Letters to the Editor

Light rail vote call

We need to have an election to resolve the matter of light rail for Canberra. This must happen before the government locks us into contracts. I say this for one simple reason: the government has no mandate for pursuing light rail in the form now proposed. In the run-up to the 2012 election the Labor Party committed $30million over 2013-2015 to undertake concept and design work, including working out the finance and delivery methods.

We have private companies talking to government about the public-private partnership details, so "something" has indeed been worked out. The government now needs to come clean about the annual cost to taxpayers. What we have picked up is that fare revenue will go to government and that the government will pay the operator a yearly fee. It is therefore no surprise that there is a queue of private operators lining up for their regular payment from taxpayers, but we don't know how much we will be up for.  I am a ratepayer and it is my money. Together with my fellow citizens I want to be in on the decision-making.

We ought to be in a position to be able to decide whether we think the cost is worth it, and we need to be able to vote on it in 2016.

Terry Werner,  Wright  


Emissions excuse


Dave Southgate (Letters,  February 11) makes a very valid point about the use of electric buses in public transport in the ACT. However, in the April 2012 "factsheet" for the proposed Gungahlin-City rapid transit system, the existence and use of electric-powered buses (trolley buses, but applies equally to battery buses) was acknowledged but dismissed as an option for Canberra because "... emissions are simply shifted to where the electricity is generated". 

Obviously, in the case of the proposed electric trams, the electricity which they will consume comes solely from non-polluting sources which are not avaiIable to electric buses.  The use of electric buses is a vital element in providing for Canberra's public transport needs, but that will not happen unless there is an outbreak of common sense in the current ACT government. I shall not be holding my breath for that to occur.

Paul E. Bowler,  Holder 


Reaction disturbing

The Prime Minister's attack last week on Professor Gillian Triggs for the Forgotten Children's Report is deeply disturbing.

The Human Rights Commission has conducted a thoroughly researched, balanced report bringing to all our attention the tragic implications of our continued practice of holding children in detention. Mr Abbott's efforts refusal to engage with the substance of the report does this country no service. Both major parties need to consider it seriously and amend their policies accordingly. 

Janet Hunt, Dickson  

Irregardless of the timing of the report's release and childish reactions on both sides of Parliament, the facts contained in the report cannot be denied. It is shameful the way both Labor and Liberal governments in this country have treated those seeking asylum – whether by "legal" or "illegal" means of entry. Where is the humanity? We are talking about people's lives. On the one hand Parliament condemns the pending executions of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, but remains strangely silent on our treatment of asylum seekers apart from vigorously denying any adverse reports. 

Janet Thomas, Kaleen 


The 1per cent

Climate change and vaccination seem to be very similar – 99per cent of us accept the overwhelming scientific evidence and the other 1per cent hold to outdated or discredited opinions with no scientific validation. Chris Morgan's letter (Letters,  February 11) demonstrates admirably the approach of the latter group in respect of vaccination. The most basic investigations demonstrate that vaccines are not completely safe? The public are unwittingly used as guinea pigs? Adverse reactions are under-reported? Recipients are not informed of the full range of side effects? Governments and manufacturers dodge responsibilities in the timely care of those  damaged by adverse reactions? And, best of all, "this industry" will always arouse suspicion because the TGA receives funding from "these manufacturers"?

A swathe of unsupported allegations without a single shred of evidence to support any of them. In Henry Belot's article cited by Morgan, Dr Liedvogel said, "There's no issue with people voicing their own opinions but, if you start voicing those opinions in a public forum, then you need to have some scientific evidence to back that up." Exactly – where is the scientific evidence for even one of your assertions, Chris Morgan?

Lindsay Graham,  Garran 


Nuclear worries

Your editorial "SA leans towards the nuclear option" (Times2,  February 11, p2) asserts that nuclear power stations cause fewer deaths than coal power stations, and that they do less harm to the environment. I suggest neither of these claims is reliable.

First, we can't do the maths on safety till we know the frequency of region-destroying or even nation-destroying nuclear accidents (such as Fukushima at one stage threatened to be). If these occur even once per 200 years, then nuclear power (even if none of the radioactive material gets made into weapons) may be far more dangerous than coal.

Second, nuclear advocates seem not to appreciate the environmental and strategic disaster that nuclear-fission power stations become in time of war. They are a huge liability then, because they are impossible to hide. You might as well build a series of nuclear bombs and paint a big target-sign on each.

Perhaps the case for going nuclear might be re-opened once the proposed new designs for fission reactors have been shown to work reliably, once we have credible evidence that neither nuclear fusion nor cheap solar power are going to happen, and once we are confident there will be no more major wars.

Mark O'Connor Lyneham 


Put concisely

The  article "DFAT put on alert its travel warnings boring" (February 12, p4)  quotes the Audit Office's report into DFAT as saying: "Reducing the length of advisories, improving the conciseness of messages and using simpler language would also make advisories more accessible ..."

Presuming that "improving conciseness" means making the advisories more concise, isn't it saying the same thing as "reducing the length of advisories"? Perhaps the Audit Office should practise what it preaches.

Greg Pinder, Charnwood 


Seal the road all the way call makes sense

Brian Barlin's call to seal the Canberra to Brindabella road makes a lot of sense ("Mountain road should be sealed, says station owner", February 12,p3). Our worst bushfires come from the Brindabellas so it is just logical to have sealed roads out there for maximum efficiency in fighting any fires that might be bearing down on Canberra. 

This road is also the quickest access point for Canberrans to take the kids for a quick look at the snow when it comes down. Every year ACT Parks pull dozens of family cars out of bogs and off the edge of the mountain because they slide off in deep mud. I have also heard the claim that the unsealed section of road has one of the highest accident rates anywhere in the ACT. No government has ever been able to explain why the sealed section just suddenly stops only a few kilometres from the ACT/NSW border anyway. The government needs to explain why the road invites people to use it as a sealed road at the Cotter, only to have the last seven kilometres turn into a gravel pit. 

Robbie Swan, Torrens 


Bus ride blues

Shane Rattenbury ("Parking fees fail to boost ACTION patronage", February  12, p4) is puzzled. My experience is: Third World vehicles with stuffing protruding from seats; Mums with prams and people in wheelchairs refused boarding on same; hour-long gaps between services during the day; meandering routes (eg, Red Hill to Civic is car 15 mins, bus 40 mins ); and car parks around Parliamentary triangle now half empty but wall-to-wall parking in suburbs. Imagine the transformations possible if the money to be spent on one light rail was invested in a modern bus service for all Canberra.

Lyn Bannerman, Red Hill 


Follow the money for a lesson in buying political support

I  recommend Joe Hockey reads Richard Dennis' article "Undoing Howard's reckless spending" (Forum, May 10, 2014, p9) in which the author identifies several issues introduced by John Howard as the 2007 federal election approached, with the dual purpose of having his government re-elected and saving his own seat. 

The most significant example of Howard's reckless spending was to double the age pensions assets test. This had the effect of allowing applicants now to have $1.1million in assets in addition to their home and still receive a part pension. 

The article comments that as a result of this change, it delivered large amounts of taxpayers' money to his [Howard's] political base. This was followed by Howard's decision to abolish the indexation of fuel excise (since reintroduced ) and the introduction of huge and permanent income tax cuts.

Richard Dennis raises some considerations which in part explain reasons for increased spending. The rapid rate of population growth and the cost of superannuation tax concessions, which Mr Dennis claims are rising faster than the cost of health or cost of the age pension.

If, as Mr Hockey states, the "age of entitlement" is over and there is some "heavy lifting" to be done, then "doesn't he get it" that this must be shared throughout the community.

The federal government I am sure understands why it is so far down in the opinion polls. The number of lies they have told before and during the elections followed by a number of issues raised in the 2014 budget, without even attempting to have any public conversations is disliked by "the punters".

Tony Abbott was quick to label Julia Gillard as the worst prime minister in history. That title has now surely been captured.

Malcolm Thurston,  Nicholls  


ICC membership

In his article "What does Palestinian membership of the International Criminal Court mean for Australia?"  (Times2,  February 9, p5), David Knoll asserts we have taken a "myopic" view on this issue ("Gaza conflict our concern", Times2, January 29, p5). While many of Mr Knoll's views are valid, several of his criticisms do not reflect the points made by us, including concerns about the international legal status of Palestine as a state.

 The fact is that Palestine's membership of the International Criminal Court  has been confirmed by both the ICC and the UN Secretary-General. Mr Knoll has also overlooked our point about the status of terrorist groups – such as Hamas' Izz al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades – which are indeed listed terrorist organisations and within the scope of Australian criminal law. Recent amendments to the Australian Criminal Code and Palestine's forthcoming membership of the ICC mean that Australia will ultimately need to accord a characterisation to specific non-state armed groups in order to make individual determinations as to the applicability of the criminal code.

Despite Mr Knoll's suggestions, we made no comment regarding the current laws or political views of the Palestinian Authority, and the rights or wrongs of these.

Instead, our point was to note membership of the ICC brings with it domestic legal obligations – and that Australia has historically been good at helping others states comply with these. Regardless of Australia's view on Palestine's membership of the ICC, we should be prepared to respond to an ICC request for assistance if required. 

Associate Professor Rob McLaughlin and Associate Professor David Letts, Centre for Military and Security Law,  ANU College of Law 


Vote on Palestine

Nikola Pijovic's piece on Australia's UN vote on Palestinian statehood ("When abstention might have won the day for us", Times2, February 11, p5) provides no basis for his assertion that Australia's decision to oppose the resolution, rather than merely abstain, was directed from Washington. Whilst the US was keen to avoid having to exercise a veto against the resolution, an Australian abstention would have served this purpose just as effectively as a negative vote. 

Under the UN Charter, nine affirmative votes are required to pass a resolution in the Security Council. The resolution in question had only eight affirmative votes and was thus defeated without a US veto, regardless of whether the other seven votes were abstentions or negative votes.

Pijovic fails to acknowledge  there were reasons of substance behind Australia's "No" vote. The draft resolution ignored Israel's security concerns, required nothing of the Palestinians (it even did away with the consensus position that a Palestinian state should be demilitarised), and purported to recognise a state that clearly does not yet exist on the ground. The recognition of states has traditionally been an exercise in realism, not wishful thinking.

Peter Wertheim, executive director, Executive Council of Australian Jewry 


Surely not a surprise

The execution of two Australians by Indonesia would be a tragedy, but it cannot be a surprise. Australian governments did not object when, just for being there, Indonesia executed six Australian journalists in East Timor in 1975, or when Indonesian military invaded East Timor and conducted a 24-year reign of terror, resulting in hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths. Australian governments actually wanted Indonesia to take East Timor. 

Similarly, our successive governments have not objected while Indonesia massacred hundreds of thousands in West Papua and tortured many more. Instead, during these monstrous atrocities, our governments continued to train and assist the Indonesian military, and negotiate with Indonesia for access to Timor's oil. Truly shocking!

Our federal governments have shown Indonesia that Australia accepts killing of innocents, so why would Indonesia think two convicted criminals really matter to us?

P. Coyne,  Belconnen 




The Indonesian president has announced that Indonesia will not be dictated to by other countries but, in insisting on the death penalty for drug traffickers who have transformed their lives and have great potential to be contributing members of society, he is, himself, beholden to the United States' "war on drugs".

Patricia Saunders,  Chapman  



Many are asking why the AFP decided to advise the Indonesian Police as to the activities of suspected drug smugglers who were about to board a plane to Australia. In other words, they are suggesting the AFP should have remained silent, and therefore complicit, in regards to a proposed illegal importation of drugs into Australia.

P.J. Carthy, McKellar  



I once worked in a vocation where it might be expected that I would be "for" the death penalty. To save a life, including my own, I was trained to shoot to kill. However, I have always abhorred the idea that a state should take the life, post facto, of a citizen or non-citizen. If a state takes a life, then that state is no better than one of its murderous citizens. 

A.Whiddett, Yarralumla  



The criticism of the Prime Minister in Parliament on Thursday in his use of the word "holocaust" – pushed along by a performance by Jewish parliamentarian Michael Danby – is further arrogance by the Jewish lobby. This word does not belong to the Jews with a meaning of "large scale destruction", etc., has been in the Oxford dictionary since the 18th century.

Rex Williams,  Ainslie



And I thought that AQUIS stood for Australian Quarantine Inspection Service ("Brumbies roll the dice with new sponsor", Sport, February 12, p18). What would they know about rugby?

Wal Pywell,  Wanniassa 



Could your regular climate change deniers like J. McKerral  please tell us their qualifications?

Hugh Jorgahan, Lyons  



Albert Einstein defined insanity as doing or saying the same thing over and over again while hoping for a different result each time. Perhaps someone should point this out to the Prime Minister and his acolytes. Or do they think that good government is something that just happens because they are in power?

Malcolm Murray, Garran  

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