Toby Philips (Letters, April 30) makes some excellent points regarding the campaign for an ACT coat of arms.

Knights and dames might be anachronisms but equally quaint is the Canberra coat of arms which, sadly, also adorns our ACT flag. Ironically, for the only state and territory which voted yes to a republic, we are stuck with a coat of arms more at home on Game of Thrones with its crowns, castles, maces, swords, and the Latin motto Pro rege, lege et grege (''For the King, the law and the people'' than in contemporary Australia.

Having ''borrowed'' the Canberra coat of arms since self-government, is it not time for the ACT, as the only state or territory without its own coat of arms, to adopt a more appropriate and contemporary symbol?

I endorse Mr Philips' suggestion that our MLAs should begin a process to develop an ACT coat of arms.

Adam Kirk, Braddon

Solar power furphy

Do you remember the time, a few years ago, when the favourite topic for a good whinge in these pages was not light rail but rooftop solar feed-in tariffs? The preferred, and rather righteous, claim was it constituted middle-class welfare, and poorer households were subsidising those wealthy enough to afford solar.

It turns out this was a myth.

A recent national study by the REC Agents Association has found lower-income families and regional communities are the most likely to have solar PV systems on their roofs.

More than 40 per cent of all systems installed are in these socio-economic communities, although they constitute only 32 per cent of total national housing stock. Indeed, there is an inverse relationship between average incomes and solar penetration levels across suburbs throughout the country.

What this really tells us is that the average Australian home owner has the wits to recognise a sensible investment and the self-discipline to achieve it. Maybe they also have the common decency to help us all to reduce our total national emissions.

I look forward to a few years hence when the complaints about light rail turn out to be furphies, just like the wailing about solar power.

Felix MacNeill, Dickson

Toadstool education

The article ''Another death cap casualty confirmed'' (April 30, p1) was disturbing reading. However, the ACT government should increase education and knowledge of the mushroom rather than removing it from a few ''hot spots''. This year Amanita phalloides is forming prolific numbers of fruiting bodies (toadstools) in most localities in the ACT where mature oak trees (Quercus spp) are growing. This encompasses the area from Tuggeranong to Gungahlin and Weston to Fyshwick.

To identify a few localities as hot spots is not dealing with the larger issue. It would be more useful to ensure the public, particularly people for whom English is not the primary language, is educated about the fungus.

If it rains soon many more will emerge. Next year and in the years ahead they will again appear in all their beauty.

This fungus is important to the plants it lives with - Amanita phalloides grows on the roots of living Quercus trees and helps the tree to extract nutrients from the soil. Citizens of the ACT have been encouraged to learn to love the extremely venomous brown snake. Death caps can neither move nor bite, and with education are easy to recognise.

Jack Simpson, Narrabundah

I would like to pass on my thanks to Woolworths Limited for the assistance it provided ACT Health in managing the possible public health implications of a suspected death cap mushroom poisoning incident over the Anzac Day long weekend.

The co-operative approach adopted between Woolworths, ACT Health and ACT Policing helped to ensure a swift outcome which minimised risk to the community from potential poisoning while also clearing the business of any involvement. This co-operation was a great example of how government and business can work together to deliver the best outcome for the community.

This incident provides another important opportunity to highlight the dangers that surround death cap mushrooms, which are highly toxic to humans. Information about these mushrooms is available on the ACT Health website and any mushrooms that are deemed suspicious by Canberrans can be reported to Canberra Connect on 13 22 81.

Katy Gallagher, Chief Minister and Minister for Health

Screening saved life

Your article ''Doubt on prostate cancer screening'' (April 29, p2) missed two important points.

First, the older you are the more likely it is that you will have prostate cancer, even if you have no symptoms. Second, the younger you are the faster the cancer grows - if you have it.

I am now 73. My excellent GP followed up a urinary tract infection and enlarged prostate after these possible symptoms appeared when I was about 50. At 54 two prostate-specific antigen readings showed a doubling over three months. Surgery and radiation followed. My life was saved.

Others were not so lucky. The famous singer Frank Zappa was the same age as me, was not treated, and died within a year.

Yes, I've had erectile and bowel irritation problems, but I'm still here and, like Chris Hansen, enjoying life.

Frank McKone, Holt

Prune royals' oak tree

The National Arboretum should act now to avoid a failure of diplomacy in 2035. Prince George might celebrate his 21st with a visit to Australia. He will want to see the oak his parents planted.

Governor-General Kylie Minogue and a diplomatic corps currently in primary school will be mightily embarrassed to show the Prince a tree that has a crack down the middle.

Please, Arboretum staff, buy a decent pair of secateurs and prune the double leader out now. Then realise that another 10,000 trees are equally in need of corrective pruning.

Or invite the Prince's granddad for a working bee. As a dab hand with the loppers he will know just where to snip.

Peter Marshall, Braidwood, NSW


Info sessions publicised

Just to assure Louisa Murphy (Letters, May 1), the ACTION information sessions in the Parliamentary Triangle this week are designed to give commuters more information about their travel options, and upgrades to facilities and services, particularly ahead of the introduction of paid parking. The sessions were reported on p3 of this newspaper on Monday, April 28.

Shane Rattenbury, Minister for Territory and Municipal Services

Obsession with debt a sign of managers lacking intelligence

Your editorial ''Abbott's dubious new budget tack'' (Times2, April 30, p2) does not go far enough in exposing this government's dishonesty and its fallacious economic policies. The Coalition's obsession with reining in public debt even at the risk of worsening an increasingly weak economy can only be explained in terms of an all-out attack on the welfare of wage earners.

The concept of debt and credit are basic tenets of capitalism; without them most of us wouldn't have been able to buy our home, our children wouldn't be able to complete their studies and we wouldn't be able to visit our relatives in the old country. A government that introduces a ''temporary levy'' to create a surplus is not a worthy economic manager. A surplus is a very inefficient economic tool: it means I am paying too much tax and/or the government is spending too little. It encourages wastefulness and laziness on the part of the wage earner. It postpones prosperity to an indefinite time in the future.

We must reject this dichotomy that debt is bad and surplus is good. There are more intelligent ways of managing the economy. For example, reallocate resources from freeway construction to a fast railway linking our mayor cities. Think of the stimulus to the economy and the kindness to the environment. And it would be so appropriate now that our car industry is disappearing.

The second part of your editorial (''Taking their medicine'') deserves all our support.

John Rodriguez, Florey

Deficit levy? No way

There is a lot of hot air going around regarding the upcoming budget. However, if Tony Abbott thinks he can impose a tax/levy on the Australian people to offset the previous Labor government's mismanagement of the economy and get away with it, then he is very mistaken.

If a private corporation squandered billions of dollars of profit and then left that corporation in ruins, then criminal charges would follow. It is not enough that the Labor government was ousted; someone is criminally liable. It is unfair to expect us to foot the bill for this debacle. Mr Abbott you are on notice, and as state and federal parties are bedfellows I am looking at my party membership.

Ian Jannaway, Monash

Cash in the hangar?

Tony Abbott's sleight of hand about whether the proposed levy is a tax might be compared with his statement about the funding for the additional strike fighters. He is reported to have said ''I want to stress that this is money that has been put aside by government over the past decade or so to ensure that this purchase can responsibly be made''.

His response to my request as to how much money had been put aside was to refer the matter to the Treasurer. What are the odds that not one cent has been put aside?

Murray Williamson, Weetangera

Sweet savagery

Here we go again. The executive director of the Australian Defence Association, Neil James, would have us believe (Letters, April 30) not only that the Defence budget has been cut in recent years but that the cuts have been savage and continual. When I left Defence in 2000, the Defence budget was about $10 billion and my ComSuper pension was $41,000. After adjustments for inflation, my pension is now $61,000, a nominal increase of nearly 50 per cent. The Defence budget is about $24 billion, a nominal increase of 140 per cent. Savage cuts in Defence expenditure? I bet I'm not the only one who wishes the ComSuper cuts were as savage.

Bronis Dudek, Calwell

Holiday from reality

As reported in The Canberra Times (''Glad to see the family; come again'', April 26, p5) the royals have left us. For 10 wonderful days, we did not have to worry about children behind razor wire in Australian gulags, nor about a government intent on stripping away the hard-won rights of workers and condemning people to working until the age of 70, nor about the homeless who sleep rough on our streets every night, nor about the burgeoning rates of indigenous youth suicide.

It would perhaps be even better if Sir Peter could be persuaded to step aside as soon as possible, so the Duke of Cambridge could be appointed governor-general.

We could then go on living the dream indefinitely, reassured that at least one young family among us could provide a role model for having it all without having to actually work for it, without having to worry about a mortgage or childcare. Our very own bunyip Camelot.

And then, when William ascends the throne and becomes king of Australia, the ties between the monarch and his people would be stronger than ever, and we would know that whatever the stresses and tensions in the political relationships in our region, the mother country would always be there to look after us, as we are really British after all.

Peter Downie, Banks

Calling all subsidies

NBN Co will rely on profits in densely populated areas to offset losses in sparsely populated bush areas, and fears that competitors with rival networks will ''cherry-pick'' the densely populated areas, and thus eat into those profits. To discourage or prevent this, it wants the government to levy such competitors (''NBN chief calls for levy on Telco rivals'', BusinessDay, April 17, p11).

Its concern is understandable. But the NBN's suggested solution, to levy its competitors, is not a good one; it would be an industry levy, like the levy whereby all telecommunication companies pay for Telstra's ''universal service obligation'' (a requirement that the higher cost of telephone rural services be subsidised by metropolitan services).

As any economist will tell you (and as an expert report to the government recently suggested), if the government wants rural services to be no more expensive for consumers than metropolitan services (and that policy could itself be questioned), it would be ''more equitable, competitively neutral and politically transparent'' if the government (taxpayers) simply subsidised rural consumers (or the provider of rural services - whether telephone or broadband services) for the higher cost of rural services.

R. S. Gilbert, Braddon

Tough decisions to ensure game's future

Australian rugby cannot remain within the Super XV provincial format if it wishes to be sustainable in the future. While SANZAR boss Greg Peters may be right to suggest that Super XV offers the best competition in the world, South Africa and New Zealand do not have a similar competitive sporting market to Australia.

With the AFL, NRL and the FFA enjoying the fruits of a national or trans-Tasman competition - that of a strong broadcast deal - there is no doubt a provincial competition involving Australian and NZ teams would provide favourable times and quality of games for the product to be superior to the current format involving South Africa. ARU officials should take courageous steps over the next week or so and make a decision that is not a Band-Aid solution but will steer rugby into a bright future.

A. Chan, Chisholm

Hard to watch

Clayton Lockett, an Oklahoma death row inmate ''began to twitch and gasp and called out ''Oh man'' (''Secrecy row after botched execution'', May 1, p9) before officials halted his execution in which the state was using a new drug combination for the first time. This botched execution - he later died from a heart attack - was ''difficult to watch'' for witnesses. The prison official had to pull a curtain to hide the ''agonising scene''.

Reading about this, I asked myself what he had done to deserve this end. I got the answer when I discovered that the prisoner, not contesting his guilt, was convicted of shooting a brave 19-year-old woman who tried to stop him during a robbery, and having her buried alive. That was no disastrous mishap or botched execution of someone who didn't find it difficult to watch two accomplices bury his agonised victim.

Noelle Roux, Chifley




So Tony Abbott is proposing to introduce a ''great big new tax'', to fix a problem. What problem? Only one he has invented to cause worry in the electorate. And where is the vicious commentary we would hear if a Labor leader should suggest this. They do make their leaning a bit obvious.

Auriel Barlow, Dickson

Well Tony Abbott is now one up on his beloved John Howard's ''core and non-core'' promises, with his ''a levy is not a tax''! Seems Abbott was paying attention in class!

S. Redston, Chisholm

Strategic memo to Tony Abbott: Bite the bullet, defer your promises and do the right thing for the country. Far better to be harangued for doing the right thing and respected than harangued with nothing to show. We are ready to handle the truth.

H. Ronald, Jerrabomberra, NSW

Manuel Abbott of Federal Faulty Towers should declare ''Is not tax, is hamster!'' Just as credible.

Sue Dyer, Downer

When is a ''big new tax'' not a tax? When it's a levy of course. To think that Abbott would keep his promise of no new taxes. But, then again, it's only a short-term levy, isn't it?

Graeme Rankin, Holder


What a load of rubbish this whole paid-parental leave policy is. I am 64, I was always the breadwinner, my wife never worked or left the home, we brought up two kids and put them through private school. But now, because we did it all the responsible way, both the Left and the Right are falling over themselves to pay people to abrogate their responsibilities by stealing our future pensions!

William W. Burrell, Gowrie Junction, Qld


Royalty doesn't rule, Penelope Upward (Letters, May 1)! That's the nub of it! If the monarchy stopped ruling in the 1700s, then it is irrelevant. We do not need another country's irrelevant royal system here.

Marguerite Castello, Griffith

The editor has assured us that letters printed are representative of those received, so noting the incessant stream of whingeing, sneering, nit-picking and animosity about the recent royal visit, I tried to imagine what The Canberra Times readership must be like. Then Chris Smith came to the rescue (Letters, April 27): ''Please bear in mind your average subscriber is a tertiary-educated republican interested in serious news.''

And there was me thinking they were pompous, censorious gits.

P. Edwards, Holder


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