Letters to
the editor

Selective detail

It seems Mr Dutton’s modus operandi is to continually demand more detail on the Voice while remaining loath to identify any of those Indigenous Elders he claims to have consulted (Rick Morton, “Dutton refuses to identify ‘Elders’ he met over the Voice”, April 22-28). Is the issue of the Voice going to be yet another example of our failing to listen to the First Peoples of this country and our deciding yet again what is best for them? There are Indigenous people, like the newly appointed shadow minister, who oppose the Voice, but is this a reason to reject the request of the vast majority? As a democratic nation, why would we expect any sector of the populace to be unanimous on any issue? For many of us, the Voice may be a subject for debate, but for Indigenous people it is a matter of their lives.

– Genevieve Caffery, Greenslopes, Qld

Lack of power

Peter Dutton and friends may well be throwing up nonsensical arguments against the Voice, but this doesn’t mean there aren’t serious questions that are not being addressed. For one: the lack of obligation on the part of those receiving representations from the Voice to do anything at all in relation to those representations. To quote the solicitor-general’s advice: the Voice’s power to make representations “does not impose any reciprocal requirement upon the Executive Government to consider or otherwise address those representations”. In other words, it is entirely up to Australia’s federal politicians. Hardly a situation likely to inspire confidence, especially given the Coalition’s stance. It is also proposed that the parliament will have complete control over every aspect of the Voice, “including its composition, functions, powers and procedures”. If the relationship were a contract (which in a sense it is), this would surely be regarded as unconscionable. There are many other troubling aspects in the Voice proposal. Consequently, as much as I would like to support it, in the absence of any genuine critical discussion (as opposed to political dog-whistling) about any problematic issues around the current proposal, I’ll be voting “No” in the referendum.

– Gavin Oakes, West Melbourne, Vic

One exception

Linda Jaivin makes many sensible points, not least her scepticism about the wisdom of Australia readily following the United States into battle (“On Penny Wong’s press club speech”, April 22-28). However, she alludes to Australia answering Washington’s call in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq, and asks how that turned out for those countries and for us? Without suggesting that this invalidates anything else in her article, I would contend that the answer for the inhabitants of South Korea is that it turned out pretty well.

– Michael Sanders, Hazelbrook, NSW

Questionable priorities

Linda Jaivin zeros in on a good question raised at Penny Wong’s speech, which alluded to the perception among our Pacific neighbours that we are “completely locked in with the US” in foreign policy terms. Sad, but true. In the (almost) unthinkable situation of the US warring against China in defence of Taiwan, Australia would have no say in whether we support our great friend and ally. Then prime minister Tony Abbott’s 2014 Force Posture Agreement ensures that the US military would have total access to all Australian military capabilities. The marines in Darwin, the B-52s stationed at Tyndall Air Force Base, the tentacles of Pine Gap’s sophisticated tracking and targeting devices – all would be activated immediately. This would be damaging in the extreme. And all this prior to the proposed nuclear submarines plan. Yet the government is preparing us for a budget that will not include raising payments to the unemployed, or any substantial plan to deal with homelessness. We need to challenge the sacred cow of the military expenditure in the interests of commonsense justice on the home front.

– Jo Vallentine, Coolbellup, WA

Foggy policy

Mike Seccombe’s customarily excellent reporting (“Electric vehicles policy stuck in low gear”, April 22-28) put me in mind of a front-page story in The Advertiser in Adelaide. Under the headline “Addiction to cars must go – Minister” the relevant federal minister said “everyone has his role to play, even if it’s to walk to the shop instead of taking the car”. The article closed with a professor telling a Friends of the Earth seminar that car exhausts were “the most brazen aspect of the pollution situation”. Of course, I’m an academic researcher, with a fascination about how much we knew of the climate crisis, and when. The article I have quoted was from Monday, September 4, 1972. I would say there is nothing new under the sun, but that is not quite true – the quantities of carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere are higher than any point in human history, and there is a lot of trouble ahead, regardless of whether Labor sorts out a real EV policy.

– Dr Marc Hudson, Parkside, SA

Need for transparency

John Hewson (“Aged care should not weary them”, April 22-28) addresses an elephant in the room: the charitable and religious organisations in the aged-care sector that expected healthy cash surpluses that could then help fund their other religious and pastoral care objectives. My research shows this continues to be a factor contributing to the low standards of care in some non-profit aged-care homes. Remember St Basil’s Homes for the Aged in Victoria? The Greek Orthodox Church received “exorbitant” rent and fees from St Basil’s. With lower rent, management could have employed more highly skilled staff to improve the standards of care. The sector urgently needs full financial transparency about how the $27 billion in government subsidies are spent, including to whom the aged-care provider pays rent.

– Dr Sarah Russell, director, Aged Care Matters, Mount Martha, Vic

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 April 29, 2023.

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