David Havyatt writes:

Re 3 – 4 new lobbyists landing in Canberra every week (yesterday, Item 2) Bernard Keane, or his source, Julian Fitzgerald is somewhat confused about the lobbyist register. The first confusion is the idea that the register only includes the senior people actually involved in accessing Ministers. This is incorrect. All employees of lobbying firms are required to be listed (the code reads (the names and positions of persons employed, contracted or otherwise engaged by the lobbyist to carry out lobbying activities). And lobbying activities extend to the departmental staff and political advisers. There is not some grey mass of “third party” lobbyists not covered by the register.

The current growth of the register is being fuelled by highly incorrect application of the lobbying code in many agencies. This includes statements in consultations documents stating that submissions prepared by lobbyists will require the lobbyist to be on the register despite the code clearly stating that responding to a consultation is not “lobbying conduct”. It includes decisions taken by agencies that professional advisers (e.g. engineers) need to be on the register despite there being an explicit exclusion for professional advisers whose primary service is not lobbying from being required to register. My own concern is that two requests to PM&C for clarification on these interpretations that have impeded the ability to engage with Government have not received acknowledgements or replies.

The idea that non-third party lobbyists, those that are directly employed, create another problem and they should need to be registered creates a totally different issue. Exactly where is the dividing line? Which employees of a company are “lobbyists” and which are simply senior representatives. Many Australian CEOs will have met with a Minister at some point in time. Does that make them lobbyists?

If the issue is about transparency then by all means publish the list of people like me who have industry/lobbyist passes to Parliament House. I think the public would prefer to know that Government makes “evidence based policy” by talking to real people in industry.

It seems to be only journalists (or former public servants) who see a great problem here. Is that because it interferes with their own position of privilege and special access to politicians?

Detention centres:

Sandi Logan, Immigration’s spokesman writes: Re: Private contractor Serco to run detention centres (Yesterday, item 5) is inaccurate and misleading because whomever provided you with their interpretation of immigration community detention didn’t know what they were talking about.

First, it is government policy that no child be held in an immigration detention centre. No minors are detained at the Christmas Island immigration detention centre, or in any other immigration detention centre in Australia.

Second, community detention is in community-based housing where detainees (including families) receive appropriate support, are free to come and go as they please, and do not need a designated person to accompany them. Unaccompanied minors receive appropriate supervision through foster care arrangements as is required — and only right — under our duty of care obligations.

On Christmas Island, families and minors are living in duplexes under community detention arrangements. Also, some families and minors are in accommodation known as Construction Camp — and not the old centre on Phosphate Hill — which is under alternative detention arrangements.

Your correspondent’s definition of community detention as “detention in the community with a designated person in private houses / correctional facilities / watch houses /hotels / apartments / foster care / hospitals” is wrong. This is actually alternative (temporary) detention in the community which is where people are kept for initial processing.

Lest there be any doubt, our priority is that children and, where relevant their families, are accommodated in the community, and not in
an immigration detention centre.

That Grech guy:

Alan Kennedy writes: Don’t see John Kotsopoulos’ point. (yesterday, comments) I am sure the trawling in Treasury on the Friday looked at all emails with Grech’s name on it. The one which went from treasury to Grech’s home computer and which was then deleted had Charlton’s name Grant’s name and Godwin’s. It should have turned up in the trawl. Or is John thinking you can’t retrieve deleted emails? I am deeply sorry that I have offended him by bagging the AFP. In future I will leave that for the victims of their incompetence, notably Dr Haneef or the Bali 9.

On Walkmans and Helen Razer:

Angus Sharpe: Re Thank you Walkman for the power of cinematic narration (yesterday, Item 15) Can’t .. seem … to … stop … commenting … on … Helen … Razer … articles … Liked this article a lot. Nostalgic. Ah the Walkman. Reminds me of 13-year-old Scott Campbell’s impression of the walkman when he swapped his iPod for a Walkman for a week. I also agree with Helen that middle aged people should not use iPODs. Instead, we should just stare uncomfortably at each other on trains. Like we did in the olden days.

Andrew Brown writes: Re the Walkman ditty, Young Helen must get her source work from “Pseuds Corner” in the UK satirical magazine “Private Eye”. Sorry, but once a week for this tosh is once too many.

Peter Lloyd writes: I find it amazing that a writer as tedious and bereft of inspiration as Helen Razer can use the word ‘I’ fourteen times [plus the obligatory ‘me’, ‘myself’ and ‘my’s] while saying so little about anything [Item 15]. It’s rather more astonishing that you pay her. I’m sure she’d be happy to do it for free just out of vanity.

On Ben Pobje and Michael Jackson:

NBC writes: Re: Michael Jackson — these are the jokes. (Yesterday Item 19) Please tell Ben Pobjie he is not funny. “As a professional writer” he reminds us – as opposed to a non-professional I guess, he strings together a limp collection of M.J ‘jokes’ and tells us how important he is by thinking anyone is remotely interested in his last will & testament. Never heard of Mr Pobjie before – and I now understand why. Are all your usual correspondents on leave? Fair suck of the sauce lads – Crikey is better than that.

Newspoll and optimism:

Martin Gordon: The reports on Newspoll’s standard of living consumer optimism have been very upbeat. The problem is that these sorts of surveys needed to be assessed in relative terms. Yes the optimists, pessimists and steady staters are about the same as usual (about 20:20:60), except that in the last 12 or 18 months the economy in Australia and globally has tanked. So when people now say they expect things to say the same they actually expect things to remain bad. To illustrate would you prefer the economy of now with even our own governments projections predicting an awful year economically to that of 12 or 18 months ago, when Rudd and Swan were claiming we faced inflation pressures, and labour shortages (which turned out to be complete rubbish)? There are choppy conditions ahead for sometime yet despite the optimism of a few.

On games classification and censorship:

Verity Pravda writes: Re: The gaming classification farce and Conroy’s internet filter (Tuesday, Item 20) David Holloway seems to think the comment by Conroy’s spokesperson about the classification of games and their status in the current legislation is somehow new. It is not, the commentators on this subject have been over this one al along.

But the issue to me seems to be the failure of there being an R18+ or X18+ rating for games no matter what the medium. It doesn’t make sense to only complain about the online treatment. In other words make the complaint about the classification scheme not about filtering. My understanding is the hold-out on adding this classification is the South Australian Government. So “fair shake of the sauce bottle” – complain about the classification system to the people who can make a difference and not about the filter.

PS I am not a Conroy stooge, I do not have any affiliation with the ALP. I’m not even that passionate about the filtering topic, just really pissed off by poor arguments promoted by uncritical media.

On back pain and doctors:

Carolyn Breadon writes: Re: When it comes to back pain, the experts are best avoided (Yesterday Item 13). I have had it with Melissa Sweet’s narky little anti-doctor rants. The back pain article did it for me. Not only are doctors being wined, dined and taken on luxurious boat trips by big pharma (that was a few months ago, I think) they’re now also keeping vast numbers of Australians in thrall to expensive and unnecessary medical tests before giving them the wrong advice which will keep them in pain forever… because doctors are evil. And stupid. Evil, stupid, and in the pay of shadowy multinationals.

And they are chiefly interested in patients for the money they can wring from them personally, or from the taxpayer in general. At the end of each of these missives she leaves a little sting, intended to imply that doctors are holding back health care reform for their own nefarious purposes, and that health care in this country would be much better off without them altogether. Enough! If you’re going to give airplay to a polemicist as clearly biased as this one, at least go for a bit of balance and allow the odd doctor to speak for themselves.

First Dog and Christianity:

Peter Hollo writes: Shorter Marcus Vernon: I’M OFFENDED! SHUT UP! (Yesterday, comments.) It’s fortunate that Crikey doesn’t consider practising Christians (or Jews, or Muslims or any other religionists) as a pressure group worth self-censoring for. First Dog’s cartoon made some highly salient points about Fielding’s fitness as a decision-maker in the Senate. Vernon’s point seems to be that – *gasp* – there are some Christians who read Crikey, and therefore Crikey shouldn’t publish anything that reflects badly on Christians. There are no doubt a plethora of different beliefs held by Crikey readers. Religionists seem particularly adamant that people shouldn’t be able to criticise or offend them. Grow up. Some people believe stuff that you don’t, and some even think some of your beliefs are dumb. You can cope.

Stephen Darragh writes: The work of First Dog is pure, unfettered genius. The likes of Marcus Vernon and Michael Byrne should either man-up and defend their religion with actual violence, or quit whining and suck it up. The reason that cartoonists like First Dog aren’t producing witty insights into certain religions is because they’re not stupid. Death or disablement is too high a price to pay for a joke. It doesn’t mean that those religions should not be the subject of ridicule, it just means that it’s best done from a concrete bunker. Political cartooning is not about being fair and balanced, it’s about making pithy points, at which First Dog is so wonderful.

Greg Williams writes: I wish Michael Byrne (“Comments” Wednesday) would not misrepresent my contributions to push his own narrow barrow. I did not “push an anti-Islam barrow” — I highlighted (yet again) the First Dog on the Moon’s propensity to select the soft target on the religion front. And now could it be Marcus Vernon (“Comments” Wednesday) is also into misrepresenting Byrne? And no, it is probably not a dastardly anti-Islam, pro-Christian plot, Michael. Likewise I wish Jim Ivins (also “Comments” Wednesday) would not attempt to muddy the waters because I highlighted First Dog’s predilection for the soft religious target. And give me a break Jim – discuss “the persecution of Galileo” in Crikey’s “maximum length of 200 words”? OK: how about “Galileo – 1, One Flavour of Christian Religion – 0”! Sorry, but space restrictions limit further elaboration.

Marcus Vernon writes: Jim Ivins (comments yesterday) has demonstrated yet again that the atheistic academic Left seems unable or unwilling to bring courtesy, respect or even the facts to a debate about Christianity. His references yesterday to “questionable beliefs” or the “merits (if any)” and the hope that someone will “drop dead” are dripping with disrespect, even venom. We get it Jim, we understand that you don’t believe — but why use such comments about those who do? Does it make you feel intellectually satisfied to belittle others like that? Does it allow you to feel just that little bit more smug when one of your colleagues tells you they saw your uber witty comment in crikey.com? As to the facts, Greg Williams (comments Tuesday) didn’t invoke memories of Salman Rushdie or the Danish cartoons, as you claim. You’ve verballed him, as the Left so often does these days. But I certainly did invoke such memories (comments, yesterday) and am happy to take responsibility for that. Take a shot at me. As to your pseudo-scientific reference to Galileo, if you think that the Vatican’s/Inquisition’s dreadful treatment of that brilliant man nearly 400 years ago is at all relevant to the debate about faith and respect today, then you really need to get out more often. And those of us who object to First Dog’s insulting comments about our faith are not expecting crikey to take pot shots at the Muslim faith, as you claim — but until/if that happens, we are entitled to feel that Christians alone are being mocked. See the difference?

PS Crikey editor: Can I suggest you drop the use of all academic titles in your comments section, as I have done in this note to “Dr” Jim? They really don’t mean much, unless the qualification relates precisely to the debate at hand.