Letters to the Editor

Canberra Times Letters to the Editor: There's no cause for celebration in exporting death and destruction

The announcement that Australia is attempting to be a major arms exporter ("Major defence boost",, January 29) makes a mockery of any pretence we might have to being a peace-loving nation.

A country doesn't try to destroy the market for the products it's flogging. PM Turnbull's claim that it's all about "jobs" is a contemptible fig-leaf for forcing people into the business of war profiteering.

If he wanted more jobs he'd show us research on which sectors of society provide the most jobs for a given expenditure.

Such research just doesn't exist in Australia, but evidence from elsewhere indicates that health, education and public transport rate far better than building weapons.

Australia has passed up the opportunity to be a world leader in renewable energy, but now chooses to spend $3.8billion on a weapons financing facility.

Meanwhile we have slashed our overseas aid mercilessly. Our contribution to the world in coming years will not be in helping reduce the climate disruption that is already happening, or assisting those most vulnerable, but in profiteering from the tensions and wars that follow.


Australia has also spent more on commemorating World War I than any other nation, presumably to keep the warrior spirit alive and well, but our leaders have refused to take a jot of notice of what that war teaches us, especially about the dangers of arms races.

Our PM's excitement at the prospect of Australia being a leader in death and destruction is degrading and pitiful.

Dr Sue Wareham, president, Medical Association for Prevention of War (Australia), Cook

Unwise move

As an ex-Defence Procurement employee it is with a mixture of bemusement and horror I saw the headline 'Australia to become major defence exporter' with dismay.

A so-called new export policy was announced in 1986. In fact the old policy with some synonyms swapped, actual exports have been insignificant but this "pot of gold at the end of the rainbow" has been used to justify irrational expenditure ranging from selling Collins subs to Indonesia, Mullokas  to Brazil, Offshore Patrol Combatants to Malaysia, none actually built but half a billion spent on the Seasprite helicopter  before it was abandoned.

To export you must actually have price-competitive goods and markets. Australian production involves massive price premiums ranging from 45 per cent for the frigates to 85 per cent for the Steyr rifles to lord knows what for submarines but this is always hidden, "I do not wish to know that, kindly leave the stage".

John Coochey, Chisholm

Car bombs anyone?

It's good that Malcolm Turnbull's Christmas break was so fruitful. His plan to spend $3.8 billion for us to join the world's top arms exporters is just what the world needs, especially as the money can come from savings on education and overseas aid, including population control measures.

Which niche market does he envisage for us. Car bombs?

Adrian Gibbs, Yarralumla

Shadowy industry

The news that the federal government is planning on spending $3.8 billion on a trade with the primary aim of producing goods designed to kill people, will dismay many of your readers and, perhaps, the voting population.

Rest assured that Christopher Pyne's cheery strategy of elevating Australia into the top 10  "arms exporters" is just that and he would not be pleased with Adam Gartrell's early inclusion of the phrase in an article based on a press release that must have been littered with references to "defence".

In an interview with ABC's Fran Kelly, the words "arms" or "armaments" did not get a mention and you can bet that Malcolm Turnbull will give it the same treatment.

Both of them, along with any other ministers and CEOs who can get their fingers in the pie, must be salivating at the prospect of being feted at not a few of the many arms bazaars and field days all over the world devoted to the promotion of an industry which is renowned for shadowy dealings and corruption.

They'll need to do a lot of licking to keep their fingers clean.

Chris Fowler, Bywong, NSW

Remember the children

January 27 was the UN-declared International Day of Commemoration of the victims of the Holocaust, this day being the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz in 1945.

I wrote this poem after visiting one of the Nazi mass murder camps:

The Burning Children

"In the staring dead eyes of the burning children we see ourselves mirrored and judged.

"They are entitled to be harsh judges, these eyes, doubly innocent, wise beyond their years.

"The eternal flames which light these eyes will judge our words and our deeds.

"Our excuses and our weaknesses will melt under their blazing gaze.

"If we have a spark of humanity we will never dishonour the memory of these children, these judges of the flames."Dr Bill Anderson, Surrey Hills, Victoria

Civilisation? Hardly

Tony Abbott's comments regarding the role of British "civilisation" and the great benefit it brought to Aboriginal Australia are very troubling, given he is a Rhodes scholar.

Late 18th and early 19th century Britain employed thousands of children as young as five in coal mines and factories.

Britain was a slave trader (remember colonies in North America).

Britain fought a couple of wars in China and forced China to accept opium.

Britain captured Chinese and forced them to crew British merchant ships (Shanghaied).

Britain arranged for more than  50,000 18-25-year-old unmarried Irish women to be transported to NSW as convicts during the first four decades of the 19th century.

You don't need to be a scholar to appreciate the ramifications of that action.

Colonisation by the British has, at the very least, been a profound tragedy.

Tony, please do your homework and have it checked by a history student.

Peter Best, Weetangera

Honour deserved

V. Harris of Yass (Letters, January 29) writes that she watched the Australian of the Year Awards and was pleased that the "winner" was a woman of science. 

I totally applaud the sentiments of the letter, but Professor Michelle Simmons did not "win". There was no competition. She was selected for the honour and was awarded it. She received the honour, which was very well deserved.

Pamela Fawke, Dunlop

Beware of deadly snakes

Our golden retriever Mandy was bitten by a snake and died at Diddams Close, Lake Ginninderra, last Friday. She was not near reeds, she was not near long grass, she was simply having a swim about 50metres from the shore.

Many people use the area to take their children or their dogs there for a swim, because there is a sandy area that looks like a beach. We all think if we are vigilant with looking out for snakes and don't go near areas where you can expect snakes to be, we should be OK.

Nobody expects to be bitten by a snake under water. We did not know our dog had been bitten by a snake until she swam back to the shore, collapsed, convulsed, and died in the back of our car on the way to the vet. The whole thing was over within 15minutes. 

We would like to share this message with everybody so they can understand the dangers they may be putting themselves in.

We don't want other people to have to go through the absolute agony of losing a pet or, God forbid, a child.

Karin van Leeuwen, Palmerston

Bangkok the hottest

Even though he uses just one day's temperature data to arrive at his conclusion, John Milne (Letters, January24) came closer to the mark than he apparently realised. He mentioned that the only two capital cities with maxima that came close to Canberra's 38degrees  on January20 were Bangkok and Suva. In fact, Bangkok is recognised as the world's hottest capital city, with a temperature of 28degrees averaged over 24hours, 365days of the year. Canberra's year-round average temperature is below 20degrees.

I've been to Bangkok, albeit briefly, twice, and found the combination of temperature and humidity significantly more uncomfortable than 38degrees or 39degrees (the maximum on Sunday, January21) in Canberra.

Douglas Mackenzie, Deakin

No Access Canberra

I attempted to get through to Access Canberra this week. I got through to their recorded message that went through the usual blurb and then a recorded message said I was caller No.20.

I called Access Canberra on my hands-free when leaving Casey. I drove to Tuggeranong and back to Woden, and by that stage I was caller No.11, some 40minutes later, and because I had an appointment I simply hung up.

After speaking to a number of others, they all had similar complaints when dealing with Access Canberra. Perhaps I just rang at the wrong time of the day?

I remember the days when you could simply ring up a government department direct and a staff member would answer the phone.

It appears with Access Canberra you're going around the paddock to get to the gate.

J.Bodsworth, Phillip

Tennis fault

How disappointing is the unequal allocation of commentary teams by Channel Seven during the Australian Open tennis finals.

During the men's semi-finals and final matches, there was a commentary team of four recently retired professional male tennis players.

During the women's semi-finals and final matches, the commentary was provided by one recently retired professional female tennis player and a male television presenter. His role in the commentary was to provide irrelevant statistics on previous matches and to reiterate game scores previously announced by the female umpire.

Does Channel Seven consider the female tennis game to be of lesser importance than the male game and not worth the investment of a professional commentary team, or just believe the score is not legitimised unless repeated by the male voice?

Poor show, Channel Seven. It's time.

Margaret Langford, Braddon

Empathy for internees

I read the interesting item, "Inside Canberra's internment camp" (January27, page16), by Steven Trask.

If there are people out there who are interested in this camp, then I recommend you read The Molonglo Mystery by Alan Foskett.

I have a copy of this book and it is a wonderful read.

Most of the internees were Germans and Austrians who were living on the islands to the north of Australia and on the Pacific Islands at the outbreak of World War One. The camp at Molonglo was built to house some of the internees.

As the article said, they were treated well, they did their shopping in Queanbeyan.

A lot of these people had not seen their homeland for many, many years – in fact, the younger ones not ever.

When the war was over, they were not sent back to their island homes but were forced to go to Germany, where they knew nobody. Also, they had to sell all their goods at bargain prices in Queanbeyan.

Personally, I feel very sorry for these people as they did not want any trouble but it was forced on them.

Alan Williams, Monash

Battlers priced out

Your editorial on the plight of the homeless (January26) was very much to the point.

Over the past two decades we have had primarily an ACT Labor Party which, with the support of the Liberal Party, reduced the supply of public housing by around 3000 units.

The editorial made the point that the billion dollars invested in light rail is a complete waste. The project is against all recommendations from Infrastructure Australia, which invested heavily in the Gold Coast light rail, and prominent economists and transport experts.

St Vinnies and other church welfare organisations are doing their best to help, where this ACT Labor government is shutting its collective eyes.

Canberra had affordable housing from the 1950s to the late 1980s.

Primarily, the Labor government – by dropping over-the-counter sales of land in favour of developer-biased land auctions – sent the price of a housing block soaring beyond the reach of the battlers. Our ACT government is more a real estate agency than a Labor government.

I dearly wish that I could say the Liberals would be a better alternative, but sadly I cannot.

My recommendation, for what it is worth, is to vote independent at the next election.

Howard Carew, Isaacs

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