Letters

Letters to
the editor

Living with compassion

In his review of Martin Scorsese’s film Silence (“Mission ecclesiastical”, February 4-10), Christos Tsiolkas draws attention to the novel of the same name by Shūsaku Endō on which the film is based. That novel confronts us with the startling and paradoxical demands that can be made upon us when we stand for the primacy of compassion. Even the apparent and immediate interests of our institutional religion may have to be sacrificed, however painful that is. God remains silent and cannot speak unless we are prepared to speak and act with a compassion that knows no limits. That can mean we may have to give up that which we hold most dear. When we embrace that kind of pain, God is not silent, “he” is suffering with us. As Christos said “that is arguably the true salvation and grace in the story of Christ”.

– Mark Porter, New Lambton, NSW

Rural plight needs attention

Claire Connelly’s timely piece following the both ill-timed and ill-considered remarks of Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce in response to housing affordability should send a very salient message to both planners and politicians as to the need to better understand and appreciate the plight of our “country cousins” (“Country discomfort”, February 4-10). By presenting only a few examples of the challenges faced by people in rural and regional Australia, the piece should serve as a jolt to prompt a positive response to what, if not addressed now, will create a further rent in the social fabric of our nation. Token visits to country towns, staged-managed onsite engagements on the land and press releases from ministerial offices in capital cities will continue to be meaningless unless a determined resolve forces change. What we need is some positive action, otherwise a fraction too much friction will pervade.

– Allan Gibson, Cherrybrook, NSW

Left Renewal not the main act

As a long-time Greens member, and sometime candidate, I was dismayed at your page one heading (Karen Middleton, “Inside the fight for the Greens”, February 4-10). If the members in branches choose to endorse people seen as sitting at the left-of-centre, and they succeed, then democratic decision-making has occurred. It really is a small sideshow compared with the main event, which fortunately did get a good airing in your article. While discussions are robust inside the party – a healthy sign – members are united in their disgust at the extent to which the major parties are funded by, and obliged to, polluting industries, tax-dodging corporations, and those keen to privatise our government services. The Greens refuse to accept donations from these groups. The indebtedness that such donations foster is corrupting Australian politics, and is enabling environmental ruin, impoverishment of our wage-earners, and loss of government services. As a nation we desperately need a federal Independent Commission Against Corruption, and drastic reform to our system of political donations, if we are to stop going rapidly backwards.

– Joy Ringrose, Pomona, Qld

Admissions trading

Could it be that Malcolm Turnbull made his generous $1.75 million donation to the Liberal Party (Paul Bongiorno, “Once more unto the speech”, February 4-10)in the (apparently vain) hope of having a little more influence on certain policies on which he used to express much stronger opinions? Just wondering.

– Marilyn Barclay, Black Rock, Vic

US transfer deal not worth it

The prime minister should reconsider the refugee deal with the United States (Martin McKenzie-Murray, “I really want to go to USA. I love USA.”, February 4-10). It is nothing more than a political football and human lives are at stake. We should take the refugees and try to rehabilitate them, after the years of horrendous treatment they have received at our hands. If the POTUS takes them, who can know what their fate will be? And what will Donald Trump exact in payment from Australia? We will be thoroughly compromised and obliged to follow the US into whatever madness, military or otherwise, their president lights on. Godfather-esque. Think again, PM.

– Janet Simpson, Glebe, NSW

Bell tolls for Ronald Ryan

On Friday, February 3, I stood with others in a silent vigil from 7.30am to 8am, finishing at the very moment when, 50 years ago, Ronald Ryan, was hanged at Melbourne’s Pentridge prison, Australia’s last execution. He was convicted of the killing of warder George Hodson during an escape. Ryan’s last words to his family, smuggled out on toilet paper to a journalist, were: “Goodbye, my darlings, and may you get the love and luck you all deserve. I am not afraid, and I think the credit is largely yours. Lovingly yours, Dad”. At the time, 3000 protesters gathered outside the prison in a campaign for clemency. Premier Henry Bolte refused such clemency, afterwards reportedly saying that as the execution took place he was probably engaged in “One of the S’s … A shit, a shave or a shower.” Friday’s vigil, organised by former Pentridge chaplain Father Peter Norden and Reprieve, and including Barry Jones and others who led the anti-hanging campaign in 1967, was a moving and necessary reminder of the barbarity of deliberate state-sanctioned murder, at a time when Derryn Hinch, Barnaby Joyce and George Christensen are all pressing for a return of the death penalty. In silence, we ourselves went through those last 30 minutes of Ryan’s life, what he was feeling, and what his family must have been feeling. The vigil ended with the bells of nearby St Paul’s tolling slowly. As Donne reminds us, any person’s death “diminishes me”, so “never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee”. 

– Michael Hamel-Green, Coburg, Vic

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This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Feb 11, 2017. Subscribe here.