Most Australians would regard themselves as sufficiently compassionate and civilised to receive a relatively small number of asylum seekers without incidence. Unfortunately, and largely to our shame, we have witnessed major disturbances in the presence of that small number - who come from widely diversified cultures.
Out of compassion comes the question as to the future of asylum seekers and Papuans in a country of only 6.3 million, where only 18 per cent of people live in urban settlements, and where over 800 different languages are spoken. As recently as 2009, anti-Chinese rioting broke out at a nickel factory in Papua New Guinea, and it was not long ago that a major clash of cultures took place in Fiji. It is unedifying and distasteful to bring to mind how different cultures can clash, but if truly compassionate, we must ask the difficult questions.
Colliss Parrett, Barton
I agree with Peter Marshall (Letters, August 13) about ''lies, damn lies and statistics'' and he rather proves my point.
The Belgian law says, among other things that ''the request [for euthanasia] is voluntary, well considered and repeated'' and ''the patient's request must be in writing''. Marshall omits, from the same paragraph in the study he quotes the note that, even where euthanasia had been talked about with the patient at an earlier time, that this was ''not equivalent to an explicit request for euthanasia''. Regardless of whether the patient's wishes were known or thought to be known by medical staff, the fact remains that someone else made the decision - they did not formally consent. This is not permitted in Belgian law.
Nor are nurses allowed to administer the lethal dose; yet a survey in 2010 showed that, in nearly half of the euthanasia deaths in Flanders in 2007, nurses did precisely that. Even if we were to bat statistics back and forth, one cannot ignore the reality that the law is not being adhered to and people are dying without request. How is it that we think we can do any better?
Clara Curtis, Tuggeranong
One is sadly resigned to mindless ''Canberra-bashing'' from ignorant and intellectually lazy outsiders. But it rankles when locals who should know better also (not for the first time) go for the cheap shot.
Although Steve Hadley (Letters, August 29) might have had a valid point regarding criticism of Tony Abbott's daughters, he goes on to undermine his own credibility with gratuitous libelling of all those people employed in the public service, for no reason.
Perhaps Mr Hadley is engaged in research for a cure for cancer so everything else seems trivial by comparison. But, somehow, I suspect this is far from the truth because such people have a sensitivity to the common good.
Just what brutish ''real world'' does he live in so that he can deride tens of thousands of decent local people? Surely it couldn't be one that depends on their money for a living? That would be too ironic and hypocritical.
David Jenkins, Turner
A question for Sefton
The momentum of the Gonski reforms recently shifted the Liberals from denial to a pale imitation of the full schools funding plan. Liberal candidate for Canberra Tom Sefton needs to explain if he has shifted too.
At an ACT election forum last year, Sefton said that he did not support the Gonski reforms because they ''reward failure''. Failure? Perhaps he means they address disadvantage because the reforms certainly do that. Or does he equate ''failure'' with having a disability, or a language background other than English, or living remotely, or being indigenous, or being poor? He needs to clarify because if it's as bad as it sounds, it is very bad indeed.
Glenn Fowler, secretary Australian Education Union (ACT branch), Barton
Courts need therapy
Here we go again. Brian Walters with a rap sheet characterised by violence, longevity and recidivism is told by Justice Hilary Penfold that if he continues with rehabilitation he can expect merely weekend detention for a vicious assault on a drug dealer (''Reform or be jailed, judge tells assailant'', August 30, p3).
What must a criminal do before Justice Penfold and her colleagues grasp the ramifications of mollycoddling Walters et al when the ACT community wants them jailed? Concerns don't end there. On the same page, readers learn that two murderers were to face eight weeks in the dock and the testimony of up to 200 witnesses. Don't blame the prosecution: this absurdity is the product of judges who demand that prosecutors go to extremes to establish the bleeding obvious. Eight weeks! Two hundred witnesses!
ACT courts need root canal therapy. Volunteers anyone?
Patrick Jones, Griffith
I'm curious to know on what basis Justin McCarthy (Letters, August 27) makes his sweeping condemnation of Israel and the ''injustice of the 1947 UN resolution creating the state of Israel which was compounded by the expulsion of some 750,000 Palestinians in circumstances we now refer to as 'ethnic cleansing'''. Is he an expat Israeli or just regurgitating the lies of Hamas and Fatah?
Those Palestinians to whom he refers were not just expelled. In the main, Jewish settlers paid them good money for the land, and the Arab leadership told them to ''run away because the big brave leadership would soon wipe the newcomers off the land''. The conflict is rooted in Bible history, the 1947 resolution was only the restitution of Jewish history.
I'm sure Sharyn Mittelman is both Jewish and has deep knowledge of her national history. I would point out that both Jews and Muslims (committed ones) do not have any ''secular ground'' between their faith and their national authority unlike us renegade Christians in the West. And is it all right for Jews to be expelled and ''ethnically cleansed'' but not any other group? By the way, Winston Churchill started this round of the conflict with his anti-Semitic treachery and the world media happily agrees.
J. Halgren, Latham
Seselja shows debatable manners
Malcolm Mackerras (''ACT Senate vote is crucial'', Times2, August 30, p1) indicates that if the two Liberal Party candidates in the ACT Senate race get less than 30 per cent of first-preference votes and if most voters vote above the line, leaving the allocation of preferences to the party tickets, that Gary Humphries' Senate seat could possibly fall to the Greens candidate Simon Sheikh rather than to Zed Seselja. He further draws attention to the strategic importance of this seat with respect to possible repeal of the Clean Energy Future legislation.
Of the 13 parties and one independent contesting the ACT Senate seat, Zed Seselja and the No.1 Sex Party candidate were the only candidates who failed to respond to an invitation to participate in the Senate candidate's forum held at the Albert Hall on Wednesday evening and attended by about 400 voters.
Seselja must feel quietly confident that he has the numbers and does not need to debate his opponents. As chairman of the organising committee for the forum, which dealt with many voter concerns, I went out of my way to keep Seselja's team aware of plans for the forum but never received the courtesy of an acknowledgment. I hope that If he is elected, Seselja will treat his constituents better than that.
Bob Douglas, Aranda
Nothing natural about it
Despite the claim of Anne Prendergast (Letters, August 28), reducing the public service workforce by ''natural attrition'' is simply reducing job numbers by a benign-sounding name.
And it is not necessarily benign. A favourite tactic in the APS when funds are tight is to make life unbearable for people who are regarded as incompetent, lazy, not ''fitting in'', or just ''past their use-by date'' in the expectation that they will resign. I have been a target of this tactic, have seen it applied to several colleagues, and have been told of many other cases.
''Natural attrition'' can be nothing more than thinly disguised slow and painful dismissal - without the compensation. It can be just as damaging to the person targeted, and sometimes to the organisation concerned, as an indiscriminate ''involuntary redundancy'' program.
Douglas Mackenzie, Deakin
Who pays for the Ferrari?
Clive Broomfield (Letters, August 19), like several previous correspondents, fails to understand the difference between justified government deficits for infrastructure, and those arising out of extravagant election promises. His example of Qantas purchasing Boeing 747s is justified.
However, his and previous correspondents' uncritical support for the government's version of the national broadband network well illustrates possible overspending. Which is the better investment, the government's plans or the lower-cost version of the opposition? The people affected by making the correct judgment are future generations not politicians.
At some stage these debts must be paid. Australia is facing an uncertain future due to its ageing population, climate change, and diminishing mineral deposits. We have to be realistic. I gave the example of purchasing a Ferrari but expecting my children to pay for it in the future. They have no obligation to pay as it's my commitment, but in the case of national debt they do have an obligation to pay for my extravagance. This is intergenerational selfishness. However, if I purchased a ute that could be used in future agricultural operations, it would be a different story.
What we have to avoid is a building up an unmanageable deficit based on glowing election promises on future productivity gains. Like a household, long term we must balance the national budget. While it is likely Australia will always meet its sovereign debt, over-extravagance now fuelled by competing election promises could bring misery to future generations with southern European experiences of youth unemployment.
Paul Fitzwarryne, Yarralumla
At last, long-term vision
Many would have identified with NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell's response to Kevin Rudd's announcement last week on Sydney's naval facility at Garden Island (''That's one big call for PM, no phone call for the Premier'', August 28, p6). But the PM's media statement shows he is seeking to start a process of carefully re-balancing naval assets, and the necessary wide consulting process over a long period of time. When built, the Captain Cook Dock was a project greater in scale than the Sydney Harbour Bridge, opened little more than a decade earlier.
It's not as if he proposes to take it down and relocate it by Christmas.
The Prime Minister also gave an undertaking last week to make a modest but firm start on a high-speed rail system, stating ''such a monumental nation-building endeavour must take place in a deliberate, thoughtful manner''. The first tasks are to select the path, working with three states and the ACT and to develop a detailed business case. And during this time, new developments and overseas experience will help. This is no ''thought bubble''.
Australia should value parliamentarians who peer over the horizon of the next one or two parliamentary terms. Minister Bill Shorten's address in Canberra on Monday gave other examples of visionary projects, e.g. the trans-Australian railway built 100 years ago. We need energetic leaders confident in their capacity to serve Australia. Any unease on the return of Kevin has gone. We can take comfort that his colleagues will keep his enthusiasm in check.
Noel Haberecht, Ainslie
Abbott civil? Try amnesic
Nice to see that Tony Abbott wants the new Parliament to be more civil. What a pleasant change from the negative, disruptive, ugly and uncivil opposition he has led for the past three years.
Martin Ryan, Duffy
Downsizing needs thoughtful planning
Garry Petherbridge and Graham Macafee (Letters, August 29) rightly point to financial constraints as deterrents to retired people downsizing. But design of alternative accommodation is a key issue.
With failing hips and knees we don't want two-storey housing with internal/external stairs, nor steep driveways down which the wheelie bins will drag us on garbage collection day. Nor do we want spa baths, or showers over baths. Many need good-size walk-in showers which might accommodate a shower chair in the future. Two bedrooms are often not sufficient. Some couples have to sleep in separate rooms for various medical/health reasons, so a third bedroom is necessary to cater for visiting children/grandchildren or friends and hobbies.
I know that for some women a separate sewing room is a necessity. As mobility decreases, contact with people and having hobbies/activities is very important. A small space outdoors would enable gardening, at least in pots, and provide a place to enjoy the health benefits of fresh air and sunshine; bigger than the one-metre space often left between the back door and the fence from which is suspended the clothes line. I am not opposed to the combined kitchen, dining, lounge area, often advertised as living area, but a third bedroom and/or a good outdoor space offer alternatives to being cooped up in one living area. Perhaps if developers didn't appear so keen to get as many units as possible on to blocks and the government just as keen to approve such plans with their attendant financial charges, then perhaps more seniors might be convinced to downsize.
Bill Bowron, Farrer
Why is the ACT Government covering grazing land with panels when they have thousands of empty roofs on government-owned properties. Surely it would be cheaper to let commercial solar firms install panels on this roof space than using a greenfields site.
The government has also been very quiet on how these commercial schemes can be a cheaper way to encourage the take-up of PV solar than increasing the miserly 7.5c/kwh rate ActewAGL pays households for surplus solar power.
Tony Dyson, O'Connor
TO THE POINT
NOT PARENTAL LEAVE
Tony Abbott's maternity leave scheme would only be available to mothers, so can we stop referring to it as ''parental'' leave? This language implies progressive thought and gender equity - neither of which are a part of the LNP platform.
Jo Hann, Wanniassa
THE LONG VIEW
I always find it amusing when writers of letters to the editor, who do not live anywhere near a potentially controversial development site - in this case the disputed solar farm site at Uriarra - make the loudest case for this to go ahead. Lyons, where Mike Reddy (Letters, August 28) lives, is a long way from this proposed site.
Magda Sitsky, Chifley
The $145 million original cost estimate for the Cotter Dam enlargement is irrelevant, circulated before the calling of tenders, claims T. Marks (Letters, August 29). Why then was it issued in the first place if the actual cost estimate was over $300 million? No Liberal lies here, just questions.
Greg Cornwell, Yarralumla
THE QUICK BUILD
I found myself agreeing with most of the points raised by Gary Petherbridge (Letters, August 29). With some exceptions, I get the impression building work now is a case of ''get it done; get paid; then get out''. After all, building work now seems to only have a 30-year lifespan.
Geoff Barker, Flynn
A SOLAR SAY
With only 100 families in Uriarra Village, we feel very much outgunned in our efforts to get a fair go from the government and others on the proposed solar farm. But it is heartening to know that the local paper is letting us have our say (Letters, August 30), which of course should be open to scrutiny from Mr Reddy and others. You made my morning.
David Fintan, Uriarra Village
THE REAL WORLD
Perhaps Steve Hadley (Letters, August 29) did not read the article ''Liberal faithful cheer the daggy dad who would be PM'' (August 26, p4). My letter (August 28) was in direct response to contradictory quotes from Abbott's daughters therein. Nothing to do with whether I support the Labor Party. And I am not a public servant. Not that there is anything wrong with those who are. All I know live in the same real world that I do.
Paddy O'Keeffe, Palmerston
From myself and my fellow loyal Raiders fans in the house of green, we have only two words to say: annus horribilis.
Gordon Edwards, Page