Over-the-top stupidity

Mark Hearn (''History's shared culpability,'' Times2, March 3, p1) detailed many of the deadly but dumb aspects of World War I. It has long been my understanding that Germany sued for peace as early as 1916 but that the British - particularly Lloyd George - refused. We did not want a conditional surrender from Germany; we wanted unconditional surrender, the total prostration of Germany, the stripping of its wealth and of its fairly negligible colonial possessions. The war was prolonged for two dumb and deadly years - doubled in length - to ensure the primacy of the British Empire.

A mate of mine, a ten-pound Pom and the child of a working-class family near Manchester, tells me that the British confiscated all Germany's rolling stock as part of its reparations. This killed the British train construction industry for years afterwards. The British Empire was finished anyway. The vindictiveness of the Allies did not prevent Germany from becoming capable of attacking the world again a generation later, but did provide ideological fodder aplenty for an even more vicious German nationalism. Dumb and dumber.

S.W. Davey, Torrens

Mark Hearn makes some good points about war and its lessons. He mentions the famous Broodseinde photograph of wounded and dead Australians. It is famous partly because there are relatively few World War I photographs of dead bodies, particularly dead Australians. A search of the Australian War Memorial's photograph collection confirms this. There are somewhat more photographs of dead enemies and dead horses.

A number of reasons may be suggested for this scarcity, including preserving the dignity of the dead and a wish not to discourage recruitment. Would our attitudes towards war be rather different, however, if these illustrations were made widely available? Kill counts by themselves (62,000 dead in World War I) have limited impact.


Similarly, photographs of the horrific wounds suffered in war tend to be suppressed, though they are available deep in the AWM's collection.

Perhaps the AWM could follow up its excellent Anzac Voices exhibition with one on Anzac faces. Also, the AWM's sanitised Discovery Zone area for children could be enhanced by honest depictions of World War I trenches (corpses augmenting the parapet) and Vietnam War helicopters (soldiers with abdominal wounds or severed legs).

David Stephens, Bruce

The case against buses

Apparently it's a mystery why only about 6 per cent of Canberrans regularly use ACTION buses - those trawling leviathans that cost us all about $120 million every year in direct subsidy. To the usual flexibility/convenience reasons perhaps add these: ''Man guilty of stabbing at busy bus terminal'' (March 1, p6); and ''Women charged for racist attack on bus'' (March 1, p9).

But those big, new parking charges in the Parliamentary Triangle will bash the bus-user-share up to near 7 per cent.

Cuthbert Douglas, Bonython

ACT's hollow victory

Without wishing to rain on Canberra's or the property council's victory parade, it is worth recalling that, as Manson MacGregor points out (Letters, March 4), survey results depend on the questions asked. Thus, it would not have been difficult, with a different set of questions or even small changes in the wording of the current questions, to ensure that the gong went to some other place - to one of the larger capitals or to Wollongong, Newcastle, Fremantle or even, heaven forbid, the Gold Coast.

Thus the lesson to be learnt from this year's result is not so much that Canberra is a great place to live (many of us knew this already) or that Ms Gallagher's government still has work to do (we knew this too) but rather that the larger property councils in the mainland states don't care too much who actually wins.

Barry Hindess, Reid

Largesse unaffordable

It is time the ACT Remuneration Tribunal was disbanded (''Changed allowance mooted for MLAs'', February 28, p2). The tribunal's membership comprises Anne Cahill Lambert, Dr Colin Adrian and James Smythe, all from highly-paid executive backgrounds. There are no members from the lower/medium income sector or representatives from the large charity organisations or disadvantaged groups.

So no wonder the tribunal's determinations almost always produce salary and entitlement gains that are orders of magnitude above the norm, or indexes such as the CPI or AWE. And to make things worse, its determinations cannot be disallowed by the Legislative Assembly and its decisions invariably flow through, not just to the proposed increase in members of the Assembly, but to judges, magistrates, statutory officers, public service executives and members of various tribunals, boards and committees.

The ACT cannot afford such largesse from a body funded from our tax dollars.

Ric Hingee, Duffy

Rathbone's cool head

Clyde Rathbone's article on concussion and sport (''Sportsmen 'guinea-pigs' for trauma'', Sport, March 1, p2-3) was excellent. Topical, important, clear, balanced. He's right to suggest sports-evaluating parents demand better information, while a selection of US footballers have been offered, but refused as inadequate, $855 million for brain injuries received.

That article followed one calling for drug laws to reflect real health risks and societal damage, contrasting the big sentence dope-smuggler Corby endured with the accolades accorded our booze-peddling Aussie cricket team. An old theme, but a good'un. Nothing wrong with his brain.

And what about drivers being randomly grabbed, tested and those with minute amounts of a couple of drugs irrelevant to their driving performance, being dragged from cars and charged, while thousands of sleep-inducing-prescription-drug users doze off into the sunset?

Michael Jordan, Gowrie

An ace administrator

The funeral notice for Graham Bartlett (Times2, February 25, p17 ) brings to the end the life of one of Canberra's most dedicated administrators and players of tennis.

Graham was the secretary/treasurer of the Forrest Tennis Club and Tennis Centre at Lyneham for many years from the 1950s-90s. His tireless work greatly contributed to the expansion and friendly atmosphere at Forrest and Lyneham. Graham was ably assisted by his wife Margaret. Graham will be sadly missed, but never forgotten.

Dave White, Deakin

New direction could be runway success

Stephen Byron made interesting reading about air traffic movements through Sydney Airport (''Stop clipping airport's wings'', Times 2, March 4, p1). When you read between the lines of economic rationale, you can see how the lives and living of those in and around airports is considered secondary to those who manage these transport hubs.

That aside, Stephen, in his three-point plan to increase productivity, forgot to add the fourth point that would also have a genuine impact on the flow of air traffic through Sydney: close the east-west runway and use the two north-south runways. Without planes crossing paths, surely there is an easy gain.

Joe Murphy, Bonython

A day to remember

After all the jubilation and backslapping of Canberra's centenary year, I thought Canberra Day 2014 would be celebrated on the correct date - Wednesday, March 12. Silly me. The day is being ''celebrated'' on Monday, March 10, a date of no relevance whatsoever, although it does give everyone another long weekend. What's the rationale behind that? Maybe cultural cringe.

In spite of all its shrieking of the virtues of Canberra in 2013, the ACT government remains curiously reluctant to recognise the most important date on the city's calendar. Instead, it allows Canberra Day to creep past almost unnoticed, as though ashamed of it.

For those who do care about March 12, former ACT chief justice Terence Higgins will give the Canberra Day oration that day at the National Library of Australia, starting at 1pm. His topic will be ''Canberra: Random observations since 1954''.

Graeme Barrow, Hackett

Paying passengers rate lowly in carrier's pecking order

When Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce locked out staff and grounded the airline in 2011 he insisted that planes stay wherever they landed. He claimed that crews were too upset to safely complete their journeys. So passengers missed weddings, funerals and cruise bookings, and the frail and elderly were dumped in strife-torn Bangkok. Given the angst of staff over last week's lay-off announcement, surely Qantas should be grounded again - at least for reasons of consistency if not safety. That won't happen and Qantas may yet get government aid because the airline has 94 years' experience of buying influence and tilting the playing field in its favour.

Qantas is generous with gifts and upgrades to politicians, regulators, senior public servants, media and business leaders. Its sharpest tool is the secretive, invitation-only Chairman's Lounge at major airports. It's like a business lounge on steroids, but free and only offered to the most influential. When decisions about Qantas are made, they are probably made by those who have enjoyed thousands of dollars' worth of flight upgrades and still call the Chairman's Lounge home.

Martin Aubury, Scullin

Not all opinions helpful

I was very disappointed that you ran Crispin Hull's opinion article ''Farming fund set up for drought being used for tax'' (March 1, p3) without at least seeking a response from the Department of Agriculture, whose (2006) review he cites as evidence for his assertion. I am an admirer of Crispin's columns, which present alternative views on topical issues. However, they are opinions and, as in this case, can be wrong.

Farm Management Deposits are tax equalisation arrangements available to individual farmer taxpayers to even out taxable incomes which can fluctuate greatly from year to year and also assist business risk management (of which drought is just one aspect). FMDs can only be withdrawn by the taxpayer who made them, so the fact that a large amount of money in aggregate is held by farmers in non-drought affected areas is no help to others in drought.

Kevin Rattigan, Bookham NSW

It's hard to imagine a more prejudicial and bigoted article than that put forward by Crispin Hull. Australia has been living off farmers for 200 years. Almost all productivity increases in the past 40 years have come from farmers (and now mining), only to be swiped by irresponsible lotus-eaters like Hull and shifted into conspicuous consumption and untaxed housing.

There has been an exodus of more than 100,000 farmers in the past 40 years, but the remainder have increased output and earn Australia $47 billion a year in hard currency, but at the personal expense of incurring over $60 billion in farm debts. Hull thinks those figures trump a piddling $3.2 billion in the Farm Management Deposit scheme.

Apart from mining, Australia should be putting its money (via tax and other measures) into agriculture, where it has a natural advantage in the quality of its farmers.

Finally, the Productivity Commission says Australian farmers are the least subsidised in the world after New Zealand, with an effective subsidy rate of 3.2 per cent and falling steadily. There are no, and there never have been any, direct subsidies to any farm enterprises, only a miserable indirect assistance like FMDs and some drought relief.

Christopher Smith, Braddon

Look right in Ukraine

Some neo-Nazi thugs, backed by US neo-cons, engineer the violent overthrow of the democratically elected president of Ukraine, and we are now being asked to join in a war against Vladimir Putin because he has the temerity of wanting to resist these terrorist usurpers.

Is our Foreign Minister complicit in these neo-con crimes or is she just really stupid? Any chance of The Canberra Times providing some independent reporting on the Ukrainian situation or will that only happen once we have once again sent Australians to fight and die in a stupid war of US aggression?

Chris Williams, Griffith

What is ''Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Fuhrer'' in Russian?

Bernard McMinn, Mawson

After 42 years of tyranny and arbitrary rule by the Gaddafi family, Libyans rose up and sacrificed thousands of people to gain freedom and dignity. But today Libyans have neither freedom nor dignity, nor even basic security. Instead, the tyranny has been passed from the Gaddafi family to the thugs of the al-Qaeda-inspired Ansar al-Sharia and other ultra-primitive Islamist criminal gangsters, especially in Benghazi - the cradle of the February 17, 2011, revolution. Well done, US and NATO. Just one more victory, along with Vietnam, Korea, Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. What price Ukraine?

Rhys Stanley, via Hall, NSW

There is a sinister side to the events in Ukraine that our one-sided media coverage has yet to reveal. That is the role of the US in these events.

The evidence first came to light in a leaked telephone conversation between US Assistant Secretary of State for Europe Victoria Nuland and US ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt. A minor diplomatic spat ensued when Nuland was heard to say ''f--- the EU'' but the real import of the conversation was the extent to which it revealed US complicity in selecting who should be installed to lead a pro-Western government once the democratically elected president had been overthrown. Nuland and Pyatt can be heard referring to a ''Big 3'' of the Ukrainian opposition. Nuland was most insistent that the ''top dog'', retired boxer Vitali Klitschko, should not be included in the government, favouring instead Arseniy Yatsenyuk. The third member of the Big 3 is Oleh Tyahnybok, leader of a neo-Nazi outfit. The rise of ultra-nationalist and anti-semitic groups is a sinister development across eastern Europe which the US and its ''democratic'' allies would be well advised to take seriously.

Peter Ellett, Scullin



Congratulations to Cate Blanchett on her Oscar for Blue Jasmine. I love the way Cate can win prestigious awards for her wonderful acting and yet appear in last week's episode of the locally ABC produced Rake in a very silly, beautifully acted cameo role.

She always honours her craft. Well done, Cate.

Jan Gulliver, Lyneham


David Osmond (Letters, March 3) asserts that ''… by sourcing 90 per cent of our electricity from renewables, the price we pay for 90 per cent of our electricity will be fixed for 20 years. No more surging bills for increased prices for coal or gas.'' How much would he like to bet on that?

P.M. Button, Cook


When in opposition, the Coalition criticised the Gillard government for its ''Malaysian solution''. It showed concerns about the treatment and safety of the asylum seekers in Malaysia. Is there anything special about the Coalition's ''Cambodian solution''?

Sankar Kumar Chatterjee, Evatt


Next time I go abroad and get asked the inevitable question, I will say, yes, I do come from Austria. It is a long time since they set up concentration camps.

Richard Keys, Ainslie


I agree with Brian Handley (Letters, March 3) that we risk becoming the ''white trash of Asia'', but not for the reasons he's given. Turning our back on climate change leadership, destroying technological growth opportunities such as carbon trading and the national broadband network, our heartless immigration policies, cutting overseas aid and policies that patronise our regional neighbours are some of the real reasons.

Rod Holesgrove, O'Connor


Who would have thought that staid old country boy Jack Waterford was a 1960s rocker (''Practised in the arts of deception'', Forum, March 1, p1), a fan of the Rolling Stones song You Can't Always Get What You Want on their 1969 album, Let it Bleed?

Kenneth Griffiths, O'Connor


It's a pity Ian Warden (''All steamed up on under-used lake'', Gang-gang, March 3) is unable to understand the difference between steam-powered boats, which are silent, and motor boats, which are noisy. Please, National Capital Authority protect us from literate but ill-informed supporters of noisy lake craft.

Grahame Crocket, Deakin

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