I am offended by the statement by the head of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, Michael Pezzullo, that I and the hundreds of thousands of other Australians who oppose the deportation of 267 asylum seekers to Nauru are guilty of "moral lecturing" (although I'm not sure why he believes moral lecturing is wrong) ("Warning on border stance 'moral lecturing"', February 9, p1).
Mr Pezzullo dismisses the concerns by suggesting that an open-door policy towards refugees will lead to deaths at sea. I am not aware of anyone who is suggesting an open-door policy – there are plenty of options between the two extremes of locking up all asylum seekers and allowing anyone to come to Australia.
Mr Pezzullo also says campaigners for the 267 asylum seekers are giving them "false hope". Does he suggest no one should stand up for human rights because some people will be disappointed if the campaign fails?
Of greatest concern is Mr Pezzullo's readiness to be a "moral lecturer" in support of government policy. His job as a public servant should be to implement government policy, not misrepresent, denigrate and insult people who oppose the policy.
Charles Body, Kaleen
Detention not unusual
Gerry Gillespie writes of "Detention ruling pressures PM" (Letters, February 9) and "surely it is not lawful to lock up people without trial", but how many Australians have been locked up in foreign countries without trial?
If Australians go into another country without a visa, they are locked up without trial or, if lucky, deported. Even when they do have visas and are working in very difficult conditions for that foreign country, they are also frequently locked up and ill-treated. Just ask Peter Greste, locked up in an Egyptian jail for years and Jocelyn Elliot, wife of the doctor who is still locked up in conditions far worse than any detention centre in Australia.
The unfortunate people in detention centres in Australia are there because they came into Australia illegally without visas by people smugglers, which is against the law.
Penelope Upward, O'Connor
A moral conundrum
It's 1889 and you face a classic moral problem. You're staring into the crib of the newly born Adolf Hitler. It would be a simple matter to smother him with his pillow and so save the tens of millions of lives that will be lost because of decisions the adult Hitler will make. Should you do it? Is the evil of killing the innocent child justified by the saving of those lives?
For English utilitarian philosophers Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill, the answer would have been obvious — weighing the costs and benefits on each side tells you how to proceed. But others, among whom we can number John Blount (Letters, February 8), are not so sure. Mr Blount believes the ends don't justify the means: that we cannot knowingly harm those in our offshore detention centres simply because it saves the lives of those who would otherwise die taking a people smuggler's boat to Australia.
Mr Blount's case has merit, but so does the counter case. Could we deny responsibility for the deaths of those encouraged to put their lives at risk because of our policies? Can we be certain that avoiding the deaths that would eventuate if we implemented more humanitarian policies does not justify the moral wrong of our treatment of those on Nauru?
This is not an easy problem and I have not yet heard a convincing argument for one case over the other, John Blount's fine letter notwithstanding.
Greg Pinder, Charnwood
I hesitate to appropriate the measured advice of Don Aitkin on wind farms to light rail, but the parallels are irresistible. Yet another feel-good, ideologically driven project, destined to achieve little practically, but at exorbitant, open-ended cost, and imposing on a comparatively small tax base, with long-standing and pressing financial deficits in healthcare and welfare, rank politics and union patronage, rather than doing, within a straitened budget, what is needed for the overall Canberra community.
"Self"-government, which it was said would allow our voices to be heard above the drowning din of federal politics, was always an illusion, and no matter which party prevails in Lilliput, I suspect we are destined to experience the same or similar incompetence.
A. Whiddett, Yarraluma
I thoroughly enjoyed reading the well-written lead article by Don Aitkin ("Feeling good about illusions", Times2, February 8).
He has a great breadth of relevant knowledge and should be taken seriously. I'll not repeat what he said, except to fully applaud his disbelief of the ACT's statement that we are pushing for 90per cent of our energy needs coming from alternative energy by 2020.
We should all know that now and into the foreseeable future we will derive our bulk power from the east coast electricity grid. This grid relies on baseload coal and back-up natural gas power stations, and will so rely until large-scale electricity storage is available. This storage would be the big game-changer and has been regarded as such for many years and, in the end, it will come. Wind and solar power can top up this grid, sometimes usefully, but that's all. Provision of 90per cent from renewables is away down the track.
If we are building solar farms in the ACT, we can argue that helps local employment and that's nice. If we are building wind farms in Victoria and South Australia, that largely supports their employment and that's also nice, but is that a good use of our money?
The claims of dominant renewable energy in our electricity supply are spin. One naturally thinks of the fantasies of Don Quixote, who tilted at windmills.
Neville Exon, Chapman
Awards must inspire
Virginia Berger (Letters, February 10) asks if we really need Australian of the Year awards. The same question could apply to Order of Australia awards. I think giving such awards can be useful, but I'm not sure about the way we do it and how we think about them.
The main point to be made about prizes and awards is that no one deserves them. Interestingly, many awardees make this point as soon as they get their awards.
Robert Baden-Powell had it right in asking people to do the best they could with what they had and, in his system, awards are given for improving oneself, not for doing better than others. If done right, awards can encourage and inspire.
Robin Brown, Yarralumla
Appalling irony in government ratification of abuse of children
Almost every day we hear media reports of abuse in Australian institutions that are meant to keep children safe. Yet our government legislates to allow children to be put into an offshore detention institution that we know is inherently unsafe. The irony is staggering. The royal commission inquiring into the sexual abuse of children in institutions gains extensive media coverage every time it takes evidence. The irony is that this happens at the same time as our government has introduced retrospective legislation, which legalises sending children into the Nauru detention centre that has a reputation for abusive practices.
The government justifies this, according to Senator George Brandis in July 2015, as ensuring "all aspects of the Commonwealth's action in relation to regional processing arrangements are captured" and "clear statutory authority is provided to cover the full gamut of the Commonwealth's conduct in connection with regional processing arrangements and the actions which the regional processing centre countries themselves take in connection with their regional processing functions".
As much as the government tries to, there is no justification for sending children into what we know is an unsafe institution. Trying to do this makes a mockery of Australia's child-protection systems.
We cannot as a society send them to Nauru, nor to any other detention centre. There is no justifying it; it is an abuse of the fundamental human rights of vulnerable children and their families.
Professor Karen Healy, national president, Australian Association of Social Workers
A poisoned chalice
At the 1993 federal election, the then opposition leader John Hewson lost the unbeatable election because of the LNP Fightback campaign that included a GST.
In 1995, the then opposition leader, John Howard, pledged to "never, ever" introduce a GST. He went on to win the 1996 federal election and during his term in government, he proposed a GST and, although only marginally winning the 1998 election, a GST was introduced on July 1, 1990.
The current LNP government has been considering broadening the base on exempt items, an increase in the rate of the GST, or both. However, with an election this year, these proposals have suddenly been dropping from their platform.
Should the current government win the next election, will PM Malcolm Turnbull, declare to "never, ever" change the GST under any LNP government? Or will history be repeated with changes to the GST?
Jack Wiles, Gilmore
Police not interested
Your story of bicycle theft has lots of hocus pocus when it comes to reporting a stolen bike to the police. Police have told me they are inundated and can't help. I reported my stolen bike, the type, colour, serial number, which amounted to zero follow-up or action by police. I even asked to view the stolen bikes police have in their custody in a warehouse in Mitchell and I was denied access. I believe it's far easier for police to auction them all at their time and choosing. Stolen bike? Forget the police; they won't help, unless the bike is involved in a crime they are actually interested in.
Barry Hughes, Kambah
The editorial ("Nature strip gardens a modest move", February 9) highlights the failure of many Canberrans to provide a safe public walking area on their nature strips, as stipulated on the TAMS website.
It is impossible to walk the length of many streets in Canberra without having to step on to the road to avoid obstructions. People on disability vehicles have the greatest problem.
Canberrans are required by TAMS to maintain access to a stable surface on their nature strip at least 1.2 metres wide from the kerb and to the entire width of their footpath, if they have one. And foliage and structures on nature strips must not interfere with the line of sight of motorists, pedestrians and cyclists.
If you plan to do anything other than grow grass on your nature strip, you need TAMS permission.
I have no problem with vegetable gardens, or even parked vehicles, on nature strips, if they do not obstruct the footpath or kerb strip.
Bruce Porter, Palmerston
Government should not have a role in supporting property speculators at the expense of younger people. The government role is to provide an adequate housing supply at prices free of speculative premium.
The Canberra property market was designed from the beginning with the leasehold system, so there would be no property speculation.
The ACT government has debased that system and will only charge nominal amounts for the renewal of 99-year leases. So homeowners in Forrest will pay a nominal amount to renew a 99-year lease on a million-dollar property and yet young first-home buyers are paying over $450,000 for a 99-year lease on a tiny block in a new suburb. How is this fair?
In the 1970s, people paid as little as $1 for a 99-year lease on blocks in Belconnen. Today, the government is drip-feeding property into the market at ruinously high prices to deliberately constrain supply and keep the market artificially high.
It only costs $40,000 to $50,000 to service a new building block with roads, electricity, sewerage and gas. The project builders can build a three-bedroom brick veneer house for as little as $100,000. Where in Canberra can I buy a $150,000 house and land package?
Mark Ellis, Wanniassa
Cycle paths unsafe
Canberra's ageing cycle paths are being neglected and are becoming hazardous to use.
I regularly use these paths for exercise and to enjoy their surroundings and bird life. Unfortunately, there does not appear to be a well-managed regime of maintenance for the paths. It is becoming increasingly difficult to navigate through the debris covering the paths, which in some areas are covered in soil several inches deep.
The ACT government needs to allocate resources for routine cycle path maintenance and removal of detritus.
Anthony Hunter, O'Connor
CSIRO expertise now even more pertinent
It is with dismay that I have read of the huge cuts planned in the CSIRO climate programs. The idea that since we now know that climate change is happening, different people are required to "engineer solutions" is as simplistic as it is absurd.
In fact, the exact same brilliant people who have been doing the research at CSIRO and have helped show that anthropogenic climate change is happening right now are the same people to answer the huge number of complex questions this knowledge raises. They are the people who know the earth-atmosphere system and interactions between the earth's surface and the atmosphere best.
There are no better people in Australia to tackle the pressing questions about climate change that need to be answered, and this is particularly pertinent in a country with limited water supplies, fragile ecosystems, and a large reliance on fossil fuels for its energy requirements.
CSIRO scientists have inspired me and many others throughout our scientific lives. The value of their work is extraordinary and they have always been at the forefront of discovery.
In my own field of flow in canopies and the exchange between the biosphere and the atmosphere they have led the world. My work on wind damage to forests would not have been possible without the inspiration and knowledge of the group of people working at the Pye Laboratory, Black Mountain, in Canberra.
If you lose such excellence, not only will Australia's position in the scientific world be diminished, but Australia's ability to represent Australia's interests at international meetings on climate change, such as the recent COP21 meeting in Paris, will be undermined and Australia's opinions and advice taken less seriously.
Dr Barry Gardiner, senior scientist, INRA Centre de Bordeaux Aquitaine Villenave d'Ornon, France
TO THE POINT
SHOW US THE NUMBERS
Will the PM release the Treasury's economic modelling which shows the consequences of increasing the GST, or is the reported dropping of any GST increase an example of gutless political back-pedalling?
Roger Dace, Reid
SLAVES TO TECHNOLOGY
So, more than half the east coast of Australia goes down mobile-wise because of human error. Apart from the joyful peace and quiet on Tuesday for a brief period, the thought of the vulnerability based on our mobile network, cloud etc reliance is scary.
Linus Cole, Palmerston
REWARD FOR RETIRING
To appoint Philip Ruddock Australia's first special envoy for human rights in gratitude for vacating his seat at the next election is shameful. It is a signature move by the current regime and I hope voters recognise this distraction for what it is.
W. Book, Hackett
WHAT ROLE FOR BISHOP?
Given Philip Ruddock has accepted the role of "special envoy for human rights", despite having enthusiastically embraced the policy of mandatory detention of asylum seekers, including children, while minister for immigration, one can only speculate on what position Bronwyn Bishop may be offered should she retire from Parliament.
Ian De Landelles, Hawker
TAX THE INTERNET
Here's an idea for the Libs: tax the internet. If there is, say, 15 gigabytes of Australian traffic per second, taxed at 1millionth a cent per gig, that's $3billion per year. They just have to work out how to do it.
Kenneth Griffiths, O'Connor
Although her Australian role is different to her role in Britain, we share Queen Elizabeth as sovereign not only with the UK but with other nations such as Canada and New Zealand – as independent as us but more self-confident and less adolescent than we seem to be.
John Bunyan, Campbelltown
Were it only that Philip Ruddock's new post-political appointment is as offensively inappropriate to human rights as Tony Blair's as special Middle East envoy was to a region that he had ably assisted the G. W. Bush administration definitively turn into a nightmare.
Alex Mattea, Kingston
BEST JOKE, SURELY
Greg Hunt, world's best minister! Surely the announcement should have been held back until April 1.
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