Human Rights Commission

Joe Edward writes: Re. “Keane: IPA is right, Human Rights Commission might have to go” (Friday). Two things stand out. First, it’s not “blatantly anti-democratic” for the Commission to advocate in favour of the enactment of a charter of rights. As you point out in your article, the Commission is required (or at least authorised) by an act of parliament (its constituting statute) to advocate in favour of human rights.

Are you really trying to suggest that it is “anti-democratic” for the Commission to act in accordance with the command of parliament (as expressed in the Commission’s constituting statute)? I would have thought that the converse was true.

Secondly, if it is true that the Commission does not support an “absolute” right to free speech (and I’ll accept that this is so, notwithstanding that your examples are scant and lazy), then that is entirely appropriate. The First Amendment to the US Constitution may codify a near “absolute” right to free speech; international law (upon which Australian human rights law is based) does not. If you don’t believe me, just look at Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) (which, as you correctly point out in your article, is at the heart of the international, and Australian, human rights regimes).

It sounds to me like the Commission, by recognising that the right to free speech must be balanced against other rights, is much more on top of international and Australian law than either you or the IPA.


Niall Clugston writes: Joe Boswell’s take on the war in Mali is not very factual (Comments, Friday).

He sees it as a proxy war of US and its allies against Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. In support of this, he claims that September 11 was perpetrated by “Saudi Arabian and Pakistani terrorists”, though there were no Pakistanis involved. He also argues that because these countries have supported extreme currents within Islam, and these currents are linked with terrorism, therefore these countries have “backed” terrorism. By the same token, the US has given much aid and comfort to Saudi Arabia and Pakistan over the years and is therefore equally guilty.

Moreover, it was instrumental in forging these countries’ links to al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden as part of confrontation with the USSR in Afghanistan, as documented in the book Charlie Wilson’s War.

This leads to another problem with his theory: the idea that Saudi Arabia and Pakistan would so spectacularly and purposelessly bite the hand that fed them is a fantasy that belongs in a James Bond film. In fact, the al-Qaeda threat is a prime example of blowback. And Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have seen more terrorist attacks on their soil as the US.

And then there’s the whole concept of proxy wars. With some partial exceptions, notably the case of Afghanistan mentioned, the Cold War was not a series of proxy wars. Vietnam and Korea would have fought for independence, unification, and social change, regardless of the USSR. Likewise with the civil war in Mali. For France, as a former imperial power, to intervene on the pretext there are Muslim extremists involved is reprehensible. World politics has always been a complex knot, and cutting it with a sword has always shed the blood of innocents.

Tennis grunting

Andrew Dempster writes: Re. “Quiet, please! Grunting tennis players are simply cheating” (Friday). “Quiet please!” is one of the best known phrases in sport — delivered by officious tennis umpires. If it’s absolutely essential for the crowd to be silent, surely the same must apply to the players, and for exactly the same reasons?

Gervase Greene writes: Furious agreement with David Salter’s fatwa on grunting tennis players. As far as I am concerned it is yet one more reason not to watch a game for which I have never had much sympathy.

Unlike cricket, and there I take issue with Salter’s comments that a batsman might suffer a disadvantage if he were prevented from hearing “the sound of a bouncer hitting the pitch” as he would have “trouble picking up the flight of the ball.”

I can assure Salter if he waits that long he would indeed experience “trouble”. A really good bouncer will begin its journey at 160 km/h. (Test standard, sure, but valid for this exercise). And that from only 20 metres away from the batsman — probably closer, given most effective bouncers involve a blatant over-stepping of the crease.

The maths goes thus: a very hard ball travelling at 160 km/h for all of 0.02 kms. The batsman has 0.36 seconds before it arrives, theoretically. Given the ball loses speed relatively quickly mid-flight, let’s call it 0.5 seconds all-up.

If Salter’s batsman is hoping the thud of the ball on the turf will provide useful information with which to fashion a response, it will be as nothing compared to the resounding bell-ringer he experiences when it finishes its fateful journey.

Slater does indeed have a valid point, but I think it is best left to the centre court. A batsman may well appeal against a fast bowler’s audible exertion, but it will most likely be on his way back to the pavilion. Or lodged posthumously.