Criticisms by Neville Exon, Alan Cowan and Ed Dobson (Letters, November 22) of the ABC in publicising Australia's spying on Indonesia miss a key point. If the ABC had decided not to publish the information, its reputation as a news media organisation might well have been severely compromised.
As the bookies might say, a decision by the ABC not to publish would have faced ''London to a brick'' odds of being leaked, with the ABC then facing allegations of having been leant on by the government and the intelligence community.
As the ABC's head, Mark Scott, stated to a parliamentary committee earlier this week, the decision to publish was based on the public's need to know about our intelligence eavesdropping on phone calls of the Indonesian President and his wife. The price being paid is significant diplomatic embarrassment for Australia in its relationship with its neighbour, which will in time be resolved. Any public debate on the role of our intelligence services should be a healthy indicator of democracy. It would be pity if the ABC is made a political scapegoat in this whole affair.
Jon Hayes, Hughes
It seems to me the stress of continuous cricket Tests to which ours and other countries are being subjected is beginning to tell. Apart from other series, this is the third Ashes in as many years. As did Australia for many years, England has been winning and letting our cricketers know in no uncertain terms. Now with a win this week, perhaps Australia is on the way back, but at what price? Jonathan Trott has gone home with stress-related problems. Our cricketers are being caught sniping at and abusing the Poms. What next? The ICC should look closely at the way Test cricket is programmed and perhaps give ALL countries some time off in their own cricket seasons every couple of years so players can return to their roots and play in the domestic competition as in the days of yore.
Dave Jeffrey, Farrer ACT
Cop sledging sweet
There is a clear parallel between spying and sledging and the confected reactions to both activities. All the people involved should simply accept that it happens and cop it sweet.
Fergus Thomson, Weetangera
Attack on G-G appalling
Former Howard government minister Amanda Vanstone's column ''The 'look-at-me' G-G'' (canberratimes.com.au, November 25) is extremely demeaning to Quentin Bryce.
Vanstone's comment ''Someone might explain to her that the job is not about her … it's about us'' is the most galling. Contrast this with Prime Minister Tony Abbott saying the Governor-General is entitled to express her personal opinion.
''And as you'd expect of Quentin Bryce, she did it in graceful style,'' he said.
Vanstone, who was rewarded for her political service to the Howard government by her appointment as ambassador to Italy, has the temerity to criticise a person who has served Australia so well over so many years.
Quentin Bryce's stellar career and appointment to the high office of Governor-General has been a joy to all Australians.
Vanstone owes Her Excellency the Governor-General an apology.
Rob Palfreyman, Braddon
G-G's voice welcomed
It is appropriate for the Governor-General to express (in her last Boyer Lecture) views about what sort of a society Australia should aspire to be and how our governance should evolve.
The views expressed by Quentin Bryce are broadly shared across political divides. They are neither partisan in a party sense nor ideological.
It is refreshing to hear from the occupant of this important office, visionary ideas that may shape our future.
Surely, more than 100 years after Federation, it is permissible for the official representative of an overseas-based and non-Australian head of state to give voice to the possibility that the office might one day be occupied by a resident Australian.
Peter Dawson, Hughes
Liquor chains to blame
Finally someone has had the fortitude to examine the issue of drinkers loading up before and in between attending licensed venues (''Many drinkers get loaded before, between venues and afterwards'', November 25, p3) instead of placing the blame at the feet of licensed venues. Unfortunately the supply of cheap alcohol by supermarket chains is a big contributor to the problem. The prices charged by licensed venues per drink are far greater than the supermarket price for a similar quantity which is more affordable for younger drinkers, hence the pre-loading problem. Coupled with cheap drugs on the street, you end up with a problem that licensed venues have difficulty controlling and are not always the cause of.
Peter Toscan, Amaroo
Qld education in peril
In dreading what Campbell Newman might do to the Queensland education system if given control over it, Fred Hart (Letters, November 25) inadvertently makes the case for devolution.
Were Campbell Newman to destroy Queensland's education system, the existence of seven other systems provides an opportunity for parents to move their children to another system (noting that upping and moving to another state is not an option for everyone). With one national system, with a centrally imposed curriculum and funding model, this option is not available.
Stephen Jones, Bonython
Roo-proof our fences
Acting director of Parks and Conservation Stephen Hughes (Letters, November 25) makes some interesting implicit admissions.
He admits that kangaroos are not kept out or in by existing nature reserve fences, so implicitly when they are culled in one reserve they will be replaced from another. This has always been obvious from the impossible population recovery rates shown in his department's own surveys. So the real question is how much respite do the reserves get between the cull and a new population moving in? He also admits that research is ongoing. Opinions will obviously differ on whether the kangaroo cull - which is expensive and Mr Hughes admits has a minimal impact on the overall population of roos in the ACT and region - should be taking place while research questions are waiting to be answered.
I also would have thought it possible to design and build a roo-proof fence - if fences can be made rabbit-proof and dog-proof how difficult can a roo-proof fence really be?
Peter Marshall, Captains Flat, NSW
Start charging fat cat retirees before raising pension age
The Productivity Commission's report that we should push retirement out to 70 is a typical suggestion from a bunch of well-paid white collar public servants in their plush ivory tower. Why don't they go out and ask brickies, farmers etc how their bodies are holding up at 65 and whether they can work another five years?
There is no financial crisis - it is simply that the rich retirees are paying nothing to the state in their retirement. Before the government cries poor, perhaps it could explain to me how a self-funded retiree can pull down a $200,000 pension from a $4 million super fund and pay no tax, no Medicare, no NDIS and get the senior's health card and prescriptions at $5.60 - and can still earn another $18,200 tax-free from investments outside of super?
Their luxurious lifestyle of overseas trips and cruises is being paid for by younger workers paying tax who are financially stretched paying mortgages and trying to bring up kids. The argument that because money going into super funds was taxed at 15 per cent and the earnings of the fund were also taxed at 15 per cent then the pension should be tax-free is simply nonsense.
This was Peter Costello's scheme to make sure retired politicians and CEOs would get massive tax-free pensions in their retirement!
Every dollar I put into a bank account has already been taxed at my marginal rate and the interest on the dollar is then taxed again at my marginal rate. People who are retired and living on their savings are taxed and don't have the luxury of a tax-free pension. Surely these well-off self-funded retirees should pay something towards their healthcare costs via Medicare. The value of the pension should be added to the adjusted taxable income and Medicare paid on the ATI, and access to the seniors health card based on the ATI.
Dave Roberts, Dickson
The Grattan Institute recommends that Australia raises the access age for the aged pension and superannuation to 70 years. This follows hot on the heels of a report by the Australia Institute, noting that Australians work an average of seven hours a week of unpaid overtime and that 3.4 million of us are eating lunch at our desks. Perhaps the answer to getting Australians to delay their retirement or re-enter the workforce is to deal with the workplace culture that has made continuing employment so unattractive to those who have the option of retirement. A more flexible workplace, with genuine prospects of work/life balance, may be more successful in getting older Australians to stay in the workforce than the Grattan Institute's draconian proposal.
Tony Judge, Belconnen
No balance on settlements
By abstaining when 158 countries called for an end to Israeli settlements on Palestinian land, Australia has effectively endorsed the ongoing dispossession of Palestinians from their native land (''Abbott change on Israeli settlements'', November 25, p5). Over the years following the Jewish invasion in 1948, only about 22 per cent of this land, mainly in the West Bank and Gaza, remains under Palestinian occupation, subject to harsh Israeli controls.
For decades, millions of displaced Palestinians have been living in camps in the region, hoping one day to return to their homeland.
By its ongoing seizure of land, mainly in the West Bank, the Israeli government is denying peaceful co-existence and the ultimate formation of two states.
The Australian government's support for Israel's continued dispossession of Palestinians from their lands is at odds with Abbott's call for measures to address the legacy of the shameful treatment of indigenous Australians when they were forcibly removed from their traditional lands.
Keith McEwan, Bonython
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop promises that ''the government will not support resolutions which are one-sided''. I try to imagine how a resolution about the ongoing expansion of Jewish settlements can be ''balanced''. Most Palestinians are forbidden by law to settle in pre-1967 Israel, and prohibited from building on land they own in much of the West Bank.
I cannot see how to ''balance'' the resolution that the Geneva Convention applies in the occupied Palestinian territories. Palestinians aren't occupying anything; Israel occupies the West Bank (and more).
Where's the balance in Israel's recent approval of 799 units - some built on private Palestinian land, some in outposts due for evacuation, many merely retroactive approval of illegally built units, the majority thickening housing barriers that separate Palestinian communities from each other, precluding a viable, contiguous state …
And the balance in Israel's building a so-called ''nature park'' that consumes the only remaining land for expansion of Palestinian villages around Jerusalem? Land with ''no unique natural or archaeological value'' - other than ''to block Palestinian development there, rather than to preserve nature''?
Heralded as ''unstinting support for Israel'' by some in more conservative media, I struggle to see any ''balance'' in our current government's position on Israel and Palestine.
Judy Bamberger, O'Connor
Be fair, not foul, captains
Michael Clarke and Alastair Cook, as captains of the Australian and England cricket teams, would do well to pause in their condoning of on-field sledging and consider the example they are setting for young children playing sport. Rude gestures, foul language, deliberate intention to injure players and overly-exuberant reactions to dismissals are not the attitudes we want to see in sport at any level, and especially not among our children. Behaviour in sport often represents attitudes off the sporting field too. Is this what we want to see in our homes, streets and schoolyards?
Frances Cornish, Spence
Something nasty is lurking in the forest
When we attended our first Voices in the Forest in 2012, we were delighted by the whole concept: the music, the performers, the setting, the children dancing and playing, the wonderful community feel of the event, the addresses given by the Governor-General and Chief Minister - something uniquely Canberra. We felt certain this special event would become a landmark in the Canberra cultural calendar.
All year we looked forward to the 2013 concert, which we believed would be even more remarkable in Canberra's centenary year. Indeed, the public transport and parking arrangements this year were a big improvement on last year. The musical selection and performances were again of a very high standard and quite delightful. The weather was near perfect. But something was wrong.
Instead of happy children dancing or rolling down the hills in joyful response to the music, security guards dressed in black stood with arms folded in front of industrial building site fences wrapped in gaudy orange fabric carrying advertising stretching all the way down those hills, ruining our view in one of Australia's best natural amphitheatres of the parabolic Arboretum hills, Black Mountain, the lake, city and hills to the east under a gorgeous afternoon sky.
Who made the decision to introduce this shabby, aesthetically jarring element, and for what reason - to stop kids having fun? And, in Canberra's centenary year, there was no address from the G-G, Chief Minister or other dignitaries; instead, a financial backer was afforded a prime business promotional opportunity to talk to us. Choices in the Forest: a unique, annual Canberra cultural event in a stunningly beautiful setting for people of all ages, or a tacky, commercial Big Day Out strictly for elderly musical aficionados?
Gary Lewis, Wamboin, NSW
TO THE POINT
ABUSE NOT CRICKET
The fabled Keith Miller inspired fear and admiration in equal measure from the English cricket public. He was often quoted as saying the three most beautiful things in England were: the hills of Derbyshire; the leg sweep of Denis Compton; and Princess Margaret.'' No mention (''Clarke taunts England with fighting words'', Sport, November 25, p24) of an expletive broken arm.
Bob Gardiner, Kambah
If Quentin Bryce feels strongly enough to exploit her position to publicly express her view on the necessity of a republic in Australia (''G-G backs same-sex marriage, republic'', November 23, p1), why did she accept a job as the representative of the Queen, with all its attendant privileges?
Catherine Doherty, Campbell
TRAGEDY IN LATVIA
A major tragedy has happened in Riga, capital of Latvia - the roof collapsed in a shopping mall killing at least 64 people. Why hasn't The Canberra Times printed any stories about this? A gas explosion in China that kills 49 people is front-page news, while the roof collapse in Riga doesn't even get a mention. As a Latvian living in Canberra I find this discriminatory.
Indra Silins, Fisher
How dare the Abbott government withdraw Australian support for the UN's order to stop ''all Israeli settlement activity in all of the occupied territories''. When we voted we were never told this was their intention. They are not speaking for us!
Pam and Keith Hammond, Campbell
HUMAN RIGHTS SHAME
Australians have little reason to be proud of the company we keep in respect of moral issues, i.e. human rights, of either asylum seekers, Tamils or Palestinians being harassed, dispossessed and driven off their land by Israelis (''Abbott change on Israeli settlements'', November 25, p5).
Albert M. White, Queanbeyan, NSW
BROUGHT TO GRIEF
I am sure Richard Pigram (Letters, November 26) means Mark Webber brought (not bought) Australia to the ''attention of the world''. I wish people would learn the difference between ''brought'' and ''bought''. Oddly this is a problem I have noticed frequently from reporters out of Britain, which is more worrying as it is ''their language''. It is also something I have noticed which seems more prevalent amongst people from NSW. Why so, I ponder?
L. Christie, Canberra City
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