Shame, shame, shame

The Abbott government has created a living nightmare for refugee children. The Australian Human Rights Commission's inquiry into children in detention shows that children are having their medication, hearing aids, glasses and prosthetic limbs taken from them.

Statistics have shown that these vulnerable children, locked up for years in detention centres, are at serious risk of self-harm and irreparable mental and emotional damage.

The evidence also reveals neglect: children with untreated sores, red eyes, asthmatic conditions and stomach complaints. Evidence was given of a three-year-old child having seizures after her medication was removed for months.

Commission president Gillian Triggs said there was evidence of children swallowing detergent; cutting themselves; head-banging; attempts at asphyxiation and hanging.

The commission reported that independent health provider, International Health and Medical Services, was explicitly told not to publish statistical data of children suffering significant distress and very high levels of mental illness.

Immigration Department secretary Martin Bowles has confirmed there were 128 recorded instances of self-harm by children in the past 15 months. Australian voters have not given the government the authority to perpetuate child abuse.


Christine Bennett, Sunshine Coast Qld

If the 25 delegates from the AIDS conference are seeking asylum in Australia, it is essential, because they have not arrived in Scott Morrison's so-called orderly fashion, that all of them are immediately sent to Manus Island or Nauru; their lack of rights are conveyed to them, and their situation about being ''off land'' is clearly outlined.

E.R. Haddock, Weston

Of all the things about the government that people find horrible, perhaps none is more disgusting than Scott Morrison's shrill attempt to defend its rotten policies on children in detention.

Annie Lang, Kambah


H. Ronald of Jerrabomberra refers to ''the recent uptick in base anti-Semitism'' (Letters, August 2). When will he understand that anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism? I am not an anti-Semite, but the treatment of Palestinians since the Zionist takeover of Israel has stuck in my throat since I was old enough to understand it.

I was appalled at Israeli soldiers shooting live rounds at Palestinian youths throwing stones. Today's events are simply an escalation of that behaviour: impotent people striking out at injustice and being met with disproportionate force.

Margaret Lee, Hawker

If a seven-hour ceasefire in the Gaza Strip is humanitarian, what are the other 17 hours?

Peter Franklin, Newcastle, NSW

Arms and the president I can help Rajend Naidu (Letters, August 4) with his conundrum about President Barack Obama calling for a ceasefire while the US restocks Israel's weapons supply. In the 1960s, retiring US President Dwight Eisenhower warned about the power of the US's military-industrial complex. Now it is far worse. Almost every US state has factories making weapons, and the industry is by far the country's biggest employer. If they cannot sell them, they give them away to places like Israel. Congressmen are frightened to oppose this, and Obama is powerless to stop it, even if he wants to.

Richard Keys, Ainslie

Collapse in Iraq

The destruction by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) of mosques, shrines and historical statues in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul (''Anti-ISIS backlash as heritage trashed'', August 2) is contrary to what one was led to believe; that the Iraqi army was well prepared to deal with insurgency by the time the US finally withdrew its forces.

Not only does there seem to be no Iraqi forces in Mosul, people are being encouraged by the central government to take up arms and stand up to the Islamic militants. If this is not a sign of a country on the verge of collapse, one would like to know what is.

Sam Nona, Burradoo, NSW

Lightning fast?

I presume there was a touch of sarcasm in the headline "Lightning start for Aussie Jest" (July 26) on the story about the handover of two F-35 aircraft to the RAAF.

In 2002, when the Howard government abandoned a structured competitive selection process for a new combat aircraft and opted for the F-35, the then defence minister Robert Hill said the F-35s would be patrolling Australian skies from 2012. Now we are told the first of two aircraft will not reach Australia "for several years".

Lightning? I don't think so.

Stephen Brown, Forrest.

We must obey the law

No, Samuel Gordon-Stewart. The easiest way to avoid tragedies is for everyone, including farmers, to recognise that they are subject to the law, even when it is a law they do not like.

People get angry about all sorts of laws (parking, speeding, fraud, etc) but living within the law is what makes Australia a democracy worth living in.

It is an insult to the life and work of Glen Turner that anyone can mention dissatisfaction with a law in the same breath as a callous killing.

Anura Samara-Wickrama, Switzerland

Samuel Gordon-Stewart (Letters, August 3), suggests we avoid the deaths of environment compliance officers simply by ''stopping government interference with private land management''.

Similar thinking contributed to the dual tragedies at Croppa Creek last week, but it ignores the effects of unfettered catchment management and irresponsible clearing on others.

Drawing a line at neighbourly conduct is the ultimate basis of administering all laws, imperfect as they may be. Despite the intimidation they underwent, the communities at Talga Lane, Croppa Creek had long sought help from the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH), lawful authorities and the courts.

Reasonable responsibility in management (and especially neighbourly considerations) is the right risk-management call, made consistently and fairly by OEH in their responses. Economics or individual self-belief can never be an absolute criteria of right.

J. FitzGerald, Macquarie

Somethingk has to be done about Strayans

Dean Frenkel's article ''Don't nobody say nuthin'', (Times2, August 4, p1) resonated with me. I, too, am infuriated by the very sloppy speech of many of our leaders. Prime Minister Tony Abbott (pictured) is guilty of ''somethingk'' and ''anythingk'', neither found in any dictionary. In addition, apart from speaking in a laborious manner now, his constant repetition of statements, often three times in a span of 30 seconds, is irritating. I am not sure if he thinks Australians are all suffering hearing loss, are stupid, or suffer short-term memory loss, or possibly all of the above - unless Tony has short-term memory loss himself and doesn't realise he has already said it once and twice.

C. Thomas, Deakin

Further to Dean Frenkel's amusing and disturbing article about Strayans' poor speaking skills, I'd like to add ''sumthink''. The following also get on my nerves: ''nucular'' (nuclear) energy, ''industrialations'' (industrial relations) policy, ''haych'' instead of aitch, ''anne dumb'' (and, um) ''hoss-piddle'' instead of hospital.

Douglas Mackenzie, Deakin

Too much squawking

Ian Warden (Gang Gang, July 28) doesn't know a mosque is already part of Yarralumla, but thinks he knows the suburb well enough to make a vitriolic attack upon its residents.

As you walk through the valley of lost creativity,

Take a look at your work and cut the negativity.

From mocking and jeering and sneering so long,

We gotta conclude your balance is gone.

A.Brooke, Yarralumla

No good evidence medicinal cannabis increases drug use

A recent editorial (''Katy Gallagher acted rightly over cannabis use'', Canberra Times, July 31) said: 'The case for the further decriminalisation of cannabis does not turn on any supposed medical effects, which are in any event not well documented or demonstrated in the scientific literature.' This statement is incorrect.

Twenty countries now allow medicinal use of cannabis because of the strength of evidence.

In a recent paper my colleagues and I had published in The Medical Journal of Australia, ((Re) introducing medicinal cannabis, 2013), we pointed out that there is a lot of evidence that medicinal cannabis is effective in reducing distressing symptoms in a number of serious medical conditions. Conventional medicines do not always work and sometimes result in unacceptable side effects. We cited a recent German review which noted 82 favourable controlled trials and only nine unfavourable controlled trials. More than 100 randomised controlled trials of medicinal cannabis have been published. We also noted that ''The number of Medline-indexed publications has doubled each decade, from about 400 in 1990 to about 1600 in 2010''.

After the American Medical Association reviewed the evidence in 2009, it changed its position from opposition to support.

There is no good evidence that medicinal cannabis increases the use of recreational cannabis.

Dr Alex Wodak, Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation

The campaign to make legal marijuana for medical conditions is a puzzle. Marijuana, like opium, is available by prescription. Do the campaigners know of medical conditions which are not covered by the current regulations? If so, why don't the campaigners fund clinical trials for those conditions? Regulation of the use of drugs by prescription limits the danger of overdosing due to quantity, frequency and duration of use as well as conflicts with other drugs being taken. If the campaigners are not prepared to go down the path of a clinical trial, they should explain why, otherwise it will be concluded that they are more interested in the revenue gained from the sale of marijuana rather than the medical benefits.

Ed Dobson, Hughes

Light rail on wrong track

One of the joys of living in Canberra is the access we have to a combination of internationally recognised scholarship, practical experience, impartiality and local knowledge of the calibre provided by professors Norman, McMichael, Newman and Steffen (''Light rail has benefits for all in a sustainable future'', p5, August 4).

The many and various long-term benefits of light rail that are outlined in the article are difficult to quantify exactly in immediate dollar terms while up-front costs are easier to pin down. This is an intrinsic dilemma with trying to do sensible cost-benefit analysis for complex projects.

But those who fall back on simplistic analyses that blindly ignore these benefits merely because they cannot be exactly quantified are falling into the error of preferring to be precisely wrong than approximately right.

Felix MacNeill, Dickson

So according to a government-commissioned survey (''Tram line winning support'', Canberra Times, August 2), the majority of residents support light rail in Canberra. As presented, this survey is superficial and most likely reflects fantasies rather than rational responses taking into account costs, transport options and competing expenditures on other ACT projects.

Trains and trams still provide me with boyish excitement and, at some stage, light rail may be viable but probably not until we have a population of at least a million with a greater concentration of people in key transport corridors.

As has been demonstrated in your paper for many months, the case for light rail in the foreseeable future has not been made and the support is mindlessly idealistic. Simon Corbell is again irresponsibly clutching at straws with this survey, similar to his ''social benefits'' claim of light rail, which is simply obfuscation for significant taxpayer subsidies. Aside from the intrinsic arguments against light rail at this stage, the government should be concerned about real ACT priorities including well-documented health, social and education needs and the urgency to focus on projects, such as the National Convention Centre, which will stimulate and diversify Canberra's economy. Who from Sydney and other major cities would want to come to Canberra to ride on a light rail from Gungahlin to the City?

Warwick Williams, Nicholls

Another question from the results of the light rail survey (''Tram line winning support: research'', August 2, P1): what was the wording of the question asked of those polled?

Greg Cornwell, Yarralumla

We foolishly thought that we didn't want Light Rail but ''new government-commissioned research'' has proved that we really do (''Tram line winning support'', August 2). Mr Corbell says that there is ''a strong level of support across the community'' for it, and he has some lovely new expensive-looking pictures for us, too. Apparently 55 per cent of us want light rail, which seems rather odd judging by the storm of recent letters in the Canberra Times. He admits that there are still some ''sceptical'' people, but he will continue to ''explain the benefits of this project'' to them. Opinion polls in support of official policy in communist countries tend to score 99 per cent, with sceptics ending up in rehabilitation and self-criticism camps, but 55 per cent isn't a bad start. And it must be encouraging for our Labor-Green rulers that only the over-65s oppose the project. Natural attrition will take care of them, given time.

Dr Alan N. Cowan, Yarralumla


Pros and cons of super

The headline across the foot of page one was, ''Superannuation fees leave baby boomers out of pocket'' (August 3). To me that reads, ''Retirees scammed by outsourced pension scheme.''

Gary J. Wilson, Macgregor

Ablaze in golden glory

Diamonds in the sky, with the Kookaburras.

Rod Matthews, Fairfield, Vic

Raiders' just deserts

The efforts by the Raiders' Holden Cup (under-20s) and NRL first-grade teams against the New Zealand Warriors on Sunday afternoon were an insult to supporters. Again we are told the club is in a rebuilding phase; all we witnessed was the complete dismantling of Fortress Canberra. It is no wonder the club is haemorrhaging fans.

Tony Pelling and Barbara Trewin, Nicholls

One-sided fight

Ironic, really, coming on the eve of the outbreak of World War I, the US Congress has rushed through $US225 million to restock Israel's missile defence system (August 3). This as Palestine has lost another 107 people. Who will stop this unequal slaughter?

Christopher Yate, Scullin

If the Palestinians want the killing to cease, it is simple: stop firing rockets.

Heather Sorensen, Kambah

The escalation of injustice inflicted on the people of Gaza has hurled us back to the caveman era. I am a very sad Australian knowing that our leaders' silence makes us all complicit in the murder of thousands of Palestinians. Wake up, Australia, to the blood on our hands and show that we have some humanity at our core.

Azra Khan, Gordon

These are wise words spoken by David Suchet on Q&A about the Middle East: ''We all know what is right and wrong; ask yourself the question and behave responsibly … religion is often used as a scapegoat for political gain … when will we learn killing achieves nothing?''

Colin Handley, Lyneham

Reith comes up short

Peter Reith (''Why Julie Bishop should be our next Coalition PM'', July 28) is a little bit out in claiming that only seven of our 28 prime ministers have been in office for more than four years.

The fact is 11 have: Menzies 18 years, 5 months, 12 days; Howard 11, 8, 23; Hawke 8, 9, 9; Fraser 7, 4, 0; Hughes 7, 3, 14; Lyons 7, 3, 2; Bruce 6, 8, 14; Deakin 4, 10, 11; Fisher 4, 9, 28; Chifley 4, 5, 7; Keating 4, 2, 20.

Michael McCarthy, Deakin

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