Letters to the Editor

Is the Australian Federal Police a greater menace than David Eastman?

While the actions of both the ACT Director of Public Prosecutions and the AFP in trying to prevent the Martin inquiry into the Eastman case were deplorable, it is now apparent that some in the AFP and the AFP Association, in particular, have learnt nothing from the inquiry.

These poor souls, it seems, believe there was nothing wrong with their actions preceding and during the Eastman trial.

This leaves one with the conclusion that David Eastman presents nothing like the menace to the community that the AFP does.

T.J. Marks, Holt

Regardless of whether or not David Eastman murdered Colin Winchester, we need to ask: are the ACT's policing, prosecutorial and judicial arrangements appropriate to a national capital or to a hick town?

David Stephens, Bruce


During my early police career, it was often expressed by a former Scotland Yard detective that all investigations should be conducted to ascertain who committed the crime and not to prove that any one particular person was responsible.

Recent comments published in The Canberra Times into the shooting of deputy commissioner Winchester suggest that the forensic investigation was perhaps directed more towards proving that Eastman was the killer and no one else.

P.J. Carthy, McKellar

Off the tram track

I have recently returned from a Gold Coast holiday. Having seen their light rail efforts I would urge the ACT Assembly to abandon their grandiose plans and save ACT taxpayers the enormous expenditure involved. It's a cost we cannot afford for what will be a white elephant.

The disruption for Gold Coast road users must be seen to be believed. I did not meet one resident who favours the project (although there must be some).

Work has been ongoing for more than four years with services scheduled to start this month.

The route has been criticised by the Southport Chamber of Commerce because of its impact on traders and customers in the central business district. I witnessed ample evidence of costly and disruptive commercial effects.

Distance is a common factor for both light rail plans. They are both 13 kilometres. The ACT Capital Metro light rail project is estimated to cost $600 million. The 2010 estimate of the GC project was $949 million. In August 2012 the estimate was revised to $1.6 billion. I am confident that the expenditure will greatly exceed that revised estimate.

The ACT must have a clear mandate from its citizens before embarking on such a plan. Canberra is just not big enough to take on such expensive infrastructure planning, especially without a clear message of agreement from ratepayers.

The ACT Capital Metro light rail project is sheer folly. I doubt that the government would survive the next election. The project must be scrapped.

Ivan Lloyd, Melba

No doubt there already have been many letters to the editor regarding overseas examples of light rail and how they stack up against Canberra's proposal. I was recently in the commune of Ritten in South Tyrol, Italy . Ritten has a population of about 8000 is on a 1400-metre plateau. I travelled on a very efficient light rail with trains every half hour between the two main towns of Oberbozen and Klobenstein (about 12 kilometres).

Having seen the Ritten rail and other examples of light rail in Europe, one has to conclude that a light rail in Canberra is a no-brainer.

Rod Holesgrove, O'Connor

Having read Kirsten Lawson's excellent article (''Grand, but can light rail sail?'', May 31, Forum, p3) and considering the many letters to the editor, it is obvious that the great unease felt by the community stems from the government's absolute refusal to consider any alternative to light rail, with the bizarre consequence that we will be the only city in the world where a light rail system was constructed first, followed by the overcrowded high density buildings needed to justify the exorbitant cost.

Geoff Nickols, Griffith

Limit negative gearing

Graham Macafee (Letters, May 27) waxes lyrical about the benefits of negative gearing even to the point of an unsubstantiated claim that it subsidises tenants not owners.

Figures, however, paint a very different picture, putting the benefits to investors at double those of renters. When taken in conjunction with capital gains tax concessions (running at about $30 billion annually, on a par with the generous superannuation concessions for middle and upper income earners), it's clear who's reaping the greatest benefit from subsidised housing investment - and it sure isn't renters.

Both the RBA and the Productivity Commission have commented that existing favourable taxation settings contribute to housing market volatility and data suggests negative gearing/CGT concessions have been significant factors in capital city house price rises in the past. Modifying negative gearing and reducing CGT concessions would certainly assist the budget bottom line and many argue it would also help housing affordability by lowering demand from tax-subsidised investors. A good first step would be to limit negative gearing to new buildings.

Jon Stirzaker, Latham

Faith in Humphries

Gary Humphries' career was indeed conducted with a measure of politeness and forbearance (''Disreputable bid to silence party elder'', Editorial, Times2, May 30, p2). I fronted many Senate committees where Senator Humphries was among the small number of senators who took the opportunity to really find out what was going on. His questions were often uncomfortable but always delivered politely and he always listened to the answer. He was one of a small number of politicians who helped me keep a little flame of faith in our political system.

Kate Roediger, Melba

Is it any wonder that doubts linger over the maturity and judgment of our politicians in Lilliput when we witness the vindictive, schoolyard excoriation of Gary Humphries by his own. Humphries, after years of uphill but effective advocacy, is to be denied some in-house award by his party for expressing publicly an opinion? What juvenile, puerile, thin-skinned individuals the local Libs have shown themselves to be. It invites questions as to their capacity to make impartial and reasoned decisions for the rest of us.

A. Whiddett, Yarralumla

I wrote (Letters, May 17) applauding the budget's strategy to restructure middle-class welfare. But that is only half the story.

I am hopeful that Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey will use the coming tax review to further the rebalancing of our society and not be swayed by the likes of Michael Moore who think that the needs of life (such as education and health) can continue to be ''free'', paid by some mystical body in the ether. Why should the more affluent among us continue to have part of their children's private education and private health paid by the majority. It is not sensible to have these excluded from GST.

Scott Rashleigh, O'Malley

True cost of deregulation

I wonder how deeply the government has pondered the flow-on effects of deregulating the universities. Possibly all the effects are planned to further the Coalition capitalist agenda, but just possibly it has not bothered to look further ahead than the implementation of the reforms.

Expensive degrees and the repayment structure with compound interest will lead to higher costs being passed on to the public. The cost of all medical, legal, engineering, accounting and many other services will rise sharply where the graduate has the power to name their fee. It will not be so easy for the teachers in government schools, nurses, and others depending on government agencies for employment. They will have to strike to get pay rises and will be vilified for disrupting service. In addition, how will we achieve the aim of having better-qualified teachers and nurses if we insist on imposing the obstacle of higher fees and repayments?

I cannot see deregulation benefiting Australia.

K.L. Calvert, Downer

Medicare madness

I have been on the disability support pension for 20 years this month. I already feel isolated, vulnerable and marginalised so feel I must speak up about Abbott's attack on Medicare.

Medicare is about fairness, but the budget attack on it is an attack on the poor, young, elderly and people with chronic illnesses, like me, who do not deserve to be punished for getting sick. My GP visits, every fortnight, are bulk-billed. The attack on Medicare will force me to pay substantially for visits not just to my GP but to numerous specialists, pathology and imaging providers - 40-plus times a year. I am on a Care Plan but have discovered it will only be for GP visits to discuss or modify this plan that I will be exempt from the proposed co-payment - all other visits will require I pay extra. I am worried sick by the implications of this attack on Medicare and hence on me.

Name and address withheld by request

Sceptical on sceptics

Julian Cribb (''Scientists top scale of trust'', Times2, May 29, p 1) quotes recent research showing ''a healthy scepticism is alive and kicking in the great Australian public''. I wish I could believe that but I am sceptical.

He quotes recent research indicating that 71 per cent of respondents ''trusted'' scientists, but only 15 per cent trusted the politicians responsible for science, and even less trusted religious leaders and ''shock jocks''. But the word ''scepticism'' does not mean a refusal to believe or trust, though we often use the word in that incorrect sense. In the original Greek the word meant to think, to look about, to consider. So a sceptic is a thinker, rather than a doubter. We need more scientific sceptics who question beliefs, both their own beliefs and those of other people, and think carefully about them.

Because scientists are informed in some areas, we should be very sceptical of them when they presume to make pronouncements on matters they know little about. Good scientists will seek to have a ''healthy scepticism'' about their own expertise. Scepticism, in the sense of thinking and considering issues of truth, should be the mark of good scientists, good politicians, good religious leaders and good citizens.

Robert Willson, Deakin

On changing of minds

Waleed Aly (''Joe Hockey's change of mind not proof of hypocrisy'', Times2, May 30, p5) is being disingenuous. Mr Aly would have been all over Mr Hockey if he didn't have to defend Dr [Andrew] Leigh from the left. When Mr Hockey made comments about uni fees in 1987 he was a 21-year-old undergraduate. Dr Leigh was an academic in economics with a PhD from Harvard when he made his comments about Medicare co-payments and deregulating uni fees. He was widely respected for his views. Mr Aly says he was a student.

Brian Hatch, Red Hill

Weakness of royal rule

Friends of Thailand are mortified that a democracy in a constitutional monarchy can again be overturned by a military coup. Your editorial (''Thai general faces a herculean task'', Times2, May 29, p2) makes only brief mention of the one figure who could restore democratic order, King Bhumibol, who as you say is infirm, but whose wishes are always revered and obeyed. We, as one of only three monarchies in our region have also been blessed with a respected, long-reigning, if remote, monarch in Queen Elizabeth, and no Australian republican with a sense of decency wants to challenge the status quo in her lifetime. But monarchies' great inherent weakness lies in the lottery of the automatic succession: think of the bad egg who inherited the mighty British (and thus Australian) crown in the 1930s, and then abdicated after much political trauma. The Thais' Crown Prince was recently described, with restraint, by The Economist magazine as ''eccentric''.

Our own Crown Prince, Charles Windsor, has also regrettably been called eccentric and lacking in good judgment on occasion. Even staunch monarchists sometimes admit things might need to be Australianised at the end of the Queen's reign. The Thais' prohibitive lese-majeste law prevents such a debate there, but only laziness and a superficial distraction with celebrity worship stop us from working on the necessary, pro-active planning.

C.Lendon, Cook

Part-timers big losers on super

I was an unsuccessful Cornwell claimant (''Super anger in Dept of Finance'', May 30, p1) and subsequentlyone of the 155 applicants for an act-of-grace payment, and then one of the ''about 120'' whose application was denied. Readers, particularly women, may be interested in the basis of my application.

When I started work in the public service, more than 40 years ago, part-timers were not allowed to become permanent and therefore not allowed to join Commonwealth Super, even though many of us wanted to. In 1976 legislation was passed to allow part-timers to join Commonwealth Super, but the timing of this change was left to the treasurer. It was not until 10 years later that the intention of the 1976 legislation was implemented - as part of a series of public service reforms in the mid-1980s. The near 10-year delay caused my superannuation benefit to be based on only 13 instead of 22 years of contributions.

The part-timers were mainly typists and other lowly paid workers and this delay deprived me and many women of super benefits in later life. My act-of-grace application was based on what extra super I would have been entitled to on retirement if my starting date was backdated some 10 years.

Dilys Budd, Curtin

Blowing cold on wind

With reference to Doug Hynd (Letters, May 31), I think it is amply evident, given the figures that we agree on, that despite all the hype over wind energy and lowering wholesale prices, South Australia still has the highest electricity prices in the country. This despite South Australia sourcing up to 30 per cent of energy from ''cheap'' wind resources. So wind energy seems to be making absolutely no difference to the end consumer in SA, even in the face of ample subsidies through the federally mandated RET scheme.

George Papadopoulos, Yass, NSW

To the point


William Maley (Letters, May 28) accused Amanda Vanstone of thuggery because while she was the minister for immigration her department had ''seized and forcibly deported'' an Australian citizen. No thuggery was involved. The deportation occurred because of mistakes caused by Ms Solon's mental illness.

Many people were involved in the deportation, probably including medical staff, police, and immigration officers. Probably all of them acted honourably. Maley has falsely vilified these people as well as Vanstone.

Bob Salmond, Melba


I fear that much of the ''rest of the world'' is not in fact ''looking at us like we are hillbilly rednecks'' (Bill Hall, Letters, May 31) but in fact looking at us as the standard-bearers of a new, nasty, post-UN Convention era.

Before we progress too much further along this path it needs to be asked what will happen to those fleeing persecution, torture and death when every last door to asylum is slammed shut.

Elisabeth Yarbakhsh, Flynn


Turnbull v Abbott - come on Waterhouse, give us your odds.

Linus Cole, Palmerston


The Reformation wouldn't have happened, if it wasn't necessary (''The unforgettable Bill Mandle'', Forum, May 31, p2). Maybe Bill Mandle hoped we would work that out for ourselves. For some time there was good and bad, but the end result has been good for Christianity. Inevitably, there are times when historians are subjective.

Rosemary Lyne, Kingston


I visited the National Museum last week and it was pleasing to see our whole country's history was highlighted, not just us white fellas who came 200-odd years ago. What disgusted me was the Chinese-made T-shirts for sale in the museum shop. How could this be in a place of so-called national pride? There are very good T-shirts made in Australia from Australian cotton.

It is time for all of us to wake up and reclaim our country from those whose only real love is money and wealth.

Bob Mancor, North Geelong, Vic


Our ACTION buses are so poorly patronised that Canberrans have to fork out nearly $100 million a year to cover the losses. What makes the ACT government think people will jump more readily on this thing than on a bus or into their family car, simply because it runs on rails?

(Mrs) Charlotte Beaupipe, Dickson

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