Letters to the editor

ACTEW by any name

So Katy Gallagher thinks it's a ''no-brainer'' that ACTEW is due for another name change after having just spent $2.5 million on just that not long ago (''Another renaming tipped for ACTEW'', February 12, p1). I'd say ''no brains'' is closer to the mark. That, along with the other hare-brained pursuit of the $630 million Gungahlin ''Tonka Tram'' and the eight-breasted flying turtle. Can I suggest she trots over to Canberra Rubber Stamps and has one made up with the proposed new name and get a-stamping … will cost about $30 and a bit of elbow grease. It's just so easy to spend other people's money.

Peter Toscan, Amaroo

I agree with the sentiments of Ian MacDougall (Letters, February 12). Too often we see overpaid government ministers and officials being appointed to cushy jobs with excessive salaries as a pre-retirement benefit. And we see these salaries being paid while the ACT government cries poor and looks for federal handouts along the lines of those offered to retrenched workers at car making factories.

It is not amusing to see the local government asking for federal assistance at the same time as it uses taxpayers' money to fund court battles relating to gay marriage, which fall within the federal arena. If I were in federal government, I would not consider assisting the ACT government if I knew that these limited funds would be used to oppose federal legislation. The ACT government needs to learn not to waste taxpayers' money.

Ric Hingee, Duffy


Fingers crossed

We have just received an email from the Coles organisation offering a 10¢-a-litre discount on petrol if we spend $20 at Coles Express (not Coles supermarket). I remember Coles and Woolworths promising the ACCC that they would stop their petrol-discounting craziness and only offer 4¢ discounts. This is truly sneaky behaviour. I guess Coles figuratively had its fingers crossed behind its back when it made the promise.

Warwick Budd, Harcourt hill

Great run but …

That was a great run by Melissa Breen at the weekend to set a new Australian 100-metre sprint record. However, it only proved that she might be worthy to represent Australia.

Her performance, although meritorious, was not against world-class sprinters, and it was run on a brand new track. She cannot yet be compared with Betty Cuthbert, who was a clear winner in the 100 metres and 200 metres at the 1956 Olympics - on cinders. Cuthbert also won the 400 metres in the 1960 Olympics on cinders. Before 1968, all tracks were cinders, clay or grass.

Jack Pennington, Kaleen

Comings and goings

Unfortunately, and with a heavy heart, I find myself agreeing with News Corp Australia's recent claims of bias levelled at the ABC. With thousands of Australians being imprisoned and released from national and overseas jails each year, the recent intense focus on one case in Indonesia seems somewhat unbalanced. I am sure that the public would love to hear the details of the rest of these plucky/unlucky Australians' stories. Perhaps a show following 7.30 (how about Comings and Goings?) could provide details of each budding inmate's sentence or ex-criminal's parole arrangements and enable each individual's story to be told. Also including the address of released ''rock spiders'' could assist ''receiving'' communities to plan welcome ceremonies.

The other benefit of this approach would be the freeing up of time to allow the ABC to cover ''real'' news stories. Although, given recent news reporting across all media, this seems to be a very subjective term and perhaps worthy of separate discussion.

Steve Kininmonth, Dickson

I hesitate to pour cold water on Stephen Jones' assertions (Letters, February 11) because he is right about News Corp Australia not having a (direct) financial interest in Sky News Australia (Australian News Channel Pty Ltd). However, British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB) holds a one-third share in Sky News Australia, and Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, through its fully owned 20th Century Fox, has a controlling share of BSkyB. Murdoch's tentacles spread far and wide, and are grasping for more.

Douglas Mackenzie, Deakin

Not so curious

Jack Kershaw (Letters, February 11) puts forward a couple of curious propositions. First, he states that ''the constitution makes the national capital the responsibility of the Federal Parliament (not the government)''. I assume he's alluding to section 52(i), which empowers the Federal Parliament to legislate with respect to the seat of government. But section 52(i) doesn't take away the federal government's responsibility for the national capital. The government possesses commensurate executive power in relation to all of the Parliament's legislative powers (including the power conferred by section 52(i) ).

Kershaw also suggests that the ACT's Senate representation should be boosted to, say, eight ''preferably non-major-party ACT senators''. It would be interesting to see what the High Court made of such an undemocratic variation of our 1973 parliamentary representation act.

Frank Marris, Forrest

Cosmetics on the nose

Nothing so wonderful could happen, could it? People cutting out or, at least, cutting down on cosmetics (''Hold the vanity, my no-make-up policy is catching'', Times2, February 10, p5). As a person with a fairly acute sense of smell and some degree of allergy to cosmetics, finding myself too near someone doused in scented soap or aftershave in a theatre or cinema, or even just passing in the street, is near agony. And it is not even as though cosmetics do what they promise: beautiful people don't need them and the plainer are not improved. Cosmetics are just a giant con and the sooner they go the better.

John Rogers, Cook

Hot on records

I can happily flood the letter pages for L. Christie (Letters, February 13). Canberra has had similar heatwaves in 1939, 1947 and 1988. Adelaide was hotter in 1906 and 1939. The Bureau of Meteorology releases only some records. The full Acton site records are not available online. Adelaide's records are Australia's oldest but the online version is only from 1887. Recent heatwaves cheered proponents of man-made warming as they avoided having to explain why there has been no warming for 17 years.

Brian Hatch, Red Hill

Great speech, but deeds, not words will prove PM's worth

Tony Abbott has made his best speech yet since becoming PM, according to one commentator on the closing the gap report (''A powerful speech, but now Abbott has to live up to those fine words'', February 13, p5). Stating his new goal of closing the gap between indigenous and non-indigenous school attendance, Mr Abbott's speech would be a fine indeed if it was heartfelt.

However, his government has dismantled the Gonski review, which would advantage all children and will be replaced by some ideologically driven conservative agenda. Indigenous children will receive a whitewashed view of their own history. Senator Nova Peris discussed what is happening in the Northern Territory on radio and the outcomes of the education policy. The transcript is not flattering to the LNP.

First get your own house/states/ territory in order, Mr Abbott, and stop continuing to fool the Australian public by talking in terms of being on track to meet targets by 2020. Presumably these targets were put in place under the previous government, as your government has had little time to implement them. Too busy stopping the boats, closing down industry, ordering royal commissions and patting yourself on the back.

Jan Gulliver, Lyneham

A rescue to share

Much of the angst about corporate welfare in cases such as SPC Ardmona would be avoided by a more commercial approach.

When there is a plea for government help, the funding should be provided only in return for an issue of shares in the company.

This would be an investment, not a bailout, the government would receive any dividends that the company paid, and would also acquire a stake in the ownership; decidedly good politics in the case of firms otherwise owned by overseas entities.

What about companies that are wholly owned subsidiaries of overseas corporations (e.g. Ford) and are not listed on the Australian stockmarket? Not a problem - let the company finance wizards work out a way - or get their assistance funds somewhere else.

Roger Quarterman, Campbell

With Coca-Cola Amatil promising to deliver a write-down valuation of SPC Ardmona, surely now is the time for interested parties - suppliers, employees, townspeople etc - to form a good old fashioned co-operative society to offer to buy the assets.

If governments (I believe all eastern states supply produce) supplied either guarantees or low-interest loans it would be profitable all round.

M.F. Buggy, Torrens

Action on unions

The Canberra Times editorial (''Unions will rue their failures'', Times2, February 11, p2), made some good points. Where it perhaps could have been more informative is in stressing that it takes two to tango. As the Obeid saga showed, it was made up of a mixed bag of characters. They ranged from politicians, business people and one ex-union official.

The builders labourers' union has run the gamut, from the heroic Jack Mundey to acts of sheer extortion. Where they have the builders at their mercy is that they can hold up projects and in some cases cost the builder much more than the corrupt payment they demand.

The cost of the royal commission is predicted to reach $60 million, and if it follows the last one, will not stop corruption in any significant manner.

The police have done a fine job prosecuting the Health Services Union. There is no reason why they cannot bring to book corrupt union officials and corrupt companies that offer the inducements. I suggest it is just as important to punish the corrupters as well as the corrupted.

Howard Carew, Isaacs

I take issue with the head of Toyota Australia for suggesting that the high Australian dollar is the root cause of the company's failure to be profitable. Before the establishment of the European single currency, the only currency that mattered in the region was the mighty deutschemark; and its continuous high value had no detrimental effect whatsoever on Germany's car exports.

Why? Because badges such as Mercedes and VW stood for quality and were therefore much sought- after in Europe and beyond.

Is it any wonder, therefore, that Australians choose to purchase better-quality, albeit dearer, imported cars, than settle for the poor-quality home-manufactured Toyotas.

Sam Nona, Burradoo, NSW

At issue with Gittins

The neck hairs bristled when reading Ross Gittins (''Toyota is leaving? No problem'', Times2, February 12, p4). By what triumph of logical gymnastics does he reconcile his statement that ''many older people find the relative decline of manufacturing disturbing, but I can't see why'', with the further claim that ''it's true some of the workers who lose their jobs won't be able to find alternative jobs…''? One gratuitously contradicts the other.

Mr Gittins' economic forecasting, it would appear, suffers from a similar lack of consistency. He originally informs us ''we're overdue for another recession'' and yet in the following paragraph assures us that ''far more [workers] will find jobs than many of us imagine''.

His view that a recession is ''overdue'' sits uneasily with such optimism about the future employment prospects of manufacturing workers, to put the matter mildly.

David Tuckwell, Ainslie

'Burnt hands' confusion

Peter Grabosky's criticism (Letters, February 9) of Prime Minister Tony Abbott's statement concerning a navy video seems based on the PM having acknowledged the video existed. The article he quoted (''Officials to re-examine hand burning claims", February 8, p4) does not acknowledge that any such video exists.

Mr Grabosky might care to re-read David Wroe's article, and also read Michael Bachelard's article "I saw it with my own eyes: burnt hands witness'' (February 7, p5).

Robert Roach, Scullin

Has parcel delivery reached a dead end?

Since when did Australia Post stop delivering parcels in parts of Canberra? My local contractor doesn't even bother bringing the parcels at all now, just delivers a handful of cards. When confronted, he said he didn't have time to deliver all the parcels.

Strangely, I thought that was their job? I am often home during the day, and have not had a single parcel actually delivered in months.

Is this a problem across Canberra? It surely makes things difficult for me, as a person with a mobility disability, to access mail services. Shame on Australia Post.

Liz Blackwell, Braddon

Formula feeding good

Dr Julie Smith, who is an economist, makes some extraordinary assertions about the evils of artificial feeding of infants (''Milking the 'white-gold' boom in infant formula'', Times2, February 12, p5).

Of course breastfeeding is very good, especially if it is easy (which it often isn't), but most artificially fed babies are perfectly healthy, too. We all know that mortality at all ages is much too high in poor countries, and there are many reasons for that, but it is very doubtful whether artificial feeding per se is a major factor. Babies starve when maternal malnutrition reduces or stops lactation, contributing to dreadful rates of infant mortality.

To write of ''a global wipe-out of one of the world's largest public health assets'', ''a chronic disease epidemic arising from formula feeding'', and ''products which sicken and kill infants and young children'' grossly distort facts, diminishes credibility, and borders on the hysterical.

Dr Alan N. Cowan, Yarralumla

To the point


I have an idea to help close the gap between educational outcomes for indigenous and non-indigenous children. Pay the indigenous parents a bonus for each day their children attend school. Call it ''Direct Action''. Better than a punitive tax.

Ruth McLucas, Weetangera


With three grass fires just north of the ACT in recent days, I have been impressed that volunteers have included fit young women driving fire trucks and working the pumps for the Wallaroo and Springfield brigades. They include mothers from rural properties and I pay tribute to their concern for the protection of neighbours' homes, livestock and property, alongside the men of the land.

Terry Birtles, Spring Range, NSW


Australia is having troubles with another widespread drought. Is it the same Australia whose the federal government dismantled its land and water research bodies? The ''Clever Country''? Don't make me laugh!

Mike Phoenix, Greenway


The 32GL of water in the large Cotter dam belies Michael Jordan's claim (Letters, February 11) that the dam adds no new water to our supplies. Rather than being Jordan's dry ''valley with no significant tributaries'', the 193-square-kilometre catchment below Bendora is ''lucrative'' enough to have an average annual flow of 38GL. A measure of the larger Cotter dam's potential usefulness is not how infrequently Bendora dam spills but how often the small Cotter dam did.

John Bromhead, Rivett


Katy Gallagher is having a problem with the name ACTEW Water (''Another renaming tipped for ACTEW'', February 12, p1). The company has nothing to do with electricity any more. I suggest our town council buy it back for $1 and rename it ACT Water Authority. That would be in line with the terminology of her parliamentary agreement and Shane Rattenbury could ''establish a Water Catchment Management Authority''.

Gary J. Wilson, MacGregor


Former Victorian premier John Brumby wants the federal government to give ''cash handouts to bribe state governments to cut costs'' (''Deep cuts forecast to achieve surplus goals'', February 6, p4). What a strange suggestion. It would mean no overall government savings, less chance of the federal budget reaching a surplus, and subsidisation of some state taxpayers by federal taxpayers.

R.S. Gilbert, Braddon

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).