A person's wedding is one of those special occasions in one's life. It's an occasion to be shared with family and special friends: special people to share that very special day.
I'm sure that's how Peter Slipper and Sophie Mirabella would have felt when they invited Tony Abbott along to their respective weddings.
However, our esteemed Prime Minister did not attend in that spirit; to him, it was just work and he underlined this by claiming it as work-related expenses (''Abbott repays expenses for attending Slipper's wedding'', October 8, p1).
Sorry, Peter and Sophie, but he was never that sort of friend; not really (ambiguously?). Nor George Brandis, nor Barnaby Joyce, nor Julie Bishop, etc.
Robert McCombe, McKellar
Peter Reith, that staunch advocate of realpolitik (Alsatians on the docks, children overboard, etc) says, ''You'd have to be a mug if you didn't go to a shock jock's wedding if you're invited'' (''Pay your own way, Coalition MPs told'', October 7, p1).
Without making too much of the calibre of someone willing to consort with a shock jock, why does Reith think that his wish to ingratiate himself with a loudmouth merits his putting his hand in my pocket?
Could it be that he's had his snout in the trough for so long he simply can't conceive of it ever being elsewhere?
From the rest of what he says in that article, it seems so.
Barnaby Joyce, though perhaps excusably because he is after all a National and a soldier of the soil rather than of the mind, can't tell the difference either.
And Tony Abbott, despite his Jesuit and Oxford schooling, was also sufficiently morally and intellectually challenged by ''ambiguities in the guidelines'' to be unable to decide to pay his own way to a mate's wedding.
These are the intellectual and moral giants we've put in charge of the country because they're so superior to the other mob!
I'd like to echo The Canberra Times' call for all politicians' expenses to be publicly scrutinised for propriety, but I've no doubt that it's just a waste of breath.
After all, the foxes do rule the henhouse.
Bronis Dudek, Calwell
How ironic, in so many ways, that one of the taxpayer-funded social outings indulged in by Coalition MPs should include the wedding of Peter Slipper.
And the thought of having contributed to their attendance at a party at the invitation of the richest person in Australia just boggles my mind. How many times have we heard all of them whinge about the taxes paid by the extremely rich, notably the mining super profits tax - and now this!
Is this their vaunted moral standards in practice? Did they have a good old snicker about the irony as they sank their plonk, or was it lost on them?
And how predictable that Peter ''children overboard'' Reith should get up on his hind legs and defend it as legitimate work. Well, who else?
S. W. Davey, Torrens
Paul Keating quipped to the effect: ''Never get in the way of a premier and a bucket of money.''
Judging by the revelations of the past few days and the response from both major parties, it appears you should not get in the way of a politician with a snout and a trough of taxpayers' money.
Here's a simple solution: they pay first and seek reimbursement if the activity is legitimate.
I bet their judgments would improve.
Ken Stokes, Wanniassa
It is standard practice for senators and members' offices to submit reimbursement claims for all regular and irregular travel performed by their parliamentarian.
Similarly it is a standard practice in the Finance Department to approve all of those claims that do not directly contravene the associated regulations.
Given the multiplicity of reasons for parliamentary travel, it is unsurprising that the regulations do not specifically approve or reject them all.
It is hoped that the Finance Department would pick up any blatant attempt to abuse the regulations. Regulations to cover all travel circumstances would be so enormous they would be impractical to apply.
Ed Dobson, Hughes
Politicians with their noses in the trough are always galling and it is not a good look for a new government to have examples of such activities emerge, whether or not they were technically within the rules.
However, the hyperventilating by some in trying to equate Tony Abbott with Peter Slipper and Craig Thomson is plain silly.
The Labor Party is not saying much for good reason as it knows that there are plenty of its own people in the same boat.
That said, when it comes to allowances, I think the public quite rightly expects clear, sensible, transparent standards and unambiguous accountability from their elected representatives. Surely it can't be that hard to devise such a system.
This could be the first bipartisan initiative of the Abbott era. But I won't hold my breath.
H. Ronald, Jerrabomberra, NSW
''Wally Working-class, you are charged with shoplifting. How do you plead?''
''Not guilty, your honour. It was only worth $1000.''
Should Wally's case be dismissed? What if Wally is part of a group who are doing similar things? Is it enough if he just repays the money? If you were Wally's lawyer, what arguments could you use to defend him?
Rosemary Walters, Palmerston
Labor's acting leader, Chris Bowen, has demanded that Tony Abbott and George Brandis ''admit they got it wrong'' when they used parliamentary entitlements to attend weddings about two years ago. Repayment of the $1600 or so involved is admission enough. However, no such demands were made by Bowen when it was revealed that his boss, Julia Gillard, the then prime minister, had to repay more than $4000 for the incorrect use of Commonwealth transport by her partner for his hairdressing business!
Such is the hypocrisy of the ALP parliamentary members.
N. Bailey, Nicholls
The conversation probably went like this. Tony Abbott: ''Slippery has invited me to his wedding and I don't even like the bloke.''
Chief of Staff: ''Hang on, you might need his vote in the next leadership ballot.''
Abbott: ''OK, but it's gonna cost me $600 in travel and motels.''
CoS: ''Don't be stupid: charge it to the taxpayer like George always does!''
Mike Reddy, Lyons
Senator ignorant on reality of life for asylum seekers
NSW Liberal Democrats senator-elect David Leyonhjelm's assertion that ''People are coming to Australia, they don't have work skills but they still find it attractive from a welfare point of view'' makes me ill (''Leyonhjelm proposes entry fee, no welfare'', Canberra Times, October 7, p3).
How could Australians elect someone so apparently xenophobic and ignorant?
Please tell me how a Hazara mechanic or Iraqi doctor has no work skills?
Or how a multilingual Syrian teacher or Pakistani tailor cannot contribute actively and immediately to Australia?
Please help me understand how people fleeing civil wars, and those escaping beatings, bullets, and bombs perpetrated by Western nations - including Australia - have the time or detailed knowledge to determine Australia is ''attractive from a welfare point of view'', versus focusing on survival and saving their kids?
If Leyonhjelm's attitude is in any way indicative of our new government's mindset, that asserts a frightening future for Australia.
It certainly makes me question the value - and humanity - of my own by-choice Australian citizenship.
Judy Bamberger, O'Connor
Time to stop benefits rort
I support Bill Shorten's proposed national rehabilitation scheme, but, at the same time, I am horrified to learn that 820,000 people are on disability pensions.
This means one in 27 Australians is apparently unable to work.
What Shorten would like to say, but is politically restrained from doing so, is many of these are simply bludgers getting more than $800 a fortnight, compared with the unemployment benefit of just over $440.
Add in the pensioner payment, rent assistance, free-parking permits and other benefits, and life for many of these people who do not contribute to the future of Australia is quite comfy.
This is not to mention the stigma they cast on genuine recipients.
Action must be taken against this rort for the benefit of the country.
Jevon Kinder, Murrumbateman, NSW
Full-service facility a must
The front-page article ''Private operator mooted for new crematorium in Tuggeranong'' (October 7) reports that Shane Rattenbury is questioning if a crematorium should be included in the new Tuggeranong cemetery.
The Tuggeranong Community Council continues to support the development of the cemetery including a crematorium.
The people of south Canberra are entitled to a full-service facility so I would ask the minister to remember that he is working for all Canberra citizens.
Eric Traise, president, Tuggeranong Community Council
Who pays for challenge?
I, too, have reservations about Mr Corbell's confidence in successfully challenging the Commonwealth when his Marriage Equality Bill is struck down (''No win no fee'', Letters, October 8).
On September 29, by email, I asked all Labor MLAs if they would pay the legal costs of the challenge.
Surprise, surprise, only one response, from Ms Berry, but no commitment to pay the bill from her, Simon Corbell, or the rest.
Philip Robinson, Holt
Salvos keep up the fight
The subtitle ''Whether we believe or not, if we cut ourselves off from our inherited Christian culture, we are diminished'' to Allan Massie's article ''The past is always present'' (Times2, October 4, p1) summed up the piece perfectly.
Unfortunately, the ''seeping away of our inherited Christian culture'' mentioned by the author is not infrequently caused by the very religious who should lament it.
The plague of political rectitude, which wants us to wish each other ''happy holiday'' instead of ''merry Christmas'' and forbids nativity scenes in public places lest some be offended, reached its apogee for this Christian agnostic on discovering Onward, Christian Soldiers, that well-known, rousing paean to an optimistic Christian triumphalism, has been removed from some hymnals - being replaced at funerals for those who have requested it by a typed sheet - and seemed to be approaching the same level of distaste as its equivalent in Germany during the Nazi era, the stirring Horst Wessel Lied, now receives in that country.
Fortunately, a quick query to those sturdy defenders of the faith, the Salvation Army's Canberra headquarters, assured me that, at least as far as they are concerned, one of their better-known hymns will not receive the same fate as the Horst Wessel Lied.
Bill Deane, Chapman
Bus plan hard on the aged
The proposed changes to bus route 27/927 will remove bus services from Bangalay Crescent, Rivett.
This will strand elderly people from an aged-care village (Wallington) and cause problems for users of Noah's Ark Play School, a Salvation Army aged-care service and Rivett shopping centre.
The changes would require increased walking distances of 600 to 800 metres, partly uphill; and many of the elderly users have physical disabilities that would prevent them from using the new route.
Many also have no alternative transport.
The changes are promoted as providing more direct routes and increasing efficiency.
Requiring prospective passengers to walk to Hindmarsh Drive would ensure even more direct routes, with no side excursions into any of the Weston Creek suburbs.
How much more efficient if all were required to walk to Woden! No Weston Creek services would be required at all then.
J. J. Daly, Rivett
Indonesian atrocities linger with impunity
I am concerned that Prime Minister Tony Abbott's statement over the weekend - ''we have a very strong relationship with Indonesia and we are not going to give people [West Papuans] a platform to grandstand against Indonesia'' - represents a return by Australia to the attitudes that permitted atrocities to take place in East Timor (''Activist heard Australian threatening West Papuans'', October 8, p5).
Freedom from oppression and human rights are more important than ''relationships''.
We must use our pens, voices and feet to prevent this from happening.
Mark Hartmann, Hawker
Vested interests - the Indonesian military, its special forces group Kopassus, and the United States-trained, Australian Federal Police-supported Special Detachment 88 - continue, with impunity, to torture, brutalise and murder (such as separatist leader Kelly Kwalik in 2009) West Papuans to maintain lucrative business interests, such as protecting US Freeport's copper and gold mine (''Indonesia has a 'policy of terror', study finds'', October 7, p7).
Embarrassingly neither Indonesia's pseudo-democracy, nor its President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, impede these groups' rampant lawlessness in the process of running the territory as their own private, profitable, fiefdom.
Commercial interests also trump human rights, every time, for both sides of Australian politics.
Albert M. White, Queanbeyan, NSW
TO THE POINT
REPAYING PUBLIC PURSE
With all the revelations about politicians claiming expenses for attending weddings, Australian taxpayers should just be grateful that same-sex marriage is not legal (''Abbott repays expenses for attending Slipper's wedding'', October 8, p1).
Brian Smith, Conder
Peter Reith reminds me of the school bully trying to justify his gang's stealing pupil's lunch money, and using it to gorge at the lolly shop (''Pay your own way, Coalition MPs told'', October 7, p1). The difference is, with guidance, bullies often mature and develop a normal social conscience.
A. D. Hewett-Lacon, Gowrie
Former Liberal leader John Hewson thinks Coalition MPs should think about their reputations before plundering the public purse. A bit like asking Hannibal Lecter to watch his table manners.
John Richardson, Wallagoot, NSW
HOIST ON HIGH HORSE
Jack Waterford, in referring to George Brandis' ''calvary attacks'' (''Hard man hoist by his petard'', Times2, October 2, p1), seems to be allowing his appointment as interim archbishop of Canberra to influence his other work.
Michael McCarthy, Deakin
PLAN TO CUT EMISSIONS
I welcome Environment Minister Greg Hunt's unequivocal acceptance of the science of climate change (''Why direct action is better'', Times2, October 4, p4). I hope he can win over the sceptics in his ranks. But in replying to me he failed to address my key point: thanks to Labor, Australia's existing laws have in place a mechanism to cut emissions to 80 per cent of 2000 levels by 2050. The Coalition's plan only lasts until 2020. He wants to remove a 37-year plan and replace it with a seven-year plan.
Dr Andrew Leigh, member for Fraser
CUTTING OUR UK TIES
A very interesting article by Professor George Williams (''If at first you don't secede …'', Times2, October 8, p1). He says ''Britain's assertion of sovereignty over the continent cannot be questioned in any Australian court'', which is why the Yorta Yorta case was rejected by the High Court in 2002. The scenario will change when we become a republic.
Sankar Kumar Chatterjee, Evatt
RESPECT LOST, LEUNIG
If Leunig's ''Fred and Bert!'' (October 5) was meant to be his comment on Julia Gillard and Anne Summers' public discussions, then he has completely lost my respect. Forever.
Ann Smith, Curtin
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