Letters

Letters to
the editor

Chill out Tony and look at wedding gifts

I grow weary of Tony Abbott and his rear-vision mirror perspective of Australia (Editorial, “The ‘No surprises here’ case”, September 23-29). Just for once can’t he and his conservative fan club look ahead to where we’re going and stop glancing backwards to where we’ve been? Not only are we not the nation of picket fences, white bread and Kraft cheese he so desires, we never were in the first place. We have always been diverse, whether it be class and racial origin or political opinion. And if “a fair go” is to be generalised as a national trait, then the current same-sex marriage debate screams out for us to give others currently excluded a fair go. I can’t think of a social change that has taken all of us, as a nation, backwards. We once had racist immigration practices enshrined in law and now we are the world’s most successful multicultural nation. And, although at a snail’s pace, we nonetheless inch towards constitutional recognition of our Indigenous fellow citizens. Tony, turn down the volume switch on your anger, take a chill pill and embrace change. Buy your sister a great wedding gift if she chooses and has the right to marry.

– John Bailey, Canterbury, NSW

The definition of balance

Alex McKinnon (“How ‘No’ case is abusing the ABC”, September 23-29) makes the point that the ABC is forced to accept homophobic diatribes on air in the interests of “balance”. He also reported that, “ ‘No’ campaign supporters aggrieved about perceived ‘bias’ from programs and presenters ‘failing to give a voice to those on the ‘No’ side’ ” were those most likely to complain to the ABC. It seems there may be some confusion about the meanings of the words balance, bias and accuracy. If an argument is reasoned and is bolstered by evidence, then it’s fair to say that it is accurate, not to say truthful. Thus, accuracy, properly understood, is very much biased in favour of the truth. One reason for this is that the formation of the argument and the collection of the evidence are balanced. Unreason, hate and fear are discarded, while the evidence is weighed and evaluated in a careful and judicious manner. “Balance” does not mean having to endure the rot propounded by some in the “No” campaign, because it doesn’t mean taking all opinion as worthy or useful. Doubtless, the mouthy bigots in this pointless slogfest would say that my comments are just politically correct. My rejoinder is that at a minimum, they are, in truth, correct.

– Peter Slade, Beerwah, Qld

Climate sceptics go cherrypicking

Mike Seccombe quotes an Institute of Public Affairs spokesperson as saying “a majority of Liberal Party members are ‘solid sceptics’ about the science of climate change” (“Climate stalling both here and in America”, September 16-22). There is nothing wrong with solid scepticism: one would expect all serious scientists to be solid sceptics, this is why they have to be persuaded, not by appeals to authority but rather by argument and evidence. There is no point complaining that these Liberal solid sceptics go against a scientific consensus, as Einstein so clearly did in his work on relativity – for this would be just another appeal to authority. The problem with our climate sceptics is not that they are sceptics but that their scepticism is highly selective: few of them openly object to the theories, for example, of evolution or general relativity, although both theories have suffered, and for the most part survived, severe criticism from other natural scientists. The problem is that their scepticism is of a kind that is not amenable to argument and evidence.

– Barry Hindess, Reid, ACT

Wastewater method no catch-all

Karen Middleton’s report on illicit tobacco trade (“Smoke rings”, September 23-29) said nothing about the widespread evidence from global tobacco industry internal documents that the industry has long supplied illicit traders with tobacco stock. Big tobacco loves to frame with faux outrage that illicit tobacco traders are violent criminals. This conveniently distracts from the six million annual global carnage caused by these companies’ business-as-usual licit tobacco trade. And before anyone gets overly excited about data on the apparent slight rise on nicotine excreted into our wastewaters, remember that we cannot distinguish nicotine from cigarettes from that in nicotine-replacement therapy and e-cigarettes. There are no retail sales data on either available, and tobacco excise/customs receipts are months ahead of sales patterns because of stockpiling. This measure is never going to provide the precision necessary to help quantify or detect real changes in use of illicit tobacco.

– Simon Chapman, emeritus professor, School of Public Health, University of Sydney

Kelly’s burning ambition

In “Smoke rings” Craig Kelly suggests the solution to the smoker problem is that “You’ve got to make lepers of those that smoke … make their lives horrible.” Is it now the job of Australian MPs to turn their constituents into outcasts and make their lives “horrible” in the name of their own bigoted zealotry or is that a job better left to, say, Brown Shirts?

– Walt Cody, New York City, US

Church shows the way

Good on you, Archdeacon Peter Macleod-Miller (Letters, “Make it a royal occasion”, September 23-29). St Matthew’s Anglican Church in Albury has long been ahead of the times. My great-great-grandfather married his sister-in-law there in 1869, after his first wife’s death. She became stepmother to three nephews and the couple went on to have four more children. At the time such a marriage was considered immoral and illegal, but who did it hurt?

– Tricia Taylor, Berrara, NSW

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This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Sep 30, 2017. Subscribe here.