Comment

Letters to the Editor

Constitution change needed if we are to have a new head of state

David Smith asserts that " We already have an Australian head of state in the governor-general" (Letters, January 30).

I urge Sir David to read paragraph 2 of the preamble to the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act and Sections 1 and 2 of Part I of the same Act. In particular, I draw his attention to the word "representative" (as a noun, not an adjective) in Section 2 and, further in that Section, the verb "assign" in respect of powers held by the Queen (then Victoria and now Elizabeth) to be exercised by the governor-general in Australia.

If the governor-general were indeed head of state of Australia, he/she would not be the "representative" of any other person and his/her exercisable powers would be determined by the Australian people, through Parliament.

Unless and until Australia adopts a new constitution, our head of state is the king or queen of Australia, who can only hold such position by dint of already being king or queen of the United Kingdom.

Paul E. Bowler, Holder

Queen's representative

I see that David Smith (Letters, January 30) is still pushing the tired old line that we already have an Australian head of state in the governor-general. He must know that this is nonsense.

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Perhaps he should remind himself of the provisions of Section 2 of the Constitution. The governor-general is the representative in Australia of our head of state, the British monarch. It is self evident that a representative is not the same thing as the principal.

Richard Moss, Chisholm

Cost of a republic

In these cash-strapped times it would only be prudent to know the full costs of Australia becoming a republic. A proper cost/benefit benefit study available to the public would be very helpful.

There must be costs direct and indirect associated with changing every scrap of paper, changing every law and regulation, Commonwealth and state, changing every procedure, changing every reference that needs changing. The legal profession ought to feel very stimulated at the prospect of flow-on fees arising from such complications.

Once everyone knows what it will cost, then the extra cost of staging the referendum itself can be added to what is probably going to be quite a pile of republican IOU's. Has no Peter populist so far touched on the small matter of cost?

Roy Darling, Florey

Wishes ignored

Our politicians have consistently refused to accept the wants of the majority of the population with regard to euthanasia, with much of their reluctance being attributed to the dangers they see as some deaths occurring without full acceptance by the person euthanised, despite the fact that terminally ill people generally have little time left and no chance of recovery. Zero tolerance seems to be the politician's mantra.

In 2015, about 1200 people died on Australian roads – on average three people every day. Generally these people were healthy individuals whose deaths caused enormous distress to their families and friends and the after effects will last for the rest of their lives. No good can come any of these totally unwanted deaths, yet our politicians accept this level of carnage.

Contrast the circumstances where terminally ill people accept that they will never recover, that their circumstances cause family and friends great heartache, and they have no wish to continue to suffer. They see death as a welcome release and, while the family will experience great sadness from the loss of a loved one, they also get comfort from the fact that their suffering is over. All the person wants is to exercise their free will to accept death calmly and rationally.

Peter Stubbs, Gungahlin

Duties left wanting

I have no problem with Tony Abbott and Kevin Andrews ("Dumped Minister skips Parliament", January 28) joining the far right speakers circuit: I imagine it is a lucrative occupation and would be reassuring for Tony and Kevin to be surrounded by people who also oppose gay marriage, euthanasia and action against climate change.

What I do object to is that both these gentlemen are continuing to accept a salary that most Australians can only dream of ($199,040 a year) and don't appear to be carrying out the basic duties of a backbench member of the House of Representatives. The core duties of each backbencher are to service their electorate and to attend Parliament.

Sulking, cycling, attending cycle races, and speaking to the the US Tea Party are extraneous activities that should only be carried out in leisure hours and may be fitted in only when the core elements of the duty statement have been met.

Mike Reddy, Curtin

Vote for the party

Robert Adams (Letters, January 27) suggests to end the ridiculous and undemocratic problem of Independents having more power in the Senate than their constituency justifies, "discounted value for votes subsequent to the first".

True. But a better and more effective solution, given that what really counts is the votes of our elected representative, would be to discount the votes of Independents in the Senate according to their first (primary) votes.

And while on this subject, surely there's nothing wrong with "above the line" voting for a party rather than individuals.

Many people (perhaps most) want to vote for a party, not individuals, and are quite happy to let the party judge who is the best individual to represent it in the Parliament.

R.S. Gilbert, Braddon

Nuances of language

Some recent letters have demonstrated correct and incorrect use of verbs.

The prefix be- has the effect of making several intransitive verbs transitive. Whereas "wail" and "moan" are intransitive or self-sufficient, requiring no object (as in "They were wailing"), "bewail" and "bemoan" need a direct object: "They bemoaned their loss". You can wail and moan about something, but you must bewail or bemoan something.

It follows that you do not bemoan about something. This is not a pedantic rule but an explanation of how the language works, and if these distinctions are ignored communication is deficient.

P. Edwards, Holder

Response a sick joke

I recently received a letter from Centrelink about my new part pension. It referred me to the website for further information. However, the current website is practically unusable and it will be some time before we know whether the recently announced transfer of MyGov to the Digital Transformation Office will improve access.

As for response time to phone calls, it is laughable, and we are told that those who arrive at Centrelink offices, having given up on phoning after wasting hours and money they can ill-afford waiting in queues, are met by "greeters" who direct them away from Centrelink staff and instruct them to phone in.

One can only wonder what has happened to the notion of public service, when desperate elderly clients are treated as mere nuisances, and seemingly insuperable barriers defy every attempt to make contact.

How has this been allowed to happen, especially since failure to convey information in a timely manner can result in prosecution? Even if online access is improved, I wonder whether Centrelink management are aware that according to Australian Bureau of Statistics figures, only 46per cent of Australians over 65 used the internet in 2012-13? The figure is even lower for women. Furthermore, do they realise that the cost of purchasing and maintaining digital equipment is beyond the reach of many pensioners, that some have never used computers and that many older people are no longer "agile" enough to acquire IT skills?

Pauline Westwood, Dickson

We have to fight

It's not surprising that Gerry Murphy (Letters, January 30) thinks there is doubt about the severity of climate change.

The film Merchants of Doubt shows how reports are produced which exactly mimic the appearance and organisation of real scientific reports but which replace scientific information with comments such as "There is doubt about the conclusions". This systematic method was used by the tobacco industry until their lies started to undermine their public image.

Now it's being used to slow our response to climate change. Shareholders may also discourage companies from moving to renewable options because the necessary innovation and investment would temporarily slow profits.

It's no use moving to Korea, as Gerry suggests. It's close to China where the "pea-souper" smogs are just as clear evidence of climate change as our own worsening fires, floods and droughts. This is global climate change.

There's nowhere to run. We have to turn and fight.

Rosemary Walters, Palmerston

Buses make sense

A light rail line from the airport to Civic, going on to Belconnen (P Button, Letters, January 26) is undoubtedly a more attractive proposition than the current proposal. However it is futile to build any street level tram network in Canberra with the expectation of acceptable journey times for all concerned.

The plan for the Gungahlin-Civic route is to signalise nearly every one of the 30 road intersections so that priority can be given to the tram in an effort to obtain a journey time of 25 minutes, faster than Sydney's new Dulwich Hill extension, despite the latter being completely segregated from all road traffic.

The resultant increase in traffic congestion in north Canberra will be significant, possibly serious. The continuation 3.2 kilometre journey from Civic to Russell will take 15 minutes, Capital Metro already having acknowledged that there will be a serious impact on traffic in the Civic area.

Overshadowing all this type of planning is the inevitable change to fleets of driverless vehicles, ultimately comprising the major component of urban public transport. The transition could begin as early as 2020.

The only type of mass transit that makes sense to build in Canberra in 2016 is bus rapid transit, grade separated at critical intersections. It is much cheaper than light rail and can be shared with other fleets when appropriate.

Dr John L. Smith, chairman, CanTheTram Inc.

Senators praised

My congratulations go to senators Eric Abetz and Cory Bernardi for their stand against same-sex marriage ("Stoush over same-sex marriage vote", January 28,p2). Like both these excellent senators, I am strongly opposed to same-sex marriage and will be voting against it when the general public vote in the forthcoming plebiscite.

I am also pleased to note our previous prime minister, Tony Abbott, is preparing to go to New York to speak to the US anti-gay marriage group, the Alliance Defending Freedom on the importance of conventional family.

Anne Prendergast, Reid

Learn from history

Great article by Elizabeth Farrelly ("Healing the inclusive way", Times2, January 24) advocating free education to overcome our inability to understand and reject the policies of people like Donald Trump and Islamic State.

While free education, as available in Finland (best education system in the world), should be the policy of all politicians, it would not necessarily result in a rejection of such policies.

Educated people are just as likely to be apathetic or pathetic as uneducated people in the analysis of political policy.

Political history should be a compulsory subject in secondary school. It at least would teach our young people that politicians lack accountability when the populace isn't paying attention.

Max Jensen, Chifley

Pointless debate

The current debate regarding what penalties should be set for "one-punch" assaults is, alas, pointless. The magistrates and judges in the ACT seem loathe to ever impose the levels of sentence that pieces of legislation permit for crimes. Legislators are, by definition, setting out in writing what the community expectations on punishments are. The judiciary then see these as being little more than guidelines and then add insult to injury by setting often miniscule non-parole periods. These are then followed by Appeal Judges with their own strange interpretations of "Manifestly Excessive". The old adage of "Do the crime, do the time" is thus lost in the mists of the judicial mindset. Of course. I fully expect that if this letter is published, then I can predict which three of the city's criminal apologists will probably take to their keyboards to tell me that a mere member of the public and occasional victim of crime cannot possible have an understanding of such arcane matters of jurisprudence. Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war.

Bernard McMinn, Mawson

Canberra's drivers are generally terrible

Having driven in every capital city within Australia and in a good number of other cities and towns across the country over the past 53 years, I can tell you that Canberra's drivers are, in the main, the worst ("Canberra drivers the nation's most reckless", January 30, p1).

The majority of our drivers tail-gate and then, when having overtaken a vehicle, immediately cut back in front of it, thereby taking away the safe distance between the two vehicles. Most of our drivers do not know how to correctly use roundabouts and how and when to use indicators.

They drive over unbroken lines, they speed up to go through amber lights and the number of drivers I see, of all ages, talking on mobile phones is frightening; add to these faults that of speeding.

One of the problems we have here is that a lot of parents teach their children to drive (the blind leading the blind) instead of having them taught by professional trainers. Yes, the majority of Canberra's drivers are the most reckless and the most uneducated or plain lazy, in the country. Driving here is almost as bad as driving through Istanbul at night.

Christopher Jobson, Monash

Educating the MPs

A good suggestion from Rosemary Walters (Letters, January 27), that incoming politicians be given a short intensive course in climate science. But would the education make any difference? Members of Parliament already have one of the best libraries in the country, with a highly skilled research staff keen to assist. How many of them take advantage of these services?

Your correspondent Gerry Murphy (Letters, January 30) seems to believe that ignorance is good. Any politician elected on the vote of Murphy represents anti-science, anti-knowledge, and in a most fundamental way, anti-democracy, as democracy itself depends on education.

Nick Goldie, Michelago, NSW

The Canberra Times wants to hear from you in short bursts. Email views in 50 words or fewer to letters.editor@canberratimes.com.au

TO THE POINT

A HEALTHY SOLUTION

The ACT's hospital system is in crisis.

Solution: let's build a light rail network and everyone will feel better.

Brian Hale, Wanniassa

WHAT ABOUT GST?

Instead of a 15per cent GST, how about a carbon tax? Oh, no, I forgot, that would be a big new tax on everything, eh?

Les Sullivan, Cook

A POOR ANALOGY

Easier said than done, Bill Deane (Letters, January 28). The situation of Indigenous Australians is in no way analogous to that of a Somali refugee choosing to come to Australia in search of a better life.

Patricia Saunders, Chapman

UNINFORMED VIEWS

Bob Gardiner (Letters, January 28) laments the generous coverage given by The Canberra Times to the ignorant and uninformed views of anti-vaccination campaigners. Contributions espousing similarly ignorant views by scientifically illiterate climate change deniers have started appearing in the letters section with much greater frequency too.

James Allan, Narrabundah

A FORM OF BLACKMAIL

Who hasn't engaged in behaviour which would embarrass if disclosed.

While Mitchell Pearce's antics are reprehensible, what is much much more reprehensible is that an attendee at that social function would think it reasonable to publish pictures without the subject's knowledge. How is this different from blackmail?

George Beaton, Greenway

NO FLEET ARRIVAL

But, Peter White (Letters, January 29), 50,000 or so years ago they most likely walked across the then landbridge to Eurasia, or at most rafted very short distances, not came via a "fleet".

Neil James, Burra, NSW

CYNICAL PINNACLE

The Board of Taxation's arrogance in demanding a campaign to convince Australians they should enjoy being colonised by tax-evading corporations must represent the pinnacle of cynicism, ably facilitated by sycophantic, bi-partisan political ingratiates ("Tax panel wants big business PR blitz," January 28, p3).

Albert M. White, Queanbeyan

THE WINNER IS ...

Now the usual suspects have had their say on the suitability of conducting Australia Day on January 26, the award for the best letter must go to Kym MacMillan of O'Malley (Letters, January 29). Future "rants" on this topic will not be said any better.

P. M. Button, Cook

Email: letters.editor@canberratimes.com.au. Send from the message field, not as an attached file. Fax: 6280 2282. Mail: Letters to the Editor, The Canberra Times, PO Box 7155, Canberra Mail Centre, ACT 2610.

Keep your letter to 250 words or less. References to Canberra Times reports should include date and page number. Letters may be edited. Provide phone number and full home address (suburb only published).

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