Frank Costigan:

Journalist Brian Toohey writes: Re. “Costigan 1: the Royal Commission was a farce” (Wednesday, item 3). I was surprised to see the piece in which an anonymous correspondent presented as fact what was nothing more than unsubstantiated surmise about the “religious nutter” Frank Costigan. I can’t see how this squares with Crikey’s claims to produce quality journalism online. The anonymous Sydney lawyer stated as a blunt fact that “Costigan leaked the confidential case summaries to the National Times newspaper in order to try and put leverage on the Government to extend his enquiry”. The summaries were leaked to me. Your correspondent is in no position to know who was the source, nor to know the motive for the leak.

CRIKEY: We have largely removed the use of anonymous contributions in Crikey, but not entirely because there are times, in our view, when the content is important enough to justify the use of an anonymous source (which is still a widespread practice throughout the media). However, yesterday we reviewed this practice and we have decided that on those occasions when we feel compelled to publish anonymous items — which we hope are rare — we will either provide a description of the writer (without identifying him or her) or explain our reasons for publishing the item.

The 2009 Budget and health:

Stephen Lambert writes: Re. “Budget countdown: health caught in a catch 22” (yesterday, item 3). Bernard did a good job with his health summary, but I fear he hasn’t identified the massive opportunity for savings we are neglecting by ignoring the drive for improved efficiency driven by improvements in health IT systems.

After a couple of decades of efficiency gains being a major contributor to improved outputs in nearly every other sector, health has been left out in the cold. With current IT and other health infrastructure, major efficiency gains are simply not possible: the whole system will need to be changed. But if there is a health minister brave enough to take on the challenge, the transformation could be remarkable, and set Australia up to maintain and improve on our current good health report card.

In short, every Australian needs a national electronic health record with unique ID number that can link medical histories, prescribed medications, procedures, and diagnostic testing. Such a system, with appropriate security would not only improve efficiency in health care — time saved in not repeatedly taking histories, hunting down previous results and X-rays — but would greatly improve safety by allowing real-time national monitoring of adverse events from procedures and prescribed medications, and would mean Australia would join the world leaders (Scandinavian countries) on population-based health research.

The sticking point is that some will chose to beat up privacy concerns and suggest the unique ID is a backdoor Australia card. We need to decide as a country if we want to improve health efficiency and safety by implementing such a system or not.

Let’s hope in this situation concerns over individual privacy issues don’t stop a system that would greatly benefit the nation as a whole.

Border protection:

John Shailer writes: Re. Yesterday’s editorial. Kevin Rudd has clearly gone soft on border protection, and the tragic sinking of the people smugglers’ boat near Christmas Island underscores his folly in overturning John Howard’s tough policies against illegal immigrants.

Under Kevin’s open-borders regime, in recent months at least six boats and 384 illegals have arrived, and 115 have been fast-tracked to residency rights. Many of these people are not genuine refugees but economic migrants, having paid with the standard fare of around $20,000 for their passage, and thus displacing genuine refugees suffering real hardship and persecution.

The traffic will continue to increase, (no doubt with further loss of life), as long as they are greeted with generous welfare payments and easy access to citizenship.

John Howard said we should decide who comes to our country, but Kevin Rudd has delegated this decision to the people smugglers!

The USA:

Julian Gillespie writes: Re. “Rundle: Tea time in America for astroturfing Republicans” (yesterday, item 11). It’s nice to see our intrepid Guy Rundle taking a break to roll with his faux bolshy mates ’round London town these days after doing the hard yards on the US election. But one has to ask when, like Martin Sheen so ably before him, will he be sent back into the heart of darkness of the Wild West? Especially when we know the natives are getting restless with their new President and all them thieving Ivy League banker types.

Why just overnight the friend of every American’s great grand daddy, Smith & Wesson, reported sales up 180% year-to-date. So with something a brewing in the heart of the people, will Guy be a’ trundling back?

Free News:

Christian Kent writes: Re. “Could News Ltd papers go free?” (Wednesday, item 2). I notice some McDonalds in Sydney CBD giving away large stacks of the Daily Tele at breakfast now, rather than just the complimentary loan copy or three. This makes sense, when you consider my local café buys all four available dailies, and customers typically are left to fight over the only copy of SMH.

Fairfax could do well to give away a few copies here and there, rather than leave them sitting on the newsagent’s floor (and then the nearest supermarket that night).

The Murray River:

Drew Turney writes: Re. “Murray River a toxic open drain — why don’t we care?” (9 April, item 4). My suggestion for ending the abuse of the Murray Darling river system? See how much of the water has been used for cattle, get rid of that much cattle and eat the far less thirsty kangaroo.

First Dog and Christianity:

Dave Liberts writes: What Greg Williams and now Geoff Coyne (yesterday, comments) need to understand is that Islam does not prohibit cartoons or jokes about itself. Geoff Coyne’s statement that you couldn’t publish a cartoon comparable to the Maundy Thursday First Dog cartoon in an Islamic country ignores the well-known fact that the so-called Danish cartoons (which resulted in some extremists getting very offended) were published in Egypt months before they were published in the west — with no resulting fallout.

Those same cartoons portrayed Mohammed in a pretty negative way, while of course the First Dog cartoon was not as Geoff Coyne pretends “a joke against Christianity”. Coyne’s assertion that the opposition to the cartoons was mainstream and not largely limited to extremists is also completely untrue. Geoff Coyne and Greg Williams love to make up rubbish about Islam so they can criticise it. What wonderfully tolerant Christians they show themselves to be.

James McDonald writes: Charles Miller (Wednesday, comments) wrote:

Whenever someone makes a joke at the expense of Christianity, you can guarantee at least one response takes the form: “You wouldn’t dare make fun of Muslims like that!” … Is [fear of causing violent offence] a state of affairs to aspire to, or should you instead be proud that your religion is sufficiently secure in its own belief to endure a light-hearted ribbing?

No, I think Greg Williams’ point (Tuesday, comments) is valid. When the media declare open season on Christianity yet constantly kowtow to Muslims, they reward violent Islamist censorship and give fanatics an excuse to say “look what happens if clerics don’t enforce respect!” Also, who said any religious belief is “sufficiently secure”?

Religious belief is often a fragile thing, competing as it does with much more instant-gratifying stimuli such as comedy.

If people are going to turn away from the faith of their parents it should be for serious reasons, not because one too many jokes stripped all the wonder out of it.

Rundle on Zionism:

Josh Landis writes: While Michael Brull (Wednesday, comments) and Guy Rundle (yesterday, comments) fight it out over who came up with the idea first, they miss the fact they’re both acting like little kids. The “if they call each other Nazis, why can’t I?” routine is pretty pathetic as justification for throwing an accusation which doesn’t pass muster. Most informed people would regard the comparison of Zionists and Nazis as pejorative, a shameless attempt to smear survivors with the actions of their persecutors.

Whether such insults are thrown by Israelis or their critics is irrelevant, other than being offensive and wrong when done by either.

The difference between most people calling each other Nazi-like, such as Seinfeld‘s the Soup Nazi, and people like Rundle using it as a descriptive term for Zionists, is that everyone else understands there’s no legitimate basis for the comparison.

BrisConnections:

Adam Schwab writes: Warwick Sauer (Wednesday comments) noted (in relation to the Nick Bolton/BrisConnections fiasco) that:

…one might have hoped that a (proud to be ex) corporate lawyer like Schwab would be familiar with the fundamental concept of the ‘corporate veil’, but it seems that perhaps he is not. If it assists, the point is this: Bolton himself has never been at risk of bankruptcy. Instead, his company has been at risk of liquidation — which is a very important distinction.”

Sauer’s observation is shrewd but not entirely correct. As a lawyer himself, Sauer should also be aware that the corporate veil is not without exception. For example, courts have been willing to pierce the veil in various circumstances, including where a company is a “mere cloak or sham” or where for tax purposes, it is necessary to determine a person’s identity.

While Nick Bolton’s purchase of BrisConnections units through a series of companies may allow him to avoid personal bankruptcy proceedings (or at least allow him to endeavour to retain the $4.5 million payment made to Australian Style Investments’ parent company, Australian Style Holdings), it is also possible that a court may pierce the corporate veil if it deemed (however, unlikely) that Bolton’s use of a company structure was a cloak or sham.

(For example, an argument may be submitted that Bolton, who the Victorian Supreme Court deemed to be the “guiding mind of ASI” purchased units in BrisConnections using a holding company structure for the ‘sole or dominant purpose’ of avoiding a legal obligation, that being payment of the $77 million ‘call’.)

Peter Fray

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