Letters to
the editor

Sydney council to consult on statues

For many people in our city and across Australia, James Cook symbolises the lie of terra nullius, and the onset of violence against First Nations peoples, and centuries of dispossession (Open letter, “Relocate Cook statue”, July 4-10). This has been recognised by the City of Sydney since 2011, when council endorsed the use of the term “invasion” when referring to European settlement. We cannot erase history and nor should we attempt to – a society that embraces all Australians must be based on truth-telling and reflect the real impact of invasion. But it is important to consider the role of statues in our public domain that celebrate colonial history. These statues are divisive and can be a painful reminder for First Peoples. Following recent public debate, many in our local Aboriginal community have urged caution against reactive and immediate action – whether that is the addition of truthful historical context to their sites, artistic counter-reflection, relocation or removal. What is first needed is a holistic process of truth-telling, and listening, in order to build greater acknowledgement of our shared history. It is my intention that the city consult with our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Panel and local elders, and engage the wider community in a mature conversation about our colonial past before presenting a recommendation on the future of colonial statues. I have advised the state government, with whom the city shares custodianship of Hyde Park, of this intention.

– City of Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore via email

Hiding history doesn’t help

There is something really disturbing about the idea that historical statues should be removed from public view because they upset people. Why does this “community of experts” assume that concealing the past in museums might help Aboriginal people or the rest of the community? Is that to be the fate of controversial image-making now? Should I expect my performance art to be vetted by a panel of psychoanalysts before I can reach an audience? Or isn’t this a familiar example of exactly the kind of paternalism that assumes that Aboriginal people (and the rest of us) can’t think for themselves/ourselves. Aboriginal people, after more than 200 years of white occupation, have proved their resilience. They don’t need “trigger warnings” performed by closeted academics. They don’t need the unctuous guidance of a gang of mainly white academics and experts to take charge of controversy. It’s good for all of us that the Cook sculpture out in the open is open to all of us. The sculpture in Hyde Park might bring back traumatic memories for some Aboriginal people but repressing the past can only add to the hurt. The Stolen Generations and the denial and distortions perpetuated by authority in respect to that aspect of our history – “expert opinion” again undoubtedly – provide clear evidence for that. I can also imagine that our 1.2 million people of Chinese descent may also have bad memories of our colonial past, not to mention the Opium Wars conducted by British Imperialists in China itself. And 400,000 Australians of Greek descent might also have cause to remember the Elgin marbles when they encounter Cook among the rhododendrons in Hyde Park. So Cook is an ambivalent symbol for many of us but repression and re-education via “expert opinion” is hardly the answer.

– Mike Parr via email

PM’s power grab won’t end well

We are now in Machiavellian times with conservative governments worldwide exercising their divide-and-rule ideologies under the guise of the Covid-19 pandemic (Karen Middleton, “Morrison ruling by ‘Henry VIII’ clauses”, July 4-10). Prime Minister Scott Morrison has claimed he will not make the same mistake twice. Noting John Howard overreached with WorkChoices when granted power in the senate, there are clear parallels now. With parliament in absentia and its processes ignored, the echo of Peter Dutton stating that parliament was an impediment is ringing. But to what exactly? Being even more devious? The Liberals have form, an unfortunate fact. There will be days of reckoning ahead for our government, beginning in September when the true nature of unemployment and business collapses become known. It will not be acceptable. The Canberra bubble will then begin to implode, a deserved outcome for a government that has intentionally marginalised so many.

– Rod Milliken, Greenwell Point, NSW

Technology fail

The COVIDSafe app, as well as being a deceptive euphemism, has proved to be a complete waste of $2.5 million of public money (Royce Kurmelovs, “The other bugs”, July 4-10). On top of functional problems and serious phone security issues, it hasn’t managed to trace a single person who hadn’t already been manually traced. Even with this knowledge, inexplicably, money is still being spent promoting its imagined benefits.

– Bruce Hulbert, Lilyfield, NSW

Journalism under threat

After we learnt that important aspects of the Bernard Collaery trial will be held in secret, The Saturday Paper’s editorial (“Of public interest”, July 4-10) has raised the possibility that ABC journalist Dan Oakes could be charged for reporting on alleged war crimes by Australian troops in Afghanistan. With Karen Middleton’s reporting that the federal government is using “Henry VIII clauses” to enact laws that prevent parliamentary scrutiny, it seems that Scott Morrison has dispensed with taking advice from medical experts and has been taking lessons from Viktor Orbán.

– Peter Nash, Fairlight, NSW

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 July 11, 2020.

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