On the Amber Harrison case and the Daily Mail 

Stephen Mayne writes: Re. “Mayne: what Amber Harrison actually, finally, told the Supreme Court” (Thursday) 

I got it wrong yesterday saying that The Daily Mail website was being spoon-fed dirt on Amber Harrison by Seven West Media. Reporter Daniel Piotrowski has been in touch to point out he has been attending the court case and received the materials which informed this story direct from court staff. Apologies. The same journalist proved again yesterday that The Daily Mail doesn’t just rip-off other people’s work when he initiated what could only be described as “the Derryn and Amber beat up” which finished up as lead item in today’s AFR Rear Window column, for some strange reason.

On Malcolm Turnbull and marriage equality

Meredith Williams writes: Re. “Hinch’s Senate Diary: time for the real Turnbull” (Thursday)

I agree that it’s high time our PM showed he has some intestinal fortitude. This parliament has made the issue of marriage equality needlessly complicated and painful for the Australian community. What is so threatening about two adults who love each other entering into an exclusive, faithful relationship that is mutually life-enhancing, and about recognising, honouring and protecting that relationship legally and socially? And what is so difficult about returning the Marriage Act to its original form and interpreting the word ‘person’ to mean, well, person?

On the NBN

Paul Hampton-Smith writes: Re. “Slow down, you move too fast” (Wednesday)  I think many people miss the real direction of broadband access.  Right now, the single purpose of an NBN connection is usually to provide a cheap wifi alternative to 4G.  Few people at home, and progressively fewer office workers, physically connect their devices to the internet over a wire.  Already, the need for an NBN connection at home is not a given due to the availability of competitive 4G plans. 5G will be much faster, and will be designed for the modern way of using the internet, such as streaming, supporting data casting, and efficient handling of the Internet of Things.  With 5G micro-towers in every suburb connected to the NBN, and an inevitably much lower data cost, the need for a physical NBN connection in houses will disappear.  I’ll coin it “FTTN/5G”, and the end of all the various flavours of NBN to the premise.

On Donald Trump Jr

Niall Clugston writes: Re. “Trump’s Russia scandal could end in someone going to jail for sedition” (Wednesday)

People like Professor Damien Kingsbury , feverishly building a case against Donald Trump, are reminiscent of the crowds who chanted “Lock her up!” in the belief that Hillary Clinton was going to be imprisoned for record-keeping irregularities. Kingsbury claims that the apparent offer of information to the Trump campaign contravened electoral law. The argument is that providing valuable information would be a foreign donation. However, the campaign could also obtain valuable information from sources like the BBC. Would this also be a foreign donation? In any case, the law doesn’t normally treat information as merchandise. Giving someone a car is a donation, but giving someone information, however valuable, isn’t.

Kingsbury also claims that “Under US law, in relation to ‘treason, sedition and subversive activities’, Trump Jr’s activities would have to be proven to be intended, in co-operation with another person, to ‘prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States'”. This is a quotation from 18 U.S. Code § 2384 — Seditious conspiracy. However, Kingsbury, in his prosecutorial zeal, omits the words “by force” from the start of the quotation. No one has suggested, so far at least, that Donald Jr was contemplating the use of force.

Moving on, Kingsbury says that “Questions of probity, or the moral suitability of a person to be president, can be grounds for impeachment”. However, the phrase used in the US Constitution is “Treason, Bribery, or other High Crimes and Misdemeanors”. This seems to go beyond mere moral suitability. It is also important to note that only two presidents have been impeached and neither was removed from office as a result. In law and in practice, it is a high hurdle to clear. Kingsbury adds, “This, however, would require both the US House of Representatives and the Senate agreeing on such an impeachment”. However, it is the House that votes on impeach, while the Senate holds a trial and votes on conviction. A two-thirds majority is required for conviction, so it is not merely a matter of “some Republicans crossing the floor” as Kingsbury suggests.

This is not to say that the scandals hanging over the Trump administration are baseless, but the legal claims are rather far-fetched. It seems that the people who believed Trump was never going to win, now believe that he will be easily ousted. There was a similar furore about Bill Clinton, and he served eight years. 

On Australia’s slide back to the 1970s

James Burke writes: Re. “What kind of a shitheap country have we turned into?“(Tuesday)  

Bernard Keane thinks we “started to go backwards” on bigotry during Julia Gillard’s premiership. He’s half-right,  I reckon: the slide really started in 2009. The Climategate hoax; “greenies should be hanging from lamp-posts”: the theory and practice of fascism, hiding in plain sight.

But the breaking point was the 2011 “Caravan of No Confidence” protest, when Tony Abbott harangued a rabble of neo-Nazis, tinfoil-hat conspiracy theorists, anti-fluoride Manson wannabes, Alan Jones, etc, in front of those infamous “Ditch the Witch” and “Bob Brown’s Bitch” signs on the Parliament House lawn. How did the Gillard government respond? With a trickle of feeble bleats about how it “understood” the protesters’ “concerns”. The post-war consensus that fascism was political kryptonite was broken. Murdoch minions and extremist Coalition MPs learned that they wouldn’t be held accountable for co-opting fascist ideas and rhetoric. And here we are.

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