Federal Politics


Power grab should see Coalition heading for downfall

Christopher Pyne's comparison of the ALP government with the last days of Hitler as portrayed in the film Downfall is not only offensive but way off the mark.

The government does not have fascistic tendencies, whereas the Coalition's performance since the last election is redolent with smells of Germany in the 1930s, including a constant pitch to the lowest common denominator, hysterical rhetoric on a ''crisis'' in the body politic and economy, propaganda strategies to demonise issues such as the carbon tax and asylum seekers to whip up fear, and a relentless wooing of blue-collar votes embedded in small businesses. Joseph Goebbels would have been proud.

What an alarming lot they are. If we had a truly independent media immune from hive think the Coalition would more likely be looking at a ''downfall''. The echoes of naked power grabs by little men are sounding louder. Where are the fearless bastions of our democracy?

Mark Thomson, Lyneham

One expects Christopher Pyne to grasp every opportunity to bloviate about the government, since Tony Abbott decided to delegate the negativity in an effort to appear prime ministerial. Based on past form, the latest tasteless metaphor about Hitler was no great surprise either.

Nor is the media's increasing propensity to become hysterical about every minor event in pursuit of a headline particularly unexpected. But what one might have hoped for from a professional press would be sufficient sobriety to point out that the resignation of a couple of ministers before an election is not at all unusual or noteworthy. Fourteen Labor and 12 Coalition members resigned before the last election. The number of resignations before the 2007 election was similar and included the rather forced and actually embarrassing resignation of Howard minister Ian Campbell.


Perhaps it's time we all calmed down a little and refocused on policy rather than empty beat-ups.

Felix MacNeill, Dickson

Church stand-off

In the current stand-off within the Legislative Assembly over whether members should enter a church for a service to begin the parliamentary year (''Only Dunne's faithful back religious kick-off'', February 1, p1) we hear words like ''separation of powers'', ''principle'', ''partisan'' and ''secular''.

There are two words missing from the political vocabulary: ''reason'' and ''rational''. One can't help being reminded of what Jesus said to his disciples as he invited them to put out into deep water in the sea of Galilee: ''Do not be afraid.''

State-endorsed secularism is as much to be feared as those who see a clear and present danger in the church.

George Menham, Mawson

One is perplexed at reading of the ''principled'' decision by our Chief Minister not to attend a religious ceremony to commemorate the opening of the next Legislative Assembly sitting.

Why then was the Chief Minister not similarly ''principled'' when she went to great lengths and enjoyed significant media exposure in greeting the Queen, who visited Australia partially in her capacity as head of the Church of England, recently?

Chris Longhurst, Gilmore

Plaudits for Roxon

It is disappointing that Nicola Roxon is leaving politics. As Health Minister, she had the strength to stand up to the tobacco industry whose product is responsible for so much ill-health and suffering. In particular, her determination to introduce plain packaging deserves special commendation. In contrast, the report that the Liberal Party still accepts blood money donations from the industry is unfortunate. This is irresponsible and the party should be condemned for its action.

Dr Alan D Shroot, president, Canberra ASH (Action on Smoking and Health), Forrest

Levees are a must

Just as pop-guns only work for a time and you need a physical barrier to keep the birds off your fruit, so prayers, sandbags and water bombing are of limited value to protect us from fire or water. Suncorp is right to want levee action by councils (''Suncorp slams councils over lack of levees'', February 4, p5).

Many human settlements lend themselves to being protected from fire by a vast swath of fireproof country; and likewise, because flood patterns are well known, we have no excuse for having failed to build levees. Grafton's levees have saved millions.

If there is an expert out there to challenge this, speak up, please - it's a debate our nation should have had decades ago: invest in precautionary measures now, save a fortune later.

Barrie Smillie, Duffy

Floodplain peril

''Queenslanders' anger grows as waters subside'' (February 2, p6). So does mine. My anger is based on the persistent need for the rest of the country to pay for Queenslanders (and others) to live and conduct business on known floodplains, with inadequate insurance.

Sure I'm sympathetic. But haven't they heard? These aren't random acts of God. The globe is warming. That inevitably means more frequent and more extreme weather events.

Make it against the law for people on floodplains not to be adequately insured. Make insurance companies issue site-specific (expensive) cover. Stop building public infrastructure in such places too. Then we'll see some real climate change adaptation. Including fewer people with their homes/cars/businesses routinely under water, requiring bailouts.

Michael Jordan, Gowrie

Oracle has spoken

It appears that the citizens of Canberra are as blessed as those of ancient Delphi. We have our own infallible oracle. Now that Dr Judy Ryan (doctor in what, one wonders) has made her pronouncement on climate change (Letters, February 3), all further discussion should cease.

One wishes she would pronounce on various other vexing issues, now that she has written off all scientific work by CSIRO on the basis of problems in staff management. For starters, we need her infallible decrees on management of irrigation in the Murray Darling basin and bushfire management across Australia.

For those pesky sceptics who wish to see an informed critique of Professor Murray Salby's (Dr Judy's chosen expert's) as yet unpublished paper, I recommend the skepticalscience website: skepticalscience.com/Murry-Salby-CO2-rise-natural.htm

Neil Porter, Hughes

Flags for all

Many myths continue to surround the true and rich history of Australia's national flag and monarchists need to be more careful correcting attacks on all they hold dear. While it may be true that Gary Kent's cousin was an entrant in the flag competition in 1901 (Letters February 1) this event did not determine our national flag. In peace and war, many flags have been flown by Australians to assert their national allegiance (Red Ensign, Blue Ensign, Eureka Flag, Federation Flag, Boxing Kangaroo, to name a selection).

The Union Jack was Australia's national flag until 1953 when the Menzies government tabled, still against a lot of resistance, the Flag Act, to which the Queen gave royal assent in 1954. However Menzies inserted a clause that permitted any Australians who still wished to fly the Union Jack as the national flag, to do so. If some day our flag changes once more to again reflect the ongoing changes in our nation and citizenry, this is a strategy that many may again appreciate, particularly those Australians born prior to 1984 as British subjects.

Ian Foster, Nicholls

The 51st state

Merrie Carling (Letters, January 30) is right to ask whether Australia is a colony or a country. We claim to be a country but act like a colony. The prime purpose of our military forces is to implement US foreign policy and to consume US military product. I suggest we simply exchange the Union Jack on our flag for the Stars and Stripes and be done with it.

Bob Howden, Kambah

Emeritus QED

I think there are two flaws in Marie Coleman's otherwise admirable letter (February 2).

First, it perpetuates the misdirected, futile debate on usage and gender of the Latin ''emeritus'', particularly when used with the English ''professor''.

I'm sure that 60-odd years ago my Scottish Latin er, master, Mr Binnie, would have pointed out that ''emeritus'' is the perfect participle of the verb ''emerio'' (or it might be emereo). It is therefore fundamentally and linguistically gender-free. It is used, however, adjectivally to describe one who, like me, has reached his/her use-by date; and also like me, a veteran (but in ancient Rome) of military campaigns; they were then invariably men, which might be where the gender misconception arises.

The real question is the correct gender of professor, which carries the Latin masculine suffix ''or''. Should it not be professatrix for a woman?

Ms Coleman's other flaw is to refer to Mr French (Letters, January 30) as having done something ''somewhat querulous(ly)''.

That is an ad hominem argument, and one wonders whether, if the positions were reversed, with Ms Coleman described as ''querulous'', that would be an ad feminem argument. Both are unacceptable in academic debate. Otherwise, the exchange was ''magnum opus'' i.e. great stuff!

Fergus Thomson, Weetangera

Aboretum critic

I'm sure there is a place for the Arboretum in Canberra's future but it leaves me cold. The saplings seem to be laid out in laser-straight grids so, even when the saplings mature, the little pods of monocultured trees are going to seem sterile, I think. And walking the site looks pretty demanding. I think the Botanic Gardens is a much more engaging proposition.

John Dinn, Ngunnawal

More information would help dispel untruths on sex abuse

The brief news item ''Abuse plan failing'' (February 1, p6) on the NSW Ombudsman's recent report about Aboriginal child sexual abuse, like so much reporting on this issue, could have been less misleading with just a little more information. Both the Ombudsman's report and your brief cited the incidence of abuse of Aboriginal children in comparison with that of children in NSW. Without further explanation, such statistics suggest that the cause of such higher levels of abuse is being Aboriginal.

As far as I can tell, most studies suggest that the most predisposing factors for abuse are: being a girl in a family with relationship issues, who is of primary school age or older. Being in an impoverished, socially isolated family with drug abuse and violence. Race often correlates with abuse, but it doesn't seem to be causative; the races identified are always those experiencing socio-economic problems. So my understanding of the research is that the primary causative factors about which something can be done are family relationship problems and socio-economic disadvantage - not being Aboriginal.

Though the Ombudsman could have helped by pointing this out, I believe that a serious newspaper like The Canberra Times should be proactive in not simply reporting what others say and do, but provide additional information that contains important context or corrects otherwise misleading statements by others.

Chris Ansted, Garran

Lucas way off mark

Brian Lucas (''Religious freedom should be protected'', January 24, p19), on behalf of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, insists that religious discrimination should trump human rights because such discrimination constitutes a superior human right, namely ''religious expression''. The general public should be wary of this sophistry because there are cruel ways of expressing one's religion. What is Lucas proposing?

He wants to enshrine, in law, Vatican power to suppress legal behaviour outside the workplace. Are the bishops targeting drink, gambling or cigarettes? No, and even if they were, they'd be violating human rights. Their focus is where it usually is: inside people's underpants attacking legal sexual behaviour, namely same-sex relationships. If human rights legislation can't defend a gay seeking a secular position in a publicly-funded institution against religious bigotry, then the legislation is unworthy of its name.

Peter Robinson, Ainslie

In his reply to the article by Brian Lucas (''Religious freedom should be protected'', January 24, p19), David Grant (Letters, January 25) states ''First, that true religious freedom will allow the choice of agnosticism or atheism equally as it will any religion''. True religions require a belief in a supreme being - the opposite to the two ''isms'' he mentions. So, If I may be allowed a legal term, Grant's statement is a non sequitur. To illustrate my point, I doubt our parliaments would allow persons into their membership who do not believe in, or affirm to practise, the aims of our constitution. Similarly, religions expect democratic governments to allow them to exclude from their institutions those who do not meet the criteria of their religious beliefs and practices.

Colliss Parrett, Barton

We think Big here

Come now Mr Warden. Open your eyes, take a look around you and you will see that we have many Big Things in Canberra (''Canberra really needs something Big in its backyard'', Forum, February 2, p4). Three of them have even been built on hills so that visitors can see them clearly.

On Russell Hill we have Big Bird a.k.a. Big Chicken-on-a-stick. Then there's the Big Feeling of Inadequacy on Black Mountain and the Big Pyramid of Healing poised above Parliament House on Capital Hill. Adjacent to that is the Big White Wedding Cake. Further afield we have the Big Slippery Dip at Acton Peninsula and, not satisfied with a small weeing statue like Brussel's Manneken Pis, the Big Water Jet. Woden has the Big Purple People Eater. Now we have our very own, and really rather nice, Hundred Acre Wood, but bigger because it's actually 650 acres. Stop being so grumpy, Canberra is a veritable theme park of Big Things.

Ron Lees, Stirling



Thanks Crispin Hull (''Of fire, flood and madness of the marginals'' Forum, February 2, p2) for exposing the threat of an Abbott government with a majority in both houses. With one DLP senator already, a prime minister with pro-Santamaria sentiments would hardly be a victory for liberals.

Bryan Lobascher, Chapman


Leave the Lodge as it is, where it is. Any more grandeur and our politicians might never remember that they are our representatives, not our rulers.

John Bromhead, Rivett


We were invited to attend the Prime Minister's cricket game at Manuka Oval last week. Over 9500 people attended. There was no parking provided by way of a parking lot. We were forced to find a place to park as best we could. Parking inspectors then went around and issued 173 infringements.

The government's action in this regard is totally reprehensible and does them no credit whatsoever.

Rod MacDonald, Chapman


Judy Bamberger (Letters, February 2) left out Action Route 80 which also traverses the Parliamentary Triangle.

Robert Irwin, Queanbeyan, NSW


Nicola Roxon really should be ashamed of herself. Not only has she let down Labor, she has deserted the ranks of the successful feminist role models and sacrificed a prominent career just to raise a family.

Gary J. Wilson, MacGregor


If former attorney-general Nicola Roxon is looking for job after the election, can I suggest the Law School at the University of Canberra? Five years as a minister in a dysfunctional, petty, vindictive, top-down government implementing a dominant factional vision that is leading inexorably to disaster is the perfect training for working in the Law School at the University of Canberra.

John Passant, Kambah


Maybe if the convergent thinking R.S. Gilbert had his way (Letters, February 4), the widely used legal term ''reasonable'' would be banned from all legislation.

Jack Kershaw, Kambah


Is the paint supposed to peel off the new pedestrian bridge over Drakeford Drive at Kambah? Or is it another example of shoddy workmanship by a government contractor?

Gina Kikos, Kambah