Letters to the Editor
So, ''bribery, corruption and cover-ups in Leighton Holdings' international construction empire were rife and known to top company executives and directors, according to internal company files'' (''Building giant Leighton at centre of bribery scandal'', canberratimes .com.au, October 3).
So what? Who cares? This is Australia and ''we're open for business'', to every kind of crooked racket that money can buy.
If our supposed corporate regulator, ASIC, doesn't give a toss about the bribery and corruption reaching to senior levels of the nation's central bank, why would it care about the activities of a construction company?
Even after the latest allegations were aired this week, the best ASIC can do is say ''it's not our problem'', while the gang that can't shoot straight, the AFP, wring their hands and say they don't have enough resources to investigate, while squandering tens of millions of dollars pursuing Peter Slipper to the ends of the earth!
And not a peep out of our freshly minted federal Attorney-General Senator George Brandis, who is doubtless way too busy working on his book collection and dance techniques to have time for such paltry matters.
Poor fellow my country.
John Richardson, Wallagoot, NSW
Sad church truths
I read with a mixture of sadness and relief the piece by Terry Fewtrell: ''Don't canonise John Paul II, he was no saint'' (Times2, September 30, p5). Sadness that the church to which I have belonged for more than 65 years has come to this, and relief that some members of it are courageous enough to express their disquiet publicly and in a way that is very hard to refute.
I note that one of your correspondents has described the article as ''a savage attack''. I am sure that all of the victims of single or multiple sexual assaults at the hands of a church member would feel more savagely assaulted than do any church members reading the article. More particularly, I consider that the church in which I was nurtured, learned and grew now bears very little resemblance to the current version, which appears to be seduced by riches, grandiosity, preference and position.
The clearly established history of senior hierarchy who have, for a long time, promoted self-protection, denial and perpetuation of the removal, shielding and appointment of such offenders to new places so they can continue to offend seems, to me, to lend more than a little support to the case made by Terry Fewtrell. I think there are a lot of other senior clerics (past and present) who are no saints either. I look forward to the lights coming back on in my church.
Wayne Stuart, Yass, NSW
John F. Kennedy's Bay of Pigs debacle is quite often cited as a definitive example of the kind of unrealistic thinking that can emerge from a ''silo'' of affiliates; ''groupthink'', in other words.
The Republican-driven shutdown of swaths of the US government because they want Obamacare revoked may well become the new poster child for groupthink. The florid contortions of propriety that are necessary for conservative legislators to harness doctrinaire qualms over a duly enacted law to the government supply bill simply beggar belief.
And yet they face the cameras with resolute and sober expressions as they decry Obama's unwillingness to ''negotiate''.
We have seen hyper-partisanship in Australia, but never such anarchic delusion as is currently trashing the reputation of the US government in general, and the Republicans in particular.
Fourteen hundred paramilitaries couldn't effect regime change in Cuba in 1961, and the attempt at extorting the roll-back of a compassionate law will likely be a similarly excruciating failure.
Ross Kelly, Monash
Well said, Albert White! (Letters, October 3). We've heard very little condemnation from the Coalition, Labor or Greens regarding buying cheap overseas goods produced in sweatshops by children (or adults) earning around $1 a day.
Paying people so poorly is, in one way, worse than slavery. If slavery was legal in the Third World, healthy young people would be worth nothing, because slaves, being property, need to be fed, clothed, sheltered and at times given medicine. It's far cheaper to pay ''free'' children or adults $1 or even $5 a day and let them try to fend for themselves after their 12-hour shifts.
Not only are we without laws which punish Australians who buy Third World goods produced by children in appalling conditions, our current system based on free-market ideology actively encourages it.
We need to return to the days of high tariffs in which we enjoyed semi self-sufficiency and were not subjected to a race to the bottom.
Paul Remington, Gordon
Bryan Furnass (Letters, September 28) describes humans as ''one of millions of species''. Perhaps so, but as creatures with free will we can even deny God (if there is one). The big question we all face is: Does a creator God exist or did ''all this'' just emerge out of nowhere with no purpose? We are part of a great mystery. Christians and many others are led to certain beliefs. These cannot be proved as true but they may be true. As part of creation we have insider knowledge.
It is this which convinces us that our beliefs are true. The guiding presence of a holy spirit, a sure knowledge of the ''way'', a richness in relationships, an enduring joy of life despite hardship; and common observation of the tragic lives of many who have no guide - all these create certainty and inspiration.
As to God's reasons for bringing all this about? Why would an all-powerful creator make the immense sacrifice of limiting Her own power by granting free will to the creatures at the pinnacle of Her own creation? Perhaps a major aspect of God is love, which can only be fulfilled by an unsolicited loving response from us. Perhaps Jesus was the first to discover this.
John Miller, Farrer
Education standards failing even with technological aids
I don't know how it's possible that I was educated with ''chalk and talk'', with not a smartboard in sight, let alone a computer or, indeed, the internet. The question I want answered is why I received a better education 40 years ago than the one my children have. Over the past 16 years of my children's education, I have rarely received a school notice which didn't have spelling and/or grammatical errors, despite the fact they have the advantage of computers and spell check. Not to mention the primary school years when spelling lists needed to be checked each week to ensure they were learning to spell the words correctly.
I have been outraged for years by the poor quality of education now on offer. However, I was truly appalled when I read the last paragraph of the article, ''English may be forced on students'' (October 1, p1).
''For many students, the senior secondary college years may be the last chance they get to actually get some support in those areas and to become competent in basic literacy before they leave school.'' This statement may be the saddest indictment of our educational system. The most important subject to learn in school is to read and write, as everything else follows on from being literate. If students don't have these skills, how can they be successful at school? If students are not literate by the time they reach year 11, their schooling has failed them miserably. (ACT Education Minister Joy) Burch and the Education Department should hang their heads in shame.
S. Redston, Chisholm
I hope Markus Mannheim's article (''Getting back with the program[me] after Labor's short spell'', October 3, p1) is duly noted by the language snobs in the public service and elsewhere.
As a devout and practising pedant, I urge Canberra's mandarins to turn their literary opinions away from nonsensical and outdated views about the spelling of words like ''program'' and focus on some real communications issues like writing clearly and unambiguously.
Weasel words and jargon have long bedevilled the public service and, to be fair, in much of the private sector's literary efforts as well. Sadly, one must also include academia and too much of the media in any criticism of sloppy and obfuscating language. And it's not getting any better. We are increasingly left bemused and irritated trying to work out what the hell the writer is on about.
In 1946, George Orwell, in his essay Politics and the English Language, wrote: ''Language [is] an instrument for expressing and not for concealing or preventing thought. Political language - and with variations this is true of all political parties, from conservatives to anarchists - is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.'' Nothing has changed - I fear we will all soon be writing like wannabe wine critics.
Eric Hunter, Cook
Times have changed
Dr Alan N. Cowan (Letters, October 3) seems to consider a return to ''reciting times tables'' to be a good thing. He's wrong. I was taught using frequent reciting of tables, and my knowledge of arithmetic was abysmal. It was not until I began algebra and other maths in high school that I actually began to learn multiplication in any useful way.
As an adult, I recognised that people learn in different ways and for me, learning by sight and doing was the way my mind worked best.
Modern teaching methods recognise that children do learn in differing ways and if you want them all to achieve competence, then teachers need a range of teaching methods to get that outcome.
Returning to rote learning/talk and chalk would be a retrograde step. Years ago, we could afford children slipping through the cracks as there were many unskilled jobs for them to fit into. Those days are long gone and we need to equip all children for life and employment in today's world.
Jennifer Bradley, McKellar
Israel link poor form
Dr Malcolm Patterson (''Contradictions on Syria, that's the American way'', Times2, October 3, p5) may not recognise it but the deaths of close to 1500 Syrians by chemical weapons and the purely speculative question of Israel's nuclear and chemical weapons capabilities are not conjoined intellectual arguments.
Despite being a nation consistently subject to real and promised threats of annihilation since before its establishment, Israel has never used or threatened to use nuclear or chemical weapons.
As for Israel's use of white phosphorous during the 2009 Gaza war, there is certainly no evidence to show that it was used for any purpose other than illumination and/or smokescreen, which in itself is an entirely legitimate activity. Indeed, none of the major human rights organisations categorise white phosphorous as a chemical weapon under the chemical weapons convention.
It is disappointing that someone involved in academia can offer analysis sadly adrift from sound moral, intellectual and factual moorings.
Alan Shroot, Forrest
Gillard shone bright
It has been the norm for a very long time now that the onus is on the claimant to justify the claim. Scott Rashleigh (Letters, October 3) claims that ''Julia Gillard proved to be incompetent''. I would dearly love to know the grounds Rashleigh uses to prove his claim, especially as, by all the objective measures I've seen, Gillard was one of the most competent prime ministers to have ever blessed this country.
To show Rashleigh how it's done, I will now justify this claim: Gillard led a minority government, a situation in which it would be more difficult than usual to pass legislation. Yet under her leadership, the Australian Parliament passed an average of nearly 200 acts per year. Compare this with the records of Kevin Rudd (148/year) and John Howard (163/year), both of whom led majority governments, and Ms Gillard's political competence shines like a beacon.
Mark Raymond, Manton, NSW
Recycling is the key to sullied highways
About 30 years ago I travelled by road from Canberra to Perth via the Nullarbor and I was struck by the fact that the discarded drink cans made cats' eyes on the night roadside seemed to be a free safety design feature.
Then we reached South Australia and the road edges were plunged into darkness, but then as soon as we got into WA the roadside travel assistance returned.
Moral: Even then South Australia had a container deposit system and it worked. Last week I travelled down the Barton Highway and it was much as it had been those 30 years ago except that the cans were intermixed with plastic bottles - in short it was a two-lane rubbish dump. It's still not like that in South Australia.
Encouraged by Peter Keast (Letters, October 3), I contacted Keep Australia Beautiful and found that they did not like container deposit schemes and instead preferred the PICRIS (translation: Packaging Impacts Consultation Regulation Impact Statement 2 b), and, from the vibes I got, we should recycle everything as hard as we can, as long as it doesn't upset Coca-Cola.
According to their website, Keep Australia Beautiful is working with Coca-Cola and I'm sure it is true because there are lovely pics of grinning people carrying recycling crates. And if Coca-Cola is happy then I suppose we all should be. And it was cheap for Coca-Cola, just $441,000, about what it would cost to hire three EL1s to answer the correspondence the donation generated.
My guess is that $10 million wouldn't touch the sides of the amount needed to clean up our roadsides. But a container deposit scheme would.
John Lynch, Narrabundah
Not even warm
Will Steffen and the Climate Council need to read the IPCC report (''Records tumble as temperatures soar'', October 4, p7)?
It accepts that there has been no warming for at least 15 years. It says the heat may be in the oceans but records back 30 years, including the 3000 Argo buoys since 2003, show no warming and suggest some cooling. Not one computer model picked what has happened.
It is time the warmists accept they got it all wrong.
Brian Hatch, Red Hill
TO THE POINT
DEVIL'S IN THE DETAIL
Gabriel Garrigues (Letters, October 4) is mistaken in the belief that the Vatican office of the Promoter of the Faith, ''the Devil's advocate'' will conduct a ''rigorous process'' during the considerations for canonisation of Pope John Paul II. The office was abolished in 1983 - by Pope John Paul II.
Brian Robinson, Wanniassa
Ed Dobson (Letters, October 1) should know that the expression ''percentage certainty'' appears in standard statistics textbooks. It's also a standard scientific usage in weather forecasting. Therefore, its use is neither an indication of ''sloppy thinking'', as Dobson would have it, nor an indication of ideological prejudice. Just plain mathematics.
David Roth, Kambah
Ziggy Switkowski: fibre to the reactor (''Switkowski to take reins at NBN Co'', October 4, p4).
Ross Humphreys, Flynn
RUDD'S REAL IMPACT
Hugh White and Paul Pollard (Letters, October 3) both forgot something about Kevin Rudd's impact on world affairs.
In the process of using the G20 to mitigate the post-boom hangover (the GFC) he elevated the G20, which includes us, into a more important global body on many issues than the G8, which doesn't include us. Because of this, we get a much greater say in the councils of the great and powerful. No doubt Mr White left out this important detail because it didn't gel with his overall message.
S.W. Davey, Torrens
BRING ON THE LYCRA
Oh dear I think Jane Craig (Letters, October 4) missed my point entirely. I don't care one way or the other if our PM wears Lycra or skimpy bathers. I think it's actually rather funny. My letter was in relation to Pope's cartoon and whether it was appropriate for him to draw the PM in his budgie smugglers. A previous letter writer felt it wasn't. Of course it is. I don't believe the cartoon will stop the PM from wearing the budgie smugglers. It certainly hasn't in the past.
Jan Gulliver, Lyneham
BEWARE BIG BROTHER
Isn't the first action of the power hungry the destruction of past knowledge and the imposition their own simplistic - and compulsory - alternatives (''The past is always present'', Times2, October 4, p1)? Isn't the message of works such as 1984 and Animal Farm and every Holocaust memoir just how easily such changes can be made before anybody really notices, until it is too late?
Barbara Malpass, Sutton, NSW
Email: letters.editor@ canberratimes.com.au. 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).