Letters

Letters to
the editor

The sins of our minister

This mother’s account of conditions in Nauru was both a terrible letter to read, and a very important one to see in print (“Living in the hell called Nauru”, October 25-31). As she says, the letter is “a small picture of the great hell” and this hell is a place that has a veracity because of the detail and the language used. Each paragraph puts us right into the environment that Scott Morrison’s policy has created: in practice, nothing short of a series of torture chambers from which there is no escape. Even suicide is stopped by the allocation of a personal torturer to watch you day and night. Humiliation after deprivation is described in this straightforward, heartfelt narrative that has credence in a way that a journalist’s words cannot always have. I am grateful that The Saturday Paper has published this account. What have we done as a young country founded on migration to believe that this is good policy well executed, and effective because of its damage to human life? “What is the sin of these children?” the mother asks. No matter whether we have religious conviction, or secular beliefs, this woman speaks to us all, and we cannot but be affected. The question is, will Scott Morrison act to change the systemic series of physical and psychological tortures that policy has manufactured. Advance Australia Fair? I don’t think so.

– Dr Charles Zuber, Dutton Park, Qld

Port Arthur meets Devil’s Island

After reading this letter I sat for some time appalled and deeply ashamed. The writer in her simple, direct style told a story as eloquently and as vividly as any Dickens or Solzhenitsyn. I grew up in Australia at the height of the Cold War. Our politicians and diplomats and legal paragons were pleased to tell everyone who would listen – and everyone else – that our system of justice was so moral, so ethical that of course we would let the guilty go free rather than unjustly punish the innocent. Our bubble sure popped years ago, didn’t it? What have we now? A blend of Port Arthur and Devil’s Island, a concentration camp seemingly designed to persecute its inmates first into insanity and then into death. What on earth has come over us? What has happened to our compassion, our charity, our instinct for a fair go? The government tells us that the terrifying boats are being turned back. Maybe, but at what cost in human life and suffering? 

– Walter Steensby, Hawker, ACT

Ask about the purpose of subs

Max Opray’s article “Subs division” (October 25-31) omits (or at least glosses over) some simple facts. First, there is no sign that either the government or the electorate has a clue what a submarine fleet’s strategic mission would be. If it is not to maintain open sea-lanes between our ports and South-East Asia, it is a mission of no purpose. Second, there is simply no off-the-shelf conventional submarine (Sōryū included) with the endurance to accomplish this. Given that nuclear power will not be considered, acquisition of a Collins-class replacement can only serve one purpose – either to preserve a valuable industry in Adelaide or to cement a “free” trade agreement with Japan. I ought not even mention the fact that we could buy American-made Virginia-class nuclear-powered boats for about the same price – the Royal Australian Navy lacks the resources to operate them anyway – but three or four of them could blockade our entire fleet in port indefinitely. 

– Matthew Peckham, Brunswick, Vic

A scam to cut university funding

I am surprised that even a naive economist or a dedicated ideologue could believe that market forces will improve higher education (Martin McKenzie-Murray, “Pyne needling”, October 25-31). It is reasonable to argue that the market works for frequent purchases, such as bread or espresso. We don’t return to vendors offering a substandard product or overcharging. But how can that possibly work with university degrees? Having studied science at Monash, you would be very unlikely to study science at La Trobe or law at Monash to see which was better value. It’s clear where this approach leads. Just as junk-food chains put the suburban milk-bar hamburger out of business, using clever marketing to persuade consumers to pay more for an inferior product, universities will ramp up their marketing rather than improve their courses. The scam is designed to allow the government to reduce still further public funding of universities, already the second-lowest per capita in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. 

– Professor Ian Lowe, Marcoola, Qld

US example a cautionary tale

I have recently returned from New York where my Australian elder daughter now lives and works. Her partner is a US citizen. He did his law degree at a New York university and graduated last year. The fees he has incurred for the three-year course amount to $US250,000, with interest accruing (from graduation) at 6.8 per cent a year. At present, he works in an insurance company and does not earn enough to repay his debt – now $US270,000. With this level of debt it will be difficult for him to repay it and set himself up financially without outside assistance. In Australia we pride ourselves in our belief in equality of opportunity, which includes access to university education. Gough Whitlam’s passing is a reminder of the value we have placed on universal free education, a value that is being eroded step by step as we move further towards the US approach to funding. The policies of education minister Christopher Pyne are working against equality of opportunity. We should be wanting our smartest students, not just our wealthiest, to go to university. 

– Richard Farago, Cammeray, Sydney

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This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Nov 1, 2014. Subscribe here.