Michael Crutcher, Joint Chief of Staff at The Courier Mail, writes: Re.”Tips and rumours” (Friday, item 8). In relation to the Tips and Rumours section last Friday about Courier Mail employees being evacuated from the building. Crikey published the following tip:

Courier Mail employees were evacuated when someone in the office performed a prank on fellow colleague Michael Krutcher’s desk, by putting sugar all over his desk to emulate cocaine, after his recent reports on the “Drugs scourge” in Queensland. The stories were not taken seriously in the newsroom, and it was thought that the journalist would see the humour in it.

Fagan, knowing it was sugar (journalists tasted the hitherto unidentified substance) called the police and the building was evacuated to scare the person who did it into coming forward. All the while journalists were saying it’s a joke, someone in the office did it, the police arrived and cleared the desk, leaving journos outside for half an hour.

Fagan then sent emails demanding who put the sugar on the desk, followed by threats. Fagan who has banned the Crikey website from Courier Mail computers is trying to find any potential leak to Crikey — and prevented anyone from talking about the incident.

Can I please correct most of the item from the anonymous tipster. While your tipster wrote that journalists were evacuated from the building for “half an hour”, no employee was evacuated or even disrupted in their work. The Crikey website is not banned in the newspaper.

The Ashmore explosion and border protection:

Martin Gordon writes: Re. “Nothing soft — or cheap — about our border protection” (yesterday, item 1). The sad news of the deaths of asylum seekers near Ashmore Reef and the disingenuous tirade by Kevin Rudd over people smugglers can’t pass without comment. Yes the ALP can claim a mandate of sorts on asylum claims. But its policy rewards illegal arrivals and asylum claimants with means (i.e. money) and disadvantages any asylum claimant that goes through the proper process. Whether they fly or arrive by boat is irrelevant.

The system is now more skewed in favour of people smuggling as an option — you now get permanent protection (and eventually citizenship), whilst other equally needy and qualified claimants without the cash rot in camps until their number comes up. If temporary protection only went to illegal arrivals and permanent to properly processed overseas claims this would partly address the problem. That used to be the system, prior to the ALP changes.

I have no problem accepting legitimate and properly processed refugees or welcoming them. We accept 13,000 a year. Emotion is allowed to colour asylum claims, most are lovely people, but why is a poor Sudanese fleeing to Chad any less worthy than a well-to-do arrival who bought their passage to our shores?

By the way there are some 16 million registered refugees in the world, and another 51 million displaced by war or natural disasters. Those happiest with the new arrangements will be the people smugglers; they are in a real potential growth industry. Is this an unannounced part of the Governments stimulus package?

Les Heimann writes: Re. Friday’s editorial. Crikey points once again to the hurtful and opportunistic nature of some politicians and journalists. The majority of the Australian population are alive only because their forebears got to this country — one way or another. For very many of us it was because our parents/ grandparents fled from certain death because of racial or religious bigotry in the land of their birth — they were refugees! And Australia accepted them!

What is it about Australia — are we really so intolerant yet embrace so much from those millions who have joined us in the last century? Are we really what Arthur Calwell pandered to when he famously stated “two wongs don’t make a white”? What sort of leadership is being displayed by those politicians and journalists who seek to entrench an elitist, racist point of view in the so called “ordinary Australian”?

Really it’s about time we accepted that yes Australia has a population problem — Australia can not support many more people because of climate circumstances; but no — we are not opposed to anyone coming here as such — especially, most especially, if they are trying to save themselves or their families from certain death because of their race or religion.

Certainly, trying to find an appropriate path is not without significant difficulties. However, I am utterly confident that a massive majority of Australian are very much supportive of a “fair go” for all and absolutely do not genuinely believe the extremist filth and garbage spewed out by too many of our so called politicians and so called journalists. Cheap and shoddy opportunistic racism is not leadership.

Marjorie Ward writes: Thank you for Crikey; it keeps me sane in a mad world. I am 80 years old and can pick politicians making mileage out of a disaster in a snap. Some of the disgusting phonies are currently at it.

Here’s a hypothetical: If there was a war raging in New Zealand and two hundred white civilians in a leaky boat sought refuge in Australia would they be turned back by border patrol? If they jumped in the water or accidentally burnt themselves alive rather than go back to New Zealand would they be referred to as being “illegals”?

Geoff Russell writes: The Crikey editorial should be reprinted on the front of all daily newspapers in Australia and read verbatim on all the 6pm news reports. And if that’s not wishful thinking enough, it would be great if Andrew Bolt’s readership evaporated as a result — earning him the sack! … dream on.

The National Broandband Network:

Rob Pickering writes: Re. “The week in geek: A lonely planet for news … Twitter et al … Ebay” (Friday, item 23). I want to address something around the costings of NBN which I see people bandy around as being too expensive, or out of the question for ordinary Australians to spend. I’ve done some sums (and I’m definitely no mathematician, so have at it):

  • Total cost = $43,000,000,000
  • Annualised Over 10 years = $4,300,000,000
  • Expected number of connections = 6,000,000
  • Total cost per year per connection is = $716.67OR
  • $59.27 per month

Let’s add 10% for management, maintenance/upgrades and billing costs.

Total cost is $65.70 per month per site if 6 million sites sign up. That’s far less than the $150 today mentioned by your Week in Geek writer. 6 million Australians is less than a third of Australians signing up, a reasonable estimate in my guesses. (This obviously excludes the cost of borrowing, opportunity costs etc — let’s say we get them back in economic stimulus).

If we went one step further and offered business class of service for some sites and charged that out at $500 per site per month for 1 million business sites then the total cost per HOUSEHOLD would drop even further. I’m not a mathematician, so someone else can work that out, but as I’ve mentioned previously, a $500 per month internet bill for 100Mbit would look VERY attractive to a number of businesses.

I say that the government gets its principal back in 10 years (a reasonable economic timeframe) and provides an excellent framework for the future of Australian growth. How many other government infrastructure investments do we fully price out a business case for?

Apologies if the figure is wrong, but if someone smarter than me can do the figures I’d be interested in the outcome factoring in a business addition.

Matt Steadman writes: Re. “Tucker: five broadband myths busted” (16 April, item 2). Great piece articulating the benefits vs. doubters claims regarding FTTP. I’m a signed up fan, and agree with Rudd that this is a project of Snowy Scheme-esque significance. What I haven’t yet seen in the commentary is what happens beyond your local internet service provider. If we’re all getting speeds 100 times better at home, there will be a need for some massive infrastructure upgrades between local and national ISPs to efficiently get all this data to your PC.

The bigger problem is data capacity into the country. I believe there are only a handful (literally; only about 5) multi-core fibres arriving into Australia from overseas. If we’re all getting fibre to our homes, there would need to be a massive increase in international data capacity to make it all work, and running new fibres under oceans isn’t cheap. As most of the stuff we access is overseas (YouTube, iTunes, pornography etc), without a major international bandwidth upgrade we’re only really moving the data bottleneck to a different location.

Time to buy shares in your nearest multi-national datacomms company!

Health IT systems:

Joe Boswell writes: Stephen Lambert (Friday, comments) wrote advocating improved efficiency driven by improvements in health IT systems. He claimed, “with current IT and other health infrastructure, major efficiency gains are simply not possible: the whole system will need to be changed… 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 … would mean Australia would join the world leaders (Scandinavian countries) on population-based health research… The sticking point is that some will choose to beat up privacy concerns and suggest the unique ID is a backdoor Australia card…” Maybe privacy is the biggest concern, but there should also be some pause to reflect on the British experience. The UK government was seduced by this dream of a national fully-integrated health IT system. What it got was the world’s most expensive civilian IT fiasco. Well over

13 billion UK pounds has vanished into a black hole of consultants and other swindlers, and the most obvious victims are the health professionals and patients, followed by the tax-payers. The system itself, many years overdue, is nowhere to be seen, except for a few dysfunctional local trials. The good news is that privacy is not really a problem, because it is seldom possible to place someone’s records on the system in the first place, and even more difficult to access them afterwards. Take a long hard look at Private Eye‘s report.


Peter Logue, Director, External Communications at the Australian Coal Association writes: Re. “Carbon capture and storage is an expensive pipe dream” (Friday, item 17). Rather than comment in detail about Michael James ill-informed article on Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), I just want to ask him the same question I have asked Greenpeace and others over the past months: “If CCS will not work — as they continue to claim — what is his solution for dealing with coal fired power stations in China and India which are growing at a rate of several new large plant every month? ”

Climate change is, after all, a global problem and needs solutions that are acceptable to all countries, particularly the heavy emitters. If Michael chooses to snipe from the sidelines and not make the effort to understand the amount of work that is happening around the world to make sure it does work at large scale, he needs to come up with a viable suggestion for weaning the world away from its plentiful coal resources.

His doctorate, in whatever it is, has surely equipped him with the capacity to do research, to talk to people working in a research area, to seek answers to complex technologically questions and to come up with suggested solutions. Without doing that it’s just a lot of emotional hot air.

No-one said CCS at commercial scale was easy or that it would be cheap. In the end, the new low-carbon market place will make a decision on which competing technologies and energy sources are viable. The coal industry, particularly in Australia, recognises that a carbon price will level the playing field. But the industry will continue to be in the game, in Australia and globally and it will work to become a cleaner industry. (Michael, we said many months ago that we find the phrase “clean coal” confusing and the ACA no longer uses it except when link to articles or other commentators who do. He mentioned the Vattenfall pilot project in Germany but neglected to mention the planned follow up which you can read about here).

As countries continue to put a price on carbon, work on many projects around the world is accelerating and it will be the job of the Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute to keep the foot on the pedal. It is not there to fund projects and that is quite clear in all the information that has been distributed about the Institute. If you’d like to read about other international projects and how the technology works, you can read it here.

Finally, if he really thinks wind power is the answer, he might read the words of the GAIA proponent James Lovelock, hardly a climate sceptic.


Daniel Hoare. Manager, Corporate Affairs at Betfair Australasia writes: Re. “Monte Carlo ATP match raises the betting fix spectre” (yesterday, item 4). It seems Charles Happell might have failed to mention a small, ‘incidental’ piece of information in his piece last week about possible match fixing in an ATP tennis match. He seems to lay part of the blame for match fixing at the feet of the online betting exchange Betfair. But isn’t Happell’s wife, Paula Dwyer, on the board of Tabcorp? It’s a company that’s long despised Betfair for its threat to the TAB monopoly.

Charles Happell responds: Daniel’s been watching too many Oliver Stone movies. My Crikey column highlighted the unusual betting patterns in this ATP match. Many other Betfair customers were moved to make similar observations on Betfair’s own tennis forum. I didn’t hold Betfair responsible in any way for these betting patterns that seemed to defy logic — or match-fixing, as Daniel more bluntly puts it. That is a figment of his imagination.


Michael Brull writes: Re. Josh Landis (Friday, comments). I appreciate Guy Rundle’s gracious acknowledgement of error. However, his first misreading of my article pales in comparison to that of correspondent Mr Landis. I enormously resent being accused of conducting a “if they call each other Nazis, why can’t I?” routine. In fact, I said no such thing. I said that people like Mendes (and he is not the only one) should not say that Nazi accusations are anti-Semitic.

Furthermore, in the article which Landis presumably didn’t read, I said the comparisons to the Nazis, which I documented in the link, were rash, and I also objected to Socialist Alliance’s “Stop the Holocaust in Gaza” placards. If Landis disagreed with my views, he should’ve addressed them, rather than fabricating new ones to attribute to me. Furthermore, I take strong exception to his claim that comparisons of Zionists to Nazis is an attempt to “smear survivors with the actions of their persecutors”.

In fact, this shamelessly conflates Zionists with Holocaust survivors. I’ve written before that those who object to Zionist-Nazi comparisons probably know very little about Israeli political discourse. For example, Holocaust survivor Israel Shahak used to condemn what he called Judeo-Nazis.

On Landis’s planet, Shahak therefore smeared himself as a Nazi. On this planet, Shahak bravely fought for Palestinian rights. And, as it happens, he was smeared by the malicious Alan Dershowitz as an anti-Semite. I might even say this was a shameless attempt to smear a survivor with the action of his persecutors. However, I consider it adequate to say I found this attack dishonest and insensitive, without the need to lie about it or call it anti-Semitic.

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