Comment

Letters to the Editor

‘Illiterates’ in power

We are indebted to Malcolm Mackerras and Crispin Hull for two recent erudite, informative and quantified articles about the present Senate method of preferential voting.

The counter articles/letters by the Proportional Representation Society and Nick Xenophon clearly demonstrate how they and others have hijacked the system to give us the present outcome from the last federal election where our government in the House of Representatives with the greatest majority ever, is not able to implement election policies because of a few illiterates with less than 1per cent of the primary vote holding power in the Senate.

Because it is now clear, entrepreneurs at the last Senate election were able to produce a legal but tainted result under the present system, we can expect an expansion of this problem at the coming federal election.

Imagine the leader of the Water Melon Party claiming PM status.

As I understand it from some of the above articles it may require a High Court decision to fix this problem. To bring on such a case it is in all of our interests for the government to take the necessary action.

The letter by Paul E Bowler (Letters, January 7) suggesting discounted value for votes subsequent to the first is a valuable suggestion.

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Robert Adams, Ainslie

Reconciliation Day?

With her usual insight and wit, Judith Ireland has reminded us of the clichés and kitsch usually displayed around Australia Day ("There's never been a holiday less exciting", Forum, January 22, p2). But her most important point was that "a significant number of Australians don't see January 26 as a cause for celebration".

No, we won't be seeing fireworks, gumboot throwing or boozy barbecues at the Aboriginal Tent Embassy on that date. While former PM Howard and Professor Blainey would have us reject a "black armband" view of our past, the colonisation of Australia was based on a double injustice: the often violent dispossession of Indigenous people and the harshly enforced reliance on convict labour. Australians today might not be directly responsible but many of us still enjoy the benefits.

Unless we can find a better cause such as Federation Day on January 1 or Mabo Day on June 3, can't we at least reshape January 26 as a more sombre and reflective "Reconciliation Day"? While modern Australia has much to be proud of and thankful for, making annual recommitments to substantive reconciliation with Indigenous Australians would be worth commemorating.

C. Kenna, Murrumbateman NSW

Affront to community

Mr Jon Stanhope as a patron of the arboretum? ("National Arboretum names Stanhope as its first patron", January 23, p9)

I would think the idea may be more of an affront to the Canberra community than a newsworthy slap on the back. As good a job as Mr. Stanhope did while in office, no doubt he and other politicians meant well, by spending volumes of taxpayers money on the arboretum and public art. Surely though, the money would have been better spent on public health, the homeless, boosting our police force and attending to our roads and paving and a less messy way of mowing our public grassed areas? Instead of announcing Mr. Stanhope as patron of the arboretum, why not announce him as "patron of the homeless", a far more worthy cause, I believe?

Ed Harris, Bonython

Trees a danger

When on earth will this government wake up and realise that large gum trees in the suburbs are potentially fatal ("Govt warned before branches fell on house", January 23, p8). I reported a similar case a year ago . Following inspection I was told they were sound. However 10 men in four trucks arrived and removed one small limb, well two of them did, the other eight sat around on milk crates! This took six hours.

People's lives and property are at risk here but the tree huggers must be kept happy.

M. Connolly, Giralang

Support for left

Jack Waterford writes that Hillary Clinton "looks at this stage unbeatable for the Democrat nomination" ("Trump wins hearts if not minds", Forum, January 23, p1). Jack also suggests that Bernie Sanders, the democratic socialist running for the Democratic Party's nomination, is "slightly to the left of George Brandis, and is thus, in the US, unelectable as an out and out socialist".

Sanders' policies such as free higher education, a universal health care system, taxing Wall Street, and a big increase in the basic wage, put him not just to the left of George Brandis here but to the left of the Labor Party and the Greens.

His left wing policies are winning a lot of support, so much so that the latest polls show him in front of Clinton in the first two primaries in Iowa and New Hampshire. The media, and mainstream politicians, always misjudge and downplay the appeal that left-wing policies can have among ordinary voters.

At the moment there is no Bernie Sanders, or (even better from my point of view, Jeremy Corbyn,) in Australian politics. She is out there somewhere and when she grabs the attention and imagination of millions of ordinary Australians the fight against neoliberalism and austerity, the one-sided class war the one percent have waged successfully by and large against workers since 1983, can begin in earnest.

John Passant, Kambah

Reasons to cheat

Regarding the article about plagiarism by university students, some academics seem to suggest that to solve the problem one needs to understand why the students resort to this approach ("Academics say cheating is easier than unis realise", January 25, p2).

As someone who acted as an admissions tutor at a UK university, I confess that the current unacceptable behaviour was not encountered in those days.

The reason for that was because in order for a student to gain entry to the university, his or her academic background would have had to match the components of the chosen course. Which is why, I believe, such students are unlikely to resort to cheating, as their background would have helped them to appreciate the contents of their chosen course without much difficulty.

Sadly, it is unhelpful for our politicians to demand that universities should now acquire the element of competitiveness.

For this is likely to lead to university's entrance requirements being relaxed —which is unlikely to alleviate the current problem.

Sam Nona, Burradoo, NSW

PS office shuffle nonsensical

The announcement of a new ACT government super office ("Go ahead for new ACT govt offices", January 25, p1) in Civic comes as no surprise. Andrew Barr announced years ago its coming and heralded a new age of efficiency for government. To many, it will appear as a very ill-thought-out project.

The original idea was that no ACT public servant situated in Civic would be any more than a 10-minute walk from the Legislative Assembly. This ignores the fact that, with modern communication, no one who wants to save public money should walk 10 minutes to talk to another public servant.

With congestion in Civic increasing incrementally, any new building designed for the public service should be built in the town centres. It is quicker to have a teleconference than it is to have coffee, buns and talk in a central office.

The information that the sale of existing government offices will provide funds for light rail rubs salt into our wounds. The fact that we use the money gained from increasing congestion in Civic to provide a light rail to ease congestion in Civic is mind boggling.

Howard Carew, Isaacs

Trump dangerous

"Trump wins hearts if not minds" (Forum, January 23) and therein lies the rub. If republican hearts start ruling Republican heads, then, as Jack Waterford writes, "it means that the party has been captivated by zealots, populists and extreme conservatives and is beyond saving ...".

Trump could also do serious damage to the standing of the US throughout the world and also to the national and global economies. Finally, we see Sarah Palin has hitched her wagon to this aspiring presidential candidate, no doubt hoping to be selected as Trump's running mate. The prospect of that duo becoming the most powerful duopoly in the Western world should send shivers up the spine of every thinking person.

N. Bailey, Nicholls

Canberra's capital status snubbed

It can't be that difficult for the ACT and federal governments to promote Canberra as being the national capital.

How many times do we Canberrans find, during our travels, when advising that we come from the Australian national capital that most respond: "Melbourne, Sydney?" Few know Canberra is the capital of Australia.

Why can't someone do something about this? Surely a start would be to have Canberra at least appear on the BBC and CNN weather reports. Come to think of it, Australia television news and weather reports often exclude Canberra as well. Come on, after almost 106 years, it's high time that something was done about this.

P. Button, Cook

Science of leadership

Immediately after the next election, the new government should put governing on hold while every politician undertakes a short, intensive course in climate science, provided by a reputable university. Never again should our nation be disgraced by scientifically illiterate fools who have no idea of the seriousness of the decisions they are making.

They should also do a course in simple economics. Ha-Joon Chang's book Economics: The User's Guide explains that Henry Ford paid his workers well because he realised his new production methods wouldn't work without well-paid customers to buy his products. How sensible of Henry! How stupid of our government to pay overseas workers to do our public service work! Yes, the extra income stimulates their economies but starves our business companies of customers with money.

I wonder which nations our politicians are really serving.

And before the election, each time we see a slick political ad on TV, let's remember that it was probably funded by a fossil fuel company which would rather see our planet destroyed than adapt its energy production to the new renewable requirements.

Every interview with a Coalition politician should include the question: "What motivates you to go slow in the fight against climate change?"

Rosemary Walters, Palmerston

Pocock's platitudes

As someone who is in awe of David Pocock as one of a handful of truly great rugby players, I congratulate him on being selected as ACT Australia Day Ambassador. However, I am less impressed by his words as reported ("'We need to deal with the tragedies of our past': Pocock," January 22).

Here Pocock joins a very long list of white people parading their virtue with patronising statements about the plight of our Indigenous brothers and sisters. Pocock is stuck in the past and does not appear to know that governments of all stripes spend enormous amounts of effort and money to deal with the seemingly intractable problem of eliminating Aboriginal disadvantage. There is no shortage of goodwill, but how much more time will pass before well meaning people realise that the old remedies don't work?

It is high time Indigenous leaders, in particular, devote more time to the future of their people, rather than obsessing about crimes in the distant past that the white man has atoned for on countless occasions but can never be undone. Land rights have not created self-sufficiency, Kevin Rudd's apology to the so-called "stolen generation" did not stop children being removed from dysfunctional families, any recognition in the Constitution will not stay a single blow against defenceless women and children.

Is it beyond our wit in 2016 to rise above political correctness and past failures and deal with the root causes of Indigenous disadvantage? Perhaps plain speaking might be a good start.

H.Ronald, Jerrabomberra

Shame on Hewitt

Seven's commentators are a fawning lot. Still awaiting a single word of censure of Lleyton Hewitt for his tirade against the linesman and referee. I have heard "fiery" used to describe his behaviour, nothing more. Yet it was shameful and, if only for consistency's sake, needed to be criticised. Wherefore now his future role as mentor if this is his parting gift to Australian tennis? We must expect more from our stars, especially if we persist in putting them on a pedestal.

Graham Clews, Kambah

Embrace better future

H.Ronald suggests that we brace ourselves [for] the annual tantrums on all things that are wrong with Australia Day (Letters, January 22).

It is often said that the national day is insulting to Indigenous people. There is no doubt that many Indigenous Australians have very deep reservations about celebrating the beginning of their invasion by the British and the inevitable destruction of their way of life.

Among the few who raised their voices to defend the original inhabitants were members of the Christian churches.

In 1838, seven assigned convict servants were hanged after being convicted for the murder of 28 Aborigines at Henry Dangar's Myall Creek cattle station on the Liverpool plains. Many citizens of the colonies were horrified that white people should be executed for killing blacks. They would claim these massacres were going on all the time. But people like the Reverend Dr John Dunmore Lang spoke the terrible truth that white Australians had blood on their hands. An honest celebration of Australia Day should include this inconvenient reality.

But it is not the whole story. We cannot turn the clock back. If Australia had not been colonised by the British then another European power would have done so and the fate of the Aboriginal peoples might have been even worse.

The horrors of the past should be remembered but also the courage and achievements of the pioneers, both black and white. We can all do something to wash the blood off the wattle.

Father Robert Willson, Deakin

Republic ledger sheet

The declaration by almost all state and territory leaders in support of an Australian republic leaves me as puzzled as republicanism always does. What would a switch to a republic do for me? Will it make me healthier? Wealthier? Happier? Will a republic find jobs for our children? Will it fix our increasingly damaged health and education systems? If not, then what's the point?

Gordon Soames, Curtin

 

TO THE POINT

PLANNING PRIORITIES

Elizabeth Teather (Letters, January 25) doesn't understand the process of planning in the ACT. A planner needs to use the word "vibrant" and draw lost of pretty trees on plans. Knowing where real buildings are is just an unnecessary luxury which would cost too much to implement.

Maria Greene, Curtin

RENAME AVENUE

In their haste to render Northbourne Avenue treeless, have our fearless politicians Barr, Corbell and Rattenbury given any thought to renaming it Nullarbor Avenue. The citizens of Harrison may object to losing their own Nullarbor Avenue but the ministers could claim they have a mandate for the change.

Ted Tregillgas, Flynn

GET REAL MR ABETZ

The ever increasingly irrelevant Senator Eric Abetz is either incredibly naive or silly to conclude that Tony Abbott, having once tasted power, would be content to remain as a "humble" backbencher or a junior/senior minister after the next election and not covet the PM's job.

Graeme Rankin, Holder

MESSAGE IS CLEAR

Instead of relying on tainted advice from political cronies and family on whether he should seek re-election, Tony Abbott should be guided by the polls. This is a more representative expression of what electors feel; their message is clear: "On your bike Tony, and don't stop peddling."

Des Fooks, Forrest

BACK TO THE SAME OLD

Oh dear – Tony Abbott is returning to Canberra and the anti-light rail doomsday letter writers to The Canberra Times are returning from the coast. At least the first part of January was enjoyable.

John Davenport, Farrer

POSTAL SERVICE ROTTEN

Three months ago my son sent me a letter from Melbourne to Canberra via a fully purchased overnight delivery fee. It arrived seven working days later. (I have the documentation.) Something is rotten in the state of Australia particularly when the chief executive earns way beyond the normal remuneration commesurate with other public service jobs.

Gerry Murphy, Braddon

IF ONLY WE COULD

Yes, we would have liked to celebrate Oz Day with Sam Kekovich's lamb cutlets but at our butcher's they were $42 a kilo and have been for yonks. There was a time as a kid when we had lamb a couple of times a week. Not any more. We had snags, mullet and pork chops.

Ray Armstrong, Tweed Heads South, NSW

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