Comment

Letters to the Editor

Reclaim rights

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Interesting to notice the difference between the words of the ordinary members of the Reclaim Australia rally and those of one of the movement's leaders, John Bolton ("Reclaim Australia rally kicks off global wave", Sunday Canberra Times, February 7, p4).

Rally member Daniel Evans said he was not against Muslims but against "extremists preaching hate". Arabella McKenzie said she wanted to defend a culture "where women can be free, have rights and are considered equal human beings. That's a good culture to preserve".

To both of these good people I say: I totally agree! Who could possibly support extremists preaching hate and those who would want to oppress women? All Australians should support such principled views.

On the other hand, however, we have Mr Bolton who wants not only an increase in random searches of mosques and Islamic schools by government anti-terrorist squads, he also exhorts the members of the rally to "insult and vilify Islam five times a day if you want to".

To Daniel Evans and Arabella McKenzie and other good folk like them in the ranks of the Reclaim Australia rally: beware the preachers of hate, wherever they are!

Chris Williams, Griffith

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Expenses need probing

Alexander Downer and his guests certainly dine high on the hog ("Revealed: $2500 bill for decadent Downer dinner", Sunday Times, February 7, p12).

However, the much more serious aspect to the story is that it reveals outrageous padding of costs by the High Commissioner.

Over decades in DFAT, I was privy to many cases of padding of entertainment expenses by ambassadors, which came to be regarded as par for the course.

Some of the more egregious cases, such as those in Tehran and Stockholm, made it into Hansard and the media.

But Mr Downer's reported claims establish a new benchmark for the exercise. Obviously the auditors should be sent in post haste to investigate his activities with a view to having overclaimed amounts repaid.

Chris Smith, Kingston

Damning data dated

The Canberra Times has now run two articles ("Childcare in the ACT is expensive and underqualified, says new report", February 5, and "Childcare directors respond to nation's worst qualified figures", February 7) discussing the ACT early childhood education and care sector's statistics in the recent Report on Government Services (ROGS).

In both cases, The Times has dramatically declared that only about 50 per cent of the ACT sector workforce is qualified. However, while the ROGS report has only just been published, the data on workforce qualifications is quite clearly stated to come from the 2013 National Early Childhood Education and Care Workforce Census.

The data is three years out of date and was collected only one year after the regulations changed. In the ACT, there was no requirement for a minimum qualification. Fifty per cent after one year is to be expected – the number will be much higher now.

As a teacher working in early childhood education and care, the publication of these figures – with the breathless headlines and without proper context and clear acknowledgement of where (and when) the data was sourced – is damaging to me and my professionalism.

I hope that in addition to printing this letter, The Canberra Times will amend the two previous articles to include a disclaimer stating the age of the figures.

Liam McNicholas, Ngunnawal

Ordered action best

In her article "Assange 'win' highlights UN's impotence" (Sunday CT, February 7), Annabel Crabb refers to the UN Working Group's finding that Julian Assange has been unfairly deprived of his liberty. The decision may, as Crabb suggests, show that in some respects the UN lacks power, but a few points need to be made.

First, the finding is only by a working group, it is not a decision of the Security Council or the General Assembly. Secondly, it is in no sense a judicial ruling.

Moreover, Assange has voluntarily secreted himself in the Ecuadorian embassy to avoid extradition, so whether he has indeed been "deprived" of his liberty is debatable.

Aside from these aspects, the real issue as I see it is: it is a basic principle of extradition that the receiving country undertakes not to try the extradited person for any pre-extradition offence other than the one[s] he or she is extradited.

I believe the principle extends, or ought to, to a further undertaking not to extradite the person to a third country. The extradited person must be free to leave the receiving country, after being acquitted or, if convicted, after serving any sentence of imprisonment.

Assange's claim that the US is planning to seek his extradition from Sweden over the wikileaks matter may or may not be well founded but it cannot be dismissed as merely fanciful. Both Australia and Britain should have pressed Sweden to give such a further undertaking as a condition of Assange's extradition.

Australia in particular has not been vigorous enough in protecting the legitimate interests of its citizen. Not only should we have pressed Sweden on the point but we should also have pressed Britain to agree that the proposed extradition would not be carried out in the absence of such undertaking.

Alvin Hopper, Dickson

Runway danger cogent

The near miss on crossed runways at Melbourne airport raises issues about the main runway at Canberra airport.

Planes landing from the south arrive at the northern end, where they must turn to the right, to taxi back to the terminal, because there is only one taxi-way , on the eastern side of the main runway. This means to get back to the terminal, they must re-enter the main runway to cross to the western side.

This is analogous to the crossed runway scenario at Melbourne airport. Any mistake by air traffic control at this point could potentially see the taxiing aircraft on a collision course with aircraft landing on the main runway.

The problem is simply solved. The construction of a second taxi-way on the western side of the main runway would mean landing aircraft could turn left and never have to re-enter the active runway.

This would surely be a relatively cheap and effective risk reduction strategy. If crossed runways are banned in other parts of the world why has this situation at Canberra airport been allowed?

Andrew Hopkins, Lyneham

No time to swan around

In recent years I have been struggling with the selection of Australian of the Year. Many had not done very much for Australia in general other than see out their employment.

Then I realised, the many truly deserving potential Australians of the Year don't have time to swan around being an ambassador for the latest political push.

Jevon Kinder, Murrumbateman

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