Letters to the editor
There may be a complex web of reasons why parents choose non-government schools, but I doubt that ''safety from the closed minds of ideologues'', as Christopher Smith (Letters, October 31) asserts, is high up on that list.
Mr Smith talks of teachers' enviable pay packets (which possibly accounts for the well-known phenomenon of people streaming out of public service positions seeking cushy, highly paid teaching jobs).
But he fails to acknowledge it is teachers in government schools who, through industrial action, win these conditions that non-government teachers generally seem to manage to receive as a flow-on, despite apparently not needing to join their publicly employed colleagues in the financial penalties inherent in most forms of effective industrial action.
Teachers in independent schools receive even higher wages than government school teachers or their colleagues in the diocesan schools.
It is interesting that teachers seem to be constantly criticised for seeking higher wages and/or better working conditions, as if this were some sort of crime.
I suppose Mr Smith and his ilk limit their industrial involvement to begging their employers for lower wages and worse working conditions.
As for teachers (presumably in government schools) getting the ''world's longest holidays'' Mr Smith could easily have checked the truth of this claim by phoning the front office at each local school and inquiring about the length of that school's teaching terms. No doubt he would be baffled to learn that parents of students at independent schools seem willing to pay the highest fees for the shortest face-to-face teaching time.
I'm not claiming that teachers in any sector have a headlock on goodness and virtue. I just wish that these arguments would be backed up with some facts rather than simply being a parade of the author's prejudices.
Philip Rasmus, Hawker
In calling for revision to other federal pensions, John Milne (Letters, October 31) perhaps misunderstands things when he speaks of indexation via the ''higher of CPI, male total average weekly earnings [MTAWE] and the pensioner and beneficiary cost of living index [PBCLI]'' for the age pension.
Movement of the age pension in line with MTAWE has only occurred due to the Labor government policy that age pension must not be less than 27.7 per cent of MTAWE. (The age pension process considers the annual rate of CPI and PBCLI were to be used as index, then compares this result with 27.7 per cent of MTAWE and gives the age pensioners the greatest.)
The indexation process referred to by Mr Milne was indeed the approach encompassed in a private member's bill on military pension indexation (voted down in the Senate by Labor and Greens, I believe).
However, rather than referring to the failed bill, the Coalition policy going into the election uses a different form of words. ''If elected, a Coalition government will ensure that [the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits] DFRB and [Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits] DFRDB military superannuation pensions are indexed in the same way as the age pension.'' (The election promise is limited to over 55-year-old recipients.)
This gives the government significant wriggle room in implementing their idea of ''fair indexation of military pensions''. I'm sure Mr Milne and others are not seeking a future where federal pensions would need to be less than 27.7 per cent of MTAWE (ie, equivalent to the age pension) before they were indexed according to MTAWE.
Moreover, as a consequence of reading of this omission in the Canberra Times, I await to hear the reasons for the Parliamentary Budget Office report on Coalition budget costings not including analysis of the promised changes to military superannuation indexation.
Bill Blair, McKellar
With a private health insurer planning to sell offshore surgical packages to Australians looking for cheaper prices for treatment or wanting to obtain a ''free holiday'' with their offshore medical visit, the Australian Dental Association would like those contemplating doing this to consider: Australian dentists and medical practitioners provide a quality of service not matched in many parts of the world.
Will the health tourism provider be able to guarantee this same level of expertise, safety and quality?
Complex or detailed procedures carry a risk. Having the work done overseas by practitioners you are not familiar with, in an environment where you do not know the quality of education and training of the practitioner, the regulatory measures in place to guarantee safety and quality of treatment nor the quality of equipment or products only escalates that risk. Many of the materials used (eg, implant components) are not available in Australia as they have not passed Therapeutic Goods Administration regulations and so cannot be repaired here.
If problems arise, there may be no guarantee the provider will remedy the situation. Would you wish to return to that practitioner anyway?
Dr Karin Alexander, federal president, Australian Dental Association
Buses are beaut
The Community and Public Sector Union's plans for a free bus shuttle from a park-and-ride facility at Kingston to the Parliamentary Triangle (''Union in push for free parks and rides'', October 30, p1) has some merit. But why limit the service to public servants and to the Kingston-Parliamentary Triangle route?
A better plan would be to establish a second park-and-ride facility at EPIC and provide a circular route that services the Parliamentary Triangle, Campbell Offices, city centre, ANU and continues on to EPIC for a return by the same route. The service should be very frequent (10-15 minutes) during peak hours and less frequent (30 minutes) during off-peak hours.
Such a service would benefit workers, students, shoppers and casual visitors alike with multiple pick-up and drop-off points.
Whether an expanded service should be free is debatable. Perhaps it can be argued that reduced traffic and demand for parking facilities is of sufficient economic benefit to warrant a free service.
An expanded service would demonstrate also the flexibility of bus travel as opposed to the inflexibility of light-rail that, under current planning, would benefit only a proportion of the population at a huge cost and destroy the ambience of Northbourne Ave as we know it. Buses are a better bet.
D. O'Connor, Gordon
Many Australians voted for carbon and mining taxes
I and many other people voted Labor at the election. The two-party preferred vote for Labor was 46.5 per - so on that basis close on half of Australians voted for a carbon tax and a mining tax - and for Labor to stand up to the Coalition and block bad policy.
To do any less will further alienate Labor voters and cost them more votes at the next election.
The Labor Party continues to take sudden lurches to the right when it encounters electoral misfortune, and it wonders why it loses support.
Instead of ''progressing thought to the next election'' (backroom-speak for doing nothing) Labor should take it up to Tony Abbott on all fronts, and earn the votes of its supporters. Sitting on their hands until the next election is just lazy and gutless.
Rory McElligott, Nicholls
Start with conferences
As an ALP member I read with interest the essay by Jon Stanhope, Ross Maxwell and Greg Friedewald proposing a number of reforms to democratise the ALP (''Factions remain a fatal flaw'', Times2, October 21, p1). To take effect, any proposed reform would of course require approval by the relevant ALP conference (national, state or territory). The list of specific reforms proposed by the authors (admittedly non-exhaustive) does not appear to include any about the make-up of ALP conferences. The authors might want to write a further article critiquing ALP conference rules concerning such make-up (for example number of delegates, the method for selecting them and the proportion elected by rank and file members or representing affiliated unions).
As a general comment, the essay is an articulate, thoughtful and substantial contribution to the debate about how the ALP's processes and structures might be made more democratic and effective.
D. McNeill, Rivett
Every aspect of Mark Raymond's letter (October 26) exemplifies the misunderstandings and emotive myths that comprise most republican argument. This is, of course, a good thing. The historical, constitutional and political-system ignorance of so many republicans happily remains a great bulwark for our tried-and-tested Westminster-system democracy. Canada remains a constitutional monarchy and republican arguments hold minimal sway there.
Indeed Canada's constitutional arrangements remain closer to the UK than Australia's and their constitution was patriated to Canada only in 1982. Australia's patriated constitution in 1901 also invests our Governor-General with authority and powers as Australia's head of state directly.
By Contrast, the Canadian GG's powers remain only those of a viceroy (with the Queen being Canada's head of state) and are derived in each GG's case from letters-patent from the monarch.
India is a republic but has become so at the cost of surrendering most of the checks and balances that underlie the success of the Westminster system. Particularly India's loss of the fundamental separation of day-to-day political power and national authority because the Indian PM now wields both.
Similar losses of democratic stability and accountability, and/or institutionalised corruption in the body politic, have beset every other Westminster-system that has become a republic. Ireland is a classic case. Finally, the specific structure and required detail of Australia's 1999 referendum question was constitutionally mandated, not a ''John Howard plot''.
It is worth noting that the model proposed and therefore the wording of the question was also decided by the (artificial) republican majority at the constitutional convention.
If there is another referendum on Australia becoming a republic it is likely the vote to retain our highly successful and adaptable constitutional monarchy will get even bigger.
This is chiefly because the checks and balances that would be risked are likely to be even greater than those firmly rejected in the 1999 republican model.
This is why proposals for a vague ''republic plebiscite'' instead of a real referendum are so flawed legally, technically and morally.
Neil James , Burra, NSW
NSW MP John Barilaro (Letters, October 31) writes that his daughters ''would be deeply offended if given any unfair advantage over their male contemporaries on the basis of their gender''. I sympathise with their view. But, sadly, it is hopelessly idealistic.
When I came to Australia after 40 years in Britain and New Zealand, I encountered a gendered world that was alien to me. It is difficult for many men to perceive the complex and subtle ways in Australian society that discriminate against those who do not fit the masculine stereotype.
Until we identify and get rid of the attitudes and assumptions that hinder women from playing a full part in our society's institutions and decision-making processes, affirmative action is necessary.
Only when gender relations change will John Barilaro's daughters get the ''fair go'' that they deserve. I wish them the very best.
Elizabeth Kenworthy, Reid
Green side of the moon
I think Michael Williams (Letters, November 1) is wrong about the moon. There is no evidence of it being green (mouldy) cheese, and anyway mould is unlikely to be supported by the moon's thin atmosphere.
What is almost certainly true of our solar system, however, is that there is a planet orbiting at a point opposite the earth so that it remains hidden from us. We can't prove it's not there so it's reasonable to declare that it is. And it has a purpose: it throws light on the ''other'' side of the moon.
Come to think of it, the moon may indeed be green, on the side we can't see. I stand corrected on my initial assertion.
Philip Telford, Tarago, NSW
Words from time of unknown soldiers
Such a pity a change in the wording inscribed above the Unknown Soldier in our Australian War Memorial should have even been considered.
The words ''Known unto God'' were chosen nearly 100 years ago by those who were part of the time. The war memorial's Unknown Soldier is a symbolic reminder to us of the thousands of Australian soldiers buried far and wide in war cemeteries the world over who remain nameless and whose headstones are engraved with the words ''Known unto God''.
I recently visited the Pheasant Wood Military Cemetery, in Fromelles, with a friend whose two great-uncles lie buried there. They were among the many whose remains were excavated from a nearby field.
As we slowly walked up and down the neat rows of headstones I was no less moved by those without names, the simple words ''Known unto God'' seemed so fitting and relevant.
Tony May, Pearce
Many valid arguments can be made for retaining the inscription ''Known unto God'' on the tomb of the ''Unknown Soldier'' at the Australian War Memorial.
Of these, a full and sufficient reason is that this is the standard inscription on the thousands of headstones on the graves of unknown soldiers of World War I.
These words were adopted by the War Graves Commission for use on the headstones of graves when the soldier could not be identified.
The soldier now buried at the AWM would have had these words on the headstone of his grave in the Adelaide Cemetery at Villers-Bretonneux, France, for about 100 years before his body was exhumed for burial in Australia in 1993.
So why should his grave no longer be inscribed with them? It should not be forgotten that, after all, it is HIS grave.
The PC brigade should keep off the grass and let this soldier rest in peace.
B. Cox, Bruce
To the point
With our national government now a complete disaster on the issue of climate change, it falls to industry to lead Australia away from fossil fuels. So the challenge passes to our biggest company, BHP Billiton, and the bid by Ian Dunlop, a leading climate realist, to join the board of the big Australian. Shareholders will have their say at the annual meeting on November 21.
Bob Douglas, Aranda
STORM IN A TEACUP
We are spying on our neighbours and they are spying on us, so why all the indignation? It has been going on for ever and it will continue to go on long after this latest storm in a teacup has died down. Spooks are a rare breed who can hide behind real and imaginary threats to our national security, safe in the knowledge very few outsiders have got any idea what they do.
D.J. Fraser, Mudgeeraba, Qld
LETTER ON A LETTER
Thank you again, Canberra Times for printing one of my miserable epistles (November 1). But, excising the appropriately drafted letter ''m'' at the end of the word ''who''! How could you do that to I?
Patrick Jones, Griffith
KEEPING WATCH ON US
Anyone who believes US security agencies aren't ''monitoring'' the communications of (spying on) at least some citizens of Australia, Britain, Canada and New Zealand probably also believes in Santa Claus.
Douglas Mackenzie, Deakin
TAIL-END OF EXTREMES
I agree with Sean Carson's comment (''Ups and downs in month of extremes'', November 1, p10) that we get the tail-end of both northerly and southerly extremes. Lots of people whinge about Canberra's climate, but when it's bad here it's almost always worse in Melbourne and Adelaide, or in Brisbane and Sydney.
S.W. Davey, Torrens
How's this for evidence, Michael Williams (Letters, November 1)? Early in the 1980s, the IPCC came up with the hypothesis that less than 1/400th of 1 per cent of the atmosphere (CO2) controls the climate. Many IPCC scientists then modelled their predictions. All the models failed (click here to view them). Therefore, their hypothesis has failed. Get over it!
Dr Judy Ryan, Lyons
VOTE OF NO CONFIDENCE
The Australian Electoral Commission has an apparently good record in Australia's democracy, but misplacing 1375 votes is disturbing.
Rod Matthews, Fairfield, Vic
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