Letters to
the editor

An old argument

The irony (intended, I presume) in your editorial (“Diminishing school”, October 1-7) of three times terming the notion of ceasing government funding to private schools “radical” has a deeper edge to it for those of us who remember the Menzies–Holt conservative administrations of the 1960s. Prior to that era Australia was inspired by a deep-seated egalitarian ethic that saw public education (at any rate to secondary level) as a public good, properly to be funded by government. Private education was not opposed, but seen as an option purchaseable by those who could afford it, but with no defensible claim to public funding. This changed in the ’60s, not as a result of any shift in public sentiment, but due to sheer political opportunism. With the decline in electoral power and influence of the Santamaria-led schismatic Democratic Labor Party, the conservatives saw an opportunity to garner the Catholic vote no longer wedded to Santamaria by pledging public money to Catholic schools. So as not to be blatantly obvious the pledge had to embrace all non-government schools (not excluding Menzies’ alma mater). The same specious justification was trotted out then as now: parents of privately educated children pay taxes, and thus were “entitled” to expect some of that money to be spent on their children’s education. The fact they opted out of the publicly funded system was, then as now, conveniently ignored. Fifty years on one may well wonder whether Menzies and his cohorts could have foreseen the present iniquitously skewed funding system they set in train. Probably not, but in any case their eye was on shorter-term political gain, just as now the same myopia will ensure that no significant remedial action will be undertaken by either of the two main parties, let alone the overturning of that baleful radical change effected by the conservatives. 

– Dr Donald Murray, Toowong, Qld

Wind-powered politicians

The attempts of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Nick Xenophon and Barnaby Joyce (Karen Middleton, “Power struggle after statewide blackout”, October 1-7) to discredit South Australia’s reliance on renewable energy sources, such as wind power, by alleging the recent statewide blackout was in some way related to energy source rather than storm damage to transmission lines was most certainly in response to fossil fuel industry lobbying. Major storm damage to transmission lines would have equally caused the blackout regardless of energy source. Xenophon’s call for “more gas-fired generators” was particularly ironic for Victorians who can remember the cold showers we had to undergo for two weeks after the 1998 Esso Longford gas explosion cut gas supplies to the state. Our leaders at the time did not conclude, as perhaps they might have, that fossil fuel energy sources, such as gas, were to blame for causing such energy “insecurity”. The supreme irony is that the extreme storms and weather all states are now experiencing are caused by fossil-fuel generated global warming – precisely the reason we need to move rapidly to renewables if our planet is to become more secure from future climate catastrophes. 

– Michael Hamel-Green, Coburg, Vic

Infrastructure failure in SA

The question no one appears to be asking is why were the transmitting towers designed so poorly that they could not withstand a one-in-50-years weather event? Was it penny pinching by the corporation responsible or ignorance on the part of the engineers? Maybe it is a continuation of climate change denial. 

– Bryan Young, Batehaven, NSW

CIA’s influence in the 1970s

Here are some other facts about the Pine Gap spy facility partly run by the United States Central Intelligence Agency (Hamish McDonald, “Mind the Gap”, October 1-7). In 1975, CIA operative Ted Shackley (1927-2002) knew that PM Gough Whitlam disapproved of CIA activities in Australia, and that he had an option to rescind the Pine Gap Treaty in December. Shackley told the CIA’s Australian counterpart, ASIO, on Thursday, November 6: “They [CIA] feel that if this problem cannot be solved, they do not see how our mutually beneficial relationships are going to continue.” Governor-general John Kerr, who had been involved in a CIA front, Law Asia, executed a coup d’etat against the government at 1.10pm on Tuesday, November 11, 1975. In July 1977, new US president Jimmy Carter arranged for assistant foreign minister Warren Christopher to detour to Sydney for the sole purpose of telling Whitlam “the US administration would never again interfere in the domestic political processes of Australia”.

– Evan Whitton, Glebe, NSW

Uneasy alliances

Mike Seccombe provides compelling analysis of the malaise caused by the unhealthy interplay between unions and the ALP (“Unions poisoned by ALP alliance”, September 24-30). Within the union movement there is a conspiracy of silence regarding the appalling behaviour of the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees’ Association (SDA). This perpetuates workers’ most common first interaction with a union being a dispiriting experience. Is it any wonder unionism continues to decline? Louise Tarrant is one of the few prepared to state that while organising casualised workers can breed a degree of reciprocity with employers, “it should never be at the cost of basic workers’ rights.” 

– Julia Murray, St Peters, NSW

Size matters

You rightly call out Wyatt Roy for his idiot decision to pop into a war zone for a stickybeak, but why make reference to his physical stature (The Week, October 1-7)? Perhaps my opinion will be dismissed on the grounds that I am a fat old lady from Brisneyland (Gadfly, October 1-7).

– Elizabeth Harrington, Milton, Qld

Letters are welcome: [email protected]
Please include your full name and address and a daytime telephone number. Letters may be edited for length and content, and may be published in print and online. Letters should not exceed 150 words.

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on October 8, 2016.

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