Meddling with school

Education Minister Christopher Pyne's announcement of funding to convert public schools to independent schools is an audacious presumption of power. The reaction of state education ministers may only be guessed. Section 51 of the constitution gives no power to the Commonwealth to make policy on schools. The Commonwealth runs no schools and it employs no teachers.

For years, successive governments in Canberra have sought to put their meddlesome stamp on school policy in matters ranging from the curriculum to flagpoles and chaplains.

Teaching and learning policies formulated at state level are almost always likely to be more effective because they arise from the direct experience in running schools, and of having local knowledge and expertise applied to local needs. Yet for many years state education authorities and independent schools have endured the irksome rigmarole involved in adopting Commonwealth initiatives of dubious value.

This is not to criticise the idea of giving real authority to public school principals. But this is not a matter for the Commonwealth. The only effective Commonwealth schools policy, irrespective of which party is in government, should be to pay up and shut up.

John Carter, Lyons

Sex education

Kevin Donnelly, who is to review the national school curriculum, has written that many parents believe the sexual practices of gays, lesbians and transgender individuals are ''decidedly unnatural'' and questions whether students ought to learn about such relationships at school. To which ALP education spokeswoman Kate Ellis replied that these views were ''extremely offensive, dangerous and extreme'' and had ''absolutely no place in our schools'' (''Keep sex lessons straight, says Pyne's man'', February 3, p4).


Why does Kate Ellis hate Australian parents? She must do, as her reply vilifies their beliefs and subverts their children. Why does she choose to be irrational? She must be so, as her reply relies on politically correct pejoratives and ignores painful facts and logical argument for intolerant hate-filled dogma. Sad to say Kate Ellis is not alone in peddling this ideological stench.

Jon Kehrer, Chisholm

Queen lacks power

Brian Hatch (Letters, February 4) has unfairly criticised Robert Willson (Letters, January 31) for his reference to the 1907 High Court decision. Robert Willson's understanding of the 1907 decision in relation to the Australian constitution and the governor-general is quite correct and Brian Hatch's understanding is quite wrong - whatever her powers over a state governor might be, the Queen has no power to overrule the governor-general in the exercise of constitutional powers and functions.

This was confirmed in 1975, when the Speaker of the House of Representatives asked the Queen to restore Gough Whitlam to the office of prime minister. The Queen's private secretary said: ''The Australian Constitution firmly places the prerogative powers of the Crown in the hands of the governor-general … it would not be proper for her to intervene in person in matters which are so clearly placed within the jurisdiction of the governor-general by the Constitution Act.''

David Smith, Mawson

Rates speculation

The US is lucky; it only has Groundhog Day once a year. We have it every month, when media organisations report on surveys of economists about what they expect the Reserve Bank to do with interest rates. When did this kind of navel-gazing speculation become news? Is there really so little happening in the world that reporting has to be padded out with such rubbish? Generally news is stuff that has happened, or is happening, not what might happen.

Peter Marshall, Captains Flat, NSW

AIS logo looks familiar

The new logo for the Australian Institute of Sport (''CEO says brand will help raise funds'', Sport, February 4, p24) bears a remarkable resemblance to Bruce Radke's 1979 prize-winning design for the Australian Bicentennial logo. There is a minor variation in the way our continent is folded, but the more remarkable difference is the fee paid for the design - Radke's imaginative design won him the princely sum of $1000.

Robert Burne, Googong, NSW

Why do some organisations think a logo will improve their image? First we have the ACT government spending $2.6 million on a silly-looking logo said to show that Canberra has ''brilliant possibilities'' (what vague nonsense). Now we have the Australian Institute of Sport coming up with a new, quite unimpressive logo (said to be ''in the shape of Australia'', but looking more like a Band-Aid) which it says a cost-benefit analysis suggests will ''generate more revenue''.

I'd have very grave doubts about that analysis.

R.S. Gilbert, Braddon

Dam the expense

John Milne (Letters, January 20) did some ironic long-division and noted that the new 11.5km Majura Highway, costing $288 million, equates to $250/cm. He ignored that much of that money is for a flash new bridge over the Molonglo.

Anyway, he'll soon get over being impressed by numbers like that. The new tram up Northbourne Ave will transport about 10,000 Gungahlians at a capital cost of about $1 billion (before needing big, annual operating subsidies). This is $100,000 per regular patron in capital cost alone.

And $400 million recently bought us a big Lower Cotter Dam. It adds almost no new water to our supplies, as almost all water it will ever hold will have been released from the expensive, rarely full dams upstream. Price per extra litre? Help me out. What's $400 million divided by hardly anything?

Michael Jordan, Gowrie

Cosgrove criticism

Resident curmudgeon Jack Waterford's attempt to tarnish our new Governor-General Peter Cosgrove under the guise of a book review has clearly been stewing for some time (''Cosgrove: the history hagiographers forget'', February 4, p6-7). If we believe all his anonymous sources, the worst that can be said of Cosgrove is that he is not perfect, he is more soldier than intellectual, and he is not a member of Waterford's frightfully superior coterie. However, Waterford's spite is unlikely to discredit Cosgrove's exemplary service and I am confident he will continue to serve his country with distinction as our Governor-General.

H.Ronald, Jerrabomberra, NSW

Truth becomes first casualty in SPC political war of words

Liberal MP Sharman Stone is absolutely right to condemn the cynical and despicable attempt by Prime Minister Tony Abbott and some of his senior ministers to try to justify their refusal to provide financial support to SPC Ardmona workers on the basis that the company's employment conditions are excessive (''Abbott, Hockey 'lying' about SPC conditions, says Liberal MP'',, February 5).

As Terry Davis, group managing director of Coca-Cola Amatil, the owners of SPC Ardmona, said in his company's 2012 annual report: ''The ongoing impact of the high Australian dollar on the competitiveness of the SPCA business, the significant deflation of fresh fruit prices and the growth of imported grocery private label packaged fruit and vegetables has necessitated a second-half significant write-down in SPCA assets and goodwill''.

While I don't believe that the taxpayer should be subsidising the activities of any private sector organisation, be it a cannery, tourist operator, health fund or bank, the very least the Prime Minister and his fellow ideologues could do is to be honest about the reasons for their decisions. Not only liars, but not very good liars at that.

John Richardson, Wallagoot, NSW

Tony Abbott has more front than a rat with a gold tooth when he tells lies about SPC working conditions.

Richard Ryan, Summerland Point, NSW

Let's accept for the moment, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that this is a government of truth and that the $16 million given to Cadbury is very different to the denied $25 million for SPC. What then is the difference between the $10 million the Abbott government has given for the upgrade of the Manly rugby league team's home ground and coincidentally in Abbott's electorate, and SPC?

John Passant, Kambah

So Abbott likes an internationally owned chocolate factory enough to give our taxpayers' money to it, but not our Aussie-owned and -operated tinned fruit business! Shame!

Pamela Fawke, Dunlop

Hypocrisy in the House

It's a new day! The era of government bailouts is now over, with the Federal Treasurer telling us that: ''the age of entitlement is over, and the age of personal responsibility has begun''. Unless, of course, you happen to be a politician or a political party, in which case you have your snout well into the public purse, and will continue to keep it there and treat the taxpayer as a personal ATM.

Does anyone really wonder why our elected representatives are despised and loathed? I'd say that's about the best they could hope for.

Nick Payne, Griffith

The age of entitlement may be ending, but the age of the truthful pollie has yet to arrive.

Thos Puckett, Ashgrove

Shortsighted decisions

S. Gerrard (Letters, February 5) is spot-on when describing Australia's current leadership. I struggle to understand how the Abbott government can get away with overturning Tasmania's World Heritage areas to appease a few timber workers, especially when it seems intent on increasing Australia's unemployment queues in other industries.

Once these beautiful old growth forests disappear, they're gone forever. What will help the Tasmanian economy and the loggers then? Why are these few protected in an outdated industry while the rest of us have to skill up in other areas to remain relevant and employed? It's old and destructive thinking.

This, combined with Greg Hunt's decision to dump dredged soil on to the Great Barrier Reef, another that will upset a pristine wilderness and fatten the pockets of Gina Rinehart even further, will go down in history as one of the worst legacies left by any government. Shortsighted, destructive and lacking any leadership.

Alison Chapple, Macquarie

Seeger's moral mistake

Bart Meehan (Letters, February 4) would have us believe that historical context can, and does, exonerate and exculpate the late Pete Seeger from wholesale support for, and belief in, Stalinism, one of the most murderous totalitarian regimes of all times. I am afraid that the historical context does nothing of the kind.

Even during the '50s let alone '60s and '70s, the knowledge of Stalin's internecine war against his own citizens and of the infamous Soviet gulags was very much in the public domain in the democratic world. Yet, this so-called ''pacifist'' refused to recognise the true murderous nature of the communist workers' heaven.

This is not a sign of ''naivety'' but rather of steadfast refusal to admit a serious moral mistake. Sometimes being politically and socially naive and morally blind can have more egregious consequences than to actively engage in a morally insupportable cause. So, perhaps we should be well advised to mercifully fall silent over this grave.

Adam Rustowski, Belconnen

Bart Meehan (Letters, February 4) says that while we might say Pete Seeger was ''naive'' … ''his desire for an ideal and just society … was admirable''. I can't help but agree with him. However, considering the upheavals in the world today (which haven't changed that much since humans stepped on the earth), anyone who has a ''desire for an ideal and just society'' is ''admirable'', but the reality is that they are probably naive.

Geoff Barker, Flynn

Scrap tax on poor

Rather than robbing the poor to give to the rich, as Stephen Jones would have us do (Letters, February 4), it would be more sensible to abolish income tax for the bottom 50 per cent of income earners, since their contribution is marginal and many struggle to maintain a basic level of subsistence. The loss of receipts could be offset by taxing the top 1 per cent on their actual rather than taxable incomes, outlawing deductions and various tax avoidance measures which under-report income.

David Bastin, Nicholls

Super Bowl? More like super boring

I'm sorry my American friends. I did try. I really did. I really sought to make an effort yet again to appreciate the intricacies of the Super Bowl. Alas, despite the impressive and dazzling array of lights, sound, moving human formations and pumped-up presenters, the game of gridiron itself still leaves this Australian sports-lover feeling cheated. Why call it ''football'' when most players do not physically touch the ball with their foot?

Who on earth are all those masses of gum-chewing, headset-wearing officials on the sideline? And why all the man-hugs and high fives over a basic AFL hip-and-shoulder bump? Far be it from me to rain cynicism on a grand athletic parade, but I suspect that Down Under, we will continue to prefer our sports with a little less conversation and a little more action.

Peter Waterhouse, Craigieburn, Vic

Baby, I don't believe it

What a beautiful story about a well-rounded elite athlete, Abby Bishop, who is giving her baby the best start in life while still being a fabulous player for the Caps (''Caps' tiny recruit Abby's overnight game-changer'', February 1, p1). Until we discovered that she is paying personally for a single supplement for accommodation when the Caps are playing away from Canberra.

Surely we can do better than this in an elite sport?

It is bad enough that our women players do not earn nearly as much as the blokes and that they have to sit down the back of the aeroplane. But it is galling to think that a player needs to pay for the privilege of having an infant with her. And then it got worse. Having to negotiate with Basketball Australia to take her baby with her if she is selected to play for the Opals. A reality check on the date of the paper suggested to me there was a typo on the dateline: surely this relates to a story from 1914 and not 2014?

Anne Cahill Lambert, Lyneham



The Prime Minister is of the school: ''My country right or wrong.'' The great lexicographer Samuel Johnson defined such patriotism as the last refuge of a scoundrel. Take your pick!

Eva Reid, Farrer


I liked John Milne's note (Letters, February 4) about road signs and the power of positive thinking. In another variant, ''No seatbelts. No brains'' could revert to ''Belt up. And live'', unless that's copyrighted.

Gary J. Wilson, Macgregor


How great it is to see Brian Hatch (Letters, February 4) finally get something right when he demolished Robert Willson's desperate and futile attempt to argue that the Governor-General is our head of state.

T. J. Marks, Holt


I'm confused. Is Alan N. Cowan (Letters, February 4) claiming that Hadley, Jones, Bolt and Akerman are not anti-intellectual, cranky and strident, racist, rednecked and ignorant? If he is, could he please supply evidence to support his claim?

Peter Dark, Queanbeyan, NSW


It is the federal government and Tony Abbott in particular - increasingly by the week revealing their ideological extremism and contempt for customary democratic freedoms - who should be apologising for their behaviour now. And reminding everyone of how their idea of balanced opinion lies in the Bermuda triangle of right-wing radicalism, somewhere between Alan Jones, The Australian and Fox News.

Alex Mattea, Kingston


Regarding the discussion on career/careen and the Americanisation of English, I see that Sarah Moaney and Terry Tory are hanging on like grim death! Other misuse of language has also been rife during the cricket Ashes series. Most of the commentators seem to have no idea of the difference between ''whitewash'' and ''clean sweep''. For those who don't know the difference, a ''whitewash'' is a cover-up and a ''clean sweep'' is to win all of the matches in a series.

John Kelly, Wanniassa


What a flag lesson! (Letters, February 5) At least get the facts right: 1. Not only was there no Aboriginal flag in 1770 or 1788, there was no Australia.

2. The current version of the flag is not the same one always fought under by us. So there's nothing to stop us creating our flag for who we are now.

Marguerite Castello, Griffith

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