Australia

Morality goes missing in warfare as surely as truth

It may be shocking but hardly surprising that there is a collapse in morality (‘‘‘Collapse in morality’ behind SAS war crimes’’, September 26-27). While soldiers are battle trained, it’s doubtful they spend much time studying the morality, philosophy and ethics of war. The aim of soldiering is to dehumanise the enemy so that questions such as necessity and proportionality are easily ignored. If you train individuals to kill, you should not be shocked when the concept of an enemy expands to include the civilian population. Even in a justifiable war, such as World War II, the indiscriminate bombing of civilian targets by both sides would not qualify as morally acceptable conduct. The first casualty of war may be truth, but it is only marginally ahead of morality. - Trevor Somerville, Illawong

One can only concur with the headlines attributing many killings of unarmed Afghans by SAS soldiers to a ‘‘collapse in morality’’. The planned and grossly inappropriate muck-up activities of privileged students from prestigious schools could be similarly classified. Added to the mix are politicians of every shade increasingly involved in corrupt activities. Fabrications are now taken for granted, and lying, even under oath, is commonplace. There is a plethora of scams which exploit the ignorant and the vulnerable, a growth in the well-funded lobbying industry and an outrageous lack of respect for our fellows, especially on social media. Our recent health and environmental catastrophes alone should urge us to reflect on what makes for a decent, principled and humane society, for when it loses its moral compass, we all lose, and the unthinkable becomes possible. - Bernard Moylan, Watsons Bay

Major-General Sengelman writes of a collapse of morality in sections of the revered Australian Special Forces. Perhaps it all starts at home. It is interesting to learn that not only boys schools are responsible for compilation of illegal and what many people still regard as immoral undertakings to be attempted by school leavers as a way of celebration or rite of passage (‘‘More schools caught in ‘criminal’ muck-up day challenge scandals’’, September 26-27). The revelation that pupils at an all girls school have been involved rebuts the assertions of many letter writers that this is a problem symptomatic of boys of privileged background, but supports the piece by Kerri Sackville (‘‘Shore scandal: Boys’ parents should be ashamed’’, September 26-27) that says parents have prime responsibility for such behaviour by their children. It points to a general laissez-faire attitude towards aberrant behaviour, or worse, a condoning of it by a swathe of modern parents. - Bill Higgins, Cammeray

There may be explanations for the alleged unjust conduct on the part of service personnel. There is no excuse for a country being involved in an unjust war. Australian participation in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq was neither moral or legal. The long-term interest and reputation of the nation would be best served by the commentariat focusing on this to ensure it does not happen again rather than on conduct of those we put in harm’s way. - Graham Cochrane, Balmain

Finkel’s support for CCS ignores fundamental flaws

The problem with Dr Alan Finkel’s opinion piece (‘‘The economy will keep ticking as we turn back climate clock’’, September 26-27) on Angus Taylor’s ‘‘Low Emissions Technology Statement’’ is that its primary justification for carbon capture and storage (CCS) is it provides ‘‘a pathway for hard-to-abate industries’’ such as cement production. Because CCS has proven so expensive and inefficient, surely there is a better case for investment in other technologies, such as alternative fuels for heating kilns, carbon-cured concrete and alternative building materials? - Peter Nash, Fairlight

Australia’s Chief Scientist argues cogently for the pursuit of five technologies that his panel believes will put our nation in the best position to reduce greenhouse emissions. The panel’s selection seems well justified, but not so the absence of specific targets. The most interesting aspect of Dr Finkel’s article was the absence of any direct mention of natural gas. While no doubt covered by the phrase ‘‘fossil fuel reserves’’, there is no direct push for a central role for gas, as proposed by Angus Taylor and Scott Morrison. - Max Edwards, Kanahooka

As a Commonwealth public servant, Dr Alan Finkel states the government’s position. The goals of the government’s plan appear to be: confuse the source of hydrogen (fossil hydrocarbons with water) such that it does not matter; assume carbon capture and storage is a cheap technology that will not leak large quantities of gas; assume biosequestration is not affected by bushfires and organisms that break down plant matter; and discourage local renewable generation, storage and use, including solar. - Peter Egan, Artarmon

It seems to me that the Chief Scientist, Alan Finkel, is more a political opportunist than a scientist. It is remarkable that his views dovetail so neatly with those of the federal government. This is a government stubbornly refusing to accept that the continued use of fossil fuels is unacceptable.
Firstly, Dr Finkel provides support for the expanded use of gas, and now he proclaims that The Low Emissions Technology Statement issued by Angus Taylor positions Australia to be a leader in the shift to a decarbonised future. The statement includes carbon ]capture and storage as one of the five technologies that the government will support. This technology has yet to be shown to be viable and is primarily intended to support coal-fired power stations. The world is changing very quickly and Australia will probably be left behind by pursuing outdated schemes, like those supported by our Chief Scientist. - Rod Farrow, Bowral

Cuts, lending ideas ignore facts

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s claim that removing ‘‘responsible lending’’ rules would spur lending (‘‘Budget like no other in the ‘year of the unknowable’’’, September 26-27) and the previous day’s assertion by two major business lobby organisations that bringing forward personal income tax cuts (which favour high-income earners) will encourage spending both demonstrate the difficulty in killing these ideologically driven zombie economic ideas.
The dust has barely settled on the report of the Hayne royal commission, which castigated the major lenders and did not recommend easing the responsible lending laws, and history has shown that lowering tax rates on high-income earners boosts savings and that tax cuts do not pay for themselves. - Maurice Critchley, Kenthurst

Adele Ferguson is correct (‘‘Easy credit is a recipe for disaster’’, September 26-27). However, caveat emptor rarely applies to big corporations and the wealthy, for whom, if they owe a pile, it’s the bank’s problem. Banks will gouge middle to low-income debtors to subsidise their lack of control over powerful debtors. This further delays Hayne’s proposals. - Jocelyn Pixley, Paddington

Renewables shackled

Scott Morrison says ‘‘some might see short-term advantage or even profit. But I assure you to anyone who may think along those lines, humanity will have a very long memory and be a very, very severe judge’’ (‘‘PM to urge nations to share vaccine at UN’’, September 26-27).
How can he not see that these words apply exactly to climate change, and even more so, given the health and economic impacts of climate change will dwarf those of the pandemic? Australians will have a very long memory regarding the 2013-2022 Coalition governments’ continuing support for the short-term advantages and profits from fossil fuels and the Coalition’s petty shackling of Australia’s development of a renewable energy industry. - Dale McMahon, Naremburn

Yeah, onya, Scott. Let’s hope the rest of the world is mesmerised by your vaccine sanctimony and forgets how in matters of amoral profiteering and naked opportunism — everything from East Timor to the basis on which we issue visas — Australia has led the way for at least two decades. - Alex Mattea, Sydney

Sputtering reputation
Once upon a time, we would tease New Zealanders about the large number of second-hand cars on their roads. Today, as the Australian government clings to fossil fuels, New Zealand has set a 2021 target for electric vehicles and California will ban sales of new petrol or diesel cars by 2035 (‘‘China target and cars ban hasten shift’’, September 25).
If we are not careful, we will find ourselves the dumping ground of vehicles nobody else wants. Maybe old car tourism will become popular as it has in Cuba. - Ray Peck, Hawthorn (Vic)

I was driving behind a Tesla electric car recently and observed that it had no exhaust pipes. However, it was not totally smoke free as its driver was hanging his arm out his window, flicking the ash from his cigarette. - John Sutherland, Couridjah

Importing oversight
A full-page advertisement in the Herald (September 26-27) certainly caught my eye: ‘‘The first section of Inland Rail is complete ... It’s built with Aussie-made components’’ says the ad, which quotes figures of volumes and masses of products manufactured in places such as Mittagong, Parkes, Whyalla, Blacktown and Tamworth.
I can only hope that our Premier has read this ad and laments her lack of support for Australian industry in importing from Spain every inch of the rails for the light rail project.
The carriages come from either France, Spain or Algeria (it’s hard to find out exactly where) and the system’s operation, for the next 30 years, will be in a partnership with a French company. Rolling stock for the Blue Mountains heavy rail (the stuff that doesn’t fit existing platforms or the tunnels) is also imported. - Brian Pymont, Frenchs Forest

Playing with memory
The state government has done a good job in saving us, but it does nothing to save the state’s heritage (‘‘Villa’s protections lifted before site bought for museum’’; ‘‘Towering monstrosities are truly height of arrogance’’, September 26-27). Willow Grove and the Glebe estate are just two examples of the trashing our heritage. But there are also Thompson Square, Windsor Bridge and the destruction of Parramatta’s heritage generally.
What about the Female Factory, the Powerhouse Museum and its magnificent collection? Surely the Female Factory could become a superb museum focused on Parramatta’s history. The government is also downplaying the role of Sydney Living Museums by making it part of the incompatible State Archive. A country without heritage is like someone without memory. - Clive Lucas, Neutral Bay

Why is Parramatta forced to choose between saving its heritage and a new museum?
And why is the government intent on plonking the wrong museum on the wrong site? It can save Willow Grove and its women’s history by moving the new museum to the Fleet St precinct. That would save two women’s heritage sites of outstanding significance and create a new museum about Parramatta’s history and cultures, set in a park of extraordinary beauty and interest. This is obvious to everyone but the most obtuse in the NSW government. - Kylie Winkworth, Newtown

It looks like our politicians have re-imagined themselves as property developers. They need to return to their original purpose and draft a ‘‘legal system in our property law capable of protecting the heritage item’’, not as a stop-gap until the developer with the most money comes along, but for all future generations. - Helen Lewin, Tumbi Umbi

Simply crackers
Perhaps Gladys Berejiklian should ask Sydneysiders whether they wish to have the NYE fireworks, even on a smaller scale, and risk the lockdown Victoria has been experiencing should a second wave of COVID-19 result (‘‘Fuse lit on fireworks debate’’, September 26-27). - Tony Moo, North Sydney

Memory lapse
Gee, I wish I had brain fog (Letters, September 26-27). If I couldn’t remember what I’d just watched I’d be able to rewatch, ad infinitum, all the Midsomer Murders, Poirot and Miss Marple episodes the television has been rerunning for the past twenty years. - John Grinter, Katoomba

No favours
No chance, Todd Hillsley (Letters, September 26-27). We live in Paul Fletcher’s electorate and were among the last in the country to be connected to the NBN. At least we can’t accuse the minister of favouritism. - Mary McDearmid, Lindfield

Wrong name
My contemporaries now feature all too frequently in the Death Notices, but they are not seen because only married names are listed.
It is sad to miss the passing of a school, uni or work mate and the opportunity to reminisce with others in her cohort. Last week I recognised a classmate only in her brother’s death notice, finally prompting me to write encourage readers to include the ‘‘maiden’’ name in brackets.
I am also sure this is why fewer women attend funerals – they don’t know the funeral is on until word reaches them through the grapevine. - Mary Nixon, Newtown

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