Godwin Grech:

S. Skink writes: Has anyone else noticed the striking resemblance between Godwin Grech and the goblins at Gringott’s Bank in the Harry Potter stories? Have the Treasury been taking on goblins on secondment? I think we should be told.

Richard Davoren writes: Re. ” Utegate: Is Turnbull telling the truth? ” (Tuesday, item 1). The are further questions that Bernard Keane should ask. I worked in Government for 40 years, both in Federal and State, at a level above Mr Grech.

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Question 1. How is it that a relatively junior officer can send briefings directly to the Treasurer via his home fax?

In my State Government Department, nothing would be sent to the Minister without it first being signed off by the Secretary and then forwarded via the Ministerial Liaison Office. Material like that sent to Wayne Swan, directly, that could be used as evidence to implicate the Minister in some impropriety, would never see the light of day in my Department. There were matters that perhaps the opposition should not be aware of and these briefings were either verbal, or classified as “Cabinet in Confidence” and buried in concrete, almost.

Question 2. Were these faxes meant to inform or implicate?

Given that a supposedly shady deal was in progress, the last thing the Treasurer would want is a pile of faxes confirming his involvement. If indeed Grant was his friend as claimed, although it is hard to imagine becoming a friend with a car dealer you once bought a car from, then all Swan needed to do was ring Grant and ask, “how’s it going mate”?

If the answer to the Question 1 is “that’s policy”, then some 50-100 (my guess) program managers at the level of Grech would be firing faxes at Swan. Given that Swan had some other distractions, such as the forthcoming budget, resolution of the global financial crisis as it affected Australia etc, etc, any material of a minor nature would have been scanned by his support staff, then binned.

My guess is that these faxes were sent as part of a grand scheme to stitch up Swan. They may never have been read and they shouldn’t have been sent.

Craig Moore writes: Re: ” Who is Gordon Grech? ” (Yesterday, Media briefs). Unless The Age is running a City to Surf promo, that screen grab must be from SMH.

Bren Carlill writes: Funny that Crikey made fun of The Age for calling Godwin Grech Gordon, yet on Monday (Utegate raises no end of questions for the media too), Crikey blogger Scott Bridges wrote , “While there are many aspects to this saga, clearly the most central is the question of that email from the Prime Minister’s office to a public servant by the name of Gordan Grech.”

Utegate and the media:

Martin Gordon writes: Re. ” Grech, journos and Liberals: leaks that run deep ” (yesterday, item 2). The media coverage of the ‘utegate’ affair has detoured into the cul-de-sac of the ALP’s liking, i.e. the personal denigration of Malcolm Turnbull and away from any facts critical of them.

The most disturbing thing about the new culture of cronyism and corporate state is that it corrupts the entire political system, and diverts money from the great mass of people including almost all Labor voters to the favoured few, supposedly because it benefits the public.

Wayne Swan’s assistance to car dealer John Grant was well above the call of duty. Perhaps in honour we could mint medals for the new order a ‘Suharto’, a ‘Marcos’ or a ‘Mussolini’ would look very nice indeed.

Les Heimann writes: What a great week for the media — all of them climbing all over this absolutely sensational bullsh-t gushing monumentally from the ultimate gas factory in Australia. Ain’t parliamentarians just grand!

However the real issues seem somewhat lost in the bated breath. Bernard Keane did point to an element of serious concern relating to the alleged activities of the garden gnome in Treasury today. I too lurked briefly in the corridors of the old parliament house — much smaller corridors then — and I now ask why no one has screamed “sack, dismiss, punish”.

I can say without the slightest fear of any contradiction that media and politicians work most assiduously to find as many “deep throats” in the public service as is inhumanly possible. I have no problem with the trying. I have a huge problem with those who leak. I have a much greater problem with those who would, could or do conspire with either pollies or media. I smell a conspiracy!

Charging for detention:

Julian Burnside, AO QC, writes: Re. ” Coalition splits on abolishing detainees’ debts ” (yesterday, item 1). Not only is Australia the only country to charge innocent people the cost of their own detention, it is not easy to find precedents in history for such a thing. They are not honourable examples.

The first is the Law of Suspects, passed on 17 September 1793 whilst post-revolutionary France was ruled by Robespierre, during the period generally known as the Terror. The Law of Suspects empowered the local Committees of Security to detain people suspected of harbouring anti-revolutionary thoughts. Those people, whilst detained, were liable for the costs of their own detention.

More recently, the phenomenon is exemplified by a document held in the Ploetzensee Museum. It is a bill dated May of 1944 addressed to the family of a man, charging the family with the daily costs of his detention in a concentration camp, the cost of gassing him to death and the cost of the postage stamp.

Adding the cost of postage seems a peculiarly nasty twist. In Australia, we add GST to the detention bill.

Alan Kennedy writes: A man from the Ivory Coast whom we helped get out of detention from Port Hedland was presented with a bill for his stay. He looked at it for a while and then said: “If I had known they were charging me, I would have asked for a better room.” At least Petro Georgiou has shown decency on this issue Sharman’s Stone’s argument about messages to people smugglers is laughable. As Petro Georgiou points out, we don’t charge murderers. rapists or anyone else for their time in jail Does Stone think we are sending a message to them? They are beneath contempt these people, they live in the grease trap of history.

Marilyn Shepherd writes: An Afghan man is forced to leave Afghanistan and as an Hazara he is lower in the pecking order than the stray dogs, cannot get a passport or even have a birth certificate so he pays a truck driver to “smuggle” him across the border. Is the driver an evil people smuggler who should be locked up?

What about the next person who makes a false passport with a potato stamp visa to enter Indonesia and is never seen again? Is he so evil he must be locked up and was he actually ever smuggling anyone?

Then we come to the Indonesian fishermen whom our own courts say “are not people smugglers”, we lock them up but as the attached letter shows the government don’t seem to have a handle on why that is. They state that there is no offence coming here without a visa, yet anyone who helps not commit an offence is somehow a criminal. Thanks to Ruddock and dopey media those who help refugees are now classified as terrorists with the same language that was used against Hicks and others in Gitmo.

Sharman Stone and the liberals have no clue what they are talking about.


The West Australian Economics Editor Shane Wright writes: Julian Gillespie ( yesterday, Comments ) suggested there was a conspiracy within ABARE to quietly release a forecast on Australia’s economic growth for 2009-10. Of course, that forecast for a contraction of 0.5 per cent was the Budget forecast — it was not ABARE’s forecast, the agency used the official family forecast from Treasury. It’s something ABARE has always done in its commodity forecasts. Of all the places to release “the smell of more government debt”, ABARE’s quarterly commodity report is near the top of the unlikely list.

Fruity Fix and the Heart Foundation:

Keith Thomas writes: Re. ” The sugar fix that earned a Heart Foundation tick ” (yesterday, item 5). So David Gillespie “believed (like most of us, I suspect) that the Australian Heart Foundation was a powerful force for good in ensuring we are all eating better.” Well, just look at the way they dealt with eggs: for over a decade eggs were artery-clogging, cholesterol-raising and we were advised to limit our eggs to one or two a week. Now eggs have “the tick”. Beats me why poultry farmers didn’t sue the Heart Foundation for the damage they did — and are still doing because of the lingering feeling in the community that eggs still carry the high risk the Foundation once attributed to them.

Paul Hampton-Smith writes: Fruit Fix isn’t the only sugary Nestle product which has the bizarre addition of an NHF tick. Interestingly, they have just withdrawn the tick for Milo, which is 47% sugar. I have never been comfortable with using the NHF tick for diet advice because you can see it on bottles of vegetable oil. Their tick seems to have little to do with a healthy diet, but rather a “less unhealthy” diet.


Kim Lockwood writes: I assume your sole subscriber has noticed the plug at the top of each day’s email for “ABC Fora”, the website that links listeners and viewers to Aunty’s, er, forums. After Fairfax’s Don Churchill recently wrote about the amalgamation of “bureaux”, we now have this god-awful homage to Latin plurals from our premier broadcaster. Will the ABC now treat us to aquaria, photo alba, condominia, fulcra, rostra, vacua and the like? How about the other Latin borrowings? Will we be served corneae, retinae and, yes! echidnae? We could go on: agapanthi, hibisci, uteri … Oh, the stigmae, Aunty, the stigmae.

Climate change cage match — now with it’s own blog :

Oxfam Australia Livelihoods & Food Security Coordinator Lynne Kennedy writes: Re. ” Hamilton: how CPRS targets will crush climate justice ” (yesterday, item 14). I would like to add to Clive’s comments by pointing out that the implications for LDCs of increasing forests etc, while it will bring some benefits, may impact upon their ability to develop the land in other ways that could well prove more economically beneficial for those countries in the longer term. For example, use of the same land for crops could increase food production, reducing reliance upon food imports, or produce cash crops (apart from timber and NTFPs) that, particularly if there is value addition, may also improve the overall economic growth of the country longer term.

This is not to say that reforestation and reduction of deforestation in LDCs should not be strongly promoted, but there must be adequate compensation that takes this into account and such compensation should not be purely monetary, but also be aimed at improving food security and longer term economic growth.

Carbon Sense Coalition Chairman Viv Forbes writes: We are not about to fry. The professional purveyors of panic in the Global Warming Industry continue to scare impressionable children and politicians with tall tales. Their most gruesome story is that earth is about to reach a tipping point, causing runaway warming, after which we all fry. There is no evidence to support such scare mongering.

Levels of CO2 in the atmosphere continue to grow, while solar activity and world temperatures continue to fall — no evidence of tipping. Moreover, the past tells us that the current mixture of gases in the atmosphere is not unusual or extreme. How these gases behave will be governed by the laws of physics and chemistry, whatever they are.

Although our views of the laws of science may change as knowledge grows, there is no chance that the science changes — just our understanding. If the atmosphere contains much the same levels of gases and vapours now as in the past, then the chemical and physical reactions will be the same as they were in the past.

In the past, CO2 levels were five to 10 times higher than now and there was no tipping point. Therefore CO2 cannot cause runaway warming. Past experience has proved it.