The independents:

Roger Davenport writes: Re. Yesterday’s Editorial. Both the major parties are actively seeking the support of the three country independents. The three have presented a list of issues to both party leaders including items for parliamentary reform. I would like to see them add one more issue to their list, and so avoid the farce of this past election.

Policies were being released after the electoral commission had started sending out postal votes and accepting pre poll votes. The practice of the incumbent government choosing the timing of the election needs to stop. We need fixed term electoral cycles, preferably for four years.

Fully costed manifestos outlining all core promises by the major parties and all independent candidates to be released six weeks before the election date, any announcements after this date would not be binding and should be subject to a conscience vote during the term of The Parliament.

Were this reform adopted, it would allow the electorate time to review the policies and make an informed vote. Currently people participating in early voting are unaware of what the participants are standing for.

George Perry writes: Is it just me or is there a delicious irony in the way both the Labor and Liberal parties are treating the independent MPs: with honesty, respect and transparency. If they did that with the 14 million other voters over the previous five weeks, they wouldn’t be where they are now.

Catherine Sullivan writes: Let the people decide not three independents. Skip the cost, we can afford another election.

Wilkie and pokies:

Douglas Clifford writes: Re. “Wilkie and the pokies: the deep-seated need to Do Something” (yesterday, item 1). Bernard Keane wrote:

“There’s already a very strong moralistic strain in Australian public policy — I’m desperately resisting the urge to use that phrase — when it comes to censorship, drug use, the use of the internet and the status of gay and lesbian couples, among other areas. But the heavy dependence of state governments on gambling revenue has created a tension between the tendency to reflexively condemn certain forms of gambling and the need to prop up government revenues with taxes on wagering.”

Whilst the WA government does tax the one and only casino in the state, pokies are banned outside the casino, and it (the government) manages to survive without pokies revenue. Is that not possible for the other states?

The ban on pokies outside the casino is supported by BOTH parties, despite intensive lobbying by the Western Australian branch of the Australian Hotels Association.

Furthermore, there seems to be miniscule public support here for pokies in pubs and clubs

Marcus Ogden writes: If you’ve ever wondered what’s wrong with economic rationalism, try this pearler from Bernard Keane dismissing Andrew Wilkie’s anti-pokies campaign:

“The Productivity Commission … last year estimated that the social costs of gambling were at least $4.7b pa. It also estimated, from state budget papers, that governments reaped just over $5b from gambling … Gamblers therefore pay their way for the indirect costs they inflict on society.”

Mark Duffett writes: Much as Bernard may be correct in his libertarianism, the die on this is cast. If there’s one thing Andrew Wilkie is known for in Hobart, it’s his ‘pokie loss counter’ ute and associated anti-pokie campaigning.

Accordingly, those who voted for or preferenced him knew exactly what they were getting on this score, and presumably endorsed it. If ever anyone had a mandate to Do Something, it’s Andrew Wilkie on pokies.

The election count:

Karina Morris writes: Re. “Essential: Australia is neatly divided” (yesterday, item 8). I’ve lived in Australia for 20 years and I still don’t get it: why does it take weeks  to count votes? And why does Australia still use paper ballots instead of voting machines?

Internet research shows that as early as 1930, lever machines were used in virtually every major city in the United States. By the 1960s, over half of US voters were using these machines, and by 1996, paper ballots were used by fewer than 2% of US voters. (The recount of ballots in Florida was attributed to misaligned ballot cards that allowed for off-centre punches, and to a confusing ballot design in one county.)

For more information about voting machines, see the Smithsonian Institute’s discussion and Wikipedia’s entry on electronic voting here.

Andrew Lewis writes: I’ve been quietly enjoying the general rage displayed (yesterday, comments) regarding those poor voters who couldn’t decide to vote for anyone, and consequently left the paper blank.

The greater the rage, the more ridiculous the reasoning. People died for their right to vote, (really, who?) how would they like to live in a despotic regime (what, where people are forced to put pen to paper, whether they want to or not.)

Can’t help but make light of it, because the harder they argue the more they argue for the right to ignore their specious argument. Yes, I did put pen to paper, and made a formal vote as far as I know, even voting below the line in the senate, but I can’t help but laugh at the obtuse reasoning that suggests that freedom means doing what you are told!

Malcolm Fraser:

Greg Bowyer writes: The highlight of Monday’s Q&A had to be Malcolm Fraser’s broadside about News Corporation’s usually hidden agenda in Australian politics. Finally! Someone in the public eye daring to expose a virulent yet largely undiagnosed threat to the healthy functioning of our democracy.

Fraser was talking about the great need for a new government with vision for Australia’s future, a government prepared to tackle the “difficult issues” and really explain those issues, and not respond to “focus groups, or today’s polls, or to pressure from News Corporation”.

Someone in the audience scoffed as Fraser made his last point – at which he paused, looked into the audience, then challenged the scoffer with “You think that’s funny? Look at that paper [he had previously critiqued The Australian’s relentless campaign on the BER “failure”], read that paper, read all their papers; see where their pressures come, where their purposes and objectives lie. Not just in Australia, but in the U.S with their attacks on Obama  and the U.K.” (See excerpt at ABC iView, 50 minutes in; Fox News’ Glenn Beck, is a current example illustrating Fraser’s point re News Corp’s attacks on Obama)

Fantastic point, eloquently made, brilliant TV, perfect moment to open up one of the most under-scrutinised issues of the whole campaign … but Tony Jones just moved meekly on to his next question. Why? And why are the ABC and non-News journos so reluctant to probe News Corp’s political bias and its power to dictate so much of our national political and social agenda?

Barack Obama:

Justin Templer writes: Re. “Video of the Day: restoring honour to crazy white people everywhere” (yesterday, item 7). I presume that we were supposed to be either horrified or amused by the Glenn Beck series of interviews (cheap laughs) at the “Restoring Honor” rally in Washington.  All I saw was a bunch of affably worried Americans. The Yanks are normally startlingly coherent, but presumably the eloquent coterie did not suit Beck’s intent and died on the cutting room floor.

What we were allowed to see was the mumbling disenfranchised. They were worried about illegal immigration — not surprising given that the illegal immigrant population is estimated at between 10 and 12 million people, growing at around half a million a year. Makes our boat people “crisis” look a bit silly.

Then they were worried about the proposal to build a mosque just a couple of blocks from where Muslims from a supposedly friendly country destroyed America’s proudest and most symbolic commercial edifices. Strangely controversial.

And then some of the really dumb ones were worried about Barack Obama being black/Muslim/Democrat. But we’d get that from Katter country if Anthony Mundine was leader of the Labor party.

Some did not even know what they were worried about but knew that the system is stuffed — given the current state of Australian politics we might empathise.

If Glenn Beck wanted to make a cheap shot video of a bunch of rednecks I think he could have done a lot better — in Australia.

Asylum seekers:

Nicholas Brody writes: Re. “Putting Indonesians in prison more quickly” “Richard Farmer’s chunky bits” (yesterday, item 12). Richard Farmer’s chunky bits included an odd line about people who bring refugees to Australia by boat.

Apparently, due to the horrible conditions they are subject to, they are “at last getting the message that being part of the people smuggling business is not a simple way of supplementing a low income.”

I would have thought that they are at last getting the message that the Australian government is inherently unjust in considering it okay to hold people in detention for extended periods without having their cases heard in court, because that’s the message that I get.

Work and pay:

John Laird writes: Re. “Underpaid and undervalued: a woman’s work is never done ” (yesterday, item 11). It has often been noted that in a democracy everyone earns the same, that being the value they bring to the marketplace. If an individual in that environment earns a sum different to this, the market invariably applies its subtle pressures to correct the anomaly.

Capitalism tends to encourage larger differences in income whereas socialism tries to provide corrections where the discrepancies are considered to be too extreme. Both  forces when applied thoughtfully can provide an acceptable balance to society.

The Constitution:

Niall Clugston writes: Justin Pettizini (yesterday, comments) queries where there is racism in the Australian Constitution, arguing this was removed when Section 51, xxvi was amended.

However, this section currently gives the Federal Government the power “to make special laws” for “people of any race”.  Ironically, as the Howard Government successfully argued, the amendment actually licensed racial discrimination against Aborigines, rather than the reverse.

In fact, an obsession with foreigners pervades Section 51, forged as it was when the White Australia Policy was founded. Rather than just give the government general power over “immigration and emigration”, the lawmakers felt it necessary to include additional powers over “aliens” and “the influx of criminals”.

Even the so-called “corporations power” is first and foremost against “foreign corporations”.

The Democrats:

David Havyatt writes:  Re. “Tips and rumours” (yesterday, item 6). Crikey published:

“There was another poor turnout last night for a meeting of the last Australian Democrats: about 20 people in attendance, with the average age probably 55-plus, compared to four to five times as many that were showing up for meetings in 2007. “

I know this was a report from Victoria but isn’t it ironic that the Democrats are fading as the true “party of the centre” just when we’d need them most in NSW?  Meanwhile, of course, all right thinking former Democrats hold a special place in their “heart” for Crikey — which is largely credited through its leaks with the destruction of the party in the fallout of the Lees/Stott-Despoja clash.

Mind you maybe it isn’t all over. The DLP made a comeback in the last Victorian election and are still a chance to take Fielding’s spot in the Senate.

Puppy scam:

Hendrik Gout, Managing editor, The Independent Weekly, writes: Re. “What a load of bull: The Age gets bitten by puppy ad scam” (yesterday, item 4). Tom Cowie wrote that The Independent Weekly had fallen for the ruse. But we’ve learned since last year!

We got an email from “James George” last week. He wanted a three or four-line classified. We thought that if he could try a scam, so could we.

Our reply went like this: “Hello James. Certainly we are happy to take your ad, once we have received your cash. The price for the ad, by the way, is $7852.69. We take only bank cheques.”

We have not heard back.

Jasper for PM:

Jim Hart writes: If Niall Clugston (yesterday, comments) is correct when he says that “the PM doesn’t have to be a member of parliament, a human being, or even a living thing…”  then could someone close to Crikey please start lobbying for Jasper.