PM's strategy to expose Abbott the one-trick pony
I am prepared to go out on a limb and predict that the PM's setting the date for the election was a master stroke as many of those who are toying with giving Tony Abbott the keys to The Lodge will soon tire of the repetitious, monotonous chant he has used since becoming Opposition Leader. They may even see that taking the country back to the Howard years is not sustainable, just as it wasn't during those years. This surely is a case of give them enough rope and they will hang themselves.
D.J.Fraser, Mudgeeraba, Qld
Among the rationales given by Julia Gillard was that her announcement of a September election would provide certainty and remove the speculation about when the election would take place. Why, then, are we not talking about having a fixed term for federal elections just as a number of state and territory legislatures have? While we are at it, why not also talk about increasing the three-year term to four, again as other state and territory governments have done?
As an ACT resident, I welcome the decision made to embrace both fixed-date elections and four-year terms as it does provide the community with certainty and also allows governments more time in which to introduce policies without the constant pressure of being in election mode, which tends to pervade three-year terms.
I applaud Ms Gillard's announcement and invite her, and indeed Tony Abbott, to take part in this broader conversation.
Ian De Landelles, Hawker
Just 226 more sleeps till we can wake up without Labor.
Ian Morison, Forrest
Now Julia Gillard has set the election date, could The Canberra Times consider placing all political announcements and associated comment and letters in a separate, throw-away, section. Why? Political lies shouldn't be conflated with news and we've had a surfeit of them over the past three years.
Commonwealth funding of elections begins after parties officially launch campaigns. Of late, we have seen launches closer to the poll date than the start of the campaign. Now that the Prime Minister has announced a 7½-month campaign, maybe she should also officially launch her party's campaign so that Labor does not continue to accept public funding which would otherwise go to the needy middle-class citizens both sides are so keen to court.
Gary Thomas, Griffith
Tony Abbott has worked very hard over a long period at the pointy end of the Liberal Party. He deserves respect for that. However, in case the coming election is not the kind of lay down misere where a dog carrying a note would win, he should be replaced - and the sooner the better.
Why? Because he is barely a match for top-rung interviewers, and has just a little too much form at saying the wrong thing - or on one memorable occasion, saying nothing for several seconds while rather bizarrely nodding his head. In short, he is a risk for becoming the story rather than addressing or redirecting it.
Joe Hockey might be a safer pair of hands, and probably would rate as more likeable to boot. To win gold in long-distance relays, you need specialists in the early legs to cover most of the hard yards, and then you need a final baton pass to your best finisher.
Well done, Tony, but look to the side: the next PM should be accelerating alongside you, fresher and faster still.
Ross Kelly, Monash
This is outstandingly unfair. We have just had an election in the Territory, and as a result the Chief Minister is claiming the right to add more ''senators'' to our already stretched levels of cash and credibility. Now we who live in our bungalows of canberra (note lower case) find we are headed to another political lying competition; we have to put up with federal politicians who want to bleat at us constantly for almost eight months.
Stop campaigning until two months before the randomly selected date. Leave us alone to make our own judgment about how well you've represented us.
Probyn Steer, Hawker
Words in bad taste
It is with great disappointment that I write further to Ron Radford's comments (''It's time: The Lodge officially on the nose'', January 26, p1) concerning the competition to redesign The Lodge. The simplicity of the house as the principal residence of our head of government has long been a subject of criticism especially when compared to the stately residences in Europe and elsewhere of some Australian diplomats.
However, as chairman of The Australiana Fund, my fellow members and I take exception to the sweeping statement that the house contains ''… extremely bad furniture''. I am saddened to learn that Mr Radford and perhaps others are unaware that the house contains many artworks of cultural significance and some historically important furniture from one of the country's foremost collections of Australiana, including Sir Henry Parkes' campaign secretaire and prime minister John Curtin's desk, which is currently on loan to the Museum of Australian Democracy. There are examples of fine Australian silver, ceramics and sculpture and craftsmanship both colonial and contemporary, including a handsome console table by Lenehan and the exquisite designs commissioned for the house in the 1920s by Ruth Lane Poole.
The Australiana Fund was set up in 1978 to purchase and maintain a permanent collection in all four official residences of the prime minister and governor-general and over the last 34 years we have worked closely with the incumbents to meet the changing needs of the house to showcase the best of Australian materials, workmanship and heritage while remaining mindful the artworks must be practical and usable in these working homes. While we may not choose the upholstery fabric, we understand that every ''home'' needs a sofa!
Donald McDonald, chairman, The Australiana Fund, Sydney
True colours shine
I must respectfully disagree with Merrie Carling (Letters, January 30) who calls for the removal of the Union Jack from the Australian flag. Our flag, which celebrates its 110th anniversary on February 11 this year, is as much a part of the nation's heritage as the multiplicity of cultures and ethnicities that comprise this wonderful country.
Our Anglo-Celtic heritage which thrives today in the form of our language, our legal and democratic system and our tolerance for all, is given vibrant expression in the Australian flag. My cousin Annie Dorrington, who was one of the prize winners of the 1901 competition to design our flag, was herself an immigrant. Need I say more?
Gary Kent, chairman, ACT & Region Branch Australians for a Constitutional Monarchy
Invasion: the facts
Ned Ovolny's missive (Letters, January 26), while cunningly worded, is factually incorrect. Invasion is still recognised as such whether or not the material cultures are similar. The Romans knew they were invading Britain, the Conquistadors knew they were invading the Americas. Diaries of early settlers clearly show they knew Aborigines were defending their land and families from invasion. Deaths occurred on both sides, but due to gunpowder, smallpox and the deliberate strategy of some settlers, Aboriginal deaths far exceeded those of Europeans. The last massacre, of at least 60 Aboriginal men, women and children, indiscriminately shot over a period of months, occurred in the Coniston area as recently as 1928. As for the ''benefits'' of European science, technology and social organisation, Aboriginal social organisation was complex and had functioned effectively for at least 50,000 years. After 1788, it was essentially destroyed across most of the continent. Over 200 years later, the tragic consequences are still apparent in many indigenous communities.
What's more, any supposed ''benefits'' were effectively denied through the deliberate marginalisation and exclusion of Aboriginal people from the ''mainstream'', even in some cases today.
Patricia Saunders, Chapman
Politics of power
Tom Cooke (Letters, January 29) is concerned about a republic headed by a president like Julia Gillard. It seems he thinks the title ''president'' conjures up notions of political power, and I agree. However, I do not see any need for the ''head of state'' of a republic to be called a ''president''.
When the time comes for the current Governor-General to be replaced, we can effectively become a republic if the prime minister of the day has the humility to forgo his/her prerogative to nominate the governor-general directly to the English monarch for approval. Instead the PM could convene a joint sitting of both houses of Parliament and ask our elected representatives for overwhelming approval of his/her nomination. In that way the voters of Australia approve our ''head of state'' instead of an un-elected foreign monarch. I doubt any subsequent PM would be arrogant enough to revert to the current ego-driven approach.
John F. Simmons, Kambah
My attention has been drawn to the highly sexist article by Jenna Price (Times2, January 18, p2). Sexism aside, the article provides interesting discussion points.
Jenna wrote that she required a vaginal repair and was aware the operation has a significant failure rate. Notwithstanding this, she sought, not the best surgeon available, but, specifically a female surgeon who she felt, would "understand". By this reasoning, all male urology trainees should undergo prostatectomy to enable them to "understand" their patients and all female urologists be forbidden to operate on men.
She goes further and bemoans the lack of women in surgery, due, she says, to the lack of part-time training and positions, and the work hours required. Unfortunately, Jenna, the reality is you can't teach people experience and skill and they can't get it from their laptop in a comfy chair after they've put the children to bed.
History continues to show that it is very difficult to be a first-class doctor and a first-class spouse and parent. It is for doctors and, by implication, their patients, to make their decision. There is still much truth in the maxim "if you want a good job done, get a busy man (sorry - "person") to do it".
M.A. Stafford-Bell, Deakin
Technology to make Manuka's light towers less offensive
Is anyone complaining about the night-time appearance of the Manuka Oval light towers? The only complaints I have heard are about their daytime appearance, when they're not needed.
A company in Britain offers telescoping lighting towers for sports stadiums. Their website says the design was developed because planners are placing increasing constraints on floodlighting structures at sports stadiums, particularly in residential zones and areas of architectural interest. The first stadium to benefit from a new telescopic mast is the al-Shamal Stadium in Qatar. The 43-metre masts will disappear into four turrets when not in use.
Wouldn't it be wonderful if Canberra could demonstrate excellence in urban design and adherence to community values with such technology here. That would be something to be proud of.
It is time Canberra lifted its game.
Penleigh Boyd, Reid
I think that I will never see, A light tower as lovely as a tree.
They've put them there to light the cricket, To allow fans better to see the wicket.
They blend so well with their environment, You'd swear that they've been Heaven sent.
Oh what a joy the light towers are Visible as they are, from near and far.
Despite the shortening of Winter's bright hours, More daylight is made, thanks to the towers.
Electric testament to the House of Lords, Illuminating Nirvana for the faithful hordes.
The great God Wisden has been appeased, Our Day/Night cricket fans relieved.
But, perching like some distressed brolga, I feel they look rather vulgar.
So let us give thanks for the Towers of Light - Those Pillars Erect for making sport so bright!
A glowing sentinel to sport's great might, A towering testament to a planner's blight.
Bill Atkinson, Waramanga
Mees on transport
Like most self-proclaimed experts, Thomas Manley (Letters, January 30) hasn't done his homework. In particular, he hasn't read Paul Mees' book Transport for Suburbia: beyond the Automobile Age or attended the talk Mees gave in Canberra some time ago.
The basis of Mees' argument is that you can supply good public transport, which people will use, in low-density places such as Canberra, provided you provide a good enough service. The example he uses is Zurich - not just the dense city area but the surrounding suburban and rural areas. In his talk here, he argued that Canberra is much the same. His claim that Canberra's transport failure is ''spectacular'' reflects that position.
It is also significant that the loss of patronage after 2006 reported in that article followed the Hargreaves/Stanhope campaign to slash ACTION services on suburban routes (to one bus every 40 minutes, then one an hour) to ''match service provision to loadings'', cuts that have now only been partially corrected. My local route, that 10 years ago had one bus every 15 minutes still has one every half hour.
David Walker, Ainslie
I remember Saturday, January 26, 1974, as helicopters flew over our house in Ipswich to find an inland sea from the flooded Bremer River. When the floods receded, the water did not affect bricks and most solid materials. They were washed off and were quickly back in use. In contrast, plasterboard and chipboard fell apart, but when the houses were rebuilt, the materials used were chipboard and plasterboard. In Germany, where cities were flooded with the same frequency as Brisbane, they were built to cope with floods. They only use solid materials. Power points are located high on the wall. After each flood the houses and shops are washed clean and quickly back in use.
Brisbane is built around a flood plain, and it will flood regularly. The flooding in Brisbane is bad, but levels are not as high as the floods of 2011, 1974, or the big one of 1893. I hope that if homes are rebuilt with assistance from the government or insurance companies, the materials are appropriate to houses in a flood plain.
Eugene Holzapfel, Campbell
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
It is no longer surprising though still sickening that Cory Bernardi is unable to perceive any conflict of interest between being an Australian senator and an active member of a foreign organisation that advocates for large scale, and largely avoidable, murder by means of tobacco and unnecessary guns. What should be surprising is that the remainder of the organisation that still clings to the title ''Liberal Party'' has been notable mostly for its inaction in response to this latest betrayal of its espoused values by one of its senior members.
Felix MacNeill, Dickson
WARDEN SPOT ON
Sometimes I don't find Ian Warden all that exciting these days, but in his contribution to Saturday's CT (''A quiet love'', Panorama, January 26, p7) , when he was not reined in by his commitment to local folklore, was spot on. The two quotations from G.B. Shaw and Einstein set the tone, and he showed that love of a country does not require boasting and sabre rattling. And thank you, Canberra Times, for giving him a little more leeway for once!
Hans Kuhn, Campbell
JUST UPDATE THE LODGE
Lainie Shorthouse (Letters, January 29) suggests the use of Collins Park for a new PM's Lodge. Forget Collins Park. Why not somewhere that is less well used - like Lyneham Oval? Better still leave the Lodge where it is and make any necessary changes. The need for a McMansion perhaps suggests something about Australians' insecurity.
C. Williams, Forrest
TRY OVER THE HILL
Neville Exon's dismay about the petrol station at Cooleman Court (Letters, January 29) prompts me to mention that over the hill at Kambah Village I haven't yet had to queue in a busy street for petrol, parking at the shopping centre isn't a very desperate matter so far and the supermarket is quiet without ghastly music. Even the trolleys roll smoothly forth without staggering sideways. Perhaps he should try the Kambah Village before the petrol gets too low again.
Janice Watkins, Duffy
So Gai Brodtmann (''Bile is killing public debate'', January 30, p9) doesn't like the bile in Parliament. Well Gai, what about jailing babies, locking up children in adult prisons, throwing the rule of law and constitution in the bin so humans can be trafficked to mounds of poo in the Pacific and Afghans can be slaughtered by us without charges being laid. Gillard and the ALP along with the Coalition and independents have destroyed all human rights and legal institutions in the country to appease racists.
Marilyn Shepherd, Angaston, SA