Letters to the editor


All those who disparage Australia Day celebrations, preferring to mourn the ''invasion'' of 1788, ought to have the integrity to seek a home elsewhere that has not been ''invaded'' by someone at some time or another (Editorial, January 10).

Good luck with that one.

We are celebrating the European settlement in 1788 that eventually led to the establishment of Australia, an entity that did not exist before European colonisation.

Do not confuse Australia with the land that was indeed occupied by Aborigines for thousands of years. Numerous separate tribes of Aborigines, originally from Asia, had no concept of the continent as a whole or of the entity we call Australia. The story of that entity, with its beginnings in 1788, now embraces both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people from all over the world. It is an astonishing achievement, well worth celebrating.

John Bracht, Gordon

Perhaps the annual controversy over what Australia Day should be called would be solved by just changing the date to January 1: the anniversary of the day the Commonwealth of Australia was established in 1901.

Admittedly, it would take away the opportunity for some people to feel angry, but I'm sure they could find another one.

Henry Lawrence, Belconnen

In their rush to defend the boorishly insensitive ''Australia est. 1788'' T-shirts, Anne Prendergast and Don Sephton (Letters, January 10) have missed a rather important point.

That year, 1788, was not when Australia was established in a geological, anthropological or political sense. What was ''established'' in 1788 was merely the colony of New South Wales.

Chris Sant, Nicholls

Anne Prendergast says she is proud of Australia's British heritage. I am also equally proud of Australia's indigenous heritage.

Gillian Phillpot, Chapman

Aldi, Woolworths and your correspondent Anne Prendergast should note that Australia was ''established'' at Federation in 1901, not 1788. The T-shirts should be withdrawn on the grounds of historical inaccuracy.

Doug Hynd, Stirling

''Speak for yourself: in defence of offence'' (Forum, January 11, p2) re-examines a traditional Australia Day theme: section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, about things that ''offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate''.

I never leave home on Australia Day. I am sorely offended, insulted, humiliated and intimidated by marauding bands of people proclaiming our national day to be invasion day.

The National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee ''now has a whole week of recognition, rather than one day … Celebrations are held around Australia in July by all Australians to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people'' (australia.gov.au).

It seems a bit greedy to want to take over Australia Day, too.

Gary J. Wilson, MacGregor

Angles, Saxons, unite

I am appalled that The Canberra Times published the racist rant of Mike Reddy (Letters, January 10).

The continuing racist abuse of ''white Anglo-Saxons'' is a disgusting reminder of how far we are from being a truly tolerant multicultural society.

Forced underground by the likes of Reddy, the Anglos cannot speak their native tongue or even use their rich storehouse of names. Where are the Aethelbeorhts, Cyneweards and Sungifus of yesteryear?

Marginalised and shunned, speaking Australian and calling themselves ''Mike'', perhaps.

N.R. Watson, Chifley

GG a dignified figure

I have not met Quentin Bryce but I never fail to be impressed by the way that she has performed her role as governor-general with such dignity.

Whether in Australia or abroad, her engaging demeanour towards young and old in all sorts of situations - joyful, tragic, and commonplace - has made me proud to be Australian.

I think most people view her with similar admiration.

In the discussions about her successor (Letters, January 10), I have been dismayed to hear a vocal minority speaking of her disparagingly. If only all our leaders in public life showed the noble qualities Bryce has consistently displayed, Australia would be the better for it.

(Bishop) Pat Power, Campbell

Abbott's war at sea

The navy will pay a high price for prosecuting the Abbott government's ''like a war'' refugee boat policy (''Abbott likens boat secrecy to wartime'', January 11, p7). Military personnel have consciences, too. They will suffer when, inevitably, refugees drown because towed-back refugee boats will sink.

Howard government ministers shrugged off the deaths of 353 refugees on October 19, 2001, when the so-called SIEV X sank.

The disaster stopped the refugee boats coming. However, as our sailors agonise over the deaths of the men, women and children they see on the boats they tow, naval crew efficiency will decline. Not a good result for a government claiming ''turning back the boats'' is vital for our national security.

Refugees, naval personnel and Australia's standing in the world will continue to suffer until we have a government honest about the huge financial costs of Christmas Island, offshore processing and turning back the boats - and the true scale of the number seeking asylum here compared to the numbers seeking asylum in Europe or the US.

Rod Olsen, Flynn

High-speed roads no place for cyclists

ACT Policing released a photo of a car about to knock a cyclist down as she rode along one of those green strips across off-ramps (''Police seek driver after cyclist knocked down'', January 10, p3). The police asked us to remember the accident.

I didn't see Anne Cahill Lambert's unfortunate accident but I recall similarly frightening circumstances.

My near-miss was on Belconnen Way's exit onto Wakefield Avenue. Multiple cyclists, riding downhill and in line, entered that green strip as I needed to enter the off ramp.

So what's the law? Do I accelerate into the exit (risking scaring/clipping the first cyclist), or must I brake hard in my lane until they all pass?

I chose the latter. Unsuspecting drivers behind (at 90km/h) braked very hard, swerved violently/dangerously/illegally across lanes, shook fists. We all lived.

What happens when future peak-hour freeway green strips contain longer lines of government-encouraged cyclists? More Cahill Lamberts, or more vehicle pile-ups?

Get them off higher-speed roads.

Cuthbert Douglas, Bonython

Proof may prevail

Congratulations for publicising the National Library's omission of the Vallard Atlas map of Eastern Australia, which was created by the Portuguese in the 1520s (''Library accused of omitting key charts from exhibition'', January 9, p3).

And good on Peter Trickett for drawing attention to this fact.

I have read Trickett's fascinating book Beyond Capricorn. It compares the Vallard map to current east-coast landmarks in detail and presents a very plausible argument as to the early discovery and exploration of the east coast of Australia by the Portuguese more than 200 years before Captain James Cook's arrival.

It is supported by such evidence as the finding of Portuguese storage jars near Gabo Island by fishermen while trawling, and the finding of Portuguese lead sinkers on Fraser Island. There is also the continuing mystery of the Mahogany Ship near Warrnambool, first noticed in 1836 but since lost in shifting sand dunes.

Unfortunately, Portuguese archives in Lisbon were destroyed in the late 1600s by an English bombardment. One can only hope that some copies of the archives will eventually surface in places such as Goa, where the Portuguese left many records.

Robert Mair, Palmerston

Inmate debate

I must admit to being a bit confused by David Biles' letter (January 8), saying I ''chided him''.

Nothing could be further from the truth, though I admit to commenting about an issue I think is important that he omitted from his article ''Reforms put fairness at risk'' (January 2, p1). I am further confused when Biles says I am wrong, saying my statement that ''most inmates … suffer from mental illness'' is untrue, and then going on to say there are ''proportionately more mentally ill people in jail''.

Whatever the semantics, I stand by my argument that these people need treatment, not punishment.

Apart from that, his article was excellent.

Geoff Barker, Flynn

Fear over favours

As usual, Brian McConnell pedals his liberalist sellout on the needle-exchange issue at the prison (Letters, January 10).

He complains that the unions are blocking the issue. Well, the government hasn't exactly been forthcoming with new ideas with any level of expediency either.

McConnell complains about the human rights of prisoners but forgets to mention the human rights of prison officers, nurses and other contractors who work in or visit the jail.

He is right in the fact that needles exist in the jail; where we differ is simple: I would not sell out the prison staff to a neo-liberal postmodernist viewpoint.

I say lock them up. Make them earn privileges. Give them hard labour not TVs. Impose draconian measures. Make the Alexander Maconochie Centre a place to be feared, not as it is perceived now: the Alexander McHoliday Centre.

Ian Jannaway, Monash

Republican parallels

The death notices on January 11 record the death of Uniting Church clergyman Reverend Dr Ian Tanner.

Tanner was deeply involved in the formation of the Uniting Church in 1977. Some years ago, I had a long conversation with him about that.

I was startled when he told me, quite bluntly, that he believed the whole process of voting to secure an organic corporate union of Presbyterians, Methodists and Congregationalists in Australia was a mistake.

When the first vote failed, a second was ordered. Years of legal wrangling followed the decision by some to unite, and the Christian cause was damaged.

Tanner said he believed a simple mutual recognition of ministries and an informal process of growing together would have avoided these problems. Does this have lessons for those seeking a second vote on an Australian republic after the failure of the 1999 referendum?

It is difficult to lead the people but it is impossible to drive them.

Robert Willson, Deakin

Zoom in on shark solution

I'm deeply saddened by the news that Western Australia is planning to cull sharks over three metres in size.

These animals are in their own habitat and we feel the need to destroy them just so we can get wet at the beach.

Here's a thought: instead of culling or using expensive to run aircraft, including helicopters, to spot sharks, why don't we use relatively inexpensive and cheap to operate drones to observe the areas in question?

They can easily be fitted with cameras that feature polarising lenses. This will reduce surface glare and make the sharks more visible. We will then swim safely, and so will these necessary predators.

Bill Hall, Page

What's up, Andrew? You going a bit Goofy on us?

Like Andrew Fraser (''Fine past should be writ large'', Forum, January 11, p9), I grew up in Canberra in the 1960s.

I don't, however, remember the Australian-American Memorial ever being referred to as ''Bugs Bunny''.

As I recall it was invariably referred to as ''Phallus in Blunderland''. A standing tribute to the close relationship between our two countries.

Ken Maher, Ainslie

Andrew Fraser is incorrect in assuming that ''Bugs Bunny'' in Blamey Square was a gift from America.

In 1948, the Federal Council of the Australian American Association resolved ''to establish a memorial in Canberra in the form of a monument or statue, to perpetuate the services and sacrifices of the US forces in Australia to symbolise Australian-American comradeship in arms''.

To be worthy of its purpose and in keeping with the wide horizons of the Canberra landscape, a memorial of considerable size and striking design was essential.

An Australia-wide competition was held in 1949 and from entries received the design by R. M. Ure was selected.

The area chosen at the time was bushland and long before the Defence Department complex was built there. The prime minister, Robert Menzies, launched an appeal for funds in 1950. Within six weeks, the target amount had been subscribed. Later, to meet rising costs, the federal government made a substantial donation.

Work began in 1952 and the builders, McConnell of Sydney, completed the memorial in just over a year. The Queen, during the first visit to Australia of a reigning monarch, unveiled the memorial on February 16, 1954.

Among the many dignitaries at the ceremony was US vice-president Richard Nixon.

The dedication on the memorial reads: ''In grateful remembrance of the vital help given by the United States of America during the war in the Pacific 1941-1945.''

The memorial and Blamey Square is the venue for the annual commemoration of the 1942 Battle of the Coral Sea, known as the ''turning point'', when ships of the US and Australian navies stopped the Japanese Imperial Fleet. At no time did the opposing ships see one another. The battle was the first in history fought by carrier-borne aircraft.

This yearly commemoration is co-ordinated by the Australian American Association in early May. This year it will be on May 8, with the support of the Royal Australian Navy, the federal government, the US embassy and the US Marine Corps.

David S. Evans, past federal president, Australian American Association

Andrew Fraser, I think it's the type, rather than the absence, of statues, that says more about a city.

For instance, the NSW city of Griffith features a statue of murdered anti-drugs campaigner Donald Mackay, a brave man who refused to be cowed by the mafia.

The Stanhope government, on the other hand, commissioned a statue of Al Grassby, the Labor politician who knowingly spread a disgusting lie that Mackay's family were complicit in his murder.

Who are you calling the ''Philistines''?

Martin Leonard, Hughes



If the 10 large lifeboats bought by the Abbott government are used to return asylum seekers to Indonesia when their boats are unseaworthy, will Australian agents also be stationed in Indonesia to reclaim those lifeboats when they arrive (''Boats bob up as a diplomatic challenge'', January 10, p1)? If not, then instead of using unseaworthy fishing boats, will people smugglers simply use the lifeboats to smuggle even more refugees to Australia?

Jack Wiles, Gilmore

There can be no greater damnation of Tony Abbott's suitability for the prime ministership than his continued support for the miserable soul who is our immigration minister. Having the navy engage in piracy is completely beyond the pale.

T.J. Marks, Holt


The findings in the article ''Urinals speak volumes on city exodus'' (January 10, p1) represent an absence of lateral thinking. By concentrating on one factor, a ''golden'' opportunity was lost to mine the ''liquid resource'' for chemical footprints - i.e. metabolites - thereby, potentially, yielding profiles of demographic drug use.

Albert M. White, Queanbeyan, NSW


When Ben Mowen came to the Brumbies, we had no idea how he would transform the team (''A tough decision but right one for my family'', Sport, January 10, p28). What a bonanza! You gave us everything. All the best to Captain Courageous!

Randy Knispel, Bywong, NSW


How insensitive of Felicity Chivas (Letters, January 7) to suggest scrapping the Medicare rebate for IVF. The people who resort to IVF undergo enormous stress and anxiety. The previous government had already reduced the rebate and now Chivas wants them to suffer more!

Lynne Boxsell, Nicholls

Scrapping the IVF Medicare rebate to free up funds for the less well-off and sick in our community is not attacking IVF. Women can still undergo IVF treatment. It is just a question of applying the ''user pays'' principle, which I believe the Liberal Party supports when it suits them.

Felicity Chivas, Scullin


Following on from Geoff Nickols' Wentworth Avenue grass-growing observations (Letters, January 10), Shane Rattenbury has also allowed us to enjoy a railway-like experience while driving on this road for many years now.

Martyn Hearle, Narrabundah

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