Martyn Smith writes: Re. “OurSay’s Grill the Independents — so what about an early poll?” (yesterday, item 10). I couldn’t disagree more with OurSay user Trevor Mathew’s call for an early election because, in his view, we do not have a stable government. I’ll leave aside for the moment whether or not it is a mistake-riddled government. I’m more than happy to have a minority government that is forced by circumstances to listen to what the people want.

In most elections we elect a “dictatorship” for three years, often based on promises made to us that may or may not be kept, either due to surprising change in circumstances or just because they are “non-core” promises that were never intended to be kept in the first place. Things that were never mentioned as going to be done are introduced whether we like it or not and there is usually nothing we can do about it except hop up and down and go red in the face.

Whoever achieves government can often do what they like with impunity for at least two terms and seek to bribe their way back in when payback time eventually arrives. Yes, Trevor Mathew, those stable governments that you long for are strong but not democratic in my humble opinion. They are often able to hide or ignore their mistakes.

At present we have a government stitched together from several disparate strands that has had to consider our opinions such as, for example, poker machine reform and climate change mitigation. It has just bowed to what seems to be a majority view in Australia on the treatment of asylum seekers.

As pointed out elsewhere in Crikey, this government has quietly carried out some excellent legislation and its economic ministers are well ahead of their opponents; they know the difference between millions and billions and are running a successful country in uncertain times. Everybody makes mistakes and the present government has made its share but I think it unfair and erroneous to label it “mistake ridden”. Whilst not agreeing with all this government has done I’m rather pleased at the current state of affairs and long may it continue.

Assange and Ecuador:

Martin Gordon writes: Re. “Senor Assange, a Panama hat, now where’s the chopper?” (yesterday, item 2). The Guy Rundle attack on Sweden in continuation comes as no surprise, but it was fascinating to see Richard Farmer point out (yesterday, item 9) the absurdity of Assange seeking asylum in Ecuador, and the absurd posturing against Sweden and the US.

Sweden has enjoyed rave reviews from the left for decades; the top billing for Sweden on Farmer’s table of legal respect comes as no surprise. In the top 31 in the West are the US and Canada, Mexico and Chile. Seeing the rankings, which stop at 31, I would suspect Ecuador would be lucky to be in the top 100.

Ecuador, under President Rafael Correa, has an authoritarian socialist government that has shot and killed striking policeman, and jailed and fined critical journalists, and then sought to create a compliant media environment by creating new government-aligned media outlets. The range and number of abuses of power of late by Correa are becoming quite extensive.

For Assange, as a supposed advocate of free speech, etc, seeking asylum in Ecuador is bizarre, he might as well have sought asylum in Cuba or Venezuela, both of whose governments are allies of Correa.


Kathleen McGarry writes: Re. “Indigenous, Aboriginal or Aborigine? It’s not black and white” (yesterday, item 12). Reading the article, I was surprised by this paragraph:

Beck says that “first nations” or “originals” (short for “original peoples”) is currently being mooted around on Facebook and among the media as a preferred group name for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Yet Aboriginal/Aborigine is controversial?

Linguistically speaking, aboriginal is a back formation from the Latin aborigines, a plural term meaning “people from the beginning” or first people. So original, which is the same word but without the specificity of “from before/the beginning” is being suggested as more correct?

This seems like a semantics war based on language ignorance more than anything, proved further by the statement that “Aborigine was a word created to pluralise us,” said Beck, who noted that a lot of people still use it, although she prefers “Aboriginal” — after all, the word had existed for some 2500 years at least, even if only applied to indigenous Australians in the recent past.

An understanding of language origins (which can be done in a quick Google search for those without a classics degree) might cool down the debate a little.

Roger Keyes writes: My understanding is that the Latin root indicates that the word “indigenous” describes one who is “born here”; in this case most of us. And if the word “aboriginal” indicates someone “of the origin”, I would have thought that the case is pretty “black and white”, and that the clear preference of aboriginal people for the adjective (not noun !!) “aboriginal” should be respected.

Incidentally, in this context,  I hope that we will not go ahead with the project … Recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the constitution.  I think it is nothing more than white fella cementing into place the same old, same old tokenistic “recognition” of the people who are actually the original and true owners of this continent.

The real recognition will have to be a recognition of Aboriginal sovereignty, and a proper coming to terms with that sovereignty … i.e. by a respectful treaty.

This is a very big project, but one that we must face; the sooner the better!

Religion and schools:

Recovering fundamentalist Keith Binns writes: I was one of the sad and lonely people who was involved in an Inter-School Christian Fellowship at school and with similar people at Beach Mission in the period that Henrie Ellis mentions (Tuesday, comments).

As I was suffering from undiagnosed depression at the time due to the early death of my father, I now think that being involved with that group probably saved me from suicide. I was accepted for who I was and made to feel useful and valuable. I met my wife of almost 40 years at an ISCF event.

What is, sad, however, is that my cohort of that time and their successors seem to have failed to progress with the times. Whereas we spent three years in England and came back in favour of women in ministry (the hard theological work on that issue was done 35 years ago), my old cohort here is still clinging desperately to male dominance. A similar thing is happening with the issue of homos-xuality. The science that people don’t have a choice has changed the theological playing field forever for those who don’t have their head in the sand.

It is particularly sad as the principles of inclusion, which are driving these issues in the secular world, originally came from Christianity. We are all made in the image of God says Genesis and so have infinite value and God so loved the world, says Jesus, not just an elite group of straight males.

Desmond Tutu, who has been championing the rights of women and homos-xuals, transgender, etc, for years is the person to read if you want the theology.

The Age:

Ivy Jane Gardiner writes: Re. “Media briefs: Ten’s death dance … Holden crashes … Green Oz critic …” (yesterday, item 13). Just one thing regarding The Age application for Android.

There isn’t an official application, there is one that a third party has written to scrape The Age’s website but nothing with the polish of the application for the iPad.

BP and Boris:

Clytie Siddall writes: Re. “Mayne: our biz performance well behind Olympic record” (yesterday, item 4). In Stephen Mayne’s list of the most valuable companies in the world he wrote:

BP: London-based energy mayor with market capitalisation of $US134 billion

I had no idea Boris Johnson was worth that much!