Letters to the Editor

No better second time

The free run that Kevin Rudd is enjoying says a lot about memory loss. Until Abbott changes gears (and he will) Rudd will sparkle. The Coalition has policy to announce, and many critiques to make which will be uncomfortable for Rudd.

The internal focus of Rudd's brief new reign is evident in the intervention into NSW Labor - a distraction from damning ICAC [Independent Commission Against Corruption] findings that implicate years of ALP cultural behaviour. Similarly the internal focus about electing party leaders is a distraction.

Rudd is the architect of many ALP failings, insulation batts for one (which Rudd refused to change despite warnings), but also the complete shambles of boat-based asylum claims, which rose from 25 (2007-08) to nearly 25,000 in 2012-13. The clumsy carbon tax and mining taxes have their genesis under Rudd.

Similarly the foreign policy disaster of bans on uranium exports to India came from Rudd.

Leopards don't change their spots and the dysfunction of Rudd (2007-10) and earlier as Wayne Goss's chief of staff cannot be airbrushed away.

M. Gordon, Flynn


Big ideas

R.S. Gilbert (Letters, July 9) offers some (rather right-wing) explanations for Julia Gillard's fall: ''the way she deposed Kevin Rudd … her broken promise not to introduce a carbon tax'', etc. He misses a more obvious explanation.

We know Rudd's popularity fell like a stone after he boasted in 2009 of being a ''big Australia'' man. This gave Julia her opening. Rudd's former speechwriter James Button reveals in his recent book Speechless: A Year in My Father's Business how desperate both Rudd and Gillard became to throw off the big Australia tag.

Gillard's first promise after displacing Rudd was to get the country off the big Australia path. It helped her win the election. But was she sincere? Australia is now headed for a higher projected population than when she took power. Her supposed minister for sustainable population never so much as met with Sustainable Population Australia, and eventually announced his own (instantly forgotten) ''solutions'' on a Friday in budget week!

To their own shame the Greens, who had claimed to be the party of environment, and whose votes she needed, made no attempt to hold Gillard to her promise.

Polls showed voters disillusioned with both parties; and the combined effect sank Labor to lethal levels.

Now, oddly, it is Rudd who is better positioned to claim he has abandoned big Australia for sustainable Australia. But has he?

Mark O'Connor, Lyneham

Quiet party

Having just received a glossy brochure from Dr Mike Kelly boasting about his achievements in Eden-Monaro from 2007-13 I noticed one thing that was missing. There is no mention of the party he represents. Are these Labor members so ashamed of their party's brand that they are too embarrassed to display it in their advertising material?

Phillip Lankford, Tuross Head, NSW

Following the leader

Every so often someone feels the need to enlighten people, by telling them they do not vote directly for a certain leader to be prime minister. Well I have news for Patrick Stewart-Moore (Letters, July 11). I do. If I do not like the person leading the party, then I do not vote for that party's representative.

If I do not like either leader I vote informal. So if he thinks this is a one-off, how does he explain the difference in the polls now that Labor has changed leaders? I have never known a case where the outgoing prime minister, on winning government again, has then been changed straight after the election.

Rosalind Carew, Isaacs

Help smokers stop

Your editorial (''Smoking ban is a health risk'', Times2, July 11, p2) and article on smoking in the mental health unit at the Canberra Hospital (''Alarm as attacks on nurses increase'', July 11, p1) highlights the problems of smoking.

I am sympathetic to the victims of the tobacco industry who have been conned as youngsters into taking up the habit and are unable to stop. Nevertheless, the hospital is a health facility and exposing staff and other patients to the noxious chemicals in side stream smoke is a significant health risk.

Some of these patients are also addicted to marijuana, cocaine and heroin. Indeed, a proportion will have acquired mental illness from consuming these products. Is there a suggestion mental health patients should be allowed to relieve their addiction by consuming these illegal substances in a health care facility? Of course not. Tobacco, which is legal by default, should come into the same category.

The Canberra Times' suggestions of increasing staff numbers for safety reasons and programs to assist those addicted to tobacco to stop smoking have merit.

Dr Alan D. Shroot, president, Canberra Action on Smoking and Health

Hidden heroism

I recently visited the Australian War Memorial with the explicit intention of seeing the medals of my hero, Nancy ''the White Mouse'' Wake. It took quite a bit of effort to hunt her down in a tucked-away corner.

Recognising that Nancy Wake was a civilian in World War II engaged by the British to serve as their agent in France, given that she was so highly honoured by Britain, France, the US, New Zealand and very belatedly, isn't it time the Memorial finally gave this great Aussie war hero pride of place?

Nancy Wake, undoubtedly the most heroic woman Australia has ever produced, will no doubt prove an inspiration to many generations of young women to come - if the Memorial brings her into a place of prominence.

If Nancy's story is allowed to fade into obscurity, so too fades into obscurity the idea that one person can alter the fate of mankind - which I do believe is a statement that aptly describes the role Nancy Wake played in World War II.

Please don't let the deeds of this great woman fade into insignificance.

Bruce Thompson, Ashfield, NSW

Multistorey car parks may be the solution to traffic misery

Something simply must be done about parking for visitors to institutions in the Parliamentary Triangle (and the National Museum also). Shortly before midday on a beautiful winter's day in the middle of the school holidays, there was not a spare parking space to be had near the National Gallery of Australia, the High Court, Questacon, the National Library of Australia or Old Parliament House.

As a a long-time Canberran, I know parking in these areas is at a premium at the best of times but, for the visitors to our national capital, so many of them having to park illegally on footpaths or circle endlessly in search of the holy grail, it must be incredibly frustrating. I simply had to apologise to a friend, abandon our meeting and return home.

How much more disappointing for tourists who come here for a day or so and cannot visit the places of interest to them in that time. It's enough to turn many of them away, or persuade them not to return.

Not everybody can catch a bus, or walk from a distant park without difficulty, and the situation must be remedied - and soon. Multistorey car parks are generally not attractive but may be the only solution. Please sort it as soon as possible.

Charmian Lawson, Holder

Put brake on light rail folly

The mooted destruction and re-laying of Northbourne Avenue for the light rail (''Northbourne Avenue to be dug up for construction of city's light rail'', July 12, p1) is bureaucratic madness and economic vandalism. Our government can't even complete a simple bike path in Weston Park.

After some 18 months, the path is still unfinished with half the park and its facilities totally unusable. Even the kangaroos are unimpressed.

John Simson, Evatt

I would like to suggest an alternative strategy to avoid the folly of the light rail, to preserve the trees on Northbourne Avenue and save several hundred million dollars. The rail link will only serve a small part of the population and I don't see Gungahlin becoming a major tourist destination in the immediate future. The alternative makes use of existing infrastructure and is enacted by ACTION, using things that already work well for the bus network such as bus lanes and alternative lanes at traffic lights.

A simple but effective addition is to provide the bus drivers with a traffic light control that operates several hundred metres away to change the light to green so the bus doesn't have to stop at the lights. Given there is no co-ordination of traffic lights, it might even improve traffic flow along the major routes.

In a normal rail network, tickets are bought and validated before getting on the train to minimise delays. As a trial, the new high-speed bus network should return to past days with a conductor who can ensure this process runs smoothly and help passengers with shopping bags, prams and even bicycles as required.

I'm sure the ACT government is very keen to do some road works so, apart from the modifications needed at some intersections, the cycle lane can be moved to the centre of Northbourne Avenue to allow the bus flow to be much smoother.

A rail network implies stations need to be built but, with the bus network, a flexible approach based on demand can be used with shelters and facilities strategically placed and easily relocated.

Andrew Papworth, Campbell

NAPLAN window dressing

The Grattan Institute's findings that NAPLAN results published on the internet or anywhere else do not force schools to lift their performance (''NAPLAN enrolments effect minimal: report'', July 11, p1) confirm what many realised from the start.

Concentrating on a strategy of public shaming under the guise of competitive examination is flawed.

It is not only the administrative and student stresses caused by NAPLAN that is the problem. The strategy turns the spotlight away from the real essence of the provision of quality education. Great teachers make great students. Shaming tactics such as NAPLAN and the Gonski policy of throwing money at the problem do make great teachers happen.

Quality teacher training must be the primary focus of any policy to improve our education system. Current policies are window dressing, papering over the broken glass.

John Bell, Lyneham

Stand up for Assange

A secret US government communication in 2009 stated: ''[Julia] Gillard recognises that, to become prime minister, she must … show her support for the alliance with the United States.'' After Julian Assange revealed US war crimes and US politicians called for his assassination, Gillard branded Assange an anarchistic criminal. Having broken no Australian law, the Gillard government created new legislation allowing Australians to be prosecuted here under US law.

A new US military base was announced in 2011. Classified documents revealed Bob Carr as a US informant. Carr said the government would make no representation for Assange because it ''doesn't affect Australian interests''. Meanwhile, six Australians accused of murder in Peru receive ''very high level'' representation. The Gillard government refused motions to protect Assange, ignored questions and obstructed freedom-of-information requests.

Now Kevin Rudd says he will dismantle endemic corruption within NSW Labor, which reportedly anointed Gillard, and, from classified documents, appears to have operated as a ''cell'' for US infiltration into Australian politics for decades. In 2010, Rudd pledged ''with Australians in strife anywhere in the world … our responsibility is to ensure the consular rights and legal rights of all Australians abroad are protected. And that includes Mr Assange.''

Will this Australian government now protect this Australian from persecution for embarrassing the US government, or continue its embarrassing servility?

Simon Kringas, Forrest

Shining a light on the cost of renewables

J. McKerral (Letters, July 11) claimed that renewable energy pushes up electricity prices for household consumers through the cost of renewable energy certificates, infrastructure, wholesale generation and retailing costs. In fact, renewables decrease the wholesale price of electricity, as can be most clearly observed in South Australia, where renewable penetration is the greatest.

Wholesale electricity prices in SA have been cut in half between 2008 and 2012, according to the Australian Energy Market Operator. One reason for this has been that wind farms have a lower operating cost than gas and coal-fired plants and therefore bid their output at a lower price in the wholesale market.

This benefit far exceeds the very modest cost of supporting renewable energy targets.

NSW's Independent Pricing & Regulatory Tribunal has handed down its final retail electricity price determination and has confirmed that the large-scale renewable energy target only costs the average household $40 this year. A fact sheet of IPART's findings can be viewed at

The author also mistakenly believed new and upgraded transmission infrastructure required with wind and solar farms inflates electricity bills. The reality is that all new electricity generation plants - coal, gas, wind and solar - must pay their own connection. Not one cent has been added to the network charges in customers' electricity bills to pay for new poles and wires.

Marju Tonisson, Infigen Energy, Sydney, NSW

J. McKerral (Letters, July 11), while going into detail that most readers will not check, does little more than assert that electricity from renewable sources costs more. This is well known and accepted. Even so, there are circumstances under which renewables are already cost competitive, and the technology keeps improving.

Because the present cost of electricity is insignificant compared with the future cost of runaway climate change, we need as a community to decide to pay more for electricity, rather than letting the ''least cost'' mantra of conventional economics dominate the debate.

By paying more for renewable energy, we pay partly for electricity, and partly for a secure climate. Fossil-fuel generated electricity is not an equivalent product.

While no single measure in any single country can secure the climate, many imperfect attempts, worldwide, in the right direction, will.

John Symond, O'Connor



Who said: ''If we are to drive a new national … agenda we need to have government, business and unions working as much as possible together''? Was it (a) Kevin Rudd (b) Benito Mussolini (c) both of the above?

D. Zivkovic, Aranda


Roundabouts, straight wide roads, multi-lanes. You name it and Canberra's wheeled wobblers will drift over. Just pick a lane and stay in it!

Yuri Shukost, Isabella Plains


Further to Sam Nona (Letters, July 12), I get the strong feeling that Andy Murray would be embarrassed and perhaps offended by being dubbed Sir Andrew by an English monarch for being the first Scot to win the men's singles at Wimbledon.

Douglas Mackenzie, Deakin


So Mel Greig, the 2Day FM employee who helped hoax the London nurse who committed suicide, is seeking compensation (''Royal hoax radio host could receive huge payout'', July 11, p3). One can only assume she is giving it to the family of the nurse.

Vic Adams, Reid

I don't believe anybody forced Ms Greig to impersonate someone on the phone, on the air. Greig chose her career; she selected her employer - even though Austereo has a reputation for questionable practices - she must have had some idea.

I cannot imagine how I'd feel were someone to commit suicide because of something I said or did, especially in jest. Still, nothing I've read or heard demonstrates the lack of a ''safe workplace'' at Austereo.

Judy Bamberger, O'Connor


Rhys Crawley's reassuringly touchy-feely article ''Going public in the world of hidden secrets'' (Times2, July 11, p5), fails to quantify the unlimited, efficiency-dividend free budgets supporting each intelligence empire, feeding the Pentagon's insatiable data demand. Money misspent on intelligence would be better invested in creating a more equitable Australian citizenry.

Albert M. White, Queanbeyan


I was astounded by the editorial assertion that mental health ''nurses are entitled to go to work without fear of being assaulted'' (''Smoking ban is a health risk'', Times2, July 11, p2). I fear the author's connection with reality is somewhat tenuous, although no more so than those denying a causal relationship between a spike in assaults and the patient tobacco veto.

Gary J. Wilson, Macgregor

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