Letter to The Age

Getting with the times

The Catholic Church really needs to get with the times – not to be trendy and ‘relevant’ to younger people, but to play a meaningful part in a better future for both humans and for the environment that sustains us. While it seems like a positive move to ask the opinion of Catholics around the world on various issues, some of the underlying assumptions to the questions are simply irresponsible.

The worst offender is the question, ‘How can an increase in births be promoted?’ (‘Catholics to tackle the hard questions’, 4/11). With the global population expected to reach nearly 10 billion by 2050 and the current population of more than 7 billion already wreaking havoc on the environment, the church’s attitude to contraception and birth rates is irresponsible.

Published in The Age on 5 November 2013, available online here. The full questionnaire [PDF 376KB] is available on the website of the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne.

Letter to The Age

Arrogance on both sides

Kevin Rudd’s promise, like Tony Abbott’s, that there will be no deals in the case of a hung Parliament makes a mockery of our democracy. Our democracy, largely thanks to the upper house, allows for the presence of alternative views in a political situation where the two major parties differ on very little; it is not for Mr Abbott or Mr Rudd to so arrogantly dismiss views that do not correlate precisely with their own.

Mr Rudd’s motivation appears to be to exorcise the ghost of Julia Gillard. He should grow up, and offer her the respect she deserves. She’s the one that got legislation in place to address the ‘greatest moral challenge of our age’, while he skulked in the background biding his time.

Published in The Age on 16 August 2013. It’s the second letter on this page. And the Leunig cartoon here is very good!

Feminist success in The Age… or not.

I just about choked on my dinner last night when I finally got around to reading The Sunday Age and saw a picture of a couple waiting outside Mamasita in Collins Street – the woman on the left, the man on the right. And underneath, the following caption:

Nic Stewart and his wife, Alanna, join the queue waiting for a table at Mamasita restaurant, which has a no-bookings policy.

Is it just me that sees something wrong with that caption? Neither Alanna nor Nic are quoted in the article, so neither deserves preference in naming in the photo. Alanna is on the left, so therefore I would expect convention to dictate that she would be mentioned first. But no, Nic is mentioned first, followed by Alanna, who is not even described by her full name but rather described in relation to him. I don’t know whether or not she would be bothered by this, but if it was me, I would be incredibly offended. I’m offended anyway, not necessarily on her behalf but because I fail to see why the man in this photo deserves naming preference over the woman.

I know that both ‘Miss’ and ‘Mrs’ are still in use with no such distinction required for men, but the widespread use of ‘Ms’ gave me the impression that Australian society had largely moved beyond identifying women in relation to the men around them. I try not to pay too much attention to numerous newspaper articles that mention a couple and quote only the male partner, hoping that there is some reason behind the journalist’s choice. But in this case, the complete lack of justification for naming the couple in the order shown proves that we are not as progressive as I had hoped.

Perhaps the caption is a mistake and nothing was meant by it, or perhaps this happens all the time and I haven’t noticed. Either way, it’s innappropriate, and the meaning is there whether the subeditor intended it or not. If language really is power, then we women have an awfully long way to go.

Letter to The Age

Vale Labor values

I worry about the values of Julia Gillard’s Labor government in the light of the ‘Malaysia solution’. Instead of striking nonsensical deals with countries that are not signatories to the 1951 Convention on the Rights of Refugees, the government should be working to make the arrival of asylum seekers by boat into a non-issue. I am sick of hearing about ‘boat people’ and ‘queue jumpers’, terms that are meaningless and misleading.

I am also disgusted that 10 years on from Tampa and under a new government, the same scare tactics are used to make asylum seekers into a political football. What happened to Labor’s values? What happened to Prime Minister Gillard’s concept of a fair go? Clearly, it is not extended to those who have arrived in Australia under the harshest of conditions, and who deserve our compassion and care.

Published in The Age on 11 May 2011. It’s the second letter on this page.