Turnbull:

Gordon Pears writes: Re. “Rundle: Turnbull’s tarted up stump speech does not an essay make” (yesterday, item 2). Old habits die hard in the Liberal Party. Malcolm Turnbull seems determined to present debt as a Weapon of Mass Destruction — an ill-defined threat that all good men must rally against. He deliberately obscures the difference between national debt and government debt and seems reluctant to accept that how good or bad debt is depends almost entirely on what you do with it.

As for what Turnbull himself would do to resolve our present problems, I was reminded by his essay of Porgy’s lament in Porgy and Bess. “I got plenty of nothing; nothing’s plenty for me”.

Can I call you Porgy, Malcolm?

Abortion laws:

Dr Bruce Graham writes: Re. “Cairns abortion case: young couple flee after Molotov cocktail thrown into home” (yesterday, item 5). “In the result, there is now no correspondence between the law as enacted, and the law, as enforced”. These words were written by John Deveraux, in a standard textbook on Australian medical law*, and relate specifically to the Queensland criminal code.

The problems outlines by Dr de Costa are just one example of how the Queensland criminal code has become divorced from the realities of modern medical practice. Section 282 of the Queensland criminal code permits “a surgical operation upon any person for his benefit, or upon an unborn child for the preservation of the mother’s life…”. This precludes living related kidney donation (which is clearly not for the benefit of the donor).

It probably (in Professor Deveraux’s view) precludes circumcision performed for cultural reasons, and vasectomy — even if the vasectomy was performed to prevent pregnancy which would threaten the health of the partner. Donation of blood, donation of regenerative tissue, and tattooing, have been excluded from section 282 by the effect of other laws.

Sadly, there is no reason to believe that the mess will be cleared up soon.

* Medical law, 2nd ed John Deveraux Professor of Law, University of Queensland 2002. The third edition was published in 2006, but nothing has changed in Queensland in the interim.

Craig Iedema writes: It is all very well for Dr Caroline de Costa to have a shot a Queensland abortion laws, but in fairness to Anna Bligh she should have include a little more context of what the Premier actually said.

The article suggests that Ms Bligh would is content to leave the laws as they are, however listening to her on Thursday night it was plain that she would like change. She stated she would welcome law reform in Queensland, but is fearful that in seeking the introduction of laws legalise it to parliament could result in worse outcomes for those seeking abortions.

I am no fan the Queensland Premier, but thought that on this issue she spoke in a fair and balanced manner and reflected the pragmatism of what could be done as opposed to ideological position of what should be done.

It pays to remember that Queensland’s parliament is full of men that believe that the government has some role in telling women how they should manage their bodies, until this changes it is unlikely that we get any law reform on this matter.

China:

Stephen Wong writes: Re. Yesterday’s editorial. Your editorial invited Australians to hack into Chinese websites — “Australian hackers might care to turn their attention to suitably amending some Chinese websites.”

Hacking is considered a crime in some countries, so you can be seen to be inciting Australians to commit a crime. It is of course proper and legal to criticize another country, but using language such as “mentality of an 8-year old” and “butchers”, and inciting Australians to retaliate by criminal actions may be dangerous.

It reflects a lot on Australia who is happy to trade with a country so despised by Crikey.

Facebook:

Zachary King writes: Re. “The spiritually bereft nature of Facebook friendship” (yesterday, item 17). Seriously now Greg, this is a pretty pathetic attempt at Facebook bashing. Surely by now we have evolved beyond “woe is this new technology which is not as good as ye olde way we used to do things back when I was a boy” haven’t we? Yes, it’s different. It’s a communications platform. So yes, it can be used for good or evil. Why? Because it is used by people. I wonder if the invention of the telephone resulted in this sort of nonsense?

“Yes, I have one of those new fandangled electronic telemagraphs, but it’s no substitute for taking the old carriage around to say hi to folks. Besides, I heard that just the other day someone was talking lewd talk on it. Wouldn’t happen in my day.”

I have many friendships which are entirely virtual — whether by Facebook, email or text. Some of these are the most rich, interesting and rewarding interactions that I have. It also enables me to build new friendships and maintain old ones with people who are geographically dispersed — most days I chat with people from London, Hong Kong, US. Some of them are rubbish.

Welcome to the present.

Charles Miller writes: I came away from Greg Barns’ Facebook article in yesterday’s Crikey wondering if I missed the subtle parody. Barns jumped seemingly randomly from online bullying (as if nobody was ever teased for having “no mates” before the Internet) to the empty nature of Facebook friends (2007 called…) to … something about human rights?

Back when few people were online, online and offline social groups were distinct. Now those lines are gone, and online interactions are an extension of, not a replacement for the face-to-face. Children are still socialising through school, sport and play; they’re also texting, instant messaging and social networking.

If anything the danger is not isolation, it’s the death of “alone time”.

Mitchell Holmes writes: It is a lot of piffle that social networking sites are the CAUSE of increased teenage unhappiness, anxiety or suicide. Facebook et al are simply additional avenues that kids can use to bully other kids. Bullying takes many forms, but for teenagers, ganging up on those that are different, or forming cliques with the express purpose of hurtfully excluding the unpopular are tools that have been with us for a long time.

The ever present Facebook, mobile phones and instant messaging simply give the bully a potentially greater reach. But then again, for those who ever attended a boarding school, the torment of bullying could be almost never ending, being experienced at school and at “home”, night and day, without any of these latter day technological aids.

It is the behaviour that needs to be addressed, not the use of technology.

Same-sex relationships:

John Goldbaum writes: Re. “The gay love affair with Kevin is over” (yesterday, item 18). Twenty months after Kevin07’s election victory, the Rudd Labor Government has failed to implement its policy of a nationally consistent state-based relationship recognition system because the recalcitrant states and territories claim it’s a federal issue and nothing to do with them.

Mr Rudd promised Australia that he would end the blame game. He promised that the buck would stop with him. He promised us there would be no more blame-shifting between the federal and the state and territory levels of government. He has not kept his promise with respect to formal same-sex relationship recognition.

He made a promise he couldn’t keep. He promised to make the people who are in power at the state and territory levels of government do something which they are refusing to do. Kevin, why did you make me a promise you couldn’t deliver?

I demand that you make good on your promise by enacting a relationship recognition system at the federal level. That way, you don’t have to cajole the states and territories into consistency. That would be like trying to herd cats.

The ball is in your court, Kevin. The buck stops with you.

Political donations:

Shirley Colless writes: Re. “Liberals and Fielding block our right to know” (yesterday, item 1). One sphere of politics that has been left out of recent discussions about the revelation of political donations is local government, at least in New South Wales.

Once upon a time, the New South Wales electoral authorities released details of donations made to local government candidates very quickly after the election, with all donations of more than $200 declarable. Once elected local government councillors had to make an annual declaration of gifts received.

Now, the cap has been raised to $1000, all declarations have to be made every half year BUT details about election donations are now rolled into the six-monthly declaration. This means that one has to wait from the time of the September election to February or March of the following year to discover who made donations to one’s elected representatives. That means that for six months residents are kept in ignorance of any potential conflict of interest while their councillors make decisions that could seriously affect the residents’ environment.

It gets better and better, because:

  1. A candidate can simply list the total amount of funds raised (less expenses), for instance, at a fund raising function, not specific details of who actually paid to attend. We cannot tell whether or not substantial contributions were made by a particular person or organisation;
  2. Donations in kind, the loan of a vehicle, provision of printing services, office space courtesy of friend/employer and so on seem to slip under the declarations radar; and
  3. Where a candidate stands as a member of a political party, details of who has contributed to any funds handed over from head office.

In New South Wales at least, no public funding is provided for local government candidates so it becomes very tempting for those candidates who cannot afford the sometimes substantial amounts needed to fund an election to fall into the trap of seeking substantial donations. But should public funding be considered (and where will it come from?) then caps should be imposed on the amounts to be spent by each candidate and all donations, whether in kind or cash, banned.

Telstra:

Richard Brinkman writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (yesterday, item 9). Crikey published a tip yesterday that said: “Telstra are now going to charge their customers $2.20 to walk into a Telstra store and pay a Telstra bill!”

Telstra charging customers to pay their phone bills beggars belief, but as long as the “sheeple” only grumble and then go along with it (and 101 other unfair imposts) they’ll continue to be fleeced. What this country needs on occasions is widespread civil disobedience. I’m thinking of living in Paris.

Steve Martin writes: I can understand the charge for using a credit card, but charging you for giving them cash for payment is quite outrageous. After all the traditional way to pay debt has been cash (or cheque) for centuries. And although no doubt it costs time and money to process these payments, this surely is just one of the costs of running a business.

With modern technology in the form of the Internet and bank transfers the order of the day the punters that use the technology are reducing a business cost. Instead of charging those who pay cash, those who reduce Telstra’s overheads by using the Internet should be rewarded with a reduction proportionate to the savings.

Pigs may fly of course!

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Peter Fray

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