Cycle of mediocrity
The advice contained in Rob Oakeshott’s opinion piece (“Moment of truce”, April 2-8) aimed at Liberal and Labor party leaders Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten is well-intentioned, rational and intelligent, as are the reminiscent musings of so many superannuated politicians. As he said, he was in the room with them. Doubtless Australia would take a quantum leap towards solving so many problems if only current political leaders took Oakeshott’s advice. The common ground between these so-called leaders and the Australian public is broadly in alignment and is greater than their differences on many issues. There is simply nothing to stop either of these men from, as Oakeshott puts it, “doing something” instead of just “being someone”. However, here is the rub. What we have had across parliament for several political cycles are not leaders. In the main, you will see mediocre, self-important and self-serving men, achieving much for themselves and very little for the public they claim to serve in a land of limitless potential.
– Peter Alexis, Taroona, Tas
Tax move ends Turnbull’s run
In a memorable critique Nick Feik called Tony Abbott an “unserious man”, a dilettante, a man without convictions (May 10, 2014). To my surprise, I now believe that the same terms would be apt in relation to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (Paul Bongiorno, “Clear and present changer”, April 2-8). Turnbull’s elevation was welcomed by many on both sides of politics. He had runs on the board as head of the republican movement, for his previous support of an emissions trading scheme and also for his intelligent remarks about national security, in stark contrast to flag-man Abbott. There was a lot we didn’t know, but we hoped he would flesh out in the right directions. But that has not happened. His latest on tax was the killer. Mercifully rejected, it was an administrative change to collection that addressed none of the currently acknowledged financial issues, which threatened the idea of national standards of service and was presented with the usual overblown rhetoric but without any substantial justification.
– Don Macrae, Warrandyte, Vic
Labor can use Wran template of 1976
Malcolm Turnbull’s state income tax proposal gave me a strong sense of deja vu. It was one of the issues on which Neville Wran campaigned so successfully to win state government in New South Wales in 1976. Then Liberal prime minister Malcolm Fraser’s “New Federalism” policy included an option for the states to impose an income tax surcharge, which turned out to be as popular as having rats in the ceiling. Wran linked the soon-to-be-defeated state Liberal government of Eric Willis into this policy. Wran’s mantras of “no double income tax” and “no second income tax” were repeated publicly, at every opportunity. Neville Wran has given Bill Shorten a very effective and tested template for the forthcoming election campaign.
– Tom Kelly, Potts Point, NSW
No more media attention
I am a fourth-generation Tasmanian who was in Hobart on the day of the Port Arthur massacre (Books, Sonya Voumard’s The Media and the Massacre,
April 2-8). As your reviewer points out, why anyone would commit such a heinous crime is a mystery; however, we do have some insight into what the perpetrator’s motivation might have been. In hospital immediately after the massacre he continually asked staff what the media was saying and writing about him. It seems likely that the massacre provided him with a sense of importance. This is why many Tasmanians, including Walter Mikac, whose wife, Nanette, and daughters, Alannah and Madeline, died on that terrible day, refuse to use the gunman’s name. Why give this individual any more attention than he has already received? Tasmanians, especially the residents of Port Arthur, have heard more than enough about the events of April 28, 1996.
– Paul Arnott, Ringwood East, Vic
Let’s join forces
Liam Nilon’s reply to my previous letter (“Middle ground on refugees”, April 2-8) illustrates the ways in which shame kindles our anxiety, closing down complex emotional responses and fostering polarisation. Anxiety often narrows our attentional focus, creating “all-or-nothing” thinking: Liam, there are no saints and sinners in this situation, nor “mutual exclusivity” – just degrees of suffering and the potential to alleviate it. Appeals to “grown-up” conversation and “common sense” also broadcast fear by seeking to dismiss, rather than open and listen, as does setting up straw men, such as the fictional suggestion of “bearing mute witness”. Fear can impose rigid and illusory boundaries of far left and far right, worthy and unworthy suffering; compassion and openness can honour complexity, fairness and unity in all their glorious disarray. Here is my middle ground: to alleviate suffering where we can and embrace our shared humanity. We can do this together, Liam!
– Rosemary Sankey, Blackburn, Vic
A cheaper solution
Does the government really need to spend all that money (Mike Seccombe, “Inside our state propaganda fix”, April 2-8) on a movie to deter asylum seekers? I’d have thought large billboards along our northern coastline with the words “We are utter bastards. Go away!” would do the job just as well.
– Mike Puleston, Brunswick, Vic
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This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Apr 9, 2016. Subscribe here.