voice for democracy

Tall tales and history: Let’s avoid triumph of the shrill – Sydney Morning Herald

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In my first university history lecture, we were told to forget everything we’d learnt about history, it’s probably wrong (“No Minister, democracy’s roots weren’t Christian or Western”, November 6-7). The second thing we were told is that history is written by the winners. The politics of social change have made it essential that we educate the broadest possible range of citizenry in their history and make it possible for all generations to understand and debate its consequences without diminishing any. Somehow I cannot see Alan Tudge’s preferred history curriculum achieving that. Arthur Cooper, Alstonville
The folksy, triumphalist pap that is served up as history is more like civics or historical fiction – that is what Minister Tudge is enthusiastically promoting. Some politicians think their inclination to spin current events should apply to the past as well. Historians and history teachers despair – they are being treated as another bunch of experts getting in the way of conservative ideology. Margaret Johnston, Paddington
A chat with any history teacher will tell you junior kids love to engage with the ancient Egyptians and the vikings, with plenty of bloodthirsty pagan rites. Not a Christian in sight. Senior kids know much about the first democracies from the Ancient Greeks, again with plenty of pagan Gods. They especially love to study the Spartans. And as one senior student remarked after three hours a week over 10 weeks of study of World War One: “So lots of unnecessary death and destruction because of old white guys who liked power.” A lesson perhaps, Minister. Wendy Atkins, Cooks Hill
There is an odd dissonance between the spirited discussion of contemporary events such as the Berejiklian premiership or the Morrison-Macron spat and the expectation by Tudge that historical events are presented to children as settled and beyond contention. Today’s events are tomorrow’s history. If hearing all sides and seeking to uncover the widest net of evidence is important in interpreting what is going on then why is it somehow wrong to apply these processes to past events? Don Squires, Lake Cathie
After reading Elizabeth Farrelly’s article I learnt that the First Fleeters chose to starve, rather than copy the Indigenous method of fishing, an attitude to the First Peoples we continue today (“Fear of fire is the reason we must fear more of it”, November 6-7). Contrary to the opinions of Tudge it was something I would have preferred to have learnt some 70 years ago in school, rather than read it in a newspaper in 2021. When the first Europeans arrived they found a bountiful, well-managed land which they then decided to contaminate with rabbits, foxes and deer to make it like England, but that failed. Will we ever recover that management knowledge, and that beautiful, and wonderfully unique, Terra Australis of yore? It does not bode well. Anthony Healy, Willoughby East
Frank Bongiorno asserts democracy is neither Western nor Christian. Modern democracy takes its roots from 5th century Athens where democracy became a viable alternative to monarchy or oligarchy. To say it is not Christian is obvious, five centuries before Christ was born. But to say it’s not Western may give Ancient Greek historians a bit of a start. Tim McKenzie, Leichhardt
Tram users have been railroaded
Without any sense of embarrassment or the slightest hint of apology, Transport Minister Rob Stokes announces the 18-month closure of the inner west light rail (“Defects shut innerwest light rail for 18months”, November 6-7). This very significant disruption was accorded the same seriousness as notification of routine track maintenance, the message to regular commuters being to “suck it up”.
Rather than a statement outlining the urgent measures to get the line running again, Stokes seemed intent on drawing attention to other locations overseas where similar trams are in operation. We are told the cracks that make the whole fleet inoperable have only just been discovered, which throws a dark cloud over the maintenance procedures in place over the past seven years.
It is difficult not to see this debacle as a further example of very poor transport infrastructure selection by the current government, made even worse by incompatibility between the tram sets on the eastern suburbs and inner west lines. Ross Butler, Rodd Point
In the long run, it would probably be advantageous to junk the faulty trams outright and acquire new ones compatible with the city system. Meanwhile, we should be utilising the available time to rectify infrastructure incompatibilities on the Dulwich Hill line. Then we would have the ability to run trams between Dulwich Hill and Circular Quay, as well as the sports grounds and UNSW, rather than be stuck with the existing isolation.
Premier Perrottet, here is your big chance to show leadership and initiative, which would go some way to righting some of the recent transport purchasing bungles. John Brownscombe, Galston
So we now have trams that can’t be replaced with trams from other parts of the network because the standards are different. The metro is in danger of the same massive failure as its rolling stock is incompatible with the vast suburban train network. Its tunnels can’t take double-deck trains as they are too small. The Bankstown line will be closed for possibly years while they rip up the platforms to fit the metro. The Parramatta ferries don’t fit under the bridges and can’t run at night. Is Australian made the answer? Ronald Smith, Waterloo
Fortunately, I am not a user of these trams that are now out of action for at least 18 months. Who is going to pay for repairs and additional cost of running another bus fleet for regular travellers? Being relatively new, are these covered by manufacturer warranty or is it the long-suffering NSW taxpayers coughing up? Another botched decision by NSW Treasury and transport departments. Who is responsible? Greg Preston, Cherrybrook
Selling sport to private equity is another tedious example of long-term damage for short-term gain (“Cricket body must play straight bat with private equity”, November 6-7). You can be sure that the major benefactors of this “sale” will be senior executives and elite players and definitely not the more marginal, including the vast grassroots. Any incoming “owner” will obviously expect a profit, which will probably come from that money currently spent on the lower echelons. Surely, the idea that sports such as cricket and rugby are somehow “owned” and can be “sold” by administrators flies in the face of the fact that they were developed and nurtured by generations of mostly unpaid players, coaches, managers and everyday supporters. Tony Mitchell, Hillsdale
While both the PM and Opposition Leader are traipsing around wooing male workers for the upcoming election, how good is it to see NSW Treasurer Matt Kean recognise the value of women in the 21st century with a plan to expand childcare, allowing greater female participation in the workforce (“Treasurer flags new boost for childcare”, November 6-7)?
Thank you, Treasurer, for showing the way forward with your energy and understanding of the modern world. We desperately need more modern leadership like this. Esther Scholem, Macquarie Park
Why do we continue to throw more taxpayer funds at childcare? Surely if the childcare industry wasn’t already highly profitable, then it wouldn’t attract the slurry of equity investors and corporate empire builders it does. What we should be asking is where all those billions of dollars in profits are going. Certainly not into lowering childcare fees or paying childcare workers. To suggest the government is ensuring “women do not get penalised” is a rort. Prue Foster, Coogee
While the world is considering the fate of our planet at COP26 in Glasgow, we are preoccupied with the shabby, ineffectual behaviour of our Prime Minister on the global stage (“Was it worth it?”, November 6-7). It’s a sad reflection on the state of our political priorities. The coal industry clearly needs to go and the communities it supports should have their futures assured by guaranteed, planned capital investment. If that means tax increases, so be it. It’s about political guts, not rocket science. Peter Thomas, Rose Bay
After years as a climate change denier, Scott Morrison is still the quintessential do-nothing man, full of plans, promises and fancy-sounding words but no action (“The dizzying spin in Morrison’s plan to reach net zero”, November 6-7). After years of ridiculing climate change and renewable energy, the Coalition still has no credible zero emissions target. When future generations find themselves with crippling temperatures, rising water levels and catastrophic droughts and floods, they will remember that Australia was governed by reckless opportunists who chose corporate self-interest at the expense of the future. Bruce Spence, Balmain
The requirement for HSC candidates to wear face masks during written examinations is over the top (“Masks to be compulsory during HSC exams”, November 6-7). This cohort has had enough to contend with during two years of interrupted schooling without the imposition of an extra discomfort while under enormous pressure in three-hour exams. I especially feel for those students who wear glasses, having to see through a fog of condensation while desperately trying to focus. This measure seems to be more about reassuring supervisors, who are largely there by choice, than about assisting students through one of the most traumatic experiences of their lives. Meredith Williams, Northmead
It is pleasing that Mathias Cormann has finally recognised the damage that continued subsidies for fossil fuels is doing (“Axe fuel subsidies, Cormann tells leaders”, November 6-7). It’s a pity he was part of the government that denied it was giving fossil fuel subsidies. Australia is increasing these subsidies enormously, with billions going to gas companies. Same with methane: while 104 countries will work hard to reduce emissions, Australia will not sign on. Not doing our fair share is bad enough, but neutralising the good of others and taking them backwards is really appalling. ​Peggy Fisher, Killara
Ed Husic’s plea to colleagues that Labor has to be “tougher, stronger and hungrier” to win the election, is spot-on, but he hasn’t addressed the elephant in the room: Anthony Albanese’s leadership (“Labor frontbencher urges his party to fight hard for election”, November 6-7).
Labor’s past two election losses resulted from the unpopularity of its leaders. Albanese, a decent man, lacks impact and the ability to connect with voters. He is unable to be “tougher, stronger and hungrier”. Unfortunately, a “soft” personality affects votes. Though Liberals are on the nose with voters, as Husic said, if Albanese doesn’t step down, he will deliver Labor’s fourth election loss on the trot. It doesn’t need to happen. Gerardine Grace, Leura
Now it’s a journalist’s fault for asking the wrong question of the French President (“Birmingham pins blame on journalists for French spat”, November 6-7). Honestly, this government knows no shame and will try any means of juvenile ducking and weaving to avoid responsibility for anything. I bet they all had a creative list to add to “the dog ate my homework” when they were growing up. And they still haven’t grown up. Judy Finch, Cedar Party
Nuns in a scrum — that’s exactly what the Opera House resembles, in the nicest possible way (“A city in slang, from Packer’s Pecker to Far Kurnell”, November 6-7). Less nice are the nicknames for some buildings developers are whacking up around Sydney. The beefy blockhouse looming over Circular Quay is “Les Patterson’s beer gut”. The monstrosities shooting up in the St Leonards south precinct are “The Dementors”. The Parramatta Powerhouse is “box of nappies in a string bag”. The mansions replacing historic Sydney homes are “concrete selfies”. I’ve also got a nickname or three for the supposed guardians of our heritage and culture. Alison Stewart, Riverview
Despite years of tertiary study, I still find reading Shakespeare akin to watching paint dry (“Bard to the bone: politics always at play”, November 6-7). To truly enjoy Shakespeare’s plays, they are meant to be watched. Having the plays as specialised reading studies at both secondary and tertiary level is like studying the great composers by looking at the sheet music only. Stephen Kirk, Blackbutt
Real estate agents and others similarly inclined — please refrain from describing places as “the next Byron Bay” (“Search for the next Byron Bay”, November 6-7). It’s a sign of little or no imagination. If and when Byron Bay reinvents itself, it can be the next Byron Bay. Col Shephard, Yamba
Online comment from one of the stories that attracted the most reader feedback yesterday on smh.com.au
Voters expect politicians to lie. So why the big deal when they get caught?
From GaryF: “When lying by politicians is normalised and accepted, then dishonesty in all facets of society runs the risk of being normalised.”
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