CRIKEY: Re. “Smokers already being ripped off — plain packaging is just insulting” (yesterday, item 13). Crikey originally published a draft version of this story in error and some of the figures have since been amended: the mistake was made in the subbing process:

  • Australia’s three million-odd smokers had already been paying an extra $5.5 billion a year in tax to smoke, or about $1800 each — originally read four million smokers at $1200 each.
  • Most smokers are destined to receive the age pension, which costs the government about $17,420 a year per single recipient — originally read $16,000 a year per recipient.
  • The average smoker is paying extra annual tax of about $2,200 while working, and forgoing $17,420 a year income for at least 10 years in retirement — originally read the average smoker is paying extra annual tax of about $1,600 while working, and forgoing $16,000 a year income for 10 years in retirement.

Women on the front line:

Neil James, Executive Director, Australia Defence Association, writes: Re. “Crikey Clarifier: why don’t women serve on the front line?” (yesterday, item 10). Crikey‘s article yesterday on women supposedly being banned from any frontline combat roles in our defence force was inaccurate and insensitive.

In a substantial, definition and context-free parade of out-of-date information, misunderstandings, misconceptions, false assumptions or mistaken foreign comparisons, the winner was surely the absurd assertion that women in our navy still cannot serve on Oberon class submarines. Well of course they can’t because these were all scrapped between 1992 and 2000. Female sailors do serve on Collins class submarines (and always have) as they do on every other boat and ship in our Navy and have done for well over a decade. Same as they can fly every aircraft in all three Services. All such jobs, of course, being fully frontline and combat positions but which were completely ignored in the item.

Indeed women serve in frontline positions, including combat ones, in all three Services — and are doing so now this minute in Afghanistan while your read this edition of Crikey safe here at home because of them. Only in the Army are there any serious limitations, and even then they are primarily based on bio-mechanical and casualty probability factors rather than gender per se. A bit like why none of our NRL and AFL teams are forced to field female players just for “gender-equity” reasons.

What’s more all the ADF women serving in the frontline on the ground in Afghanistan, at sea or in the air get very angry when yet another sloppy or biased journalist, columnist or commentator says they somehow don’t exist.

Or some social conservative or long-retired digger says they shouldn’t exist. Or indeed on the other extreme when some equally out-of-touch first-generation feminist beloved of ABC current affairs shows again wrongly declaims that more of them should exist irrespective of relevant bio-mechanical differences between men and women on a battlefield rather than in an Ultimo office.

The considerable irony of course with the latter extreme is the evidence-based probability of inequitable results in practice – when women might need to be risked continuously, for sustained periods, in one-on-one, literal, direct physical fights to the death with enemy men and are then killed or wounded disproportionately in comparison to their male comrades. And just because of the purist theoretical clamouring of ideologues who would rarely or never serve in the defence force themselves or let their daughters or granddaughters do so either.

Jackson Harding writes: Sorry, just not up to your standards this time. Women not permitted on Oberon class submarines? Men aren’t either any more, all of the Oberon boats (subs are boats, not ships) are long out of commission.

HMAS Oxley was paid off in 1992. Her fin is on display at HMAS Stirling near Perth, while her bow is in Fremantle at the WA Maritime Museum.

HMAS Otway was paid off in 1994, sold in 1995, put on display in Holbrook NSW but was later cannibalised to keep several of the boats still then in commission at sea.  Bits of her are still on display in Holbrook NSW, about as far from the sea as a sub can get.

HMAS Ovens was paid off in 1995, she is now a museum ship in WA.

HMAS Onslow decommissioned in 1999, she is a museum piece at the National Maritime Museum.

HMAS Orion was paid off into reserve in 1998.  She was cut up for scrap in 2006 (bit hard to go to sea in a box of razor blades). Her sail has gone to the City of Rockingham and her screw to the WA Maritime Museum.

HMAS Otama was paid off in 2000. She was sold in 2001 to a group hoping to have her as a museum ship in Westernport. They put her up for sale on eBay in 2008 as they could no longer afford her upkeep, they declined an offer from what was thought to be a drug smuggling operation.

It has been 11 years since the last Oberon boat flew under the white ensign. Pretty shoddy effort on Crikey‘s part. By the way, women have been allowed to serve on the Collins class boats from their introduction into the fleet.

Crikey writes: The reference to Oberon class submarines was an error and has been removed from the online version of the article.

Peter Lloyd writes: Further to Laura Griffin’s piece on women serving in front line combat roles.

It might be useful to ignore ideological niceties in examining this question, and to look in detail at the historical record, because the ability of the military to win wars is still, in some quaint, anachronistic circles, seen as occasionally fundamental to the ability to discuss ideological questions in the first place.

The list of countries where “women serve on the front line” is rather silly, given nations like Norway and New Zealand don’t have a front line, or operational record.

Similarly, wars that were of a guerrilla and terrorist style, such as Israel’s war of independence, are not very useful. I recall Israel used women in ordinary combat roles in 1967 but the results did not satisfy them.

Far more interesting and instructive is the Red Army in the Second World War, which used women extensively in the most demanding combat roles: driving tanks, as snipers, and flying fighter and night bomber aircraft (there were several aces among these, and some bomber units were all-female).

But then, women in Stalin’s Russia enjoyed far less cultural oppression than our Kardashian-addled society, so maybe Australia has further to go down the road to enlightenment before it can consider such reform of the military.

Glen Frost writes: Could we learn from the well known and determined female only divisions of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s army, and have our own women only front line divisions? We’ll soon see who’s the best (man vs. woman that is).

Pauline Hanson:

Niall Clugston writes: Re. “Pauline Hanson just falls short in NSW” (yesterday, item 3). Well, Charles Richardson wants to write Pauline Hanson off, but people did that from the beginning.

She was treated as a celebrity candidate through the campaign and she’s headline news now. Based on this level of publicity, and the level of vote which almost got her a seat, she’ll remain a parliamentary contender for as long as she wants to.

Charles Richardson might be right that “she really has nothing to say”, but the point is that she embodies a latent rightwing populism, principally exploiting anxiety about immigration, which might not be coherent or well informed but nevertheless resonates with a significant minority of the population.

Peggy Balfour writes: Pauline Hanson did amazingly well in the election considering that she has been receiving bad press (the media equivalent of school kids’ cyber bullying) for the past decade whether she is contesting for a seat or not.

Australian Business Council:

Wayne Gregson writes: Re. “The strange reform hypocrisy of Australian business” (yesterday, item 9). I liked Bernard Keane’s comment about how the non-mining heavyweights kept quiet while the mining industry scuppered the resource rent tax.

At the time I thought that the non-mining sector should have talked up the benefits of the  lower exchange rate that could well have resulted from the originally proposed mining tax — particularly as this was something the Government couldn’t do itself (i.e.  the Govt would have had to say that some mining projects might actually not go ahead under the tax — clearly not a politically expedient move).

Now Heather Ridout and co are starting to whinge about the exchange rate’s impact on non-mining exporters!

Peter Fray

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