After hearing the shocking sworn evidence concerning the failures of the Australian Government to protect and ensure appropriate medical care of children on Nauru, presented to the inquiry of the Australian Human Rights Commission, I await the similarly sworn evidence of the Department and the Minister for Immigration which will controvert that medical and related evidence.
The word ''controvert'' is important … one fully anticipates bluster, prevarication, character destruction and disputation. Proof that evidence is wrong is an entirely different matter.
To learn that the minister, the legal guardian of unaccompanied minor refugees (and of irregular arrivals), has knowingly placed those children in a setting such as Nauru where there is no local law covering predatory sexual behaviour against children, and where responsible medical practitioners have asserted that sexual contact has occurred, and that guards have removed and destroyed children's medications, is alarming.
At the very least, there would appear to be a case for transferring the role of legal guardian of unaccompanied minor children to an entirely different agency - perhaps that could be the Children's Commission of the Australian Human Rights Commission. The Children's Commissioner could also be tasked with overseeing the treatment of all children under the control of the Minister for Immigration.
It is to be hoped that the Senate will urgently establish a further inquiry into the actions of this department and minister.
On the face of it, in any domestic jurisdiction they could face prosecution for facilitating child abuse and neglect.
Marie Coleman, Watson
Children in detention having their very high levels of mental illness downgraded is indefensible. How can anyone deliberately ignore or distort the emotional state of innocent children? How our current government allows this to happen beggars belief.
We are only too quick to talk about Australian values. We are only too keen to claim the high moral ground when unsavoury events happen overseas. Yet when it comes to our own backyard we accept another set of priorities all together. If Mr Abbott and his band had any sense of compassion and integrity they would take immediate action to alleviate the current and long-term prospects of these poor, harmless little kids. The courts deal with mental cruelty being inflicted on children all the time. It is time they applied the same principles to government bureaucracy carrying out cruel and inhumane government policy.
Patrick O'Hara, Isaacs
Time to act humanely
Is there no way we can impress on our parliamentary representatives of the need to change our policy towards and treatment of asylum seekers, especially the children?
Here we are spending gazillions sending our policemen over to a war zone to bring back bodies to the bereaved, and yet we are too mean to make the lives of the children in detention bearable. It is so embarrassing to belong to a country which will inflict such treatment on other human beings. How dare the government criticise the human rights records of the Chinese when we inflict unnecessary pain on defenceless children. It is time to act humanely, not scapegoating the innocent and sadistically driving them towards suicide.
Helen Sinclair, O'Connor
I'm hearing a deafening silence from advocates of the Corbell/Rattenbury tram on lessons from the similar-length tram line that commenced operations in late July 2014 at the Gold Coast. Surely a project so very similar and so very timely offers Canberra's planners real conclusions on the magnitude of the task and the costs ahead, to help prove their case?
But no. Our debate continues as though no contemporary hard data are available.
Any chance Gold Coast lessons are being ignored because relevant authorities there admit to it costing twice the current budgeted cost of ours, with others claiming it really cost them $1.6 billion?
The rationale for their tram is way stronger than ours anyway. Theirs connects adjacent high-density accommodation and major tourist attractions in a coastal-line up a region mainly populated by fly-in visitors likely to appreciate not having to hire a car to get around. Our big stop is Dickson shops.
Cuthbert Douglas, Bonython
I have no doubt that Stromlo cafe operator Simone Hunter is being punished by the ANU for her efforts in trying to get the facilities of this iconic area upgraded after the 2003 bushfires and made to reflect the important part it has played in the development of the ACT (''Storm brews over Stromlo cafe closure'', CT, August 1, p1).
Ms Hunter has been untiring in her efforts to have the ACT government and the ANU recognise the historical importance of Mount Stromlo and to improve its infrastructure and facilities to match.
Ric Hingee, Duffy
Heartfelt plea on rail
In the midst of wondering if the number of admissions to hospital of male retirees with heart attacks peaks every time there's a new announcement about the light rail project, it occurred to me there's a better solution.
Why not do what London did: construct an underground rail system. No disruption to the existing landscape, no knocking down trees on Northbourne Avenue, no slowing down traffic. Sounds sensible, eh?
And my apologies to the staff of local emergency departments for the surge I expect you'll get if this letter is published.
Dallas Stow, O'Connor
Profit model flawed
Wayne Ralph (Letters, August 1) presents his conjectural, back-of-an-envelope estimate of the annual financial return of the proposed light rail based on passenger fares collected at $10 per trip. He then stridently questions, because he has shown there will be no financial return through the fare box, whether the system can be afforded, unmistakably implying it should not be constructed.
Well, let's take that dictum - that the ACT government should not be funding unprofitable ventures - to its logical conclusion. For a start, let's shut down the ACTION bus network - it, too, doesn't make a profit.
Then, let's stop building new roads and widening roads; no new bridges, overpasses, cycleways, footpaths, kerbs and gutters. They don't return a profit.
Let's stop funding Floriade, no new parks and playing fields, no new dog parks, no new tree plantings, no suburban shopping-centre upgrades, no development of wetland areas, no funding of the socially and economically disadvantaged, sporting teams and the arts. Turn off all the street lights? Stop mowing the median strips? Where does all this stop?
Obviously, like all public-transport networks around the world, the light rail will require solid government investment and ongoing subsidy. Its highly worthwhile funding commitment will become a valuable legacy for those generations who inherit this city from us.
David Flannery, Bruce
A want or a need?
Paul Bowler (Letters, July 31) wants to get back to ''a very fundamental question'': is the proposal for a light rail a need or a want? In doing so he hopes to convince readers that the project should not go ahead. Let's run that argument past a large and very expensive building project in Sydney called the Opera House. Is it a need or a want? How many Sydneysiders listen to opera? Does Sydney ''need'' an enormously expensive building to house the wants of a small number of opera lovers? I would think not, so by this rationale the Sydney Opera House is a huge white elephant that should never have been built.
However, I'm sure if you ran that argument passed any number of residents or visitors to Sydney today the argument would appear laughable.
D. Shirley, Narrabundah
Everything old is new
If only Paul Costigan was correct that the Capital Metro is an innovative, 21st-century light-rail system (Letters, August 1). Then we would have a system with no overhead wires and light-rail vehicles that recharge on-board batteries whilst loading/unloading passengers.
Reality (as portrayed in the CMA proposal) is rather different. It shows a glammed-up Edwardian tramway with a pantograph and overhead wires that would have been very familiar to Walter Burley Griffin. The only thing missing from the representations are the hansom cabs.
In short, the best we're offered is early 20th-century technology with 21st-century price tags.
Jeff Carl, Rivett
Not satisfied with having financially emasculated the corporate regulator ASIC, the Abbott government is now reportedly in favour of watering down the Corporations Law & ASIC Act to relax accountability standards for directors (''Push to water down laws on directors' liabilities'', Canberra Times, July 31).
With the plethora of recent examples where directors have not been held accountable for a range of offences, including fraud, many would wonder why the government would bother tampering with a regulatory system that is already well and truly broken.
It would seem that the ''adults-in-charge'' won't be satisfied until they have monetised even the moral and ethical foundations of our society.
John Richardson, Wallagoot
Action in your hands
Declan King (Letters, July 31) says that as big emitters of CO2 per capita, our emissions policies are important in avoiding catastrophic climate change.
Surely the issue for the globe is aggregate emissions levels. Full stop. So unless a solid case can be made for saying policies to lower Australian per capita emissions will materially affect political decisions on emissions taken in China, the US and India, they are essentially irrelevant. That's Australia, not Austria.
Government policies to lower emissions here might reduce personal guilt, but not global temperature.
If you really must live guilt free, there's little stopping you. Borrow to insulate properly and overload your roof with PV and solar water heating. Charge your new hybrid-electric car and run underfloor heating and cooling from it. Plant trees somewhere. Would cost you a bit, but waiting for ideologically constrained governments to agree will never work.
Michael Jordan, Gowrie
Lessons to be learnt
The article ''Extra funds can help facilitate big change in students'' by Glenn Fowler of the Australian Education Union (Times2, July 31, p5) indicates that Mr Fowler regards most members of his union as incompetent.
Mr Fowler claimed that Richardson Primary used ''significant additional resources'' to support its students. It began by [them] purchasing licences to ''administer annual internal tests in literacy and numeracy [so] they didn't have to wait for NAPLAN results''. When I attended school 60 years ago, my teachers didn't wait for NAPLAN results either; they conducted internal tests at least weekly, with more formal tests at the end of each term.
The Richardson tests indicated students were ''struggling with vocabulary development and reading comprehension''. How many teachers at Richardson were so incompetent that they didn't recognise this before the licensed tests?
The school then had each teacher attend a five-day intensive course in ''high impact collaborative learning strategy'' (wow), and a two-day seminar on ''using formative assessment strategies to enrich each student's learning journey'' (whoopee-doo). Didn't they learn anything during their three-year teaching degrees? Why were the senior teachers in the school not able to give professional advice to the junior teachers?
Why is it that my teachers, with only one year's teacher training, were so much more professional and competent than the teachers at Richardson? Why does the ACT government continually advise ACT citizens that the ACT has a superior education system?
Are ACT teachers incompetent, or do they need to sack their union branch secretary?
Bob Salmond, Melba
Appeal of the horse should not blind us
John Thistleton's revealing and impartial report (''Conservationists have new shot at fate of wild horses'', July 26) exposes the myths about yet another of the destructive animals that now pollute and destroy Australia's wilderness.
Because of their romantic legend, the popular image of a feral horse is a decorative component of our high country. No doubt, but the destruction wreaked by their invasion is ignored.
Furthermore, enforcing their brief life, as domestic animals conveniently dumped, ending in starvation, is cruel.
However, as we have seen recently, humane culling, a swift euthanasia, evokes hostility among urban dwellers.
Peter Cochran, whose horse trekking tours are enhanced by decorative feral horses, opposes professional culling as cruelty. But Dianne Thompson, of the National Parks Association, and with the background and understanding of a drover, is aware of the damage that feral creatures inflict on our high country.
We have a unique and beautiful mountain heritage. We need to fight to preserve it and not be distracted by transient picturesque imagery.
Jack Palmer, Watson
Morrison to blame
Since its election to office, the Abbott government has shamefully mocked the responsibilities of our nation as a signatory to the United Nations Refugee Convention. Scott Morrison's actions are particularly reprehensible. He is the person who must take responsibility for Immigration Department officials having asked for unfavourable medical reports to be modified.
Peter Crossing, Curtin
To the point
The operation of the Department of Immigration should be subject to the current inquiry by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses into Child Sexual Abuse. This should be a first step of inquiry into all forms of abuse of children in the care of the department.
John Dargavel, Florey
The Immigration Department has admitted that on Christmas Island over the past 15 months there have been 128 recorded cases of incarcerated children resorting to self-harm (CT, August 1). Do we now await Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison to assert these children are doing nothing more than attempting moral blackmail?
Tim Hardy, Florey
CHURCHES ON ASYLUM
The churches have spoken on a united front concerning asylum seekers and the way they have been mistreated by both sides of politics. This will not be enough. The only way to get anything out of a politician is to threaten his or her seat.
Ray Armstrong, Tweed Heads
PLAY HER A SONG
I also enjoyed David Pope's cartoon of July 31 but thought it was appropriate for the diva to be calling the tune. I did miss the cigar though, thinking this scene could be set in the seedy bar from Billy Joel's Piano Man, with the diva leaning unsteadily on an upright piano.
Heather Crawford, ACT
I give up trying to understand politics. On the one hand President Obama calls for a ceasefire in the Israeli- Palestinian conflict and on the other hand the Pentagon continues to restock Israel's weapons supply. Can someone help me make sense of this?
Rajend Naidu, Glenfield
Amid the flurry of accusations from the West that Russia supplied the rocket that brought down MH17, the Pentagon's resupply of ammunition for Israel's slaughter of Palestinians stands out as particularly hypocritical (CT, August 1).
Chris Klootwijk, Macarthur
FREEDOM TO HATE
Now that George Brandis has guaranteed my freedom of speech, can I say what I really think of the Israelis?
Fran Harris, Hall
CHILDREN LEFT BEHIND
What is the reasoning behind taking hearing aids and medication off children in Australian-run refugee detention centres?
Gillian Fahey, Mansfield
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Send from the message ﬁeld, not as an attached ﬁle. Fax: 6280 2282.Mail: Letters to the Editor, The Canberra Times, PO Box 7155, Canberra Mail Centre, ACT 2610.
Keep your letter to 250 words or less. References to Canberra Times reports should include date and page number. Letters may be edited. Provide phone number and full home address (suburb only published).