Letters to
the editor

Both sides of the Family Court argument

We’re puzzled by The Saturday Paper’s front-page attack on “a coalition of men’s rights activists … rewriting the Family Law Act by stealth” – a subheading as bizarre as it was provocative (Nijole Cork, “The men hijacking family law reforms”, February 6-12). The Family Law Reform Coalition, the apparent target of the story, is an apolitical association of dedicated women and men campaigning publicly for greater protection of children from all forms of harm, abuse and violence associated with family separation. Anyone can visit our website, download our policy paper “Children in Crisis”, or share opinions with our Facebook followers (35 per cent women, 64 per cent men). We think everyone should support what we stand for. We’re writing this letter not because this particular story was highly misleading, inaccurate, unbalanced and based on opinion rather than fact; nor because it purported to be investigative journalism, when its “further investigation” didn’t even stretch to contacting us; but because, by so comprehensively breaching the Australian Press Council’s Standards of Practice, such writing has the potential to do harm. To children. It will do so if it delays essential reforms by so much as a single day. This is a difficult, sensitive subject. It’s not helped by misleading, inflammatory rhetoric about “virulent lobby groups”, “men terrorising women” or “hijacking … by stealth”. And it’s not helped by playing the man (sneering at people’s professions), creating straw men (our coalition wants swifter, better protection of children, not less), or actually attacking men (we’re not a men’s rights advocacy group, but we find it distasteful that anyone should disparage those advocating for the rights of women, children or men. It’s time to move beyond ideological, gendered agenda; we must stop playing tennis, as Tim Minchin once put it, from opposite ends of different courts. Many men (including one of this letter’s authors) are passionate about protecting children from all harm, abuse and violence; many women (including the other author) know that shared parenting is best for most children. Surely it’s time for us all to work together, for the sake of our children.

– Jo Fothergill and David Curl, Family Law Reform Coalition

Trade versus the environment

Richard Ackland’s article “Tricks of the trade agreement” (February 13-19) highlights the lack of environmental safeguards contained within the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement. The retirement from politics of Andrew Robb, Australia’s chief negotiator on the TPP, has occurred not long after the conclusion of the Paris climate agreement. Representatives of governments around the planet, including Australia, made a solemn pledge in Paris “to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, recognising that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change”. The TPP does not even mention “climate change”. These two agreements, the TPP and the Paris accord, are in fundamental conflict, yet crucially, only the TPP is legally binding. Essential environmental safeguards, and the ideals to which the Australian government agreed in Paris, have been ignored in the subtext of the TPP. With the plaudits for Robb’s trade negotiations still ringing in parliament, it is worth paraphrasing the economist Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz: “This is about who makes the trade rules – the Australian people, our democratic process, or the corporations? And who they’re made for, which is, for the corporations, or for all of us?”

David Nash, Manly, NSW

Human population is the problem

Susan Chenery’s “Right off the bats” (February 13-19) describes a problem that has been recognised for decades. As flying foxes are essential to plant pollination and seed dispersal, two obvious solutions need to be enacted: replace the lost habitat for the bats to encourage them away from human settlement, and restrict human settlement near flying fox habitat. With our population rising at a rate of one extra person every one-and-a-half minutes, we need to realise what the real problem is.

– Karen Joynes, Bermagui, NSW

A warning on bats

Many native animals become a nuisance when there are too many of them. However, I think it is worth noting that bats represent a serious threat to humans as carriers of a number of viruses that infect humans (and other animals). Hendra virus and Nipah virus are found in fruit bats and have caused illness and death in humans and animals. The Australian lyssavirus is carried by fruit bats and is actually a rabies virus that causes fatal encephalitis in humans. So, be kind to bats, but be careful as well.

– John Mills, South Yarra, Vic

Local content gets its chance

At last – four weeks into the new year and we have three Australian books reviewed. Hurray. Until February 13 I thought The Saturday Paper was following one of the great 20th-century Australian traditions – review as few Australian books as possible. In the previous weeks only two of the nine books reviewed were Australian. In our desperation to feel part of the world we forget ourselves, over and over again.

– Jenny Darling, Southbank, Vic

Shorten zinger backfires

I don’t know who writes the smart-arse, but often cuttingly sardonic, comments below the half-dozen quotes for The Week, but whoever it is came to grief when annotating Bill Shorten’s quote (February 13-19). A single (and therefore, singular) choice carries the connotation of decision between at least two alternatives. Bill has quite enough on his plate this year without having his maths unjustly impugned.

– Ian Nowak, Subiaco, WA

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 February 20, 2016.

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