Letters to
the editor

UN should act on West Papua

The Indonesian embassy’s response to “Chemical weapons dropped on Papua” (Letters, January 26-February 1) is an example of misdirection and government evasion, obscuring and misrepresenting an oppressive and illegal situation in Papua. Irrespective of which definition of chemical weapons is used, illumination and other mortar shells can inflict considerable burns and physical damage meant for the battlefield, and many Australians may find it concerning that their indigenous Papuan neighbours have reported and shown photos of mortar shells purportedly lobbed at their homes and villages. Irrespective the weapons or munitions used, the past deployment of thousands of troops and sometimes of special Kopassus and D88 forces to Papua has been alarming and is rightfully of Australian concern. It was Indonesia that came to the United Nations with an agreement in 1962 asking to authorise a UN occupation and administration of West New Guinea, allegedly for the local people’s benefit. I regret that article 85 of the UN Charter allows the General Assembly to authorise UN colonial occupations, as we then did with resolution 1752, but I for one believe it also means that as UN members we have an obligation (article 76) to ensure the welfare of the territory. Indonesia may not like it, but it was Indonesia that in 1962 made West Papua a UN issue and responsibility.

Andrew Johnson, Australia West Papua Association, Sydney, NSW

Vote-buying in a policy vacuum

Martin McKenzie-Murray (“Senior Liberals fear election chaos”, January 26-February 1) reports a senior Victorian Liberal lamenting that the Liberal Party has lost its way. Businessmen are unimpressed by a budget surplus. They are worried. About what? An ALP election victory and a possible drop in profits? In the account of “Balkanisation” in the Liberal Party there is no mention of lack of policy. Climate change may as well not exist, and what about the death of the Murray-Darling system caused by drought and water theft, the increase in homelessness, underpayment of workers, the criminal actions of banks and insurance companies, and pandering to expensive private schools while neglecting government schools, universities and the CSIRO? Wages stagnate and Newstart payments have not increased for 20 years. Refugees rot in torment in endless offshore detention. Meanwhile, an incompetent government squanders money on buying votes and irrelevant circuses. A fair go for all. I don’t think so.

– Gael Barrett, North Balwyn, Vic

Surplus to requirements

The delusional notion that a federal government surplus is in and of itself a positive thing appears yet again, this time from the mouth of a “senior Victorian Liberal”. Of course they are not alone in believing a sovereign currency-issuing government needs to pursue a surplus, as we do in trying to pay down our household debt. Labor is also dragging the chain in coming to terms with this critical policy point. I’m not so fussed what a Victorian Liberal functionary thinks on this, but for an incoming, hopefully largely progressive, federal government to not understand – it matters.

– Paul Keig, Wahroonga, NSW

Taking some responsibility

The corporate world and their agencies seem endlessly mystified when their more blatant attempts to link their products with causes or changing social norms fail so spectacularly (Mike Seccombe, “Purpose gilt”, January 26-February 1). Corporate marketing departments and ad people keep telling each other their customers expect good corporate and social behaviour, but this is incorrect. People will occasionally respond positively, if briefly, to product associations, except when the link is so obviously commercial, atrociously crass or tasteless – “fresh” food and dead soldiers, what were they thinking? But consumers have little or no lasting expectation or even thought for the organisation behind a brand even when there are positive associations, especially given modern labyrinthine corporate ownership structures. If corporations want to be accepted as good corporate and social citizens they must agree to change corporations law to put society and the planet ahead of profit and shareholder value and devote fewer resources to avoiding their fair share of tax.

– Tor Larsen, Marrickville, NSW

Loggin’ not twaddlin’

Gadfly owes an apology to Eric (Otto) Abetz for dubbing his Tasmanian fiefdom “twaddlin’ town” (Gadfly, January 26-February 1). The Tasmanian Liberal government has bounced back from its failure to have state World Heritage listings revoked by inviting a $54 million offer to revive native forest logging at Bell Bay from a Western Australian firm, Patriarch and Sons, controlled by Sarawak behemoth Shin Yang. As per tradition, the Tasmanian government declines to comment on the industry’s incessant haemorrhage of public red ink, which, to the public accounts, is anything but “twaddlin’ ”.

– John Hayward, Weegena, Tas

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 February 2, 2019.

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