Letters to the Editor
Your article ''Toxic explosion tests bungled'' (December 20, p1) on the huge chemical explosion at the Mitchell Factory in 2011 confirms what I had been expecting. The ACT government was never serious about discovering whether Canberrans have been, and still are being exposed to, dioxin and other highly dangerous PCBs. They claimed that the spread of the plume and airborne matter was less than it was. People in my part of Ainslie, including myself, had burning eyes and coughing when outside on the morning after the explosion.
But this information was dismissed by the government. It didn't fit with their announcements about where the plume and matter had spread and their (unfounded) claims of how safe we all were.
Your article suggests it's too late to test current soils and water sediment in our rain tanks and waterways. This isn't true. Dioxin is ''generally resistant to biodegradation''. Its persistent half life in lakes has been estimated to be more than 1.5 years. In soil, it doesn't tend to leach.
Katherine Beauchamp, Ainslie
Sex sells message
PETA's ads are sexy, not sexist (''Peeling back the layers, sexist ads don't work'', Times2, December 20, p5). The group often uses upbeat, provocative methods to make people think about serious, depressing subjects.
That's because most people would rather see scantily clad celebrities than abused animals who have been skinned for their fur or scalded alive in a slaughterhouse. If an ad even plants a seed in one person's mind, then I'd say it worked. No one criticises Lady Godiva, who rode naked on a horse to protest about taxes on the poor in the 11th century, for using sex to make people think. Even the famous feminist Gloria Steinem recently said that, in our culture, people need to be nude to be noticed, and that we should change the culture ''not blame the people who are playing the only game that exists''. There's nothing demeaning about PETA's ads. Grown women - and men - are capable of making decisions about their bodies.
And by the way, I notice that The Canberra Times is not above using a nude figure from a PETA ad to sell this story to readers!
Samantha Lau, Slacks Creek, Qld
The cuts to my letter (December 22) criticising Jenna Price's Times2 article ''Peeling back the layers, sexist ads don't work'' (December 20, p5) could give the impression that I consider myself the final arbiter of what defines a sexist advertisement and its causal effects.
In the excised section, I argued that no such supremo exists because we have individual ''sensitivities, gumption and circumstances'' that inform ''what constitutes sexism and dehumanisation and where their boundaries lie''.
Peter Robinson, Ainslie
In an increasingly overexposed commercial environment at this time, it is refreshing to see that your Christmas editorial (''The true spirit of Christmas'', Times2, December 24, p2) focuses on the Christian foundations of the season we celebrate.
As a nation much of our Anglo heritage, in the form of Christian belief, has dissipated as the population reflects the diversity of a multicultural and a multi-faith society. While our people express their faith in many forms of religious traditions, there are some who profess no belief that is central to many lives.
Christmas provides opportunities, not just a holiday, days off work, food, drink and presents, but also the chance to reflect on life and all its complexities. The New Testament message and the social gospel lived in the life of Christ is a worthy example for believers. This is not to say that non-believers are not able to express love and support, which are the foundations of Christ's message.
As you celebrate Christmas, take time to reflect on your own life, its meaning and purpose.
Importantly though, look for ways you can make the world around you a better place for the common good of both your neighbours and yourself.
Allan Gibson, Cherrybrook, NSW
Thank you for your editorial ''The true spirit of Christmas'' (Times2, December 24, p2). I hope all those who have never, or rarely, attended a church but feel qualified to criticise Christianity might have the opportunity to see Christmas and Christianity as characterised by ''liberation, love and tolerance''. Likewise I hope that some of the more ''conservative'' Christian organisations and lobby groups might ponder your challenge to the Christian conscience; ''the risk of the inversion of Jesus' message: moving it from love to greed and envy, from giving to taking, and from sanctifying to profaning, and losing the call to faith, to hope and to practical charity that citizenship of the kingdom of heaven must necessarily involve''.
D. J. Taylor, Kambah
A prayer for Jenna
It saddened me to read Jenna Price's article ''Putting family first the real Christmas miracle'' (Times2, December 24, p5). Having just arrived a few months ago from overseas for a brief sojourn in Canberra, I have only my husband and me to celebrate what according to Ms Price is ''the real Christmas miracle of celebrating family''. How depressing - not for me but for her.
She has missed the whole point of Christmas - it is not about family, food, or gifts. It is nothing short of the real miracle of the creator of the universe, of water, the human body, and of her heart and mind becoming flesh or, as Eugene Peterson puts it, ''The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighbourhood.'' The only things more important than the birth of the Messiah is his life, death, and resurrection.
I feel sorry for Ms Price and her short-sightedness and pray she can gain, or regain the understanding of the meaning of Christmas. It is life altering and life saving.
Katherine Powers, Campbell
Older citizens pay
The 6.2 per cent increase in health insurance (''Big rise in health insurance premiums'', December 24, p1) is directly aimed at the over 55s as they are probably becoming the biggest users. It does not matter that they have been contributors for the previous 40-plus years with the majority rarely accessing rebates. Is this just another example of the lack of forward planning and/or CEOs dipping all fingers into the pot with health probably being a previously untouched frontier for them.
Pensions and salaries are not going to keep pace with this on top of the steep increases in utilities.
Gerry Monaghan, Florey
Call to action
There has been a proliferation of proposals on this page addressing the disappearance of car manufacturing in Australia.
This situation is not new, but obviously neither side of politics had the heart to deal with the looming crisis. This government decided to meet the challenge head-on and refused to use taxpayers' money to further support the ailing industries. It had to happen. We now must have a national debate, on the future of industries to project our Australian economy and avoid further chaos, human dislocation and pain. We need to create perhaps an entirely new balance between manufacturing and services (including electronic and knowledge) with much greater emphasis on the ''clever'' industries rather than continue to deny that manual skills are on the wane everywhere. We need a clever strategy for a clever country.
In 2011, the British government spuriously believed that the economy would return to the pre-crisis harmony by abandoning obsession with banking and financial services sector and returning to the status quo ante (pre-existing state) - the belief in the bright future of ever-growing manufacturing production. The Chancellor, George Osborne, described the future of Britain as ''a country carried aloft by the march of the makers''. That was most certainly wishful thinking.
We can do better! Let's be bold and courageous - let's hope there will be enough political will and courage to produce the ''vision splendid'' of great infrastructure projects reflecting the great potential of this continent as well as organising the energies and engaging the imagination of all Australians. Sky's the limit here.
Adam M Rustowski, Belconnen
Faith and violence
All traditions of faith and practice (a less misleading description than the term problematic religion) have been deeply implicated in violence and injustice. Such traditions have also been involved, to varying degrees in varying ways, in activities of peacemaking, compassion and the struggle for justice. The historical record is clear on that. For the Christian tradition you get both the crusades and the Quakers.
To assert, therefore, as Barry Hindess (Letters, December 24) does that ''… in the annal of destructive ideas the record of organised religion would be a hard one to beat'' is really to lead with your chin.
For sheer sustained violence the nation state, from the wars that led to its establishment in the 16th century, to the devastation of the 20th century, has established a record which I would reckon puts it well ahead of all contenders in the ''not particularly good, if not reasonably destructive ideas'' stakes.
Doug Hynd, Stirling
In reply to H. Ronald (Letters, December 26), we know that we ''ain't seen nothing yet''.
That's what worries me and by now probably millions of Australians who have seen through Mr Abbott's non-policy government, his slash-and-burn approach to good policy the previous government put in place, his environmental vandalism, jobs for the boys and girls, and sweeteners for new senators.
Need I go on, Mr H. Ronald, about your, and unfortunately our, ''normal, measured and decent Prime Minister''.
Jan Gulliver, Lyneham
I wish to thank you for giving me a genuine giggle with my morning coffee: the agitprop-as-opinion from H. Ronald (Letters, December 26).
Mark Raymond, Manton, NSW
To the point
THE BEST REVENGE
Leaders of a number of nations friendly to the US have expressed indignation at their alleged surveillance by the National Security Agency. These expressions of displeasure appear to have been relatively modest. What better way to reaffirm their indignation than by granting political asylum to Edward Snowden?
Peter Grabosky, Forrest
GUILT BY ASSOCIATION
I am pleased to advise that my son Christopher Pyne is not the federal Minister for Education and I am even happier to advise that after a search, and despite the fact that my surname is not widespread, I can find no relationship with the said minister.
Frank Pyne, Townsville, Qld
THE QUIET MAN
Calling Zed Seselja, where are you, Zed? Come out, come out, wherever you are - your electorate wants to hear from you. Gary Humphries is on our side, why aren't you supporting Katy Gallagher as well? At least say something.
L. Christie, Canberra City
As I unfurled from my bed and prepared to embrace the indulgent leisure of Boxing Day, I heard a rumble outside my window. It was the garbage truck come to empty the bin filled with Christmas refuse. Thank you to the rubbish collectors of Canberra for such excellent service, and on Boxing Day too.
Ann Maloney, Hawker
The real problem with breast cancer screening (''Test not failsafe, women warned'', December 26, p1) at any age is over-diagnosis, which results in three women being treated unnecessarily for each woman whose life is extended. Surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy are strong treatments with major consequences for a woman.
Dr John Doherty, Vienna, Austria
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