Date change a good start
Congratulations to The Saturday Paper for the impetus to Change The Date (Erik Jensen, November 26-December 2). It is about time Australia grew up and accepted reality. Please keep it going. I came from Sweden to Australia, age 15, in 1947. At private school the history teacher told the class about the discovery of Australia by Captain Cook in 1770 , claiming it for England. In my halting English I argued about how one can discover a country when there were people living in the country already. She dismissed it by telling us they were only natives and did not own it, that the English were civilised and could show them how to live. That Australians can celebrate a day when dispossession and gradual destruction of the First Australians and their culture began is an insult to the humanity and civilisation they profess. It may not happen quickly, but it is a start and I will die hoping. I did consider renouncing my Australian citizenship with disgust at the appalling decisions of both major parties, but then I couldn’t vote.
– Sandra von Sneidern, Mongarlowe, NSW
Art schools vital for our culture
In many respects I might be the last to defend the National Art School (Joyce Morgan, “Left hanging”, November 26-December 2): although I’ve stumbled around for nearly five decades in the art world, I was never part of a formal arts education process, although many years ago I taught aspects of arts production. Scores of artists I have worked with, though, have had the benefits of art school training and education. In a climate of savage cuts to the arts at federal, state and local levels, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that the philistines and barbarians are not just at the gates, but they have broken through and are happily pillaging what is left. Art schools, in their eclectic variability, are critical to the future of cultural production in Australia. It’s not just the formal teaching, but their infinite capacity for interaction with teachers, students and the outside world that such institutions give us that are worth not just preservation and protection, but expansion and further support. That the National Art School was the site of the hangings of former ne’er-do-wells should be an object lesson to those currently in charge – politicians and bureaucrats. History will condemn them.
– Chips Mackinolty, Palermo, Italy
Thinking of the victims
This letter was stimulated by reading Martin McKenzie-Murray’s excellent piece “Shifting perspectives” (December 3-9). The art dealer Michael Kershaw may be entirely correct in prophesying that Dennis Nona may well be regarded by history in the same light as “other morally questionable but great artists such as Caravaggio, Picasso, Koestler, Wagner, Woody Allen, Dostoyevsky et cetera”. With the exception of Mr Allen, however, none of the others in Mr Kershaw’s interesting group are in danger of injuring the physical or mental health of any living human. This cannot be said of Mr Nona. May it not be hoped that his ostracism by the community (and the market) may stimulate reflection leading to an improvement in his behaviour?
– Brian Rutnam, Marrickville, NSW
Leave Brandis to his bookshelves
Your front-page photograph (Karen Middleton, “Brandis’s fight with the law”, December 3-9) begs the question, “Would you buy a used car from this man?” The answer would be the same as for the question, “Should George Brandis continue on as attorney-general?” A resounding “No!” to both. Because of Brandis’s unsuitability for this office, Australia has lost an excellent solicitor-general. I realise that there is a dearth of talent within the ranks of the Liberal National Party, but surely someone who cares about the rule of law, who can deal both competently and respectfully with the public service, can be found to replace Brandis, who is clearly unfit to serve the nation in this very important role. This would allow Brandis more time to pursue the things that are more important to him. Reading poetry books comes to mind.
– Joy Ringrose, Pomona, Qld
Waiting for an answer
Another George Brandis anecdote. On December 12, 2013, our petition requesting that the house of representatives legislate for constitutional separation of church and state in Australia was entered into Hansard. The petition was signed by 370 citizens including Barry Jones, former national president of the Labor Party, and Lyn Allison, former Democrats leader. The standing committee on petitions wrote to Attorney-General Brandis, as they are required to do, about the petition. In reply, Mr Brandis waxed lyrical about religious freedom in Australia. Not satisfied with that, we wrote to him directly asking him whether there is constitutional separation of church and state in Australia. On August 18, 2014, we received a reply from the Attorney-General’s Department that the attorney-general, or his department, could not provide legal advice to members of the public.
– Max Wallace, Rationalist Association of NSW, Sydney, NSW
On Monday we had Josh Frydenberg telling us that an emissions intensity scheme for the electricity sector was being considered, giving the public some hope that the federal government was at last getting fair dinkum about climate change. But no, by Wednesday, Malcolm Turnbull and Greg Hunt were denying this, not very impressively might I add, and then gave us the usual rant about Labor and higher electricity prices. I don’t know about other members of the public, but I feel disgusted that we have to contend with this do-nothing government for another two to three years.
– Jim Banks, Pottsville Beach, NSW
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This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Dec 10, 2016. Subscribe here.