If Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce spent less time bemoaning the so-called unfair disadvantage that Virgin Australia has over his airline and more time on ensuring his airline provides a friendly and helpful service, clean aircraft, good food both in the air - and in the lounge - he may see his passenger numbers climb. They boast about their frequent-flyer program as being the best, but try getting an international award flight when you need one without points being gouged with the any-seat option.

I dumped the airline in March 2013 as my preferred carrier. I have watched a once-great airline deteriorate to a low-class carrier domestically and internationally and I have flown first, business and economy. Mr Joyce should try a few flights with Virgin domestically and a few Asian carriers internationally and he may just see where Qantas has gone wrong. Service and food are the least expensive things an airline can offer to its paying guests. Yes guests, not the cattle they herd on board. And Qantas customer care? An oxymoron. Good on Virgin Australia for lifting itself from being a hip hop airline to what I believe is Australia's standout domestic carrier.

Warren Prince, Weetangera

Alan Joyce's request for ''a level playing field'' with the Virgin Australia partners is open for debate, although a decision is not high on the government's list of priorities. (One part of the playing field that is already level is the payment by both airlines of carbon taxes in the EU and Australia. This cost passed on to passengers in 2012.) It's said that Qantas cannot match Virgin's borrowing advantages because of the restrictions on foreign ownership, a grey area, since overseas-based investment funds are already major shareholders. It's also claimed that even Qantas' favoured status in the domestic market (65 per cent) may not protect it from a credit downgrade.

Argument so far weighs on the side of amending the Qantas Act. Changing the legislation will be opposed by those who hope to find some way of allocating taxpayer funds to protect Australian jobs and keep strategic aviation and engineering capabilities onshore. An analogy with the car industry crisis will be in the forefront of our elected representatives' minds, especially with the closure of the Avalon heavy-maintenance facility to close in March 2014.

Any bail-out option should include the condition that significant capabilities be retained in Australia. The Howard decision regarding Ansett Australia is not relevant. Even if Qantas becomes a test case for ''open- for-business Australia'', it can still wear the flying kangaroo brand with pride. After all, Vegemite is still an Aussie icon, isn't it?

Susan Marshall, Chifley

Cap in hand, Alan Joyce unashamedly lobbies employees to engage in chanting that ''Qantas wants govt guarantee on its debt'' (November, 29, p6). So this is the free market at work! After cutting, outsourcing, downsizing and wholesale job exporting, the privatised corporation can't detach itself from taxpayer mother's-milk supply!

Albert M. White, Queanbeyan, NSW

Iran nuclear twin

The nuclear deal with Iran allows Iran to retain nuclear infrastructure that six previous UN Security Council resolutions demanded be dismantled. While it doesn't allow Iran to actually have a nuclear weapons program, it means the international community will need to be vigilant to stop this. Yet Amin Saikal describes it as a ''diplomatic triumph for the two sides'' (''Israel the loser in Iran deal, November 28). It certainly is a diplomatic triumph for Iran. Saikal claims this deal proves Iran does not have a military nuclear program. The fact that Iran refused previous deals that would have allowed it uranium suitable for peaceful but not military purposes proves the opposite.

All the deal proves is that the sanctions were biting hard enough to force Iran to try a tactic other than outright defiance.

Saikal himself lets the cat out of the bag later in his article when he places Iran's ''nuclear technology'' as a counter to Israel's ''military might including nuclear bombs'' as factors in a possible military confrontation.

Saikal also suggests that Iran's leadership wants to end the hostility towards the West, and even Israel, but just last week, Supreme Leader Khamenei said that ''Zionist officials cannot be called humans'',''The Israeli regime is doomed to failure and annihilation,'' and the ''Zionist regime'' is the ''rabid dog of the region.''

Athol Morris, Forde

Concert triumph

The staging of a massive outdoor event on an exposed greenfields site with no permanently installed infrastructure while accommodating the needs of the new arboretum to operate as a public venue has its own logistical issues. It takes someone with an idea, a vision, the courage to take a risk, a willingness to persevere against complex legal compliance requirements, an acute awareness of the duty of care required to implement the logistics involved and the effort required to encourage the contribution of private sponsorship with the only commercial reward being the opportunity to be acknowledged through tactful (tacky?) promotion commensurate with their financial commitment.

Voices in the Forest is a new and evolving concept.

The children running around during the event has been the subject of much debate. This year a separate children's program was provided in the new Margaret Whitlam Pavilion. It is, after all, an opera concert - not a children's fun day.

As the site is now a functioning public venue, the concert area requires separation from the general public areas - hence the industrial building site fences. All large public events these days are required and expected to have a security presence - a regulatory, safety and duty of care issue - who need to be easily identifiable and accessible. All security staff were courteous and friendly.

The financial backer (also the visionary, founder, driver, organiser and main advocate of the event and private-sector supporter of the arboretum) spoke to the crowd to move a vote of thanks to all those involved - the performers, musicians, volunteers, arboretum personnel and many others including the financial sponsors.

Surely this one-off opportunity should not be denied?

Do the organisers welcome feedback? Absolutely - their contact details are easily found. One wonders what drives certain people like Gary Lewis (Letters November 27) to denigrate the efforts of hundreds in the public sphere?

Geoff Carter, Garran

Abbott well versed in Jesuit art of withholding the truth

We all know that Tony Abbott was brought up in the Jesuit tradition, attending primary school at St Aloysius' College at Milsons Point [and] St Ignatius College, Riverview (both Jesuit schools). So perhaps it is no accident that Mr Abbott is well practiced in the Jesuit art of mental reservation and equivocation.

The linked doctrines of mental reservation and equivocation became notorious during the Elizabethan and Jacobean eras, when Jesuits, who had entered England to minister to the spiritual needs of Catholics in an antagonistic Anglican environment, were questioned by the authorities in regard to their loyalties.

To avoid incriminating themselves, they invented mental reservation as a form of deception which, they argued, was not an outright lie, but ethically a legitimate way both to tell the truth and to keep secrets from those not entitled to know them. Mental reservation, however, was regarded as unjustifiable without grave reason for withholding the truth. This condition was considered necessary at that time to preserve a general idea of truth in social relations.

How is mental reservation applied in practice? In strict mental reservation, the speaker mentally adds some qualification to the words he utters, and the words together with the mental qualification constitute a true assertion in accordance with fact, such as when Mr Abbott appeared to promise unity with Labor on Gonski, but did not disclose his mental reservations to the public. Thus he was able to mislead the public without actually lying. Isn't he clever?

Adrian van Leest, Campbell

Why are so many surprised by the Coalition's apparent decision to break their promise to implement the same education package as the former Labor government?

Prime Minister Abbott was quite clear (in a 2010 interview) that the only statements made by him (and presumably, his ministers), voters should take as the ''gospel truth'' were those that had been ''carefully prepared and scripted''.

His pre election promise to run a ''unity ticket'' with the government on education, was obviously an off-the-cuff remark and the electorate should have known better than to take him seriously.

Bart Meehan, Calwell

My mother used to say, ''The truth told with the intent to deceive is still a lie''. She was right.

Janelle Caiger, Stirling

Get behind Pyne

Australia deserves a first-class education system and the so-called Gonski model is well short of the mark.

Christopher Pyne was extraordinarily ham-fisted in the way he announced his intentions to revamp the existing arrangements, but rather than throw our hands in the air in dismay, would it not be better to see this as an opportunity?

Away from the pressures of an election, which saw Julia Gillard desperate to sign stakeholders onto the remnants of an education reform that had become a dog's breakfast, the Commonwealth and the states can now sit down and thrash out a truly first-class arrangement.

We owe it to our children and our country to get behind Pyne and make it happen once and for all.

H. Ronald, Jerrabomberra, NSW

Christopher Pyne, in saying that more money for schools will not affect educational outcomes, has clearly noticed that increased parliamentary salaries has not led to better government.

Bea Duncan, Barton

May we recommend - Pynes' Pickle, the Refreshing Reducation Relish, ideal for State salads, your children will love it, available at Private School outlets, coming soon.

B. West, Yarralumla

Economic slow learners

It must be a close race between Scott Morrison (''I know everything but I will tell you nothing about the nothing I do'') and Christopher Pyne (''John Howard's schools funding model would be a good starting point'') to take over Kevin Andrews' title of most incompetent minister since Federation.

Mind you, Kevin is not giving up his title without a fight. He is still touting the Coalition's claim that abandoning the carbon tax will reduce average household expenses by $550 a year despite this claim having been proved unsustainable. He is also demonstrating that like most of his Coalition colleagues he is an economic slow learner, describing the national debt as a ''financial albatross''. Que?

T.J. Marks, Holt

Stable and monarch-less

Robert Willson (Letters, December 2) is probably correct when he says Australians will be reluctant to change to a republic without very good reason. However I would question the implied assertion that our freedom and stability is a consequence of being a constitutional monarchy - and in our case with a non-resident, foreign-born monarch as head of state.

I am more inclined to think it results directly and only from the work and patriotism of generations of Australians and their elected representatives whom monarchists with their divided loyalties seem to distrust. Citizens of free and stable republics like Switzerland, France, Germany etc seem to have more faith in their own people.

Jim Adamson, Flynn

Simple and plug-in

Gorden Fyfe (Letters, November 31) yearns for a new but simple car without excessive complications. I recommend the Mitusbishi i-MiEV town car we just bought. The instruments are simple and mechanically it is even simpler. It has a battery under the floor and all the workings -one simple reduction gear and an electric motor sit as one lump between the back wheels. The service interval for coolant fluid is 20 years.

Choose forwards or reverse and then it is simply point and drive. Plug into an ordinary power point when you get home.

Peter Campbell, Cook

Canberra missing out on Skywhale glory

I am blessed to reside in the ACT. I continually contemplate this thought while gazing out over Mount Ainslie sipping one of the many world-class local wines. Last weekend, I travelled to Melbourne to drink more wine. The taste of this wine was spoilt though, and not by corkage. I unfortunately read a small article in The Age referring to ''Patricia Piccinini's Skywhale''. It went on to say that on December 2 ''thought-provoking and controversial artist Piccinini will discuss her floating whale with arts administrator Robyn Archer in a ticketed event at ACCA's auditorium''.

Her Skywhale? discussed with ''arts administrator Robyn Archer''? No mention of Canberra's centenary here. Recalling that Piccinini was paid a substantial amount of our taxpayers' money to design the balloon for Canberra's centenary as was Archer caused me to snort out a small amount of wine in disgust.

I recall our Chief Minister at the time stating how this would be ''great publicity for our wonderful city''. I thought at the time that ultimately it would be utilised for the self-glorification of Piccinini and Archer.

If I had been there on December 2 I most certainly would have attended this event but I fear wine may have been ejected from somewhere other than my nostrils.

T. J. Farquahar, Ainslie

Some sense, please

Rather than being a smarty pants, Prachar Stegemann (Letters, December 2) would do well to heed Geoff Pryor's criticism of Sri Chinmoy runners barrelling down the Kokoda Track on Mount Ainslie at risk to walkers.

If the ACT government deems there is a problem, we are likely to see specially trained and licensed lollipop persons directing runners and walkers and traffic lights on the track to manage their potentially dangerous activity. Some civility and common sense from Sri Chinmoy, please.

Dennis Grant, Narrabundah




I always thought it was Labor that kept shooting itself in the foot, but no! Now it's our Coalition government: Indonesia, security and meat co-operation from same, China, Gonski, robbing pensioners - there are five or six toes gone already.

Olle Ziege, Kambah


The multi full-page ad in Saturday's Canberra Times confirms that the ACT government's $2.6 million program is not about attracting tourists, students, workers or businesses, but to stroke Canberrans' egos.

Ed Dobson, Hughes

Well, at least it has given the CBRarrians something to talk about (''Capturing the capital's vibe'', Editorial, Forum, November 30, p6)!

Allan Gibson, Cherrybrook, NSW

Let's dispel the myth that Canberra is just a boring public service town by using a logo comprised of envelopes. It might just work.

Stephen Barber, Narrabundah


The Howard government created WorkChoices and now the Abbott government has created Education Choices.

Rob Ewin, Campbell


Hurrah for Peter Sutherland (Letters, November 29)! He must be Canberra's penultimate person to differentiate ''affect'' (and also ''effect''?) from current, almost universal, use of ''impact'' to describe a meteor's arrival through to a zephyr's caress or the subtleties of judicial decisions.

Ken Keeling, Bruce


Sledging is bullying, and can have the same effect on some individuals as bullying does. There should be no toleration of it in any sport. Defence of sledging because it has been going on for a long time - and others do it - could be applied to other unacceptable behaviours, including the sexual abuse of children. Cricket Australia should show moral leadership before the second Test by adopting a zero-tolerance-of-sledging policy.

C. Williams, Forrest


David Denham (Letters, November 29) catalogues some of Tony Abbott's many failings. Some will view climate change policy as yet another failing. Abbott is now chair of the G20. Can anyone contemplate Abbott chairing a G20 debate on climate change? Or will Abbott, as chair, omit climate change from the agenda? Is it too much to hope that Liberal Party members of Parliament will replace Abbott before the G20?

Ernst Willheim, Forrest


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