A bleak prediction
Martin McKenzie-Murray (“The real story on the Barrier Reef”, June 4-10) has nailed the current reef crisis comprehensively. It is a tragedy that we are at the mercy of an irresponsible environment minister who is running another agenda and puts time into developing specious statements to counter well-founded criticism of his current policies. Further, our great white hope in the form of the current prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, who showed such promise for a time after he replaced Tony Abbott, obviously understands the situation but is now mute and inactive on the environmental front and must bear major responsibility for this failure. What will Messrs Turnbull, Hunt and Abbott say to their grandchildren and great-grandchildren when queried about their roles as the dire predictions fully materialise?
– Angus Macqueen, Keperra, Qld
Thanks for the excellent article on the health of the Great Barrier Reef. I would, however, like to take an opportunity to express umbrage with the writer’s assertion that, and I quote, “Today, experts believe we may be on the cusp of a sixth, entirely unnatural extinction.” The tendency to make such anthropocentric statements is one of the core reasons the reef finds itself in danger. Humans, technology and science are all of nature; in point of fact nothing is unnatural within the global and stellar systems. The idea that something caused by humans sits outside of nature is naive at best. At worst it is a dangerous suggestion that one can avoid taking rational responsibility for one’s actions. The loss of the natural capital within the reef system, due to climate change caused by the combustion of fossil hydrocarbons, will lead to many extinctions. All of which will be entirely natural, if somewhat unpalatable to the conscious monkeys.
– Peter Dew, Greenslopes, Qld
Remembering Abbott’s role
Lately Tony Abbott seems obsessed with attempting to fabricate for himself a historical legacy for his lame government. He need look no further than the once Great Barrier Reef. As Martin McKenzie-Murray so eloquently reminded us last week, it’s now probably too late to save. Going down in history as the destroyer of one of the wonders of the world seems to me a very fitting memorial for Abbott’s hapless ascendancy.
– Marc Sassella, Coledale, NSW
Sympathy for Vietnam’s woes
“Arfur” Calwell said in 1966 Vietnam was “a filthy, unwinnable war”. An informed and accurate view that Gadfly, as yet, hasn’t noted (“All white: Arfur’s theme confirmed”, June 4-10). I met “Arfur” in that year to discuss his resolute opposition to the war and conscription. He was 70 then and had no characteristics of an “old man” with deeply held racial prejudice. On the contrary he was deeply moved by the circumstances of the Vietnamese at a time in Australia when many people were calling them “gooks”.
– Des Files, Brunswick, Vic
Papua still paying the price
I have just read John Martinkus’s report on Indonesian-occupied Papua (“Silenced protest”, May 14-20). I have followed this obscene human tragedy since 1962, when Indonesian paratrooper invaders were being rounded up by Dutch colonialists and sent back to Jakarta. The following year, the West (Australia included) calculatingly agreed to the transfer of the Melanesian people from Dutch colonial control to colonialism under Indonesia (to keep Jakarta’s then-president Sukarno out of the communist camp). First there was to be a six-year administration of what is now Papua by the Fund of the United Nations for the Development of West Irian. In the meantime, Suharto had taken over the presidency of Indonesia. As an assistant editor of the now-defunct Hong Kong-based Far Eastern Economic Review, I attended the 1969 so-called Act of Free Choice (we journalists dubbed it Act Free of Choice), in which about 1300 residents (many of them immigrant Malays) were forced – on behalf of the entire population, then thought to be about 750,000 – to “vote” unanimously for union with Indonesia. The UN observers of this cruel denial of democracy failed miserably to publicise the wrongdoing. In the highlands town of Wamena in the Baliem Valley, escorted by an old Dutch priest, I was shown the charred stumps of houses in villages razed by Indonesian troops because their people had shown self-determination tendencies. The death toll in Papua in the half-century since will never be known, but I strongly believe that what the Indonesian military has inflicted on these defenceless people should be recognised as among the great crimes of the 20th century. I revisited West Irian in 1971, aware that out-of-sight atrocities were still being perpetrated. In the capital, Jayapura (formerly Hollandia), my most striking memory is of the marketplace, run almost exclusively by Melanesian traders until 1969, being dominated by Malay traders from Java and Sulawesi. Almost overnight, not only had the indigenous people of Papua had their aspirations of independence torn from them; they had been dispossessed of their lands and their economy. And I still cannot imagine a situation today – when diplomatic expedience still takes priority over morality – whereby the people of Papua can have any hope of realising their hopes for self-determination.
– Bob Hawkins, Petcheys Bay, Tas
I much enjoyed this penetrating article (“Surely template”, June 4-10). It is good to know that my old friend and colleague Dorothy Wainwright is still alive and going strong. Please pass on my congratulations and kind regards.
– Bernard Woolley, Gisborne, Vic
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This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on June 11, 2016.
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