In these times, Deakin would vote Yes
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Alfred Deakin was a leading progressive of his time (″Deakin’s unsavoury legacy″, The Age, 2/9). He was a champion of a compulsory minimum wage, factory acts, old age and invalid pensions, equal pay for equal work, a federal arbitration court and women’s rights.
When Deakin passed legislation in 1886 requiring that Aboriginal people of mixed descent assimilate into the broader community he was of the progressive view that Aboriginal people were fully capable of living and working alongside white people. Such assimilationist thinking dominated progressive thought until around the time of the 1967 referendum, which asked Australians to ″count us all as one″. One ironic but important outcome of that referendum was to challenge assimilationist thinking and encourage self-determination. This created a new historical context.
To fully understand Deakin’s thinking and that of the intellectual and political community of which he was a part in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, we need to locate him in historical context. The fact that Deakin, like most of his community, was shaped by a brand of race thinking that located Anglo-Saxons in the vanguard of modern civilisation – that held indeed that Anglo-Saxons had a genius for self-government – has been well established over the decades by many historians.
In the forthcoming referendum on the Voice, we now finally have the chance to collectively affirm the significance and distinction of Indigenous history and vote Yes to the proposition that Indigenous people have a right to both constitutional recognition and a Voice to government. Deakin was an intellectual and scholar – he was a student of comparative religion and delegate to the Universal Races Congress in London in 1911 – and I think that if he were alive today in our more progressive times, he would be at the forefront of those advocating a Yes vote.
Marilyn Lake, honorary professorial fellow in history,
University of Melbourne
A No vote could entrench a Dutton government
It is difficult to disagree with Lidia Thorpe’s propositions (Comment, 1/9) that the Constitution was designed by and for white people; and that the Voice to parliament would not empower Indigenous citizens in any substantive way, at least in the short term. That said, her ″Blak Sovereignty″ movement’s exclusionary rhetoric amounts to an inverse version of the white racist ideology lurking within elements of the No camp. The Voice has the potential to transcend being merely a ″colonial mechanism″, as Thorpe has framed it. Her opposition to the Yes camp’s proposal is premised arguably on a naivete which ignores the real prospect that a No vote victory could, in time, help entrench a future Peter Dutton-led Coalition government; and extinguish any future meaningful agency for Indigenous people. Conversely, a Yes victory could finally galvanise white Australians into achieving a fair and equitable Australia where closing the gap in Indigenous life expectancy, schooling and health would be a permanent priority overseen by First Nations advisory representatives in conjunction with parliament. Assimilation would no longer be a pejorative term. Jon McMillan, Mount Eliza
Abbott’s negativity rolls on
Historian Henry Reynolds (Comment, 31/8) states that in 2015 Tony Abbott initiated the process for the Uluru Statement and said that ″Indigenous recognition won’t be changing our Constitution so much as completing it″. Is he now simply continuing the negativity he displayed when opposition leader because the Voice is a proposal by the Labor government? Vicki Jordan, Lower Plenty
At the time, it was us and fauna
Tony Abbott states ″the Constitution belongs to all of us, not just some of us″. At the time that the Constitution was written, by white men, Indigenous people were counted as fauna, so no, it didn’t ″belong to all of us″.
George Djoneff, Mitcham
Rue this spirit
Qantas has deceived the public in so many ways, but its greatest deception is to make us believe it is still “Australia’s national airline”. No it is not. It is a shareholder value-driven company whose goal is to maximise returns. This seems assured given its ability to persuade the prime minister to treat it as a protected species. I fully expect the name of one of its new planes to be “Spirit of the Shareholders”.
Stephen Farrelly, Donvale
Give Joyce a break
The witch-hunt surrounding Alan Joyce and Qantas is unfortunate. Without Joyce’s leadership and strategic excellence, it is unlikely that Qantas could have avoided bankruptcy. Bringing a major airline, which had been killed by the pandemic, back to life was an extraordinary feat that few in the world, let alone Australia could have achieved.
Along the way there have been some unfortunate incidents that are causing passengers understandable angst but surely these should be weighed against the resurrection of the airline which is still working its way back to normality.
None of us and no company gets it right in what we do. We all live in glasshouses; are we wise to throw stones?
Ghost of a chance
I’d like to announce the formation of Ghost Airlines which will serve all major cities in Australia. Flights go on sale shortly at fares that will drastically undercut those of existing airlines. Initially, however, it may be necessary to cancel a number of flights as currently there are no planes, pilots or other staff.
It cuts both ways
If the Peter Dutton-led No campaign against constitutional recognition of First Nations people through the Voice referendum is successful, then it will obviously reflect the will of the people. Therefore it stands to reason that any attempt by a future Dutton-led government to offer a referendum alternative should also be rejected as the will of the people on this issue would have been already expressed.
Can’t have it both ways. That’s the price of political expediency, Peter Dutton.
West Launceston, Tas
Elephant in the room
″Those who forget the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them.″ The progressive No campaign should recall the 1999 referendum on having an Australian head of state. Although the basic idea was well-supported, the referendum failed because lots of people preferred other models to the one voted on. They presumed there would be another referendum in a few years with a better model. Twenty-four years on, we are less likely than ever to have one.
If progressive No voters think that a No vote will lead to change, they are kidding themselves. A No vote will inevitably lock in the status quo. Forever. They can forget treaty or truth. They should instead remember another old saw: ″How do you eat an elephant? One mouthful at a time.″
David Moore, Kew
Wages of crime
“Wage theft bosses face huge fines, 10 years’ jail” (3/9), but “the regulator can use its discretion not to pursue criminal proceedings if the business enters into a co-operation agreement”, whatever that is. It sounds like a get out of jail free card. I prefer the dictum you do the crime, you do the time.
Lawrie Bradly, Surrey Hills
While not condoning acts of vandalism such as deflating the tyres of Toorak tractors I can understand the frustration that many people feel.
We are in a climate emergency and are sleep walking our way to the possible destruction of our civilisation. If this shakes people up and gets media attention then maybe it is not a bad thing.
A study by Oxfam has revealed that the wealthiest 1 per cent of humanity is responsible for twice the carbon emissions of the poorest 50 per cent. Banning the vehicles targeted in the Toorak attack would be low hanging fruit.
Barry Lizmore, Ocean Grove
A peeved, but insightful James Vinata, on finding his Toorak tractor had become a focus of climate activism reflected, “This is the same thing as plastic bags … you have to force change” (“Climate activists let down the tyres of a Toorak driver’s car. He sees their point”, 3/9). Policy has very effectively transformed our plastic bag use, preventing swaths of suffocating plastic from entering landfill and the oceans every day. That was pretty painless. Government can also use policy to drive us to change our cars; by making it hard to choose big ones and easier to invest in cars and infrastructure that will protect our air quality, our safety, our roads and our climate emissions. Despite his tractor, James reminds us that we don’t need to dig in, that we can and must think big for our future, not just for our cars.
Karen Campbell, Geelong
Food for thought
The furtive deflating of car tyres is another example of criminal behaviour by people who believe that their activities are justified because they are right and others are wrong. A sense of ethical superiority. It is very disappointing that victims and unaffected others also offer support. They will get it wrong in unanticipated ways. I am a farmer and drive an SUV to carry my farm stuff, and visit Melbourne occasionally (yes, Toorak). If they like eating food then they should be supporting me, not damaging my property. And they should respect others who may have their own valid reasons for driving a particular style of vehicle. Go away, I say.
Clyde Ronan, Yarrawonga
And so the wheel turns
So the climate activists who deflated the tyres of Toorak tractors apparently don’t understand that dozens of these tyres will need to be reinflated using portable air compressors powered by electricity generated from burning coal?
Geoff Perston, Yarram
The article ″House of the future almost in reach as tech becomes smarter″ (2/9) highlights how computers can turn on your lights or air conditioner or maybe send a message from the fridge to say it’s low on milk.
But how useless are all these gadgets?
It’s no trouble to stand up and flick a light switch, or point the remote to the air conditioner, or even look in the fridge to see what you’re getting low on. What about a house that cleans the bathroom and toilets, mops and vacuums the floor, does the dusting, cooks a meal of your choosing and cleans up afterwards? Now that would be a real house of the future.
Tim Davis, Heidelberg
Further to your correspondent (Letters, 2/9) referring to the women employed as ″computers″ at the Harvard College Observatory, it should be noted that the Melbourne Observatory also employed women in this role from the early to mid-20th century.
Diana Ferguson, Burwood
Stamp of approval
Australia Post CEO Paul Graham (″Snail mail drop delivers Aus Post a $200m loss″, 1/9), don’t give up on snail mail, it may rise from the dead. I stopped writing letters when my family and friends switched to Facebook and other social media sources.
But after years of unsatisfying and soulless messages and birthday greetings, I’ve given up on ″social″ media and I’m again happily writing letters and cards. I’ve got packs of stamps and sent out dozens of letters and cards. It not only feels wonderful sending them, but I’m delighted as I’m receiving many letters and cards back.
Maybe more people will move back to more meaningful human contact? Put the price of stamps up if you need to, but please keep the mail coming.
Steven Katsineris, Hurstbridge
Ian Symons (Letters, 2/9) has high regard for the need for the drivers of heavy machinery during bushfires. My husband was a firefighter but new to the Department of Sustainability and Environment at the time of Black Friday. He was full of admiration and awe at the drivers’ skills to create pathways for firefighters, often on rough and steep land or to aid in impeding fires.
Jill Breen, Newnham, Tas
Our Cross to bear
Southern Cross Station is an unwelcoming, drab building with no style (″Spencer St, broken and struggling for a soul″, 2/9). Its main entrance is just a big hole containing an antique, classic clock whose main function is advertising. The wavy roof is so dull and incongruous for a structure that should have screamed ″innovation″.
The bus station too, is a featureless area out of touch with the station. The platforms are dreary (still containing their prehistoric ramps). Plus, the entire building has no connection with Spencer Street. When I use it, I have to be prepared to do a lot of walking. However, Melbourne has far more ugliness to fix up than Southern Cross.
Alan Williams, Port Melbourne
Hear my words . . .
Using John Farnham’s voice to support the Voice is a game changer. We would be best served by the No campaign if they adopted a respectful ″Sound of Silence″.
Greg Curtin, Blackburn South
Devil of an error
As a Demons supporter I was shocked at the mistake in an otherwise interesting article in Sunday Life describing Max Gawn as a Western Bulldogs player.
AND ANOTHER THING
In relation to the Voice, try and understand it.
Craig Stangroom, Elsternwick
John Farnham, I always knew you had heart plus soul as well as a voice. Thank you, you have proved it.
Margot Morrison, Thornton
John Farnham versus John Howard.
Danny Hampel, Caulfield North
″You’re the Voice try and understand it.″ The Yes campaign have shot itself in the foot. ″Whoa, whoa, whoa.″
Alun Breward, Malvern East
The Voice is an anthem for Australia. So appropriate, John Farnham says it all.
Di Goulding, Westbury
Yes: ″You’re the Voice”, John Farnham. No: “Rednecks”, Randy Newman.
John Laurie, Riddells Creek
If there was a reason to rename anything to do with Alfred Deakin, Tony Wright’s article (2/9) revealing Deakin’s attitude towards the Indigenous people, gives that plenty of clout.
Greg Bardin, Altona North
Let whoever is without sin have a university named after them.
Paul Perry, Fitzroy North
Metro Tunnel, Suburban Rail Loop cost blowouts. Where is the light at the end of the financial tunnel?
Elizabeth Meredith, Surrey Hills
Not only are Collingwood playing exciting footy; but captain Darcy Moore has restored my faith in the Pies (2/9).
Jenny Bone, Surrey Hills
Just who does Western Australia think it is? Trying to buy our Boxing Day Test with our GST money.
George Reed, Wheelers Hill
We are so happy to know others hate ″events″ and ″pre″ but are others bothered by ″multiple″ when ″many″ would do?
Ann Young, Chirnside Park
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