The Earth under threat
Naomi Klein (“Climate control”, June 25-July 1) argues eloquently that, although climate change will ultimately be an existential threat to all of humanity, “in the short term we know that it does discriminate, hitting the poor first and worst”. By that she means black and brown people. Klein argues that climate change, therefore, must not be treated as a technocratic problem, in isolation. Quite so, though perhaps a more holistic approach might embrace issues that go beyond white man’s inhumanity to black and brown people. Such matters could include excessive consumption (and in turn, high emissions) by the oil-rich states, or cultural preference for very large families in sub-Saharan Africa that lead to overpopulation, deforestation, overcropping and overgrazing that also have climate ramifications. A number of existential threats – not just climate change – now confront the planet. According to Julian Cribb, author of The Coming Famine, these also include eco-collapse, resource depletion, weapons of mass destruction, global toxicity, food insecurity, population and urban expansion, pandemic disease and risky new technologies. They, too, need holistic solutions if for no other reason that the solutions for one may make other problems worse. For instance, as Cribb argues, most high-tech food security “solutions” involve the release of more carbon dioxide (in fuels, pesticides, land clearing, soil loss, food storage et cetera), thus exacerbating climate change. Likewise, increasing hydroelectricity to reduce fossil fuel-based electricity involves large carbon releases from concrete and lake bottoms. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change cites the two major drivers of climate change as economic growth and population growth. Thus, for climate reasons, an end to economic growth should be our aim, but integral to that is population stabilisation, whatever our colour or ethnicity. We may even need to make that population reduction (slowly and voluntarily); just in case nature doesn’t get in first and do it for us.
– Jenny Goldie, Michelago, NSW
Australia has duty of care
In Martin McKenzie-Murray’s incisive exposé (“Criminal charges possible regarding detention”, June 25-July 1), there’s an intriguing revelation by omission by the Commonwealth’s independent Work Health and Safety Act regulator, Comcare. Comcare’s spokesperson, after mentioning “ongoing investigations into alleged [act] breaches … at immigration detention centres in Australia and … offshore”, continues: “Comcare recently undertook … compliance inspections … at every immigration detention facility in Australia.” No mention of Nauru, where psychological health risks – which the act’s “primary duty of care” requires Immigration to prevent – apparently prompted two self-immolations, or Manus. Comcare’s explanation – confusion over who has actual control and management in foreign countries – is unpersuasive. Section 12F(3) gives the act “extended geographical jurisdiction” in countries which, like Nauru and PNG, lack equivalent legislation. Additionally, the act prohibits duty holders from transferring a duty to “another person” (including, therefore, another government), adding that any attempt to do so is “void”.
– Max Costello, North Melbourne, Vic
What is Dutton not telling us?
Interesting that the Coalition chose to break its own code of silence on on-water operational matters for purely political purposes during the election campaign (Karen Middleton, “What happened to all the donors?”, June 25-July 1). But then how has Peter Dutton been able to repeatedly brag that since the introduction of the government’s tough stance no further boats have attempted to make the perilous journey? The government can’t have it both ways: either their policy is deterring people smugglers or it isn’t. But if boats are arriving and being turned back that we don’t know about, anything could be happening to the refugees aboard and we are none the wiser. Conveniently revealing that a boat was recently turned just so it could be linked to Labor’s asylum-seeker policies begs the question how often has this been happening in secret in all the time the Coalition was claiming to have successfully deterred people-smuggling operations and saved lives at sea? The Coalition has foolishly revealed the depth of their cynicism by using asylum seekers as a hot-button issue. In fact this brazen piece of electioneering shows the LNP has lied about the effectiveness of asylum-seeker policies and are the worst kind of opportunists who care little for the safety of vulnerable refugees on the high seas.
– Tor Larsen, Marrickville, NSW
Reflection on voting options
As a conscientious Australian citizen I’ve been pondering lately which political party to vote for. I’ve been thinking about all the things that are important to me as a citizen of a constitutional democracy, and I’ve been thinking about all the things that are in need of rescue and salvage under the current government. I’ve made a list of all the things about this country that were once protected and upheld by other governments and that I now want to help save from further erosion and destruction when I vote. Such as freedom of speech, public media releases, penalty rates, the validity of science, the importance of the arts, the protection of our World Heritage sites, marine sanctuaries and marine life, the staffing of our public schools, universities and local hospitals, basic human rights for our neighbours seeking safe refuge and asylum, basic human rights full stop. Given that all these things that are so important to me are being eroded and significantly decimated under the current Australian government, is there really, in all consciousness, any valid reason for me to vote for the Coalition?
– Belinda Lang, Penguin, Tas
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This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Jul 2, 2016. Subscribe here.