The Household Assistance Scheme:

Stilgherrian writes: Re. “IT: ritual shenanigans, but hey, this is government” (yesterday, item 12). Ruslan Kogan’s claim that he could upgrade pensioners to digital TV for $50 rather than the government’s budgeted $350  might not be as true as I first thought.

The Household Assistance Scheme isn’t just about installing the set-top box but also installing a new antenna where necessary and of course verifying that the contractors are up to scratch.

That said, and as The Australian reports today, installing the box itself is indeed trivial,

David Bartlett:

Kevin Bonham writes: Re. “David Bartlett a Gen X resignation” (yesterday, item 18). Bruce Montgomery writes that the vacancy for former Tasmanian David Bartlett’s seat will be filled “by a recount of his primary votes; in other words, if he had not been on the ballot paper whom would people have preferred.”

It’s not that simple; the count back includes all the votes Bartlett had when he reached his quota. Because Bartlett didn’t quite poll a quota in primaries, the votes from others that put him over the line are also included. Some of those votes were for candidates who will presumably contest the count back, so, for instance, a vote that is 1 Ogilvie 2 Bartlett goes back to Ogilvie.

In this case it shouldn’t make a big difference because over 95% of Bartlett’s quota was in primaries, but in other cases preferences from other candidates are very important in count backs.

Nicaragua:

Kris Rogers writes: I would like to clarify Neil James’ comment relating to US involvement in Nicaragua (Tuesday, comments). The US continued to sponsor “Contras” after the 1984 general elections. This election was considered by observers (including ones from Canada and Ireland) to be free and fair. I think that it’s dubious assertion that the Sandinistas were a “Marxist Dictatorship” if they were democratically elected.

The US trained the Contras to use tactics such as deliberately targeting civilians and subjecting them to violent abuse — I have no problem with classing this as material support for terrorism.

The International Court of Justice later ruled that the US had been in breach of international law  by training and arming the Contras and also laying mines in Nicaragua’s waters. This must make the US one of the first countries to have been found by the ICJ to be supporting terrorists and engaging in terrorist activities.

It is rather ironic that this villainous period in history is brought up in a discussion about the US’s current activity against terrorists

Peter Fray

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