South Australia’s tradition of censorship

Nigel Hopkins writes: Re. “Henson hysteria in Adelaide merely uninformed panic” (Friday). Exactly 70 years ago this month, in September 1944, the poet and publisher Max Harris was charged in Adelaide with publishing obscene material as a result of the Ern Malley hoax. In evidence, Detective Inspector Vogelsang said: “I don’t know what the word ‘incestuous’ means, but it sounds indecent.” SA Police detective Brevet Sergeant Michael Newbury, in his letter of outrage to SA Premier Jay Weatherill regarding the now aborted Henson exhibition, has shown he comes from a proud 70-year-old tradition of deliberate ignorance.

Want public services? Then you need public servants

Dylan Taylor writes: Re. “Welcome to Washminster: APS sackings send a long-term signal” (Thursday). Surely, no one is surprised at Tony Abbott’s vindictive treatment of the public servants, who did what they are supposed to do and “served the government of the day to the best of their ability”. His mentor, John Howard, did exactly the same — and many in the Coalition laughed when Canberra suffered a recession for a year, as public servants lost their jobs and were forced to sell their houses  in a collapsing market.

The Coalition (and its cheerleaders like Judith Sloan and the stalwarts of the IPA) speak of public servants as though they were alien beings from another planet, not fathers and mothers with children to feed and educate and ageing parents to care for. They dehumanise them by labelling them in the same way they do asylum seekers, and the media follow suit —  so they can be belittled with impunity. It all happened in 1996 and it’s happening again.

When factory workers  lose their jobs, it rates huge headlines and much sympathetic coverage on TV, but when public servants are arbitrarily sacked, the media sounds almost gleeful and most of the community cheers from the sidelines. A fickle public demands “improved services” but is happy to see the public servants who provide the services  sacked!

Science portfolio missing

Niall Clugston writes: Re. “Public service changes make sense, but there’s a risk for PM&C” Stephen Bartos is missing the point about the missing science ministry: “Science spokespeople should stop worrying about whether they have a minister. Clearly they do, and a very powerful one, in Ian Macfarlane.” Except that Macfarlane is the Minister for Industry. The Abbott government has responsibility for the CSIRO, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. Obviously the letter I will now be more important than the letter S. Even on economic grounds, this makes no sense. For a long time, Australia has had a strategic advantage in science: in astronomy, satellite communication and solar energy, to give some examples. Under Abbott, apparently, this will be squandered for the short-term profits of mining magnates and others, who are happy not to have ministerial supervision.

Peter Fray

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