Letters to the editor

Blindness of Abbott makes him a vandal on global stage

Zoltan Kovacs (Letters, June 13) heaps praise on Prime Minister Tony Abbott for, among other things, ''a lauded and respected trip to Canada with important speeches widely covered in the world press''. It is hardly something to be proud of that our PM so loudly demonstrates wilful disregard for the established science on climate change and seeks to undermine international efforts to respond with respectable economic tools such as emissions caps and trading. There is no economic upside from the global disruptions that are likely to occur if we continue burning fossil fuels on the present scale.

At home he seeks to stop renewable generators from displacing fossil fuel generation, even though renewables push prices down while avoiding harm to the environment and health. The man is a vandal.

Peter Campbell, Cook

A compass for calibration

Prime Minister Abbott, while in New York, referred to Rupert Murdoch as a ''distinguished Australian''. This, about an American citizen who tacitly sanctioned the hacking of telephones of celebrities, royalty and members of the public to increase his newspaper sales; who was described in a British government report as ''not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international company''; and who while referring to the phone hacking investigation was recorded saying, ''Why are the police behaving in this way? It's the biggest inquiry ever, over next to nothing''!

What does Mr Abbott's sycophantic endorsement of a business magnate of such dubious character say about the PM's moral compass?

Ross Pulbrook, Wyong, NSW


Shame of the ideologue

Treasurer Joe Hockey's claim that critics of his budget are engaging in ''class warfare'' is clear evidence he is nothing more than an old-fashioned ideologue, slavishly and shamelessly promoting the interests of his owners from the big end of town, while deceitfully pretending to be pursuing our ''national interest'' (''Calling budget unfair is like 'class warfare', says Joe Hockey'',, June 12).

In arguing that his government's budget is designed to end ''the age of entitlement'', as evidenced by the fact that one in 10 families in Australia receive more in social welfare payments than they pay in income tax, Mr Hockey succeeds in demonstrating only that he is a very big man with a very small mind. This willing servant of capital would have us ignore the fact that the majority of such families are made up of the most disadvantaged Australians, including our disabled, our unemployed, our youngest, our oldest, our weakest and poorest, as well the more than 2 million Australians trying to survive below the poverty line on the casual work provided by our ''great society''.

If Mr Hockey truly believes that destroying the economic security of one in 10 Australian families is necessary to secure the wellbeing of our nation, why hasn't he gone after the six in 10 companies and the more than seven out of 10 mining companies that derive their considerable wealth from our society but which pay no income tax?

John Richardson, Wallagoot, NSW

Advance into failure

The call by the Obama administration for a strong response to defeat the insurgents in Iraq is a clear admission that the previous American adventure in Iraq, that lasted from 2003 to 2011, has been a disastrous failure (''Insurgents seize city of Mosul'', June 12, p10). Which is not surprising, because the motive behind the Iraq mission was insincere.

Indeed, had Osama bin Laden been captured by 2003, depriving Saddam Hussein of weapons of mass destruction would never have been used as the excuse by the US to invade Iraq.

Surely, the Iraq experience ought to have taught Washington one important lesson: while the defeat of the enemy may be taken for granted, much more thought must be given to the unintended consequences? To replace one evil with another can hardly be classified as mission accomplished.

Sam Nona, Burradoo, NSW

The dramatic capture of Iraq's second largest city of Mosul by 1400 Sunni-based ISIL insurgents in a matter of hours sends the strongest signal to date that the military campaigns waged by the United States and its NATO allies in Iraq are destined to end in catastrophic failure (''Islamist militants extend Iraq gains, on move towards Baghdad'',, June 12).

These insurgents, whose affiliation with al-Qaeda was severed on the grounds that they were far too barbaric, are not only the sworn enemy of the Shia-dominated government of Iraq, but also of moderate Sunni rebels fighting against the Shia-dominated regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Ever since the scourge of the Iran-Iraq war, the world's major players have exploited this bitter sectarian divide for their own geo-strategic gain. They must all now urgently bring both these government and moderate rebel forces together for the sake of peace.

Reverend Dr Vincent Zankin, Rivett

Wagging of tongues

When Prime Minister Tony Abbott prepared a few words to speak to children, in French, at Villers-Bretonneux, it was more than a ''brave effort''; it was a commendable act not to be mocked as Manglish, which is a mangled English-based Creole spoken in Malaysia and has nothing to do with the French language even if badly pronounced (''The adventures of Antoine from Australie'', June 10, p4).

To pick at a speech error, or slip of the tongue, such as Canadia instead of Canada, says more about the writer than the person having a lapsus linguae.

But most offensive was the comparison with Barry McKenzie in the movie that describes this character as a boorish Australian overseas, unsophisticated, loud, crude, drunk and aggressive. Tony Abbott was humble enough to take the risk of speaking in another language.

I volunteer to teach French to the Prime Minister. He deserves it.

Noelle Roux, Chifley

Bosses' bad behaviour

Andrew Marty (''Bad behaviour at work can cruel productivity'', Times2, June 13, p5) informs us at some length that, nationwide, employers are having problems with the counterproductive behaviour - the ''bad'' behaviour - of individual workers. In the same way pundits on the right ascribe unemployment to the recalcitrance of individuals, i.e. their inherent badness, rather than to social factors and economic forces embedded in the structure of our society and our economy.

In this case, I would suggest that, before blaming workers, we look for causes at the context-blind imposition of production goals and productivity targets, and (on an individual level) the unenlightened and often abrasive practices of employers and managers, which over time can alienate the best-intentioned workers.

Individuals at the top of organisations often create toxic workplaces but, naturally enough, find it hard to identify the ''structural'' causes of the unhelpful employee behaviours that reflect the conditions of their work.

I am not saying that employers and managers always do this intentionally, but look rather to the conditions of their own employment and unrealistic externally imposed targets.

Alan Jones, Kaleen

Who's the tight-arse?

I found many of the statements by restaurant industry workers in the article ''Are you being served?'' (Food and Wine, June 11, p8) offensive.

For example, Matti Fallon stated: ''It's going to give tight-arses another excuse not to tip.''

Does he tip checkout staff at supermarkets or chemist shops? Does he tip the mailman? When he has his car serviced, does he pay 10 per cent more than he is billed? Or is he a hypocritical tight-arse?

As the subhead of the article said: ''Tipping is already a contentious issue in Australia.'' But it need not be - all that is required is for tipping (a form of tax evasion) to be outlawed.

The article stated, ''Unlike the United States, where the quasi-mandatory tipping system … accounts for most of the staff's income, in Australia, due to the minimum wage, tipping is seen as a token of gratitude for service that goes above the average.'' Why then do people such as Fallon expect that all waiters should be tipped?

Restaurants have many costs: rent, power, furniture, crockery and cutlery, laundry, food supplies, cooking costs, administrative expenses, etc. What proportion of all costs is paid as waiters' wages?

If all waiters were tipped the ''unofficial'' 10 per cent, would the tips exceed their wages? If necessary, prices should be increased to enable payment of appropriate wages.

It would be better for customers to train waiters not to expect a tip. The despicable practice of tipping should be abolished.

Bob Salmond, Melba

Buy more buses

Your editorial ''Second thoughts on light rail line'' (Times2, June 12, p2) sought to provide some balance in the debate. In reviewing the case for light rail, you conceded ''it is probably true that in the event that fossil fuel supplies become scarce and petrol prices begin to skyrocket … light rail could indeed transform the city''.

Putting aside the many alternative-fuel solutions already available (solutions uneconomic at medium-term oil prices), surely the efficient response to such future concerns is to buy more (gas-fuelled?) buses as prices rise.

Some broad contingency plans for light rail, sitting in the bottom drawer, would make sense. But spending $1 billion on a tram up one road now?

The oil-related rationale for increased public transport more commonly advanced is the need to reduce emissions.

But here, too, it seems low and zero-emissions cars will do the jobs better. Our town car already does five litres per 100 kilometres.

Veronica Giles, Chifley

The editorial accompanying the Liberals' light rail assessment was helpful. What could have been added was Mr Corbell's plan to shift our racecourse. It was truly Alice in Wonderland.

The cost of relocating would be at least $15 million, plus there would be a huge loss of light rail patronage from racegoers on race days.

I truly feel sorry for Ms Gallagher. No wonder she wants an extra cabinet appointment.

Howard Carew, Isaacs

The suggestion that light rail could become a more attractive option ''in the event that fossil fuel supplies become scarce and petrol prices begin to skyrocket'' (''Second thoughts on light rail line'') is based on an overly limited view of the options.

It has recently been reported that buses powered entirely by renewable electricity will become part of the public transport network in Gothenburg, Sweden (population 533,000) in 2015.

Are such things beyond our capability?

Karina Morris, Weetangera

Reworking City Hill

The greed and inadequacy of the 2005 Griffin Legacy plan have at last been exposed (''Skyrise capital: vision of luxury for convention centre precinct'', June 11, p1). It has stymied all attempts to realise a truly great national and civic precinct at City Hill, the unfinished apex of the national triangle.

The controlling National Capital Plan Amendment (59) and the ACT's City Plan are excessively commercially driven, and widely inadequate in regard to land use, landscape treatment, axial design, symmetry, view corridors, public open space, building heights, pedestrian access, traffic, public transport, parking and many other considerations. We must start again with a fully workable, detailed master design for the whole precinct inside London Circuit.

The laudable Australia Forum (a major conference and exhibition centre conceived as having line of sight to Parliament House) can be a driving element. So can be a new civic square, a new Legislative Assembly, a transport centre, hotels (in the west zone), some administrative offices, new or improved cultural facilities, respectful courts expansion, and a workable through-traffic tunnel or similar.

The circular hilltop parkland (Griffin's original plan showed a significant building there) must now not be excluded. Parliament House's brilliant ''landscape solution'' could be adopted, allowing significant hilltop planting to be replaced, and public access retained. Land value capture must take a back seat.

Once a fully functioning development brief is established, we need a properly constituted, binding, international design competition for City Hill.

Jack Kershaw, Kambah

Getting the measure of weighty body talk

Oh dear! Poor Colin Glover (Letters, June 12) thinks Body Mass Index is an excellent indicator of a healthy body. He has been hoodwinked.

BMI takes no account of differences in muscle mass, human internal ecology, and the body's digestive system in assessing health. A person with plenty of muscle, such as George Gregan when he played for Australia, has a higher BMI around 28.

When I was examined by a Commonwealth Medical Officer more than 30 years ago, I was assessed as being 30 per cent overweight, even though I was also assessed as having less than 2 per cent body fat.

I had been on a stringent diet and running fitness regime (10-16km per day) for months. A year later, after I went back on a more normal diet and fitness (martial arts seven hours a week), I weighed in 11kg heavier and 6 per cent body fat. BMI was well into the obese range.

At that time, I attended a new sports medicine clinic associated with a university and spent an afternoon bicycle riding, running, and rowing on their machines, hooked up to their instruments measuring heart functioning, respiration, and blood chemistry and so on. I kept that detailed report for years in case I had to contest the original unscientific CMO medical report. There was never any need. At 66, I still have clean arteries and no diabetes. Overly simplistic slogans and indices are not the way to better health.

Peter V. Farrelly, Florey

Rail trip to folly

I've recently heard a friend's heartfelt story about his ill grandson's treatment under an ACT Health early intervention program, but he is now told such programs are to be soon axed due to ACT budget cuts.

This is an example of the real face of the consequences of diverting millions of dollars from healthcare and other essential services to the non-essential light rail folly that is distressing the majority of Canberrans.

Geoff Nickols, Griffith

To the point


Richard Ackland (''Abusers by their conspiracy'', Times2, June 13, p1) was rather harsh to suggest the Catholic Church is an organised paedophile ring.

The Catholic Church is way more organised than any of those amateurs.

Warwick Bradly, Weston


I almost missed the tiny article in The Canberra Times on the explosive allegations against Julia Gillard and Bill Shorten (''$5k banked for Gillard, inquiry told'', June 12, p5) that were aired in the royal commission on unions last week.

Funny how a harmless wink from a prime minister can cause a media storm, yet serious allegations against his political opponents that go to the heart of our political system are virtually ignored.

H. Ronald, Jerrabomberra, NSW


I would like to remind Zoltan Kovacs (Letters, June 13) that freedom of speech - and the expression of opinions - is the foundation stone of a true democracy. Long live the letter writers.

P. J. Carthy, McKellar


Katy Gallagher will undo all she has achieved in her time as a politician if she continues with the foolhardy light rail project. There has never been a project so unnecessary or completely beyond the capability of this small territory.

Rex Williams, Ainslie

Given the NSW government, two weeks ago, dismissed the idea of Bondi Beach being ready for light rail, what makes the ACT government think that Gungahlin is ready for light rail?

Frank Boddy, Lyons


It's obvious that H. Ronald (Letters, June 12) has never listened to a station that played the Angels' Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again.

Brian Bell, Bonython


If it is illegal to hack into my email I fail to understand how it is legal for my hotel to block my radio modem with a Wi-Fi system unless I pay to use that system to gain internet access.

Gary J. Wilson, Macgregor


I do not know why people are complaining about paying $1 for 99¢ products. All they have to do is buy three and they have managed a 2¢ discount! I will offer readers my other wealth accumulation tips later.

David Markham, Flynn

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).