldn’t have either. Maybe he’s some sort of leftist pretending to be a moronic right-wing person? A right-winger feeling embattled by American idiocy? Either way, it wasn’t pretty. As I said, Footy Show stuff. I dare say if anyone at Channel Nine has seen the Video of the Day they’ll be on the phone trying to recruit him. Or at least get him on their board.

Harold Thornton writes: Thanks for linking to the Conflict of Interest with the appalling Peter Faris. I knew he was an oaf and a bully, but now I can bask in the knowledge he’s also pig-ignorant. His pompous pontificating about Obama’s “lipstick on a pig” comment, knowing not one jot about how or when the comment was made — and caring even less — was priceless.

Fun and games in Treasury:

David Dworjanyn writes: Re. “Julie Bishop’s gaffes taken to a new level” (yesterday, item 4). Bernard Keane yesterday advised, somewhat legitimately, that Julie Bishop’s Wall Street Journal plagiarism looked a tad embarrassing, then asked, “doesn’t the Treasurer’s office have anything better to do than Google opposition speeches? There’s only a global financial meltdown — so we’re told — happening.” I must say that I did like Annabel Crab’s turn of phrase in yesterday’s SMH: “You know it’s time to panic when the world’s financial system is melting like an ice-cream in a hot Holden and the Treasurer of Australia is spending his time Googling Julie Bishop speeches”. It seems to me that many things invariably come round to bite people on the backside.

Ol’ Boys Club:

Ewart Shaw writes: Re. “Melbourne Club between a vice-regal twinset and a hard place” (yesterday, item 8). Surely the remark about Ms Bryce being the first GG to wear pink twinset and pearls ought to have read “wear pink twinset and pearls in public” … and I’m almost certain that were she to accept membership of the Melbourne Club she wouldn’t be the first member to wear womens clothing in private…

Rundle in the US:

Luke Hughes writes: Re. “Rundle08: Just so you know, history happened today” (yesterday, item 3). I usually commend Eric Beecher’s stand against the corporatisation of Australian journalism, but if this from the never-knowingly-underwrites Guy Rundle is what Beecher recommends (which he seems to given he publishes it) in its place, give me the FFX/News duopoly any day:

By evening I was lying flat out in the jet spa of the Days Inn Burlington — sober you f-ckers — with reddish trees tapping the window in the wind, watching Larry King interview President Ahmedinajad, an event that other times would have got banner headlines, but today seems like a tepid day on the line-up. Hilariously, Ahmedinajad sounded like a San Francisco Democrat on Palestine, and like a Southern Republican on homos-xuality (“it’s a health problem, but we don’t care what people do in their homes”). Give credit to that old goatf-cker King – the only man with more wives than any given Muslim – it was a breakthrough interview, if only because President A sounded four times as intelligent as most US politicians.

Ken Lambert writes: Bravo Guy Rundle. Great insights on the American condition. Could I add Hank Paulsen and Ben Bernanke to the list of smarties who have befuddled George W. Bush. Ben and Hank are saving their mates on Wall Street when they should be chasing them out of town. Both Democrat and Republican politicians are culpable back to the Clinton era in allowing the finance spivs and hucksters to flout prudent rules for mortgage lending fed by Greenspan’s 1% rivers of gold.

Al’s old fashioned massive easy money credit boom has probably ended the American empire. Britain lost its empire after bankrupting itself in the noble cause of stopping Hitler, to the huge benefit of another crop of post-war American finance smarties. And what did we get out of it – the spectacle of 20 years of dumb and dumber US Presidents presiding over puerile politics and lately screwing it up so badly that the whole planet will suffer serious economic loss. Bring back the British Empire; re-colonise Africa and America with Chinese and Indian immigrants so we can at least inject some Asian brainpower and hopefully teach the Americans to play cricket.

Hating the banks:

Robert Bruinewoud writes: Re. “IMF gives Aussie economy, banks a gold star” (yesterday, item 2). Why do people think that all banks are bastards? David Uren in yesterday’s Australian:

AUSTRALIA’S major banks were enjoying record profit margins when they cried poor and lifted mortgage interest rates independently of the Reserve Bank.

Official figures show the profit margin for the major banks was 54.8 per cent in the March quarter, resulting in $1 profit for every $2 in interest and fee income they charged.

The banks’ profit margin during the quarter was more than double the long-term average return of 26.9 per cent.”

Of civil libertarians and Patagonian toothfish:

James Burke writes: Re. “Legal complexities of the Catholic abortion stance” (yesterday, item 16). If Greg Barns is a civil libertarian, I’m a Patagonian toothfish. I don’t believe abortion equals murder. Many orthodox Catholics do (not all Catholics by any means). So do many Protestants, Muslims and people of sundry other faiths. I respect their right to hold that belief, as long as it doesn’t prevent women who don’t share it from accessing abortion services from public health facilities.

The argument of the Catholic Church — that the life of the foetus is equal to the life of the mother — may be misguided in my eyes. But then I’m an enthusiastic consumer of beef, and I don’t advocate that it should be force-fed to starving Hindus (or atheist vegans). The idea that a person should be forced to carry out a procedure they believe is equivalent to murder, or be forced out of their job — in effect, to make them choose between their faith and their profession — has a nasty, distinctly fascist stench to it. Catholic hospitals are carrying a major part of the public health burden at a time of government neglect; it would be insane to shut them down by declaring that no health care is better than religiously inspired health care, all over a point of disagreement on an operation which, in the vast majority of cases, is elective and non-life-threatening.

To suggest a “this woman (who’s been raped by her uncle) needs an abortion RIGHT NOW or she’ll die, and this Catholic hospital is the only one in town” scenario is to echo those right-wing Americans who use 24 as a touchstone to justify the use of torture. Such an outlandish situation would pose a moral dilemma to an anti-abortion doctor; the doctor would have to rely on their conscience for guidance. And they will wear any potential manslaughter charges, if that is their choice. That such a possibility exists would seem to render the proposed legislation irrelevant.

Barns has revealed his hand in this atrocious article — according to him, his views are right and should be upheld in law, while the opposing views of others should be trodden down. In the event that his 24 scenario cannot be justified — death is not imminent, there are other hospitals available in the neighbourhood — he tries to lecture the Catholic Church (!) on the “will of the people” (also known, in civil libertarian circles, as ‘the tyranny of the majority’). The attempt by the Catholic Church to uphold its own doctrine in its own hospitals, is condemned as “a case of the Church seeking to override the democratic state – something which offends the principle of the separation of church and state.”

It’s clear that he has as much understanding of civil liberties as he does of secularism or the concept of religious faith.

Kiwi bashing:

David Lenihan writes: Nice drop of Kiwi bashing from Richard Davoren (yesterday, comments). Is your correspondent seriously implying a soup mix made in NZ from local and imported ingredients could contain the milk by product causing the deaths of Chinese infants? This absurd suggestion would mean the NZ manufacturer of the soup mix has imported the milk powder portion of the soup mix from China, after it was made originally in New Zealand, an ingredient that would be so inexpensive to purchase in a country renowned world wide for its powdered milk. NZ exports powdered milk to all parts of the planet, to suggest that powdered baby milk formula would be imported from China back to NZ for a soup mixture beggars belief.

Incidentally the Kiwis have a 33% share of the worlds dairy product exports, so I suspect quality control in the shaky isles is as good as our own. Perhaps you will feel less aggrieved to know the offending baby formula is manufactured in China and the theory is, the offending bi product is Chinese and the formula made for local consumption. I wonder if the Kiwis success in rugby union and league is increasing tensions here, but then that would be too childish to contemplate, wouldn’t it?

Endemol:

Jason Franklin, GM, Endemol Southern Star, writes: Re. “Last night’s TV ratings” (yesterday, item 20). I can’t do it any more … that is, stand by and watch Glenn Dryer spell Endemol wrong yet again. If you put Endermol in the Crikey search engine it comes up 16 times no less … but that doesn’t include today’s Media Briefs for some strange reason (so 17+?). Please add to Glenn’s spellchecker that Endermol is actually spelt Endemol! We really think brands are important here at Endemol Southern Star.

Seven News:

Kathryn Best, Channel Seven, writes: Re. “Last night’s TV ratings” (yesterday, item 20). Just a correction to your News wrap yesterday where you said: “News & CA: Seven News again won nationally and in every market but Brisbane”. Actually Seven News in Brisbane did win on Tuesday night (280,000 av) against Nine news (273,000). In Seven Day News for the year Seven BTQ has won 30 from 30 ratings weeks. In Monday to Friday News, Seven BTQ has won 29 from 30 ratings weeks.

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Peter Fray

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