Keating’s ego got the better of him but the debate on AUKUS is vital

Malcolm Knox gave a fair précis of our current exes, but he was too harsh on Paul Keating and inaccurate in a key point (“Talking under water … it’s an ex-PM thing”, March 19).

It’s too simplistic to say Keating has “gone from dignified in the direction of daffy”. Many agree he was excessive in his evisceration of the media, in some cases downright rude, but Keating raises the crucial point that rushing into AUKUS and aligning ourselves so closely (and expensively) with the US needs a big discussion. Keating’s analysis raises questions that need answering. Lee-Anne Walker, Gymea Bay

Illustration: Matt Golding

Illustration: Matt Golding

Keating’s opinions during his National Press Club interview raised informative and important issues, which will probably haunt the government for years (“Keating repaid honour with scorn”, March 19). However, it was sad to see this brilliant man descend into hyper invective in his increasingly aggressive responses to many competent journalists who posed legitimate questions. Keating appeared to have morphed into an embittered, furious man intent on humiliating all and sundry. Disagreement should not necessarily be expressed in such a manner that questions are not answered or that questioners are forced to shamble offstage like berated children. Mary Dale, Naremburn

Keating’s ego has got the better of him. A policy of ineffectual weakness and wishful thinking may appeal to many who imagine this is neutrality, but history shows bad things happen to the weak and ineffectual. True neutrality requires significant military independence like Sweden, but as with Sweden now seeking NATO membership in the face of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Australia cannot achieve real neutrality in the face of the massive and unexplained Chinese military build up. Peter Williams, Sylvania

Keating was his usual scathing self when he rated Australia’s chances in a confrontation in a military conflict with China as like “throwing a handful of toothpicks at the mountain”. Your correspondent says it equates with “my grandmother challenging Rafael Nadal to a tennis match”, rates a worthy mention (Letters, March 19). We might as well have a laugh while we hide behind the couch. Megan Jones, Pyrmont

A friend recently suggested that as we age we become a parody of our former self. Perhaps this is true of Keating, but it has taken Keating’s spray to help me better understand an issue that the government should have made clear to all Australians before decisions were made. Do we want to respond to China’s historic rise in power by sharing with the US the high-risk political and financial responsibility for the defence of Taiwan and American dominance in the Pacific? Framed in this way, I doubt that this was at the forefront of most minds when we voted in last year’s federal election. Fiona Hibberd, North Ryde

Anthony Albanese stressed that Keating is of another age and I, for one, want that age back. One thing the US has got right is having no limit on the age of the leader. Keating was a mere 52 when he lost the 1996 election and now at 79 is younger than Joe Biden or Bernie Fraser; it is not too late. Bring him back to change the party back to Labor principles and narrow the gap between rich and poor. Steve Johnson, Eastgardens

Ups and downs of sinking cash into subs

The Western world is currently paying the price for ignoring the many signs that, from the beginning of his reign, Vladimir Putin was far from being a benign leader who merely wanted the Russian economy to expand and for his country to be a good friend to all (“Majority of voters support subs deal”, March 19). President Xi Jinping has been sending even stronger signals of his ambitions for his country to become the world leader economically and militarily. We must prepare to protect the interests and security of our country in whatever way we can, even if AUKUS is one of them. Tony Re, Georges Hall

Australia is an island. Islands need a navy for defence. Submarines are part of an effective fleet. Yet spending enormous sums on a deterrent that won’t be effective for 10-15 years is no deterrent – but perhaps for an enemy whose long-term strategy is to attack Australia, it is a signal to strike before the deterrent is in place.

To what obligation is Australia now committed? Australia has surely had enough of fighting other people’s wars. The Chinese could probably exert enough economic pressure to make life hard for Australia without firing a shot anyway. David Dilley, Harris Park

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Illustration: Megan Herbert

The AUKUS pact violates principles of the way things should be done. Our government should not be able to declare war without parliamentary vote and it should not be able to commit to such outrageous waste of taxpayer funds without a mandate from the voters. Rod Lander, Stanwell Park

It seems reasonable to have a cooling-off period for analysis. Evidence suggests that the submarines will become hugely expensive white elephants that will enhance the profits of military equipment manufacturers. Many have suggested far more effective and less expensive options for defence and deterrence. It is quite baffling. As the de facto 51st state of America, we could become indebted, impoverished and imperilled. Elaine Keane, Salamander Bay

I was astounded by your readers (Letters, March 18). They don’t comprehend Australia must have nuclear-powered subs in the 21st century. What’s the alternative? For anyone to think that China only wants to reclaim Taiwan is ridiculous. Australia is the jewel in the crown in the Asia Pacific region. Kathy Willis, Kew

I am a peacenik to my marrow, yet I sit on the fence regarding this issue. First, I don’t know what the government knows about potential threats. Neither does anyone else who hasn’t been in the room. Second, there are some very great minds who have argued the case for deterrence: let those potential threats know we are serious about our sovereignty. But I wonder – great good could be done with that much money. Gerianne Rudd, Toowong (QLD)

Minns must get serious on climate

Labor’s slogan for the upcoming state election is “a fresh start for NSW” (“The challenger”, March 18). Will this include a rethink on climate policy, at state level? Last year, federal Labor was voted in with a mandate to take stronger action on climate. Yet Climate and Energy Minister Chris Bowen is adamant that he won’t rule out approving new fossil fuel projects. Only recently, Tanya Plibersek approved the drilling of 116 new gas wells in Queensland’s Surat basin. It’s not possible for Labor to reach its 43 per cent emissions target while adding to pollution levels by approving new fossil fuel projects. It’s a bit like a person with lung disease who wants to keep smoking, contrary to their doctor’s advice. Let’s hope that if Labor gets in, Chris Minns listens to the climate concerns of NSW voters. Anne O’Hara, Wanniassa (ACT)

The NSW election promises to be a close contest, with possibly a hung parliament. Nonetheless, to assist the processes of government, the result should be determined as soon as possible after election day. In this context, an increasingly significant part of the election is pre-poll voting. Hence, why can’t pre-poll votes be counted (but the results not released) prior to the actual election day? Only the small amount of postal votes would remain to be counted. Trevor Taylor, Port Macquarie

Taking liberties

How deceitful for the NSW Liberals to mimic official election signs in a targeted attempt at voter suppression (“Teals file complaint over ‘misleading’ Liberal signs as parties take campaign west”, March 18). Preferential voting is a vital part of Australian democracy, and so it is reprehensible that the Liberals would discourage its use in such a deceptive way. Peter Moore, Newport

Lattice pray

As a civil and structural engineer in structural durability, I am concerned that, by exposing the lattice truss elements to the weather, maintenance implications have not been thought through (“The exoskeleton factor: an inexorable architectural ascent”, March 18).

Access to the inside of the lattice will be difficult. Does the design incorporate panels in each lattice member that can be readily removed for periodic cleaning and eventual blast cleaning and repainting? Cleaning of the lattice members should be done each year or so, to maximise coating life. Blast cleaning and repainting will be required every 25 to 35 years, assuming the best coating technology is used.

It would be a shame to demolish the building after 40 years because the structure cannot be maintained. The old Pyrmont Powerhouse building is still going strong after about 140 years. Gordon Chirgwin, Harrington

I’m surprised the word “redolent”, much beloved by architects to justify their sometimes-wacky designs, hasn’t been used when speaking about the influence of the Harbour Bridge lattice structures on the Parramatta museum’s structure. Magnificent as the bridge is, designers of contemporary big bridges have preferred far more streamlined structural forms to obtain strength, economy and efficiency of materials. But I’m pleased to hear that, unlike the bridge, such complex and intricate forms will not require maintenance – albeit I don’t believe it. It looks like a marvellous place for pigeons to roost. Disappointed to know that the steel work has been fabricated outside Australia, although, so was the bridge’s steel. What happened to the 90 years of Australia’s ability to make high-quality structural steels and fabricate them? Peter Thornton, Killara

The new powerhouse may be a boon for the local birdlife, with all those nooks and crannies in the exoskeleton providing great roosting spaces for pigeons, ibis and the like. The thousands of flying foxes that live along the river behind the stadium may also decide to extend their colony downstream to take advantage of the new accommodation. Doug Walker, Baulkham Hills

The Parramatta Powerhouse

The Parramatta Powerhouse

More for less

Productivity Commission chairman Michael Brennan says productivity in education, health and finance is traditionally difficult to lift, yet the only criteria offered is the speed at which a student may complete their education (“School hours, migration system and climate among recommendations to make us work better”, March 18). Teachers, health workers and bank staff all know that they are working longer hours for less pay, all in the name of productivity. The commission seems to ignore the quality of care, the number of lives transformed and the communities supported in its assessment. Given that schools are already doing the things suggested by the report, perhaps it is the commission that needs to lift its game. Philip Cooney, Wentworth Falls

User error

David Astle, I believe IT help desk techs may already have a word for the type of issue you describe (“The problem of the vanishing problem”, , March 18). It’s PICNIC – Problem In Chair Not In Computer. Christina Mahoney, West Pymble

Too hot to trot

Calling artificial turf “an all-weather playing surface” is a furphy (“Council ploughs ahead with synthetic field”, March 18). When the weather is hot it can’t be played on. And don’t get me started on the damage it does to the players and the environment. Lyn Langtry, East Ryde

Arresting development

Gotta love America. Arresting Donald Trump for paying hush money is like arresting Al Capone for tax evasion (“Trump calls for protests at what he claims is his imminent arrest”,, March 19). Steve Forsyth, Wagga Wagga

Camellia season

In Sydney, you know autumn has arrived when you see your first Sasanqua camellia open in your garden (Letters, March 18). Nedra Orme, Neutral Bay

Daylight saving lasts too long. I think it should end on the Sunday before the equinox, that is March 19 this year. Glen Cozens, Terranora

Classic rock

Looks like the Oils are making a comeback with the lead singer reprising the words of their 1982 hit, (“Garrett slams ‘costly and risky’ subs deal”, March 18).

All (new) clear?

Now for today’s elocution lesson. Everybody say after me: “New-clear”. Not “nucula” which sounds a little bit like “nebula” and is actually the name of a very small saltwater clam. Again, “New-clear”. Thank you. Patricia Farrar, Concord

Against the tide

Forget the debate on the future storage of nuclear material from Australian submarines. I am more concerned with my next swim. The USA has at least two sunken nuclear-powered submarines still sitting on the bottom of the ocean and Japan is currently releasing water from its tsunami damaged nuclear power plant into the Pacific. I fear we won’t have to wait that long to see the results. Jill Napier, Phegans Bay

Two wrongs

Not sure I want China to invade to prove Paul Keating wrong (Letters, March 18). Duncan Ramsay, Greenwich

Paul Keating was wrong. Dropping Travis Head from the first cricket test in India was “the worst deal in all history”. Jeff Apter Keiraville

The digital view

Online comment from one of the stories that attracted the most reader feedback yesterday on
I’m not a bad person, I’m just not a dog person
From MadMac: “I like dogs although don’t want one, and am frustrated by the lack of awareness of dog owners as they drag their dogs into line ups for coffee; trip people over on the street with their dog leashes; wonder why people react negatively when their dog jumps all over you with no invitation. I get all the positive reasons people have dogs but please consider others and remember we all don’t love your dog as much as you do.”

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