The Gaza flotilla:

Colin Walpole writes: Re. “Israel’s actions a PR bonanza for Palestinians in Gaza” (yesterday, item 2). I cannot even pretend fathom the complexities of the Middle East. I have taught them as a teacher and yet I can never come to any conclusion except that we have to accept that some problems will never be solved.

But Gaza is a hell hole on earth. The Israelis live next to it and despite their belligerent mistrust of those Palestinians on the other side they are neighbours. I know they hate each other but how can they deny them medical supplies? Why do they deny them food and then bomb them almost on cue into the stone age?

This is not the worthy action of nation founded as a refuge from persecution. It seems to me that they think they have to persecute to prevent further persecution. That like most of the Middle East does not make sense and never will.

No I am not anti-Semitic. Although not considered Jewish, I have Jewish  ancestry that I am very proud of. But what I am not tolerant of is the denial of a whole population being denied of their human rights as in poof Gaza and watching this year after year as the mess gets bigger and bigger.

I am beginning to think the Middle East is a historical cancer that not even the poor people living there have lost the will to fix.

Philip Mendes writes: Re. “Richardson: where to now for mid-East peace?” (yesterday, item 11). I would like to think that Charles Richardson is right, and that one day Israel and the Palestinians will negotiate a fair and lasting two-state peace agreement. But I am pessimistic that this will ever occur with Hamas.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s I was one of a small number of Australian Jews who campaigned for Israel to talk to the PLO. We copped plenty of flak from the Jewish mainstream, but were arguably proven right by the 1993 signing of the Oslo Peace Accord.

Nevertheless, there are major differences between the PLO and Hamas. One is that the PLO is mainly a secular nationalist organisation which operates in the real world, whereas Hamas is a religious fundamentalist group that operates in a fantasy world. The second factor is that the PLO was then closely advised by the Soviet Union which accepted the legitimacy of the Jewish state. In contrast, Hamas is funded and heavily influenced by the Iranian theocracy which does not accept Israel’s existence now or in the future.

Maybe one day Hamas will moderate and compromise for the sake of the Palestinians. But this would no longer be Hamas.

Samantha Kennedy writes: After watching the footage of the Israeli commando tossed overboard by the protesters and hearing that they had their guns taken away from them I was thinking Israel should probably acquire some help from the Australian Navy in handling volatile passionate unarmed people when stopping ships. No one gets shot and the worst thing that happens is a lighter is missed or the boat sinks.

Israel and North Korea:

Gawaine Powell Davies writes: All comparisons are strained to some degree, but this one increasingly less so.

Israel and North Korea both take uncompromising positions where they think their national interest is at stake, are prepared to commit aggressive acts in international waters to back this. Both are unyielding in their response to international pressure.

Each has been willing to export its nuclear know-how to dubious countries. Each has a powerful backer with good historical and sentimental reasons to provide support, but who in each case appears to be compromising its long term interests, and the interests of the regions concerned.

Of course the comparison is limited: domestically, Israel is no North Korea. But in the international arena, the differences are becoming harder to spot.

The Resources Super Profit Tax:

Roger Colman writes: Re. “Kevin Rudd and the politics of the sh-t sandwich” (yesterday, item 8). We deserve from Bernard Keane, for our Crikey subscription, better than statements of opinion (not even much reporting), without at least some facts checking. I had duly written to Crikey last week with the easily checked facts that  CY2009 mining profits were $33b (ABS stats after notional 30% tax), and taking a clear $9b net out the sector is 26% of profits. Now that is significant drop.

If Mr Keane states that “Confronted with systematic lying from the mining industry, which has deep pockets, and a concerted media campaign every bit as deceitful” could he please provide us $100 pa subscribers a studied analysis of these lies and deceits that are material in the opposition to  the tax.. This sort of journalism  would probably not be tolerated in any other Australian media or any newspaper of record. Worldwide.

Worse , off he goes: “a reform that is…….then certainly in the public interest.” What? where did he get this from?

Carolyn Whybird writes: Again you don’t see the big picture. This tax is about Labor having money to repay their debt. As a self-funded retiree (hard work and savings) our income will be eroded with, like most Australians, 30% of our super in resources. Think. All workers in Australia have super so the mining tax will be coming out of everyone’s super.

How about telling everyone that 1/3 of small business will get the 2% tax reduction. It does not include sole traders and partnerships. How about some facts. Australia will pay 58% tax on mining. Cost of housing will increase by 26%.

Martin Gordon writes: It is probably not customary to refer to other publications but I was impressed with an article in the Australian newspaper by Michael Stutchbury was really on target with his “Back-up numbers needed to dispel doubts” (2 June).

Now I know why Rudd and the Labor Party want to spend our taxpayers money to spruik their case for the emotionally named super profits tax, they have lied about the mining tax take figures to date. I support a resource rent tax, but I don’t appreciate being lied to.

All the corporate taxes should be shown as that gives a correct read about the level of tax paid, not selectively reporting and using a dodgy base year to distort the figures.

John Shailer writes: Why is Kevin Rudd spending $38m of taxpayers’ funds on an advertising campaign for his super tax on mining profits, when he already has the full resources of the ABC, Fairfax Media and most of the Canberra Press Gallery as his propaganda outlet?

Commending Richard Farmer’s mention of beleaguered Croatians:

Zrinka Johnston writes: Re. “Richard Farmer’s chunky bits” (yesterday, item  10). As a recent subscriber I find many views in Crikey refreshing and an important balance to the increasingly unfair and unbalanced reporting by The Australian and other newspapers. One item really caught my eye today.

In yesterday’s Crikey Richard Farmer raised the enormously frustrating difficulties righteous causes have in being appropriately recognised by the media, mentioning Croatians. It really stirred my memories about Canberra in the 1970s and 1980s. In my case, it was both the government and the media to blame for stigmatising a beleaguered group.

I was a Croatian-Australian arriving in Canberra in early 1973, very excited and involved in the Whitlam reforms and excitements but becoming angrier and angrier with the bad treatment Croatians were getting in the press and in the government. I had friends in the Prime Minister’s and other ministers’ offices who often humoured me but nonetheless simply could not understand, in fact, refused to understand the Croatian independence cause,  because it had been successfully labelled right-wing. Lionel Murphy even did a Senate investigation!

And Croatians’ demands were so tame by today’s standards. But they were labelled terrorists and Tito was actually seen as a benign dictator! Absolutely outrageous when you know what we all now know about what Yugoslavia did to Croatians post-war (and to a lesser degree to Slovenes and to Kosovans) and in the wars of liberation in the 1990s.

To my mind, it was the government, the media and the sixties and seventies social revolution that was friendly to everything left-wing, that together caused this unbalanced treatment. Actually it has never been corrected. I’m inclined to think that Croatians deserve a formal apology especially now that Croatia itself is the flavour of the year for Australian tourists. I wonder if this kind of apology and reconciliation would fly?

For me it would really need to come from a Labor Government. The conservative parties have for too long taken advantage of Croatians’ support for them. It is undeserved.

Thank you, Richard, for being fair-minded and for having a long memory.

Health reform:

Harry Goldsmith writes: Re. “Govt’s health reform ad blitz promotes political, not public, interest” (yesterday, item 12). Paul Smith starts his article thus:

“I’ve recently been trying to prise some information out of the media office at the Department of Health and Ageing. It’s taken two weeks and probably more sweat than it took to break the Watergate scandal to get it to reveal a list of six MBS item numbers that will disappear when the federal government starts paying general practices lump sums to employ practice nurses.”

I am not sure whether to criticize him or praise him, but he might be interested in what I have to say. In fact, other contributors may also be interested. It depends on whether I am a “one off” or am fairly typical.

I like to read object commentary — praise and criticism. The first few words of the piece “trying to prise some information” gave me an idea of what I supposed to be the tenor of the article. He continues: “and probably more sweat than it took to break the Watergate scandal,” which is nothing but hyperbole, indicating that the article is hardly going to be objective, and I stopped reading. I might have been wrong in my assumptions, but the fact is, I stopped reading.

If Mr Smith would like to be taken seriously, and would like people to read his articles, perhaps he might reconsider his style.

It is probably unfair of me to single out Mr Smith. I like to read Ross Gittins in SMH, and Peter Hartcher and others, because I am confident I will be getting a well considered objective commentary. I also like, if I have the time, to read articles “shoving it up” Abbot or Howard. This plays to my prejudices.

So, contributors, choose your style. Smart-Alec, non-objective commentary to preach to those already of your view or considered, constructive, objective commentary from which we can learn and form views.

Asylum seekers:

Dr Bruce Graham writes: Re. “Are adult asylum seekers posing as kids?”  (yesterday, item 1). Bernard Keen writes that “Department of Immigration sources have claimed there is a large and growing problem of young adult Afghan asylum seekers claiming to be minors.”

This may also have been  common after WWII. In the 1980s, I interviewed two unrelated medical patients who revealed that their Australian citizenship papers understated their age by about ten years.  In both cases they were refugees who had arrived in Australia by circuitous routes in the late 1940s.

I have no way of knowing how common this was, but both patients described immigration policies and procedures so black and white as to invite fraud.

Global warming:

Tamas Calderwood writes: Re “Bernardi tells America: Turnbull misled my party” (Tuesday, item 1). I suppose it’s a tough habit to break, particularly when it used to bring such large secretions of moral smugness, but you’d think the “denialist”, “flat-earther” kind of language we’ve seen from hallelujah types like Bernard Keane might be tempered by the current state of climate “science”.

Not a chance. Despite the Royal Society reviewing its position on global warming, Michael “hockey stick” Mann being investigated for fraud, clear majorities in the US, Britain, Australia and Germany questioning the global warming hypothesis and — sorry to bring this up — this damned 12 year cooling trend, Bernard Keane takes a damn-the-torpedoes approach by labeling a conference of eminent scientists as a “climate change denial gathering” and describing Ian Plimer, Bob Carter, Bill Kininmonth and Alan Moran as “flat earthers”.

Of course, those four “flat-earthers” have some very convincing observations that raise serious questions about the global warming hypothesis. But who cares? By conjuring no evidence, countering none of their arguments and avoiding all of their observations, Bernard hits ‘em with the flat-earther label and receives another hit of moral smugness for his efforts.

Enjoy it while it lasts.

Thought of the day:

Bev Kilsby writes: I was surprised to read that Kevin Rudd’s daughter is to publish a book soon. And what upsets me in the deaths that occurred by the bad insulation is that our Prime Minster should not have allowed this to happen. And what is ahead for us in Australia? For some there will be no pie in the sky honeymoon.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey