I'm outraged that Social Services Minister Christian Porter claims he's only fixing anomalies as he pushes formerly very productive superannuants below the poverty line ("Rich ex-PS workers get a pension: minister", January 14, p1). I assume Senator Bill O'Chee was a PS worker at the time he lost his seat and immediately accessed his parliamentary pension, to help him survive in his next lucrative job.
Let's examine the "anomaly" of Howard's vote-buying when he tied age pensions to average weekly earnings and refused it to superannuants, who get the miserly CPI index. Ditto his lunge at the grey vote by making over-60 earnings tax-free.
About middle-class welfare: there's all the cosmetic screaming about the crushing 30 per cent corporate tax rate to disguise the fact that nobody pays it.
When it is suggested that negative gearing should be removed, it always comes with a grandfathering caveat, and hasn't been addressed anyway. So why treat vulnerable retirees in such miserable fashion?
Bob Gardiner, Isabella Plains
I thank Annette Barbetti (Letters, January 14) for identifying errors of analysis and arithmetic in my letter (January 11). Correcting for these errors leaves my argument unchanged.
There is a long-standing serious anomaly in the taxation treatment of additional income of defined-benefits pensioners, in comparison with the treatment of additional income of those whose pensions are exempt from tax.
Further, this anomaly puts the defined-benefits pensioner at a comparative disadvantage in accessing some government benefits.
Bruce Cook, Aranda
In John Thistleton's article "Don't shoot the horses from Snowy" (January 14, p6) Madison Young states that "there is no scientific evidence of the horses damaging the national park". This is, of course, utter nonsense and one wonders how Ms Young can be described as "an environmental scientist" when trotting out this emotional rubbish.
There are any number of articles showing the damage done by feral horses, and for that matter pigs, to the fragile alpine environment.
The supporters of feral horses in the Australian Alps use fallacious and in the case of some commercial operators, self-seeking arguments to support their hands-off approach to feral horse control. Well, I too can get emotional.
After more than 40 years' bushwalking in the alps, I have recorded a steady decline in the condition of the creek banks, destruction of sphagnum moss beds, damage to creek crossings, increased weed infestation, the decline in wildflower density and damage to hut surrounds, all due to feral animals. Enough is enough. It is now time for evidence-based parks management to return to our wonderful but sorely threatened alpine regions.
Timothy Walsh, Garran
Move the racers
Peter James (Letters, January 12) raises the issue of loss of amenity to users of the Braddon precinct during the four-day Summernats event. The event poses a greater burden on residents of Watson, however.
The layout of EPIC's facilities has not changed much in the 30 years of the event, so consideration should be given to relocating the burnout strip, given its proximity to residential developments along Northbourne Avenue-Federal Highway.
Putting the strip on the other side of EPIC, adjacent to Flemington Road (and removing the old strip) would be a step in reducing the event's nuisance value to Watson residents, with the new location not likely to engender loathing from any residents along Flemington Road.
Steve O'Neill, Watson
As an exercise in irrelevancy, we now have to bear the public utterances of Kevin Andrews and Eric Abetz bemoaning the lost chance of committing more Australian troops to the fight against Islamic State.
Gentlemen, you are irrelevant for a reason; please depart centre-stage immediately for your more enlightened, and relevant, colleagues.
Graeme Rankin, Holder
Life's a breeze
Thanks to Brian Hatch (Letters, January 14) for stirring memories of 1939 in Canberra. Weeks of extreme heat, blanketing dust storms, walking a mile each way to school in blue serge, little shade, tar melting on road edges, no home insulation, ice chests dripping, no airconditioning, fathers in three-piece suits riding bikes to work and mothers cooking dinner on fuel stoves are among lasting memories for me. We children cooled off in our woollen "bathers" by frolicking under the sprinkler on the lawn; our parents fanned and waited for the easterly breeze.
It was often so hot that families slept outside on their lawns.
Despite today's comfortable lifestyle we are still thankful for the evening "easterly".
Meryl Hunter, Murrumbateman, NSW
The record temperature for Canberra cited by Brian Hatch is undoubtedly a fact. There we agree and there we part.
It is not at all, as he thinks, inconvenient for those who accept the evidence for anthropogenic global warming, though it must have been uncomfortable for those around on that date in Canberra. Quite simply, Brian, it's the trend of temperature over decades that matters, and that trend with all its natural variability is heading inexorably upwards.
Doug Hynd, Stirling
Don't play with fire
Professor Clive Williams ("Shelter from firestorm", Times2, January 13, p1) suggests there are safe ways to survive in firestorms, and he might be right.
In spite of my own decades of field experience and membership of statutory committees dealing with bushfire management and suppression, I have never experienced one.
I have, however, frequently surveyed their aftermaths, the remains of houses burnt out and forests destroyed. And I would never recommend a "stop home and fight it" solution. That's no better than Russian roulette.
Climate change forecasts suggest such occurrences will become more frequent, so we must look for other solutions.
They should start now with community attitudes, scientific information and legal constraints.
Why, for example, do we not have a total prohibition on fires on days when the temperature is 38 degrees? Why, if I hope to catch a trout, do I have to have a licence; but if I want to light a fire in the bush in midsummer I only need a box of matches? Why no licence?
If I walk off and leave it to restart on a blow-up day and kill someone, will I be caught and penalised? Of course not; there aren't enough rangers.
After Black Friday, 1939, Justice Stretton said "the fires were lit by the hand of man". Seventy-five years on and so many blow-up days and deaths and destroyed hopes later ...
When are we going to take bushfire threats seriously?
Geoff Armstrong, Monash
Point of difference
Thank you to Nicholas Stuart for his passionate article, "One-punch victims ignored" (Times2, January 12, p4), about one-punch attacks, and to Lorana Bartels for her carefully reasoned response to Stuart's article ("Tougher laws are not an antidote to violence", Times2, January 13, p5). We are very lucky to have thinkers and writers capable of engaging on complex issues of importance to the community and that we have a local paper willing to be a vehicle for public discourse about difficult subjects. These days, with so much shared content between Fairfax papers, the ability to draw upon local writers interested in issues of importance to our community is an important point of difference. This is why I read The Canberra Times. Well done.
John Butcher, Lyons
Oil reserves at risk
Allister Heath ("Future of energy consumption not a gloomy picture after all", Forum, January 2, p6) claimed the world was awash with oil and there was no need to worry about any impending peak in supply.
This glut bears little relationship to the situation in Australia. As a member of the International Energy Agency, we have an obligation to have oil stock levels that equate to no less than 90 days of net imports.
According to Australian Petroleum Statistics of October 15, however, Australia's commercial oil reserves in July 2015 were very low, with only 23 days consumption cover for gasoline, 15days for diesel, 20 days for jet fuel, 22 for LPG and 21 days of crude oil for refineries.
Crude oil stocks have been reduced by the closure of the Shell Caltex refineries in Sydney in 2012 and 2014, respectively. Another refinery, BP in Brisbane, is also due to close.
Australia has no strategic oil reserve; yet we need reserves to cushion us from the economic impact arising from an oil supply disruption.
We import oil largely from Singapore but that country depends on the Middle East for more than 80 per cent of its supply. Middle East conflict and possible closure of the Strait of Hormuz could affect our oil security adversely. Right now, there are heightened tensions between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shia Iran over the execution of Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr.
If oil supplies are cut off, or even just curtailed, and Australia is affected, the IEA is unlikely to come to our aid, given that both Labor and Coalition governments have flouted the IEA requirement to have 90 days of net imports in reserve.
Jenny Goldie, Michelago, NSW
We can be heroes
Perhaps Alex Mattea (Letters, January 14) should have reserved several toys in the pram for the next time the death of a cultural icon generates more media attention than is merited in Alex's scale of importance.
Despite never having been a card-carrying David Bowie fan, I nevertheless see the need for introspection, and, the evaluation of his cultural contribution.
I suspect Christopher Wren would be of the opinion that all edifices are not built of bricks and mortar.
We can be heroes just for one day.
Russell Morgan, O'Connor
TO THE POINT
FORECAST SO WRONG
At one stage this week, the Bureau of Meteorology forecast that we would get 15 to 45 millimetres of rain on Thursday. On Thursday morning, it revised it down to 10 to 30 millimetres. We received less than one millimetre in my rain gauge in Latham. The bureau itself recorded two millimetres at the airport. Do members of any other profession keep their jobs while getting it so wrong so frequently as weather forecasters?
Bruce Wright, Latham
BIZARRE TO RETURN DOGS
The two dogs that broke into a home in late November, killing one of the two pet dogs and injuring the householder who tried to defend her pets, have been returned home by Domestic Animal Services ("Dog attack survivor not told of DAS decisions", January 14, p3). Does DAS condone keeping dangerous animals in the suburbs? Bizarre.
Joe Murphy, Bonython
Much has been written about the speed of light, and I wonder, given the state of our political environment, whether we should be discussing the speed of dark.
James Grenfell, Spence
I liked R.S. Gilbert's quote (Letters, January 12) from P.G. Wodehouse in answer to Ian Warden's comments on the quality of letters to the editor. As a writer, it has been a long haul for Ian Warden himself, from the humble Paspalum Place of the 1980s to Gang-gang.
Evelyn Bean, Anslie
EL CHAPO COULD HELP
It has emerged that captured drug baron Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman has a fleet of submarines. So does Australia, but ours work only part time. Any chance that those Defence chaps could get some tips from El Chapo?
Peter Baskett, Murrumbateman, NSW
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