Mike Baird’s new cabinet

Ailie Bruins writes: Re. “Moist Mike Baird finds a middle ground with new cabinet” (April 2). I fear that our veteran NSW journalist Alex Mitchell may have meant Matthew Mason-Cox rather than Matt Kean when referring to the ‘two vehement right-wingers’ (Jai Rowell and Matt Kean). I think Matt Kean is quite moderate. Perhaps Matt can speak for himself.

Alex Mitchell writes:  If he is a small l liberal I wait to hear his support for issues such as gay marriage and basic human rights for asylum seekers and their children, signature issues for moderates.

On governments and domestic violence

Caroline Armstrong  writes: Re. “Finally, a government taking domestic violence seriously” (April 2). I hope I’m not the only one to point out that Victoria has had a Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence since the last election here. Her name is Fiona Richardson  and in December a Royal Commission into Family Violence was announced. The Royal Commission into Family Violence will be led by Justice Marcia Neave AO (Justice of Appeal in the Supreme Court of Victoria since 2006). Justice Neave will retire from the bench prior to the Governor’s appointment. Justice Neave has a celebrated history in academia, policy and the law. She was the foundation chair of the Victorian Law Reform Commission, conducting inquiries into sexual offences, homicide and disability.

The Royal Commission will investigate the entire family violence support system and justice system from the ground up, including government and non-government organisations, courts, prosecutors, police, corrections and child protection.

Crikey writes: You’re right, Caroline — credit to the Andrews government, and apologies to Fiona Richardson for the oversight.

On society and depression

Humphrey Bower writes: Re. “Rundle: ‘depression confessional’ culture obscures the true nature of mental illness” (April 2). Thanks Guy for a thoughtful and discriminating piece. My psychiatrist father always said that in his experience there were people who suffered from manic-depression (which he regarded as a full-blown psychotic illness, probably biochemical in aetiology) and people who were “rationally” depressed because they had something to be sad about. This would I think include the social anomie you describe as a by-product of modernity.

Freud however also spoke of something he called “neurotic misery”, which he claimed psychoanalysis could cure to extent that it could be replaced by “the normal unhappiness that is the common lot of humanity”. I suspect anxiety can be similarly differentiated between neurotic phobias on the one hand and “rational” anxiety in face of modernity or indeed existence on the other. Kierkegaard dignified the latter with a spiritual significance (which Heidegger later ontologized); the Great Dane also elevated despair to a spiritual “sickness unto death”.

None of which is to diminish the suffering of those afflicted by any of these variations on the theme of being human; nor to dispute anyone’s right to alleviate that suffering however they can: medication, analysis, cognitive behavioural therapy, meditation, religion, philosophy, the endorphins released by physical exercise, or any combination of the above. Physical exercise has worked wonders for me, with occasional resort to an analyst with whom I have a reliable sense of rapport. Ultimately however the closest we can get to a cure is (as you imply) at least the idea of a good life and a better society.

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