Reformed senate a welcome change
The crossbench senators are in the prime minister’s crosshairs (Sophie Morris, “The ‘cartel’ plan to kill senate ferals”, April 18-24). The reforms recommended by the joint standing committee on electoral matters, in May 2014, could remove most of them, if legislated prior to a possible double dissolution. That committee is dominated by the major parties. Understandably, these recommendations primarily suit them, especially, in this case, the Coalition. Yes, manipulators of preferences would be out of a job, but minor parties would be greatly disadvantaged and the proportional, diverse character of the senate would not be enhanced. The crossbench senators could propose a far superior alternative: proportional representation – open party list system. There are many successful examples in the world. A state is an electoral district for either six or 12 senators, as is the case now. Voters would have just one vote, which goes to one party list or an independent. The quota is the total number of voters in a state divided by six or 12, plus one. No horsetrading and manipulation of preferences at all. Deserving competent crossbench senators could well be returned. The reform would set an example for further electoral improvements in lower houses. The political culture would change from adversarial sniping to one of seeking consensus, a sea change of gigantic proportions.
– Klaas Woldring, Pearl Beach, NSW
Bring on more Muir et al
I consciously decided not to vote for motoring enthusiast Ricky Muir, but I would certainly vote for him next time, not because of motoring enthusiasm but because he and other so-called ferals have shown they are honest and gutsy representatives, not your typical career Labor/Coalition politician. To suggest their election was undemocratic when compared with the behaviour of Prime Minister Tony Abbott is laughable. Think broken promises, knights and dames, the Queen’s husband knighted without consulting anyone. Was that democracy? What Ricky Muir, Jacqui Lambie and many other independents and parties such as the Greens have shown us is that the “two-party system” of government is broken. The major parties’ policies differ very little and they are more interested in keeping power than governing for the majority of ordinary working people. We need more independent and small parties reflecting a wider variety of views.
– Brian Moynihan, Castlemaine, Vic
Opening up on pivot’s meaning
America’s strategic “pivot to Asia”, which may be a precursor to war with China, goes largely unreported in mainstream media. Hamish McDonald’s report (“Japan’s undersea spy battle with China”, April 18-24) is welcome. The framing of Australia’s defence policy towards China is being conducted away from public view by a government where the prime minister has said Australia’s relations with China are motivated by “fear and greed”, hardly rational thinking. As part of America’s Asian pivot, Vietnamese troops will be training in Australia shortly: Australia, Vietnam, Japan, and other nations in the region, are part of the pivot. As a nation we should remember the thoughtless “All the way with LBJ” proclamation by Harold Holt in 1966 regarding the Vietnam War and get the current defence policy discussions out in the open. The irony of the US and Australia now being an ally of Vietnam deserves comment.
– Des Files, Brunswick, Vic
An answer to Muslim call
It was sad to read Bill Moerland’s letter (“Family shows support”, April 18-24). He challenged readers to name just one benefit that Muslims have brought to Australia and bets that we can’t. Well, I’ll start with the Afghan cameleers without whose efforts early white Australians would never have opened up the desert centre. Pity they got turfed out as a result of the “white Australia” policy after Federation. Perhaps The Saturday Paper might get one of Australia’s Muslim writers such as Waleed Aly or Randa Abdel-Fattah to contribute a full feature article to challenge Bill’s blinkered views of Muslims in Australia and their contribution to this country.
– Peter D. Jones, Lenah Valley, Tas
Balance needed in vaccination debate
I was surprised to see the tone you took in your editorial (“Needle points”, April 18-24). Not every parent who doesn’t vaccinate their kids is a stupid Byron Bay hippie... some parents actually have real concerns over the safety of vaccines and, instead of having a balanced discussion about this topic, the conversation is simply shut down. It’s pathetic.
– Ian Haig, Thornbury, Vic
Science trapped in ideological storm
Those asserting that wind turbines cause adverse health effects seem increasingly to be tilting at windmills (Wendy Zukerman, “Blowin’ in the wind”, April 18-24). Yet Australia’s peak health funding body has allocated another $2.5 million for further tilting. This is much less about health than politics. It parallels the federal government’s decision to provide $4 million for climate sceptic Bjørn Lomborg to establish a think tank at the University of Western Australia. Its name, the “Australian Consensus Centre”, takes dissembling to new heights. This is not about consensus but institutionalising delay and is part of a deliberate and organised program to sully the science of global warming and manufacture discord about our response. An economic campaign by fossil fuel companies – joined by a political elite benighted by “quarry vision” – has morphed into a culture war. The collision between power and science has left the latter badly bruised.
– Dave Lisle, Mullumbimby, NSW
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This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Apr 25, 2015. Subscribe here.