Taking a step back on MH17

Richard Middleton writes: Re. “Rundle: Cold Warriors rattling kalashnikovs can’t give MH17 meaning” (yesterday). Thank you for a clearly thought-out response to what can only be the calamitous mistake, the appalling tragedy of MH17. The alacrity with which Abbott jumped up to stride the world stage, telling Putin what he must do, laying blame, is alarming but not totally unexpected. Julie Bishop is no better, with premature and strident calls for the Russians to answer to her calls.

Abbott is a blatant opportunist and clearly he see this as his moment to make his mark. Distraction from the calamitous budget might be a good thing, too.

His rank amateurism is in marked contrast to the more considered and sensible approach of the European leaders. It is actually unlikely that his bravado performance will offset the contempt, disquiet and distrust that his lunatic faith based anti-science, anti global warming stance will have engendered in all right-thinking people. It will be seen for what it is.

G20 will be absolutely fascinating.

John Richardson writes: While I’m sure some would share Crikey’s view that Prime Minister Tony Abbott has handled the MH17 crisis with uncustomary diplomatic aplomb thus far, there are others perhaps more cynical, like Guy Rundle, who sadly see the turning of a terrible tragedy into an instant media circus to be used to pump -up all the old Cold War rhetoric on behalf of our masters on the Potomac.

Perhaps I would be more inclined to give the budgie smuggler the benefit of the doubt had he appeared less ready to poke Russia in the eye before the facts of the situation are even established. Add to this his persistent impugning of Russian intentions and we see the once-would-be-Jesuit for everything that he really is (it only takes one brief shining moment for those who care to look).

As for G20 invitations, if I were Vladimir Putin, I think I’d be reaching for that old Groucho March epithet about not wanting to be a member of any club that would have him.

Tony Abbott is the only human being I can think of who makes “justice” sound like a dirty word.

Women in Buddhism

Bhante Sujato writes: Re. “Crikey survey: which religions ban women from leadership?” (yesterday). I’m a Buddhist monk and have worked closely with the Buddhist community across Australia and internationally for several years, including as part of the federation of Australian Buddhist Councils and the Australian Sangha Association.

We’ve noticed an unfortunate tendency in media reporting to sideline Buddhist issues, despite that fact that Buddhism is the largest non-Christian religion in Australia, one of the fastest-growing, and is the dominant religion in much of our region. In your article you devoted only a cursory mention to Buddhism.

In around 2006 I attended an interfaith meeting organized by the Australian Partnership of Religious Organizations (APRO). At that meeting someone asked when we would be seeing a woman stand among the leaders of Australian religions. At that time, on the panel were the leaders of the Catholics, Anglicans, Jews and Muslims. The answer they got, from Cardinal Pell, was “Not any time soon.” No one seemed to notice that in the audience was a Buddhist nun, Chi Kwang Sunim, who has recently been voted the head of the Australian Sangha Organization, which represents Buddhist monastics from all traditions in Australia.

You note, quite correctly, that there are differences among Buddhist traditions, and that there has been resistance to full ordination. Yet the statement that this was not so much the case in Japan was misleading. Japan is by no means among the foremost of the countries when it comes to gender equality. In fact in Buddhism especially in Taiwan, but also Korea, Vietnam, and elsewhere, women play a very strong role.

It is also unfortunate that you missed the chance to acknowledge Australia’s role in this. In 2009 I participated, together with my teacher Ajahn Brahm, in the first full ordination for women in our tradition (Thai forest tradition) in the world. This was a truly momentous event, which caused waves all over the Buddhist world, and was one of the most controversial and important developments in Buddhism in the past decade.

Should MPs fly together?

Beryce Nelson writes: Re. “Australia’s worst air disasters” (yesterday). Robert Menzies did lose office after seeing that terrible 1940 air crash in Canberra, which took the lives of seven of his own colleagues and led to the establishment of a policy that no more than two cabinet ministers or backbenchers fly on the same plane. That policy was observed for many years. These days I see that policy well and truly abandoned and occasionally wonder what might happen if any of the current “end of sittings” flights crashed in a similar manner.