Federal Politics


Bangladesh disaster was partly made in Australia

Watching reports about the building collapse in Bangladesh, I realise that we Western consumers are to blame, at least in part, for this disaster.

All of us have bought some bargain basement clothing somewhere, sometime. In Australia most of it is made in China, but we cannot be sure that the conditions there are any better. What is needed is a kind of ''Fair Trade'' system for clothing, shoes, and accessories. For the sake of profit, companies have been driving prices down and are paying unsustainable prices to producers.

I'd rather buy one well-made shirt, preferably made in Australia, than five cheap ones from overseas that are indeed cheaply made. This is an example of the failure of the ''markets'', these are sweatshops where the workers suffer. The consumer needs to keep buying because the products don't last long.

Only shareholders and directors profit. Sustainable markets only exist when producers receive a fair price and consumers pay a fair price for a quality product.

The same disastrous path is being followed by food producers. Pretty soon the milk wars will result in all dairy farming stopping in Australia and we will have to buy milk from China. Probably with free melamine. We consumers need to wake up. Pay a fair price for a fair product and support our farmers and industries. What happened to the ''Made in Australia'' campaign?

M. Pietersen, Kambah


Dream on, Gillard

So aunty Julia Gillard has resorted to telling bedtime stories to get her message across about the drop in household pocket money. She reflects on the plight of ''John'' who was promised a salary increase which in the end didn't eventuate so he had to make up the shortfall by some short-term borrowings that he will pay back when he finally gets his salary increase. Unfortunately the real John bears no resemblance to the bedtime story John.

The real John, when he expected a salary increase ducked out and bought a Ferrari, invited heaps of friends over for a party to celebrate his expected increase and extended his mortgage to fund an overseas holiday.

And now that John's expected salary increase has evaporated he has found that the bank won't lend him any more because he's already extended his mortgage for his holiday, and has decided that fillet steak is still more to his liking than one-minute noodles so has rocked up to his boss and put a gun to his head demanding not only his original expected salary increase but more to boot. Methinks that the mythical ''World's Greatest Treasurer'' has turned out to be a lame duck!

Peter Toscan, Amaroo

Fair go gone

I despaired at the actions of Immigration Minister Brendan O'Connor in the precipitate return to Sri Lanka of asylum seekers who landed recently in Geraldton while on their way to New Zealand.

I listened to an interview of the minister, where he spoke of his approach to these brave people as being carried out with ''rigour'' and also ''robustly''. It's a pity that the minister didn't have the word ''compassion'' in his vocabulary as our government's appalling violation of human rights continues, and he's even talking about opening the Curtin Detention Centre, with children once again being behind razor wire.

I understand the situation in Nauru, as described in the ABC's Four Corners on Monday night, because I've lived on the island in relative comfort, and the cruelty of this government's revival of the appalling Howard Pacific Solution - ''out of sight, out of mind'' - is to be condemned. Again, as the program showed on Manus Island, children are incarcerated there. How can that ever be condoned, except by the expediency of politicians.

Whatever has happened to the best of Australia in its professed ethos of a ''fair go'' and justice to the vulnerable?

Or was it just a rumour?

Brian Millett, Yass, NSW

Fighting terrorism with terrorism simply creates more evil

Peter Murrary (Letters, April 26) proposes an approach which is questionable on so many levels that it's difficult to succinctly respond to all of them. First, I doubt if anyone seriously advocates allowing terrorists ''free rein to do as they please''. Next, Mamdouh Habib and David Hicks seem to have been lumped in with terrorists and accused of ''alleged crimes''. I recall John Howard explaining that one reason he didn't demand Mr Hicks' repatriation was that he hadn't committed a crime under contemporaneous Australian law and would therefore have to be set free in this country.

Mr Murrary claims that US policy is ''enforced by al-Qaeda's new rule of warfare''. Is Mr Murrary confusing the meaning of rule with that of method? Where is the evidence that US policy is really ''enforced'' by the likes of al-Qaeda? If ''we are perfectly entitled to fight against terrorists using their rules'', then, assuming ''rules'' translates as ''methods'', what price the Geneva Convention? Mr Murrary sensibly suggests the horrors of war ''is [sic] a lesson for both sides''. Sadly, the lesson that an eye for an eye all too often leads to self-perpetuating strife seems more often ignored than heeded.

Mr Murrary's assertion that waterboarding and sleep deprivation are ''mild forms of torture'' would suggest he has (I hope) never suffered them, and puts them in flagrant defiance of the convention against all forms of torture to which both the US and Australia are signatories. As to Mr Murrary's final sentence, while ''public beheading and stoning innocent women to death'' are rebarbative practices which properly attract condemnation, they seem to be more often perpetrated by local citizens who misguidedly perceive them to be culturally acceptable than by terrorists. Mr Murrary might ponder the following observation made recently by a British bishop: If evil is opposed by evil, the only possible winner is evil.

Hugh Gibbon, Pearce

Peter Murrary (Letters, April 26) advocates ''waterboarding and other mild forms of torture such as sleep deprivation'' to deal with ''captured Islamic militants'' who behead publicly and stone innocent women to death. No doubt Murrary doesn't read the good book - not many people do nowadays - but there is a verse there which says ''render to no man evil for evil''.

The logic is straightforward: violence breeds more violence, while kindness breeds kindness. No doubt many ''Islamic militants'' feel their actions are an appropriate response to the way their civilisation has been treated by the West, particularly during its period of global domination now ending, and that violence against the West will help to restore the balance. But when the wind and the sun competed to get a man to remove his coat, the sun's warmth succeeded where the wind's violence failed. More good is likely to be achieved by erring on the side of warmth than of violence.

Michael McCarthy, Deakin

It takes just two

Some people might think the ACCC erred in approving the takeover of Tiger Airways by Virgin, because it leaves Australia with a Qantas/Virgin duopoly for domestic air travel (''$1 flights may return, but won't last: analysts'', April 27, p7). Not so; the ACCC did the right thing, approving the takeover under its ''failing firm'' policy, which means that if the ACCC is satisfied the firm being taken over would fail and exit the market anyway, approving the takeover will not result in any less competition than not approving it.

And in any case, there's nothing wrong with a ''duopoly'', only two suppliers in a market. Just as it's accepted there are industries that are ''natural monopolies'' (ie, where it wouldn't be economically feasible to have more than one supplier; eg, can you imagine two national broadband networks?), it should be accepted that there are also industries where it wouldn't be economically feasible to have more than two suppliers, and it would be wrong, and counter-productive, for government to try to increase the number in the name of ''competition''. Competition between two strong suppliers is often better, more intense and more beneficial for consumers, than competition between a larger number of weaker suppliers.

R.S. Gilbert, Braddon

Nelson off mark

One can get a perverse pleasure criticising the writings of the Goodooga gadfly, but this time I agree with Jack Waterford's comments on Brendan Nelson (''Nelson flying wrong flags'', Forum, April 27, p1) and his obsession with the ''celebration'' of the Australian War Memorial and Anzac Day. Gallipoli was a tragedy, an immensely sad waste of young lives, implemented by an incompetent Churchillian-led British command.

It was an invasion, which led to our comprehensive defeat by an equally sacrificed cohort of young Turkish men. In our ''celebration'' of Gallipoli we neglect the feelings and thoughts well expressed by Ataturk: ''There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side … They have become our sons as well.'' We need perspective to try to retrieve at least some dignity and respect from the waste of war. I recommend the AWM buy a thesaurus to help Brendan differentiate between celebration and remembrance.

P. Pryor, O'Connor

Jack Waterford's column was a biased view adding to the perception of a parochial publication.

Most positions of high office receive advice from secretaries, or under secretaries to help make decisions and plans of importance. Is the position of the director of the Australian War Memorial different? If not, the decisions and plans referred to are not of one person alone.

The article also suggests that, ''The average Australian could tell you (?) more about what Anzac means to her than what Christ's message, or sacrifice was all about, or why we celebrate Easter''. Little wonder when religious instruction and flag raising have been removed from schools.

Personal views are interesting at home, however they are dull in newspapers, and that was the last copy for this household.

(Mrs) Brenda Coles, Carwoola, NSW

Gower's legacy

Amid the plethora of favourable comment on the changes introduced by the War Memorial's director, Brendan Nelson, it is easy to overlook the legacy bequeathed by his predecessor.

It was under Steve Gower's stewardship that Anzac Hall was built, the sound and light shows incorporating major objects such as G for George and the World War I aircraft were introduced, the new post-1945 galleries were developed to allow a vastly better presentation of those conflicts, the Hall of Valour was completely refurbished into a style reflecting the importance of the stories of our Victoria Cross and George Cross winners, the World War II galleries were revamped, the National Service memorial was opened and the funds were won to allow a major upgrade of the First World War galleries in time for the centenary of that war.

In short, Steve Gower's time as director saw the War Memorial change from a staid collection of encased relics to a cutting edge museum (recognised with major Australian tourism awards) without ever detracting from its important commemorative function. Dr Nelson has inherited a going concern. Against Gower's record, the changes he has introduced may be viewed as ''tinkering at the edges''.

Chris Hunter, Torrens

Armenian genocide

Congratulations to John Richardson (Letters, April 29) for highlighting the fact that April 2015 will indeed mark not just the tragic loss of lives at Gallipoli but the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide, where about 1.5 million Armenians were brutally murdered by the Turkish regime and aided by the region's ethnic Kurds. For anyone who doubts the significance, savagery and horror of this event, I would refer them to Robert Fisk's impassioned 10th chapter of his 2005 masterwork The Great War for Civilisation, which he appropriately entitles ''The First Holocaust''.

The reader will also find recounted the disgusting record of mealy-mouthed denial and minimisation of this first holocaust by many Western governments seeking to placate Turkish governments in order to secure military and economic favours. Australia must not soft soap Turkey in the 24 months leading up to the 100th year commemoration.

Chris Williams, Griffith

Concern, not fear

We consider the use of the word ''fear'' in the headline of the article written by Lisa Cox on the proposed construction of a secure forensic mental health facility on the old Quamby site in Symonston (''Residents fear mental health facility'' (April 27, p7) to be rather extreme. Instead, we would have preferred to see the heading express the concerns of residents from the Red Hill, Narrabundah and Symonston communities; residents who live within a 1.5-kilometre radius of the site; residents who, despite the government's claims to the contrary, were not provided with an opportunity to be heard.

The government has admitted that the site selection is based on a response from only six people, two of whom agreed to the Quamby site being used. How can the government claim that six people from the 1500 homes they supposedly letter box-dropped in June 2009 is an adequate representation of the Red Hill, Narrabundah and Symonston communities?

The article states Ms Gallagher said, ''The government held a public information session for neighbours in Symonston in March 2010''. That meeting was instigated by the community and did not provide satisfactory answers as to why the community in this area has not been consulted. At that meeting, more than 60 residents demanded the consultation be redone.

One has to question why neighbours to the proposed facility were not informed. We would most certainly have welcomed an opportunity to have our views heard and considered when we live in such close proximity.

Des and Sonia Owens, Symonston

Hot air not human

That the ''Greenhouse gas levels highest in 3m years'' (April 29, p4) is interesting. The statements clearly imply the rise in greenhouse gasses is solely related to human activity. Yet last week in Hawaii I saw haze with visibility down to perhaps 20km, not nearly as bad as it can be in Hong Kong. But our Hawaiian tour guide referred to it as ''vog'' drifting in on (un)favourable winds from local volcanoes: so not necessarily man-made. Wikipedia refers to vog as volcanic smog. Hardly scientific, but to assist in balanced reporting.

Alan Wilson, Wanniassa

To the point


It is ''unscrupulous'' employers doing the rorting, not the foreign workers (''Spike in 457 visa rorts'', April 29, p3). Turn the torch onto the manipulators, not the victims.

Marguerite Castello, Griffith


I watch both union and league with enthusiasm, and envy the players at half-time who are instantly surrounded by trainers, masseurs, physios, coaches and doctors. It makes the shared oranges of my youth rather tame.

Graham Roberts, Garran


I am not easily offended by what passes for humour these days, but Pat's cartoon (Forum, April 27, p8) is in extremely poor taste. I wonder if the families of those killed or the people maimed by the Boston Marathon terrorists would find it funny.

Peter Vardos, Fadden


Great. Just what people with mental illness in crisis don't need: inaccurate and sensationalist journalism (''Paramedics in line for powers to arrest'', April 26, p1). Does The Canberra Times know the difference between ''detain'' and ''arrest''? I'm no lawyer and I do. For the record, if a person with mental illness is detained, it's for protection, not prosecution.

Margaret Boyes, Holt


Greg O'Regan (Letters, April 26) writes, ''I see that Graham Downie and Sue Wareham want us to feel guilty about our sympathy for those affected by the Boston bombing.'' I cannot speak for Sue Wareham, but my letter (April 23) raised concern about unbalanced media coverage of tragedies, natural and otherwise. It did not, as O'Regan says, judge the public is not concerned about the other worldwide tragedies.

Graham Downie, O'Connor


Apparently wood heaters are ''among the top eight sources of particulate matter'' (''Wood heaters could face tougher emissions rules'', April 27, p4). Here's an idea. Fix the other seven first.

The Council of Australian Governments' recommendations include doing nothing other than waiting as wood is rapidly replaced by gas and electricity heating. Sounds sensible.

Michael Jordan, Gowrie


Wal Thornhill (Letters, April 28) confirmed my opinion that much of the current cosmological gee-whizzery is unscientific. But could he please clarify the point of his reference to a Nobel prize winner having attended a meeting of astronomers? Hardly surprising, surely.

Clive Johnson, Kambah

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