Letters to the Editor


What a disappointment Greg Hunt has proved to be as Environment Minister.

He has approved the dumping of millions of cubic metres of spoil in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (a decision which has now been delayed), despite a report that warned of destructive turbidity; funding has been cut to the Environmental Defender's Offices, helping big business at the expense of communities; the renewable energies target has been abandoned; Clive Palmer's got the go-ahead for his huge coal project in an environmentally important area in Queensland, no doubt ensuring PUP support in the Senate; the government has handed away its veto on wacky state government projects (the Franklin would have been dammed and Fraser Island sand-mined out of existence); and now he has broken his word on sending a vessel to monitor Japanese whaling in our waters, despite calling on Julia Gillard last Christmas to get a world court injunction to stop it.

It would seem Mr Hunt is a hypocrite and a miserable excuse for an environment minister.

Stephen Lloyd, Tewantin, Qld

Coalition vandalism

As if the federal government had not done enough to earn the title of "environmental vandal", it is now planning to remove 170,000 hectares of Tasmania's forests from listed UNESCO World Heritage areas. Apart from the Californian redwoods, the trees in these forests are the oldest living plants on Earth.

Thirty years ago we fought to save the Franklin River from being dammed and having precious forest flooded. Since then the forestry industry, unions and the conservation movement drew up the Tasmanian Forests Agreement that set a precedent for balanced logging and conservation. This proposed action by the government would essentially tear up this vital agreement. Delisting the Styx, Florentine and Weld forests would be an act of vandalism as well as a reason for national embarrassment.

Jenny Goldie, Michelago, NSW

Aborigines sacrificed

I was horrified to learn from a nursing sister in a remote Aboriginal community west of Alice Springs that the federal government is closing funding for the maintenance of swimming pools for Aboriginal communities.

I could not believe any government could be so callous and indifferent to Aboriginal children suffering temperatures over 40 degrees with no relief. Abbott is introducing truant officers but teachers in these remote communities provide the swimming pools with lists of names of children who do not come to school and these children are not allowed into the pool. The money allocated for truant officers could instead be allocated to maintain the pools. These pools are the only relief and pleasure in the searing heat of the outback.

Because their pools are being closed, small plastic pools are being used in backyards, and the nursing sister said she dreaded being called to resuscitate a little Aboriginal child from one of these pools.

The article "Warning on rising cost of refugees" (December 23, p1) states that the boat people are costing Australian taxpayers between $220,000 and $450,000 to process. I hope everyone realises that the needs of Aboriginal people and legal aid are being sacrificed by Abbott in the face of these costs.

Penelope Upward, O'Connor

Disability cuts hypocrisy

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann is looking "for opportunities to improve efficiencies in a sensible fashion" ("Advocates query disability policy", December 23, p3). The most sensible place is of course in the area of those requiring disability support pensions because they comprise an underrepresented minority in our community. It is sensible because as is implied in Cormann's statement, "Anyone who can work, should work" many recipients can be shown to be just a step ahead of dole bludgers or queue jumpers in the scheme of things and are rorting the system.

Meanwhile, we continue to wait for a government announcement of an independent inquiry into the rorting by politicians of their travel entitlements to attend triathlons, weddings and other significant sporting events.

It's always harder to turn the focus of attention to one's own costs and those of friends when looking for efficiencies, but we can't be certain that it is not a continuing practice. Maybe those pensioners exposed by Cormann and the government will be allowed to repay a small stipend of any overpayment they may have received, thereby removing the taint of fraud as many government ministers seem to have been able to do. That would be a sensible efficiency!

W. Book, Hackett

Supporting despots

In calling for source countries to be helped to patrol their own waters to minimise the exit of boats, John Hewson ("Asylum policy is a disgrace", Times2, December 17, p1) forgets the difference between refugees in transit through Indonesia and those suffering suppression and persecution in their own country from which they wish to escape. Here the imposition on them is designed to block all escape forcibly.

Australia is providing military patrol boats for the Sri Lankan government to take this on, creating Australia's role as that of jailer by proxy and, despite Sri Lanka's fortress of secrecy, it is known that torture and executions are the norm.

This system must lead of course to fewer of these fugitives on the high seas for Australia to deal with and Abbott can point to lower boat figures and fewer potential people smugglers to this extent.

Dr Hewson suggests that the patrol boat practice should be extended to other source countries from which asylum seekers seek to flee. In future history of democracies, could Australia live down the disgrace of supporting all despots in the first place?

Helen B. Wiles, Narrabundah


Just funny business

Thank you for keeping the Giralang shops story in the news (''Woolies fight to High Court'', December 23, p1). I was, however, disappointed that in your coverage you quoted a person who purportedly represents a local community group - he does not and is not even a Giralang resident. The group he ''represents'' is transparently supported by the businessmen who are rallying against Woolworths being established in the suburb. Importantly, the group was unable to gain ''legal standing'' in ACT courts.

Planning Minister Simon Corbell is to be congratulated for his stand, though he doesn't seem able to cut through the campaign being waged and funded by the businessmen. It is particularly disappointing that no member of the opposition has publicly taken a position on this issue, despite it running for nearly a decade. Giralang residents are entitled to ask what motivates the opposition - developing local facilities or enabling profits by fighting competition?

There is deep concern among many long-standing Giralang residents who have been without a proper community centre.

Instead we have one of Canberra's worst urban eyesores. It is frustrating to see the Kaleen supermarkets run a campaign against the establishment of local facilities and that their spoiling tactics are clearly working against the interests of the local community. It is ironic that those businessmen expect Giralang residents to patronise their shops! Fat chance now.

Chris Aulich, Giralang

Anthony Senti of the so-called Combined Residents Action Group asserts that the building of the approved medium-sized supermarket in Giralang will result in the loss of shopping amenities in Evatt and Kaleen.

The credibility of this obscure group was shot down in flames by the ACT Supreme Court. Nevertheless, the Giralang Residents' Action Group believes small retail businesses that provide good service to their communities will continue to be supported by those communities.

Mr Senti apparently has no sympathy for the long-suffering residents of Giralang who have been deprived of their shopping centre since early 2005. Appeal action by parties including Mr Senti's group has delayed redevelopment of the Giralang Shopping Centre by several years. GRAG notes that Mr Senti's associates, including the large supermarket at Kaleen, have benefited commercially from these delays.

The appeals have been resoundingly defeated in the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal. GRAG hopes the absence of shops in Giralang and the presence of the derelict site where shops once stood will not be prolonged by a High Court appeal.

Ross Calvert, Giralang Residents' Action Group

Moving mass

From a most reliable source came recently the following humorous account of a mass at Canberra's St Christopher's Catholic Cathedral.

A parishioner, apparently used to sitting in the same position when attending mass, noticed a stranger in her seat. ''You are in my seat,'' she said. The man graciously moved and was next observed preaching the homily on the theme, ''Expect the Unexpected''.

It is not known what the parishioner thought when she became aware the man she had deposed from her seat was the new Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn, Christopher Prowse.

Having recently had the privilege of meeting the man, I have no doubt he took no offence.

Graham Downie, O'Connor

Military classroom

Seeing two beaming, bright-eyed Dickson College students posing with a scale model of Northrop Grumman's Global Hawk drone, and reading about the infiltration of this major US weapons technology supplier into a Canberra high school (''Young drone developers keep flying'', December 20, p8), raises any number of questions.

While Northrop Grumman is not the maker of the Predator and Reaper drones that do most of the extra-judicial killing that has prospered under the gaze of President Obama, it is still a major player at the sharp end of the United States' oversized weapons outreach to the world.

We have to ask ourselves if Northrop Grumman is involved with other high schools around Australia, or perhaps just a prominent one in Canberra that might buy it some good will with parents who might orbit fairly high in our federal administration.

As a former science teacher, I can understand the seductive appeal of having affiliation with an international heavy-hitter like Northrop Grumman.

Unfortunately, no one reading this august journal will ever be privy to every project with which a military-focused company like Northrop Grumman is, or has been, involved.

While there would be fewer qualms about tertiary institutions mingling their DNA with ''defence'' contractors, there is something unsettling about secondary students being hosted into contact with foreign military contractors.

Ross Kelly, Monash

Leaning towards bias

So H. Ronald (Letters, December 22) is concerned about the ''increasingly obvious political bias of the ABC''. Let me hazard a few guesses: Ronald's favourite newspaper is the Telegraph (or perhaps the more upmarket but equally unbalanced Australian), and his favourite publisher is the well-known ex-Australian Rupert Murdoch who sold his Australian citizenship for a handful of American dollars, and who is widely known for his balanced and unbiased approach to news reporting and commentating.

Let me now suggest to Mr Ronald that one of the reasons he might perceive the ABC as ''biased'' is because the unashamed and extreme right wing bias of many of our newspapers, and many of our shock jocks, and many of our commercial TV's so-called current affairs programs, have so distorted his perception of where the centre of politics is that he can no longer accurately judge this, and can't help but mistake anything left of the extreme right as being biased. Just a thought.

Peter Dark, Queanbeyan

Unhealthy absence

The announcement that private health funds will be rising above the CPI in 2014 should be no surprise to those who will be footing the bill. What they might find strange is the Health Minister was nowhere to be found. You would have to ask just how long will the Ghost who Walks remain in the shadows and leave announcements such as the latest effort to a press release.

D.J. Fraser, Mudgeeraba, Qld

Let's get the design of City Hill right

There's been no public consultation on the design and siting of the proposed new courts extensions at City Hill, (''Court merger test of new partnerships'', December 20, p6), and there are many matters of architectural and urban design concern apparent in the cryptic published illustrations.

The sponsor, the ACT government, is probably hiding behind the fact that the National Capital Authority is in charge of planning and development control/approvals there.

The ACT government is apparently being two-faced about this development, demanding detailed public consultation on all major private developments it controls, but clearly studiously avoiding it in this vital case. The NCA often releases ''works'' applications for public comment.

However, the courts extensions aren't technically at that stage, even though the plans are obviously well advanced. (The proposed public-private development partnership doesn't help either, because the ACT is unlikely to get the optimum financial and architectural result out of that widely discredited arrangement.)

There is an amendment to the National Capital Plan for City Hill, but the proposed courts extensions don't even fit with that.

This is another example of the four or five unilateral and piecemeal development proposals we've seen over the last seven years at this most important of territorial (and national) precincts.

All of those proposals have gone nowhere.

We urgently need a properly prepared City Hill development brief (including the courts' functional requirements), and based on that, a worldwide properly constituted, binding design competition for the whole precinct.

Jack Kershaw, Kambah



If W. Book (Letters, December 23) sees the refreshingly normal, measured and decent Tony Abbott as a deceitful lying monster already, he better take a Bex and a good lie down, because he ain't seen nothing yet!

H. Ronald, Jerrabomberra, NSW


Thanks to ACTION Buses for the notice in the bus shelter at Gungahlin about reduced services to Gungahlin during Christmas week. Reduced to what?

David Moncrieff, Ngunnawal


Ken Keirven (Letters, December 23) mentioned the names of Area Rapid Transit systems for various cities. What about the Fremantle Area Rapid Transit …?

Heidi Davis, Flynn


If Katy Gallagher is concerned about the ACT economy as a result of the proposed staff reductions, I suggest a good place to start saving her (our) pennies is to can the $618 million Tonka Tram … or perhaps she's worried about the Fat Controller not having a job!

Peter Toscan, Amaroo


In 1972 Canberra was a beautiful city, but it takes more than a few hanging pots of brightly coloured flowers, and the debatable Skywhale to keep it that way, Kit Huang (Letters, December 23). Dead trees, long grass, broken fences, weed-infested gutters, and general litter in many public areas are just a few of the things that bring shame to this once beautiful city. If other towns and cities across the country can take pride in their appearance, why can't the national capital?

Frances Cornish, Spence


Canada is about to cease all mail deliveries to households and substitute banks of mailboxes on street corners etc. The opportunity exists for us to do the same. Moreover, by combining these banked boxes with the NBN node cabinets there will be an opportunity for the government to offset cost by charging rent for the boxes and spreading the unemployment of postal workers across the whole nation not just Canberra. A second-rate postal service matched by a second-rate broadband all created by a second-rate government.

John Trinder, Queanbeyan, NSW


I can only pray that Tony Abbott took the time to read Prince Charles' insightful comments in ''Prayers for besieged faithful'' (Times2, December 20, p4). Maybe it will prick his conscience on his treatment of asylum seekers and remind him that Jesus Christ was an asylum seeker.

Patricia Simmons, Kambah


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