Letters to the editor
The latest surprise for the Australian people is the Medicare GP fee, which has not been ruled out by Tony Abbott. The Australian Centre for Health Research (a conservative expert panel) has described the proposed fee as ''a simple but powerful reminder that as far as possible we have a responsibility to look after our own health, not simply pass all the costs of, and the responsibility for, caring for ourselves to fellow taxpayers''.
This is a demeaning statement to those of us who do take responsibility for our health but, due to unforeseen circumstances, have had to see their GP on many occasions this year - as my husband has had to. A fee of $6 each time may not break our bank balance as we are lucky to be able to afford it, but there will be many others who will not be able to.
More will fill emergency departments when they can't pay the fee.
Once again, this Abbott government is proving to be one of the most uncaring, unfeeling governments known to the Australian people. The surprises keep coming and the Australian people, I'm sure, are now regretting the outcome of the election. Too late I'm afraid.
Jan Gulliver, Lyneham
The proposed $6 charge on visits to the doctor is not much of an imposition on poor people, but there is an ideological reason for it not to be introduced. The conservatives must realise that any attack on the present health system could enable the return to power of the Labor Party, and none of us want that after the disaster of the last lot.
Peter Slim, Midland, WA
Eye of the beholder
H. Ronald (Letters, December 30) claims there are no conservative ABC presenters on opinion or current affairs programs apart from Amanda Vanstone. How does he know? Presenters do not generally claim party affiliation or state who they vote for.
There is a host of ABC presenters who became Liberal or National Party politicians. These include Pru Goward, currently a minister in the NSW Liberal government, and Sarah Henderson, who had many high-profile jobs in the media, including at the ABC, and is now the federal Liberal member for Corangamite.
Maybe Mr Ronald thinks these Liberal Party worthies are not conservative at all, and are in the socialist left faction of the Liberal Party, along with Malcolm Turnbull and Russell Broadbent.
Bias is in the eye of the beholder. If you are at the North Pole, everyone is south of you; if you're at the South Pole, everyone is north.
Michael Poole, Reid
The issue, H. Ronald (Letters, December 30), is not whether the ABC presenter is left wing or right wing. The issue is whether the program content is biased. He has not demonstrated that the content of ABC programs is biased.
D. O'Connor, Gordon
H. Ronald (Letters, December 30) wants to know why the ABC has few conservative commentators.
It's probably because the ABC wishes to protect its listeners from being induced into a coma by the conservative mantra that anything that Labor does is automatically bad - until, it seems, the conservatives get into power through their negativity.
Surely it's enough to have half a dozen shock-jocks peddling that rubbish on commercial radio without forcing the ABC to also support the line. Conservative negativity gets more than a fair hearing in the letters columns of The Canberra Times.
Brian Smith, Conder
Hitler and Stalin review
Robert Willson (Letters, December 30) cites the cases of Stalin's Russia and Hitler's Germany in his efforts to shoot down part of my response to Barney Zwartz's one-sided piece on the decline of organised religion.
Cherry-picking the historical record in this way makes for cheap shots, like G.K. Chesterton's elegant and witty one-liners. They are not so easy to answer without appearing petty and pedantic.
Yet there is nothing petty about Willson's cases. I trust he would agree that, notwithstanding brave resistance in a few cases, the local churches were complicit in the atrocities committed under Hitler or Stalin's rule.
Taking the historical record more broadly, we should not ignore the violence of the European Middle Ages or the destructive sectarian warfare of early modern Germany.
Nor should we ignore the God-fearing intolerance and indifference to suffering that played such a large part in the violence of European imperial expansion. Australians of British descent should recall the famines occasioned, in large part, by British rule in Ireland and later in Bengal.
The most egregious examples of religious complicity in imperial brutality come from the European invasions of the Americas, starting in the 15th century: the eradication of the indigenous peoples of the Caribbean; the decimation of the population of Mexico following Spanish conquest; and the slaughter of Native Americans.
The scale of these achievements leaves the 20th century efforts of Hitler and Stalin standing.
Barry Hindess, Reid
Robert Willson (Letters, December 30) makes the spurious claim that ''Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia tried to build societies based on atheist principles.'' Wearing belt buckles embossed with the word ''God'', the Nazis systematically burnt Jews and synagogues, not Christians and churches.
The Soviets appropriated religious techniques: they had a holy book, Das Kapital; prophets, Marx and Lenin; and indoctrinated children into the ''faith''. Surrendering your moral sovereignty, whether to gods, dictators or anyone else, is not an atheist principle.
Peter Robinson, Ainslie
Whaling a non-issue
Andrew Hunter's piece on whaling (''Public policy on Japanese whaling lost in a sea of ambivalence'', Times2, December 30, p5) reads like a rational and informed treatise, but falls short in many crucial areas.
His primary objection to whaling appears to centre upon notions of a whale's ''sentience'' - that whales somehow possess a self-awareness and greater capacity for suffering than other animals slaughtered for human consumption. There is, of course, not a shred of credible scientific evidence to support such notions.
Moreover, there is no evidence showing that the millions of cows, pigs and sheep that meet a grisly end in Australian (and Indonesian) abattoirs are sufficiently inanimate to negate the hypocrisy that arises from any Australian ''horror'' over Japan's harvest of whales.
Using this basis for his anti-whaling agenda, Hunter plays into the Japanese complaint he cites: that the ''moral crusade'' or ''civilising mission'' of the anti-whaling movement amounts to little more than an attempt to ''appease other people's selective moral judgment''.
Hunter also decries Japan's assertion that whaling is a long-held cultural tradition, claiming that it is a ''gross exaggeration to suggest that whaling has a long history in Japan''. On this point he ignores solid evidence showing whaling in Japan to date back many millennia.
The final point made by Hunter is to imply a Japanese tendency towards illegality and rejection of multilateralism.
To make his point, he bizarrely dredges up Japan's withdrawal from the League of Nations in 1933. While he is correct that the catalyst for that withdrawal was a report adopted by the League condemning Japan for following the West down the path of colonial expansion, he disregards the most significant driver for Japan's departure, being that body's rejection of Japan's racial equality resolution at the behest of Australia.
Hunter and his fellow anti-whaling proponents would do well to reassess their agenda and take a longer, broader and more honest view of history and the place their cause takes within it. They may then realise that their efforts would be better directed away from the conservation non-issue of whaling and towards one of the many issues of genuine conservation merit that abound - even within Australia itself.
Bjorn Sorensen, Bergen, Norway
Deny kangaroos water
Writing on the subject of kangaroo relocation, Ian Falconer (Letters, December 21) pointed out that the only result of moving a thousand animals to Namadji (or anywhere) would be a thousand extra deaths.
In Australia we have removed the top predator (i.e., Aboriginal people), allowing the kangaroo population to expand greatly. But even so, the population is limited by the food supply and eventually reaches an equilibrium - ''ecology in action'', as Professor Falconer neatly puts it.
The trouble is that this natural equilibrium has been shifted by the presence of artificial surface water in the form of dams, ponds, lakes, etc. This extra water means that in dry times, when feed is scarce, kangaroos do not die of thirst, but continue to eat until everything is gone and then die of hunger.
They still die, but they take the plant community with them, depriving many other creatures of their habitat, and creating dust bowl conditions in many places.
I think that we should consider fencing off these bodies of water where possible - then there may not be any need for culling!
Jenny Andrews, Aranda
Vale a mighty man
The notice recording the death of William (Bill) Richard Carney two weeks short of his 99th year (Times2, December 24, p17) gave no hint of the towering intellect of this man who served his nation for decades.
He held degrees in both commerce and law to masters level and his Australian government posts at very senior levels included India during World War II, Canada, the United States, Peru and New Zealand.
Even in his later years he could give detailed discourses not only on these countries, but on ancient Greek, Roman history, classical music, mountain climbing, cross country skiing: the man was a beacon of intellect and inspiration.
A widower and great-grandfather, Bill was a deeply spiritual man, attending Mass every morning.
There were no contemporaries left who might have attested to his greatness, but his much younger local friends saw him as the ''Mandela'' of our fraternity. The eulogies of his sons Niall and Gavin began by mentioning the dignity, courtesy, humility and spirituality of Bill's parents, who were outstanding people of the late 19th century.
The nation should mourn the loss of a great servant and man.
Kevin Begaud, Dee Why, NSW
Ian Warden (''Now the readers are Piccin on me'', December 31, p8) has made the noble suggestion of naming the apparently new species of weevil located in Namadgi National Park after Patricia Piccinini in honour of her work creating the Skywhale.
He was, however, dutifully corrected about the correct termination for female patronyms being ''ae''.
This suggestion is not as silly as it sounds. The long, drooping proboscis of the as yet unnamed weevil is reminiscent of one of the many mammary glands hanging from Piccinini's creation. My only issue is that Skywhale has 10 long, drooping appendages whilst the poor weevil has only one. It would be more accurate to name the weevil Melanterius Decimamque Piccininiae - One-tenth Piccinini.
T.J. Farquahar, Ainslie
Israel talks dispute
Chris Williams (Letters, December 30) cites Tanya Reinhart's claim that Yitzhak Rabin and his successors as Israeli prime minister followed a ''concept of endless negotiations'' to prevent a conclusion to peace talks with the Palestinians.
If, for the sake of argument, Professor Reinhart's claim is assumed to be true at the time it was published in 2002, it has little relevance today. In 2005, Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza and four settlements on the West Bank.
This was not the action of a prime minister determined to pursue endless negotiations and, if it were not for the vast array of medical equipment keeping him alive, Ariel Sharon surely would be spinning in his grave at the suggestion.
The reaction from Gaza to the withdrawal was barrages of rockets fired into Israel. That is the action of a party that does not want a conclusion to peace negotiations.
Stephen Jones, Bonython
Biting the hand that feeds you a bit rich
This republican agrees with your editorial (''PM must choose new GG wisely'', Times2, December 30, p2) that Quentin Bryce did her job well as Governor-General most of the time. Indeed I have never witnessed a Governor-General who enjoyed their appointment more. As she pranced around in a seemingly endless wardrobe of beautiful outfits and magnificent hats that, like a neon light, changed as the day progressed, she brought a certain je ne sais quoi to the appointment that old men in grey suits could never achieve.
Of course she read nice speeches, carried out her perfunctory constitutional duties well enough and supported charities that few would fault. But after some 10 years of living the fabulous vice-regal dream at state and Commonwealth level, it seems her excellency was over all the pomp and spectacle and decided that it was time for Australia to become a republic. Now that's what I call chutzpah.
H. Ronald, Jerrabomberra, NSW
Not a pretty sight
As 2013 draws to a close, I reflect on what a great year of celebration it has been for the national capital's centenary. However, and I concede many would disagree, the much publicised Sky Whale is the most grotesque creation I can remember laying eyes on. Perhaps its presence in the Canberra sky might be justified with images of some of our ''snouts in the trough'' politicians hanging suspended from its sagging mammaries.
Tony May, Pearce
Anyone seen their first ''Don't blame me, I voted Labor'' bumper sticker?
James Mahoney, McKellar
TO THE POINT
GREAT BIG NEW TAX
So Tony Abbott wants to replace the revenue from the carbon tax which cost the individual zero net, with a new $6 healthcare tax on the most vulnerable members of society - the sick. The great big new tax on everything becomes the great big new tax on everyone. Great work, Tony.
Dr Nick Taylor, Curtin
If it gets up, the mooted $6 per visit GP consultation fee won't be $6 for long. The wide man of Treasury will declare another budget emergency and up it will go. The ideologues in this government are opposed to universal healthcare and may well want to introduce US-style medicine in Australia.
Thos Puckett, Ashgrove, Qld
ANOTHER WAR YEAR?
Facing the prospect of a new year with the worst federal government since Federation, one wonders if 2014 will be as bad as 1914. A war with Indonesia, perhaps?
Richard Keys, Ainslie
STEALING THE FARM
Richard Schiffman's article (''Carving up Africa for food'', Times2, December 30, p1) concerned me. Underdeveloped countries in the world today are already in the grip of multinational corporations in the areas of mining and industry. If agriculture also falls under their sway, these countries will lose all vestige of their independence.
Sankar Kumar Chatterjee, Evatt
TRADING OUR LEGACY
Further to Pauline Westwood (Letters, December 27), surely if we allow our democratically elected government to sign up to the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement then we truly are a nation of fools squandering the legacy we inherited and ensuring the future of Australia is at the dictates of foreign-owned corporations and their shareholders.
Coral Talbot, Carlaminda
Whilst Mike Hutchinson is entitled to have imaginary friends, I don't accept that he is entitled to make imaginary claims (Letters, December 30). Mike says that I claimed to ''know a Christ that would not recognise a Christ that Cardinal George Pell claims to know'', when what I had actually claimed was that my Christ would simply not recognise George Pell.
Nothing imaginary in that, Mike.
John Richardson, Wallagoot, NSW
ROLL ON, 2014!
Peter Snowdon (Letters, December 31) offers ''Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.'' So if I sow wine, women and song, I'll reap wine, women and song? Roll on, 2014!
Bronis Dudek, Calwell
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