No justice on Manus Island
From February 1948, the Australia government started transferring the last war criminals held since 1945 to Manus Island. There they were to languish until pressure from the United States led to them facing trial in 1950, many for crimes against humanity. Country Party MP Larry Anthony, founder of a conservative political dynasty, told parliament: “Whether they be Japanese or German, they are entitled to a fair and speedy trial in accordance with the tenets of British justice.” Fast forward 70 years and refugees detained at Australia’s pleasure have been on Manus Island five years (Editorial, “Prisoners’ dilemma”, October 20–26). Unlike the 1950 detainees, none have committed a crime by seeking refugee status, indeed many have had that status confirmed. But unlike the Japanese or German war criminals, they will face no court and, unlike the experience of most of the Japanese and German war criminals who were later and quietly released, they seem unlikely to be liberated into any community in the foreseeable future. It is an indictment of the values of the governments we elect that we treat refugees worse than war criminals.
– Vincent O’Donnell, Ascot Vale, Vic
Taking care of the children
As I write this letter I praise the efforts of The Saturday Paper over many issues drawing to the attention of the public the most shameful period of Australia’s history where our politicians have knowingly and wilfully allowed the destruction of children’s and adults’ lives.
Thanks to your efforts and your correspondents, those of the medical profession and Australians of good will, children are today being released from Nauru’s detention facility. To think the Nauruan government at a whim can determine and undermine professional medical advice on medical transfers (Alex McKinnon, “Doctors demand medivac of Nauru children”, October 20–26) without some effective action by Border Force shows how disastrous the “offshore solution” to the refugee problem has become. Time for the government to tell the public just how costly this “solution” has become.
– John H. Bennett, Dingabledinga, SA
Ancestry tests misleading
Andrea Booth shows how pseudoscientific is the industry that has grown up to exploit people’s preoccupation with their ancestry (“Indigeneity and DNA tests”, October 20–26). This lucrative lure to the gullible is no more than a modern-day version of astrology and should be exposed as such. But genetics are complex and “ancestry testing” and its quasi-racist genetic stories about individuals, not to mention television programs sponsored by the industry, offer little more than fairytale versions of biological science. They are a kind of retrospective eugenics – everyone is a winner genetically because everyone can be sold a narrative selected to highlight their eminent (interesting, exceptional) ancestry. The recent publication of Adam Rutherford’s A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived should mean there’s no excuse for even popular journalism to continue to pass off such dangerously childish versions of evolution. Rutherford also skewers the idea that simple taxonomies of race can be defended: “... from the point of view of a geneticist, race does not exist. It has no useful scientific value.” However, I am not confident that the senators who asserted their right to be “white” are up to date on their genetics (Ruby Hamad, “Razing the white flag”, October 20–26). Perhaps they were just desperately asserting that someone – even if it was Pauline Hanson – thought they could still be classified as “human”.
– Philip Bell, Bronte, NSW
Entitlement and power
Ruby Hamad’s article has hit the nail on the head. The truer intention of the Senate vote was indeed, “It’s okay for white people to continue to wield power over those who are not.” Nigel Scullion is minister for Indigenous affairs? Tony Abbott is the special envoy on Indigenous affairs? Who are we kidding when we cannot even allow authentic representation in these roles. I’m sure it’s terrifying for that last bastion of good old-fashioned Western values, the Australian Liberal Party, to consider letting that inclusiveness-loving genie out of its despised bottle of equality, but they must know that many of us living in the real world are becoming impatient. If they are determined to live in the past, it can probably be arranged.
– Kylie Mulcahy, Eugenana, Tas
Dutton’s lack of empathy
Ruby Hamad states that white people are afraid of all the things that they feel threaten their safety but seem to care less about all the terrible events happening in war-torn countries. One excellent example of how right she is was how Peter Dutton reacted to the major Indonesian earthquake that occurred when he happened to be there. He stated to the press that the earthquake “was powerful enough to put us on the floor” and expressed gratitude that “the Australian delegation is safe and well”. No doubt it has never entered his head that thousands of people are in more danger and suffer worse fear on a daily basis in places where bombs are falling and bullets flying, their homes are being demolished and their family destroyed. Perhaps if he had, maybe he would feel a bit more kindly towards the people he has incarcerated for years offshore where there is no hope and no future.
– Mae Elliott, Noosaville, Qld
Ah, Mungo (The Cryptic, October 20–26). “Roughly chained marsupial”, eh? No pouch on these little blighters – they’re egg-laying mammals and thus monotremes. As I’m sure you know.
– Anne Ackroyd, Melba, ACT
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This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Oct 27, 2018. Subscribe here.