The risks are high for Dutton and Coalition

Credit:Illustration: Cathy Wilcox

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The risks are high for Dutton and Coalition

What is Peter Dutton’s long game in opposing the Voice to parliament? Malcolm Knox (Insight, 21/1) and Ken Henry (Comment, 22/1) point towards this question with incisive critiques of Dutton’s tactics so far. Suppose that he continues to undermine the Voice with gadfly criticisms but the Yes case wins: the Coalition’s legacy will be tainted for years. Or suppose the No case succeeds: what does Dutton gain beyond the brief glory of defeating the government?

A tide of naysayers and sceptics that could swing a referendum does not form a constituency, and unlike the republic referendum, no conservative shibboleth is at stake. But the risks are high indeed for a party that seeks to move on from its legacy under Scott Morrison.
Angus McLeay, Hawthorn East

Invest a little time to read the Voice report

It seems the Nationals and others on the right are too intellectually lazy to do their homework. The prime minister has said that the Voice’s role, formation and processes will rely heavily on the 2021 Marcia Langton-Tom Calma report. I downloaded it and skimmed the 200-odd pages of major content in less than an hour. I will return to it for deeper dives in the months leading up to the referendum.

The report contains excellent infographics that will make the structure and processes clear. I suggest that rather than marching in jingoistic parades or prating about “black armbands”, patriotic Australians invest an hour out of their Australia Day to read and consider it. And perhaps another hour to contemplate what day of the year might better celebrate the new Australia rather than the old colonial one.
Jim McMillan, Kensington

Seeking a calm, balanced bipartisan approach

Wouldn’t it be refreshing, and fitting in view of the message sent by Australians to the Liberal Party in May, if Peter Dutton stopped playing political games and worked in the spirit of bipartisanship with the government to inform the public about the Voice in a balanced way?

A referendum is held so voters can make up their minds on important, enduring changes to our Constitution. The government, though, must do a better job in communicating with Australians about the referendum. Not everyone will have time, or be willing, to read lengthy reports about how the Voice will work. The responsibility rests with our elected representatives of all political persuasions to work together on this in a calm, respectful and adult way. Australians deserve no less.
Jennifer Quigley, Balwyn

Establish a statutory body rather than the Voice

Organisations can and do lobby the Commonwealth on behalf of their interests. Existing Indigenous organisations are able to advise the government. If is deemed necessary, a statutory body like the old Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission or the National Indigenous Council could be created for such a purpose. But there is no need for the concept of such an organisation to be included in the Constitution.
John Christiansen, St Kilda

After referendum, introduce detail via legislation

Surely the more detail included in the referendum question, the more difficult it will be for future alterations to be made – via another referendum – if some initial content is later deemed to be “less than best”. After any successful referendum approving the generality of the issue, legislation through parliament must be the most appropriate vehicle for introducing the necessary detail. This will also provide an avenue for opponents, if part of a future government, to make amendments consistent with their way of thinking.

Maybe, too, time will show that the current naysaying is unfounded and the changes made have little impact on the daily life of non-Indigenous Australians. Details suggested prior to the referendum, though, will most likely be subjected to massive social media campaigns of opposition where, typically, truth is irrelevant.
Terry Bourke, Newtown


Expect endless litigation

Sean Kelly says the proposed Voice is modest, only an advisory body and that “yes, it can be ignored by the parliament” (Comment, 23/1). I am not so sure. The representations to be made by the Voice are to the parliament and the executive government.

If the Voice’s advice to the government is rejected or not fully implemented, fairness and common sense suggest the Voice will want to take it further. It will obviously argue that its representations were not properly considered, were wrongly rejected and should now be accepted.

The Constitution already gives power to the High Court to order the Commonwealth government to do things and prohibit it from doing other things, and the Voice will want to use that process, as it should. Even if the government legislates to make these issues “non-justiciable” (ie cannot be heard by a court of justice), it cannot overrule the Constitution or prevent the Voice from going to the High Court. If Kelly really means that advice from the Voice “can be ignored”, he should realise he is also arguing for the seemingly endless litigation that will follow.
Neil Brown, KC, South Yarra

Retrograde practices

Australia will spend up to $1 billion on smart sea mines, which supposedly can discriminate between military targets and other ships (The Age, 23/1). This dubious claim was not backed up or questioned in the article. The world’s sea floors have many civilian wrecks caused by unmarked, adrift or incorrectly placed mines.

Mines fell out favour for good reason. We should not risk our trade, tourism or the lives of seafarers reintroducing such retrograde practices. Modern sea sensors are an effective and superior defence option.
Mark Freeman, Macleod

Recipe for disasters

I felt chilled when I read your article about the federal government planning to buy smart sea mines. This feels like a very practical preparation for war. It also feels like the potential for unintended disasters, involving both humans and marine life.
Jan Dwyer, Rosebud

Our crazy new defence

I hope Defence Minister Richard Marles will, logically, inform Chinese shipping where Australia is placing the sea mines so our imports from China can arrive safely. Australia should also now close all beaches and place barbed-wire on the entire coastline as part of the new “porcupine” defence. Have the defence lunatics taken control of the asylum?
Ken Mcleod, Williamstown

Sheer waste of money

Modern sea mines are an effective defence weapon, including against submarines. Your article says China has 100,000 sea mines, so I expect that its coast and sea lanes are well protected. Also, Australia is about to spend $100billion on nuclear submarines which have the capability and intention of penetrating deep into Chinese waters. Has anyone in government thought this through or am I the only one who thinks we are about to waste a heck of a lot of money?
Barry Lizmore, Ocean Grove

Health food on a budget

Full sympathy to parents for whom back-to-school costs are “hitting hard” (The Age, 23/1). But surely it is misguided to say “healthy food is expensive”. Selected fruit and vegetables, rice, pasta, beans, eggs – these are among the cheapest items on a shopping list.
Patsy Sanaghan, North Geelong

Follow Ardern’s lead

I hope Joe Biden is taking notice of Jacinda Ardern’s decision to resign as prime minister of New Zealand. Especially after his own classified document debacle. He might feel sprightly but by no means looks it, and many voters will vote on perceptions.
Pete Sands, Monbulk

Evil of social media

To those “across the ditch”. You had an amazing prime minister in Jacinda Ardern, who shone at home and in world politics like no other before her. Through social media, the elements of derision and misogyny were allowed to attack her work and personal life. It was the old familiar story that faces so many women politicians. No wonder she ran out of “fuel”.

Your country will benefit greatly from many of her initiatives like the abolition of negative gearing, housing for the disadvantaged and action on climate change. It is time society recognised the evil that can be hatched and spread through unregulated social media.
Maggie Cross, Kew

You know what I mean

At least my friend has the humility to admit that she’s “not sure about the pronunciation of the word” but she’s sure we know what she means, God bless her.
George Stockman, Berwick

Call taxi drivers’ bluff

So some taxi drivers will refuse to pick up passengers from the Australian Open after customers complained they were refused for short trips or had to haggle over prices (ie, price gouging) rather than relying on the meter (The Age, 23/1). Hey, use public transport or organise your friends or family to pick you up. Boycott the taxis and see how long they hold out.
David Raymond, Doncaster East

The workers we need

I am in daily contact with ethnic Hazara refugees from Afghanistan who have been stuck for many years in Indonesia under difficult conditions. Having escaped ongoing genocide against the Shiite Hazara ethnic minority in Afghanistan, they will be likely be killed if they go home. Most have close family members who were murdered by Taliban.

Ian Rintoul of the Refugee Action Coalition says the previous Australian government banned refugees who arrived in Indonesia after July 1, 2014 from resettlement here (The Age, 21/1).
The hundreds of refugees I know personally, have taught themselves excellent English and Bahasa Indonesian, have an impressive range of skills and aptitudes, and are resilient and enterprising young people. It is beyond my comprehension that Australia is not taking advantage of this pool of several thousand willing immigrants to alleviate our labour shortages.
Miriam Faine, Hawthorn

Refugees left in limbo

Re “New refugee crisis needs ’quick action by Australia‴⁣⁣ (Sunday Age, 22/1). Paris Aristotle says there is “a sense of complacency in Australia about the humanitarian needs of refugees and asylum seekers in the region”. This complacency and failure to act decisively and quickly is none more evident than for the 32,000 legacy cohort of those who arrived by boat in Australia years ago. Some were given rather vague hope of permanent residency, but with 13,000 left suspended as the Albanese government has not addressed their needs.

Complacency is too soft an explanation for our failure to quickly grant all 32,000 permanent residency.
Jenni King, Camberwell

Americanised language

There has been a lot of consternation about Aussies adopting Americanisms at a rapid rate. While this may be dismissed as the bleating of Boomers, I can tell you that, as a Millennial, I have noticed it too. Aussies on the radio saying “Happy ‘Noo’ Year” and “manda-tory” and ’terri-tory” instead of “mandat’ry” and “territ’ry”. The use of verbs for nouns (when did an invitation become an invite?), the gradual encroachment of the banal “happy holidays” in place of Merry Christmas. And when did shopping centres become shopping malls?
Daniel Forde, Glenroy

I could of been wrong

I cringe when I hear “could of”, “should of” and “would of” as replacements for could’ve (could have), should’ve (should have) and would’ve (would have). A disgraceful ignorance of the English language.
Bruce Crowe, Sunbury

Clarifying induction

There seems to be some confusion about induction requiring higher power than electric cooktops. If you are able to install an electric cooktop, then you are able to install induction. The problem arises when you are replacing gas with electric or induction. A house with gas will not have wiring suitable for electric or induction which means an electrician is required to install suitable wiring.
Chris Thompson, Mont Albert

Protecting pacemakers

I am a pharmacist and pacemaker recipient. To those who are contemplating replacing a gas or standard electric cooktop with an induction cooktop and have a pacemaker or similar implanted cardiac device fitted, please consult with your cardiologist as to the required separation of the device from the cooktop. My cardiologist warned me that the magnetic field of the cooktop has the capacity to interfere with the functioning of the device.
James Ischia, Hawthorn East

History and street art

While murals are popular tourist attractions and may well be appropriate for a St Kilda laneway (The Age, 23/1), there seems to be little debate about issues around public street art.

It may be great for those who like art that is big, colourful and includes recognisable celebrities or subjects that look great on Instagram posts. However, tattooing walls, no matter how skilfully, imposes an aesthetic that others may not share and cannot avoid as it is in a public space.
It is also a reflection on how our society has no problem painting over historical surfaces. From laneways, walls and silos, the sense of history and of time passing in the cracks, rust, patina and changing light on these beautiful ageing surfaces is buried and replaced with nothing for the imagination to work with – just the instantly eye-catching mural or light projection.
Paul Sinclair, Thornbury

Just moving the mess

I have noticed, since Christmas, a lot of new leaf blowers around the neighbourhood and I am wondering if anyone can explain their purpose. They do not seem to clean up any mess, just redistribute it, usually onto the road or the neighbour’s driveway.
Richard Edlin, Camberwell



Credit:Illustration: Matt Golding

Julian Leeser (20/1) seems to be paving the way to vote on the Voice as his leader, Dutton, instructs.
John Bye, Elwood

“Smart mines” in our waters (23/1). What an oxymoron. There’s nothing smart about mines.
Doug Perry, Mount Martha

Does fleeing mass shootings in the United States make you eligible for asylum in Australia?
Vivienne Whitehead, Paynesville

“I’ve seen so many people’s lives destroyed by scams … some to suicide” (23/1). ScoMo was the nastiest scammer with robo-debt.
Kishor Dabke, Mount Waverley

Our new tourist slogan: ″⁣Australia, home of the dog being wagged by 17 tails.″⁣
Noel Mavric, Moonlight Flat

What a surprise – an attack piece on Ardern from Roshena Campbell (23/1).
Belinda Burke, Hawthorn

Australian Open

Players who work the night shift should be paid penalty rates.
Bill Trestrail, St Kilda

Nine commentators: we enjoy your “tennis lessons”, but please give us the time and space to enjoy the tennis as well.
Ivan Gaal, Fitzroy North

I was very surprised when a caption on Nine said Andy Murray had defeated not Matteo Berrettini, but Gladys Berejiklian.
Betty Rudin, Wandin North

Players complain about late games. What about those of us who sit with broomsticks keeping our eyes open?
Bruce Dudon, Woodend


Thank goodness Beyonce will be paid generously ($35million) for her performance in Dubai. She will finally be able to afford clothing.
Heather D’Cruz, Geelong West

Is it too naive to suggest we call it Australians Day and celebrate all of our selves, not just a relic of colonisation?
Nick Tolhurst, Kew

Adulation is something I can accept – but never “congradulations”.
David Johnston, Healesville

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