Kisses for Canberra, and not just a birthday smooch
On Saturday when reading what residents love about Canberra, mixed with reports of Canberra bashing, I realised that what I love about Canberra is not able to be summarised in a few words - but what is really great is that the majority of people who don't live here just don't get it.
Kevin McLoughlin, Barton
Let the record show that I would be the first to accept a birthday smooch on behalf of Canberra from the delightful Annabel Crabb. She is right (''Happy 100th, munchkins'', March 10, p2), Canberra sparkles, but I think it sparkles just a little bit more when she is in town. But she missed something from her birthday card - Canberra has something no other city has: one of the best cultural experiences in the country that is also internationally renowned as one of the best of its type.
This event? The National Folk Festival. It has been here every Easter since 1993 (after travelling around Australia since 1967). Financially, unlike many other arts events, it largely stands on its own two feet and it brings all Australians together like nothing else, except maybe winning the America's Cup. Former High Court judge and co-author of Bringing Them Home, the late Sir Ronald Wilson, once described the event as ''a celebration of humanity in all its diversity''. Here. In Canberra. Not bad for the city without a soul, eh?
John L. Taylor, Aranda
In an attempt to make peace with Canberra, Annabel Crabb (''Happy 100th, munchkins'', March 10, p2) proceeds to regurgitate another Canberra urban myth. Queen Elizabeth II was not denied landing rights in 2000 because of the risk of noise from her aircraft affecting the earless dragon. At that time there were safety restrictions on the size of aircraft that could land in Canberra. Her Majesty's civilian 747 required a larger turning circle at the end of the runway than was then available. Previously, a few large aircraft had been allowed to land as they were military aircraft.
Construction of an extension of the main runway to take large civilian aircraft was delayed due to the possible presence of the earless dragon in the construction zone. It had nothing to do with ''Canberra's egalitarianism'' or the noise of the monarch's aircraft. Ron Lees, Stirling
We argue that we (Canberrans) are standing proud and have lost the chip on our shoulders concerning the criticism of our wonderful city. We are partying hard to celebrate our city's 100th birthday. Yet Katy Gallagher refuses to allow the the federal Leader of the Opposition a role in the party (''Gallagher refuses to find role for Abbott'', March 11, p3). The pettiness of this action knows no bounds. Let's hope Mr Abbott is not so petty, and does not ''repay'' the favour, when - as polls suggest - he becomes prime minister later this year.
Michael Matthews, Kingston
Any Canberran who chose to go to the coast at the weekend is a bum.
Ed Highley, Kambah
I just wanted to drop you a quick note to say how fantastic your 100 Canberran photos were (''Canberra, we love you'', March 9). Being a third-generation Canberran, who is now living in Ireland, I was moved to tears with the simplicity and honesty of the photos.
Your photographer has manage to capture the spirit of Canberra and its people. It epitomises what makes Canberra great.
Here in Ireland I am regularly asked where I am from, to which I reply ''Canberra.'' Almost always it evokes the same response: ''That's the capital, not many people know that.''
Damn straight, Canberra's the capital. Congratulations again on a wonderful article. Keep up the great work.
Grant Hourigan, Dublin, Ireland
Pity the children
A few days ago, two little boys and their donkeys were scavenging for firewood in Afghanistan. For undisclosed reasons, Australian troops in the locality summoned assistance from a US helicopter, which promptly appeared and blew the little boys and their donkeys to pieces (''A 'few hundred' the price paid for two dead boys'', March 9, p11). At the same time, hundreds of totally innocent children are being imprisoned in tropical hell holes in Nauru and Papua New Guinea. These offshore prisons are euphemistically referred to as ''processing centres'', but no one is ever processed there and the children can expect to be imprisoned indefinitely.
I have never met an Australian who would willingly cause harm to any child, but in our name our morally bankrupt politicians of both major parties are authorising policies that see hundreds of children slaughtered and even greater numbers imprisoned indefinitely in our 20th-century versions of concentration camps.
Surely it is time for decent Australians to tell our politicians that enough is enough. Our troops should be withdrawn from Afghanistan immediately and all children should be freed from prison into what I believe will be a deeply caring community.
Phil O'Brien, Watson
So, two small boys gathering firewood in a field in faraway Afghanistan are apparently slaughtered by Australian troops and the issue that captures our attention is not the tragedy of innocent young lives lost but just the question of how much their lives were worth.
What does it say about us that no one can bother to explain why they were killed, any more than they can explain why those who allegedly killed them were there in the first place?
John Richardson, Wallagoot, NSW
Horatio Clare's piece (''Walking important first step on the road to self-discovery'', March 9, p7) gives a series of snippets on the benefits of walking and of walks - alone or with famous people - in nondescript places or in well-trodden ''caminos'', among which he mentions Santiago de Compostela. Did you know that this walk, ''immortalised'' in Martin Sheen's movie The way, has a colony of followers here in Canberra who regularly get together to walk the byways and tracks around our city? Some of them do it in preparation for the real thing: to walk El Camino.
Horatio is dead right; walking is very good for you and if you share the experience with others, even better. My Canberra Friends of the Camino certainly appear to be a very well-adjusted, healthy and happy bunch.
John Rodriguez, Florey
A fine example
Father Bob Maguire (''The father who keeps it honest'', Forum, March 9, p5) is a living, breathing example of everything the Catholic Church should be.
Joe Murphy, Bonython
Father Bob Maguire likes to portray himself as a larrikin. My mother would have called him the three Cs: crude, coarse and common, and may even have added crass. If Father Maguire so hates the institutional church, why does he ''want to be in there''?
C. Rule, Gilmore
It is heartening that someone as eminent as Harry Evans (ex-clerk of the Senate) could be bothered to consider how the largely dysfunctional ACT Assembly might be reformed (''Consider a mayor for Canberra'', March 7, p7). From its very genesis, the Assembly has been lacking in quantity and quality. Admittedly, there are plenty of time-servers among all Australian houses of parliament, assemblies and councils, but they don't stand out in a group of 100 or so.
It's a worthwhile exercise to rate the current (and previous) Assembly according to potential salary. How many MLAs could win a role as a departmental head on merit? How many would be worthy of an SES salary? But it is from this pretty shallow talent pool that we have to draw the ministers that tell departmental heads how to do their job.
As Evans points out, Canberra is very poorly served by ''the sterile game of government versus opposition, with a shadow government under the imperative to oppose everything and their tiny backbench faithfully following''. Any reforms that would enable all MLAs to positively contribute to the business of government would be welcome.
It would be even better if the talents of those outside of the Assembly could contribute to the development of worthwhile policy. It would be a more efficient way to spend ratepayers' dollars.
Unfortunately, the status quo is likely to continue no matter the size of the Assembly. It's a sort of parallel universe where a small clique spends lots of energy arguing about who gets to sit in the biggest office and who gets the biggest headlines in The Canberra Times.
Mike Reddy, Lyons
C. Henry (Letters, March 9) has misunderstood my suggested change to the ACT system of government. The proposed directly elected chief executive would replace the Chief Minister, and would appoint the heads of portfolios who would also not be members of the Assembly.
Harry Evans, Page
Son of Collins
Nic Stuart (''The hunt for folding stuff'', Forum, March 9, p7) seems, albeit conditionally, to be supporting the replacement of the rather dismal Collins-class submarine with another home-grown effort. I wonder which policy and procedural settings have so improved since the Collins decision that Nic thinks the navy, the Defence Materiel Organisation and the Australian Submarine Corporation could all do better a second time around on a bigger and more complex submarine project? Recent navy/DMO projects, including Collins maintenance, do not augur well for a Son of Collins.
Really, how could any government contemplate another self-inflicted money pit like the Collins subs? No commercial board of directors would survive advocating the repeat of such a costly venture.
The navy has apparently persuaded decision-makers that no British or European submarine is suitable for Australian requirements. It said that last time, although regional neighbours have bought from Europe.
On all the evidence, Son of Collins would be folly.
Peter Moran, Watson
Anzac dawn service was never intended to be entertainment
It would appear that the Australian War Memorial's new director, Brendan Nelson, seemingly with the imprimatur of the memorial's governing council, is intent on transforming the Anzac dawn service into some form of entertainment event otherwise seen at theme parks such as Disneyland. Dr Nelson, who confesses to having never been to a Canberra dawn service or Anzac Day march (ABC 666 interview of Thursday, March 7) has failed to come to understand that the growing numbers that attend the dawn service do not participate to be entertained.
Rather, they attend to contemplate in silence and with personal dignity the service and sacrifice that all service men and women have made over many years. His plans for the dawn service as outlined in the article ''Walls will come alive this Anzac Day'' (March 9, p1) fly in the face of the purpose and charter of the War Memorial as it was originally conceived. It is, in simplistic terms, a place for solemn reflection. It was never intended to be a place of entertainment or theatre.
To see the ''staged theatre'' of Friday, March 8, when Dr Nelson and Corporal Ben Roberts-Smith arrived at the memorial in an army vehicle to announce the dawn service plans was more in keeping with his previous life when resident in the big house on the south side of the lake.
Political theatre of the ilk of last Friday is neither befitting nor appropriate for the operation of the War Memorial and should be roundly condemned by its council.
While Dr Nelson may be well-meaning in his plans, he needs to accept that the War Memorial is not his personal plaything but rather he is honour-bound to hold in respective trust the fundamental tenets of the way in which the business of the memorial is operated and as it was meant to be as conceived by its founding father, C.E.W. Bean.
Brian Rowe, Campbell
Tensions are indeed rising at the Australian War Memorial as a result of what is happening to one section of the memorial (''Tensions rise over changes at the War Memorial'', March 9, p5).
In early February it was announced that a new gallery would be established to highlight our involvement in Afghanistan. This was welcomed as a necessary project for our veterans of that war and is supported by all volunteers.
Why the tension? Towards the end of February it was made clear that this new and vital gallery was to be situated where the Online Gallery has been for many years. The Online Gallery is staffed by approximately 50 devoted volunteers, in 14 shifts each week, every day of the year except Christmas Day.
Volunteers have been providing help for visitors to the memorial on any matter relating to their loved ones, or relatives going back to the Sudan War (1885) and in all wars from then, including peacekeepers. Some of the volunteers have worked in the Online Gallery for more than 20 years. Last week we heard that the new Afghanistan Gallery will open in July and the Online Gallery will be gone.
We all support the need for the new gallery, and we look forward to its opening. The tension mentioned in the news item could have possibly been lessened if we had been involved in the process of effectively relocating the resources of the Online Gallery.
David Nott, AWM volunteer since 1997, Barton
Brendan Nelson appears determined to close a facility staffed by volunteers which has, for 20 years, provided an unexcelled service to visitors from every part of Australia. The 55 rostered volunteers who staff the Online Gallery every day of the week have freely given more than 77,000 hours of their time to establish and ensure a most helpful and compassionate interface for visitors seeking information about family members who have served. These include Legacy widows, the aged, schoolchildren, serving members from Kapooka, visitors with little or no computer skills and many who have no computer access. Naturally the numbers vary from day to day but the number visiting would completely overwhelm the two paid staff in the Reading Room. Dr Nelson's closure date appears to be July 2013 - a time of high memorial attendance for Canberra's centenary and the centenary of the Anzac campaign.
What extraordinarily inept planning. He is offering either no alternative plan or the provision of two computer terminals ''somewhere'' to ''replace'' the 14 terminals now in daily use. It is clear that the director has no firsthand knowledge of the role or extent of the service provided by the volunteers in the Online Gallery.
Its disappearance should be neither tolerated nor permitted.
Edward Fleming, AWM volunteer, Deakin
TO THE POINT
PROMOTING A NEW SYSTEM
If ever there was a case to be heard for team promotion/relegation right down the line in some football codes, that time has surely come now. Any premiership-winning lower grade team should be invited to play the wooden spooner in the next grade up for a place in that higher grade.
Greg Simmons, Lyons
So the new Canberra airport is designed so that travellers can ''hub'' through Canberra (''New terminal is ready for take-off'', March 8, p2). Amazing! I did think that ''transit'' was such a useful word. Pardon my sarcasm.
Peter Baxter, Symonston
I fully endorse Michael McCarthy's comments (Letters, March 8) concerning Scott Morrison - except for his cruel suggestion that he be dumped on us poor veterans.
Steve Hart, Hawker
THE SENSIBLE OPTION
Julian Keenan (Letters, March 8) is quite correct. The roads lobby will find pretty much any reason, no matter how outlandish, to try to persuade us to spend yet more billions on highways. This is despite rail being the most economically sensible option for our future. But then when did the most economically sensible option carry a great deal of weight in this country?
Greg Baker, Giralang
A REAL FOREST AT LAST
At last! The National Arboretum is to have a forest among its plantations. Yes! A real forest with mixed species AND an understorey (Understorey the hero of this plot, March 8, p12). O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay! Only 99 more to go. Won't it be grand?
Peter Snowdon, Aranda
WHO'LL CLEAN THIS MESS?
The appalling damage done by the Rudd/Gillard governments - not only to the nation but to the ALP - has been demonstrated by the WA election result. Anyone wishing to assume leadership of this poisonous situation would really have to think more than twice before accepting such a forlorn and hopeless challenge. Even if saving a few seats were to be achieved the ''new'' leader would still wear the mantle of ''failure''. Better to leave Gillard to tough it out.
N. Bailey, Nicholls
SAVE THIS COCKATOO
If, as stated, the yellow-tailed black cockatoo is in danger of extinction in the ACT (''Extinction looms for ACT animals and shrubs'', March 9, p3) would it be too hard to hope that their food source trees could be planted (quickly) in sufficient numbers to encourage their continued beautiful existence? Or does nobody care?
Susan Flanagan, Kingston
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