In the bad old protectionist days Australia made use of tariffs to protect industries like car manufacturing. This meant that cars were more expensive, the government collected revenue from the tariffs, and lots of people had well-paid jobs making cars. This meant that Australians enjoyed a high standard of living, and our industry generally benefited from the technological spin-off.

Then along came a brave new world (espoused by both sides of politics) in which tariffs were reduced or eliminated to make our economy more open and efficient. Australians enjoyed buying cheaper imported cars and the government lost the revenue from tariffs. Local car manufacturers could not compete with the imports from the goliaths overseas, so in order to keep our industry going it was provided with direct subsidies. Thus the government not only lost revenue from tariffs but also had to take money from other sources (like education and childcare) to provide these subsidies, or increase taxes.

Then the government got this strange idea that government should not be in the business of subsidising industries, which should instead stand or fall on their own. So they fell. Lots of people lost well-paid jobs. There was a decline in the level of industrial and technological expertise in Australia.

Economists tell us that this is good for Australia and we have more efficient industries as a result. Black Jack McEwen would be turning in his grave!

Roger Quarterman, Campbell

The demise of Holden comes as no surprise, but the lack of perspective of change as a normal event is a surprise. Its demise is not unlike Ford, Chrysler, Mitsubishi, Leyland etc before it. It is not unlike many businesses each year that close for many reasons, including locally, Brindabella Airlines.

It is not the fault of the government of the day, Abbott now or Gillard earlier with Ford. It is not that the company is foreign owned, it is economic reality. Having subsidised car making for so long, the adjustment challenge is greater, but we only make a small portion of all the vehicles we buy, and even a lot of badging conceals the point of manufacture of a significant component of the car anyway.

Protection does not pay. If the economics are against you, you'll struggle in any industry.

M. Gordon, Flynn

''That the United Auto Workers recently agreed to a cut in wages at a US car plant suggests unions are now well aware of the consequences [that] refusal to negotiate will almost certainly result in extensive job losses.'' (Editorial, Times2, December 14, p2) This awareness may also extend to one or all of several other possibilities.

The bottom has fallen out of the market. Paradoxically, a fall in disposable income, whether from a rising cost of living or falling average income is undoubtedly a factor. Altruists might claim that the drop in demand reflects a growing concern with the use of hydrocarbon fuels. Cynics might plot to export dirty industries to overpopulated, developing countries as a sop to delay desperadoes going to war to seize the resources they want.

The bottom line is that all such factors combined prophesy a massive shift in the transport and mobility paradigm. This extends the editorial's conclusion of a ''considerable challenge … since many of our trading partners would prefer that Australia remain a quarry and a captive market for their manufacturers.'' The shifting paradigm will affect access to services and markets alike, both locally and globally.

Gary J. Wilson, MacGregor

No issue with asbestos

Apropos the article "Asbestos alert was sent, land agency says" (December 13, p6) about removing asbestos from Section 5 Campbell. I live opposite the location of the asbestos removal, and my letterbox faces the gate where the trucks turn onto Creswell Street. I was given notice of the asbestos removal and I have been favourably impressed with the organisation of this work, which seems to me of very high standard. The huge trucks turning onto Creswell Street give me no concern that one day my little car, backing out of my driveway, will be inconvenienced by them. You might say I have a ringside seat to view this work. I find it very satisfactory.

Nancy Miller, Campbell

Hospitals idea a bonus

The benefits of ACT Health achieving ''Full integration with Queanbeyan'' as a way of better co-ordinating services across the state borders (''Merit to idea of merging hospital'', Forum, December 14, p3) were outlined.

Use of the Queanbeyan Hospital to better utilise its potential is an important part of improving services for all local residents, and should be encouraged.

But the model proposed is only one of many. At present, there are continuing negotiations at the service delivery level to provide increased surgical theatre use in Queanbeyan to help alleviate ACT waiting lists.

This is to be applauded. Unlike what your reporter suggests, however, this can be done without a ''technical … takeover … of Queanbeyan Hospital''.

Co-operation is needed - this is happening and it should continue to the benefit of all.

Tom Mavec, Queanbeyan, NSW


Recent letters suggesting the Liberal Party should change its name to the Conservative Party are perpetuating the problem, because the Liberals are not interested in conserving anything much; two examples are the Great Barrier Reef and Australia's ability to make (manufacture) things that others want. A better name than conservative would be ''The Us First'' (TUF) Party. And while we're at it, as someone pointed out, the Labor Party is no longer true to its name, either. How about ''The Whatever It Takes'' (TWIT) Party?

Chris Ansted, Garran

Probe priorities wrong

The government has announced the terms of reference for the royal commission into Labor's home insulation scheme. The deaths of four young men installing house insulation was indeed tragic - but do we need a royal commission on this?

On the other hand, we should have a royal commission on the Howard/Abbott government's decision for Australia to be part of the unfortunate invasion of Iraq in which hundreds or thousands of Iraqis were killed and scores continue to be killed on a regular basis. Labor should have launched such a commission when it was in power. Unfortunately now we will never have a full understanding of why the former LNP government took such a decision.

Rod Holesgrove, O'Connor

The Minister for Immigration has announced a code of conduct for asylum seekers. I trust that Scott Morrison will be the first to sign up not to ''harass, bully or intimidate''. The government under the leadership of the Prime Minister and his Minister for Immigration is descending abysmally low in its harsh and vindictive attitude to some of Australia's most vulnerable people. It is doing so as we prepare to celebrate Christmas, the feast of goodwill to all people. No wonder so many decent Australians feel ashamed.

(Bishop) Pat Power, Campbell

Not content with his blatant hostility and degradation since the election, Scott Morrison continues his persecution of those seeking asylum. A legislated code of conduct now exists. Displaying violence or bullying is deemed detention worthy. Please ensure this code is on display at every licensed premise in Australia.

Chris Doyle, Gordon

Refugee plan that worked

As a former director for refugees, immigration and asylum in the Department of Foreign Affairs (1990-93), I was interested to read Peter Hughes' article (''Malaysia plan was way to go'', Times2, December 12, p1) and subsequent correspondence in relation to a regional framework for asylum seekers.

A very successful precedent was the Comprehensive Plan of Action for Indo-Chinese Asylum Seekers. The CPA, adopted at the International Conference on Indo-Chinese Refugees, held in Geneva in June 1989, was established as a framework for international co-operation at a time when asylum in south-east Asia was in crisis. During its seven-year lifespan to June 1996, the CPA provided temporary refuge for some 112,000 asylum-seekers from Vietnam and Laos, reduced clandestine departures, expanded legal departure possibilities and introduced region-wide refugee status determination procedures which helped stem the flow of asylum seekers.

The CPA facilitated the recognition and subsequent resettlement of over 74,000 Vietnamese refugees, and supported the repatriation to their country of origin and subsequent reintegration of over 88,000 Vietnamese who did not fulfil internationally recognised refugee criteria. The CPA also facilitated the resettlement of some 51,000 Lao and supported the voluntary repatriation and reintegration in their country of origin of some 22,400 Lao, most of whom were recognised as prima facie refugees. This was a hugely successful program, co-ordinated by the UNHCR, which directly involved countries of origin, countries of first asylum, countries of resettlement (including Australia) and other interested countries and agencies. Australia took a leading role.

There would certainly be a good deal of relevant institutional memory in relation to the CPA and currently and recently serving senior officers who were directly involved, and would be an excellent source of informed advice about how its example could be drawn upon.

John Blount, Fadden

Dying to help the deficit

Re Treasurer Joe Hockey's forecast for a $47 billion deficit if some drastic remedial measures are not taken immediately: this will be a yoke around the neck of all Australians for at least 10 years. Although not favoured by either politicians or citizens, I would like to suggest the introduction of a temporary death duty of 10 per cent, which would be a quick and uniform method of getting the country back on the track to financial security.

I accept that this will be a very bitter pill for ratepayers. However, sometimes it is necessary to take the appropriate medicine in order to prevent a terminal economic disaster.

Bill Alcock, Port Macquarie, NSW

Where the real bias lies

Jack Wiles (Letters, December 16) noted with interest a bias against the ABC by conservative critics and government figures. Wiles goes on to say: ''There has been a complete silence by the Liberals against the disgraceful bias and conduct of the Murdoch press against the former Labor government, not only in the lead-up to and during the last election campaign but since then.''

Now that's what I call a very revealing statement of bias. Just one-sided, with no basis on which the comment is made. However, The Canberra Times was happy to print such bias, given its own published negative and abusive bias (editorials, letters, etc) on all matters related to the newly elected government ''during the last election campaign'' until today. It does not take a genius to see why Fairfax Media publishes, every day, nasty and deriding comment against the government, given its glaringly obvious left-wing leanings, walking in lock step with the ABC and the Labor Party. I for one am tired of it, even though I subscribe to home delivery of the newspaper. At least I can comment on facts as they are presented, I guess.

Frank Scargill, Macarthur

Paying for pollution

W.A. Brown (Letters, 16 December) mentions some of the subsidies to road transport, such as damage done to roads by large vehicles. To this list we should add tax breaks to road freight operators in the form of fuel tax credits. Heavy vehicles (over 4.5 tonnes gross vehicle mass) using public roads receive a 12¢ a litre fuel excise credit. If a truck is towing a refrigerated trailer, the excise for fuel used to power the refrigeration unit is fully refunded. Polluter gets paid, again.

Ben Elliston, Hawker

Service with a smile

Re M. Saunders' query about the ''service'' offered by a bank which would not accept 5¢ coins (Letters, December 17), I suggest that he follow my example. I take my 5¢ pieces to a branch of a large club. Twice (always just before Christmas) I have taken my collection to a branch in Woden and last week to a branch in Belconnen. No grumps, no whinges, just a smile as they ask how I would like to be reimbursed. ''Bank'' with a credit union and use clubs for their support of the community. They both understand ''service''.

Brian Wilson, Curtin

Why we should be careful with words

I am working in Yemen, and it has been on the international news that the ACT Same Sex Marriage Act has been found unconstitutional. Colleagues here were amazed to hear we have the ability to have civil unions which gives the same rights to same sex couples. They said: ''What is in a word? Who cares whether the word is marriage or civil union. Same thing - it is stupid arguing over the meaning of a word''.

This discussion followed on from talks with the team leader of a health project I am working on in Yemen. He is a Tunisian, who is now based in America, but his father was a well-known Muslim scholar and law professor. My colleague is very knowledgeable about Islam and cross-cultural issues. He and I have discussed semantics and the dangers of using the wrong words. He believes a lot of the problems between East and West are caused by the use of the word ''fundamentalism''.

As he says, fundamental beliefs in Judaism, Christianity and Islam and other religions, are based on holy books and have good ethics - like the Ten Commandments. So the word fundamentalism is fine. The trouble is all three religions have extremists. He says when Muslims hear the word fundamentalists being used when the users mean extremists, Muslims believe westerners are criticising basic beliefs of the Koran, which upsets them.

In the same way he says we should never say the term ''genital mutilation'' regarding women, but say ''cutting, which can have an impact on health''.

He says if people see it in the same way as ''male cutting for health reasons'', the argument is accepted, so the extreme actions are terminated. ''Mutilation'' is a very emotive word and splashing this around the media causes antagonism against the West.

There are many learnings from his wisdom which we in Australia should take on board to try and move towards greater understanding in our world.

Caroline Fitzwarryne, Yarralumla



One notes the Abbott government's enthusiasm for royal commissions into such matters as trade union finances and the installation of home insulation. Surely it would be appropriate to appoint a royal commission into the alleged surveillance of the East Timorese cabinet, or indeed into the alleged interference with East Timor's current case before the International Court of Justice.

Peter Grabosky, Forrest

Why, amid all the government cost-cutting, a royal commission on pink batts? Good idea, badly administered, shonky contractors, inexperienced young tradesmen. Finis.

(Mrs) Eva Reid, Farrer


I see a few people commenting on the inappropriateness of the name of the Liberal Party. The way I see it is this. Robert Menzies founded the Liberal Party. John Howard converted it to the Illiberal Party, and Howard's successors want to take the party to the extreme of Howard's direction.

It is hypocrisy for that party to keep referring to itself as liberal.

Warwick Budd, Harcourt Hill


On such an emotional subject as changing from civil unions to marriage equality, most would not quibble at the hijacking of the revered word, equality (let alone marriage). But when Shane Rattenbury (''We must work together to achieve equality in love'', Times2, December 16, p5) courts popularity by demanding equality - in love - he must be imagining a community of lovey-dovey GM robots.

C. Lendon, Cook


Getting low-cost carriers flying into Canberra will boost tourism numbers, said the story ''Cheap flights crucial to tourism push'' (December 12, p10).

I flew from Canberra to Melbourne on December 8 to visit my dying mother. The cost for the return journey on the same day was $870 (Virgin $330, Qantas $540). Note - a six-night visit to Bali including airfares costs $920. No further comment!

David Hutchison, Richardson


The Coalition government has celebrated its first 100 days in office by failing to protect thousands of Holden workers in Adelaide, removing the funds that would have given low-paid childcare workers a long overdue pay rise, and now pulling the same rug out from poorly paid aged-care workers.

The message is clear: workers will be targeted, especially those at the bottom of the heap. What will the next 100 days bring?

Greg Bowyer, Sturt, SA