Looking on the bright side

There will be many who will look with regret on this unexpected outcome of the New South Wales ICAC inquiry – the demise of a pretty good state premier, one generally seen as better than many who have graced (?) that position in state legislatures around the country (Mike Seccombe, “Having a Barry”, April 19-25). But there’s also another outcome that should be welcomed. It’s a fair bet that in future no honest politician (stress “honest”) will dare to come within a bull’s roar of anyone named Di Girolamo, Obeid, Sinodinos, etc. It may not have caused the universe of lobbying to implode, but at least it should make life more difficult for the swarm of private-profit parasites who infect our democratic system while hiding coyly behind the innocuous description of lobbyist. If you’ll excuse the pun, that side of the outcome would make for rather more than “a glass half full”.

– Ronald Burnstein, Beaumaris, Vic

1 . High price of intoxication

On Game of Thrones last Monday week, following a sip of wine, King Joffrey came to an early end. By the Wednesday, wine had also taken Barry O’Farrell. I hope the visiting Windsors are teetotallers. 

– John Bailey, Canterbury, NSW

2 . To the barricades, Aunty 

 As an experienced journalist, Quentin Dempster should not be surprised by the ferocity of the attack on the public broadcaster by the Coalition (“Vandalising the ABC”, April 19-25). It seems that the ABC and The Saturday Paper now stand alone as the only bulwark against the domination of news by News Corp. This perception of superiority was aptly demonstrated by the prime minister when reporter Nicola Berkovic was so off message as to suggest that the NSW government was corrupt, following the resignation of Barry O’Farrell as premier of NSW, that our pugilistic PM could hardly contain his rage. Possibly because he believed all reporters outside the News Corp group had been cowed and like a conquering field marshal he did not expect a shot from this direction. The ABC can expect further attacks, there will be interdiction of resources and if the ABC does not learn the lesson, after the re-education of “efficiency dividends”, they will pilloried as un-Australian. Surely the unkindest cut of all for an organisation once affectionately known as Aunty. 

– Mike Clifford, Blaxland, NSW

3 . Another view on BDS

“BDS campaign adding poison” (Nick Dyrenfurth, April 19-25), was riddled with misinformation. The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is civil society’s response to the failure of governments to adhere to the rules of international law to which they say they subscribe. The movement highlights Palestinians’ rights to self-determination, abhors racism and has nothing to do with the de-legitimisation of Israel. It does aim to hold Israeli governments accountable for murders, torture, arrests of children, the incarceration of thousands of prisoners without charge, the stealing of land, the cruel siege of Gaza and other human rights abuses. Dyrenfurth relies on derision, as in his reference to a worldwide, non-violent movement – supported by churches, trade unions, NGOs, businesses and academics including Sydney University’s “staff4bds” – as a left-wing plaything, or in his dismissal of the courageous Dr Jake Lynch as an anti-Israeli extremist. And where did he find evidence to claim, “Most Australian academics are appalled by BDS”? If Australian politicians and journalists even asked questions about this issue, they would discover that BDS supporters seek justice, which would benefit Israelis as well as Palestinians. The UN’s special rapporteur for the occupied territories, for example, says this movement is “a hopeful way of writing the future history of Palestine in the legal and moral language of rights rather than the bloody deeds of warfare”.

– Stuart Rees, professor emeritus, Sydney University

4 . Pay per word

Along with “Anzac” and “Royal” and “Commonwealth”, “Bradman” is also a licensed word thanks to the profound reverence of John Howard. Maybe bigots should be allowed to use these magic words in whatever ways they wish as evidence of their true freedom of expression. Or, perhaps we should restrict thousands of words such as “Catholic” and “Muslim” and “Aboriginal”. That way we could just fine people for unapproved usage. 

– Keith Russell, Mayfield West, NSW

5 . Choose language carefully

Fenella Souter’s husband being “done over” by a blackmarket money changer in Prague (“Nervous in Napoli”, April 12-18) would have been a charming travel story had it not been followed by ignorant statements regarding “a poor Gypsy family” who use the proceedings of their crimes “to make their final payment on a plasma TV”. The label “Gypsy” to describe an ethnic group has been associated with pejorative connotations for centuries. This is part of the reason why many today prefer to use the term “Roma”. I could not help but wonder whether Ms Souter would have described the same story in similar terms had her husband been “done over” by a person from any other oppressed ethnic group around the word? Would she, for example, write about a “poor Negro family” paying off their plasma TV after robbing her husband on a New York subway? Hopefully not.

– Marianna Szabo, Glebe, NSW

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on April 26, 2014 as "Letters to the editor".

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