Letters to
the editor

Report locked in cabinet

It seems the official sports rort report by the Australian National Audit Office was 10 months in the making and was less than impressed by the politicisation of the sports fund distribution (Karen Middleton, “Granting privileges”, February 15-21). Not to worry, just follow with another, two weeks in duration and authored by the head of the prime minister’s office and a former chief of staff to the PM. What could go wrong? But to be absolutely sure, make the document cabinet confidential. Acceptance would be tantamount to an act of faith. Ah yes, Scott Morrison’s strong religious conviction is built on that very aspect, an act of unquestionable faith.

– John Fryer, Ryde, NSW

A shameful list

Congratulations to The Saturday Paper for highlighting the ongoing plight of refugees and the procrastination of the government in settling their claims for past trauma (Rick Morton, “Government stalling on Howard refugee compo”, February 15-21). Added to this are the government’s failure to resettle offshore refugees, the continued detention of the Biloela family on Christmas Island and Jacqui Lambie’s secret medevac deal and its repercussions for detainees. The huge financial impact is just part of the picture. Just shameful.

– Vicky Marquis, Glebe, NSW

Raising the Voice

From what Megan Davis is saying (“Looking for aliens”, February 15-21), Aunty Beryl Gambrill’s long-ago constitutional discussion with the women of Cherbourg about section 51 (19) raised the question of who the “aliens” referred to were. One interpretation is that the “aliens” were the new settlers. I also find it curious that the Love, Thoms case in the High Court (instigated after the minister for Home Affairs cancelled the two defendants’ visas) challenged the assumption that a person’s Aboriginality can be extinguished based on the country where they were born. As far as I was aware, in this country, if a person identifies as Aboriginal and the Indigenous community accepts them as such, that’s the end of the discussion. It comes as no surprise that Peter Dutton didn’t understand what the High Court judges clearly did. It is gratifying, however, that the case may have inadvertently improved the chances of a constitutionally enshrined Voice to Parliament.

– Bruce Hulbert, Lilyfield, NSW

Aboriginal law

Thank you for my weekly dose of sanity. I never know where to start, as it is all soul-edifying. This week I chose Megan Davis’s “Looking for aliens”. Thank you, Megan, your comments on Ken Wyatt’s efforts resonated with me. You, the women of Cherbourg and the excellent cartoon (Jon Kudelka, “Constitutionally Enshrined Voice to Parliament”, February 15-21) say it all.

– Sandy Siddle, Kelvin Grove, Qld

Bully for Australia

Bravo. Encore. The editorial exposing Australians’ deference to power (“Respect and a little bit of fear”, February 15-21) deserves expansion and repeating in response to evidence of creeping authoritarianism. Whether it’s children strip-searched to meet farcical, arbitrary targets, police and quasi-military Immigration forces being armed with assault weapons as though in search of an enemy, any number of demographic groups targeted punitively for being different from an ideologically constructed norm, asylum seekers who believed the rhetoric about Australian democratic values, or obsequiousness to anything emanating from the United States, we’re a very long way from the larrikin self-image regularly lauded as the national character. I suspect White Australia’s origins may have something to do with it. If European colonisation was achieved through land theft, cultural disapprobation, class warfare and occasional mutiny, it is possible today’s establishment might have to face the same existential threats to its privilege. Doesn’t bear thinking about, really. So we’ll tighten the screws a bit, demand some respect and awe through force if not acceptance, and keep building a more realistic inter/national character of bully.

– Andrea Shoebridge, Victoria Park, WA

The abuse of power

Your editorial brings to mind a 2007 book by psychologist Philip Zimbardo titled The Lucifer Effect: Understanding how good people turn evil. Zimbardo analyses his famous 1971 Stanford Prison Experiment, which had to be shut down prematurely because of the emerging abusive behaviour by those allotted to be guards. Zimbardo expands to analyse other related situations. One overriding conclusion is that abuse stems from the nature of the governing regime, which, overtly and covertly, encourages overbearing authority. It seems to be natural group behaviour that authorities will inevitably abuse their power if they are left unchecked. How it all pans out depends on the government we choose and whether that government has the goodwill, wisdom and talent to temper the authority granted to its various agencies. I fear we are entering dangerous times, either through ignorance or by design.

– Tony Stewart, Trafalgar, Vic

Riddle contest

How delightful to hear from Paul Kelly with his whimsy about riddles (Poem, “Riddle Poem One from the Kelly-Hoard”, February 15-21). Since my Concise Oxford Dictionary of Literary Quotations makes no mention of “riddles”, I can turn only to serendipity and think of that gorgeous novel Eucalyptus by Murray Bail. Can I think of a riddle that will Bail out the Kelly-Hoard?

– Pam Connor, Mollymook Beach, NSW

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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 22, 2020.

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