Letters to the editor


Reporting the trial and conviction of Daniel Byrne for recklessly inflicting grievous bodily harm on Timothy McCarthy, the term ''king hit'' is constantly used, even to the extent of saying he was found guilty of ''king-hitting''. This is not a definitive or judicial term, and is apparently used by the media solely for its emotive value.

I hope that Daniel Byrne, who was only 18 at the time of the incident, has not suffered a backlash from the recent Sydney ''king hit'' incident, where a very drunk young man apparently went out looking for someone to fight, and eventually left a young victim dead.

Daniel undoubtedly should have walked away from the embraces of the inebriated Timothy McCarthy, and I am sure he wishes he had. But he did not go out looking for a fight, and it would have been avoided had he and his group not initially been accosted by McCarthy.

Years ago, one of my sons was grabbed and kissed by a middle aged man in Civic. Probably less fit than Daniel, and without friends for back-up, he ran rather than punched. He is now a respected research scientist. But in different circumstances this tragedy could have been his.

Susan Lindsay, Garran

It's time we stopped referring to cowardly, thuggish acts of violence as ''king'' hits. The term glamourises the act and even implies admiration for the force of the punch. Let's simply go with ''thuggish assault'' or ''cowardly punch''.

Mike O'Shaughnessy, Spence

Qantas needed

Your Editorial ''Little to fear from a foreign Qantas'' (Times2, November 29, p2) in effect argues for the foreign takeover of ''Australia's own'' airline, Qantas.

Yet another ''iconic'' (emblematic) Australian business going the way of Arnott's, Cubbie Station, Driza-Bone, Rosella, Speedo, Uncle Toby's, etc, etc. If this keeps up we'll be paying a foreign business, or nation, for the right to live in what was our own country.

More seriously, Qantas has long been identified worldwide with Australia, and has, or at least had, a much-envied reputation as the world's safest airline. It is very much a flag carrier for this nation.

Aircraft belonging to airlines owned or partly owned by national governments can and have been used by them for functions such as rapid troop deployment in times of crisis or war. Commandeering or leasing privately-owned aircraft is a more complex and slower process.

I support remarks made on this issue by Dick Smith on the ABC's Lateline program: The government should, as most other countries do, reduce the now very generous freedom given to foreign-owned airlines to operate into and out of Australian airports.

Douglas Mackenzie, Deakin

Just heard a bloke on ABC radio saying Qantas has $3 billion in cash. This is profit from domestic travel, which is also subsidising its international ambitions. Their problem is that their international competitors have even more money. So in addition to domestic travellers subsidising Qantas' international expansion, now Australian taxpayers look like providing even more dosh.

How do we benefit? I suspect that retail tourist air travel doesn't have a rosy future, and I wouldn't invest in it myself. But if I'm forced by the feds, I want what anyone would want for the money - shares. Not any kind of control, just a piece of the action. Anything wrong with that?

S.W. Davey, Torrens

Bible questions

In supporting the historicity of the Bible, Robert Willson (Letters, November 28) states ''in spite of a few minor inconsistencies'', the New Testament is reliable and inspired by God. But one does not need to read past the first chapter of The New Testament, Matthew Chapter 1, to discover a major inconsistency.

The first 16 verses provide a detailed genealogy of Jesus Christ, ''the son (descendent) of David, the son of Abraham''. The genealogy ends with ''Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ''. Clearly, Joseph is indicated as the biological father of Jesus, otherwise there is no point in presenting his genealogy. On the contrary, verses 18-25, perhaps inserted later, purport to tell the story of Jesus' virgin birth. These two contradictory accounts in the same chapter surely constitute an inconsistency of the highest order.

Colin Robertson, Deakin

Concerns noted

On behalf of the organisers of the Sri Chinmoy Triple-Triathlon staged in and around Canberra on November 24, please convey our gratitude to Geoff Pryor (Letters, November 28) for expressing so eloquently his thoughtful concern for the safety of members of the public using tracks and trails during the course of this event. We have taken his observations to heart and will ensure better precautions in future.

On a lighter note, on behalf of the participants in the event please also thank Mr Pryor for his insightful and generous appraisal of their generic mental acuity.

Prachar Stegemann, events co-ordinator, Sri Chinmoy marathon team (Canberra)

Paying the price

So, the fund-raising sausage sizzle has been saved, the quiche recovered, the Christmas lights turned back on (''Spreading Christmas cheer may come at a cost'', November 28, p1), but, what next? Perhaps we are going to be required to pay a fee to be registered on the electoral role!

What is happening to our local governing body? Don't they already have enough on their plate?

And how much is all of this ''on again, off again'' business costing the taxpayer?

Merran Hunter, Fraser

Postal Scrooge

Recently observing an elderly lady tender $20 for 10 overseas Christmas stamps and expecting change, then told she was $5.50 short and that sea mail was not an option, it became evident that Australia Post must surely be a frontrunner for the role of the Scrooge Who Killed the Christmas Spirit. Last year a card could be sent overseas for $1.60 during November-December but after announcing a profit hike of 10.9 per cent to $312 million in October this year, Australia Post increased the price for the same service by a grotesquely massive 60 per cent to $2.55.

Bemoaning the fact that people aren't using the normal postal service as often as they should, Australia Post's reaction was similar to that of public transport boffins who raise fares in attempts to increase patronage, being a total reversal of normal commercial retail practice

John Murray, Fadden

You don't have to be a Rhodes scholar to understand change

With a Rhodes scholarship and degrees in law and economics under his belt, one might have hoped that our Prime Minister would have possessed above average intelligence and displayed a modicum of tact.

Yet together with his Canadian counterpart, Tony Abbott has joined the monstrous regiment of climate disruption deniers, despite hard scientific evidence and catastrophic manifestations of anthropogenic global warming.

He continues to plunder fossil fuel reserves which contribute to the dumping of 10 billion tonnes annually of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, while ignoring our considerable resources and expertise in clean renewable energy for a sustainable future: www.sustainocene.com (Abbott's legislation repeal moves a step closer, November 22, p4).

Abbott's Oxford boxing blue ensures a pugilistic rather than conciliatory approach to politics and diplomacy, evidenced by his response to the spying fiasco with Indonesia. He won the Coalition leadership ballot by only one vote.

It would be in the interests of our nation (if not of Abbott's ego) if he were replaced in a spill by Malcolm Turnbull, who is popular with the electorate, scientifically literate and has environmental credentials, before Australia's reputation in the international community is further damaged. Tony could then spend more of his considerable energy and persistence by competing in ironman contests.

The recent climate action protests throughout the country were well attended, including substantial numbers of young people, who have most to lose from the business-as-usual inertia, as has been the case in the US.

Bryan Furnass, Hughes

Why spy on SBY?

If we were talking about a revelation that the government had been tapping the phone of Indonesia's military leaders, then the stance taken Tony Abbott would make perfect sense. But to tap the phone of a man such as SBY (and his wife) who has for many years demonstrated so clearly and tangibly that he is a good friend of our country was stupid, totally unjustifiable and absolutely not in Australia's national interests.

The senior departmental officers and the Labor minister (and prime minister) who approved this surveillance showed extremely poor judgment and poor appreciation of the risks to Australia's real interests.

Didn't anyone think of the difficulty it would cause this friend of ours were the surveillance to become public knowledge - and for what? Titbits about the Yudhoyono grandchildren perhaps; the need to get the presidential driver to buy some extra milk on the way home? Tony Abbott should recognise the line he is being peddled by his security establishment and old cold war warriors like former ambassador Philip Flood is rubbish. The world has changed and he has every right to distance himself from the poor judgment of the previous administration in this matter.

Chris Williams, Griffith

Coalition superstars

D.J. Fraser (Letters, November 28) is mistaken if he thinks we Coalition voters are despondent after the first few months of this government. Indeed this Coalition voter is generally happy with their performance.

For example, the Prime Minister has so far handled the inherited spying scandal with measured, sensible determination, which appears to be bearing fruit despite a massive campaign to undermine his efforts.

His performance in this extremely difficult matter augurs well for his prime ministership. The bulldog of the Abbott government is the redoubtable Scott Morrison, who is finally grasping the nettle on people smuggling after five years of utter chaos and early results are very promising. Returning some sanity on our approach to climate change is refreshing and long overdue. How many more billions would we have wasted on utterly futile gestures?

The irrepressible Christopher Pyne makes sense on education and the remnants of the Gonski funding solution are well short of what is needed in education. Pyne has the time and energy to develop a much better arrangement, but he will need to tread warily in light of his utterances before the election.

Joe Hockey has been the star performer in Parliament and has the mammoth task of getting the budget back on course. He shows every indication of growing in the job, which is a welcome change from the ever-shrinking Wayne Swan.

I agree with some that Abbott needs to relax his media squeeze and give his ministers more latitude. His ministers will only grow with more exposure and paradoxically, the tactic seems to be working against him as his political enemies fill the vacuum. It will take time before the government is at its best, but compared to the utter shambles of the past five years, these people are superstars.

H. Ronald, Jerrabomberra, NSW

Special children

Gary J. Wilson (Letters, November 29) notes that ''The UN High Commissioner for Refugees' inspectors found children were living in hot, humid, cramped conditions with little privacy,'' (Refugee report deplores centres, November 27, p4) and says ''I do not understand what is special about these children.''

We can all accept that there is much that Mr Wilson does not understand. In this case, he seems not to understand that what is special about these children is that it was the Australian government that consigned them to these wretched, disgraceful conditions.

(Dr) William Maley, Reid

There are indeed millions of children all over the world living in squalor, but the children dumped like garbage on Nauru cost taxpayers $500,000 each a year to jail while each year 8 million kids die of starvation.

It would be better all around if we stopped creating a deliberate torture regime for a few of the world's 7 million refugee children and spent the money on feeding more of the youngsters living in squalor.

Gary Wilson is truly a kindred spirit of Scott Morrison.

Marilyn Shepherd, Angaston, SA

Dismissing the Gonski report squanders our future

The government's reneging on the Gonski education reforms has clearly broken a pre-election promise, but did not surprise me. Trying to placate people by simply throwing more money around misses the point that the report was not just about amounts of money, but how it is distributed.

What angers me most is the dismissive way the Education Minister has brushed aside substantive work by a team of experts, years of research, more than 7000 submissions, and consultation with educationalists and school authorities.

Does he think he has a better understanding of Australia's education needs than that gained with the combined input of so many experts? How well researched can his alternative model be if he is only allowing six months to put it together?

To dismiss the Gonski report is not only an incredible waste of time, money and goodwill, it deprives the country of its important objective: to provide equal opportunity for all children by taking needs into account when setting funding.

I taught at an affluent private school that received substantial grants despite having lavish facilities compared with government schools.

I have also been involved with a school system in which every child had great opportunities to reach their full potential. As a result, children from remote or poor backgrounds became leaders in a number of fields.

If we draw largely on those from higher socio-economic groups for future ''star performers'', we are greatly reducing the country's potential and productivity. Given the inequality of our schools, that seems to be where we are heading.

Young people are our future, and it is our responsibility to ensure that all of them are given the chance to reach their full potential, not only for their own good but for the good of our country. The Gonski report aimed to do this. To throw such an opportunity away would be our great loss.

G. Ford, Kambah



Google lets you search all sorts of things, including speech quirks of prime ministers. After the gung-ho Abbottery of the previous term and the election campaign, we are now deep into the territory of prevarication, apology, clarification, obfuscation and core/non-core. Accordingly, it would be appropriate to start addressing our glorious leader as ''Tony Yeah, but''. This little verbal tick has always been there, lurking beneath the bravado (check it out via Google) but now his actions have caught up.

David Stephens, Bruce


The alliteration of Catholic archbishops remarked on by Brian McGlynn (Letters, November 25) is pure coincidence.

C is a very common consonant. If there is an exception to a rule, that rule is busted. To prove, in this context, is to test, not to confirm. For example, we proof-test ammunition to minimise the percentage that misfires and dump any batch that fails. So let's dump the silly idea, so often cited, that an exception proves the rule in the sense of confirming it.

Colin P. Glover, Canberra City


The answer to fast-food litter (Letters, November 26 and 29) is for the customers to put their rubbish in the bins provided at the outlets. It is quite beyond me why people choose to litter. Why is it the responsibility of fast-food places to ensure their customers do not litter? Has all personal responsibility for our actions now been delegated?

S. Redston, Chisholm


Further to Derek Emerson-Elliott (Letters, November 28), while I'm not a fan of Bodyline, the main target and most outspoken opponent was Don Bradman. In the 1948 Invincibles tour, while Lindwall and Miller were (legally) wiping the floor with English batsmen, he was prowling the outfield with a smirk all over his face. Dishing it out was OK.

Bob Gardiner, Kambah


I sympathise with Geoff Barker's plight (Letters, November 28). I posted my telephone account to Telstra in their reusable envelope, having crossed out my name and drawing a large arrow pointing towards the Telstra address on the reverse side. It was returned to me not once but twice. Trying to explain the sorry saga to a postal official was another matter altogether.

Judith-Ann Sjostedt, Higgins


Cold. Boring. Recalcitrant (CBR). No seriously, I like it.

Gordon Edwards, Page

Email: letters.editor@canberratimes.com.au. Send from the message field, not as an attached file. Fax: 6280 2282. Mail: Letters to the Editor, The Canberra Times, PO Box 7155, Canberra Mail Centre, ACT 2610.

Keep your letter to 250 words or less. References to Canberra Times reports should include date and page number. Letters may be edited. Provide phone number and full home address (suburb only published).