Federal Politics


Trust the Opposition to try to take us backwards

Tony Abbott is correct in stating that the election in September is all about trust. But that's about it.

Tony Abbott is correct in stating that the election in September is all about trust. We know who we can trust to abandon the carbon tax. Continuing growth and greed are much more important than protecting the environment we leave for unborn generations.

We know who we can trust to abandon the mining tax. Protecting the profits of mining magnates is far more important than improving Australia and protecting the environment.

We know who we can trust to emasculate the national broadband network. A national digital network must, of course, make a clear profit for private enterprise from day one.

Adrian Gibbs, Yarralumla

I am pleased that Prime Minister Julia Gillard has announced the election date early. This might force Opposition Leader Tony Abbott to come up with some substantive policies to complement his only two (ridiculous) policies of ''no to everything'' and ''turn back the boats''.

Come on, Malcolm, time to make an entrance.


Tom Collins, Palmerston

Arboretum angst

So let's see if I've got this straight. The arboretum site was burnt to a crisp in 2001, despite contingency planning by ACT fire authorities, while it was a protected part of the ACT government's commercially valuable softwood forest assets. It was burnt again in 2003 - despite contingency planning by ACT fire authorities - while four lives and 500 homes were being lost nearby.

Now we're told by Chief Minister Katy Gallagher that it's unnecessary to insure the arboretum because fire authorities have a plan (''Insurance policy leaves Arboretum's star attractions exposed'', January 31, p1).

Perhaps, with increasingly warm summers expected (this was our hottest January on record, replacing 2010), an arboretum, which, by definition, must absolutely avoid fire for 50 to 100 years, might best have been tucked behind the city, on the relatively benign east, rather than on the fire-ravaged west.

But let's chill: Green/Labor positive thinking will save it.

Michael Jordan, Gowrie

Perhaps someone can explain to me why our Green/Labor governments - which are willing to restrict our parking, spend our money on really expensive bits of symbolic tramway and fill our established suburbs with flats in the name of modest emissions reductions - spend $60-odd million planting flammable trees (the arboretum) in an area to the west of the city that was burnt out twice a mere decade ago?

And they won't even insure it

Don't they accept that the month just ended was the hottest January on record in Canberra, with the previous hottest as recent as 2010 (''Rain brings solace to hottest January'', January 31, p4)? Don't projections say it's going to get worse? Don't the politicians believe them? Can't they see Canberra is becoming Australia's bushfire capital? Are they closet climate-change deniers?

Veronica Giles, Chifley

Congratulations to all involved in creating the wonderful arboretum. Like the national broadband network, it's one of the few truly visionary projects of recent times. It wasn't too long ago that the Zed Seselja was saying, ''Think what else you could do with $45 million.'' We need more vision, and less fiscal conservatism.

Rob Ewin, Campbell

Then and now

I have two questions for Senator Barnaby Joyce in response to his article ''Acts of God, but not much remedial action in Parliament'' (January 31, p19). First: What did the Coalition do about these problems when it held power for all those years preceding the current government? Second: What will the Coalition do by way of remedial action should it be returned to power in September?

I think this question, in particular, deserves a detailed response - not one comprised of motherhood statements.

Merrill Moore, Macgregor

Still a hot topic

In spruiking Canberra's claim to become the federal capital, King O'Malley asserted that cold climates produce the greatest geniuses. He went on to slur the hotter climates of rival claimants, Tumut and Albury. Rosemary Neill has given new life to the slur by repeating it in her article about the Canberra centenary (Weekend Australia 26-27 January 2013).

O'Malley predicted that federal capital residents in hotter climes would, within three generations, wear sombreros and attend cock fights, just like the residents of Santo Domingo in the Caribbean.

In rebuttal, our Albury Banner pointed out that Albury was a place ''where blankets are useful every night of the year''. All the same, the Albury Banner knew that once the compromise was made to site the capital within NSW, but not less than 100 miles from Sydney, Albury's hopes were dashed. We were too close to Melbourne. Sydneysiders would not accept the prospect of the governor-general and the federal officials going south to buy their tea, sugar, boots and boot polish.

While we begrudgingly acknowledge the greater genius that has obviously flowed from Canberra's cool weather, Albury folk remain convinced that the federal capital story was one of inter-capital rivalry - simply a tale of two cities, neither of which was Canberra nor Albury.

Bruce Pennay, Albury, NSW

Silence on suicide

I couldn't help but notice the media attention and large numbers of letters to the editor on Thursday concerning Tim Mathieson's comments at the PM's XI reception. Yet no mention at all has been made of another speech given at the reception, where the issue of male suicide was raised. Menslink CEO Martin Fisk highlighted that every day in Australia five men die by suicide.

Five men lack the support networks to cope against overwhelming feelings of loneliness and hopelessness. Five men, mostly aged between 15 and 45, who leave behind devastated families, mates and colleagues. Five men who were unable to talk about their feelings. And yet it's not just men who remain silent. It was disappointing that this issue received no coverage at all in your newspaper or any other. The more we can talk about this issue the more likely we might be able to bring down the appalling suicide statistics.

Glenn Cullen, Wright

Back to front

I agree with John Casson (Letters, January 29) that pedestrians should always walk on the right-hand side of a path or road facing oncoming traffic. It was so ingrained into my childhood upbringing in Britain that it is something I always do on my early morning walks. Living in a semi-urban area with no street lights it's amazing how many walkers and joggers use the long street I live in to exercise. The majority have their back to the traffic.

This is extremely dangerous, especially at dawn and dusk and when the sun is in a driver's eyes. Last year after several pedestrian fatalities I wrote to the ''Open Road'' raising the point made by John Casson. I was hoping that it would put this on the road safety agenda for discussion.

Janet Reynolds, Greenleigh, NSW

Political blowhards

In a wry finale to his weekly Forum article (''Time for Roxon to upset the litigation trough'', January 26, p2) Crispin Hull suggested that cyclones should be given names that reflect reality, such as cyclone Fury for example, and described cyclone Oswald as ''wet behind the ears''.

With the benefit of hindsight, it was wet behind a few other parts of the anatomy and environment as well. One cannot easily envisage the reality of a cyclone Crispin, but cyclone Jack would be great for the one that was at large and unpredictable.

Political persons would be displeased with their results, cyclone Kevin downgraded into a rain depression, cyclone Julia expected to dissipate over the Southern Ocean, or cyclone Tony expected to wreak havoc in a marginal area.

It may be best to leave it all to random selection by the Met Bureau.

Peter Baskett, Murrumbateman, NSW

Too big a dream

Martin Aubury, a most-respected authority on aviation matters, has pointed to the failure of a single component, a battery, in the suspension of Boeing 787 Dreamliners from service (''Dreamliners' assault and battery on Boeing's name'', January 30, p9).

Aubury hints at other troubles that have led to the aviation safety authority in the US taking a close look at the way aircraft are built. Boeing has effectively subcontracted many of the processes in the manufacture of the 787, and this is unlike the Boeing culture. Boeing has been a commercial risk-taker, and the production of the 747 we know as the Jumbo is a good example. The company was near broke; its city, Seattle, was in dire straits as labour losses were threatened. But they went ahead, and we have the 747, a huge success commercially.

So, what went wrong? In 1997 Boeing merged within McDonnell Douglas. Or, to put it as one commentator remarked, MD took over Boeing using Boeing money. MD's top technical people called the shots, and subcontracting became the norm. This happened before the global financial crisis, when bigger aircraft and more business class were thought to be the way to go.

Well, after 2008, the business class market collapsed, and the airlines were stuck with big planes and lots of empty top deck seats. The Airbus 380 was another example. Hefty demands on airport infrastructure (been in a check-in line recently?) and falling profits.

Now the US, proud that there has not been an airline fatality there in four years, is getting really fussy. There are too many big birds. I believe the 787 is just too big, and it needs more than a new battery.

Brian McNamara, Lyneham

Moses' direct line

Moses Obeid is in possession of a highly confidential map that ''might have been drawn by Jesus Christ''. I have a dear friend with cancer; she and her family could use some special assistance. Perhaps Moses could talk with Jesus directly and put in a good word for her and her family? I'd be most grateful!

Judy Bamberger, O'Connor

Laws for laws' sake

There's a tendency these days to legislate in relation to virtually everything human beings do or think even if the activity or conduct the subject of the legislation doesn't lend itself to generalisation or the precision and clarity that good law requires, and should therefore be left to be judged by public opinion, or public judgment about what's right and wrong in particular circumstances, and not by a court of law.

A classic example is our anti-discrimination law. A perusal of the various acts (different acts for age, sex, race, disability) illustrates this: they're riddled with words, phrases, definitions, prohibitions capable of different interpretations. For example, the object is said to be to promote ''substantive equality'' (whatever that means); ''discrimination'' is defined as doing something that's ''unfavourable'' to the person alleged to be discriminated against, or ''disadvantaging'' him/her (again, whatever those phrases mean); and guilt or otherwise can depend on a person's ''characteristics'' (hardly a precise word legal word, and surely a smorgasbord for lawyers!).

Attorney-General Roxon is proposing to consolidate and extend these acts. Instead, she should be repealing them.

R.S. Gilbert, Braddon

I write to strongly support H. Ronald's concern (Letters, January 30) about the threat posed by Nicola Roxon's anti-discrimination bill. The deafening silence from Canberrans on this issue demonstrates either that robust opposition is being censored by The Canberra Times or that Canberrans are a bunch of politically correct sheep.

In the US, this kind of censorship has been a prelude to the most appalling attacks on the liberty of Americans imaginable, so that it cannot seriously any longer be considered ''the land of the free''. The US Patriot Act and Homeland security laws, drone flights spying on US citizens, perverted full-body scans at airports, arbitrary arrest by military personnel of US citizens, and even bans on the celebration of Christmas! If you are happy with the soft soap you are getting from the government on this legislation and don't think it is a prelude to something more, consider for a moment ''Nicolo'' Roxon's Machiavellian record of trampling on Australia's rights, which is now formidable.

In 2012 she invited consideration of wide-reaching expansions to the powers of security and intelligence agencies to: increase powers of interception; make it easier for ASIO to break into computers and computer networks, including those of third parties not targeted in warrants; which facilitates the prosecution of anyone who names an ASIO officer; and, impose a two-year data retention directive on ISPs to ''record and store all Australians' internet usage for government monitoring''.

Last June she moved to exempt the release of details of federal parliamentarians' expense accounts from FOI applications. Nor to my knowledge has she ever asked ASIO to review any of the cases of the 50 refugees locked up indefinitely as a result of receiving negative security assessments from ASIO, even though they had already been officially accepted as refugees.

H. Ronald and I don't exactly share a voting history but we would both like to know who is behind the push for these threats to our privacy and freedoms. And why is The Canberra Times not editorialising strongly against the threat such laws pose to freedom of speech? Wake up Canberra! Do your journalistic job, Canberra Times!

Chris Williams, Griffith

If Attorney-General Nicola Roxon's bald assertion that the objective of Labor's new human rights legislation is only to ''simplify and consolidate'' existing legislation is to be believed, then it would seem only fair to ask who engineered the many unacceptable items that found their way into the draft, such as the offensive section 19(2)(b) and the ''reverse onus of proof'' provision (''Roxon seeks to allay freedom of speech fears'', canberratimes.com.au, January 31). In the absence of any reasonable explanation to the contrary, many could take the view that either the Attorney-General has been disingenuous in making her claims or that her department has been pursuing an agenda that she isn't privy to. Either way, Ms Roxon's public statements are as credible as Jenny Macklin's claim that she could live on $35 a week.

John Richardson, Wallagoot, NSW



The most expensive prison with the largest number of assaults in the country (''Prison criticism is unfair: Minister'', February 1, p7), a recidivist rate of 40 per cent and pressure for free needles for inmates. Still, it is human-rights compliant, so the rest of us should be comforted.

Greg Cornwell, Yarralumla

It is more than a little silly to criticise Canberra's prison for the highest number of breakouts or attempts (''Prison criticism is unfair: Minister'') based on just one attempt in the year in question. This is as statistically unreliable as a poll on voting intentions on September 14 with just one respondent.

Peter Marshall, Captains Flat, NSW


The expression ''Anglo-Celtic'' has always struck me as a contradiction in terms, considering the history of its ethnicities. Its use by Gary Kent (Letters, February 1) to justify the domination of Australia's flag by the British Jack, and foreign monarchy, is both artificial and colonial.

Bryan Lobascher, Chapman


Now that Prime Minister Julia Gillard has kicked off the election bandwagon, her next job is to keep Kevin Rudd at bay and placate his supporters. I am sure it will not have escaped the attention of the Labor Party that the Governor-General's job falls vacant this year.

Roger Dace, Reid


Craig Thomson is innocent. More than that, he is innocent 150 times over. Makes sense to me; how about you?

Ross Kelly, Monash


Regarding the prominent marriage proposal in the engagements section (classifieds, January 29, p12), did he/she accept?

David Mann, Kambah


I wonder when Greens' MLA Shane Rattenbury will introduce same-sex marriage laws into the Legislative Assembly. Or is that no longer a priority now that he is a Greens Minister in a Labor government?

John Passant, Kambah


The editorial ''A site to behold'' (January 31, p18) rightly points out that Manuka Oval's real moment of success will be on February 6 when it hosts Canberra's first one-day cricket international between the West Indies and Australia. Another test will be the first night AFL match on April 13 between the GWS Giants and St Kilda. If it succeeds in both cricket and AFL games, Manuka Oval will have truly come of age.

Dave White, Deakin

Email: letters.editor@canberratimes.com.au. Send from the message field, not as an attached file. Fax: 6280 2282. Mail: Letters to the Editor, The Canberra Times, PO Box 7155, Canberra Mail Centre, ACT 2610. 

Keep your letter to 250 words or less. References to Canberra Times reports should include date and page number. Letters may be edited. Provide phone number and full home address (suburb only published).