Time to enhance, not diminish our honours

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MARGARET COURT

Time to enhance, not diminish our honours

Like many, I was saddened by Margaret Court’s AC. Court has already received an Order of Australia award recognising her service. As with at least two of last year’s awards she is a controversial figure with loudly advocated extremist opinions, hurtful and socially damaging to many, and certain to provoke Australians who value diversity, tolerance and non-extreme views. Is the Council for the Order of Australia insensitive, or deliberately provocative?

Consider the council: Nineteen distinguished citizens, well gender-balanced, all with an indisputable record of service. Three are ex officio (defence forces, public service and government). Eight public servants represent the states. Seven are “community representative”⁣, including board directors, a philanthropist, a couple from law and business, and a medical scientist.

They are without exception white, Anglo-European, with almost no discernible ethnic diversity. That raises questions about their shared capacity to make informed judgments about multicultural communities with which they are entirely unfamiliar.

As a recipient, I value the honour immensely. Please take care to enhance it, not demean and devalue it.
John O’Toole, AM, Brisbane

Recognising an important health issue
Like Rodney Syme (Letters 25/1) I do not wish to be associated with an organisation that condones the views of Margaret Court by awarding her the greatest honour that can be given to an Australian. I have therefore written to the Governor-General returning my 2014 award as a member of the Order of Australia (AM) for “⁣services to women’s reproductive healthcare, in particular that of Aboriginal and immigrant women”⁣.

This was an award I was honoured and humbled to receive, as I felt that my work in medical practice and in advocacy for women’s health services and healthcare rights was always very much part of a team effort. I also greatly appreciated the work put into the application for my award by the colleagues who nominated me.

However as a medical practitioner, and as the mother of a gay son, of whom I am immensely proud, I am particularly concerned for the mental and physical health of the LBGTQIA+ people who are Court’s repeated targets. This is an important health issue and one I feel I must make a stand on. Caroline de Costa, Carlton

Australia has moved on from bigoted 1960s
Scott Morrison, not Margaret Court, should be in the dock over the Australia Day award. In the era of Court’s sporting triumphs homophobia, transphobia and religious prerogative were on the national homepage, but those days are over. The storm over Australia’s highest honour being awarded to a bigoted sporting great would not have happened in the 1960s, but in 2021 we care about the effect of taking a swing at minorities.

The suggestion that emergency food relief for which Court’s church is responsible absolves her from the injury of her relentless promotion of faith-based discrimination to the mental health of LBGTQIA+ Australians is an absurd attempt in political accounting.

Claims of independence of national awards from political bias will not be swallowed.

Morrison has already promised conservative religious leaders legislative weapons to wage war on contemporary values in the form of religious freedom legislation that is still on the drawing board.
Court’s reliance on the authority of the Bible to denigrate those in the firing line of pre-enlightenment organisations is precisely why a modern Australian government should be defending its citizens instead of mandating such attacks through awarding medals minted at the expense of those likely to be facing prejudice.

Churches have limited credentials in the area of human rights, indeed biblical texts are often the anchors dragged behind the advancement of social justice, but this retro acknowledgement seems an attempt to throw the engine into reverse and the turbulence is in danger of sinking the government’s credibility.
Fr Peter MacLeod-Miller, Albury, NSW

THE FORUM

End the debate now
How many more years do we have to have this debate? The bottom line is that January 26 was the date that white history began in Australia. It ignores the rich history of the oldest culture in the world and also represents the start of the campaign to suppress an ancient Indigenous culture and worse, including massacres and murders of First Nations people.

I believe many Australians don’t have a deep knowledge of the impact of white settlement on Indigenous people and perhaps if we include more in education, it will make people realise why January 26 is offensive to many.

Come on Australia! Change the date and give us all the opportunity to celebrate the brilliance of our country without the shadow of controversy every year.
Clare Canty, Shepparton

Time for change
Although not a great fan of Kevin Rudd, I agree moving Australia Day to June 3 is an idea whose time has come. This was the day when in 1992, the highest court in the land acknowledged that the common law of Australia could no longer refuse to recognise the native title of our first peoples (“⁣A date for our shared destiny”⁣, 25/1). Terra nullius was a fiction.

Eddie Mabo and his team of Meriam people had fought for years to bring this about. In line with the Mabo decision, the Native Title Act of 1993 provided for the first time the framework to ensure that justice is done. June 3 is worthy of celebration as the day Australia came of age.

Rudd also suggests that June 3 celebrate the Uluru Statement from the Heart which calls on settler Australians to give the First Australians a political voice long denied them. June 3 could also be the day when we celebrate Australia as a republic when we finally break from our colonial past. It is surely time.
Rita Camilleri, Strathmore

Not good enough
The “gold standard”⁣ tag attributed to NSW has been a point of much derision. Travelling through NSW showed the effectiveness of the Service NSW app. At restaurants, clubs, churches, fast food outlets, QR codes are prominently displayed and registration easily completed by the app. Doorways were awash with hand sanitiser.

So disappointing and disturbing to return home to Victoria to find the lack of QR and a range of registration processes. Most alarming was at a popular highway stop to find no QR nor hand sanitisers available. When asked for sanitiser the staff admitted they had run out. A plea to Victorian authorities to develop our “platinum standard”⁣ app for quick uniform QR process.
George Reed, Wheelers Hill

Agreeable for Google
Can someone please explain why Google is threatening to pull its search engine out of Australia when I have just Googled “⁣does Google pay for news content in France”⁣ and the result came back via CNN Business that they expect to pay more than $1 billion to the French media over the next three years under a new program licensing news.

The article goes on to confirm that Google has signed with nearly 450 publications across a dozen countries. So can Mel Silva (managing director of Google Australia) please explain to the public and her users how the Australian model differs from France, the EU proposal, which plans to follow the French model by June 7, and the 450 agreements already in place?
Nathan Feld, Glen Iris

Awards not a competition
Australia of the Year is not a competition. There is no prize and by definition, no one can win or lose an award. It is an honour given to a recipient who almost without exception accepts it on behalf of many others to recognise their collaborative contribution.

We must return this award to its correct place in our community and discontinue its promotion and celebration like that of a reality TV show.
April von Moger, Glen Iris

Republic plebiscite
The momentum towards a republic in Australia has slowed. The national shock at the dismissal of the Whitlam government in 1975 has faded, the Queen is respected for her longevity and dignity, and the new generation of royals is more relatable to modern youth. The recent attempt by a US president to reject a clear election result has not enhanced the image of that flawed system.

Not many would like the idea of a future King Charles having any say in how we conduct ourselves as a nation. We need a plebiscite to determine if the nation wants to move to a republic or not and if so, what form the majority would prefer. This latter choice would become the basis for a constitutional amendment.

Last time we were presented with one rickety model on a take it or leave it basis. Most of us felt short changed and decided to leave it.
Peter Barry, Marysville

Carbon capture expense
I wonder how many people were shocked by Nick O’Malley’s report (“⁣Is carbon capture more than smoke and mirrors?”⁣, 25/1). How many of us realised that zero emissions by 2050 would not bring some stability to our climate unless carbon capture and storage (CCS) are successful on a large scale. Over 25 years we have seen so many promises that CCS was achievable, but after all the investment it is still a long way out of reach. One suspects that Chevron’s investment in CCS was designed to stall any government demand that the Gorgon project would meet its emissions containment promises (on which government approval was based).

The continual postponement of the promise has cost the environment dearly. Some would say the promise was always wishful thinking. And who benefits from this failure? Certainly not the Australian taxpayer because Gorgon exports all the gas, and the 10 million tonnes of CO2 goes into the atmosphere. The tax holiday on the project has gained us nothing.
David Lamb, Kew East

Social responsibility
The proposal to force giant digital platforms to pay giant media companies for content may well end up benefiting commercial media, but it will do nothing to help the spread of accurate informative media content. The underlying business plan of both sides rewards republishing content that is free, controversial and profit making.

Google and digital platforms will simply turn to republishing other free news from sources that want the publicity, or raid smaller investigative organisations that don’t have the protections that media giants have organised themselves.

On the other side, media paywalls limit the reach of accurate journalism beyond the wall, creating their own filter bubbles. Either way both users and democracy lose. Better to fix the rules for business plans of both sides in favour of social responsibility.
Julia Thornton, Surrey Hills

Truth-telling discouraged
As another Australia Day has passed, it becomes more and more evident that historical denialism continues to damage the authenticity of the public holiday. Bruce Pascoe (“⁣European superiority mindset continues”⁣, 26/1), details the continuing and insidious British imperial dynamic dating from 1788 on this continent: a perception of Indigenous people as an undifferentiated mass lacking agency and existing in “⁣nothing but bush”⁣.

Crucially, Australia is the only former British colony which has not concluded a treaty and/or held a truth and reconciliation process respectful of its Indigenous citizens. “⁣Truth telling”⁣, entailing the acknowledgement of a devastating historic invasion by the British with cross-generational consequences, is actively discouraged; as attested this week by the federal Communications Minister’s intervention in the ABC’s reporting of Australia Day. When will this charade cease?
Jon McMillan, Mount Eliza

Heritage and wisdom
Aboriginal heritage shares centre stage with European involvement in the story of Australia. (To Aboriginal people it is even more important than that.) Most of those 60,000-plus years involved people increasing their knowledge of and gaining wisdom around being in this place. Two hundred and fifty years ago the story became ugly for those already here. In the last 50 years there has been a gradual movement towards greater understanding of our past and an appreciation of the existing culture. There is still a long way to go. The most exciting part though, is the potential for Aboriginal ideas like – we must look after each other, or just take what you need, or caring for country, to put our heads in a much better place for contemplating the future.

In the context of this narrative, to choose a day that is supposed to bring us all together to celebrate the Australian story, but which represents the darkest part of this story for Aboriginal people, makes no sense at all.
Howard Tankey, Box Hill North

Health security
National security should be measured by how prepared we are for pandemics rather than how prepared we are for military conflict. Military lobbyists continually underline the constant threats that face the nation. We need epidemiologists and virologists in governments to lobby for money to be spent on research to counter viruses instead of military lobbyists pushing for more personnel and equipment.

The world is one dreadful COVID-19 variant away from an even bigger catastrophe. Dead people don’t buy jet fighters and submarines. It’s time for international unity to fight this disease.
David Bignell, Seddon

Vaccine hierarchy
I’d like to know which vaccine the politicians get? Will they get the Pfizer vaccine with 95 per cent coverage which we have a limited number of or the lesser AstraZeneca with about 60 per cent coverage? I don’t need to be psychic to answer that.
Raelee Hunter, Ocean Grove

AND ANOTHER THING …

Credit:

Honours
Giving Australia Day awards to those doing the job they are paid for, no matter how well, devalues awards to worthy recipients.
Ian Wilson, Brighton East

Well done, Kerry O’Brien, for not accepting your award. There is no way Margaret Court, despite once being a great tennis player, is a role model.
Susan Munday, Bentleigh East

People like Kerry O’Brien and Dr Clara Tuck Meng Soo are already great role models. I admire them regardless of a couple of letters after their names.
Michael Carver, Hawthorn East

Emissions
European Union leaders have committed to cutting their emissions by 55 per cent from their 1990 levels (26/1). Scott Morrison must be relieved he is not a member of the EU. He has just said he backs coal for decades to come!
Peter Johns, Sorrento

Australia Day
Amanda Vanstone (25/1) sums up her Australia Day article with the statement “⁣Big deal. It wasn’t much of an invasion.”⁣ What stunning and insulting logic and use of language.
Peter Roche, Carlton

The PM cheerfully declared that Australia Day is a day to simply enjoy being an Australian. Surely then it can be held on any other day?
Uschi Felix, South Melbourne

Furthermore
Scott Morrison’s elbow bump breaks social distancing rules. Hopefully, he hasn’t already sneezed into his sleeve.
Margaret Ward, Sorrento

Our Prime Minister, so out of step he is still heading backwards.
Jeremy Sallmann, Crib Point

So it’s not OK for Daniel Andrews to be intolerant of Margaret Court’s views but it is OK for Margaret Court to be intolerant of LBGTQIA+ people?
James Proctor, Maiden Gully

Finally
We have received the highest honour possible by being granted the titles of Pa and Nonna. No award necessary.
Teresa Mcintosh, Keysborough


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