Asylum seeker inquiry needed, too
When are we going to hold our political leaders to account for their role in human rights abuses and breaches of the law? (Martin McKenzie-Murray, “There was political support for this...”, July 30-August 5). Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has called a royal commission into the dreadful criminal abuse of children in the Don Dale centre in the Northern Territory, which had, as your headline states, “political support”. When Dylan Voller threatened self-harm he needed supportive healthcare not torture. There is a parallel in the treatment of asylum seekers. As in the NT where there have been several investigations into juvenile detention, there have been inquiries into conditions in detention centres on- and offshore. Recommendations of all such investigations have languished, because when it comes to asylum seeker detention there is also the same political support for these abuses and little or no media or independent oversight. Human rights of juveniles and asylum seekers are ignored and these breaches have terrible, harmful consequences. Furthermore, politicians have sought to belittle, blame and besmirch anyone who raises questions about these wrongs. An urgent royal commission is also needed into the treatment of asylum seekers in immigration detention to investigate the breaches of law and human rights. Australians should expect and demand more from our elected representatives. We are better than this.
– Judyth Watson, Palmyra, WA
Greg Hunt does his best
Analysing Malcolm Turnbull’s cabinet reshuffle, Paul Bongiorno suggests that the government’s Direct Action climate policy might possibly morph into something more “cost effective” now that its author, Greg Hunt, has been moved on (“Cabinet joinery”, July 23-29). This is most unfair to Mr Hunt who received the prestigious “best minister” award at the World Government Summit this year. This award was well deserved. With Hunt as environment minister, the Great Barrier Reef has been removed from the list of World Heritage sites in danger and massive coal export projects that promise to unsustainably lift millions of Indians out of poverty have been approved. Importantly, with Direct Action, Hunt ensured the responsibility for reducing Australia’s domestic emissions – which rose sharply during his tenure – has been successfully transferred from polluter to taxpayer. What could be more cost effective than that?
– Dave Lisle, Mullumbimby, NSW
Splitting the bill
After another excellent Saturday morning read of your great paper, I went back to Karen Middleton’s exceptional report “US and Aust in stalemate over defence” (July 30-August 5). The problem raised about the financing of facilities, for up to 2500 US Marines, seems to be intractable. It raises legal sovereignty issues as a byproduct but, as an economist, I will firstly stick to the financial problem. The US government will spend $US585.2 billion on defence in 2016. Australia’s defence budget for 2016-17 is forecast to be about $32 billion ($US24.2 billion). The US will spend $US1812 per citizen on defence. Australia plans to spend $US1384 per citizen in 2016-17. These figures might suggest Australia is not matching the US and should pay the $20 million mentioned. However, back to the sovereignty issues. The open cheque nature of waiving all customs duties to American serving personnel and the public indemnity insurance costs for 2500 individuals loose on Darwin streets are mind-blowing. These hidden costs dig a bottomless pit for the throwing in of our taxpayers’ money. Perhaps the US and Australia should go dutch on all expenses. Australian taxpayers can afford $20 million for facilities if, and only if, the US picks up the indemnity insurance premium costs for their personnel.
– Greg McKenzie, Chatswood, NSW
Arts under fire
I share Ben Quilty’s dismay at the planned rationalisation of the three Sydney art schools. The concern he expresses for other creative arts institutions (Joyce Morgan, “A grim picture”, July 23-29) brings to mind the 2001 documentary Facing the Music (Bob Connolly and Robin Anderson) about cuts to the music department at the University of Sydney that led to a merger with The Con. There appears to be a continuing governmental indifference to the visual and performing arts and to arts education in this country.
– Sally Denshire, Albury, NSW
Rudd call has a cost
Political capital is a finite resource and it’s surprising to see Malcolm Turnbull squandering so much of it on excluding Kevin Rudd from consideration for the job of UN secretary-general. Scott Ryan, Special Minister of State, explained that government nominations are made “because we believe they’re the most suitable person for the role”. Turnbull and his team, therefore, effectively set themselves up as a selection committee for which they would have needed detailed knowledge of international diplomacy and the other applicants. Significantly, the advice of Julie Bishop was disregarded. Perhaps it isn’t quite as catastrophic as Tony Abbott’s captain’s pick of Prince Philip, but Bill Shorten has good reason to look relaxed and comfortable.
– William Grey, Tarragindi, Qld
Readers want a go, Mungo
Mungo MacCallum is not a bad cryptic compiler, not too easy, not too hard. But like any compiler, the more of his crosswords you do the better you understand the workings of his mind and the easier his crosswords become. Have you thought of promoting him to crossword editor? There are lots of frustrated compilers out there itching to have a go.
– John Grinter, Katoomba, NSW
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This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Aug 6, 2016.
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