New concerns surround the government’s increased use of legislative powers to bypass the parliament and create laws that cannot be amended or overturned. The federal government has embedded special powers in new Covid-19 laws to make unilateral changes to non-pandemic-related legislation, using what are known as ‘Henry VIII clauses’ – named for the unchecked power they involve.
Numbers tell another story
Two articles in last week’s edition (June 17-23) report on continuing efforts by the Christian right to control Australia’s political agenda by recasting it in their own image (“Hardline Christian hoping to replace Triggs” by Mike Seccombe, and “A good ending” by Andrew Denton). However, the 2016 Australian Election Study reveals that religious identity is not strong in Australia, with 48.3 per cent of Australians never attending a religious service and 65.4 per cent attending less than once a year, or never. It is from within the 16.2 per cent who regularly attend that the small minority of Australians are located who disagree far more frequently with “progressive” social policies than less religious Australians. The AES study found that assisted dying was supported by 77.4 per cent of Australians, with 13.1 per cent uncommitted and only 9.5 per cent opposed. Support by Anglicans was 79.4 per cent and Catholics 74.3 per cent. Politicians would do well to take note of robust evidence on where the power of the vote truly lies. It is not in the turned-up volume of the voice of church hierarchies and strongly committed affiliates. MPs should hold their nerve and act in the greater good – one that does not see virtue in suffering.
– Dr Julia Anaf, Norwood, SA
Majority not being heard
I enjoyed Andrew Denton’s excellent column. As he noted, some 75 per cent of the population are in favour of doctor-assisted euthanasia, albeit Denton avoided that word, but there is a concerted effort by religious groups to lobby against the practice especially when two states are preparing legislation. With most in favour of euthanasia, one would think politicians would be falling over themselves to pass legislation, but federally there is no move to even consider it. As Denton concluded: “Acting for the greater good. Isn’t that what public service is really about?”
– Ron Fellows, Kensington, NSW
Doctors doing their best
As an experienced, dedicated and highly qualified GP who regularly conducts home visits and cares for a high number of elderly and chronically ill people, bulk-billed out of necessity despite paltry Medicare rebates, I am offended by relentless doctor-bashing in the media. The substance of Andrew Denton’s article correctly addresses the Christian right’s attempts to stifle patient choice, but the breakout quote, unrelated, and in fact contradictory to most of the story, is the usual boring portrayal of doctors as paternalistic and power-hungry. Why not add wealthy, greedy and unethical just for the heck of it?
– Dr Marie Healy, Redfern, NSW
The power politics of choice
The parroting of the language of neoliberalism by Andrew Denton in the debate about physician-assisted suicide is astonishing. Has he not understood that the neoliberal experiments of the past 40 years only increased the power of the privileged and further marginalised the weak and the vulnerable? Last week’s Grenfell Tower disaster should remind us that policies framed using the language of choice – in this case, deregulation and outsourcing to cut the taxes of the wealthy – never help the vulnerable, such as the poor and the migrants who lost their lives. The privileged will always be able to exercise their choices if assisted suicide is legalised. But the disabled, the elderly and the infirm will be at an even greater risk of being pressured into exercising their newly acquired “choice” to die.
– Dr Paul Cocks, Ivanhoe, Vic
Missing the Pippins
Having neither a fan-forced oven nor a Parisian scoop, and with organic Cox’s Orange Pippins unavailable (Andrew McConnell, “Clash of the Tatins”, June 17-23), your recipe was, unfortunately, a step too far. I look forward to a version less lofty in its aspirations – Elizabeth David’s springs to mind.
– Kris McKeon, Cowra, NSW
Vanstone’s views on advocates
Your editorial (“Cowardly motives”, June 17-23) said it all about the 2000 plaintiffs in the Manus–Nauru case that should have made Peter Dutton and company (including the complicit Labor “opposition”) answerable on the holding of the hostages on those two islands: “They sought asylum and were instead trapped in a system of barbarous cruelty, a political game in which their lives are of no consequence.” It is bad enough that the government tortures people but how is it that the ABC employs a person who describes the people who raise their voices for those held on Manus and Nauru as “repulsive”? Amanda Vanstone, former immigration minister, on her Counterpoint show on ABC Radio National on May 8, denigrated and insulted those advocating human rights on Manus and Nauru. Why is she employed by the ABC?
– Stephen Langford, Paddington, NSW
Spread the story
The Manus court case would have ended the secrecy with major media coverage. As that’s not going to happen now, we can do our bit by circulating The Messenger podcast, produced by the Wheeler Centre, about Sudanese refugee Abdul Aziz Muhamat, detained on Manus Island since 2014. It has just won awards at an international radio festival in New York.
– Robin (Bobbi) Allan, Mullumbimby, NSW
Not funny, Peter
At least Malcolm Turnbull’s impersonation of Donald Trump was in jest. If only the same could be said of Dutton’s.
– John Hayward, Weegena, Tas
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This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Jun 24, 2017.
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