Fear, ignorance behind our xenophobia

Two of today’s Opinion pieces demonstrate the troubling xenophobia that often affects Australia. As Sean Kelly explains (“Questions for Dutton and for us”, July 31), we demonise asylum seekers as illegal boat people and lock them up for years, in a refugee policy that is among the world’s harshest. Meanwhile, our lucky citizens can travel to the countries from where refugees originate and, as noted by Shona Hendley (“I dipped my toes into resort life and found excess,” July 31), we often isolate ourselves there, without seeking to explore the country, people and culture at the doorstep. The result is a lack of the greater knowledge and empathy that we need to begin, as Kelly urges, understanding “the cruelty we exhibit towards asylum seekers and fixing it before politics overwhelms us once more”. Clay O’Brien, Mosman

Sean Kelly: “A broad-ranging royal commission seems unlikely, but should it happen?”

Sean Kelly: “A broad-ranging royal commission seems unlikely, but should it happen?”Credit: John Shakespeare

The reason inhumane treatment is acceptable to politicians, regardless of being an asylum seeker or victims of robo-debt is a matter of perspective. What needs to be understood is, politics isn’t about humane treatment of anyone or even competence in running the country. What it is about is winning the next election and asylum seekers are useful in achieving that end. John Macintosh, Merewether

I generally agree with Kelly, but not today. He speculates that while Peter Dutton, a central cog in a brutal detention regime that costs lives and our international reputation, may face “political inconvenience” over his role, it is up to us to fix cruelty. Hundreds of thousands marched, protested, wrote letters, some got arrested, but the Morrison madness of Nauru and Manus flourished. Someone must be held to account, by those same institutions which enabled the cruelty and illegality. Mark Paskal, Austinmer

It’s down to us, the voting public. We enable both the policymakers who demonise asylum seekers and those who implement those policies to carry out our wishes. Historically, we have a patchy track record, but the school bully isn’t far beneath the surface everywhere, latching on to our fear of the “other”. It’s hard to step away from groupthink. Imagine the howl that would go up at any suggestion of an official apology to those who suffered at our hands, let alone compensation. So instead of a royal commission, let’s try for the modest changes to our immigration system that would be of real benefit to thousands of our fellow human beings. Margaret Johnston, Paddington

However you split it up, there are basically two types of people in the world. There are those who are motivated primarily by what is best for them and keeps them comfortable, with little regard for those who might be negatively affected. And there are those who are concerned about others, realising that it could be them.

This is true in many areas (immigration policy, climate change, corporate practices, Indigenous treatment, et cetera.). In all these areas, you can see how one party is demonised. It affects how we act, vote, spend and work. Where we go as a society depends on which group dominates at a particular time. David Rush, Lawson

Never mind the economy, climate change is bad for the health

Your article (“Pocock springs test on fate of future children”, July 31) quotes Anthony Albanese rejecting any moratorium on new fossil fuel projects as “disastrous for the economy”. Try telling that to the Greeks, or to the 33 million victims of the Pakistani floods in March, or to the flood and fire victims of the eastern half of Australia over recent years. Not only were these events “disastrous for the economy”, but at what cost to human health and welfare and to the environment? Bring on the moratorium. We cannot afford not to. Hugh Barrett, Sanctuary Point

Heatwaves across the northern hemisphere have seen fires surge across Greece.

Heatwaves across the northern hemisphere have seen fires surge across Greece. Credit: Bloomberg

May the noise made by the main parties not drown out the sane and sensible discussion in federal decision-making. Changed thinking and behaviours are needed about the approval and assistance provided to fossil fuel projects. When community and expert concern and worsening outlooks concerning “global boiling” are being raised time and time again, stronger federal leadership is needed. The public values considerations that go well beyond party-political eyes being focused on getting past the next election and maintaining sources of donations, and the current yet still modest 2030 and 2050 emissions reduction targets. Sue Dyer, Downer (ACT)

Pocock’s bill to force legislators to consider the impact on future generations of new fossil fuel licences will be unpopular with Labor if it threatens new coal and gas, which Labor relies on for revenue and to contain energy prices. It throws up in stark relief whether future generations must be considered against winning the next election. It seems surprising that it needs legislation. I was under the naive assumption that governments should consider all our welfare in any legislation anyway. Or is it only those who can afford lobbyists who are considered? The independents are doing a good job of forcing government to face up to difficult issues. Gary Barnes, Mosman

Pocock says we have a “moral duty to young people and future generations”. The burden on the youngest members of our society is not just logistical, it is an overwhelming emotional burden. Today’s children and young people with whom I work as an occupational therapist are more anxious (scared, fearful, despondent) than this group have been in the last thirty years – and it is over climate. The rest of the article makes it clear that the federal Labor government is trying to shrink the scale of the task in our eyes. Their attempt to displace the emotional burden they promised to take up when they entered office is hurting our children right now. Jo Jackson King, Gidgegannup (WA)

Decriminalisation will break the drug-crime nexus

The rise in violent drug-related crime spilling into daily life affects us all – the only solution with a possibility of breaking the nexus between drugs and crime is decriminalisation (Letters, July 29). Not only does it reduce crime and regulate supply safety, but the flow of funds into government coffers could be used to offset the costs of addiction. A further benefit will be fewer convictions leading to incarceration. As a society, we are failing ourselves by pursuing criminalisation policies – quite apart from the human toll of criminal addiction, it is costing us billions in the policies of futility.
Wayne Duncombe, Lilyfield

Two men arrested in Homebush with $295,000 in cash and 4kg of methylamphetamine with an estimated street value of $6 million.

Two men arrested in Homebush with $295,000 in cash and 4kg of methylamphetamine with an estimated street value of $6 million.Credit: Police Media

Your correspondent’s lament that we should just say no to drugs is neither likely nor practical. It also ignores how deeply embedded cocaine use is in Australian society, with a history of usage dating back to the beginning of last century. It was widely available during WWI to our diggers as a performance-enhancing drug and encouraged by the military leadership on the front line. Cocaine use has been with us a long time and it is time we found a better way to control its use, rather than just hoping it will all go away. John Mizon, Collaroy

The war on drugs will never be won whilst there are such huge profits to be made. If we are serious about winning we need to tackle their business model, which requires cash. With the vast bulk of the population using cards for some or all transactions we are at the stage where governments could mandate that any transaction greater than $100 would be illegal. If they can’t spend the cash their business model fails. At the same time it would bring the cash economy into the taxable economy, benefiting legitimate taxpayers. Hans Knutzelius, Balmain

Government business

With over a million mortgagors in financial difficulty and inflation receding slowly, is clear that the Reserve Bank has done more than enough to dampen consumer spending (“Risk of recession if RBA lifts rates again”, July 31). To avoid a destructive recession and forced selling, a reduction in interest rates should be considered. Meanwhile, recent data has shown that some sections of the community have continued to spend, which is inflationary. As the Reserve Bank could not influence spending, the government should have been more involved by raising taxes on the well-off. Geoff Harding, Chatswood

It seems the traditional levers used by the Reserve Bank to balance growth, inflation and employment are less effective than they used to be. The government has a responsibility to examine what laws and policies are creating current economic conditions and begin by looking again at negative gearing and other mechanisms for artificially maintaining the value of inflated assets.
Colin Stokes, Camperdown

While the Reserve Bank contemplates changes to interest rates and the government pushes to have its stalled Housing Bill passed, it might be a good time for the introduction of an Australian version of the American Fannie Mae (Federal National Mortgage Association) mortgage finance scheme, which has dominated the housing market in the US since 1938 by providing 30-year fixed-rate mortgages. Lindsay Foyle, Stanmore

Greens grandstanding

The log-jam over the housing bill proposed by the government (“Fight ramps up as $10b bill comes back”, July 31) is another example of the grandstanding by the Greens. We would have had more positive action on climate change earlier if they had been prepared to accept a sensible compromise. But if a resolution doesn’t exactly fit their expectations, the Greens are prepared to hold up the works. Slow progress is better than no progress at all. Derrick Mason, Boorowa

Why can’t the Greens, the Liberals, the National Party and Labor all come together and jointly work out a policy for housing for all Australians? Each party claims it is acting on behalf of us but they are making the problem worse. Brian Pretorius, Breakfast Point

The previous state government announced that my area is a Renewable Energy Zone, yet planned wind farms and solar farms have been awaiting approval for up to 6 years. It is going to take some serious political willpower to override the objections of the NIMBYs who are more concerned with land values and the fear of their views being spoilt, than by any climate emergency. We have places where the wind blows and the sun shines, companies willing to invest and create jobs and a chance to hasten the transition to renewables, yet governments will not make the decision to simply approve the necessary developments. Andrew Brown, Bowling Alley Point

Norwegian nous

When we read (“Greens say Chalmers chose ‘watered-down’ gas super-profits tax”, July 31) of how little will be raised from obscenely profitable gas companies for a resource that rightfully belongs to all Australians, it is difficult not to envy how much smarter than us Norway has been in using their oil resources to build a huge sovereign wealth fund. They just stared down the oil companies who threatened that they wouldn’t come back when a realistic tax was imposed. It seems that the Greens again have a good argument in that the government’s $10 billion housing plan over many years only tinkers at the edge of an enormous national problem. I find myself agreeing with the CFMEU’s Zach Smith; we urgently need bold solutions to Australia’s many problems, housing being but one of them. Charles Kent, Hunters Hill

Excellence illusion

What is wrong with our universities? The latest disclosure of the massive increase in the highest student grades is troubling (“Top grades double at state’s big unis”, July 31). The pursuit of mastery and lifelong learning has given way to a facade of high-achieving grades. With the explosion of Artificial Intelligence software, the temptation is there for both universities and students to continue the illusion of excellence. Universities need to be forced back to invigilated final exams to ensure integrity in a failing system. Michael Blissenden, Dural

Students graduating from university.

Students graduating from university. Credit: AFR: Peter Braig

Sound over sight

The work to improve acoustics in the Sydney Opera House’s concert hall has indeed been successful, but from where I sit, I’m confronted by a visual nightmare: I can no longer see the organ as it is obliterated by the red sound deflectors, which are so glossy that they reflect the conductor’s arms waving around and the violins bows shooting up and down. It’s all very distracting. But I go to hear the music and not look at it. Richard Lynch, Belbora

Oliphant in the room

Anyone seeking an understanding of the development of the atomic bomb and an explanation of the Manhattan Project should read Richard Rhodes’ book The Making of the Atomic Bomb (Letters, July 29) The roles of the many physicists including Oliphant are comprehensively documented. Chris Downs, Stanwell Park

Bums with bite?

Dental students were told to say upper and lower dentures, rather than top and bottom dentures, as bottoms don’t have dentures. Michael Payne, West Pymble

Early in my medical career I was advised, when injecting a patient, never say “just a little prick with a needle”. Rowan Godwin, Rozelle

Native shade please

Kim Woo suggests we drape wisteria over bus “shelters” for shade. Only if it is the native variety. It would also look good hanging from the Cahill Expressway. Eva Elbourne, Pennant Hills

The digital view
Online comment from one of the stories that attracted the most reader feedback yesterday on smh.com.au

The looming end of cash will fuel conspiracy theories and hoarding

From kristen.herplace: “Nothing wrong with a cashless society…other than the fact it leaves us 100% reliant on IT 100% of the time.”

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Justin Scaccy

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