Letters to
the editor

Fraser shows the way

Professor Hirst misses the most important difference between the post-World War II and post-Vietnam periods relating to refugees (“The happiest refugees”, August 2-8), and that is then we had leaders in Canberra who were prepared to provide leadership and accept our share, rather than the current crop of party apparatchiks whose only interest is being in power. So simple to do what Malcolm Fraser did. Provide funding to have the Malaysians, Indonesians and now the Indians to hold them in camps at the same time increasing our intake of refugees as against general immigration and allow our immigration officials to choose those who are to come to Australia. By creating a realistic expectation of resettlement, then there is no need for the people smugglers. Leadership is all it takes.

Timothy Ashton, Darlinghurst, NSW

Compromising the dignity of life

Rather than obfuscating the issues surrounding so-called “voluntary” assisted suicide (Rodney Syme, “Turn focus to moribund policy”, August 2-8), Philip Nitschke’s recent actions and suspension clarifies it. Humans are essentially social beings and the concept of “rational suicide” is itself social. As Syme’s reference to psychiatrists’ endorsements of the concept demonstrates, only then does “rational suicide” become a thing-in-itself, and only then do people receive this so-called “choice”. Thus, the concept must be rejected as it is based on the modern fiction of the wholly autonomous individual and compromises the value of the absolute dignity of all human life. Nitschke’s actions demonstrate that the slippery slope of euthanasia has been reached. We don’t have to care about the deaths of Nigel Brayley, Joe Waterman and Lucas Taylor – we can absolve ourselves of responsibility to them because it was their “choice”.

Paul Cocks, Ivanhoe, Vic

Individuals given the power

I admire both Philip Nitschke and Rodney Syme, but there is a gulf between them in the matter of rational suicide. The expression surely applies to the situation in which a mature adult has decided, upon reflection, for his or her own reasons, to end their life. Nitschke’s mission is to empower the individual to do just that in a reliable, non-violent fashion. Syme, the doctor, on the other hand, cannot leave the decision up to the individual, who must satisfy some authority that he meets its conditions before he or she qualifies for assistance. I find Syme’s position intensely irritating. Upon what basis does he assume rights over my life? I realise the issue is not devoid of practical difficulties. People kill themselves for what appear to outsiders to be insufficient reasons. I can see that doctors face the issue more directly and painfully and often than the rest of us, and that it could be difficult for them to reconcile their primary role with using their power to assist in the ending of a life. But I see that as an additional reason for empowering the individual, thus removing the unreasonable and onerous requirement that the doctor should play god.

Don Macrae, Warrandyte, Vic

Ideology rules work policies

As I see it, both Mike Seccombe (“More prejudice than policy”, August 2-8) ) and John Duffield (Letters, August 2-8) have missed the main point of the Abbott government’s drive to “punish” the unemployed.

Eric Abetz would (or should) know full well that there are nearly five times more unemployed than there are job vacancies. He would (or should) also know or have been told that work for the dole schemes don’t get people back into longer-term “real” jobs. I see this “policy” as an important part of a hard-right ideological strategy to drive down the cost of labour (as well as of Labor) in Australia.

Douglas Mackenzie, Deakin, ACT

WorkChoices by proxy

We should always suspect the distorting influence of ideology when government policy departs from the evidence. Mike Seccombe’s analysis exposes the Coalition’s punitive work for the dole and job application requirements as a telling case in point. What hasn’t so far been raised is how these changes will further tilt the power balance towards employers and away from employees, with Eric Abetz claiming every job is “meaningful” – presumably even casualised work in asbestos removal, or indeed work in any hazardous or demeaning circumstance regardless of worker skills and prospects for even a minimally decent life. If enough pressure is placed on desperate people, they will surely be more accepting of reduced wages and conditions, and less willing to speak out about workplace issues, including safety. The changes Abetz so fervently seeks should prompt us to ask if the Coalition, having found WorkChoices electorally disastrous in the past, is now seeking other ways to achieve its effects.

– Darren Lewin-Hill, Northcote, Vic

What is the legacy?

Your editorial on detained children paints a grim picture (“Suffer the children”, August 2-8). It is not only that decency and language were defiled in the hearing of medical evidence that children are being traumatised (from Gillian Triggs, paediatrician Elizabeth Elliott and others). What is profoundly disturbing is the political and bureaucratic mindset that enables refugees to be referred to as “biodata”, or that enables Minister Morrison to refer to witness accounts as “sensational claims”. Or that allows the minister to state “appropriate care is provided” while doctors at the coalface state there is no care. That politicians resort to such sophistry beggars belief and leaves me wondering about the legacy left, to detainees, and to the next generation.

Gil Anaf, Norwood, SA

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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 August 9, 2014.

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