I Don’t Believe It!

Like a literary version of Victor Meldrew I frequently vent my spleen to the letters columns of newspapers. Some people deserve an exocet winging their way to concentrate their minds. Unlike real life most of my correspondence ‘exocets’ misfire although occasionally one will get published. Below I have started to list the whinges, observations and whimsy meant for a wider readership than the automatic spamming devices which frequent the comments on TF’s blog.

Most Recent:
SIR – As a military officer, I recognise the sense in Christopher Booker’s analysis that “the human cost of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was worth paying” (Comment, August 9).
However, the use of nuclear weapons targeted at cities, either in a first strike or as tools of revenge, could never be justified under today’s rules of war.
Such barbarity would fail the tests of military necessity and proportionality; whoever employed these tactics would be prosecuted for genocide. That is, if anyone was left to form a court. (Published 16 August 2015 UK Sunday Telegraph) Original version: “As a professional military officer I recognise Christopher Booker’s analysis (The human cost of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was worth paying, 9 Aug). However, the use of nuclear weapons targeted at cities, either as a first strike or as a weapon of revenge (a failed deterrent) could never be justified under today’s Rules of War. Whether a Putin or a Cameron, those who would employ such barbarity would fail the tests of military necessity, distinction and proportionality and be prosecuted for genocide as war criminals, if anyone was left to form a court.”

SIR – Never mind Damian Lewis (“Odds cut on Homeland actor to be next Bond”, report, June 16); Miranda Hart has shown a real aptitude in the film Spy. Isn’t it time for a Janice or a Jane Bond? (Published 17 June 2015 UK Daily Telegraph)

SIR – Two words contradict Edwin Nabokov-Martin’s assertion that nuclear deterrence has achieved peace in the world and stopped potential aggressors: Falkland Islands. However, had the British government used one nuclear warhead in the most deserted area of Southern Patagonia, the Argentines would have withdrawn immediately, hundreds of lives would have been saved and the question of sovereignty resolved in perpetuity. (Published 6 June 2015 UK Sunday Telegraph)

SIR – Nicholas Petre in Brussels (Letters, April 5) bewails the inability of expats to purchase British TV and Premiership football games abroad. Here in Malaysia we have an ITV channel, Sky UK news and many channels showing programmes like the latest season of Downton Abbey. As one of only two known Burnley fans here I drafted this letter at half time of the Burnley v Tottenham game, having watched Arsenal demolish Liverpool live the previous day. (Published 12 April 2015 UK Sunday Telegraph)

SIR – You report (December 31) that a person’s approach to toast reveals his or her personality. I eat no toast and therefore, apparently, I have no personality – I am the invisible man consuming bacon, eggs, mushrooms, sausages, black pudding and baked beans. (Published 2 January 2015 UK Daily Telegraph)

SIR – I cannot agree with Judge Alastair Nicholson (Stain on our History, 14 Dec).  What would he have had successive governments do, open the floodgates to economic refugees the world over? Those who most desperately need help are not those who can afford to pay to fly to countries like Malaysia and Indonesia and then pay to get on a boat. However unpalatable it may be to our elite handwringing and wealthy liberal intelligentsia, Australian governments are elected to protect their own (often poor) taxpaying citizens not the people of the rest of the world, however unfortunate those wretched individuals may be. (Published 21 December The Sunday Age, Melbourne)

SIR – First, Man Haron Monis and now Craig Thomson. Don’t judges imprison anyone in Australia anymore? (Published 19 December in The Australian)

SIR – In the past 40 years or so, Britain and Australia has invested in social engineering on a grand scale. The political elite  of both nations have ill-advisedly followed the US model and developed a massive business has developed an industry out of tertiary and postgraduate education while neglecting apprenticeships. The results, besides a shortage of plumbers,  have seen an overproduction of graduates in non-essential subjects, and a shortage in essential fields such as medicine. A generation has seen its expectations cruelly raised then cast down on the hit the rocks of unemployment and HECS debts. But  In contrast Australian Defence Force Academy students are paid $38,000 plus Super and have no higher education loans. Meanwhile the taxpayer misses out on three or four years of full-time active military service and practical leadership development at an essential formative stage of an officer’s career. Were war to break out, it is likely ADFA’s academic courses would be immediately suspended for the duration.  The technologically advanced major conflicts of the last century clearly demonstrate very few military officers require a degree to execute their duties and ultimately lead and win in wartime. Engineers, medical and legal specialists are exceptions.  (Published 29 November in The Australian with the italics edited out)

SIR – I wish a few First Sea Lords had fallen on their swords over cuts to the naval strength in the same way that General Sir Nick Houghton is prepared to sacrifice his career and bloody his bayonet over future defence cuts. Had they done so, Britain might still have a Royal Navy to be proud of. (Published 11 November UK Daily Telegraph)

SIR – Arriving at Kingsford-Smith airport in Sydney I joined an immigration channel for e-passport citizens from “Australia, UK, New Zealand and the US”. When I arrive at Heathrow in November will I be greeted by a reciprocal access channel or, as an Australian citizen, will I still be treated as second-class in comparison to EU citizens? (Published 30 August UK Daily Telegraph)

SIR – In David Crowe’s article about Jacqui Lambie’s view of the threat of a Chinese invasion, he quotes Lowy Institute analyst Rory Medcalf suggesting the senator is crying wolf. I assume Medcalf must be unaware of the ending to Aesop’s fable about the little boy who cried wolf. (Published 21 August The Australian)

SIR – John Lord (Letters, 9/7) suggests we give more aid to countries where the boats come from. The present boat under consideration by the courts is from India. Does a nuclear armed power really need aid? (Published 10 July The Australian)

SIR – Many Royal Navy officers who are Scottish, sons of Scots or born in Scotland will now feel free to comment, following the First Sea Lord’s   politically questionable piece for The Daily Telegraph. In memory of their   predecessors’ highly effective Royal Scottish Navy, I sincerely hope they do. (Published 17 April UK Daily Telegraph)

SIR – The rump of Ukraine will remain outside Nato and outside the protection   of Article Five of the Nato treaty – an attack against one member being an   attack against all. Therefore, there will never be a “credible armed   deterrent”, as Air   Vice Marshal M R Jackson mentions. Russia has had a generation of   humiliation as the Warsaw Pact nations deserted to Nato, with the former   Soviet Baltic states rubbing more salt into its wounds. Those nations are   all protected by their Nato membership. The recovery of Crimea is symbolic   not only for Russia but also for Ukraine and the West, dependent as they are   on Russian gas. Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, has achieved his objective, and will   now concentrate on wooing Kazakhstan away from the influence of the West. (Published 19 March UK Daily Telegraph)

SIR – If a ban on smoking in cars with children on board is introduced, will convertibles be excluded? (Published 11 February UK Daily Telegraph)

SIR – The brouhaha over Europe and sovereignty seems to be gathering pace, yet   both commissioners and governments seem less and less inclined to listen to   and trust the people. In Britain, the question is not so much “Why trust the   people?” but “Why trust the politicians?” I voted “No” in the 1975 referendum, the result of which has seen four decades   of EU federalism. If there is a referendum in 2017, many, like me, will have   already voted with their feet. Published 14 January UK Daily Telegraph

SIR –  The Queen Elizabeth class carriers will be operational for about thirty years during which there is no guarantee of ‘peace in our time’ either in Europe or beyond. A whole generation of island dwelling Britons will grow up in the knowledge that in a rapidly changing security environment their government has at least some tools in its strategic toolbox to protect their interests in home waters and overseas. Published 7 November UK Daily Telegraph

SIR – Mark Harland’s suggestion (Letters, July 31) that a 99-year lease for Gibraltar would provide a suitably strategic buffer is flawed. The Battle of Trafalgar occurred 92 years after the treaty that ceded it to Britain. The strategic implications of surrendering Nelson’s forward operating base just seven years later, three years before Waterloo, do not bear thinking about. As Margaret Thatcher was to discover, 99 years isn’t a long time in politics but it certainly offers enough time to repent at leisure.  Published 3 August 13 UK Daily Telegraph

SIR – I was surprised that Mr Clarke believes that America wouldn’t have much interest in a British-American Free Trade Agreement (FTA) if Britain was outside the EU. Australia has had an FTA with America since 2004, yet has only a third of the population of Britain. Negotiations between America and Malaysia, with only half the population of Britain, began in 2006, and were only halted when Malaysia withdrew in 2009. Published 19 June 13 UK Daily Telegraph

SIR – Here in Australia our government has successfully introduced legislation enforcing plain packaging with grim pictures of the medical results of smoking depicted prominently across the packets. British health professionals (Letters, May 6) support a similar outcome. I remember the time when one would be offered a cigarette not from a cheap, mass-produced cardboard packet but a slim silver cigarette case. I am surprised they do not seem to be making a comeback. Published 7 May 13 UK Daily Telegraph

SIR – David Cameron is wrong. Trident is not the “ultimate weapon of defence” but the
ultimate weapon of revenge. To use it would breach the UN charter, the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights and Protocol 1 of the fourth Geneva Convention, as
well as the Genocide Convention. Published 5 Apr 13 UK Daily Telegraph

SIR – If there is a golden rule in politics it should be ‘never  ever ever tell your enemy/opponent what you are going to do’.  In the Parliament of Australia on Thursday was a perfect demonstration of why not. In a demonstration of pure politics, Simon Crean was brillantly out-manoeuvred by the PM. She did what he said he wanted yet what he said she wouldn’t. By Question time he was on the back benches and today she is still leader. Love her or loathe her she has a strong whiff of Machiavelli about her. Just one question – why didn’t Simon Crean still stand for deputy – that would have been a real protest vote from the caucus had he won… (Only the italics published 23 Mar 13 The Australian)

SIR – Mr Carr was correct to state in the Senate that “A massive fraud has been inflicted on the people of the United Kingdom” but it was conducted by Messrs Blair and Brown between 1997 and 2010. In that period a spendthrift Labour government took a surplus in 2000 to an annual deficit of over $50 billion by 2002. The bank bailouts cost over $1 billion and the UK debt is now equivalent to around $2 trillion. Now that is a real fraud. (18 March 13)

SIR – I continue to cringe at the inability of the Speaker to effectively control question time. Tuesday’s performance was woeful. At least two ministers showed their contempt by ignoring the Speaker when they clearly heard her say “the minister will return to the question” and on every other occasion that order was employed it appeared very tardy, suggesting at worst, political bias or at best, disinterest. Australians, and our representatives in Parliament, deserve better. (13 March 13)

SIR – Ben Affleck, whose film Argo won this year’s Oscar for best picture, is
the latest in a long series of directors to distort history by lying about the
actions of British officials. Is it too late for those British diplomats whose
actions in Iran have been so misrepresented to seek recompense through the
courts or for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office formally to protest to the
American government? Published 27 Feb 13 UK Daily Telegraph.

SIR – How long will it be before Julia Gillard realises she shouldn’t have invited Bob Carr over the threshold? It was clear from Q&A that Labor’s future leader ought to be Carr and not Kevin Rudd. (Published 27 Feb 13 The Australian)

SIR – Malaysia is a sovereign nation which is a joy for expats to live in and for Westerners to visit. It has every right to determine whom it allows to enter its borders.  Last year Minister Bowen described Geert Wilders as “a fringe commentator from the other side of the world” when eventually agreeing late in the day to issue a visa to the Dutch politician who is on an Australian movement alert list. Evidently Malaysia has a similar list which excludes other ‘fringe commentators’ that it perceives wish to interfere in Malaysian domestic politics.  (Published 18 Feb 13 The Australian)

SIR – In Britain, just a day after David Cameron apologised for failings in their National Health Service, one of his health ministers, the Earl Howe, ruled out collating data on the sex of aborted foetuses. This followed birth figures indicating that some cultural minorities might be aborting baby girls for economic and status reasons. Apparently identifying  the gender of aborted foetuses would cost money and raise serious ethical and clinical issues. I believe failing to identify their sex when this might indicate female infanticide is a demonstration of political correctness gone mad. I trust any Australian government confronted with similar evidence in our multicultural society would behave differently. (7 Feb 13)

SIR – About Roxon and Evans the PM said: “I know that I’ll continue to see them as human beings for a long time to come”. So are all members of her cabinet really aliens in disguise? (3 Feb13)

SIR – Please Ms Roxon give us a list of our responsibilities as Australians, not our ‘rights’. (31 Jan 13)

SIR – Multiculturalism is a failed policy in many European nations. Australia must encourage immigrants like me to identify and embrace Aussie culture and history. Every new citizen pledges loyalty to Australia and its people. If immigrants find they cannot leave behind old habits, hatreds and cultures and look to how we can make this Australian nation an even luckier country, perhaps they should go back to where they came from. (25 Jan 13)

SIR – On the one hand Sir David Attenborough tells us humanity is a plague, and
we cannot feed ourselves (report, January 22), and on the other hand we waste
around 50 per cent of the food we produce worldwide. Will this be the next
polarising debate? Published 23 Jan 13 UK Daily Telegraph.

SIR-Given his fears regarding the Royal Navy and the consumption of alcohol together with the use of the strangely abbreviated rank of Captain one might perhaps be excused for assuming Peter Newton is a retired if misguided junior army officer. The days of the daily rum ration ended more than 40 years ago. If he is a merchant navy officer then his ignorance regarding the manning of ‘naval surface craft’ is astonishing. While the United States Navy has been ‘dry’ for many years I know from serving on board USN vessels the absence of legally obtained alcohol neither ends drinking on board, binge drinking immediately before putting to sea or prevents nuclear atttack submarines having serious accidents and collisions. When alcohol abuse occurs in Royal Navy vessels the fault lies almost always with those in command and their heads of departments. Inevitably, as with alcohol related incidents in the mult-national and inadequately manned merchant navy, rules will have been broken. May her Majesty long be entitled to order ‘Splice the Mainbrace’ for her ships at sea on appropriate occasions!

SIR- How could any auction house justify a 20% sale fee in 2010, especially one totalling £8.6 million? Should we have even less respect for auctioneers than bankers or admire such chutzpah in the middle of a global financial crisis? (17 Jan 13)

SIR – The Alice in Wonderland world of Britain in the EU is fully exposed by the right of all Bulgarians and Romanians  to live, work and claim benefits  in the UK from 2014. Commonwealth citizens meanwhile must have at least one grandparent born in the UK and be able to adequately support and accommodate themselves and their dependants without help from public funds. (14 Jan 13)

SIR – I have zero sympathy with the whingeing big retailers like David Jones who still think its OK to charge double for the price of goods bought in store or online, that are available in the USA at half the price. Published 28 Dec 12 in The Australian as: “I have no sympathy for the big retailers who continue to charge so much more than overseas websites do.”

SIR – I sent a Christmas card to friends in Britain. Both are still working but they have sent their return Christmas cheer via email, noting that “the cost of postage is just getting beyond a joke”. Is the internet already heralding the death knell of the Christmas card? Published 22 Dec 12 UK Daily Telegraph.

SIR – There has been no referendum authorising taxpayers’ dollars to fund billions in offshore charity.  Those who are angry the government wants to reallocate millions in foreign aid to accommodate asylum seekers should remember where the money comes from in the first place. (To the Australian 19 Dec 12)

SIR – You do not have to be among thousands at ANZAC Cove on ANZAC Day to recognise the sacrifice of our diggers, sailors and airmen. There are scores of Commonwealth War Grave Cemeteries around the world where Australians rest who paid the ultimate sacrifice. When serving in Malaysia I found the beautifully cared for Taiping cemetery was deserted at dawn on ANZAC Days except perhaps for the spirit of those brave souls and their Commonwealth brothers in arms. (To the Australian 14 Dec 12)

SIR –  Perhaps a law could be introduced to prosecute all those who claim it is compulsory to vote in the lucky country (Nick Minchin, Peter Davson-Galle, (letters this week) and many ABC journalists. Just because something is repeated often enough does not make it true. (To the Australian 14 Dec 12)

SIR – Peter Davson-Galle (letters, 12 Dec) is supporting the myth that in Australia we all have a legal duty to vote, enrolled compulsorily or not. As soon as you receive your ballot paper at the voting station you may then complete it, spoil it, eat it or use it for its more absorbent qualities. No fine will result. (To the Australian 12 Dec 12)

SIR – The Weekend Australian’s editor-in-chief Chris Mitchell has insulted the memory of thousands of brave ANZACS. In suggesting that the government is wrong to have purloined the issue of invitations to access the official ceremony at Anzac Cove for the 100th anniversary of the landings, Mitchell says: “unless there is a change of heart in Canberra this shows  every sign of becoming a disaster to rival the original Gallipoli  landings”. Really, will thousands die and thousands more be wounded Mr Mitchell? A truly cringeworthy statement that demonstrates that at least one journalist does not inhabit the same planet as those who served and continue to do so. (To the Australian 12 Dec 12)

SIR – No wonder service personnel in our northern waters feel under stress. It really is time pollies stopped calling a spade a manually operated entrenching device. Wishy-washy words and policies from politicians who have proved they came down in the last shower are directly to blame for a thirty-fold increase in illegal entry vessels. ‘Asylum seekers’ who pay to arrive in boats via a third country are but illegal economic migrants and must be treated as such. (To the Australian 4 Dec 12)


SIR – John Barstow (Letters, November 28) suggests Mark Carney’s appointment as the next Governor of the Bank of England might inspire further senior recruitment from Commonweath nations. I was offered employment by both the Canadian and Australian governments, after I realised that life under Tony Blair’s government was daily becoming more intolerable. Ten years on, I cannot imagine why anyone would swap the quality of life and employment conditions available in Australian cities with anywhere in Britain. Published 29 Nov 12 UK Daily Telegraph.

Sir, How many human rights commissioners does it take to change a light bulb in the ACT? Apparently, the answer is three — if they can tear themselves away from their tapestry. Published 24 Nov 12 in The Australian

Sir, Helen Jackson (Letters, 5/11) shouldn’t worry about the rest of us thinking ACT voters are mad for electing one Greens representative who now holds the balance of power. Canberrans twice rejected self-government but were forced to accept it. As an ex-resident I always felt Canberra would be better served by a mayor. The ACT system proves the adage about lunatics running the asylum. Published 6 Nov 12 in The Australian

Sir, Recent letters about civility in the US reminded me that road rage in Texas is rare but when it occurs, it is often fatal. The bumper sticker “Keep honking. I’m still reloading” might explain why Texan drivers are so polite. Published 29 Oct 12 in The Australian

Sir, If the Macquarie dictionary’s editor is so keen on following the lead of the Oxford English dictionary, why have Macquarie at all? Perhaps the next government should end Macquarie’s status as official dictionary of the public service. Published 23 Oct 12 in The Australian

Sir, I have every confidence that the ancient kingdom of Scotland,like brussel sprouts, will be around for hundreds of years to come. However, I have my doubts the EU will last long enough to see the Scottish Independence Referendum result in 2014.

Sir, A 14 year old is shot in Pakistan by the Taliban for her blogs while in the UK a young idiot is jailed for his ‘social’ network comments on the April Jones case. Another Facebook troll escapes jail but gets community service for sending a grossly offensive communication about the deaths of British soldiers and now it is 8 months jail for wearing an offensive t-shirt. Is free speech effectively as dead in the UK as in Pakistan, if for very different reasons? I spent over a quarter of a century defending, amongst other things, what I thought was the right of others to say what they thought in and about Britain – however much I might personally disagree with them. Before the Malicious Communications Act of 1998 there were libel, slander and public order laws which had functioned effectively for decades, now it seems with the reaction to facebook, twitter etc. we are seeing the thin end of a very reactionary wedge.

Sir, I have some Indian slates left over after laying them on the floor of my atrium. Should any restauranteur in the Lake District need extra ‘plates’ (letters, 4 October) they are welcome to come and collect them. We also produce coal in Newcastle, Australia!

Sir, Clearly Common Sense is not on the curriculum at Swindon’s Isambard Community School and the Headmster has misunderstood the phrase ‘olympics legacy’. (School bans parents from sports without CRB check)

Sir, How generous of the Australian far-left politician (Immigration Mister) Chris Bowen to allow Geert Wilders a visa. That will be the same Mr Wilders who is the party leader  in a free and democratic Holland of a party which since its formation in 2006 now has 10 senators and 15 MPs in the Dutch Parliament. In fact far more representation than the Australian Greens Party on which Mr Bowen relies for his position in government. How inconvenient democracy can prove to the likes of Mr Bowen. I might not like Wilders’ views but they have struck a chord with the Dutch voters while Mr Bowen continues to strike the nerves of the Aussie electorate. Published 3 Oct 12 in The Australian (italics omitted).

Sir, Warren Snowdon farewells troops and says Australia will not cut and run from Afghanistan. What will we be doing in 2014? We will be cutting and running, albeit in a politically acceptable manner. Afghanistan will be back in the hands of the Taliban by 2020. Published 27 Sep 12 in The Australian.

Sir, It is a good job I dont blindly believe everything I read in your letters columns (letters, 23 Sep) or I would now think Van Dyck, a sixteenth century artist; Rembrandt, a seventeenth century artist and a sixteenth centurymap maker called Mercator hailed from a country created in the nineteeenth century called Belgium.

Sir, I have witnessed first hand the betrayal of citizens by their ‘elected’ representatives when I lived in the former Soviet Union. I never expected to see such an astonishing betrayal of trust demonstrated here in Tasmania. The support and approval of a controlled waste site in Copping by Sorell’s Mayor and her council, the part owners of the site operators, Southern Waste Solutions, is a travesty of democracy. It demonstrates a clear disdain for their electorate. The Mayor and Councillors in Sorell were elected by and for the benefit of their ratepayers, not for the revenue they can earn from controlled waste or the benefit of people who want to dispose of their waste from far flung corners of Tasmania or, come to that, waste emanating from foreign Antarctic territories. It seems there are many uninhabited areas of Tasmania where wildlife is more valued than the human beings living in the municipality around Copping. The design of the Copping facility ultimately relies on two separate non-permeable membranes each no thicker than a fingernail to prevent pollution from hundreds of tons of waste seeping into the Carlton River catchment. At present I believe Category C waste is already being stored in containers near the river at Copping. If so it seems surprising the EPA has not acted to prevent this breach of environmental regulations. Daily I see the effects of pollution on the river from agricultural run-off and I despair for the future marine and human environment in the North of Frederick Henry Bay if the C-Cell is not prevented from being placed at Copping.

Sir, I wonder how many people, including Mr Abbott, actually read all of Senator Bernadi’s speech? Why would it be acceptable to have ‘marriage’ redefined as between any two people and yet refuse those who have the same feelings of love and loyalty and wish to see multicultural equality and a fair go practiced for polygamy and polyandry? Mr Bernadi made his horror for bestial relationships plain but his ‘creepy’ soundbite was allowed to overwhelm his otherwise cautious  ‘foot in the door’ warning and we saw another Christian sacrificed to the red and green senatorial lions.

Sir, It seems Ms Freedman never misses an opportunity to impart wisdom not only to her kids but also your readers. Of course in an ideal world we would all guide our kids through life’s lessons with a ‘turn the other cheek’, everyone is a winner and deserves a ‘fair go’ attitude but we dont, and never will, live in an ideal world. She demonstrates this by giving excruciating examples of how she is indoctrinating her own kids about her views on ‘marriage’ but not polygamy or polyandry while her omission of the label ‘Muslim’ when describing those angry people behaving badly is just Orwellian. I would also question her premise that a parent who encourages her child to incite others to violence isn’t committing a crime.

Si, The difference in quality between a commercial TV production and a state sponsored one is demonstrated every weekday on SBS. The UK commercial production of ‘Countdown’ is inferior in every respect from the SBS’s own, now cancelled, ‘Letters and Numbers’. Yet, unlike a commercial channel SBS seem content to ignore their viewers’ (and therefore, owners) complaints.

Sir, When we are strapped for cash why do we need a senior diplomatic representative like Duncan Lewis in a North Atlantic  Treaty organisation? Come to that why do we need him to be an Ambassador to the EU which isn’t even a country and the where the E stands for Europe? Why send someone so far away who knows where ‘the bodies are buried’ in the Australian Defence Organisation?

SIR – During the Falklands war I sailed sadly past the remains of the hull of the previous HMS Ark Royal. She lay being scrapped in Loch Ryan. Her 40-plus fixed-wing fighters, bombers and early warning aircraft were sadly missed in the South Atlantic. Had she still been in commission, her very existence might have scuppered Galtieri’s decision to invade. Let us hope the absence of a carrier in the next decade has no such effects. The last warship I served in was the USS Blue Ridge. She is 42 years old and going strong. Perhaps the Royal Navy could still learn a lesson or two from the colonies. Published 11 Sep 12 UK Daily Telegraph.

Sir, How many more times must we witness acts of perfidy against our heroic Diggers in Afghanistan before someone has the gumption to bring them all home? Published 1 Sep 12 in The Australian.

SIR – Cochrane has a lot of competition for the title of the Royal Navy’s greatest frigate captain. But while there were many great admirals in the days of sail, none came close to having as remarkable a career as Lord Cochrane. No other officer has ever been found (erroneously) guilty of defrauding the Stock Exchange, been dismissed from the Service and from Parliament before directly influencing events leading to the independence of Peru, Chile, Brazil and Greece. Having been reinstated into the Royal Navy, he eventually retired after further service as a commander in chief. Incidentally, he was probably the first to carry out modern psychological operations, with leaflet drops from kites flown from his ship upwind of the French shoreline. Published 30 Aug 12 in The UK Daily Telegraph. For the record, The original offering gave praise to William Parker and read as follows before the editor’s attention:   

Sir – Robert Cutts (letters, 29 August) suggests that the inestimable Lord Cochrane was the Royal Navy’s greatest frigate captain. He has a lot of competition for this title, not least from Admiral William Parker. Parker was captain of the frigate HMS AMAZON  for ten years during which he captured a frigate, a score of privateers and fifty plus merchantmen. Parker  was an absolutely  outstanding independent commander, anticipating the intelligence and political requirements of fleets often thousands of miles away and ultimately earning Nelson’s complete trust in that role. While there were many great Admirals in the days of sail none however came close to having as unique a career as Lord Cochrane. No other officer has ever been found (erroneously) guilty of defrauding the stock exchange, been dismissed from the Service and from Parliament before directly influencing events leading to the independence of Peru, Chile, Brazil and Greece. In the service of the latter three he was an Admiral. Having been reinstated into the Royal Navy he eventually retiring after further service as a Commander in Chief. Incidentally, he was probably the first proponent of modern ‘psychological operations’ having invented ‘leaflet drops’ from kites flown from his ship upwind of the French shoreline.

Sir,  Affirmative action is apparently going to descend on the Australian Defence Force. Affirmative action in any profession, whether based on race, creed or gender, is a destructive influence in any organisational environment. In a defence force, where lives can be dependent on the leadership qualities of a commander, it is a betrayal of trust and of the covenant between politicians, citizens and those who serve to protect them and the nation. Only merit should determine those who are promoted and only merit should decide who is accepted to serve. I have direct experience of working with a US officer promoted to meet affirmative action quotas. I would not have wished to go to war with him and his US colleagues held him in contempt, not because of his skin but because it was evident he should never have been promoted. Published 25 Aug 12 in The Australian.

Sir, Is it more important that the ADF is a “first-class employer with a first-class reputation” with an affirmative action policy based on gender or that it is an effective military organisation ready to fight and win at the operational and tactical level? Is it better that it is supported and equipped by a politician with a grasp of national strategy or by one that is prepared to sacrifice national security on the altar of political correctness? General Hurley is doubtless correct to assert that no other organisation or institution in Australia has been so exhaustively and publicly examined as the ADF. He could quite justifiably have added “and with so little reason.” When I completed a questionnaire last year asking why I was leaving the Navy one of the primary reasons I gave was that I had lost all confidence in the leadership of the Defence Minister. Nothing Mr Smith has done since then has changed my mind. (The Australian, 22 Aug 12)

Sir, I have just watched Minister’s Question Time in the New Zealand Parliament. The quality of the speaker, Dr the Rt Hon Lockwood Smith, was exceptional throughout. I have previously witnessed speakers in action in both Westminster and Canberra. I have been frequently dismayed by the performance of our suspended Speaker and his deputy, Anna Burke. The speaker’s chair demands gravitas at all times, it is one of the great offices of our nation. It deserves much better than the present incumbent and his deputy. It deserves an Australian parliamentarian of the calibre of a Dr Lockwood Smith. (The Australian, 16 Aug 12)

Sir,  On the day the body of a vulnerable child was located in her family’s home in London and an arrest made, Virgin Australia is reported to be reviewing its policy of preventing male passengers from sitting next to unaccompanied minors on flights. Most attacks on children seem to by family members, a ‘friend’ of the family or an acquaintance known to the children.  Much is being made of one legacy of the Olympics which is to assist today’s schoolchildren to become future olympians. This will be made much easier if we, as a society, rid ourselves  of the notion that 50% of humanity including and all male sports coaches are predatory paedophiles. (The Australian, 11 Aug 12)

Sir, Anyone who has lived in Australia for 40 years and still considers themselves a Pom should be deported. Published (The Australian, 7 Aug 12) after reading and responding to this deluded correspondent: OH, what joyous times these are for a Pom who’s lived in Australia for more than 40 years and suffered the insufferable Aussie commentators through 11 Olympiads…. Happy days. Let the recriminations begin. John Mann, Keyneton, SA”

Sir, Why doesn’t Mr Smith (Australian Defence Minister) simply suggest we become the 51st state of the US? Along with he long term benefits to WA’s economy of hosting a US Marine Corps Expeditionary Unit, we would have, a lower cost of living, free speech and the right to bear arms to protect ourselves against overbearing politicians! (The Australian, 2 Aug 12)

Sir,  History, in every field of human endeavour, reminds us of how we arrived at where we are today and, through its salutary lessons, how to avoid where we do not want to end up tomorrow.  For example, in the financial world it must surely be important to teach new bankers the mistakes made during the history of economics whether it be the causes of the South Sea Bubble or the bursting of the Wiemar republic.  One of my great regrets is that when I attended Dartmouth, then the world’s premier naval college, that establishment had already ceased to teach naval history to its new entrants.  I expect that when our descendants review this century they will conclude that never before had so much historical data been so readily accessible to so many, yet there was so much twittering going on no-one had the time to register and pay attention to the warning calls of history.

Sir, How come it’s OK for 50 per cent of Aussies to be multi-tasking but according to Anne Lindsay (Last Post, 17/7) not Clive Palmer? (Published 17 July 12 The Australian)

SIR – Referendums cost millions. MPs should insist that a referendum on Europe   be included with the ballot paper at the next election, not held separately   later. (Published 30 Jun 12 UK Daily Telegraph)

PETER  Oborne (”The new way of warfare is killing the West’s reputation”,   Forum, 2/6) should bear in mind that submarines were once considered  downright  ungentlemanly.      He  would be better employed questioning  the UK  government’s political decision to put boots on the ground in  Afghanistan,  which has led to the ultimate sacrifice of 415 British  servicemen and women.  The employment of  highly accurate  drone strikes  that appropriately, if  perhaps only temporarily, have replaced less  precise conventional bombs and  shells, has probably saved scores of   civilian and allied troops’ lives,  including those of our Diggers. If  Pakistan’s government objects, let it hand  over the terrorists and  explain why Osama bin Laden chose to reside so close to  its own military  academy, having escaped the less discriminate bombing of the   Afghanistan mountains in 2001. (Published 4 June 12 in Melbourne’s The Age)

SIR – I was most interested to read Blair Richards’ report that the Wielangta Forest Road has been closed again. The previous Sunday my wife and I drove back to Carlton from  Orford for the first time using this route. I first checked that the road was open as my old map, surprise surprise, showed a bridge was out!  The Orford local I asked said it was a very corrugated highway but fortunately I was in an all-wheel drive. What a magnificent forest drive it is and with wonderful coastal views at the beginning and the end.  The road itself though, a logging route,  is in an appalling, even dangerous condition and I would not like to be a tourist liable for  hire car insurance.  Tourism Tasmania is wasting a wonderful opportunity by not insisting the government  develop the C320 so it can provide the East Coast a direct route to the Arthur Highway and onto Port Arthur. (Published 3 Jun 12 Sunday Tasmanian)

Sir, Another $300 million of our tax dollars has been found for Afghanistan’s security after 2014. Has Julia Gillard never heard the expression “throwing good money after bad”? (Published 19 May 12, The Australian)

SIR – That members of the United Kingdom’s immigration staff have the right to strike (report, May 3) can be summed up in one word: unbelievable. (Published 4 May 12 UK Daily Telegraph)

SIR – Max Craven (Letters, March 10) is concerned so many dogs are called Max.   I took it as a great compliment when one of my sailors named his dog Watson,   and he never kicked it in my sight. (Published 12 Mar 12 UK Daily Telegraph)

SIR – Your graphic of Tony Blair’s travels over a period of 12 months (report,   January 15) stopped short of his July 2011 visit to Australia. Would that he had done the same. (Published 22 Jan 12 UK Daily Telegraph)

SIR – Philip Johnston urges less, not more, legislation (Comment, January 10).   I have argued for several years that a proportion of parliamentary time   should be allocated to repealing or amending statutes rather than creating   new ones. At least 25 per cent, or one sitting day per week, should be set aside for   this onerous task. As it is, the avalanche of legislation, much of it   obsolete, threatens to suffocate the freedom and enterprise of every Briton. (Published 7 Jan 12 UK Daily Telegraph)

SIR – Paying for the cost of court mounting an additional (Diamond Jubilee) medal and miniatures   would come to about £250. As a pensioner, this would be an honour I would   have to decline. In such straitened times for the Royal Navy it would also be an unjustifiable   cost to the defence budget. Reverting to issuing just three medals per ship   like the 1977 Silver Jubilee Medal would transmit a more responsible   message. (Published 1 Jan 12 UK Daily Telegraph)


SIR – America, with six times the population of Great Britain, functions with   only 435 MP equivalents in Congress, and 100 Senators in its upper house   (report, September 13). Why does the Coalition only promise to reduce the House of Commons from 650 to   600 MPs, and why are there more than 700 voting members of the House of   Lords? (Published 14 Sep 11 UK Daily Telegraph)

SIR – Charles Moore may be correct to posit that to place the Military   Covenant on the statute book would be to shackle the relationship between   citizen and soldier (Comment, June 18). But are the privileges extended to   the Armed Forces really excessive? I have seen first-hand the privileges the American armed forces and their   retired veterans receive. They include tax-free pay on operations, free   military hospitals for soldiers, their immediate families and retired   veterans, as well as free tertiary education for soldiers, and excellent   housing allowances and service schools. I doubt jealous civil servants or career politicians would ever permit the   British Armed Forces to be similarly treated. (Published 20 Jun 11 UK Daily Telegraph)

SIR – The direction this Archbishop of Canterbury has taken the Anglican   Church in the past nine years frightens me. His policies are unfortunately   not subject to a democratic test at least every five years. (Published 10 Jun 11 UK Daily Telegraph)

SIR – Nick Clegg wants “millionaire pensioners” to sacrifice their free bus   passes and television licences. Does he believe that “millionaire   pensioners” spend their time jumping on and off buses and watching   Coronation Street? (Published 6 Dec 11 UK Daily Telegraph)


Sir – Even though I was studying for a British constitution A-level at 16, I would not have considered I had earned the right to vote. Might I suggest only those over 50 should get a full vote; those between 18 and 30 be given one-quarter of a vote, the 30- 40-year-olds to receive a half-vote and those between 40 and 50 should earn three-quarters of a vote? Perhaps sanity might be restored through this selectively age-oriented form of proportional representation. Just a minute, though; how old is the delightful Harriet Harman? (Published 15 Jan 08 UK Daily Telegraph)

2006 & 2007: (Mr Angry writing from Malaysia)

Sir – We cannot discuss the future of Great Britain simply by discussing the past (Comment, December 9). The Government is to blame for the fact that Britain no longer leads the world, or even comes close to it, whether it be in diplomacy, politics, economics, justice, human rights, defence, quality of life, religious tolerance or individual liberties. Britain is capable of becoming “great” again, but some unpalatable truths must first be faced and reversed in terms of Europe, defence, political correctness, ethics, social justice, migration (in both directions) and the global economy. Only as a truly independent sovereign state will Britain regain its influence and nobility. (Published 10 Dec 07 UK Daily Telegraph)

Sir, Mr Heffer asks “why not licensed heroin and prostitutes?” as he comes to terms with the horror of the potentially destructive effects of a supercasino. In fact legalised drugs available over the counter in chemists’ and legalised prostitution (the latter exists in some Australian states and life goes on) may well be just what the doctor ordered, reducing almost overnight drug-related crimes, prison overcrowding and sex crimes. Profits from drug sales would then be denied to drug lords and spent on anti-drug education and treatment at no cost to the public.

Sir, your article describes the mothballing of half the Royal Navy fleet, leaving 22 ships. It does not describe any intentions regarding the 39 admirals on the active list described in the 2006 Navy List. Not only is that almost two admirals for each frigate and above but it is far more than one admiral per 1000 men and women in the naval service. With 58 serving Commodores, wouldn’t a few mothballs come in handy there too?

Sir – Harry Mount (Comment, November 8) questions the snobbery related to shirt breast pockets. A much worse crime, is surely wearing a tie with a short-sleeve shirt. (Published 9 Nov 07 UK Daily Telegraph)

Sir – I do hope that the first point the Charity Commissioner chairman, Dame Suzi Leather, will take into account when assessing the charitable status of public schools is that for every child at a private school its parents are “gifting” the cost of their child’s education to the state, releasing the state of its burden to pay for their children’s education. Perhaps a parent should take the Inland Revenue to the European courts as a test case to claim tax relief for the costs of private education. (Published 3 Nov 07 UK Daily Telegraph)

Sir – There is something richly ironic about the Prime Minister announcing that skilled migrants will now be expected to speak, write and understand English to a standard equivalent to GCSE grade A to C. Isn’t that the standard this Labour Government has so markedly failed to achieve for so many British school-leavers? (Published 11 Sep 07 UK Daily Telegraph)

Sir, The erudite Burnley FC fan and diarist, Mr Alistair Campbell noted on September 10 1998 that ‘GB’ had briefed the cabinet that Britain had to “develop national policies for a global economy. We had to build a national economic purpose, become a rock of stability in an uncertain world”. Last week you quoted GB as PM saying “of course we cannot insulate ourselves from events that are happening in all parts of the world”. Nine years on, as we all hold our breath and with trepidation watch the markets, exactly what did Mr Brown achieve in terms of financial stability for UK PLC?

Sir, A prayer for the modern Briton: Oh Lord, Please ban alcohol it kills people/ Please ban guns they kill people/ Please ban drugs they kill people/ Please ban smoking it kills people/ Please ban cars they kill people/ Permit me to avoid any form of personal responsibility and Allow me always to find someone else to blame.

Sir, The Taliban leadership must be delighted that the MoD release a “comprehensive list on the internet every fortnight of casualty figures” (report 19 Aug)  When the figures go up they can be used to boost Taliban morale. When they go down the Taliban leadership can review their tactics and berate their troops. Has no-one heard of operational security?

Sir, Andrew O’hagan (Why do we all have to go to University?, Comment 21 Aug) is right to criticise the absurdity of university education for such a large number of the population. It takes one plumber to fix a leaking tap which God knows how many surplus media studies graduates could not fix.  A recognition that universities should educate only a small percentage of the population (5-10%) cannot come quickly enough to resurrect the tens of thousands of lost apprenticeships the nation needs. The meaningless glut of over-qualified, under-educated graduates prompts the discerning employer to seek out those with a second degree. If we go on like this Masters degrees too will become further devalued and only those with doctorates will do. Almost a situation of education from cradle to grave…

Sir, time for a Human Responsibilties Act?

Sir – Have all the NHS staff with access to injured soldiers at Selly Oak Hospital been security-vetted by the Ministry of Defence? (Published 05 Jul 07 UK Daily Telegraph)

Sir – How right David Sawtell is (letters 24 Aug) when he says referendums always sink to the lowest possible denominator and make a nonsense of “representative democracy” – that is certainly what happened in the only referendum Great Britain has ever had. Faced with the referendum question, “Do you think the UK should stay in the European Community (Common Market)?” 32 years ago, two thirds of Britons were dumb enough to vote “Yes”.

Sir, On Saturday, Malaysia’s New Straits Times referred to the Malaysian Prime Minister’s speech earlier in the week criticising the many foreign and domestic “naysayers and detractors” who sought to “paint a dark and bleak picture of Malaysia”. How sad that on the day after Malaysia celebrated 50 years of proud and hard won independence, your correspondent Thomas Bell chose to join those detractors with an inflammatory article suggesting Malaysia might adopt “hardline Islamic Law”. Of course, Malaysia has its racial tensions, sometimes reinforced by religious tensions. Islam is the religion of the Federation but the constitution guarantees that other religions may be practised in peace and harmony and they are. Rather than focus on the negative Mr Bell might have chosen to focus on the tremendous warmth and generosity of spirit of Malaysians of whatever race; their politeness,  tolerance and sense of humour; their respect for family and elders, their willingness to find a reason to smile and above all the tremendous strides the nation has made since the dark days of the communist insurgency, the Indonesian confrontation and the 1960s race riots. Malaysia will achieve developed nation status by 2020 and this year is ‘Visit Malaysia Year’. Your readers should not let Thomas Bell put them off coming to a country for which the West has much to thank, especially as a voice of reason in international Islamic fora.

Sir – Was the private jet taking Tony Blair to Sedgefield on his constituency business paid for by the Labour Party? Has he made an appropriate “carbon footprint” payment to charity? It feels as though he has been Prime Minister since 1797. Can it really only be 10 years? Will someone please point him in the direction of Buckingham Palace tomorrow rather than making us wait another seven weeks, which will inevitably feel like seven years? (Published 05 Jul 07 UK Daily Telegraph)

Sir, Rachel Sylvester says Gordon Brown wants a single party state. Where has she been since 1997?

Sir, is there not something richly ironic about the PM announcing this week that skilled migrants will be now be expected to speak, write and understand English to standard equivalent to GCSE grade A to C? Isn’t that the standard that this Labour government has so markedly failed to achieve for so many British school leavers?

Sir, with just one word at the core of his conference speech, David Cameron could really ‘revert to conservative values’. The word? Freedom. As in giving back to individuals the freedom of choice that has been eroded by ten years of socialist policies. Let him begin by promising the people the freedom to choose about Europe.

Sir, I wonder if it is coincidence that while considering reports about yet further salami-slicing economies to be inflicted on the Royal Navy I was reading a novel set in 2011, in which a pusillanimous Prime Minister was forced to surrender the Falkland Islands? This followed an Argentinian invasion and the subsequent destruction of a Royal Navy Task Group forced to operate without air power.

Sir, A few years ago I had the privilege to be a guest of the Speaker and witness Prime Minister’s Questions from the closest possible range that a non-member of the House of Commons may do so. A worldwide audience regularly witnesses the immature antics of our ‘professional’ politicians. Am I alone in wishing that the boorish behaviour on both sides of the House be curtailed?   The solution might be to introduce maximum terms of service for individual politicians. This would broaden the intake and focus their minds on serving the public rather than more selfish interests. It would also require them to get a ‘proper’ job either before or after their parliamentary service. I suggest an MP serve in no more than two parliaments or for ten years; fifteen years for a Cabinet Minister and twenty years for a Prime Minister.

Sir, The Duchess of Wonderland said “everything’s got a moral if only you can find it”. I hope the Generals will be looking for the moral where soldiers must suffer multiple serious injuries to receive up to 285,000 pounds compensation, yet civilians with RSI injuries sustained whilst campaigning in contact with keyboards will receive up to half a million pounds. As the Cheshire Cat observed to Alice in Wonderland “we’re all mad here”.

Sir, I am glad Ministers are considering tax breaks for married couples. They should justify such a policy based on the costs to society of broken homes and single parents, for example the extra burden on the NHS, the welfare system, the legal and prison system, the education system, inner city gangs etc. The present flawed tax system means it will take at least a generation to repair society’s woes. I hope it will not be a case of too little, too late.

Sir, how can anyone, middle class or otherwise, be said to ‘enjoy’ a drink in a country where beer is over two pounds a pint? It would be as absurd as ‘enjoying’ driving having paid four pounds for a gallon of petrol.

Sir, Jenny Freeman, (letters 17 Oct) demonstrates that the French make good losers. Haven’t they had centuries to practice? On the eve of the 202nd anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar it would be  unseemly for the French to emerge victorious. On Saturday Britannia will rule at Rugby even though she can no longer rule the waves.

Sir, in announcing he would stand for the leadership of his party Mr Huhne said he would sum his position up in “nine words”. He immediately used eleven.

Sir, as Remembrance Day approaches I note in the 2006 annual accounts of the Royal British Legion that its top 8 executives appear to be paid a minimum total of 650,000 pounds, with the highest salary being a minimum of 150,000 pounds.  There is no doubt of the tremendous good that Forces charities and so many other charities across the UK achieve for the general benefit of society in the 21st century. However, isn’t it time for a reality check on how much remuneration full (and part time) executives of charities may receive? Much has been made recently of the benefits of state sector pensions. Perhaps Mr Brown might consider linking all state sector pensions (including Parliamentary pensions) to a requirement for part-time charity administrative work during the first 5 years of retirement for those who retire over 55 and under 65. Those less fortunate with private sector pensions who perform similar services could receive a proportion of their pensions tax free as an incentive. With such a measure Gordon Brown could slash the burdens on charities’ expenses while justifying the long-term job security and pensions of those in the state sector and making the sale of thousands of poppies even more effective.

Sir, I trust the absurdity of a Scotsman and Prime Minister standing between the French and South African Heads of State at a Rugby World Cup Final in which neither Scotland nor Britain were represented, is not lost on the English electorate.

Sir, Mr Heffer’s column from Sydney contains an error. Australia is not ” a country where voting is compulsory.”  Australia’s electoral laws require that we attend at a polling station where we are then given ballot papers. What one then chooses to do with one’s ballot paper is left entirely up to the individual. Thus no-one is required to register their vote but most recognise that their democratic rights are accompanied by their responsibilities as citizens. The alternative is a fine.  I am surprised Mr Brown hasn’t introduced a similar  in the UK to collect a windfall tax from those who fail to turn out.

Sir, I have just one word to say to ‘Prof’ Chaston of the ‘University’ of Plymouth regarding too much research in English universities at the expense of employability skills, (letters 18 Aug): Polytechnics!

Sir, Lord Beaumont and his co-signatories (Letters 24 Oct) should be reminded England has a parliament and had one before the Act of Union. It is the Palace of Westminster. Any suggestion that a new English parliament be formed in any other place would be a betrayal of every Englishman, past present and future.

Sir, having read Charles Moore’s article on what he has ‘never’ done (25 Nov) one wonders on what grounds the Telegraph employs someone so divorced from your readers’ experiences.

Sir,  Both my children received secondary education at public school. As a naval officer I served abroad in the former Soviet Union, Gibraltar and America. I trust that the Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion realises that some public servants send their children into private education because their employment would otherwise provide no opportunity for stability in education (report, Nov 4). Over the past 10 years we have spent about £50,000 out of our own pockets to fund their education, on top of the service boarding school allowance. In America I had to pay to fly my son home from Britain at the end of two out of three university terms. I received no tax allowance for this. The Royal Navy considers a student is no longer a dependant and the Government forces me to pay tuition fees as it believes he is still a dependant. The suggestion that full fees at university be met by those parents who have already paid twice for their children’s education is revolutionary. As far as retaining the Armed Forces goes, it may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. (Published 08 November 2002 UK Daily Telegraph)




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