Greed winning over fairness
Jane Caro and Lyndsay Connors (“Fairness now Gonski”, May 12–18) ask, “What kind of democracy have we become?” The answer is clear: we have become a selfish, hard-hearted and at best partial one, closer to a plutocracy than a genuine democracy. This is clear from what is happening in our schools, in our treatment of our Indigenous population, in our treatment of refugees and in our greed for tax cuts at the expense of services. As a member of the Labor Party, I am ashamed of the way the party of Whitlam has sold out to private schools, and with the way it refuses to do the humane thing by the victims on Manus and Nauru. True, Labor’s tax policy is fairer than the Coalition’s, but it still wants to pander to our greed by promising bigger tax cuts, rather than emphasising the need for better and fairer-funded schools, services and infrastructure, and the need to reduce debt.
– Ron Pretty, Farmborough Heights, NSW
The ABC needs our help
I am in the lucky position of being able to afford to continue to subscribe to your excellent journalistic offering. Thus my $10 a week Budget 2018 tax bonanza can go wholly and solely towards the resurrection of some form of public broadcasting integrity for our poor ABC (Editorial, “The cutting wedge”, May 12–18).
– Ellie Bock, Mena Creek, Qld
Hold the fire stick
The myth that broadscale burning of some Australian forest types effectively reduces hazards to nearby built environments is slowly being revealed as a lie (Katherine Wilson, “Fires and fury”, May 12–18). Such a crude rationalisation often conceals a commercial imperative or a misplaced desire to tame and tidy up our wild lands. In many moist sclerophyll forest communities such as those described, repeated burning to reduce bushfire risk does the opposite – it dries out the bush and replaces fire-resistant species with fire-loving species. Land-management authorities in eastern Australia are gradually moving away from a crude “hectares burnt” analysis and using sacrificial strip burning or mechanical fuel reduction adjoining human assets. In some cases simply leaving some forest types invites stable leaf litter decomposition which effectively and naturally reduces flammable leaf litter to soil. The wider adoption of cool burning techniques in a small-scale mosaic pattern as adopted for millennia by Indigenous Australians also offers benefits and leaves habitat trees undamaged for our native animals. A smarter, more judicious use of the fire stick by public land-management authorities will be better for our biodiversity, air quality and neighbouring communities. In this instance smaller is often better.
– Martin Smith, Fernbrook, NSW
Quantifying the burnoffs
Katherine Wilson’s assertion that smoke drifting into Melbourne from planned burns in Victoria’s central highlands is “mostly due to logging industry burnoffs” is incorrect. Ms Wilson did not present the facts completely. In 2018, planned burns have been carried out on 50,700 hectares of Victorian forest, mostly in autumn. This includes just 1600 hectares of timber harvest coupe burns, or about 3 per cent of the total. Ms Wilson also made no attempt to quantify CFA authorised burns on private land, which may also have contributed. There is no argument that the recent smoke drift over Melbourne and the central highlands was thick and smelly, or that timber coupe controlled burns to regenerate new ash forest do produce some smoke, but the relativity is important. Fuel-reduction burns in Victoria’s state forests and national parks are necessary to increase community safety and, unfortunately, sometimes cause public inconvenience.
– Alex Messina, VicForests general manager, corporate affairs
Yassmin speaks from experience
It is heartening that Yassmin Abdel-Magied (“Trouble at the John Stuart Mill”, May 5–11) has not been cowed – she speaks from experience about the repercussions when one expresses opinions contravening the prevailing mindset. Her arguments arise from these basic tenets as she dismantles the myths of “free speech”. First, hate speech is not free speech. Second, freedom of speech does not entitle a speaker to vilify others and then protest when called out on it. Third, a majority viewpoint is not necessarily correct, and an alternative viewpoint is not necessarily wrong, if each seeks the truth. Fourth, freedom of speech is one of many freedoms democratic discourse must address, but in the current political climate it receives disproportionate attention. Yassmin’s voice is strong and her insights astute.
– Julie Hopper, Bendigo, Vic
Years ago I read a newspaper obituary about sculptor Bronwyn Oliver that touched me deeply. I cut it out and have kept it. Sarah Price’s story of artist Wendy Sharpe awakened that memory (“Drawn free”, May 12–18). It’s easy to forget the contribution our artists make to our lives.
– Pam Connor, Mollymook Beach, NSW
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This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on May 21, 2018. Subscribe here.