Letters to the Editor

Canberra Times letters to the editor: Date change no remedy

Changing the date of Australia Day (a misnomer) is a mere sop intended to placate rather than resolve an ongoing issue, namely the theft and displacement of Aborigines from their land.

Mabo was a good start but unfortunately is has become bogged down in bureaucratic delay. It also failed to deal with the theft; it merely overturned the assumption that legitimised it and then said they still can't have land that has been alienated already.

In other words land already stolen can't be returned or compensated for. This part of Mabo needs to be challenged. Just as Palestinians have had their land stolen, so have Aborigines. You can't wave that away through changing a pathetic date or declaring some geographical location the capital of a racist nation.

We have not paid the piper and this is part of the reason that Australian Aborigines, as distinct from say Maoris, are still in no-man's land and so very very poor. We haven't just created a stolen generation but a race.

We create "sops" as diversions and we overturn terra nullius without providing rectification.

Adam Bonner, Brogo


A worthy date

The recent focus of an alternative Australia Day has been on finding a "worthy" date that is tied to a suitable historical event – one that is not linked to the dispossession of Australia's Indigenous people.

However, finding such a date threatens to move the event entirely to some other part of the year, losing some core Australian values in the process – such as the traditional end-of-Christmas-break holiday, and the last opportunity for a long weekend in summer around the barbie.

Aren't these what bring Australians together, not a tenuous connection to the arrival of the First Fleet?

So my suggestion is to simply move Australia Day earlier by a single day to January 25.

It's a nice round month since Christmas, and we get to keep all the things we love about Australia Day, without the problematic associations of January 26.

After all, we don't need to celebrate anything on Australia Day apart from being Australians together. And as a campaign slogan, it's easy to remember: "One Day Away".

David Brudenall, Palmerston

Tax cuts for the rich

Treasurer Scott Morrison wants to give companies a tax cut.

He wants to do this because the American Congress passed Donald Trump's ridiculous tax cuts for the rich and thinks Australia should slavishly follow in vain hope of attracting more companies to invest in Australia that will then allegedly create more jobs here and the money they don't pay in tax will trickle down to the lesser mortals.

Isn't economics wonderful!

First, the whole trickle-down effect has never and will never work; too many greedy bastards will just take the tax cut in profits. Second, why give a tax cut to business when they barely pay any tax anyway?

That brings us back to the first point, the whole trickle-down thing, which looks and smells like the digested and divested food of male cattle.

Rory McElligott, Nicholls

Benefits of civilisation

Tony Abbott has such an arcane and prejudiced view of history. He says that colonialism of Australia brought the benefit of Western civilisation to Australia and even the Indigenous people benefited from that.

But how civilised were the British in 1788? More civilised than a lot of countries but with an enormous way to go to become anywhere near a fair society. Britain still profited from slavery abroad and near slavery at home. The class system ensured that power rested in the elite and women were mere chattels.

"Natives" were considered inferior, other people's resources fair game, and of course, British religious values were to be imposed at whatever cost.

Indigenous people in Australia were to lose everything before they were allowed to enjoy some of the benefits of the privileged.

It was largely science and the fight for democracy that have civilised our society, but Tony doesn't like science and democracy is only good if we all opt for his backward-looking values.

Elizabeth Dangerfield, Crace

Loving light rail

Whenever I read a letter or article condemning the new light rail in Canberra (Letters, January 22) I wonder how much of their life that person has spent on public transport. I have spent a great deal of time on buses and trains. I know from experience that light rail is the quietest, calmest and most comfortable form of transport, public or private, to get around a city.

I do not doubt that people in Canberra who never consider taking a bus to work will try light rail and many will fall in love. I have ridden light rail in some wonderful cities around the world.

In just a few years very few people will bemoan the money and inconvenience, and nor will we remember which politician drove the project home.

We will simply love the benefit as they do in all those other cities. For me light rail is a symbol of equality (everyone rides it), of future thinking (renewables and getting away from individual transport) and it is an aesthetic knockout. It suits our city perfectly.

Helen Kinmonth, Cook

Rail will fail

Max Flint isn't quite right when he says (Letters, January 22) that the business case for stage 1 of the tram wasn't worth the paper it was written on. In spite of its inadequacies, it showed clearly enough that the case for the tram was non-existent; the problem was that the government wasn't listening.

They needed Green support and denying Shane Rattenbury his tram would have been like taking away a baby's favourite rattle.

Rattenbury thinks that he is furthering the green cause by building the tram, but he isn't. There are plenty of places around the world where there are successful light rail projects. But sensible governments are reluctant to spend the money involved in such projects and, every time a light rail project fails, as this one will, it makes them more reluctant to spend money on trams.

So his "have the power, will build" approach will, in the end, prove counterproductive.

Stan Marks, Hawker

Thank you for shining a light on issues from Paul Fennessy's death

Thank you and congratulations on providing a platform to hear the whole, sad story of Paul Fennessy's death and the devastating aftermath. (Losing Paul,, January 23, 24, 25).

His mother Ann is an incredibly strong and determined woman who took on the almost impossible challenge of making herself heard, of making the courts listen, and of fighting the stigma and dismissal surrounding the death of her so-called "drug addict" son.

I have known this woman, and her beautiful boy, for many years. I saw how his death splintered her heart. I watched her fight and fight to have the whole litany of miscommunication, error, and plain ignoring of facts leading to Paul's death brought into the open.

I don't know how she has contained her anger and remained the articulate, graceful and dignified person she is.

Listening to the podcasts and reading the articles was painful, and again, stoked the rage in my own belly over how this boy and his mother were treated.

As a former member of your newspaper I, too, had reporters cover this story even before Paul's death, trying to prod the various medical bureaucracies into doing something to stop the madness of a system that shunted responsibility and refused to look at the obvious.

I was there when my friend bounced from doctors to pharmacists to police to the hospital, trying to get someone to listen. I was there when the awful, awful day came and we got the news that Paul had died.

The outcome of the coronial inquest was by no means the outcome it could have been. Yes, it was acknowledged the system could do better, but no blame was laid, no real critical assessment was published of what went wrong that day.

Heaven forbid we open anything up to litigation. (Not that that has ever been on Ann's mind. She just wanted a "sorry").

Listening to the interviews from the various health agencies, even now, it is clear that their carefully worded, intellectualised cautiousness dances around what they all know to be true. Mental health and drug and alcohol bodies work for their own agendas. It would be a power struggle between the two to actually set out a collaborative approach in dealing with such cases as Paul's.

Sorry, cynical I may be, but pecking orders are pecking orders, especially when poor funding is at issue.

I will never forgive the way Paul's life ended, an outcome which could have been avoided.

In saying that, and knowing the legal constraints the newspaper would have had to operate within in exposing what happened to Paul, I applaud you for humanising the issue; for showing us the measure of Ann Finlay – a very private person who opened up to you; of showing us how coldly and dismissively she was treated; and most importantly, for shining a light on a very talented, funny, intelligent and charismatic young man who left us way too soon.

Andree Stephens, Machans Beach, Qld

Not an isolated case

I would like to commend the Canberra Times for drawing attention to the tragic outcome suffered by Paul Fennessy and his family.

Paul's attempt to ease the physical and psychological pain he was experiencing resulted in a cocktail that heartbreakingly ended his life.

Sadly, Paul's is not an isolated case. There are many ACT families and individuals in the same boat, struggling to get effective treatment to address their complex health issues.

The stigma surrounding people who self-medicate, often in response to untreated mental illness, makes it even more difficult for them to get the help they need.

However, what we do know is that these people are at the highest risk of accidental overdose or suicide, and are the very people most in need of our care.

At Directions Health Services it is fortunate that we can provide integrated primary health and specialist drug and alcohol treatment services, including support for family members.

However, our resources are stretched to capacity. Referrals for our specialist treatment services have more than doubled over the past three years and we are unable to see people as quickly or as often as they need.

This situation is likely to worsen when codeine is only available on prescription and not over the counter from February 1.

Hopefully many people who are currently misusing codeine will seek help rather than resort to illicit opiates, which are even more risky.

But we need to be able to respond to them when they do reach out — or their families persuade them to seek help. There is an urgent need to increase investment in specialist drug and alcohol treatment services and better educate clinicians across the health sector on how to respond to people who experience drug and alcohol issues.

Bronwyn Hendry, CEO Directions: Pathways to Recovery, Woden

End sheep mentality

Australian Open tennis competitors recently had to play in heat of 69 degrees.

If the players were non-human animals working under such conditions, there would be great outcry and animal cruelty laws would be invoked. Elite sporting people are put up as role models and one may wonder what that model is.

They are told what to eat, where to go and what to do. They are monitored on a potential 24/7 basis.

The culture seeps through all levels of sport. That culture of "do what you are told and don't ask questions no matter how bad it seems" is designed to develop a sheep mentality not a team mentality.

Team is about working together, making decisions together for the general good, not for the good of the few who are paying you.

The idea that you are expendable and can be easily replaced and therefore have few rights is not limited to sport but it is something organised sport tries to reinforce.

The culture of obedience is one that needs changing. It is right to rebel.

Barry York, Lyneham

Court with bodily fluids

Is there a sport, other than professional tennis, which constantly exposes its juvenile support personnel to the bodily fluids of its players, ie, perspiration, mucous, and saliva, through direct physical contact?

I am referring to the requirement for ball kids to present a towel to players after each point is played. That towel is used to wipe a face awash in fluids.

Wouldn't it make a lot more sense for players to access their own towels all by themselves? I am confident that the current practice, applied by the Australian Open organisers, Tennis Australia, would fail WH&S laws at both the State and Federal levels.

Paul Varsanyi, Kambah

To the point


There have been three Australias: Aboriginal Australia, Colonial Australia, beginning with the arrival of the First Fleet on 18 January 1788, or the raising of the flag on 26 January; and the Commonwealth of Australia beginning on 1 January 1901. We should celebrate these three beginnings on separate days in January: First Settlement Day on the 1st; First Fleet Day on the 18th or 26th; and Federation Day on the 31st.

Michael McCarthy, Deakin


When next a tennis player wins all four "grand" slam events, what will he/she have achieved — a grand grand slam?

Graham Wright, Yarralumla


Centrelink have been getting a lot of brickbats about "customer" service. Centrelink came up trumps for my cousin visiting the colonies from the home country. He was impressed by the service from the Belconnen Centrelink staff, especially Amy, who sat him down and processed his application for a Medicare card.

Kenneth Griffiths, O'Connor


I note all the controversy about a date for Australia Day. Some wag has suggested May 8 — "Maate!". If all else fails, I could accept that. A bit of Aussie self-mockery is healthy.

James Gralton, Garran


I write re "It's hard to be an environment warrior", January 23, p.12). Talk about first world problems! It's not that hard to go without plastic bags from the shops.

You can buy great silk bags that are strong and fold up very flat and small and will easily fit in your handbag, or get one with a clip to attach it. They are out there, not hard to find and hold a lot of stuff.

Or just develop a habit of keeping a couple of bags in the car. Take the responsibility to manage it yourself.

E. Nelson, Wright


White supremacists killed more people in the US last year than any other extremist group and just last week a neo-Nazi group leader in Florida was charged with possessing bomb-making materials. If he were Muslim, different questions would have been asked and Islamophobes would have blamed Muslims unequivocally.

Foad Munir, Berwick, Victoria


Gary Petherbridge (Letters, January 23) adds to the growing critique of the iniquitous rates and taxes situation in the ACT, perpetrated by the Barr/Rattenbury government. Why did not more people see this coming? The writing was well on the wall before the last ACT election. Social justice and urban planning used to be concerns of ALP governments.

Not in the ACT.

Murray May, Cook

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).