Letters to
the editor

Defender of free speech strikes back

Accurate reporting is the hallmark of a good newspaper. Fairness is the measure of a decent one. The Saturday Paper failed on both counts last week. Contrary to your editorial (“Devil is in the data”, November 1-7), my column in The Australian on October 29 did not in any way, shape or form say, suggest or even intimate that “legislation is needed to control the thought of terrorism”. Neither in that column nor in anything else I have written have I postulated such a dangerous notion. I believe what people think is always a matter purely for them and their God, if they have one. What they do with those thoughts becomes more contestable. I have long defended free speech no matter how offensive it is. However, when free speech is used to encourage others to commit terrorist acts, then, in those circumstances alone, our rights to free speech must give way to our rights to security.

– Janet Albrechtsen, Sydney, NSW

The power of words

The first two paras of your editorial (“Whistling tricksy”, October 25-31) will bring down the Abbott government ...

– Joan Croll, Drummoyne, NSW

Whistleblowin’ in the wind

It’s not only to whistleblower journalists that G20 countries offer protection. Our Australian Competition and Consumer Commission actually encourages and relies on companies to blow the whistle on those engaging in misleading and deceptive conduct so that it can investigate them. It seems the government wants it both ways on this issue, among so many others, too.  

– David McMaster, Cremorne, NSW

Black comedy shows folly of war

Tony Windsor points out in his article (“Going to war the Howard way”, November 1-7) the lack of accountability that has crept into our parliament. Surely there can be no greater act of an elected government than to declare war. Sadly though, over the intervening years we seem to have been bamboozled, both by the media and our government, with a tsunami of conflicting information. Prior to the outbreak of the Second Gulf War in 2003, we were presented across various media with diagrams of supposed components of weapons of mass destruction; not only was Australia deceived, the United States and Britain were also sucked in. The lurid diagrams evoked a memory of the Graham Greene novel Our Man in Havana. A hapless vacuum cleaner salesman caught in a vortex of international espionage, in a desperate attempt to please his masters, supplies diagrams of a devious new weapon that has a curious similarity to a vacuum cleaner, though that was not the tragedy of the tale. That came in the inability of the spymasters to admit their folly. Though we may live in hope of some degree of enlightenment, on this the centenary of the outbreak of the war to end all wars, in this ever more complex world, I suspect the analysis of “baddies versus baddies” will be an indication of the follies to come.

– Mike Clifford, Blaxland, NSW

Different lens on PM’s decisions

Tony Windsor describes important problems in national politics, of hypocrisy and lack of democratic process, that gag debate on critical issues such as war. That John Howard ignored advice about war and Prime Minister Abbott ignores advice about Ebola both demonstrate the self-interest involved in decision-making. This is not helped by a hamstrung opposition. But Windsor sidesteps a fundamental issue. What really bedevils national debate is a confected confusion about what it means to have strength. It seems “shirtfronting” is meant to convey strength, while vacillating on Ebola is being sensible rather than weak. Inhumane treatment of refugees is seen as determination, rather than incapacity to deal with complexity. Gagging free reporting is seen as firmness in the face of terrorism, rather than a terrified response to accountability. De-funding is budgetary responsibility rather than gagging dissent. It might seem that being straight and facilitating a fair go has stopped being a strength of Australian politics, replaced instead by empty posturing.

– Gil Anaf, Norwood, SA

Politics and the market

Thanks to Mike Seccombe for “Supermarket forces”  (October 25-31); the title pretty much said it all. However, I feel that the topic has room for a little more intellectual context. Part of the problem is the zeitgeist of neoliberalism. Under market rule, governments have been increasingly reticent to “intervene” with competition policy because markets are thought to be so wise. If they are generating anti-competitive monopolies then that must be the correct outcome. Who are governments to interfere? Ideology aside, another stumbling block is the politics of how to implement and enforce real competition policy. In a democratic society, having many competitive firms actually seeds anti-monopoly legislation. Where monopoly reigns, the political pressures are quite the reverse.

– David Lisle, Mullumbimby, NSW

Whitlam legacy dismantled by Howard

As the tributes continue for the late Gough Whitlam, so do former Liberal ministers attempt to denigrate his legacy. Part of this was Labor’s vision for a strong, secular, non-discriminatory public education sector to advance a tolerant, united society established by Whitlam’s funding program and continued by Bob Hawke and Paul Keating. This vision has been progressively dismantled by Howard, leading to more  private-sector schools based on religion, discrimination and racism. So much for a cohesive Australian society.

– Barrie Brown, East Gosford, 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 November 8, 2014.

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