May 10th 2014

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Articles from this issue:

CHILD CARE INQUIRY: Should parents or paid strangers raise children?

ECONOMIC AGENDA: Sorting out the confusion over Australia's agricultural exports

EDITORIAL: Is the Coalition government losing its way?

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Joe Hockey's two-phase plan to cut budget deficit

EDUCATION: How contemporary schooling devalues great literature

ENVIRONMENT: PM's top business adviser rejects climate alarmism

HEALTH: Kirby Institute report silent on incidence of AIDS

TRANSPORT: Finding a better solution to our traffic problems

FOREIGN AFFAIRS: Russia ups the ante, but faces backlash in Ukraine

LIFE ISSUES: What really happens outside the abortion clinic?

UNITED KINGDOM: Christian arrested in Britain for quoting Bible, wins damages

PAKISTAN: Council of Islamic Ideology 'anti-women': Sindh assembly


CULTURE: Remembering the quality of mercy

BOOK REVIEW: The Tragedy of Liberation, by Frank Dikotter

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News Weekly, May 10, 2014

Bureaucracy’s “little Hitlers”


The conclusion of Dr Hal G.P. Colebatch’s article (“Kansas Jewish student refused entry to Britain”, News Weekly, April 12) suggests that the British government, up to and including the Prime Minister, David Cameron, could have intervened to redress the wrongs done to this young man, a citizen of a friendly country, or at least apologise for them. But is that where the root of the problem lay?

My own experiences and observations about the public service is that if members of this service chooses to use their own positions to enforce their personal prejudices, those actions may go unnoticed and unreported. When I was young, it was received wisdom that if, for instance, an application to local government was made for a building permit, any inquiry about the progress of that permit would result in it being put at the bottom of the pile. We referred to these sorts of people as “little Hitlers”.

Although there seems to be nothing particularly admirable about the present British PM, it is quite likely that he has no idea what is festering in the nooks and crannies of Britain’s civil service. Any unilateral action taken by a customs official, such as deporting an innocent man who happens to have visited Israel, would merely be assumed to be justified, without investigating it to see if it were even reasonable.

The lengths to which the customs official went to get rid of this young man and ensure that he never came back strongly indicate a recognition, however private, that these actions were not only unjustified and indefensible but plain wrong. Not only was Louis “Chip” Cantor, 23, denied natural justice, he was refused the embassy assistance to which he was certainly entitled.

As for ensuring he could not visit any European Union country, does any customs official, in Britain or any other democracy, really have such power? Evidently, if he so chooses, he does, and the victims of personal prejudice and spite have no redress.

This case recalls the sacking of a British nurse who offered to pray for a patient, who remarked upon the offer but did not object to it. The nurse was not only reinstated after the National Health Service received thousands of letters sent in protest; but it does not appear that this injustice was the result of any government policy or public service directive.

I also note that the U.S. government, which would once have sent a gunboat or at least an embassy official, seems to have been every bit as spineless and dismissive as the British. David Cameron and Barack Obama probably deserve each other. When it comes to seeing — or not seeing — justice done, they have so much in common.

If a public injustice only comes to light when a private individual comments on it, as in this case, what else is going on that we do not hear about?

(Mrs) Rosemary F.C. Steineck,
Manning, WA



Climate and crop yields


News Weekly’s April 12 cover-story, “Global warming to hit the latté set: IPCC”, presents a confused picture of climate change, agriculture and what the National Civic Council regards as important.

Apart from the fact that food prices are determined by both supply and demand, Peter Westmore’s editorial omits important contextual considerations in dismissing predictions about the future effect of climate change on crop production.

He cites, for instance, the growth in crop yields since the 1960s. These yield gains have been achieved through specialisation, intensification and concentration.

Mr Westmore is aware of the role of improved plant varieties and better production techniques; he should also be aware of the role of more energy-intensive inputs and the bias of the “better production techniques” he mentions towards the corporatisation of agriculture, with smaller “less efficient” farms being squeezed out.

One might have assumed this trend would deserve some critique given the NCC’s core principles include standing up for “the small unit in agriculture (the family farm), business, government and unions in opposition to monopolies and excessive centralisation”.

The intensification techniques used to increase crop yields have also contributed to the pollution and depletion of soil and water resources, with about a third of global farmland being abandoned since the 1960s.

These are serious social concerns that deserve to not be subsumed to scoring rhetorical points on the one environmental issue that News Weekly seems to takes substantive interest in.

The apparently uncritical assumption that the crop-yield gains of the past 50 years will simply continue into the future irrespective of climate considerations or social consequences is deficient. One need look no further than the increasing concentration and diminishing yield gains in Australian agriculture for evidence of that.

Tim Wallace,
Pascoe Vale, Vic.



Dangers of legalising euthanasia


Philip Ayres, in his letter on euthanasia (News Weekly, April 26), glosses over the crucial role played by morphine in palliative care.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2279: “The use of painkillers to alleviate the suffering of the dying, even at the risk of shortening their days, can be morally in conformity with human dignity if death is not willed as either an end or a means, but only foreseen and tolerated as inevitable. Palliative care is a special form of disinterested charity. As such it should be encouraged.”

At the political level, there is compelling historical evidence of the need for great caution before legislating to allow intentional killing of innocent people. Indeed, our own horrendous Victorian abortion laws make the point very forcefully. There are already those who would extend the brutal late-term abortion procedure to allow disposal of new-born babies.

John H. Cooney,
Cowwarr, Vic. 

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