The Fitzgibbon affair:

John Kotsopoulos writes: Re. “Fitzgibbon hanging on by his fingernails” (Friday, item 1). Canberra correspondent Bernard Keane refers to Kevin Rudd’s Standards of Ministerial Ethics which states that in relation to personal interests:

Ministers [my emphasis] must declare and register their personal interests, including but not limited to pecuniary interests, as required by the Parliament from time to time…

Failure to declare or register a relevant and substantive personal interest as required by the Parliament constitutes a breach of these Standards.

The trips that are the subject of all media hot air took place in 2001 and 2005 so I fail to see any relevance unless of course Fitzgibbon was moonlighting as a Minister under John Howard, in which case he is on even safer ground given the infinitely malleable nature of Howard’s own code of Ministerial Conduct.

Les Heimann writes: This whole affair requires our PM to slice out the cancer that affects our bloated, incompetent and arrogant Defence bureaucracy. A lesson must be taught. Our PM would demonstrate strong leadership by stating the obvious and fixing things once and for all. The obvious requires a Ministerial swap — a Fitzgibbon resignation would be seen as appeasement; not strength.

All Heads of Service should be demoted or sacked and the Defence Departmental Head given an urgent five year research job in say Western Samoa and a replacement head found.

Martin Gordon writes: The recent discussion about Afghanistan and the weakening public mood for intervention against the Taliban could not be reconciled with the overwhelming antipathy of the world against the Taliban. It seems our local public opinion has not yet worked out that their stance of withdrawal will lead to the Taliban coming back to power. If opinion polls are consistent it is probably women that are most hostile to intervention, yet it is their Afghan sisters that have the most to lose from a Taliban return.

Locally our Defence Minister is in a spot of bother as is his department. Not disclosing his sponsored trips, and supporting his bothers lobbying efforts from his office are pretty dumb and wrong. Worse though is the cultivation of close relations with the Minister by the Chinese state, given the Sinophile inclinations of the Prime Minister probably not much will be done about that though.

That is the more serious issue along with a confirmation of a widely held view in the rest of Asia that Australia under Kevin Rudd is more interested in China than the rest of Asia.


Marcus Vernon writes: Re. “Vanstone’s dog puts the bite on Pakistan” (25 March, item 3). Can I make sure I understand your editorial checking procedures? Barry Everingham just happens to bump into a member of the Roman police force at a party and he spills the beans to our persuasive reporter about this alleged incident. In the belief that the no-doubt swarthy Italian cop (in uniform, Barry?) can be trusted, Everingham rushes into print and Crikey runs this cocktail-fuelled gossip as fact. More than that, Everingham, a life-long wannabe diplomat, assertively declares about Australia and Pakistan “the two countries may never speak again”. Who is he kidding?

Let us ask now, because there is no indication that Crikey asked Everingham these editorial basics: Did he double-check the story with the Department of Foreign Affairs? Or the Pakistani ambassador who was allegedly bitten? Gee, did he even bother to ask Ambassador Vanstone or someone on her staff? Email can work pretty well like that. Because if Everingham did any of those things, they should have been reported in the story.

So Crikey, did you run this item without the proper checks because: (a) Everingham is such a jolly chap (b) Ambassador Vanstone is a woman (c) Ambassador Vanstone is overweight and therefore fair game for smart-aleck comments such as “our gastronomic representative in Rome” or (d) Ambassador Vanstone was a minister in the Howard Liberal government? Mmmm, let me guess.

And, of course, your Poison Pen junior hit team should have been all over this story before now. But then, that would mean they are actually unbiased, as they claim.

Oz letters:

Victoria Collins writes: Re. “Beware the overzealous editors of The Oz letters section” (Friday, item 2). As someone, nominally from “The Left”, who has had a few Letters to the Editor of The Australian published, I would like to point out that the editing of letters also comes in another form that may not be so obvious.

As I read the Letters in The Oz every day, I have also noticed that, not surprisingly I suppose that if The Australian has a particular agenda then you will see the Letters to the Editor heavily weighted in their favour. This tends to give the impression that the majority of the punters in reader and voterland are on The Oz’s side, and hence gives the impression to casual readers that public opinion is on the side of the paper.I am sceptical of this, myself, as, oftentimes you know that public opinion is actually diametrically opposed to the line that The Australian is running.

They also constantly favour certain “pet” letter-writers, for example, Des Moore from The Institute For Public Affairs. Of course, these individuals have a right to put their views, but when you see them appearing regularly in the Letters section it makes you wonder about the bias being exercised in compiling the Letters page for the day. I would have thought that The Australian‘s readers had a “Right To Know” both sides of the story, especially as it pertains to other readers of the paper who submit comments to their Letters page.

Anyway, in this day and age, you’d think that The Australian could publish on the internet all the Letters to the Editor that it receives every day, so long as they conform to some basic standards. That’s transparency that you could believe in.


Sean Fagan writes: Re. “And the Wankley goes to … Ben Cousinsmania” (Friday, item 19). As Leigh Josey points out “Cousinsmania” has knocked away in Melbourne all interest in matters of real importance. This appeared to reach an apex-of-nausea upon The Age devoting the entire front page of its Friday sports section to Cousins’ return, seemingly lauding and paying tribute to him by quoting at length Rudyard Kipling’s If, a classic poem honouring manliness, virtue and integrity.

A more fitting choice for Melbourne, a city that measures its value to the world in proportion to the scale of its football, cricket and horse-racing crowds, would have been Kipling’s The Islanders — a poem made famous by:

Then ye returned to your trinkets; then ye contented your souls, With the flannelled fools at the wicket, or the muddied oafs at the goals.

Written in 1901, Kipling was warning with The Islanders that a society built upon multitudes of loaf-about spectators spending their time idly watching “the flannelled fools” and “muddied oafs”, instead of fitting themselves in moral and physical good, was destined to degenerate, would lose sight of and fail to understand what was truly important in life and for a nation’s future well-being.

That only Melbourne could recognise in Cousins a man worthy of Kipling’s If says it all.

Crikey’s Anti-DreamTeam of company directors:

David Iron writes: Re. “Crikey’s Anti-DreamTeam of company directors” (Friday, item 6). What about Dick Warburton? Didn’t see the train coming at David Jones. And Graham Kraehe — rode Pacifica into the ground and was rewarded with loads of company directorships. And Margaret Jackson — how did one person read the tea leaves so badly on the QAN privatization debacle?


David Epstein, Executive General Manager, Government & Corporate Affairs at Qantas, writes: Re. “As we say at Qantas, there’s no CCTV like no CCTV” (Friday, item 11). Bernard Keane seems to be a serial offender when it comes to gratuitous commentary founded on supposition. For the second time this week, he has chosen to attack Qantas personnel on the basis of unsubstantiated speculation he has regurgitated but not checked. Keane would be better to await the outcome of legal proceedings and pending official inquiries before claiming there was a failure of the Qantas CCTV system.

It may well be that they apply a higher standard of rigour before passing judgement than Keane does himself.


Guy Rundle writes: Eric Lundberg (Friday, comments) suggests that I have my facts wrong on the Law of Return, and that I should do some research. I did. He should try it sometime himself. The initial 1950 laws guaranteeing ‘return’ to Jews was altered in 1970 to include spouses and grandchildren of Jews. However it retained this clause:

4B. For the purposes of this Law, “Jew” means a person who was born of a Jewish mother or has become converted to Judaism and who is not a member of another religion.

It is the latter part of this clause that has been effectively disregarded in immigration practice in recent years, as a way of beefing up the European-derived population, and sucking up to the Israel Beitenyu (“Israel — Freddo sleeps with the fishes”) Party, whose base is the Russian immigrant population.

The arrest of the 11 neo-Nazi kids two years ago prompted a widespread debate about the Law of Return, with one MK from the National Religious Party noting that the law of return as currently interpreted has made Israel “a haven for people who hate Israel, hate Jews, and exploit the Law of Return to act on this hatred.”

In the Cold War era mass immigration of Jews from the USSR in the early 70s, numerous applicants were rejected because of suspicion that they were using forged documents, other people’s relatives, and were practicing Christians back several generations, using Israel as a gateway to the West. It is these applicants that are now being accepted more easily, for demographic reasons — and one which lays bare the European colonialist essence of Israel.

Will that do a written “apology”, Eric?