CRIKEY: In yesterday’s item “Fawcett to sue Tele over those ‘Hanson’ pics“, we reported that Jamie Fawcett had sued The Sunday Telegraph last year for defamation. In fact, he sued rival tabloid the Sun Herald.

Drinking to their deaths on Anzac Day:

Paul Donaldson, Group Manager VB, writes: Re. “Drinking to their deaths on Anzac Day” (yesterday, item 7). A lot has been written on the Raise a Glass Appeal in recent days calling into question the appropriateness of a link between alcohol and the Appeal beneficiaries, Legacy and the RSL. It’s not surprising, as we had similar discussions and concerns over the twelve months that the Appeal developed.

The role of alcohol in the Australian community is a complex one — both culturally and historically. VB was with our troop rations during virtually every conflict Australia has been involved in and yes, some returned serviceman turned to alcohol abuse in the aftermath of the national service we value so highly. We at VB acknowledge, as our partners at Legacy and the RSL do, that alcohol misuse and abuse is a serious problem, among the general community as well as amongst veterans.

We are saddened by stories of alcohol abuse, and as an organisation work hard to encourage responsible consumption in everything we do. We also believe that enjoying a few responsible beers and sharing stories about old mates is a valued tradition in RSL Clubs and hotels throughout Australia. And we do not feel it is out of place for Australia’s favourite beer to acknowledge the service of those fallen by making a significant and long-term contribution.

The Raise a Glass Appeal is not based on selling one extra case of beer, but on VB contributing $1 for every case of beer that we would sell regardless, in order to support current and ex-service men and women. In addition, we have had incredible support from the general public with a significant number of donations being made already, as well as contributions from our suppliers, customers and staff.

As of yesterday morning, this appeal has already raised over $1.1m and every cent of that goes directly to the understated work of Australia’s two leading ex-service organisations and that is why we believe so much in this initiative.

“War weary” writes: I wonder how many thousands of us, or even millions if you start counting the grandchildren, there are out there in Australia who feel the same as Paul Mitchell and me? I want nothing to do with commemorating the destruction to mind, body and soul that is war. For my father too, who served close to the full six years in WW2, war was a brain-altering experience.

I have two photos of him from that time: in one taken just before his departure he looks like any other young bloke of his era; and in the second, taken barely 18 months later, he has the gaunt, harrowed face of a man at least twice his age. He survived not one but numerous life-threatening incidents, each of which alone could have led to post-traumatic stress disorder — a condition he never fully recovered from to his death.

My father didn’t drink to drown his terrors. He put a tight lid on them and felt largely ashamed of his inability to keep that lid on. “I’m just not tough enough,” were some of his final words. Ours was a home strictly controlled and dominated by my father’s chronic and largely untreated anxiety and hyper-vigilance, and the necessity to keep him functioning at all costs so that he could earn our keep. It was a different, more subtle kind of violence than that of the alcoholic, but no less destructive.

As a Lebanese friend (born when the war in Lebanon started and knowing nothing else until well into his teens) remarked to me once: “It sounds like there was a war going on inside your home, whereas for me the war was always outside.”

My mother was granted a war widow’s pension after his death — but I felt moved to write a long letter to the Department of Veteran Affairs at the time, describing in summary the damage to all of us, his children. Where was the help for us? Each of us suffered long-term psychological damage, leading to enormous difficulties in establishing and sustaining intimate relationships. All of us have had to fund our own psychological help over many years. Not least this meant that our capacities to contribute positively to our communities were negatively impacted.

While Veterans Affairs and the military today clearly do recognize and attempt to mitigate the psychological damage of war, the grim reality and perniciousness of it have not yet permeated our cultural consciousness. Otherwise, how could such an insensitive piece of advertising have been endorsed by Legacy?

The Westgate Bridge:

Dave Noonan, National Secretary of the Construction Division of the CFMEU, writes: Re. “From internet to lunch: CFMEU bikie rumour takes wing” (Wednesday, item 11). The mythical bikies at the Westgate Bridge community protest is yet another neo-con job. It seems bikies have become the weapons of mass destruction of Australian IR disputes!

The attempt to link bikie gangs with the CFMEU shines the light on a new front emerging in the neo cons’ attempt to maintain moral panic around unions in the construction industry. So what’s really happening at the Westgate Bridge in Melbourne? Radical elements of the employer lobby are amping up pressure on the Rudd Government to walk away from its promise to the Australian people to review the operations of the Australian Building and Construction Commission, the secretive body with extraordinary coercive powers set up by the Howard Government to bust the CFMEU.

In this context a fabricated rumour from a disreputable blogger, becomes “news” — pumped up to the moment the Victorian Police Commissioner has to deny it. And in denying it, gives every media outlet the opportunity to run what was never a story. So a difficult dispute, made all the more intractable because its played out under the vestiges of Howard’s failed IR laws, becomes another reason to lock up your daughters and run the union out of town.

Bikies are scary and their “crimes” are self-evident. Far easier to run this line, than to explain to the public why an employer should be able to force its workers to accept an agreement they have had no say in, significantly reduces their wages and will reduce safety on a construction site that has seen many deaths in the past.

Rudd’s recession performance:

David Hand writes: Re. “Labor’s GFC: The hare, the tortoise and Father Christmas” (yesterday, item 15). It was refreshing to read a political comment from someone other than the Kevin Rudd Cheer Squad in Crikey. A cross section of views, whether or not you agree with them, will broaden the publication’s appeal and make it more credible. I share Rowen Cross’s view that the next election will be fought more on the Government’s record and less on the Coalition’s performance. Current government policies will work through and by late 2010 the electorate will have a view about how effective they’ve been. It is what voters think then that will decide the election.

The coalition’s positions today are clearly aimed at the next election and not the next Newspoll. This idea that Turnbull is opposing aspects of the stimulus packages to appear strong and combative in the face of internal party pressure fails to recognise the possibility that he might actually believe the policies such as $900 hand outs are a mistake and fails to consider the possibility that he might be right.

When unemployment goes over 10%, staying on message that “The recession is not our fault” will have less impact as people start to ask, “But how well did you manage it?”

Ross Copeland writes: Rowen Cross says Labor won’t be able to blame the Coalition for the recession by the time of the next election. This is no doubt true but then the Coalition won’t be able to blame Labor for the GFC either. I have no doubt the Coalition will give it a shot but this will only further diminish their credibility. Even if Peter Costello was PM (perish the thought) he would not be able to cushion Australia from the effects of a world wide recession.

If Costello was really such a hot shot why hasn’t he been snapped up the IMF, the World Bank, the UN or one of the major international banks? If Rowen really thinks the Coalition (regardless of who is the leader) will be able to slide back into power in 2010 on the coat tails of the GFC he is seriously underestimating the Australian voter.

Alan Lander writes: A hedge funds lawyer of all people pontificating critically on the attempts of those trying to get us out of the position his mob put us in. This is even more ridiculous than the recent “Sydney lawyer” giving us sage advice. What’s next … Howard on the plight of refugees?

Rundle in the jungle:

Geoff Russell writes: Re. “Rundle: Rudd’s hero was a people smuggler” (yesterday, item 6). I just wonder if the people being smuggled out of Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere knew the music of Chopin or Liszt, would we treat them so poorly? Oskar Schindler was a people smuggler too. Of course, whenever somebody like Schindler sets out to move people out of harm’s way, others will provide services for a profit. Of course, should this latter group decide to come to Australia, their acumen will see them quickly employed … probably as financial advisors.

Peter Johns writes: In his article yesterday Guy Rundle refers to Howard’s “Hayekian Brutopia” I’m afraid that sailed a bit over my head. Is this what he meant?…

The Republican debate:

Thomas Flynn, Executive Director, Australians For Constitutional Monarchy, writes: Re. “An Australian head of state is what the people want” (yesterday, item 20). The by-line to Greg Barns article reminds us that he “ran the 1999 Republic Referendum Campaign for Malcolm Turnbull”. Sometimes these days it seems that republicans forget there was a referendum at all.

In 1998 there was a Constitutional Convention evenly divided between appointed and elected delegates. Republicans held an absolute majority. The convention was summoned to determine if there should be a referendum and, if so, what model should be put to the Australian people. The monarchist delegates abstained from the vote on the model — so that it was untainted by any spoiler vote. This was the model preferred by a majority of republican experts and this was the model rejected by the Australian people in all the states in the referendum of 1999.

The republicans had oodles of celebrities, masses of cash and pretty much every newspaper and media outlet on their side. And they still lost. If the vote had gone the other way would we now be discussing the possibility of changing back? I think not. In that case why should republicans get a second bite of the cherry? The last referendum alone cost some $60 million according to the AEC. The Australian people have never said yes in a referendum to something to which they have already said no. What would be the point of trying again at such vast expense?

Barns mercifully spares us from any stupid assertion that John Howard tricked the republicans and that somehow the referendum was grossly unfair (see the aforementioned media/celebrity/financial advantages). The same alas cannot be said of Tim Hollo who asserts (Thursday, item 23) “John Howard’s undermining of the referendum took the wind out of the sails of the republic push in a way that is deeply unfortunate”.

How precisely did John Howard undermine the referendum? It was the first time in Australian history that a referendum went forward to bring about a change which the Prime Minister of the day did not want. Furthermore of the appointed members of the constitutional convention (the one that brought forward the model which lost, lest we all forget) some were ex officio (state Premiers and the like) and some were directly in the gift of the Prime Minister. In appointing delegates to the convention, John Howard appointed a majority of republicans.

This favouring of republicanism by holding a referendum and by putting republican delegates in positions of control is supposed to be “undermining the republic push”. I’d hate to see what Howard’s support for republicanism would have looked like.

Abortion laws:

Ben McGinnes writes: Re. “Queensland’s ‘antiquated and repressive’ abortion laws” (Wednesday, item 4). Last year a very good friend of mine was spending time in Queensland and became pregnant. She has a number of medical conditions which make it unlikely she would be able to carry to term and neither did she want to. She went to one of the hospitals in the area and was actually refused any information regarding abortions in Queensland or how to obtain them because the doctor she saw in the emergency department of that hospital refused to provide it.

The doctor cited their Christian faith as the reason for refusing to provide information or treatment. My friend ended up calling me in desperation to find the details of appropriate Queensland facilities from organisations here in Melbourne (Marie Stopes International was the answer, by the way). I was able to provide my friend with the information and a legal abortion was performed, though I do not believe there was any follow up in Queensland, either physically or through counselling.

It seemed to me at the time, however, that there is a strong influence of religious belief of doctors in Queensland conflicting with their duty of care to patients. My friend was told she would have to see someone else, but was not even told who would be willing to talk about it let alone offer the service.

In this type of environment it is unsurprising to me that the young couple currently facing charges were probably unaware of the options available to them in Queensland.


Marcus Vernon writes: Why is Mungo MacCallum (yesterday, comments) allowed to blatantly get away with factually incorrect assertions under the guise of informed comment? Is it really because he thinks no-one would dare challenge him because he is, well, Mungo? In claiming yesterday that former Liberal Party federal director Lynton Crosby said after the 2001 election that Tampa was worth “perhaps 10 per cent” to the Coalition vote, Mungo has verballed Crosby and misled Crikey readers.

In his lengthy post-election analysis at the National Press Club on 21 November 2001, Crosby said polling had rated illegal entrants/boat people as an issue of sixth-order importance for voters, well behind loyalty to the Liberal government, economic management and the respective leadership of both major parties. On Tampa specifically, he said: “It reinforced an existing perception rather than creating a new one.”

Yes, Crosby said that about 10 per cent of voters surveyed had rated Tampa as their lead issue — but that doesn’t mean they changed their vote over it, and therefore swung the election, and Mungo knows it.

And Mungo I never thought I’d see you rely on such an appalling Americanism as you used yesterday i.e. “You do the maths”. We both know saying something like that in the Non-Members Bar at Old Parliament House on a Friday night would get you laughed out of the place.

Bad work Crikey:

Geoff Anderson writes: Re. “Plimer’s Heaven and Earth: a conservative coup?” (Monday, item 3). Your piece on Ian Plimer’s book reinforced my decision not to renew my subscription to Crikey. I attended the launch, and I am looking forward to reading the book, but don’t recognise myself from the descriptions in the article. I teach politics and public policy so I am interested in the debate and how it is shaping one of the major political issues facing government today. You may have more on your website, but certainly the piece in the Squatter edition doesn’t rate a sensible contribution to the debate.

Malcolm van Rensburg writes: Re. “Forget the IMF, listen to Stevens instead” (Wednesday, item 25). So you say we should take the most positive view of the Oz economy and discard what’s happening elsewhere, and ignore what experts elsewhere are saying if we don’t like the sound of it (all as if we’re an island sufficient unto ourselves, eh?). This was the first article I’ve read at your site, and will also be the last. You are an idiot. Get a real job. Bye.

The Holocaust:

Brian Mitchell writes: I must disagree with Andrew Dempster (yesterday, comments). He says “the Holocaust was bad but the war was a lot worse, for a lot more people”. World War II — sans the Holocaust — was just another war. Bloody and terrible, but different to others only by virtue of the sheer number of dead. The Holocaust, on the other hand, was a scar on humanity’s soul. Its true horror its automation and efficiency: Death by bureaucracy.

The Nazis — who were elected to government — came to label certain classes of its citizenry as no longer worthy of life. So these people were classified, transported, stored and disposed of. And it was all legal. There was paperwork. It was only in retrospect that these acts were deemed a crime. The horror of the Holocaust isn’t its gas chambers and SS, it’s the IBM punch cards and bespectacled clerks.

Making headlines:

Doug Melville writes: Re. Alan Lander (yesterday, comments). I liked the “Headless Body in Topless Bar” but I offer another suggestions for best headline ever — it’s from when minor football team Inverness Caledonian Thistle beats Scottish soccer powerhouse Celtic: “”SUPER CALEY GO BALLISTIC, CELTIC ARE ATROCIOUS”.

The AFL:

Roo Beauty blogger Captain Shinboner writes: Re. “AFL’s Gold Coast plans will hurt Melbourne and the AFL” (Tuesday, item 21). The AFL’s plans for expansion into the Gold Coast by 2011, and potentially Western Sydney the year after, have attracted much scrutiny. By the AFL’s own admission, the foray will be an extremely costly long-term venture. But few critics have gone on such anti-expansion crusades as Crikey’s Adam Schwab, his latest tirade suggesting that the AFL’s expansionist agenda is short-sighted.

Schwab contends that without a substantial increase in broadcast revenues, dismissed as “highly unlikely” in the financial climate, the AFL will rely on the continued leaching of Melbourne-based clubs to prop up an ailing Gold Coast franchise. This shows a complete lack of understanding as to the potential earnings the next round of broadcast rights hold (2012-2016), the cash cow that has sustained both the AFL and its Melbourne clubs for the last 20 years

Despite the perfect storm currently facing television networks, no one can argue with weekly audiences of 4.668 million, a figure which has grown consistently over the last decade. With the introduction of two additional teams, the AFL will have the extra fillip of an additional game a week, as well as the potential of increased audiences in northern markets.

By the time the current rights expire in 2011 it’s possible that major sporting events will be the last mass audience available to advertisers in this country. Which television network, terrestrial or otherwise, can afford NOT to own the biggest local sport of all? The introduction of new media players (thanks to the Federal Government’s Fibre to the Premises proposal) to such a bidding war will only increase the AFL’s earning potential. It’s difficult to see anything but a substantial increase on the previous $780 million bonanza. According to Harold Mitchell, a lazy $1 billion is achievable. I wouldn’t be surprised if it fetched more.

The AFL’s build-it-and-they-will-come strategy seems logical. It has the financial capacity and political fortitude to prop up a fledgling Gold Coast franchise for the long-term. With the Carrara stadium redevelopment all but finalised and the depth of local support already garnered, it’s likely to be years rather than decades.

Whether the AFL can sustain a Western Sydney franchise on top of this, which may require a generation of hand outs to succeed, is a different question. Judging by the PR silence on the Western Sydney front, AFL HQ’s previous red-hot enthusiasm might have turned lukewarm in recent months. But with a solid Tasmanian bid waiting in the wings it has real options before heading down that path. Options a courageous AFL Commission will be eager to pursue.

Climate change cage match (now with its own blog):

Simon Mansfield writes: Great to learn The Greens have an enlightened view of biofuel technology. I look forward to publishing an oped on the issue from the Australia Greens. will happily publish such a piece. Of course I will need to check with my commercial backers. But that shouldn’t take long given there are none. As to Peak Oil, I think my point was to question the very idea. And if it is real, then biofuels are the only viable solution to providing sustainable supplies of liquid fuels.

Meanwhile, Clean Coal is critical to our immediate future energy needs, and if we don’t make inroads there — what chance do we really have in bringing C02 emissions under control unless we give civilization the flick… My only commercial interests in the energy business are as a publisher and via ABC Solar and ABC Wind — being a part investor in the first and managing partner in the second. But sounds like a good idea — thanks for the tip.

Tamas Calderwood writes: Yesterday’s editorial asserts that deep CO2 emissions cuts of 24% by 2020 (from 2000 levels) are “not that hard”. Really? How are we going to replace 24% of our electricity supply in 11 years? Or do you suggest we simply reduce demand by that amount? And what will it achieve? Let’s say Australia’s CO2 production is reduced to 76% of its current 1.5% contribution to humanity’s 4% annual share of CO2 emissions.

The product of those numbers will be the triumph of this radical policy — a reduction in emissions to 0.05% of the total from our current 0.06% share. Whoopee. The 4% increase in CO2 concentrations over the past 10 years hasn’t had any effect on the temperature so just remind me what that staggeringly expensive 0.01% reduction will do again?

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