Letters to
the editor

Keep conversation going on sexual abuse

What a timely and excellent article by Martin McKenzie-Murray (“The danger closer to home”, July 12-18). I was sexually abused by a relative from my extended family as a young child and as a consequence have suffered psychological, emotional and physical trauma throughout my life. I make the following observations – disbelief, secrecy, guilt and shame surround this issue, and it’s mostly on the part of the victim and innocent family members. Because sexual abuse is treated as a dark secret within families, the criminal can operate knowing there is very little chance of their “secret” being divulged. (If all other crimes were kept “secret” the crime rate would certainly skyrocket.) Family members of those abused must at least start the conversation. Let the words “sexual abuse” be mentioned in families without shame or guilt. Secrecy only protects the criminal. I suggest that even in families where there has been no sexual abuse committed, it should be considered an acceptable topic of conversation among the adults. This would build an awareness of the issue and help limit the secrecy, guilt and shame that surrounds it. 

– Kate Lamont, Lennox Head, NSW

On the wrong track

Historian Tony Judt’s deep attachment to train travel equalled his affection for social democracy. This fact runs contrary to Ronnie Scott’s intimation that he was a “rail-loather” (“One track mind”, July 12-18). Judt’s enthusiasm for train travel resounds in the three pithy works that he studiously composed during his accelerated decline from good health due to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (motor neurone disease). A fourth text remained incomplete: a history of trains, compellingly titled Locomotion. As a scholar of 20th-century Europe, Judt understood better than most trainspotters that modernity’s paradox included timetables for both Auschwitz and Eurostar. Nonetheless his general point, albeit nostalgic, was that trains are public works functioning as social goods in and between nations. The peace of mind found when staring out of a train window, or, heaven forbid, in conversation with a stranger, is closely connected to the peace between people and between nations. Mind the gap.

– Howard Prosser, Fish Creek, Vic

A lifelong love of rail travel

Ronnie Scott argues that train travel “in a sealed environment with other people had best be quick – invisible, ideally”. He goes further – train tracks “are not for people like me”. This pessimism must be challenged, if not rejected! My Australian rail travel interstate commenced in 1954 with Melbourne to Canberra on the Spirit of Progress. After being posted to Perth in 1958 there were frequent trans-Australia train journeys to Sydney and return. A steam train from Singapore to Bangkok in March 1965 was a great adventure as was Penang to Bangkok and back to Singapore by diesel train in 1982. My wife and I have just returned from a 12-day journey, travelling Vladivostok to Moscow, over the iconic Trans-Siberian Railway. We met many interesting people on the journey, and saw memorable sights. Mr Scott may be best advised to stick to air travel, but train travel has many benefits for many people. 

– Alan Howes, Canberra, ACT

Working out the threat

The attorney-general and the government are scaremongering again and exploiting the fear in Australia of returning jihadist fighters to beef up ASIO’s powers (Sophie Morris, “Hiding spies behind jihad”, July 5-11). The question is how much of a threat would the jihadists pose if they returned to societies that nurtured them? The number of Australian jihadists going to fight in Syria and Iraq are minuscule compared with countries such as Britain. The British security services have indicated the number of UK nationals who survive and return will be too great to individually monitor. The attorney-general should seriously consider whether the young people who have gone to fight in Syria and Iraq consider Australia and Britain to be their enemy and would seriously countenance attacking Australian targets. He should look at the various de-radicalisation programs that have been implemented to date. One of the outcomes of these programs is the conclusion that while many of these individuals appear ferocious, they are weak-willed individuals with malleable beliefs. It has been shown that as it is easy to persuade them to fight, it is equally easy to persuade them to stop. The research has shown that only one in nine returning jihadists has continued to wage jihad in some form in their home country.

 – Roy Clogstoun, Pearce, ACT 

Risks worth taking for greater good

After reading the Martin McKenzie-Murray article about the sorry saga of the asylum seekers (“Inside the Tamils’ burning protests”, July 5-11) memories of my youth came back to me. I am old enough to remember that during World War II my parents were involved in hiding Jews, Allied soldiers and aircrew, and young men of conscription age, from the “authorities”.

There was an underground network my parents were involved in, which was providing them with shelter, identifications, finances and transport, often at great personal risk. Today, now in my 80s, I would not hesitate to do the same thing. 

– Hans Werner, St Andrews Beach, Vic

Clive’s house of fun

Is it possible that PUP now stands for Parliament Under Palmer? 

– Roger Ellis, Manildra, 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 July 18, 2014.

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