Federal Politics


Governments complicit as private operators fool public

Your story on clothes recycling (''For-profit operators imitating charities'' December 24, p1) is timely given the insidious nature of change in the waste industry. The shift of income from the public to the private sector has been conducted by stealth, often with direct government support. Government obstructs the work of NGOs while supporting the donation of waste-management budgets to the private sector. Nowhere was this more in evidence in the ACT than in the tendering of the Revolve business at the Mugga landfill.

While government has every right to tender its sites for lease, it had no right to put the business itself to tender. The for-profit company, which now operates at the Mugga landfill site with financial support from the ACT government, makes no attempt to differentiate itself from the original Revolve operation.

Indeed, the vast majority of the public still thinks they are donating to a charity when they are actually lining the pockets of a private company. The very same issue addressed in your story on clothing.

That the original transition from a community business to the private sector would do little to comfort NGOs in their constant battle to survive.

Community-sector organisations provide social stability, essential recycling programs and work value to the community, yet government in the main regards it with contempt.

Gerry Gillespie, chairman, Zero Waste Australia


Move is too smart

The high price in Australia for smart meters (''High-fliers made a killing from smart meters'', December 24, p11), an excellent investigative article, begs the question: is there an alternative? For the customer, smart meters work on the basis of monitoring electricity consumption; savings are made by consuming less.

The price per unit is fixed over time.

I understand electricity retailers such as ActewAGL buy electricity on a quarter-hour basis.

Why can't they be made to set a daily price for their customers? This could be announced at, say, midnight for the following day. This would be based on their knowledge of the market and weather forecast. Customers could then find out what the cost per unit would be on the day and act accordingly.

This would have several advantages for customers. One is that they can become actors in the electricity market. A more truly competitive supply situation could have a far more profound effect on household bills. It would also go a long way in taking out the peaks, which are so costly for us all.

Steve Thomas, Yarralumla

Fairfax Media journalists Su-Lin Tan and Michael West have lodged an early entry in next year's Walkley Award for investigative journalism with their exposure of unconscionable profiteering by John B. Fairfax in cahoots with Kerry Stokes, the Smorgons and others.

Other names in this cabal roll it over into the more contentious areas of supermarkets and petrol. One does not often say St George Bank, Lion Nathan, Doug Myers and Singapore in the same breath. In the end Mitsubishi (Lion Nathan) surrendered its share, together with the others, to Toshiba.

No wonder governments are baulking at any disclosure of contracts for meters. The links uncovered in this investigation should generate a spate of investigations into local investors who used their holdings to leverage major international players into the game once it was obvious a world market was involved.

Gary J. Wilson, MacGregor

Accomplice Salvos

Major Paul Moulds (''No sanction of policy as Salvos aid asylum seekers'', December 24, p9) can spin his words as much as he wants but he is conspiring with the government to commit crimes against innocent human beings and getting paid very handsomely for this.

The people on Nauru and Manus have been kidnapped, forcibly deported, dumped like dogs in tents without rights and Moulds reckons he is being humane in helping to commit the crime.

Marilyn Shepherd, Angaston, SA

Opposing service

Robert Willson (Letters, December 26) finds it incredible that there be opposition to an opportunistic attempt to create a new tradition of an official church service at the start of the ACT Legislative Assembly sitting.

Katy Gallagher points out that such a practice would be contrary to the secular approach in the ACT. This approach no doubt reflects the relatively recent origins of ACT self-government, when clothing civil activities with religious rites was no longer regarded as automatic, as it used to be in olden days. Mr Willson yearns for the days when the casual imposition of his own views on everyone else was unquestioned. Now he finds himself infuriated and threatened by any sign of principled opposition, and fights back with specious arguments invoking the constitution. Reminds me of the US gun lobby.

R.F. Shogren, Hughes

Drone terror

David Stephens' article (''Unmanned aircraft offer warfare with fewer casualties', Forum, December 22,p9) lists many of the pros and cons of using unmanned airborne vehicles. Unfortunately one argument he fails to mention with such armed drones is the terror inflicted on innocent civilians. They can readily hear these aircraft, presumably armed with deadly weapons, flying overhead. In World War II England the real risk from German V2s only became apparent when the engine cut out and people could seek shelter. With armed drones there is no such warning of an attack and there is a very real risk of innocents being accidentally injured or killed in ''collateral damage''.

As Dave Stephens says, the Americans are reluctant to release figures about the number of misses by drones in Pakistan and elsewhere. He further argues that the acquisition of such weapons is too important to be decided by the military or manufacturers; the political and ethical aspects need to properly debated before any such decision is made.

Too true, but who will argue and who will listen?

A. Wilkinson, Gowrie

Paddle poppycock

We are told (''Cartoons draw calls for a ban'', December 26, p3) that the reason kids are fat is the fault of the Paddle Pop Lion or Freddo Frog. What utter garbage!

I've yet to see a kid walking down the street consuming paddle pops like there was no tomorrow. Yet we see it with fried foods and fatty drinks. I grew up with paddle pops - still the best and possibly cheapest ice-cream about. Paddle Pops and Freddos aren't the reason kids sit in front of TVs all day - or play computer games ad nauseam - scoffing foods saturated in sugar and salt. They aren't the reason kids play less sport or believe Facebook is the real world. They aren't the reason kids go off to school without a good breakfast.

We should put the money spent on these ''reports'' and ''think tanks'' into creating courses on nutritional well-being, to be presented to kids in primary school. Teach the kids about food and the results of eating and drinking the ''wrong'' foods. But don't blame the simple pleasures of a Paddle Pop Lion or a Freddo Frog for something that is probably the parent's fault in the first place.

Michael Matthews, Kingston

Parking honour

I suppose those whingeing about converting $67.50 into change for parking meters (''Meter delay has cranky drivers crying out for change'', December 21, p1) are oblivious to the fact that there are people in this city, this region and this country who don't have that money to spend on food and other essentials of life. Then there's the uncomfortable issue of the famine in the Horn of Africa where more than nine million people need help.

Get a grip people: you're converting cash into change for the honour, and not right, to park close to your work.

Or you could pre-purchase your tickets, but that might involve effort on your part. Indeed, I would say to the government, don't change the machines until they become unserviceable or too expensive to maintain. I'm happy for my procurement dollars to be spent in health, education and law and order.

Spare a thought for those less fortunate than you. And then thank whomever is responsible for the fact that we are able to live and enjoy a fabulous city that is Canberra where you can still access a car park close to where you want to be.

Anne Cahill Lambert, Lyneham

Real message

Your editorial (''Christmas a time to remember all'', December 24, p8) is a refreshing acknowledgement of the fact that Christmas Day is now seen as the biggest secular holiday in Australia, yet at the same time taking time to remind us of the Christian celebration, rather than just a holiday.

While the increasingly multicultural society that Australia has now become has brought with it faiths other than our initial Christian heritage, the central message underlying this ''holiday'' has not lost its mystery despite over 2000 years of an ever-changing world. At the time of the birth of a baby in Bethlehem, the then-known world was in turmoil. Occupation forces were in control and the ruling parties sought to ''do the right thing'' so as not to risk their own demise. As your Leader writer observes, ''they had seen this much longed-for Messiah as a king or a military figure who would take Israel out of bondage, and make the nation free, great and faithful to its religion''. In essence, the world, as they knew it, was in troubled times. Perhaps it is not very different today as it was then. We live in a world that is constantly changing, and in the words of a secular song the question still remains ''how can I be sure''?

For all the varied reasons why our nation embraces or perhaps shuns this season, one clear fact remains, that once the pre and post-Christmas sales become historical economic data, the hangovers wear off and the first credit-card statement arrives, the message of Christmas remains.

Allan Gibson, Cherrybrook, NSW

To the point


Chief Minister Katy Gallagher (''Row over move for church service to open Assembly year'' December 22, p2) said ''Labor MLAs would not support the service, because they wanted to maintain the secular approach of the ACT Assembly'' and rightly so. This is government not religion and there is far too much intrusion into the various activities of government by the commercial arms of religions, one and all. The people need good government which comes from personal motivation, not religious dedication.

Rex Williams, Ainslie


A cultural change is badly needed in America. Most Americans seem to regard each other as actual or potential enemies, rather than as friends, neighbours and countrymen. Until this change happens, Americans will continue to bear arms and to shoot each other to death in horrifying numbers.

Michael McCarthy, Deakin


Those who support a national Bill of Rights should carefully think through what is enshrined considering the US's nightmare over gun ownership (''Not such a simple fight after all'', Forum, December 22, p1) which 200 years ago seemed a sensible provision for a young nation.

Greg Cornwell, Yarralumla


Sorry, Warren Persons (Letters, December 21) you too have got it wrong with your solution to ''Three Poles, Three Flags''. The Australian national flag is always flown on the left in the situation you quote with the other two - Aboriginal and Torres Strait flags - following (Auth: Publication Australian Flags, Commonwealth Government, Dept of Prime Minister and Cabinet).

Arthur Ellem, Nicholls


If George Pell can continue to refer to those who have perpetrated sexual abuse, in the main against children, as ''fellow Christians'' he really has not grasped the reality of the situation. How can a so called ''man of God'' call sexual abusers ''fellow Christians''. Makes me glad to be an atheist.

Cameron Powrie, Curtin


I am disappointed that my favourite charity, the Salvation Army, opposes offshore processing instead of supporting the Houston model (''No sanction of policy as Salvos aid asylum seekers'', December 24, p9). In doing so it supports the people smugglers and death on the high seas.

Ric Hingee, Duffy