New concerns surround the government’s increased use of legislative powers to bypass the parliament and create laws that cannot be amended or overturned. The federal government has embedded special powers in new Covid-19 laws to make unilateral changes to non-pandemic-related legislation, using what are known as ‘Henry VIII clauses’ – named for the unchecked power they involve.
Refugees’ brutal treatment shames us all
Martin McKenzie-Murray’s latest report in The Saturday Paper (“Nauru rapes: ‘There is a war on women’ ”, August 22-28), coming on top of previous reporting about Nauru, is chilling. The accompanying leader sums up the situation with brutal honesty. As it correctly discerns, Nauru detention exists to be worse than the situation its prisoners have fled. These asylum seekers are victims, not criminals, the overwhelming majority of whom are consistently found by rigorous legal processes to be refugees within the meaning of the Refugee Convention. Australia is subjecting them to serious and significant harm for reasons that a court would undoubtedly find come within the Refugee Convention definition. Australia, as a consequence of deliberate government policy, is persecuting those fleeing from persecution. How much longer can our politicians trash the reputation and self-respect of our country, and persecute vulnerable people and then insult our intelligence by defending such actions in terms of the crudest slogans? We cannot continue down this path. Yes, there are no easy answers. But anything is better than what we have, our complicity in Nauru. History will not absolve us.
– John Blount, former deputy principal member, Refugee Review Tribunal
Heydon’s defence could save a lot of bacons
It is interesting to read Richard Ackland’s article “Judging Heydon” (August 22-29). As Ackland has pointed out, Heydon’s own reflection on “perceived bias” may come back to haunt him. However, if Heydon decides to continue as the commissioner, how can he in a practical sense not accept the argument of any union or company officials claiming – when referring to emails and their attachments directed to them – “I overlooked the connection between the person or persons organising the event and the purpose of the event”. Such arguments could be used in terms of companies gifting money and how the gifted money was spent by union officials. How could Heydon then claim that such a defence is inappropriate for the average punter in the street, since a claim you only partially read an email (without additional and independent evidence) can never be actually tested for its truthfulness or otherwise?
– Dr Ellak I. von Nagy-Felsobuki, Arcadia Vale, NSW
An Orwellian response to climate change
Thank you, Mike Seccombe, for your article (“CO2 smoke and mirrors”, August 22-28). Numbers are crucial in science, but they can equally be used to confuse the issue. And this is what the Abbott government has tried to do. The Climate Change Authority recommended that, on the basis of making a fair and equitable contribution towards a commonly agreed 2ºC goal, Australia’s emissions reduction should be, by 2030, between 45 per cent and 65 per cent, based on 2005 levels. The government’s recently announced target of 26 per cent falls well below that. Crucially, it fails the fair and equitable test because, on average, each Australian is producing far more greenhouse gases than the average person of any other nation. Australia now stands isolated and will continue to be in 2030 – essentially, a nation of “free-riders”. Abbott’s attempt to paint this emission reduction target as responsible is a blatant lie. Increasingly, policy announcements from this government have more in common with the Orwellian party slogan “Ignorance is strength”, than making a genuine contribution to the international effort to mitigate climate change.
– David Nash, Manly, NSW
Emissions numbers don’t add up
Mike Seccombe quotes unreliable sources for his claims in the article “Filthy secrets” (August 8-14). For example, he calculates from carbon dioxide emissions for May and June (year unspecified) an annual rate of increase for the nation of 1.2 per cent. But the latest report on Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions on the Department of the Environment’s website shows that annual emissions to March 2015 decreased by 0.2 per cent, and emissions in the quarter to March 2015 decreased by 0.4 per cent. Why would a journalist take two months’ data only, unverified, and extrapolate to obtain a false annual emissions increase? His headline claims that Australia’s carbon emissions are increasing, but again the fact sheet from the department’s website shows that Australia’s annual emissions have decreased from 614 million (M) tonnes (t) of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2-e) in 2005-06 to 548Mt in 2013-14. To meet the nation’s target of a 5 per cent reduction by 2020, annual emissions need to fall to 530Mt CO2-e. The whole tenor of the article promotes the belief that Australia is not reducing emissions. This belief is not borne out by the department’s official reports, which show that we are prepared to meet our obligations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
– Professor Robert White, Ivanhoe East, Vic
Too self-destructive to cross the universe
There is another theory as to why we haven’t yet detected any signs of extraterrestrial life (Alex Lewis, “Not even close encounters”, August 22-28). That is, once a civilisation reaches a particular technological level, they all but inevitably annihilate themselves. Due to the vast timescales involved, no civilisation would ever likely be in a position to communicate with another. We are now at a stage where we can influence our own environment, by way of pollution (leading to global warming), and the ongoing threat of nuclear weapons, among others. When even someone as intelligent as John von Neumann advocated a pre-emptive strike on the Soviet Union, I wouldn’t bet against us becoming part of this universal silence.
– Sean Burns, Point Cook, Vic
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This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Aug 29, 2015.
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