Will the Coalition like what the royal commission finds?

Denis Lenihan writes from London: Re. “The Coalition’s poor record on political royal commissions” (yesterday). Someone should have warned Tony Abbott about Malcolm Fraser’s experience with royal commissions into trade unions: the 1980 Costigan Royal Commission into the Federated Ship Painters and Dockers Union. While it showed the union to be corrupt, it also showed many Liberal Party supporters up to their necks in the infamous bottom-of-the-harbour tax evasion scheme. This was so bad that John Howard brought in retrospective legislation to deal with it, a move that brought more howls from the Party faithful. On the subject of investigative royal commissions, they are normally set up to find out the truth rather than lead to prosecutions. In a lot of cases governments have to choose between the two.

Les Heimann writes: Already industry groups are saying “we had to bribe them, it wasn’t our desire”. The defence of “bullying” has been struck out in murder cases, but it seems to quite justified for business to pay all sorts of people for alleged “protection”.

Isn’t it curious how quickly IAG and other industry groups are diving for cover even before the “kangaroo court” begins? It’s all unedifying nonsense and for most people more evidence of the “bully boy” attitude of this right-wing Tea Party governing Australia — for now!

Computing as entertainment

Gary Woodman writes: Re. “The day the muzak died” (Friday). Robert Johnson’s comment brought memories flooding back — I also worked in the theatre of the Southern Cross Hotel’s computer room (starting there in 1970), with the multitude of flickering lights, the chattering of the line printer and the clattering of CRAMs, attended by a team including yours truly and a random flow of rubberneckers on the other side of the glass. My, wasn’t that fun on Friday and Saturday nights.

Incidentally, one of the computers had 20K and the other 10K — words, not bytes, as bytes hadn’t been invented when these computers were designed. Robert may recall that these public-facing computer theatres went hurriedly out of fashion after one was fire-bombed.

Outside the glass, I remember a windswept concrete cavern encircling a windswept concrete atrium, overlooked by a very conventional modernist concrete tower, with negligible heritage value; built in the ’60s and demolished in the ’90s, it would seem that many agreed. But surely there’s heritage value, if fleeting, of a large computer on public display!

Beware of pollies — they bite

Graham Barnes writes: Re. “Please don’t pet the Prime Minister” (yesterday). I would replace Joe Hockey’s face with that of a bull mastiff, and Scott Morrison with a wolverine. Pyne should stay as is (poodles are sooo ridiculous!), and Greg Hunt would be best represented by a locust swarm. Ian MacFarlane — any dog in a manger. As for the rest, an animated dog chasing its own tail. Does this help?

Peter Fray

Fetch your first 12 weeks for $12

Here at Crikey, we saw a mighty surge in subscribers throughout 2020. Your support has been nothing short of amazing — we couldn’t have got through this year like no other without you, our readers.

If you haven’t joined us yet, fetch your first 12 weeks for $12 and start 2021 with the journalism you need to navigate whatever lies ahead.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey