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.
Emotional twist in Ali’s story
Like many Australians, I am opposed to offshore processing. However I am also sceptical of the trend of refugee testimonials of the horrors of Nauru et al, as in “Life at the end of the world”, March 12-18). Ramazan Ali provides a long litany of his alleged sufferings on Nauru. Yet at no point does he provide any information about the reasons he fled his country, why he chose to use the services of a people smuggler or why the danger he left behind was such that his family did not take the journey with him. I suggest to you that refugees are aware their plight is distressing to many Australians and some at least are not opposed to emotional manipulation. I imagine I would do the same in their situation. The federal government’s obsession with secrecy has encouraged this situation. However, I wonder, how are we to evaluate his case without a proper understanding of Ali’s experience? Or are we simply expected to uncritically witness his claims?
– Liam Nilon, Mascot, NSW
Getting down to tax
Mike Seccombe’s article “The rich people who pay no tax” (March 12-18) was excellent. As someone trained in accounting, who had to teach it (and explain tax accounting), I found the exposures of Pitt Street farming rorts, trust dodges and the use of the black economy was well done. Getting to the bottom of the greed that drives tax evasion and tax avoidance, this article shines a light on what is well hidden. The tax hoarding that goes on in this country is well planned and deliberate. Let us hope the census, this year, comes up with some new data on wealth distribution and income inequalities.
– Greg McKenzie, Chatswood, NSW
Judging Pell on his words
I am concerned that Martin McKenzie-Murray, in covering the infamous “it wasn’t of much interest to me” statement by George Pell in some detail in his comprehensive article (“It’s a sad story… of much interest to you”, March 5-11 ), chose to make no mention of the fact that Pell, in testimony two days later, explained the mistaken basis of his statement, which he clearly regretted. Regardless of the truth of Pell’s explanation, in the interests of honest, balanced and fair reporting, his explanation and apology should have been included in the article. Even more misleading was McKenzie-Murray’s claim that, two days after making the statement, “Pell had forgotten he’d said it”. This is quite untrue. Asked by the royal commission barrister “Do you remember saying that?”, Pell, clearly indicating he did remember, commenced by saying “I remember messing up this sequence completely” and went on to explain he “was very confused” about which period he was being asked about (the two periods being 20 years apart). He said he had “responded poorly” and “regretted the choice of words” which were “ badly expressed”. Martin McKenzie-Murray’s selective use of information in this case diminishes what was otherwise an excellent piece of journalism.
– Stuart Wearne, East Fremantle, WA
Christian lobby outside the norm
Lyle Shelton’s spirited defence of the Australian Christian Lobby’s right to bigotry (Letters, March 5-11) was rooted in the idea that freedom of speech is an absolute right. This popular conservative refrain was (in)famously articulated by Senator George Brandis as his government contemplated overhauling the Racial Discrimination Act in 2014. Brandis told the senate, “People do have a right to be bigots, you know.” That aside, Mr Shelton shouldn’t be overly concerned that new “cultural norms … will flow from redefining marriage in law” because cultural norms are not simply derived from the law. It is the other way around – laws embody cultural and societal norms. As valiantly as conservatives might try to hold back the tide, Australian society overwhelmingly accepts same-sex relationships and our laws should reflect these social norms.
– Dave Lisle, Mullumbimby, NSW
Riveting tale should be seen
After reading Christos Tsiolkas’s film review (“Body politic”, March 5-11), I was determined to see this stunningly perceptive film, which in dance juxtaposes traditional culture and an urbanised underworld of endless labyrinth. Spear is brilliantly choreographed and directed by Stephen Page with the Bangarra dancers, and young Hunter Page-Lochard as its central character, Djali. Just prior to Spear’s release in only one Sydney cinema , a 10-year-old Kimberley girl committed suicide. The film depicts the identity crisis faced by Aboriginal men in contemporary Australia, realistically portrayed by brilliant actor Aaron Pedersen. Couched in movements of dance, sometimes traditional, mostly innovative modern, urban ballet, it is deeply symbolic and portrays the outpouring of agony and grief suffered by so many who find themselves at the margins of our society, still treated with contempt and forced to act out generations of trauma. At its first screening, at Dendy Opera Quays, I sat with four others in the near-empty theatre. I found the film riveting and was the only one to clap at the end. Surely Spear deserves to be seen more widely.
– Dr Ruth Fink Latukefu, Newport Beach, NSW
Expensive delaying tactic
A non-binding and unnecessary plebiscite on equal rights is simply ridiculous (Karen Middleton, “What’s next for equal marriage”, March 12-18). Only a grossly irresponsible government would perform such an expensive theatrical stunt. We need to ask, “What’s next for irresponsible government?”
– Samantha Chung, Newtown, NSW
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This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Mar 19, 2016.
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