In regards to the article (“Council staff used as dirt unit, Herald 8/9) it is a disappointingly negative take on use of the right to information laws. As an experienced investigative journalist, Donna Page will know that the GIPA Act, like the Freedom of Information Act it replaced, is abused far more by governments and councils seeking to avoid scrutiny than it is by applicants.
Requests to access information to find out what politicians and bureaucrats are doing in our name are a legitimate, indeed a primary function of the law. The laws provide more than adequate protections for individuals' privacy and other interests - protections which are themselves often claimed inappropriately to deny access requests for information that is in the public interest. Politicians, community groups and journalists alike should be making more, not less, use of these rights to hold governments of all levels to account.
Nigel Waters, Nelson Bay
BIGGER QUESTIONS MATTER
Is the scrapping of philosophy from the University of Newcastle’s courses (“Philosophy, history face axe”, Herald 6/9) the academic equivalent of truncating the rail line? The Humanities school’s head says it is down to new ways of thinking about a valued degree, but to me it sure sounds like the same old claptrap delivered by the business community: privatisation will lead to lower prices and less tax will lead to social gains. I believe this is less knowledge will lead to more critical thinking.
Of course, I am of the view that it is really about knocking off a few more teaching positions so there will be more dosh. Most likely they don’t want a bunch of middle managers gumming up the works by thinking about things right up until they are replaced by artificial intelligence computers. Do you really need a philosopher to tell you that without alternatives, freedom is meaningless?
Peter Ronne, Woodberry
A SHIFT IN THE MOOD
For as long as I can remember, contributors to this newspaper have made clear their distrust of politicians. The cynicism, scorn and disparaging comments about our parliamentarians have been flowing in on an almost daily basis.
However, when it comes to the voting public, those same critics have often referred to "our intelligent Australian voters". Now that we are in the grip of the same sex marriage debate, things have changed.
The yes campaigners are suggesting that those much-maligned politicians should have made the decision about same sex marriage without any reference to Australia's eligible voters.
Labor and the Greens sank the plebiscite which was promised prior to the election, so they should suck it up and get on with the alternative process.
David Stuart, Merewether
THE VOWS LEFT OUT BEFORE
Regarding the same sex marriage vote, I wish our government would fight this hard to honour all their election promises.
Five years ago i would have voted no. But I have listened to the thoughtful, not force-filled, arguments from my increasingly opinionated daughter (she takes after her mum) and will now vote yes. I know many good people on both sides of this debate and hope they will all be treated with respect.
I think it’s worth noting that my own mixed-race marriage was not so long ago viewed as wrong by many.
Dave McTaggart, Edgeworth
TRUE FAITH IN GEOGRAPHY
I never ceased to be amused by people who claim to be of one religion or another when in fact it has been known throughout the years that you are generally born into a particular religion.
If Tony Abbott had been born in Pakistan he would probably be a Muslim. If Cory Bernardi had been born in India he would probably be Hindu. If Peter Dolan had been born in China he would probably have been born into Confucianism.
So which of the major religions is the right one and which one has the right to object to the equal rights of all people. If you believe in a god I don’t care. However, I will continue to criticise the hypocrisy of you claiming that your gods are all kind and loving people when religion has been the major cause of wars since about the year 632.
Now it appears that your religions, already soaked in the blood of war have a new target: our gay people. I believe that Jesus or Mohammed, given their oft-quoted statements about caring for your fellow man, would be disgusted.
Mike Sargent, Raymond Terrace
COURTING BIG PROBLEMS
I believe the High Court should throw out the challenges over dual citizenship. Section 44 (i) of the constitution is quite clear. Dual citizenship is not to be tolerated. Your loyalties must be unquestionable.
In my opinion, Barnaby Joyce breached a constitutional requirement. Mr Joyce failed to declare his status, as did others. Be it intentional or unintentional, they have made false claims on a legal document and therefore I believe they have disqualified themselves from office.
It is reasonable to assume, given the fact that Mr Joyce’s father was born in New Zealand that he should have been more diligent. The penalty is clear: if caught, you must resign and there must be a byelection. The High Court must take this into account when deliberating.
When the debacle occurred over Johnny Depp and Amber Heard regarding their dogs, Mr Joyce said no-one is above the law. Neither are you, Mr Joyce.
Mr Turnbull stated after Greens Senators Scott Ludlam and Larissa Walters were caught out, that they showed extraordinary negligence and incredible sloppiness.
Given the fact an incumbent federal Liberal government could lose office over a ruling from the High Court, I am quite dubious over the upcoming decisions.
Mr Turnbull pre-empting the decision in his favour does little to reassure me.
Dennis Petrovic, Rutherford
MAKING NATURAL CHOICES
Marvelous isn’t it!
The world is falling to pieces; hurricanes; earthquakes, tsunamis; floods, searing heat; bush fires; terrorism and mayhem keep occurring all over the world.
And we worry about whether homosexuals should have legalised marriage.
The world has gone crazy.