Yass, a step up in class

Joanne Larkin (Letters, January 28) claims that ''many NSW schools are boiling hot in summer and freezing cold in winter and rundown and under-resourced''.

We moved from Canberra to Yass four years ago. We came from a primary school in Canberra - that insisted on keeping my daughter in a corner with books and paper because of her cerebral palsy - to Yass Public School where the teachers helped her to read and bring up her maths and English skills.

This was achieved by the dedication of her teacher who got the department to help my daughter with one-on-one education. The school also has my daughter playing sports, for example T-ball, something I didn't think she would accomplish.

As for boiling hot in summer and freezing cold in winter, all the classrooms have reverse cycle airconditioning. Our school is well resourced and definitely not rundown. We even have electricity and telephones!

Vicki Harris, Yass

Kevin Cox (Letters, January 28) asked ''Why does the ACT government spend less per student in government schools than is spent per student in the elite NSW private schools?'' Here are three reasons.


First, most voters in the ACT do not want to dramatically increase education expenditure. Most Canberrans have other priorities on how their money should be spent.

Second, the incredible waste of money on ACTION precludes expenditure on more beneficial projects. Our government has no moral or economic obligation to take (effectively steal) immense sums of money from most citizens to subsidise the transport of others. Lowly patronised routes should be scrapped, and fares increased dramatically.

Third, Australia's ridiculously high immigration requires enormous expenditure on infrastructure for an increased population rather than on maintaining infrastructure, including schools. Each two years Australia builds the equivalent of Canberra, plus the farms and industry that support it, just to cater for migration.

Arguments that high migration is needed to meet labour shortages is nonsense: high migration causes the shortages.

Net migration should be lowered to zero (ie the world average) until pressing infrastructure needs have been met.

Bob Salmond, Melba

Follow money trail

The key point is missing from the reports of bribery and corruption in the building industry - no report identified from where the money came.

The answer is that the regulatory system has required businesses to provide working conditions legally enforceable by quasi-judicial bodies whose members favour union interpretations and allow aggressive action by them.

In Davos, Prime Minister Abbott voiced his support of the private sector but in Australia that sector's labour relations are dictated by government.

Unions are able to threaten disruptions to business activity unless they receive funds. The extraction of funds by Julia Gillard's friend is but one example and the building industry can more easily ''pass on'' the additional cost to building owners.

In short, peace often has to be purchased in Australia. That must be changed.

Des Moore, HR Nicholls Society

It is hard to understand the Labor Party's and the ACTU's stand against a royal commission into corruption within unions because it would provide an opportunity to reverse the growing belief in the community that Labor members, union officials and organised crime are getting more deeply and co-operatively involved in corruption within industries.

Ed Dobson, Hughes

The ABC bashers in the Coalition found its reporting of the burnt hand allegations objectionable and further evidence of its bias towards the left (''Immigration Minister Scott Morrison speaks out … and shoots the messenger'' Canberra Times, January 29). I haven't noticed Mr Morrison complaining about the Fairfax/ABC revelations of corruption and thuggery in the building industry that highlighted trade union links with criminals and motorcycle gangs.

Mike Reddy, Lyons

Public-private issue

Andrew Blyth (Business of cost-cutting is overdue'', Times 2, January 27) bravely trots out the conventional right-wing story about the wonders of private enterprise, suggesting in part that we would all benefit if ACT government agencies were to operate more like private businesses. Unfortunately, the front page of the same issue carries a story about ACT Health doing just this (''Apology for woman left off denture list'').

Ms Collier was given the run-around following what a spokesperson for ACT Health called an ''administrative oversight''. There can be few readers who have not suffered similar run-arounds by private business, and if Blyth has his way we can all expect to experience more of them.

The difference between the ACT Health and private business cases is that, with a bit of effort, Ms Collier was able to get hold of the Chief Minister and have her case attended to. As an elected official, Ms Gallagher has no choice but to be accessible to her constituents. In contrast, the CEOs of private businesses are normally well protected from the anger of customers.

Barry Hindess, Reid

In his article, Andrew Blyth spent most of his time giving illuminating comparative data of how the ACT stacks up against other states in terms of expenditure on students, ACT hospitals, and ACTION bus services. But what a disappointment towards the end when he simply rattled off a collection of one-liners about the situation of small business.

Where are the comparative data about how small business in the ACT fares in relation to other states? What are concrete examples of how the government's business development strategy falls short? It is not good enough, as CEO of the ACT Chamber of Commerce, to simply come out with throwaway lines such as ''the strategy amounts to a disappointingly long list of potentially high admin, special interest-focused elements'', and ''some elements don't appear consistent with market-based policies'' and '' nor does it seem likely the ACT taxpayer will get value for money from this strategy''.

You no longer work for the Coalition, so no more claims without substantiation. Another article, comparing practices in other states with what happens in the ACT in relation to small business, would be very interesting.

Bill Bowron, Farrer

Workers are right to be angry at the rich list's tax return

The headline ''Rich caught in tax blitz'' (Sunday Canberra Times, January 26, p3) is similar to those accompanying Australian Federal Police public relations hype when drug busts disrupt and dismantle supply chains, netting a few minnows while the sharks continue to blithely swim by.

This may be a final hurrah, unless the article headlined ''ATO to trust the big end of town'' (CT, January 16, p1) is not some kind of burlesque joke, why would the mob under scrutiny here even need a tax file number?

They could, effectively, become invisible.

ATO's Project Wickenby, involving eight government agencies has, since 2006, netted $768.33 million. This may merely represent low-hanging fruit, with real wealth defended by legislative barriers erected in response to political patronage. With $6.5 billion sloshing through the ASX daily, 30 per cent in high-frequency trading, global corporations' phantom profits, billion-dollar takeovers, millions being laundered and wall-to-wall high-roller gambling, working families might reasonably feel Project Wickenby's return rather insignificant, and smile wryly at the wealthy who claim their targeting to be grossly unfair.

Pay-as-you-earn workers have every right to feel aggrieved, in fact angry, at learning much-lauded, high-profile fellow Australians underpaid tax 18 years ago or failed to lodge returns for 10 years.

So much for the fair go in a rule-of-law democracy, where everyone, supposedly, is equal. Noblesse oblige demands those indebted for their wealth to society's industry, husbandry and resources at least contribute to the common weal.

Albert M. White, Queanbeyan

Cosgrove's noble task

Congratulations to General Peter Cosgrove who will soon take up duties as the 26th Governor-General.

His military background should help the provision of exemplary conduct that holds no political agenda, but embraces due process and the rule of law.

While reflecting the nation to itself is an important additional aspiration, higher still is the duty to represent the Queen of Australia.

David D'Lima, Sturt, SA

I quote from your editorial of January 29: ''It is to be hoped, in the interests of accuracy, that monarchists will stop referring to the Governor-General as Australia's head of state.''

Physician, heal thyself. I quote from your editorial of August 12, 1977: ''We shall have today a new Governor-General, Sir Zelman Cowen, as our Head of State.''

David Smith, Mawson

Peter Cosgrove did not win a Military Cross (CT, January 29), he was awarded it.

Steven Hurren, Macquarie

So, Governor-General-elect General Peter Cosgrove thinks it will be his responsibility in office to ''shine light but not to generate heat'' (''Peter Cosgrove to 'shine light' as Australia's new Governor-General'', Canberra Times, January 29).

While such an approach is entirely appropriate for the largely ceremonial office of governor-general, it would seem to be no stranger for the good general who, along with former prime minister John Howard and many others in high places, failed to resolve allegations of torture and murder made against members of the Australian army serving in the Interfet peacekeeping force in East Timor in 1999, then under the command of the vice-regal aspirant.

John Richardson, Wallagoot, NSW

I guess Jack will not be expecting an invite to Government House for afternoon tea.

Norman Lee, Weston

Is speech free for all?

Tim Wilson, human rights commissioner, makes the argument that conditions of employment, such as adherence to the public service code, are consistent with free speech. Maybe.

The University of Canberra enterprise agreement guarantees academic freedom and free speech. The weak ACT Human Rights Act protects free speech.

In 2011 I witnessed a group of non-commercial lawyers in the university law school removing the publications of commercial lawyers from the school's display cabinet. In response I rightly called this non-commercial cabal a faction. The dean issued a gag order against me.

I complained in terms of the enterprise agreement and the Human Rights Act and the gag order was lifted a week later on understandings I never agreed to. My complaint to the relevant section of the university about the infringement of my human rights was not dealt with. My contract ended and I left the university.

My question to Tim Wilson is this: will he defend the right to free speech of socialists like me, in this case by investigating the gag order ?

Or does his writ only extend to defending the rich and powerful and their mouthpieces in what passes for the media these days?

John Passant, Kambah

Bones of contention

In answer to Mokhles Sidden's tongue-in-cheek inquiry as to whether eating chicken or lamb make him a more likely contender to be an Australian of the year (''Pulling the wool'', Letters, January 28), I am driven to answer that a good Australian should be the same thing as a good human being. A good human being should not eat animals at all.

Australians eat about 500 million animals a year. Every Australian who has not contributed to that holocaust is a real Australian of the year, as far as I am concerned.

Frankie Seymour, Queanbeyan

No Mokhles, eating chicken on Sunday and lamb on Monday doesn't make you un-Australian - just uncompassionate.

Jenny Moxham, Monbulk, Vic

Leave it to experts, they're always right

Mary Thompson worries that ordinary people are ''all too human'' to be given responsibility as jurors in navigating ''detailed, complex legal argument'' (Canberra Times, January 26). What a great idea to leave it all to the experts. They always get it right after all.

While we are at it, why not leave other civic obligations and concerns (where ordinary people get involved) to the experts - P&Cs, community boards, hospital lay visitors, and so on. Democracy that is strong and deep doesn't really need to ask more of its citizens than ticking a ballot paper every few years.

Robyn Holder, Regulatory Institutions Network ANU

Were they 'invaders'?

Well said Roger Dace (Letters, January 28) for a letter many people would like to write. The last line of Roger's letter says it all re indigenous Australians forever portraying themselves as dispossessed victims.

My Scottish ancestors emigrated here in the 1920s to escape the Glasgow slums and poverty to make Australia their home; making their contribution to their new country by working hard and raising their family to be ''Aussies''.

Were they ''invaders''?

Heather Ponting, Greenway

If the cap fits

It's obvious that some readers take offence from selected parts of letters - which you publish - and studiously ignore the broader issues.

In that case, ''if the cap fits let them wear it''.

Roger Dace, Reid



I suggest Australia's annual celebration of community, Neighbour Day, on Sunday March 30 as a very fitting date to formally reopen Green Square. Maybe Katy Gallagher and TAMS could find some spare change to put on a sausage sizzle?

Helen O'Riordan, Red Hill


Sorry, Peter Stanley (Letters, January 28), but besides turning a ship on its side for cleaning, caulking, or repair, careening can also mean move swiftly and in an uncontrolled way in a specified direction. Maybe you should have had a go at Matt about Hindmarsh Avenue instead.

David Fuller Duffy

Careening also means moving swiftly in an uncontrolled way. Perhaps careering might imply the end of cyclist Matt's career!

Bernadette Gately, Stirling


Brendan Ryan (letters, January 29) is a tad unfair to Andrew Leigh and the unemployed. If there is productive and socially desirable work to be done - for example, sweeping the streets - why don't we create the positions, advertise the vacancies and employ the unemployed - instead of humiliating them? Or are we assuming that all unemployed persons are bludgers without dignity.

John Rodriguez, Florey


The Barnett government's decision to introduce a shark cull is both cruel and futile and it will not stop the sharks from taking surfers or divers. I have a simple philosophy which has stood me in good stead for 50 years: sharks don't come into the pub and I don't go into the water. Works for both of us.

Mark Sproat, Barton


The ABC reported that Australian navy personnel somehow clamped the hands of several able-bodied young men around hot engine pipes in a refugee boat to deliberately burn them. I think it more likely that the men were ordered to leave the boat, but resisted and grabbed hold of the pipes while being dragged off.

Ray Aitchison, Warramanga


I cannot accept credit for any of the good things other people have done to make Australia what it is today, but I am quietly proud of them. I cannot accept blame for any of the bad things other people have done to make Australia what it is today, but I am quietly ashamed of them. I trust this is what Gordon Dickens (Letters, January 27) means when he refers to ''us middle of the roaders''.

John F. Simmons, Kambah