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.
Devout leaders line pews
Mike Seccombe’s piece “Abbott and the Christian Right” (August 29-September 4) was stimulating and timely. However, many serious practising Christians in Australia – mainline Protestant and Catholic – would be appalled by the proposition that the Abbott government is “probably the most obviously religious government the country has ever had”. The contention is an insult to men of the stature of Alfred Deakin (Protectionist/Commonwealth Liberal), Andrew Fisher (ALP), James Scullin (ALP), Joe Lyons (UAP), Ben Chifley (ALP), Robert Menzies (UAP/Liberal) and Paul Keating (ALP), to name only some of our most outstanding and devout former leaders. The selective religiosity of John Howard, and the Jekyll-and-Hyde personality of Kevin Rudd, left both of them open to fair criticism. But each was streets ahead of Abbott in the practical application of Judeo-Christian values: likewise the self-described agnostics Gough Whitlam and Bob Hawke, both of whom were raised by deeply pious fathers. I must also disagree strongly with Seccombe that faith has been irrelevant “through much of this country’s political history”. For those interested, I argue the opposite in my book In God They Trust?: The religious beliefs of Australia’s prime ministers 1901-2013.
– Roy Williams, Balgowlah, NSW
Two notable Catholics out of step
In “Abbott and the Christian Right”, Mike Seccombe points out that Tony Abbott’s Catholicism is not that of the Pope. Does that make him a heretic or a schismatic? And what about George Pell? Is he in the same boat and out of the bark of St Peter too?
– Michael D. Breen, Robertson, NSW
You can judge Heydon on his lifelong privilege
I laughed out loud when I read Dyson Heydon’s exoneration of himself against allegations of bias, without one black type word of what it is that constitutes his bias. All judges are biased, because overwhelmingly they are socially privileged. Born into privilege, educated at privileged schools, and in faculties at privileged universities where entry is restricted by and large to the privileged. In Melbourne their only interaction with the people is passing the pie stalls outside the MCG, scurrying for the leather upholstered security of the Long Room. It’s about time judges were elected. At least they would have a mandate from the people to pass judgement on them.
– Brian Sanaghan, West Preston, Vic
‘Well, he would say that, wouldn’t he?’
It’s good to know that in the trusting Australian legal system commissioner Dyson Heydon has been able to sit in judgement on his own accused perceived bias in the royal commission he runs and find himself completely perceptually unbiased. But as a famous and insightful English lady once said in another sensitive political context, “Well, he would say that, wouldn’t he?” Is there any chance of the hoi polloi getting his opinion on the resultant issue of conflict of interest?
– John Garretty, Kelso, NSW
Royal commissioner a well-preserved relic
Richard Ackland’s synopsis of the legal career of Dyson Heydon (“Judging Heydon”, August 22-29) is the only one in the media that gives some background to the royal commissioner. And how interesting it is. I have heard that conservatives can be grouped into “wets” and “dries” but maybe we should add those who might be described as “desiccated”.
– Bill Forbes, Kippaxs, NSW
Local television at its best
Helen Razer’s blunt trauma criticism of The Weekly with Charlie Pickering (“At wit’s end”, August 29-September 4) is wide of the mark, unlike the show itself, which hits the bullseye of criticising our political failures with unerring accuracy. Her claim that it “offers ... something more like a vanity newsletter written by an underpaid youth worker” shows that she is either not paying attention, or has failed to appreciate the incisive humour that it provides. To compare Pickering’s show with Mad As Hell is to compare apples with pears. To compare it with The Daily Show is to completely miss its cultural relevance. Destructive criticism at best, of a program that in half an hour provides insights, clever, revealing interviews and deliciously irreverent Aussie humour.
– Joy Ringrose, Pomona, Qld
Book review misses the point
My attention has been drawn to a review of my latest book, The War on Journalism: Media Moguls, Whistleblowers and the Price of Freedom, published in The Saturday Paper (Books, August 22-29). The review makes a number of curious assertions. First, that the “focus to Fowler’s book” is the oversight of the intelligence community. To any reasonable reader it should be clear the book is about the price we pay when journalists from the traditional media get too close to government and powerful interests. As I demonstrate in the book, there is no better example than the often unquestioning coverage in the lead-up to the Iraq war.
There are other curios. The reviewer takes issue with the notion that investigative journalism is in decline, asserting that investigative journalism “has never been stronger”. Yet , according to published figures, newspaper sales have never been lower. Maybe there is a hidden link between plummeting income and stronger journalism. But I have yet to find it. I hoped my book would stir open debate. I notice the review is written by a person whose name is kept secret. How contradictory for a publication like The Saturday Paper, which champions transparency.
– Andrew Fowler, Neutral Bay, NSW
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This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Sep 5, 2015.
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