Your story ''Leigh escapes public censure from Gillard'' (December 1, p4) on Labor member for Fraser Andrew Leigh being censured by his party over his motion for proposing stronger Australian support for Palestine's observer status at the UN appears to indicate some irksome behaviour by some of his Labor colleagues, who would appear from the report to have behaved rather churlishly. Indeed, the best (most gracious) response of those opposed to his view appears to have come from Prime Minister Julia Gillard herself.
I worked on a kibbutz in Israel as a young backpacker in the late 1970s. I am neither a Jew nor a Muslim, but still strongly remember being invited by a resting party of Arab labourers to sit down and partake with them in their simple meal in the fields. At the time, The Jerusalem Post was reporting the eviction of Arabs from areas within the Old City of Jerusalem in favour of stacking the neighbourhoods with Jewish citizenry, and the situation of those people I met in the field would have relentlessly further deteriorated over the three decades since.
In the past two days, Israel has announced yet more building of Jewish housing on illegally occupied lands. By barely scraping up an ''abstaining'' position, let alone one endorsing Palestine's right to observer status at the UN, Australia effectively endorses this Israeli attitude to Palestine.
I have always been astonished by Labor's unbalanced attitude on the Palestinian question, which is indistinguishable from the Coalition's. I know no more of Mr Leigh's proposals on this matter than is indicated in your report, but as a constituent of Mr Leigh's, I congratulate him on his efforts to bring an opposing viewpoint to the long-standing majority one, and to provide some balance on the matter. Obviously, intensive (equal) inclusion of the Palestinians is the only possible way of moving towards some workable peace in that region. And as someone who voted for Labor in the last elections, I am disappointed by what your report would suggest as the smug, bully-boy behaviour of some of the other Labor MPs, and their gloating in the so-called ''squashing'' of Mr Leigh on this matter.
Paul Cliff, Hackett
Israel eager to talk
With all due respect to your editorial ''Joining the push for lasting peace'' (November 29, p16), it is simply not the case that Israel's ''right-wing government'' has ever linked holding peace talks with the Palestinian Authority to Hamas recognising Israel and renouncing violence. Since 2009, the Netanyahu government has repeatedly called on the authority to hold unconditional peace talks, explicitly on a two-state final peace.
All kinds of inducements have been offered, including an unprecedented 10-month freeze on building in the West Bank settlements.
The result was that only in the ninth month of the freeze did the Palestinian Authority agree to resume talks and then only agreed to discuss prolonging the freeze.
The fact that, three times in the past 12 years, Israeli peace plans that have satisfied most of the authority's publicly stated and legitimate demands have been rejected, should make it clear where the real obstacle to achieving Palestinian statehood and a two-state peace lies.
Justin Said, Coogee, NSW
Your editorial ''Joining the push for lasting peace'' is right in that upgrading of the Palestinian status at the UN is unlikely to have any effect on the lives of the ordinary people. Nevertheless, it will end the long-running series of humiliation they have endured, and will allow them to take their place among the nations of the world.
Surely, a positive outcome at the UN is a far better way of gaining peace than a rejection, which is likely to drive more Palestinians into the welcoming arms of the extremists.
Sam Nona, Burradoo, NSW
I agree with Kim Huynh (''Boat people merely pawns'', November 30, p19) that Australia can take 30,000 refugees a year with one important proviso - 30,000 must be taken off other immigration program intakes.
What is seldom realised is that Australia has a crisis in terms of environmental destruction. We have the highest number of extinctions of mammals and threatened extinctions of koalas, other small mammals, frogs and reptiles at a time when the world is going through its sixth mass extinction of species - and the only one due to human activity. Our native birds and many plant species are also massively under threat.
The primary cause is habitat destruction to provide for the needs and wants of humans. Every additional person adds to environmental stress which, if continued unabated, will ultimately threaten humans. Consequently, population growth has been nominated as a threatening process under the Environmental Conservation and Biodiversity Protection Act.
While Europe has more uninvited refugees, Australia is a much older continent and thus more eroded, leaving our soils thin and less fertile. Most of our land is desert and the desert is growing. Only around 6 per cent of the continent is arable and is dependant on fertilisers made from fossil fuels.
Julia Richards, Kambah
Cypress hedges, if trimmed regularly, do not ''maintain their appearance'' and cannot ''be kept within proper boundaries'' as claimed in the editorial, ''Consistent hedge edict a tall order'' (November 30, p18).
Cypress will not bud off old wood. Any cypress hedge will inexorably expand no matter how skilfully trained.
But this does not detract from the editorial's argument against the capricious rule by edict of Territory and Municipal Services but rather exemplifies its apparent lack of reason. Why has TAMS imposed diametrically opposed requirements, to cut or not to cut, with different ratepayers?
Gary J. Wilson, MacGregor
Teach kids to swim
With regard to the safety of children and swimming (''Swimming rules go overboard'', Editorial, Forum, December 1, p6), there is only one ''group'' responsible for the safety of children in the water and that's the parents! In 1972 I was at a family barbecue luncheon and during the activity it was discovered that a young boy had disappeared. A search was then conducted and eventually a mate and I found the child, dead, lying face-down in a small dam within the area; it turned-out that he'd never been taught to swim.
I made a promise to myself that day that if ever I had children they'd be taught to swim and taught as soon as is possible, and that's exactly what my wife and I did with our daughter.
Christopher Jobson, Monash
Captain under fire
Does anyone else think that Captain Stefan King (''Court martial over cheating'', Forum, December 1, p1) is being mistreated? His misdemeanour is surely slight at $38,000 over 18 months, given the navy's ability to squander millions on submarines which can't be staffed and helicopters which can't fly. If any politician is caught at this trivial level of rorting, excuses are made, the money paid back and all becomes hunky dory. This man faces extreme punishment whether found guilty or not.
A QC from Sydney to defend him cannot be cheap, but will have been worth it if he escapes with his pension intact. Am I guilty of seeing conspiracy theories where none exist? Are his actions in the children overboard affair possibly embarrassing to the navy hierarchy and consequently made them determined to make him sorry?
George Beaton, Greenway
Bring back Maher
After being a supporter and an observer of the ABC for almost 50 years I thought I was immune from any more shocks the broadcaster could inflict. But the sacking of Louise Maher (''Louise Maher dumped in ABC radio shake-up'', November 30, p3) floored me.
Here is a presenter who is quick-witted, warm in her manner, and the owner of one of radio's loveliest voices. She does not inhale noisily on air (unlike a couple of her contemporaries), nor does she giggle and laugh inanely at her own or listeners' witticisms. I've never met Ms Maher, but I regard her as an ABC treasure. Reinstate her immediately! On another issue, I find the ABC incomprehensible in its programming decisions.Media Watch has disappeared from our screens for around three months. Yet newspapers keep publishing and radio and TV stations keep broadcasting. So why take the media ''watchdog'' off the air? Is Jonathan Holmes so exhausted after fronting Media Watch for 10 minutes once a week that he must take to his bed for so long?
Graeme Barrow, Hackett
Drivers need to plan
As someone who uses the King's Highway at least twice and sometimes three times a month, I disagree with the premise of the article ''Horror road in need of multi-million upgrade'' (December 1, p5). I find that without exceeding the speed limit I can safely travel from Batemans Bay to Canberra in about two hours and 15 minutes. ACT Policing Superintendent Kylie Flower nailed the real problem in stating that: ''The Canberra community are still not listening and heeding the message that you need to drive to the conditions, and you need to drive at an appropriate speed.'' To do this, drivers need to use their imagination when planning their trip to and from the coast and if the driver happens to be a male aged less than 25, they also need to factor in that they have not yet fully developed their problem-solving skills and are also likely to be highly charged with testosterone.
Educating drivers and improving road safety measures will not solve the problem because as much as our state and federal governments like to introduce new rules, regulations, fines and demerit points, there is one thing they cannot successfully legislate for or against and that is human nature. I would also urge Mr Evans and other concerned orators to focus on the Nerriga Road from Braidwood to Nowra, which in some parts doesn't appear to have been improved since white settlement.
Les Brennan, Sunshine Bay , NSW
Sinners and saints, now is the time to support our churches
In his article ''Murmurs in the pews: royal commission will rock churches'' (Forum, December 1, p7 ) Ross Fitzgerald concludes that as a result of the royal commission on child sex abuse, ''religion may be relegated to the realms of astrology for a very long time''.
For believers, religion is all about mankind's relationship with God. This relationship may be good or bad, both inside and outside the church. There are sinners and saints in both places. For Jesus, the acid test was ''by their fruits you shall know them''.
The present scandal underlines the reality and power of evil in the world. To make things better, we should give even stronger support to those who actively oppose evil, including the majority of the churches and believers who are uncorrupted.
John Miller, Farrer
A timely reminder of a matter that has long been swept under the carpet. As Professor Fitzgerald points out (''Murmurs in the pews: royal commission will rock churches'') the churches no longer possess the pre-eminent position in Australian society that they have enjoyed for so long. No longer are they able to be a ''law unto themselves''. They can finally be brought to account for the extraordinarily arrogant position they have been allowed to adopt. The big ''but'', of course, depends on the terms of reference finally adopted. The victims of their gross abuse deserve wide-ranging terms of reference to finally get to the bottom of what has been happening and hidden in these institutions of God. A big thanks to Professor Fitzgerald for also highlighting the long-held myth that Australia is a religious society.
Brian Kelly, Toowong, Qld
Professor Ross Fitzgerald is foretelling doom and gloom for religion. In part, he said, ''the effects of this royal commission .. and as a side effect could well see religion relegated to the realms of astrology and mythology for a very long time to come.''
He is not the first in the past 2000 years to denigrate religion and the Catholic Church.
In 1935, [French politician] Pierre Laval asked Stalin if he could influence Russian Catholics to help him win favour with the Pope to counter the increasing threat of Nazism. Stalin replied sarcastically: ''The Pope! How many divisions has he got?''
The history of the downfall of communist Russia records the role played in that event by the Pope and his church - without any divisions of soldiers.
The same church has several millenniums behind it to support its founder's promise he would be with it until the end of time. With respect, I doubt history will record Fitzgerald's astrological and mythological ruminations.
Colliss Parrett, Barton
Too many humps
Speaking of speed cushions (''Speed cushion issue still bumpy'', December 1, p9), in response to residents' complaints, ACT Roads installed 13 speed cushions in the 1.4-kilometre-long Spofforth Street, a Holt ring road. That's right, 13 speed cushions in 1400 metres. The traffic not only ceased to speed in Spofforth Street, traffic ceased to use Spofforth Street. The Spofforth Street traffic now drives through suburban Holt via Beaurepaire Crescent and Trickett Street.
A recent letter drop asks Holt residents if they now want speed cushions in these two streets. However, this would result in the traffic avoiding these streets and driving through Holt via Starke and Macnaughton streets. What then? Speed cushions in these streets? Holt: the suburb of speed cushions.
ACT Roads should be looking at an overall plan of Holt and Higgins that will distribute the traffic evenly and fairly, with reference to the volume of traffic each street was designed to carry.
The solution to the problem may be fewer speed cushions, not more. But fewer speed cushions was not given as an option in the recent letter drop.
The only politician to show any interest in this matter was Alistair Coe - and that was before the election.
R.J. Wenholz, Holt
To the point
A NATION OF NANNIES
Well, that's the end of school swimming carnivals (''Carnivals are over for kids tagged landlubbers'', November 30, p1). Yet another overreaction. Everything we do carries risk. Fun carries risk. The risk pendulum has swung so far to the safe side that we are in danger of breeding a nation of nannies, too afraid to have a go, too afraid to fail, too afraid to test the waters.
Joe Murphy, Bonython
I note that Kate Lundy has just recruited a deputy chief of staff to ''sort out'' her office (''Lundy office 'dysfunctional' ''. November 30, p2). But surely she has a chief of staff who is already paid to do this task. Dysfunctional behaviour does tend to feed off itself.
Stephen Holt, Macquarie
SOME THINGS ARE PRIVATE
I find the way The Canberra Times has spread out the love life of Captain Stefan King to the curiosity of readers during the past week quite disgusting. Journalism at its worst. Give me, in that respect, the French, who accept human nature for what it is and let private things be private.
Hans Kuhn, Campbell
MISSED THE JACKPOT
Congratulations to your cartoonist David Pope. The cartoon in Saturday's paper (Forum, December 1, p6) is spot-on, with Mr Abbott shaking the can for more cash (information) for Ms Bishop to feed frantically into a machine in the vain hope of hitting the jackpot. Meanwhile, neither of them is in the least interested in the baby policy crying for attention in the overheating car. The cartoon is in sharp contrast with the adjacent letter from M. Silex.
Alan Parkinson, Weetangera
UNNECESSARY QUOTE MARKS
Why in your report from Jaramana, Syria (''Car bombs near Damascus kill dozens'', November 30, p13), do you place quotation marks around the word terrorists as if you didn't quite believe that the deliberate targeting of civilians with car bombs is an act of terrorism? In any other situation (an attack that happened to kill 54 residents and the fourth such attack in three months), you would quite rightly refer to the bombers as terrorists.
David Bastin, Nicholls
CALL FOR REALISTS
Rick Kuhn's article ''Israeli apartheid left intact'' (Forum, December 1, p7) gave an honest interpretation of life in Palestine. As he said, ''Jews - like me - have a right of return … Palestinians have no right of return'' (summarised). Perhaps more realists like Mr Kuhn are needed in this country to educate Zionist fellow travellers like our current Prime Minister in the ways of the world before she vacates the political stage. We are, supposedly, a fair-minded country.
Rex Williams, Ainslie