Do Women Want to Be in the ADF?

SIR: A good recent example of the pseudo-reforms under Professor Peter Murphy’s microscope (September 2012) was the claim by Elizabeth Broderick, Australia’s Sex Discrimination Commissioner, that the Defence Force was lagging in promoting more women to senior ranks. Broderick went on to suggest that the ADF should be recruiting greater numbers of women and that action to increase the numbers should be instituted. Instead of telling her not to be so silly, the chief of the Defence Force claimed that he was working hard to achieve equality.

Under pressure from the equal opportunity and sex discrimination push, the ADF has been trying to build the numbers of women in the force for at least forty years. The navy has managed better than the other services with, according to the 2010-11 Annual Defence Report, 18.5 per cent of its personnel being women. The army is dragging its feet with a mere 9.9 per cent women, presumably because the Defence Minister’s push for women into combat roles is not showing any impact yet. The overall percentage of women in the ADF is 13.8 per cent, a figure which has grown only from 11.5 per cent in 1991, and 12.8 per cent in 2001.

Common sense as distinct from ideology suggests that the fundamental reason for women not enlisting in the ADF is that they don’t want the job. Ms Broderick will push the ADF into instituting that basic bureaucratic solution, the program. The program will employ people, generate processes and masses of paper. Conditions of entry will be modified to make it easier for women to join and, coincidentally, for more men to join, but the proportion of females in the ADF will remain much the same as it has been for decades. But something will have been seen to be done. Ms Broderick and her equal opportunity cheer squads need to realise that the only way she will get her wish is through conscription.

Michael O’Connor
Gisborne, Vic


Sandwiches at Stonehenge

SIR: I found Geoffrey Luck’s article on Stonehenge (September 2012) interesting and valuable. I was particularly arrested by the paragraph which speaks of old photographs showing Stonehenge to be a favourite picnic spot and that Sir Edmund Antrobus “had fiercely defended public access to the monument”. The last sentence of the paragraph declares that the High Court upheld Sir Edmund’s right to make an entry charge, “ending forever free access”.

In the mid-1950s I was a serving soldier with the British Army and was posted for a summer’s duty at Rollestone, an easy cycle-ride from the monument. That summer I spent many lunch hours in the centre of Stonehenge eating my sandwiches. There was no fence and there was no entry charge. On those many lunchtime visits, I did not see another soul there, and because of the isolation of the experience I have the warmest memories of my time in that mysterious place during that rather special summer.

I have returned to Stonehenge in recent years and mourned to see how it has been prostituted by what I can only describe as the pimping activity of English Heritage. Sadly, it is not the Stonehenge I once knew so well. I agree with Geoffrey Luck that it is time to leave it alone. However, it can only be what it ought to be if English Heritage gets right out of it, the carparks and expository displays are dismantled and the “tourist destination” advertisements ceased. 

Tony Gates
Victor Harbor, SA

Very Very Low Sea Levels

SIR: Robyn Williams (Letters, July-August 2012) complains he was misrepresented by an article in the June Quadrant which attributed to him a statement that “climate change could cause 100 metres of sea level rise by 2100”.

He misleads us when he quotes Professor Jonathan Overpeck, who had apparently stated in an interview that “overall rises and falls were 100 to 120 metres in history”. The sea level differences quoted by Professor Overpeck are similar to earlier Scientific American figures, but they are all below the present sea level, not above.

Present sea levels are the same as 35,000 years ago. The drop of 100 to 120 metres occurred between 15,000 to 10,000 years ago during an ice age.

Kersh de Courtenay
Nedlands, WA

Eyewitness Reports from Palestine

SIR: I agree with Samuel Beaux (Letters, September 2012) who says in his letter in response to my article “Is the Universe a Closed System?” (July-August 2012) that the High Court would not conclude the Resurrection was true on the basis of the evidence in the Gospels. But this was not what Sir Edward Clarke said or can be reasonably interpreted to mean. He did say it was strong enough to convince him, that “a truthful witness is always artless and disdains effect” and that “over and over again in the High Court I have secured the verdict on evidence not nearly so compelling”. In the cases in which he secured a verdict the witnesses were available for cross-examination, something not possible when dealing with a case 2000 years old. Being a lawyer he would be aware of the other valid difficulties Mr Beaux raises. I do not even think that if it were possible to transport the current British High Court back in time to Palestine to interview all the witnesses of the Resurrection and for investigations using modern procedures to be carried out, that this would ensure a unanimous favourable verdict. As I pointed out in my article, there is enormous ideological resistance to believing in miracles; for some no level of evidence for a man coming alive from the dead would be sufficient. “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead” (Luke 16:31).

Although Mr Beaux may be able to rustle up the odd scholar who thinks otherwise, there is an overwhelming consensus among biblical scholars that Luke, John and Mark wrote the Gospels attributed to them; that, as Papias says around 130 AD, Mark drew heavily on the recollections of Peter; that as Luke tells us in his Gospel he interviewed people who knew Jesus and that John wrote his Gospel towards the end of his life. The events of Jesus’s life and the content of his teaching were written down by people who were eyewitnesses of Jesus’s ministry and/or incorporated the recollections of those who were. There was thus no need to rely on “hearsay”.

All of this is summarised by the Greek scholar E.V. Rieu in his introduction to his translation of the Gospels in the Penguin Classics series, of which he was the general editor. In addition he said:

They were written, as we now think, between AD 60 and 100, and all in Greek—they were not translations, though it is possible that their authors thought in Aramaic, the Semitic dialect of Jesus’ day, and had Greek as a second language … There is even evidence that in the interval between the Ministry and the publication of our first gospel, informal records of Jesus’ deeds and saying were written in Aramaic as well as in Greek.

Of course oral tradition was part of the mix. People who saw Jesus in action couldn’t help talking about what they saw. Rieu adds:

Everything that Jesus had said and done was precious both to those who reported him and to their eager audiences. Every word, tone, look and gesture of the Master was carefully reproduced.

Jesus made his teaching easy to remember by telling stories and using striking metaphors and similes. His sayings

have the qualities of poetry, and with the aid of paradox, exaggeration, or play on words, were cast in such a shape as would enable them to find their way into the dullest mind and stay there.

We do not know the percentage of literates in the Palestine of Jesus’s time, but the Pharisees were literate and some of them became Christians. It is possible that some wrote down things Jesus said very soon after hearing them. E.V. Rieu disagrees with the idea that Jesus’s disciples were

recruited solely from an illiterate peasant class. James and John, for instance, were the sons of a fishing-smack owner, an employer of hired labour, and John was acquainted with the High Priest, while Matthew the customs officer could not have conducted his business in “Galilee of the Gentiles” without some knowledge of Greek as well as of accounts.

 We only have copies of the Gospels, the originals are gone, and yes, there were copying errors. There are a large number of early manuscripts extant, almost the entire New Testament can be put together from quotations in the early Christian writers, and there were early translations into other languages, notably Syriac, Latin and Coptic. Making use of this vast resource, a whole science has been developed to determine the variants that are most likely to be correct. Sir Frederic Kenyon said:

No other ancient book has anything like such early and plentiful testimony to its text, and no unbiased scholar would deny that the text that has come down to us is substantially sound.

Peter Barclay
Mordialloc, Vic

Marriage Nonsense

SIR: One of the pleasures of reading Quadrant over many years is the fact it provides a forum for views that are counter to the prevailing leftist media and academic orthodoxy. When I have written it has been to commend an author or expand on themes raised.

I was appalled when I read the Gerard Calilhanna piece, “Gay Marriage and the Growth of State Intervention” (September 2012). Lest I be represented as a closet supporter of Sarah Hanson-Young or the gay lobby or whatever, to the contrary I have no time for the former, and the latter has a right to put its views as does any group within a liberal democratic society. It was ironic that Calilhanna was writing in an edition where the views of Peter Singer were skewered for philosophically proposing treating some people as “lesser people” (or “less equal than others” to paraphrase Orwell). Gay people are not lesser people and as Malcolm Turnbull has articulated, the state-sponsored discrimination in the Marriage Act is increasingly looking passé.

I have been an active advocate of rights, and interventions to maintain, expand and defend the rights of people, both here and overseas. I am criticised regularly for standing up for what is important, such as the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan, or people resisting dictators. I am certainly not going to change my views about sticking up for what is important.

I am tolerant of the views of others and understand that it is necessary to work with people of varying views, but Calilhanna is simply wrong. I am a middle-aged, heterosexual male, married with children and grandchildren, a former candidate and member of the Liberal Party for thirty-eight years. Throughout Australia’s history it is liberals who have stood up for rights of individuals (including homosexual law reform), often against the views of the Left. I am not inclined to take arrogant assertions to treat anyone as lesser people, or that conservative or liberal views should make life hard for homosexuals; we are not about to start now.

Rather than gay marriage being an expansion of state intervention, it would in fact be a reduction. My views on this issue have changed over time, but I have never supported discrimination, which is what Calilhanna promotes. If this is the sort of logic used to maintain the existing law, then the law should change.

If I could vote for Catherine Cusack and David Cameron I would; at least they stand up for liberal values and not prejudice, and credit to them.

Martin Gordon
Canberra, ACT

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