Letters to
the editor

Focus on health of asylum seekers

Doctors Owler and Isaacs are to be congratulated on their strong opposition to the Border Force Act’s provisions threatening medical personnel speaking out about the care of asylum seekers (Sophie Morris, “Doctors ordered”, August 15-21). That the president of the Australian Medical Association should be prevented from visiting Nauru, as appears to have happened, is deplorable. The director of International Health and Medical Services (IHMS), a private company contracted to provide healthcare in immigration detention centres, and several other doctors employed by IHMS, have written in the Medical Journal of Australia in June this year that IHMS provides “high-quality healthcare” and “ready access to high-quality mental health services” and “encourages informed commentary”. However all IHMS employees are required to sign a contract forbidding adverse media comment, and now have the double whammy of the act, so it is hard to take seriously such glowing claims by IHMS. Nor does one need a medical degree to understand that the deplorable living conditions on Nauru, and the prolonged and indefinite nature of detention, are conducive neither to physical nor mental good health.

– Professor Caroline de Costa, James Cook University College of Medicine, Qld

Who’s Alan Jones?

Chris Masters discusses how politicians behave in interviews with Sydney radio presenter Alan Jones (“Jonestown’s mass succour”, August 15-21).

Can I say to Masters and our politicians that, like most non-Sydney Australians, I’ve never heard Jones speak and he has no influence whatsoever on my political views. It might surprise Abbott, Hockey, Turnbull and the rest of the Sydney political push but millions and millions of Australians don’t live in Sydney, have never been there, don’t listen to its radio programs and don’t give a stuff about what a Sydney radio presenter says.

– Peter Kay, Carlton North, Vic

Voters had their say in 1978

Alan Jones’s would-be political career ended with his ignominious defeat at the 1978 Earlwood byelection. The campaign highlight was a front-page picture in the local paper exposing Jones in a Greek “dress” as an apparent attempt to woo the multicultural voters of what had for more than 30 years been a safe Liberal electorate. Labor’s byelection win in the “blue ribbon” seat vacated by former NSW premier Sir Eric Willis was a triumph for the recently elected premier; only to be eclipsed by the “Wranslide” of 1980. Years later Neville Wran would lament that perhaps it might have been better had Jones entered the “bear pit” known as the NSW parliament: “He’d have done us less damage there, son.”

[Laurie Patton was an adviser in the Wran government and worked on the Earlwood byelection].

– Laurie Patton, Drummoyne, NSW

Some good signs for politics

Guy Rundle’s excellent, incisive survey (“Political animal house”, August 15-21) does much to explain the mediocrity of our political professionals, their bland, featureless, second-rate minds, their provincialism, the eternal drift to authoritarianism when lack of intellectual variety – or firepower – leaves these inept insiders struggling for an understanding of their circumstances, and our times. That Abbott and Shorten lead lives of increasing intellectual narrowness – driven by polls and the electoral Viagra of reactionary populism – may be depressing. And unanimity of purposeless careerism may well have led both sides to adopt the heartless brutalism of neocon economics as the only intellectual fad since the 1970s that fits the empty space between their ears. But, strangely, I am heartened. I see new figures standing out sharper against this grey-suited, whey-faced mob. Scott Ludlam’s wit and sense of irony, Bernie Sanders’ relentless honesty and capability, and Jeremy Corbyn’s new-found popularity, give me hope that the best of the old and the freshest-thinking of the new may yet inspire ideas that can truly change the paradigm and reposition humanity at the centre of our politics.

– Lee Kear, Kambah, ACT

Complex reasons for prison woes

Mike Seccombe’s critical take on the issue of “smokes” and prison was well appreciated (“Where there’s smokes...”, August 15-21). The observation that correlation does not imply causation suggests that if we aspire to deeper understanding, we should look to distal rather than proximate causes – which are often simply triggers. As such, the presentation by the authorities and media alike of the recent riots in the Melbourne Remand Centre as a simple function of the tobacco ban is problematic. By the same token though, presenting the burgeoning New South Wales prison population as a result of politicians “placating the populist media” elides a deeper issue. In Punishing the Poor, sociologist Loïc Wacquant observes that the law-and-order upsurge that has swept most post-industrial societies is a “reaction to, a diversion from, and a denegation of, the generalisation of the social and mental insecurity produced by the diffusion of desocialised wage labour against the backdrop of increased inequality”.

– Dave Lisle, Mullumbimby, NSW

Job already done

Hamish McDonald’s gibe about a possible Australian knighthood for Prince Charles (“What princely reward for Charles?”, World, August 15-21) is misplaced. Prince Charles has been a Knight of the Order of Australia (AK) since 1981.

– Stephen Brown, Forrest, ACT

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 August 22, 2015.

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