Human rights:

Fr Frank Brennan writes: Re. “Brennan says Victoria’s rights charter is wrong; should we be worried?” (Friday, item 11). I believe some of your readers may be interested in what I actually said before they form an opinion of it and me. For those interested, they could go to the conference website. Sorry if what I actually said spoils a good story from the commentariat.

Yuendumu Women’s Centre:

Yuendumu Women’s Centre manager Pam Malden writes: Re. “What if the Senate held an inquiry into remote stores — and nobody came?” (Thursday, item 13). Whilst my opinions differ from Bob Gosford’s on most counts, I am writing this in regards to the following from this article:

“At present, the only store in Yuendumu authorised to accept the BASICS card is the Outback Stores-managed Nguru-Walaja store owned by the Yuendumu Women’s Centre, which is itself controlled by the recently established Central Desert Shire council.”

I understand that Crikey prints stories in good faith and I know that Bob is an amateur journalist, but I would think that as Bob has a legal background, he himself would be more careful on the matter of at least getting the basic facts correct. From this two line exert in this article there are no less than two glaring errors. This first is the name of the store (and considering it is in big letters on the outside of the shop I don’t understand how it can be spelt incorrectly), and the second is the statement that the Yuendumu Women’s Centre is controlled by the Central Desert Shire council. As the manager of the Yuendumu Women’s Centre, this came as a surprise to me, as I’m sure it would to the Central Desert Shire. The Yuendumu Women’s Centre is an independent organisation, incorporated in 1990. It is a non government organisation and is not under the control of anyone other than its members.

Catholic rebellion:

Chris Hunter writes: It has been interesting reading the recent comments (yesterday, Friday, Thursday) from Crikey readers about the recent Catholic dilemma. Making sense of religion is a worthy endeavor and I congratulate those prepared to give it a go. Something obviously happened on the road to Tarsus but with that phenomena in mind I am drawn to a couple of lines from TS Eliot’s Choruses from The Rock — “What has been done of good, you find explanations to satisfy the rational and enlightened mind.”

Miraculous experience is on an entirely different level to everyday experience and any serious effort to dovetail one into the other is utterly futile. Just as the bloke who “saw” the UFO knows it’s probably best to keep it to himself, so to with the experiencer of the “divine”. The problem for Paul was that the whole incident was witnessed — that is, he was seen to act in a peculiar way — although none, other than Paul, claimed to have heard the actual words of Christ. Whether or not Paul suffered a psychotic incident is irrelevant — the power filled nature of the event was instrumental in forming the early Christian Church. Anyone who has undergone a miraculous experience would understand the Tarsus road incident — not through logic but via an entirely inexplicable rationale — just as Eliot phrased it.

Tim Mackay writes: Thank you for those insightful, pious readers who literally assumed the former and took the time out of their busy lives to educate and proselytise me out of my obvious, religious ignorance. I promise there will be no more resurrection jokes unless they are spelt out to you as such in full. I will now also apply the benefit of revisionist history to my views — I should obviously accept that Jesus now died a Christian, not a Jew. Perhaps I should also accept that he was blue eyed and fair haired too.

Please Paul Gilchrist, let’s get it right, the holocaust denier is Bishop Williamson, not Bishop Williams. I truly hope you are not confusing him with that other English Bishop Williams who resides in Canterbury — I am sure he’d be absolutely horrified if you were. I’ll grant you both have current or former associations with the Church of England but that is where the similarity ends.

This is what you said about Bishop WILLIAMSON — “He and the other members of the SSPX sect have been forbidden by the Vatican to practice as Catholic bishops and priests, and this is unchanged.” No, I think you will find Pope Benedict XVI himself acted to (less than tactfully) lift the excommunication on this character in the middle of the Jewish sabbath in January this year. The Church only tried subsequently to limit the resulting backlash after it got crucified in the press by then limiting his episcopal functions. That to me, with my very limited knowledge, sounds like material changes in his standing in the Church.

Conform or leave seems to be the mantra about poor old Father Kennedy. Yet history has shown us that over time the Church is more than capable of listening to reformers and then renewing and reforming itself — witness the Council of Trent as part of the Counter Reformation and the Second Vatican Council in the ’60s. If the proponents of change at those councils had not stayed and argued their beliefs but rather left, the Church would long ago have gone the way of the bleedin’ norweigian blue.

My last word — I think some of us should learn to laugh at our own faults, instead of condemning the faults in others. Except Bishop Williamson of course. We can all throw stones at Bishop “There were no gas chambers” Williamson, even he does/doesn’t say Jehovah.

Executive pay:

Geoff Russell writes: Re. “Time for a high income super tax?” (yesterday, item 1). I’m fine with linking executive salaries to performance, but it depends on the definition of “performance”. Enron and others have showed what can happen when performance is equated with share price, but if performance was defined as “number of full time employees” then we could see rather different management styles emerging.

It’s easy to think of definitions of performance that would yield socially and environmentally beneficial outcomes, so it is a testimony to the attraction of shortsighted greed that share price still seems to command center stage.

Gavin Moodie writes: Tournament theory is the economic explanation of the obscene rewards for executives, and indeed for entertainment, sports and other super stars.

Assume that supervisors’ different levels of performance can be evaluated reasonably clearly. A very good supervisor’s likelihood of promotion to junior management might depend 90% on their aptitude and 10% on luck. The pay premium for junior management need only be modest because supervisors know that their aptitude is likely to be rewarded.

Now assume that the performance of senior managers can’t be evaluated very clearly. A senior manager’s likelihood of promotion to Chief Executive Officer might depend 10% on their aptitude and 90% on luck. In this case a very big premium is needed to motivate senior managers because the likelihood of their efforts being rewarded depends so much on luck.

On this theory chief executives’ pay is obscene not to motivate chief executives, but to motivate the executives further down the hierarchy.

War in Iraq:

Anthony Barrell writes: Re. “Iraq: the end of the beginning” (yesterday, item 13). Scepticism about President Obama’s pledge and plan to remove US troops from Iraq should be tempered by reality. If anyone still imagines Obama or anyone will allow the USA to completely decamp from Iraq they should consider the case of Japan. The war with Japan ended in 1945 but there are still nearly 50,000 troops there and so many bases it would need a whole issue of Crikey to list them — notwithstanding the recent promise to relocate 8000 marines from Okinawa to Guam (by 2014-15). Those troops were originally stationed in Japan to prevent its re-militarisation (Australia was an insistent proponent of that strategy).

The US occupation ceased to supervise the Japanese government in 1952, but US troops, planes and ships remain. They were there to protect Japan against communist aggression (or subversion from within) and then they became the “keystone” of US strategic policy in the Pacific throughout the Cold War and now that China has proved such a challenge remain so. US troops stay partly because Japan is still technically bound by its peace constitution, which many “reformers” within and without want abolished but unless there is a serious political re-alignment in Tokyo Japan is almost irrevocably bound to US strategic planning.

So, 64 years after the WW2 mission was accomplished the US daren’t leave and there is much unfinished business. As to Korea, that’s another story, as is the deployment of US military presence in 130 countries world wide. Whether or not President Obama is prepared to confront that monstrous over-commitment remains to be seen.

Ray Edmondson writes: It’s not likely to figure in the numbers being bandied around about the US exit from Iraq, but one of the many pieces of wreckage the US will leave behind when it goes will be the destruction of much of Iraq’s cultural heritage. US invasion forces stood idly by while the Iraqi National Museum was plundered, and the Iraqi National Archives and National Library were sacked and torched. Following a global appeal for the return of pillaged artifacts, the National Museum is about to reopen with one quarter of its collection recovered. The rest cannot be found. Overall, the loss of records and national memory for one of the oldest civilizations on earth is immense, and most can never be recovered.

The losses could have been averted during the invasion but the US did not think Iraq’s cultural heritage mattered enough. Whether the US is making any financial or other practical gestures to help repair the losses in unknown. Whether it has even apologized to the Iraqis is unknown. But it’s not the first time the US has left others to clean up its mess. Bombing during the Vietnam war destroyed or damaged ancient monuments in that country; the vast tonnage of bombs dropped on Laos during the same conflict (more than the entire tonnage of all bombs dropped by both sides during World War Two) is still there and still killing people.

Victorian bushfires:

Michael Byrne writes: Re. “Victorian bushfires: disregard demagogues, ecogogues and celebrity dilettantes” (yesterday, item 17). Whilst Frank Campbell picked through the embers to conclude that nothing was defensible given the forewarned extreme conditions, I wonder if the ashes themselves hold another story; human arrogance in the face of nature.

It is tragically a time of “if onlys”. Those close by are living with them throughout the tragedy of their personal or local neighbourhood losses. We further back can cast the net wider to contribute reflectively on the black day times.

My offer is: if only the popular media, its commentators and political users of it, had seen and written of a real lesson in the death of Steve Irwin; it being a consequence of human arrogance in the face of nature. That single tragic death, a direct consequence of nature being nature in the form of a startled stingray using its defensive mechanism, could and should have been reported as a lesson to us all — nature is deadly and the more we come to know of her ways the more we should bow to her. She cares not of innocent presence or self serving exploit, and shows how soft our human flesh and bone is in the face of her deeds.

Just perhaps such a lesson, embedded where wonder and awe of nature reside in our minds, would have tipped the scale in the decisions of the day before the day given the forecasts. I feel our media continually fails us in not getting to the heart of the matters before us.

Telstra NextG:

David Hyatt writes: Kate Newton (yesterday, comments) wrote “But [Sol Trujillo] did get something spectacularly right — NextG. This seamless almost countrywide conversion from CDMA to cutting edge mobile on robust 850MHz was a clever decision executed speedily and with minimum fuss following his appointment.” While much of her praise for the coverage achieved with this network is justified, it is hard to accept the description of the changeover as seamless. There were many customers converted to handsets incapable of supporting their needs, and there continues to be widespread promotion of the coverage obtained only with an external antenna. These were both reported in the Regional Telecommunications Review, the Government response to which has to be tabled this week.

Note: Mr Havyatt has shares in Telstra, Hutchison and Telecom New Zealand, is currently employed by Unwired and worked in the Secretariat to the Committee when they were writing their report.

Jackie French writes: NextG a triumph? Tell that to all who had their mobile coverage ripped away when CDMA was abolished. Telstra promised us “definitely something … perhaps a satellite phone … we’ll have to look into it.” And vanished.

Salvation Army:

Women’s Forum Australia spokeswoman Melinda Reist writes: Re: “Salvos stiff the s-x lobby’s hard-earned” (Friday, item 6). You’d reckon Eros would have figured it out by now — there are some groups who don’t want donations derived from s-x industry profits. So why does Eros continue to seek out groups it knows will have ethical objections to receiving tainted money from the global trade in women’s bodies rather than groups it knows would accept the donation with no qualms? Either they want to launder their image by trying to be seen as generous to those like World Vision and the Salvos, or achieve more publicity when they dob them in for rejecting their advances.


Verity Pravda writes: Re: “So Conroy’s Rabbit-Proof Firewall is dead… or is it?” (yesterday, item 9). Sorry to be a bore, but it is a pity that Stilgherrian ruined a pretty well reasoned item by writing an off-beam tag line. He is right to conclude that the Xenophon announcement of voting intention on the filter doesn’t rule it out, both because the coalition could support it and because it may be achieved without legislation. He left out the consideration of the Bill being happily twice rejected… the PM must be interested in a double dissolution trigger soon. However, he then wrote, “Despite ever-mounting opposition, Senator Conroy isn’t saying die just yet. Not until after the trial results mid-year, anyway. Assuming he’s still Minister then.”

Firstly there doesn’t seem to be ever mounting opposition, just the same people saying the same things. Secondly it is not surprising that Conroy is continuing with his trial, it is, after all, merely designed to inform policy and test the rants from many that “the filter won’t work”. Finally, I can see little prospect of Conroy not being Minister in the immediate future. Both the NBN and filter are policy positions supported by the PM. There is no other motivation for a front bench reshuffle.


Ignaz Amrein writes: Simon Wilkins (yesterday, comments) confirms, what I thought, was the main point I was making in my comments about Julie Leask’s article. Vaccination side effects appear to be non existent for a large number of proponents. Don’t mention the war!

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