Letters to
the editor

A fair go for Murugappan family

Rebekah Holt does us a service in elaborating the plight of the Biloela family and the suffering of their young daughters (“Sick, trapped, scared: Priya speaks from Perth hospital”, June 12-18). Discomfiting as it is, it says something about the country that a harrowing account of the detail of this inhumanity emerges often, but in bits and pieces. How do we face up to the reality that we allow little girls to develop rotting teeth? Worse, we usually hear little of the nightmares, the sleep disturbance, the self-harm that is betrayed by biting their own hand when anxious. That we feel powerless in the face of politicians using spin to portray this as being tough on borders, rather than wanton cruelty for political ends, may reflect that we feel helpless about the shame of this. Feeling angry at how we’ve all been brought down by our political classes might galvanise us to demand an end to cruelty as policy. It’s a disturbing reality that we are no longer the land of the fair go; it might be reclaimed if

we demanded it.

– Gil Anaf, Norwood, SA

Stop the persecution

What an absolute disgrace by the federal government. The family who were dragged out of their life at Biloela provided more to that community in a short time than many who have lived there all their lives. This is plainly shown by the support from the Biloela community and across Australia. Now it has been advised that the family is not suitable for relocation to New Zealand or the United States and may be deported back to Sri Lanka. That would be a disaster for the little girls, who know only Australia, let alone their parents being sent back to suffer more persecution. The federal government should grant permanent residency to what is already a 50 per cent Australian family.

– Alan Leitch, Austins Ferry, Tas

Nailing it

Reading The Saturday Paper is the highlight of my week. Thank you for this week’s edition, with its excellent coverage in several articles of the plight of the Tamil family from Biloela. But for me the standout contribution was from Kudelka: “CHILD PANADOL $7,000,000.00”. Says it all. Deserves a Walkley.

– Judith Taylor, Clematis, Vic

The Keith Pitts

The Murray–Darling Basin is Australia’s most important agricultural region, producing one-third of the nation’s food supply. It also has an important place in the cultural heritage of all Australians and includes many significant natural features. It is therefore too important to be left in the hands of people such as Keith Pitt (Margaret Simons, “Unloved Darling”, June 12-18). Earlier this year, when asked about the safety of a proposed gas well off the NSW coast, he replied that everything will be fine because the well is “only the size of a dining room table”. Last December, he dismissed a global warming statement from the United Nations secretary-general. Therefore, it’s not surprising that when he addressed the recent River Reflections conference in Griffith he was “politely received … but did not impress”. Pitt has failed to deliver the $40 million buyback of water entitlements from irrigators for First Nations groups by the agreed March 31 deadline. The people who live and work in the Murray–Darling Basin deserve a more competent Water minister than Pitt to look after them.

– Ray Peck, Hawthorn, Vic

Australia’s colonial conundrum

The questions posed by Richard Bell (“A capitalist will sell their grandmother”, June 5-11) raise questions that challenge us all, Aboriginal or more recent arrival. The use of “own” is one of them. I was under the impression Aboriginal people felt they were custodians of the land, so those questions need more definition before I can even start to answer them. As custodians, they certainly do a better job of it than white people. The question of ownership, or even of custodianship, is not exclusive to Australia. Around the world we have Nepal, Taiwan, Palestine/Israel, Nunavut and the South China Sea, just to name a few. Is historical ownership/custodianship a right that lasts forever? Victoria’s truth-telling commission is a step in the right direction, and has the potential to delve into the balancing of white and Aboriginal visions of a way forward. As Bell points out, capitalism has a lot to answer for. Unfortunately, its influence is built on its financial strength. In that, we have the second and parallel challenge – to balance environmental, social and cultural outcomes that can satisfy us all.

– John Pinniger, Fairfield, Vic

Surf and turf

Justine Landis-Hanley’s article was unduly sympathetic to the people protesting against Byron Baes (“Byron’s Baewatch”, June 5-11). The article portrayed Byron as a small town of hippies and activists whose identity was being rewritten by a powerful corporation – Netflix. Like any place, there are multiple elements to Byron. One of those elements is a fast-growing culture of celebrities, influencers and wealth. This is nothing new. For many people like myself living in surrounding towns, Byron has long been viewed as a hotspot for pretentious yuppies and vacuous consumer culture. Locals opposing Byron Baes are trying to protect an image that hasn’t been accurate since the 1970s. Ironically, it is this outdated image of an eccentric hippie town that actually attracts tourists from the cities. Byron Baes will probably not be flattering, but largely accurate.

– Name withheld, Lismore, 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 June 19, 2021.

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