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Action on asbestos

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Deidre Sheppard's letter (August 6) legitimately asks where the money comes from to knock down and rebuild Mr Fluffy homes.

Mr Fluffy was probably unaware of the dangers of asbestos, however, the companies that manufactured and sold the asbestos were.

It's time Canberrans found out whether, for example, James Hardie or CSR supplied the asbestos to Mr Fluffy and pursued these suppliers through the courts.

Asbestos manufacturers need to pay for the harm they have deliberately caused society.

Elizabeth Thurbon, Narrabundah

I have to disagree with a statement in the editorial ''ACT must confront asbestos nightmares'' (Times2, August 6, p2), which says: ''There is another aspect of this crisis that has gone unremarked upon but which the ACT government must tackle at some point.''

This ''aspect'' relates to those who may have lived in Mr Fluffy homes without knowing it and are unable to find out from the government if this is true, particularly when the landlord or real estate agent has moved on or closed down.

This newspaper published my concerns regarding this aspect in a letter on July 20, when, in a preamble, I advised that many of the 2003 fire victims, such as my own family, moved into rental accommodation in older suburbs for long periods of time and were unaware as to whether the homes had asbestos or not.

Remember, when almost 500 families lose their homes, you cannot be picky about the house or suburb you rent in.

The government must make this information available to such people on request.

Ric Hingee, Duffy

'Could do better, Bob'

I was dismayed at the ire, denigration and sarcasm shown in Bob Salmond's letter (August 4) concerning the achievements of Richardson Primary School in raising its literacy standards across the board.

Salmond, who says he attended school 60 years ago, praised his teachers for not using standardised testing and for seeming to have accurate and instinctive knowledge - through weekly internal testing - of their students' capabilities.

I am close to Salmond's vintage, but also recall that the sum total of my teachers' reporting on my term's work would often be as concise and unhelpful - albeit accurate - as ''could do better'', or ''talks too much''.

Salmond's teachers may also have missed the mark somewhat in teaching him that old-fashioned reading skill of ''comprehension'', since he comprehensively failed to grasp the meaning of a letter by the Australian Education Union's Glenn Fowler, which was to outline the systematic care and zeal with which Richardson Primary School staff went about overhauling their entire school's literacy policy and practices.

Fowler clearly does not categorise ''most members of his union as incompetent''. Quite the reverse.

I'd like to add my sincere congratulations to the staff of Richardson Primary for their vision and dedication.

It is a huge task to ensure that all teachers in a school remain consistent and focused, and have up-to-date training in literacy teaching while the world around them makes this teaching task immeasurably difficult and as rewards and accolades for their efforts come far too infrequently.

Helen Nourse, Rivett

Crowdfunding folly

Kevin Cox (Letters, August 7) says we can have it all.

He says the Corbell/Rattenbury tram can be built, Mr Fluffy homes replaced, Kambah's infrastructure maintained, and hospitals built - all by using crowdfunding.

I'd love to see that tried.

I'd like it because trying to crowdfund a project is, in effect, a plebiscite.

Crowdfunding requires voluntary participation: doing things using money obtained from supporters of that project.

I suspect we would find a big difference between quite a few residents of (infrastructure-neglected) Tuggeranong saying they like the general idea of trams (in response to a government survey) and them actually reaching into their pockets to find their share of the $1 billion-plus (if the very recent Gold Coast experience is any guide) needed to give a few thousand Gungahlin residents a groovier way to get to work in Civic.

This writer sure wouldn't be chipping in.

Cuthbert Douglas, Bonython

MLAs feather nests

''Assembly to get 25 members in 2016'' (August 6, p1) reported that all parties agreed to expand the Legislative Assembly, saying increasing population growth meant MLAs faced ''a lot more complexity in their workload and a lot more expectation from the community about their ability to oversee a whole range of functions''.

On the other hand, many small and large businesses are folding, leaving many people not only without employment, but with no benefits.

If business is not booming, why increase the number of MLAs? This will only cause taxes to rise to cover their salaries and pensions. And guess what? They will do nothing for you and me.

Think about it: they want to increase their numbers while the rest of us are losing our jobs.

I would like to put all MLAs on a light rail tram heading out of town.

Wal Glennon, Duffy

Freedom to defer

Part of me understands Tony Abbott's pragmatic motives in discarding the repeal of section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act. He has a lot on his plate and having botched the argument for change, was happy to move on.

Defending his about-face, it was ironic that the Prime Minister expressed the importance of not offending Islamic sensitivities at a time in which anti-terrorism laws were being strengthened.

It seems the risk of offending people is indeed a reason to restrict freedom of speech after all.

In light of the resistance to this important reform, I can accept that now may not be the time to press on, but if Abbott were really serious about freedom of speech, why didn't he simply defer the matter?

He has championed freedom of speech all his public life, and while this move is not likely to harm him politically, it will tarnish his reputation as a man of principle.

That, Prime Minister, is a big price to pay.

H. Ronald, Jerrabomberra, NSW

A rival for Roland

I can think of at least one famous flatulist who could outdo Roland the Farter (Barrie Smillie, Letters, August 7).

Le Petomane (Frenchman Joseph Pujol, 1857-1945) had remarkable control of the muscles in his digestive tract. He could, for example, imitate the sounds of thunderstorms and cannon shots at will. He could also blow out candles that were several metres away.

He could play the tunes La Marseillaise and O Solo Mio on an ocarina (a simple wind instrument) via a rubber tube.

Le Petomane was a true visceral virtuoso.

Douglas Mackenzie, Deakin

Peter George, in his apologia for Hamas (''Leader's vision tarnishes Israel'', Times2, August 6, p4), overlooks a very important point.

Hamas is a terrorist organisation, and its attacks on Israeli civilians are war crimes. It initiated this war because the reason it exists is to try to destroy Israel.

George tries to excuse the inexcusable Hamas attacks by accusing Israel of increasing its stranglehold on Gaza. However, Israel evacuated Gaza entirely in 2005, leaving greenhouses to help the economy there.

The Palestinians smashed the greenhouses and concentrated on terror rather than agriculture. Israel's blockade, which is only partial, came later, in 2007, because of the thousands of rockets fired from Gaza.

It is also patently untrue to accuse Israel of blocking Palestinian statehood. The settlements are only growing within their already established boundaries, the security barrier was only installed after Palestinian terrorists, mainly suicide bombers, had murdered more than 1000 Israelis, and Israel offered the Palestinians a state incorporating everything they claimed to want in 2000, 2001 and 2008. Sadly, the Palestinians refused to accept.

Justin Said, Coogee, NSW

Cowra's deadly mistake

Regarding Cowra's dark night of death (''Remembering helps us learn and be warned'', Forum, August 2, p2), Australians died needlessly.

My grandfather, a World War I veteran of the Western Front and winner of the military medal, was on the garrison strength at Cowra.

But he was not on duty on the night of August 5, 1944.

He had informed the officers responsible for perimeter security that the machine guns were located incorrectly. Their line of fire would take out the lighting.

Sure enough, their fire plunged the camp into darkness. Three of the perimeter defenders were killed, and one Australian in the round-up.

Christopher Ryan, Watson

Greenhouse hot air

I generally skim through letters such as those of J. McKerral (July 29) just to remind myself what we are up against.

Michael Jordan, in a somewhat cynical letter (August 4), asks why Australia should try to lower its greenhouse-gas emissions when our present contribution is only a tiny part of the world total. On the face of it a good question. Almost every other country could ask the same question, mostly with more justice.

But climate change is looming and dangerous. Someone must step forward; why should it not be Australia?

It is the driest continent and can expect the effects of global warming to be greater and occur earlier than most others. And we would not be the first by a long chalk.

You might think that our Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, out of concern for his country, would be travelling the world begging the bigger emitting countries to do something.

It would help the argument if he could point to his own efforts.

That's not what is happening. Abbott inherited one of the best-designed emissions-reduction systems, but not content with destroying it, he travels the world trying to sabotage the global effort.

The vandalism was noted internationally.

Oh, and, per capita, Australia is almost the highest-emitting and wealthiest country.

John Cashman, Yarralumla

Slogan for all occasions

Tony Abbott appointed Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston to head the government's ''Operation Find The Plane'' in relation to flight MH370.

Without a satisfactory outcome, Houston is now heading ''Operation Bring Them Home'' in relation to MH17.

Given the government's panache for military terms and three-word slogans, I look forward to seeing his appointment as head of ''Operation Save The Budget''.

I wish him better success.

Jeffrey Bradley, Isaacs

Brandis' bigots to the fore

Attorney-General George Brandis had the most capacious bookshelves outside the Parliamentary Library.

Too bad he didn't read and heed the (1927) opinion of a near-namesake, US Supreme Court's Louis Brandeis: ''The greatest menace to freedom is an inert people; that public discussion is a political duty; and that this should be a fundamental principle of the … government''.

Only a barely literate inert ''libertarian'' would argue that it's ''OK to be a bigot'' in this violent, repressive world where bigots seem to be in the majority.

Byron Kaufman, Dickson

Low-paid sold out again

I was interested to read Jack Waterford's article ''Let's debate lifters v leaners'' (Times2, August 6, p1).

I remember only too well the halcyon days of the Hawke-Keating government. It was a time of stagflation, when the Keynesian model no longer seemed to work.

Most economists were busy explaining that wages at the bottom end had to come down to increase Australia's productivity.

It was a measure of Bob Hawke's genius that he managed to get unions and employers at the table together to sign off on the Prices and Incomes Accord.

Although there were a few dissenting voices among economists, saying low wages were a de facto subsidy to industry, the prevailing Treasury line was that lower wages should be offset by our welfare system.

There was much talk of Australia's ''social wage''.

Now, after years of growing inequality, that trade-off has been forgotten and the low paid have been sold out again.

They are now ''leaners'' on the rest of us and the ''social wage'' lingers only as a quaint memory of a broken promise given in a bygone age.

Pauline Westwood, Dickson

ACT Sport Minister Andrew Barr either lives in fantasy land or dreamtime.

The proposal for a new, undercover stadium on the Civic pool site lacks justification on any ground (''Smaller stadium planned after fall in crowds for Brumbies and Raiders'', August 6, p1).

Barr says it will be built at no cost to ACT residents.

This better be guaranteed and include any associated costs with its construction.

I hope he has taken into account the loss of amenity of the public swimming pool.

Where will the parking areas be? Has he considered the loss of patronage from regional football supporters (and locals) who depend on accessible parking to attend games?

The Bruce stadium has excellent parking facilities and traffic accessibility.

The idea that the Bruce stadium is ''nearing the end of its lifespan'' is a joke.

What does Barr propose to do with it?

Key rugby league stadiums in Sydney are three times its age. Presumably, new investors will pay for its removal!

Brian Brocklebank, Bruce

TRASH OR TREASURE

It is almost four years to the day since our town council began the campaign to convince us that a contaminated industrial site is a heritage treasure (''Plan to rekindle brickworks'', August 18, 2010, p1).

Gary J. Wilson, Macgregor

GRIM FUN RUN

On August 4, The Canberra Times published a feature on the fun run. Included was a photo of a group of runners, I presume taken at an earlier run. I tried hard but could not find in the photo any happy, smiling runners who looked like they were having ''fun''. Perhaps those ones were in a different group.

L. Buckley, Duffy

CENSOR REQUIRED

I guess Kevin Cox (Letters, August 7), in writing his tosh about a magic pudding for light rail and any other expenditure that takes the government's fancy, believes also in the tooth fairy and that money grows on trees. Shame on The Canberra Times for printing such nonsense!

M. Silex, Greenway

SINK OR SWIM

For a fraction of the initial and forever-ongoing cost of an unwanted light rail, a Weston Creek all-seasons aquatic centre could be reality, with change to spare.

Barrie Smillie, Duffy

LOST IN TRANSLATION

Can someone please encourage Tony Abbott to desist from his increasing use of repetitive jingoism. Now he is lauding ''Team Australia'' at every opportunity (''PM backs down on race bill change'', August 6, p1). He is sounding more like a US politician than a down-to-earth Australian leader and doesn't reflect the interests of thinking Australians any more, if he ever did.

Rex Williams, Ainslie

DETAIL OMITTED

Christopher Yate (Letters, August 5) writes ''Ironic, really, coming on the eve of the outbreak of World War I, the US Congress has rushed through $US225 million to restock Israel's missile defence system''. The eve of the outbreak happened 100 years ago, unless Yate has travelled back in some sort of time machine!

Vee Saunders, Weetangera

DAMN STATISTICS

Regarding the telephone survey on light rail (''Tram line winning support'', August 2, p1), 1192 was certainly a small sample. If one considers the approximate number of electors enrolled in the ACT (268,000), the percentage (55 per cent) in favour of light rail is less than ¼ per cent of the enrolled voters. Is this a fair indication of support?

S. Duke, Ainslie

Email: letters.editor@ canberratimes.com.au. 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.

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