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Australia

Troops in Middle East: Seriously, were we ever going to say 'no' to the US?

To submit a letter to The Age, email letters@theage.com.au. Please include your home address and telephone number.


How often do we hear the all embracing, non-specific "in the national interest" pontificated by the government as the compelling justification for decision making? Was it ever going to reject the United States' request to support its mission in the Strait of Hormuz (The Age, 22/8)? I listened to Defence Minister Linda Reynolds explain, with some gravity, soon after the meeting with US secretaries of state and defence in Canberra, that the government would weigh seriously all the issues.

Illustration: Andrew Dyson

Illustration: Andrew Dyson

The approval by the Prime Minister, released in the midst of the noise of the George Pell appeal outcome, appeared calculated to give the impression that both sides of the case had been seriously considered. We can be fairly sure the decision was made and conveyed to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during the original discussions, and that time was allowed to elapse before the agreement to join was announced.

Would it not be better to say, "We are doing this because we are in lock step with US foreign policy and we will commit but with some provisos"? No one could seriously argue that one ship for six months, and a reconnaissance plane for a month, would deter the Iranians or defend our oil deliveries out of the United Arab Emirates. It might however, end up in tears if we are drawn into armed conflict.

Richard Caven, Melbourne

Intelligence as reliable as 'the WMD debacle'

I watched Linda Reynolds with my mouth agape as she sought to defend the government's decision to send military personnel to the Middle East to protect freedom of navigation in the Strait of Hormuz. As Paul Barratt pointed out, the current tensions have their origins in the US decision to unilaterally withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (The Age, 22/8) yet there was no acknowledgment from the minister of this.

Amazingly (and unconvincingly), she seemed to be saying that Australia's decision was unrelated to the tensions between the US and Iran. It would be nice if, for once, the government used its "special friend" status with the US to advocate for a return to the negotiating table. On the contrary, we look set to be blindly following its foreign policy into yet another conflict based on intelligence as reliable as the "weapons of mass destruction" debacle.

Vera Boston, Fitzroy North

Hasn't Morrison learnt from Howard's mistake?

Australia ties itself to yet another questionable US-led military campaign. Donald Trump, armed with biased advice from Mike Pompeo and John Bolton, blames Iran as the aggressor, even though it was the US (Trump) who ripped up the Iran nuclear deal and enforced crippling sanctions on its people. Obviously the Iranians try to control what goes on in their sphere of influence, just like everybody else does, including Australia.

Scott Morrison should have learnt from John Howard not to follow people when they do not know where they are going, why, and how to get back home safely. Clearly Mr Morrison wants to "suck up" to Mr Trump so he can get an invitation to join his (rat) pack of highly respected golf mates: Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong-un, Mohammad bin Salman, Benjamin Netanyahu and caddy Boris Johnson.

Haydn Moyle, Flemington

Here we go again: we're off to the Middle East

There is an all too familiar ring to the announcement that Australia is to commit armed forces to the Strait of Hormuz in support of an American request. How many times will we get involved in international troubles caused in large part by American meddling before we learn the folly of this? Have we learnt nothing from previous adventures in that part of the world?

In this case it is particularly galling because the situation was provoked by Donald Trump's actions in poking the Iranian bear in its cage. Now that Iran has (predictably) reacted, the US wants help in dealing with the mess. And, as for our own political situation, since when have the Greens been the official opposition, offering the only dissenting voice to this foolish move?

Dave Rabl, Ocean Grove

THE FORUM

Good friend, wise mentor

Tony Wright's vivid description celebrated Tim Fischer's extraordinary artistry in putting care for the Australian community as the focus of his public and private life (The Age, 23/8). I was privileged to know him as a friend and I was his guest during a visit to the Vatican when he was the ambassador to the Holy See.

While Tim's trademarks were his passion for trains and his iconic bush hat, what stood out for me was his appetite for the fair go, his desire to address injustice, no matter the controversy.

We shared one particular matter of controversy in Australian military and legal history and I still celebrate his wise mentorship in addressing the case and his decision to express his views in writing and video. His passion for this particular case reflected his values, sharp mind, balanced judgment and respect for addressing injustice regardless of the challenge his views presented to others. Vale Tim.

James Unkles, Chirnside Park

Such courageous stands

Tim Fischer: a country politician who risked (and incurred) the opprobrium of his electorate to champion gun control laws simply because they were right. A moral man who called Pauline Hanson's racism for what it was, not because it was bad for trade or affected Australia's image in Asia, but simply because she was wrong.

Elizabeth Morris, Elsternwick

A true giant of a man

As politicians and the public remember Tim Fischer as a man of honesty, integrity and dignity, our current politicians should consider how, or even if, they will be remembered. Vale Tim Fischer.

Amanda Alexander, Devenish

An honourable life

Tim Fischer: a man who was both a trainspotter and an Australian deputy prime minister, who died in the arms of the woman he loved. What a life. What a death. What a man. Vale.

Brian Sanaghan, West Preston

It's time for leadership

As a practising Catholic, I would suggest to Archbishop Peter Comensoli that it is time to accept Cardinal George Pell has been convicted of the offences for which he was charged. This followed an exhaustive legal process during which Cardinal Pell had significant legal resources provided to him.

With all due respect to the Archbishop, I believe that what the priests and people of his archdiocese need now is good leadership and pastoral care.

This will help all the people for whom he is responsible to come to terms with what has occurred. Making highly speculative comments is not helpful in this regard; it only adds to the uncertainty many people may feel about what has happened.

Terry O'Brien, Geelong

What my God would say

Archbishop Peter Comensoli is "quite shocked with how things have developed" and asks, "who's actually been the abuser in this case?" (The Age, 21/8).

Millions of Catholics are "shocked" at how the church has undermined and sullied the very principles on which it was built. The church's officials and apologists abused the trust placed in them and abused the memory of those lost to despair.

Bishop Peter Elliott said "there is an ultimate tribunal in the next world" (7.30, 21/8). My God will be as appalled by the Catholic Church as those of us on Earth. My God would never have countenanced the despicable, risk-management strategies with which the organisation has systematically approached this most awful period in its history.

Mary Dalmau, West Brunswick

Why was he handcuffed?

I have no sympathy for George Pell but plenty for his victims of abuse. However, leading him to court in handcuffs was an ugly, unnecessary act of authoritarian and political theatrics.

Howard Reddish, Swifts Creek

Heartless act of cruelty

I am a disgusted at the bureaucratic heartlessness of Yarra Ranges Council in shutting down the Winter Shelter program, which has been providing homeless people with warm, safe sanctuary in church buildings (The Age, 23/8).

The act of cruelty was made from the safe, warm council offices. Those who are sleeping rough are at risk from many sources, not least of which is the current freezing weather. It is only a matter of time before a rough sleeper dies of exposure.

I suggest the homeless move into the council offices and stay there until this decision is reversed. As a pensioner in private rental and one failed lease renewal away from homelessness myself, I will support them and so will many other community members.

Jude Power, Warburton

As always, dollars rule

Whilst evaluating the possibility of non-stop, commercial services from Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane to London and New York, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said, "I will only do it if it's good for shareholders" (Business, 23/8). Let us hope that other employees of Qantas have safety, mechanical performance, comfort and other passenger needs as their priority.

Mark Hulls, Sandringham

No end to the madness

Donald Trump is making a laughing stock of the United States. Surely they must declare the experiment a failure and get rid of him. The world will breathe a sigh of relief.

Robert Anderson, Glen Waverley

Toys for child president

Has it occurred to Donald Trump that if instead of throwing infantile tantrums at one of the most progressive countries in the world, he tried to purchase Denmark rather than just Greenland, he would secure supply of Lego blocks to better satisfy his level of maturity? By the way, he has ruined my bridge play as nowadays I compulsively bid "no trump" when a suit bid would be preferable.

Carl Areskog, Tarneit

The value of books

Your editorial (The Age, 23/8) captured the essence of our wonderful city: for all its problems and issues, Melbourne continues to offer so much, especially in the way of arts, books and literature festivals. It is so easy to feel overwhelmed by "bad news/bizarre leadership articles". Books remind us that the human condition has not changed that much over millennia, with ambition, greed and ego still the dominant themes. Until humans change their attitudes, or the Earth implodes, books and discussions will continue to offer some balm.

Mary Cole, Richmond

An archaic mind set

The latest Australian Energy Market Operator report shows that ongoing coal and gas breakdowns are making it harder to keep the lights on (The Age, 23/8). Our ageing, coal-fired power stations are ready to retire and they need to be replaced with smart renewable technology. But Energy Minister Angus Taylor is playing the blame game – an archaic mind set which slows down our progress into a modern, cleaner country. It is the government's energy policy chaos that is putting our energy security at risk.

Bryan Baldwin, Fingal

Very high standards

Your article (The Age, 21/8) implied the University of Melbourne had lowered its entry standards for international students by accepting them through a foundation studies program. A partnership between the university and Trinity College has provided a high quality foundation studies program for the past 30 years.

The program provides broad academic preparation for highly qualified international students wishing to enter undergraduate degrees. It is very rigorous in its entry requirements, academic standards and English language standards.

Of the students who undertake the program, around 70per cent achieve the standard needed to gain entry to the University of Melbourne. They achieve high academic results, course completion rates are exceptionally high (fewer than 2per cent do not complete their degrees) and many achieve honours grades.

Professor Richard James, University of Melbourne

AND ANOTHER THING

Donald Trump

Trump is like a character from a Gilbert and Sullivan comic opera but he doesn't make me laugh.

Michael Gamble, Belmont

My wife and I are ending our relationship with life-long friends because they won't sell us their home.

Lloyd Davies, Warragul

Mr President, wanna buy Sydney Harbour Bridge? Collingwood Footy Club? Trust me, I can get you a good deal.

James Ryan, Frankston

Tim Fischer

A gentle man.

Bill Holmes, Kew

To honour Tim Fischer, the government should grant his wish and promote Sir John Monash to Field Marshall, posthumously.

David Beauchamp, Carlton

Our Tim. Train rider in the sky extraordinaire.

Tris Raouf, Hadfield

George Pell

We focus on questions about Pell. The focus should be on the arrogant refusal of his church to own up to its crimes against our children.

Ian Cunliffe, Moonee Ponds

Perhaps Pell can accept his fate and take one for the team.

Robyn Dunne, East Brighton

Now would be a good time for the current archbishop to hear the confession of the former archbishop.

Eu Ming Lim, Glen Waverley

Furthermore

Replace coal power with renewable energy. Tell our inactive government to subsidise solar panels for all buildings.

Pamela Baker, Queenscliff

Victoria faces blackouts and no one is screaming for Andrews' head. The watermelon Premier (green outside, red inside).

Peter Lesuey, Kennington

Electricity prices up and reliability down. Politics, planning and power don't mix.

Barry Culph, St Leonards

How ironic that an advertiser on Alan Jones' program was Total Tools, an apt description of him and his ilk.

Jan Menkhorst, Parkdale

Now we have an "inverted yield curve". Has Keating's "J curve" gone down the S-bend?

Tim Brown, Ascot Vale


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