The argument that The Canberra Times should not publish the opinion pieces written by Amin Saikal, the director of the ANU centre for Arab and Islamic studies (Letters, August 13), is a case of playing the man instead of the ball, and misrepresents the funding and integrity of the centre and, by association, the university.
The university funds the annual operating budget and the majority of staff in the centre for Arab and Islamic studies. More than a decade ago ANU received a one-off donation from Al Maktoum Foundation in Dubai for the construction of a building for the centre and to support an academic position, which is currently filled with a specialist on Middle Eastern political economy. The centre has also received endowments from the Turkish government to support a teaching position in Turkish language and culture, and from the former Iranian government led by then president Khatami to support an academic position in Persian language. Each of these endowments has been matched by the university, supported by the Australian government and announced publicly. As with all academic positions at ANU funded by endowments, the funding agreements specify that ANU academic processes and rules apply to these appointments.
The centre for Arab and Islamic studies activities are guided by an advisory board drawn from academia, government, business and industry.
The suggestion that The Canberra Times should censor an academic expert from ANU is absurd. The contestation of ideas and respectful debate are essential to a mature democracy.
Professor Ian Young, vice-chancellor , the Australian National University
Merger is a mistake
It is with dismay that I have been following from afar the events associated with Sasha Grishin's article concerning the proposed merger of ANU's art history program with the School of Art (''Spare art history this shotgun marriage'', Times2, July 31, p5).
As a lecturer in that art history department for 15 years, I am well aware of most of the players in this lamentable ''decision'', and must send a plea to the vice-chancellor and the other university administrators to reconsider. As Professor Grishin points out in his article, such a merger would effectively end one of the most viable and worthwhile art history programs in Australia, as many students now enrolled, including those in the curatorship course, would simply leave for other programs at other campuses.
When I taught in the department, I often gave lectures at the School of Art, I remain friends with many of its faculty, and have nothing but good things to say about the school's programs and students. But an art school is not designed to support a serious humanities field, which is what the study of art history entails. The art history department at ANU carries out serious scholarly research, it trains students to become art historians as well as museum professionals, uses a very different methodology and involves very different skills than those needed to train artists and craftsmen.
I see absolutely no academic or scholarly reason for such a drastic action. If the ANU has any real commitment to continuing true humanistic education on its campus, it would be more than sad to lose a program that has successfully prepared art historians and curators to enter the world of art professionals.
A merger with the School of Art would essentially accomplish the loss of this program.
Dr Erika Esau, the Robert Gore Rifkind centre for German expressionist Studies, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, California
Dr Lesley Russell (''Unhealthy irony: system too costly for most needy'', Times2, August 14, p5) is right about the importance of addressing the drivers of chronic disease, such as obesity, smoking, and alcohol abuse.
Contrary to Russell's claims, however, the problem may not be ''medicalising'' these problems but not medicalising them enough. As long as terms such as ''lifestyle diseases'' and ''personal lifestyle choices'' are used to refer to the factors which cause chronic disease and premature death, people will not take these seriously as health issues.
Putting these in a medical context, on the other hand, may be exactly the sort of reality check that is necessary - as evidenced by the recent note from a national magazine editor who relates how, ''in November 2012 I was told to 'clean up my act' by the doctor, or die. And for what it's worth, those are the exact words used. Medication would not bring my blood pressure into a safer range. At the end of the day, I set out to lose weight and get myself a lot fitter and healthier … 36kg later, I'm on the road to a newer me and a longer time on the planet.''
Margo Saunders, Weetangera
Make it memorable
The Raiders are letting members buy $15 tickets to this Saturday's early afternoon game. I have to ask why.
Members have already bought a mixture of game day tickets. They're rusted-on fans.
The potential fans are going to see adult tickets on sale for $38 at the gate. Then, they have to add on the cost of getting their kids through the gate and paying for food and drinks.
How about flinging the gates open at $15 for everyone?
Years ago, I attended a Raiders trial at Seiffert Oval. As I walked around the ground, taking in the sights from when I attended Raiders games in their first season and I became a dyed-in-the-wool Raiders fan, I listened to dads and mums and grand-dads.
''This is where your grandpa [your dad/mum] and I stood when we watched the Raiders play here.'' Over and over again. They were like spots on a sacred ground.
I searched out the spot where I saw Angel Marina crash over in the corner to convert me into a heartfelt Raiders supporter from a frustrated Dragons fan.
Raiders management needs to make it affordable for singles and families to attend games and create the same sort of memories for families in the future. Otherwise, the connection between the team and the community will slowly die away.
Yuri Shukost, Isabella Plains
Gillard legacy will continue to taint federal Labor Party
It has become abundantly clear in my mind why Kevin Rudd delayed as long as he did before calling an election. Clearly he and the Labor party are hoping that the Australian public will forget everything about his predecessor, Julia Gillard. Currently we are hearing absolutely nothing about her and the majority of Australians would have completely forgotten of her existence.
It would appear that this strategy has been successful - the Australian people seem to have amnesia. Let's not forget that less than two months ago, the Labor Party, led by Julia Gillard, was facing election whitewash over issues such as the budget deficit, border protection, the mining tax and the carbon tax. The Labor party may have a new, much more popular face, but the underlying issues still exist.
Matthew Graham, Jerrabomberra, NSW
Greens' mess own making
Tony Abbott's decision to put the Greens at the bottom of the Liberal Party's preference list in every seat, in every state and in every territory, is a stroke of genius.
The only way for Green voters to retaliate is for all of them to fill in every square, putting the Liberals last on every one of their ballot papers. But this runs counter to the first and strongest inclination of every Green - to maximise self-righteousness by splitting their preferences or not allocating them at all.
Either of those tactics, of course, is nothing but a vote for Tony Abbott. The only questions remaining are whether the Green leadership can explain this, and whether Green voters can understand it.
Given the Greens' near-religious determination that if they don't get everything they want then they'll make sure that elections are won by parties which will never give them anything at all, you'd have to say that Tony Abbott is on a winner here.
G.T.W Agnew, Coopers Plains, Qld
Rudd's intellect dubious
Congratulations to Dean Frenkel (''Election may hinge on Rudd's level of genius'', Times2, August 14, p5) for soundly defeating Stan Cronin (Letters, August 14) for the most obsequious tribute to the myth of Kevin Rudd's intellect. Stan Cronin ''cannot name anyone in Australian life who needs notes less than Rudd''!
How about Tony Abbott, who writes his own speeches, Alexander Downer or especially John Howard, all of whom can speak for hours without notes.
Rudd cannot speak coherently unless he is reading his notes, against the rules as on Sunday night (more probably his staff's notes), and always has to resort to the Bogan and the vernacular whenever caught off the cuff. Like all lesser intellects, he swears profusely away from the cameras because he cannot think quickly enough on his feet for the right word. Remind me again, Stan Cronin and Dean Frankel, what did the Arts student say to the Rhodes scholar? Oh yes, now I remember - ''do you want fries with that?''
Chris Smith, Braddon
The article ''Election may hinge on Rudd's level of genius'' makes large claims, but doesn't make much of a case. For instance: in a contest with Abbott, ''Rudd would win a boxing match of the minds by a knockout'', says Dean Frenkel, author of this curious piece. If that is the case, Rudd should have won that televised debate by a mile, but fumbled his way through hackneyed phrases matched by those of his opponent. Would a cosmic brain have needed those notes he wasn't supposed to have to assist his cosmic memory?
His opponent, a lowly Rhodes scholar, needed no notes. There's more Frenkel facts: ''Rudd's intellect is exemplified by the fact that he learnt Mandarin as an early adult''. Right. All those Chinese kiddies able to do the same thing should come on down here as possible replacements in case Rudd gets sick. If the complexity of Mandarin is the yardstick for mental ability, then perhaps we need someone with knowledge of a language isolate such as Korean, or even better, one of the many Aboriginal languages?
Roy Darling, Florey
Challenge to drink stats
Michael Thorn (''Time for the truth on limited drinking hours'', Times2, August 15, p5) calls for truth and disclosure in the debate about the impact of trading hours of licensed premises in the alcohol debate. I challenge him to bring forward the evidence to show the ACT's alcohol-related harms were worse than any other Australian jurisdiction which had restricted trading hours and closed systems for the issue of licences over the time the ACT had 24-hour trading and an ''open'' system - 1975 until around 2000 and 2007. Also, in doing so, ''normalise'' the results for the impact of the AFP ''blitzing'' the issue of ''alcohol-related harm'' to suit its persistent attempts to take control of liquor regulation so it can control the statistical information flow to suit its agenda.
Tony Brown, Fadden
Pat Bourke (Letters, August 14) seems genuinely surprised and concerned that a couple and their baby had to sleep in a car in Canberra's ''well-off'' society. Scratch the surface of our ''well-off'' society and you'll find all sorts of disturbing situations that people have to endure, mostly through no fault of their own.
The Housing and Welfare people do the best they can in the circumstances, but are limited by available resources. Canberrans would be shocked by the waiting time for emergency housing in the ACT. This situation is not confined to Canberra, but is Australia-wide. And it will ever be thus while our elected representatives (and aspiring representatives) have such little regard for welfare issues. After all, they have far more important issues to focus on, like whether gays should have ''marriage equality'' and whether our deprived multi-national corporations might be paying too much company tax!
Brian Smith, Conder
Diners' calls for some hush fall on deaf ears
Thank you to Tom McIlroy for finally raising the issue of noise in restaurants (''Let's hear it for the noise'', Food & Wine, August 7, p8).
First, a disclaimer; I am a DVA-card-carrying officially ''deaf old b-----d', with 30 per cent hearing loss after almost 50 years in and around aircraft and firearms. I am, however, also someone who, finances permitting, regularly dines out around Canberra and elsewhere, loves his food and likes to hold a normal conversation with his lunch-dinner partner(s) while doing so.
WHICH IS GETTING BL**DY HARDER IN TOO MANY PLACES THESE DAYS. (Sorry; had to shout over the noise from the Gordon Ramsay wannabe in the kitchen, the canned muzak, the person on the next table talking to Tokyo loudly enough so he apparently doesn't actually need the mobile phone he has stuck to his ear, and the traffic noise coming in through the fashionably open window).
So please, anything that you and your excellent Canberra Times Food & Wine can do to promote sound minimisation in eateries round the city will be most welcome. Please, too, highlight any establishment where the owners promote noise levels, such as Eightysix, so that I, and the many like me that I know, can give it the widest possible berth!
By all means have the restaurant a happy, cheerful, bustling place which is enjoyable to visit. No need to try to emulate the sepulchral silence of a London gentlemen's club smoking room - though having been a member of the RAF club in London for some years, and eaten there many times, this may not be a bad thing on occasions, but let's at least keep it down to a manageable level where you can converse with more than just your immediate table companion in something less than a bellow.
Len Bowen, Chisholm
Useless poll device
K. Spurling (Letters, August 13) was lucky to have a person on the phone when being polled. I was polled by an automated service which asked me to press a number depending on which party I voted for at the last election. There was no distinction between House of Reps and the Senate and no option to indicate I might have voted for more than one party.
T. Henderson, Holder
TO THE POINT
A teacher at a Canberra high school recently tweeted: ''I hope lots of students at Lanyon High sign up to the 40-hour famine - weak and starving kids are easier to control''.
Such an attitude does not engender respect from students and parents/carers. Perhaps the teacher has not realised that respect, if earned, is reciprocal.
Dr Kaye Price, Darling Heights, Qld
BUILDING ON SAFETY
It is interesting to read that ACT building sites have recorded 363 serious work accidents for the year 2011-12, or one a day (''Safety cloud on ACT worksites'', August 13, p1).
I think the MBA ''recognising improvement was needed'' is a huge step forward.
Now if we could just get the MBA - and other employer groups - to tell us just what those ''improvements'' are going to be.
Geoff Barker, Flynn
EARLY CHRISTMAS JUNK
I have just received my first Christmas catalogue in the post.
Even though it is from a worthy charity that I would usually support, I object, and protest, at the onslaught commencing mid-August with Christmas still more than four months away.
C. McKew, Forrest
The Opposition Leader has said he will not form a minority government. Can he therefore assure readers he will not form a minority government with the National Party?
Nick Swain, Barton
COINCIDENCE OR NOT?
Is it pure coincidence that the federal election is being held on National Threatened Species Day?
Roger Bacon, Cook
THE CLEVER CHOICE
With respect to Dean Frenkel's article ''Election may hinge on Rudd's level of genius'' (Times2, August 14, p5), could I suggest that, if Rudd is a genius, perhaps he needn't have chosen politics as his preferred occupation to demonstrate to all Australians how very clever he is.
Chris Mackay, Kambah
WISDOM BEFORE GENIUS
I am not at all sure if the Prime Minister needs to be a genius. What is needed is a safe pair of hands; someone with a repository of deep wisdom and sound judgment, who would steer the country through difficult times ahead.
After all, winning the election is merely the end of the beginning - to quote Churchill.
Sam Nona, Burradoo, NSW