Actions aren’t excusable, but context is needed

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Actions aren’t excusable, but context is needed
The alleged murderous actions of a few members of the SAS in Afghanistan are to be condemned in the sternest terms and the whistleblowers are deserving of the highest recognition for their courageous actions, but some context is needed.

Australian troops are fighting an enemy who wears no uniform and who does not recognise or acknowledge the rules of war. The ‘‘innocent’’ farmer may be the man who was shooting at you yesterday and may be doing so tomorrow. Afghan troops embedded with coalition forces also have a demonstrated history of treacherously turning on the troops who are fighting beside them, adding to this highly charged environment.

This presents our troops with a dilemma. Is it any wonder that some of them acted as they did? Their actions are not excusable, but the removal of the 2nd SAS squadron from the Australian order of battle means the entire regiment must bear the disgrace, and I fear a lot of good people who have done their duty faithfully and diligently will find their careers and reputations irrevocably blighted.

The Australian Army is not a huge organisation, and I find it highly improbable that officers further up the chain of command were unaware of these problems.
Tony Fairbridge, Emerald

What, exactly, are these ‘values’?
General Angus Campbell has invoked Australian values in condemning the actions of some of our SAS soldiers in Afghanistan. But how do we determine what ‘‘Australian values’’ actually are?

After winning at sport and mateship, it is clearly also an Australian value to imprison refugees for unlimited years because they arrived by boat. We know this because of the huge amount of money we have spent keeping them behind the razor wire, locked away on islands or shut up for years in dingy motels with guards.

Clearly we value and practise this inhumane treatment of innocent people – most of the members of Parliament seem to agree with this policy, so maybe our soldiers in Afghanistan were following Australian values, after all.
Ellen O’Gallagher, Castlemaine

Focus needed on recruitment and training
The Insight article (“Excess Force”, The Age, 21/11) raises the critical point that there were “red flags about a small number of elite soldiers” before their deployment to Afghanistan.

It appears that the Australian Defence Force (ADF) recruited, trained and promoted some men who then (allegedly) went on, under cover of war, to cold-bloodedly execute prisoners and civilians – and also put pressure on other soldiers to do the same. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if these alleged perpetrators also hold the belief that the peoples of Afghanistan are somehow inferior and that their lives don’t matter.

Of course, any soldier of any rank found guilty of committing or facilitating a war crime needs to be appropriately punished. However, one would hope the Brereton inquiry also results in emphasis being placed on the development of more sophisticated ADF recruitment and training procedures that can weed out any would-be soldiers devoid of a moral compass.
Reinhard Beissbarth, Beechworth

Beware of putting them on a pedestal
Our politicians must rethink how they portray our military forces. They have over the last couple of decades, moved to a more American view of the military where they take every opportunity to heap such platitudes as “courageous”, “heroes”, “the best” ad nauseam with photo opps of pollies at airports waiting for coffins of service personnel killed in action to be unloaded. There was even a move to have members of the armed services given preferential boarding on commercial flights, as in the US.

We are right to be proud of our armed services, (with the exception of the current allegations). However constantly placing them on a pedestal is unhealthy and, dare I say it, “un-Australian”.

Our services do a job, they provide a role in protecting the country and are deployed as politicians see fit, often for political rather than defence reasons. The military should be treated as any other public institution, i.e. expected to be professional, dedicated and abide by the highest standards. They should be given credit for carrying out those tasks required of them but not fawned over and lauded. Politicians should respect them but remain at arm’s length.
Geoff Brown, Wodonga


Foolhardy bluster …
Nick O’Malley quotes the Prime Minister (“Revved-up Boris leaves us for dust”, The Age, 21/11) saying our climate policies “won’t be set in any part of the world other than here”. He must be feeling the pressure from Joe Biden’s win in America and Boris’ enthusiasm for a greener Britain.

Scott Morrison’s bluster about the independence of his policies is both foolhardy and offensive. Foolhardy because markets, so beloved of the Coalition, are already moving away from fossil fuels, leaving Australia with a heap of stranded assets; offensive because climate change is a global problem, which all nations have a stake in mitigating as quickly and effectively as possible.

Instead of his insistence on representing the interests of the fossil fuel industry, the Prime Minister has a responsibility to co-operate and engage with other nations as they press towards zero emissions.
Fiona Colin, Malvern East

… is not leadership
Prime Minister Scott Morrison told the Business Council of Australia last week he hoped Australia could ditch the use of controversial ‘‘carryover credits’’ and still meet its commitment to reduce greenhouse emissions by 2030.

As the only country using such creative accounting, our politicians, rather than using weasel words, should be showing more ambition and leadership.

Words uttered by the Prime Minister concerning his hopes and ambitions do not replace the immediate need for a clear policy setting out Australia’s climate change framework and timeline.
Peter Roche, Carlton

The human factor
Did the South Australian government, including apparently the medical authorities, really believe that they had a new strain of COVID-19 that could spread through pizza boxes with 24 hours’ incubation?

Ockham’s razor would have suggested it was much, much more likely that they were receiving false information, rather than the virus was behaving contra to the previous research data.

Once again, this story reminds us that fighting this pandemic is not only about understanding the virus, it’s also about understanding human beings. And medical scientists and doctors are not experts in social relations or structures.

This is another reason why the federal government’s assumption that we don’t need people to study social science and humanities, such as sociology, anthropology and history, is so bad
Miriam Faine, Hawthorn

This is not a choice
As long as our political leaders regard poverty and unemployment as signs of personal failure rather than challenging social conditions, we will have disgusting disasters like robo-debt – together with spiralling mental health costs, social unrest and an increasing gap between the haves and have-nots.

Disadvantage is not a choice that is taken by the Coalition’s ‘‘leaners’’. These people have frequently lacked the educational opportunities and family support systems that many ‘‘lifters’’ take for granted.

The late Tony Judt’s Ill Fares the Land should be compulsory reading for all politicians. He demonstrates that, based on empirical measures of wellbeing, more equal societies are also more content – and at least match economic performance of other developed countries.

Hence, Scandinavian countries, for example, rate well. Relatively low-taxing and unequal societies like the US, UK and Australia score poorly.

Of course, addressing disadvantage and growing inequality in a wealthy country like Australia is a moral imperative. However, for the hard-hearted among us, it is surely justified on grounds of enlightened self-interest before we head further down the American path.
Norman Huon, Port Melbourne

Cheaper than lockdowns
It defies logic to have quarantine stations for a highly infectious agent such as the coronavirus within a large city, whereby any small error leading to escape quickly results in spread to a large number of people.

Quarantine stations for Australia should be remote, and be staffed by handsomely paid, highly trained staff who are rostered for a defined period. All workers must then themselves be quarantined for 14 days and test negative before they leave.

This is a far less expensive exercise than repeated lockdowns.
Ruja Varon, Malvern

That didn’t cost much …
What is quite disturbing and a little surprising about corruption in Australian politics is just how small an amount of money is needed to curry favour with both major parties.

We need to know more about the recent covert federal deal between the Labor Party and the Coalition to weaken political donation laws in relation to property developers, an ongoing source of undue influence at every level of government. Companies making billions of dollars annually can buy ongoing political support for a few hundred thousand dollars, and sometimes much less.

If our leaders are going to sell us out, they should at least do it for a respectable sum otherwise they are showing utter contempt for their constituents.
Peter Barry, Marysville

Send in the observers
Clearly there are significant problems with the United States election system. The current President has alleged fraud while at the same time he is trying to cheat to stay in office.

As happens in other, usually Third World, countries it is time for the international community to appoint independent observers to monitor American elections.

The 35-member Organisation of American States (of which the US is a member) could be an appropriate body. I am sure that a number of Central and South American countries would welcome the opportunity to ensure that the United States has free and fair elections.
James Young, Mount Eliza

Electric vehicle tax …
Let me see if I have this right. The Victorian government is going to introduce a tax on electric cars driving on Victorian roads, that is going to provide approximately $30 million to state revenue in a debt that over the ensuing few years is going to balloon to around $155 billion (‘‘Pallas zaps electric cars with road charge’’, 22/11). The revenue contribution is infinitesimal.

In another article on the same day (‘‘Canberra, Victoria in energy grid deal’’, 22/11) the state government is reported contributing $100 million to a program to help combat climate change and create ‘‘a renewable energy superhighway’’, in the words of Energy Minister Lily D’Ambrosio.

The irony of it all.

The UK government has just announced a ban on the sale of petrol/diesel-engined cars from 2030 and most European car manufacturers are going to cease producing internal combustion engines around 2035.

Transport is the third biggest contributor to Australia’s carbon emissions. While most of the rest of the world is heading to electric vehicles at an ever increasing rate, politicians in Australia are stuck in a time warp. It’s laughable, really.
Ken Boddington, Mount Eliza

… is global worst practice
Just when the Andrews government had enhanced its green credentials with funding for a big battery and low-income solar support, it shoots itself in the foot with its proposed tax on electric vehicles.

This represents global worst practice and runs counter to the encouragement that is being provided in other developed economies. With electric vehicles making up less than 1 per cent of our cars, we need to provide every support for consumers to embrace these vehicles.

The tax ignores the huge community health and economic benefits from pollution reduction and deserves a rethink before the budget passes the Parliament.
Peter Allan, Brunswick West

A chance to be genuine
I’m with Jean Ker Walsh (Letters, 20/11). What an inspirational suggestion to offer Prime Minister Scott Morrison an opportunity to be genuine about his apology for alleged crimes committed in Afghanistan by Australian special forces by granting permanent protection to Afghan refugees and asylum seekers in Australia.

This is an opportunity for Scott Morrison to show genuine and true regret.
Jennifer Mansfield, Melbourne

Stop the expansion
My father was at Gallipoli and joined the AIF again to train soldiers during World War Two. Two brothers served in Egypt and New Guinea and a third was taken prisoner at the fall of Singapore.

I am proud to honour their gallantry and service, but I abhor the glorification of war and ask that further expansion of the Australian War Memorial cease.
Irene Morley, Seaford

Spend where it’s needed
To spend half a billion dollars on the Australian War Memorial is a crime in itself.

Spend the money where it’s really needed, on more social housing, increasing unemployment benefits to a liveable amount and helping war veterans.
Katriona Fahey, Alphington

Poetic justice
So one person in South Australia with insecure employment lied about his contacts. The politicians and capitalists have been lying for decades to such employees who have been pushed to the brink of existence.

So it is poetic justice that a lie from a vulnerable employee has caused great disruption to a system that benefits from their exploitation.
Kishor Dabke, Mount Waverley

Impervious myths
Don Watson recently observed on ABC radio that ‘‘America is several nations held together by myth’’, and the great power of myths is that they are entirely impervious to truth.

No quantity of truth can refute a myth, which means Donald Trump’s lies and those who ingest them will be with us for many years to come.
Alan Whittaker, Kew East


US politics
Rudy Giuliani, the dye is cast.
David Price, Camberwell


The coronavirus
It’s 23 days with zero COVID-19 reports in Victoria and the silence from Canberra is deafening. Thank you, Daniel Andrews and Victoria.
Pat Agostino, St Kilda West

South Australia’s COVID-19 lockdown was not so much a circuit-breaker, more a blown fuse.
Jenifer Nicholls, Armadale

If the pizza guy in South Australia was a federal government minister, then he wouldn’t have to answer to anyone.
Andy Wain, Rosebud

Relief none too soon. I’ve been seeing Mr Rumbold in the mirror.
Andrew Jones, Torquay

Remove mask, resume lipstick. Voila.
Tris Raouf, Hadfield

Petty interstate rivalries are also a virus.
Malcolm McDonald, Burwood

Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien said on Saturday the mask rules should be ‘‘relaxed, not axed’’. Surely, this is a misquote as it doesn’t sound at all like him.
Donald Smith, Inverloch

The logic of taxes on electric cars is misguided and just adds to Australia’s miserable record. Try harder, Tim Pallas. Come up with a way to encourage electric cars, and pay for roads.
Tim Durbridge, Brunswick

Surely, Channel 7 must remove its SAS Australia program now?
Malcolm Fraser, Oakleigh South

Congratulations to Tony Wright for his Walkley Award. His gentle, warm, intuitive articles never
fail to lift my spirits. His is news with feeling.
Rosalie Richards, Geelong West

Mark Willacy wins a Walkley Award for exposing war crimes; Julian Assange faces life imprisonment. A bit like two-up?
Rob Park, Surrey Hills

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