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Dumping knights and dames from our honours system unnecessary

Without wanting to present myself as an un-Australian elitist toff, I am disappointed at Prime Minister Turnbull's sudden decision to abolish knights and dames awards.

One of the reasons for Downton Abbey's enduring popularity, I believe, is the fact that there is an overwhelming sense of observed propriety and public politeness featured, that perhaps has been somewhat lost today, as our Western culture has become more socially relaxed, less inclined to give respect to those in authority, and wary of any signs of perceived residual British snobbery.

The reintroduction of imperial honours by Tony Abbott was a needed form of cultural etiquette that recognised long-term and committed service by our respective citizens. What precisely was offensive with such a tradition? It is part of our heritage and so not all aspects of Australia's monarchial history need to be dumbed down or cringed at, in order for us to feel "young and free".

Peter Waterhouse, Craigieburn, Vic

Trading risks

With all the recent revelations about unsafe imports and about employers getting away with underpaying temporary visa holders , I wonder what new regulatory measures will be put in place to cope with the vastly increased scope for such abuses under ChAFTA and TPP? Just curious!

Also, in view of the parlous state of the budget, shouldn't we focus on reducing the burden of unemployment benefits by getting Australians back to work, rather than allowing even more jobs to be taken by foreign nationals?

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Pauline Westwood, Dickson

Not all laws good

Dr Tony Stewart (Letters, November 3) insists "the law is the law is the law". Does Tony acknowledge there are good laws and bad laws?

At their annual party rally held in Nuremberg in September 1935, Germany's Nazi leaders announced new laws that institutionalised many of the racial theories prevalent in Nazi ideology.

They excluded German Jews from citizenship and prohibited them from marrying, or having sexual relations with, persons of "German or German-related blood". Special ordinances to these laws deprived Jewish persons of most political rights, including the right to vote, and hold public office. It is reasonable to claim that laws are as sound or unsound as the minds and hearts that devised them.

Henk Verhoeven, Beacon Hill, NSW

Danger of xenophobia

H. Ronald (Letters, November 3) is correct on one matter. While he erroneously suggests that people seeking asylum in Europe are not genuine refugees, he correctly identifies the only problem there is related to this movement of people – and that is people like him. The real danger associated with people movement is right-wing extremism, xenophobia, and government brutality.

Norway's intelligence agency recently revealed that the national threat level had increased as a result of increasing asylum seeker arrivals. This was not due to the asylum seekers themselves, but due entirely to the responses of the extreme right.

In Australia, the real danger comes when people express bigoted views. The real danger is that our humanity is eroded by oppressive government. Women have been raped and children assaulted. Five men have died just this year.

Boats are turned back to danger. Men, women and children are sent to mental-illness factories to deter asylum seekers from seeking safety in Australia. What I'm scared about when refugees come isn't people coming to Australia and enriching our multicultural society. I'm scared about the responses of the extreme right, our government, and those who sympathise with them.

Daniel Cotton, Jerrabomberra, NSW

Right to harangue

G. W. Potts (Letters, November 3) asks us to stop "bashing" Tony Abbott and John Howard as ex-PMs. Might I remind Mr Potts, Mr Abbott is still a sitting member of the Australian Parliament and retains power in political decision-making until he chooses to retire. Even then, both he and Mr Howard have influence that, loosely translated, can mean power.

Those of us who disagree with their ideology will continue to voice our opinions.

Jan Gulliver, Lyneham

Love thy neighbour

Mike Dallwitz (Letters, November 2) is quite correct when he says we largely believe what we are taught as youngsters. Some have epiphanies later in life – eg St Paul, Muhammad, Joseph Smith. Most of us continue to believe/ disregard what we were taught.

All teachings by these people have been bastardised by the "churches" they helped to establish – the Roman Catholic church being a leader in this field. If anyone believes everything that has been written in the Bible or the Koran or on mysterious tablets then I guess they are not doing any harm – unless they try to force other people to believe and live by their interpretations of those teachings.

Seventy to 100 years is a very short time to wait to know the absolute truth – why not just enjoy the good parts of these religions until your, and/or their, time comes to an end and just do what Jesus instructed his Jewish congregations to do viz "love God and love thy neighbour". Surely, even disbelievers can get half of this commandment right.

Baden Williams, Lyneham

Middle East conflict

Marilyn Shepherd (Letters, November 3) says the reason there is no peace between Israel and the Arabs is Israel's 1967 occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. If so, why all the Arab attacks on buses, synagogues, farms and other civilians in Israel before 1967? Why did all the Arab states refuse to make peace after the 1948 war, and why do all but two maintain that formal state of war with Israel?

Why, if not to maintain the rage against Israel's creation in 1948, do all the Arab states that received Arab refugees from the 1948 war (except for Jordan) require those refugees to stay in refugee camps and limit or refuse their right to work?

Peace will come and settlements will be evacuated when the Palestinians accept Israel's right to exist.

Allan Doobov, Griffith

No bounds to greed

I am troubled by the increasingly derogatory, inflammatory language employed by some developers, architects and business leaders when referring to anyone who dares to challenge their obsessive desire for infill housing. Michael Pascoe's article "Heritage tsars blocking progress" (BusinessDay, November 4, p13) is an excellent case in point. Here, anyone with the temerity to want to preserve a house or a street is a "nimby" "nodam" or "heritage tsar", without taking into account individual circumstance or location.

This type of "us and them" propaganda is very effective – just ask Rwanda's Hutus. The rationale for this is creatively stated to be "better use of scarce land", but anyone who has ever dealt with council or developers know it is about one thing: money. Money from DA applications, money from building permits, money from rates, fees; anything they can get their hands on.

It is also implied in the article that the "nimbies" wanting heritage always get their way. At least in Canberra, this is patently not the case. A look at ACAT appeals over the last 15 years shows very clearly that the vast majority of the decisions go in favour of development. This utter lack of respect for other people's values or wishes (a little land for kids/pets to play in, green space close to inner-city schools, preservation of the more beautiful houses in the city), is disturbing and a reflection of the blatant greed and contempt shown by the current government for anything that does not immediately turn a profit.

N. Watson, Turner

Porter will be missed

The announcement by MLA Mary Porter that she will not stand for preselection for the next ACT election due to ill health is a loss to the people in her electorate.

Mary was one of those few politicians who, because of her approachability and frequent appearances around her electorate, her charming nature, and her willingness to act on behalf of her constituents, regardless of their political leanings, received votes, even first preferences, from a multitude of voters, as shown at the last election.

In fact, the preferences flowing from her greatly assisted the Labor government. I, for one, regret her decision, but I am sure that all her electorate offer their gratitude and wish that her illness can be managed.

Paul O'Connor, Hawker

Identity fraud

I refer to the article "Nurse wants answers after fraudsters twice steal tax refund" (November 3, p4) regarding identity theft. My partner and I were the victims of a composite identity thief over 10 years ago. We received, firstly, a notice from then Centrelink about the receipt of benefit payments to someone who had never lived at our address. I reported this via email and thought nothing of it until we received a licence renewal notice for another person who had never resided at our address.

We were also visited by an Australian Federal Police officer, but we were out at the time. I subsequently reported the licence issue to the then relevant ACT minister's office, as it suggested a possible fraud at the RTA, as the person would have had to provide some form of residency documents at our address.

It was subsequently revealed that the person named in the licence had gone back to Queensland. We contacted the AFP officer, but no further information was revealed.

It seemed that a composite identity was being created using our address and receiving Commonwealth benefits and a false licence, a fundamental identity document, but we were left mainly in the dark, despite proactively reporting the matter.

Rohan Goyne, Evatt

No bullying needed

I am unaware of bullying tactics employed by the CPSU or other unions to encourage people to strike ("Bullying not on, Border Force warns strike crew", October 31, p2).

Border Force is particularly skilful in applying such unreasonable pressure on people, as indicated by the warning issued, and also evidenced by its treatment of charities. ("Immigration bought charities' silence with bonds worth millions", October 31, p1).

When people working in highly stressful, thankless jobs are offered paltry, cynical salary increases, in spite of appalling working conditions, they don't generally need to be bullied into industrial action.

W. Book, Hackett

Smoke screens

R. Smith (Letters, October 28) invokes many of the logical fallacies usually raised against personal vaporisers, also called e-cigarettes.

One claim is that more research is needed on the possible long-term health effects of personal vaporiser use, asserting insufficient evidence exists to conclude personal vaporisers are safe and effective.

The obvious problem is that no end point is defined. Would 50, 100 or perhaps 1000 studies be sufficient? Stating more studies are necessary often indicates refusal to admit the conclusions available from current evidence.

More long-term studies are likely to confirm what is already clear: the health risks from e-cigs are drastically less than tobacco cigarettes and are probably negligible overall.

The burden of proof for claiming e-cigs are somehow dangerous rests with those proposing extending the same intrusive government regulations that apply to tobacco.

Generalised assertions of possible health risk fail that test.

M. Jarratt, Weston Creek

Better case for buses

Sandy Paine (Letters, November 2) is right on the money: electric buses are a far more sensible, practical, and effective approach to improving public transport in Canberra than light rail.

To build the whole light-rail network, with lines to all town centres, would surely cost somewhere in the region of $5 billion.

What about an upgraded and expanded fleet of electric buses, with some dedicated busways and bus lanes? I'd guess under $500million.

With a bigger better fleet of electric buses, we get a better result than with light rail: a transport system that is not locked in to a few extremely expensive tracks, but which can cover any street in any suburb; low emissions; high passenger capacity; and a lot of flexibility.

Combined with the imminent arrival of (electric) self-driving cars, which will revolutionise commuter transport, there is no good reason to stick with the idea of light rail, other than the romantic notion that rail is somehow always better.

I wish light rail made sense, but it just doesn't.

Matt Andrews, Aranda

We all gain from an educated populace

As my children near the end of their university studies laden with financial debt, I'm moved to contemplate their, and their generation's, situation.

The "user pays" model works well under a very limited set of circumstances. If I want a new car, it's reasonable that I should pay for it; similarly, if I want an ice-cream. In those circumstances, only I benefit, so only I should pay.

But when it comes to investing in public infrastructure, we expect (or used to expect) that we would all chip in, through the agency of government, for things that benefit us all: roads, bridges, electricity grids, libraries, airports, etc. The costs would then be shared over the generations that would benefit from them.

That, of course, is the ultimate "user pays" model – one in which we all contribute to, and benefit from, the common wealth that those investments produce. And the one thing that contributes above all others to our common wealth is an educated populace.

But we've drunk eagerly of the Kool-Aid, and now all those things are seen as no more than marketable commodities. And while some countries are waking up to the lie (or never fell for it) – most recently, Germany – and returning to a sane model of "free" (ie, socially funded) education, others continue gleefully down the primrose path, selling off our common wealth to the highest bidder, more often than not a foreign one.

Ironically, future generations will still pay – just not in the beneficial sense.

Fred Pilcher, Kaleen

Give back the gongs

Now that the Prime Minister has ended the anachronism of knights and dames, it would be appropriate for Peter Cosgrove and the others to surrender their awards to demonstrate they are modern Australians.

Greg Feeney, Ainslie

TO THE POINT

The Canberra Times wants to hear from you in short bursts. Email views in 50 words or fewer to

letters.editor@canberratimes.com.au.

INHUMANITY SHAMEFUL

Jack Waterford's article "Abbott speech damages nation's standing" (Forum, October 31, p1) is once again right on the mark. The pride with which Tony Abbott and his ministers have stood by their inhumanity is being judged as shameful by other countries, by Australia's own citizens, and will be judged by history.

Annabel Wyndham, Duffy

ABBOTT'S ADVICE

With 218,000 asylum seekers crossing the Mediterranean in October, Tony, please, once again outline the details of your "successful" plan. The world obviously needs your help, not!

Jeff Bradley, Isaacs

TRANSPORT CARDS

I use an Opal Transport for NSW card in Sydney to access public transport. The system is very user friendly. By contrast, the MYWAY Transport for Canberra card system suffers from awkwardly positioned card readers making it difficult to read the tiny print information. The whole experience is confusing, especially for the uninitiated.

Robert Irwin, Queanbeyan, NSW

CENSORSHIP IN ACTION

The article "Enforced silence always starts people talking" (Forum, October 31, p6) tells us of Indonesia's continuing veil of secrecy about the purge of the Indonesian Communist Party in 1965. In 50 years, will our authorities still be suppressing information about our current immigration detention system? ("Immigration bought charities' silence with bonds worth millions", October 31, p1).

Eileen O'Brien, Kambah

INTIMIDATION? YOU BET

I wonder if Ms Joseph (Letters, November 3) would be quite as enthusiastic to protect articles 15 and 16 of ACT Human Rights Act if opponents to her prayer group were to hold peaceful assembly meetings outside her home? Or would she feel intimidated? I'd venture she would feel intimidated by such an assembly, as did the women attending the abortion clinic when they had to walk past a bunch of religious zealots!

G. Bell (Ms), Franklin

KILLING MACHINES

Another edition of The Canberra Times, and another advertisement for fighter planes – as well as an article on submarines ("Submarines come at a price", Times2, November 3, p4). Continually, we support the production of machines designed to kill fellow human beings and to enrich their manufacturers, despite talk of budget emergencies. Isn't it about time we matured? Enemies are usually imaginary.

Phillip Frankcombe, O'Connor

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