Abbott’s Waterloo moment a chance to change
As Hamish McDonald frequently reminds us, Tony Abbott’s military adventurism derives not from the exigencies of the anarchic international sphere but from the banality of domestic politics. So after the events of Monday night, it will be interesting to see whether a Turnbull government takes a different approach to discretionary warfare, which since 9/11 has spilt so much blood and consumed so much treasure. In the meantime, though, a heartbroken Tony Abbott would probably appreciate being compared with a great military hero such as Napoleon Bonaparte, as unlikely as such a pairing seems. Of Napoleon’s final campaigns, one strategic theorist said that “it scarcely made sense to think of him fighting for the felicity and safety of France … Napoleon was fighting to save himself. France had become a weapon in his hands.” How apt!
– Dave Lisle, Mullumbimby, NSW
Our friends and enemies at the gate
It is clear from the number of articles in the September 12-18 issue of The Saturday Paper, such as Sophie Morris’s “How the refugees debate changed”, that Abbott is not a statesman but just an opportunist. His government policies on military engagement and the consequences of it – refugees – are a dog’s breakfast. For example, we have bad enemies (Daesh in Syria and Iran). We have not-so-bad enemies (Assad regime). We have good allies (Kurds in Iran). We have bad refugees (boat arrivals). We have not-so-bad refugees (plane arrivals). We have good refugees (arrivals by foot to Syrian camps). We have preferred refugees (Christian families). We have scary refugees (single Muslim men). We have banned refugees (Syrians detained on Manus etc). We have good regional co-operation on refugees (Nauru). We have not-so-good regional co-operation (Cambodia). We have bad regional co-operation (Rohingya Muslims fleeing to Indonesia and Malaysia). All of this smacks of wedge politics, and dog whistling to gain votes at the next election. None of it is based on sound policy objectives to address an increasing worldwide problem.
– Dr Ellak I. von Nagy-Felsobuki, Arcadia Vale, NSW
Lobby group spotlights silent majority
I hope Elizabeth Jones recognises the irony in her letter criticising Mike Seccombe’s use of census data (Letters, September 12-18). The data she cites does not support her implicit claim – that 61 per cent of Australians identify as Christian and they support governments that implement particular Christian agendas. This is a common tactic used by certain groups, such as the Australian Christian Lobby. The fact that someone identifies as a Christian does not mean they support the particular political agendas of the ACL or their particular churches. While the leaders of those groups would like to claim that to be the case, that does not make it true.
– Samantha Chung, Cambridge, UK
Brought to you by the Canning byelection
With Malcolm Turnbull’s welcome win, Tony Abbott’s policy changes over the past weeks need to be reassessed. It is chilling to think that the 12,000 Syrian refugees may be referred to as the “Canning byelection refugees” and the bombs dropped on Syria could be inscribed with “Brought to you by the Canning byelection”.
– Bill Johnstone, Marrickville, NSW
Action, not badges, define the person
Antony Ault (Letters, September 12-18) uses 16 lines to say what I would hold as an incontrovertible truth: that any person who professes to be a Christian instinctively lives by everything that Mr Ault covers. Thus, by my reckoning there are few, if any, genuine Christians to be found in this distinctly unempathic federal government. I am reminded of Philip Ruddock, who always wore an Amnesty International badge on his lapel as he went about his contribution to the equally mean-spirited agendas of the Howard government.
– Ian Nowak, Subiaco, WA
Quick review shows gender bias
The book reviews are my favourite section of The Saturday Paper. Yet for months now, I’ve suspected that women writers are not getting sufficient coverage here. A rough tally indicates that from January to mid-September 2015 the paper reviewed 64 books by men, 34 books by women (and three books by both women and men). This suggests that male writers receive nearly twice as much coverage in the literary section as do their female colleagues. The Saturday Paper does a fine job of promoting high-quality journalism by both women and men. However, it needs to address the gender bias that is evident in its book reviews.
– Magdalena McGuire, Abbotsford, Vic
Siege mentality a form of terrorism
I would have thought that prosecuting “war” on various citizens of one’s own nation, by any reasonable definition, counts as a terrorist act (Tony Windsor, “War on governance”, September 5-11). Surely, even under current legislation let alone proposed “strengthening”, there is something we can do with these people?
– Keith Birney, Shepparton, Vic
Adding insult to injury
Interesting that your lead story on sexual abuse at Geelong Grammar (Martin McKenzie-Murray, “Hiding abuse behind prestige”, September 12-18) tells us that calling someone a “poofter” is a term of abuse, and 15 pages later your would-be smart commentator, Gadfly, uses the term for Gore Vidal, with no apparent sign of irony. Maybe no one will be particularly hurt by the term, but it sits badly, coming from someone who mocks politicians if they abuse the language.
– Dennis Altman, Clifton Hill, Vic
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This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Sep 19, 2015. Subscribe here.