Letters to
the editor

PM can’t handle the truth

Tim Flannery’s article (“Checking Morrison on climate change”, October 6–12) exposes, in a very measured way, some of the blatant lies recently put forward by Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Flannery states some truths that will be inconvenient to Morrison’s government. For example: “The truth is that our emissions are increasing rather than decreasing, and there is no federal policy in place that seems capable of altering that”; or “The truth is that since the repeal of the Gillard government’s carbon price, Australia’s emissions from burning fossil fuels have only increased”; or “the truth is that we are acting very late in the day if we hope to avoid the worst of the looming climate impacts”. Clearly, Morrison does not hold these truths to be self-evident, and consistently attempts to dismiss or confuse the issue of climate change. It is this issue, and the underlying injustice, that is the subject of Tim Flannery’s international classic The Weather Makers. Published in 2005, many of the climate warnings made in this book have already been vindicated. Those who draw some comfort from Morrison’s exhortation “to pray for that rain and to pray for our farmers”, would be well advised to read the book, particularly chapter 32, which opens by foreshadowing a deluge of litigation: “Some time this century the day will arrive when the human influence on the climate will overwhelm all natural factors. Then, the insurance industry and the courts will no longer be able to talk of acts of God, because even the most unreasonable of us could have foreseen the consequences”.

– David Nash, Manly, NSW

Second Indigenous vote can be won

Thomas Mayor’s excellent analysis of our politicians’ rejection of the Uluru Statement from the Heart (“Unlocking political heart”, October 6–12) ends on a positive note: “When we the Australian people are loud enough, we will rouse the politicians and end their comfortable status quo.” This is borne out by the results of the 1967 referendum for Indigenous rights, when more than 90 per cent of Australians voted “Yes”. There were no mobile phones or social media then, just a dedicated band of Indigenous and non-Indigenous activists filled with conviction on the justice of their cause. We should remember and admire the courage of Faith Bandler, Pearl Gibbs, Charles Perkins, Jessie Street, and so many others who succeeded in persuading the voters. That happened more than 50 years ago, but the new generation of Indigenous leaders and their supporters can again persuade Australians to accept the Uluru statement and win another referendum. It will succeed.

– Ruth Latukefu, Newport, NSW

Assessment time is the key

Karen Middleton’s important article (“Lobbyists dominate mental health sector”, October 6–12) asks serious questions about our suicide rates apparently rising despite significant investment in programs intended to achieve reductions in suicide. People as significant as professors John Mendoza, Ian Hickie, Robert Goldney and Anthony Jorm have each expressed concern about “lobbyist-led reform” rather than evidence-led reform. There are calls in the article for “a new approach”. Highlighting awareness of suicide and depression appears to have been successful. Meeting the real needs of those who may approach existing services for help is where we seem to be failing. Disappointed “clients” may not try to seek help again – or, worse, may succeed in killing themselves. Where a new approach is needed is in the capacity of services to adequately assess the personal history and family dynamics of anyone presenting with depression and suicidal ideas. Yes, economic circumstances and even transmitter substances in the brain may be somewhat relevant, but being well understood as a person in distress is more important. This capacity to genuinely understand a suicidal person and their reasons for despair requires comprehensive training, which I fear is not sufficiently available in our society. Valuing time for comprehensive assessment is a necessary first step – what to do next is harder and requires more time and support. Those who have never felt suicidal can only imagine the level of despair involved. The best description I have ever read was “psych-ache”.

– Dr Ron Spielman, Paddington, NSW

Hawke didn’t want Doogue sacked

I refer to your highly inaccurate story (Mike Seccombe, “Charges stacking up”, October 6–12) suggesting that as managing director of the ABC during the Gulf War I wanted Geraldine Doogue sacked. Your story is a rehash of a story originally published in 2003 and refuted at the time. Had your correspondent bothered to contact me – as basic journalistic standards would have required – I would have happily provided him with the accurate background information. It is true that in 1991 the then prime minister Bob Hawke was highly critical of aspects of the ABC coverage of the Gulf War. When the ABC chair Bob Somervaille and I went to discuss his concerns in Canberra, Hawke complained our coverage was “biased and disgraceful”. I was a fan – and supporter – of Doogue, and only the previous year had agreed to her resuming a senior TV presenter role after she had left the ABC to work in commercial TV. At the time of the Gulf War Hawke did not ask for her to be sacked and I certainly would not have agreed to it anyway. Doogue acknowledged the sole source of the fiction that I wanted her removed was her then boss Peter Manning. In the almost 10 years I was at the ABC, as board chairman and then MD, I never once considered removing anyone because of complaints from politicians. Incidentally, your article is also wrong in describing me as “Labor’s hand-picked managing director”. The selection of the MD was then, as it is now, a decision for the ABC board and not the government of the day.

– David Hill, Randwick, NSW

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This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Oct 12, 2018. Subscribe here.