Letters to the Editor

September 2020, no. 424

Letters to the Editor

September 2020, no. 424

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Hooray for Hollywood

Dear Editor,

Jean Baudrillard locates excess, which James Ley stresses is a product of neo-conservative political and economic ‘theory’, in excrement. Baudrillard does this metaphorically, but also literally. We cannot escape from it. What matters is how we deal with it and how we conduct the rest of our lives. The government’s response to the ‘problem’ of artistic performance in the Covid era is to grab a stash of money and offer it to a foreign entity (Hollywood studios basically) – to shoot offshore here – in the same way as it has, though to a lesser extent than its Labor rivals, been happy to sit by and let foreign money (mainly Chinese) prop up cash-starved universities. The mess, the government pretends, can be cleaned up in film, as the medium itself does always with its editing. Not so in unmanageable, excessive, live, gut-churning, look-me-in-the-eyes theatre, which the government dare not approach with any conviction.

My hope is that as La Mama, in Melbourne, now embarks on its ‘job-ready’ theatre rebuild, it will leave undisturbed the outside toilet in the courtyard as a reminder that, in the spirit of lockdown, ‘we are all in the shit together’, always.

James Oliver Daly (online comment)


Dear Editor

James Ley’s polemic is eloquent and somewhat depressing, but the very fact that he is able to articulate what is happening so that others can notice too gives me hope for change.

Rosalind Burns (online comment)


The White Australia policy

Dear Editor,

Chris Wallace’s review of British India, White Australia: Overseas Indians, intercolonial relations and the Empire speaks of ‘the official racism perpetuated by Australian governments of both persuasions until the Whitlam government ended “White Australia”’ in 1973’. In fact, the White Australia policy disappeared without much fuss under the Coalition government in the late 1960s. Corroboration will be found in A Certain Grandeur: Gough Whitlam in politics, written by Graham Freudenberg, who became Whitlam’s press secretary in 1967 and was special adviser to the prime minister from 1972 to 1975. In a work which, as its title suggests, verges on hagiography, the terms ‘White Australia’, let alone ‘abolition thereof’, do not appear on the index.

Peter Heerey AM QC, Melbourne, Vic.


Legacies of British slavery

Dear Editor,

Congratulations to Georgina Arnott on a brilliant article that provides a further ‘disturbance’ to the self-satisfied narrative of Australian colonial history (‘Links in the Chain: Legacies of British slavery’). I am looking forward to the outcome of the larger research project.

In the geographically proximate colony of the Dutch East Indies, the anti-slavery movement, which impacted on extensive Dutch involvement in slavery, particularly in relation to its South American colonies, was also creating a diversity of outcomes in colonial Java. This included a recourse to ‘unfree labour’ and justifying the expansion of the ‘civilising influence’ of Western colonisation.

Joost Coté (online comment)


Dear Editor,

Georgina Arnott’s excellent article brings into focus a topic ignored for far too long. It is fascinating to trace the origin of some of the capital that built Australia. While I was aware of the story of black birding, I was quite ignorant of the effect of slave money in the history of our country. I could not believe the amount of money paid to slave owners, and the fact that the British taxpayers only paid off the loan in 2015. I look forward to reading Dr Arnott’s future research on this topic.

David Thummler (online comment)

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