Letters to
the editor

The shadow of Big Peter

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton’s idea (Mike Seccombe, “Dutton’s plan for a surveillance state”, October 26–November 1) is a perverse plan for a society that prides itself on being a model, modern democracy. It’s mind-boggling how a man of such an Orwellian authoritarian bent can get catapulted into such high office – as a mega-minister – in our progressive democracy. It’s a shame.

– Rajend Naidu, Glenfield, NSW

Facing facts

Passport photos are the core of facial recognition systems. They are of dubious reliability. I travel overseas several times a year. The passport with chip that I now use has never worked on my departure from Australia over seven years. As a result I am regularly trapped by the airport barriers, unable to go either back or forward. Happily, though, I am always electronically recognised for re-entry into the country. After a succession of distressing departure experiences, I was advised to have my passport checked by the passport office. I did. “No problem,” I was assured. Finally an airport officer explained it to me. The exit and entry checks use different identification systems. For reasons worth thinking about, that for departure screening is far more rigorous and finely tuned but also more erratic. Matching failures between passport photos and airport facial scanners are apparently quite common: about 5 per cent or one in 20. So can we trust these systems? And those who naively trust them or who cynically trade in an officially cultivated gullibility about their reliability?

– Clive Kessler, Randwick, NSW

Empathy lesson too late

It is alarming to hear that the Morrison government would pay empathy consultants to teach bureaucrats to interact humanely with farmers facing drought (Karen Middleton, “Morrison govt paid empathy consultant $190,000”, October 26–November 1). A pity that seven years ago, empathy consultants were not employed to teach politicians to feel empathy for the innocent asylum seekers instead of beginning and continuing their torturous detention scheme under the pretence of stopping the drownings at sea.

– Susan Munday, Bentleigh East, Vic

Australia must plant trees

Rick Morton’s article “Forest or the trees” (October 26–November 1) makes disturbing reading. The likelihood that much of central-western Victoria’s remaining forests will be opened up for destructive “sustainable” logging is almost unbelievable at a time when the issue of climate change is receiving so much attention. If the Victorian government fails to accept the recommendations of the Victorian Environmental Assessment Council, huge areas of old-growth forest could be destroyed by an industry that some consider unviable. Hopefully, the state’s Energy, Environment and Climate Change minister will eventually be successful in persuading the federal Agriculture and Water Resources minister to join in a scheme that puts a carbon credit value on “avoided harvesting”, but so far the Morrison government seems uninterested. Rather than allowing trees that are valuable carbon sinks to be cut down by a dying industry, we should be planting trees – in their billions.

– Douglas Mackenzie, Deakin, ACT

Deja vu for Tasmanians

Rick Morton’s article on VicForests’ logging plans was, from a Tasmanian perspective, almost a flashback. Save for its more limited scale, the Victorian plans seem a virtual clone of the Tasmanian logging frenzy that ravaged the state earlier this century. The same economic illogic of unstinting support for an extremely destructive extractive industry that only survives on massive public subsidies, combined with a scandalous contribution to climate change that was proportionally greater than Brazil’s. The industry–government consortium brought with it a public disinformation campaign: inflated job-creation claims, a profusion of industry-funded Astroturf “stakeholder” groups and litigation threats and actions against critics. There was the usual Regional Forest Agreement, which effectively handed forestry and environmental regulation over to the industry. Judging from the state government’s abject loyalty, the main beneficiaries must have been the major parties’ pork barrels.

– John Hayward, Weegena, Tas

The answer is obvious

The real reason child detention is increasing has three key factors, particularly for Indigenous children (Mike Seccombe, “Holding patterns”, October 19-25). Education has failed, economic inequality is growing rapidly and culturally, Indigenous and white, the support structures are collapsing. Using the dollar numbers from the article and firsthand experience, 20 children incarcerated for a year would fund 50 remote schools with 20 children in each for that year. This is not rocket science. It is bad government systems and decision-making that need restructuring and refocusing on accountability.

– Trevor Pratt, Eaglemont, Vic

Poetry in motion

I hope that the arrival of political cartoonist Jon Kudelka at The Saturday Paper does not mark the demise of Maxine Beneba Clarke!

– Joan Knowles, Mawson, ACT

Editor’s note: It most certainly doesn’t.

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 2, 2019.

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