Federal Politics


Politicians need the courage to ban live export trade

Anyone who saw the ABC Four Corners program ''Another Bloody Business'' on Monday evening surely must be asking themselves the question, why is Australia persisting with the shameful trade of live animal export? Minister Joe Ludwig failed totally in his attempt to justify this barbaric business, and appeared quite unmoved by the horrific footage showing the recent appallingly brutal handling and culling of Australian sheep in Pakistan.

Try as he might, the minister could not deny that once animals leave our shores, neither the government nor the exporters can control their fate. To its credit, New Zealand banned live animal export years ago when it realised it, too, could not prevent the brutality inherent in the trade; that country now exports chilled meat in an industry that is a major employer of local labour. When will our politicians show some courage and follow New Zealand's lead by banning this miserable trade?

John Sever, Higgins

It is difficult to retain one's allegiance to the present federal government when the Minister for Agriculture, Joe Ludwig, describes the sheep in Karachi as having been ''euthanised''.

The minister must be unaware of the etymology of this word (classical Greek: a quiet and easy death), unless he is dissembling. But rather than waste time in expanding his vocabulary, he needs to act urgently towards preventing the recurrence of such events, events which shame us all.

Scott Henderson, O'Malley


Unis dragged down

I note, with a desperate weariness, the commonwealth government's Asian century white paper has, as a goal, the elevation of at least 10 Australian universities into the global top 100.

Good luck.

Had Labor minister John Dawkins not forced our universities into unholy marriages with colleges of advanced education in the late 1980s, they might still be exemplars of academic excellence. Instead, institutions rejoicing in the title of ''university'' are run by bureaucrats and train second-rate minds in disciplines such as sports marketing, event management and logistics and supply chain management. Academics who can scarcely construct a grammatical sentence themselves now supervise PhD students who, 30 years ago, would not have been invited to do an honours year.

Maybe one of these august educational institutions could offer a course called ''historical revisionism and the Dawkins revolution''. It would be a first, tentative step on the long road back to academic rigour. I encourage our education ministers, state and federal, to enrol.

John Schumann, Adelaide, SA

Corridors of clangour

NSW Planning Minister Brad Hazzard has approved the construction of housing at Tralee (''Nod for 2000 Tralee homes'', November 6, p1). He indicates aircraft noise will have minimal effect on residents. I guess this has some logic to it if residents stay in their hermetically sealed homes all day as the kids could obviously not play outside.

Canberra Airport is quite different to Sydney and most other Australian airports as we have the current high-noise corridor to both the north and south of Canberra airport which was created with much foresight. This was put in place so people would not have to cope with airport noise and to build homes in it borders on imbecilic.

Another problem being ignored is ''noise sharing''.

If Tralee and the other developments at Environa and the Poplars go ahead, the result is inevitable. The developers will be long gone counting their profits, but residents will complain about the noise and seek respite. The next step will be for them to demand the noise be shared across Canberra and Queanbeyan. Good luck living in Tuggeranong then as your quality of life will be downgraded markedly.

Vic Adams, Reid

The ACT government has already built a major residential development under the flight path - the jail. But that's OK, is it?

Jack Kershaw, Kambah

VCs and politics

A.D. Hewett-Lacon (Letters, November 5) is deluding him/herself to believe that there is no place for political or government influence in awarding Australian gallantry awards. Australian military history abounds with examples of such influence. Perhaps the most significant example is the case of the death of Warrant Officer Kevin Conway, who was killed in action in heroic circumstances in Vietnam in 1964.

Conway, the first Australian killed in action in Vietnam, was recommended for the Victoria Cross by Brigadier Serong. This recommendation was refused by the Australian government of the day on the grounds that Australia was not officially at war (four Victoria Crosses were later awarded in this undeclared war).

Conway was posthumously awarded foreign gallantry medals but nothing from Australia.

David J. Richards, Moruya, NSW

Exams interrupt

I read with some surprise the letter from Jan and Paul Kriedemann (November 5) which claimed that the ''ANU School of Music Lunch Box concerts are seemingly no more''. Certainly it is true that there are no more for 2012, as we are now entering the exam period and students have other demands on their attention.

I can nevertheless assure your readers that this concert series, like many others that the school has supported for the benefit of the wider community over many decades, will continue next year and beyond. As I was quoted recently in this paper as saying, it is now time for the ACT community to stop assuming the worst about the changes to the school, and instead get behind it and help secure what otherwise is set to be a strong, secure and vibrant future.

Peter Tregear, Head, ANU School of Music

Tram ways

Kevin Connor (November 5) makes an admirable point about solving the parking woes at the National Museum. The answer surely lies in improved public transport infrastructure. He cites the proposed Federation Line heritage tramway, which was designed to link the National Museum, National Film and Sound Archive and Australian War Memorial with Civic and the ANU, facilitate visitor traffic and alleviate parking problems.

It was an appealing concept that was an extension of the character of all three national institutions. It was also consistent with Walter Burley Griffin's original plans for the national capital, which provided broad, centre plantations along main arteries designed to accommodate tramlines.

The engineering, business case and logistical studies that were done in the 1990s for the Federation Line remain valid. The project got as far as offering rides in restored trams on short test tracks in Canberra, to strong public affirmation, but further government support was not then forthcoming.

The Federation Line may, in fact, have been an idea ahead of its time, but now that the incoming government has made a commitment to light rail it is time to revisit the concept. I expect the intended Federation Line route would neatly mesh with the layout of a Civic-Gungahlin line and would therefore offer even better park-and-ride options than we were able to contemplate in the 1990s.

Ray Edmondson, former board member, Federation Line Inc

Although I would love to catch a tram to work every day, I ask the new government: please, please don't build light rail in Canberra. It is simply not the right technology for Canberra. Trams fix few of the problems of a bus service (they still have to wait for lights, still delay surrounding traffic, still have issues with frequency), and yet are astoundingly more expensive. Please seriously examine the many alternatives before committing Canberra to huge initial and ongoing expenses.

My favourite alternative? Since the main advantage of trams is that they are very pleasant to ride, make buses nicer. Replace the bus fleet with sleek, Wi-Fi-enabled electric buses.

They are quiet, comfortable, and produce no exhaust (and over time, may produce no pollution elsewhere either). Even replacing the whole fleet may be cheaper than a tram line to Gungahlin, and yet provide a service that people would want to use.

This is just one possibility among many to make public transport more desirable at less cost.

Dr Philip Kilby, Downer

Awards too costly

The recent closure of parts manufacturer Autodom, the suggestion that Holden is heading for a similar fate, many other manufacturers heading offshore and many more small businesses heading towards bankruptcy is sending a clear message to the federal government and the unions alike - we can no longer afford the so-called ''hard-won award conditions'' that underpin our employment awards, not to mention the 33 per cent increase in compulsory employer super contributions that employers will be forced to pay over the next few years.

Unfortunately we all have to take stock of the situation and all wear some of the pain, not only employers. If the government and unions continue with their no-compromise stance, then I'm afraid that there will be many more employees entitled to generous award conditions that unfortunately don't apply when they're unemployed.

Peter Toscan, Amaroo

Hair shirt of religion

Robert Willson (November 6) defends Rupert Shortt's assertion (October 31) ''that the most persecuted religious faith in the modern world is Christianity'', and asks me to provide evidence to the contrary.

The very notion of tallying horrors like the weight of Auschwitz ash, the depth of Rwandan machete wounds or the concentration of blood in Srebrenica soil to tip a set of imaginary horror scales this way and that, so someone can claim ''your prejudice is worse than my prejudice'', is a grotesque exercise designed to inflame deeper intolerance.

Metaphysical belief does not define behaviour. Every religious regime oppresses and is opposed by, among others, citizens of the same faith. How would Willson or Shortt fudge those unfortunates on their silly scales?

Peter Robinson, Ainslie

Stop misogyny at home before preaching about it overseas

Warwick Fyfe (Letters, November 5) would do well to himself learn from history: no outsider has ever beaten the disparate tribes that inhabit the colonial-era cartographic confection that we call Afghanistan. Not Alexander the Great, not the British Raj, not the USSR, and, now, not the US empire and its fawning lackeys. Afghans unite to drive out the foreign enemy and, once this is achieved, return to what they have done for thousands of years: fighting and killing each other.

The West did not invade Afghanistan out of altruism, indeed it invaded out of one of the basest of human motivations: revenge. The US-led invasion was to take revenge on a regime that had harboured those who succeeded in delivering unto the US its first war casualties on the US mainland since the Civil War ended at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865, albeit at less than a thousandth of the scale that the US has delivered death to the peoples of many lands since 1945, either in its own right, though proxy states, or via puppet regimes.

When we in the West have eliminated misogyny from our societies, and Ms Gillard's speech clearly demonstrated that we have not, we may occupy the moral high ground to lecture others on the wrongs of their societies.

But I cannot see us going to war to eliminate misogyny: if Mr Fyfe looks at the history of war, he would see that no war has ever been fought for motives other than greed, power, hatred and revenge, and ever so shall it be.

Paul McElligott, Aranda 

Language disorder

Crispin Hull (''This looks like a cash grab, in any language'', Forum, November 3, pB2) thinks the Asian white paper's call for more widespread teaching of Asian languages would be a waste of money. Has Mr Hull ever tried to do business in, for example, the Malay archipelago?

Three hundred years ago, Thomas Bowrey, one of the earliest, successful English traders to the region, exhorted his countrymen to learn Malay, so ''absolutely necessary'' to succeed in the region, for it enabled one to ''converse with these people without the assistance of a prevaricating interpreter''. The situation remains the same today.

English, or online translations, are not always satisfactory for meaningful communication, as your opinion writer so brazenly declares.

Bowrey's centuries-old advice is far more appropriate than that of the contemporary Mr Hull.

George Miller, Narrabundah 

Climate risk is real

Pat's insightful editorial cartoon (November 5, p14) and Julian Cribb's excellent article (''Not even democracy or free speech could weather Sandy'', November 5, p15) recall Kevin Rudd's statement that climate change is ''the greatest moral challenge of our time''.

Rudd's clarion call has been blown away by the winds of political expediency, the financial risks to the fossil fuel industry and by the strident voices of denial, fanned by the Murdoch press. Obscuring the scientific facts and globally apparent manifestations of climate disruption - namely extreme weather events, melting ice caps, rising temperatures and sea levels, food and water insecurity and threats to the survival, health and wellbeing of humans and countless other species - should trigger urgent and effective responses from a supposedly intelligent and responsible Australian government. This should include a massive and technically feasible switch from a high-carbon to a low-carbon economy.

Author and philosopher Dr Samuel Johnson declared that knowing one is to be hanged on the morrow concentrates the mind marvellously. Global heating extends intimations of mortality from the individual to the rising generation and to the unique and wonderful biosphere that we inhabit. How many more hurricane Sandys will it take to concentrate the minds of the world's political leaders, corporations and the population at large to awaken to reality?

Bryan Furnass, Hughes