Letters to
the editor

Holding to account

Like many, I am inspired and heartened by young people, such as 19-year-old Anjali Sharma, who are fighting for climate justice (Mike Seccombe, “Care of duty”, August 5-11). I fear, however, that, as Greta Thunberg has observed, too many of us express gratitude for Sharma’s fight and subsequently fail to step up ourselves. As an Australian, I am also embarrassed and ashamed of the injustices our country inflicts on children and those less privileged across the globe via our propensity to continue burning fossil fuels. May climate litigation begin to hold decision-makers accountable, because whether MPs vote for Senator David Pocock’s duty of care bill or not, as public representatives they bear a moral responsibility to protect the world’s children.

– Amy Hiller, Kew, Vic

Territories miss out

It’s one of the great ironies of the Voice campaign (Kerry O’Brien, “The Pearson interview: ‘How does the elephant sit down with the mouse’”, August 5-11). On August 4, an Aboriginal speaker at the opening of the Garma Festival in Arnhem Land said, “We will vote ‘Yes’.” But because of where he lives, he gets only half a vote. For a referendum to succeed, it must have a majority of the whole population and a majority of states. Territories don’t count for that last bit. This means a large number of likely “Yes” voters are somewhat irrelevant; the “No” voters in the territories are in exactly the same position. Both sides of politics know full well that parliament can create new states without a referendum, so how about statehood for the territories?

– G. T. W. Agnew, Coopers Plains, Qld

Selective concerns

I confess I do not understand the allusion to butterfly collection and paternalism (Editorial, “The butterfly catcher”, August 5-11). Its prominence in the title of your editorial makes clear, however, that you seek to target Dr Peter Sutton and not to expose a “second register” in this country’s “last broadsheet”. You assert that Sutton’s recently published defence of his critique of Bruce Pascoe’s selective rendition of historical sources, his rejection of Pascoe’s inappropriate European model of societal transitional hierarchies and his criticism of Pascoe’s failure to acknowledge the unappreciated achievements of Aboriginal societies, is somehow to serve a “campaign against the Voice”. His response to his other detractors is, you assert, to hide a menacing register of secret meaning, or to duplicate the dismissive action of a “1920s pastoralist”. These are among the most excessive of recent claims made by Sutton’s detractors. Bruce Pascoe may have briefly excited the well-meaning but ill-informed with his “new reading”. The fact is he has not revealed any previously unknown or unacknowledged feature of Australian Aboriginal societies. His contribution to Australian thought has been to encourage anti-racists to feel more comfortable but not to be better informed.

– Bob Ellis, Bugle Ranges, SA

Worthy defence

Each week I relish the editorial. This week’s is a brilliant example. Professor Marcia Langton is a national treasure on so many levels and your defence of her is very welcome. Aside from that, the writing is exceptional. Thank you for your continuing excellence.

– Margaret Donnellan, Five Dock, NSW

Overdue plans

Thank you, John Martinkus, for your insights on West Papua (“Stranded in a West Papua jail”, August 5-11). Who knew that John F. Kennedy had persuaded the Dutch to abandon their plans for an independent West Papua. That is a great wrong crying out to be righted. Australia granted independence to Papua New Guinea, and so should Indonesia transcend colonialism and grant it to West Papua. It is long overdue.

– Peter G. Martin, Port Willunga, SA

Stick with the facts

While the recent article “Doth protest too little” by Ben Abbatangelo (July 22-28) touches on important points, it is lazy and unreliable reportage that glibly elides one issue with another. It is also filled with serious errors that have the cumulative effect of undermining support for climate action. While many are understandably frustrated at the pace of change in addressing climate and environmental issues, we need to be clear-eyed about the facts. It is incorrect to call governments “wholly owned subsidiaries of fossil fuel companies”. On a smaller scale, and contrary to Abbatangelo’s assertion, there was never a plan to extract gas at James Price Point in Western Australia. The gas from the offshore Browse Basin was to be processed there: it’s now to be processed offshore. Stopping James Point preserved an important environmental asset, but it brought no reduction in overall emissions. The International Energy Agency report cited to support the idea that electric vehicles use six times more minerals than internal combustion engine cars is also misleading. The IEA notes that its figures do not include the steel and aluminium (the largest components by far) that go into ICE vehicles, nor does it include the oil and gas the ICE cars burn. It’s painfully clear we are moving too slowly to address climate change and limit environmental damage. But to undermine support for our hard-won current efforts with untruths is unacceptable. If Christine Milne or others interviewed for the piece have practical, more effective ways of moving forward, please tell us about it in a future article. But don’t damage support for existing efforts without providing a viable alternative, for to do that really is siding with the fossil fuel industry.

– Tim Flannery, Austinmer, 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 August 12, 2023.

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