Comment

Letters to the Editor

Respectful language should start with our politicians

The Briggs, Dutton, Gayle incidents show us yet again why cultural change is needed to improve how Australian women are treated.

Every time one of these "mistakes" comes to light, the same justifications and responses are rolled out: it was a joke; I didn't mean anything by it; this is political correctness gone mad; it's been blown out of all proportion.

We also see the woman's professional response scrutinised and dismissed as either being overly sensitive or as no harm done. Either way, the message is it doesn't matter.

These are not incidents. They reflect cultural norms that say it's OK to talk about and to women in disrespectful, derogatory, demeaning language. Such language does matter. Until men realise this and stop and consider the potential consequences of what they say, little will change for Australian women.

Nationals leader aspirant Barnaby Joyce says he hopes that politicians don't become "overly cautious" about what they say ("Joyce fears Briggs scandal points to 'sterile' politics", January 6, p1). Exercising some mature caution before speaking and texting is exactly what is needed. How refreshing it would be if just one of the blokes in Parliament stood up for high standards of respectful language.

Ann Villiers, Hawker

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I do not condone Chris Gayle's comments to the female sports journalist in question. At best, it could be viewed as a clumsy attempt at flirting and, at worst, a disparaging comment which embarrassed her. Either way, it was inappropriate.

The same day this made front-page news, a man drove his car off a wharf at Port Lincoln in South Australia, drowning himself and, tragically, his two young sons.

Both incidents speak to male culture. Sadly, however, the Gayle incident attracted far more media and public attention. Surely the latter incident is the one that should be dissected and discussed over the office water coolers but I am not sure that this is the case.

Anthony John, Ainslie

Minister looks silly

Bill Deane (Letters, January 6), has not got it quite right in saying Peter Dutton did not need to apologise to Samantha Maiden because his message was not intended for her. Had Dutton intended to tell her she was a "mad f---king witch", then he would not need to apologise, as he would presumably have been prepared to stand by such a remark. As he did, in effect, tell her to her face "through mishap", just about everyone except Bill thought an apology was in order.

Dutton, however, still looks pretty silly. Here is a person holding high ministerial office who takes time for such a trivial, demeaning communication and does not know who he is sending it to.

David Townsend, Curtin

For Elizabeth Farrelly ("Taking out the trash is a job half done for Malcolm Turnbull", canberrratimes.com.au, January 6) to use the term "dickheads" to describe a member of the public, let alone an elected member of Parliament, is entirely inappropriate. The thrust of Ms Farrelly's piece is quite correct, but it's hypocritical to decry the use of the term "f---ing witch" by Peter Dutton, then use the kinds of hyperbolic, crass labels she has in return.

The article seemed to have been written as a train of thought, as it became more heated as it progressed.

At a time when sensible people are attempting to bridge the gender divide, I thought Elizabeth Farrelly did her best to drive an us and them wedge right back in.

Luke Graham, Sutton, NSW

Closure an error

I believe the Australian Academy of Science is about to make a tragic error in attempting to close the Basser Library and Fenner Archives ("Scientist upset at closure of lower-priority Basser library", January 5, p1).

Professor Andrew Holmes and his task force should seriously rethink this move. Apart from doing a serious disservice to those who established these entities, their closure would be seriously detrimental to future Australian science.

Ann Moyal ("Trouble under the Academy's learned dome", Times2, January 5, p5) rightly points out that they represent the national archive in the history of this country's science, and should be maintained by the academy.

The Australian Academy of Science claims to "champion, celebrate and support excellence in Australian science, promote international scientific engagement, build public awareness and understanding of science and provide independent, authoritative and influential scientific advice".

To consider the Basser Library and Fenner Archive to be a low priority is inconceivable, and does not champion, celebrate or support excellent science.

Murray Upton, Belconnen

Ann Moyal's accurate account of the decision of the bureaucracy of the Australian Academy of Science to close and disband its historical Basser Library and Fenner Archive reminds us of Oscar Wilde's character in Lady Windermere's Fan discussing "a man who knows the price of everything, and the value of nothing".

However, there is perhaps a deeper problem. Is the role of the academy merely to promote current science, and to identify and sanctify the celebrity scientists of Australia, or to follow its pioneers' plans to cherish the best of the past, present and future of this nation's science?

Perhaps the fellows should now reassert their authority and restore a proper balance between the short-term schemes of the AAS's burgeoning bureaucracy and the long-term roles of the academy.

Adrian Gibbs, Yarralumla

Rich reading

One of the first parts of The Canberra Times at which I look is Ian Warden's Gang-gang column, not only for news, but in his original use of the English language. Whether in structure or content, we are treated to a startling association, a grammatically correct neologism, an entertaining and unexpected innovation for our delight.

His illumination of his readership's propensities and prejudices, subtly described in terms of his own ignorance, entertainingly exposes the viewpoint of the "Canberran" aired in the correspondence columns.

Please continue to enrich our reading, Ian Warden.

Jack Palmer, Watson

Ian Warden should be encouraging letters to the editor, rather than denigrating correspondents ("Wild about public art", Gang-gang, January 7, p8). Apart from being more fun, our democracy is made stronger by having as many people as possible express their points of view.

These points of view need to be genuinely listened to, and acted on if possible. This helps make us all more equal, prouder and better citizens. The other option is to tell those with different opinions to piss off, let might be right and, for example, watch the current crop of town planners wreck Canberra forever. Is that what Ian wants?

John Skurr, Deakin

Listen to residents

Beware of property developers who claim an area needs to be revitalised ("Statesman Hotel plans for Curtin hit a hitch", January 6, p1).

The residents' viewpoints have already been partially expressed in the draft master plan for the shopping centre and their strong preference for maintaining existing height limits of two storeys.

This draft plan also includes the Statesman, whose owner may well want 12-storey and 10-storey buildings on the existing sites. If the redevelopment proposals are "financially unviable" within the existing guidelines that express community preference, why are they on the table?

Do "economic realities" relate only to delivering private-sector profit these days, or do residents get a meaningful say about having to cope with the visual and overbearing consequences afterwards? Is the ACT government listening?

Peter Graves, Curtin

Senate skewed

The Senate [is] more representative than the House of Representatives, Peter Marshall (Letters, January 4)? I don't think so.

Marshall notes that "basic arithmetic" shows that a party can form government in the House of Representatives with little more than 25 per cent of the overall electoral votes.

Unfortunately for his thesis, "basic arithmetic" also shows that a party can gain control of the Senate via a much lower percentage than 25 per cent of overall votes (by winning all the seats in Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory).

More realistically, however, the 2013 election, in fact, bestowed a Senate seat upon Ricky Muir's Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party in return for a meagre 0.5 per cent of the vote, while the Australian Labor Party's 30.11 per cent of the vote gave it only 12 seats. And Tasmania (population 0.5 million) is entitled to the same number of senators as NSW (population 7.6 million).

Frank Marris, Forrest

Cherry on the top

It is clear from Tony Eggleton and Phillip Baron (Letters, January 1) that the level of debate on global warming and its effect on climate change is improving.

When writers debate the actual science, we are getting somewhere, instead of the accusations that lefty doomsayers are trying to destroy our economy and way of life.

Scientists have known about the effects of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere since at least the late 1980s. Besides, it defies logic that mankind has only brought progress to this earth, without any side effects such as water and air pollution.

More of the same please, and let's enjoy the cherry season for what it is – eating cherries!

Lorraine W. Ovington, Fisher

Exemplary play

Our brilliant, young, Canberra-raised tennis player, Nick Kyrgios, does not deserve to have the label "Australian bad boy" before his name in a report in The Canberra Times, without so much as a reference to any of his supposed misdemeanours ("Kyrgios downs Murray", Sport, January 7, p24). His match against Andy Murray in the Hopman Cup was exemplary.

We should support our young rising players' achievements, instead of gloating in perpetuity about their occasional youthful misjudgments.

Joan Milner, Bywong, NSW

 

TO THE POINT

SHADES OF SINATRA

Just as Frank Sinatra did years ago, celebrity cricketer Chris Gayle learned an expensive lesson in culture and chivalry in the antipodes. He can't make inappropriate remarks to a female reporter. Only Australian men can do that.

Gerry Murphy, Braddon

OPPORTUNITY LOST

Mel Mclaughlin missed a golden opportunity to put a sizeable dent in the Gayle ego by giving him an earful on air the other night – but then again she's better than that.

Tony May, Pearce

A MISSING WORD

So Barnaby Joyce fears acting on ex-minister Jamie Briggs would lead to "sterile politics". Behaving decently is not "sterile", nor is seeking to prevent or cloud investigation of your actions; the word Joyce missed is "corrupted".

Christopher Hood, Queanbeyan, NSW

SOMETHING SMELLS

Excellently said, Elizabeth Farrelly ("Foul whiff in halls of power", Times2, January 7, p4). Absolutely spot on!

Sue Schreiner, Red Hill

SERIOUS POSTURING

North Korea's leadership flexes its muscle ... again. This time though, it's serious.

Linus Cole, Palmerston

IGNOBLE, WE'RE NOT

Ian Warden (Gang-gang, January 7, p8) should be ashamed at describing CanTheTram Inc as "ignoble". Our only interest is to inform Canberrans of what the government isn't telling them about light rail.

M. Silex, Erindale

CONSERVATIVE CLUTCH

So, Peter Dutton "hosts" a gathering of like-minded conservatives in the party, including former prime minister Tony Abbott, in the "Monkey Pod room" ("Labor bays for blood despite 'witch' apology", January 5, p4). Perfect.

David Headon, Melba

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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