The government and opposition agree the Manus Island detention centre should be kept open - a shameful indictment of our political status. The fact is the recent incidents on Manus are an irritation for Minister Scott Morrison because the appalling circumstances and conditions in which the transferees are placed remind the Australian people that by our silence we endorse the maintenance of refugees in concentration camps. They are out of sight and mind until things go bad. I was surprised when I heard the minister report on ABC Radio that the security force at Manus had been built up for a few months in anticipation of the bad behaviour of the inmates. If authorities saw resentment building they must have known conditions were poor to deteriorating.

I was not surprised, however, when the minister also reported that the situation following the first breakout was good because the buildings were all intact and breakfast was served as usual the next morning to prove his point. There was no believable compassion or remorse in any of his statements following either of the incidents and the death of one inmate (''One dead, 77 hurt: Manus violence sparks inquiry'', February 19, p1).

It is time for a change in policy and a return to onshore processing. We are dealing with people, not criminals as the government would have us believe. Never mind the boats. Just stop the abuse.

W. Book, Hackett

John Passant is obviously an illegal immigrant (boat people) advocate. He made me see red (Letters, February 19) when he referred to the so-called refugees as ''brave freedom fighters on [sic] the Manus Island concentration camp'' and supported their unlawful behaviour. One of the reasons the government was elected with a landslide majority was its promise to stop the boats. The majority of Australians do not want these trespassers on our shores, and the sooner the bleeding heart/do-gooder brigade get this message, the better.

Bob McDonald, Weetangera

Indonesia in the middle

The impasse in Australian-Indonesian relations continues on the basis of Australia's turning back to Indonesian shores those who leave there on the dangerous sea trip in our direction. How is it that no Australians appear to be voicing Indonesia's point of view? The people on these boats do not belong to Indonesia. They come from other countries, only intending to pass through Indonesia, which they would know has never accepted refugees, to come to the one country in the wider area which, at least in the past, proclaimed that it received asylum seekers on its shores if they were found to be genuine refugees, though this may now be partly mythical.

To protect its borders and prevent such people penetrating its communities, overcrowded Indonesia simply places all intruders in detention centres until they can move on. When turned back, these people must then be returned to the detention centres there to stay on indefinitely at Indonesian expense.

Must we foist these people on a country that would otherwise be our friend?

Helen Wiles, Narrabundah

No reprimands

When will this nanny country give priority to important matters and discard the unimportant. So we crossed a border with Indonesia. We wouldn't have to do that if the Indonesians (with their obvious tactics to test the resolve of our country) stopped the boats from leaving their shores in the first place and the feckless Labor Party stopped generating media brouhaha. A reprimand for any navy personnel who are helping to add to our security should be viewed as a serious breach of good judgment. Stand firm, Minister.

Rex Williams, Ainslie

I had just finished listening to Scott Morrison on my car radio explaining to the Indonesian government that Australian navy ships had entered Indonesian waters due to navigational errors when my inexpensive satellite navigation system advised me to turn left at the next election.

P.J. Carthy, McKellar

N. Bailey (Letter, February 19) suggests Ian De Landelles in an earlier letter implied ''the navy was guilty of inappropriate behaviour''. One of the greatest slurs has come from the navy's political and departmental masters, who wish us to believe that seamanship in the navy is so poor that they have no idea where they are and, as a consequence, entered Indonesian territorial waters. Hornblower must be apoplectic.

C.J. Johnston, Duffy

While I plead guilty to the charge by N. Bailey (Letters, February 19) that I have ''cast a monstrous slur'' against the Abbott government for the way in which it has dealt with the allegations against the men and women of the Australian navy, I am innocent of the accusation that I have suggested these men and women are guilty of any wrongdoing. I have every faith they have acted most appropriately and that the release of vision of the incident would absolve them of any wrongdoing.

The real villains here are the government ministers who refuse to release the footage that would clear the members of the navy under this unnecessary cloud of suspicion - a cloud that would be very easily lifted were there the political will to do so.

Ian De Landelles, Hawker

Not Rudd alone

The over-the-top headline on Mark Kenny's article ''Rudd's legacy stained by bloody PNG deals'' (Times2, February 20, p5), attempts to lay all blame for the shame that is the Manus Island asylum seeker prison camp at the feet of Kevin Rudd. The text is not a lot more even-handed, seeming reluctant to sheet home their share of culpability to Tony Abbott, Scott Morrison and their band of urgers.

Douglas Mackenzie, Deakin

AMA must be reined in

Is there any union anywhere with the power of the Australian Medical Association, able to raise fees at will when compared with their long-suffering patients who require serious negotiations just to maintain a cost-of-living increase?

Our Health Minister, Peter Dutton, is now looking to make everyone pay for some portion of all medical industry costs. Perhaps he should look at the greatest cost of all, the medical fraternity which writes its own ticket to great wealth with no need for justification and no objection ever from government.

Double standards, yet again.

Rhys Stanley, via Hall, NSW

Vets not so sheltered

I would suggest Geoff Clark (Letters, February 15) do a bit of research into the so-called ''sheltered vet industry'' before commenting on the lack of competition and high prices. Vets are not subsidised, as is the health industry, and to compare them is ridiculous. Yes, vet fees can be high, but the cost of setting up a practice, combined with high rents, wages and equipment, ultimately determine the end cost to the consumer.

A quick search online will clearly provide information that shows the difference in average financial returns between the vet industry and other health professionals as being vast. The vet industry has financial returns well below similar professional service industries.

It seems Mr Clark might have had a recent bad experience, relating possibly to an animal's treatment or charges for that treatment, but to call for a debate on the industry's costs and profitability is quite ridiculous.

I have a daughter and son-in-law working in the veterinarian industry and this gives me a more informed view of what is involved. They have every right to be remunerated for years of university study, initial low wages and long, hard hours.

Peter Keast, Torrens

Fruity response

I read with interest Judy Diamond's opinion (Letters, February 19) that the koel ''is a nuisance, does not value add in any way to the environment and should be eradicated''.

Of her three statements, I agree only with the first. Yes, it is a nuisance, but there are many creatures (and even more people) who are nuisances but we do not summarily execute them. It is, however, a part of the environment; much more so than this newspaper or a computer.

I am also concerned by Ms Diamond's use of the term ''value add'', which is a symptom of the modern malaise to subvert the natural order and have the economy rule ecology rather than the other way around. The koel might only recently have established itself in Canberra's suburbs but it is still a native species. The reason its presence has become more pronounced is our own habit of planting lots of fruit trees in our backyards - fruit trees which are certainly not native. So, to be true to Ms Diamond's logic, we should really be eradicating all the fruit trees.

This will then dissuade the koel from returning next summer and, with the same stroke, will no doubt also encourage the large colony of ''nuisance'' fruit bats in Commonwealth Park to move on as well.

Maurits Zwankhuizen, Canberra City

The sojourn of the koels in Curtin was brief this summer but the birds who have replaced them as my unwanted alarm clocks are magpies. A group has adopted a tree in the street 10 metres from my bedroom. A 5.15 wake-up call is earlier than I need. So, do we start eradicating Canberra's favourite bird, the magpie?

May I suggest instead good earplugs all round?

Ann Smith, Curtin

Academics as firies

Further to the article ''No shortage of help in the fire of '53'' (Gang-gang, February 19, p10), we were living in an Australian National University prefab in Hawdon Street, Ainslie, beyond the reach of the telephone, and were woken by Ruth Arndt, Professor Heinz Arndt's wife, calling through the window ''Charles, Charles, the college is on fire!'' My husband raced out to the car - I guess he was one of those in his pyjamas.

I hadn't remembered the fire being quite as serious as the Canberra Times report of April 13 and accompanying photograph show. Perhaps some of the inexperienced academics were kept from getting too close - for which I'm thankful!

Elizabeth Price, Deakin

Resolution wording

Alan Shroot (Letters, February 17) has fanciful interpretations of the Security Council resolution 242 of 1967.

It explicitly ''emphasi(ses) the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war''. It doesn't make an exception for ''defensive'' wars (in any case a subjective description). The UK sponsors did use the phrase ''withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict''. Not ''the'' (meaning ''all'') territories.

As then US secretary of state Dean Rusk explained: ''In the French version, which is equally authentic, it says … 'the'. We wanted that to be left a little vague and subject to future negotiation … But we never contemplated any significant grant of territory to Israel as a result of the June 1967 war.''

The Spanish text also says ''the''. The point is all six language versions are equally authoritative. That the US and Britain let the French and Spanish texts stand shows their concern was for very minor adjustments to the border.

Moreover the resolution calls for preserving the territorial integrity of all states in the region, That includes Israel, and integrity does not mean aggrandisement..

It is extreme overreach to attempt to parlay the desire of two of the parties for ''a little vagueness'' into legitimising the purported annexation of the Golan Heights and creation of large ''settlement blocs'' throughout the West Bank, or indeed the continuation of the military occupation of the whole West Bank for more than 45 years. It is absurd to suggest the Security Council would have voted unanimously to permit any of that.

Ron Walker, Campbell

Jobless can be a benefit

R.S. Gilbert (Letters, February 19) might well be correct in asserting some people claiming to be looking for work are not doing so, but I suspect that statistical glitch is outweighed by those counted as employed but who want and need more hours to make a living.

When there are not enough jobs to go around I would prefer those content to live in relative poverty on benefits be permitted to do so without being disparaged. That way they will not compete for available jobs with people who do want to work.

John F. Simmons, Kambah

Australian War Memorial evokes mixed emotions

The Australian War Memorial, at once macabre and moving, evokes mixed emotions (''Roll of Great War's fallen to be writ large as memorial honours sacrifice,'' February 20, p4).

The dignified elements of the Memorial are a force for good in the way we view our history. Many Canberrans campaigned vigorously (and successfully) to ensure this force was not blunted by the construction near the Memorial of unnecessary additional memorials to the dead of the two world wars.

Some recent innovations at the Memorial, like the daily Last Post ceremony, add to these dignified elements and there are signs that the refurbished World War I galleries and the Anzac centenary travelling exhibition will do the same. On the other hand, the centenary logo, ''Their Spirit, Our Pride'', and the director's one-liner, ''This is a commemoration of who we are'', raise more questions than they answer. There is a lot more to Australia and Australians than anything that can be displayed in four years of war commemoration, no matter how sophisticated the lighting system.

The complexity of war and its effects cannot be easily cut through by slogans and sound-bites.

David Stephens, Bruce

Climate sceptics

Can we please stop calling climate change deniers ''climate sceptics''? Scepticism demands an open mind and an examination of the evidence in order to arrive at a rational conclusion.

Whatever approach climate change deniers take to arrive at their position it is not a sceptical one. Calling them sceptics lends them unwarranted dignity and demeans those of us who are.

Fred Pilcher, Kaleen

To the point: Canberra letters, February 21, 2014


Will Julia Gillard, Anthony Albanese and Bill Shorten please stand up and apologise over their sleazy defence of Craig Thompson for purely political reasons? They have brought Parliament into disrepute.

Mario Stivala, Spence


In support of Brendan Ryan's sausage sizzle suggestion (Letters, February 19) to raise funds for the Gungahlin Jets, could I add a lamington drive for the 87 beach volleyball players to save us the ACT government's $500,000 grant?

Greg Cornwell, Yarralumla


I would love to be given $38,000 to go snowboarding. Or $380, or $38. Whingeing Bruce Brockhoff (''Bright hits out at parents meddling after extraordinary funding attack'', Sport, February 19, p27) should realise that to be given even one cent of taxpayers' money on something as useless as snowboarding should be seen as an unbelievable bonus and nothing else.

Dominic Stinziani, Higgins


The Canberra Times news source for information on Indonesian volcano activity, ATP, thinks recently active Mount Sinabung is in western Sumatra (''Java sweeps up the pieces after eruption'', February 17, p7). Sinabung actually is in the north of Sumatra, in the state of Sumatera Utara (northern Sumatra), close to the lovely hill town of Berastagi, which many of your readers will have visited in their backpacking days.

John Hogbin, Hackett


I am amused at the bleatings of your correspondents about international transactions fees imposed by banks. I make payments overseas, normally for booking accommodation, but always use my credit card. The cost is 2 per cent of the transaction and the normal commercial exchange rate is used. There is no $22 bank fee and no complex arrangements to make in order to process the transaction.

Michael Lane, St Ives, NSW


Your correspondents Stephen Holt and J.R. Nethercote (Letters, February 19) suggest that the problem of the United Kingdom as referred to in the Australian constitution ceasing to exist can be solved by the British simply redefining the UK. But the Australia Acts 1986 provide that no act of the British Parliament shall thereafter extend to Australia. The Australian constitution is a stand-alone document to be interpreted in its own terms. The problem I pointed out is real.

Harry Evans, Page

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