Fraser still fights for free enterprise
Mike Seccombe’s account of Malcolm Fraser’s political softening (“The dour optimist”, May 17-23) toys with the idea that this reflects Fraser’s “true underlying liberalism”. While Fraser may have jumped ship on some issues such as refugees and civil liberties, there are boundaries he will not cross. Since the political philosophy of liberalism elevates “freedom of the individual” above all other principles, principally collectivism, there has been no conscience wrestling or mea culpas shown by Fraser on any form of human collectivism, from trade unionism to socialism (including its feeble splutterings in the ALP), or nature’s collective, the environment (including its Greens defenders). This is compounded by the true liberal’s core fealty to freedom for capital – as Fraser explains in his memoirs, “free enterprise is inseparable from other freedoms”. So, where profit is paramount, other principles are dispensable. Fraser remains an elite class warrior, discomforting to the Liberals, but waging their battle with a more liberal face.
– Phil Shannon, Pasadena, South Australia
The politics of fear
Time certainly does heal old wounds, as illustrated by Mike Seccombe’s article. With Gough Whitlam, no less, finding it difficult to find a point of differentiation between his beliefs and those of Malcolm Fraser. Your readers may not be aware that within political supporters this is not such an uncommon trait. As a Labor Party member who hands out election material at polling booths, the most striking thing most supporters discover is that the things we have in common far outstrip our differences. The article touches on what I see as humanity’s collective Achilles heel – fear, especially fear grounded in race. On polling day you have about eight hours’ work standing shoulder to shoulder with opposing groups; the one subject that crosses from the logical to the primordial is race. Billy Hughes and John Howard understood this, as does Prime Minister Tony Abbott, indeed in the short term, as a strategy, it works. We will never know, of course, but perhaps Gough and Malcolm have got together over a coffee, looked into each other’s ageing eyes and discovered the humanity in each. Though the question for the Australian people will be whether we can see into the eyes of boat people, beyond the colour branding and religious victimisation. A big ask? Well, life wasn’t meant to be easy.
– Mike Clifford, Blaxland, NSW
A one-sided picture of ethical fashion
Patty Huntington (“Ethical dilemmas”, May 17-23) wrote about the defunding of Ethical Clothing Australia (ECA), the voluntary accreditation scheme for Australian-made clothing. ECA supports young designers and established players to ensure their supply chain is clean of exploitation so that vulnerable workers, mainly migrant women, are afforded basic legal wages and conditions. While some of the complexity of the debate was outlined well, I’m very disappointed that homeworkers, academics with expertise in this area, and, crucially, the union representing workers weren’t included. Including ill-informed commentary from some in the industry alleging “communist” methodology in the legal framework (established on a largely bipartisan basis over a number of years) makes the omission of these stakeholders all the more apparent. Overall the picture presented was too one-sided.
– A.J. McMullen, director of Creative Ministries Network, UnitingCare
Abandoning the young is heartbreaking
I need to write of my broken heart, for and on behalf of many young Australians (“Budget’s lifting also separates”, May 17-23). We have lied to them. We have failed to engage them. We have ignored and ridiculed them. Is it any wonder that now we are actively marginalising them. Guilty of only entering them into the expenditure column of Australia’s budget. I know what a budget is about. It’s about income and outgoings, it’s about effective expenditure and it’s about investment. Most of all, though, a budget is about priorities, about how to build a future. Our recent national budget sends a strong signal that we care little about the young – defunding successful youth employment programs, closing youth advocacy groups, breaking commitments to education and training and directly sacking thousands. Simultaneously assistance to invest in trade tools is cut, the cost of apprenticeship/tertiary positions increased, educational loan costs increased and punitive unemployment measures introduced. The nation’s accountants have worked out that it is cheaper and easier to sell employment/education visas on the world stage than to nurture the sons and daughters of Australia. And they are right. It is cheaper and easier to abandon the young, as any derelict parent knows. We were once a young country, now I’m not so sure.
– David Abrahams, past chairman and co-founding director of Youth Connections
Sacrificing those who fight
Of the 40 defence force personnel killed in Afghanistan (at the time of writing), 27 of them were under 30. This age group has done the heavy lifting on behalf of governments that sent them to war zones, yet if they had returned home and then found themselves unemployed, there would be no financial support for them for at least six months. Policies should not be structured cruelly so that politicians can falsely claim them to be kind. If you are old enough to die for the country, you should be old enough to have immediate access to the dole.
– Dr Ellak I. von Nagy-Felsobuki, Arcadia Vale, NSW
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This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on May 24, 2014. Subscribe here.