Comment

Letters to the Editor

Political point-scoring callous after Belgium bombings

I have four major issues with Malcolm Turnbull preaching to Belgium and Europe about their lax security ("Turnbull warns of 'perfect storm"', March 24, p1) and boasting about how much more secure Australia's borders are since the Coalition turned back the boats.

First, it is much easier for Australia to keep out terrorists as we (like New Zealand, Fiji, and Samoa) are island nations far away from the Middle East, where most of the terrorists come from.

Second, Australia can hardly take the high moral ground when we have been so slow in accepting legitimate refugees from the affected area.

Third, by its unwise intervention in Middle-Eastern affairs as part of the coalition of the willing, Australia helped create the chaos from which the refugees are fleeing. Finally, isn't it a bit callous for Turnbull to be seeking to make political points in his 100-day election campaign when the victims of the Belgium bombings haven't even been buried?

Mike Reddy, Curtin

Malcolm Turnbull has accused Belgium security of a "slip-up" in the lead-up the recent attack in Brussels. He has also adversely contrasted European border controls with Australian border controls.

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Turnbull, however, leads the LNP Coalition that under John Howard invaded Iraq in 2003, which, in the opinion of many experts, through the resulting turmoil in the Middle East, created the current terrorist threat.

What hypocrisy on Turnbull's part. I don't think Belgium was part of the 2003 "coalition of the willing" yet it, like other European countries, is reaping the costs of the Anglo-sphere interference in the Middle East.

Oh, and by the way, Turnbull, our sea borders are very different to Europe's land borders.

Rod Holesgrove, O'Connor

Malcolm Turnbull has cynically cashed in on the terrorist tragedy in Brussels by wrongly asserting the attacks were the result of uncontrolled refugee movements. There is absolutely no evidence to support this.

The Prime Minister is playing to those Australians with a penchant for racial or religious bigotry. We are invited to believe that Australia's inhumane refugee policies are providing superior security compared to those of Europe. What grubby, low-grade politics by the Prime Minister.

Keith Croker, Kambah

Pay out all the profits

Clancy Yeates thinks companies pay their shareholders too much in dividends, and should retain a higher proportion of their profits in the business for reinvestment ("Dividends: too much of a good things?", BusinessDay, March 24, p14). Actually, there's a strong case for the reverse of that: a legal requirement for companies to pay out as dividends the whole of their profits and leave it to shareholders to say how much of their annual dividend they want to reinvest in the business. The introduction of dividend imputation 30 years ago, whereby shareholders pay tax on the company's pre-tax profit (but receive a credit for the company tax already paid), was at last a recognition that a company is no more than its shareholders collectively operating a business (and it was therefore unfair to tax the profit twice, once in the company's hands, and again when the profit was distributed as dividends). Consistent with that recognition, it should be shareholders – not "the company", which is merely the shareholders' "agent" – who decide what to do with the profits they've made, how much to take in cash and how much to re-invest in the business.

R. S. Gilbert, Braddon

Empathy for the rich

Arthur Sinodinos says reducing company tax will drive wages growth, and it seems that history tends to agree with the Liberal senator ("Corporate tax cuts

'benefit workers"', March 21, p4). While Australia's corporate tax rate was falling from its peak of 49per cent in 1986 to its current rate of 30per cent, the average earnings of ASX100 chief executives increased from 17 times the average Australian wage to 42 times the average in 2009 – phenomenal wage growth by any measure!

It's hard enough for the teenage children of chief executives growing up on Sydney's North Shore as it is, without having to suffer the ignominy of driving a non-BMW to school every day, or endure the deprivations of 14 hours in the economy-class cattle car to reach the family's ski lodge at Aspen every year.

Just because the "trickle-down effect" tends to leave the bitter taste of urea in one's mouth is no reason not to show a little empathy for the battlers at the top-end of town every once in a while.

James Allan, Narrabundah

Weapon rules ignored

The standard way of carrying the latest assault rifles, barrels pointed down, breaks the first rule of weapons handling, especially in crowded urban environment. The rule is never point a weapon at anybody (unless you are prepared to use it).

The main photograph on page 1 ("Manhunt as Brussels mourns", March 24) shows three soldiers and one policeman so armed at "Brussels central station". A woman civilian is about to walk past one of the soldiers.

If she continued en route, the rifle would be pointed at her hip.

This is completely unacceptable even if the stance does allow the most rapid deployment of the weapon.

Gary J. Wilson, Macgregor

No need for MoU

Alex White of UnionsACT can crow all he likes about how proud he is of the memorandum of understanding with the Barr government (Letters, March 24) but he must explain why the MoU is needed at all. Any detailed reading by an unbiased person cannot help but conclude that UnionsACT has the ACT government over a barrel when it comes to who gets government work in this city. The MoU contravenes sound procurement practice and is simply not needed. Andrew Barr needs to explain why it has been effectively kept secret for so long and not use its unknown longevity as the pathetic excuse that it is.

M. Silex, Erindale

Listen to us oldies

We, the elderly, are growing in number. We support the economy by looking after grandchildren for free, allowing daughters and daughters-in-law to get back into the workforce.

We buy petrol (even if we'd prefer more environmentally-friendly sources of energy) to take children to extra-curricula activities.We buy vitamin and mineral supplements and mobility aids, bolstering pharmaceutical companies. We are robbed through the nose by investors in aged-care facilities and private medical insurance companies. Politicians will have to listen to us sooner or later about our needs and end-of-life choices.

Susan MacDougall, Scullin

Christian dedication blinkered approach

Simon Smart says he is perplexed by how a "non-believer" could find good news in a "godless and singularly material universe" ("Reason for joy at a funeral", Times2, March 24, p4). No more perplexing than finding so much bad news in a supposedly "god-inspired" universe. At least the non-believer doesn't need to try to rationalise the often contradictory and decidedly harmful decisions of a divine creator.

What is even more perplexing, and unexplained by Smart, is how he and his fellows arrive at their Christian dedication to the exclusion of all other religions. The "other believers", of course, each being equally certain their particular brand of faith is the only correct one, including, critically, the non-acceptance of Jesus as the son of God.

Eric Hunter, Cook

Simon Smart says that if Christianity "happens to be true" then the joy present at his friend's funeral was not based on a delusion constructed by humans. However, if another religion happens to be true, Christians may be out of luck. For example, access to an afterlife may depend on being mummified.

Smart has studied atheism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. He has decided that Christianity is the best bet, but that's probably because he was brought up as a Christian.

Of course, people sometimes adopt a particular religion for other reasons. For example: I want the Nile to keep flooding every year; we need all the help we can get to beat the Trojans; I want to protect my firstborn; he's a good speaker, he seems like a decent chap, and the miracles clinched it; I don't fancy being burned at the stake; one wife is not enough; the missionaries made me do it; I need the cargo; I want to clear my engrams; I examined the evidence for the existence of each of several thousand gods, and chose the best-supported one(s). (OK, I admit I made up the last one.)

Mike Dallwitz, Giralang

Your defence, Mr Hanson, of a nomination fee fails to impress

Jeremy Hanson's defence of the extortionate nomination fee for Liberal Assembly pre-selection candidates is thoroughly unconvincing ("Liberal leader Jeremy Hanson defends $3300 preselection nomination fee", March 15, p3).

The plain fact is that the Canberra Liberals are dead broke after years of financial mismanagement.

The fees are a desperate attempt to raise much-needed cash by fleecing party members who want to throw their hat into the ring. Even if you are not preselected, you will get only $1000 back.

That the Liberals have a substantial debt in a year when there are two elections to be fought is an indictment of the members of Parliament and their staff who comprise two-thirds of the party executive.

The largest source from which the party's funding will be obtained this year will be the $8 per vote that the ACT's political parties will receive from the taxpayer in election funding.

Without the benefit of this public largesse, there would be no Liberal campaign at all.

Gary Kent, former president of the Canberra Liberals (2000 to 2007), Griffith

Liquor licences

Fredrik Limacher's letter (March 23, p3) is a nice story, but it is apocryphal. I know this to be true because I was the registrar of liquor licences about 20 years ago.

First, there was no "police licensing branch" then; second, there was no capacity under the Liquor Act for anyone to intervene in any application to cancel a licence, if it were made; and, finally, in my 18 years as registrar the police never applied to delicense any licensed premises under the act.

The record shows the police then, as now, rarely, if ever, took action against liquor licencees.

And in that lies the core problem with the conduct of licensed premises and the actions of drunks.

Hospital statistics will, as with all other evidence on the effectiveness and need for strong regulatory control of licensed premises, not result in a more effective policing effort.

Tony Brown, Fadden

Medical profession

Bruce Haigh has chosen to devote an entire column ("Patient or a piece of meat?", Times2, March 21, p4) to a single personal negative experience with the medical profession without any attempt at wider research or context.

Of course, no valid conclusions can be drawn from such an isolated example.

Haigh might wish to consider whether the airing of such a personal grievance is a responsible or, rather, a self-indulgent use of the privilege of access to a regular newspaper column.

To balance the record somewhat, I would like to add that I have had many positive experiences with surgeons and the medical profession generally.

Helmut Simon, Watson

Positive employment

I'm reluctant to comment on industrial disputes but can't resist offering an insight into your editorial ("Crunch time for the CPSU", March 23).12

The reason I'm hired in Canberra as an IT contractor is simple. I negotiate my own rate, show for work every day, deliver proactive software to clients, whinge less, shuffle a minimal amount of paper and have no sickies or paid leave (maternal or long service).

The bonus for the government is that I actually know what I'm doing professionally.

Of course, nothing lasts forever. I'll move on to other opportunities soon and let my position be filled by a permanent with a dubious work ethic.

In all fairness, I've worked with some very smart and cluey public servants in IT.

Gerry Murphy, Braddon

Transport pendulum

During the 19th century, major cities installed rail networks in the form of tram or underground railway.

In the 20th, as a result of growing prosperity, combined with Henry Ford's industrial genius, personal motorised transport become the symbol of achievement of every family in the western world, and the city tram declined.

But as the car as a commuting mode grew, with the growing inconvenience and expense of parking at the cluster destination, the utility of the city tram has begun to dawn again, and more and more enlightened cities have revived their old rail networks, or built new ones.

As a crowning moment of this trend, at the very pinnacle of global motoring, Detroit, the five kilometres of the M-1 rail will connect downtown to the New Centre, the former headquarters of General Motors.

The pendulum has swung, and our enlightened administration is ensuring that our city is not left behind.

The desperate status of the personal car owner is not threatened, merely regulated, and the Canberra tram will ensure that we remain among the leaders of urban renewal.

Jack Palmer, Watson

Why not fast buses?It will be interesting to hear the case for the "more ambitious stage 2" light-rail plan "taking in the wider parliamentary triangle", predicted by Chief Minister Andrew Barr ("Barr puts Russell tram plan on shelf", March 23, p2).

Or will it be another railroading exercise in spite of compelling evidence against the development of a light-rail network in Canberra?

The government's stated attitude on traffic congestion in Civic is as follows: "in several locations delays and queues could result in a compromised performance of the wider road network" and "impacts are expected and in some instances encouraged to facilitate a mode shift to public transport" (Capital Metro Authority, September 2015).

Encouraging a mode shift to good public transport has merit. However, in this case not only will there be a serious impact on the wider road network, the resulting public transport ride from Gungahlin to the parliamentary triangle will take at least 50 minutes, with most passengers standing, given that commuters have already made their way to the tram line.

The journey by express bus service could take less than 30 minutes if we had bus ways.

A. Smith, Farrer

TO THE POINT

NO DRUMS, JUST SMOKE

Ah, the joy of the changing seasons. Now with the onset of cold weather we might expect not to have to endure outdoor music, with its attendant torture of jungle drumbeat. But alas, we are now about to suffer wood smoke from those who persist with wood fires, despite the attendant ecological message to desist.

Norman Lee, Weston

NUMBERS GAME

Max Jensen (Letters, March 24) thinks the ACT and the Northern Territory have a low Senate representation that is clearly undemocratic. Don't look for representative democracy in the Senate. NSW's population is more than 30 times that of the NT, but it has only six times as many senators.

Frank Marris, Forrest

HORSES FOR COURSES

Perhaps, Simon Kaminskas (Letters, March 24), the early settlers were unable to harness kangaroos and emus and, therefore, had to import horses, and later camels, to carry/haul heavy loads.

Ken McPhan, Spence

NO REAL CHOICE

We are now essentially in campaign mode after the double-dissolution threat. Refugee policy is a key issue but voters have no real choice: children locked up overseas either way. What are we meant to do when none of our current or prospective representatives represent us?

Christopher Budd, Turner

FANCY FOOTWORK

I'm still trying to work out how our Prime Minister changed overnight from ditherer to statesman, in the media's estimation. I didn't hear any announcement of policies to make the nation fairer, healthier, better-educated or less wasteful. The thing that brought on this transformation was some fancy footwork aimed at putting himself in the best position for the coming election. Is this what passes for statesmanship?

Jenny Andrews, Aranda

FROZEN PEAS PUZZLER

Trying to decide which brand of frozen peas to buy recently, I noticed that one popular brand claims that its peas are "farm-picked". I wonder how peas sold under other brand names find their way into supermarket freezers if they are not picked on the farms where they are grown?

Marlene Hall, Kingston

FRIDAY RELIEF

Given the letters concerning religion in recent editions, it was a relief to see that neither belief nor unbelief was published on Good Friday by the worthy and perhaps Christian-leaning Canberra Times.

Roy Darling, Florey

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.

Keep your letter to 250 words or less. References to Canberra Times reports should include date and page number. Letters may be edited. Provide phone number and full home address (suburb only published).

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