Playing either-or politics
June Factor writes: Re. “Letting kids get raped on Nauru will not, in fact, help solve climate change” (Thursday). Jeff Sparrow’s account of voices calling on progressives to accede to the government’s asylum seeker policy in order to gain some apparent greater social benefit is disturbing but perhaps not surprising. As he says, “underlying the arguments about the necessity for a retreat is a despair about winning public support for unpopular ideas”. ‘Twas always thus. We praise and honour those who resisted — sometimes at the cost of their lives — discrimination and cruelty: the Quakers and William Wilberforce who campaigned for many years to end slavery in Britain; the Dutch women who hid Jewish children from the Nazis; Rosa Parks, whose refusal to go to the “black” section of a bus in Alabama helped galvanise the long march of the civil rights movement in the US.
But these and other proponents of a humane and just society were very unpopular in their time, and often for long, difficult years. We tend to forget that they too were assailed by the arguments of those who suggest that a modicum of complicity with the authorities will somehow make things better. Better for whom? How can the maintenance of detention centres that are worse than prisons, holding men, women and children who have committed no crime when they seek refuge, be justified other than on the most cynical political arguments? What decent alternative is there other than to continue to challenge the misinformation, the falsification, the scapegoating and above all the fear that has made many Australians turn their backs on refugees? And who can say that this resistance will not succeed?
John Gleeson writes: A thoughtful piece. I can only add that if Murdoch decided this was a good idea, it would happen immediately.
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Grundle on Greece
Ken Lambert writes: Re. “Rundle: the real reason we’re afraid of a Greek default (hint: it’s not about Greece)” (Friday). Love Guy’s attempt at Rundlenomics. The Greek MO is pretty simple. Borrow as much as you can and use it for consumption. Pay yourself a salary or pension big enough to not feel inferior to your lender, lie about the size of your debt, and then threaten to slit your wrists when the lender wants some debt paid back. When the bailiffs arrive, you slip out the back and have a ballot with yourself and then scream that you won’t try to earn more or spend less and you barbarians can eff off back beyond the Rhine or this time you will blow a hole in your poxy EU and sink the whole currency union flagship … and besides, you pale barbarians are just a bunch of rich fucking racists.
John Nightingale writes: Guy, I’m sure you were not referring to your colleagues Keane & Dyer as “lazy financial journalists”, but I think you’d better drop them into that category. You are the only Crikey staffer/writer to deviate from that lazy adoption of the financiers’ view of Greece. I’m not familiar with Slavoj Zizek, but his piece in New Statesman this week seems to say it all.
Jock Webb writes: Re. “Superannuation and conflicts of interest” (Friday). Stephen Mayne, why are all your comments directed at unions? Who is worse — the offerer of the bribe or the recipient? Where are all your complaints about the chicanery in the retail financial advice/super sector?
On Heydon and TURC
John Kotsopoulos writes: Re. “Heydon’s history” (Friday). I watched a fair bit of Bill Shorten’s appearance before the Royal Commission. What surprised me was the tone of the proceedings. Counsel assisting the Commission, Jeremy Stoljar SC displayed the demeanour of a Crown Prosecutor cross examining an accused prisoner rather than someone seeking information from a witness. He continually posed multi part questions and showed annoyance when Shorten, in responding, tried to put some context to his reply instead of giving yes/no answers.
Commissioner Heydon was in my view out of order in siding with Stoljar in relation to Shorten’s method of answering questions. I submit that if you want short answers you should ask short questions. As for the speed of proceedings which seem to be an issue for the Commissioner, Stoljar’s inability to navigate his own folders frequently held up proceedings despite the assistance at least one staffer at his table and occasionally the Commissioner himself.
Joshua Saunders writes: Dyson Heydon’s “job interview” Quadrant speech in October 2002 is well known and was remarked upon at the time, all the more so after his appointment to the High Court was announced by the Howard Government in December 2002. But whatever you think of Commissioner Heydon’s judicial philosophy, there are two points that need to be made. “Judicial activism”, as criticised by Heydon in 2002, relates the practice of judges supposedly bringing their own (progressive) views to decision making, rather than applying precedent and legal reasoning. It has nothing to do with the practice of judges asking questions or putting suggestions or propositions to witnesses.
Secondly, in performing the role of Royal Commissioner, despite the apparent similarities, Heydon is not performing the role of the judge, and whatever report emerges from the Trade Union Royal Commission will not be binding law in any form (unlike the decisions of a court). Whatever your view of judicial activism, it has no relevance to the proceedings at the Royal Commission.
Buzzwords and boondoggles
Pat Kirkman writes: Re. “Greater Sydney Commission still a bureaucratic pipe dream” (Friday). Wow! Sounds like a new episode or even a new series of the ABC’s Utopia.