It is rarely that I cut an article out of the paper and stick it on the fridge door. I have done that with Crispin Hull's article (''Australians all let us regret for we are devoid of integrity'', Forum, December 7, p2). It is the sort of article that makes me realise that my views on the state and nature of our government and, hence, the democratic system, are not mine alone. A political system that produces such cruel, hypocritical and unjust policies outlined by Hull requires a major overhaul.

The nature and possibility of this overhaul I fear would threaten the real powers in this country and will never happen.

I sadly realise that I am not proud to be Australian. I have done my bit for ''Australia'', being a Nasho in Vietnam - another example of a shameful political decision by government. But I am ashamed of all those government policies outlined by Hull. No compassionate person could fail not to be ashamed and our media and journalists are failing us miserably.

The ABC is the only counter- weight, and a very marginal counterweight at that, to the dishonest and shameful right-wing press. And now it is coming under attack. There are two treasures of our current political system - the ABC and a by and large efficient, honest and capable public service.

Thank you Crispin Hull. May God, Buddha or Allah or Ms God, Buddha or Allah, or just simple unselfish wisdom save Australia.

Patrick O'Hara, Isaacs

Crispin Hull's excellent commentary highlights the response of the Australian authorities, that those journalists who exposed the Australian tapping of the Indonesian President's phone are being traitors.

Curiously, much the same accusation has been recited in Britain, where the editor of The Guardian was accused by a committee of MPs of not loving his country for publishing extracts made available by US whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Clearly, such reaction is intended not only to justify a wrong- doing, but also to support the activities of the US agencies.

Isn't it time we used our own judgment rather than continue to do what we are told by the US, whose recent record in foreign policy matters is now much regretted by its own citizens?

Sam Nona, Burradoo, NSW

Thank you Crispin Hull, for your exposure of the failure of parliamentary ''democracy'' in this country; and for your declaration, ''Of course we should be a republic.'' There is a problem-and-solution link between the two: the one is in deep decline, the other offers a new solution, that is a head of state able to check and balance the domination of ministerial executive over people's representatives. A directly elected president would have the constitutional status to restore the democratic principles of the Westminster system in Australia.

Bryan Lobascher, Chapman

Holden buyers' rescue

It is reported that it would cost less than $150 million extra a year to keep Holden in Australia until 2025 (''$150m enough to save Holden'', December 9, p1).

According to VFACTS, Holden sells in excess of 100,000 vehicles a year in Australia.

Holden would have to increase the average price of the vehicles it sells by less than $150 per vehicle to cover that $150 million.

Surely it is right that Holden buyers pay the price of Holden staying in business rather than taxpayers in general.

Don Sephton, Greenway

Fraser Place distress

I presume that the changes to the requirement for duplex demolitions (''Corbell puts brake on duplex razing'', December 6, p2) mean that such proposals will no longer be ''exempt'' from a development approval.

Given what happened in Fraser Place, however, I believe it needs to be stated clearly that the demolition there was not a lawfully exempt demolition. There were regulations in place at the time which would have prevented the demolition going ahead without consultation with neighbours, had they been adhered to by the developers and the certifier.

The demolition was purported to be exempt from a development application by a certifier who had, I believe, ticked all the boxes but had handwritten that a common wall agreement must be in place.

This did not happen and the demolition went ahead without an agreement with the adjoining neighbour. Despite many calls from other concerned neighbours before the demolition, the minister and the department said they could not do anything as the proposal was deemed to be ''DA exempt''. It remains a mystery why the concerns raised were not enough to persuade the government and the department to look further into the issue.

Had this happened the development would have required more consultation under the existing legal requirements at the time. I hope that the government and department will be more diligent in ensuring their rules are followed in future.

It is too late for the distress and financial disadvantage to be reversed for the adjoining neighbour and too late to preserve a particular building style in a very small cul de sac. It has been a very sad and disappointing time for some and the developer who was so keen to knock down the old and put up the new has now put the house on the market.

Chris Windsor, Yarralumla

Citizen power in court

The local judiciary and magistracy have copped some well-deserved criticism in recent years. Consequently, reports of structuring of sentencing practices and associated commentary (''Court rulings opened to closer scrutiny'', December 5, p3) initiated by our new chief justice auger well. Nonetheless, gratuitous suggestions are respectfully offered.

First, excise ideologically driven interpretations of legislation which are subordinated to human rights and result in the criminal's sensitivities taking precedence over the victim's. Second, read the voluminous letters to the editor from well-read, detached contributors which have savaged a prior administration.

On this point, there's a hint of condescension in the chief magistrate's reported view that ordinary citizens don't have all the relevant facts at their disposal. Where they're adequately informed, thanks to Canberra Times reporting, is the number of times a thug on bail does even more serious stuff, or where repeat, violent offenders populate the streets following ludicrously short stints in five-star comfort. Allow some solid citizens who haven't been anywhere near any kind of law school anywhere on earth to insinuate themselves upon the chief justice's initiative and possibly witness a restoration of respect for our judiciary and magistracy.

Patrick Jones, Griffith

ASIO would once have seen Mandela as a security threat

As we mourn the passing of Nelson Mandela, let us not forget that for many years he was the outsider - branded as a terrorist by the state.

He was one of those derided political activists, and would undoubtedly have been excluded from Australia by ASIO on the basis that he was a security threat. He reminds us that states and their security apparatus are not to be trusted and need scrutiny at all times.

As someone who successfully guided a shaky and newly emergent nation we can only imagine what he would have thought of the abuse of East Timor by Australia's state security apparatus.

In East Timor's case it was wrong of our security mechanisms to abuse their trust during treaty negotiations. Wrong then and wrong now, when they are informed enough to challenge our unbelievably offensive behaviour - remember our neighbours are the world's poorest nation.

Maybe we can let Mandela's integrity guide us in rethinking our abuse of the weak. In particular Attorney-General Brandis might take him as a model statesman - his respect for others, his compassion and his civility would all provide a useful guide.

Marion Barker, O'Connor

The blanket coverage of Nelson Mandela's passing was a great reminder of the heights to which the human spirit can soar when fighting for justice and equality.

Mandela was lauded as a great hero by leaders all over the world, regardless of political persuasion. It is sobering to realise that if he had sought asylum in today's Australia, Mandela would have been repatriated to South Africa by the Australian government as a dangerous armed terrorist.

Pauline Westwood, Dickson

I have always eschewed hero worship, as it blinds one to the full nature and actions (or lack of) in people. My particular interest was Mandela's lack of support for human rights and lack of criticising abuses in other African states.

Given the support he obtained in the anti-apartheid struggle this is astonishing and disappointing. His voice would have been helpful everywhere from Zimbabwe to Libya and Darfur/Sudan. I was also astonished when I found South Africa under Mandela was willing to supply the Syrian regime weapons.

The AIDS policy of Mandela's chosen successor Mbeki was a scientific embarrassment that killed hundreds of thousands. The corruption and nepotism of the ANC is legendary, its crime disturbing, its income inequality the worst in the world. Let's hope South Africa makes progress in the future.

M. Gordon, Flynn

They don't make terrorists like him any more.

Gary Frances, Bexley, NSW

''We will not likely see the likes of Nelson Mandela again … His acts of reconciliation … set an example that all humanity should aspire to, whether in the lives of nations or our own personal lives.

''It falls to us to forward the example that he set: to make decisions guided not by hate, but by love.'' So said Barack Obama.

Mandela, after nearly 30 years in jail, forgave his enemies and those who would have preferred to see him hanged. Obama committed to closing Guantanamo, an election pledge, the prisoners still starve themselves in desperation as their lives rot away, without hope. Need one say more?

Rhys Stanley, via Hall, NSW

Although Nelson Mandela resented those white supremacists who established segregation in South Africa, he was always compassionate and forgiving. Although an antagonist against state terrorism, he led his vibrant rainbow towards truth and unity through reconciliation.

A great African believer in justice, equality, freedom and fraternity!

Martinho de Souza, Giralang

Art of mental reservation

I agree with John Popplewell's comments (Letters, December 6). Tony Abbott is not practising the so-called Jesuit art of mental reservation. Long before the Jesuits, Athanasius of Alexandria, being pursued up the Nile by Emperor Julian the Apostate, took advantage of a bend in the river which hid his boat from his pursuers, and turned his boat around. As the two boats passed the pursuers shouted loudly to them if they had seen Athanasius. As instructed by Athanasius they shouted back ''Yes, he is not very far off''. He returned to Alexandria and remained in hiding until the persecution ended.

Another example concerns St Francis of Assisi who saw a man fleeing from a murderer. When the murderer came upon Francis, he demanded to know if his quarry had passed that way. Francis answered, ''He did not pass this way,'' thus misleading the murderer and saving a life.

The practice of mental reservation was never endorsed or officially upheld by the Catholic Church.

Colliss Parrett, Barton

Qantas marching orders

Occasionally Senator Nick Xenophon gets something completely right. A case in point is his call for the outing of Alan Joyce and the rest of the Qantas board.

The downslide of Qantas started under Geoff Dixon and accelerated when he anointed Alan Joyce as his successor. It escapes me why he was not given his marching orders at least two years ago (about the time of his intemperate grounding of the Qantas fleet). The failure of the board to achieve this necessary action means that they must go too.

T.J. Marks, Holt

Labor's name in vain

Matt Meyer (Letters, December 9) claims the Liberal Party is due for a name change to reflect its ''conservative agenda''. Perhaps so. The Australian Labor Party may be in need of a name change too! The word ''Labor'' is defined as meaning physical exertion, especially when difficult or exhausting. Rorting the union credit card or long lunches doing dodgy coalmining deals could hardly be described as physical exertion. I suppose it could be argued the constant work of knifing leaders in the back may work up a sweat.

T.J. Farquahar, Ainslie

Same-sex weddings the new normality

I am a commercial photographer and over the past 30 years I have photographed countless weddings.

On December 7, I photographed a same-sex couple wedding and … guess what? It was just as normal as all the other weddings I've been to: happy couple, loving friends, ordinary people enjoying life and hurting no one - taking nothing away from the lives of others by committing to each other and then celebrating with friends. Passers-by from all walks of life and countries were waving and shouting their support and congratulations.

Come on Prime Minister Tony Abbott, get with the majority.

Lynn Russell, Yarralumla

I went to the High Court last Tuesday hoping to see a David and Goliath battle between the ACT and the Commonwealth over the ACT's Marriage Equality (Same Sex) Act. However, I left the court feeling deeply disappointed by the position taken by the ACT government and Australian Marriage Equality. The ACT and AME did not argue the scope of the marriage power under the constitution. That is, can the Commonwealth Parliament legislate with respect to same-sex marriage? This was accepted by all the parties as a given, despite the fact that Justice Hayne asked that very question twice and Justice Kiefel once. Hint, hint guys. What was left was a mere argument about inconsistency and concurrent operation, which is iffy at best. An ACT loss will set back marriage equality for years and it only has itself to blame.

A. Thompson, Curtin



So ACT Education Minister Joy Burch ''blames poor social media skills'' for her retweeting an offensive comment about Christopher Pyne (''Twitter gaffe may see Burch return to classroom'', December 7, p2). What a model for students! Not for the poor social media skills, but for the disgusting word she thought was the norm.

Sheila Duke, Ainslie

It was wrong for a Twitter post to compare Mr Pyne to a vagina. A vagina is something wonderful, a source of joy and pride. So far, Mr Pyne hasn't measured up to that description. He could better be described as an Abbott or a Morrison - a double-speaking disappointment.

Rosemary Walters, Palmerston

As a former teacher, I have been called what Mr Pyne was called in a tweet forwarded by Joy Burch. It is in keeping with current school standards that nothing is done to the female minister.

Robin Saville, Goulburn, NSW


It comes as no surprise that the carbon tax has cost massive amounts of money for no material gains. Is it not time for a complete review of expenditure on the environment starting with a rigorous examination of subsidies for wind and solar power?

H. Ronald, Jerrabomberra, NSW


While Abbott and Morrison grimly defend territorial integrity, via Operation Sovereign Borders, Andrew Robb gives rapacious global corporations access to international arbitration, thereby circumventing Australia's legislative sovereignty (''Korean free trade deal gives companies the right to sue'', December 6, p5). Surely this is a house divided.

Albert M. White, Queanbeyan, NSW


After criticising an ACTION bus driver (Letters, December 6) I must rather belatedly ( 18 months or so) thank an ACTION bus driver who stopped his bus and waited until I came alongside then opened the door and said , ''Hop in, I'll give you a lift to the shops'' (Hawker). Being partly disabled, I readily accepted the offer. Thank you driver, whoever you are.

Brent Dale, Weetangera


I suspect I might be becoming hard of hearing. While Peter Grabosky (Letters, December 9) believes politicians are saying ''they do not comment on matters (of) intelligence'', I thought they were saying ''they do not comment on matters (with) intelligence''. Assure me that I am not going deaf.

C.J. Johnston, Duffy

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