Letters to the Editor
License article

Child abuse condoned

It's ironic that we have a Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Abuse and at the same time the government is fully aware of child abuse in immigration detention centres. 

While the High Court has ruled that it is not illegal to operate off-shore detention centres, there is a vast difference between something being legal and being humane. 267 people, mainly women and 90 children, were brought to Australia from Nauru for humanitarian reasons in the last year. 

These are the people our government now wants to return to detention in Nauru. 

This is cruelty beyond belief.  Surely Australia can do better than this. 

To condone child abuse and actually send children into danger is scraping the bottom of the barrel in terms of what it means to be a humane and caring society. 

If we lose our humanity, then what is the point of anything.


 Barbara and Rick Godfrey, Lyneham

Migrants deserve better

Legal validity does not appear to translate into moral, ethical, or humanitarian correctness. Immigration Minister Dutton and Prime Minister Turnbull may well talk about protecting our borders, and preventing people in boats from drowning at sea. If refugee families are desperate enough to risk drowning then it should arouse our compassion, not inhumane treatment.

Asylum seekers deserve to have their applications processed in a timely manner, and to be housed humanely in an environment that is not rife with the threat of rape and physical and mental torture, and the lack of provision of basic human rights and freedoms.

The Australia I want to live in and be proud of is, in the words of our national anthem, "Renowned of all the lands", and "For those who've come across the seas we've boundless plains to share". The government's current approach is blatantly contradictory to these aspirations, and we can do a lot better.

 Mike Payne, Kambah

Respect human rights 

The High Court decision allowing offshore detention is neither morally nor ethically correct. The government retrospectively changed legislation (after the court case started) to make this state of affairs legal. Democracy and human rights are much more than  a legal technicality. 

Using our taxes, we are destroying lives of asylum seekers through indefinite offshore and onshore detention. We are out of compliance with many UN conventions. Asylum seekers are never illegal.

Neither the Coalition nor the Australian Labor Party understand our ethical and moral responsibilities to asylum seekers. The only political party standing up for human rights is the Greens. 

The policies of indefinite offshore and onshore detention of asylum seekers must change if we are to maintain our culture of respect for human rights for all.

 Pamela Collett, Narrabundah

Expensive inaction

About 18 months to two years ago a perfectly good car parking area between the derelict Alexander and Albemarle Buildings and Melrose Drive in Woden was torn up. Fences were erected and signs said the area was being developed – but no indication for what.

Since then with great disruption to local traffic lots of trucks and men in fluoro jackets have been seen but never actually doing anything. Recently some wavy curbing has appeared, a few light poles have been erected and large piles of earth and stone delivered.

Could someone in the ACT government tell me what is the planned outcome, when this never ending construction might be finished (if ever) and most importantly how much has been spent for all this inaction.

No wonder our rates are so huge.

 Roger Allnutt, Deakin

Tram tests loyalties

Like George Beaton (Letters, February 3) I too, have always voted Labor and I, too, will "cross the floor" over the tram. Not just because the project changed from a feasibility study to a commitment in the cynical pursuit of staying in power by lining up with Shane Rattenbury but because the project is unlikely to be successful given the geography and demographics of Canberra. 

This is why Action buses are unsuccessful to the extent that they need a 75 per cent subsidy. Any projected business case benefits, as with many economic forecasts should be taken with a bucket of salt, indeed halved, which leaves a large financial hole.

 David Williams, Watson

Add in all the costs

When trying to calculate the nett price of the Light Rail system, Leon Arundell (Letters, February 3) subtracts $54 million of bus network operational saving because buses will be allocated to other parts of the transport network. With the expanding urban footprint in Molonglo Valley and Gungahlin if existing buses aren't redeployed, new stock would have to be purchased to service these areas. These costs, along with additional bus depots or dead running costs should be added back into the calculation for a more accurate comparison of bus v tram. 

 Tim Herne, Calwell

Wait for mandate

The ACT Labor government is apparently determined to proceed with the Canberra Metro light rail project at a cost of $698million, while the Liberal opposition promises to tear up the contract — at an unknown, but presumably substantial, cost — if it wins the next ACT election.

Surely it would be sensible to put the project on hold until after the election for the ACT Legislative Assembly due in October 2016? Then, if Labor wins, the project can proceed immediately with a clear mandate, while if the Liberals win it can be cancelled at no further expense.

Chief Minister, why is a delay of eight months not acceptable?

 Alan Wilson, Yarralumla

Thank you motorists

On the first anniversary of the introduction of legal lane splitting by motorcyclists in the ACT, for a two year trial period, it is enormously gratifying to see how many car drivers have accepted the practice.

Many times each way on my regular commute along some of Canberra's busiest roads I find motorists moving over within their lane to allow me to ride safely between lines of traffic. 

I do my best to wave or give them the thumbs up, but it is not always possible.

So to all of them, and the many other considerate drivers I have yet to encounter, I express my sincere thanks.

 Keith Young, Bungendore

Museum's display reflects what Governor General said and did

Patrick O'Hara castigates the Museum of Australian Democracy (Letters, January 31) for its 'crass and sexist representation' of Dame Quentin Bryce through the display of her yellow suit. Dame Quentin herself donated the suit to the museum at the end of her tenure as Governor-General. She considered that the suit, which she wore when she swore in Julia Gillard as Australia's first female prime minister in 2010, to be a potent symbol of her feminist views. It features a silk brooch given to her by her grandmother in the suffragette colours of green, white and purple, regarded by Dame Quentin as 'the symbol of equality for women', and is accompanied by a photo of the momentous event of our first female prime minister being sworn in by our first female Governor-General. Clothes are historical documents. They are often expressions of national, cultural, ideological and personal identity.

As a museum we collect key items from leading Australian men and women where they add insight into an individual or an event. We have a unique collection of neckpieces, including the first blue tie worn by former prime minister Tony Abbott, and later in the year, a display featuring the Privy Council uniform of first prime minister Sir Edmund Barton, will explore the idea that clothing, and the practices surrounding the making and wearing of garments, symbolise a person's power, their role in society and provide insights into our shared history.' 

 Daryl Karp, Rirector, Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House

Catch them as you can

It is not surprising that at least 1 in 10 drivers are speeding in the ACT ("More Canberrans Speed ... than other States", Jan 30), when the chance of being caught must be 1 in 10,000 or higher. If the government really wants this trend reversed it should follow the examples of Victoria and South Australia by removing the warning signs from stationary speed cameras (and painting them camouflage green), allowing clandestine mobile speed cameras to operate on any roadside at any time and having many more unmarked traffic-police cars. Currently TAMS are only permitted to use fixed and mobile speed cameras at locations approved by the 'anti-speed camera' NRMA. I don't think a Labor government should be getting its road safety policies from a conservative/libertarian organisation, which still uses the 'revenue raising' argument to protect speeding motorists.

 Chris Emery, Reid

Listing achievements

Criticisms levelled at David Morrison's receipt of the Australian of the Year Award are based on the selfish objectives of a few. 

This award, considered relatively unimportant but like so many actions in this increasingly disappointing country, an "over the top" piece of theatre,  is yet another one requiring a recipient to list all the items he / she intends to address from the protection of koala bears, to counselling footballers from excessive drinking and perhaps, even the cleanliness of public toilets. Woe betide anyone who misses one. 

Anyone with his record in the Defence Force is unlikely to be unaware of the gripes such people have, so many of whom make a career out of such activities. But why is it necessary to spell it all out? Next we will be asking that they be prioritised, given a timeframe, then subject to an audit of objectives to actual results to be verified by a team of independent accountants. What next?

 Rex Williams, Ainslie

Light has no mass

Shane Rattenbury wrote "Perhaps the biggest myth to bust is the one that says the prospect of driverless cars means we needn't bother building mass public transport for our cities, like light rail" ("Driverless cars no panacea", Times2, p4, February 3).

The error in his statement is that the light rail proposed for Canberra is not mass public transport. It carries a maximum of 2000 passengers per hour.

If the light rail thoroughfare were dedicated to a public transport fleet of driverless vehicles carrying two passengers per vehicle and averaging 30 kilometres per hour, the capacity of the fleet would be 2000 passengers per hour. However, driverless cars will eventually navigate the entire road network, while trams remain confined to their expensive rail network.

Rattenbury should not refer to the Canberra project as mass transit but as a street level tram. Mass transit systems, even bus rapid transit, typically have a capacity of at least 6000 passengers per hour.

 A. Smith, Farrer

History lessons

Congratulations to Eric Hunter (Letters, Feb 02) for his slap-down of Bill Deane's comments about Australian Aborigines.

It's always sad to see old age release the underside opinions of people like Bill Deane (he was once more measured), particularly when  based on a lack of reading and research into the substantive issues.

I recommend to Bill that he read a little Aboriginal history.

 Clive Banson,  Moruya

Strait talking

I refer to the letter of February 2 by Neil James where he implies that Australia's first inhabitants either walked to Australia or, at most rafted very short distances.

I commend to Mr James the following quotation from Pulitzer Prize-winning author  Jared Diamond's book, Guns Germs and Steel: "To reach Australia/New Guinea from the Asian mainland ... still required crossing a minimum of eight channels, the broadest of which was at least 50 miles wide ... Australia was always invisible from even the nearest [islands] ... it demanded watercraft.

 Ray Blackmore, Pearce

Density debate

In making his case for 'good modern public transport' (i.e. light rail) for Gungahlin, Kevin Cox (Letters, February 1) asserts that Gungahlin has twice the population density of Tuggeranong. This is not so. On best estimates of population, the current population density in Gungahlin is roughly 550 per square kilometre, whereas in Tuggeranong it is around 750 These statistics sink the rest of his argument about who is and who is not getting the gravy.

 Ed Highley, Kambah

Enforcement of law could reap revenue

As a Sydney-sider turned Canberran I read with interest the story outlining new draft nature strip guidelines. 

I was particularly amazed to read that "it remains illegal to park any vehicle, including trailers, caravans and boats, on nature strips". You could have fooled me. 

As one of the only residents in my street to adhere to this law (and receive passive aggressive messages on my car whenever I park on the street in front of another house), I wonder when the ACT government will start to enforce it? Inevitably revenue from penalty notices would cascade in. Maybe this extra money could be spent on improving the multitude of lackluster streetscapes around town?

 Maclaren Wall, O'Connor

Is Zika to blame?

There have been daily articles about the Zika virus and every one has also referred to babies born deformed. 

They have all been careful to add that this link has not been proved and that Zika virus has been around for 50 years and has never caused this before. 

That is a good reason to look into other possible causes but, instead, articles invariably go on to foster the assumption that Zika is now suddenly a dangerous disease.

The other possible causes are not hidden from journalists so why aren't they getting as much coverage as the mosquitoes? Neurotoxic pesticides have the highest use in the world in Brazil. 

Release of GM mosquitoes has gone ahead in Brazil without community approval, as it has quietly in Australia, with effects that can only be guessed at. If all these factors come together in Australia where the mosquitoes have been released and in areas where pesticide use is excessive, we might find an epidemic of deformed births with or without mosquitoes.

It is time to take off the blinkers and get serious about preventing these birth defects, by examining all relevant causes.

 Jenny Heywood, Spence



Why can't the Turnbull government immediately open refugee processing centres in Malaysia and Indonesia so refugees have real hope of being accepted to come to Australia? There would then be no cruel and hypocritical logic for sending the refugees back to Nauru.

 Dr Anne Cawsey, Hackett


The irony of the offer of sanctuary for asylum seekers by churches in Australia won't be lost on the countless victims of sexual, physical and emotional abuse while in the protective embrace of these churches, and then endured decades of denial, threats and cover-up by their "protectors".

 A Whiddett, Yarralumla


The imprisonment of children on Nauru to reinforce the government's immigration policy is both inhumane and horrific. 

It negates any credibility this country might have had in commenting on human rights matters.

 Tony Pelling, Nicholls


Evelyn Bean is partly right (Letters, February 3). People were"scattered upon the face of the whole Earth" but "ancient Babylonia" didn't exist around 100,000 years ago when some passed through and maybe some settled, on their way out of their African original homeland. This is what science tells us. 

 Peter White,  Flynn


In Shane Rattenbury's comment piece ("Driverless cars no panacea", Times2, times2, February 2), he is referred to as "an ACT Greens MLA". This implies that there is more than one such creature. He is "the" ACT Greens MLA – there is only one of them – hence the reason for his powerbase. 

 Dick Parker, Page


The "Nay sayers" Liberal Party have recruited negative Mark Parton to get the message out (Hanson hires former 2CC host to spread the message, February 2). I suspect we will hear a whole lot more  "can the tram', at least until the Liberals fail at the next election.

 Edward Corbitt, Farrer


While the preoccupation of the younger generation with smartphones irritates many folks of my generation and seems to be causing a decline in the art of conversation, it's a darn sight better than twiddling a cigarette through our fingers and polluting our lungs (and those of our friends) as we did. 

 Alayna Richardson, Narrabundah

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