Expressing ideas in a free society
The editorial “False gods” (February 20-26) focusing on the Australian Christian Lobby was disappointingly misinformed and overlooked much of what the organisation does for justice and compassion in our society. The editorial attempts to ridicule the ACL’s concerns for donor-conceived children who will be affected by new legal and cultural norms that will flow from redefining marriage in law. The response from the paper that this concern is “bigotry” and “hate” are labels but they do not engage with our argument. It is not hate or bigotry to argue that children, wherever possible, should be allowed to be loved and raised by their mother and father – something which same-sex marriage makes impossible. That a Christian leader has been taken to the Tasmanian Human Rights Commission for simply expressing such views demonstrates that we have a problem with freedom of speech in this country. I respect that The Saturday Paper might disagree with us, but I would expect journalists to always uphold our right to free speech. ACL does not claim to represent the church in Australia. But we collaborate with many leaders across the denominational spectrum, including the odd “loon Baptist”. In condemning us, The Saturday Paper has unfortunately ignored the significant work that the ACL does in other areas of social policy. We have been at the forefront of advocacy for gambling reforms, increasing our refugee intake, delivering on our promise to increase overseas aid and promoting the human rights of our most vulnerable and voiceless citizens. We simply wish to be free to advocate for Christian principles and ethics to be accepted and to be influencing government and society. We realise and welcome the fact that there is a contest for ideas in a democracy. We simply wish to be free to put our ideas before our fellow Australians through the normal mechanisms available in a free society, including on marriage.
– Lyle Shelton, managing director, Australian Christian Lobby
The bust we had to have
Paul Bongiorno (“Terms of preference”, February 27- March 4) quoted economist Shane Oliver: “The resources boom was pumping something like $70 billion into federal and state revenue, and that has now disappeared. The gift that made Peter Costello look like a genius treasurer in the Howard years, with bulging surpluses in every budget, is ‘all gone’ .” At long last someone has stated what many have thought, that Howard and Costello had it easy. The questions that should be asked are: what happened to the revenue generated in the past 25 years of prosperity, and what percentage of the overall revenue generated from assets in this time frame (iron ore, coal, gold, alumina, natural gas shipped overseas) actually benefited us, the owners of these assets? Norway nationalised its oil industry, recognising it as a finite resource, thus ensuring the development of infrastructure, and future prosperity through education, health care et cetera. Nauru did not, as its sole asset, guano, was mined and the revenues inappropriately invested. Is there a lesson here for Australia, albeit 25 years too late?
– Tim Clarkson, Scarborough, Qld
Why assessments don’t add up
Having worked with the environmental assessment process for some years, I rather enjoyed Mike Seccombe’s analysis (“Poor coal models”, February 27-March 4) and thought I would share some thoughts. I think it is safe to assume the model of infinite economic growth within a finite system will spawn equally poor models internal to its processes. The assessment process is designed to ensure the externalities of industrial activities, known at the time of drafting the legislation, are internalised; that is, the identifiable costs are borne by the proponent. Now, we are beginning to see multiple flaws in the assessment systems; financial assurance shortfalls, “offsets” policies, rehabilitation and the preferred logical inference that the greater social economic good will trump local interests. The other obvious failure is an inability (unwillingness?) to calculate costs on the basis of the precautionary principle or intergenerational equity, both of which are enshrined in the assessment legislation but generally not considered. None of these projects are actually profitable if one considers merely one or two (of multiple) intergenerational impacts to the economy – the capital cost to replace infrastructure due to sea-level rise, the loss of tourism on the Great Barrier Reef. The major flaw in the assessment process is that approval has been given before it begins and this “political” approval does tend to lend a certain bias to the assessment outcome.
– Peter Dew, senior intelligence analyst, Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection, Brisbane
Another asset sale?
The thought came to mind while reading Martin McKenzie-Murray’s article (“Backlash against CSIRO’s ‘cowboy’ chief”, February 20-26) that the government appointed Larry Marshall to set up the CSIRO for privatisation and ultimately outright sale. The Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, now just CSL, provides an example, a one-off benefit to the government of the day and a long-term loss to the Commonwealth. But don’t expect anyone who knows to admit it.
– John F. Simmons, Kambah, ACT
Looking for clues
George Christensen’s appraisal of Safe Schools (Editorial, “Queer and present danger”, February 27-March 4) reminds me of a story about the publication of Dr Samuel Johnson’s dictionary in the 1750s. Apparently, when congratulated for having omitted what a society lady deplored as vulgar and obscene words, the doctor replied, “In that case, Madam, you have looked for them.”
– Matthew Peckham, Brunswick, Vic
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This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Mar 5, 2016.
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