State of the union

Jackie Woods writes: Re. “ICAC: a $1800 waterfront dinner, a ‘$100m cheque to investors’” (yesterday). The story states: “The main player in all of this is union official John Maitland, who ran the main coal mining union, the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union,  and was also a close factional ally of Macdonald, who along with Eddie Obeid was one of the two key factional powerbrokers within the party.” John Maitland was retired from the CFMEU before becoming involved in in Doyles Creek and before the Doyles Creek licence was granted — shouldn’t be referred to as ‘union official’ implying he was employed by the union at the time of events. Maitland retired from CFMEU in 2006.

Why do we need 457 visa holders at all?

Marcus L’Estrange writes: Re. “Essential: government strikes a nerve on 457 visas” (yesterday). As usual, Bernard Keane has not reported the real reasons why the PM has, belatedly, cracked down on 457 visas. In February last year she said very publicly:

”Friends, we look with particular concern on the large number of working-age Australians, possibly as many as 2 million, who stand outside the full-time labour force, above and beyond those registered [600,000] as unemployed. Around 800,000 [now a million] are in part-time jobs but want to work more. Another 800,000 are outside the labour market, including discouraged job seekers. And many thousands of individuals on the disability support pension may have some capacity to work.”

All up 2.6 million unemployed with another 1 million underemployed. With these figures, why would you, in the main, have any 457 visa program?

Conroy and Stalin’s real similarity 

James Burke writes: Re. “Crikey analysis: how the papers responded to media reform” (yesterday). If Stephen Conroy has anything in common with Stalin, it might be his talent for military preparation. (For the benefit of the historically bewildered Kim Williams: Stalin didn’t have any.) Labor senators had little to say at the committee hearings. Understandable, given the short time allotted and that they were apparently ambushed last week, along with everyone else. If this fight were actually necessary, why not do it properly?

The debate would have benefited from a forensic interrogation of Williams about scandals like the terrorism raids fiasco or the persecution of Larissa Behrendt. (Let him explain why her tweet got so much more coverage than Rupert’s whinge about the “Jewish-owned press”.) Phone hacking and the Ailes-Petraeus intrigue could have been covered in detail, to show tendency and coincidence across the English-speaking world. Even the indignant Kerry Stokes might have been deflated, if his “what did we do?” was answered with examples of the racially inflammatory (sometimes partly fabricated) stories beloved of Today Tonight.

Instead, the media barons found yet another platform from which to cry victim. The whole thing seems to be a pointless stunt.

Smiles, chunks and ungainly creatures

Dan Smith writes: Re. “Richard Farmer’s chunky bits” (yesterday). I almost blew chunky bits reading this: “I am unaware that anything is really different now than it was five, 10 or even 20 years ago, and we seem to have muddled along without democracy being threatened.”

If Richard Farmer can put forward a serious argument that, for example, The Australian is of similar quality compared with its 1993 self, I’ll eat a pre-millennial real estate liftout. You don’t need to see jackboots in Martin Place to recognise democracy being threatened, unless you set quite low expectations for its potential. A public regularly misinformed by an agenda-driven media majority might be enough for some.

Jim Carden writes: Could other Crikey readers spot the difference between the two creatures pictured in Chunky Bits yesterday? One was an awkward, clumsy and slow creature that dumps from a great height and has been largely left behind by evolution, and the other was a giraffe.

John Mair writes: I reckon Richard Farmer is a bonzer bloke, but even he should know Forrest Gump invented the Smiley Face …