Australian League of Immigration Volunteers:

Alison Myers writes: Re. “Dumped detention volunteer chief hits back at Scientology claims” (Friday, item 9). As former long-term ALIV volunteer, the key points in the SMH story were the fact that volunteers were being used to provide services that should be provided by paid professionals, and also the repressive culture that has developed since the group started providing activities at Christmas Island.

ALIV has been providing valuable recreational programs for detainees in and out of in detention centres since 2001, and one of the keys to ALIV’s ability to access the detention centres was the understanding that details of the detention centres or of detainees could not be discussed outside of ALIV.

Since ALIV’s activities expanded considerably and rapidly to include Christmas Island, this requirement for discretion evolved into something much more repressive and disturbing. Indeed, this led to my abrupt departure from the organisation last year.  While Gary is largely responsible for this deterioration, I do not believe there was any influence from Scientology whatsoever.

ALIV was created to provide children with detention with a chance to play and have some kind of childhood. After the children were released from detention in 2005, ALIV continued to provide much needed support for them within the community, along with running programs for the adult detainees in Villawood. The focus was on providing fun, socialisation and emotional sustenance, with the hope that all involved might learn something along the way. This is a far better use of volunteers’ time, energy and skills than struggling to provide ersatz professional services.

Although I am no longer in ALIV, I very much hope they will continue with their valuable community programs and that this change in focus will lead to a healthier culture within the organisation.

I might also suggest that the Government might  find a lot of the money it needs to rebuild Queensland by shutting down the Christmas Island centre and bringing the detainees to mainland facilities, or even — gasp — releasing them into the community.

The ADF’s amphibious capability:

James Brown, Military Associate, Lowy Institute for International Policy, writes: Re. “Why is the ADF’s amphibious fleet worn out?” (Friday, item 12). Neil James has provided some useful history and context to the current issues faced by the failure of the ADF’s amphibious capability. He raises the issue of who is responsible for the parlous state of our amphibious forces — government, or the ADF itself? It seems highly unlikely that the Navy would have failed to warn government that Australia would be without a critical military capability for 18 months.

The question then is how long ago was government told and what was their response? Any Defence Minister who failed to act on such advice and thus let the amphibious capability fail would be perilously negligent — provided of course that the Navy had been frank and fearless in explaining the extent of the problem. Sadly it seems unlikely that the public will find out what happened. The government released the information about HMAS Manoora and Kanimbla in a cunningly phrased media release and announced it the day before a natural disaster that was guaranteed to dominate all national media coverage.

Broadly speaking, Neil’s right about the poor levels of defence debate and coverage in Australia. The Defence Minister did two lengthy radio and TV interviews with political journalists the day after the amphibious ships announcement and neither interviewer queried why our amphibious capability had withered away. Neither of these experienced political journalists seized on the point that the ADF is now not equipped to mount regional operations like we did in East Timor in 2006 nor able to intervene effectively should there be a crisis in the Solomon Islands or Fiji.

This lack of informed scrutiny of defence issues is something I’ve highlighted in Crikey before and a fundamental reason for why the Lowy Institute is continuing to deepen its work on defence issues.

Political donations:

David Hand writes: Re. “The political donations data is nowhere near the full picture” (Friday, item 10). When Bernard Keane wrote about “The political donations data is nowhere near the full picture” I know what he means.

I am treasurer of my local Liberal branch and two years ago, donation reform meant that I had to get a lot of personal information and report any donation over fifty lousy bucks.  This was to protect our nominated state official from going to prison should someone go around branch fund raising events and secretly donate over $1000 without disclosure by the Party to the EFA.

Needless to say, cash was welcome at fundraising events. This year the new regulations have stopped branches running a bank account for fundraising at all. I suppose it’s possible that these ruinous restrictions may help Bernard trawl through disclosure returns to satisfy himself that some obscure moneyed donor is not buying influence in the party.

It’s just a pity that his expose on political donations lacked the depth and insight to mention the $1.05 million that each Union can spend campaigning on behalf of the ALP. The 22 Unions affiliated to the NSW ALP can spend $23 million between them on  a proxy political campaign under the new rules. When they hit the limit, they can always make a donation of another million or so to a less wealthy organisation like, say, Get Up. You know the campaigns I mean — they hit the telly every election.

When I emptied my branch account just before Christmas to meet the reform deadline it had about $900 in it.

George Hearst-style:

Mike Frazer writes: Re. “Media briefs: much ado on Overington … Tassie ALP’s cash cow … Fairfax bleeds property …”  (Friday, item 17). Can I comment on a comparison describing something to do with Fairfax as “George Hearst-style”?

I don’t mind comparisons with the style of a person, i.e. Hinch-style, Gough-style, or Ablett-style, but they have to convey something to the mind’s eye, a vision so to speak.

I just don’t think that “George Hearst-style” conveys anything to the average reader. he was an American gold miner who died in 1891. His greatest claim to fame is that he had a son who was famous.

Hearst’s Wikipedia site does not contain the word ”style” at all.

Is there any Crikey reader out there who can come back with a description of what “George Hearst-style” is all about ?

Get Crikey for $1 a week.

Lockdowns are over and BBQs are back! At last, we get to talk to people in real life. But conversation topics outside COVID are so thin on the ground.

Join Crikey and we’ll give you something to talk about. Get your first 12 weeks for $12 to get stories, analysis and BBQ stoppers you won’t see anywhere else.

Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
12 weeks for just $12.