In “Journos circle online forums for the dead” (Wednesday, item 19) Sydney Morning Herald Journalist Paul Bibby was quoted as saying: “Does anyone know about the details of a climber fatality that occured today at Pierces Pass? I heard on the radio that a rock climber had fallen to his death at Pierces Pass today. His partner suffered minor scratches and bruises. I haven’t heard anything further than that.” This should have read: “Does anyone know this poor bloke…? what happened”.


Strath Gordon, Director of Public Affairs at the NSW Police Force, writes: Re. “Former NSW Police Commissioner back on the beat” (Wednesday, item 16) Alex Mitchell’s piece on former Police Commissioner Ken Moroney is an amalgam of factual error and hyperbole. Mr Moroney has not been appointed “as a consultant to run courses in leadership training” as stated. Mr Moroney will chair a Board of Management for a new leadership program as an independent. That Board is expected to meet three to four times a year. Simple as that.

The observation that this appointment “is a professional slight to (Andrew) Scipione” lacks any logic given the invitation was personally issued by Commissioner Scipione himself. Further correction is required in relation to Fran McPherson, who contrary to Alex Mitchell’s observations, has never worked for the Ministry of Police. She is in fact a member of the Police Commissioner’s Executive Team in her capacity as Executive Director Corporate Services.

And finally, Bev Moroney is no longer Patron of the Mounted Police. Joy Scipione has held that role for some time now.

All in all, not a good day out for Alex.

Australia Day:

Peter Rule writes: Re. Rudd backs off Australia Day date change pledge” (yesterday, item 2) As problematic as “Australia Day” is for indigenous Australians, perhaps a better solution than moving the day to one that offends nobody and celebrates nothing, is to:

  1. Have a little bit (or perhaps a lot) less of the flag-waving, blind self-congratulatory carry-on that passes for “Australia Day”, and a bit (or perhaps a lot) more of an objective acknowledgement of what Australia Day actually does mean to all Australians. It may shock some to know it’s not all pretty.
  2. (Following on from this) have a separate national public holiday that recognises/acknowledges/celebrates indigenous Australians: everyone loves a day off.

Perhaps we could get rid of the Queens birthday nonsense and have a “blackfella day” instead.

David Havyatt writes: Chris Graham concludes this piece with “Sooner or later Australia Day will have to be moved to a more inclusive date.” There is an alternative strategy, and that is to load up the existing date with other important things to celebrate. It already includes our first coup (Bligh) as well as the European colonisation. But if there is to be a treaty choosing that day to sign it would be useful. As would choosing that day to become a republic. Far less divisive than leaving it as it is or moving the date.

Kevin Rudd:

Julian Gillespie writes: Re. “This year the cut and thrust of the Budget is for real” (yesterday, item 10). So Kevin Rudd waits until after hearing what Barack Obama had to say in his inauguration speech, before going to our media with a different version of the same message: 2009 will be ugly and tough with jobs a priority. Well done Ruddles, you have passed the “follow the leader” test and learnt how to leverage the good will shown for Barack.

Now how about some uniquely Australian solutions for Australian circumstances? And please remember that size does matter, so please don’t go giving out any more small change pocket money, instead please look to grand reforms and initiatives that our grandchildren will be happy to pay for — you know, the type of stuff a prime minister might really get remembered for.

And by the way, a wage freeze for already very well maintained MPs means nada, zilch, zero, zip, nothing to those in and those about to be walking towards the unemployment queues. Stop telling us how difficult times are, that’s part of your job description: “cameras, shaking hands, smiling, occasional serious/thoughtful/stern faces and difficult stuff as required”. Good luck.

Michael Backman:

Luke Hughs writes: Re. “How does The Age publish a column ‘in error’? Here’s how” (yesterday, item 6) Interesting to note that the introduction to Age columnist Michael Backman’s own website makes the noble claim that “truth belongs to the people; not to governments. And there is only one way to write the truth.” And yet Backman has in the last 24 hours removed all active links to his offending article about Israel and the Jewish people, as well as his own contact details.

Does Backman not have the courage of his own well-advertised convictions? And, curious too, that the mysterious Wikipedia contributor “Migchin” seems to have created the laudatory Backman Wikipedia page, and is religious (so to speak) about amending others’ contributions. It seems Migchin is an active editor/contributor to only one Wikipedia page — Backman’s.

Alan Kennedy writes: In all her pieces on Michael Backman’s column in the Age, a column the thought police have now eradicated from our cyber memory banks, Margaret Simons proceeds from the position that the column should not have run. Her proposition is that inexperienced people allowed it to run and they should have censored it.

Now, if you don’t accept that central proposition you see the matter in a different light. I, unlike many, have read the column and apart from some clumsiness about Israeli backpackers, which he never fully explained — although on her blog Margaret Simons was able to provide a possible source for his views — it was a well constructed column.

It was not anti-semitic and all the anti-semitic constrictions placed on it by the Jewish lobby in Australia and cheered on by The Australian are in their heads only. The controversy here is that it is controversial that the column ran. It was just part of the tapestry in this big issue.

The controversy is that The Age felt pressured to apologise and that it pulled the column from its archives. Backman’s own website which contained the column was cyber attacked and he had had to pull the column down. This is the obscenity in all this.

Politics and money:

Gary James writes: Re. Yesterday’s editorial. I disagree with your editorial. I don’t think the amount we pay politicians would make any difference to the quality of our parliamentarians. People don’t enter politics to make money; politicians are in it for the ego: to make big decisions, to hear people call them “Senator” or “Minister”, to stride the national and international stage.

Mixed up with these motivations may be a belief that they can do some good, but anyone whose primary motivation is to make lots of money won’t enter politics — and I think that is a good thing.

Lets face it, backbench Senators and Members of Parliament receive an annual allowance of around $127,000, which is more than the income of 80% of the population and they get various benefits and allowances on top of this basic salary.

It’s hard to see how they could be considered underpaid.

Obama and his mum:

Steve Martin writes: John Pasquarelli (yesterday, comments) wrote: “Obama says he is ‘the son of a black man’ — what about his white Mum?”

I am not sure why Pasquarelli asks this question though I can hazard a guess, if this is the same person who was a luminary of Hansen’s One Nation debacle.

The answer of course is that the fact that Obama is the first black president of the US is noteworthy; and considering the fact that all 43 previous presidents had a “white mum” Obama’s mum is not.

Ian Pavey writes: John Pasquarelli, in his haste to make some racial mischief, has fluffed the issue. All previous U.S. presidents had both white mums and dads. The fact that Barack’s dad was black is what makes his election a point of difference and thus worthy of the comment.

John Robinson writes: For Stilgherrian (yesterday, comments):

Child writes first story.
Dreams of greatness as father frowns.
Disappointment certain.

Neil Walker:

Kevin McCready writes: Re. “Stranger than fiction: who the f-ck is Harry Nicolaides?” (yesterday, item 19). Who the f-ck is Neil Walker? Neil Walker misses the point until his last paragraph. Nutter or no, Nicolaides shouldn’t be in prison. He may not be the writer Rushdie is but both are punished for free speech. Couldn’t you find a more intelligent analyst than Neil whatsisname?

Climate change loonies:

Tim Marsh writes: Stephen Magee (yesterday, comments), in his haste to insult rather than engage on scientific merit — misunderstands (partly my own fault I’ll admit) the intention of my comment. Look I am by NO means religious, Stephen. Swap heaven and hell for sky/atmosphere and ground or fossil/non fossil. I note you conveniently ignored my other points, particularly in regard of business risk.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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