Where is the federal ICAC?
Paul Bongiorno’s review of Labor’s branch-stacking woes in Victoria (“I don’t know him from Adem”, June 20-26) is helpful but somewhat two-dimensional. He asks “Who can blame the government for enjoying Labor’s discomfort at the moment?” but fails to tackle the issue as one that regularly plagues all parties of every political persuasion, although he does mention in passing that Malcolm Turnbull brags about his own successful stacking efforts. It’s the old, unedifying story of the pot and the kettle: at least in this case Labor is taking action. It’s the government that should be feeling the discomfort over its continuing failure to clean up its own act and set up a federal anti-corruption body with real teeth.
– Jenifer Nicholls, Armadale, Vic
Water lacking for basin’s future
As a landholder in the upper Murray–Darling Basin, I can only say that our underlying problem is simple: there is no water (Karen Middleton, “Basin straits”, June 20-26). As the climate becomes hotter and as ever more country is cleared for farming, the hydrology of eastern Australia has been irrevocably altered. Instead of water being held in organic matter and seeping gradually through the soil, each “rain event” creates a minor flood. Since Copeton Dam was built, the Gwydir Wetlands have decreased in area from about 250,000 hectares to 70,000 hectares, and fill less frequently. There are no exact figures because nobody thought it mattered. Despite good regional rain since January, Copeton Dam is at 13 per cent of capacity. Unfortunately, a majority of farmers, politicians and agricultural scientists apparently don’t “believe” in climate change, the role of agriculture in managing the situation or the need to retain biodiversity.
– Philippa Morris, Gravesend, NSW
NDIS not living up to promise
Thanks for the informative article on autism benchmarking in the National Disability Insurance Scheme (Rick Morton, “Fraught wait for report”, June 20-26). Benchmarking goes against every principle the NDIS was founded upon. It was never supposed to be about diagnosis or cookie-cutter approaches. The Productivity Commission’s “Disability Care and Support” inquiry report of 2011, which gave rise to the NDIS, stated, “The Commission has not produced a long list of conditions covered by the NDIS because eligibility would be determined by functional limitations, not conditions.” The National Disability Insurance Agency, however, did just that, with a list of conditions with essentially automatic entry (“List A”) and another of those that meet the criteria for a permanent impairment but where function must still be proved (“List B”). People with other conditions may qualify but often face a tougher battle. It is fundamental to the NDIS legislation that each individual is assessed on their function in various categories. Benchmarking contradicts this.
– Naomi Hart, Waramanga, ACT
Pandemic equality a missed opportunity
Reading Mike Seccombe’s deeply insightful essay “Seeking support” (June 20-26) can leave one with a feeling of despair, hopelessness and extreme shame. The vilification of refugees and asylum seekers ramped up in the Howard era, which groomed future leaders such as Tony Abbott whose fearmongering and divisiveness only deepened with ministers Morrison and Dutton. Their blight on our human rights record has extended, too, to the ongoing undercurrents of a White Australia Policy with its treatment of Indigenous peoples. One might have thought, hoped even, Covid-19 would present an opportunity for government to ensure the health of all its people but, yet again, there were many thousands deemed less worthy. Instead of ushering in changes with empathy, respect and universality, this government gave us more of the same. The likes of Howard, Abbott, Dutton and Morrison are the very ugly side of neoliberal politics. Their relentless prejudice and xenophobia should be abolished forever. Never mind the costs of mental health and wellness on communities and on hospital systems; leaving any family uncared for, any child hungry, any foreign worker without food and shelter is just so un-Australian. This is not my government but this is my shame.
– Ian Ossher, Dover Heights, NSW
Top End tyranny offends
The story about the late Arthur Summons (Sarah Price, “A league gentleman”, June 20-26) rescuing the troubled state ward and high-school student of Price’s was heartwarming. Feeling aglow, I turned to Gadfly, who invariably makes me laugh but not on this occasion. The story of Top End magistrate Greg Borchers making harsh comments to a 13-year-old Aboriginal boy whose mother had recently been murdered by his father (“Mad Monk’s misjudgement”) left me enraged and awake all night. Where is compassion? Where is empathy? Why are such magistrates not held accountable?
– Jenny Goldie, Cooma, NSW
Happy birthday, Tharunicaa
Gadfly readers need not be concerned that Alan Tudge, the stand-in Immigration minister, missed the birthday messages for three-year-old Tharunicaa, imprisoned on Christmas Island with her family from Biloela (“Family disallowance”, June 20-26). Birthday cards sent by Grandmothers for Refugees were piling up at his office. The Aussie Post snail mail was bolstered by hand deliveries, phone calls and poster-size messages. The cards were addressed to Tharunicaa on Christmas Island c/- Minister Tudge. We sincerely trust he forwarded them and would do the same with any belated greetings from The Saturday Paper readers sent to Suite 4, Level 1, 420 Burwood Highway, Wantirna South, Vic, 3152.
– Jean Ker Walsh via email
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This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Jun 27, 2020.
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