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A bastion for good

Whilst she does not mention Catholicism, Elizabeth Farrelly's broad criticism of things Christian (December 26) seems to be directed at that church.

Many elements of her unbalanced article could be challenged but several require particular attention. She condemns the use of power by the church but power used benignly is a hallmark of wise leadership and in its frequent calls for peace and justice, the church has demonstrated this.

On the personal front the constraints of my youth instilled a discipline of great value in secular as well as spiritual life. For example, gluttony and intemperance, so much problems today, were and continue to be proscribed.

Secondly, Elizabeth deplores the lack of recognition given to Mary, the mother of Jesus. Is she not aware of the dedication of many days in the church's calendar to the reverence of Mary and her contribution to the Christian story, nor of the rosary, a prayer of invocation to Mary so often recited? 

Many cathedrals and churches are named in her honour, eg Notre Dame (Paris) and St Mary's (Sydney). However, Mary is not divine and unlike Jesus, not to be worshipped. 

The assertion that the church is seen by most people as dull or evil seems very much at variance with the large numbers joyfully attending Christmas services worldwide including in my local parish.

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Certainly many Catholics have failed to live up to their faith but the church remains a moral bastion so greatly needed in our society.

It is a pity that Elizabeth Farrelly has not recognised this.

Eric French, Higgins

POOR EXAMPLE

Andrew Leigh uses a poor example to promote the benefits of the Renewable Energy Target scheme ("Boom for renewable energy", December 26). 

The 102MW Nyngan and 53MW Broken Hill solar farms make up one project. Wind turbines receiving the RET certificate subsidy can turn a profit once the cost of their intermittency is passed on to others but solar generation requires additional support. 

Half the cost of the Nyngan and Broken Hill project is being paid by government, $64.9million from NSW and $166.7million from ARENA. 

Dr Leigh might have chosen to describe the project as a First Solar one because AGL Energy, owner of the solar farms, has advocated changes to the RET for the large scale and the small (rooftop) schemes and although it has the largest portfolio of renewable energy generation in Australia, the company has been subject of divestment and retailer switching campaigns.

John Bromhead, Rivett

COMMUNITY SUFFERS

Late in December yet another bowling club closed. It joined a list of recreational clubs that had been taken over by well-off poker machine clubs.

Looking at the closures dispassionately, the main reason is poor patronage by the community.

The cost to the community of the closures is considerable. They keep people out and about longer. This, in itself, is a load off aged care facilities and hospitals.

The latest closure was West Deakin Hellenic. It had been purchased by the Hellenic Club.

The land was sold on for an office block which, like its neighbour, will increase the traffic on Kent Street which is already classed as one of the most dangerous feeder roads in Canberra.

The ACT government should be ashamed of itself. They make the excuse that the land belongs to the developer and that they cannot refuse to change the land usage to the developer's wishes. This, of course, is a nonsense.

I would suggest that the levy on net poker machine income be administered by the ACT government and the money should be used to promote recreational facilities and where necessary prop them up financially. At the end of the day it is community money and should be used for community advantage.

At the moment the levies are used by most clubs for purposes that benefit the clubs more than the general community.

At the moment the wealthy clubs donate heavily to both of the larger parties who refuse them little in return.

Howard Carew, Isaacs

PICTURE SAID IT ALL

The pic that illustrated Meg McKone's tetchy letter (Horses pose threat) of glorious, free mountain horses, tails and manes flying in the high country winds, said it all. The mountain horses are national icons. Good on you, NSW Member for Monaro John Barilaro for welcoming the announcement to rule out the cruel and unnecessary aerial cull.

The mountain horses are descendants of the tough, handsome "walers" that carried the Anzacs into battle, including at the charge at Beersheba — they are absolutely worthy of our respect, compassion and protection. No frog, in my book, Meg, can match that.

Christina Faulk, Swinger Hill

CULL STAND LAUDED

Meg McKone will be comforted to know there is no evidence to show the wild horses are in danger of killing the Corroboree frogs or destroying the bogs they live in (Comment, December 29).

Evidence does show however that the frogs breed in the pug marks (footprints) the horses leave behind and, in some areas where there are no longer horses, ceramic imitations of the pug marks have been used with limited success. 

The immediate threats to the frogs is climate change drying out the bogs and disease, not the horses.

John Barilaro, NSW Member for Monaro, is to be congratulated for taking a stand against animal cruelty. 

Aerial culling of any animal, native or not, is a cruel and unnecessary control method and would have had no positive impact on the lives of the Corroboree frog.

Denise Parr, Anembo

LAWDER WRONG

Nicole Lawder, MLA, in her letter ("Gun controls needed", December 29) says, "... it is also true that people with guns kill more people than people without guns." 

I have assumed, for the purposes of my letter, that Ms Lawder, when saying "more people", is referring to people who are murdered, rather than, for instance, the very large number of people who die as a result of medical misadventure. That being the case, Ms Lawder is wrong. 

Figures, easily available on the websites of at least two Commonwealth agencies, routinely list death by knife wound as between two and three (and occasionally more times) more common that death by gunshot.

Peter Moran, Watson

Admit it – public transport needs an image overhaul

As much as I agree with Paul Malone about Canberra's light rail being a bad idea, for all the reasons that he states (Light rail will be costly failure, December 28), I am concerned about the apparent superficiality of some of his claims.

The issue is not as simple as determining transport needs and then deciding on the technology that is best suited to meet those needs. It is about finding a type of public transport that people will use. And this is where I think it is time to acknowledge what most people know but few are game enough to say – that travelling by bus is considered low-class and travelling by rail is not. 

While bus travel in metropolitan Australia does not seem to have quite the social stigma as  in North America, there is still a view that bus travel is unpleasant and undesirable. Certainly Canberra's bus service has done little to alleviate this perception, with seats that are too small and  arranged in ways which take no account of the desire for personal space, where even getting a seat during peak periods is uncertain, where vehicles are not clean, where running to schedule cannot be relied upon and where passengers are forced to wait at bus stops with no seating or protection from the weather. 

While light rail may not solve the "personal space" problem, there is a perception that it is a "classier" way to travel and will be cleaner and more reliable.

While it may be clear that, at a rational level, a guided bus route down Northbourne Avenue is "a clearly better alternative" that will cost far less than light rail, the unspoken factor is ridership.

Behavioural research has shown how "lifestyle" decisions are influenced by our sense of identity and what we think "people like me" – and the kind of people we aspire to be – would do. This means  the challenge is to find a way to make rational public transport solutions, which are not light rail, acceptable and popular to those who do not believe  public transport is for them.

Karina Morris, Weetangera

CREDIT CRUNCH

Your editorial (December 29) talks about the serious financial challenges facing the ACT in 2015.

It correctly identifies the Light Rail project as a  challenge for the government because so many Canberrans can't see any sense in spending a huge amount of money (all borrowed) and getting so little in return, especially when our finances are in bad shape and getting worse. Canberrans are asking, if this money has to be spent (which it doesn't), why not spend it on a whole range of projects  to benefit all Canberrans?

It mentions  there will be further borrowings of $1.7billion between now and 2017. The bigger picture was spelt out recently by ratings agency Standard & Poors. They estimate the total debt will have increased to $7billion by 2017 – and that was before the extra debt incurred by the Mr Fluffy solution. This is our debt and represents about $18,000 for every man, woman and child in the ACT. S&P hinted that if the debt reaches $7billion, they will have to do another review, which could see the ACT lose its  AAA credit rating. If that happens, it will cost significantly more each time the debt has to be rolled over, just adding to the interest bill. It's no different from not being able to pay off your credit card. The debt just climbs.

Eric Traise, president, Tuggeranong Community Council

HYSTERIA OF GRIEF

David Hicks (Letters, December 29) is getting genuine emotion and grief mixed up with the manufactured version generated by the media during their endless broadcasts at selected high-profile events. Simply put, there was a siege in Martin Place by a deranged individual who happened to be  Muslim. This spurred the media to reports of terrorism and they tried to milk every last drop of sensationalism they could over several days, completely disproportionate to the event. Two innocent people  died but were almost deified by the media creating the emotion and "grief". This was similar to the way a reasonable cricketer (Phil Hughes) was elevated to almost God-like status after his death. 

How many of those laying flowers actually knew the victims and, under David Hicks' paradigm, where is the outpouring of grief for the three or so poor souls who die on our roads every day whose "value" is also "beyond price"?

Jevon Kinder, Murrumbateman

THE DUTY OF CARE

Jazmin Hawes' statement and plea ("A loss of freedoms", December 29) are spot on. Indignities are evident any day in our aged care facilities.

The "Charter of Rights" for aged residents is near meaningless due to the inability or unwillingness of operators to adhere to its conditions and the relevant Act is not enforced. 

Anyone contemplating going into aged care would be well advised to take a stress management course beforehand.

David Mackenzie, Chapman

ACT vandals paint a Third-World picture

How disappointing it is to see that taxpayers have to pay $364,000 to repair damage done to public art by vandals (Canberra Times, Dec 29).

It is even more disappointing, when driving or walking around Canberra, to see the vast expanse of graffiti on walls, fences and buildings. We are looking like a Third World town and it seems as though nobody is responsible for getting rid of ridiculous things spray-painted 

everywhere around the place.

After having travelled thousands of miles through Australian towns I don't think I have seen any place near as bad as we have here.

We are supposed to be the nation's capital and a city that we are proud of. However, we should be ashamed of  ... our lack of care and attention to mindless acts of vandalism caused by  idiots in our society. I would suggest  the  local government's new  leadership looks seriously at this. 

 They need to supply funds and personnel to clean up the mess and ensure those  responsible for the criminal acts are harshly treated by the courts.

Trevor Willis, Hughes

TO THE POINT

ODDITIES GLOSSED OVER 

Elizabeth Farrelly is dedicated to the Christian story, so her intellectual references may trick the odd doubter. But she glosses over the scientific oddity of a virgin birth and of angels flying in with news of the biggest 

in-vitro deal since time began.

Barrie Smillie, Duffy

A BETTER SOLUTION

R.S. Gilbert (December 27) calls for the privatisation of the ABC to help incompetent novice Treasurer, Joe Hockey, balance the budget. Would it not be far better to remove the subsidies from coal mining, electricity infrastructure and fossil fuels?

Gerry Gillespie, Queanbeyan

APOSTROPHE BUGBEARS 

Julie Macklin asks of other people's annoyances with computer programming. (Letters, December 29). Further to her point, programs appear not to like apostrophes. My surname ends up as Omara, more akin to a middle-east derivation rather than the actual Irish after the apostrophe is deleted.

Phil O'Mara Macgregor

MORE MANGLING

I sympathise with Julie Macklin's annoyance over the mangling of her name by computers.  (Letters, December 28). Imagine what happens with my surname: O'Gorman. Maybe this problem is covered by the expression "Don't sweat the small things."

Jacqueline O'Gorman, Nicholls

CARTOON A GEM

Malcolm is wasted skewering the ABC; his cartoon stint skewering Tony and Peta was a gem (Times 2, December 30, and don't let facts get in the way of a good story).

Bob Gardiner, Kambah

FEES SCANDALOUS

The report of $500,000 being spent by the Department of Human Services on legal fees reveals not just the obvious scandal of a department hell-bent on victory, but a much bigger scandal: the legal fees themselves.

Peter Cormick, Deua River Valley

GET REAL, ABBOTT

If the Abbott government wants to improve their abysmal poll numbers they need to start talking about the issues worrying middle Australia.

Fabio Scalia, Windsor

BOUNCER NOT FREAKISH

The caption below the photo of the funeral of Phillip Hughes is incorrect ("Grief, glory and utter comprehension", December 27). He did not die after being hit by a freak bouncer, he died from a very rare injury after being hit in the neck by a legitimate bouncer. 

Joe Murphy, Bonython

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