Letters to the editor

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Emma Macdonald's story in Friday's paper (''After turf warfare, Green Square gets it colour back'') was spot-on. This is a case of bureaucracy gone mad with what is, ostensibly, a simple project. Remove a few plants. Fix an ailing irrigation system. Prepare soil. Plant four small sections of grass.

I shudder to think what this bundle of red tape has cost the government in wages, time and effort.

The victory for the traders in Green Square is being celebrated. The victory goes beyond Kingston, however. It's victory for enthusiastic members of all communities across Canberra who want their views and ideas heard in a timely, streamlined way. This tiny project speaks to the need for government to shift the way it moves - from platitudes about wanting to work with communities to demonstrated action.

Many local heroes are involved in this story: Pawl Cubbin, a businessman who seized this project with passion. Many traders who spent hours of non-billable time meeting and lobbying for the betterment of their area. The 900 people who signed our petition to green Green Square once more. And Steve Doszpot , MLA, who sat with the traders, listening carefully to understand our concerns. Importantly, his support didn't end there. He spent many hours carefully researching the issue, and gave an eloquent speech to the Legislative Assembly when presenting the petition on our behalf. His guidance has been invaluable and a driving force in our success.

Gabi Radinger, Kingston Traders Association

 

Green Square shopkeepers campaign successfully to have drought-hardy landscaping replaced with less-resilient, thirstier vegetation. They do so to increase their commercial advantage, yet they expect ACT ratepayers to foot the water bill. Surely those who reap the rewards should pay.

Peter Fuller, Chifley

A kiss is just a kiss

The simple answer to K. Pullen's question (Letters, January 24) on sexist kisses to stage winners during the Tour Down Under is that we follow the custom of all European cycling road races such as La Vuelta a Espana, Tour de France and Giro d'Italia. It has nothing to do with sex or sexism.

Mind you, I can understand the preference for being kissed by a comely female instead of a hirsute male. But, why to kiss at all? In virtually all Mediterranean countries, kissing is a mark of affection or of respect. Children kiss both their parents on leaving or arriving home. Even as grown-ups, when visiting each other or their parents, they invariably kiss. There is no sexism involved.

Furthermore if encountering an old friend, say a schoolmate or workmate, of any sex, they will kiss both on meeting and on parting.

Women tend to air-kiss to avoid leaving lipstick marks on the receiving cheek.

In France, when bestowing some kind of military or civil medal, the person who pins the medal on the chest of the recipient kisses both cheeks. In the Basque country, one kisses three times (left, right and left again). There is no sex or sexism involved.

 

G. Tarjan, Mawson

I wholeheartedly support the views of Kimberi Pullen that the tradition of two young women kissing the stage winner of the Tour Down Under is unsavoury and demeaning.

When Cadel Evans was kissed after his recent stage win, I cringed, thinking of his wife Chiara Passerini, an Italian pianist and music teacher, and also of their adopted son from Ethiopia. Cadel is not available, folks, he's a husband and father, so stop kissing him!

Jenny Goldie, Michelago, NSW

Residents in the dark

While I have no strong views at this stage about the erection of night lights at the Ainsworth Street oval, I am angry this development has taken place without residents being consulted.

I have woken up this morning to see teams of contractors erecting the lights and, by 9am, two sets are already installed. One set is pointing directly at our lounge window. As far as I know, we were not contacted and advised that this development was to go ahead, let alone having our views canvassed.

Parking is already difficult in Ainsworth Street when major sporting events take place and, obviously, this is now going to extend into the night. What traffic, noise and light studies were undertaken prior to this development being approved? Why weren't residents consulted?

Terry Walls, Mawson

Just for the record …

Gavin O'Brien (Letters, January 24) will be interested to learn there were other meteorology stations in Canberra prior to the one at the airport. These were at Acton (1912-39), Mount Stromlo Observatory (1912-40) and Yarralumla Forestry School (1927-83).

Peter Snowdon, Aranda

 

Gavin O'Brien said that before May 24, 1939, there were no official weather data recording sites in Canberra.

However, the Forestry and Timber Bureau recorded that meteorological observations at Yarralumla, ACT, on January 9-15, 1939, included the following maximum temperatures:

January 9 - 38; January 10 - 39; January 11 - 42; January 12 - 39; January 13 - 41; January 14 - 39; January 15 - 24.

Just because records are not readily available to research via the internet does not mean they do not exist.

Richard Larkey, Fadden

Bike lore

To the driver who almost cleaned me up on Hindmarsh Avenue on Thursday, thanks for the lesson, one that I recommend all cyclists learn by rote. And it's pretty simple: expect nothing. Don't expect motorists to look, care, apologise even when they have nearly sent a terrified rider careening across a three-lane thoroughfare and into the next world. Learn it, heed it and you may survive on our roads.

Matt Gately, Rivett

Bleak headlines wrong look for Australia Day

By any measure Australia has to be one of the freest, fairest and most open societies on the planet. Why oh why then do we continue to flagellate ourselves as a bunch of baseborn xenophobes barely worthy of the oxygen we breathe?

This process, which is led by The Canberra Times, reaches its annual apogee on Australia Day and this year the front page continues the tradition. The lead story, in 2½-centimetre high capitals, is an apparent quote from our latest Australian of the Year, ''Sad day for our mob''. The self flagellation continues with headers for two other stories: ''We have demonised asylum seekers'' by Jon Stanhope, AO and ''Australia Day's faux nationalism'' by Jack Waterford. How's that for three uplifting and inspiring stories for our national day? Waterford even illustrates his article with a photograph of the ''angry'' crowd at Cronulla in 2005, nine years ago. What angry crowd? Sure there are a few police hanging around but where are the AK-47s, the machetes and the burning tyres?

As angry crowds go it all looks pretty benign. Why do we keep typecasting the vast majority of decent Australians by referring back to the actions of a very, very small minority of morons?

We all know that Canberra is a ''leftie'' town and no doubt editors at The Canberra Times feel they have to cater to this audience but please give us ''middle of the roaders'' a break. We can take only so much.

Gordon Dickens, Gowrie

 

No Terry Fewtrell, the First Fleet did not arrive on January 26, 1788 ('A golden opportunity to put aside Australia Day blues, Forum, January 25).

While most Australians believe this myth the fact is that the first division of the Fleet arrived in Botany Bay on Friday January 18 and the second division arrived on Sunday January 20.

Captain Phillip decided that the bay was unsuitable as a place to establish a sizeable settlement and on January 21 he and a small party left Botany Bay and sailed up the coast to find a more suitable location.

As a result, the fleet sailed into Port Jackson on Saturday January 26 and Philip then declared this site as the location for the settlement.

Christopher Jobson, Monash

Burning issue

Some information for Anne Prendergast (Letters, January 24) who obviously has never put her hand on a diesel engine exhaust. I am a retired marine engineer and am old enough to have sailed on steam ships as well as motor vessels. I have received more minor burns than I care to remember and three that I can readily bring to mind including one from a diesel engine exhaust component. I can assure anyone without my experience that not even the toughest bastards that I have known would purposely put their hand on a diesel engine exhaust. For a start the exhaust gases as they exit to the atmosphere should be maintained above a minimum temperature of 160C (320F). The upstream gas is much hotter.

I suggest anyone who believes that a desperate asylum seeker would do that should put a heavy steel baking dish in an oven and heat it to 160C (320F) for an hour and then take the dish out and time how long they can hold onto it with bare hands.

I do not know how the person whose hands were shown to TV got those wounds. I can tell anyone who is interested that what I saw was consistent with those hands holding on to a diesel engine exhaust pipe for longer than the couple of seconds that it took for my left hand to require medical treatment for some weeks.

John F. Simmons, Kambah

 

Philip Ruddock invented people smugglers as an excuse to deny refuge to refugees who dared to arrive here by sea and legally ask us for protection under the refugee convention. Instead of anyone in our media investigating to see if he was telling the truth they all just spread the propaganda. Even when confronted with millions of refugees around the world paying bribes and for transport to cross borders to seek protection our media can't make the connection to those who come here but keep up the lies about smugglers.

Now the silly focus is on whether or not the warships crossed the 12 nautical-mile mile zone that becomes Indonesian waters and doesn't bother to think about what actually happened according to our law.

We kidnapped people near Christmas Island and then trafficked them by force to a country where they are now illegal immigrants faced with jail and torture. We broke the most sacred of all refugees laws, article 33 on the principle of non-refoulement.

Marilyn Shepherd, Angaston, SA

 

We are told that the ruckus from Indonesia regarding our turn back the boats policy and practice is just election posturing. This begs the question as to why this goes down well with the Indonesian masses? Clearly there is popular grassroots resentment and ill-will against Australia in Indonesia. This implies that they are definitely not friendly and perhaps should be listed as Australia's hostile nation number one. In these circumstances perhaps a complete cut-off of Australian aid might be a first step. Second, rescue our defence forces from the parlous state six years of Labor's funding cuts has reduced them to. We may well need them sooner than we think.

R.C. Warn, Weston

Compassion needed

Good on you Jon Stanhope (Honours for Human Rights, January 26) for identifying a lack of empathy as a factor in our current attitude to asylum seekers. While empathy cannot be taught, Australia, as an affluent society, should be able to create an environment where it can flourish.

It is unlikely to do so in an atmosphere of fear, ignorance and secrecy, qualities embodied in the current Australian government's attitude to those seeking sanctuary here.

Ken Fraser, Kambah

Ireland among world leaders in tax affairs

The article ''Call to tear up treaties with tax havens'' (Business Day, January 22, p7) conveys an impression of Ireland that is seriously misleading.

Ireland is not a tax haven. The OECD identifies four key indicators of a tax haven: having no taxes or only nominal taxes; a lack of transparency; an unwillingness to exchange information with tax administrations of OECD member countries; the absence of a substantial activity requirement.

The OECD and international commentators agree that none of these criteria apply to Ireland. Ireland's tax system is transparent and in line with international standards.

The article also casually describes Ireland as a ''tiny country'', implying that international business would have little reason to invest.

This is not the case. Ireland is itself a market of 4 million people. It is the only English-speaking member of the eurozone. It provides a barrier-free base for the substantial operations of multinational companies inside the European Union market of about 500 million consumers. Those operations employ 150,000 people directly and have substantial research and development operations.

International tax planning takes advantage of differences in legal and tax systems between countries - rather than the law or practice of any one country. Ireland supports international efforts in this area and takes part actively, alongside Australia, in the OECD project on base erosion and profit shifting.

When it held the EU presidency last year, Ireland prioritised the fight against tax fraud and tax evasion, pursuing proposals to allow the automatic exchange of information between tax authorities and the negotiation of agreements with third countries to restrict tax fraud and evasion.

Aggressive tax planning by companies in an increasingly digital, globalised economy is a major issue for legislators worldwide and it must be addressed. The most effective way to do this is through international co-operation - bilateral and multilateral - between tax authorities.

This is not the time to dismantle agreements that already exist and provide a solid foundation for that co-operation.

Ireland and Australia have co-operated on this over many years and, I am confident, will continue to do so into the future.

Noel White, ambassador of Ireland to Australia

TO THE POINT

MAN OF ACHIEVEMENT

This is a wonderful day for this country. A person of integrity is recognised not only for his sporting achievements, but for his wonderful efforts outside the sporting arena. Well done, Adam Goodes!

Greg Simmons, Lyons

A REFRESHING SURPRISE

After venturing to my kerb with trepidation to collect your Australia Day edition I was pleasantly surprised to find a prominent indigenous Australian on the front page and an intelligent consideration of nationalism inside. How refreshing that the jingoism didn't find a voice here.

C. Shipp, Tuggeranong

BIRTHDAY PARTY

Did we get a card for Australia Day from Indonesia?

M.F. Horton, Adelaide, SA

PLANE FACTS

Far from being able to carry passengers and dump fuel ('Passenger take [sic] control of plane', January 26, p12), a Cessna 150 has only two seats (ie, room for only one passenger) and definitely cannot dump fuel. A quick phone call to check the details would have been advantageous.

B.J. Millar, Queanbeyan

NOISE ABATEMENT

Bob Winnel and his Village Building company have been allowed after much lobbying of the NSW government to proceed with development in Tralee. I hope it is accompanied by a rock-solid promise there will be no complaints about aircraft noise, ever.

Vic Adams, Reid

THE RED PLANET

Scientists can now say that Mars was originally habitable,after finding definitive evidence of wine.

Rod Matthews, Fairfield

KILLING TIMES

Evidently writing the word genocide on a wall is a crime while actual genocide against indigenous Australians isn't.

John Passant, Kambah

DRY WEATHER

It's certainly getting dry and nasty out there. Roll on Kevin Andrews and the welfare review - bash the poor and the weak, and leave our superannuation concessions and middle-class welfare well alone! Seems like a bleak winter ahead.

Gavin Gostelow, Casey

WOODEN SPOONER

Jeff Bradley (letters, January 21) points out that the worst performing team this summer is the PM's team - and not just his cricket team. Which leads me to ponder, who is the worst performing minister? It's a wide field and I call for nominations.

John Daly, Lyons

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