Letters to the Editor

Give refugees a home

Noel Pratt's comment "Spin and secrecy surrounds Australia's approach to asylum seekers" (Sunday Canberra Times, February 14, p17) fails to hit at the heart of the asylum seeker question.

A significant number of deaths at sea are caused by border security policies such as ignoring distress calls and sending boats back, which highlights the hypocrisy of the government's so-called humanitarian concern over drownings. Instead of tackling the xenophobia of "stopping the boats" head on, Pratt suggests we can simply stop the boats a better way.

It is erroneous to suggest that boats will stop if we process in-transit countries. They still came under Fraser in the 1970s – the government who started the line "those who come by boat will not be resettled in Australia". Assuming that processing in-transit countries would not look like camps (as it did under Fraser), why should we focus on the castles-in-the-sky demand that countries around the region let us put processing centres on them? How long will diplomatic negotiations take to achieve this?

The only demands we can really make of our government that can have immediate effect are: close the camps, rescue the boats and give refugees a home in Australia.

Hannah McCann, Ainslie

Noel Pratt is right on most things in his article but loses the plot over the lie of regional refugee processing when it is Australia who is the nation in the region who brought the refugee convention into force and the neighbours have not signed it. It drives me insane that so many want to force refugees to wait in stinking Malaysian or Indonesian prisons while we dither when we consider that this exercise is only about keeping out as many refugees as we can.


The fact is everyone has the right to seek asylum no matter how they do it.

Marilyn Shepherd, Angaston, SA

Noel Pratt's concern about returning children to Naru is shared by most people and yet many would not agree with him – and usually with the caveat, "it's a complex problem with no good solution".

Like most, Pratt pursues half the argument and ignores that the "Nauru" dilemma is another version of the "trolley problem" – this is that most people would choose to move a lever to redirect a trolley and kill one person rather than let it kill many, yet would not choose to "push" one person in front of the trolley to stop it and save many persons.

MRI shows that the reason for this seeming inconsistency is that different parts of the brain are used to decide the two cases – the logical part where a lever has to be pushed, and the emotional part where direct human interaction is required. Politicians and others are "lever pushers".

The reaction of politicians is what you would expect when they have to protect themselves from the collateral damage that must almost inevitably arise out of an attack based on what is in their view the "wrong" decision making basis.

If Pratt and his supporters want others to share their view and change policy, they need to overcome the perception that the acceptance of a few refugees will lead to the arrival of many, and that, UN or not, most will not move on – with the long-term social, budget and infrastructure costs that could likely follow.

Trevor McPherson, Aranda

The universe is rational

The news that gravitational waves have been proved to exist, ("Australians at dawn of a new age of astronomy", February 13, p6) deserves close attention, even by those who, like me, have no formal scientific training.

Last year, 2015, was the centenary of Einstein's general theory of relativity. He predicted such ripples in the curvature of space-time, but it has taken 100 years, and new technologies, to prove his prediction.

Albert Einstein said, in a famous quote, "I want to know how God created this world. I am not interested in this or that phenomenon, in the spectrum of this or that element. I want to know his thoughts. The rest are details." This discovery is a milestone in that process.

Presumably those who declare themselves to be atheists, and reject faith in the existence of God completely, would deny the wisdom of Einstein on this central issue. For believers in God, this discovery only confirms that this universe is orderly and rational and that we may discover and understand the divine laws that govern it.

Father Robert Willson, Deakin

Welfare code outdated

I refer to Clare Colley's article ("Canberra Greyhound Racing Club lobbyist attempts meeting with RSPCA over ban", CT, February 14).

Ms Colley reports that club secretary Debbie Collier said that "the ACT was ahead of other states in rules and regulations". A cursory glance at the ACT Legislation Register will reveal that the Greyhound Welfare Code of Practice came into effect in 1995 and has never been updated. The welfare of animals has progressed over the last 20 years. Maybe someone should tell that to the greyhound industry.

D. Field, Isaacs

Miners loot heritage

Multinational miners are modern-day corsairs, trawling the globe for booty, searching out compliant political regimes which will acquiesce to their rent-seeking demands – surreptitiously loaded with incrementalism ("Call for royalty relief is a bit rich", Sunday Canberra Times, February 14, p19).

They feel free to loot Australia's national heritage – marine and terrestrial – and despoil water and soil essential to national food security, ably assisted by ingratiating politicians who cower in fear of miner unions' demonstrated lobbying might and deep pockets.

Miners' opaque corporate structure facilitates vacuuming up profits and "incentives" as agents for wealth transfer to offshore tax-havens, and providers of obscene "compensation" packages to CEOs.

Had Australia's resource deposits not been so remote from major population centres, with mining's horrors of despoliation hidden by distance, consensus would have demanded they be left intact, as no money could recompense for their extractive costs. There's irony in corporations, powerful advocates of "free markets", abolition of regulation and repudiation of government intervention, demanding corporate welfare, merely because of ineptitude in their decision making. In bemoaning rate increases, Queensland Resource Council (union!) CEO, Roche, should be confronted with the fact taxpayers, in addition to subsidies and diesel rebates, provide the educated and skilled workforce, infrastructure, roads, railways, airports, health services, legal systems, police, etc., without which mining would be impossible.

Queensland may have 15,000 mines which will never be "rehabilitated", but less obvious, left in mining's wake, will be the phenomenally expensive slow-burn health legacy of physical, mental and social wreckage.

Albert M. White, Queanbeyan

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