Letters to
the editor

More ordinary members needed

Political scientist Nick Economou’s claim that “the ordinary branch member is a big problem in political parties” in Mike Seccombe’s article on neo-Nazi infiltration of the Nationals (“Rank and defile”, November 10–16) is quite problematic. Most branch members join political parties for the right reasons. Those who join as part of a fringe-group takeover are overwhelmingly in the minority. Political parties cannot operate without branch members. They inform policy settings, provide a pool of candidates for elections and volunteer countless hours for their party. As the article acknowledges, the vulnerability of political parties to the takeover of fringe groups is as a result of low membership numbers. The ordinary branch member, therefore, is not part of the problem, but in fact part of the solution. More ordinary branch members would mean political parties are less vulnerable to fringe-interest-group takeover.

– Luke Vanni, Nundah, Qld

Holding politicians to account

Thank you, Karen Middleton, for yet again doing what a media ought, investigating and asking the hard questions and pulling into the light buried Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) reports. To think that a man now in charge of our country was asked by the minister to resign from Tourism Australia and could ignore the processes in place to account for so many taxpayer dollars, breaching procurement guidelines on contracts worth $184 million and engaging in contracts before they were signed or had value-for-money assessments. As a researcher into poverty and exclusion in this country, and as a taxpayer, I watch how money is moved around to reward those with so much and be taken from those with so little. Our most vulnerable have little money for survival as it stands, and with new processes that effectively exclude and demonise the poor – dealing with layer upon layer of so many impossible hurdles, often when they are at their most unwell, for example those with mental illness or poor mortality rates, such as our Aboriginal citizens – I despair. The level of funnelling of our taxpayer money to spurious thought bubbles of short-term problematic political fixes to hold onto power, in a vacuum of policy and evidence-based practice, is manifest. Thank God for sections of the media being independent and fearless and for statutory accountability offices such as the ANAO. The question I also ask is how the political classes can get away with burying such public interest information for so long? How do they then go on to lead our country without any true reckoning and correction of their evident poor practice? Why as a public can we allow them to then vilify others who struggle to put food on the table or place a roof over their heads on a meagre amount of money that government, daily, is taking away?

– Liz Curran, ANU College of Law

Seaweed substitute

My furikake proved to be a disaster (David Moyle, “A man for all seasonings”, November 3–9). It could have been the choice of seaweed. Wakame is difficult to get in north-east Tasmania, whilst the bladderwrack with which I replaced it didn’t take to the hot pan, preferring to belch its gooey contents over the sesame seeds I had so assiduously bruised, then toasted until golden. Even my cat looked at me with the expectation of better things.

– Dave Robinson, Newstead, Tas

A timely warning

An excellent article from the ever wise Barry Jones (“Saving Planet Earth”, November 10–16). Mr Jones linked growing population and consumption with the unsustainability and fragility of human life. Politicians, however, are still enamoured with the “growth is good” ethos resulting in “Homo economicus”. Sadly, without drastic action now, we will not be able to save Planet Earth, either for humans or for the many species facing extinction due to our greed and anthropocentric view.

– Karen Joynes, Bermagui, NSW

Barry Jones still has the answers

Just like Abraham Lincoln’s speech in 1860, Barry Jones’s succinct, insightful and eloquent expression of the current social and political tensions should be published for all to read. He practises what he preaches in his ability to address appalling practices in a rational and calm way. To my way of thinking he can do this because what is guiding him are enduring principles and values rather than tawdry self-interest and short-term “steak knives” sales. We need to recognise there is such a thing as wisdom and anyone seeking to have an influence on public debate should be asked to sit quietly and chat to Barry.

– Jennifer Leaver, Russell Lea, NSW

Consumerism not consumption

According to Barry Jones, the post-World War II period has been characterised by consumption levels “destroying the environment and polluting air, sea and land”. This conflates the economic notion of “consumption” with the disease of “consumerism”. We legitimately pursue “consumption” (individual or collective), of services such as high-quality public and private healthcare and education. Such pursuit need not be at the expense of rational and far-sighted prevention and precautionary action. By contrast, “consumerism” is heedless of adverse ecological and social consequences. This heedlessness may result from both ignorance and poor regulatory frameworks, such as an insufficient rate of carbon pricing. Poor regulatory frameworks may result from the ill-directed political power and poor adaptability of corporations and industries. None of this is to deny the eventual long-run need for a “stationary state” in which global production and consumption are stabilised in ways consistent with social justice and ecological harmony.

– Barry Naughten, recent departmental visitor, Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies, ANU

Letters are welcome: [email protected]
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 November 17, 2018.

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