Letters to
the editor

Camps no longer have a purpose

Stephen Langford (“Pushing to breaking point”, Letters, October 17-23) wrongly asserts that I accept that the Nauru and Manus Island camps are here to stay. I do not accept that, and never have. I have always been a strong opponent of the Pacific Solution in all its guises. I have argued that there is no longer any conceivable purpose to these camps because the boats have stopped, the military are confident that they will stay stopped, and both government and opposition are committed to stopping the boats whatever it takes. Once you’ve locked the door of the house, there is no need to maintain a chamber of horrors to keep others away. Malcolm Turnbull says these camps are harsh but not cruel. Given they serve no purpose, they are now cruel and harsh. We all share the shame and the blame. If the boats have stopped, we must close the Nauru and Manus Island camps immediately. Surely Turnbull and Shorten could agree on that much. 

– Frank Brennan, Yarralumla, ACT 

Doublespeak on Timor-Leste

Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop’s claim that the Timor Sea treaties were negotiated in “good faith” (“Australia stands by Timor treaties”, Letters, October 17-23) is astonishing in light of revelations that in 2004 Timor-Leste’s cabinet room was bugged by Australia’s foreign intelligence service, ASIS. Law professor Anthony D’Amato writes that “the principle of good faith requires parties to a transaction to deal honestly and fairly with each other ... and to refrain from taking unfair advantage”. These conditions were manifestly breached. Ms Bishop’s inventive deployment of the term “good faith” comes as no surprise though. Her government has demonstrated a mastery of bad faith in its international relations. We have been consistently told of Australia’s “fair and responsible” climate pledges; that refugees exercising their lawful right to seek asylum are illegals; and that to prevent deaths at sea, refugees, including children, must be interned indefinitely and subjected to conditions that amount to torture. As George Orwell observed, political language “is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable”. 

– Dave Lisle, Mullumbimby, NSW

Population’s effect on the environment

Mike Seccombe’s otherwise reasonable article (“People who need people”, October 17-23) fails to give proper attention to the environmental implications of population size. He presumes that maintenance of the human population is the be-all and end-all, when evidence suggests that the world – and indeed Australia – is overpopulated. Let us not forget we have lost half of our vertebrate species in the past 40 years and we are in the midst of the sixth mass extinction, caused largely by human numbers and activities, including climate change. Population decline, not maintenance, is what is required. In fact, Professor Peter McDonald got it right when he said: “No doubt the world’s population has to decline to be sustainable in the long term.” And sustainability is what it’s all about. McDonald advocates a fertility rate of 1.7 to 2.0, levels that would ultimately lower population numbers without causing excessive ageing. Some countries, such as Japan, may be indeed declining too fast and, without immigration, will disappear if current trends continue. But Japan, at least, is hopelessly overcrowded and it is no wonder couples are choosing to have only one child or none at all. Perhaps when population levels are more reasonable, say, at about a quarter of what they are now, couples will decide to have two children again. 

– Jenny Goldie, Michelago, NSW

More people not the answer

It took most of the article for Mike Seccombe to concede that the global economy is a Ponzi scheme. But having recognised that and the fact it will damage the natural environment, he argues that more people must be brought into Australia as fodder to feed that same scheme! Implicit in his comments is that a declining population is a bad thing. Yet in 1994 the Australian Academy of Science recommended that we should not exceed a population of 23 million if consumption of resources continued at the same rate; we will soon hit 24 million, and the consumption rate has increased. With all that we know about human impacts on climate change, energy use, food and water supply and creation of waste, a very different approach to the future is needed, one that is not based on more people. 

– Sandra Kanck, national president, Sustainable Population Australia

Size isn’t everything for PM 

Malcolm Turnbull can show he is a “man of the people”, as he claims, by moving out of his massive Point Piper mansion to slum it at Kirribilli House, and The Lodge, when it is finished being refurbished (Bob Ellis, Gadfly, and Sophie Morris, “Inside Turnbull’s media strategy”, October 17-23). These are the residences set aside for the prime minister of Australia and it is a pity he thinks they are too small, inadequate or unsuitable for him and his family. Many people have to downsize, and would love the options available to him. 

– Robyn Lipshut, Tatura, Vic

Shining a light on abuse claims

Martin McKenzie-Murray hits the nail on the head in his article about “The man paid to protect Nauru’s image” (October 17-23), Lyall Mercer. If there’s nothing to hide on Nauru (and for that matter Manus Island) why are journalists not allowed in to check the claims made about abuse and violence directed towards asylum seekers and refugees in these places?

 – Susan Giblin, New Farm, Qld

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 October 24, 2015.

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