Harkin Banks, in Los Angeles, writes: Re. “Rundle: A nation tenses in anticipation” (yesterday, item 3). Guy Rundle wrote: “Harris doesn’t seem to have understood the first and founding reality for any American — that race is a social category, not a biological one, a product of which community you’ve been brought up in, and what the identities projected onto you are.”

I will be one conservative American watching the swearing-in of a man who was abandoned by his black father and raised by his white mother and her parents. But instead of using these facts to clumsily categorise a man, I’ll resist using Rundle’s criteria to project race onto Barack Obama, I will consider him the exact same thing I considered the previous president, an American.


Martyn Smith writes: The letters in Crikey on Gaza yesterday epitomised the arguments on the subject of the Zionists and the Arabs (yesterday, comments). Daniel Lewis attacked Irfan Yusuf and Antony Lowenstein on matters of detail, deduced that therefore everything they write is rubbish and roped in Crikey, the Fairfax Media and the ABC for a ‘serve’ too. Peter Faris is probably proud of him. David Menere raised the Bible as an Iron Age spin used by the Zionists and the Evangelical Right in the USA to justify the invasion of Palestine to create Israel in the first place. We will naturally see much more of this.


Phyllida FitzGerald Ives writes: Re. “Will the Fairfax broadsheets post a profit in 09?” (Yesterday, item 5). As an ex-Fairfax journo I am very sad to see the decline of this great organisation.

The health system:

Chris Hunter writes: Re. Yesterday’s editorial. Dame Elisabeth Murdoch may well blame John Howard for destroying the Liberal Party. The Liberal Party enjoyed the greatest boom period in Australia’s history yet left the country in tatters. The health system is a standout. The week before Xmas I broke my ankle in three places slipping on a footpath that was nothing short of deplorable (lack of government funding apparently).

I then went via ambulance to the local hospital but the X-Ray machine was broken down so I was transferred to another country hospital. The next day I was flown by the Royal Flying Doctor to Royal Adelaide where I was fasted every day for four days in expectation of an operation. But being the silly season more seriously injured people than myself went ahead on the list. On the fourth day since the accident I became agitated and asked to see a doctor.

A surgeon came to my bedside and explained that the situation was ultimately due to a lack of surgeons. He sympathized with my position and agreed that it was not ideal to have a displaced fracture sitting around for too long. Five days after the accident I was finally operated on. During my stay in hospital I observed all kinds of shortages — surgical tape for binding bandages was “as rare as hen’s teeth” a nursing sister told me. At no stage did my TV work although the private company responsible kept saying they would fix it.


Grahame Murray writes: Re. Friday’s editorial. For me, a small business owner — the answer is simple: Abolish. Payroll. Tax. I am “taxed” for employing people — how archaic and backward thinking is this in these times of spiralling unemployment. Get rid of it and I could afford to employ three more people tomorrow.

Andrew Heslop:

Larry Lefty writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (yesterday, item 7). You guys need to stop running self-promoting drivel from Andrew Heslop in the “tips and rumours” section. Today there’s yet another article about how awesome he is because he created “Neighbour Day”. Previous contributions include the rumour that the NSW Govt was “rocked” when he departed his job in their media unit working for John Watkins, and reports that he was in talks with “senior members of the Melbourne business community” about setting up a ticket with him as Lord Mayor candidate that would carve up the City of Melbourne elections.

Plane spotting:

Sam Collyer writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (yesterday, item 7). Regarding the tip about aircraft appearing to fly toward each other: this is quite common and nothing new. Anyone in Sydney’s inner west who looks up when doing the washing will see aircraft flying toward each other, or at 90 degrees. It looks alarming when you first notice, but you get used to it. They’re required to be at different altitudes, and one can only assume they’re well apart, even if observers on the ground cannot differentiate between the comparative altitudes. It most commonly occurs when they shift the flight patterns around, e.g. when they have a wind change and some aircraft are lined up to come in from the north but end up flying around to the south.


Bill Mackey, Deputy CEO, Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE), writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (yesterday, item 7). A quite different perspective is provided by Keith Orchison in his Business Spectator online column, titled “Lost in translation“. If your readers wish to know more about ATSE they could take a more considered look at the ATSE website which details its activities and its Fellows.

The linked websites of the Crawford Fund and the Clunies Ross Foundation highlight the work ATSE does through these bodies — promoting international agricultural research and conducting Australia’s leading technology awards program. Additionally, visiting Extreme Science Experience and STELR will show the work the Academy is doing to promote careers in science, technology and engineering to students around Australia.

Channel 4:

Adrian Swift writes: Re. “UK’s Channel 4 could soon become Five” (yesterday, item 16). Just a quickie from here in the light drizzle: the Minister for Communications is Stephen Carter (Baron Carter of Barnes), not Patrick Carter (Lord Carter of Coles) who’s done just about everything else. The rest of Glenn Dyer’s piece, however, was spot on. The only thing that’s rarely talked about here is that Channel 4 might be running a monumental deficit (even before the downturn) because they run five ad-supported channels (C4, C4 + 1, E4, E4 + 1, etc). With the dawn of a serious Freeview, there’s a lesson in that for Australian networks.

Scott Howard writes: Glenn Dyer has his Carters crossed: Stephen Carter, now Lord Carter of Barnes is the UK Communications Minister and Patrick Carter is Lord Carter of Coles and not a minister at all. Patrick Carter is however chairing a review of the UK’s National Health Service pathology however, so perhaps Glenn is more prescient than we thought and he knows!


Mark O’Brien, Publisher of Kindred Magazine, writes: Re. “Media briefs: New Matilda at conception… AWARD is messed up…” (Friday, item 20). As the publisher of Kindred, I am a little surprised that our tagline “sustainability begins at conception” has been connected to abortion. We stay out of the abortion discussion because, while we, and I imagine most people, would prefer people did not get pregnant when they did not want to, and there is plenty of info and contraception available, sometimes it just happens and it is ultimately the choice of the woman.

The article is about women winning the right to have legal abortions. I think that this is overdue and appropriate. Kindred is about providing information, not judging people.

Back to the future:

Stephen Luntz writes: Reading Crikey in recent times is reminiscent of Farrago, the Melbourne University student newspaper, in the late 80s and early 90s. With Evan Thornley as one of the main topics of conversation, and much of the writing provided by Guy Rundle and Jeff Sparrow, the déjà vu is potent. The list of figures whose names would figure should one search the archives includes five federal MPs (Smith, Panopolous/Mirabella, Marles, Ryan and Feeney), four state MPs (Mikakos, Thornley, O’Brien, Wooldridge) two of the most awarded Australian writers of recent times (Anna Funder and Christos Tsiolkas), leading commentators in the aforementioned Rundle and Sparrow and the hard to categorise Andrew Landeryou. There are probably a few reviews of Cate Blanchett’s theatre performances there as well.

Obviously “alumni of prestige university make news” is not, well, news. But the interesting thing here is that these people would have scored a Farrago attention because they were, in some way or other, involved with the Student Union or its predecessor organisations. On the other hand, the only public figures I can think of from the same era at the same university who didn’t engage with the Union are Tim Holding, Stephen Mayne and Kate Holden, although presumably there are a few others I can’t name. It’s difficult to distinguish cause and effect in this.

The sort of people who are likely to make a public splash are also the sort who are going to gravitate towards an organisation like the Union. But it is hard to escape the idea that their engagement contributed to their subsequent careers. After all, each of these people would have known most of the others (I knew all of them except for Wooldridge and, alas, Our Cate). The opportunity to strike sparks off each other must have lit a few fires.

I am not trying here to tickle the sickly equine that is the VSU debate. But however you believe they should be funded, doesn’t this list indicate that the extra-curricular activities at University are as important, if not more so as the classes? It’s not a new point. Thoreau made it a century and a half ago. But if you look at the level of activity on university campuses today, it certainly strikes me as a point that can’t be made too often.

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