Comment

Letters to the Editor

CSIRO needs systems

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As a retired mechanical services design engineer and building services manager, I was appalled to read that the CSIRO kept in cool storage important research material in such a cavalier manner ("CSIRO sues over power cut to fridge", December 29, p1).

It would appear as though the material was kept in a domestic fridge without a proper temperature fail-safe warning system, including a backup system. This is totally unacceptable under the circumstances.

How the CSIRO now believes it has a case against several contractors, for the alleged failure of the contractors to turn power back on at the power point, is beyond belief. Where is the proof?

It would be very plausible to equally assume that CSIRO staff were responsible for this omission in the first place.

Mario Stivala, Spence

Ginninderra plan hitch

Following the recent injury at Ginninderra falls, your editorial ("Ginninderra Falls needs park status", Times2, December 28, p2) noted, "The Riverview Group, the developer behind the proposed new suburb of Parkwood, has suggested establishing a trust, financed by some of the proceeds of the land sales, to manage the Murrumbidgee River and Ginninderra Creek corridors. It's not a governance model that's universally supported, but it's a useful starting point for discussion."

This might lead to a one-sided solution. Despite large displays at the entrances to the Kippax Centre advertising a secondary, and alternative, development plan and inviting comment, the staff at the Riverview/LDA/ACT government site office for the West Belconnen Development in the centre have a different perspective.

On Christmas Eve, the receptionist there informed me thrice in practically the same breath that the plan had been approved and would go ahead. She considered me unnecessarily "forthright" when I observed, "Iguess that means, 'We're going ahead with it, whether you like it or bloody not'."

Gary J. Wilson, Macgregor

The joke's on you

If Peter Stubbs (Letters, December 29) had watched QI last week, he would have known that traditionally bon-bon jokes are supposed to be droll. The idea is that if the joke is sensible, it could be that some people around the table don't get it. This could divide the guests into those that do and those that don't get the joke. This is not a good thing on a festive occasion.

If the joke is deliberately and carefully designed to be droll then the joke becomes the target of derision and the whole table is united against the joke. This is a good thing.

Designing a bad joke is a skill that should be applauded.

Bon-bon manufacturers are just trying to enhance the festive experience and I would have to argue that their product is indeed totally fit for purpose.

Bryan Cossart, Stirling

Mistaken identity

Crispin Hull's article ("Time to bust some myths", Forum, December 26, p2) contains a serious error in claiming that Sustainable Population Australia, a strictly non-party political organisation, is the same organisation as the political party Sustainable Population Party.

To conflate the two is to put in danger the tax deductibility of Sustainable Population Australia at a time when the current government wishes to remove such deductibility from environmental organisations which lobby for change.

Julia Richards, Kambah

'Sex' says it all

John Milne (Letters, December 25) kindly suggests that the Sex Party could be more appropriately dubbed the Progressive Party. Thanks, John, but I believe we already have one of those.

Naming political parties isn't easy these days. My first choice for a new name was the Liberal Party but it was taken by an illiberal mob last century. My second choice was the Actual Liberal Party but that acronym is also owned by an equally conservative bunch.

Last month someone suggested the "Pink Party". But we represent all the colours of the rainbow. And the "Rainbow Party"? Well, we do represent a few friends of Dorothy but I also think we're somewhere over that rainbow as well.

Everyone knows what sex means. Gender, education, the uniting of opposites, the reason we exist on the planet, and good old fashioned fun. Oh, and for most of us sex also keeps us from taking ourselves too seriously. Well, last time I looked in the political mirror it did!

And it seems it also keeps people on the lookout for an alternative name and for a political party that likes to move and change with the times – that's probably no bad thing.

Fiona Patten, MLC, Sex Party leader, Victorian Parliament

Cut risks of old drivers

The tragic deaths of two octogenarian citizens in a motor vehicle collision ("Accident victim", December 23, p2) is a local example of the failure of Australian governments to address the over-representation (calculated on distance travelled) of elderly Australians in motor vehicle injury crashes.

Just about every day the media reports on another unfortunate incident or two, yet the only government response we see is "same old, same old".

Examples include reversing in error, pressing the wrong pedal, travelling the wrong way on one-way streets (including motorways) or not sighting pedestrians on marked crossings. My view is that every driver's privilege to drive a motor vehicle on a public road should continue only after periodically establishing the person meets a minimum statutory standard to be able to operate a vehicle safely.

This would include physical fitness, awareness and demonstrated competencies. Instead, governments are continuing to apply perverse incentives to keep elderly drivers on the roads, including soft licence renewal processes, as well significant licence and registration fee discounts.

The task falls on immediate families to have difficult conversations in the interests of their own and community safety.

Bill Gemmell, Holder

Incomes up; dole down

Interesting to hear Paul Keating on the ABC last week saying disposable incomes in Australia have increased 58per cent, in real terms, in the past 24 years, vastly outstripping any other country in world, due to his policies.

Curiously, the "dole" payment has been decreased in real terms by 50per cent in the same period.

Justice and concern for the poor? Who are we kidding!

Philip Pocock, Turner

Subsidies are policy choices and  can straddle the national ledger

The rhetoric "Australia has an expenditure problem not a revenue problem" used by the current Treasurer and his predecessor fails to acknowledge that the side of the ledger subsidies fall is often a policy choice, not an absolute. For example, Australia has chosen to provide generous tax concessions (hence on the "revenue" side of the ledger) to support retirement incomes, whereas many other countries provide cash payments ("expenditures") instead.

Similarly, there are several billion dollars of taxpayer funds provided to charities through tax exemptions and deductions (that is, revenue measures) to support "good works" which in other countries are performed by directly paid-for services. It would be interesting to see how much Australian governments (and taxpayers) would be prepared to pay – and to whom – if these funds were instead provided directly as grants.

However, perhaps the most egregious example of this confusion was the Abbott government's cutting direct payments to the Australian car industry on the basis of the need to reduce expenditure, while at the same time reversing a Swan budget decision to remove the generous FBT provisions for private-use vehicles (estimated to be worth about $760 million in lost revenue for 2015-16) using the rationale of "supporting the Australian carindustry".

There is no evidence that the tax concessions provide a more effective subsidy than direct cash payments – and without a requirement for the vehicle subject to the tax concession to be Australian-made it is hard to see how it possibly could be – but because it is a revenue measure it seems safe from the Treasurer's knife.

Until politicians and their advisers are sophisticated enough to understand that tax deductions and exemptions are as much "expenditures" as direct payments, and hence should be subject to the same level of scrutiny, it is hard to see how budget repair can be delivered effectively.

Carol Ey, Weston

Scrap the Senate

Before we begin to consider any reform to the Senate ("Putpeople before parties", Times2, December 28, p1) we should consider why we need an upper house at all: that it's part of our constitution is not of itself a justification.

I suspect that for most of us we vote to elect a government (in the lower house) to deliver upon a platform "promised" in a general election, only to then find the will of the majority frustrated by what Paul Keating described as "this unrepresentative swill".

The Senate may well provide comfortable employment for union and business hacks and for members of fringe political groups, but it's costing us an arm and a leg and senators have long ceased to represent the interests of the states and territories.

New Zealand, among others, manages very well without an upper house so don't waste time, money and effort tinkering on something that's broken – just get rid of the Senate.

Roger Dace, Reid

Dearth of Israel ideas

I'm fed up with writers of pro-Israel letters to the editor claiming that Israel made Palestinians three generous offers – and with pro-Palestinian letter writers asserting those offers were merely a variety of illicit land grabs. The exchange on December 22 and 27 is the last straw for me. I did a primitive Google search to approximate the frequency this argument is mentioned on these pages: About a dozen this year alone.

Are we letter writers insane when it comes to discussing Israel/Palestine?

Israeli terrorists are killing Palestinians and celebrating; Palestinian terrorists are killing Israelis and celebrating – and all we can do is quibble.

I challenge correspondents to demonstrate original thinking and present arguments, data, examples or stories void of trite cliches and same-old same-old arguments and counter arguments.

If we cannot present new information, I ask the letters' editor to publish other letters that connect readers with new topics or present old topics in new ways.

Judy Bamberger, O'Connor

Case undermined

In attempting to establish his climate science credentials by boasting about his prodigious consumption of technical journals, Gerry Murphy (Letters, December 21) manages to do just the opposite.

While he may be an excellent geologist, by incorrectly asserting a fact which undermines his entire argument, he unwittingly demonstrates a very real problem faced by actual climate scientists. A lot of very intelligent people assume that they have the tools to make their own judgments on the science, but it's a very specialised field, involving elements of biology and geology, a deep understanding of physics and chemistry, mind-bendingly difficult statistical analysis, and even more complex linear regression modelling.

There are much easier ways to upset the established world order, and siphoning grant money into secret offshore accounts isn't the quickest way to get rich. Unfortunately they've also had to be politically astute. Those who have gained the most from extracting and selling the raw materials that pollute our environment have bought themselves another decade of profits with a lobbying and PR campaign that puts big tobacco to shame.

Philosopher Bertrand Russell once observed, "The trouble with the world is that the stupid are confident and the intelligent are full of doubt."

James Allan, Narrabundah

Lyon disappoints

Last Sunday, while trying to maintain my interest in Test cricket, I was disappointed to see Nathan Lyon make, what I saw as, a discreet but demeaning hand gesture to West Indian batsman, Jermaine Blackwood, after taking his wicket. If a slow bowler cannot handle being hit for six in a Test match – as Blackwood had done to Lyon in the same over – perhaps he should consider confining himself to the Big Bash circus where being hit for six is of little or no consequence.

I need more of the Arthur Mailey attitude. This slow bowler, after bowling four for 362 in a single innings, commented that this figure would have been better had "a man in the pavilion wearing a bowler hat" not dropped a couple of easy catches.

R.J. Wenholz, Holt

Carillon changes hits wrong note

The National Capital Authority seems to have decided to try to improve arrangements for the traditional playing of Christmas carols at the carillon on Aspen Island on Lake Burley Griffin. The trouble is, it wasn't an improvement.

For decades, there has been a presentation of Christmas carols at Aspen Island early on the evening of Christmas Eve. The air grows cooler, ducks and geese cruise slowly past, and wrens and cormorants fly nearby. Children run across the grass. For perhaps an hour, the unaccompanied carillon has presented a simple and very pleasant selection of well-known carols. The bells of the carillon send out music across the waters of the lake. All of this was just about as close to perfection as one can hope for in this troubled world.

Unfortunately, the NCA has apparently decided to try to make improvements. First, this year, the carols were not scheduled for the traditional time of Christmas Eve but were shifted forward to Sunday, December 20, not a time at which visiting family have joined us. And not the magic peaceful time of Christmas Eve.

Second, a choir was added to the arrangements. The choir provided a gentle accompaniment but it's very hard for a choir to do well in the open air. And it is not reasonable to expect a choir to match the music of a carillon.

Next year, in 2016, could we change back to the traditional arrangements, please?

Anne Willoughby, Griffith

The 'I's have it

In the first half of Malcolm Mackerras' article "Put people before parties" (Times2, December 28, p1) I counted 20references to "I" and "my". This feature of his writing style usually prompts me to skip over to the next page, as it always makes him sound pompous and egotistical, in my (humble) opinion.

Joan Milner, Bywong, NSW

TO THE POINT

TWO BIRDS, ONE STONE

With the resignation of Jamie Briggs from Cabinet comes the revelation that we have a federal minister for "Cities and Built Environment".

These things are state and local responsibilities, so one would think the resignation of the minister serves as a perfect opportunity for the federal government to save some money by abolishing this redundant federal portfolio.

Samuel Gordon-Stewart, Reid

Could Jamie Briggs have ever played for the Canberra Raiders before entering politics, by any chance?

D.N. Callaghan, Kingston

TURNBULL STUMBLE

Could Malcolm Turnbull have made his first major blooper by not putting pressure on Mal Brough to step down before parliament took the Christmas break? He certainly isn't smelling of roses by allowing Brough to pick the time he would finally fall on his sword.

D.J. Fraser, Mudgeeraba, Qld

DIDDLED AND DUDDED

Am feeling increasingly hobbled, nobbled, diddled and dudded by the federal government.

But probably not as much as Malcolm Turnbull must feel.

Annie Lang, Kambah

SO BAD THEY'RE GOOD

Peter Stubbs' pretended criticism of bon-bon jokes (Letters, December 29) was a clever way of showing us three jokes that are so bad that they're good.

R.S. Gilbert, Braddon

Talking about bad bon-bon jokes, I can't let the opportunity pass by. What happened to the man who didn't know the difference between putty and toothpaste? All his windows fell out.

Evelyn Bean, Ainslie

CALIPHATE CALL

I don't know what Islamic State is going on about. The caliphate exists, a caliphate of language. Muslim prayers reach Allah only in Arabic. It reminds me of the Roman Catholics holding on to Latin until 1963.

Kenneth Griffiths, O'Connor

P-PLATERS HARD HIT

For an operator at the Kambah Caltex servo to ask Rebecca Forrest to pre-pay for fuel ("Petrol station unfairly targeting P-platers, says driver", December 28, p1) is appalling, and probably illegal under fair trading laws. A more diplomatic way to deal with the problem would be to get all drivers to hand over their licence and then the pump is unlocked.When you go in to pay, you get your licence back. Simple!

Odille Esmonde-Morgan, Glenorchy, Tas

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