I note that Richard Ackland believes that “full disclosure” requires that journalists and commentators should declare any association with the spouse or partner of a politician they discuss on a program such as Insiders (Gadfly, “Grassy-eyed Gus”, August 3-9). Where would such a requirement end? Should journalists declare an association with a politician who is leaking to them? And what about journalists who have a present or past relationship with a politician? Both declarations would make political reporting more interesting – but no more than that. Sure, I did not mention that Louise Clegg, Angus Taylor’s wife, is a member of The Sydney Institute’s board on Insiders recently when his involvement with Jam Land Pty Ltd was raised. But I had no knowledge that Ms Clegg has an involvement with her husband’s financial interests. Why should I? I have always held the view that wives have an independence from their husbands.
– Gerard Henderson, Sydney, NSW
What Manus teaches us
The pages of The Saturday Paper introduced me to Behrouz Boochani some years ago but that did not prepare me for the Byron Writers Festival video link with him this year. On top of everything else the Manus refugees have endured, for six years he and his cohort have only been known as numbers, not names. I dared not try to speak as I shed silent tears. Fascism is alive and well on Manus Island. It was in The Saturday Paper tent at Byron a few years ago, maybe 2016, that I first heard the words “alternative truth”. It was a prescient warning. Since then we have had a plethora of alternative facts and fake news. Behrouz was not the only person to mention fascism at the festival this year. My tears were not only for those on Manus. They were for us, for what we have become and for where we are heading.
– Steve Posselt, Broadwater, NSW
Quite often in an article about a hot-button issue the first words or paragraph carries an astounding impact. Nevo Zisin, though, has saved the best for the final paragraph (“Rewriting society’s binary code”, August 3-9). “I will not stand down, I will not give up and I can promise that history will remember those who made it difficult.” Those fighting words challenge needless prejudice and strongly engage for recognition. LGBTQIA rights are about people who fall victim to society’s rationalisations. When I listen to the sublime voice of k. d. lang singing “Bird on a Wire” I appreciate her talent and rendition of the powerful lyrics. From now on, I will look and listen more closely.
– Pam Connor, Mollymook Beach, NSW
The stress of academic life
The experiences of your anonymously published “Academic casualties” (July 27-August 2) ring true to me. Three years after I gained my PhD, a lecturer who had offered me a regular casual teaching-assistant role lost his own temporary position. Faced with cold-calling staff in universities, I abandoned academia. I would add several other effects of casualisation. The first is overwork by casual staff who, afraid of finding themselves with insufficient work, hesitate to decline any offer. The intense workload takes a toll on the mental health and wellbeing of staff (casual and permanent), among whom alcohol consumption is notoriously high. The selection of individuals who handle this stress no doubt serves some purposes, but quality of teaching or research is unlikely to be among them.
– Jonathan Schultz, Nornalup, WA
I know nothing about soccer – not even enough to know to call it football. But I have co-authored a biography and appreciate the slippery trades made between authors. That said, it is as though Christos Tsiolkas and I didn’t see the same film (“Own goals”, August 3-9). And knowing nothing of Maradona before, the film taught me about his politics (a tattoo of Che Guevara is a good clue), his initial excellent management of a rampant cocaine habit, the greed of sports administrators, the humble wisdom of trainers in contrast, and how little sleep both sex workers and wives get as they dance around men with a singular physical skill. It seems my mother’s advice to take criticism as a commentary on the commentator, not what is being commented upon, is right. In that sense, I enjoyed a review that I didn’t agree with because it made me think about the differences in culture, gender, personality and experience that led to us seeing the film so differently.
– Susan Boden, Narrabundah, ACT
Cutting our options
I refer to Jonathan Pearlman’s “Spotlight: Cutting the Amazon” (August 3-9). There has been a huge increase in the rate of clearing in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest since Jair Bolsonaro was declared president last year. During July, satellite images and other data showed about 1400 square kilometres was cleared, with 36,800 square kilometres destroyed in the past year. Most clearing is for cattle grazing, mainly for United States and European markets. The Amazon rainforest absorbs and stores enormous amounts of carbon dioxide during the day and emits vital oxygen at night. It is the most potent natural enemy of global warming. Yet Mr Bolsonaro wants more clearing.
– Douglas Mackenzie, Deakin, ACT
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This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Aug 10, 2019. Subscribe here.