Letters to
the editor

Start with war on tobacco

If the Indonesian government wants to demonstrate its toughness on drugs (Hamish McDonald, “Foreigners fall guys as Jokowi stands firm”, March 7-13), it might start with the country’s No. 1 killer drug: tobacco. This is Indonesia’s most widespread, most deadly and most addictive drug; it’s also the most ruthlessly targeted towards children – with single stick sales, huge media and billboard advertising, and promotion at pop concerts and youth events. Indonesia is the only country in the region that hasn’t signed the world tobacco control treaty; and the tobacco industry’s representatives are schmoozed and favoured by government and its agencies. Is it too much to ask for some consistency here?

– Stafford Sanders, Gladesville, NSW

Morrison’s next stage

Is there a genuine Scott Morrison or merely a version to suit the occasion? (Mike Seccombe, “The making of ‘Fluffy Morrison’ ”, March 7-13). How depressing that this MP, though elected by voters to represent them, is in fact just an accomplished actor. And the worst aspect of the situation is that his portfolios are concerned with the most vulnerable in our society: first, asylum seekers and now those dependent on pensions and state assistance. A cruel joke indeed.

– Ruth Boschen, Balwyn, Vic

The widening chasm

It was brave of Clare Martin (“Minding the gap”, February 28-March 6) to admit that the failings of both state and federal governments, since 2007, had led to such poor outcomes for the community of Nauiyu.

In our lifetime and on our watch we have allowed governments to impose laws that have resulted in Aboriginal people going backwards on every marker of social wellbeing. In the territory suicide and self-harm have quadrupled and incarceration rates have gone through the roof since the introduction of the intervention, followed by Stronger Futures. Rosalie Kunoth-Monks recently said, “We are under assault … We feel we’ve got the big white man’s boots on our throat.” At a recent launch of Just Reinvest NSW one elder said, “If you want to see what disempowerment looks like, just go to the territory. It’s a very dark place.” We owe so much more to the first peoples of our country. It’s sad that this one area of bipartisanship of Liberal and Labor policies has failed to take on board recommendations from the many reports and reviews indicating the devastating effects on the ground. In fact, they have moved to ever more draconian measures.

This must change!

– Cathy Gill, Bronte, NSW

PM on single track

A couple of weeks ago David Marr presented a cogent, insightful and balanced argument that Tony Abbott has never being particularly enamoured of the law (“Abbott running from the law”, February 28-March 6). A less fair-minded writer might even have described such contempt for the law’s values as “authoritarian” given that the context is always a quick win in the clamour for power. Abbott’s insouciance for the law was again on display this week when he attacked the “credibility” of the United Nations Human Rights Council whose report opined that Australia was in breach of the Convention Against Torture. The outburst followed the contours of the attack on Gillian Triggs. But it also harks back to a familiar diplomatic approach. In his early days as PM, Abbott defended Sri Lanka’s atrocious human rights record with the memorable line that while Australia “deplores the use of torture, we accept that sometimes in difficult circumstances difficult things happen”.

– Dave Lisle, Mullumbimby, NSW

Carry On Up the Organisation

The letter from David Adermann in the March 7-13 edition so aptly pointed out that Tony Abbott has been promoted to his level of incompetence, as described by the Peter Principle, that I turned to another aspect of his work. Robert Townsend in his book, Up the Organisation, has a chapter labelled “Assistants-to and make-working”. There he points out that “the assistant-to recommends itself to the weak or lazy manager as a crutch. It helps him where he shouldn’t and can’t be helped – head-to-head contact with his people.” The assistant-to “moves back and forth between the boss and his people with oral or written messages on real or apparent problems – overlapping and duplicating efforts and make-working.” Townsend concludes that “anyone who has an assistant-to should be fined $100 a day until he eliminates the position.” Titles vary for “assistant-to” but in this case Tony Abbott has a chief of staff.

– Philip J. Brentnall, Blackburn, Vic

Pyneing for a better deal

I worked in the applied information and communication technology research sector for most of the past 20 years. My colleagues and I had varied levels of impact in industry and government over time. I lost my last research job just as it was about to become useful to the Queensland government, due to the blind budget slashing of the Newman government. However, the past decade in collaborative research has been significantly hampered by the university participants, which give research assistants one-year contracts, and no pathways to a career without first becoming teaching academics. In the ’90s I was given three-year contracts, as well as upward and sideways mobility by independent research managers who treated their staff as the most valuable assets. The recent paradigm of intellectual property as the only good, and researchers as the casualised burger flippers of academia, is now being brought to its logical endpoint by Christopher Pyne.

– Keith Duddy, West End, Qld

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 March 14, 2015.

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