Comment

Letters to the Editor

More chances to lose

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Australia's peak sporting bodies ought to be ashamed of their stance in pushing for the legalisation of live online sports betting in Australia against the advice of the government's own sports integrity unit ("Bookies push to legalise live betting", January 11, p5).

The increased risk of corruption pales into insignificance when compared with the potential losses that would be incurred by gamblers. Bookmakers and casino regulators are aware that the more opportunities they give punters to lose their money, the more money they will lose. Conversely, if the mug, sorry, client, has a winning streak, they will be banned, as the parasites are only interested in losers.

The current lucrative market benefits overseas providers and changing the rules to see the gambling proceeds channelled to local parasites will not benefit Australia until the parasites are locked into a transparent tax regime that makes their ill-gotten profits taxable at an appropriate rate under Australia's tax regime.

I offer my full support to any gambling provider in Australia who can't manage our tax regime and stable economy who wants to relocate to Zimbabwe, Papua, New Guinea or Afghanistan or any other Third World country with a tax regime that suits them, and $1 towards their fare out of this country.

Les Brennan, Sunshine Bay,NSW

A vote for Fraser

I agree with the views of Lesley Fisk (Letters, January 11). Jim Fraser was a true representative of the Canberra people in Parliament and in most aspects of Canberra life at that time. It was a smaller place when Jim was our "local member". Children seemed to come from all over Canberra to the Fraser home, often driven by their parents, to sell raffle tickets for local events or to seek sponsorship for participation in community fundraising activities.

I have great admiration for Professor Fenner for his outstanding achievements on a truly global scale. But Jim was our Jim who worked tirelessly for the Canberra community and was our voice in Parliament.

Please retain the Fraser electorate.

Faye Gates, Narrabundah

Jon Stanhope has every right to be angry with the Electoral Commission ("Stanhope fuming over 'outrageous' response to Fraser-Fenner inquiry", January 8, p1). What genuine reason has the AEC to hold back from public view documents relating to a possible name change of an electorate? The answer is, of course, absolutely none, other than supreme bureaucratic arrogance and contempt for the public, let alone a former ACT chief minister.

Mind you, if most of the information in the documents was redacted because of "irrelevance", one must wonder why it was there in the first place.

Eric Hunter, Cook

Why more salmonella?

In your article about refrigeration of eggs ("Shopper revolt puts Coles under pressure on eggs", January 11, p3), you quote Peter Scott, an associate professor in the veterinary school at the University of Melbourne, as stating that keeping eggs chilled in all retail stores will not make a big difference to rising infection rates.

What then is the major factor in the rise in egg-related salmonella infection rates?

Can you please investigate and inform your readers about this serious health issue.

Steve Thomas, Yarralumla

Overly optimistic

When the Very Fast Train to Sydney was first proposed many years ago, the economics of the venture, from memory, were predicated on a full train running every half-hour for 16 hours a day. A rough back-of-the envelope calculation at the time meant the VFT would have needed to carry more passengers per day than then made the journey by train, bus, air and road combined. Not surprisingly, the venture didn't have legs.

It seems the proponents of our light-rail/tram system are infected with the same foolish optimism. Unfortunately, political expediency may carry the day. I know the putatively intelligent Ian Warden ("A public art lesson for Canberra", Gang-gang, January 11, p8) supports this misadventure, but if he had done a little more Googling, he would have found out all is not well with Oslo's tram system, although the prospect of seeing "horse-drawn vehicles on flanged steel wheels" trundling along Northbourne Avenue does have some appeal.

I am considering moving to NSW to avoid the increases to what are already some of the highest rates in the nation.

Dick Parker, Page

Demand unreasonable

I can't see why pharmacists should be expected to certify documents without being paid for it. There are many others on the list of who can do the job – can you imagine, for example, your doctor, lawyer, vet, child's teacher, or local firefighter happily putting their normal job on hold to attend to you?

I don't know what Bill Waller (Letters, January 12) does or did for a living, but if he was in one of the many professions on the list, I wonder if he would have appreciated the same demand as he's making? It's easy enough to find a JP by ringing Access Canberra (previously Canberra Connect), and I've been told that JPs are at local libraries and hospitals at various times. I've always been surprised that pharmacists do it at all, let alone do it for nothing. (And no, I'm not a pharmacist, and I don't personally know any).

Jane Craig, Holt

Support for a mate

In effect, Ian Fraser (Letters, January 11) claims that Peter Dutton is an idiot for risking the possibility that a derogatory remark by him in support of a friend in a private discussion about a journalist might become general knowledge.

When the outrage of the slavering self-righteous in this matter dies down, they might usefully ponder on what their response would be if genders were reversed and a female politician who felt she had been hard done by in an interview by a male journalist, say Alan Jones, referred to him in an email to a female friend as an "f---ing obnoxious male chauvinist pig". It's London to a brick that people would respond with a loud chortle and comment along the lines of "serves the bastard right". Popular pejoratives such as "demeaning" and "sexist" would be absent. When we reach the stage we feel obliged to refrain from expressing a personal opinion in support of a friend because it might meet with the disapproval of a large number of people if known, we are chipping away at our much-vaunted tradition of mateship, not to mention our freedom of speech.

Bill Deane, Chapman

Aerial cull of horses should be allowed

It was great to see your timely coverage of feral horses ("Inaction over the management of wild horses a growing concern", January 11, p4).

As a regular walker in Kosciuszko National Park, I have seen wild horse damage at first hand. The NSW government's review of the Wild Horse Management Plan for Kosciuszko National Park, which began in 2014, is still dragging on.

But the issue of wild horses in national parks has wider implications for those with an interest in democratic processes. In November 2014, I attended a public consultation in Queanbeyan on the wild horse issue. Seventy-two people, selected to represent urban and rural members of the NSW electorate of Monaro, were presented with information from all sides of the debate. Observers from pro-horse groups and environmental groups, of which I was one, agreed the presentation was balanced.

The 72 attendees then voted on the most contentious issue of the wild horse debate: aerial culling. Sixty-two per cent concluded aerial culling was completely acceptable or very acceptable.

Three weeks later, on December 19, the then NSW environment minister Rob Stokes and Monaro MP John Barilaro ruled out any consideration of aerial culling of wild horses in the government review.

I interpret this as an example of special interest trumping public interest, of which there is a sad history in the NSW government. But I am confident that eventually, as voters come to absorb the kind of information that was presented to the consultation meeting I attended, and look at the comments of independent bodies such as the RSPCA, the democratic process will arrive, better late than never, at a sensible solution – a solution that includes carefully monitored aerial culling as one method available to park managers.

Linda Groom, Deakin

Federal government should fix pensioner anomoly

Social Services Minister Christian Porter has defended the removal or reduction of the age pension for almost 35,000 retired public servants, arguing that the move is about making their treatment the same as that of former private-sector workers ("35,000 former public servants kicked off the pension", canberratimes.com.au, January 12).

In keeping with his government's laudable commitment to fair play, perhaps the minister could write to the former treasurer Joe Hockey and remove his access to a parliamentary pension until he reaches the "retirement age" dictated for the rest of us?

John Richardson, Wallagoot, NSW

Christian Porter has said that the previous treatment of the tax-free component of defined benefit superannuation pensions for Centrelink income test purposes was an "anomaly".

The only anomaly was the difference between the "grandfathered" treatment of defined contributions account-based pensions and the immediate treatment of all defined benefit superannuation pensions.

Many defined benefit retirees will have their retirement incomes severely reduced on the first age pension day on January 14.

Richard Griffiths, national president, Australian Council of Public Sector Retiree Organisations

A quantum leap

Julian Cribb ("Dawn of quantum tyranny", Times2, January 11, p1 ) raises an important issue, but I think wrongly says, "we have done the science – but failed to do the ethics". Many civilisations agree about what is "good ethics" because it is substantially in our DNA.

The real issue is that our legal system (with or without a religious overlay) is slow, costly and often ineffective. One small example to make this point is it is now known (via DNA evidence) that about one in 12 people in the state of Illinois on death row are/were innocent. My own experience within the ACT, but not involving murder, tells me we are no better.

Perhaps quantum computers can bring back what big cities have taken away – the fairness that comes in villages where everyone knows about everyone and about what they do – where a "kick in the bum" by the local village police sergeant is quick and effective justice, but which is "abuse" in the big city.

Right now, for example, if I overlook paying the registration on a motor vehicle, I will pay a fine just as if it was deliberate, when history would show such fees were paid when due. A truly quantum world with a matching legal system would/could afford everyone fairer treatment. Unfortunately, for this to happen, politicians and public servants will need to exhibit a lot more imagination and preparedness to take risk than in the past.

Trevor McPherson, Aranda

Julian Cribb's is an unlikely future. Instead, the evidence is for advances in computing to bring increased autonomy. This will happen because individuals will use computers to stop surveillance. This will counterbalance the tendency of organisations to indulge in surveillance.

The direction of IT systems development is in the opposite direction to "big brother". This is because complex systems only scale if we keep them distributed. Human information systems are complex.

Cribb imagines a central store of information used for surveillance. This is a complex system. It is many times more expensive than keeping personal information distributed. Quantum computing does not change the relative cost scale between centralised and distributed computation. Centralisation is expensive. When it starts to happen at scale, the lower-cost distributed alternatives will prevail.

Kevin Cox, Ngunnawal

Flaws in Finns' plan

The plan to provide all Finns with a basic income is philosophically attractive but, as Mikayla Novak says ("Basic income carries risk", Forum, January 9, p5) it carries risk. Key risks I can see are: 1. It could be like the Aboriginal Community Development Employment Program and reduce motivation to work, as people will get income anyway; reduce the self-respect that goes with achievement; and result in greater social problems.

2. It could encourage large families and segregation, as with the Haredi fundamentalist sect in Israel, who do not need to do military service, and can just devote themselves to religious studies and having children.

3. Wealthy people could get the basic income, but still use accountants to find loopholes in the law, so they pay very little tax, as happens with many millionaires already.

Although the Finns' plan aims to reduce the huge management cost of welfare payments, I think alternative mechanisms need to be developed.

Also, it will be essential to find ways of stopping wealthy people paying little income tax and putting a huge burden on middle-income earners.

Of course, if all people committed to contributing to our world, in both effort and money, based on their means and a concept of equity, we would not need to agonise over how to have a better system, says I, tongue in cheek.

Caroline Fitzwarryne, Yarralumla

Just toss a coin

Clive Williams ("Reading the criminal mind", Times2, January 7, p1) notes Brainwave Science's error rate of less than 1per cent.

Bomb makers seem to be a very small percentage of the population. Suppose that 10 out of 10,000 people are bomb makers and that Brainwave's accuracy rate is 99.9per cent (if it were greater, surely the claimed error rate would be less than 0.1per cent). Hence, 99.9per cent (in effect, all 10) of those bomb makers would test positive with Brainwave, but so would 0.1per cent of the 9990 non-bomb makers (another 10 people).

In this scenario, 20 out of 10,000 would test positive (10 of them bomb makers, 10 not), so the test tells you there's a 50per cent chance you've found a bomb maker if a person tests positive. Yep, like tossing a coin.

Williams is suitably cautious when he says the test may be useful in some circumstances and that it alone would be unlikely to secure a conviction, but how many, seeing the 1per cent claim, would think of Brainwave as a virtually foolproof tool?

Heino Lepp, Macquarie

TO THE POINT

VALID CRITICISM?

It does not matter whether the Canberra CBD group represents property owners or business owners ("Backlash over call for CBD support", January 9, p1). What matters is whether its criticism of the city to the lake plan and the tramway have any validity.

Gary J. Wilson, Macgregor

DODGY DONATIONS

A total of $135,000 between the major parties in dodgy donations ("Labor, Liberals and Greens fail to properly declare donations made during election year", canberratimes.com.au, January 9). I wonder how much they didn't declare? But I suppose we'll never know, unless someone else finds the "mistake", for which they can apologise and move on.

P. Leslie, Bega, NSW

GAME POACHING

Brent Knevett (Letters, January 11) should concentrate on sporting venues in Melbourne and leave the sporting venue arrangements in other states to the respective state/territory and Cricket Australia authorities. I enjoyed watching the dirt bike world championships from the Docklands stadium recently and we should steal that away from Melbourne the way it stole Formula One from Adelaide some years ago.

Barry Blight, Gilmore

TPP BALANCE SHEET

The World Bank estimates that the annual boost to Australia's economic growth from the Trans-Pacific Partnership would be less than one half of one 10th of 1per cent. I just wondered, does that even come close to covering the costs of Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and other Australian Public Service staff time and their travel expended in achieving such a magnificent result?

Peter Edsor, Bungendore, NSW

AUSTRALIA DAY MENU

"Lambassador" Sam Kekovich, and now also Lee Lin Chin, encourage us to eat lambs on Australia Day, as it is the dinky-di, true blue, fair dinkum Australian thing to do. If supporting the mass slaughter of baby animals that have barely begun their lives – as well as deriding those who have chosen a more thoughtful and compassionate way of eating – is what proud Aussies do, I am ashamed.

Jan Darby, Isabella Plains

ODDS NOT EVEN

Australians may find it amusing to learn they have a toothless "sports integrity unit", but justifiably angry it is being overwhelmed by offshore corporate casino and bookmaker lobbyists pushing their toxic business ("Bookies push to legalise live betting", January 11, p5).

Albert M. White, Queanbeyan, NSW

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