Revelations about the discovery of corruption in the Australian Customs Service are akin to children discovering the truth about Santa Claus (''Rogue customs officers allowed guns through'', canberratimes.com.au, December 21).
There was a time when, at one Darling Harbour hotel in Sydney, it was possible to ''place an order'' for contraband from incoming vessels, before they actually arrived. Over the years, numerous shipping containers, including a number containing Scotch whisky, were conveniently positioned on wharves, such that cranes could be used by criminals to reach over the security fences from the roadway to steal them.
More than once, vehicles worth less than the cost of the freight to get them here, and suspected of containing drugs, were ''released'' from customs control on the basis of fabricated documents. To suggest that customs has been ''slow to enact reform'' would have to be the understatement of the century. As far back as the early 1970s, a number of its narcotics bureau members allegedly resigned due to institutionalised corruption, preferring to work in foreign jurisdictions where their integrity would not be compromised. All of the above and much more was highly visible to anyone willing to look.
John Richardson, Wallagoot, NSW
Cornelia Rau, a mentally ill German national and Australian resident, suspected of being an illegal immigrant, detained for several months in a detention centre. Compensated with a seven-figure sum.
Vivian Solon, a Filipino national and Australian citizen, found bashed in a gutter and suspected of being an illegal immigrant, detained for several months in a detention centre. Compensated with a seven-figure sum.
A Victorian prison inmate, fell out of his prison bunk bed. Compensated with a six-figure sum.
Leo McLeay, an Australian politician, rides a parliamentary bicycle against advice, falls off the bike. Compensated with a five-figure sum.
Jonathan Crowley, a mentally ill Australian citizen, recommended to be treated in an ACT mental facility, leaves home in a psychotic state wielding a kendo stick, is ''subdued'' by a police bullet, rendered a lifetime prisoner of his body as a quadriplegic and his aged parents are rendered lifetime prisoners in caring for him. Compensated? No way.
Elaine Staples, Yass, NSW
All of the commentary I've read on the case of the shot quadriplegic losing his damages award seems to take the view it was right he should gain $8 million of ratepayers' money, and that we all agree this is fair. I take a contrary view.
The territory did not force him to acquire or to go marching down a street with a fighting stick, nor did it give him psychosis. I'm open to correction but I have a memory he had been a cannabis user, so there could be an argument he consciously chose to ingest an illegal chemical known to cause psychosis. It is not the role of the state to compensate people for their own decisions.
Bernard McMinn, Mawson
Growing too fast
News from the Bureau of Statistics that the ACT population grew by 6900 in the year to June 2012 is a matter of great concern. The growth rate of 1.9 per cent can only be regarded as Third World. Should this growth rate continue, the ACT will have doubled its population (374,700 in June this year) to three-quarters of a million even before 2050. It's nice to have a higher Cotter Dam. But can it supply water to three-quarters of a million people? Can it do so in periods of prolonged drought, which might be a feature of climate change?
Can we supply the population with food, remembering Victoria ran short of diesel last week, meaning some farmers could not harvest their crops? With only one diesel refinery left in the country, can we be sure food will be harvested and transported to where it is needed? Is there anyone in government, local or federal, who cares about this nexus of population, climate change and resources?
Jenny Goldie, Michelago, NSW
So at last the government has realised that Australia's future is more important than the ridicule they might receive from the opposition if the budget doesn't get back to surplus.
Surely the economists' view on the matter is of far greater relevance than the rantings of the opposition with their long-anticipated raucous cries of lies and broken promises. Australia's future is at stake here, and the media need to focus on the positives of the government's decision, on the real economic situation, rather than continuing to assist the opposition in its politicking.
Merrill Moore, Macgregor
It is not difficult to understand why Labor has its hit squad out running a smear campaign against Mal Brough. Brough was one of the top performers in the Howard government and well respected as a no-nonsense minister and hard-working local member. Labor can see that he would add considerable strength to the Coalition team in either government or opposition, and would make a major contribution to the policy debate in this country. Tony Abbott is quite right not to bow to Labor's unfounded demands to dis-endorse Brough.
Peter Langhorne, Narrabundah
Time of worship
The old Christmas rhyme that begins ''Christmas is coming and the goose is getting fat'' reminds us of what we all know at this time of the year. That witty Australian writer Cyril Pearl commented that so often we disguise Christmas by pronouncing it ''Crissmuss''. But the origin of the word is ''Christ's Mass''.
It reminds us that, while the date of the feast may coincide with a pagan festival, the only reason we keep it is the birth of Jesus Christ. Worshipping at Mass or the Eucharist is the traditional way that Christians give thanks for the coming of Christ into the world. Sadly, for some people Christmas is a birthday party, perhaps with a goose, but with no room for the guest of honour.
Father Robert Willson, Deakin
George Monbiot (''Obama must answer for the other child murders'', December 20, p15) reminds us that the number of irreplaceable children's lives lost in the appalling tragedy at Newtown in the US is small compared to the number of irreplaceable children's lives lost from the drone attacks that President Obama has so dramatically increased.
Even drone attacks are merely a tiny sample of the carnage inflicted on children in modern wars. In war after wretched war, children suffer terror, death, mutilation and deprivation. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have killed countless thousands of children and traumatised for life far more. They are regarded as so unimportant that we don't even count them.
A nation such as the US that is so armed to the teeth, spending nearly as much on its military as every other country combined, can hardly expect its citizens to all shun violence, even violence on a large scale.
The need for strict gun laws in the US is a no-brainer. Equally important, however, is the need for us to see the full extent of this tolerance of violence.
Dr Sue Wareham, vice-president, Medical Association for Prevention of War (Australia)
As a Canberran who was born around the time of the arrival of the ''Jennings Germans'' (''The Jennings Germans; our postwar miracle'', Times2, December 18, pp4-5) I grew up with a great appreciation of their contribution to postwar construction, the enrichment of the cultural base of Canberra and their warm family friendships extended to others.
They are a true example of successful postwar migration programs, and they need to be recognised for their contributions to the community spirit which has included, the establishment of Harmonie German Club in Narrabundah and the St Boniface Catholic Community at St Patrick's Church in Braddon. I ask the Chief Minister, Katy Gallagher, to make provision in the centenary celebrations to recognise their unique contribution to Canberra.
Maree Oddy, Florey
I'm puzzled at the furore over increased parking fees (''Timing of parking fees hike 'sneaky''', December 19, p7) given that it's so easy, with a bit of thought and risk management, to minimise one's parking payments. Here are some tips.
For starters, parking inspectors can't be everywhere, every day, so if you only pay one day in three, you will usually get away with it. You will occasionally be fined using this system but in my experience you will still come out ahead.
Monitor the weather. Parking inspectors are ACT public servants, which means that their personal comfort and convenience are likely to be primary factors governing their employment arrangements. You can therefore reasonably assume that they won't be required to be out on days that are even moderately inclement or slightly hot, and anyone who buys a parking ticket on a rainy day is simply throwing their money away.
If your workplace overlooks your car park, set up a roster with your colleagues and other building occupants to look out for and alert each other to parking inspector visits, thus allowing you to run down and stuff a few coins in the machine before they work their way to your vehicle. If you are a public servant, this system will have an added benefit in helping develop the sort of intra and inter-agency networks that, we are told, are essential for ''joined up'' policy and program development.
I would add that I have no qualms about recommending and practising tactics that minimise government revenue when that revenue is used for, among other things, lavishly subsidising rich rugby clubs and their antisocial players.
Christopher Oates, Stirling
To the point
TURN BACK THE CLOCK
I could not agree more with the sentiments of M. Silex (Letters, December 19). Perhaps it's time for the pendulum to swing back towards when there were more engineers and technicians and less non-productive clerks and accountants with their focus on costs, not delivery.
Geoff Davidson, Braddon
NOT EVEN HALF MAST
Could someone please tell me if there are to be any transmitting/receiving masts in our area of Franklin in the near future?
All very well paying for mobile phones, but a little unfair when we cannot use them.
Peter G. Burrows, Franklin
BETWEEN THE LINES
I agree with Martin Page (Letters, December 19) when he asks if ''people [wine writers] actually talk like this?'' Unfortunately they do, Martin. Have a look sometime at the text accompanying so many real estate advertisements, or go to an auction and listen to the auctioneer go into overdrive when a sale either looks unlikely, or bidding is going way beyond the reserve.
E.L. Fisher, Kambah
Martin Page understood the verbose wine report, ''leaps out of the glass into your face, the variety's raucous bonhomie in overdrive'', to translate as ''Not a bad drop''. I suggest that his comprehension would be enhanced if he rendered the text as, ''Crudely scented, rough as guts''.
Gary J. Wilson, MacGregor
BRING BACK BARNABY
I'm amazed. Twice this year I've agreed with Barnaby Joyce (''Festive message must not be lost'', December 20, p15), a man who is usually my ideological opposite. Senator Joyce has given us a well-written column. Bring Barnaby back next year.
Greg Baker, Giralang
ADDING RED CORDIAL
According to Geoff Barker (Letters, December 20) Australians should buy US rifles. But our gun buyback was only successful in the environment of an effective ban. A US gun buyback would merely add red cordial to the already hyperactive US arms industry … and probably attract export subsidies.
Michael Barry, Tuggeranong
WHAT A RIP OFF
How much longer are ACT residents going to be ripped off by petrol stations? Petrol in Perth, the most isolated city in the world, is nearly 20¢ a litre cheaper than Canberra. Any predictions as to how high the price will go over the Christmas/New Year break?
Anthony Reid, Murrumbateman, NSW