Rundle and defending refugees:

Andrew Bartlett writes: Re. “Rundle: refugees, animal chauvinism and ALP self-destruct button” (yesterday, item 4). Guy Rundle’s article was a risible and literally shambolic mish-mash of misrepresentations and conflagrations, which served no end other than to try to justify going soft on grotesque, institutionalised and very long standing brutality.

It is blindingly obvious — although apparently not obvious enough for Rundle to be aware of it — and backed up by ample evidence that there are clear links between brutality — and the attitudes that justify it — towards (more powerless) humans and brutality towards (almost always powerless) animals.

To justify one type of senseless, unnecessary brutality as being of no great consequence — “animals matter, but they don’t matter much” — is a small step from justifying similar brutality towards whichever group of humans a society may decide “don’t matter (as) much”.

Rundle states that:

“To defend refugees … one has to insist on the absolute and categorical difference between humans and animals. Indeed, one has to insist on it as the founding category of moral action”

WTFF?! This “Absolute, Categorical Difference” = “the founding category of moral action”?!?

So unless we accept Guy’s Absolute Categorical Insistence, we cannot morally defend refugees? What a gobsmackingly appalling crock of shit.

What on earth could be meant by asserting it is “a moral and political disaster when kindness towards animals becomes as important or equal a cause as our reciprocal moral obligations to other human beings” (ZOMG kiddies!! supporting ‘kindness to animals’! It’s a DISASTER).

Not even Barnaby-Abbott would dare to pervert this issue by describing it as one about “kindness to animals” — it’s about opposing grotesque brutality.

Guy Rundle has well and truly jumped the shark.

Geoff Russell, Animal Liberation SA, writes: Rundle seems to speak a different language from me when he writes about refugees as a group whose “…humanity is being utterly negated”. What rubbish.

Had Four Corners shown footage of people being abused like the cattle in those Indonesian slaughterhouses, how would he have described it? Perhaps “really and truly utterly negated”.  Srebrenica, Rwanda, Dachau. These names conjure events where humanity was utterly negated. Our treatment of refugees is pitiful, but hasn’t quite reached such levels.

Had Four Corners shown human abuse equivalent to that of the cattle then I’d bet that all the people who were outraged by the cattle footage would have been similarly outraged by the human footage. In addition, there would have been others, like Rundle, whose capacity for empathy is apparently more delicately tuned.

I have been involved in organising fund raising for refugees and so have more than a few other animal activists. Some meat eaters don’t want to adopt a more compassionate diet and it’s convenient for them to paint animal activists as a bunch of misanthropes, but I’ve met very few such people in the decades I’ve been involved.

On the contrary, we are generally also members of, if not active in, a range of human centered organisations, particularly those involved in fighting human cruelty like Amnesty International. But the outrage at the Four Corners footage was far wider than animal activist groups, just as the grief and outrage at the Christmas Island boat tragedy encompassed people well outside refugee support and advocacy groups.

Suffering is suffering and cruelty is cruelty, most of us know it when we see it and respond accordingly.

Dismissing empathy and compassion as animal chauvinism is pathetic.

Rob Chataway writes: Guy Rundle is insulting in his pompous, convoluted writing on human and animal rights.

The tenant of his argument, that seeking to honour a set of obligations, albeit limited, to domestic animals bred and raised in this country somehow undermines our obligations to other human beings; that this action, in his words “… is a moral and political disaster” is patent nonsense.

Just a few comments on Rundle’s arguments; firstly, he has no evidence that those of us who feel deeply about the gross mistreatment of domestic animals do so at the displacement of our concern for human rights; secondly, arguing against the gross mistreatment of domestic animals does not, as he seems to allude, put us on the road to misanthropy; thirdly, we have just as much moral and political obligation to argue for adherence to a minimum code of welfare for domesticated bovines as we do to argue for adherence to the internationally recognized rights of human beings.

We are quite capable of doing both.

Ben Green writes: Guy Rundle’s assertion that “[t]o defend refugees … one has to insist on the absolute and categorical difference between humans and animals”, is as fallacious as the argument that posits an inverse proportion between offshore and onshore refugee intakes.

If there’s one thing to be learnt from the history Mr Rundle recites, surely it’s that we become less evil by travelling away from “us or them” – whoever “they” might be.

Big tobacco:

Tom Osborn  writes: Re. “Big Tobacco hires crack team to take plain pack fight to Roxon” (yesterday, item 3). Even if British American Tobacco  (BATA) could win this case, damage assessment would be based on the brand valuations for their brands.

This requires an estimate of the net present value (NPV) of each brand, compared to the NPV from operating without the brand labels for the “future life of the brand”, with a realistic view of the future market (including taxation and other regulations).

The NPV includes a year-to-year prediction of net profit from sales via each brand (in 2011 dollars) and not gross revenue, and also is discounted for the opportunity cost of not using the brand investment on something else (like leaving it in the bank), and inflation.

BATA’s recent 6 month net profit after tax was under $115M, on a bit of a slippery slope — they were at $410M in FY 06-07. Estimating the net profit of operating without branding is something we don’t have information about.

In the short term it may well be comparable to operating with brands, and in the longer term, the cost of propping up these brands may exceed whatever revenue they could generate. I’d expect the future life of many of their brands to be quite short.

So my question is: How can BATA talk about damages in the vicinity of $3B?

Denise Marcos writes: In theory BATA can spend hundreds of billions on legal expertise fighting the proposed plain packaging — and perhaps they may win. Then the government can double the tobacco excise … or triple it … or quadruple it.

For the general public this litigation stoush is akin to being a spectator at a boxing match whilst already knowing who will deliver the ultimate king-hit. I relish the idea of Big Tobacco’s war chest going up in legal-fee smoke.

Evan Whitton writes: Fundamental problems with the legal system we acquired  as a colony of England are:

  1. Trial lawyers who are in charge of evidence are necessarily adept at sophistry.
  2. Judges are not trained as judges separately from lawyers.

Taxpayers who fund the system thus cannot be sure that statements by lawyers or judges are the product of justice or of sophistry to serve some other purpose.

Sir Garfield Barwick offers choice examples of both:

The tax evasion sluicegates opened in 1957 when trial lawyer Barwick persuaded the High Court that “absolutely” in the 1936  Tax Act did not mean “absolutely”; there could be exceptions.

The torrent became a flood in 1974 when Barwick CJ, along with Harry Gibbs and Doug Menzies JJ, ruled that a profit of $2782 was a loss of $186,046.

Ellen O’Gallagher writes: Why could the legislation not permit the use of the brand name and trademark, but require that it be in, for example, size 8 font?


Alan Kennedy writes: Re. “Qantas to suffer as Virgin gets it on with Singapore Airlines” (yesterday, item 18). There appears to be a curious disconnect in the mainstream press about the woes of Qantas. Is it misplaced patriotism or fear of losing advertising revenue that is causing this? Only Ben Sandilands appears to be on the case.

We have the disastrous decisions on the fleet taken I would imagine during the Dixon years for which Geoff was rewarded with a $12 million farewell pressie. Now the Dallas connection which beggars belief. How did this happen? I am sure the techies inside Qantas warned of the dangers but marketing seems to have triumphed over reason. What a wonderful experience for travellers either arriving without bags or being stuck in Noumea while the fuel tanks get topped up. What genius decided this was a good idea? And it seems Qantas will not be able to extricate itself readily from the Texas option.

It’s antics in Asia are laughable and the Virgin Singapore tie up is an extraordinary thing to have occurred under the nose of the seemingly inept Qantas management. All the time the company is muscling up to the unions in a fight that will seriously damage its bottom line long term.

It appears so obsessed is Qantas with the staff costs that it has lost sight of the long game. It seems to think if only we could crush the unions all our troubles would be over. But this is nonsense. The Asian based airlines can’t believe their luck. Qantas is becoming a laughing stock as management  trashes one of the world’s great brands and to what end?

Having flown long haul with Qantas recently I can say the crew were exceptional but the QF 1 flight to London was on a 747 that was decrepit. I have flown on budget airlines with better aircraft. It is hard to know how Qantas can rebuild its fleet and keep the goodwill Australians naturally have for the airline. Virgin and Singapore must be delighted.

First up I would be settling my union problems and getting back to the main game. A change of management at the top would be a good start. They are clearly not up to the job. I note the man who perhaps should be running Qantas is running Virgin. Says it all really.

Thanks Ben for keeping us up to date. As for the rest of the mainstream media, lift your game.

Howard vs. Fraser:

Shirley Colless writes: Re. “Fraser v Howard … left and right doing it by the book” (yesterday, item 5). With regard to Greg Sheridan’s critique (or perhaps gripe) about Malcolm Fraser’s introspection, well, in the immortal words of Mandy Rice Davies when Lord Astor denied an affair with her or having even met her, she replied, “Well, he would, wouldn’t he?’

Can I suggest that Sheridan cannot tell the difference between a book co-authored by Malcolm Fraser and considered for its literary merit  against a possibly self-serving, highly selective version of his own story by John Howard  which may or may not have any literary merit?  Or is it possible that Sheridan cannot claw his way out of his own ideological sump to exercise his own critical faculties?

With relation to Howard’s opus, I seem to remember years ago when, as a mature age student at university obsessed by history, I was confronted with the argument between “professional” and “family” historians about the validity of the “family” version, given, I was told in no uncertain terms,  that the reflections of Robert Gordon Menzies would have more historical validity than the reminiscences of great aunty Jane.

I wondered whether a very public figure such as Menzies might not craft a version of his story that, just, possibly, might, given the long time before the record of what he had actually done and said would become available to the public, and could avoid a warts and all story that had some resemblance to the reality of the cut and thrust of politics, he might have edited his story to present himself in a more favourable light.

Funny that.

Sl-twalk (and chickens):

Wes Pryor writes: Re. “Vintage First Dog: Why did the chicken cross the road?” (yesterday, item 6). In the spirit of “sl-twalk”, yesterday’s reprise of the 2009 FDOTM reminds us how far we have come in a few short years. We now collectively yearn for a time when chickens can cross the road without having their motivation questioned.


CRIKEY: In our comments section yesterday, the Peter Lloyd who wrote a letter to Crikey regarding the ABC program 7.30 (yesterday, comments) is the not the ABC journalist Peter Lloyd.

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