When Joe Hockey says that ''nothing is free'', is he referring to the parliamentary electorate and postal allowances? Perhaps when he says say ''the age of entitlement is over'', he's referring to free Commonwealth cars, free offices and paid staff or free travel and travel allowances? Could he mean un-negotiated MP and Senator pay rises or superbly generous parliamentary superannuation?

He couldn't possibly be referring to aged pensions that (usually) poor people have paid taxes for all their working lives (as opposed to a couple of terms in the Big House) prior to superannuation becoming available to the general public, could he? Surely it can't mean Medicare bulk billing for people whose wages aren't quite up to those of politicians - meaning they can't afford health insurance? No way it could be dole payments for people losing jobs because our representatives appear more intent on getting rid of jobs than creating them?

The function of a government is not to make a profit but to provide the infrastructure that protects the most vulnerable in our society rather than penalising them because they aren't paid as much as politicians. Perhaps a little less focus on the bottom line and a bit more on policies that create the circumstances for a strong economy giving people the opportunity to enjoy meaningful employment might make politicians and their ilk seem a little less distanced from the real world and could even give Mr Hockey a chance for a second term in charge.

George Tafe, Kambah


Fat cats get fatter

I've just read the secretaries of our federal government departments will receive a 5 per cent increase to their wages (''Public service bosses to pocket 5% pay rises as bargaining brawl looms'', April 24, p1).

As indicated the secretary of the Prime Minister and Cabinet department will pocket $844,000. As a comparator, the Prime Minister earns a mere $507,338. A prime minster (of either persuasion) works 24/7 and is responsible for running the country. He or she must go to his or her bosses (the electorate) every three years and ask for the job back.

The secretaries are relatively unknown to the people they serve.

As the Treasurer is justifiably asking for austerity, how can the Remuneration Tribunal persuade us that this rise is warranted. In short, it is not.

Ron Forrester, Duffy

So how many more of these out-of-touch-with-the-real-world pay decisions do the various ''independent'' commissions have to make before something is done to either disband them or make them accountable to normal tax-paying citizens?

Ric Hingee, Duffy


Developers' piece

I sympathise with Bob Salmond's wish (Letters, April 23) The Canberra Times ''not publish any more of Catherine Carter's articles until next year''. She has certainly had buckets of space of late. However he is optimistic to think a pause for reflection might lead her to understand ''why Canberrans love their city''. If she did so alter her thinking, she could no longer be the ACT executive director of the Property Council.

The council is not, as its name leads many to imagine, an association of ordinary property owners. It is a developers' group whose interests are often opposed to those of ordinary owners who want their suburbs left alone. It propagandises for urban and population growth while representing its projects as the solution to the problems such growth causes.

Its favourite tack is to present uncluttered places as hicksville, and crowding as ''vibrancy''. Surely this well-heeled group could afford to pay full advertising rates, rather than presenting its claims as disinterested commentary? Few would object to articles by Catherine Carter if they were labelled as advertorials, and if the connection to the development lobby was made explicit in her byline.

Mark O'Connor, Lyneham


Is this a pen I see?

It is amusing to witness the angel-on-a-pin-head-type contortions orthodox Shakespearean scholars get themselves into trying to maintain the Stratfordian hoax (''Beehive claims have Bard fans buzzing'', April 23, p9), this time over the discovery of what they believe could be his dictionary. The trouble they find themselves in is they have to acknowledge most of the annotations in the 1580 edition are made in ''italic script'' although, according to their own orthodox Stratfordian lights, the ''surviving snippets of Shakespeare's handwriting are in secretary hand''''

The latter form being, as the article notes, ''a style of handwriting that was developed in the 16th century for government, administrative and business affairs''.

This exquisite problem is of their own making. The ''secretary hand'' script which the orthodox scholars want to claim as Shakespeare's are certain to have actually been from the hand of, well, a secretary. That is, a legal secretary, because the sum total of the ''snippets'' of the Stratford man's handwriting are the six shaky attempts he has made to sign legal documents. His actual writing in these feeble attempts is obviously by the hand of someone who has little acquaintance with a pen, and who is probably functionally illiterate.

It was normal in Elizabethan times (and later) for illiterate people when swearing a legal oath to mark an ''X'' for their signature, and for the legal secretary to write their name in secretary script. The grain dealer from Stratford could do marginally more than place a mark but not much. Although he could form some letters of his own name, the legal secretary overseeing the documents has linked bits of the Stratfordian's scrawl to make the signatures more legible.

Rather than orthodox scholars admitting the obvious, ie, that the signatures could not be those of the actual author of the Shakespearean canon, they persist with the nonsense it shows he wrote in ''secretary hand''. They cling to such scraps as if they are significant evidence of his authorship because they have so little else.

So is the dictionary one owned and used by the author of the works of Shakespeare? Even if it were, the creaking Stratfordian orthodoxy would be unable to tell us - hoisted as they are on their own ridiculous petard that he allegedly wrote one particular way but the annotations are mainly of another sort.

Greg Ellis, Griffith


Words to the wise

While I admire the efforts by The Canberra Times to support alternative and experimental writing, not all recent attempts have been successful.

Barnaby Joyce's essays in post-colonial magical realism displayed an almost-endearing syntactical tangle-footedness reminiscent of Flann O'Brien at his mischievous best (one imagines conversations with ''the brother''). And his trains of thought certainly rambled and bloomed rambunctiously enough. But they never achieved that truly Joycean magic by which the numinous emerges from apparent chaos. Indeed, they rarely arrived at any meaning at all.

Julie Novak of the Institute of Public Affrays has shown some promise as a Dadaist, post-structural satirist. At times she has displayed an originality and fluidity of literary expression not heard since the early editions of Mao Zedong's Little Red Book.

But, in the same way that lies must be grafted onto truth to be plausible, satire works only if it retains sufficient rationality to leave the reader at least a little unsure. So it is unfortunate that in the article ''Strike at tobacco availability wrong and sure to fail'' (Forum, April 19, p7) she dropped a clanger so leaden satire collapsed into bathos. I doubt even Shaun Micallef, with his best wry wink, could pull off the phrase ''nanny-state paternalism''.

Was I the only one who heard, somewhere in the back of memory, Aunty Jack stomping on the kick-start of her big, black bike?

There's a thought: Aunty Jack for PM (and Thin Arthur for Treasurer). Now that would be nanny-state paternalism.

Felix MacNeill, Dickson


War not glorified

P. Landrum's letter (March 31) alleging glorification of war compels me to respond. Standing in the cold pre-dawn darkness of an Anzac Day service in Cowra, tears in my eyes and trickling down my face, I am grateful for the anonymity the darkness affords me.

There is no glorifying war there.

After the march, with mates I have known for more than two-thirds of my life, a clinking of glasses and a toast ''to absent fiends'' elicits misting of the eyes and another silence before the first mouthful is downed.

No glorifying war there.

Talk of mates and their families and who is doing it tough, who is battling against a callous repatriation determining system and needs help.

Nothing glorifying war there.

More memorials? My memorial is my memory which holds all the faces of my dead mates as clear and fresh now as they were more than 40 years ago. That is my memorial.

That and the quiet grief for their loss, and the fact I still miss them desperately.

No glorifying war there.

Noel McLaughlin, Macgregor


Decency on parade

Now the Australian tour of the royal couple concludes - their surprise attendance at the Anzac Day dawn service a fitting epilogue - that the only perceived hitch is a prime ministerial arm around the back of the duke is actually testimony to the unique socially stabilising nature of the British monarchy. All things being equal, Prince William will most likely be our future sovereign.

That he was able to attend various celebratory functions, be up close and personal with the people and handed various items for his baby son, all without the overt threat of assassination or rioting, shows Australians can rightly feel they can stand up on their own two cultural feet and not feel ashamed or awkward about their ongoing historic heritage.

Peter Waterhouse, Craigieburn, Vic


Worrying figures

So ACT clubs want relaxation of paid parking so their patrons will not be picked up for DUI the next day (''Free parking plan gives drivers time to sober up'', April 24, p1). On my arithmetic, if a drinker loses .01 per cent of alcohol an hour, then a drink-driver picked up at nine the next morning blowing .08 had a PCA of about 1.08 when he left his club, or about .03 over the definition of ''high range'' in NSW. Should not the licensing board be looking to delicense a club which sells alcohol to drunks, based on this evidence?

John Hogbin, Hackett



I am wondering if the new Joint Strike Fighters will be painted orange - and whether arrangements will be put in place to enable their return to Australia after the completion of a mission.

Peter Crossing, Curtin

So the government wants to spend $24 billion of taxpayers' money on the F-35, the most useless American aircraft since the Spruce Goose. If that isn't wasteful public expenditure, I don't know what is.

Paul Mason, McKellar


In proposing that motor vehicles turning left have precedence over cyclists because ''a cyclist who is approaching from behind [is] quite able to see the turning vehicle's turning indicator'', Paul O'Connor (Letters, April 22) assumes that all motorists always use their indicators. Unfortunately, they do not.

G.M. King, Narrabundah


The federal government won't tax the big polluters to discourage carbon pollution but believes a tax will discourage people going to their GP. I expect we will see a reverse Robin Hood budget.

Chris Emery, Reid


Before we are forced to foot yet another increase in our gas bills (ACT gas prices to rise by $230 a year'', April 24, p3) the ACT government should force ActewAGL to come clean about its bloated executive remuneration, including the $1 million-plus package said to be enjoyed by its boss Michael Costello.

Chris Smith, Kingston


If George Brandis is Voltaire, then Joe Hockey is reverse Robin Hood. Tony Abbott is Humpty Dumpty, giving words his own meanings. Small wonder I feel like Alice.

Eva Reid, Farrer

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