How to supplement dwindling food supplies? Go fish
Those who believe Australia is a world leader in the food export trade, well placed to be a super food bowl, would have found Julian Cribb's opinion piece ''Hunger, the new BBQ stopper'' (March 4, p9) surprising, or even alarmist. The federal government's ''Australian food statistics 2010-11'' (p13), however, indicate that in the meat, grain and dairy sectors the value of our exports is about the same as in 1995, and in decline. On p22, Australia dropped to 16th in 2010 among world food exporters.
Our grain production is volatile, varying between 10 million tonnes in 2002 and 30 million in 2011. Global wheat prices went from $157 a tonne in 2010 to $326 in 2011, bad news for the poor in the Middle East and other places, and for Australians too: our pork, chicken and egg production and prices are closely linked to grain prices, and 30 per cent of our beef comes from grain-fed cattle. Cribb suggests ''our own food will double or triple in price''.
But the good news in the same edition (''Cod farming scaled-up to tempt Asian markets'', March 4, p3) was that Marianvale Blue has established near Goulburn the largest Murray cod growing operation in Australia, set to produce 200 tonnes a year to begin with. If it can be done in Goulburn, why not in Canberra? It's time the ACT community and government did something about an ACT food policy and program. A hungry Cairo is one thing; a hungry Canberra is more alarming!
John Brummell, Duffy
Congratulations to the War Memorial Council for their decision to include peacekeepers on the Roll of Honour. AWM Council chairman Rear Admiral Ken Doolan is quoted (''War Memorial lets peacekeepers join honour roll'', March 7, p1) as saying that this is in keeping with Charles Bean's philosophy of recognising all those in uniform who pay the supreme sacrifice in the service of their country. This noble goal is not yet achieved, however.
Only sacrifices made during the prescribed period of operations are currently recognised. (The Vietnam War, for example, is deemed to have ended on April 29, 1975.) All those, including peacekeepers from now on, who die as a direct result of their wounds after relevant cut-off dates, miss out on official recognition. There is at least one way to correct this. Acting on advice from the Department of Veterans Affairs, the names of those who die from their wounds could be recorded in the memorial's remembrance book (in which dead peacekeepers' names used to be listed). All of Australia's war dead deserve recognition, not just those whose sacrifice falls within a period prescribed by the government.
Bruce Cameron, Campbell
Howard's tight ship
Recent revelations about the conduct of Arthur Sinodinos and Tony Nutt encourage me to remark on the effectiveness of Prime Minister Howard's office during the period 1996-2007.
There is no doubt that the tight ship Mr Howard ran owed much to the levels to which his staff would descend in controlling the agenda inside and outside Parliament. In my experience this was well exhibited in the airbrushing of the government's role in the AWB bribes affair and in the minimisation of the DFAT paedophile scandal. In both issues the behaviour of Mr Howard's staff was unprincipled to the point of illegality.
Chris Smith, Kingston
Where to cut?
Thank you for your editorial ''Bureau wears blame for cuts'' (March 6, p16). It is unfortunate that the Work, Life and Family Survey has been cut, but you are correct that the ABS had little choice when implementing the euphemistically called ''efficiency dividend''. Can you imagine if they had decided to cut the Monthly Population Survey which gathers the labour force statistics, and we had no idea of the unemployment rate? It is about time people realised that you can't make cuts to the public service without cutting services for the public.
Virginia Lindenmayer, Page
Nicotine replacement therapy is often marketed as being the superior means of smoking cessation (''Alarm at smoking rates in health and community sector'', March 5, p5), despite the fact that many people who quit smoking for the final time (ie, cessation for at least 12 months) do so without NRT or other pharmacological support.
If we want to see a reduction in smoking rates among community and health workers, government-subsidised NRT should be considered as one of the many evidence-based strategies employed to reduce smoking rates. This includes strengthening marketing campaigns to motivate smokers to quit and to prevent relapse, investing in the provision of training for clinicians to be able to provide brief smoking cessation interventions, as well as providing greater access to support services such as group courses and Quitline.
While NRT addresses the physiological addiction to smoking it does not acknowledge the behavioural and psychological habits associated with this harmful addiction. Therefore a more holistic, supportive approach is needed if we are to reach the federal government's target of ''reducing the national adult daily smoking rate to 10 per cent of the population and halve the indigenous smoking rate by 2018'' which inevitably means collectively targeting these interventions towards the most disadvantaged in our community.
Joan Bartlett, CEO, Cancer Council ACT
On the wrong track
Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese says high-speed rail is noisy. It depends on your definition of noise. In my experience big trucks are more noisy. I seem to remember some of our representatives going overseas to study rail solutions in other countries. I assume that included Europe. When I was in Europe last year I was amazed at the low level of noise of express trains rushing past while I waited for a local train in a station. My relative explained it had something to do with plastic linings on brakes. Whatever it was, it seems that less noise is possible. Surely our government investigates all existing and developing technologies?
M. Pietersen, Kambah
Anthony Albanese's recent scare-mongering (March 5) which purports noisy trains as the basis of the argument against high-speed rail, borders on the absurd. At 100 decibels, high-speed trains generate scarcely more noise than an average motorbike and significantly less than planes passing over suburban rooftops. It's doubtful Mr Albanese is worried about noisy trains; he is simply looking for another reason to say no to high speed rail.
I don't blame him for his narrow-mindedness; he's probably never caught a train from Sydney to Melbourne in his life. This negative mindset, however, is indicative of the politics engulfing the high-speed rail debate in Australia. It's likely there is more at play in the debate. The economic and social benefits of high-speed rail are evident the world over. However, taking passengers and freight out of the sky and off the roads and putting them on rails will invariably leave some out of pocket. In the same way automobile, oil and tyre companies benefited significantly from the replacement of trams with buses, those in competition with the railways have a lot at stake in this debate.
Indeed domestic airlines, coach, road freight, tyre and oil companies all have an undeniable vested interest in avoiding any major advancements in Australia's railways. It's not surprising then, that every high-speed rail proposal includes at least one insurmountable hurdle to which our elected leaders can tenaciously cling. The latest, cited by Mr Albanese, includes a costly 144 kilometres of tunnelling, mostly in Sydney. Presumably the tunnels allow trains to run at high speed through the suburbs. If this, along with the ''noisy trains'' are the only problems, perhaps the trains could run at normal speed on existing track in suburban areas, then speed up on city fringes? Sure the journey might be 15 minutes longer, but it's worth considering, isn't it? It certainly works in Paris. The reality is that high-speed rail works - and it can work in Australia. It could bring economic benefits to regional towns and cities in NSW and Victoria and truly put Canberra in the centre of our two biggest cities.
Julian Keenan, Gowrie
One would expect that the letters editors at The Canberra Times would exercise due diligence in ascertaining the factual content of material submitted for comment prior to publication. I refer to your publication of a letter on March 5 authored by Mr Peter Crossing from Curtin. Mr Crossing's assertion that I sought to link ''asylum seekers in the community to paedophiles'' is not only grossly inaccurate, it is defamatory.
I made no such link, either in the Senate or elsewhere. A journalist made the link - a link I specifically rejected. Perhaps the letters editor at The Canberra Times might wish to consider if Mr Crossing himself is ''worthy'' of being included in future contributions to your newspaper.
Senator Eric Abetz, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate
A lot of waffle
In his review of Brigitta Olubas's book on writer and critic Shirley Hazzard (''Moral vision the linchpin'', Panorama, March 2, p20), Desmond O'Grady quotes the following: ''(A particular novel) is preoccupied with melodrama, most distinctively through the charge of metaphor layered on to the portentousness of prolepsis in order to cathect readers' expectation into a heightened and tangible desire.''
He asks what one is to make of such a sentence. Everyone knows what to make of it: nothing, although the names used for this can vary.
Some would call it literary flatulence. Most would agree that any paid professional communicator who can write such stuff is taking money under false pretences.
G.T.W. Agnew, Coopers Plains, Qld
What a curious comment by Con Coughlin (''Overstaying apart, Iraq invasion was a success'', March 4, p9), who suggests that the Arab people must be envious of the freedom that Iraqis have enjoyed since the demise of Saddam. He suggests this was a gift of the West.
Had the US captured Osama bin Laden, it is unlikely that it would have concocted the story of Iraq's possession of weapons of mass destruction story to justify the invasion.
Indeed, during the previous three decades, not only did the West ignore Saddam's brutal treatment of his people, it actively supported him during Iraq's conflict with Iran.
There is no doubt that the Arab people are in need of help, but let us give it to them as if we sincerely mean it.
Sam Nona, Burradoo, NSW
In his attack on climate change sceptics, including me, Matt Andrews (Letters, March 5) implies that sceptics are somehow misbehaving by using facts-based arguments. How silly of me. All along I thought the climate issue was about facts. And that the UN IPCC chief's recent statement that we have not warmed for 17 years, with no warming forecast, is a most important fact - especially as it confirms very similar data from the UK Met Office (national weather service) just before Christmas. So too is the fact that this ''pause'', as the alarmists call it, has happened despite constantly rising CO2 levels.
The basic alarmist case is that we face ''dangerous and unprecedented warming''. Obviously, nothing dangerous is happening - other than in alarmist computer models, that is. As for the unprecedented claim, that too is wrong.
A report on March 4, 2013 from the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre of Astrophysics has concluded that ''the 20th century is neither the warmest century nor the most extreme century in the last 1000 years'' - that occurred during the Medieval Warm Period (800AD-1300 AD).
The alarmists' forecasts have not been within a bull's roar of reality, and I hereby declare victory for the sceptics. We have won on the strength of irrefutable facts. I don't expect any apologies from the alarmists for their constant stream of abuse; a simple acknowledgment that the sceptics have been right all along will do.
Doug Hurst, Chapman
Advice for cafe
On a recent walk around the grounds of the Australian War Memorial I noticed three black and white signs advertising the Terrace Café. Two signs had been placed in the lawn as you drive into the memorial grounds and one on a wall at the entrance to the underground car park.
If the proprietors of the café are worried about the lack of business, could I respectfully suggest that they provide an imaginative menu appropriate for the venue, well-trained staff and a good barista?
How did the name change to the Terrace Cafe come about? I always thought the old name, Out Post, was very apt.
I hope the advent of these signs do not diminish the aura surrounding the nation's war memorial.
I would be sorry to think it prompted my cessation as a member of the friends of the memorial.
Keith Mitchell, Campbell
If Chris Smith (Letters, February 22) thinks that the relatively small numbers of dual Israeli-Australian nationals means they pose any less threat to Australia's sovereignty than the dual citizens of any other country, he must have missed the article by Denis Shanahan and Joe Kelly in The Australian following the UN vote on Palestinian observer status, which highlighted the activities of Julia Gillard's ''special business adviser'', Bruce Wolpe. According to the article, government ministers believed Wolpe was providing ''inordinate access to the hardline pro-Israeli elements of the Melbourne Jewish community who were having an undue influence on Gillard''.
Smith thinks my description of US-Israeli policies in the Middle East as vicious is ''hysterical.'' In 1993 The New York Times reported that Israel was torturing 500 to 600 Palestinians every month, and other reports suggests this is ongoing. In 1998, even a Jewish human rights group in Israel found that 85 per cent of Palestinian detainees undergo torture. In Israel's Operation Cast Lead attack on Gaza in 2008, the Israelis used illegal phosphorous weapons to kill more than 1400 Palestinians for the loss of 13 Israelis. Yes ''vicious'', extremely vicious.
Chris Williams, Griffith
To the point
A SIMPLE STATEMENT
The editor of Times Higher Education, Phil Baty, has said the Times survey which ranks university reputations is ''remarkably simplistic'' (''ANU moves up in university rankings'', March 5, p3). According to my dictionary, the definition of ''simplistic'' is ''Tending to exaggerated simplification; tending to adopt a single and too simple an explanation of a complex problem''. Either he was misquoted, or he is an uncommonly honest man.
G. Burgess, Kaleen
CSIRO NEEDS TO DO MORE
It is time the CSIRO showed some leadership and addressed the allegations of an endemic culture of bullying against it with honour and dignity which the Australian community expects of it. Smoke and mirror strategies are more appropriate for a magician than a premier scientific organisation.
Jack Hoffman, Conder
IT ALL COMES DOWN TO SPIN
There seems to be a shortage of Australian spinners in India, and far too many in Australia, especially in western Sydney. Surely India has an equivalent to 457 visas to assist us in exporting our excess?
Peter Baskett, Murrumbateman
SWEEPING AWAY SUPPORT
I have been a dedicated supporter of Australian cricket for decades, particularly traditional Test matches. But the next time I see an Australian Test batsman dismissed while attempting a sweep shot against an Indian spin bowler, I intend to switch my allegiances to synchronised swimming!
John Cosson, Isaacs
EYE ON THE SHRINKING BISCUIT
Since Campbell's Soup acquired Arnott's Biscuits, we have witnessed the incredible shrinking biscuit. I note that the price increases remain in line with CPI and are not related to biscuit size nor packet weight. Who does it think it is kidding?
John Trinder, Queanbeyan
NOT FOR MINE
I agree with Peter Crossing (Letters, March 5) about Scott Morrison. Morrison is the most unsavoury individual I have come across in a long time. The fact that he is able and intelligent only makes him all the more dangerous.
If [heaven forbid] Tony Abbott does come to power, I hope he gives Morrison a relatively harmless job like Veterans' Affairs.
Michael McCarthy, Deakin
GET LAKE NAME RIGHT
Bob Salmond (Letters, March 4) is correct to say that Canberra's central lake is incorrectly named. The correct name is Lake Griffin as previously demonstrated by Barry Price in his Canberra Times article of June 11, 2011.
Stephen Holt, Macquarie