Rick Morton (“Insiders expose ‘bullshit’ at CSIRO”, June 24-30) quotes outgoing CSIRO chief Larry Marshall as saying the organisation’s first purpose is “assisting industry”. Senator Barbara Pocock instead says it is “to assist the Australian public”. It is 20 years since I worked there, but it is clear its de facto priority remains assisting particular industries, not industry as a whole, let alone the public. It risks its hard-won reputation for neutrality by being bound to large sponsors, essential in order to balance its books. It also decreases the chance of really big discoveries rather than incremental advances. It produced wi-fi but only incidentally within a separately targeted project. Long-term work on climate change has given way to work on carbon capture and storage, likely only ever a Trojan Horse to persuade acceptance of new fossil fuel projects. CSIRO is another victim of neoliberalism.
– Jock Churchman, Campelltown, SA
I’m afraid the “bullshit” was evident at CSIRO long before Larry Marshall got there. During the Gillard era the Australian Solar Institute and later ARENA awarded large swaths of public funds to manifestly risky carbon capture and storage and prohibitively expensive concentrated solar thermal research and pilot projects at CSIRO with little or nothing to show for it now, more than 10 years later. CSIRO does exemplary work in many fields, but it mystifyingly seems to have a tin ear in the climate-related disciplines. If this is fuelled by fossil-fuel industry interests their insidious reach pre-dates the current administration and its political masters.
– Name and address withheld, NSW
Thomas Mayo (“A very simple ‘Yes’ ”, June 24-30) pinpoints the corrosiveness of divisive propaganda targeted at “low informed” and self-interested Australians to create fear about the Indigenous Voice. Mayo acknowledges First Nations peoples’ capacity to survive, despite successive attempts by governments to annihilate them through frontier wars, dispossession and forced removal of children. Working in remote Northern Territory Indigenous communities for 20-plus years, I repeatedly witnessed bureaucrats fly in to a community for a day’s meeting, with proposals for funding, tied to unworkable, culturally inappropriate projects. Despite sage advice from elders and their communities of the inappropriateness of many proposals, and what would be workable, their advice was ignored. When projects ultimately failed, communities were blamed and deemed wasteful. A Voice to Parliament is the only practical and intelligent solution.
– Jean Abbott, Corlette, NSW
Thomas Mayo’s beautiful invitation to imagine the world taken from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders by colonisation was the rinse of empathy some of us need to wash off the stink of bitter politicking on the referendum. “Think about how you feel when you visit a special place ... the deep blue sea fringed by white surf and silver fish ... that waterhole tucked into the folds of an omnipresent red rock, surrounded by a desert like an ocean of ochre”. Indigenous Australians once experienced abundance and an unimpeded connection to each other and to the land and seas. Considering what’s been taken from them, we owe them so much more than just a “Yes” vote. But it’s a start.
– Kylie Mulcahy, Eugenana, Tas
Thomas Mayo’s column is poignant. Regrettably, I think many people who should read it won’t. Some are captured by political leaders and right-wing media commentators who seek to seed doubt and confusion about the need for the Voice to be spelt out in the constitution, and the repercussions for the nation if the “Yes” campaign is successful. The “No” bandwagon is gaining momentum. The doom and gloom by the naysayers needs continual debunking. Let compassion, understanding and common sense prevail.
– Barry Clarke, Kensington, Vic
The fight for climate justice by Torres Strait Islander and Pacific Island people, extensively chronicled by the Reverend Dr Cliff Bird and Professor Rebecca Monson, highlights Australia’s climate negligence (“Not drowning, fighting”, June 24-30). During a webinar about the Federal Court hearing, it was reported that an Australian government official condescendingly questioned an Islander about how they determined the water was warmer. This question disregarded the overwhelming evidence, including the World Meteorological Organization’s report of record-high ocean heat in 2022. The Islander’s response, “by dipping my hand into the sea”, perfectly encapsulated their experiential knowledge. To demonstrate genuine concern, the Australian government should show greater respect for these people who are at one with the sea and fear losing their ancestral lands.
– Ray Peck, Hawthorn, Vic
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This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on July 1, 2023.
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