The incompetence of public servants (''Public service reluctant to deal with incompetent staff'', December 9, p1) is directly related to poor management, particularly by SES managers. Many staff see the incompetent people getting SES positions through cronyism, favouritism and general lack of fair process and they become disillusioned. This results in many ''50 per centers'' who do only the minimum of work to avoid having action taken against them because they have no confidence in people running their departments.

And because the SES managers have largely got their jobs through ''playing the game'' of being seen to be ''executive material'' (code for not rocking the boat and doing whatever is asked of them no matter their level of competence) there is no likelihood of improvement.

Until the Public Service Commission plays a more active and constructive role in making sure that departments are being run by competent people, not toadies, then there is little likelihood of any change for the better.

Jim Cousins, Phillip

Projects unrealistic

The article ''ACT to draw up property hit list'' (December 9, p1) emphasises how out of touch with reality the ACT government is. It states that government is committed to several major projects, including a large convention centre, a Canberra tramway, and a large stadium. Private enterprise will not finance these projects because all are clearly not financially viable.

A large convention centre should be built only in a major city with adequate hotel accommodation. However, the government wants to build one to provide a reason to build hotels. Cost? Don't worry, that is why taxpayers exist.

Large stadiums are only viable in cities with populations over one million. However, the ACT government thinks that it has an obligation to provide a large stadium for the relatively few citizens who wish to use one occasionally, and (because those users would be unwilling to pay for the stadium) an obligation to tax other Canberra residents to meet the enormous cost.

Tramways were removed from most Australian cities decades ago because they are inefficient and ineffective. However, the government considers that Canberra's taxpayers would willingly fund this heritage project.

Now the government intends to sell off government-owned properties to provide funding for these ridiculous projects. Who will then pay the rent for those buildings? Taxpayers, of course.

Taxpayers should advise government they are not willing to fund these ridiculous and horrendously expensive projects. Urgency is vital, as large financial commitments are imminent.

Bob Salmond, Melba

Drug furphies

I do not envy David Quilty (Letters, December 6) the impossible task of defending the indefensible. But I do think he is a bit disingenuous if he really wants us to believe that higher prices equate to higher quality medicine. Irrespective of the packaging, a cholesterol-lowering drug, based on statin, such as atorvastatin (Lipitor), is the same in Australia as elsewhere.

Drug companies and chemists are in the business to make a profit. Common sense tells us that if they are making a profit in New Zealand, Britain and the EU where prices for the same medicines are at least 10 times lower than here, they must be making a healthier profit here. As for ''Australia's 5350 community pharmacies'' which, according to him, ''on average, face a $90,000 loss of remuneration next financial year'', perhaps they should be asking themselves who is really benefiting from our government's generous treatment of multinational drug companies?

Imagine how much better off our PBS would be if instead of paying $39 a month just for one of the several drugs the average member of our ageing population takes to stay alive, they were to pay only $4, as our rellies in Europe are paying.

John Rodriguez, Florey

Turned off Nine

Channel Nine continues to treat rugby league supporters with absolute contempt. Once again, Brisbane and certain Sydney teams are to receive vastly favoured treatment in regard to free-to-air television exposure compared to provincial teams (especially Melbourne Storm, Canberra Raiders and New Zealand Warriors) (CT Dec 7, Saturday Serve).

The Broncos finished 12th on the competition table in 2013, but will receive the most free-to-air matches of any team in the first 20 rounds of 2014 (13), while the Tigers finished second last and will receive 11 (equal second most). The star-studded Storm, which finished third in 2013, will feature just four times.

In Round 1 it appears the match between the Dragons (14th in 2013) and Tigers (15th) will be televised by Nine. This might be a close game, but why showcase two of the bottom teams in what will most likely be a poor quality game when there is also a match between the Sea Eagles (grand finalists in 2013) and Storm on that weekend? It's insulting to supporters and does little to promote rugby league.

I will not be watching the Dragons v Tigers game. In fact, I am so turned off Channel Nine that I've basically turned off it altogether (I used to regularly watch their evening news bulletin). I don't like being treated with contempt.

Robert McCombe, McKellar

Cartoon outrage

Shame on you Pope for such a cheap shot at the response to the loss of Nelson Mandela (Editorial cartoon, Forum, December 7, p6). The readership of The Canberra Times is not so thick that it cannot understand, A) the semantics of the word terrorist, B) the political context of South Africa in the 1950s, C) the relational complexities of power imbalance, and D) the extraordinary and canny political mind and actions of Nelson Mandela when he finally came to power.

Mandela deserves such adulation; millions feel this way because we know how hard it is to forgive and accept those who have harmed us.

Sheridan Roberts, Kambah

Restaurant dudded

I also found it hard to comprehend why Courgette was not part of the top 20 restaurants in Canberra (Letters, December 7). Courgette is one of a few restaurants awarded a hat in Canberra. In all the years I have been dining at Courgette, it has been fantastic in every element. Beautiful surroundings, friendly staff, without being intrusive. Excellent food that is presented so beautifully. I will certainly be going back there for dinner.

Who wants to sit on milk cartons and drink out of a jar at all these new hipster restaurants and cafes with their industrial design aesthetic?

Lucille Riley, Conder


More at stake in car industry than just jobs

Treasurer Joe Hockey maintains that ''governments should not be in the business of propping up private sector operations''. Who could disagree? What is at stake here, however, is when Holden and Ford go and Toyota inevitably follows, the whole car industry in Australia, makers and component suppliers, will not exist to provide the large workforce on which whole communities depend.The social cost, which also has a financial cost, deserves some attention in the debate.

There is another cost, however, that seems to have been overlooked.

If this industry is lost, the skills it has developed and requires are also lost. The industry demands the cutting edge of technology and craftsmanship that Australian workers supply. We cannot, in the national interest, allow such a major threat to our skills base. The argument goes beyond the car industry. Australian aviation is also under threat. Preservation of the state of the art has defence implications and is important to our future independence.

The car manufacturing industry in Australia was proudly set up by Joseph Benedict Chifley. If Joseph Benedict Hockey does not think it worth saving, he should do the decent thing and change his name.

Don McCallum, Isaacs

Your editorial ''Response to Qantas, Holden is correct'' (Times2, December 9, p2) re Qantas' and Holden's present dilemmas noted the support given to Holden, and sought by Qantas, but failed to tell the whole story. Yes, it is true that significant subsidies have gone to Australia's vehicle manufacturers, a cost borne by taxpayers. The quid pro quo is the retention and development of essential skills here, with spin-offs into electronics, chemicals, engineering and defence-related industries, to name a few.

Some may say (The Canberra Times among them) that industries which cannot stand on their own feet should not be maintained here when they can be carried out more efficiently (read: cheaper) overseas. But it is worth noting that the free trade agreement we have with Thailand is largely of benefit to Thailand, not Australia.

Mitsubishi and Toyota build cars in Thailand and sell them here with the benefit of tariff-free pricing. But if Ford wants to sell a Territory in Thailand, that $40,000 vehicle would cost a Thai buyer about $100,000. The difference: industry protection by the Thai government.

And now we are to be blessed with FTAs with South Korea and China, to name two more industrial heavyweights. What's the bet that Australian manufacturers wishing to sell Australian-made products into those markets will also meet overt or hidden ''walls'' that make our goods uncompetitive on price, if not quality?

And all this while the Trans-Pacific Partnership is being negotiated in secret by our government. When that gets signed off, the future will be even bleaker for businesses as disparate as pharmaceuticals, music, electronics, vehicle components and foodstuffs.

So before you go in three years, Mr Abbott, be sure to put up the ''sold'' sign on our country - we can all read it more properly as ''sold out''.

Stuart Kennedy, Corunna, NSW

Party's balancing act

Matt Meyer (Letters, December 9) posits that the name of the Liberal Party is a lie and implies that they are, in truth, conservatives .

Actually, when one gets into the innards of the party, one can see that it is made up of three main diverse groupings: conservatives (e.g. Abbott), capitalists (e.g. Kroger) and libertarians (e.g. Reith). The rock-scissors-paper of the Liberal Party, in fact, and the elements of the party that keep it balanced overall. And just like the game, not all of them can win at the same time. At this time, the conservative agenda is dominating the party. But, on the subject of telling lies, what does the Labor Party have to do with the working class these days, anyway?

Apart from the quip that there is no U (you) in Labor, the recent ABC documentary about Paul Keating shows how dismissively he treated the ordinary people of society and how disdainful he was of anyone who challenged his view of the world. Anyone who could open up the country to international market forces and not see the detrimental effects on the people of this country who cannot compete with those forces is simply priggishly delusional (as high as a kite listening to his operas) and way beyond just telling lies. Matt seems to be trying on the time-honoured trick of progressives of recognising the failings of his own side and projecting it onto his enemies.

Robert Parums, Symonston

Young achievers

Nicholas Stuart's article ''Pyne, the joker in pack, could bring down Abbott'' (Times2, December 4, p5) described Christopher Pyne as the second youngest MP ever. Without exhaustive research, I can point to the following, whose ages upon election mean they exceed him in precocity: Wyatt Roy (20 years 3 months); Andrew T. James (22 years 6 months); Gary Punch (25 years 6 months 12 days); Malcolm Fraser (25 years 6 months 20 days); Christopher Pyne (25 years 7 months).

Stephen Brown, Forrest

The wrong man in charge

Paul Fitzwarryne (Letters, December 9) is far too kind to Christopher Pyne in suggesting the minister has an interest in ''investigating better ways in which to implement the Gonski principles''. In 2012, Pyne condemned David Gonski's report within 20 minutes of its release before he had even read it. Pyne despises the Gonski funding principles for the same reasons most of us like them: genuine student need is addressed, disadvantage is targeted, equity is at the core, the playing field is levelled and the resource discrepancy between public schools and exclusive private schools is somewhat reduced.

If Australia wants an education minister who will be a steward of the Gonski reforms, they've got the wrong bloke.

Glenn Fowler, secretary Australian Education Union, ACT Branch


Funding withdrawn detrimental to combating alcohol abuse

The plea for the ACT government to consider cutting late-night trading hours at licensed venues (''Lobby group wants cut to drinking hours'', December 9, p1) is one that is regularly heard and debated in all states and territories of the Commonwealth. This is an important issue for all jurisdictions and for that reason (and many other reasons) it is puzzling that the federal government has withdrawn funding from the Alcohol and other Drugs Council of Australia.

This agency provides a range of information services on alcohol and drug issues for individuals and organisations working to address problems of alcohol and drug abuse. ADCA has provided a high-quality information service for years, supported by the world's largest collection of drug and alcohol literature; and all this for a modest government outlay of $1.5 million a year.

I am hoping that the Assistant Minister for Health, Senator Fiona Nash, will see reason and reinstate funding for this important service.

John Myrtle, Mawson

Carbon tax is working

It appears that H Ronald (Letters, December 10) has been misled by the recent partial release of figures from the National Greenhouse Inventory. These figures suggest that emissions in the first year of the carbon tax have not declined significantly. However, more detailed data from March suggests that emissions from the power sector, covered by the carbon price, have decreased by 6 per cent compared to the previous year.

It is emissions from sectors that are only partly covered, or not covered at all by the carbon price, that have risen dramatically. Emission increases from agriculture, transport and mining have counteracted the reductions from the power sector. Indeed, the figures indicate the price on carbon pollution has been working as intended.

David Osmond, Dickson



In assessing the sincerity of the Catholic Church the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse should note that only six days ago the Vatican refused to release information on its internal investigations into abuse cases to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.

Dr P. A. Smith, Mount Archer, Qld


I expect it is a forlorn hope but I would like a senator or member of the House of Representatives to represent me and my family by standing and reading aloud in one of those places ''Australians all let us regret for we are devoid of integrity'' from the column by Crispin Hull (''Australians all let us regret for we are devoid of integrity'', Forum, December 7, p2).

I want that to be formally recorded for posterity in the annals of Hansard.

John F. Simmons, Kambah


I do like your cartoonist Pat, and I particularly like how he managed to include our significant events of the past week in the international, national and territory spheres into one pink space in Monday's cartoon (Times2, December 9, p1).

Ann Smith, Curtin


So, Minister Shane Rattenbury's transport adviser says it is OK to ignore majority opinion. And Roads ACT thinks it is OK to lie, by commission and omission, to Holt residents.

Silly me, I thought we lived in a democracy with Ms Gallagher's open government!

Phillip Harris, Holt


At the weekend past, I experienced my own little vignette into the role of Nelson Mandela in bringing peace and reconciliation to South Africa.

In walking past a car with diplomatic plates, I noticed a black man in the driving seat wearing the green Springboks jersey.

That's change for you.

David Jenkins, Turner


Jack Waterford's dispassionate yet devastating account of the Territory's law enforcement system's descent into disrepute (''Eastman inquiry in recess … for good?'', Forum, December 7, p1) cries out for urgent action by the Attorney-General.

The egregious misuse by the DPP of his independence (and his budget) to keep Mr Eastman locked up at whatever cost must not be allowed to persist through the silly season and into 2014.

Attorney-General, free David Eastman without further ado!

Chris Smith, Kingston


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