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Voice referendum Vote for forgiveness and reconciliation

Waleed Aly suggests the reason the campaign for the Voice is losing support is that it has mistakenly given way to ″⁣a contest over grander narratives of national history and identity″⁣ (″⁣Debate now the voice in our heads″⁣, September 22).
Isn’t it only right and proper that bringing reconciliation to bear on the greatest historical stain on the soul of this nation is what this referendum is ultimately all about? For as the South African anti-apartheid activist, the late Alan Paton, once wrote: ″⁣It’s not ‘forgive and forget’ as if nothing wrong had ever happened, but ‘forgive and go forward’, building on the mistakes of the past and the energy generated by reconciliation to create a new future.″⁣
Vincent Zankin, Rivett (ACT)

“Make history,” exhorts Waleed Aly. Yes, indeed! Our nation is renowned for being the land of the “fair go”. So, come October 14, let’s all especially reflect on the lyrics, “In history’s page, let every stage, advance Australia fair” – the operative word being “fair”. Edward Loong, Milsons Point

When the No campaign says the Voice will divide Australia by race, what they really mean is they don’t support positive discrimination. There goes positive discrimination for women, the young, the old, the poor, the sick, etc. Victor Bivell, Abbotsford

Waleed AlyCredit: Penny Stephens. The Age

Waleed Aly argues that where the Voice debate is taking us has already changed us as a nation. A modest proposal for an advisory body has become huge. We are grappling with widely different perspectives on our history – should they be accorded equal value, or do they all take a back seat to how we feel about the present? Do we feel confident we can make a positive difference for the future? We are discovering a powerful sense of agency through this referendum exercise. Can we get our heads around a Voice that promises to do the same for Indigenous Australians? Margaret Johnston, Paddington

As he often does, Waleed Aly has eloquently nailed the progress and changing tone of the Voice debate, particularly when he asserts that Yes proponents were relying on the goodwill of the population.
This was always fraught from the moment it became political when a policy-bereft opposition chose No and found the articulate Indigenous senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price to prosecute its case, thus fracturing the myth that the Voice was universally acceptable.
History can be interpreted by what we choose to accept, and it seems clear that the colonial interpretation learned by most of us at school has been the predominant influence.
Max Redmayne, Drummoyne

Playing in the shark’s kitchen

Other benchmarks in the dominance of human endeavours include a couple of world wars, nuclear arms proliferation, conflict-driven famine and genocide, and a new era entitled the Anthropocene, characterised by human-induced climate change and exponential biodiversity loss (“Should we let sharks tell us where to swim?”, September 22). Not a moot point is that the vast percentage of coastline we like to swim at is not netted, and those who do take their recreation in areas recording the majority of encounters, the estuaries and surf, away from any nets, do so regardless. Just considering the stats on injury or death from horses and dogs puts the so-called shark menace into perspective. Steve Dillon, Thirroul

The logic behind Brad Emery’s answer epitomises why the dominant species on the planet, Homo sapiens, increasingly faces an existential crisis of its own making. John Matheson, Antechamber Bay (SA)

A goblin shark, happy to invite you in for dinner

A goblin shark, happy to invite you in for dinnerCredit: AP

No need for kayaks, Brad Emery. Just have shark-loving environmental volunteers splash about behind the breakers as potential ″⁣incidents″⁣ and witness how quickly they become staunch net and drum line advocates.
Col Burns, Lugarno

I would think the collective answers from all sharks would be, “This is our home, our feeding grounds, our territory! So bugger off and swim in your man-made pools.” Roy Gallop, North Epping

Brad Emery’s extremist humans first philosophy exemplifies the thinking that has led us to global climate and mass extinction crises. Until we realise that we are just big, blundering, destructive mammals, there is little hope of averting catastrophe. Sharks have swum for a lot longer than humans. Tom McGinness, Randwick

Sharks can help us reduce over-population, as well as reducing the pressure on housing. That seems like a win-win, to me anyway. Tim Schroder, Gordon

Clift’s notes

Kate Forsyth (“It was my dream to run away to a Greek island and write a book – this year, I did it”, smh.com.au, September 20) skates lightly over Charmian Clift’s time on Kalymnos, the island of the sponge divers. Her descriptions of life among the common people of Kalymnos (Mermaid Singing) are of far more interest than those of the vapid expats of Hydra. John Christie, Oatley

Kalymnos - why not?

Kalymnos – why not?Credit: Ute Junker

I support the recognition as a place of literary significance of the house in Hydra where the great Herald letter writer Con Vaitsas stayed (Letters, September 22). Colin Sutton, Newtown

Vexed by verbs

Congratulations to your correspondent for using “directly affected” (Letters, September 22). A small step, but it might be the start of an impact on “impact, impacting (as verbs), impactful” and the mindless “upcoming.” John Macdonald, Kings Langley

Red letter day

Rosemary O’Brien (Letters, September 22), you are engaging, as are all letter writers to the Herald. The letters are interesting, funny, thoughtful with challenges and possible solutions. Reading them is a good way to start the day. Bea Hodgson, Gerringong

Bigger population means further depleted resources

Those who dare question high immigration are regularly accused of racism (“Migrating to a new argument”, September 22).
Success stories from offended new migrants are published to justify their contribution. Then we’re told of the burden of the older Australians, offending older Australians, who are not a burden. High immigration keeps Australia youthful, we’re told – and we worship at the altar of youth. However, increasing our numbers raises Australia’s high per capita carbon emissions, which makes the cuts required to curb climate change more challenging. More housing means more land-clearing, adding to the climate crisis. With another El Nino upon us, and fire plans at the ready, when can we discuss, let alone consider, a steady state economy with a stable population. Anne Matheson, Gordon

Migrants arriving in simpler days

Migrants arriving in simpler daysCredit: State Library of Queensland

The immigration regime that welcomed us to Australia was driven by stability and integration.
Integration into a society where the people owned and operated the water, electricity, gas, telecommunications and transport infrastructure – all ready, affordable and running like clockwork, sustainable and self-reliant. The population, approaching 13 million, did not overwhelm hospitals, schools or employment, and allowed homes with gardens.
Australia manufactured and youth could find stable employment or careers. On one wage, a (resourceful) couple with kids could pay off a mortgage in a decade or two. The priority was stability and growth was the carefully managed by-product. Now we have overpopulation to the point of species extinctions, exploitation, homelessness and vast expanses of disenchanting concrete while the infrastructure grinds to a halt. Ronald Elliott, Sandringham (Vic)

Simple choice

Sorry to your writer (Letters, September 22), but under your action you would not have been unlawfully disenfranchised, but, rather, disenfranchised by your own choice. You are legally required to attend a polling place and polling staff are required to provide you with a ballot paper, and any assistance you request to complete a formal vote. Your not following the instructions on the ballot paper doesn’t unlawfully disenfranchise you. How hard is it to write “Yes” or “No”? Bill Irvine, Goulburn

Your correspondent appears to be “ticked off” that an X vote in the upcoming referendum will be counted as informal. An X vote is ambiguous. It could mean either Yes or No, and there is no way to know the voter’s intention.
Many forms that people have filled out during their lives out require an X to be marked in a box to indicate affirmation – that you agree with the corresponding text or that it applies to you. A tick, however, is not ambiguous: it only ever means “Yes”. Brendan Jones, Annandale

A long career in IT taught me to never overestimate the ability of people to follow simple instructions. It speaks volumes about the No campaign that it seems so concerned about the intelligence and literacy of its supporters. David Farrell, Erskineville

Short memory

It always amuses me when a government loses an election and within a short time starts to tell the new government where it is going wrong and what it could do better (“Labor wasted opportunity, says NSW Libs” September 22). Had it not been defeated, how soon would a returned Coalition government have set up a royal commission into the impacts of COVID-19? Brian Collins, Cronulla

Safety solution

We rely on yellow raised reflective markers to illuminate barrier lines on our rural single carriageway roads. Perhaps one way to reduce the road toll (“Road tolls on the rise in Australia”, September 22), is to repaint the white daytime lines and give instant recognition to the fact that if you cross that distinctive line, you are likely to meet a vehicle heading in the opposite direction. Terry O’Brien, North Parramatta

Frydenberg’s appeal

People of good will of all persuasions will regret the loss of Josh Frydenberg to Australian political life (“Frydenberg rules out another run”, September 22).
His moderate, “small l” liberal influence was significant in his party. The absence of people like Frydenberg means the Liberal Party is lurching further to the right. The consequences of the loss of talent like his means the party is increasingly seen as unelectable and continuing in the thrall of people like Peter (“prepare for war”) Dutton.
Frydenberg’s broad appeal could have brought his party out of the wilderness, but in its current state, its ability to govern or to be an effective and pragmatic opposition have been curtailed. Derrick Mason, Boorowa

Josh Frydenberg, moving on

Josh Frydenberg, moving onCredit: AFR

Co-ed carry-on

There is nothing new in the debate about making Randwick Boys’ High co-educational (“Co-ed schools offer options for families”, September 22). It was in full swing when I started there as a student in 1957. Alas, my interest in this has now waned. Craig Lilienthal, Wollstonecraft — school captain 1961

Take it easy

A good question that could be asked of a lot of other teams that include players such as Sam Kerr, Latrell Mitchell, Buddy Franklin, Shaun Johnson and plenty more (″⁣Wallabies’ hopes hamstrung again – so why do they keep breaking their stars?″⁣, September 22). The answer may be that they seem to have more coaches than players, and they have to find something for them to do, so, train the players into the ground.
Tony Mitchell, Hillsdale

Sam Kerr

Sam KerrCredit: Getty

Lessons to be learnt

I doubt that any of my colleagues in medicine or science will share the media’s concern with the restrictions placed on the COVID-19 inquiry or by its being preferred over a royal commission (“COVID-19 inquiry is a second-rate cowardly fix”, September 22). The chosen scope should ensure a focus in the inquiry and its reportage on the evidence-based views of experts rather than the petty party-political point scoring that achieves nothing for future pandemic preparedness. Benefit is also likely to come from the selection of Robyn Kruk, an ex-NSW director general of Health, as chair.
Many mistakes were made, with many lessons to be learnt and turned into better policies endorsed by all governments. Graeme Stewart, Palm Beach

The prime minister’s inquiry into the COVID-19 response will essentially be a glorified whitewash, exonerating the main players responsible for most of the destruction of lives and livelihoods. With the value of hindsight, it is extraordinary to ponder 2020 and 2021 and recall how various incompetent bureaucracies, in their vain mission to eradicate a virus – as opposed to wisely managing it – caused so much human heartache with their stubborn and iron-hand attitude. Peter Waterhouse, Craigieburn (Vic)


Once again, still, the Voice was the main Letters topic, taken over the week, bobbing up and down a bit, but always one of the main subjects. Overall, readers are thoughtful Yes voters, but there are still No voters who have their positions.
Otherwise, the week started with the news that the Anglican Archbishop Kay Goldsworthy, of Perth, can’t be an archbishop in Sydney because she is a woman. The Herald letter writers begged to differ, strenuously, with the Sydney diocese’s position on females, and a member of the Uniting Church was happy to point out how different it is in that church.
The writers also had much to say on the subject of housing affordability, with many cogent suggestions about how to solve the problems. A selection of the letters can be seen in Yours. Sincerely.
Ross Gittins’ comment piece suggesting the government ought to charge and imprison law-breaking business people was warmly received by the letter writers and strongly supported by all. Gittins inspired a unanimity that is rare on the letters pages. The closest anyone got to dissent was suggesting that Gittins’ ideas didn’t go far enough, and that not just the bosses should go down, but also their supporting staff.
There was also the now-annual discussion about burning off in the bush before summer. Opinion still differs on how, or indeed if, it should be done, but, in the end, no one wants to see Australia burned to the bare ground again, no matter how it is achieved.
On a more light-hearted subject, letter writers were more than pleased to let former PM Scott Morrison know exactly what they think about the book he is writing.
Harriet Veitch, acting letters editor

  • To submit a letter to The Sydney Morning Herald, email letters@smh.com.au. Click here for tips on how to submit letters.
  • Catch up on the best letters and online comments on the topic of the week in our Friday wrap Yours. Sincerely.
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