On the Balibo Five

John Richardson writes: Re. “Four decades later, no justice, no peace for murdered Balibo journalists” (Friday). What a shame that Australian politicians of all persuasions could find the time to heroically confect moral outrage over the execution of two convicted heroin smugglers in Indonesia but could never find the moral courage or decency to pursue justice for the Balibo Five. The cant reflected in our politicians’ willingness to lecture Indonesia on the “rule of law” and the decision of our government to withdraw Australia’s Ambassador in response to its actions, stands in stark contrast to its criminal complicity in the Indonesian invasion of East Timor which ultimately lead to the murder of the Australian and New Zealand journalists. And perhaps Indonesia would have been more receptive to our government’s entreaties regarding its application of the death penalty if we had demonstrated the same willingness to lecture our “special friends” Japan, China, America & Saudi Arabia on the same basis?

On group voting tickets

Charles Richardson writes: Re. “On Senate voting” (Friday). Malcolm Mackerras may dissent from almost everything I say, but he at least makes it clear that the fundamental issue is abolition of group voting tickets, which I support and he doesn’t. I respectfully disagree that the 2014 Senate re-election in Western Australia expressed “the will of the people … very accurately”, since the people voted for the Coalition over Labor by less than two to one but the Coalition got three times as many senators.

He also says my “greatest howler” is the claim that my proposal “would have made no difference to the balance in the Senate between left and right senators.” What I actually said was “The fundamentals of the balance of power would not have changed at all,” by which I meant that the Greens and the crossbenchers would still have shared the balance of power, with the Coalition needing one or the other to pass legislation and Labor needing both to block it. It’s true that the changed composition of the crossbench might have altered the fate of a particular piece of legislation, but I don’t regard that as a change in the fundamentals.

On MH17

Rob van Driesum writes: Re. “Whoever shot down MH17, Malaysia Airlines is to blame” (October 11). I find it regrettable that there’s a bit of a push to blame the Ukrainian government and Malaysia Airlines for the fate that befell MH17. Yes, the Dutch Safety Board report slammed Kiev for leaving its airspace open to commercial overflights, and one may well question why so many reputable airlines continued to fly over that part of Ukraine on that very day. The Civil Aviation Organization needs to clean up its act about risks associated with flying over conflict areas, and no doubt it is already doing so.

But let’s not forget who really is to blame here: the irresponsible cowboys who launched the deadly missile at a commercial aircraft that “flew on a constant heading, speed and altitude” (as per the report) in a south-easterly direction when it was almost over Russian airspace. Responsible Buk operators would have made a better assessment of their target. They are clearly the guilty party here and should be brought to justice. Unfortunately I suspect that those who may be willing to talk are six feet under the ground in Siberia.

NBN frustration

Jock Webb writes: Re. “NBN rollout plans could yet come a copper” (Friday). This NBN stuff really gets up my nose. I live 8km from town only 30km from a regional city with a population of 35,000. I am still compelled to use mobile phone internet, over which guess who has a monopoly. The service is OK when the weather is favourable, but I can only get 15GB a month at $7 a GB. Too expensive. Telstra rang up and said they could offer me what sounded like a good deal, but when I called their bluff on ADSL they didn’t call back. The problem is old pair gain copper.

No, don’t lay off Turnbull’s wealth

David Salter writes: Re: “Lay off Turnbull’s wealth” (Friday). Methinks that Crikey’s editorialist has fallen for the new PM’s conjuring trick. The issue is not that Turnbull is rich (which we all know), but that he has used his wealth to construct an overseas investment structure that allows him to pay much less tax than he would in Australia. Note that in parliament the PM was keen to declare that he “paid tax in Australia”, but wasn’t inclined to tell us how much tax, or on how much income, which is surely the point. Meanwhile, the Coalition has been quick to accuse Labor of promoting the “politics of envy”, another conjuring trick. Rather, this is the politics of “one rule for the rich, another for the battlers”, and it’s a legitimate tactic for any opposition to employ.

Graham Barry writes: I am appalled by your editorial, which seems to deliberately miss the point. Turnbull’s wealth is neither here nor there. It’s the fact that he uses tax havens like the Cayman Islands, thus avoiding tax in this country that could go to the common good. It’s plain unethical and he’s the prime minister, for god’s sake. He says: So he’s rich – so what? He works hard, he pays his taxes. Well, sorry, no, he doesn’t, not the taxes he should be paying to make this a country of a fair go. Show some sense of proportion, Crikey. In the end this is still a government for the rich by the rich, which thinks nothing of sliding through a bill to protect the rich from having the details of their tax dodging published. St Malcolm he ain’t, he’s just a rip-off merchant like so many other rich people, while wanting to squeeze those who already live in poverty. Class warfare, class envy — give me a break. They (and  you) are insulting our intelligence.

The beginning of the end of the beginning

Secretary of the Democratic Labor Party NSW Michael Byrne writes: Re. “Rundle: this is the way modern politics ends, not with a bang but a Turnbull” (Thursday). It seems Mark Latham has attained the status of Tony Abbott in attracting the classical form of reprobation from the luvvie duvvies of the Left — the exaggerated expression of disgust and angst. That fact informs we ordinary folk outside of your Rundle’s CKP grouping (cultural, knowledge and policy ) that both Abbott and Latham have possession of a certain quality;  namely purpose and conviction that extends beyond and outside of the emotional secular devotions of the Left. Both blokes still have that “fire in their belly”, even as non-operatives, to give hope that politics in Australia may yet rise above the pathetic mediocrity on display in the political leadership we have today.

It is a sad observation that both men, along with Tanner, Combet, Crean, Ferguson et al, are at the prime age for mature political engagement and leadership at the highest level, notwithstanding Abbott still being in place.  Meanwhile we have delivered by the major parties Federal Members with infant children. Does the nation’s need of political representation require such sacrifice of family life, or, should our nation’s interests be used by self interested ambitious people who have a higher calling to that of their family? It would be interesting to hear the views on this from both Mark Latham and Tony Abbott. They may well be “appalling”, but let’s hear them anyway.

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