Federal Politics


Conscription no abuse: 'nashos' could opt out of war

Bruce Haigh (''Conscription was an abuse'', Forum, January 19, p9) is correct in saying that, of the 63,735 Australians conscripted, over the period 1965-72, only 19,450 (less than one-third) served in the Vietnam War.

However, the rest of his article is so wrong; the national servicemen of that period were not, in any way, abused.

To start with, they were treated no differently to the regular army's soldiers, and all of those ''regulars'', who were of the same age group, ''were not legally allowed to vote or drink'' either.

With regard to active service in South Vietnam; no national serviceman was forced to serve in the war (contrary to what a number of these men have convinced themselves of over the years). All any ''nasho'' (who didn't want to serve there) had to do was make it so known and he was then posted to a unit that would not be deployed to the war during his service period, or posted to a unit that was not involved in the war (and there were a few).

This was well known at the time and I know a number of nashos who did just that.

However, a large majority of national servicemen wanted to serve in the war.


How do I know? I was a regular who served alongside national servicemen over this period.

Also, those former national servicemen that I still see every so often today all look back on their time in the army (including the war) with warm memories and would strongly disagree that they were abused.

No apology or redress is needed!

Christopher Jobson, Monash

In his final sentence, Bruce Haigh reached a universal conclusion not limited to the ''nashos'' of whom he wrote.

He said: ''The inquiry should examine the efficacy of an apology.''

Apologies, and particularly political apologies, are only attempts to evade the consequences of one's actions.

Gary J. Wilson, MacGregor

Bruce Haigh complains that because prime minister Robert Menzies did a secret deal with the US to send our ''nashos'' to fight in Vietnam, this was an abuse: they ''were taught to be aggressive, mechanical, neat and tidy''.

They also got a haircut that made them look like humans instead of gorillas, for a change.

We see plenty of limp-wristed feckless, layabout grillers these days who wouldn't work in an iron lung.

Pack them off to camp!

Walter Wohl, Duntroon

In writing his article, Bruce Haigh follows the example of more than one prime minister.

They, too, have referred to the fatalities suffered during the Vietnam War as ''servicemen''.

They were not all men, however. Nor is the quoted figure of 520 correct.

This is the number of names on the Australian War Memorial's honour roll, but another name was omitted at the request of his next of kin.

As others have done, Haigh describes these soldiers as having ''died in Vietnam'', whereas many of the 521 died of their wounds in Australia.

He follows the path of political leaders in this matter as well.

Hundreds of veterans have died of wounds they suffered in Vietnam after April 29, 1975, the end of the war.

The current policy of the government and the War Memorial Council means their names are not recorded on the honour roll, nor are they acknowledged in any other way as a loss to the nation.

It would be appropriate for government representatives speaking on Vietnam Veterans Day to say: ''Australia's commitment to Vietnam resulted in the deaths of 521 service personnel during the prescribed period of the war. Many others have subsequently died as a direct result of their involvement in that conflict. Australia thanks them all for their service and sacrifice.''

Bruce Cameron, Campbell

Cut plants, not jobs

It's touching, isn't it? And quite heart-warming to see that Liberal senator Gary Humphries is concerned about the wellbeing of bureaucrats, given they are losing many of their office plants due to cuts (''Senator sees red over pruned greenery'', January 18, p1).

Not only is he worried about their health, but also their morale and productivity. Just as you would expect from a committed senator concerned about his constituents.

But hang on: I'm pretty confident the Liberals' policy of cutting 20,000 public service jobs will also damage health, morale and productivity. I'm also confident it will be a bit more damaging than losing a pot plant.

How do you feel about that, Senator? Have you had a perspective bypass?

Judy Aulich, Giraland

Chalk and cheese

Paul Mees (''Transport failure 'spectacular' '', January 15, p1) demonstrates he is not a transport expert but merely a public transport fanatic.

His publication shows this. In comparing cities' transport policies, the type of employment of some workers is not relevant. A sensible researcher would compare cities of comparable size, with a chapter (or two) for cities with populations exceeding 1 million , and another for cities with populations between 150,000 and 1 million.

When comparing Canberra's decline in public transport use, Mees should not have included state capitals in his ''seven cities'', but the Gold Coast, Newcastle, Wollongong, Sunshine Coast, Hobart and Geelong. Congestion, caused by density, increased the use of public transport in metropolises; on the other hand, the low density of Canberra and Hobart, and their geographical expansion, increased those cities' use of cars.

The use of extreme subsidies is ineffective and unethical. Action Buses provides excellent service to thousands of commuters daily; most would continue to use the service if the fares increased dramatically. Fares should be based on distance travelled.

Poorly patronised services should be discontinued; the few passengers affected could use taxis (at lower cost) or private transport.

There should be no subsidy for school buses; if parents want their children educated ''out of area'', they, not taxpayers, should foot the bill.

Essential solutions to congestion are to: replace offices in Civic with offices closer to residences (e.g., the Glenloch Interchange area); and apply congestion taxes in Civic in peak hours.

Bob Salmond, Melba

Heaven help them

Robert Willson would rather see our youth immerse themselves in Shakespeare and Wordsworth than wander aimlessly through shopping malls while glued to their mobile phones (Letters, January 18).

I wonder what his response might have been had he been at St Mary's Cathedral, Sydney, the other morning, when I noticed two teenagers kneeling at the altar, but preoccupied with texting from their mobiles.

If today's youth are not prepared to forego their electronic gadgets during their moments of contemplation, I am afraid that neither Shakespeare nor Wordsworth would be considered worthy of such a sacrifice.

Sam Nona, Burradoo, NSW

Tree warnings

Bob Salmond (Letters, January 18) believes gum trees are unsuitable for urban areas as they are a fire risk and they drop branches, leaves and bark.

A Christmas card from friends in Washington DC advised that a storm in June last year brought down an oak tree onto their house, rendering it uninhabitable.

The tree went through the top storey down to the bottom one.

The leaf drop in autumn from all the deciduous trees in that city has to be seen to be believed.

The leaves are raked into the gutters where they create a deep pile lining the street on both sides. Local council trucks come along periodically to remove the leaves. In the meantime, drivers are advised not to park over the leaves as dry leaves can ignite from the heat of the car's engine.

The city does look magnificent in summer, though.

R. I. Boxall, Hawker

Bob Salmond writes of the bushfire risks from eucalypts, especially street trees. A warning about his first alternative, oleanders - they are highly toxic, especially to dogs, goats and horses. So if oleanders do come to replace eucalypts, lock up your dogs, goats and horses, and don't go nibbling on the leaves, as they are very toxic to humans, too.

Fred Hart, Weston

Quality journalism

Congratulations to Megan Doherty and The Canberra Times for their fine journalism on the recovery 10 years after the 2003 Canberra bushfires.

Doherty has gained the trust and respect of the recovering communities through her careful and compassionate analysis of their long journeys.

She exemplifies the value of local journalism; of reporters who know and value their local community.

We hope Fairfax Media recognises the high value that Canberra journalists add not only to The Canberra Times, but to the life, culture and conversations of our city and rural communities.

Christine Healy, Susan Nicholls, Phillip

Vague responses

The population of Canberra's inner south and inner north is about 66,000.

In response to my attempt to find out how many of these residents the community councils of those two areas spoke for in criticising the look of new houses, the council for the former says its consultation was ''extensive'' and it had ''hundreds of supportive calls and emails'' (Letters, January 18). And the latter's says it consulted ''a considerably greater number'' than the planning authority requires (which is zero).

Vague responses like this, and a lack of actual figures or other evidence of support from most of the 64,000 residents suggests to me these councils are not very representative at all.

R. S. Gilbert, Braddon



Prediction: the lights at Manuka will be a triumph, transforming the ground into Australia's top small oval. Success will be measured by the smiles on the faces of the many thousands of people who will attend and enjoy the sporting events. Congratulations to all those who have made it happen.

David Pembroke, Yarralumla


Gary J. Wilson asks why there are so many more deaths from guns in America then in Switzerland (Letters, January 17). Both have high gun possession rates. The answer could be that Switzerland has military conscription for all fit males (with community service an option for objectors and the unfit), followed by 10 years in the reserves. During this time, they must keep their service rifles at home, but not ammunition.

Timothy Walsh, Garran


I find it interesting that our Prime Minister says it is, and will remain, acceptable for religious organisations to discriminate against ''sinners'' in employment (''PM backs right to reject 'sinners' '', January 16, p1). The obvious and equitable next step is to allow the rest of us to discriminate against ''nutters'' in employment. I speak, of course, of the superstitious.

Dave Robson, Ngunnawal


Would someone please explain what ERM Power Retail does to earn $16 million from the ACT government (''ActewAGL loses ACT govt contract'', January 17, p1)? It does not own any electricity distribution infrastructure or generate any electricity. So, what does it do?

Ed Dobson, Hughes


Lance Armstrong now claims he took drugs simply to create a level playing field. He means one tilted in his favour. He acknowledges he could never have won without the drugs. Finally, some truth emerges: that he was an inferior athlete who needed to cheat to succeed. Let's hope he sinks quietly into the obscurity he deserves.

Charles Smith, Nicholls


Anyone who sees Ned Kelly as a loyal Irishman rebelling against British rule is away with the leprechauns. He was just a thief and a thug from an early age. But may God rest his soul.

Freesia B. Orlzov, Flynn


During this hot spell, it's important to keep the bird bath, if you have one, filled with water and/or provide a dish of water at ground level in the garden for lizards, possums and any other small wildlife that may visit your garden.

Elizabeth Broomfield, Googong, NSW

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