Letters to the Editor

No tears for Baghdad

After the 2015 Paris bombing that left 130 dead and hundreds wounded, the world rightly expressed its condemnation.

Social media went into meltdown; red, white and blue filters were applied to Facebook profiles, the international media provided extensive coverage, and global leaders leapt up to decry the atrocity and to assure the French people that we stood with them in the war against terror and that their sorrow was our sorrow – "Je suis Paris".

After the recent Brussels bombing in which 28 were killed and hundreds more injured, the filters changed to red, yellow and black, landmark buildings were lit up in the Belgian national colours and, once again, social and traditional media provided extensive coverage.

World leaders including the Pope, condemned these new, cowardly attacks – "Je suis Brussels".

On Sunday, we saw reports of another bombing at a football stadium in Iraq. Just a few reports.

Forty-one dead, over 100 injured.


No social media meltdown, no media coverage of mourners delivering piles of flowers to the Iraqi embassy, no world leaders leaping to their respective podiums to express their outrage and solidarity with the Iraqi people, no iconic buildings being lit up in red, white and black.

"Je suis Baghdad" anyone? Anyone?

I thought not.

P. Johnston, O'Connor

Religion exploits

Ross Gittins draws a long and distorted bow ("Economy rests on a Christian base", BusinessDay, March 28, p12).

Yes, Australia's heritage includes Judeo-Christian traditions and superstitions.

But not always for the better and not as Gittins portrays it.

To claim that any separation of church and state, for example, is a feature of that history – let alone of the English legal system – is simply wrong.

In that system, one church remains intertwined with the state, both in the Queen as head of that "established" church and in the anti-democratic membership of the House of Lords by its sundry clergy.

Our own bunyip monarchy – constitutionally vested with the executive authority of our government – is statutorily "by the grace of [one royally preferred] God". Not a lot of separation.

Like much of history, our Judeo-Christian heritage should be recognised but not always respected or perpetuated.

The use of religion to exploit ignorance and cultivate fear and obedience to cultivate status, authority and subservience has a long and unhappy history.

We would do well to terminate it wherever it still festers – from the Vatican to Mecca.

Where contemporary moral and ethical values are reflected in any religion, it is more likely to be because of their self-interested adoption by that religion, than benevolent development by it.

Mike Hutchinson, Reid

Manuka Green

Not only will the "Manuka Green" proposal affect areas of heritage significance, it will significantly reduce community recreation land, which currently has specific statutory protections.

Most of the proposed site is on land identified in the Territory Plan as "public land restricted access recreation".

The statutory provisions relating to public land and this classification are spelt out in the ACT Planning and Development Act.

The provisions for the identification, reservation and management of public land were implemented from the commencement of the relevant legislation and the Territory Plan at the beginning of self-government.

The intention was to preserve the public interest/values in the reserves identified in the plan.

The public land status of the Albert Hall was a significant factor in the successful campaign to retain the hall in public management a decade ago.

Public land, whether leased or not, must be managed in accordance with a plan of management showing how the statutory objectives for the land will be met.

Parts of the Manuka Green proposal would require a change to the Territory Plan in zoning and a subsequent change to any plan of management relating to any remaining public land on the site.

The Assembly would need to agree to both.

We should ask election candidates for their views on this proposal, which will give a developer ownership of our public land.

Gina Pinkas, Aranda

No aptitude

I'm delighted with Frank O'Shea's foray into science fiction ("Future schools examine the past", Forum, March 26, p5)!

I particularly liked his summary of the current ethos, "teachers are required to give priority to social cohesion, a theory that declared everyone to be equal and discouraged any form of excellence".

It made a nice counterpoint to the news that a "Grattan Institute report found many of the nation's students are incapable of reaching benchmarks set" ("A classroom led by robotic widgets", p7).

That only indicates that, contrary to current objectives, most students should not be coerced into six years of high school.

Our falling score in the OECD assessment of 15-year-olds globally seems irrelevant.

What does it matter if those without aptitude for university study haven't grasped the niceties of parsing, parameters, permutations and periodicity?

Gary J. Wilson, Macgregor

Middle of the road

Michael McCarthy's letter (March 26) considers the right pace for change for a government.

My suggestion is that a hard turn to the right by the Abbott government requires an equally strong and fast turn to the left to restore Australian politics to middle of the road, which is what polls suggest most voters prefer. But maybe, with increasing evidence of potentially catastrophic human impact on the planet, a further touch of green.

Robyn Vincent, Mckellar

Believe it or not

So the world's most-expensive chairman, Senator Arfur "I know nothink" Sinodinos, was copied on emails boasting about a large property developer donation being paid into a secretive slush fund ("Sinodinos was on slush fund email trail", March 27, p8).

Let's not be too quick to judge – perhaps he can't read?

John Richardson, Wallagoot, NSW

Dwelling on past

I am sick of reading/listening/seeing Tony Abbott pontificating on how good he was as prime minister and how good his government was.

If he was that good, why did his colleagues dump him?

Suck it up, Abbott: move on, move out of the House and make way for someone who will contribute to the future, not dwell in the past.

Graeme Rankin, Holder

Let's clean up some of those dirty rumours

While Stephen Myers is right (Letters, March 23) in pointing out the hyperbole in Joyce Wilkie's claim that Gundaroo is "showering in its own shit", it's undeniable that the underground water is contaminated with this same organic matter.

It's likely to be more so if the proposed subdivisions go ahead in their present form.

And while there aren't many who have used bore water solely for drinking and showering, more than a few until recently (until the test results became public) have used it to top up tanks in dry times.

The advice from the organisation that did the water testing is that the E.coli-carrying water is safe on lawns and on gardens, providing foodstuffs are washed well, but is unsafe for drinking or accidentally ingesting – for example, from sprayed water.

One impact of this last point is that, for local children, there will be no more filling wading pools up with bore water, or running through the sprinklers on a hot summer's day.

And in keeping with Myers' tone, I find it somewhat concerning that a medical doctor would poo-poo the seriousness of a situation where a vital resource to the village is damaged in this way.

PS: I don't think I've ever come across any evidence of organic gardeners putting manure on the food.

Ian Jones, Friends of Gundaroo, Gundaroo, NSW

Judges do not serve justice by procrastinating over judgements

Your report of a court case between Supabarn and the Kaleen Plaza owner says the "case was heard in August 2014, but no final decision has yet been made" ("Supabarn stoush with Kaleen Plaza owner", March 26, p1).

So judges, after hearing a case, can delay issuing a decision, thus keeping the parties in suspense, for at least one year and seven months, and still counting!

That is surely a shocking indictment of our legal system.

Why on earth should judges have this luxury, at the expense of the parties litigating, of taking whatever time they like, even years!, to decide cases and issue decisions?

Other public servants are often required by law to decide matters that come before them within a certain time.

Why should that not apply to judges?

R. S. Gilbert, Braddon

A shot in the foot

Small business owners who call for a reduction in weekend penalty rates seemed determined to dig their own graves ("Shutters down as retailers feel holiday pay squeeze", March 26, p1).

A reduction in penalty rates will apply to all employers, including Woolworths, Coles, Bunnings, Myers and David Jones, all big employers of sales staff.

These employees are not exactly well paid and many rely on weekend rates to make ends meet. A reduction in wages will result in them cutting back on those takeaway coffees on the way to work and a sandwich for lunch.

Reducing wages will also make it easier for mums and dads to, in Joe Hockey's words, "have a go". So as well as reduced sales due to reduced incomes, small businesses are likely to face more competition as even more cafes and shops open in their area.

Is this what small businesses want? Reduced sales and more competition?

To all small business owners: the weekend rates retailers pay their staff is the money they spend in your business.

Come on guys, it's not rocket science!

David Hicks, Holt

Bigger is not better

A quick read through The Canberra Times' headlines (March 28) tells the story of a dismal and rapidly failing economic paradigm.

"Be patient and plan ahead in our gridlocked city", "New cuts: cultural agencies lose $40m – jobs, programs at risk", "Stamp of disapproval: super slow mail delivers chaos", "Funds for homeless services still uncertain".

All these from just Monday's newspaper and the story is repeated day in day out.

Our economy should be diverse, resilient and sustainable. It should deliver a healthy environment and a better quality of life for all.

So why do we refuse to question the "bigger is better" economic ideology followed by all the major parties when it is so clearly a failure?

Isn't it time to think better, not bigger?

Martin Tye, Broulee

Culture cuts calamity

Funding cuts and job losses in our cultural institutions have gone too far ("New cuts: cultural agencies lose $40m", March 28, p1).

We cannot keep stripping our nation's cultural institutions of such crucial funds.

Canberra used to pride itself on showcasing Australia's art and culture that our many institutions have fostered for many years.

The cuts our cultural institutions have had to make over several years will have, and has had, a severe detrimental effect on Australian history research, especially with the "curtailing of Trove publishing".

I have used Trove on many occasions and it is a crucial resource for many people willing to learn about Australian history and also their own family history.

Will interstate and indeed international tourists want to visit our beautiful city if cuts to these institutions continue?

I wonder if any federal politicians have actually visited, say, the National Library or the National Museum on a personal level. Maybe they should.

They then might realise how important these institutions are to Australia's cultural heritage.

Narelle Blackaby, Flynn

Carpark robbery

The charge for parking at Canberra Stadium has recently increased to $7.

I was under the impression that this charge was administered by the Rotary Club and the proceeds were used for charitable purposes.

I also believed the fee was tax-deductible, although I had never claimed the deduction.

I went to the football on Saturday and paid the $7 fee.

With recent publicity about charitable collections, I asked for a receipt.

I was instead given a parking receipt on behalf of the ACT Chief Minister. Unless the Labor Chief Minister is acting as an agent for the federal Liberal Treasurer, this receipt has little or no value.

I already pay the ACT Treasurer a substantial amount in rates and other fees, and resent to what appears literally to be a case of "highway robbery".

Just what does the ACT Treasury provide for this extra impost?

I expect the Raiders already pay a princely sum for the use of the stadium and all of its necessary amenities.

Bill Rowe, Hackett

Carpe diem

I couldn't agree more with Vanessa Sutton when she says people always complain about getting older ("A mother's story of cancer and courage", March 26, p2).

Having lost our brave and handsome son, Lachlan Smith, at 25 years to the extremely rare DSRCT sarcoma, I believe it is a privilege to reach old age.

Never take for granted those middle and senior years (however hard) you have clocked up – they are precious beyond words!

Janey Wallace, Reid

Hands washed

Billionaire franchisors, luxuriating in their opulence, demonstrate a total lack of moral fibre by creating wage slaves of vulnerable humans ("Foreign worker exploitation a national disgrace", BusinessDay, March 26, p10).

Like Pontius Pilate, they conveniently salve their consciences by having labour-hire companies do their dirty work.

Justice is merely a concept!

Albert M. White, Queanbeyan, NSW



Your front-page article "Manuka bid firm defends zero tax" (March 26) points out the future of any Manuka redevelopment: build it, sell it, make profit for GWS and Grocon, flee Canberra – and all off the back of community-owned land!

Paul Doherty, Narrabundah


Not a happy picture ("Be patient and plan ahead in our gridlocked city", March 28, p1). How much worse will it be if the Rattenbury Rattlers take over Northbourne Avenue? Constitution Avenue, too, if it's finished in time to be dug up again.

C. J. Mountifield, Greenway


"Be patient and plan ahead" in our gridlocked city, says the ACT's Roads Minister. "You ain't seen nothin' yet," says I. The construction of the light rail along Northbourne Avenue will be a nightmare. Motorists, pedestrians and businesses in the Gold Coast were getting most frustrated during similar construction there and with the inevitable delays inherent in these large projects.

Herman van de Brug, Kaleen


Why is there so little debate on Canberra's declining public transport patronage, and so much debate on whether its tyres should be made of steel or of rubber?

Leon Arundell, Downer


If you bomb the Middle East, it is hardly surprising if the Middle East bombs you back.

Kenneth Griffiths,Tegal, Indonesia


Happily, Kiwis resisted the urge to trash their linguistic, legal, literary and political past by voting to keep their flag. When we finally place enough trust in our politicians to give us a republic, we, too, must respect our past by keeping at least a touch of red, white and blue on our flag.

Barrie Smillie, Duffy


Seat of Canberra sitting member, who, where, what are you? An election nears! Please identify yourself.

Ned Ovolny, Duffy


Apart from undermining Malcolm Turnbull and getting a nice photo with British Prime Minister David Cameron, what is Tony Abbott actually doing in Britain? Is it something of national benefit (hard to imagine) or merely another pollie jolly? Just as important, how much is his trip costing and who is paying? We probably know the answer to the latter.

Keith Croker, Kambah

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