Comment

Letters to the Editor

Wrecking the service

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Reading "APS jobs on rise for new graduates" (January 11) and "Graduates aim for SES within five years: survey" (January 16), one finds oneself nodding in recognition and understanding of the reasons for declines in standards of "public service" that have evolved over recent years.

Taken also with the recent report of a proposal to "outsource" work from our public service to overseas, I find myself somewhat mortified by thoughts of our present and future public "service". It appears to me that we have been very quick to toss out expertise and experience in drives to reduce the numbers in government service, only to flood it with young inexperienced staff who have no idea of their department's functions or legislated responsibilities.

The recent case of Centrelink where they put public inquiry on hold is indicative of a drive for bureaucrats to do less, in providing not even lip service to genuine public inquiry. With percentages quoted of graduates reaching SES levels within five years and others taking up the middle ground, it seems that a general lack of care, or concern for the public's expectations, is being fostered. Once it was not like that, nor should it be now or in the future.

With a lack of real-life and corporate experience, what type of service can we really expect in future from these "young Turks" with their high ambitions?

P. Button, Cook

A tale of two railways

Interesting to note in the article "Plans raise memories of railroad" (January 25, p6) that 427kilometres of railway being built between Vientiane and the Chinese border will cost $8.57billion. This is being built through jungles, across mountains and rivers through some of the most inhospitable terrain imaginable.

Let us now compare this to what will be at least $1billion to construct 12 kilometres of railway between Gungahlin and Civic. No jungles here, no mountains or rivers. Plenty of cafes and amenities within easy reach. If the same costings were applied to the Lao railway as Canberra, it would cost $35billion to build. Perhaps Mr Barr should send someone to Laos to discover how not to get ripped off.

T. J. Farquahar, Ainslie

It's trend that counts

Maurice Cowan (Letters, January25) may well remember Black Friday, but it occurred on Friday 13 January 1939, not Wednesday 11, as Anne Prendergast claimed. Both days were part of a severe heatwave in south-east Australia.

A nit-pick perhaps, but no more so than attempting to discredit climate science by picking out a single event. It is the trend that matters, globally and locally, and for the last 40 years, it has been relentlessly upwards, with no statistically significant change in the rate of increase. This is likely to continue until we dramatically reduce worldwide carbon dioxide emissions.

Paul Pentony, Hackett

Well rid of Kyrgios

How wonderful it is to watch the Australian Open now that Nick Kyrgios has been eliminated. I feel sad in saying that, as I am a proud Aussie and want nothing but the players to win. Not only is he disrespectful to the umpires, but also he has no regard to the players he is competing against with his immature antics. Is tennis really that desperate that we are willing to overlook such atrocious behaviour.

What message are we sending to our future tennis players or, for that matter, any young sportsperson. Maybe it's time he concentrated on winning a tournament instead of all the foul-mouthing and disrespect.

Barbara Mecham, Melba

Synonym for anarchy

Mikayla Novak, of the Institute of Public Affairs, has recommended our politicians "disentangle themselves from market-based economic activity by reducing our uncompetitive tax burdens" ("Agility stymies stagnation", Forum, January 23, p6).

The IPA advocates free-market economic policies. A completely free market is an idealised form of a market economy where buyers and sellers trade freely without state intervention in the form of taxes, subsidies or regulation. Basically, it's laissez-faire capitalism. It's also called anarchy.

Gary J. Wilson, Macgregor

Shame the mega-rich

Oxfam states that 62 people own more wealth than the bottom 50per cent of humanity ("Inequality's high-tech boost", Times2, January 25, p1.) Those 62 can't spend their wealth in their lifetimes, yet they spend much time and money employing accountants and lawyers to ensure the taxman does not get it.

Why is this saving so important to them? Why don't they pass it on to reduce poverty, build infrastructure and renewable energy systems in developing countries? If they spent their money on what our planet and population needs, people would not fight over resources, and travel as asylum seekers to other countries.

A few, like Gates, are spending their wealth for the good of our world. I suggest Oxfam names those who are holding on to their wealth and suggests how they could spend that money. Surely, it is time to name and shame those 62.

Caroline Fitzwarryne, Yarralumla

Drug policy a failure

Not surprising to read of the link between criminals and illegal drug profits ("Criminals reap huge street profits on illegal drugs as import prices drop," January 22, p1). Our drug policy has been failing for decades, with innovative primary prevention at our borders and internally by police and customs undermined by laissez-faire anti-drug messages.

The article reports Dr Alex Wodak saying the best way to cut demand is to treat addiction as a health issue, rather than a law-enforcement one, and to treat users for their addiction. In my view, we should start by acknowledging it is not an either/or situation, meaning both law enforcement and sensible rehabilitation must be accepted as partners in combatting drug use.

Public health principles governing epidemics are clear, be they drugs, Ebola, MERS, whooping cough, or measles. First contact, or first use in the case of drugs, has, or should have the very highest priority.

Frequent relapse from maintenance and fewer overall in the community becoming drug-free means more first-time users and an estimated 8million people 14 years and over ever having used an illicit drug, or used a drug illicitly (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report 2013). The wash-up is that the Australian drug market presents as a gold mine to criminal gangs.

Colliss Parrett, drugs policy adviser, Australian Family Association (ACT), Barton

Unpopular Abbott should retire from politics to stabilise party

Tony Abbott appears buoyed by the encouragement he is receiving and there is probably plenty of that within his electorate. Throughout the nation Abbott is not popular and his presence in the HOR will only have a destabilising effect, which the government does not need during an election year.

It does, however, seem disappointing that he is not retiring from politics and particularly from the House ofRepresentatives, as did Whitlam, Hawke, Keating, Rudd, Gillard and Howard, whether they were deposed or lost their seats. Abbott states that he is keen to work with Premier Baird to ensure better transport links for the Warringah Peninsula to the rest of Sydney. That being his criteria, then surely the state's House (the Senate) is where Mr Abbott should seat himself.

N. Bailey, Nicholls

Lack of imagination

Tony Abbott's disastrous failure as Prime Minister of Australia can be put down to various things: first on my list is that the man is totally devoid of imagination. His decision to renominate for his seat at the next election is a reaffirmation of this view.

He clearly has not the vaguest idea of what else he might do to fashion a new direction for himself outside of politics. Thank god the Liberal Party has moved on: and as long as Malcolm Turnbull and his leadership team remember where Abbott's outlook and judgments had got them, the former PM should keep as far away from government as is humanly possible.

Jeff Hart, Kingston

Spending must end

Just what can one infer from the article "Go ahead for new ACT govt offices" (January 25, p1)? It becomes more obvious every day that, with the concentration of ACT public servants in Civic and Dickson, the Barr government is intent in redefining Canberra as the Gungahlin-Civic corridor and to hell with the rest of Canberra who, nevertheless, are expected to pay for the government's extravagance.

The current ACT government debt is $2.23billion (2015-16 budget) (about $15,000 per household), not including the probable $2billion debt for the tramline, or the cost now of the planned rehousing of 3500 public servants. Where does our government (taxpayer) debt end?

M. Silex, Erindale

Poor implementation

I entirely agree with the Social Services Minister Christian Porter that all pensioner groups should be treated equally ("Pension must be based on comparative need", Times2, January 25, p5 ).

However, I vehemently disagree with the manner of implementation of the redefined way Defined Benefits are considered by Centrelink, regarding the age pension.

Instead of being foisted upon overnight on unsuspecting individuals, it would have been fairer, should it have been "grandfathered".

It would also appear that some pensioner groups are more equal than others, as apparently Defence Department personnel have been excluded from the new ruling, and continue to enjoy a deductable amount of 50per cent, instead of the redefined 10per cent .

Mario Stivala, Spence

We are all equal

I am filled with admiration for the Sudanese student Atem Atem, who stood his ground while being verbally abused ("'This is not all right': racist rant at student", January 25, p6). How right are his words – unless we are Indigenous all of us have "migrant heritage". "We are all equal." Indeed, the Bible's book of Acts 17:24-26 says "of one man, God made all nations of men to dwell on all the face of the earth". Whatever our skin colour, we are all blood brothers and sisters.

Evelyn Bean, Ainslie

Ultimate in violence

The question has been raised as to whether the momentum of the campaign to prevent violence against women can be maintained, especially after Rosie Batty has relinquished her title of 2015 Australian of the Year.

Presumably, the abhorrence of such violence stems primarily from the fact that women are generally less physically strong than men. It's a sad reflection on our society, therefore, that our government and service chiefs have bowed to political correctness and decided to admit females to all areas of military activity, in particular front-line, ground-force combat, eg SAS and infantry.

Having had relevant experience, I can attest to the fact that such roles involve the ultimate in violence towards one's fellow human beings, regardless of gender.

It is difficult to defend what is properly and necessarily an absolute prohibition on violence against women, when at the same time women are being encouraged to become potential "close-quarter" killers.

D. Callaghan, Kingston

Working the system

Bruce Peterson (Letters, January 25) is incorrect to state that the basic income was trialled in the Soviet Union. Wages were set according to the quality and quantity of the work.

The singular feature of the Soviet system was that no worker could be separated from the means of production. Everyone had a right to work.

David Bastin, Nicholls

Towards a republic

Australia Day is the perfect opportunity for state and federal leaders to support not only moves towards a republic but also changes to the flag.

Why is it so hard to amend the constitution to substitute an Australian head of state for the British monarchy?

Everyone likes the Queen but surely people have realised that she is British not Australian and lives in the UK.

It should also be simple to ditch the Union Jack from our flag leaving the Southern Cross in all its glory, or create an instantly recognisable new Australian flag, using our unique fauna, flora and features.

Some people around the world, including some of my less well-informed British relatives, still think we are a British colony because the Queen remains our head of state and the present flag bearsthe Union Jack in the upper left corner.

Tony Abbott said we should not be immature and accept the constitution as it is.

I say we should be mature enough to make simple changes to the constitution and the flag to create a totally independent Australian state.

Michael Lucas, Conder

Single file should be the rule for cyclists

I have just received the ACT government's treatise on cyclists and motorists. In a marvellous piece of insipid advice, cyclists are enjoined: "On busy and narrow roads, you can help motorists out by riding to the left of the road or bicycle lane, and riding in single file."

Yesterday, I experienced a group riding double, who took absolutely no notice of my signal that I was behind them and couldn't overtake. The advice should be a rule that when a vehicle is behind, cyclists are to ride in single file.

Whilst I am at it, when are cyclists going to be required to pass a road test, and have their cycles registered? A major accident is going to bring this issue to court.

Norman Lee, Weston

The cost of cheap oil

Clancy Yeates tries to persuade us not to worry about low oil prices ("Oil shock not as scary as it looks," BusinessDay, January 25), but at least he acknowledges it is not all good news.

It is very bad news indeed for oil exporters.

The main worry with low oil prices, however, is that governments may be deterred from making the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy. This transition is critical if we are to meet our climate-change objective of limiting global warming to 2degrees or, ideally, 1.5degrees.

Last week, the executive director of the International Energy Agency, Fatih Birol, stressed the importance of this transition, in association with greater energy efficiency, if we are to avoid catastrophic climate change.

Birol also said he expected oil prices to remain low through 2016, but 2017 would see the beginning of a "rebalancing"; that is, a return to higher oil prices. That may prove a shock to those who have recently bought petrol-guzzling SUVs, but not to those who have invested in electric vehicles, hybrids or bicycles.

Jenny Goldie, Michelago, NSW

TO THE POINT

DUMP THE DREARY DIRGE

Its anthem should be the centrepiece of a country's nationhood, and be recognisably so. France has La Marseillaise. We should have Waltzing Matilda. So, in the brave new world of the Turnbull government, could we please consign that dreary dirge Advance Australia Fair to the dustbin?

Cynthia Moloney, Yarralumla

A NOD TO FEDERATION

If the majority of Australians favour a different date for Australia Day, I suggest October 24, the date on which Sir Henry Parkes, the "Father of Federation", delivered the Tenterfield Oration, which was considered the start of the federation movement.

Ken McPhan, Spence

BACK IN OUR BOX

After the largely negative reaction (and slap down) for having the audacity to once again raise hope we were finally ready to stand on our own two feet by the monarchists and those who are quite happy to wave the Union Jack masquerading as "our national flag", we have been largely put back in our box. Well done.

D.J.Fraser, Mudgeeraba, Qld

COMMITMENT QUERY

We already know that Christine Forster didn't want to accept marriage equality if it came from Bill Shorten. Now she doesn't seem to mind her brother, Tony Abbott, assisting the enemy. If I were a marriage equality campaigner I would be questioning Christine's commitment to the cause.

S. W. Davey, Torrens

TOKEN OF MASCULINITY

No, Peter Baskett (Letters, January 26), not all men with beards are hiding something. I admit quite openly that I wear a beard because it's about the last thing left that a man can do that a woman can't.

Adrian Sever, Hawker

POLITICAL POLES

Tony Abbott flies to America to support a right-wing group opposed to human rights for women and gays. Julia Gillard supports a charity raising money to educate Syrian refugee children. Says it all really.

Bruce Arthurson, Surf Beach, NSW

SURPRISE SUPPORT

I applaud the selectively silent Senator Seselja for supporting Australia becoming a republic. Could this sudden announcement of support have the ulterior motive of courting favour with the Prime Minister?

Graeme Rankin, Holder

QUELL THE REBELLION

Will Australians for Constitutional Monarchy cable the palace to demand a gunboat and detachment of Royal Marines be sent to quell this treachery by the colonial authorities?

Thos Puckett, Ashgrove, Qld

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