No kind words for Bill Shorten
I am not sure what the kind words for the opposition leader, Bill Shorten, were for (Karen Middleton, “The remaking of Bill Shorten”, March 19-25). He is the person who pushed through the turn-back-the-boats policy at the Melbourne ALP conference. It was and is appalling, but typical of Labor; bullying, opportunistic, racist and devoid of principle. And don’t mention human rights. Perhaps he and the Labor Party could make a U-turn, condemning the locking up of innocent people, and propose safe passage be given to asylum seekers from Indonesia to here. But I am not holding my breath. A plague on both their wretched houses, Labor and the Coalition.
– Stephen Langford, Paddington, NSW
Leaders who listen wanted
“The remaking of Bill Shorten” and Tony Windsor’s “Why I am running” (March 19-25) examine matters current such as tax, the environment, the NBN, education etc. Both articles also deal with political behaviour and standards. “What you walk by, you accept” as Tony Windsor quotes David Morrison. Both articles are set in the current context of disenchantment with political processes and behaviours, in Australia and elsewhere. The take-home messages are plain. If you respectfully listen to people, you will hear what they want their representatives to do. You do not have to spin to sell them what they ask for. If you take time to reflect on what they tell you and share your reflections, you will get an audience and retain your integrity. Mouthing the pap the machine feeds you turns people away. If leadership is finding a procession to get in front of, there is a massive procession wanting better political behaviour.
– Michael D. Breen, Robertson, NSW
Climate’s dire situation must be addressed
On reading Tony Windsor’s article I was tempted to get the next train to Tamworth to help him get re-elected in New England. It wasn’t just his support for Gonski, the NBN and sustainable resource management, it was Windsor’s desire to counteract the negative climate policies of former prime minister Tony Abbott. The damage done to investment in renewable energy by Abbott and his politically opportunistic colleagues has stalled the necessary transition in Australia from a fossil-fuel-based economy to one based on renewables. The world has just experienced the warmest February on record after a record January and record year. As Ugo Bardi wrote on his blog last week: “We may be seeing something that portends a major switch in the climate system; an unexpected acceleration of the rate of change.” Bardi asks, Is it time to switch to panic mode? I’m inclined to say yes, in which case only those who are committed to strong, even radical, action on mitigating climate change deserve to be elected to the Australian parliament.
– Jenny Goldie, Michelago, NSW
PM losing out to Liberal right
Six months ago, following Malcolm Turnbull’s ascendance to the prime ministership, I was a committed Liberal voter full of happiness and confidence that finally we had a prime minister capable of leading the country in a clever and kind-hearted way (Editorial, “Schoolyard bullies”, March 19-25). Today I am seriously considering who I will vote for in the coming federal election. One thing I know for sure, if Malcolm Turnbull cannot persuade me he can control the mean-spirited, narrow-minded right of his party (the likes of Abbott, Abetz, Bernardi and Christensen), I will not be voting Liberal.
– Frank Pollard, Wurtulla, Qld
Our rights at stake in Lapoinya stoush
Bob Brown’s challenge to Tasmania’s draconian anti-protest laws (“Arresting voices”, March 19-25) may at least alert Australians to how paltry and precarious their rights really are in the absence of a bill of rights, unique among developed democracies. Brown reportedly will have to rely on the implied freedom of political communication that the High Court found in the unsuccessful 1990s defamation suit filed by the New Zealand prime minister David Lange against the ABC. The Tasmanian government is confident that it can rely on the sovereign powers of the state government, subject only to Commonwealth powers where they are in conflict. That the new legislation prescribes penalties wildly disproportionate to those with similar economic impacts elsewhere, and inexplicably protects a heavily subsidised industry that chronically haemorrhages both public money and environmental capital, will not be recognised as issues in the case. Despite the Paris climate agreement, Brown can expect little support from a Tasmanian opposition that is almost as hostile to conservation as the government.
– John Hayward, Weegena, Tas
Ways to hold shame at arm’s length
Liam Nilon’s letter (“Emotional twist in Ali’s story”, March 19-25) regarding the “alleged sufferings” of Ramazan Ali on Nauru says much about how inadequately we as individuals, and as a society, tolerate, let alone accept, negative emotions such as shame and guilt, and the ways in which we offset them. If suffering is “alleged” then plausible deniability helps us to avoid feeling shame. If information can be arbitrarily deemed “essential” (such as already well-explored motives to seek asylum), its absence casts further doubt on the integrity of the sufferer, helpfully quashing incipient empathic pain. When emotions are truly intolerable, projecting them onto the source allows us to blame the sufferer, their pain turned into audacity at attempting to manipulate us into sharing it. Empathy isn’t weakness: it is rigorous and requires courage and engagement. In order to embrace our shared responsibilities we need to practise acceptance of difficult feelings and our common, flawed humanity.
– Rosemary Sankey, Blackburn, Vic
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This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Mar 26, 2016. Subscribe here.