No honour in racist attacks
Why many people were offended by Peter Dutton’s comments referring to refugees who “won’t be numerate or literate in their own language, let alone English” was because it is false, and as well it feeds an appalling stereotype of immigrants being just bedraggled illiterate peasants seeking sanctuary in Australia (Editorial, “Outstanding claims”, May 21-27). Before Australia played its part in the invasions of Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, and before the rise of IS and its funding by our friends from Saudi Arabia, some of these countries had among the highest standards of education in the world. In Syria, students from year 1 to year 9 were taught in Arabic, English and French. Universities were popular and well attended, and even in the midst of the chaos in Syria there are reports of some universities still functioning. Denigrating these people is no role for Australia’s immigration minister and it replicates the appalling racism exhibited domestically in the treatment of Indigenous people or the attitude towards Jewish people that swept Australia, Britain and Europe before World War II. Senior ministers, even if they are the rump of Tony Abbott’s conservatives, have a responsibility to our community not to foment anti-immigration feelings. If, as a result of the chaos for which our own government holds some responsibility, schooling is now out of reach, then perhaps we should focus some energy and aid money there. Mr Dutton, you misspoke.
– Peter Dowding, Fremantle, WA
The sad thing is that maybe there aren’t enough “intelligent, compassionate Australians – Liberal, Labor or whatever – [to] be concerned about the damage being done to innocent men, women and children in indefinite detention on remote and inhospitable islands” (Paul Bongiorno, “Turnbull pushes the panic Dutton”, May 21-27). The ugly truth is that the two main parties are able to compete for votes over “Border Protection” because the mass Australian psyche seems to be xenophobic and Mr Turnbull, Mr Dutton and Mr Abbott are unabashed at feeding this ghastly attitude.
– Serena Horton, Bondi Beach, NSW
Parties on the wrong path
As we forge our way through the molasses of eight weeks of election propaganda, many of us are increasingly dismayed by the blatant politicising of the asylum-seeker issue. Malcolm Turnbull’s attacks on the ALP for harbouring those brave candidates who have stood up for the rights of asylum seekers is a shocking form of electioneering. He has, by implication, denigrated all of us who have also been out there for months fighting for a better deal and more sustainable policy – concerned citizens, lawyers, churches, human rights and refugee advocates, the United Nations, families such as mine, and no doubt some members of the Coalition. I imagine he thinks we are still such a minority that he can continue his misguided campaign with impunity and tolerate the appalling utterances of his immigration minister. Instead of standing up for his maligned candidates, Bill Shorten allows the so-called “debate” to go on being about who can be tougher. My most serious concern is that both parties are perpetrating a morally insupportable and unsustainable campaign for what can only be short-term gain for one or the other. It is claimed this approach is bipartisan. It is not. It is a “race to the bottom” approach posing as bipartisanship. In true bipartisanship the two parties would work together to depoliticise the issue.
– Meyrick Gilchrist, Abbotsford, NSW
Insulting our intelligence
Peter Dutton. It’s a courageous call, but have we ever had a more stupid minister? His latest claims are just so dumb even dumb people think they’re dumb. First he claimed that refugees are all illiterate and innumerate. And they will steal our jobs. Would he like to list which jobs are open to people who can’t read, write or count in rudimentary English? His second claim didn’t even agree with his first. They are going to simultaneously take our jobs and go on the dole. Is it time for IQ testing at the doors to Parliament House?
– Marc Sassella, Coledale, NSW
Library project checked out
It is not only theatre companies facing big cuts to government funding, tragic as this is (Steve Dow, “Black Friday”, May 21-27). I feel a mix of disbelief and sadness that the Australian National Library faces a $6 million cut, the National Museum of Australia $5 million, the National Gallery of Australia $4 million, and smaller cuts to the National Portrait Gallery, National Film and Sound Archive and the Museum of Australian Democracy. The library cuts mean no more digitisation through the Trove project. Trove is an invaluable resource, not only for access to maps and contemporary paintings and drawings for my history talks to our local U3A, but also digitised journals for my research. A society that does not value the arts or its history is devalued. When asked to divert funds from the arts to the war effort in 1942, Churchill was quoted as refusing: “If we do that, what are we fighting for?”
– Barbara Lyle, Tea Gardens, NSW
To my faint surprise I am almost starting to enjoy the pre-election debate, not because of the quality of the contestants but rather the way they are held to account by the think tanks. As Mike Seccombe pointed out (“Think tanks calling the shots”, May 21-27), The Australia Institute and Grattan Institute have stripped away the absurdities contained in political rhetoric. We might even get political parties winning an election on sound economic policies rather than by selected handouts and obscure promises based on slogans such as Jobsngrowth.
– Don Owers, Dudley, NSW
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This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on May 28, 2016. Subscribe here.