Asylum seekers:

Keith Thomas writes: Re. “Time to call the asylum seeker ‘impasse’ what it really is” (Tuesday, item 1). Lawyers have a saying “Hard cases make bad law” and the desperately sad stories of those struggling to come to Australia have far more than their share of “hard cases”. So let’s not get smothered by the emotion; stand back a bit and look at the hard facts: on the one hand, there are about 23 million refugees on the planet, and an indeterminate number of economic migrants who would like to come to Australia. On the other hand, we have a large land mass with a population carrying capacity that is over-stretched, with cities felt by many to be overcrowded.

Overcrowding may well be a reason for the comparative failure of the more recent refugees to settle comfortably here. There is also an arbitrary convention on refugees, which foolishly makes no reference to environmental imperatives. On top of all these we have politicians seeking to make capital out of the situation by preying on ill-founded prejudices. There are also many of us who feel increasingly insecure about the global financial situation and other changes largely out of our control.

John Howard boldly said 11 years ago “we will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come” and this should continue to be one of guiding principles. Just how and what we decide will vary over time, but the choice has to be one for Australians — those who have a lifelong commitment to the ongoing future of this nation and this country.

On our overcrowded planet there are bound to be losers and as the human population rises and the biosphere’s ability to support them in the manner they prefer, therefore, is reduced, the number and proportion of losers will increase. We are simply irresponsible if we take any more refugees — or even migrants — without assuring ourselves that our fragile environmental services and social infrastructure can support them.

Wishful thinking, ideology and sentimentality are poor bases for policymaking about biophysical imperatives.


John Richardson writes: Re. “Forget Fairfax, Gina; how about Cyprus?” (yesterday, item 19). While Glenn Dyer and Bernard Keane deserve points for inventiveness, if Gina Rinehart really is sick of building great big holes in our national landscape and creating her own live version of Dynasty, surely there are more attractive alternatives to getting caught between angry Greeks and Turks, arguing over who should fund their future?

Rinehart could do worse than splurge a few bucks on Qantas, our national carrier, and instantly enhance her popularity by giving Alan Joyce the flick, ahead of announcing her intention to build a replica of the Hindenburg to meet the fly-in fly-out needs of the big-toy boys in the Pilbara.

Forget Cyprus. Our nation needs people such as Rinehart and Clive Palmer as symbols of our nation’s coming-of-age. I’m sure that the last thing any of us would want is to see Rinehart and Palmer disappearing into a Mediterranean sunset, precariously balanced on the prow of the new Titanic!


Niall Clugston writes: So Michael R James (yesterday, comments) finds it heartening that Egypt’s new president, Mohamed Morsi, doesn’t have military training. But then neither did Saddam Hussein.

The background of leaders is not that important. Hitler was a struggling artist, Stalin a seminarian, etc. Military officers take power because they have armed men at their command, and because in less-developed countries, theirs is often the only functioning institution — not because of their training.

Morsi represents a sectarian movement that privileges Sunni Muslims over the rest of the population. His election, however, is rather tokenistic as the military council retains real power. For Egypt it’s a no-win scenario.

The Greens:

John Menadue writes: Re. “Australia paying a heavy price for Greens purity” (yesterday, item 10). In the article published yesterday I incorrectly said that the Greens oppose regional processing. They don’t. I apologise.

What I should have said is that the Greens oppose the Malaysian arrangement, the only serious proposal on the table that could be a stepping stone to wider regional processing.