Letters to
the editor

A compelling argument on Australia Day

Nakkiah Lui’s “Dated politics” (January 27–February 2) was so fresh, so honest and so very real. Compared with the “divide and rule” practices of our dated politicians she has every right to resent the practices of successive governments of “old white men”. Australian politicians are no longer representatives of the people and certainly have never been of the Aboriginal people. Instead of listening and working together to achieve an inclusiveness that should have begun at the beginning, the Aboriginal people are treated dismissively, derisively and disdainfully. Even this is a very light touch that falls far short of a true critique of the violence and aggression perpetrated against the original peoples over more than 200 years, and all the while selling the world their Aboriginal culture, their resources and, to various sovereign nations, their land.

– Ian Ossher, Dover Heights, NSW

Nationals in agreement

Dear Nakkiah, how could you not feel worn down and confused by the ongoing negating of your culture and identity that you and others have to endure? If changing the date of Australia Day is indeed a way to say to Aboriginal people, “We see you, we hear you, we value you”, what on earth is the hold-up? It is a gesture that hurts no one and could prove immeasurably healing.

I wonder if more people are contemplating the date more deeply and given less to mindless partying on January 26 now. Perhaps it was the lack of sunburnt drunks dressed in flags on my particular coastline that gave me hope. I also couldn’t help but notice that on the same day your article was published, Joe Williams was over in the national newspaper’s weekend magazine saying “... we just want to celebrate a national day with you. Not one that marks a massacre.” Now, if we can start the year off with these two mastheads singing from the same hymn book, anything is possible, don’t you think?

– Kylie Mulcahy, Eugenana, Tas

Let’s become a republic

Having an Australia Day when all can celebrate our country’s past, our unity and our potential is important to our nation. We cannot celebrate unity on January 26. Change will only come when we agree on a better alternative. Noel Pearson’s suggestion of including January 25 won’t work, as we won’t get an extra public holiday. I suggest May 27 – the day the Australian people chose, through the Aboriginal referendum, to fully unite. August 10, when the result passed into law, would be another. If both are rejected in favour of a summer day when we can better enjoy the celebrations, then let’s move on, become a republic on a suitable day, and celebrate that day forever.

– Peter Hall, Trentham, Vic

John Howard started the slide

On Australia Day, it’ll do us good to be reminded that the ill deeds and mean-spirited infection sown by John Howard so long ago condemns us all (Mike Seccombe, “It’s all John Howard’s fault”, December 23, 2017–January 26, 2018). Australia jettisoned its reputation as a caring nation when then prime minister Howard’s vilification of asylum seekers proved decisive in winning him the 2001 federal election. The Tampa affair became the callous precedent that to this day allows a paucity of moral principles to guide Australia’s national discourse on protecting outsiders and the vulnerable. The ruthless ambition and backstabbing that plague political power struggles in Australia are now so entrenched as to be considered run of the mill. Leaders and the Opposition offer sweeteners and bribes to voters to gain and stay at the summit. The electorate protests loudly about leaking hip pockets while remaining silent on harmful social policies. Governments are in slavish obeisance to weekly opinion polls that dictate to them what favours and flavours a self-interested electorate demands. In addition to deploring Australia’s leadership, the electorate could own up to its complicity in abetting Australia’s leap into the moral abyss. Australians deserve the leaders we vote in when we expect those in charge to focus on meeting our selfish desires.  

– Joseph Ting, Carina, Qld

Drones create new dilemmas

A fine article, “Flesh and drones”(January 27–February 2), for the first edition of 2018. Karen Middleton points to “the ethical, humanitarian and security challenges” of drone strikes. A more pointed expression of which is the moral, legal and policy dilemmas that Australian Defence Force personnel who make future targeted killing decisions using drones will face. She is, however, mistaken to speak of “the laws of armed conflict and international human rights law” as compatible. I suspect she meant to write “international humanitarian law” (IHL). IHL and human rights are complementary but distinctly different. A targeted drone strike that kills civilians is lawful under IHL, as “collateral damage” is permissible during an armed conflict. Contrast human rights, its rules are less permissive when it comes to killing civilians. There is no balancing of collateral damage and military necessity within human rights. One should be really questioning such necessity and the proportionality of killing civilians when conducting future drone strikes. At a more fundamental level, drone strikes by the ADF outside of Australia raise its jus ad bellum, governing when force can be used extra-territorially. The 2015 film Eye in the Sky, starring Helen Mirren, exemplified these dilemmas. We should be concerned about hacking of the ADF’s drone feed by other military powers. The British Government Communications Headquarters and United States National Security Agency reportedly collected live video from Israeli Heron TP armed drones as part of Operation Anarchist, which operated from a British mountaintop listening post on Cyprus in 2009–10.

– Greg Hogan, Balgowlah, NSW

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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 February 3, 2018.

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