More women, then what?
I fully support the call by Leanne Smith and James Cockayne (“Why we need a feminist foreign policy”, November 29–December 4). But rather than spelling out how this would change the basic assumptions of Australia’s interactions with the world, they seem to fall back on two issues: development assistance and the number of women in key positions. Both Julie Bishop and her successor, Marise Payne, have emphasised the need to address women and girls in our overseas development programs; the larger issue is the constant decline in Australian overseas assistance, which the authors don’t mention. And when the Foreign and Defence ministers, as well as the head of DFAT, are all women, one might expect some analysis of how this has altered Australian policies, rather than just calling for more women as heads of mission. It is easy to adopt the rhetoric of a feminist foreign policy, and to argue for a greater emphasis on social justice and the “fair go”, but what is needed is more practical examples of what this might mean. Perhaps an examination of the balance between increasing military expenditure while reducing refugee intake, or questioning the current emphasis on our “Pacific neighbours” while ignoring their consistent demands for greater action to prevent climate change, would be a good start.
– Dennis Altman, Clifton Hill, Vic
Nature won’t wait
Karen Middleton’s take on “How Australia’s leaders are preparing for climate change” (November 29–December 4) only tells half the story. Emission targets set by nations become irrelevant as nature’s own feedback loop gathers momentum. The amount of CO2 emitted from recent megafires in the Amazon Basin, the Arctic Circle, the United States west coast and Australia’s east coast would have far exceeded any notions of greenhouse gas control for which these nations would have budgeted. And that’s just four examples of what happens when we ignore the laws of physics and climate science. The loss of the reflective power of the ice caps and the vaporisation of the methane that’s been trapped in the permafrost for millennia are also huge contributors to global warming. No number of Paris climate accords and well-meaning but meaningless future zero emission target dates can quell the fury of the forces of nature. The time to act was yesterday. This is not something we can put off until tomorrow.
– John Mosig, Kew, Vic
A deliberate image
Image is important and presenting a statesman-like image to the world essential. Confected crass, craven images of our prime minister in his grundies and thongs must have certainly impressed our biggest trading partner. Even Donald Trump has enough dignity not to stoop so low to pretend he’s one of us. And we’re paying for it in many ways.
– Mark Neeson, Merimbula, NSW
PM is a law unto himself
It was Disraeli who observed that his Conservative Party was “an exercise in hypocrisy”, but it is their Australian descendants, heralded by Gadfly (“Cormann the barbarian”, November 29–December 4), who have burnished this propensity to a glow that is often painful to behold. It wasn’t just Scott Morrison claiming to be an altruistic globalist moments after making several claims to Australian “sovereignty”, which, in the absence of supporting explanations, effectively means himself. He also accepted the Grotius Prize, seemingly for unspecified services to law and renaissance humanism, from Alexander Downer’s London think tank, the Policy Exchange. While his other intellectual achievements may remain elusive, ScoMo has expanded the definition of “integrity” into boundless infinity.
– John Hayward, Weegena, Tas
Exposing conspiracy theorists should be made a journalistic sport (Editorial, “Genie in the subtle energy lamp”, November 21-27.) You nailed it. People I’ve known for decades have fallen for this tripe. What do they have in common? It’s that I’ve never observed them buy or read a newspaper. Journalism is a blank slate. Critical thinking denied, the attraction of conspiracies through the internet where non-journalists become journalists overwhelms reason. It’s colourful, unlike ink on white paper, has bells and whistles and employs psychological lures similar to poker machines. Worse, converts feel they are in possession of privileged information. Wild-eyed with special knowledge they want to help me. They press the share button. My phone attests to their gullibility.
– Warren Tindall, Bellingen, NSW
We need an integrity commission
The lingering impression from the robo-debt scandal is that the government would not hesitate to do exactly the same again until it was found out. Paul Bongiorno is right (“A government-sanctioned debt scheme”, November 21-27): the concept of accountability is missing in action, replaced by distractions, cover-ups and spin. It’s been a vintage year for distractions, kicked off by bushfires and motoring along nicely with an all-purpose pandemic to mask any underlying problems. People who can least afford it are being ripped off and made to feel like criminals while those responsible escape any sanction. Nothing will change until there’s a federal integrity commission with powers to deal with such institutionalised rorts.
– Jenifer Nicholls, Armadale, Vic
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This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Dec 5, 2020.
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