James Burke writes: Re. “Rundle: London dresses down and braces for G20” (yesterday, item 3). For Guy Rundle, the “the only moral policy towards Afghanistan is immediate withdrawal”. It’s a familiar tactic, to claim moral superiority while following the path of least resistance. For Western Communists and pacifists, the only moral strategy in 1939 was to allow Hitler and Stalin to divvy up Europe between them; for US isolationists, the only moral strategy in 1992 was to leave the Bosnians to be butchered. The LBJ/Vietnam analogy cannot go unchallenged.

For a start, Vietnam was a foreign adventure (like Iraq), while the invasion of Afghanistan started because the Taliban’s terrorist guests committed a vast massacre of (mostly) civilians on American soil. Okay, maybe the murder of Western civilians isn’t a moral concern for Guy; let’s look at Afghans, then. During the Vietnam War, it was not clear what would happen to the people of the South should it fall to the communists.

In Afghanistan, we know exactly what to expect if the Taliban take power again — genocide against racial and religious minorities, large scale murder and rape, total enslavement and debasement of the female population, violently enforced bans on such frivolities as recorded music and recycled toilet paper, support for bloody jihad in the neighbourhood (goodbye, Pakistan! please don’t take India with you when you go) and shelter for terrorists from around the globe.

Perhaps Guy remembers that little Tampa kerfuffle in 2001? What does he think all those Afghan asylum seekers were fleeing from? The way things are going, it’s entirely possible that the forces of darkness will triumph in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the developed world will slink away and leave the people to their fate. Let’s just refrain from patting ourselves on the back when we do, congratulating ourselves on our fabulous moral sense.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder:

Reporter Nick McKenzie writes: Re. “PTSD is not the only issue for the ADF ” (yesterday, item 15). Dr Michael Robertson claims I failed to “graduate… [the programs] allegations beyond innuendo or allusion.” Is Robertson suggesting a lack of credibility in the stories of the soldiers in the program? Is he suggesting that Prof David Dunt’s two inquiries, which identify many gaps in the support system and call for major change, are ”innuendo or an allusion”?

I have read one of Dunt’s inquiries. I interviewed Dunt today. The soldiers I have spoken to, and Dunt, and many other experts, including Prof Mark Creamer, believe the defence force and veterans’ affairs can do a better job for our returning diggers suffering long term mental health problems. Dr Len Lambeth, the former head of mental health services, said much the same. ADF Surgeon General Maj Gen Paul Alexander told Four Corners that there had been “gaps” in the support system and these were regretable.

Because I am no health expert, I have run Dr Roberston’s email past someone who is. This health expert told me:

There is whole range of opinions by Dr Robertson and it is rather difficult to grasp the major point. Some of which I can agree with and some not. If there is one theme, it seems to be that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is invented, overstated, medicalised, etc, etc.

While I agree PTSD can become a catchall for a wider range of problems, it has a much longer history and more established existence than the author asserts. When Dr Robertson states the “vast majority of survivors of overwhelming trauma, require a long-term therapeutic relationship, which is responsive to different developments in their lives,” it contradicts his take that the condition should be viewed with scepticism.

The author can’t have it both ways.

QLD Speaker’s Offices:

Chris Johnson writes: Re. “QLD Speaker’s Office’s overtly political nature” (yesterday, item 11). Stirling Hinchliffe handled complaints by three Merri Rose staffers back in 1999 and 2004 while working in the Speakers office. Since then dozens of MP staff in Queensland have realised the upper echelons of the Queensland Parliament are prone to political administrative bias.

For years we’ve asked the QLA to honour its employer obligations of protecting the health and safety of workers and keeping them safe from foreseeable hazards. In vain our stories have circulated the offices of the Clerk, the Speaker, the Human Resource section and the Director of Corporate Services and as swiftly as the QPSU (cited by former Premier Peter Beattie as his government’s preferred worker alliance) turned its back on us so too the doors of Opposition members.

This parliamentary administration prefers to defend its miscreant members and compensate their victims as opposed to educating, guiding and scrutinising MPs charged with arbitrary employer roles. There’s no rationale to encouraging such toxic workplaces yet the loss of two lives and many careers hasn’t triggered a move for change. As a swag of new MPs converge on George Street later this month let’s hope the new Speaker includes a mandatory and progressive training module on workplace relations in his induction and information program for Members.

Only time, retirement and evolution will alter the other entrenched traditions of a parliamentary executive resistant to modern employment principles.


Phil Chamberlain writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (yesterday, item 7). Crikey published:

While everyone in the world seems to be carving off companies at the knees, it looks as though the GFC is helping some public servants get rich. Centrelink staff have been told their new EB gives them a 10 per cent pay increase over two years (with no link to performance) plus extra annual leave days. A recession’s a good time to be in welfare!

I assumed that your “tips and rumours” would have been vetted for some factual basis in them. After having read the comment from the bonehead who claims Centrelink workers are being paid a 10% pay rise over two years I realise this is not the case.

A perusal of the readily available draft agreement shows that it is a 30 month agreement. The reason for it being over this period and not three years is that our previous agreement was voted down initially. Subsequent negotiations dragged on for a number of months. When finally signed a minimal bonus payment was received with no backdating of pay rises. The period of the new agreement seeks to catch up this previous delay.

Also the current agreement was supposed to be in place in Jan this year but will not be put into effect until April, and again with no backdating of any pay rise. So a further period where Centrelink staff are missing out on higher pay.

Also, for the privilege of gaining two extra days of annual leave, Centrelink workers will be required to work an extra nine minutes per day and give up personal (sick) leave. When tallied, the net effect works out to be an extra 15 mins on duty at work a week.

Melbourne Grand Prix:

Michael Fraser writes: Re. “Brumby’s Grand Prix spinning out of control. Don’t tell Fairfax” (Monday, item 4). Presuming the figure of $47 is correct and that it correct that the $47 million goes from the Melbourne Grand Prix organisers to Bernie Ecclestone, can I ask a silly question: what does he do with it, i.e. how much of that $47 million does he inject back into the Melbourne Grand Prix?

The Fitzgibbon affair:

Phylli Ives writes: Re.”Fitzgibbon and the shadow of the Yellow Peril” (Monday, item 2). I suppose it’s beside the point that Ms Helen Liu is an Australian citizen.