Letters to
the editor

Saying yes to PMs and premiers

What a hoot that Mike Seccombe reckons that I am “the Eeyore of Australian public life”. I shall regard this as an endorsement. I make the following comments on “The Henderson gigs” (June 21-27). I am not in the habit of appointing myself to remunerated government positions. Neither I, nor any member of the committee, had any intention of judging the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards. The aim of the recommendation to pay judges a reasonable fee was to improve the standard of judging. I did not persuade Barry O’Farrell to conduct a review of the prize. Out of the blue, he asked me to. Whenever I have been asked by a prime minister or premier or senior minister to do a job,
I have always said “yes”. This applies to the Keating, Howard, Rudd, O’Farrell and Abbott governments. Judging books is a time-consuming task and I would never volunteer for such a role. I took the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards position without any discussion of remuneration. If there is any, it will be very small. Mike Seccombe’s claim that there is a 3–2 divide on the PMLA judges’ panel is ill-informed. As
I understand it, he has not spoken to any members on the panel. Presumably, he just made this up.

– Gerard Henderson, executive director, The Sydney Institute

Political judgement goes awry

As an inaugural judge of the Prime Minister’s fiction award in 2008, I was puzzled by Senator Brandis’s assertion that no panel member (fiction and nonfiction, later poetry and history) then and since had been “conservative or even liberal democrat. Not one.” Now I wouldn’t want to be known as a right-wing radical, and I admit to voting Labor, but I would also happily own to being called a conservative or a liberal democrat – not that anyone asked me. Instead of snide insinuation, Brandis might tell the judges on what basis he impugned them, why he traduced their disinterested exercises of literary judgement.

– Peter Pierce, Melbourne

Euthanasia debate too unbalanced

It is disappointing that The Saturday Paper appears to be on a one-sided crusade in favour of euthanasia or assisted suicide (Carolyne Lee, “Life and death decisions”, June 21-27), with four articles on the subject since May 3, 2014, including two by chief correspondent Martin McKenzie-Murray and one by euthanasia campaigner Dr Rodney Syme. I had hoped the paper would present a balanced and authoritative discussion of issues of the day rather than the tendentious and out-of-proportion coverage of this moral and social issue. The only balancing voice appeared in the two letters of Dr Jack Kirszenblat.

– Brian White, Ainslie, ACT

Distractions from the real problem

Norman Abjorensen has described John Howard’s policy on asylum seekers as “strategic racism” (“Race to the polls”, June 21-27) and one that saw him come from behind to win the election. But this is perhaps an oversimplification – creating distractions that split the community is a common tactic and one that is not restricted to the Coalition. Unfortunately both the media and the electorate have taken the bait and divided into the “let ’em in” and the “send ’em home” camps, a division that kept discussion on other issues to a minimum and, as the writer pointed out, became one of the main factors for the swing voter. It also avoided the embarrassment of an investigation into the cause of what is undoubtedly a world humanitarian disaster, with 50 million refugees worldwide and almost a billion people going hungry. Were that to occur then perhaps we could as a nation do a bit more in the way of tackling the problem rather than arguing what to do about the symptom. But since this situation has been created by the combination of religious and economic fundamentalism, it’s not one that our politicians would want to examine.

– Don Owers, Dudley, NSW

Appreciation for Iraq observations

Thank you to Hamish McDonald for what was probably the best piece on the continuing saga of Iraq I’ve ever read (“The collapse of Iraq”, June 21-27). Most commentary on Iraq, going back at least as far as 1990, eventually falls back on Western assumptions and projections of what we might like Iraq to be, while ignoring the complex make-up of the country. History trumps politics.

– Bill Street, Wonthaggi, Vic

Finding the right message

As a Christian I am of two minds (Editorial, “Church in a state”, June 21-27). Chaplaincy in schools is not much use if you can’t preach the saving Gospel of Christ. Like in education and welfare, again no preaching, and it’s tarnished that church organisations can turf people off welfare, which is anti-Christ. The argument that churches are in decline is untrue – pentecostal, charismatic and evangelical churches are thriving communities, it’s the deadwood church dying a quick death. The other argument is sports teams, jails, the forces and our universities all have chaplains and they all play a strong part in turning around lives. It also offers an answer to those with life after death issues, plus assists people in bereavement. What’s the right answer? Who knows? All I know is I am for Christ, and a watered-down message such as that sold by mainline churches is not an alternative at all, and neither is a watered-down message in schools.

– Stephen Brown, Wollongong, NSW

Letters are welcome: [email protected]
Please include your full name and address and a daytime telephone number. Letters may be edited for length and content, and may be published in print and online. Letters should not exceed 150 words.

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on June 28, 2014.

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