Federal Politics


Endorsement for low esteem in which media are held

Public opinion polling continuously shows that newspaper journalists and talk-back radio announcers are two of the least loved callings in the community. In recent times, print journalism has scored ratings even lower than state and federal parliamentarians and barely above the other usual suspects - used car salesmen, advertising executives and the like. And the most respected group? Nurses.

Why are the media collectively as poorly regarded as politicians? And why such a visceral reaction to the 2Day FM episode? This looks like a prank gone wrong and far removed from the deliberate nastiness associated with attacks on public figures by media headliners so notorious that they need not be named here.

For many though, the hapless 2Day FM DJs are just another facet of a new media arrogance - in your face, smart-arse, can dish it out but probably couldn't take it themselves, seldom if ever wrong and never properly apologising when they are. Many, too, will guess that the real victim will end up being blamed and that the media will grant itself a full pardon by week's end.

Anyone who has been misreported or misquoted will know how hard it is to set the record straight and that there really is no ''taking it back''. Media accountability remains a chimera for most of its victims - especially the weak, the introverted or the less articulate. My sympathies to all involved in the current matter. Let's hope some good comes of it in the end.

Bob Bennett, Gowrie

The death of the British nurse involved in the prank call from an Australian radio station is truly tragic. Sometimes very good, dedicated people cannot live with an event that they feel to be an attack on their sense of self. This is not the first time that there has been media involvement in such a death. These radio presenters may or may not indulge in the post hoc rationalisation seen after similar deaths of good people in Canberra. Nevertheless they now face many a dark night of the soul.


Christine Healy, Phillip

I fully endorse Peter FitzSimons' opinion piece on the tragic suicide of the nurse involved in the prank call (''Culprits of tragedy, or not?'', December 9, p5). While we will probably never know the full story, and nor should we to protect her privacy, I believe there was more to this than the perceived intense embarrassment of being so easily duped. Prank calls should be taken at face value. It is our strange and cringe-worthy desire to follow the mind-blowingly dull minutiae of royal lives that is to blame.

Janet Cossart, Stirling

Whilst the media, especially the English tabloids, have gone into overdrive about the tragic death, cause yet to be determined, of the nurse who took the phone call at the King Edward VII hospital in London, little or no attention seems to have been paid to the apparent failure of the hospital's privacy protection procedures.

For a hospital which boasts Queen Elizabeth II as its patron, and has ''hosted'' as in-patients many of the royal family past and present, it would seem that there has been an appalling failure by the hospital.

However, I suppose it is much easier for the hospital and the media to turn the blowtorch on a couple of minor radio figures from Down Under than to admit that the hospital must share the blame for having clearly inadequate patient privacy/security procedures. I imagine her majesty was not amused.

E.L. Fisher, Kambah

When the DJs planned this hoax, they conspired by ''silly voices'' to circumvent the hospital's privacy policy and the patients' right to privacy regarding their medical records and, coincidentally, to destroy the professional integrity of the nurse who was conned.

How would you feel if your professional standing in the community and your ability to earn an income in the profession that you love and that you had spent many years studying for is destroyed by two DJs on a bogan Sydney radio station? Suicidal?

Hindsight is 20/20 vision but journalistic integrity is about understanding where you are going and what the consequences may be. If Peter FitzSimons (''Culprits of tragedy, or not?'', December 9, p5) can't see this as an experienced journalist then he may as well hand in his card and go back to sports.

Michael Reeves, Torrens

Blame game wrong

Professor David Penington's suggestion that children's weight be placed on school reports (''Plan for fat school reports'' December 7, p1) works against the possibility of effective government policy to reduce chronic diseases. Blaming and shaming children (and adults) around their body shape and body size is not new policy but old failed policy on steroids. Like the Australian government Measure Up campaign that encourages overweight and obese parents to sling a tape around their waist to measure their moral failure-ignorance, gluttony and sloth, the report card policy would encourage people to blame themselves rather than support more effective social solutions, such as the clear and comprehensive labelling of food. Focusing so heavily on the individual drives up stigma and discrimination, depression and anxiety, and this is linked to less chance of positive behaviour change around food and physical activity.

The failure of some academics and policy makers to understand that any obesity policy exists in a hypersensitive and hypercritical culture around body shape and size means policy that looks perfectly rational pre-launch often becomes a psychosocial mess post-launch. The idea that the report card policy could be ''implemented sensitively'' is delusional in this way. Interested industries must be rubbing their hands with glee. The more dissatisfied the consumer is with their body the more they consume, and the less likely they will be to demand strong political action on effective solutions around food and physical activity.

Helen Kinmonth, Cook

The reaction to the recent suggestion that a child's weight should be recorded in his/her school report sent me searching for my school reports from the 1950s. In these, my annual ''physical development'' is recorded, from 4ft 7½in and 5 stones at the age of 13 to 5ft 4¼in and 8 stones 8 pounds at 18. In my last year at school, I won the school cross country race and captained the school cross country team, prompting my form master to write that ''in athletics … his determination has overcome the handicap of his lack of inches''!

Alan Wilson, Yarralumla

Climate conflict

The article ''Heat of the Moment'' (Forum, December 8, p1) was little more than crystal-ball gazing based on a selection of self-serving climate modelling which has proved somewhat unreliable in the past. For example, some climate modelling had us believe that the temperature of the world should have spiralled out of control already, when in reality, despite large increases in C02, we are now advised that the world has not warmed for some 16 years.

Models that reported that the Himalayan glaciers were at great risk of disappearing were found to be wrong in a study that reportedly stunned the experts. There are many examples one could cite to caution against placing too much faith in these models with our present level of knowledge. Of course, these examples do not make a case against the concept of global warming, but it is a reasonable indication that present predications on the climate of the world in 2100 are at best unreliable.

Having invoked unreliable climate science modelling to make their case, it was surprising that there was little reference to the expected exponential advance of science over the next century, which will help us adapt to adverse changes in our environment should they materialise.

Indeed there is little doubt that the areas cited for concern including power generation, desalination, personal heating and cooling, agriculture and the fight against disease will all benefit from advances in our knowledge. Of course, we need to guard against wasting vast sums of money chasing the much vaunted precautionary principle, that often amounts to little more than expensive gestures that siphon funds away from the research that is needed. Sadly I see no evidence that this will change any time soon.

H. Ronald, Jerrabomberra, NSW

While it is OK to say ''the average global temperature is now 19C'' (Heat of the moment'', Forum, December 8, p1) it is not OK to suggest this is ''35 per cent hotter than it was during the 20th century''. The problem is that the Celsius temperature scale is not meant for taking ratios or percentages. Neither are the Fahrenheit, Rankine nor Raumur scales (cf. Wikipedia!).

Kelvin is a so-called ''ratio scale'' and has an absolute zero.

If you ''do the math'' using Kelvin, for things to be 35% hotter these days means it must have been a brisk -56.7C last century.

I remember a few chilly days, but that's ridiculous. Even for Canberra.

David Lovell, Hackett

In your article ''Slow progress criticised in climate talks'' (December 10, p5) on the climate change talks you say 'No agreement to deepen cuts to greenhouse emissions which some scientists say are needed to keep global warming less than the target of 2 degrees''. The Canberra Times should be clear in its reporting on climate change it is happening, it is largely man-made and scientists have been saying this for over 20 years. We need this clarity to get the public and political will for the action that is desperately needed to reduce our greenhouse gas production and slow climate change.

Caroline Le Couteur, Downer

Putting it right

The last sentence of my painfully crafted letter published on Monday originally read ''… the ACT Human Rights Commission, which was established to both protect our freedom of speech and our right not to be offended even King Solomon would have trouble sorting that one out will doubtless be asking Attorney General Simon Corbell if the ACT's laws governing causing offence can be tightened.'' Subediting has created a nonsense and I would be most grateful if the error could be rectified before my so-called friends begin derisory phone calls.

Bill Deane, Chapman

Shoddy system the real reason for declining building standards

It is about time we cracked down on shoddy engineers before we end up with a major building collapse and significant loss of life (''ACT to move on shoddy engineers'', December 10, p1). As part of this study, the ACT Workplace Safety Minister should also be looking at the growth of shoddy builders in the ACT and consider how the private certifier system has contributed to the substantial decline in building, engineering and safety standards.

Cosy arrangements have set in under the private system. Builders have admitted to me that they have their favourite certifiers who always look ''favourably'' upon their work, and if the certifier is difficult, they are not called again.

Under the old system of government certifiers, builders didn't have control over who came out to inspect and pass their work.

Cassie Coulthard, Yarralumla

ANU itself to blame

For Professor Marnie Hughes-Warrington to blame ''negative press'' for falling enrolments at the ANU School of Music (''ANU faces music as numbers drop'', December 7, p6) truly takes the pip. It is the actions of the ANU that have precipitated falling enrolments. Blaming the press would suggest the ANU is interested in stifling debate on this important issue. In any case, this year's tragic developments at the School of Music are already well known to Australian musicians via word of mouth. Musicians do talk to each other. Regarding Professor Hughes-Warrington's assertion that ''music is there'' , indeed it is, but in what form? Those interested in finding out can go to the school's website, click on ''People'' and then on ''Performance Teaching Fellows 2013'' and they will then note that a large number of casual teachers have been engaged, and encouraged to teach in their private studios.

Students receive a $1300 allowance per semester and this is only used if the teacher is approached by the student, and the lesson takes place. No on-costs are incurred by the ANU. Suffice to say that no high-quality teaching in the world's best conservatoriums is set up in this way, and that most of the talented and well informed among potential music students would be well aware of this. The rationale that the school is now offering ''more vocational and less performance-based'' courses is a nonsense: the reason music students study a musical instrument is to perform.

Angela Giblin, Lyneham

Professor Marnie Hughes-Warrington professes to be ''comfortable'' with the impact the university's cuts to its School of Music have had. Those of us who supported the school as it was until May this year would feel a lot more ''comfortable'' if, for instance, she were able to assure us that jazz will continue being taught by the two world-class jazz musicians she has retained. Will there be any meaningful mentorship? Will there be the opportunity to play with groups of top students, all of whom are being taught individually on their instruments? Certainly, there is room for the school, as she says, ''to grow over the next couple of years''. The question is into what?

Geoff Page, Narrabundah

Flogging dead horse

H. Ronald (Letters, December 5) has, as usual, been sucked in by baseless insinuations from the federal opposition. Regarding Prime Minister Julia Gillard's involvement in the AWU, he claims ''she has been involved in highly questionable actions''. Of course, no such thing has been established. The only thing established (and admitted) is that she was involved in the establishment of a corporate entity. The allegation that she misled the WA Corporate Affairs Commission has been discredited. The Coalition has been flogging dead horses for so long it is surprising the RSPCA has not taken action.

T. Marks, Holt

Input but no output

Some 60 years ago, a family friend came home after a year in his first job with the Commonwealth Public Service. He remarked that the CPS could easily keep itself busy with self-administration with taxpayer-funded input but with no output.

Reading The Canberra Times on Saturday, have we really progressed?

Max C. Mules, Chapman

To the point


Robert Willson (Letters, December 7) defends Captain de Groot's ''opening'' of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1932. But he does not mention that this stunt was performed on behalf of the New Guard, an armed fascist organisation, which had planned to violently seize power in NSW. Although farcical in retrospect, the dark side of de Groot's action was a fundamental contempt for the legal rights of working-class voters.

David Roth, Kambah


Sadly, it's an indication of how far the RSPCA has strayed from its mission, ''To prevent cruelty to animals by actively promoting their care and protection'' when it can run a Christmas promotion featuring the sliced, seared body of a turkey. It has become the Royal Society for the Promotion of Cooked Animals.

Mike O'Shaughnessy, Spence


One person in the past few days has negotiated a National Disability Insurance Scheme with state premiers and a better electricity deal at COAG. The other person, ''the Tony Abbott I know'', has been driving a truck. One person has been doing her job. The other person has been engaging in work experience for his next job. Both have been busy. One has been productive.

Jeff Bradley, Isaacs


Olle Ziege (Letters, December 8) should realise that while Tony Abbott pretends to be a man for all seasons, he is in reality a jack of all trades and master of none. Is he testing his options for a new career path? Candlestick maker?

Peter Snowdon, Aranda


No doubt many of her constituents will take comfort in the reassurance that there is no truth about a claim of dysfunction in Senator Lundy's office. (''Lundy office 'dysfunctional' '', November 30, p2). However, if Ms Langdon fails to find a new level of order, then it might be prudent for the senator to prepare for a shake-up at the next election.

Geoff Mongan, Campbell


So what are the mysterious lights in the West Australian desert that are brighter than Perth? (''Twinkle, twinkle little Black Marble, December 8, p16.) Are they gas flares, auroras? More information please.

Lesley Fisk, Barton


I'm afraid, J. Heffernan (Letters, December 8), there is no cure for the common koel.

Jack Kershaw, Kambah