At Christmas time it would be wrong to leave the impression all large charity organisations spend significantly on marketing and PR to chase the next dollar (''Charities' fund-raising costs swallow millions in donations'', December 21, p1). Lions Australia is one of the largest community services organisations in the country. Yet almost every dollar raised by a Lions sausage sizzle or the sale of a Christmas cake goes directly to helping someone.

For example, the Lions Club of Canberra Kambah has been serving families in Tuggeranong for more than 30 years and its 30 members raise about $30,000 each year. The money all goes to supporting local families, Canberra causes or international relief efforts. Yet the margins are low. Apart from things such as buying stamps or buying insurance for volunteers, donations go directly back into the community.

Canberra can be confident the dollars raised by local Lions clubs are low on margins but big on results.

Bob Crawshaw, Weston

Biased Catholic barb

Crispin Hull (''Give generously is fine, but taxpayer owed justification'', Forum, December 21, p2) certainly does have problems with Christians, and Catholics in particular, who benefit from our tax laws. So, where are the ''savings'' directed? Schools, hospitals, retirement facilities, hospices etc, that's where!

This generosity of heart is found aplenty in Anglicare and Uniting Care, and in other Christian institutions. But, because Catholics are Mr Hull's special concern, and Cardinal George Pell's regalia for very important occasions provides ''no demonstrable public benefit'', quoting Mr Hull, let's have him expectorate on the claims that academics such as himself make on the taxpayer when they are tarted up for graduations. Oh! And then there's the bar.

What can barristers claim for wigs, gowns, etc? And are decked-out judges who know something of aggrandisement immune from all this? Perhaps Mr Hull is banging on about alleged misuse of the huge amount of property derived from tax arrangements. Evidence, if you please. Does not all this property facilitate a huge amount of charity administered by ordinary, imperfect citizens? Evidence Mr Hull selectively ignores.

Patrick Jones, Griffith

Plan to waste more

If the ACT government establishes separate corporations to replace ACTEW Corporation (''Review calls for ACTEW break-up'', December 21, p1) we'll have more bosses with exorbitant pay packages, more deputies, more staff, all creating more costs to the consumer with no benefits to anyone.

When the government talks about spending money, they need to remember that it is our money they want to waste. As to more politicians, we need to see evidence of ability to govern from the present ones before being saddled with more.

Roger Smith, Scullin

Uninformed on roo cull

I hope that Ian Falconer (Letters, December 21) is not involved with the management of the ACT kangaroo population. He suggests that thousands of kangaroos die off in the winter through starvation and that this is a natural occurrence.

What he doesn't do is back up his claims with any factual information. I am sure we would have noticed if thousands of emaciated kangaroos suddenly started to appear year after year. Perhaps he has been taken in by the TAMS justification for killing kangaroos - that they may starve in the future, so we must kill them just in case.

Philip Machin, Wamboin, NSW

Drumming monotony

In Northern Ireland and Scotland, certain partisan organisations indulge in sectarian marches, where the participants dress up in uniforms, parade behind banners and do their best to annoy those holding opposing views with chants, songs and a noisy marching band, often including a Lambeg drum. The colourful - and noisy - spectacle is a thin disguise for a public display of hatred and prejudice by the participants.

As a keen reader of The Canberra Times, I am reminded on a near-daily basis of the heavy-handed thump of the Lambeg. The publication of ''The year that was'' (Panorama, December 21, p6-7) brought the tub-thumping to a thundering roar. May I suggest to the editorial staff that monotony and predictability is the death of humour?

Peter Mackay, Reid

Victims abused again

In the article ''Pray for your sins, abusive priest told'' (December 20, p7), it was reported ''the overwhelming majority of clerical sex abuse cases were never reported to Rome because the Vatican wanted to know about incidents only from the past 10 years'', and Bishop Jarret said ''directives from Rome were in Latin, though not all bishops were fluent in Latin''. An English explanation came later, it seems.

Another kick in the guts for victims and their families.

Why in God's name did we just assume the Pope, or anyone in the Vatican, would be made aware of these crimes.

It brought to mind a line from A.A. Milne's poem, ''Do you think the king knows all about me? Oh I'm sure, my dear, but it's time for tea! says Alice.''

Margaret Juskevics, Flynn

The shrinking cake

It is hardly surprising that Professor Brian Schmidt is rather miffed at having his proposal for a research grant turned down (''Crazy science funding riles top researchers'', December 19, p1).

There isn't a single university researcher who has not had considerably more failures than successes when applying for a research grant. With more and more graduates being tempted into research, the demand, even for a tiny slither of an increasingly shrinking cake, has become extremely competitive in recent decades.

Sam Nona, Burradoo, NSW

It's a jungle out there

I was very impressed with Megan Doherty's story on Zoo advertising's ''Most Glamorous Christmas Party in Canberra'' (''Where better for party animals on a scorcher'', December 21, p1).

I'm having a work barbecue in my backyard on Tuesday. I was wondering if Megan could come along and cover it for us? It's been a tough year and we'd love the extra publicity.

We may not be as hip as the ''beautiful people'' at Zoo, but I can organise an inflatable pool and a few of the lads will gladly get their shirts off.

I could even tell Megan about our surprise company trip to Springbank Island last year. It will make the employees at other companies really envious!

Anthony Calvert, Spence

On balance, our subsidies to industries just don't add up

If ''no government has ever subsidised its way to prosperity'', as our Prime Minister says, could someone please remind him that total government budgetary assistance to all Australian industry sectors, according to the Productivity Commission, is about $9.4 billion a year. This is about $5.1 billion direct government outlays and $4.3 billion in tax concessions.

Primary production and mining sectors' share of this total $9 billion assistance is 22 per cent, greater than manufacturing's 19 per cent. For both efficient resource allocation and equity policy objectives, one would expect more balanced industry assistance policy responses to achieve prosperity - even putting aside the oddness of ''no'' to motor vehicles and ''yes'' to chocolates.

Richard Lamb, Farrer

Shame on Holden

In its latest advertising campaign, Holden is proudly announcing that it is ''here to stay''. This is grossly misleading advertising.

Holden is no more ''here to stay'' that any other car manufacturer who's product is manufactured in places other than Australia. If Holden was truly here to stay, our government would not need to be spending $100 million to mitigate the effects of closing its manufacturing plants in Australia. If Holden was truly here to stay, thousands of workers would not be seeking alternative employment. Shame on you Holden for attempting to profit from these unfortunate circumstances.

Mike McGettrick, Isaacs

What's our planet worth?

It is remarkable that, in the country where the global warming impact is most obvious (''Records melt in our hottest year'', canberratimes.

com.au, December 21), we have just elected a government that is incapable of accepting the science and the need to act on it. It is also remarkable that our choice appears to have been driven by the desire to abolish a tax, the cost of which, even when measured by its fiercest opponents, would seem to be in the region of $1.50 a day. You can't get on a bus for $1.50. So what's the planet really worth to us?

Peter Hooton, Farrer

Freedom v nihilism

The discourses on freedom and free speech by Tim Wilson following his appointment as a Human Rights Commissioner are silent on issues of power and purpose.

In a society in which there are substantial differences in power and resources, unlimited freedom of speech for those without the resources to make their voices heard is meaningless. To put it more colloquially, unfettered freedom for both the tiger and the lamb is not something the lamb has any reason to rejoice in.

The more troubling question is what is our freedom for? What sort of people and community do we want to become? How will this freedom help us to flourish as a community?

To pursue freedom for its own sake is in the end a form of nihilism. Exercise your freedom and choose. It doesn't matter what you choose. The freedom to do so is what is important. That would seem to be the bedrock of Mr Wilson's philosophical stance.

Senator George Brandis, as a so-called conservative, would no doubt be surprised, if not annoyed, to have it suggested he was furthering the spread of nihilism in Australian society by his latest appointment to the Human Rights Commission. There are, however, good reasons for concluding that that is what he has done.

Doug Hynd, Stirling

Dubious take on religion

Barney Zwartz (''Divine Inspiration'', Forum, December 21, p1) scrapes the bottom of the believers' barrel when he cites several students of religion in support of the view that the decline of organised religion has left us with an unfilled spiritual void.

Zwartz supports this dubious argument with the claim - often attributed to G.K. Chesterton, although the precise quote is difficult to pin down - that when people stop believing in God, the problem is not that they believe in nothing, but they will believe in anything. Chesterton was no fool and he crafted many amusing epigrams, but we should not mistake even the wittiest of epigrams with serious argument.

Yet, why should it matter if many of us have given up on any version of the idea that there is a benign old guy in the sky? The Zwartz/Chesterton view is that, in its absence, we will believe in anything - say, that the Earth is not the centre of the universe, or that humans and the other great apes have ancestors in common - but it is not clear why this should be a problem.

The key issue for Zwartz and his religious informants seems to be that we are facing a spiritual void which, if it is not occupied by organised religion, is in danger of being filled by all kinds of horrors. Certainly atheists and agnostics have sometimes done appalling things, but in the annals of destructive ideas, the record of organised religion would be a hard one to beat.

Barry Hindess, Reid

Our heavenly universe

Stephen Hawking once commented on the reason for the existence of the universe, ''If we find the answer to that it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason - for then we would know the mind of God (A Brief History of Time, 1998).

Seemingly eternal questions arise often at Christmas time - was Christ really God, what caused the universe etc. Some well known metaphysicists and cosmologists posit that there may be one or even more parallel universes.

The constant, however, seems to be that they would consist of matter, eg, the possible parallel universe of dark matter. This may well be the case, but without bandying words or definitions too much, I have always been troubled by the apparent exclusion of the possibility of a universe consisting wholly of the spiritual. It is known by several names, but most call it heaven.

Colliss Parrett, Barton

Not just a bowls club will be lost with City

As the secretary of the Canberra City Bowling Club I was one of a group of three, the others being president Ron Taylor and legal expert John Ballard, that negotiated with the Ainslie Football and Social Club for City to join the Ainslie organisation back in 2001. Now Ainslie intends ''divesting'' itself of the site and moving the bowls club elsewhere. (''Struggling City bowls club set to be sold off'', December 21, p3).

Ainslie saved City from oblivion, given that it was broke and couldn't meet its commitments. I, for one, will always be grateful to Ainslie for giving City members the opportunity to continue playing.

That being said, there are some fascinating issues in regard to the site once bowls departs. I wonder what residents and others think of the potential loss of this lovely open space. There are also heritage/historical issues, given that City has occupied the site since 1930. What are the views of the Canberra & District Historical Society and the National Trust? What does Bowls ACT think?

If the site is redeveloped, what sort of development will it be? Will residents, parents of children attending the Ainslie School, and others have a say?

Will there be a knock-on effect for the Braddon Tennis Club next door? After all, it's little more than a parking lot these days. And should the bowls/tennis sites become a mass of units, will another domino, the prize of nearby Northbourne Oval, finally topple to the developers? What does the ACT government think of the loss of inner north open space and of a sports facility moving elsewhere? Maybe it's indifferent about such a loss and in fact would encourage relocation of bowls to Gungahlin.

Maybe the fate of this site will show whether Canberra has matured or is still in the grip of developer mania.

Graeme Barrow, Hackett




Congratulations on printing Prince Charles' pertinent comments on the dangerous state of Christianity in much of the Middle East (''Prayers for besieged faithful'', Times2, December 20, p4) We should consider their plight, along with celebrating Christmas, and think just a little more about the values and norms that have shaped the society in which we live.

Ignoring 2000 years of tradition and belief is a dangerous form of rationalism.

Glenda Ellis, Red Hill, Qld


On a particularly hot day, I was driving along in my air-conditioned, modern little car listening to Sarah Hanson-Young being interviewed on radio. Senator Hanson-Young, who has recently visited Nauru, was speaking of the horrific conditions the asylum seekers there were enduring - living in the heat in tents in the middle of an abandoned phosphate mine.

It made me think that it is high time the federal government asked its citizens if we support this inhumane cruelty or not. It might be surprised!

Carolyn Doyle, Banks

Scott Morrison is Australia's Minister for Concentration Camps.

John Passant, Kambah


Nobody seriously contemplates the navel-gazing, ''two-year review of its Liquor Act'' might really be directed at ''Getting Civic off the booze'' (Times2, December 20, p1).

People die, are condemned to wheelchairs and public resources expended, while liquor industry spin doctors engage in prevaricating, mendacious, semantic sophistry.

Albert M. White, Queanbeyan, NSW


Tony Abbott says an overseas-born child adopted by an Australian couple has won the lottery of life. What prize do children of asylum seekers win?

Mark Slater, Melba


Like beauty, bias lies in the eye of the beholder.

Peter Snowdon, Aranda


Looks like Chris Bellamy (Letters, December 21) hustled himself. The plot of the film American Hustle was not the easiest to follow, but nor was it illogical.

As for the music, I suggest Mr Bellamy in future read several reviews before putting down his hard-earned and, having carried out that piece of due diligence, not give up half way through the film.

Roger Marchant, Reid


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