Education should top roads

University of Canberra vice-chancellor Stephen Parker's comments on the federal government's proposed changes to tertiary education (''Costs are not only in dollars'', Times2, May 16, p1) make very disturbing reading for those who value the importance of tertiary education as a key driver for Australia's future prosperity and wellbeing. Like Professor Parker, I deplore minister Christopher Pyne's proposed changes.

The prospect of tertiary fee increases that will saddle the next generation of students, both undergraduate and post-graduate, with crushing debt is reprehensible.

Such fee increases may well deter prospective students from enrolling in tertiary studies. It seems that the federal government's mindset is that education is a cost to the community and not an investment in the nation's future. Prime Minister Tony Abbott waxes lyrical about the importance of infrastructure to the nation. However, it appears all he can see is roads and bridges.

Jonathan Hayes, Hughes

Hollow answers

Why is Julian Cribb surprised our politicians have no appreciation that scientific success drives the economy (''Cost of scientific illiteracy'', Times2, May 15, p1).


How could he not be impressed by their versatility for providing an answer to every question, irrespective of the subject, before swiftly attacking their opponents?

This is a clever ploy because to think like scientists, politicians need to provide supporting evidence - which ain't there.

Sam Nona, Burradoo,NSW

Young deserve a go

Scott Rashleigh's reminiscence (Letters, May 17) of how much tougher things were when he was a baby boomer boy, and the suggestion that young folks should just suck it up following the Abbott government's first budget, is a fairly pessimistic view of a civil society.

Most of us hope to create a better experience for following generations rather than pass on our own privations and disappointments.

I don't imagine the generations before Mr Rashleigh's wished to stop school at 12 or live through a Depression just to even the inter-generational score. What a shame he can't take pride in the institutions that have helped create a more equitable society over 40 years, rather than delighting in the fact that, with the first Abbott-Hockey budget, access has reverted to depending on personal wealth.

Andrew Gow, Braidwood, NSW

Like Scott Rashleigh, I am a baby boomer but, unlike him, I don't think Gen X and Y have it better than us. In my HSC class of 1969, almost all accepted teachers' scholarships or cadetships with government departments and large companies. True, we didn't enjoy a gap year, but many of us stayed with the same employer for our whole working lives. It was an era when employers were happy to train their staff and where loyalty cut both ways.

Many of us retired between 55 and 60, owning our own homes and with enough superannuation to travel overseas or caravan around Australia. For the class of 1989 teachers' scholarships were a distant memory and HECS the harsh reality. For most students, part-time work was a necessity. On graduation, many got a foothold in the workforce through casual work and many were victims of downsizing and restructuring, necessitating Newstart. Most will retire later, still carrying mortgages, and with superannuation much less generous than the benefit schemes many boomers enjoy.

Mike Reddy, Lyons

Wind energy pitfalls

I used to think wind turbines made a lot of sense. Now I've found out that their backup, in most places when the wind is not blowing, uses gas or coal-powered turbines, which operate inefficiently because they are not running continuously. So the anticipated carbon dioxide emission reduction is not being realised. In addition, these wind turbines are costly to build, and are subsidised with our taxes.

I'm not surprised that politicians in Spain and elsewhere in Europe are now pausing for thought. And it's somewhat ironic that in stepping back from nuclear energy, Germany is building more coal-fired generators. But never let a few facts get in the way of your convictions.

Peter F. Kemmis, Turner

Roos on the rise

Whether Philip Machin (Letters, May 18) can or cannot see a ''plague of kangaroos'' at Wamboin is neither here nor there. The ACT government is trying to maintain a balance in the highly artificial ecosystems represented by ACT's nature reserves. These reserves are almost always surrounded by urban development, preventing free movement of species such as kangaroos.

The reserves are under constant threat from weeds that escape from the urban backyards. Both flora and fauna need to be actively managed to maintain a ''natural'' ecosystem. That kangaroo numbers are increasing in these reserves is undeniable. Since the last drought ended the kangaroo population on Red Hill has increased from 447 in 2010 (1.2 per hectare) to 757 (2 per hectare) two years later. When the next drought arrives those 757 kangaroos will cause significant damage to an ecosystem that includes critically endangered plants.

Of course, the kangaroo population will then crash as they starve to death, or are killed crossing roads to find food, or roam suburbs to be attacked by dogs and angry residents. It is the responsibility of the ACT government to manage these reserves to optimise the ecology. Unfortunately, sometimes this requires hard choices that some in the community are apparently not prepared to make.

Paul Ratcliffe, Yarralumla

Cycling gone too far

Since the news of the proposed cycling legislation changes, as a road user I have become much more focused on cyclist safety. I have saved the lives of three cyclists last week in the Parliamentary Triangle. Just how did I do it? Well, I didn't proceed through the pedestrian crossings as I'm legally obliged to when there is no pedestrian on or approaching. I stopped and let the cyclists continue on their merry way, without even a wave or thank you for saving them.

I suppose I could have attempted to demonstrate that, as non-pedestrians, they are not supposed to use pedestrian crossings. But things could have become unsavoury! It is almost as though, once they start pedalling, cyclists become a superior pedestrian with powers and rights to which other mere road users are not entitled.

Wayne Brown, Queanbeyan, NSW

Frustrated shopper pleads: stop the music

I have a suggestion for the retail industry to help it through the difficult times looming: Turn the music down! There's a good chance they'll attract a whole cohort of spenders back into their shops.

Shopping anywhere now is like entering a series of torture chambers, with every shop having its own choice of cacophony which it inflicts on you as part of its customer service.

Once a happy browser, my shopping expeditions are now reduced to lightning raids. No more thinking, comparing brands, styles, colours, or trying anything on - it's all impossible. There's no point asking for advice about a potential purchase - they can't hear you and you can't hear them.

When I get home, if it doesn't fit or it turns out to be the wrong thing, then it's into the bag and good luck to them. You'll recognise me in town: I'm the one in the old tracky dacks and cardy, with the yellow foam things stuck in my ears.

L. Bentley, Braddon

Sharing the blame

Daily we hear in highly charged emotional tones the tragic stories of the four young men who lost their lives while installing ceiling insulation. The blame, according to the media, rests solely with the politicians who provided the funds that made the scheme possible. But were the four young men all self-employed? If so, who approved their going into a hazardous occupation unqualified? If they were employees, why are their employers not in front of the royal commission explaining why their staff were not trained? Or is the commission just a political stunt?

Leon Webcke, Gordon

Bit of budget pain could be good for many Australians

The spate of letters to the editor in the wake of the federal budget reminds us again that the Treasurer faces an impossible task. Most experts agree that the previous government passed on a serious budget problem, and any responsible government must do something about it, and that means pain to sections of the community. Some of the expressions of that pain are fully justified.

The effort to balance the budget means perhaps a radical change in lifestyle and personal choices for many, including readers of this paper.

Can we as a nation afford, both in money and in health terms, to consume such large quantities of alcohol, and junk food? Is our mania for gambling justified? In spite of many warnings we smoke in alarming quantities, and pay the price. I have been told half the beds in hospitals are occupied by victims of avoidable medical conditions caused by dangerous lifestyle choices over long periods of time.

If the budget of Joe Hockey forces us to face such issues it may have a silver lining.

Robert Willson, Deakin

The Coalition's budget reveals that the thinking behind its harsh and inhumane policies towards refugees has now shifted to the domestic population. The elderly, students and young people are not behind bars guarded by private security firms.

However, as the Treasurer so proudly trumpets, they can no longer feel secure that our nation cares about them, for their health, their future educational chances or for the environment that young people, including my grandchildren, will inherit from us. This is not what my father fought for in World War II, nor his uncle in World War I.

Rose Costelloe, Cook

The duplicity of this federal government knows no bounds.

We now have Abbott trumpeting that his budget decreases the overall tax take. But hey, we find that all the tax reductions affect only the corporate and other business sectors.

There are no wins for individuals, the take in tax and other factors is significantly increased. (For example, my wife will pay $2500 more per annum for pharmaceuticals.) The one minor offset for individuals might be from the fact that the cost of some consumables should decrease (believe it when you see it) as a result of the breathtakingly irresponsible abolition of the carbon tax, but keep in mind the Coalition has consistently lied about the effect of the carbon tax on household costs.

Then we have the attempt to force the states to push for an increase in the regressive GST by withholding health and education funding. This is nothing short of a disgraceful move to duck-shove the stigma of yet another broken election promise.

All this supposedly to address the crisis that exists only in the tiny minds occupying the Coalition benches. The one measure that is supportable is the so-called debt tax. This is just a small step in having those who can most afford it ''share the pain''. On the other hand, the savage cuts to the ATO bode ill for the High Wealth Individuals project and Project Wickenby which means the super-wealthy and the crooks will get away with even more.

T. J. Marks, Holt

Let's sell the farm

If we are in such economic dire straits then it is only fitting that the government do what is opportunistic and ''sell off the farm''. Privatising the Mint is understandable as making money is the sole domain of private investors. But the federal budget has not gone fair enough. If Parliament House were privatised it would make wonderful pickings for multinationals who no doubt would make a better job of running the country than those employed by the public purse. After all, ''private does it best'' is the current mantra.

Dean Hull, Victor Harbor, SA

Debt is disastrous

Unlike Mark Raymond (Letters, May 15) I believe that having debts is disastrous. In growing up in my family we learnt to live within our means.

That meant that we didn't borrow or spend beyond our means or income and savings. We bought things and did things when we could afford to do so. The current spate of ''moaners'' writing to your column seem to harp on about broken promises only because the harsh reality of economic restraint hits them in the hip pocket nerve. From their letters I gather that they may support Mr Raymond's view about living in debt but I gather there are many who have little choice but to live their life on the ''never never'' and rely on taxpayer handouts. Of course they would want government to go on borrowing and spending beyond our means. I believe their short-sighted attitudes to be irresponsible in the extreme. The days and nights of wine and roses have to end in the cold hard light of day. Time to swallow the bitter pill.

P. M. Button, Cook

Thin arguments

I found much common ground in Richard Ackland's views on areas of the law that impact freedom of expression that could be tidied up (''Law should focus on defamation not bigotry'', Times2, May 16, p5) .

However, I am once again astonished that this prominent journalist also argues for censorship, in his case against the repeal of Section 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act.

Ackland invokes the old chestnut on the evils of Holocaust denial. If ever there was an issue that was easy to refute then Holocaust denial would be top of the list. The real problem with Section 18c is that we have a law that has allowed political activists to censor a journalist for voicing a legitimate opinion about a subject that is discussed openly. This is bad law that insults Australians.

Sadly, I am coming to the view that many Australian journalist have never heard of John Stuart Mill or John Milton, giants who understood the importance and application of freedom of expression.

Were the acerbic Christopher Hitchens still alive, he would have relished the opportunity of shredding the paper-thin arguments forwarded by the likes of Ackland.

H. Ronald, Jerrabomberra, NSW



These lines of John Boyle O'Reilly rise seemingly unbidden in the mind: ''The vulgar show of the pompous feast where the heaviest purse is the highest priest; The organised charity, scrimped and iced, In the name of a cautious, statistical Christ …'' Is it the sound of vulnerable people being deprived of what they hath, by Christians in suits?

John Cashman, Yarralumla


I have to agree with Colin Glover (Letters, May 15) that Pope's portrayal of Joe Hockey as Shrek goes beyond the realm of humour. It is actually slanderous. Shrek is a gentle, kindly creature, despite his fearsome appearance.

Barbara Fisher, Cook


If Christopher Pyne wants to protect Julie Bishop perhaps he should remind her politics is a grown-up and rough game and perhaps she should go home and stay there if she doesn't want to play the game as it is.

E.R. Haddock, Weston


Christopher Smith (Letters, May 16) derides Fairfax economics writer Peter Martin as populist for attacking high-income-tax evaders. After all, they pay ''plenty'' of GST, says Christopher. But it would be at most 10 per cent of their income - a considerably better deal than the 45 per cent tax rate they should be paying.

G. Burgess, Kaleen


Another inconsistency hidden in the budget papers. We are encouraged to work longer, but the mature-age worker's tax offset has been scrapped. If the goal is a retirement age of 70, surely the offset should be kept for at least the over-70s. The Very Mature-age Worker's Tax Offset?

Robyn Waddington, Greenway


Joe Hockey lowers himself and Parliament by engaging in smoking at all, publicly or privately. A symbol of success routinely used by wealthy white men to celebrate their affluence is repugnant to anyone who believes in preventative health measures. Communal smoking of cigars brings to mind the worst aspects of a male-dominated Parliament.

Gerard Barrett, Latham


What an admirable example of honesty was shown by the three roommates who chose to return to an elderly woman the money stuffed in an old couch in New York state ($40,000 in couch'', May 17, p14). God bless and reward them.

Evelyn Bean, Ainslie

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