Comment

Letters to the Editor

No empathy for aged

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Jeremy Hanson is so out of touch if he thinks that many older Canberrans are not concerned about whether they might face a slow, possibly painful, death against their wishes because of the disgraceful Kevin Andrews Euthanasia Laws Bill 1996 ("Andrews bill repeal bid finds support" March 2, p7).

I have been outraged that a person so lacking in empathy for others was made Minister for Ageing from November 2001 to October 2003.

It's about time the governments of the territories had the same rights as state parliaments to draft legislation on a range of matters. And it's about time that politicians represented their constituents. A "conscience" vote is a cop out.

Susan MacDougall, Scullin

Anger over oval plans

We have been following the letters and comments in the Canberra Times, relating to the proposed redevelopment of Manuka Oval since the study was first published earlier this month.

For us, Tony Webster (Letters, February 27) puts the whole story into a nutshell.

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It says it all, because you see we are one of the "nearby residents". We are going to be the local people most affected by this development. We, plus the large number of families who live in the area surrounding Manuka Oval. No, we do not need another hotel in this area, there are already seven within a 10-minute walk of the oval.

No, we do not need any more serviced apartments or units, we already live in a fairly high density area. We came here to enjoy the close proximity to Manuka, Kingston, Telopea Park and the lake. At present, we can take a pleasant walk to the shops, the library, the cinema, and the Sunday markets.

So please, no grandiose schemes proposed by greedy developers and enthusiastically supported by a Chief Minister who appears to be out of touch with the locals of this area.

Margaret Simmonds, Forrest

I share Jack Waterford's outrage about the apparent approach to the Manuka Oval precinct development proposal ("Secret deal taints Barr's regime", Forum, February 19, p1) . An approach, whereby one major real estate developer, Grocon and its partner the Greater Sydney AFL team offer to "refurbish and improve the stadium 'free"' in exchange for the effective appropriation of ACT public land worth hundreds of millions and development rights.

This has echoes of the very fast rain proposal. Why should two entities, in partnership, be given the inside running on a development proposal of this magnitude. Where is the competition? What happened to testing the market? Is this a good deal for the ACT ratepayers? What options have been considered or are we looking at some sort of sweetheart deal? At present there seems to be no transparency around this approach, which is totally unsatisfactory.

If this proposal involves land development rights as it appears to, and if the government is not going to develop the land, then I agree with Waterford that there should be at least an open tender or auction of the rights to ensure value for money.

Irene Davies, Campbell

Lunchtime speedsters?

It would be interesting to see a breakdown of the actual time of day when the alleged speeding in school zones occurred ("Speeding drivers risk lives near schools", February 29, p3). Obviously no one disputes the danger of speeding in school zones. But to my mind the ACT school crossings system of a blanket restriction to 40km/h from 8am to 4pm on weekdays is more likely to lead to motorists being caught for speeding in the middle hours of the day when there is nary a child to be seen for hours at a time. In other states including NSW, the speed restriction applies more sensibly to the limited times when children and carers are arriving at or leaving school. Many of these crossings are also illuminated by a flashing 40km/h sign at the gazetted times which is very difficult to miss.

Natasha Boddy's article claims that some motorists have been clocked at 30 to 45km/h above the limit. This is obviously unacceptable but I am sure this would become a rare occurrence if ACT crossings adopted the NSW system of more rational time frames partnered with flashing illuminated 40 signs.

Robert Henderson, Jerrabomberra, NSW

Clearly drivers who speed through school zones when children are arriving or leaving school are irresponsible and should be punished. However, the figures do not show how many of these offences occurred outside the morning and afternoon arrival/departure periods to which other jurisdictions like NSW limit the operation of their school zones.

Jenny Harper (Letters, February 29) raises some legitimate questions that have also crossed my mind. Since August last year, I have been asking the ACT government for evidence that the ACT all day school zone system provides better results that the NSW morning and afternoon system. To date I have received nothing so I assume they have no such evidence.

They have been able to tell me that in the past five years there have been no crashes involving children in ACT school zones between 9.30am and 2.30pm. From my personal observations over the past 18 months, this would be because the likelihood of encountering children in a school zone between 9.30am and 2.30pm is virtually zero.

I too wonder if the main reason that the AFP is enforcing school zone speed limits between 9.30am and 2.30pm is because it is, to quote the inimitable Arthur Daley, "a nice little earner".

Jim Derrick, Florey

Did CSIRO get it wrong?

Eric French (Letters, February 29) is another who seeks to paint all Indigenous people with the same broad brush of inadequacy and lack of endeavour. If his tale of the CSIRO and Aboriginal researchers who left to go off to a harvest is even partly true, here's a possible variation.

Presumably the "harvest" was an annual event, so shouldn't good CSIRO management have anticipated what might have been a yearly commitment by the families concerned and been able to plan for both sets of needs. Moreover, why was the research "wasted" as French states? Again, if the story is true, surely a lack of planning and good management by CSIRO was the root cause of this aspect. As for Stan Grant's achievements, I ask Mr French, did every white kid in his class, including him, all take advantage of every opportunity available to them? If not, stop asserting that every Indigenous child can – and worse, according to the likes of Mr French, that it's automatically their fault if they don't.

Eric Hunter, Cook

Cardinal Pell shows little emotion or empathy for abuse survivors

It defies belief to see Cardinal Pell sitting like an obdurate cane toad in Rome on day two of the Royal Commission into the sexual abuse of children in the Catholic Diocese of Ballarat during his tenure there.

Buoyed by the Pope's support, Pell has shown not a shred of empathy, compassion, feeling, or discomfort about what victims of the paedophile Gerald Ridsale suffered in the 1970s and 1980s. He even said stonily, "It wasn't of much interest to me". The only emotion Pell showed was when he left his car on arrival at the inquiry in Rome, saying with a smile that he had the support of the Pope.

If Pell couldn't ask the committee why Ridsdale was being frequently moved like a toxic parcel from one parish to another, it says very little about his emotional intelligence. Didn't he have any real interest or curiosity about what was happening in his parish? It must have been a case of see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil or else it was a very malign form of disinterest.

Judy Kelly, Aranda

Cardinal Pell is showing us that he went to the Mikado School of Priesthood. He agrees with everyone that the child abuse which went on all around him was terrible, but insists that he knew nothing of it, despite being in senior management positions at relevant times.

And there was no reason for him to be concerned anyway – the activities of Gerald Ridsdale weren't of much interest to him, for instance. So there is simply nothing to worry about. As we read in the first act of The Mikado, "I am right, and you are right, and everything is quite correct!" If the audience is not amused, that is the audience's own fault.

G.T.W. Agnew, Coopers Plains, Qld

Senate voting

Amanda Vanstone's article "Shorten's miscalculation" (Times2, February 21, p1) was politically inspired nonsense.

The people most upset at current Senate voting arrangements are major-party supporters who missed out on additional seats because so many people did not vote for their parties. The micro-party voters realistically did not expect that their chosen candidates would win. Their realistic aim was that their votes would help to deny seats to major parties, and they were successful in this. It is a "fair bet" that those voters were very happy with the result.

It is probably also "a fair bet" that many major-party voters were incensed that under Vanstone's preferred system Gary Gray had to vote in accordance with his party's wishes and that the Prime Minister they voted for was deposed in a coup.

Vanstone stated that a joint parliamentary committee recommended change. What a farce that process was. In effect a group of politicians belonging to major parties recommended a change to how voters could vote for micro parties (their aim was to ensure that no candidates from micro parties could be elected). Since the committee was dealing only with the method of voting for micro parties, perhaps the committee should have comprised only politicians from the micro parties.

Ross Gittins' excellent article "Senate change a boost for lobbyists" (BusinessDay, February 31, p12) shames Vanstone's drivel.

Bob Salmond, Melba

Election preferences

There are a number of points in Richard Denniss' article 'Senate Bill Needs Scrutiny' (Forum, February 27, p7) that I take issue with.

Denniss claims that "almost no one understands how preferences work" ignore the fact that the Australian Electoral Commission website has a simple explanation.

He goes on, "if the candidate you give your first preference to fails to win a seat your vote is transferred at full value to your second favourite". That is the House of Representatives system. In the Senate system surplus votes from candidates who have secured a "quota" are distributed to other candidates. Only if this process is exhausted without a sufficient number of senators being elected are the votes from the lowest ranked candidate distributed to higher ranked, but not yet elected, candidates.

If this distribution results in another candidate being elected that candidate's surplus votes are distributed. The process continues until a sufficient number of candidates have been elected. The important point is that normally a sufficient number of candidates will be elected before all low ranking candidate's votes are distributed.

Which leads to the next issue. He claims that "under the preferential voting system we have you can never 'waste' your vote". As discussed above there will normally be a number of low ranking candidates who were neither elected nor were their votes distributed, ie, votes for them are "wasted". This is because the quota is the lowest possible number, resulting in almost a "quota" of votes being wasted.

The major parties are the beneficiaries of the low quota which provides more surplus votes from their first preference candidate to cascade down to their lower candidates. The losers are voters for candidates who don't get a quota but whose votes are not distributed. Revising the quota formula to provide the highest practical quota number and thus distributing almost all votes would be a more democratic process.

Bryce French, Weetangera

Effects of immigration

When I criticised Geoff Davies' exposition of Jane O'Sullivan's theories on the effects of immigration, I addressed their claims concerning physical capital and infrastructure (Letters, February 26). Davies did not mention environmental costs. Colin Samundsett now somewhat unfairly claims that my arguments were "fallacious" because I did not extend the scope of the discussion to include these issues (Letters, March 1). If I had tried to cover every base to his satisfaction, my letter would have been of unpublishable length. The simple points were (1) that past immigrations had not necessarily led to economic disaster, often the reverse, and (2) Davies had ignored the benefits of immigration.

I did say that our current level of migration was too high and I agree that we should take account of environmental factors when setting its level. But I prefer to avoid sweeping claims that we are near "bankruptcy".

David Roth, Kambah

Case for talc causing cancer overstated

Few members of trial juries are equipped by education or other experience to assess the statistical significance of highly technical evidence competently and without bias. So we shouldn't be surprised that a Missouri jury has awarded $US70million against Johnson and Johnson in regard to its popular talcum powder.

From birth to death almost all of us are exposed to finely divided talc. It's used in or on many manufactured products, including condoms. So besides using it as hygienic talcum powder we may get it on our fingers and swallow it, or take it as a component of medicines and pills, inject it with heroin, or breathe it in from the powdered skin of babies or intimate lovers. It may even get part way up the female genital tract via intercourse, and by all these routes minute amounts may get into the blood circulation and end up in body organs and tissues, including cancerous ones.

So reports that talc particles have been found in human ovarian cancers do not necessarily mean that they got there via the female reproductive tracts or that they caused the cancers. Indeed, WHO rates talc to be no more carcinogenic than coffee.

The evidence claimed to show that talc may cause cancer has involved exposing experimental animals for long periods to extreme concentrations that would never occur in humans, such as making rats breathe in heavy concentrations of talc dust five hours a day, five days a week for 115 weeks, at the end of which some had little lumps in their lungs. This won't happen to you. So don't be afraid of powdering your babies or of course yourselves, and preferably doing the latter with swansdown powder puffs.

Ron Wells, MD, Mawson

Pollies mess up

So our pollies were just squawking about reform and now they are making a mess in the cage. Naughty pollies. Time to clear the cage and get a new lot?

Tom Middlemiss, Deakin

TO THE POINT

FICKLE CROWD

It feels like only a few weeks ago we were happy to have a Prime Minister who didn't do stupid things. Now we expect him to do brave and clever things. Mobile vulgus indeed!

H. Simon, Watson

CLASS ACTION BY RIVAL

We read that Maurice Blackburn is to launch a class action on behalf of the shareholders of Slater & Gordon. Dog eats dog?

Alan N. Cowan, Yarralumla

LACK OF WARNING SIGNS

Someone decided it would be a good idea to block off the right-hand turn from Old Well Station Road (behind EPIC) on to the Federal Highway at the weekend. It's a pity they didn't think to put any warning signs up in the preceding two-kilometre stretch! What it was supposed to achieve, other than annoyance and frustration, is beyond me!

Barb Mitchell, Ngunnawal

SHOW TOO EXPENSIVE

I fully empathise with Anthony Sirr (Letters, March 1) for refusing to return to the Royal Canberra Show after paying $100 for parking, entry, a showbag and eight minutes of rides. I guess that, like too few of us, Mr Shirr is vibrancy challenged.

Bill Deane, Chapman

IMAGE FAR-FETCHED

More bleating from the light-rail haters, this time on the differences between Canberra and Tucson (Letters, February 29). The image of the car-hating, environmentally conscious citizens of Tucson emerging from their cramped, densely packed dwellings to flock to light rail certainly is imaginative.

Do Peter Robinson and Roger Brown really think that Canberrans will believe this?

John Mason, Latham

EU'S DEMISE HASTENED

Au contraire, Richard Ogier ("Merkel: principled, pragmatic and now at risk", Times2, February 29, p5). "Mutti" Merkel, by offering an open-door policy to Syrian refugees and non-Syrians taking advantage of the offer, has probably hastened a "Brexit" despite David Cameron's best efforts and, ultimately, intensified Vladimir Putin's long-term strategy of breaking up the EU.

Christina Faulk, Swinger Hill

COLONOSCOPY HELPS

Your report, "Bowel cancer the new health epidemic among the young" (canberratimes.com.au, February 29) fails to note that a colonoscopy can prevent bowel cancer by removing precancerous growths. That's what you have to tell people of whatever age, if you want to raise screening rates.

Gavin R. Putland, Melbourne

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.

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