Not all spies are created equal

Peter Burnett writes: Re. “In Timor-Leste, it’s spies like us … or like them, anyway” (Wednesday). In his story on spying in Timor-Leste, Damien Kingsbury repeats the standard line — that everyone, even the East Timorese, spies on everyone else.

But this truism ignores two fundamental points: firstly, not every country has the same technological capacity as the US or Chinese intelligence apparatus; secondly, not everyone is a member of the “Five Eyes” intelligence network established under the UKUSA treaty, with systematic sharing of intelligence material between the Anglosphere partners.

So while the Timorese or even the Tuvaluans may run a pretty tight ship when it comes to surveilling what’s going on in their own country, they’re not part of a global surveillance mechanism funded by billions of taxpayers’ dollars. That’s why governments and citizens of neighbouring states are so cranky with Canberra. For Australians to continually argue “everyone spies” ignores the fundamental nature of the ANZUS Alliance and the role of our intelligence agencies as they co-operate with the US national security state — the same state that let us into the Iraq War based on faulty intelligence.

A WA solution

Anthony Fels writes: Re. “Return of the chair sniffer? How Barnett screwed it up so badly” (Thursday). Plan D involves this: 1. Nationals Leader Brendon Grylls resigns from cabinet and goes to backbench to spend more time with his family. 2. Eighteen months later, Brendon Grylls quits Nationals Party to be independent, spending more time in his electorate. 3. Liberal Party invite Brendon Grylls to become a Liberal. 4. Brendon Grylls takes over leadership of the Liberal Party six months before the next state election, with the blessing of Colin Barnett. 5. Brendon Grylls leads the Liberal Party to the next state election, with or without the Nationals.

It will take a lot of persuasion for many Liberals to accept this, but the parliamentary Liberal Party will run with it, as most are on a margin of less than 9%, and the Gillard factor will be gone by 2017. I resigned from the Liberal Party the same day Troy Buswell resigned as leader.

Seniors should go bush — with some provisos

Vincent Burke writes: Re. “Forget the sea-change, seniors should go bush” (Friday). I agree with the general premise of Everald Compton’s article encouraging retirees to go bush rather than to the beach or remain in the city. As a part-time resident (weekends only for now) in Burra in South Australia’s mid north, I have seen firsthand for over 20 years the influx of many older people coming to settle in the town and start new businesses. Some succeed, most seem to run out of energy after just a few years.

Perhaps their biggest contribution to the local community is their enthusiasm to take on a range of voluntary roles, running committees, etc. The locals often look on with wry amusement and with some gratitude over the willingness of the newcomers to take on these roles, but the burn-out rate is quite high. Overall, this influx of retirees is good for the community, with one major proviso, namely that the new arrivals don’t assume they know best. The “tree-change” move will appeal to baby boomers who are asset rich but lacking in an adequate income flow. By selling their city home, they can trade down, often into a much larger home than the one they are selling, and have more disposable cash.

However, Compton’s article overlooks some crucial factors. The novelty factor soon wears off. While it can be easy to make new friends, especially by getting involved in community affairs, people miss the regular contact they had in the city with their family and their old friends. Compton touches on the tyranny of distance and the lack of public transport in many rural areas. But the biggest omission in his article is any reference to the need for improved medical services in country towns, if they hope to attract an influx of seniors. Virtually the first questions prospective migrants to the bush will ask are: is there a local doctor, what access is there to dental services, where is the nearest hospital, how far do I have to travel for specialist medical help?

The biggest plus of making the move, which we intend to do when we both retire, is that, once you have been accepted into the community, you can count on community support when you need it, especially at times of bereavement. It’s great to find a new lifestyle in the country, but you have to think very carefully whether it is the right long-term solution for you.