Correction. Yesterday’s Tips and Rumours named Andrew Robb as chair of the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee at Senate Estimates. It was actually Senator Ian MacDonald.

John Howard, Mick Keelty and the Bali Nine

Geoffrey Heard writes: Re. “Rundle: how to save the Bali Nine” (February 17). Two men are responsible for the fate of these young men — the then prime minister John Howard and the then federal police commissioner Mick Keelty, who gave the Bali Nine up to the Indonesian police. The then-foreign minister Alexander Downer would be high on the list for involvement too. They did it knowing the consequences for the Australians would be dire. If the two had an ounce of integrity between them, they would be in Indonesia ready to stand in front of the two before the firing squad.

With half an ounce of integrity, they would be in Indonesia pleading for clemency for the two 24/ 7 — or doing some sort of deal as suggested by Guy. The obvious thing to do was to track the group in Indonesia — that would have been easy enough, for goodness sake — and arrest them in the act of smuggling drugs into Australia when they landed on their return. Clean, simple, and straightforward. They could have then got busy extracting wanted information. The Bali Nine were great for Howard. A double whammy. Tough on law and order, tough on drugs, and a great argument against asylum seekers et al and the need to tighten up immigration controls generally.

Keelty though … why would an Australian police commissioner hand over Australians to the Indonesian police? Was he put under pressure by the politicians, particularly John Howard, or was it an operational decision made by Keelty which made Howard think it was Christmas and his birthday all at once? Maybe Keelty reckoned on a very high profile return on his “investment” of the Bali Nine — a huge drugs bust the federal police could chortle about plus a big tick for cooperative action with a neighboring police force. This cooperative stuff was high on Keelty’s agenda; in 2011 he got the AO “for distinguished service to national and international law enforcement, particularly through the establishment of bilateral agreements with corresponding overseas agencies”.

Instead of a big win, Keelty got slapped in the face and we got the message that the Federal Police are second rate and couldn’t handle such a case. And not just second rate — I mean, what would the rating of the Indonesian police have been? And Keelty put them ahead of his own Australian force to handle a very serious case. If Keelty did not know or understand the level of corruption in the Indonesian police force and judiciary then he was totally out of touch with the real world and totally incompetent. Everybody knew.

How did Keelty survive as commissioner? If Keelty did know the depth of Indonesian police corruption then his handing over of Australians was a heinous act for which he, and any above him who supported him, and any below who allowed themselves to be part of it, should be held accountable. And he still should be held accountable if he did not know — because he should have, perhaps better than almost anyone else in Australia. Further, he should be stripped of his AO. How can he be decorated for condemning young Australians to the firing squad? And who on earth thought that was a good idea in 2011?

Trust the experts, not the ideologues

Ian E Haines writes: Re. “Chapman: sorry Gerard, I actually am an authority on health” (yesterday). It is a sad day for intellectual discourse in Australia when Gerard Henderson, the co-founder of the Sydney Institute, has to resort to denigrating and smearing Professor Simon Chapman, one of Australia’s leading and most respected medical epidemiologists. With a PhD in medicine from Sydney University, Professor Chapman is very highly qualified to comment on research methodology in academic publications looking at public health issues like the influence of wind farms. In fact that is what we, the medical and academic community and members of the Australian public, expect him to do, robustly, honestly and without fear or favour. I have not met either man, but I feel fairly certain that the Australian medical and scientific community would fully endorse Professor Chapman’s qualifications, wisdom and insights on research in the various medical topics that we consider that he is an expert in.

Peak peak Guardian

Ben Marshall writes: Re. “Bikes, tattoos, puppies and urinals: on peak Guardian (yesterday). I read the piece by Mel Campbell on The Guardian with increasing confusion. I read the Guardian daily online and sometimes via the International Guardian Weekly. Is there another magazine called the Guardian that Campbell is referring to?  The Guardian he describes sounds like silly fun, a bit like Buzzfeed or Junkee, which I sometimes look at when I need some downtime, but nothing like the Guardian I read.  Has there been an unfortunate typo at Crikey HQ?