Letters to the Editor

Pay artists for their work



An interesting concept, remunerating artists with mentoring and exposure ("Government defends Enlighten Festival's unpaid mentoring program", Canberra Times, March 19).

A brilliant fiscal strategy, perhaps a drip-down effect generated from the innovation rhetoric supplied by our federal government. Such a formula should be retained and expanded to cover all those involved in future "arts" events. As with the artists, participants (electricians, plumbers, accountants, lawyers, insurance brokers, etc) could be labelled as "emerging", providing an instant devaluation. Perhaps the above personnel and their relevant industries will be inspired by the "arts" and impose their own "emerging" category.

Dennis Mortimer, Queanbeyan

Trade in human misery

Manus, Nauru, Christmas Island – "detention centres", to give them a glorified title – equate with the evils conjured up by Guantanamo, except they are outsourced to offshore multinationals: Serco (Christmas Island), Broadspectrum, formerly Transfield (Nauru, Manus), Wilson (Manus, Nauru) ("Not in the same league", Sunday Canberra Times Letters, March 20).

Having obtained billions in mostly secret, often untendered taxpayer-funded contracts, their opaque, complex, corporate structures render their ATO remittances minimal relative to the revenue received for their nefarious trade in human misery.

Against this ongoing wasteful, shameful legacy of incarceration in detention centres are the outstanding, personal and business success stories of South Vietnamese Mai Ho ("A brainwave to read your mind", Sunday Canberra Times, March 20, p13) and Samuel Pho, forced to leave home and flee in frightened desperation to Australia where he made the incredible professional journey to achieve Salvation Army national secretariat ("I wouldn't have gotten the same treatment: Salvos chief a refugee", Sunday Canberra Times, March 20, p6). Meanwhile under the guise of taking "a strong stance against the criminal networks", Australia's Foreign Minister seeks to legitimise policies such as indefinite incarceration and boat turn-backs, in breach of UN conventions on treatment of asylum seekers, further cementing the pariah nation status ("Indonesia hopes Australia will take refugees", Sunday Canberra Times, March 20, p11). Indonesia, a struggling Muslim country, gives succour to asylum seekers, but, by contrast, Australia, a rich Christian country, can't, merely to pander to political advantage.


Albert M. White, Queanbeyan

History will be the judge

Contrary to Henk Verhoeven's contention that it "is a gross insult to everyone who lived through the Nazi-German occupation" (Letters, March 19) to have Australia's immigration detention centres described as a "classic example of concentration camp" (as John Passant does in his letter on March 13), such Nazi-era survivors and their folks would, in my view, have a deeper appreciation of the dehumanisation that occurs at the detention centres.

Rajend Naidu, Glenfield, Sydney

Henk Verhoeven criticises me for calling Australia's immigration detention centres what they are: concentration camps (Letters, Sunday CT, March 20). In doing this he refers to the extermination camps of the Nazis. There is a long tradition in Western societies of setting up concentration camps to imprison innocent people to further war aims (e.g. the British in the Boer War) or political aims (e.g. the Nazis in 1933 in their jailing of the leadership of the communists, and then the socialists and trade union leaders). In a 1950 article in Jewish Social Studies, Hannah Arendt says the British set up the first concentration camps during the Boer War.

Later research suggests there are earlier examples from colonial history in Australia and the US, and that in the late 1890s and early 1900s the Americans in the Philippines and the Spanish in Cuba also used concentration camps.

The imprisonment of US citizens of Japanese descent during World War II is another example.

In the same article, Arendt says the Nazi's extermination camps were the most extreme form of concentration camps. It is therefore perfectly legitimate, indeed it is a necessary part of the duty we owe to history, to call Australia's immigration detention centres what they are: concentration camps.

John Passant, Kambah

Changes do take timeI often read that Turnbull hasn't done anything significant yet. Tariff reductions are significant policy changes. A sustained campaign to reduce tariffs commenced in the 1960s. Reductions announced in 1973, 1988 and 1991 reduced tariff rates to negligible levels by 2000. The Asprey Taxation Review recommended broadening the indirect tax base in 1975 and following failed attempts by Howard in 1978 and 1980, Keating in 1995 and Hewson in 1993, Howard finally got the job done with the GST in 2000.

Turnbull evidently wants to improve the liveability and efficiency of our major cities with investment in transport infrastructure. That sounds like a sensible and potentially significant change. If significant tariff and tax changes took 25 to 35 years, how long might it take to improve the liveability of Sydney?

Alan Henderson, Bruce

Development concerns

I'm concerned about the proposed development around Manuka Pool.

As the land in question is owned by the ACT government, why is the consultation process being conducted by the developer? Shouldn't it be conducted by ACT Planning, as happening with other major developments such as the proposed Curtin and Calwell Centres Master Plans? It's interesting that information on this development has been released at the same time the draft ACT Heritage Strategy is out for comment. This listing of the pool on the ACT Heritage Register recognises its significance as an important social place for all Canberrans.

The social value of the pool to the Canberra community must be considered by the developers and government.

The ACT government must ensure that detailed environmental, economic and social impact studies about this proposal are done not just by the developer but by ACT Planning to ensure ACT taxpayers' concerns are properly considered.

Rosemary Hollow, Kingston

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