Driving in congested traffic makes me console myself with extremely foul language. Driving through Nowra at any time of the day can produce this effect as I negotiate the narrow, hostile road to the Deep South. Recently, my wayward mouth was snapped shut by a slow procession of people in wheelchairs and mobility scooters who were struggling very hard to negotiate the dodgy footpath alongside the highway that is the main street of Nowra. This scene gave the expression “struggle street” a mean reality as their helpers bent their backs to the task. So, given that the electorate of Gilmore is highly disadvantaged, how do they feel about $22 million being allocated to the art museum at Bundanon? (Karen Middleton, “Art trust wins in election budget”, April 6–12). As much as I love Bundanon, I can’t let my mouth loose on this. I’ll just do a little WTF?
– Sue Dellit, Austinmer, NSW
Overcrowding in Hong Kong
Elizabeth Flux’s piece (“Apartment complexities”, April 13–19) evoked many fond memories from my 10 years living in Hong Kong in the early 1980s. As a young civil engineer I worked on the investigations and planning of several of the New Towns, which were to house the refugees and other populations then living in squatter settlements and other poor-quality housing. Tseung Kwan O was one of those I worked on. As Flux has highlighted, close to 50 per cent of the population of Hong Kong live in public and subsidised housing. This may surprise many of your readers given Hong Kong’s image as the epitome of free market capitalism. This public housing policy, implemented to deal with overcrowding, provided social stability and was a key contributor to the economic miracle of Hong Kong and its transformation from a manufacturing centre to a great financial centre. Housing has been problematic for many decades because of the tightly controlled land supply and property developer monopolies. I am horrified to hear this latest threat to public housing and in particular the tong fong “nano”-division of apartments. Much of what is good about Hong Kong is based on the past strong social housing policy platform. It has been a safety net and any decline in that platform is a serious threat to social stability.
– Bernie O’Kane, Heidelberg, Vic
Time to examine crime and punishment
I commend the article on the harm done to women and children by imprisonment (Denham Sadler, “Dare to reprieve”, April 6–12). We live in a punitive world. I believe it is past time to review the theory and practice in criminal justice while the profound questions at the core of the concepts of crime and punishment go unasked and evidence relating to incarceration is largely unexamined. I speak of both men and women. One year in prison is a severe punishment. Twenty or more is soul-destroying, futile, wasteful and expensive. Is there evidence that 40 years is more of a deterrent than 20? Do we want redemption or retribution? Is there an obligation to restore the wrongdoer to an accepted place in society as soon as possible? Surely the enormous cost of imprisonment could be better spent in an environment where efforts are made to turn lives around, so that time in detention is used to learn life skills and an understanding of the human rights of every victim of crime. No expense should be spared to find those best able to work with damaged people and to decide when or if they can be released back into society. I believe we also need much better training and selection of police and prison personnel. Can we learn anything from past thinkers on this subject? Nelson Mandela lived a life of forgiveness, Victor Hugo wrote the tale of the bishop’s candlesticks, and Jesus Christ wanted redemption for all and chose the company of “sinners” over that of the self-righteous.
– Julie Pawsey, Coromandel Valley, SA
On utes and a coalmine
Thank you, Paul, for the comprehensive portrayal of the consummate idiocy currently being rolled out by Scott Morrison’s party (Paul Bongiorno, “Playing dumb”, April 13–19). The coverage of the murk surrounding the Adani “decision” was adroitly handled, especially when the CSIRO has been so repeatedly ill-used by a series of Liberal governments (Karen Middleton, “CSIRO steps back on Adani approval”, April 13–19). In addition, having withheld praise of Kristina Keneally until this point, I was impressed at her scything cut-through on several forays recently that left the targets reeling.
– Alan Baird, Rose Bay, NSW
Show trust in teachers
While Paddy Manning (“Public figures”, April 13–19) is correct to support Labor’s pledge to address the funding gap in education, our shadow education minister also needs to show she trusts teachers. Tanya Plibersek claims to want to attract higher-quality undergraduates to teaching, but doesn’t seem to see the link between a lack of trust for the profession and its lack of appeal to undergraduates. Consider, for example, that teachers are not even entrusted to train future teachers. This is left to university professors, some of whom may have not taught in a school. And a teacher was not entrusted to write the Gonski report. NAPLAN is another yearly reminder to teachers of how little they are trusted. The bottom line is this: if Plibersek implements new policies that show she trusts our teachers, she will already be doing a great service to our education system and it won’t even cost any taxpayers’ money.
– Luke Vanni, Nundah, Qld
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This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Apr 20, 2019. Subscribe here.