Saturday, May 30, 2009

Great online archive of Kings Cross History

Those sensitive residents who keep complaining that Kings Cross "is getting worse" would do well to check this great ABC archive of downloadable footage and sound from the past.

Particularly note the footage and audio in "The Dirty Half-Mile". Listen to the background noise in the street interviews. It sounds just like nowadays on a big night.

See the gorgeous young swingers dancing at the Whisky A Go-Go which, incidentally, was way outside of the current ultra-concentrated Entertainment Precinct, as were many other clubs.

There are interviews with Juanita Neilsen, Bea Miles, Robin Dalton (nee Eakin, daughter of the famous "Gun doctor"), Larry Writer (author of Razor which tells the tales of the past gangland violence of 'Razorhurst') and much more.

The stories are about drinking, dancing, drugs, gambling, prostitution -- all the same stuff certain types complain about now. The same sort  were complaining about it then, too, as shown at length in the docco The Glittering Mile, not available on this archive. Do what you like with the Cross, these people will always complain, and it's always "getting worse".

Picture: Kings Cross in 1961. Nowadays the local NIMBYs are outraged because Bayswater Road becomes "impassable" sometimes on a big night. So what? Enjoy it like the evident majority does and did!

Jazz @ Joe’s on Wednesday

Here's a rare chance to experience the magic of old-style stagecraft and superb musicianship in an atmospheric new venue. Edwin Duff and the Dave Smith Trio will kick off a regular "Jazz @ Joe's" season at the intimate Joe's Deluxe Café on Wednesday June 3, 190 Victoria St, Potts Point, 2011.
Edwin Duff, the cranky Queen of Kings Cross, is a world-class jazz vocalist who will present the Harold Arlen songbook in 3 sets between 8.30pm and his 81st Birthday at midnight, accompanied by the redoubtable David Smith on guitar, Jim Mitchell on double bass and Bob Gillespie on drums. These guys really know their chops and the way they work with a singer showcases the fluidity and improvisational skill of true jazz musicians.

The venue is very small and intimate so bookings are advisable. It's $45 for a three-course dinner & show. BYO @ $2.00 corkage per bottle -- there's a good bottleshop a few doors away.
Bookings via John Redmond on 0420 711 273 or at the Café on (02) 9368 1188.
We'll be putting on more performers at Joe's in coming months, so keep your eyes peeled.

Pictured: Top, David Smith (who has studied and worked with renowned guitarist Joe Pass). Right, Edwin in bling.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Another cannonball lobs into Oxford Street

The small retail tenants of lower Oxford St, much of which is owned by Council but untenanted, are again kicking up a stink at their treatment. Seems Council tenants are being hit with an unexpected Land Tax, undisclosed by Council during lease negotiations, on top of their more general woes.

Council denies this, saying it's between the State Government and the tenants as Councils are exempt from the unpopular and regressive tax.

Retailers say the street is degenerating into a vomit-stained night-only economy. Council's strategy of bashing licensed premises might make the lawyers rich but it fails to address the underlying causes of the problem. Gay culture is changing and moving west so venues are being promoted more to suburbans, bringing more of the problems of Kings Cross to Oxford St.

The street at peak hours remains a six-lane freeway serving Eastern Suburbs car drivers. 

Council can't do much about that RTA-inspired disaster but it could, as promised for years, renovate and tenant their vast upstairs office and hotel spaces. If this put an extra hundred people in the street every day, and each spent say $20 a day, it would be a small but real and sustainable move in the right direction. 

The locals have launched a website asking for suggestions. Any other ideas, you?

Picture: The Hyde Park cannon commemorating the sinking of the Sydney takes aim at Oxford Street.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Temperance union strikes back

A letter in this week's City News responding to my opinion pieces exposes the tiresome poverty of argument and evidence offered by the anti-alcohol activists in Kings Cross.

The letter, from Ms Sue Hanley, totally ignores every point in my original articles and effectively just restates her dislike of the area she lives in.

"…all of us need assured levels of peace and quiet," she writes, postulating a silent-night world in which red light/party precincts don't exist. Kings Cross is about 250 metres of part-time party precinct in around 4,900 square km of Sydney. My point remains that Ms Hanley is perfectly free to live somewhere else. What about the tens of thousands of tourists on holiday and the partygoers who come here? Don't they need a place to let their hair down as much as we locals need sleep. Just one little precinct in the whole of Sydney? Too much for Ms Hanley.

Ms Hanley quotes lots of research "proving" the relationship between venue concentration and crime. But she simply ignores the fact that crime in Kings Cross has steadily fallen at the same time as the capacity of venues increased by some 3,300 people. She was told this point-blank by the Kings Cross Police Superintendent at a community meeting. Ms Hanley was trying to draw a link between the proliferation of new venues around the Coke sign area and a cluster diagram showing lots of crime incidents in the same area. 

"You'll get no joy out of that," said the Super, "because the crime is decreasing."

Yet Ms Hanley's letter makes much of "objectivity". 

She also ignores information in the research report which shows Manly and Coogee have higher rates of alcohol-related violence but fewer and less concentrated venues than Kings Cross. Inconvenient truths, Ms Hanley. None of the top 20 "worst" pubs in Sydney are in Kings Cross or Darlinghurst according to Police data. While I have shown this data itself to be extremely dodgy, the trend is clear. The problem is the concentration of bogans, not venues.

"We are nostalgic for the days of naughty but nice – within the limits of the law and without significant risks to our personal well being and safety," writes Ms Hanley, conveniently creating a fictitious past. 

Sorry, Sue, but the Kings Cross of previous decades was far more unpleasant and dangerous than today's Cross -- Just read a few books like Frank Black's Kings Cross Double Cross (available at The Cross Art + Books in lower Roslyn St) or check my photo/video collection showing the streets of the Cross packed and impassable in 1945, 1961, 1964, 1978 etc etc. In those days when licensed venues were heavily restricted, the industry simply went underground, speakeasy-style. There are currently two unapproved venues that I know about operating in the area. Perhaps Ms Hanley simply wants more of these?

But in the end it's the futility of Council's and Ms Hanley's campaign that saddens me. Instead of supporting a million positive ideas that could make the Cross a far better place, she joins Council in good old-fashioned squelching. And what if they succeed in the litany of court cases they are preparing for? Even if they reduced licensed venues by, say, 20% it would make little difference to the noise and mayhem. The emptier venues would simply fill up, and maybe some of the action would spread to non-entertainment precincts, inflicting the fallout on those who intelligently choose to live in an area that better suits their temperament and age.

It's the wrong strategy for the wrong objective.

Meanwhile the lawyers will have a field day, squandering ratepayer's money on the same Quixotic campaign middleclass councillors have been fruitlessly waging for decades.

Hate crimes stain our streets

There appears to be regular assault of transvestite sex workers by young suburban guys coming in to town for the purpose, before having their night out. I was 'lucky' enough to witness one of these vicious assaults and was able to intervene and stop it. 

Unfortunately this does not seems to have been an isolated incident. I have reported this in The City News, here and here. Personally I am offended by the amount of police resources dedicated to dragging people out of pubs or off the street and searching them because a sniffer dog may have detected some cannabis or ecstasy, while there seems little protection from the really serious violent crime like these assaults, and the shootings and muggings that regularly put Kings Cross in the news.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Council's anti-alcohol policy up for comment

Council has spent a fortune commissioning two studies in an attempt to manufacture "evidence" for their belief that Kings Cross and Oxford St have reached a "saturation point" of licensed venues which has in turn produced an explosion of "alcohol-fuelled violence".

Unfortunately for Council, crime and assault has reduced steadily over the past year even as new venues with a capacity of 3,300 people have opened. Their studies use data from 2001-2006 and ignore the three years since.

Even so, the actual research is still very ambivalent. It notes that "saturation point" is not an objective thing but a matter of opinion. One of the studies is therefore an opinion survey which interviewed 190 residents of Kings Cross (excluding those in pubs, interestingly). While Council cherrypicks bits of the data to support its agenda of blocking approvals for licensed venues, lots of the data shows the opposite trend. In Kings Cross, only 19% (36.1 people) wanted to “restrict opening hours/alcohol outlets”, while the same number wanted more small bars. Oxford Street data was similar. This is not exactly a ringing endorsement of Council’s anti-pub position.

Councils and the surveys ignore the wishes or the needs of the tens of thousands of visitors and tourists who come weekly to Kings Cross in party mode, a massive social force. Against that they can show 36.1 people who agree with them and who apparently believe they have the right to suppress  Sydney's only destination precincts because they moved into them. It's just like someone who moves next door to a motorway and then campaigns to have it closed.

Even a Land and Environment Court  magistrate suggested  that residents who can't stand living around a party precinct should simply move elsewhere. This outraged local anti-alcohol campaigner Andrew Woodhouse who called for the resignation of the magistrate. Mr Woodhouse maintains that people have a right to quiet and good order no matter where they choose to live, and says that people can't move because they are "shackled to their mortgages".

As property prices have continued to rise around here, one would think these people could sell up and buy elsewhere if they hate it so much. Just a thought.

The high-profile violence around here is not alcohol-related in any case. Transvestite sex workers are regularly and systematically bashed, thugs bring guns out and shoot people, and a policewoman was recently bashed in the head with a brick and robbed. This is serious and should be the focus of public policy, not a vain attempt to shut down the only 250 metres of party precinct in around 4,900 square kilometres of Sydney. 

However the old squelchers will eventually learn the same lesson as previous generations of temperance activists who have tried to "rescue" Kings Cross. Like all prohibitions of popular culture, the best they can do is create a ‘balloon effect’. What you squeeze in one area simply pops out in another. The good people of other suburbs need to beware of Council's latest campaign.

For a fuller analysis see my City News reports here and here.

The City's research and policy is on exhibition and up for comment until July 31 here.

The serial complainers always flood Council with their view, but the majority are too busy getting on with their life to be 'Council nerds'. I urge you to have a look, make up your own mind, and email a comment to

Just keep it short and make a clear for or against statement, followed by a few points. One of these might be that concentration of venues into an entertainment precinct has many advantages, which Council and the research ignores. I've listed some in my City News analysis.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

How to make illicit drugs boring

Here is a very succinct essay (by Alex Coolman, a San Francisco-based attorney working primarily on criminal appeals) on how to remove the glamour factor from illicit drugs. 

Dramatic anti-drugs ads signally fail to reduce use. On the other hand, Tylenol packaging is really boring. While it's possibly cool and adventurous to get your drugs from a condom someone has smuggled inside their intestines, a bottle with a childproof lid, obtained on prescription, is not glamorous.

If drug dealers had to spend their time minimising their tax instead of dodging bullets, how much glamour would they project?

The psychology is simple -- it's just the same as when Fred Nile lambasts a movie and calls for its prohibition. Everyone immediately wants to see it. As explained beautifully in the book Madame Joy, nothing increases demand like prohibition.

Friday, May 22, 2009

KX shooting vid goes viral

Apparently this news clip from Channel Nine has gone viral and is so popular it's being remixed on Youtube. (233,420 views by 26 May).

Check Clare Werbeloff talking about the "wogs", one fat and one thin, who argued about sleeping with one's cousin before one shot the other last Saturday night. 

Check the police numbers! While the local NIMBYS are using this as 'proof' that venues need to be shut down, we don't know that alcohol was involved. But we do know that the perp brought a gun with him on his night out. I'd say that's the fundamental problem, and punishing whatever venue these guys were at will do nothing to solve it. 

PS 25 May: The SMH reports this morning that Clare Werbeloff's eyewitness account, described above, was a fake.

"We have interviewed her and she has not witnessed the shooting," said acting Kings Cross Police crime manager, Detective Inspector Matt McQueen. " She has admitted to making it all up and has not witnessed the shooting."

IMO that makes the whole saga even better! It's live theatre of the highest order, impro from the party precinct. Alcohol-fuelled creativity! "You slept with my cousin" is the new millennium equivalent of Didn't you kill my bruvver? (by Ian Drury & the Blockheads?). Fully sick.

Council destroys more public art

The Kings Cross community was horrified last week when Council contractors removed four life-sized photographic portraits installed by Channel Ten’s Guerrilla Gardens team seven weeks earlier on the corner of Ward Avenue and Roslyn Street.

The work was on a private wall with full co-operation of the owners, the 'Sisters on the corner,' Catholic nuns who have worked in the area for over 20 years.

I've written a full report in The City News.

Truly, the City of Villages would better be known as The City of Pillages. 

By contrast, when Guerrilla Gardens created an installation near the Balmain Tigers Club, Greens Mayor of Leichhardt Jamie Parker wrote to them advising that some of the plants would not survive the sunlight they were exposed to. The team responded and replaced the plants with more suitable varieties.  Result: Balmain richer, Kings Cross poorer. Thanks Clover.

Above: KX busker Cathie O’Brien posing in front of her portrait, part of the original installation. Below, today's blank walls courtesy of Clover Moore, with the disappointed 'Sisters on the corner' who had been thrilled to have the work on their wall.

PS 30 May: Council has apologised for the removal of the art and has issued the following statement:

“Unfortunately the mural was removed after a complaint was received from a member of the public about offensive graffiti on the mural. Rather than remove the graffiti only, City graffiti removal contractors took down the mural. The City supports the work of the Guerrilla Gardeners, providing there are no safety issues and we apologise for this error. The City is now investigating what options there are for reinstating the mural on the site.”

Prohibition debate shifting ground

The prohibition debate in Sydney seems to be shifting ground, with The SMH today kindly publishing another of my letters, this one called Prohibition doesn't work. I was responding to an Elizabeth Farrelly piece lamenting the burglary of her house by junkies and pinning the syndrome on the true cause: prohibition and junkies.

Another letter from a Redfern resident concurs. It seems living in the epicentre of street drug fallout and having to deal with it daily clarifies the mind (conservatives excepted of course -- they just carry on with their fallacious dogma).

In the past I have had little success getting letters on this topic published. Let's hope it signals a new framework for sensible public debate.

PS Dr Andrew Byrne from the Redfern Clinic has written in more detail how Portugal's systems work.

PPS 25 May: One reply to the letters above from  prohibitionist Matt Kwan was published on Saturday. My letter is described as "illogical" but see if you can pick the multiple fallacies in the following:

"Money will still matter
Michael Gormly and Thea Gumbert (Letters, May 22) believe legalisation of drugs such as heroin will result in less crime, as addicts will no longer have to steal to support their habits. This is illogical. Many illicit drugs are highly addictive. Sooner or later, dependence will outstrip addicts' capacity to pay, regardless of where they buy drugs. Stealing will continue under prohibition or legalisation, as both require money to be exchanged for drugs.

Matt Kwan Sydney"

I replied (see below) and wasn't published. But Stuart Cranston from Coogee nailed it better than I did with this letter published today:

Cigarette ban is no answer
Matt Kwan (Letters, May 23-24), when have you ever heard of a cigarette smoker, someone who is hooked on the most addictive drug in the world, committing a crime to pay for a packet? I guarantee that your answer would be never and the reason is that tobacco is legal and as a result the prices are kept low and within reason.

If, however, tobacco was criminalised, the price would skyrocket and the supply and distribution would be controlled and managed by organised criminal gangs. That is why the argument for prohibition fails dismally in this context.

Stuart Cranston Coogee

An elegant reply, Stuart! Two letters preceding his also rebut prohibitionist dogma as preached by Miranda Devine.

My unpublished reply to Matt Kwan follows:

It is Matt Kwan who is illogical about drug addiction (Letters 23 May). He thinks addiction has no upper limit to its consumption and therefore addicts would return to crime even if drugs were legal and regulated.

It ain’t necessarily so. Supply by prescription would imply not only built-in health management but also the ability of doctors to prescribe to the needs of the addict. Meanwhile the wheels would fall off the illegal supply chain, both from plummeting demand and ‘unfair’ price pressure from the regulated product. Yes, some addicts would try to operate outside the system but, faced with a choice of a long and possibly fruitless search on the streets or the certainty of a quality product at a much lower price, the desperate addict would overwhelmingly favour the latter, leaving us with far safer homes and more pleasant public spaces. 

Michael Gormly Woolloomooloo

Seriously, would you buy dodgy illegal product at $50 a hit when you could get a quality legal product around ten times cheaper? If addiction did drive users to more and more product, wouldn't their $5 hit still be better value than the $50 option? And if they did steal to get their $5, wouldn't that still imply a ten-times reduction in crime by addicts?

International drug cartels reportedly factor in a 50% loss of their product in transit, and still make exorbitant profits because there is no legal alternative to their product. Legal supply of drugs would send such a highly leveraged business to the wall quick smart. Imagine a legitimate business like GMH losing half the vehicles they export and having to double their RRP to compensate. Not viable.

Another thing Matt Kwan doesn't get is that most addicts keep their tolerance at a fairly steady level, many holding down jobs. It seems Matt believes the myths peddled by prohibitionists, which is understandable if he has little first-hand knowledge of the street drug scene.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Balancing the risks and benefits of cannabis

While the prohibitionists and most media keep demonising recreational drugs, amplifying every possible negative finding about them, a more balanced and factual body of data is slowly accumulating.

Much is made of the link between cannabis and schizophrenia, and piles of research is being funded to prove the link. However a Melbourne AOD researcher recently posted the following on the ANCD's Drugtalk email discussion group: 
Using the Lancet meta-analysis we can see that of 6.2 million cannabis smokers in the UK, 800 experienced schizophrenia. Thus 0.00125% of cannabis smokers experience schizophrenia. Or, 99.99875% of cannabis smokers do not.
So prohibitionists who use the mental illness argument to support their position are happy to persecute the 99.99875% who are not affected in a vain attempt to save the remainder, who it seems have contracted the disease anyway, despite prohibition. The stupidity is remarkable. The dishonesty of beating up this problem while obscuring the context of these tiny numbers is unforgivable.

Also The Beckley Foundation is about to research the link between cannabis and creativity. One day adults might be able to balance risk against benefit using credible information, like we can for most activities.

Meanwhile The Wall Street Journal has run a long piece interviewing Barak Obama’s new ‘Drugs Czar’ and it seems change is at least in the air. The report begins:

The Obama administration's new drug czar says he wants to banish the idea that the U.S. is fighting "a war on drugs," a move that would underscore a shift favoring treatment over incarceration in trying to reduce illicit drug use.

In his first interview since being confirmed to head the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, Gil Kerlikowske said Wednesday the bellicose analogy was a barrier to dealing with the nation's drug issues.

"Regardless of how you try to explain to people it's a 'war on drugs' or a 'war on a product,' people see a war as a war on them," he said. "We're not at war with people in this country."

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Climate sceptic’s new book refuted

I don’t quite understand why certain people seem hard-wired to believe that human activity has no effect on climate, and will believe any old crock that supports their view even after the claims have been disproved ad nauseam. Adelaide’s Professor Ian Plimer has published just such a book, his academic rank giving superficial credibility to his claims. However he is  a geologist with no previous work on climate science published, let alone peer-reviewed.

To its credit The Australian, which frequently publishes material from climate sceptics, has run a review shredding Plimer’s book, showing that it re-runs a litany of discredited furphies. Some of these beggar belief -- for instance according to Scienceblog, Plimer blindly accepts Khilyuk and Chilingar, the guys who compared human CO2 emissions with natural CO2 emissions over the entire history of the planet and concluded that human emissions were insignificant. These guys sound scientific, but they were comparing billions of years with hundreds. Be careful what you believe (including anything on this blog!). Always question authority.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Shock, horror! Old people outraged at young partygoers

The local NIMBYs have taken councillors on a night tour of Kings Cross to demonstrate the horror of lots of young people partying, reports The Herald. Despite the fact that real estate prices have held up well in the area, these ageing serial local whingers are apparently unable to sell up and move out. No, Kings Cross has to be suppressed back to some arbitrary level -- decided by Councillors no doubt -- where the fallout from partygoers is "acceptable".

It's almost funny that the very Council which has used regulation to concentrate Kings Cross into The Strip is now concerned about over-concentration. The solution? More regulation.

The old whingers trotted out their usual litany that the Cross was "much worse than it used to be". Yet Frank Black's book Kings Cross Double Cross is filled with incidents from the past that make even my hair stand on end... like a trucker who drove his prime mover down the stairs into a strip club because the receptionist had ripped him off in change, and a detective raping a rape victim with a bottle.

It's true that Sydney has far too many nasty, violent idiots who seem to have swallowed rap gangsta style and ethics whole , as I witnessed last week when I stopped two of them who were savagely beating a transvestite sex worker -- not drunk, just full of hate. But putting the screws on Kings Cross cannot make this go away, only shift the violence somewhere else. Your suburb perhaps? The NIMBYs need to think long and hard about their own ethics.

More high-visibility policing would do the most to mitigate problems, and my senior police sources say there is no lack of police because they just bring them in from other areas. Of course, sniffer dog squads at 4pm and troops of invisible undercover cops looking for drug action do nothing to help the main problem...

Half the problems the councillors were so horrified about were the result of existing regulation, like smokers on footpaths. All the unique but slightly dodgy small bars that used to dot the back streets have been forcibly closed by Council so now all the action is concentrated into the strip with a less-and-less diverse suburban crowd. But of course straight bourgeois people like our Councillors and NIMBYs can only see one way forward... more regulation. 

Psst... it won't work! 

Interestingly, all the 'problems' the councillors saw were on the uncontrolled streets but they are going to target the venues which are a controlled environment, even as the Herald story described revellers drinking from winecask bladders in the street (there's an empty one outside my front door right now!)

Picture: KX at 4am on Friday night. I dragged myself out of bed to get a shot of stranded revellers to illustrate the lack of public transport at that time -- only to find the place literally crawling with vacant cabs! Oh well.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Council manufactures ammunition for its War on Kings Cross

Crime in Kings Cross in nearly all categories has steadily fallen over the past year, even as more big new licensed venues than ever have opened. Any evidence-based approach would have to consider the strong possibility that Council's mantra of "More licensed premises = more crime so let's restrict the premises" is flawed.

But no, Council has gone ahead and manufactured a junk study using data from 2001–2006 that 'proves' their hypothesis, even though only 14% of 190 local respondents to a face-to-face survey agreed with it.

The Sydney Morning Herald has swallowed the spin whole, not only taking the study seriously (a serious failure of critical thinking by Urban Affairs reporter Paul Bibby) but quoting police out of context (according to police I have spoken to since).

If the hypothesis had any legs, why is it that crime has fallen significantly over the past year even as huge venues have opened including The Trademark, Piano Bar, Kings Cross Hotel, Madame deBiers, the Sugarmill and Elk. A number of licensed restaurant/bars have also opened. 

And why, when Councillors were apprised of those facts last night by Kings Cross Partnership chairman Adrian Bartels, was he aggressively questioned by Councillor Harris (Greens) as if he was some sort of idiot for not understanding the clear data in the Council study.  Cr Harris then turned to Police for clarification only to have Mr Bartels’ statements verified. 

Cr Mallard (Liberal) asked Cr Harris if he was going to apologise but it was not to be, and nor did any of the other Councillors let the facts get in the way of a good bit of temperance union dogma as they voted in support of the study, which will soon go on exhibition on Council’s website for public comment. 

Just one example of the nonsense in the research is the way it handled the fact that Manly and Coogee have fewer licensed premises than Kings Cross yet more crime -- it waffled on about the size of venues and said this reflected "evidence that a small number of hotels are often associated with a large proportion of crime." Huh? Doesn't that contradict their whole approach? And could the higher crime rate simply reflect the higher proportion of moronic thugs that inhabit those places? (Ask any late-night taxi driver about the demographics of Coogee and Manly). But such subtle possibilities were not examined in the research.

This is my take on the problem - that we have a suburban yob problem, not a venue problem. If anything the pubs are over-managed as they scramble to comply with the existing plethora of regulations that just put up the price of a drink for the rest of us.

Punishing the venues won't make the yobs disappear. At best they will go somewhere else to make their mischief. And that's the real agenda -- good old-fashioned NIMBYism. 

Council’s report and junk studies are already available below.

The agenda item summary is here:
The "Late Night Trading: Community Perceptions" report by Urbis, dated 30 June 2008, is here

And finally, the "cumulative impact study", a report from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre for the City of Sydney entitled "Alcohol-related crime in city of sydney LGA", is here:

PS: I have previously taken apart the police data linking venues to violence, and it's all over the place like a mad person's breakfast -- no credibility whatsoever. I analysed it in a City News editorial.  Anyone using it as a basis for further research also seriously compromises their work. Interestingly, no response to my piece was forthcoming.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Prisoners wanted

The Sydney Morning Herald kindly printed one of my letters last week, calling it…

"Wanted: prisoners"

The threatened NSW "jail sale" has implicit dangers seemingly not yet aired ("Union leaders threaten to thwart Labor's prison privatisation plot", April 28). Just as the Government guaranteed private road tunnel operators a certain amount of traffic to guarantee their revenue, it is likely to promise private incarcerators a certain number of prisoners.

This would create a chilling conflict of interest, with the Government facing compensation payouts to jail operators if it reduced crime or liberalised laws.

The justice system should be driven by justice, not by fear of fiscal pain, and it should remain in public hands.

Michael Gormly Woolloomooloo