Democracy means little until voting is seen as a right
Congratulations to the Queensland government for considering dumping compulsory voting. There is an old saying that in Australia (probably because of the convict past and authoritarian governments) that ''everything is either compulsory or banned''. Labor, ever authoritarian, introduced compulsory voting as it knows that it benefits from the ''donkey vote''.
Australians will never take our democracy seriously until voting ceases to be compulsory, and is considered a right. Perhaps this is the core of the problem: World War II and the Japanese threat aside, we have never had to fight for anything worthwhile, it has all been handed to us on a plate. Downtrodden citizens of many foreign dictatorships would, and do, fight and die for what Australians regard as a chore.
R. C. Warn, Weston
In claiming that the abolition of compulsory voting would make our democracy ''the plaything of cashed-up interest groups'' (''Gillard and Swan bite at Premier's paper on ending compulsory voting'', canberratimes.com.au, January 4), Prime Minister Julia Gillard has surely managed to outdo Jenny Macklin's farcical effort on Newstart.
Given that cartels control our banking, energy, construction, grocery, telecommunications and media sectors, and given that there is not a skerrick of difference in the corporate interests being served by both major parties, how could the abolition of compulsory voting make things any worse for ordinary Australians?
Perhaps what the PM is really afraid of is that voluntary voting just might demonstrate what a farce our so-called democracy really is, given the strong likelihood that many would not even bother to turn up on election day if they had a choice.
John Richardson, Wallagoot, NSW
Fifty years ago, Britain had a dysfunctional transport system that was costing the government millions of dollars a day. A new transport minister was appointed to sort out the mess. First he realised there were too many shunting yards all over the country where freight was sorted by destination often taking days; he also realised there were too many uneconomic branch lines that he closed down.
Finally he realised the only way rail could compete with road transport was to offer a door-to-door service. As containers were just coming in to general use, his idea was to have containers loaded at the point of departure on to flat-top trailers. A prime mover would pick up the trailer/container load and deliver to the high-speed train. The trailer was loaded onto a flat-top railway carriage and then the prime mover was uncoupled leaving the trailer/container on the train. The high-speed express freight train then travelled direct to its destination, i.e. Glasgow to London. In London the truck was coupled up again with a prime mover and delivered to the customer - ship/factory/warehouse. Freight was delivered in hours that traditionally took days.
What Australia needs is a federal transport minister who can look at the big picture and take decisive action to use a similar system to transport freight, without B doubles/B triples on our overcrowded highways.
Clive Broomfield, Googong, NSW
I would have more confidence in the assurances of truck operators and their tame transport ministers that enormous B-triple trucks will not be a safety hazard on our major highways if the existing truck operators obeyed the 100km/h speed limit (''Carriers say ACT can take B-triples'', January 3, p1). They don't. In recent years I have made hundreds of trips from Canberra to Sydney. Few trucks keep to the limit and in fact they often overtake me on 110km/h. At times I am even ''tail-gated'' in attempts to make me go faster. Truck industry lobbying needs to be resisted. The whole issue of highway safety needs careful consideration.
Timothy Walsh, Garran
Your editorial ''Bigger Cities'' (December 27, p16) is remiss in minimising the impacts of Canberra's rapid population growth over the coming decades. Already, basic infrastructure is strained, particularly hospitals and public transport.
However, it is unforgivable that no mention is made of the very sustainability of this city, food-wise, for coming generations. Looming energy, and especially fertilisation shortages with climate change impacts in the bargain, must be faced. It therefore behoves ACT politicians, forgotten with their state and federal counterparts, to introduce policies that will reduce population pressures throughout Australia
Christopher Walter, Latham
In your editorial ''Party, but look to the next 100 years'' (January 1, p12) you commented the Commonwealth intended its leasehold system of land tenure in Canberra ''would constrain the city's development by uncontrolled private interests''.
There is chilling irony in that it is the ACT government's own directorates that proposed, 12 months ago, high-rise buildings of 15 storeys that would overlook in the most crudely insensitive manner one of Canberra's most successful medium-density developments, i.e. the 144 apartments of Argyle Square, 2-4 storeys high, set in carefully landscaped and maintained communal gardens. This saga has yet to be played out. The proposal was withdrawn for amendment in the face of public protest. I understand a new version is shortly to be submitted to the minister responsible for planning. It will be a test case for the blending of high-rise with Canberra's well-established, low-rise suburbs, not least, the heritage-listed Reid.
Elizabeth Teather, Reid
Observers of the recent political carryings-on in the US Congress over how the country was to avoid going over the so-called fiscal cliff could be forgiven for wondering how the US will ever recover its world economic leadership role. Perhaps the answer is that it won't need to try too hard as so many other so-called advanced economies are in even bigger messes.
However, in spite of the uncertainty in Washington, it seems that in the west of the US things are just fine, especially if you are somewhere near the top of the economic tree as a film star, and self-indulgence seems to know no limit.
Hence the obscene behaviour recorded in your editorial ''It's OK for some'' (January 2, p12). How appropriate that the flight from the casino city of Sydney, and then Canberra, should terminate in Las Vegas, casino central of the US, while Congress was gambling with the future of the US' economy. Some things never change.
E.L. Fisher, Kambah
Look to the left
In response to your editorial on the shift to the right of the Greens, ''A kinder, gentler Greens revealed'' (December 28, p14) Barrie Smillie (Letters, December 31) says that ''… many Greens came from a disenchanted Labor left''. This shift to the right by the Greens prompts Barrie to ask: ''Where will they go now?''
Might I suggest one possible answer: They could have a look at the revolutionary left in Australia. Socialist Alternative (sa.org.au) is one of the two biggest groups on the far left.
Socialist Alternative has begun a unity process to bring together all the revolutionaries in Australia. That probably at this stage covers no more than 1000 people, but from little things big things grow. Part of that program is to attract those serious leftists disillusioned or disappointed with the failed reformist projects of both Labor and the Greens.
John Passant, Kambah
A test of patience
I tire to biblical proportions of persons who, like Ernest Berry (Letters, January 2), unthinkingly wrongly label personalities of the new and old testaments. The most common description of Abraham by generations of Christians has been ''Father in Faith'' by his act of obedience to God's testing in relation to sacrificing his son. But Berry conjures up all kinds of fantasies, the most outlandish being that Abraham was a bipolar sufferer given to dangerous psychotic episodes.
Upon observing correctly that the three monotheistic religions have Abraham as their common ancestor and have helped humanity to define its moral compass, Berry adds an inexplicable anti-climax in saying any further usefulness is difficult to perceive. Given Berry's knowledge of Abraham's medical condition, perhaps to close the file he would inform us of the name and address of that great man's mental health practitioner?
Colliss Parrett, Barton
TO THE POINT
IT'S SINK OR PRINT
My understanding of the fiscal showdown is that America, because of its huge debt, is sinking unless it prints more money (''Deal done, Obama lays out stall for next fiscal fight'', January 3, p8).
Yet, it wasn't that long ago when America dismissed any country with a consistent trade deficit.
Still, having declared itself to be God's favourite country, America perhaps has the right to change the rules whenever it pleases.
Sam Nona, Burradoo, NSW
ONE BORN EVERY DAY
Ian Warden, excellent with words as he is, is not so good with numbers - and neither is the sub-editor who handled Gang Gang for January 3 (''On this day 75 years ago'', p10). As one born in 1927, I know only too well that 1928 is 85, not 75, years ago.
Michael Travis, Cook
PROFIT OR PROFITEER?
R. S. Gilbert (Letters, January 4) correctly points out that the Braddon Club would, in the long run, pay much more to the government in betterment charges than the initial $320,000 offered for the proposed development.
That would be from the profits.
The basic question remains: should any such organisation profit from the sale of land granted to provide a specific civic service?
Gary J. Wilson, MacGregor
GIVE CREDIT WHERE DUE
I have noted that many/most modern films and TV shows list the names of the actors who appear in the show without linking them to the characters they play. What use is a list of names without any way of identifying the people they play?
In earlier times shows listed actors and their characters either in alphabetical order or in order of appearance.
Perhaps a step backward would be a step forward?
Peter Trainor, Turner
A LAUGH A MINUTE
I was aroused from holiday season domestic torpor to consider the discussion concerning the possibility of an intelligent computer.
I did so. Wake me up again when, without biological assistance, the first computer to produce an original witticism causes a second computer to laugh.
Bill Deane, Chapman
On June 9, 2012, The Canberra Times published the result of an online poll that asked ''where do you think the dollar will end 2012?'' The $A closed the year at US103.83c. Of the unstated number of respondents in June, 26 per cent opted for - or guessed - between $US 1 and $US 1.10. Only 9 per cent had the good sense to choose ''Hard to say".
Earle Hoffman, Deakin