I'm not alone in wishing that the Chief of Army, Lieutenant-General David Morrison, was our prime Minister. He showed us what real leadership is, character, integrity, backbone and the authority that goes with that.
He said to our armed forces, if they couldn't uphold the values of the organisation ''then get out''. Our elected representatives should be like that, should be the best of us, the ones whose moral authority shines, who we're happy to follow, who stand for something. How on earth did we get the ones who are best at dodgy expenses claims and excuses?
Julie Kidd, Bonner
Your editorial is right in saying politicians' abuses of expenses claims is an international problem (October 7).
Indeed, the recent claims by a few Australian politicians pale into insignificance when compared with those made by their colleagues in Britain, one of whom - a Labour peer - was ordered to pay back £125,000 ($213,000) for designating an allegedly non-existent property as the main residence.
I am afraid that, much like one or two other institutions that claim to guide the people along the correct path, recent revelations hardly make the Parliament stand out as a beacon of inspiration and sound judgment.
Sam Nona, Burradoo, NSW
There's a simple way to fix politicians' rorting of travel expenses.
Set up a website (call it yourMP.gov.au) on which, within, say, three months of an MP using their allowance, the details of the amount claimed and what the trip was for must be posted.
And if they can't do that, they must repay the money spent.
MPs already have to compile this information anyway so just make the form they use web-friendly. When they file the information they already file, the details would automatically be posted on the website.
When they are caught out, politicians will come up with some wonderfully concocted excuse to explain why they went on some junket. However, if they knew that, within three months, their travel details were going to be online, you can bet they would be a lot more careful about spending our money.
There are few areas of public life that are not cleansed by having more public scrutiny, whether it is bribery, corruption, favouritism or simple rorts.
While I am grateful that this newspaper reports on MPs' use of travel allowances, in this digital age we shouldn't have to rely on newspapers to do this for us.
Nor should details only become public seven years (repeat, seven years) after the event (in the case of MPs going to Peter Slipper's 2006 wedding).
This information should be readily available to everyone.
If I was Tony Abbott, I would make this a priority because I would know that, without change, there will be too many times in the future when the hard work of my government will be scuttled because of a scandal about some Coalition MP abusing their travel allowance.
Ken Goldberg, Kaleen
Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Attorney-General George Brandis set the bar when they demanded that former speaker Peter Slipper resign over wrongly claimed travel expenses.
It is untenable that a prime minister and first law officer of the Commonwealth, who such a short time ago and so loudly demanded Slipper's resignation, should now claim different standards apply to them when the reality is they have clearly failed to meet their own standards. Pious humbug about their motives after the event do not detract from the fact that they had to pay back taxpayer funds to which they were not entitled. Will criminal charges follow, as they did with Slipper?
Both should resign forthwith, as Slipper did.
On Port Macquarie, Abbott says it is OK because it was in a marginal electorate.
Is the principle that it is all right to rort the system in a marginal seat, but perhaps not so acceptable in a safe seat?
The logic escapes me.
Had Mark Dreyfus still been first law officer, he too would have had no alternative but to resign.
This whole expenses scandal descends into deplorable and depressing depths of hypocrisy.
Geoff Smith, Belconnen
It is hard to believe our politicians are now trying to convince the public that going to a friend's wedding can be paid for by the taxpayer. I hope the public keeps up its outrage, and insists that the suggestions of Professor Allan Fels and senator Nick Xenophon are followed. Meanwhile, the government is considering not honouring the wage increase for childcare and aged-care workers. What sort of society are we living in?
Penny Moyes, Hughes
I agree with your editorial (October 8). It's true that the Senate is becoming a chamber in which the elected government stumbles to get legislation passed or dilutes its objectives to avoid a double-dissolution election.
I suggest we scrap the Senate election and replace it with the proportion of primary votes the political parties receive.
For a half-senate election, political parties winning 16.67 per cent of primary votes should be eligible for a Senate spot.
Any left-over primary votes of parties not gaining the quota should be distributed to the parties that gain the threshold.
In this way, we can stop parties gaining a Senate spot by even tallying less than 1 per cent of primary votes.
Political parties would need to select their Senate candidates by their own internal polls.
The Australian constitution (section 9) gives the Commonwealth the power to do so.
Sankar Kumar Chatterjee, Evatt
John Lynch (Letters, October 7) makes a very good point in calling for a container deposit scheme for drink bottles and cans.
I live near a small lake that feeds into Lake Tuggeranong.
It's usually a very attractive area, home to many water birds.
However, the stormwater that flows into the lake after even a small rainfall results in these birds swimming among dozens of floating plastic bottles.
I have taken part in clean-up days and found that at least 80 per cent of the rubbish collected is drink containers.
With a Greens MLA as Minister for Territory and Municipal Services, surely it is time to strongly push for a container deposit scheme, as TAMS seems to have neither the staff nor funds to clean up the large amount of litter seen around much of the ACT.
Megan Edwards, Monash
Ranks don't fall into line, so minister should rethink trim
Neil James says an executive level 1 public servant ''is nominally a lieutenant-colonel equivalent'' (''Minister to 'trim' bloated Defence'', October 8, p1). I disagree.
About 30 years ago, the Australian senior officer grades (SOGC, SOGB, SOGA) were equivalent to military senior officer ranks (major, lieutenant-colonel, colonel).
Several years later, the senior officer grades were replaced with only two executive levels (EL1 and EL2).
I was told this happened so SOGBs who would not have been promoted to SOGA would be entitled to higher superannuation; perhaps a reader can provide the real reason.
EL1s should be regarded as the equivalent of SOGCs and majors, not lieutenant-colonels.
I have seen no EL1 positions as demanding as lieutenant-colonel-equivalent commanding officer positions in the army, navy or air force, many of which have several hundred subordinate positions.
An alternative is to compare the ages at which employees attain the level/rank of EL1/lieutenant-colonel.
In the air force, only exceptional officers were promoted to wing commander before 35.
My observation was that many civilians of lesser talent were promoted to EL1 before that age. Most EL2s (directors) should be regarded as the equivalent of lieutenant-colonels.
I recommend introducing an EL3 (director) level, equivalent to colonel.
Using my comparison, the number of EL1 positions in Defence is not nearly as bloated as James opined. I recommend the Defence Minister examine the equivalence of levels and ranks before trimming civilian jobs.
Bob Salmond, Melba
Sands of our time
What a starkly appropriate illustration to Jenny Goldie's article about our society's passion for growth, dependence on fossil fuels, and head-in-the-sand approach to climate change (''Perish the populate thought'', Times2, October 8, p4).
Two rusted-out petrol pumps in a desert landscape.
Nearly two centuries ago, the poet Shelley wrote, in an epitaph to an earlier civilisation: ''My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair! Nothing beside remains. Round the decay of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare, the lone and level sands stretch far away.''
The way we are going, will a Shelley of the 22nd century have to change much for an epitaph to our industrial civilisation ?
G. Jones, Torrens
Out for a spell
Two points about your editorial on spelling (October 4).
First, if you enter programme in the search section of the Macquarie Dictionary online, it takes you straight to program - no extraneous me.
It lists the programme spelling as ''also'', but without a separate entry.
Clearly this is the current government's writing preference, by which public service editors (''we happy few''), at least, will abide.
Second, I'm not so sure that programme was a ''brief Victorian-era'' affection. It has lasted pretty much from its first recorded use in Britain, in the early 19th century, until the present day; its hijacked computing sense (from 1945) being differentiated by the American spelling.
Interestingly, British English overcame the Old French word jail by instituting the later Anglo-Norman (yes; still the French influence, but from Norman times) gaol.
In this case, the US retained the Old French, which Macquarie also prefers (''see jail'').
Why, when so many words are spelt differently on either side of the Pacific, do we welcome the US and abhor the British conventions anyway? The English language is constantly being tweaked by variant spellings and incoming words; that is what makes it such a rich and colourful resource.
Embrace the variations, and vive la difference!
Damaris Wilson, O'Connor
Jill Greenwell (Letters, October 8) raises the question of the spellings of program and helth. As most English words derived from the Greek gramma end in gram (anagram, diagram, epigram etc), the spelling program is eminently defensible.
Health reflects the spelling of heal; but as ea in the former is a single vowel and in the latter a double vowel or diphthong, there is certainly a case for respelling health as helth, just as the long vowel in deep becomes a short vowel in depth.
But, on aesthetic grounds (health with its a looks nicer), I won't be initiating the change.
Michael McCarthy, Deakin
I thank regular correspondent Judy Bamberger for her letter (October 3).
Yes, I have met many boat people and, more importantly, refugees from United Nations refugee camps.
I was an early member of Marion Lee's Indochinese Refugee Association and hosted various refugee families from Burma.
This involved helping to settle them in to Canberra, finding them housing, jobs, transport, furniture, language classes, etc and enjoying their community activities.
I administered the social justice component of the then Department of Primary Industries and Energy, which involved access and equity, multicultural relations, indigenous affairs and women's affairs. I also set up the first childcare operation in a federal government department, established and ran a department's graduate recruitment program and was a representative at meetings of the Office of Status for Women.
I was also a delegate to conferences of the Federation of Ethnic Communities' Councils of Australia during the Keating era.
My parents and grandparents came from China and Denmark as migrants in the early 1900s. Now, I am also interested in knowing what Bamberger's hands-on, practical experience is in relation to refugees.
Ric Hingee, Duffy
Dangerous loads should not be on road
While tankers would still need to be used for local deliveries, the recent fatal accident is a reminder that rail transport is safer (''48 trucks grounded after deaths'', October 7, p4).
It was a big mistake to allow dangerous goods to be transported by trucks if a rail option is available.
It should also be cheaper, because fewer train drivers per tanker load would be required.
Australian governments need to work on improving rail infrastructure so that rail transport of dangerous goods can increase, taking much of these dangerous loads off the roads.
M. Pietersen, Kambah
The police response to the fatal petrol tanker crash has been impressive.
But would it be too radical to suggest that these safety checks are better conducted before serious crashes rather than after?
In fact, I thought truck safety had been ''blitzed'' earlier this year, so how did this fleet slip through the net?
Peter Marshall, Captains Flat, NSW
TO THE POINT
THE ENEMY WITHIN
Ross Gittins wrote: ''The Financial Times' Martin Wolf, doyen of the world's economics editors, observes that if President [Barack] Obama's political opponents are prepared to inflict such damage on their own country, 'the constraint that makes democracy work has gone'.'' (''Restraint: a good oil in short supply'', BusinessDay, October 7, p10) I proffer an alternative closure, ''imagine how much damage they are prepared to inflict upon an enemy economy''.
Gary J. Wilson, Macgregor
SNOUTS IN TROUGH
How long must we wait for information about when one or other of the shock jocks will be holding a rally in Canberra to protest about the travel expenses controversy (''Abbott repays expenses for attending Slipper's wedding'', October 8, p1)?
James R. Smith, Watson
With profuse apologies to Mick Thomas, I now know the real three-word Liberal slogan. It is: ''Weddings. Parties. Anything.''
John Passant, Kambah
ABBOTT SWAPS ROLES
Has anyone noticed how Tony Abbott has swapped his pugilistic gloves for his ecclesiastical robes since becoming Prime Minister (''Sorry about the rhetoric, says Abbott'', October 9, p5)? Now, every time he appears on the little screen, he is either apologising to some foreign leader or sermonising his flock back home. Who is the real Tony?
John Rodriguez, Florey
The three West Papuan students who breached the walls of the Australian Bali consulate in a non-violent protest against human rights violations and torture in West Papua wanted unhindered access for human rights monitors and foreign journalists, and the freeing of 50 prisoners (''Protesters breach consulate walls in Bali'', October 7, p7). After hearing Tony Abbott's introductory speech to Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, praising him for ''democratising'' West Papua (I could not believe my ears), it is obvious their request will be inconvenient.
Glenys Hammer, Narrabundah
Paul Krugman's article (''In bubble of incompetence'', Times2, October 9, p4) is an interesting comment on the ideologically extreme conservatives in the United States. Their complete focus on the quest for power to the point where they are ''no longer capable of thinking seriously about policy'' and ''dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition'' could well be a comment on our own local lot. Scary?
Brian Smith, Conder
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