Comment

Letters to the Editor

Spare a little kindness

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Oh dear! Judi Diamond (Letters, December 30) and Peter Langhorne (Letters, January 4) are the latest among many to express their outrage at those tenants of ACT Housing caught in the trap of disability, illness, disadvantage and poverty, whose lifestyle is not up to their supposedly elevated standards. This topic is becoming both tedious and tiresome.

So Judi and Peter, you advocate for them a policy of three strikes and you're out. Out where? Out on the streets?

Down the road or simply and preferably out of sight? How about homeowners with a different outlook and opinion to yours, who also live in untidy houses and drive old bomb cars? Are they likewise to be compelled to sell up and move out of your line of vision?

Indignant house dwellers of Canberra: take a good hard look at the log in your own eye before you complain of the splinter in the eye of another. Be thankful for the roof over your head, the satisfactory income, the neat and tidy house and your suitably pleasing lifestyle.

Perhaps if you were to get to know the people in your neighbourhood whom you see as problem ACT Housing tenants, you may come to appreciate that not all people in this world have been blessed with the wealth of opportunities and advantages that you have enjoyed.

Or you could join, as a volunteer, one of the many organisations around town that are actively engaged in giving them a helping hand.

Indeed, I recommend it. The pay is poor, but the superannuation is out of this world.

Bernie O'Donnell, Wanniassa

Wealthier but worse off

According to Katie Burgess ("ACT house values on rise, but growth to slow in 2016", January 5, p3), I am now on average $20,000 wealthier ($21,910 was the actual value) than at this time last year. Funny, I don't feel wealthier.

I don't have any extra cash, but I anticipate that, other things being equal, my rates will rise by about 3.8per cent, and if I sell and buy another house of equal value in the ACT, the sales tax will have gone up by a similar percentage.

So, from the viewpoint of cash in hand, although wealthier on paper, I am worse off. Meanwhile, those saving for a deposit on a house now have to face a hurdle of borrowing, on average, an additional $21,910.

Anthony Lawton, Garran

More police needed

It came as no surprise to me that the ACT road toll for 2015 was up some 50 per cent, (WIN News, January 4). The current level of police presence on ACT roads is clearly inadequate. I live in the ACT and work in Queanbeyan, travelling from Tuggeranong via the Monaro Highway every day. For more than six months (yes, six months!) I did not see a police car, police officer, speed van or blue light. Cross the border into Queanbeyan and it's a different scenario. Until more resources are provided to put more police on ACT roads, I doubt very much the road toll will fall. Perhaps the ACT government need to have a "re-think" about where they are spending taxpayers' money.

E. Sharman, Oxley

Older drivers maligned

Thanks to Geoff Clarke (Letters, January 4) for pointing out many of the fallacies in Bill Gemmell's diatribe against older drivers. I am currently participating in an ANU study on older drivers' behaviour and skills. As part of the study, I have a camera fitted in my car, which captures all sorts of misdemeanours.

The prize would have to be the young man with reversed cap in a Mercedes Benz on the Monaro Highway, who made my 90km/h (the speed limit at that section) look like I was going backwards. He turned off towards Hindmarsh and hit a red light.

He managed two more at Jerrabomberra and Mugga Lane, and continued the charge towards the average speed cameras. I wondered what they recorded; equally, I wondered whether our very thorough researchers would conclude they are studying the wrong group.

Bob Gardiner, Isabella

Further to the response provided by Geoff Clarke (Letters, January 4) on Bill Gemmell's view of older drivers (Letters, December 21), Mr Gemmell would do well to refer to the many reports prepared for the NRMA-ACT Road Safety Trust (roadsafetytrust.org.au), including the substantial overrepresentation of younger people driving when drunk (Analysis and Report on Drink Driving Cases in the ACT Magistrate's Court 2006-07) and the needs of older people to have mobility (Older Persons' Road Safety Needs).

Dr Michael Henderson and myself reported to the trust in 1992 that older persons are much more likely to be killed than a younger person for the same severity of crash. Although Dr Henderson did not reference this statement, I am sure that it is true, given his extensive research into road safety over the past 45 years.

Older people still need to travel to participate in life's activities and adventures. Changing the seating position of an older person from a driver to become a passenger might not reduce the risk of being killed in an accident.

If we really want to reduce the road toll, there are several measures that can be taken to achieve this. Firstly, the blood alcohol limit can be further reduced so that only medication levels of alcohol are permitted (less than 0.02 PCA). One only has to look at the fact the ACT road toll halved virtually overnight when the PCA limit was reduced from 0.08 to 0.05 to draw a conclusion that this is unlikely to be a coincidence.

Further, drivers who are unlicensed, or driving unregistered or stolen vehicles are significantly overrepresented in fatal crashes.

If the courts were able to remove these categories of recidivist drivers from our roads, we would immediately reduce the ACT road toll by about 50per cent. These are offences that are more likely to be committed by younger drivers.

T. A. Brimson, Dunlop

A case study in denial

Gerry Murphy (Letters, December 29) has, in 180 words, used the devices of pseudo-science, irrelevant information, disinformation, cherry-picking and disparagement. This letter could be used as a case study in climate-change denial and it will be in the unlikely event of anti-science gaining momentum in Canberra.

Three letters in response were published on January 1 and this indicates the asymmetric advantage enjoyed by those who discard the rigours of the scientific method. Ten minutes composing nonsense can easily cause a hundred hours of effort refuting it.

Nick Ware, O'Connor

Dutton's puerile behaviour far from acceptable for a minister

It is to her credit that journalist Samantha Maiden has treated Peter Dutton's rebarbative text message with light-hearted and self-mocking contempt. However, it must have stretched every fibre of her restraint to have avoided expressing the outrage that should properly be felt by every member of the electorate that aminister of the federal government feels it is within the bounds of acceptable behaviour to send such a text message to anyone.

To use such puerile invective to vilify a person, regardless of gender, for diligently pursuing a legitimate job must surely fallwell outside ministerial guidelines. If not, those guidelines need tightening. Ifso, then Mr Dutton must seriously consider what action to take to salvage whatever remains of his honour.

Hugh Gibbon, Pearce

Perhaps Peter Dutton's description of a female journalist as a "mad f---ing witch" in a text message written to comfort a sleazy ex-minister is no more than we should expect from him.

What is worrying, however, is that Mr Dutton currently administers a system under which an asylum seeker living in the community on a bridging visa can be placed in detention, with no avenue of appeal, for "actions that other people might find offensive".

Is he a fit and proper person to sit in judgment on others when his own standards of conduct are so unimpressive?

(Dr) William Maley, Reid

Real issues ignored

When I heard Jamie Briggs had been forced to stand down from his cabinet position for hugging and kissing a woman, I felt sick. No, his actions were not misogyny, and standing him down is not feminism.

Australia was once a country that was proud of its freedom. Where are we now? We tolerate religious groups that vilify women and oppose sexual freedom. We even subsidise them. But we can't tolerate a minor indiscretion of this nature.

Our enemy is not the silly but potentially loveable fellow who makes a blunder coming onto the wrong woman when he's had a few too many. The real misogynist is he who obstructs and disparages women at work, damaging their careers and income.

Malcolm Turnbull was the only one who answered when Icomplained about the anti-female documentary that vilified women's brains. No one else cared – not the human rights officials or the TV channel that aired it.

Please consider the arguments that sexual repression breeds misogyny, that sexual harassment is a smokescreen, and that the real issues in the workplace are being ignored.

Erisa Linsky, Fisher

Investigate Jackson

Now that at last the trade union royal commission has recommended that Kathy Jackson be brought to book, perhaps we should look at the people who backed her and the politicians who lionised her and made a political apology to her, not to mention her being an honoured guest at an H.R. Nicholls Society dinner.

Most of all, we need to look at how the press went for Craig Thomson (this garnered a Walkley Award for one reporter), while seeming to ignore the real story right under their noses.

Stephen Matthews, Chisholm

Eternal optimist

I'd like to commend Allister Heath ("Proliferating rabbits, abundant oil, and the end of doom", canberratimes.com.au, January 1) for a remarkable vision of the future. He has finally convinced me that the bad times are over. We can all rest soundly now, knowing thatplagues, pestilence and famines can be relegated to the dustbin of history.

Thank the Lord we shall never see sharemarkets drop again or property prices fall.

I mean, doctors have been telling me for years I'm going todie, but I'm still here. Now I know I'll live forever as long as I keep the rose-coloured glasses on. Thank you, Allister.

David Warrilow, Miami, Gold Coast, Queensland

Fairer voting system

Independent Senator Nick Xenophon ("Let's empower Senate voters to make it fair", Times2, January 1, p5) describes the process by which Senate voting procedures have changed over the years and the consequences of this change.

The previous system (1949-83) was onerous for voters at double dissolutions – in the 1974 double dissolution, in NSW there were 84 candidates for the (then) 10 Senate seats – and a valid vote required the numbering of the 84 boxes in order from 1 to 84, with no duplications or omissions. No wonder informal voting was high.

I suggest that above-the-line voting and group voting tickets be abolished and we return to the pre-1984 format for the Senate voting paper. However, to submit a valid vote, a voter need only number the boxes toa total of the number of vacancies plus one.

Therefore, in a half-Senate election, only seven numbered boxes would be necessary for avalid vote for six senators, and in a double dissolution, only 13 numbered boxes would be necessary for a valid vote for 12 senators. Naturally, if voters wished tonumber more than these minima, so be it – the "extended" votes will be just asvalid, as long as there are noduplications nor omissions in the numbering.

My proposed system is fair, empowering and voter-friendly to use, so I do not expect much support from thethe current Senate.

Paul E. Bowler, Holder

Improper criticism

Each year, The Canberra Times presents NAPLAN results that suggest non-government schools, in general, provide better education outcomes.

This week we see an embattled dad's inability to purchase Apple technology for his students used as a way to criticise public schools' desire to prepare students for the 21stcentury ("School gear cost shocks father", January 5, p8).

After noting that this father is not required to buy the items and there's a pool of technology available for public students in need, the article then criticised the government for spending money on such technology.

Is The Canberra Times championing the underdog or trying to maintain a class system whereby public school students may start poor and remain poor?

C. Shipp, Tuggeranong

Spuds in spades from bountiful nature strip

Shane Rattenbury's suggestion of vegie nature strips has spawned a rash of comment in your columns as though it is a new idea (Letters, January 2). When I moved into my house 50 years ago, I planted the whole of the sizeable front garden and nature strip with potatoes. It could well have been on Canberra's sightseeing circuit given the number of people who stopped and stared. My intention was to break up the compacted soil to make a verdant lawn. I failed. The potato crop was much more successful than the present lawn. But I did have a successful lettuce lawn in the backyard. This was the result of planting too many lettuces which then went to seed. The following spring I had a carpet of lettuces which required mowing. Be careful what you sow – reaping can be a surprise.

Ian Mathews, Garran

Peter Toscan (Letters, January 5) reminded me that my dog once spent an expensive day under observation in hospital after potentially eating snail bait from under a letterbox while my attention was diverted during our walk.

If people are allowed to grow vegies on their nature strips, the daily dog walk – complete with enjoyable sniffing of the vegetation – will become an exercise in owner vigilance unless laws are introduced (and enforced) to prevent use of toxic garden chemicals.

Andina Faragher, Macquarie

A number of Weston Creekers have often looked at our wonderful resource of green strips and thought "what if ..."

It is great that Shane Rattenbury is looking at offering these spaces for use as vegetable gardens. Public feedback, however, points to a requirement for some controls. Perhaps he can offer funding to kickstart community gardens on small infill patches, rather than individual vegie patches.

Simone Hunter, director, the Cotter Hub

TO THE POINT

SHAMEFUL STANDARD

This type of sleaze, manipulation and exploitation ("Pressure on the PM to hunt down the photo leaker", canberratimes.com.au, January 5) is a scenario that could have been scripted into a movie like Suffragette. Oh, that's right, it was. It's shameful.

As [then Australian] Army chief [Lieutenant] General David Morrison said a few years ago, the standard you walk past is the standard you accept. It's time for the good men to stand up. Please.

Tanya Dannock, Nicholls

POOR CONDUCT

I keep reading that Jamie Briggs failed to uphold "high ministerial standards". He also failed the ordinary standards expected of amale high school student, once when he kissed the woman and again when he sent her photo to his mates.

Jim Jones, Charnwood

Bill Deane (Letters, January 5) isright. Peter Dutton has more important things to apologise for than his poor "witch twitching" and texting skills. Notwithstanding his obvious arrogance and lack of empathy, Dutton wasn't labelled by doctors the worst Minister for Health in modern history for nothing.

Jon Stirzaker, Latham

The only thing Dutton did wrong was send the text to the wrong address. The last I heard, it was not an offence to express a personal opinion about one person to another.

Alex Wallensky, Broulee, NSW

West Indies cricketer Chris Gayle fined $10,000. Jamie Briggs demoted. Minister Peter Dutton nothing, and half of those he represents are women.

Patrick O'Hara, Isaacs

Briggs, Gayle, Dutton. It is, after all, the silly season.

John Milne , Chapman

SCIENTIFIC DEBATE

Well done to The Canberra Times for its willingness to publish in depth letters on scientific topics. Where else could you find an intelligent debate about what really went on in the Ordovician Period, or a mature discussion of Boyle's law?

Lately we have even been treated to seeing CO2 printed with the funny little 2 that the scientists use. You won't find that in The Telegraph.

G. Burgess, Kaleen

SINGULAR PUZZLE

Once again the Focus puzzle on The Canberra Times puzzle page (Times2, January 5, p13) has disallowed "news". Presumably the Macquarie Dictionary considers it a plural noun, but, if so, what then is the meaning ofthe singular noun?

David Sheppard, Latham

Email: letters.editor@canberratimes.com.au. Send from the message field, not as an attached file. Fax: 6280 2282. Mail: Letters to the Editor, The Canberra Times, PO Box 7155, Canberra Mail Centre, ACT 2610.

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