An ACT government spokesperson reassures us that poisoning stray cats is not on the government's immediate agenda ( "Feral cats could be declared pests in the ACT", January 10, p10). She goes on to talk about "future use" of poisons to control cats. Indeed, the supporting material the government has provided for its proposal to declare unowned cats as "pests" explicitly flags the use of poisons. The most worrying aspect is that the government is not targeting real wild or "feral" cats. It is targeting "unowned" cats. It is targeting abandoned pets whose people have left them to fend for themselves, usually by scrounging from other humans, eating garbage, or eating the rats that eat the garbage.
To justify its proposal, the government argues that cats are a threat to biodiversity. Yet, even the National Feral Cat Threat Abatement Plan admitted "convincing evidence that feral cats exert a significant effect on native wildlife on the mainland, or in Tasmania, is scarce".
Even if there were convincing evidence that cats threaten biodiversity, it is now well-known that lethal control of fast-breeding species like cats does not work. Desex and return programs, which have been used with enormous success all over the world, are a humane and much more effective way of eliminating stray cat populations.
Frankie Seymour, Queanbeyan, NSW
More and more tinsel
What a timely and revealing article by Wendy Squires last week ("Dark lining to festive season's tinsel clouds", January 10, p20). Christmas just seems to get bigger and bigger and last longer and longer. By contrast, the celebrations no longer represent the rapidly changing social structure and religious background of the people who now live in Australia.
It should be noted that this year atheism has taken over the top spot as the major belief system of this country. Bearing this in mind, the presence of Santa and the tunes of Silent Night came into operation in major shopping plazas exactly two months before Christmas Day and we still have Easter to come.
This certainly raises the question who is "pulling the strings" and how long will it be before our religious celebrations appropriately represent the people who now live in Australia?
Wayne Grant, Phillip
A lost cause
Blimey, Ken McPhan! I didn't know the ability to read maps was something to be remarked upon (Letters, January 10).
If it is currently possible to grant a driver's licence to someone who doesn't actually have the ability to work out how to get from where they are to where they want to be, then maybe the ability to read a map should be a prerequisite in the driver's licence acquisition process. Having people driving around without knowing how to get where they are going is not a good thing for any of us.
Gordon Fyfe, Kambah
Azerbaijan glad of help
Regarding the article "Azerbaijan looks for closer economic, educational, security ties with Australia" (January 10, p10), you may be aware the Republic of Armenia used force against the Republic of Azerbaijan and occupied the Nagorno-Karabakh region and seven adjacent districts of Azerbaijan in blatant violation of norms and the principles of international law and the charter of the United Nations. Ethnic cleansing has been conducted against the Azerbaijani people on the seized lands based on racism, ethnic hate and xenophobia. The puppet regime established in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan is nothing other than the result of occupation, aggression and ethnic cleansing. The UN Security Council resolutions reaffirmed the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Republic of Azerbaijan and demanded immediate, unconditional and complete withdrawal of all occupying forces from the seized lands. Unfortunately, Armenia disregards these resolutions.
I would like to underline that no country in the world recognised the independence of the so-called "Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh" which is the integral part of the Republic of Azerbaijan. One of the main goals of opening the embassy in Canberra is to gain the support of the Australian government in this regard. The Australian policy on this matter is clear: Australia does not recognise the sovereignty of the self-proclaimed "Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh".
I would like to draw your attention to this statement by Foreign Minister Julie Bishop: "The Australian government has a long-standing policy of condemning the illegal occupation of the sovereign territory of nations around the world. An example would be Russia's illegal occupation of Crimea, the breach of Ukraine's sovereignty.
"We were very outspoken on that occasion. Likewise, in the case of Nagorno-Karabakh, the Australian government's policy is to recognise the sovereignty of Azerbaijan. We do not recognise Nagorno-Karabakh as an independent state.
"Indeed, the Australian government supports the efforts of what is known as the Minsk Group – chaired by Russia, France and the United States, with other members including Azerbaijan, Armenia, Turkey and Belarus – to resolve the situation. It has been our consistent position that the governments of Armenia and Azerbaijan should come together peacefully to resolve the issue, to end the conflict and to end the occupation of the Nagorno-Karabakh area."
In the article it says "embassy staff said their government was not interested in Australia taking an active role in bringing an end to the feud, preferring to leave that to the Minsk Group chaired by Russia, France and the United States". I believe there was a misunderstanding, but we are very much interested in Australia taking an active role in bringing an end to the occupation. The official position of the Australian government in Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is highly appreciated by Azerbaijan and this is regarded as the Australian contribution to the conflict resolution process.
Goshgar Zeynalov, Second Secretary, embassy of the Republic of Azerbaijan
Waterways at risk
A regular paddler on Canberra's unnecessarily maligned lakes and ponds, I enjoy cooling off in the hot summer months by jumping off my kayak and having a swim, especially in my beloved local, Yerrabi Pond. The sad thing is, this might be the last summer I am able to do so without some risk to my health and wellbeing because of the misguided idea of growing vegetables on nature strips.
The manures, fertilisers and other organic materials that would be used on nature strips would be transported via the stormwater system into our city's lakes when it rains and would have considerable adverse impacts on the health of Canberra's beautiful water bodies, especially through increased algal blooms. How is that possibly good for the environment and wildlife? And, how is that consistent with the principles of sustainability?
Exacerbating the eutrophication already experienced by Canberra's water bodies for the sake of a few food miles is reckless.
For the sake of the environment, perhaps "Green" minister Shane Rattenbury could instead focus on the excess tracts of public open space for use as community gardens.
Matt Meyer, Gungahlin
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