Letters to the editor

A million better uses

I am surprised there has not been more public comment on the proposal by (the Select Committee on the Review of the Electoral Act ) for the ACT Liberal and Labor parties to pay themselves - and other parties that get 4 per cent or more of the vote in ACT elections - $8 a vote, up from $2 a vote. This fourfold increase will mean public spending on ACT elections will rise by more than $1 million from about $400,000 to about $1.6 million.

This might well be value for money if it resulted in the ACT electorate being better informed. That is unlikely, as most of the money will go to the big parties who will presumably continue to spend it on the same sort of advertising as at last election.

The parties will be given $8 a vote as long as they get 4 per cent or more of the vote. So the big parties will get the most, and will tend to get even bigger. Independents and minor parties who get less than 4 per cent of the vote will not be funded. Before anyone says that as an ex-Green MLA I might be biased, I will point out that the Greens have received a lot more than 4 per cent of the vote for a long time. The Greens will be funded, but any new party probably won't be. That is not a plus for a responsive democracy.

The ACT has better ways to spend an extra million dollars.

Caroline Le Couteur, Downer

Buses are no contest

The ''live'' pilot suggested by Judy Bamberger (Letters, June 28) is unlikely to add much to existing information. Route 200 ''Red Rapid'' between Gungahlin and the City is already a pretty good approximation.


Fortunately, a real comparison is available from Adelaide. The Tonsley rail service, roughly equivalent to the Gungahlin-City route, had a diesel rail service with a weekday patronage of about 1200. Two years ago the service was temporarily suspended to enable electrification (new journey time 23 minutes, saving three minutes). Users were given a substitute bus service, which managed a weekday patronage of about 40, a patronage desertion of over 96 per cent.

Train or light rail versus bus? No contest.

Roger Shelton, Spence

Judy Bamberger's suggestion (Letters, June 28) was interesting, as it discussed other proposals, rather than just the doom-and-gloom light rail letters that are usually published.

Sometimes a compromise provides a solution to a difficult problem, and another idea is to resurrect the former proposal to have a tram line running from the National Museum, through Civic to the War Memorial, but this time with an extension to Canberra Airport. If you've been to Adelaide in recent years, you will see how extending the tram line through the CBD has enlivened the city, and the free city trams are very well patronised.

You could fly in on your direct flight to Canberra from Singapore and join the tram at the airport station and travel to Civic for further connections. Tourists would swarm on the trams to visit major attractions and it would bring unity between the lakeside, the ANU, neglected areas of Civic, inner North Canberra, the War Memorial and Canberra Airport. Surely the airport owners would invest in such a scheme, and the tram line would be ready to serve the terminal of the Very Fast Train from Sydney.

What of the current light rail proposal? Those employed to get the light rail to Gungahlin up and running would be redeployed for this project, which hopefully would be stage one of light rail for Canberra. A busway using conventional buses or even state-of-the-art trolley buses (electric) as are used in Wellington, San Francisco or Toronto, combined with Judy's suggestions for expanded park and rides and special reduced fares should keep the citizens of Gungahlin happy and get the doomsday light rail knockers to lighten up.

John Davenport, Farrer

Get real on disability

Jillian Paull, enthusing about the NDIS as its ACT trial site manager, wrote that the disabled ''will receive individualised plans based on their goals and aspirations'' (''New era on enhanced disability support under way'', Times2, July 2, p5). That sounds as though the disabled will not have defined entitlements - those with the best spiel get the most money. The reality, after some years of promises, remains somewhere between a sales pitch and an experiment.

Gary J. Wilson, MacGregor

Kangaroo feelings

John Cashman (Letters, July 3) acknowledges that animals such as kangaroos have sentience to the extent they ''feel pain and hunger''. But that sentience means they have the capacity for pleasure, to enjoy aspects of their life and seek out the good life. In taking the life of healthy sentient animals we are denying them future pleasure. Whether they grieve for killed members of their mob may be debatable, there are certainly those who believe they do, but what is not debatable is the effect on dependent young who escape when their mother is shot - they suffer a prolonged death through starvation and exposure. And finally, Cashman bases his argument on the ''clean kill'', yet nobody claims every shot animal dies instantly - many suffer from being shot in the face, neck or body.

Mike O'Shaughnessy, Spence

Kyrgios can win or lose

Ben Westcott's article ''How Kyrgios beat player 14 years his senior'' (July 4, p8) explains why Milos Raonic defeated Kyrgios in his Wimbledon quarter-final match - he was too good on the day. Another explanation recently given by a psychologist on ABC TV was that Kyrgios was preoccupied with outcomes. In any event, it shows he is normal, like most champions who experience losses during their career.

Dave White, Deakin

Let's try nuclear

Philip Chubb concludes his otherwise interesting article (''Personalities before policy'', Times2, July 3, p1) saying: ''We will suffer many more bushfires and floods before we see another serious attempt to price carbon.''

Is this award-winning journalist seriously suggesting our carbon tax would prevent such natural disasters? The inconvenient truth is that nothing Australia does by way of emissions abatement will make any material difference to the world climate.

If climate change really is the greatest challenge we face, why waste our effort and money on the present suite of futile feel-good gestures and instead embark on massive global investment in clean and abundant nuclear power to buy the world time to research the problem and get the response right. Surely the risk of nuclear waste is vanishingly small compared with the risk of losing the planet?

H. Ronald, Jerrabomberra, NSW

Navy's interception of lawful asylum seekers a hijacking

Asylum seeking is not unlawful under Australian or international law, so nobody has ever been prosecuted in this country for seeking asylum. The Tamils on the boat in the Indian Ocean no doubt intend to seek asylum. There is nothing unlawful about that.

As for the boat itself, it is neither suspected nor alleged that it should be carrying prohibited or dangerous goods like arms or drugs.

So by what right does the Australian navy intercept this boat on the high seas? By what right does it take control of those on board? Freedom of the seas is a basic principle of international law. Interception is not the right word. What is the difference between recent naval action and a hijacking?

Thomas Mautner, Griffith

China's rise is a concern

Full marks for your thoughtful editorial (''Harsh new realities dawn in Asia'', Times2, July 3, p2) You rightly remind us that China's economic ascendancy is giving the Chinese leadership the confidence to push for a globally dominant role.

We see concerns about this belligerent push not only in Japan and India, but other Asian nations. This trend puts the continuing role of the US in the region under the spotlight, with serious questions for Australia.

You stress China's economic ascendancy as the key to this Chinese policy, but it is interesting to ask why China has recently gained this ascendancy. Its enormous skilled population is a key factor and Chinese workers are willing to work long hours for relatively low wages, though this may change. China produces consumer goods that we need and today China is our largest trading partner.

The Abbott government has incurred the wrath of many people because of the 2014 budget and there are clearly injustices in that budget. But it is not, as Brad Sherman (Letters, July 3) calls it, a budget debacle. The government is forced to use drastic measures to repair the damage of previous Labor budgets that left us in this mess. It is telling Australians that we must work harder.

In the words of John F. Kennedy, we must ask what we can do for our country, not what our country can do for us. Like the US, we have been living beyond our means for too long. Surely that is the harsh economic reality confronting us in Australia.

Robert Willson, Deakin

Odour of a rancid lot

Sometimes on a daily basis, or even an hourly basis, I will switch my view on who is the most loathsome minister in this rancid Abbott government. Presently, it is Scott Morrison for his absolutely immoral and cruel position on yet another refugee boat. It is Eric Abetz for his despicable treatment of contract cleaning staff throughout Australian government facilities, where he deliberately removed a regulation that protects (usually migrant) cleaners from exploitative contractors.

It is Joe Hockey for his contemptuous treatment of our socially poor by reducing or removing components of our social safety nets in the first rancid budget. It is Tony Abbott for his inability to speak honestly to our society; who ignores standards of transparency and accountability as a government. It is Julie Bishop for removing Australia's overseas aid from providing infrastructure to people to infrastructure for businesses.

Jane Timbrell, Reid

Exercise in power and bias

We witness yet another act of cynicism and partisanship by Tony Abbott's government with the appointment of Janet Albrechtsen and Neil Brown to the panel responsible for appointing members to the ABC and SBS boards (''Conservative commentators to judge ABC, SBS jobs'', July 3, p5).

As your reporter Matthew Knott points out, the panel was established by the previous Rudd government with the very purpose of depoliticising future appointments to the boards of these key public institutions. Now we find the panel itself being politicised by Mr Abbott.

It is a blatant exercise in power and bias that would do the Sussex Street headquarters of the NSW ALP proud. Dr Albrechtsen and Mr Brown are well known for their strong conservative views, with the former an unabashed ABC basher. One can only wait with trepidation to see whom the panel recommends for future appointment.

Jonathan Hayes, Hughes

So, once again, dire threats to the viability of the ABC are looming (''Conservative commentators to judge top ABC, SBS jobs'', July 3, p5). The Prime Minister has already reneged on a pre-election promise not to cut ABC funding, and is now seeking to locate compliant flunkies to ''oversee'' decisions on who should be appointed to the ABC board.

This task has recently been handled by well-respected individuals, David Gonski and Ric Smith, under Labor government appointment. Now we will have a couple of nobodies for this job (no one outside readers of The Australian knows who Albrechtsen is, and who can remember what Neil Brown did?) As per the typical Abbott government move, this is all so tawdry and childish, and I think most people agree with this. I am pretty sure that, come the next election, I will be watching the coverage on the ABC. And I'm thinking I might be enjoying it immensely.

Jim Douglas, Kingston

Racism rips society

The despicably vile racist tirade captured on a Sydney suburban train points to a deeply flawed undercurrent of inhumanity that is tearing the social fabric of this nation apart (''Train racist targeted kids: 'Get your f---ing bogan children off the seat''',, July 4). It comes on top of a University of Melbourne-led study involving more than 260 Victorian school students aged eight to 17, which found that 22 per cent experienced one or more form of direct racism at school every day.

What is most telling is the response of the two children who were at the centre of this incident. The fact that they were reported as crying after witnessing the racial abuse directed at a woman of Asian appearance testifies to the moral truth that this woman had suffered undeservedly.

All such racism is undeserved, and until we as a society resolve to rid ourselves of this scourge that undermines the dignity of us all, our beloved children will continue to pay the price.

Reverend Dr Vincent Zankin, Rivett

Smoking at hospital disgraces ACT government

In May, The Canberra Times reported that the ACT government had won a national award for cutting smoking rates and encouraging Canberrans to live healthier. Too bad about the Canberra Hospital.

Yes, the hospital has a number of signs stating it is a smoke-free zone. But who is actually policing the line of smokers who sit on walls puffing away at all times of the day and night near the Emergency Department and the new maternity facility.

Even worse, people with cancer have to run the gauntlet past these selfish smokers in the designated smoking area which, unbelievably, has been placed at the entrance to the Oncology Department.

The government should police the no-smoking zones and move the designated smoking area to a more remote location or do away with it.

The government is only paying lip service to the cause to win undeserved awards and positive press. Its a joke!

Michael Lucas, Conder

Sure bet on cards

I want to make a bet. The banks tell us that the main reason for the changeover in August from a signature to a PIN system on their credit cards is to help reduce the huge amount of credit card fraud, and that the seemingly high card interest rate of about 20 per cent is mainly due to the cost of this fraud.

Assuming the drop in fraud happens by, let's say, 30 per cent, then logic tells me that we can all look forward to the card interest rates dropping by the same amount from 20 per cent to about 14 per cent.

Betcha they don't drop 'em at all. Any takers?

Byam Wight, Jerrabomberra, NSW

To the point


Convicted or not, Rolf Harris was publicly finished once charged, a situation that is cause for concern for those who believe in justice. Nevertheless I congratulate the identified women who gave evidence. Not so others who have now appeared - (''Scores more women alleged Harris attacks'', July 3, p10) reminiscent of vultures attacking a body they had no role in bringing down.

Greg Cornwell, Yarralumla


While I'm delighted to see our Chief Minister Katy Gallagher celebrating Ramadan (''A capital Ramadan'', July 4, p3), a festival that many of our Canberra friends take part in, it would be equally delightful to see her celebrate an occasional Christian festival too. Has she forgotten that many different faiths are represented here, or are some trendier than others?

Geoff McLaren, Scullin


Some crooked union employees fleece members of substantial funds and participate in alleged dubious practices; the right goes feral for a costly royal commission. An ASX top-10 ''unnamed'' organisation seemingly looks elsewhere while customers are robbed of millions and the suggestion of a royal commission is mocked. With reference to Pauline - please explain.

Linus Cole, Palmerston


Why doesn't Australia withdraw from the treaty supporting the United Nations convention relating to the status of refugees? We seem to have breached every definition in the treaty, yet our country still stands out on the map of signatories as a beacon of hope to the desperate. People smugglers show asylum seekers the map and promise to take them to a haven in Australia. We are complicit in this cruel deception unless we take steps to alter our status in line with our practice.

K. L. Calvert, Downer


It is a heinous crime that Israeli students hitch-hiking home from school should be kidnapped and killed. Tony Abbott has written to the Israeli Prime Minister to condemn their murders. I wonder if he has done the same to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas about the kidnap and murder of a Palestinian teenager, which was almost certainly a pay-back crime?

Gwenyth Bray, Belconnen


Jacqui Lambie has been in Canberra less than a week and has already proven that she only opens her mouth to change feet.

Mark Sproat, Barton

Email: Send from the message field, not as an attached file. Fax: 6280 2282.Mail: Letters to the Editor, The Canberra Times, PO Box 7155, Canberra Mail Centre, ACT 2610.

Keep your letter to 250 words or less. References to Canberra Times reports should include date and page number. Letters may be edited. Provide phone number and full home address (suburb only published).