Letters to the Editor

Why degrees of crime?



ACT Attorney-General Simon Corbell's article on alcohol-fuelled violence, "Laws should respond to facts", Times2, January 14, p4), leads me deeper into confusion when it comes to criminal justice.

Increasingly, it appears, behaviour of the worst type is being qualified, analysed and broken up into differing degrees of criminality, and punished accordingly.

For example, the coward's punch. In the ACT, if it is classed as assault, there is a penalty of two years, grievous bodily harm with intent 13 years, reckless grievous bodily harm 20 years, and murder life imprisonment. However, all these sentences are maximums, so there is no guarantee they will be totally enforced by our courts with their compassion for criminals attitude so widely and critically believed by the public.

That important issue aside, on behalf of the average citizen, I ask: why the distinction? Drunk or sober, if you whack someone in the back of the head, causing possible significant injury, it matters not to the victim whether the charge is assault, intentional or reckless grievous bodily harm or, if you're really unlucky, murder. Neither does the distinction exist for most of your fellow citizens.

Why complicate what to most people is a straightforward criminal act that deserves to be punished?

Have we moved from cutting off thieves' hands or transporting felons for minor misdemeanours to a situation where sentencing has become unnecessarily complicated and the difference between right and wrong is blurred?


Greg Cornwell, Yarralumla

Support available

The article "Medical students seek help after abuse", January11, p3) does not take into account the positive actions implemented by medical students in response to bullying behaviours.

The ANU medical school faculty, where I'm a final-year ANU medical student, meets monthly with student representatives to support students and discuss any concerns the student body might have regarding inappropriate workplace behaviours.

In addition, it appoints a student equity officer who assists and advocates for any student experiencing bullying, discrimination or sexual harassment.

The medical student society has been working all year to produce a booklet that outlines pathways and support networks for students who experience bullying, discrimination or sexual harassment.

Furthermore, with the support of the medical school and the Gender Institute, there are three workshops planned in 2016 to better equip medical students with the skills to recognise and respond to bullying, discrimination and sexual harassment.

Recognising the positive changes that are occurring from a grass-roots level is essential and contributes to the cultural shift that is needed to eradicate bullying, discrimination and sexual harassment.

Eilidh Gilritchie, Belconnen

Dumping continues

For the past two years, I have been petitioning Minister Shane Rattenbury to have the recycled clothing bins removed from the Kambah Village shops.

When I started this task, I was told to be patient, as the 20 sites throughout the ACT would be rationalised. They were reduced to 14 sites, and the Kambah shops was one of them.

However, more bins were placed here (there are now 10 bins), and the village also has a charity shop.

Every day the red and blue bins, which sit in the car park, are surrounded with unwanted clothing and items. I have rung the numbers on the bins, spoken to rangers, sent emails to the Chief Minister, my local member and The Chronicle, and even this newspaper has mentioned my complaints in an article, but the dumping continues.

Where to from here, when a member of the public constantly complains about a policy that doesn't work? I can't be the only person in the ACT who finds this problem a concern.

Susan Swift, Kambah

Let us keep dam profits

Hats off to Icon Water for enlarging the Cotter Dam. My back-of-the-envelope calculations show that in two years it has saved about $78 million of water. At this rate, another 98 years will return about $4000 million. This is a good return on an investment of $400 million. At a interest rate of 4 per cent, the Cotter Dam makes a profit of $1600million for Icon Water. The other $2400 million goes to suppliers of finance. The ACT government guarantees the loans and hence the suppliers of finance take little risk. We can refinance the Cotter Dam by allowing residents to prepay for water. If we do this, the $2400 million in extra value will go to those who prepay for the water. Let us keep the profits in the family.

Kevin Cox, Ngunnawal

Price limit fairer

Ian Warden's column ("Wild about public art", Gang-gang, January 7, p8) attributed comments to the member for Fraser, Andrew Leigh, that suggested contingent valuation is the appropriate method for determining whether public art represents good value for taxpayers' money.

However, Mr Warden omitted to mention that contingent valuation depends upon a valid survey of public opinion, rather than what he might like public opinion to be.

Critics of contingent valuation have suggested that for such a survey to be valid, interviewees would have to be properly informed that the opportunity cost of the government commissioning a bespoke artwork would be reduced funding for some other expenditure priority.

As an alternative to the ACT government surveying public opinion about the value of commissioning an artist to install another bespoke public art work, I suggest Canberra follow the example of the City of Redmond in Oregon, and democratise the selection of public art works.

Redmond's initiative, which imposes a price limit for submitted works, has apparently enabled the city to quadruple the value it derives from every dollar spent on public art works.

If the selection of Canberra's public art works depended on a democratic vote instead of being left to the discretion of a clique of art connoisseurs and bureaucrats, it would spread the benefit of public art funding beyond the tight circle of high-profile artists who receive the lion's share of commissions, and thereby help to launch or boost the careers of young or struggling artists.

Bruce Taggart, Aranda


Bizarre view of what it is to be Australian

Jan Darby (Letters, January 13) is right. For Sam Kekovich to scream at us on behalf of Meat and Livestock Australia that unless we eat baby lambs we are unAustralian is disgusting. It is also sad to see the commercialisation of Australia Day, with cheap disposable items like huge plastic flags and capes, and clothing items appearing in the "cheap shops".

Of course we can celebrate the commemoration of the day white people landed in our beautiful country, but why pollute it more with unwanted plastic and by putting red meat and seafood on our barbies? Animal agriculture and aquaculture are destroying our land and ocean ecosystems. Our Indigenous people managed to live here sustainably for millions of years. What a pity we haven't learned from them.

Di Cornelius, Seacliff Park, SA

Parking fee shock

On a recent visit to Canberra, my family and I went to see the Tom Roberts Exhibition at the NGA. We enjoyed it. But I was surprised how much it cost to park there: $12.50 for four hours, on top of the entrance fee. However, my real shock came when visiting Old Parliament House and the National Museum, where you have to buy a ticket to park before you can enter. For one thing, you don't know how long you are going to be in these venues, and another you can't pay by credit card. After paying with the limited coins I had, I joined a guided tour of Old Parliament House and came out to find I'd been fined $102! The attendant told me Federal Government Property sets the rates, and that I was not the first person to be booked.

We stayed three nights in Canberra, dining out, shopping and probably spending $1000 at least. I feel the high cost and being able to predict how long one pays to park is confronting.

And it spoilt our visit somewhat. I hope the authorities see fit to review this policy and make Canberra more visitor-friendly.

Scott Henderson-Wilson, North Adelaide, SA


Sturdee's professional advice led to troop convoys being diverted

Your January 15 editorial "Turnbull right to resist US call for troops" ("Times2, January 15, p2) unfortunately included two problems that so mar proper public debate on strategic policy issues.

First, the discussion largely used a party-political prism, and indeed an intra-party rivalry one, rather than objectively view the matter on its merits and via the national decision-making processes that need to be involved. Second, it included the types of factual and conceptual error in historical knowledge that so often mar current informed debate.

The attempted British diversion of the returning 6th and 7th AIF divisions, was from Java to Rangoon, not to help defend Singapore which had already fallen with the loss of the 8th Division.

Moreover, the consequent profound political and bureaucratic panic in early 1942 was a result of Australian governments of both political persuasions having so consistently ignored the military advice predicting such strategic risks, in detail, since 1920.

In terms of further contemporary relevance, the decision that the AIF convoys should return directly to Australia (and not Java or Burma) was almost entirely based on the professional advice of Lieutenant-General Vernon Sturdee, the only Australian among the Chiefs of Staff and the quasi-CDF of the era. Indeed Sturdee noted that if cabinet declined to accept his professional advice he would have to resign as principal military adviser.

The lessons – apart from throroughly undue historical credit often being given to Curtin alone – is that national strategic policy should be steered with the help of expert diplomatic and military advice, not by partisan or intra-partisan political considerations.

Just as the professional advice of the current ADF chiefs is surely a major factor in whether we can or should increase our current commitment to the Middle East war.

A complex civil war that, on the ground, can only be effectively resolved by concerted Iraqi and Syrian efforts for once – and with actual, not nominal or counter-productive, help by all their neigbouring states. Constantly being bailed out by the international community cannot replace local effort in the long term.

Neil James, executive director, Australia Defence Association

Show some empathy

Gerry Murphy (Letters, January 8) questions Jenna Price's view of the Abbott years for women and asks "Did someone die?" The answer, Gerry, is yes. In 2015, 79 women were killed in domestic violence incidents in Australia. A woman is killed every week and one hospitalised on average every 3 hours. Victorian figures in 2013-2014 show police were called to 65,398 domestic violence incidents, 30,000 being serious enough to press charges. Far from "nebulous daddy anger"?

Forty Australian servicemen were killed from 2007-14, only half the 79 women killed in 2015 alone. Yet during the Abbott years the Australian Defence Force budget increased by nearly $5billion from 2014-15, while ironically the Minister for Women cut funding to women's services by $300million. Meanwhile refuges had to turn women away due to lack of beds, though domestic violence incidents increased yearly by over 10per cent.

The "ít" so many men fail to get? Less than 100 years ago women were given the right to vote in Australia. Men never had to fight for that. As recently as 1990, a marriage certificate conveyed permanent sexual consent from a woman to a man, and Australian men were permitted by law to rape their wives. That's a small part of "it".

It seems Gerry took Jenna's article personally. But isn't responding with put-downs and being right another form of violence, albeit intellectual and bloodless? More of "ít"?

So men, let's relax our male egos and listen to women's perspectives with empathy. We owe our gift of life to a woman risking hers for us.

Mark Austin, Page

Blast from the past

Gerry Murphy (Letters, January 14) takes me back to the mid-1960s when plate tectonics was certainly not beyond doubt.

The university where I was studying had just appointed a young lecturer who gave his inauguration seminar on that very topic. He had seen the strong evidence and recognised that the continents really did drift. As they left the seminar, two of the professors from his appointments committee were shaking their heads. "What have we done?" I heard one exclaim. The young geologist didn't need to wait until all the evidence was without doubt. There was already enough to know drift was incontrovertible. Sometimes it is not necessary to wait until every last bit of evidence is in (as if there ever is a last bit).

A case in point is the Ordovician glaciation (the What?) mentioned in these pages recently. Evidence from polar ice 444 million years ago is coupled with evidence for carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere of the order eight times higher than today's. How then, it is argued, can carbon dioxide have any connection to warming? Include in the discussion a sun 5per cent dimmer than today, a distribution of continents and therefore of ocean currents vastly different from today, and perhaps there is not much of an issue. Such multiple factors continue to be studied by geologists and slowly clarification emerges. To that extent parts of the evidence are not beyond doubt, but they are peripheral parts. The central evidence is simple and compelling. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, we are increasing it and so the world is warming, a conclusion beyond reasonable doubt.

Tony Eggleton, Belconnen

It's myth No.22

As a regular contributor of global warming misrepresentation Brian Hatch (Letters, January 14), should be aware that anthropogenic climate change is not based on one extreme temperature, or even a handful of temperature spikes in several locations across the globe but long term, widespread trends. For anyone interested in the topic dispels the myths which get a regular run in these pages (myth 22 of 175 covers Mr Hatch's latest observation) but better still it has a wealth of fundamental scientific information in easily digestible form. Bon appetit.

Jon Stirzaker, Latham




The inconvenient truth, Brian Hatch (Letters, January 14) and Anne Prendergast (Letters, January 15) is not that there was a single exceptionally hot day in Canberra in 1939 but that, since the Industrial Revolution, the overall global trend is for rising temperatures.

Patricia Saunders, Chapman

Brian Hatch apparently believes that a hot day in Canberra, in 1939, is relevant to the observed and measured trend occurring this decade. Of course, no scientifically literate person would make such a claim.

Like other branches of science, climatology has a lively share of loose ends, contradictions, and unproved hypotheses. It also has a large and growing body of evidence, based on a sound theory, and unshaken by the assaults of the unscientific.

Nick Goldie, Michelago, NSW


Felicity Chivas (Letters, January 15) raised concerns for me about Opal cards and made me revisit the website. I would like to clarify that you need to activate the Opal card within 60 days initially. Once this occurs, even if not used, the Opal card does not expire for a further nine years.

Janet Reynolds, Greenleigh, NSW


No doubt Kevin Andrews would have been leading from the front if Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull had done an Abbott and committed more boots on the ground in the Middle East. Mr Turnbull is to be commended for saying no to the US request for more cannon fodder.

D.J. Fraser, Mudgeeraba, Qld


"News" has become a de facto singular noun because it has come to mean not a number of individual news items, but a report of those items. Ian Douglas (Letters, January 15) is right – a better example to illustrate its singular status would be "here is the news".

Michael McCarthy, Deakin


Hot weather brings more cyclists and pedestrians onto shared paths, at peak hours. In winter, recreational walkers and cyclists move to the middle of the day. But within either group there are the fast, slow, weavers or straight ahead types. Could a study of shared path use guide safer practice?

Philip Purcell, Wanniassa


Why should uni students have to work all day and study all night while footy players have nothing better to do than preen themselves in the gym and get up to mischief. It's time to re-order our priorities .

Yvonne Francis. Apollo Bay, Vic

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