Comment

Letters to the Editor

Housing scheme poor

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Tony Trobe ("ACT energy ratings have 'fallen into disrepute", December 21, p3) was one of the most fervent advocates of the ACT energy efficiency scheme before its introduction in 1997.

Before the legislation was introduced, a brick veneer house in Monash was the subject of alterations and additions. The wall linings were removed, and the whole of the timber framing was packed with insulation to a far greater extent than was then recommended, as was the floor in the two-storey portion of the house, whilst increased solar access was furnished on the north.

The owners later declared it the most environmentally comfortable house they had ever lived in, and said their energy bills had been radically reduced.

As a result of an interstate move, and in order for the owners to be able to sell the house, it was necessary to have it subject to a mandatory energy efficiency assessment. The owners had anticipated the value of the dwelling had been enhanced by all the measures they had taken, but to their chagrin it was rated at the bottom of the scale.

Subsequent inquiries revealed that any house built before the introduction of the legislation was unlikely to receive a higher rating than 1, regardless of any measures taken to improve its energy efficiency. This is just one example of many where the theoretical outcomes from the use of poorly conceived computer software have taken preference over the practical experience of householders.

Despite entreaties to delay the introduction of the legislation in order to reflect the effects of successful endeavours elsewhere, the zealots pushed ahead with a poorly conceived scheme that has been the subject of abuse by both some elements of the house-building industry, and energy efficiency assessors. Now the strongest advocates of the scheme are bleating that it is in turmoil. In comparison with measures in force elsewhere, the ACT House Energy Rating Scheme has always been analogous to little boys running after an Olympic Champion.

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The efforts of those involved initially brought disrepute on what is a worthwhile endeavour.

Laurie Virr, Kambah

Cuts contradict goals

I am a PhD student at the Australian National University's School of Culture History and Language, and was involved in the review investigating possible budget cuts ("University cuts could see loss of academics", December 2, p3). For over a year the school has been engaged in consultations for a financially viable restructuring. The result of this process is the curtailing 30 per cent of the current staff, leaving many to ask themselves, "why did we meet and discuss options if it resulted in linear cuts?"

CHL is the contemporary incarnation of previous units, which contributed enormously to worldwide understanding of the Asia-Pacific region and Australia's role in it. To dismantle the school means to throw away a valuable asset, quite unique in the world, that seems to be in open contradiction to the ANU national goal or any economic rationale.

By losing their jobs, researchers and lecturers will be the most severely affected, but also higher degree research scholars will be left without effective supervision, and students will lose a significant cultural capital in their formative years at the university. Future student intake is openly in jeopardy. We are left to wonder why silence surrounded far-reaching decisions for the ANU prestige, and why no informed public debate has so far taken place.

Dario Di Rosa, O'Connor,

Euthanasia quandary

The real problem with voluntary euthanasia is who decides? Perhaps R. Richards (Letters, December 23) has not read King Lear, or perhaps he is correct that my concerns about non-voluntary euthanasia (murder) are cynical.

Nevertheless, these are real concerns that I do not see being addressed. I do not want people declared incompetent and then dispatched for the financial benefit of relatives and/or for Medicare cost savings.

In Australia, suicide (voluntary euthanasia) is not illegal. In principle, anyone can legally end their pain and suffering. In practice such people are incompetent and need assistance. Providing assistance is illegal. Before assisted suicide can be legalised, we must carefully consider the circumstances under which such assistance can be given, and agree on who decides.

Bruce A. Peterson, Kambah

Catholic punishment

Henk Verhoeven (Letters, December 22) takes Don Burns to task for castigating the "rigid discipline" of the Catholic education system, and as a former teacher from that period feels qualified to equate it with the corporal punishment employed by the state system.

I attended both Catholic and state schools from 1962-73. May I share my first-hand observations of the two systems?

The state school I attended was required to maintain a punishment book. If a child was caned, their name and number of strokes (usually two) were registered. Only the principal/deputy could administer it, hence the dread of being sent to there. My Catholic school had no such register.

Children were caned by teachers, ignorant of any punishment previously administered by their colleagues. Our class record-holder received over 30 in a single day. (My personal best was a piddling 19 for dropping the 'F' bomb). Teachers were also free to utilise whatever implement took their fancy. Canes, straps, face-slapping, even a fan belt, were all permitted.

I even witnessed a 10-year-old thrown about the room until his arm broke. Now, if they could break a child's arm for class-clowning, what might they do to anyone spreading "lies" about sexual abuse? We were aware of multiple incidents, but said nothing. The policy of violence was not to enforce discipline, but silence.

Henk, please don't insult my intelligence by asserting that bishops were merely "gullible". In 1962 Pope John XXIII approved in writing (Crimen Sollicitationis). Sexual misbehaviour by clergy was to be covered up. Straps, belts, canes and fists were tools to ensure this outcome.

Mike Crowther, Watson

Building a defence

I refer to the article "Developer should fix building': tribunal" (December 24, p4) where the developer/builder, Michael Koundouris, states "The Manhattan Project was completed almost 15 years ago, and there is no legal basis for the rectificaton order". Is Mr Koundouris acknowledging that he only builds apartments to last just over 10 years so as to avoid legal action?

P. Durer, Braddon

 

Celebrate the genius of Einstein and Freud

At the end of 2015 we should remember that this year marked some significant anniversaries. Australians remember the Anzac landings at Gallipoli one hundred years ago. But this year two other significant centenaries passed almost unnoticed.

It was in 1915 that Albert Einstein published a paper entitled General Relativity. That same year Sigmund Freud published a paper entitled The Unconscious. As psychiatrist Dr Ron Spielman reminds us, these writings radically changed our human understanding of our place in the universe. While the world was locked in war two gentle scholars, both with a Jewish intellectual background, asked us to think about the deepest questions of the outer world of space and time, and the inner world of the human mind.

A century on we see that their writings were much more significant than the people of 1915 would ever have supposed.

Both Einstein and Freud had been shaped by their Jewish heritage but both moved away from the religion of their childhood. Both had to escape from Nazi persecution, one to the United States and the other to Britain. Both wrote papers that have transformed our modern world and our self understanding. These centenaries should be remembered.

Father Robert Willson, Deakin

Israel not so generous

Jamie Hyams (Letters, December 22) asserts that "Israel has actually made the Palestinians three generous offers of a state". The simple fact is that these "generous offers" were nothing more than huge land grabs by Israel depriving the majority of Palestinians of their heritage and livelihood which had been built up over generations. Jamie Hyams is also incorrect when he says "Israel doesn't shoot on sight. It prefers to arrest them". This is blatantly untrue – and there are many, many instances when the Israeli Defence Force has shot at Palestinians carrying out peaceful demonstrations.

Geoff Barker, Flynn

 

Seselja's proposal is a low blow for workers on poor incomes

Senator Zed Seselja is of the belief that it's time to dump Sunday penalty rates in line with the recommendation of the Productivity Commission ("Bring end to Sunday loading: Seselja", December 24, p1). He's allegedly "heard from many business owners in Canberra" who choose to enjoy their Sundays with their families rather than pay penalty rates to anyone. How many?

The many other business owners who choose to open on Sundays all seem to be doing a booming trade. What Seselja endorses is a wages cut of about 15 per cent for Sunday employees, many of whom rely on the Saturday and Sunday work in order to survive.

There is no point in suggesting that Seselja, the commissioners and other proponents of such a contrived plan show good faith and reduce their own salaries by 15 per cent to match the impact it would have on casual employees' lifestyle. If you forfeit 15 per cent of $200,000, it is barely noticeable as opposed to a deduction of 15 per cent of $500 for a weekend's toil.

Seselja should have a few conversations with some of those workers he'd like to see cast closer to the poverty line to discover the truth about the importance of penalty rates to the community.

W. Book, Hackett

Christmas detention

It is now two and a half years since the ALP implemented the policy of mandatory and indefinite offshore detention of all asylum seekers who arrive in Australia by boat and who seek Australia's protection under the Refugee Convention.

About 1500 asylum seekers sent to Nauru and Manus Island, initially by the ALP but after the last election by the Liberal Party, are spending their third Christmas in indefinite detention.

The Human Rights Commission in its detailed expert report The Forgotten Children revealed the nature and extent of the harm, in most cases expected to be long-lasting, which is being knowingly visited by our nation on children and indeed adults in detention. The report was tabled 10 months ago but has, unsurprisingly, been ignored by both the Labor and Liberal Parties.

One cannot help but wonder how our elected leaders and representatives rationalise their support for the mandatory indefinite offshore detention of little children with the celebration of Christmas.

Jon Stanhope, Bruce

More aid, please

How refreshing to read Valerie Browning's story and reflections on the excesses of Christmas in Australia ("Out of Africa and into a 'commercialism' frenzy", December 22, p1). She is to be commended for her years of service helping the people of Ethiopia tear down the barriers to living a healthy, sustainable, productive life. I think everyone reading her story would be struck by her compassion and sense of fairness – she embodies that treasured Australian notion of the fair go.

I wish, however, that our government would embody that notion too, and rebuild Australian aid after $11.3 billion in cuts, including dramatic cuts in Africa.

Gina Olivieri, Kingston Beach, Tas

Bravo Valerie Browning! People around me think I'm a Grinch or a Scrooge because I despair at the rampant consumerism that now characterises Christmas. We are sucked into believing that Christmas joy will be directly proportional to how much we spend. How wrong can we be? Christmas joy is directly proportional to how much we give to those who are less fortunate – not by how many chocolates, dolls or Lego blocks we gift among our friends and family.

David Bailey, Deakin West

Rhodes no saint

Daniel Hannan claims ("Scholars acting like cretins", Times2, December 23, p1) that criticism of Cecil Rhodes is "unhistorical". But Rhodes was much more than "mildly controversial" in his own time. He had to resign as prime minister of Cape Province in the aftermath of the Jamieson Raid on the Transvaal, when it was revealed that he was the chief financier and organiser of mercenaries for an illegal military coup against a government not at war with Britain.

He also used his own private "police" force to forcibly take over native lands in what are now Zambia and Zimbabwe, with the aid of Maxim guns. I don't think that Oriel College was endorsing Rhodes' views by hosting his statue, but Hannan might have mentioned this history.

David Roth, Kambah

Don't credit Jefferson

Given that The Canberra Times chose to highlight Daniel Hannan's mistaken assertion about Thomas Jefferson being the author of the American Constitution ("Scholars acting like cretins", Times2, December 23, p1), it should be pointed out that Jefferson didn't write a single word of the American Constitution.

He was the American Minister in Paris at the time the Constitution was drafted, and preoccupied with other affairs of state, particularly Maria Cosway and Sally Hemings. It just isn't fair to blame Jefferson for any hypocrisy by the framers of the Constitution over slavery. Now, the Declaration of Independence – well, that's a different matter.

John Hart, Griffith

Lodging a protest

What myth is Greg Cornwell (Letters, December 24) writing about? There was nothing mythical about John Howard living at another taxpayer-funded residence, Kirribilli House, in Sydney and using the Prime Minister's Lodge only when it suited him. Jim Scullin campaigned against the cost of the Lodge and probably thought he would be a hypocrite if he lived there after becoming PM. Chifley was neither one thing nor another in that he did occupy the Lodge from time to time. Otherwise he lived at the Hotel Kurrajong. Lyons made the Lodge his home as did Menzies (twice). Curtin lived (and died) there. Holt, Gorton, Whitlam, Fraser, Hawke, Keating, Rudd and Gillard all lived there.

McMahon stayed at the Lodge when required to be in Canberra, then fled to Sydney and his own house, not Kirribilli. And Abbott could not live in the Lodge because it was being renovated.

Prime ministers who respected Canberra's national capital status and lived full-time at the Lodge far outnumber those who did not. Nothing mythical about that.

Graeme Barrow, Hackett

 

TO THE POINT

MODERN-DAY SLAVERY

So the powers that be want to cut Sunday penalty rates for workers in hospitality, some of whom have no holiday pay, no sick leave, and no job security. This is akin to modern-day slavery. Funny how our politicians never lose any of their pay or entitlements. Doesn't stop them putting their hands out for more, though. They are hypocrites.

Richard Ryan, Summerland Point, NSW

SESELJA'S BIG MOVE

Senator Zed Seselja has broken ranks with the Turnbull government to advocate a reduction in Sunday loadings ("Bring end to Sunday loading: Seselja", December 24, p1). Perhaps Senator Seselja is trying to consolidate his position after Tony Abbott's dethroning. Perhaps he also thinks that his re-election is safe and automatic. The election is not that far away.

Sankar Kumar Chatterjee, Evatt

Amazing. The invisible ACT senator Zed Seselja comes out of hiding to back cutting penalty rates for some workers while remaining remarkably silent on the extra cuts imposed on the country's pre-eminent cultural institutions based in Canberra. Who will rid us of this selectively silent senator?

Graeme Rankin, Holder

DO AS CEOS DO

Penalty rates for low-paid workers can be saved by renaming them "bonuses", just like the additional compensation that CEOs and financial whiz-kids give themselves. This will instantly bring all the "conservatives" on side, maybe even Senator Eric Abetz, and much strife, disruption and poverty will be avoided.

A. Moore, Holder

FROMELLES FALLEN

Robyn Lewis' opinion (Letters, December 28) is that Australians killed at the battle of Fromelles have not been properly recognised. This reflects a popular but inaccurate view. The names of the dead from that battle are recorded at the Australian War Memorial, a cemetery for newly found Australian dead from the battle was constructed in 2009-2010 at Fromelles and the battle was well-described in the official war histories.

Peter Moran, Watson

SALE NOT ALLOWED

Graham Barrow suggests (Letters, December 22) that Kirribilli House and Admiralty House be sold. However, the Commonwealth cannot sell Admiralty House. Under the terms of its transfer by the state of NSW, if it ceases to be used as an official residence for the Governor-General, title reverts to NSW.

Stephen Brown, Forrest

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