Pyne review a set-up

Christopher Pyne's defence of the government's curriculum review rings hollow. Claims that the review is compensating for ''shambolic policy processes'' are absurd, given that the curriculum was developed through a lengthy process presided over by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority, incorporating numerous educational experts along with public consultations, submissions and negotiations with the states and territories.

This review, however, is likely to be truncated, less inclusive and far less comprehensive, given that the curriculum is expected to be ready for the 2015 school year and the entire process is being run by just two hand-picked reviewers.

Mr Pyne also notes that critics have focused on the reviewers, Ken Wiltshire and Kevin Donnelly, claiming that this unfairly pre-empts the findings of the review.

The reason there has been so much criticism of the appointment of Mr Donnelly, in particular, however, has been the hard-line conservative agenda he has consistently argued should be incorporated into the curriculum. His appointment makes it very likely that their views will be reflected in the review's findings and recommendations, undermining Mr Pyne's professed goal of ensuring the curriculum is not captured by those pursuing narrow political agendas.

It looks to many that Mr Pyne is just designing the review to get to the outcome he wants, providing the flimsiest of fig leaves to hide his nakedly political agenda in education.

Joshua Smith, Gordon


Voting restricted

Brian Hatch is mistaken in his assertion that in 1948 ''indigenous people … had had the right to vote in federal elections since Federation'' (Letters, January 19). In 1948 the only ''aboriginal natives'' who were entitled to vote in federal elections were the handful in NSW, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania who had managed to get themselves entered on the federal electoral rolls before they were deprived of the right to do so by section 4 of the Commonwealth Franchise Act 1902.

Through amendments to the corresponding section of the Commonwealth Electoral Act in 1949, all Aboriginal ex-service men and women obtained the right to vote in federal elections, and all Aborigines in the four southern states regained it. There were also a few Aborigines in Western Australia who possessed a so-called ''Certificate of Citizenship'' - issued by the state government - by which they were ''deemed'' not to be aboriginal natives, and therefore entitled to vote in that state's elections. The 1949 amendments meant they were also entitled to vote in federal elections.

The vast majority of ''aboriginal natives'' in Western Australia and Queensland, however, could not vote in federal elections until the exclusionary section of the Commonwealth Electoral Act was repealed in 1962.

David Wilson, Braddon

Brian Hatch's letter shows a mischievous interpretation of what it means to be a citizen of a country. The purpose of his letter was to refute Chris Flannery's assertion (January 18, p1) that prior to 1967 Aboriginal people were not citizens. He starts with the statement, ''Mr Flannery perpetuates the myth that until 1967 indigenous people were not citizens,'' then wanders off on a discussion about voting rights. All census figures prior to 1967 exclude Aboriginal people from official Australian population figures. This changed with the 1967 repeal of section 127 of the constitution, which stated: ''In reckoning the numbers of the people of the Commonwealth, or of a State or other part of the Commonwealth, aboriginal natives should not be counted.''

It takes quite a skill in intellectual origami to somehow define a race as a citizen, when they were constitutionally excluded from official population figures.

Shane Drumgold, Gungahlin

Inviting discord

Graham Downie's plea (Letters, Jan 20) to not politicise the Legislative Assembly church service includes this politico-religious carbuncle: ''All people … can do well to recognise there is a power greater than ourselves.'' If he was referring to nature, he'd have little opposition from atheists. But he's not, he's referring to contentious and contradictory metaphysical entities.

In a similar vein, Jack Waterford (''We should heed prayer's spirit'', Jan 19), writing about our federal parliamentary morning prayer expresses this extraordinary falsehood: ''The Lord's Prayer is, in essence, inoffensive even to non-believers.'' I contend that any polis that relegates a class of citizens ''to the back of the bus'' on the basis of religion, sex or colour, invites discord. In Australia, mild as the symbolism may be, our political environment still falls over on two counts. Sexism has been bowled over; the first-born of either sex can now be the English monarch, but our state religion is Church of England. And we are all lesser; we are all commoners in relation to those of Anglican ''royal blood''.

Peter Robinson, Ainslie

Jack Waterford's latest excuse to parade his idiosyncratic Irish-Catholic perspective is wrong to label the prayer read on opening each parliamentary session as ''in essence, inoffensive''. Its offence lies not only in the importation of religion into the democratic summit of our constitutionally secular national governance, but also in the prayer's selfish appeal to an imaginary, if purportedly almighty, friend to bestow upon its supplicants the very resources and attributes that they should obtain, develop, possess and demonstrate from their own efforts, exertions and moral compass.

Mike Hutchinson, Reid

Nelson out of step in failure to honour Aboriginal warriors

Dr Brendan Nelson, the relatively new director of the Australian War Memorial, has in his successive public roles been somewhat known for innovation. It is disappointing then to hear him echo his predecessors by saying that it cannot commemorate those killed in Australia's frontier wars because it is concerned only with ''the story of Australians deployed in war overseas on behalf of Australia'' ( ''Honour land-war Aborigines: Flannery'', January 18, p1).

His other reforms suggest that he's more than aware of how important his institution is to the Australian psyche. There is, for want of a better word, a spiritual dimension to the memorial that cannot be present at the National Museum of Australia where these frontier conflicts are more or less adequately recognised.

Dr Nelson's and his predecessors' determined exclusion of those who died in our frontier wars (recognised as such even by conservative historians) is a continuing barrier to any real reconciliation between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians. And it's not so hard. The New Zealanders managed it decades ago.

Geoff Page, Narrabundah

The director of the Australian War Memorial said it is not the place to commemorate internal colonial conflict because it is concerned with the ''story of Australians deployed in war overseas on behalf of Australia''.

This is indeed curious as the memorial's official purpose is to commemorate the sacrifice of those Australians who have died in war. There is no mention of colonial conflict nor overseas service in the memorial act.

According to the historian Henry Reynolds, some 22,000 Australian Aboriginal people and 2000 whites are recorded to have died in war on Australian soil. The real numbers are of course much higher as not all deaths would have been recorded. By any measure, this is war. If the memorial persists in refusing to ''commemorate the sacrifice'' of these Australians one can only assume they are not considered Australians.

Any argument that the Aborigines who fought in this war were not members of the Defence Force and therefore their sacrifice should not be recognised, is truly offensive. We, after all, commemorate the heroism of the Turks in the defence of their country in the Turkish campaign memorial at the top of Anzac Parade.

Canberrans can visit the small unofficial memorial to Aboriginal Defence Force soldiers. It is in the bush, half hidden, ''out the back'' of the memorial, some 300 metres up Mount Ainslie. This is indeed a sacred place and it is a place where one can also contemplate the sacrifice of the thousands who died in the only land war fought on Australian soil.

Digby Habel, Cook

Stop releasing land

Property reporter Meredith Clisby, in ''Canberra's suburban sprawl seen from space,'' January 18, states in part ''As well as growing wide, the ACT has also grown up during the past two decades as governments have realised the importance of densification over urban sprawl.''

Other than her discarding her journalist's neutrality she has not tried to counter any of the many anti-densification arguments. Nor has she addressed the other option, which at a local level involves not releasing more land. If implemented, urban sprawl and densification would cease to be problems in the ACT as it would result in decentralisation. But this would be a Band-Aid solution. What we really need is zero net population growth on a national level.

Paul Remington, Gordon

Green is just a dream

While the sight of children gambolling on lush green grass makes great images, Peter Jean clearly doesn't recognise pork barrelling when he sees it (''Let's not circle the issue, traders want grass in Green Square'', January 18). While the rent-seeking cafe owners lining Green Square have every right to lobby the ACT government for special treatment, it is TAMS' responsibility to advise them and their minister what the real cost of their special pleading will be. It is not difficult to envisage how, down the track, the cafe owners, or their successors, finding it all too difficult to maintain the grass in the face of drought and rising water prices, then seek to hand it all back to the government. Talk about privatising profits and socialising losses!

It is to the shame of the politicians that this sort of special pleading is not seen for what it is, and is dealt with at arm's length instead of indulging in blatant pork barrelling. But I guess there could be a few votes in it, so what the heck, the ratepayers won't notice.

Paul Ratcliffe, Yarralumla

Rights on the high seas

No Indonesian warship has ever entered Australian waters, no Australian warships have any right to enter the territory of other nations without permission.

But the vessels for refugees have the free and legal right to sail anywhere without being boarded, pirated, the people kidnapped and repatriated in breach of Australian law.

Marilyn Shepherd, Angaston

Note To Australian Navy: You can buy a boating GPS from as little as $299 at several Australian adventure and fishing stores. They are usually accurate to within 15 metres. This might prevent you ''inadvertently'' straying into another county's territorial waters. You could also find your way back home.

David Fuller, Duffy

Those of us, who enjoy the Clarke and Dawe classic of a ministerial interview to explain how ''the front fell off'' an oil tanker, which was then towed ''beyond the environment'' off WA, will have enjoyed the latest ''Scott Morrison and his 3-star'' interview about the navy entering Indonesian waters. It was unclear if a question on the apparent lack of maps and GPSs would have been dismissed as a hypothetical or an operational matter, had it been asked.

Adrian Gibbs, Yarralumla

Fighting for Crowley

On reading the article about Jonathan Crowley (Times, Jan 13), I recalled the address by Keith Crowley (Jonathan's father) to a recent ACT ALP annual conference, in which he spoke eloquently of the Crowley family's struggle to obtain fair compensation for Jonathan for injury caused to him by a police bullet. Conference delegates gave Keith Crowley a standing ovation.

One should therefore be entitled to assume that the ACT government (involving a coalition of eight ALP MLAs and one Green MLA) is taking all reasonable action (legislative or otherwise) to ensure a fair go for Jonathan Crowley and other persons in similar situations and also to ensure that such situations do not arise in future. Nevertheless, it would be good if the responsible ACT government minister (as opposed to an unnamed ''government spokesman'') was willing and able to provide assurance in this regard.

D. McNeill, Rivett

Endless jam of road works to nowhere

A high-tech traffic management system proposed for the ACT ( January 20) to detect and advise motorists of congestion is a laudable objective. But, rather than spend taxpayer funds on a major camera and advisory network in the ACT, traffic flow would be greatly improved if road works in the ACT were completed promptly.

Motorists would be aware of the many major road works commenced in Canberra in recent years and mostly still unfinished. How often has construction been undertaken on multiple arterial roads simultaneously? At one time recently there were seven major road works , with serious impact on traffic flow throughout the city. The construction companies obviously have no incentive to complete the work promptly with minimum inconvenience to motorists. Surely, it is time to include a realistic completion date in ACT government contracts for road works to ensure minimal disruption to traffic, with penalties for non-compliance.

There is much the ACT government could do to improve traffic flow without resorting to expensive high-tech solutions.

Allan Gadsby, Kaleen

While the proposed traffic management system ( January 20, p1) is commendable, it is disappointing that there appears to be no funding to fully co-ordinate the traffic light system in favour of main arterial roads. This would not only save time and fuel, but would reduce the temptation for some drivers to run a red light after being stopped two or three times in a few hundred metres.

Geoff Nickols, Griffith



The England cricket team should take some consolation from the fact that it isn't the worst performing team in Australia this summer. That honour goes to the PM's team. And I'm not referring to the inept XI that played at Manuka Oval last week.

Jeff Bradley, Isaacs


Within 15 or 20 years , Hamburg, Germany, with its 8 million people, will be car free. It will be environmentally friendly. Australian state capital cities should attempt to do the same. Australian cities have too many cars, too much traffic, and too much pollution already.

Jane Wallace, Riverwood, NSW


It would appear that many members of the Federal Parliament have embraced the Entitlement Society.

Roger Allnutt, Deakin


Congratulations to Tasmanian Premier Lara Giddings for lancing that festering sore commonly known as the Greens. Had the Rudd/Gillard/Rudd led federal governments had the intestinal fortitude to do likewise, the ALP would not be in the mess it is now.

Mario Stivala, Spence


I find it quite alarming to read that ''Top tax officials want to put unprecedented levels of trust in big companies to be honest with the government about their tax affairs'' (January 16, p1). With due respect to all concerned I feel it is akin to putting a fox in charge of the fowl house.

Coral Talbot, Cooma, NSW


According to the latest research, the US military owns and operates 194 golf courses, has commenced more than 200 wars and has more than 900 bases worldwide not including Darwin, its latest acquisition in an ever-widening circle of military hegemony. What next? A likely war in Iran with yet another military base and a new golf course in Tehran. It's how you judge a country's success. It's worth a debt of nearly $17 trillion, and rising.

Rex Williams, Ainslie


Damn Bandam! How dare he indulge in such extreme water wastage (''Capital scorcher to spice up Manuka melting pot'', January 14, p1). And damn The Canberra Times for printing and promoting it on the front page, too. He could water late at night and save on evaporation. We are all in this together.

Jo Close, Curtin

Email: 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).