Letters to the Editor
Federal Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus claims Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden are not whistleblowers: ''Where an activity has been authorised under law and overseen by appropriate government bodies and where no wrongdoing has been identified, the disclosure of information is not whistleblowing.''
Manning revealed the US government was torturing prisoners, killing civilians and journalists, and that Hillary Clinton ordered diplomats to collect credit card details and DNA from United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon. Snowden revealed the US government was secretly collecting and storing the private emails and phone calls of its citizens in breach of its constitution and while lying to Congress. To suggest this conduct is appropriate for a democratic government and not wrongdoing is ludicrous.
The Australian government has also been implicated in secret mass spying. While pleading that such draconian invasions of privacy are essential to ''fight terrorism'', the data is supplied to the Tax Office. The Attorney-General's department has drafted sneaky new laws, such as the Telecommunications Interception Act, giving power to authorise spying to politicians, avoiding judicial oversight. So-called ''whistleblower protection'' legislation is more about damage control for the government than protecting those who expose its corruption.
Most democracies have a bill of rights articulating the fundamental rights of citizens, and to which their governments are held accountable. Despite Australia priding itself as a nation of freedom, this vital document remains conspicuously absent. Without it, a continuing slide into the dystopia of government autocracy seems inevitable.
Simon Kringas, Forrest
Roadworks for ever
The Cotter Road should be declared a state of emergency. Over the past 15 years, it has undergone highly disruptive traffic-clogging roadworks. For most of this time, Weston Creek residents have been delayed on a daily basis on a stretch involving two kilometres of roadworks.
The rest of the world has not stopped. During these 15 years, we've seen the emergence of five new nations, several changes of world leaders, a global financial crisis, recoveries from several natural disasters and significant terrorist events. We've seen royal weddings, learnt of royal passings and even welcomed a royal heir.
As a nation, we've hosted an Olympic Games and several visits from high-profile dignitaries, endured several federal elections, been governed by our first female governor-general and first female prime minister (since deposed), and introduced a carbon tax. Here in the ACT, we've recovered from horrendous bushfires, built about 12 new suburbs (with complex road systems), extended several shopping centres, built several large buildings (including a national portrait gallery). We've planted more than 100 new forests, and have a new airport complex. We've also elected our first female chief minister. Personally, I've watched my daughter progress from kindergarten to university (with a gap year!), welcomed several new family members, obtained multiple tertiary qualifications, changed jobs several times, moved house, bought new motor vehicles, and, sadly, farewelled close relatives.
But after all of these otherwise eventful and productive 15 years, the Cotter Road still has significant work to be done. This can only be regarded as a reckless contribution to greenhouse gas emissions by a government that applauds itself for being green.
If only the nations of the world were to be made aware of the suffering of Weston Creek residents due to the ACT government's incompetence, there would surely be a global outpouring of sympathy. Our distress might even be deserving of an international relief effort.
Sandra McMillan, Chapman
Cushioning the blow
West Belconnen residents will be aware of the speed cushions problem on Spofforth Street in Holt. In 2011, 13 sets of speed cushions were installed. In 2012, two sets of cushions were removed in response to traffic problems affecting adjacent streets. Common sense and community opinion have prevailed. A further eight sets of cushions are to be removed, with other measures such as chicanes and kerb extensions being introduced to encourage responsible driver behaviour in Holt.
In 2011, the ACT government was justifiably criticised for its hasty and excessive response to traffic complaints. Now credit should go to the government, representatives from TAMS and MLA Yvette Berry who took the time to meet residents, listen to community concerns and develop a balanced and phased solution as a result.
Michael Bakos, Holt
Not so democratic
Professor Ramesh Thakur (''Democracy's deadly demise'', Times2, August 16, p1) reaches the obvious conclusion that continued suppression of Islamists in Egypt will force them underground. That is to say, they will revert to terrorism with an implied, and possibly long-running, civil war.
Professor Thakur extols the success of ''the world's largest Islamic country, Indonesia … where civilian democratic governance has been steadily consolidated since Suharto''. But the Indonesian military still figures prominently in the running of Indonesia. General Suharto's Golkar Party is still second in the ruling coalition's seat count behind President (General) Yudhoyono's Democratic Party.
Gary J. Wilson, MacGregor
Superpowers at play
I agree with your editorial (''Egypt violence may kill off Arab Spring'', Times2, August 16, p2) that Barack Obama's condemnation of the massacre of the Egyptian people by its army seems purely symbolic.
If he were sincere, he should stop the $1.5 billion in aid the Egyptian army uses to buy weapons from the US arms manufacturers - to kill its own people.
The US stands accused of hypocrisy if it dares to condemn Russia for supplying weapons to the Assad regime in Syria.
The Middle East continues to be seen by the superpowers as a playground. As to its people - they seem to matter not.
Sam Nona, Burradoo, NSW
If voters care to be informed, proof will be in the pudding
Despite the unprecedented availability of information on the internet, a large proportion of Australians believe the Australian economy is at some crisis point when in fact, by a mixture of good management and luck, and despite some blatantly pork-distributing policies from governments of both major persuasions, Australia has one of the best performing economies in the world, low government debt, low inflation, relatively low unemployment and a population that has decided to pay more off the mortgage rather than upgrade the television yet again.
While complaining about surgical waiting times, traffic congestion, inadequate public transport and lack of services for the old, many Australians oppose any increase in taxes, despite Australia being one of the lowest taxed countries in the world. They seem to believe that government services and infrastructure can, and should, be provided at no cost - we've taken Norman Lindsay's The Magic Pudding story to heart.
And what is contributing to this woe?
At least two things. The first is that most parties have forgotten that for a democracy to function well, the contest of ideas should not be treated as a war, or even a footy game, in which the winner takes all and the loser is ridiculed. They have forgotten that their objective should be to negotiate through the inevitable and desirable diversity of ideas held within any population and find courses of action for the country that combine the best insights, and avoid the worst errors, of a healthy majority of citizens. We do not need the politics of polarisation - that way leads to the current problems in Egypt.
And what is the other contributor to our political woes? That too many voters do not care enough about what is done on their behalf to take the time to inform themselves properly.
Chris Ansted, Garran
The cost of the future
To liken the $1 trillion economy of Australia to the household budget is ridiculous.
When a large company like Qantas looks towards the future to grow their company, they make valid decisions to buy new aircraft.
When was the last time there was public outcry when Qantas placed an order for 10 jumbo jets at $300 million each and borrowed the money to pay for them? The government also has to make decisions like Qantas and borrow for vital future infrastructure like the national broadband network.
Most of Australia's debt belongs to the large mining, industrial, and transport companies.
Clive Broomfield, Googong, NSW
On a lighter note …
Your correspondents Chris Smith and Roy Darling (Letters, August 16) both question why, if this month's Prime Minister is so intellectually gifted, he needed notes in going head-to-head with Rhodes scholar Tony Abbott in their televised debate. Full marks to Abbott for his comment that he did not object to the notes, but rather to the fact that they were not worth reading.
I am reminded of the comment by celebrated English wit Margot Asquith who once commented that Lord Birkenhead, the lawyer and politician, was a very clever man, but that sometimes his brains went to his head!
Robert Willson, Deakin
Peter Wertheim (Letters, August 15) states that none of the Jewish people who migrated to Palestine in the 19th and 20th centuries claimed to be returning as refugees, but rather they came because of the historical connection of their people to Palestine.
My letter (August 12) referred to those who the Israeli government has allowed to migrate into Israel since 1948, on the basis of this historical connection, while blocking the return of the non-Jewish former residents.
For the great majority of the post-1948 Jewish immigrants, any historical connection based on ancestral residence would have been almost 1900 years in the past, which hardly compares to the strength of the residency connection of the non-Jewish people who fled from their homes in Israel in 1948.
A similar strong connection applies to the close descendants of those who fled in 1948, although the right of return inevitably weakens as the generations pass.
Mr Wertheim might argue the historical connection to which he referred is not one of distant ancestral residence but one based on a religious tradition. The Jewish religion clearly does have a historical connection to Palestine. It is not unique in that.
Christians and Muslims could also argue a strong feeling of connection to this same land based on their religious traditions.
We get into very dangerous territory when religious adherence becomes the basis for territorial possession or exclusion.
Migration policies based on racial or religious grounds are equally problematic.
Paul McMahon, Isaacs
A rotten situation
We are continually told by the supermarket duopoly that they are great supporters of our primary producers yet Friday's edition of The Canberra Times features a large advertisement for fruit and vegetables on special this week at Coles with peaches and grapes from the USA and kiwi fruit from New Zealand.
Fruit and vegetables by their very nature are seasonal and when in season locally they are both plentiful and inexpensive.
Why is it then that the major supermarkets deem it necessary to import produce out of our season rather than encouraging consumers to buy locally sourced product in season?
The question must also be asked; what has to be added to fruit and vegetables to allow them to still appear ''fresh'' after travelling so many thousands of kilometres?
If we don't buy the imported fruit and vegetables they stock then they will soon get the message and no longer stock them.
Ian De Landelles, Hawker
Speed cameras are there to save lives
Any survey of what people think of speed cameras would undoubtedly result in ''they are just revenue raisers''. There would be no mention of the reason for speed limits, and the theory that it is OK to speed. The argument that a visible police presence instead is irrelevant as you are either obeying the law or breaking the law - end of argument.
My definition of a speed camera is that they are a mechanical device that allows motorists to make a voluntary donation to government for breaking the law. The answer is easy; safety, responsibility and obeying the law should come before any self-serving and ignorant argument about speed cameras. After all, speed limits and therefore speed cameras are there to save lives.
Steven Hurren, Macquarie
R.J. Leister (Letters, August 15) asks just who owns ACTEW and what percentage is owned by each shareholder? He or she continues, ''Asking the ACT government this question is always unsuccessful, no one seems to know or can supply an answer.''
Well I can. ACTEW is a territory-owned corporation and its shareholders are Chief Minister Katy Gallagher and Treasurer Andrew Barr.
There, not so mysterious. This information has been published frequently by The Canberra Times but public confusion over the roles and responsibilities of ACTEW is widespread.
Incidentally, ACTEW has no say in electricity prices as R.J. Leister suggests. That is the province of ActewAGL, in which ACTEW is a 50 per cent shareholder.
Graham Downie, O'Connor
Abbott turns jailer
Once a penal colony, always a penal colony! The jailers now are Abbott and Morrison (''Abbott hardens on boat people'', August 16, p1). The convicts are now the refugees.
What has happened to this big, bright, optimistic, warm country (built up by convicts, migrants and refugees!)? Advance Australia where?
Marguerite Castello, Griffith
Imagine that! A £10 Pom saying ''This is our country and we determine who comes here.''
Alan Parkinson, Weetangera
TO THE POINT
It was disheartening to read the letter (August 15) from Peter Wertheim. It was headlined ''Refugee differences'', and I think I can accurately paraphrase the differences as being anything Jews/Jewish refugees want to do they may, anything Palestinians/Palestinian refugees want to do they almost certainly may not.
And this from someone defending a country which to no small extent was founded in terrorism and the heartless usurpation of a significant part of the Palestinian homeland.
Peter Dark, Queanbeyan, NSW
SAVING OUR SANITY
Happiness is a tawny frogmouth blinking from the Gang Gang page of The Canberra Times (''God's gift to cool, and camouflage'', August 14, p8).
Another wonderful Ian Warden moment while others pontificate about politics and sport (not necessarily in that order). I find Warden's column a good reason to begin reading from the back page. Thank you for these moments of sanity and respite.
Hazel Hall, Aranda
MUCH AT STAKE
When Dallas Stow (Letters, August 15) goes on September 8 to collect the spent election poster stakes for his tomato plants, he should make sure he gets them from the Greens' posters.
They'll yield him the biggest and healthiest crop, I'm sure.
Ed Highley, Kambah
TIME TO TALK COMCARE
Will the Treasury officer responsible for paying ACT government Comcare premiums please contact the Treasury officer responsible for continuous funding reductions to ACT government agencies which ultimately result in increased Comcare premiums? Gentlepersons, you need to talk.
Mike Fitzgerald, Calwell
That ''someone'' referred to by Ray Aitchison (Letters, August 14) as having first written ''Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel'' was Dr Samuel Johnson, on April 7, 1775.
J. Huber, Theodore
Tony Abbott refuses to release policy costings until the last week of the campaign but says it won't be the day before voting. Does this mean costings will be out five minutes to midnight on September 5th?
Thos Puckett, Ashgrove, Qld
DEMOCRACY IN EGYPT
One can only assume from the article by Ramesh Thakur (''Democracy's deadly demise'', Times2, August 16, p1) regarding elections in Egypt that America is of the view that Muslims should not and cannot be allowed to elect a democratic government.
Pat Carthy, McKellar
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