Fairfax:

Marc Sassella writes: Re. “Fairfax purge: Fray, Wilson gone from SMH, Ramadge at Age” (yesterday, item 2). Well, it’s all finally over. Twenty five years since Warwick Fairfax fumbled his inheritance, the empire has finally fallen. Since that day it has been a slow-motion crash, but yesterday the car finally came to rest. The wall won.

The top story on the SMH site last night was about a celebrity chef. The announcements about the new editorial staff, which is the second story on the site, confirm our worst fears — the website has taken over the company. We know that means it’s tabloid heaven from now on.

Of course it’s been a long time since the broadsheets were quality journalism, but today the pretence is finally over. If it’s on TV, can cook, or has a pretty face it’s news.

Which of course means that the trickle of sales that The Age and SMH now enjoy will soon dry up completely. Why buy a pretentious tabloid when you can have the real thing, so efficiently churned out by Murdoch?

So it’s all over. It had to happen, but it’s a sad day. When I think back to the glory days of The Age in the seventies, and the wonderful National Times — well it’s just hard to believe that a country of our size doesn’t have a single serious newspaper.

In any other business sector it’d be an irresistible opportunity, but I’m afraid when it comes to the land of Oz, just not enough people care.

Asylum seekers:

Les Heimann writes: Re. Yesterday’s Editorial. Your editorial sums it up. What we have is little people playing little games about very big things. Of course, the opposition knows its “solution” won’t work. Of course, the Greens know they don’t have a “solution”. Of course the government knows it can’t find a “solution”.

Australia has signed up with the UN to treat refugees in accordance with an agreed set of rules. Our neighbours haven’t — and won’t — because Australia is left with the mess as a result. Why don’t we stamp our foot and demand our neighbours play an equal part and sign up. If they did, especially Malaysia and Indonesia, the boats would stop.

For our part — why don’t we change our rules without breaking the UN rules we signed up on? Christmas Island and the Cocos Keeling Islands could become our Taiwan. People coming by boat can expect a life on those islands working in industries we develop specially for them, pay their taxes, get a decent education and then after say, a minimum 15-year residency on these islands, would be allowed into Australia.

It would cost a bit but would also be a page turner for us, other refugees who could then be catered for, boat people, other countries … and save lives.

Of course, it would require good will on the part of our politicians; would they be weaned off their silly little games?

The nationals v Oakeshott:

Ben Thurley, Micah Challenge Australia, writes: Re. “Richard Farmer’s chunky bits” (yesterday, item 12). I was disappointed to see the mocking use the NSW Nationals have made of the photo of Rob Oakeshott sitting on a giant, prop toilet.

I understand that the National Party intends to campaign hard against Oakeshott in the seat of Lyne. Fair enough. But the Nationals attack website grossly misrepresents the context in which the photograph was taken. Rob Oakeshott took his seat atop the novelty toilet in support of a campaign to provide decent sanitation to the 2.5 billion people worldwide who don’t have access to it.

Diarrhoea is the second largest killer of children worldwide, and causes the deaths of more children under the age of five than measles, malaria and AIDS combined. The vast majority of these deaths (around 88%) are caused by lack of access to — or poor quality — water, sanitation and hygiene. Many of the countries that need the most support to turn this tragic situation around are in our own region.

Surely this issue deserves the attention of our elected representatives. Oakeshott, along with others who offered their time and support, should be encouraged rather than ridiculed for taking such a stand. As well as Oakeshott, WA Liberal Senator Michaelia Cash was also photographed on the toilet at this event, expressing her support for the same cause.

Some things ought to be above politics. The dignity and health of 2.5 billion of the poorest people on the planet surely is one of those things.

Helen Polley:

Peter Lloyd writes: Re. “Strange company for Labor Senator at Christian summit” (yesterday, item 4). Close observers of politics here in Tasmania would not be surprised by the attendance of Labor senator Helen Polley at a function of the Australian Christian Lobby.

I say “close observers” because Polley, despite having the coveted No.1 position on the ALP Senate ticket, is almost completely invisible. Her better-known brother, to whose influence she presumably owes her otherwise-inexplicable position, is famous for doing nothing whatsoever in his many years in Parliament, except attending a tiring round of local events to “be seen”. Helen seems to limit her rare public pronouncements to fundamentalist peccadilloes and council issues such as speed limits near schools.

It is little wonder the Labor Party is staring down the barrel of an electoral whitewash: it has no ability to promote on merit, to produce anyone fit to inherit the mantle of Labor leaders past who had some passion and an ability to articulate an argument. The Greens will soon replace them as the legitimate party of progressive ideas, and the sooner the better.

Peter Fray

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