I have just received a rather shocking phone call from a member of staff at the CSIRO asking what I could tell him about an old building on the CSIRO Entomology site at Black Mountain. While I retired from the position of manager, engineering services and buildings, with CSIRO Entomology in 1990, he felt I may be able to provide information regarding one of the original insectary buildings known as the ''Bull Pen''. He required information about it because ''CSIRO had just received permission to demolish the building as it was now unsound''.
This is disgraceful. The building in question, while certainly not in first-class condition in 1990, was clearly a heritage structure and recognised as such. The details of it were documented and should still be available in the CSIRO records, both at Black Mountain and head office in Limestone Avenue.
This building was one of the first insectary buildings to be built by CSIRO and at the time it was the first insectary in the world to have been constructed specifically to allow research to be carried out on live cattle. There is no way this building should be allowed to be demolished just so that some modern structure can be built in its place.
I appeal to the CSIRO executive to step in and prevent this act of vandalism.
Murray Upton, Belconnen
Greens fill gap
In contrasting the Greens and the Australian Labor Party, M. Gordon (Letters, January 31) makes some good points. On the overly simplistic ''left-right'' comparator, I think the Greens now occupy the political space that the ALP occupied only a few decades ago. I was a member of the British Labour Party in the late 1990s, but like the ALP they moved to the right and left me behind. Outside the environmental arena, perhaps even within it, I suspect there are few Greens policies that were not also policies of the ALP in the past, and even some unions recognise that.
Peter Marshall, Captains Flat
Time to call stumps
Could the media please stop talking so much about cricket! How can you talk so much about a sport that is properly played by only eight countries? Every shield match is watched only by family members and friends of the players (I almost forgot the seagulls). The only time cricket wakes up the sporting public is during the Ashes and that is because the opposition is English.
So let's save some money and redirect cricket's budget to more popular sports like darts and lawn balls.
G. Coquillette, Spence
Ill will is unhealthy
Colonel Blimp is alive and well and writing under the pseudonym R.C. Warn (Letters, January 27). Under the colonel's prescription, when those Johnny Foreigners to our north-west start calling us names, it's time to show them who's (still) the boss around here with a dose of sabre-rattling.
Never mind that wielding ''soft power'' and building better lives by providing aid is far more influential than old-fashioned gunboat diplomacy; I was still particularly enamoured of the good colonel's innovative logic in summing up a diverse nation of 240 million people.
The funny thing is, his letter decrying Indonesian ''ill-will'' makes just as much sense if you swap Australia and Indonesia in the text.
David Jenkins, Casey
A wheel bother
As one who dabbles in cycling, I spend a lot of time defending cyclists to non-cyclist friends (many of whom seem quite unreasonable on the subject). I will, however, never attempt to defend the appalling behaviour of the pack of 20 cyclists which regularly hogs Lady Denman Drive about 6.20am. On this single-lane road, this pack of cyclists forces motorists to follow them for several kilometres at 35km/h.
Besides being selfish and discourteous, it is dangerous to the cyclists and other road users. If you encounter this pack, call the police on 131 444 and report them as a traffic hazard.
Lynn Harden, Campbell
Check roo results
While some of your correspondents have argued the merits of darting and the translocation of kangaroos (Letters, January 26), let's get back to the basic question: is the wholesale killing of kangaroos in the Canberra Nature Park really necessary? Has the culling of kangaroos since 2008 made any significant difference in protecting the grasslands for the threatened species that are meant to be the beneficiaries?
The answer is, ''We don't know.'' The ACT government has failed to carry out the necessary work of ongoing measurement and review. The government simply promotes a 2010 kangaroo management plan that has been shown to be inadequate and is more about politics than protecting wildlife. Before we cull any more wildlife, perhaps we should check what the impact has been so far.
By the way, contrary to Peter Johnstone's views (Letters, January 26), the outcry over the Belconnen naval station cull in 2008 was all about the ham-fisted approach taken by the contractors who undertook the work. The darting of animals can be done safely and at low risk - but, as we all know, it should not be done as it was at Belconnen.
Philip Machin, Wamboin
Key to good service
Three years ago I bought a new car of a well-known make and model, commonly seen around Canberra. Several touring accessories such as roof rack, tow bar and fridge were included.
A few months ago I realised that I did not have the key to unlock a particular mechanism. The dealer I bought the car from was unable or unwilling to help, and recommended I contact a well-known national retailer of such accessories. I visited the nearest branch and explained my problem. He did not stock this key but indicated he would refer the issue to another staff member with more expertise and get back to me. No call was ever received.
Some weeks later I tried my luck at another of the retailer's stores. The main interest of this retailer was to ensure I was out of the shop by five but he also listened to my problem and indicated he would get back to me. Again, no call.
In desperation, I found the website of the Swedish company which manufactures the accessory. I sent it an email explaining my problem. I received a reply within a couple of hours - sent at 6.39am Swedish time - which read: ''Please email your address and we will send you the key.''
This was 13 days ago and the key arrived in the post today (at no cost to me). There is clearly a considerable difference between the service standards in Australia and other parts of the world.
Measures should be taken to guard against undue secrecy
Ian Boyd, Giralang
There are usually excellent reasons for not signalling policy issues too early and equally good reasons for guarding national security. But there is always a tendency, as WikiLeaks has illustrated, to try to conceal issues that are bureaucratic gobbledegook.
The Coalition is right to try to cool the sensationalist nonsense associated with illegal arrivals but not to the point of closing up the shop altogether. Its silly and self-interested attacks on the ABC are a tiny but worrying step away from open democracy. The majority of the Coalition party room are not fascists, any more than the majority of the ALP are Marxists, although there are odd dills who promote extremist values.
We need cool heads in Parliaments, and the public services must take a strong stand against unnecessary secrecy or political nastiness. The media also needs to restrain some journalists and broadcasters from espousing extremist views.
Dr Ian Welch, Mawson
Adam Johnson's novel, The Orphan Master's Son, set in North Korea, can perhaps lend some guidance towards resolving the stoush between Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott over the ABC (Canberra Times, January 30, p5). As our national broadcaster, the ABC is an under-exploited resource. Why not have it provide 24-hour streaming of controlled content into every house, office, and business, with mandatory listening required of all citizens? Who among us could then doubt the vision and daring of our Dear Leader and his loyal servants?
Our ABC could thrill us with stories of turning back those wretches who go to the most desperate measures to reach our shores, and tales of battles against those who would deprive us of a strong economy by protecting natural resources as if they were relics in a museum.
Our hearts would break at our Dear Leader's tenderness in providing for the elderly, the disabled, the infirm, and we would know the honour and respect he has for our First Nation people. How proud we would be of his dedication to science and the arts. We would be assured that our children could not receive a better education anywhere in the world.
Who would not be ready to approach the day with enthusiasm after waking each morning to a rousing round of our team song, On the Side of Australia, Right or Wrong?
Catherine Mauk, Higgins
More taxes needed
I was pleased to see Dan Harrison's short article ''Figures show spending fear 'not justified''' in Saturday's Canberra Times (January 25) because it gives the lie to the government's line that welfare spending is too high.
Using OECD figures, Harrison shows that welfare spending in Australia accounts for only 8.6 per cent of national economic output, which is not only lower than the OECD average of 13 per cent, it is also lower than the US expenditure of 9.7 per cent. Of 34 industrialised countries, only Iceland - at 7.3 per cent - has a lower welfare expenditure.
This information - and the fact that, at 26.5 per cent of gross domestic product, Australia is the fifth lowest taxed OECD member state - shows that the real financial problem facing our country is that taxes are too low. Of the 23 richest countries with populations of more than 3 million, Australia has the fifth most unequal distribution of wealth and the seventh highest incidence of health and social problems (see The Spirit Level by Wilkinson and Pickett). You can see who needs to pay more.
Chris Ansted, Garran
Kill off shark cull
Recent polls have shown that an overwhelming number of Australians oppose the culling of sharks and do not live in fear of going into the water. Despite this, the Western Australian government is laying drum lines with cruel hooks that will catch not only sharks but dolphins, turtles and rays, and cause them agonising deaths.
Since 1580, there have been fewer than 500 fatal shark attacks on humans around the world. Humans pose a much bigger threat to sharks than they ever will to us. Every year, humans pull roughly 100 million sharks from the water, slice off their fins to make soup, and throw their mutilated bodies back into the sea to bleed slowly to death. Many shark species are endangered because of human exploitation.
How can the federal Environment Minister condemn Japan for its indiscriminate killing of whales and dolphins and still credibly allow the WA government to kill the protected great white shark? Shark experts from the University of Western Australia have advised that this barbaric, knee-jerk reaction is pointless, as increased incidents with sharks are attributable to a growing human population and therefore more people entering the water.
Des Bellamy, PETA Australia
Wrong to cut troops' cash
I was disgusted to see media reports predicting cuts to active troops' allowances! Politicians should look closer to home - to their own grossly inflated salaries, allowances and so-called entitlements - if they have to achieve significant budget savings.
Overseas ''study'' trips, personal libraries, postage allowances and electoral allowances spring to mind. Their ability to access their generously indexed superannuation earlier than the rest of us should also be at the top of the list. That is before we get to the offices, cars and free travel.
I suggest a panel of eminent persons from academia, the law and business (certainly not serving politicians or ex-politicians) be appointed, specifically to recommend severe reductions in the cost of maintaining politicians, in the same way that politicians cut public service staff and consequently services to the people of Australia. Not just a bland review, but one with the objective of saving millions of dollars, as the cuts to military allowances are purported to achieve.
Peter Baxter, Symonston
Time to cost Green Square's grooming
Peter Fuller (Letters, January 27) is concerned that rate- payers will have to pay for the water used for a re-grassed Green Square. Assuming the sprinklers run 15 minutes daily for half the year and three times a week the rest of the time, the amount of water used would be 35.7 kilolitres which, at the top charge rate of $5.10 per kilolitre, amounts to $182 a year. Compare this to the rate- payer subsidy of $800 per game (or $100 per attendee) to the AFL/Western Sydney commercial football team.
Stephen Brown, Forrest.
On the contrary, Helen O'Riordan (Letters, January 30), if anyone should ''find some spare change to put on a sausage sizzle'' for Green Square, it should be the Kingston shopkeepers who have put ACT ratepayers to the expense of changing the area's landscaping. They've already had enough from the public purse.
Peter Fuller, Chifley
How the word turns
Discussion of careen/career may be an example of the way meaning changes as a result of ignorance. My Concise Oxford Dictionary (1952 edition) says careen means to turn (a ship) on one side for cleaning, caulking or cause to heel over while career means, among other things, to go swiftly or wildly. The meaning of these words has changed since 1952 (and newer dictionaries have adopted those new meanings) because people have used the words wrongly - as they have with problematic, decimate, fulsome, enormity and many others.
Barrie Virtue, Jerrabomberra
To the point
Anne Prendergast (Letters, January 24) views the act of asylum seekers stitching their lips together as an indication of untrustworthiness.
In reality, it is a plea for help by very desperate people and a metaphor for their lack of a voice. I have more problems with the trustworthiness of Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison, who have metaphorically sewn their lips together to avoid scrutiny of the morality of their policies and actions.
Tony Judge, Belconnen
The letters correcting Peter Stanley's use of ''careen'' (as in turning a ship on its side for cleaning, caulking or repair) and saying it also means ''to move swiftly and in an uncontrolled way'' is an example of how Americans' inability to understand standard English and to confuse two similarly-spelt words, and coupled with their ability to widely promulgate American English, shows how Americanisms rapidly overtake original meanings and that unknowing Australians also use them.
Dallas Stow, O'Connor
It is not the role of the ABC to act as propagandist for Australia, and particularly not the government. That is the role of Newscorp.
David Jenkins, Casey
So Tony Abbott thinks the Australian Broadcasting Corporation is Un-Australian.
I am looking forward to his government setting up the House Un-Australian Activities Committee.
John Passant, Kambah
Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has hit a new low in siding with the biased and unprofessional ABC instead of his own Prime Minister. He belongs in the Greens, not the Coalition.
Fabio Scalia, Windsor (Vic)
ACCENT SPEAKS LOUD
If Heather Ponting's Glaswegian immigrant ancestors (Letters, January 30) had had their children removed from them because clearly no one with such a barbaric accent could possibly raise civilised offspring, she might have a different view of dispossession and victimisation.
Mark Westcott, Farrer
GREENS' BLIND SPOT
The Greens are not alone in seeing themselves as right and those who disagree with them as wrong (M. Gordon, Letters, January 31).
Don't we all, and all political parties, tend to do this?
Michael McCarthy, Deakin
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