Letters to
the editor

Review ignored the positives

Can I predict behind the initials “PT” of the review of My Story by Julia Gillard (Books, October 11-17) lurks a misogynist? One may forgive the reviewer’s cavalier prejudices: “gossipy account”, working 14 hours a day “for her own benefit”, “debatable policies, especially around work and education”, “unadventurous policy”, among the most notable, but unforgivable is his (her?) sins of omission by ignoring the acknowledged success of the hung parliament she led to full term despite rats in the Labor ranks doing their utmost to personally destroy her, and her efforts to better the lives of those living with disabilities. A balanced review?  I think not.

– Helen Jagoe, Bathurst, NSW

The other institute makes its mark

There is no question that The Australia Institute punches above its weight  (Mike Seccombe, “The real senate puppet masters”, October 11-17). With a tiny staff and a budget that wouldn’t cover the grounds maintenance at a modestly sized Australian university, they might be expected to do little more than raise a few corporate hackles from time to time. Yet, the reaction from the Minerals Council of Australia, while spectacularly ignoring the history of both Richard Denniss’s and Ben Oquist’s fallout with Christine Milne, also disclosed a vulnerability that is breathtaking. Denial of climate change is an exercise in wishful thinking – a heartfelt desire for the maintenance of the status quo. TAI’s outing of the massive subsidies that are paid to prop up the coal industry has struck at its most vulnerable parts and left it gasping. It’s compelling evidence that the movement for divestment from fossil fuels is now the soundest path to drive action on climate change.

Patrick Hockey, Clunes, Vic

Ditch the Palmer link

Mike Seccombe failed to ask the hard questions of The Australia Institute’s new and very close relationship with mining billionaire Clive Palmer. The favoured tactic of Mr Palmer is to ignite an issue in sound and fury and then do a quiet deal with the government. This tactic was apparent in the gutting of the financial sector reforms, a deal to reinstate cruel temporary protection visas for refugees, and the abolition of the mining tax with some of its associated spending such as the low-income super contribution. The Australia Institute takes credit for saving the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, but the Palmer United Party and Abbott government deal it engineered cut funding by more than $700 million, which prevents it from starting new projects. For The Australia Institute to remain a valuable progressive voice, it needs to stay independent and stop lending Clive Palmer credibility to cover his harmful deals with the Abbott government.

– Joanne Scott, Jarrahdale, WA

A funny comment

It seems strange to yet again query a progressive

publisher about their treatment of sexual politics, but what does Guy Rundle (“One-term wonders”, October 11-17) mean when he writes of making up a cabinet of politicians “from those who sexually ‘crossed the floor’ at some National Union of Students conference 25 or so years ago”? Sounds a little too reminiscent of straight men hiding their own sexual anxieties under what they think is humour.

– Dennis Altman, La Trobe University, Vic

Time to remember and reflect

Brigid Delaney (“Believe it or not”, October 11-17) attended two funerals in one week. One “humanist”, centred on “eulogising”; one Catholic, contemplated the fate of one’s soul. Brigid wants a humanist funeral because “there is no time to waste when you stop believing in an afterlife”. Yet wasn’t the Old Testament, e.g. the Ten Commandments, written by people with no belief in a personal afterlife? They kept the commandments from a desire to please God and to avoid dishonouring their race. Catholics, too, know that one should eschew sin, not merely to escape God’s punishment, but primarily because sin offends the infinite goodness of the God we love. One’s funeral is part of one’s legacy. Shouldn’t it offer both – something to celebrate, plus some time well spent reflecting on how finite we rational animals are?

– Arnold Jago, Nichols Point, Vic

Clearing out the complications

Thanks, Mike Seccombe, for a fine analysis and an informative piece (“Sell! Sell! Sell!”, October 4-10). It could also be said that the privatisation of essential service by various governments is a path to abrogate their responsibilities and an effort to rid themselves of management decisions and potential opprobrium. For many years the Postmaster-General (PMG), Telstra, Commonwealth Bank, State Electricity Commission and many other departments’ ability to charge and deliver quality services to the public was the responsibility of the government departments and the public could hold to account, through a vote at the ballot box, the government of the day. In fact, Menzies nearly lost an election on a proposed increase in the stamp and telephone price by the PMG in the 1950s. Furthermore the government’s operation of the Commonwealth Bank had a restraining impact on the avariciousness of the rest of the banking sector, as did the Commonwealth Oil Refineries on the rest of the oil industry, until they were sacrificed to the “free market” principles, and the public lost their political leverage that our politicians dreaded.

Mike Flanagan, Mallanganee, 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 October 18, 2014.

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