Comcar or caring for the Commonwealth?
Firestorms in Australia have severely stressed our Rural Fire Services and volunteers. Rick Morton (“The long, hot summer”, December 21, 2019–January 24, 2020) reported: “Fire trucks that should have been replaced years ago are being held together with ‘tape and hope’ ... But these trucks cost up to $600,000 to replace.” Yet in December the ABC reported the government’s Finance Department is contemplating buying 120 new BMW vehicles, valued at about $100,000 each, to chauffeur federal politicians. Ask a politician: Which $12 million purchase is more urgent – 20 new fire trucks to fight bushfires, or 120 BMWs to chauffeur politicians?
– Roger Eggleton, Wallsend, NSW
A reader’s feast
What an excellent edition of The Saturday Paper. Plenty of holiday reading and the Summer Quiz. Gadfly is always hilarious and I loved his “Prefects and prizes” with Andrew Bolt getting an award for his “show and tell” on eating a pavlova on top of Uluru. Annie Smithers’ “Vegan merry Christmas” recipes were timely as a daughter and her partner have become vegetarian (not vegan yet). But the highlight for me was the new short story “Together” from Tony Birch, a new writer for me to catch up with.
– Susan Munday, Bentleigh East, Vic
Buying into the network
Modern open communication is regarded as being under threat as described by Julian Burnside and Mikele Prestia in relation to Witness J (“Disappearing act”, December 21, 2019–January 24, 2020), but there is a conjunction between this story and Karen Middleton’s on aid worker David Savage (“Savage treatment”) and Martin McKenzie-Murray’s in relation to online dialogue (“Home and astray”) in the same edition. Savage struggled for justice until his story was told by The Saturday Paper and ABC’s 7.30. This illustrates the power of the media to expose injustice and corruption if used intelligently and fearlessly. People with a serious and well-documented grievance should be aware of this. As Burnside quotes Lord Bingham in a judgement: “Experience however shows, in this country and elsewhere, that publicity is a powerful disinfectant.” McKenzie-Murray highlights the power and danger of the internet (“a feverish, electric, unlivable hell”, according to writer Jia Tolentino). He cites two major reckonings – “one by the state and another by the individual”. Having little confidence in the state, people can make their own decision not to get involved. McKenzie-Murray reports that the social network is now too big to fail, but people have made it so; if they don’t use it, it can fail. I don’t use it and remain comfortably outside an “unlivable hell”.
– Rodney Syme, Yandoit Hills, Vic
Tragic legacy of Manus and Nauru
Well done on The Canada Project initiative (Editorial, December 21, 2019–January 24, 2020) to raise money to fund the resettlement of the people trapped in Papua New Guinea and Nauru. I support it even though on one level it seems to be rescuing the government and so-called opposition from their criminality and their long-term human rights violations when it comes to refugees. And it is also rescuing the media, especially the ABC, from its radical underreporting of what is a hostage crisis. It also seems to be rescuing most Australians from their status as “good Germans” as the most disgusting violations have been committed against the most vulnerable. Let us remember the people driven to death by the holding of refugees as political hostages by the Australian state on Manus and Nauru: Reza Barati (aged 24), Sayed Ibrahim Hussein (unknown), Hamid Kehazaei (24), Omid Masoumali (23), Rakib Khan (26), Kamil Hussain (34), Faysal Ishak Ahmed (27), Hamed Shamshiripour (32), Rajeev Rajendran (32), Jahingir (29), Salim Kyawning (52) and Fariborz Karami (26).
– Stephen Langford, Paddington, NSW
The night before the noughties
Excellent poem (as ever) by Maxine Beneba Clarke, spot on (“When the decade broke”, December 21, 2019–January 24, 2020). On the night of December 31, 1999, we went to bed hoping or believing the world would be a happier and more just place. Christ, haven’t we been crucified by inferior politicians and right-wing press barons without the slightest sense of moral sensibility and social justice?
– Edward Black, Church Point, NSW
Giving hope to the world
Congratulations to Rachael Lebeter for her “Diary of a wildlife carer”, winner of the 2019 Horne Prize (December 21, 2019–January 24, 2020). It plunged me into a different world, full of animal beings in need, thankfully aided by volunteers such as her. Remarkable deeds showing human solidarity for other species, generosity of spirit and more qualities that can inspire others. But then she spoils it by moving into an angry/sad dichotomy and is urged by a pupil to stop listening to podcasts about the state of the world. What is disappointing in this intelligent essay is the restriction she applies to the alternatives: either angry or “she’ll be right” attitudes. What about active, constructive dialogue to inspire others, especially young people, to take action: get themselves informed about what happens in the world, think about possible solutions, but mainly militate to change political old ways and vote out those who perpetuate self-interest while damaging everyone and everything else?
– Alex Pucci, Mosman, NSW
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This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Jan 25, 2020. Subscribe here.