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Letters to the Editor

Cruel in any language

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The ANU is the only institution in Australia where Vietnamese is taught past an introductory level, despite it being one of the largest language groups of Australia.

To say that my time at ANU was trying due to the cuts to music staff, and the impact that had on all aspects of our community and our degree, would be an understatement.

 I am so, so sorry the same is now happening to my Vietnamese lecturer. 

He was the teacher I had faith in to keep me inspired in my studies (for both degrees) during moments where music seemed to be falling apart, despite all of our efforts. Bao had such a big smile, and an even bigger heart, and I was so thankful for those classes with him.

He was so proud to be working on the online courses while I was there – I think they must've told him it would increase the chances of distance education and adult learners to enrol, to make Vietnamese language accessible to all, something he was excited about. I guess they lied, and paid him to make himself redundant.

Education is not supposed to be about financials. In an ideal world, it's about broadening horizons, and making our society as a whole better through deeper understanding across all communities.

Thank God I graduated. 

 Kat Alchin, Sydney, NSW

 Time for change

"What the public resents most is the collusion between government officials and business people ... Breaking this unholy alliance will be the big test for [the leadership]".

Ah, Manuka Oval again, you think?

No, China, as described by the Chinese economist Yu Yongding, quoted in When China Rules the World by Martin Jacques (published by Penguin Books, 2012, p285).

So this is the company we are keeping. But perhaps we are still setting the standard.

In 2014, our ACT ALP government, supported by the Liberals and the Greens, removed any cap on political so-called "donations", so the sky's the limit now for those wanting our politicians to see things their way.

If the players in any project here now in these circumstances are the developers, the ACT political parties, and the community, who do you think will come last? Time for change, time for change. 

  Hugh Dakin,  Griffith  

Compassionate choice

Karen Hardy ("Growing up sometimes means eating more vegetables", Forum, March 19, p3) suggests we embrace the cuisine, should our teenage daughters go vegetarian, as "resistance is futile". Ms Hardy could take it a step further and also embrace the reason for her daughter's choice.

She could join her daughter and research, discuss, sow more seeds of thought, and exemplify two admirable human traits: empathy and compassion. 

Rather than doubting her daughter will be able to resist Vietnamese caramelised pork, support and encourage her growing understanding that the piece of pork on her fork was once a piglet, a living, sentient and intelligent being, smarter than the family dog and often seen as an embodiment of "cuteness", that grew up never seeing the sun, never knew anything but a cold, hard concrete floor, was barely able to move, and died awfully in a gas chamber.

Learning about this treatment of our mass-produced and intensively farmed animals, and possibly acting against it together, may strengthen their mother-daughter bond, rather than Ms Hardy seeing vegetarian choices as an aberration, a quirky little diet that her daughter will probably just "get over" if and when she comes to her senses.

 Jan Darby, Isabella Plains

Parking a problem

It is to be hoped that when public servants are moved back into the Nishi Building ("Federal government eyes Nishi vacant office space for PS staff",  March 28, p3), action will be taken to solve the parking problems.

As a regular patron of the cinema in the building, I have noticed increasing difficulty in finding a parking place either in the building or in the vicinity, and recently was even forced to return home without seeing the film for lack of a space to stop. Increased occupancy might mean the end of my cinema visits.

 John Rogers,  Cook 

Epitome of arrogance

Helmut Simon  (Letters, March 28) takes Bruce Haigh to task for devoting a whole column ("Patient or a piece of meat?", Times2, March 21, p4) to getting stuck into surgeons, their methodology and their pricing.

I, however, sat reading Bruce's column saying "Yes! Yes!' I broke an ankle a few years ago and experienced firsthand a prima donna of a surgeon. On a scale of one to 10, his bedside manner was in the minus, and I began to wonder if his medical training had included a unit called Arrogance 101.

The final consultation capped it all: me, my wife and a workplace rehabilitation supervisor from my department waited three hours past the appointment time before we were admitted into the august presence, all the time seeing people arrive, give up and leave without being seen. 

During these three hours (as the wages of the rehab person were being met by the taxpayer), we were entertained by a large-screen TV showing a slide show of scenic vistas: mountains, tropical beaches, foreign cities, exotic locations, that sort of thing. 

The truth dawned on me when up popped a slide of a tropical island with, in the foreground, a pair of feet propped up on the dashboard of a golf cart. These were the surgeon's holiday snaps.

 Dallas Stow,  O'Connor  

Safety invention

The availability, shortly, of a new car/bicycle safety device is good news for all ACT road users.

The size of this unit is approximately that of a phone and is attached under the left-hand side of the car bonnet and wired to the battery. The cost will be approximately $200 to install.

In operation, the unit is activated by the high pitched sound of bicycle wheels and when a bike and car come under the one-metre separation law, a loud beeping sound will occur, similar to earth-moving vehicles.

The beeping sound is directed at both driver and cyclist, alerting both to swerve apart to avoid an accident. The new unit should be especially useful when both parties find themselves on the short green suicide strips in use on many ACT roads.

It is expected that within a short time it will be compulsory for all new vehicles in the ACT to be fitted with the new safety unit. Good news indeed.

 Jim Cleaver, Yarralumla  

Smokers need help in times of crisis too

Advocacy group Action on Smoking and Health lobbies to have designated smoking areas and accompanying ashtrays removed from the grounds of public hospitals and then complains about butts littering the ground and people smoking outside the ED ("Call to enforce ban at hospital", March 26, p8).

Does anyone ever give athought to the fact that smokers who have just been given bad news or had a friend or relative die will naturally reach for a cigarette? Patients are offered counselling, we're told. Would this be using Quitline, which is only open during business hours?

Callers outside these hours are met with a recorded message. In the meantime, the caller has probably bought and smoked a packet of cigarettes. If ASH is serious about wanting us all to be smoke free, how about lobbying for a 24-hour Quitline, so we can get some help when a crisis hits, orwe are tempted to end an attempt at quitting. 

ASH vice-president Jim Emerson is "shocked and appalled" at the lack of enforcement at the hospital. 

I am shocked and appalled a this inhuman lack of concern or any real help for smokers.

Tania Bradley, Belconnen 

Held hostage

I was recently shocked to find that my accountant had left his employer and I had been allocated a new accountant without any notification.

After using Google to locate my old accountant, I was amazed to find that my accountant felt he was unable to accept my custom at this time  because of ongoing restraint obligations held within his old employment agreement. Surely consumers should always have the right to choose their adviser.

I was glad I took the time to locate  my former accountant and have no intention of being held hostage by a business that feels  it owns me.

Fortunately for consumers, restraints don't last forever.

Bill Waller, Barton 

Defence Housing Australia the target of a disgraceful vendetta

The Department of Finance has bypassed the management of Defence Housing Australia to refer a matter involving DHA to the Australian Federal Police. Defence service lobbyists fear this is a step towards privatising DHA. It also prolongs a bout of expensive bureaucratic road rage on the part of DoF.

First raised by the National Commission of Audit in 2014, the proposal to privatise DHA is naive ideology that the property industry itself would blush to support. Neither the Property Council of Australia nor the Real Estate Institute of Australia included the suggestion in their submissions to the NCOA. The proposal was conceived by the commission's DoF advisers, fuelled by the delusion that DHA received $1.2billion from the budget annually.

As many know, this money comes primarily from property investors. DoF shelved the proposal after a scoping study lasting six months and costing millions. Without irony, DoF indicated it would review DHA's business systems anyway, to improve the transparency of its cost reporting. 

Unfortunately, DHA's managing director, Peter Howman, had the bad taste to expose the delusion underpinning the proposal, by correcting it at Senate estimates and, unforgivably, in the media. He took the opportunity to explain that DHA should remain a government authority to ensure service people get quality housing whenever they move. Fast forward one year. 

Howman has been sacked and replaced by a DoF executive, and the DHA board's newest DoF-sponsored member is ... Robert Fisher, one of the national commissioners of audit. Truly a vendetta, Canberra-style.

  Paul Feldman, Macquarie 

First-class hypocrites

It is a surprise to hear our Prime Minister lecturing the European community about security ("Turnbull warns of 'perfect storm',  March 24, p1), as if they should, after all, adopt Tony Abbott's rejection of refugees. 

Civilised societies can live with porous borders. Criminal conduct, whether by people called terrorists or criminals, occurs in every society to varying extents, and borders are easily breached.

Australia's mostly white Anglo-Saxon population and its initially England and English-based governments have waged war on the Indigenous people of this country since Invasion Day 1788, and treated them with contempt since Captain Cook in 1770. We are the invaders, and have conducted the longest-ever campaign of terrorism, which has, at times, included what would now be called attempts to wipe out an indigenous population, also known as genocide.

Perhaps this is the source of our expertise. 

Australia joined in the illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003, without United Nations approval or authority. We are no better than Saddam Hussein who invaded Kuwait in 1990, or Daesh (wrongly still called Islamic State in Australia), which has invaded Syria and Iraq. 

The Western coalition has bombed hospitals (even those of friendly doctor groups), schools and markets. We ignore the Refugee Convention, which is part of Australian law; ignored the absence of United Nations authority in invading Iraq, and its requests not to proceed, and we tell other countries such as North Korea to observe international law and to observe UN requests. Hypocrisy your name is Australia.

We are no better than Daesh, Hussein and Kim Jong-il. A lawyer prime minister and foreign minister, both intelligent competent thinkers, should do better. 

 Warwick Davis, Isaacs 

Give women a break

Surely, it is not beyond the wit of someone in this hapless government to view women having babies as the fundamental economic service to society that it is, rather than just an excuse to avoid paying HECS debts ("Budget eye on student debt", March 29, p1).

The possible proposal by Andrew Norton's review to penalise women graduates by making them repay their HECS debts earlier at a rate higher than that required of male graduates, who already have the advantage of higher salaries throughout their working lives and generally uninterrupted work patterns, seems unworthy of any society in 2016. While having children is definitely a private good, it is also the most basic economic activity in society. 

As only women can have children, they should be supported in every way possible to have a family and a career without being punished at every turn for fulfilling society's expectations and needs. That may require some creative thinking to develop a system which is fair to women, encourages them to return to work (thus allowing them to repay their debt), and doesn't constantly treat them as some form of problem. 

If that entails some leeway for women in repaying their HECS debts, it seems a small price to pay for the continuing free reproductive services that women provide to society. It would also send a long overdue message of recognition of work seemingly currently still much undervalued.

  Julia Roberts, Weetangera 

Bigger not better

Martin Tye (Letters, March 29) is absolutely correct about our obsession with a bigger Australia. We all know  that our current obsession with a perpetually "bigger" economy (a growing GDP) is nothing more than a mish-mash of: asset sales, bigger debt levels and an ever bigger population and is not delivering benefits to ordinary Australians.

We see evidence every day that it is a miserable and rapidly failing economic ideology. We need to do better.

 Geoff Buckmaster, Cook 

   Martin Tye correctly points out the failure of our current obsession with economic growth by any means. For too long, economic growth has been fuelled by unproductive debt, sale of productive assets, and a population Ponzi that artificially inflates an otherwise mediocre GDP. 

Our poorly thought-out growth concentrates wealth in the hands of the few at the expense of the many, producing per capita decline in many of the things that matter to ordinary Australians. There are better ways to achieve a prosperous and sustainable Australia, that leaves a secure future for our children.

 Lindsay Penrose, Bruce 

TO THE POINT

SHRINKING AWAY

Re Emma Macdonald's "Language academics fight ANU contract changes" (March 29, p1), perhaps the name of the university should be changed to ADU (Australia's Diminishing University)?

 John Milne, Chapman

UNIVERSITY A BUSINESS

Universities are businesses. There was a cartoon some years ago that rammed home this mostly overlooked reality. It pictured two professors in university gowns looking concerned up at a new sign over the university door. "Make more Monet", it said. One turns to the other and said it will look better in Latin. 

 George Villaflor, Ainslie 

REFEREE NEEDED

Memo: Brumbies board and ACT Rugby Union club presidents – looks like you need a referee. 

  Peter Conway, Braddon  

TURNBULL A TURN-OFF

Michael McCarthy (Letters, March  30) claims Malcolm Turnbull hasn't alienated the conservatives or frustrated the progressives. You're right, Michael. Instead, he's frustrated the conservatives and alienated the progressives.

 Steven Haley, Morley, WA  

ETHICS QUESTIONABLE

Ethics seems never to have been a strong point in politics in Australia. But I wonder what Malcolm Turnbull was thinking when appointing Arthur Sinodinos as cabinet secretary, after his unethical performance in NSW involving the local Liberal Party and the state water supply. This still seems rather questionable to me. It certainly reflects poorly on our Prime Minister's judgment.

 M. Pietersen, Kambah

SURELY NOT?

Surely, our government could not be giving serious consideration to using the Future Fund to help finance the financially and environmentally toxic Adani Carmichael coal mine?

  Ann Darbyshire,  Gunning, NSW 

ASK FOR QUOTES

Further to  Bruce Haigh's article regarding overcharging by doctors and surgeons ("Patient or a piece of meat?", Times2, March 21, p4), I once worked for a year (back in 1959)  for an auto electrician. The customer was always asked in conversation beforehand "in what field he/she was employed". Unknown to the customer, the response dictated the labour rate charged: these were unskilled $20 per hour, tradesman $30, lawyer $40, academic $50, parliamentarian $100. It's private enterprise, Bruce; you need other quotes.

 Jack Pennington, Kaleen  

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