Wrong place for mothers and babies
Martin McKenzie-Murray’s horrific descriptions of living conditions for asylum seekers on Nauru (“Decoy and secrecy on Nauru abuse”, March 28-April 3) were confirmed for me by a number of women transferred temporarily from Nauru to Darwin, where I met them recently in Wickham Point Immigration Detention Centre. They described up to 30 people crammed into tents; sleeping on stretchers; mice, scorpions and cockroaches infesting the tents; complete lack of privacy; taunts by guards whenever they went to shower; days with no running water and bathrooms covered with excrement. There was constant fear for their personal safety. Pregnant women are transferred to Darwin at 32 weeks’ gestation. They then receive care in Royal Darwin Hospital. But Wickham Point, although vastly better than Nauru, is also hot, overcrowded and isolated. Both present major risks of infectious diseases, especially gastroenteritis, for newborns, and are highly conducive to the development of postnatal depression. No newborn babies have been transferred back to Nauru, but with an increasing number at Wickham Point it seems transfers are imminent. As an obstetrician with many years’ experience, I believe the physical environment on Nauru is completely unsuitable for pregnant women and newborns and would not be tolerated by Australians. These women and their families should be transferred to community detention on the mainland, to ensure the best possible outcomes for maternal and child health.
– Professor Caroline de Costa, James Cook University College of Medicine, Qld
A shameful response
How tragic and even symbolic that the day after the funeral of Malcolm Fraser, Martin KcKenzie-Murray’s article on the vile situation on Nauru appeared. If the humanitarian attitudes shown by Fraser towards Vietnamese refugees were put forward by even one MP, we might feel there was some hope that our national shame would be reduced. The government reaction towards the Moss review is indifference bordering on hostility and towards the Save the Children workers it is aggression despite some having post-traumatic stress disorder. Bickering about the budget is easier and occupies columns of commentary: not as painful as human suffering.
– Ruth Boschen, Balwyn, Vic
When questioned about the hideous conditions and treatment of asylum seekers on Nauru, Scott Morrison’s stock answer is to say that all items in the Moss report have been adopted. Not a hint of an apology to the poor souls involved or to the Save the Children staff. And all our prime minister can say is “things happen”. What an uncompassionate lot we have running this country!
– Jim Banks, Pottsville Beach, NSW
Dispute settlement far from settled
While James Brown blandly endorses the Trans-Pacific Partnership (“Reaching the TPP-ing point”, March 28-April 3), his commentary on investor-state dispute settlement only told half of the story. In 1998 the multilateral trade agreement was blocked by the European Union because it contained a similar provision and later blocked the Doha Round of negotiations for the same reasons. The TPP sidelines the EU completely for this reason. Nations who signed up for the North American Free Trade Agreement are not so fortunate. It has already cost nation-states hundreds of millions when their governments interfered with corporations’ rights to make a profit by trying to protect their natural environment. Just ask Canada. Brown’s assertion that Australians had “little public concern” over ISDS clauses in recent trade agreements shows that he is not networking with the right people on social media. The issue exploded there.
– Joy Ringrose, Pomona, Qld
Women’s aid decades in the making
Luke Vanni made some excellent points (Letters, March 28-April 3), however, he reiterated the false comparison in the original article. Treating established women’s groups as the equivalent to men’s rights activism (MRA) is like assuming that a school swimming champion is the equivalent of an Olympian. Women’s groups have spent decades supporting women and children to leave violent homes and have consistently criticised the gender roles that promote masculinity through sexual violence. Contrast that with MRA’s record. They openly yearn for a society where men are entitled to their wives and children, no matter how poorly men behave. They boast about unleashing “guerilla” tactics to intimidate their former partners and their own children but cannot understand why the courts did not trust them with the custody of their children. By their own accounts, at least for a period of time, they were unfit to be parents.
– Samantha Chung, Cambridge, UK
Representation is the key
The political machinations described by Sophie Morris (“Pressure builds on same-sex marriage”, March 28-April 3) raise the simple question of what right MPs have to a conscience vote. Don’t their “meaningful vows” commit them to represent the people who elect them? If consenting adults wish to commit themselves to the financial and personal legal bonds marriage entails, I cannot see why any politician should have the power to deny them the right to do so because of personal values about who may enjoy sex with whom. Neither the Labor Party nor the Liberals should determine whether their elected MPs may vote according to the party line or their own consciences. They have an obligation to allow them to vote according to the wishes of the majorities of the various electorates they represent. Polling shows that most people support same-sex marriage. Get on with it.
– Sue Hobley, Lilyfield, NSW
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This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Apr 4, 2015. Subscribe here.