Letters to the editor

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Why are we reporting on this Australian Crime Commission data (''Australians pay high price for illicit drugs'', April 29, p1) as if there were something new in it? Families and Friends for Drug Law Reform have been reporting since its inception, almost 20 years ago, that law enforcement costs super dollars and has little overall impact. We have been asking that drug seizures be reported as a percentage of the amount of drugs that get through to the streets rather than the sensational reporting of ''the biggest drug bust ever''. But this hasn't happened.

The two top politicians in our country are both a disgrace on ''drug law reform''; they are well aware of solutions but are inadvertently (deliberately?) keeping the drug trade in business.

This issue needs politicians brave enough (or smart enough) to explore policies that aren't based on prejudice and discrimination but on evidence and humanity.

Politicians are unlikely to do this until organisations in the field unite and say ''enough is enough, we must have a change in direction''. This would include serious discussion on decriminalisation, regulation and control to reduce the very lucrative black market, which drives this insanity.

Marion and Brian McConnell, Higgins

Win some, lose some

I returned from overseas several days ago and was shocked to read the article ''Developer seeks 'natural justice' as Kingston plan in tatters'' (April 9, p6) about a property developer complaining that a draft master plan had been changed and prevented the redevelopment of his two-storey property into a six-storey block.

As an experienced property developer he must have known that draft plans are revised in response to public opinion. His purchase of two properties in Giles Street, before the plan had been finalised, was presumably designed to get a cheaper price because he bought the properties before a six-storey development had been authorised.

He should have known he was taking a risk, and not be demanding ''natural justice'' and a reversal of the decision which was based on the protection of the rights of neighbouring residents. At the end of the day, the rights of citizens to solar access, privacy and security are much more important than compensating property developers who have taken a gamble.

And, while his gamble did not pay off, his company can continue to enjoy the rental income from the two buildings in question.

Roger Uren, Kingston

What 'long run'?

Wesfarmers chief executive Richard Goyder was reported as saying that the Wesfarmers group was committed to coal ''for the long run'' (''Playing long on coal: Wesfarmers'', BusinessDay, April 30, p10).

Had Mr Goyder happened to read Sharon Beder's article ''Coal a world's best polluter'' (Times2, April 30, p1), he would doubtless been indifferent to her environmental and moral arguments for reducing coal exports. And he may have smiled at her concluding sentence, which said that the Abbott government would close coal loaders if it was serious about curbing greenhouse emissions - knowing that there is not the slightest chance of either of these things happening.

What he may have found more worrying, however, was a small mention of BlackRock Investments in the BusinessDay section. BlackRock was described as the world's biggest investor, and has announced that it is, with the FTSE group, setting up a share index which excludes fossil fuel companies. These companies could be very bad investments indeed if some international action is taken that reduces the use of fossil fuels.

In China the signs may already be there. Premier Li Keqiang recently declared a ''war on pollution'', which would have to be a war on coal if it was to have any real effect. The export price for coal is already low, and it would be a brave investor who thought it was going to improve ''in the long run''.

G. Burgess, Kaleen

Australia would be a ''banana republic'' without coal exports, argues J. McKerral (Times2, May 1). Does this mean we are currently ''coal republic''?

The coal industry employs less than 1 per cent of the NSW workforce and just over 1 per cent in Queensland.

Coal royalties account for less than 5 per cent of Queensland government revenue and 2 per cent in NSW.

The coal industry is of little importance to most of the Australian economy.

After the recent royal visit we're a long way from being any sort of republic.

Rod Campbell, Civic

Monumentally rude

Not content with riding up and down the footpaths and disabled access paths to the monuments on either side of Anzac Parade, we now have the undignified practice of members of Canberra's cycling fraternity now regularly riding day and night through several of the monuments.

Most notably, the Turkish Atatü¨rk memorial is subject to this disrespectful turn of events.

The very respect that Canberra's cycling community asks of others seems to be sorely lacking in return consideration.

Perhaps it is now time for the relevant authorities to police this sad development and for modification to the access paths to prevent cyclist ride-throughs.

An apology to the Turkish ambassador and the people of Turkey from the Canberra cycling community would also be well in order.

Brian Rowe, Campbell

Slaves to the bell

Last week I went to parent-teacher night. One teacher was only too willing to advise my daughter's test mark, the class mean and the standard deviation all to two decimal places.

All this is possible by fitting a class of 10 to a standard normal bell curve.

The test and the assignment, it was advised, were designed to discriminate and spread the class of 10 across the bell curve to enable comparison and moderation to all other colleges that use different tests and assignments.

What I really need to know as a parent is how well my child is mastering the subject material taught at the college she attends, not where she sits on an invalid and arbitrary statistical formula.

It is my observation that the key deliverable for the ACT College System is to fit students to the standard normal curve to the detriment of subject mastery.

It should be possible for everyone in the class to excel.

The current system demands that 50 per cent of every class are below and arbitrary average.

Ian Bull, Tuggeranong

Government's responsibility is to care for poor and needy

The recommendations of the National Commission of Audit and the government's rhetorical support are notable for one thing only: that the market is the most efficient and effective mechanism for delivering community services. Unfortunately, experience amply demonstrates the fiscal fallacy of this policy framework. Economists will grudgingly agree the perfect market does not exist and attempts to impose market mechanisms on government services are exercises in futility.

The only demonstrable effect of such an approach is manipulation by a favoured few. Indeed, the road to riches is paved with the pennies of the dishonest and disreputable able to position to garner largesse from the less fortunate. Only the wealthy hold the bargaining power necessary to sway market behaviours.

There is one thing clear from the government's smarmy reaction to the audit recommendations: largesse will continue to be lavished on its friends but the working class will be driven to accept wages and a standard of living reflective of abject poverty, further increasing the bargaining power of the rich and powerful.

Taking a deep breath, we need to remember the balanced budget is a fiscal fallacy inherent in economic policy, particularly that of our conservative and recent Labor governments. They have failed in all aspects. As long as expenditure and effort are directed to community and infrastructure development, the economy will grow, albeit over time.

There is an inherent obligation in democratic government to provide services in the area of health, education and support to the needy in the community. It cannot be auctioned off to the highest bidder. This responsibility is greater than the rhetoric of economic theory. Indeed, community development needs to be nurtured and fostered away from the fiscal fictions of the 17th-century ''political economy'' that drives government economic policy.

James Grenfell, Spence

Levy is a fig leaf

The government claims that the temporary 1-2 per cent ''debt levy'' is going to be the contribution of the wealthy to reducing the deficit, balancing out other cuts that will overwhelmingly hit low-income earners.

After this temporary levy is gone, however, the impact of long-term budget measures like those proposed by the commission of audit will keep hitting the poorest in our society. Meanwhile, the wealthy will avoid big structural cuts, deemed to have ''done their bit'' through a small, temporary tax increase. It is clear the debt levy isn't a measure to ensure everyone contributes equally to reducing the deficit - it's a fig leaf to cover the fact that the government's cuts will overwhelmingly hit the poor and middle-income earners.

If the government is serious about everyone contributing to bringing the budget into surplus, it needs to ensure the wealthy, not just the poor, chip in, either through long-term tax increases or reforms in areas like the private health insurance rebate or superannuation, which overwhelmingly favour the well-off.

Joshua Smith, Gordon

No urgency on debt

Looking at an authoritative chart of net debt as a percentage of GDP in 25 OECD economies, I see Australia, at just under 20 per cent, is the fourth-lowest on the chart. Britain is near 80 per cent, the US just over 80 per cent and Japan about 150 per cent. I assume Joe Hockey's budget speech will explain what reasons, apart from ideology, drive us towards reducing government debt as a policy priority and why this is such an urgent matter, given Australia's position relative to other countries.

David Stephens, Bruce

The numbers are crook

In his spruiking of the commission of audit report, Tony Shepherd claimed the co-payment proposal for visit to GPs stemmed from a view that the health system was being abused, based on figures that Australians visit their GP 11 times a year on average.

Mr Shepherd is right to say that Australians are not that ''crook'': the only thing ''crook'' about his claim is the dodgy data he used.

Australian Bureau of Statistics data for 2012-13 shows that about half of the 14.9 million people who saw a GP did so less than four times, and only 12 per cent saw a GP more than 12 times. Unsurprisingly, the majority of the latter group were people over 75. The data also shows that more than a third in this age group did not see a GP more than once during that year because of the cost. Further, the 2014 Report on Government Services shows that there were 5767 GP-type services used per 1000 people, far short of Mr Shepherd's very inflated data.

With general practice costing the government $286 per person in 2012-13, it is difficult to substantiate any claim that we are a nation of hypochondriacs who need a price signal that will give us pause to think ''will I go to the doctor or not?''.

Alison Verhoeven, CEO, Australian Healthcare & Hospitals Association, Deakin West

In late 2012, while minding my granddaughter, I became alarmed at her rising temperature; $79 later, I was told by her GP that she had a virus.

Horrified by my out-of-pocket expense, I asked why this five-year-old was not bulk-billed. ''You won't find a bulk-billing practice in the ACT'' was the reply from the receptionist.

Well, I have found a practice that bulk-bills children, but I am angry that my limited resources were needed to obtain satisfaction that my granddaughter did not have meningococcal disease. The thought crossed my mind that I would not seek a medical assessment next time as, sadly, I don't have the means to pay.

This is after a lifetime of careful saving, taxpaying and scrimping. What is this government doing with ''co-payments'' to ordinary hard-working Australians? We need honesty in pre-election policy statements before an election, not after.

Catherine Owen, Forde

Bigger not better for crammed jails

There is a much more effective way to address prison overcrowding than expanding the size of the jail (''New cell blocks in $54m jail upgrade'', p1, April 29).

Appointing an extra Supreme Court judge would enable a reduction in the waiting list for criminal trials. This in turn would reduce inmate numbers.

As things stand, we have the bizarre situation where the jail is human-rights compliant but the criminal justice system, as a whole, is not - because of the appalling delays in bringing defendants to trial. This is unfair to all the defendants, witnesses and, in particular, the victims involved.

Stephen Brown, Forrest

Spend to benefit all

Christopher Smith (Letters, May 1) assumes that because of my ''suspiciously Irish-sounding'' name, I am anti-English and pro-Republican (could this be some sort of racism against the Irish?). Well, he doesn't get the point of my letter (April 29).

I could very well have ''whinged'' about the purchase of the F-35 fighter aircrafts or the paid parental leave scheme rather than the money spent on the royals.

The point is, the government is alluding to having us all work longer (until ''we are no longer able'') while continuing to spend money that may not be to the benefit of all Australians.

For the record, I am very much an Australian, and proud of my Irish heritage on one side. I have nothing against the English or the royals, and, like Christopher, think the American political system is ridiculous.

Paddy O'Keeffe, Palmerston

TO THE POINT

I'M BACKING TONY

I support Tony Abbott's great big new tax to pay off the deficit. It is a great idea. Best one he has had. So long as it is a steeply progressive income and wealth tax and that he doesn't waste money on jets that the Americans say are only 60 per cent reliable or submarines we can't man.

Chris Williams, Griffith

POCKET SURGERY

According to Peter Martin (''More will fork out for deficit tax than you think'', April 30, p4), surgeons, whose average taxable income is said to be $372,500, are Australia's highest- earning occupational group. Didn't a whole lot of public servants just get a rise to over $800,000? That leaves the surgeons looking pretty silly, not to mention being twice what the Australian Prime Minister makes.

Dr Alan N. Cowan, Yarralumla

JUST THE TICKET

I would like to assure Territory and Municipal Services Ministers Shane Rattenbury (Letters, May 2) that not all bus users read a newspaper (not naming any paper in particular!).

Louisa Murphy, Gordon

IN YOUR FACE

A suggestion in response to Elizabeth Farrelly's article ''On yer bike, but please share the footpath'' (canberratimes.com.au, April 30) is that pedestrians walk facing the cyclists. I always do this - it is something drilled in to me as a child to walk facing the traffic when walking on suburban streets that had no footpath. It also means a pedestrian is not startled by a bell ring. Much safer and you can greet the oncoming cyclist with a smile and a hello.

Hilary Warren, Waramanga

SAVE THE QUEEN

As long as the Queen, her heirs and successors, occupy the position as our head of state, no one else can. To my mind this is the best possible reason for retaining the monarchy.

Andy Millar, Weston

SEEN PASSING BY

For most republicans the royals' recent visit was irrelevant. It didn't highlight the basic issue of our national independence. The facts are that the Queen is sovereign, is part of our Parliament, and must approve its legislation into law. Until we own full sovereignty through an Australian elected head of state, we will not be fully independent.

Bryan Lobascher, Chapman

FLYING HIGH

There is a lot of attention regarding the cost of the F-35 aircraft. But what about the cost of ownership, how will this be funded, and how much of this ownership cost will flow directly back into Australian jobs and industry?

Col Merriman, Theodore


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