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Letters to the Editor

From time to time, a commentary on the world will bubble up inside of me to the extent that I'm forced to write a letter to my local, metropolitan, daily newspaper, The Age. This is where I blow of some steam. Feel like venting too? Add your own comment or visit my homepage.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

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Ethnic Complexity

Thanks for the lesson in European ethnic insecurity, Sasa Tajcevski (Letters, 25/1), but please: but it behind you.

Endless hand-wringing about who is Hungarian, or a Tartar or "former Yugoslavian" something-or-other is impenetrable, boring and ultimately futile.

After traipsing around those parts of Europe, I've realised that pretty much every village has belonged to a range of ethnic groups - disturbingly with some form of still-simmering claim - after a thousand years of war and politics.

Europeans expect their local history to be universally understood the way Americans expect everyone to understand their geography. In a global world, that looks very petty.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

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Education is not an Investment

This week, a number of Age commentators have pushed the line that higher education is an investment. This implies that we get "immeasurable returns in the future" (Louise Merrington, 19/1) of something we value.

Well, that's just not the case in Australia, where scholars are maligned, universities are propped up by overseas students and the term "academic" is synonymous with "irrelevant".

So what if something like 5% of our workforce - often our best and brightest - is overseas? Or university enrollments are going backwards? We can import (mediocre) accountants, doctors and engineers by the spadeful at very little cost. This frees up money for things we do value
- gold medals at sporting events and the big TVs on which to watch them.

The call for further spending on education by the likes of Shane Green and Sid Spindler (Letters, 19/1) will be dismissed by the Australian public as another plea by those eggheads to feather their nests, while real Aussies like Thorpie and Hewitt get on with what matters.

If the number of fellow PhD candidates in my CAE German language class is anything to go by, we won't have to put up with public pleading for too much longer.

Friday, January 14, 2005

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US vs Rest of the World

Wandering around the 'G on Monday night, just soaking up the atmosphere, I was struck by the irrelevance of sovereignty - nationalism just didn't matter and we felt part of something bigger.

It's natural that as globalisation advances, this waning of the primacy of sovereignty is mirrored on the world stage. I would welcome this if it were part of a consensual, multilateral process such as the successful European Union. But, sadly, with the UN badly overdue for reform, the process has instead been hijacked by US interests. Not only has the US been the stand-out abstainer from the International Criminal Court and the Kyoto Protocol, it has confirmed that it can unilaterally invade nations and arrest, detain and torture foreign nationals in a third country.

If the continuing erosion of sovereignty is only a one-way process for the US, then this century will be see a US vs Rest of the World match that might not be as friendly.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

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Bullbars Are Selfish

I welcome the call for a bullbar ban in urban areas (12/1), as they undermine public safety. Would we tolerate some fool welding a set of steak knives to the front of his car? Of course not! Yet we indulge these Toorak jackaroos in their middle-aged bush fantasies.

Some owners resent the expense of installing and removing their bullbars when they take their vehicles out bush. Tough. If you can afford a $50,000 car, then you can afford the couple of hundred dollars once a year. The 10% tax break on four wheel drives more than pays for the fitting.