I believe Vice-Admiral Ray Griggs when he flatly denied that burns on the asylum seekers' hands were caused by Australian sailors (''Burns claim baseless: navy chief'', January 23, p7).

Also, Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said the asylum seekers and people smugglers had strong motivations to lie.

My guess is the burns on the people smugglers' hands were caused by self-destruction.

Just think of it: people who are capable of stitching their lips together when they don't get their own way would have no problem burning their hands to get even with the Australian navy.

The sooner the boats are completely stopped, the better.

We don't want people like that in this country.

Anne Prendergast, Reid

I asked my family over dinner to estimate the population of Indonesia. Most gave an answer under 100 million. A quick check revealed it is over 260 million.

As I ponder this crucial appreciation of our present reality, I wonder why we have a Prime Minister who seems intent on creating an international incident with Indonesia over a few thousand refugees.

If I was the prime minister, I'd be thanking the Indonesian government for managing to feed and house most of its citizens who are squashed on some tiny islands to our north. And I'd be asking if there was anything more we could do to help.

Jill Sutton, Watson

There's been much discussion lately about Australia's relations with Indonesia. It has had little effect on Australians going to Bali, because, when asked, many say: ''I haven't been to Indonesia. I have only been to Bali.''

John Milne, Chapman

Disgust at spying

The intransigence displayed by Australia's Solicitor-General at The Hague with the stand taken against East Timor on the absurd grounds of ''security'' - the good old standby for any criminal act - just adds to the disgust so many Australians now feel at our government's efforts to spy on that country for commercial gain; East Timor being one of the poorest countries in the world.

I have never felt so ashamed of Australia.

We have become corrupt and insensitive, reflected so clearly in the quality of our self-serving elected politicians.

My apologies to East Timor from Australians who do have some decency - fortunately, the majority of our people.

Rex Williams, Ainslie

Roo cull unnecessary

I attended the June meeting referred to in the article ''Minister blamed for delay on roo anti-cull plan'' (January 20, p3).

The facts are that Greens minister Shane Rattenbury was provided with visual evidence of successful kangaroo translocations in Canberra and elsewhere undertaken by Marcus Fillinger.

Fillinger invited Rattenbury to see an on-site translocation demonstration, but he declined.

He was given three translocation destination sites, which he now denies.

Rattenbury was for a second time presented with peer-reviewed evidence of the kangaroo translocation program my wife and I have undertaken every year for the past decade, with a 97 per cent success rate, with numbers over 700. Fillinger has been involved in this.

Ministers Katy Gallagher and Simon Corbell have also been provided with this evidence but, like Rattenbury, they prefer to ignore the success of translocation.

Kangaroo translocation for conservation and animal welfare in the right hands is a highly successful, cheap, ethical alternative to the ACT government's expensive, unethical and offensive slaughter.

This wildlife slaughter delivers nothing except international bad odour about Canberra by those who care about Australia's wildlife. Fillinger has every right to be angry with Rattenbury on this matter.

Professor Steve Garlick, via Bungendore, NSW

Sustainable learning

Bravo to Bob Douglas for recommending the inclusion of sustainability as a core topic in the school curriculum, no less important than the ''three Rs'' (''A sustainable curriculum'', Times 2, January 21, p1).

Gordon Nevin unjustifiably blames teachers for unruly behaviour of children in the classroom (Letters, January 22).

Adolescents are more likely to be influenced by parental example and peer group pressure (usually from one or two disruptive individuals) than by authority figures such as teachers, particularly if they are not encouraged to discipline them.

Knowledge and practice of sustainable behaviour is crucial, not only for schools, but also throughout the community, if our society is to respond adequately to the environmental crisis which we now confront, and which is becoming increasingly apparent through climate disruption and extreme weather events in Australia and globally.

The greatest educational need is for scientifically illiterate politicians, whose policies and vested interests favour ''business as usual'' in terms of increasing greenhouse gas emissions through open cast coal mines, undersea oil exploration, fracking for coal-seam gas and the highly inefficient conversion of tar sands into oil, all of which are environmentally destructive and unsustainable.

Bryan Furnass, Hughes

What a cracker of a cartoon by Pat on Australian history and the First Fleet (January 23). The history curriculum of the future will be a slim document indeed.

Education Minister Christopher Pyne insists the curriculum be replete with historical ''facts'' while his colleague, Immigration Minister Scott Morrison, is intent on ensuring that asylum seeker ''facts'' are as thin on Australian ground as the asylum seekers themselves.

Ann Darbyshire, Gunning, NSW

Arts needed in schools

It seems appropriate to mention, given federal Education Minster Christopher Pyne's curriculum review, that Canberra is hosting the national visual art education conference at the National Gallery of Australia.

Pyne's NSW counterpart has put forward Finland's education system as being one of the world's best, which incidentally strongly emphasises the arts.

A perusal of our daily papers shows the emphasis we place on sport compared with the arts, and yet there is sufficient evidence to support the fact that performance in literacy and numeracy is significantly enhanced by encouraging creative expression, well beyond being a simply recreational pursuit.

We need to lift our game and include the arts in this curriculum review.

Rick Smyth, Narrabundah

Debt crisis answers

Bill Deane's conversation with the child certainly got the answer to the child's first question wrong (Letters, January 22).

The reason governments experience a debt crisis is they spend (usually irresponsibly) more money than they earn!

Brendan Ryan, O'Malley

SA needs to help itself

South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill wants another $330 million from all of us to prop up his state after Holden leaves. For decades, his state was a fairy-tale world in which wishful thinking replaced sound economic management. He now wants more of the same.

Some underpinning economic support may indeed be justified, but if his plans have long-term promise why aren't private sector lenders willing to help?

Roger Dace, Reid

Fuelling the flames: planting gums is just plain madness

Ric Hingee (Letters, January 20) advised that CSIRO investigations following the 2003 bushfires ''showed that wooden fences acted like a wick to bring fires deep into the suburbs''.

Hingee recommended the government ensure that urban fringe houses have metal fences.

I agree, but there is a far greater danger than wooden fences.

Contrast wooden fencing with an avenue of gum trees.

For an equivalent distance, the mass (ie fuel load) of the trees would be much greater than that of the fence - possibly by a factor of more than 1000.

Further, the trees would be much more flammable (even explosively so), and their height and leaves would spread fires quickly.

And burning trees could block major escape routes.

Despite this, ACT governments have foolishly criss-crossed western Canberra with avenues of gum trees.

In 2003, only luck saved Belconnen from being completely destroyed.

Hingee suggests the government and institutions are complacent in meeting the threat of bushfires.

He was kind: in respect to gum trees, they are criminally negligent.

For example, soon after the 2003 fires, the government planted more gum trees along William Hovell Drive and Kingsford Smith Drive.

I recommend that the government immediately begin removing almost all gum trees from the sides of all major roads in western Canberra.

The cost would be enormous, but the unacceptable and growing risk greatly outweighs that cost and the benefit of having a ''bush capital''.

Bob Salmond, Melba

Heatwave data in doubt

I note Chris Rule's letter (January 21) regarding the record heatwave of 1939, as quoted in ''Gang-gang'' (January 20), and his questioning of the official record set in last week's heatwave.

The official station at the airport only began weather observations on May 24, 1939.

As far as I can find out, there was no official recording site before the airport site was opened.

Therefore, I am unsure where the reporter in 1939 obtained the information for his report.

I have no doubt the heatwave last week was the longest since weather records began in the ACT region.

However, it is possible that the 1939 event was longer in duration, as other cities such as Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide also experienced a prolonged heatwave then.

Gavin O'Brien, Gilmore

Water debate a hot issue

You should have a cup of tea, a Bex and a good lie down (''Dam a help but we need water debate'', editorial, January 22).

Canberrans have so far had a dry summer and used a bit more water during the hottest week since 1939.

There is no reason urban tap water users should be expected to pay a significant premium above the provider's operating cost.

This is not charged when water is collected from roofs or farm dams.

Rural irrigation water is an order of magnitude cheaper than ours.

Governments, water authorities and elements of the community have not considered or undervalued outside water use in urban settings.

Those maintaining home gardens are being charged a penalty rate for their irrigation tap water.

Evaporation from plants is a reason why Canberra rarely has desert temperatures. Home gardens' contribution to this is only one of their community benefits.

Do Canberrans use more than their fair share of water?

If there is any debate, it should be based on empirical science not zealotry. Hopefully, the need to augment our water supply is over for a generation. Let those concerned then decide how.

John Bromhead, Rivett

Value in ethnic assets

Jack Waterford's sympathetic look into the plight of our community organisations deserves support, particularly from us ''ethnics'' who have benefited from the generosity of Canberra's share of Australia's public purse (''Squandering social capital'', Times2, January 22, p1).

Ethnic clubs, someone once told me, have a life span of about three generations, after which, apparently, they fade away.

The speed at which this process takes place simply reflects the success or otherwise of the particular community's integration into the broader society that welcomes them.

From the early 1960s, when it all began in earnest, Canberra has been extremely successful in absorbing newcomers into its broader society; hence, three generations later, the present crisis being experienced by a number of ethnic community clubs.

As a long-time member and now representative of Canberra's Spanish community, I wholeheartedly agree with Waterford, in particular his suggestion that the land (now occupied by community clubs that are withering into oblivion for lack of membership/community interest) be ''surrendered, with compensation for assets''.

I would, nevertheless, make an appeal to the government not to squander the ''ethnic'' social capital and talk with the communities.

Who knows what might come out of that initiative.

Juan Rodriguez, president, Spanish Residents' Council


Bike strategy flawed

The recent letters about bike lanes and the green strip reserved for cyclists aroused much interest and attracted some unctuous advice for drivers to be more alert.

I think the behaviour of some cyclists can be irritating, too, such as riding over pedestrian crossings, riding through red lights, riding two and three abreast, etc. But as for the green strips, I cannot see the wisdom of a traffic strategy that actually encourages cyclists to mix with cars and trucks in peak hours.

Bob Budd, Curtin

Canberra letters: Cycling should put

What is it with the organisers of the prestigious Tour Down Under, that they feel the need to finish each day's competition with a pair of identically dressed young women simultaneously planting a kiss on each cheek of the stage winner?

Am I alone in thinking this custom is not only demeaning, but a tad unsavoury?

Let's imagine a woman stage winner, flanked by a pair of (young male) personal trainers, or perhaps a couple of slimmer and better-dressed metrosexual types, each waiting for the signal to demurely plant their lips on her cheeks.

Or let's not imagine it.

Oops, I forgot: sport is a decade behind the times in these things.

Kimberi Pullen, Watson




Gordon Nevin deserved that caning for insulting teachers (Letters, January 23). Has he ever noticed all those cars outside his local school during vacation time? There's no overtime for teachers. Politicians say they retire ''to see more of my family''. As a teacher, I spent such long hours creating, planning, marking, killing myself by degrees, my children sometimes wondered if they had a dad.

Barrie Smillie, Duffy


NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell's remedy for booze-fuelled violence will result in Queanbeyan drunks wiping themselves out on Canberra Avenue as they tear over here for a supermarket gutful after 10pm (''Territory eyes NSW alcohol reforms'', January 22, p3).

So follow O'Farrell's lead, Katy Gallagher, or Canberra and its emergency services will get some unwanted business.

Hugh Jorgahan, Lyons


My favourite contrarian, H. Ronald (where would we letter writers be without him?), must have been taking lessons from Keith Windschuttle.

If I understand his latest, somewhat ambiguous, missive (Letters, January 23) correctly, he is a stolen generations denier. Millions of Australians, let alone Kevin Rudd and all the Aborigines who were ''orphaned'' by the state, must feel like real dills to have been taken in by such a devilishly clever fabrication.

Douglas Mackenzie, Deakin

Bravo, H. Ronald. While many do not recognise your epistles for the subtle satire they are, rather thinking them serious comment on the issues of the day, every one of your letters has me in hernia-inducing paroxysms of laughter at their lampooning of what passes for thought on the conservative side of politics.

Paul McElligott, Aranda


After the stressors placed on him by investigators, it is no wonder to read ''Eastman at times unfit for trial: psychiatrist'' (January 21, p3). I only hope that, when he is released, he retains his sanity and continues his fight to identify the killer(s).

Vengeance is mine, saith the law.

Gary J. Wilson, Macgregor


At last, it looks as if the Australian Open will have a relatively quiet women's final without the distraction of 90-decibel screeches and all players under six feet. It could even be enjoyable. But I wish Channel Seven would get the timing right and stop crossing back to live action after an ad break halfway through a game.

L. Christie, Canberra City


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