Politicians paid to govern, not to rake over old muck
I hope that the Liberal/National party is underestimating the intelligence of Australians. I personally feel that what Julia Gillard did or did not do in her job decades ago is best left to those who employed her and the professional organisation she belonged to.
As far as I am concerned, and I hope that other voters feel the same, we elect, and pay the salaries of, our politicians to rule the country, not take up valuable time muck raking into the past. To me the current situation reflects badly on the intelligence of those who seem to have nothing better to do.
As this is the last parliamentary sitting for several weeks, I would assume that those who are given the responsibility of running the country have more important issues to address.
Audrey Guy, Ngunnawal
Honour flora, fauna
Recent letters to The Canberra Times by Phil Creaser (Letters, November 21), regarding our special fauna, and Dr Alex Ritchie (Letters, November 26), regarding a natural history museum, come as no surprise to most biological scientists in Canberra.
They follow similar correspondence exactly two years ago when a proposal for a Frank Fenner national museum of biodiversity was proposed as being both appropriate and timely in view of Canberra's forthcoming centenary. It was felt appropriate because Frank Fenner recommended that a biological survey of Australia be established by the government as soon as possible in a report he wrote in 1968, and timely because it was more than 100 years since an institution to properly study Australia's vast and diverse flora and fauna was first proposed. While it appears to have failed to gain a place for the Centenary of Canberra the requirement for such an institution is as imperative as ever.
That such an institution has yet to emerge in this country is a national disgrace for which successive Australian governments of both sides of politics over the last century are responsible. The time has never been considered right but I firmly believe Canberra has ''reached the state of intellectual maturity'' Dr Ritchie hopes our political masters will embrace.
Murray Upton, Belconnen
Does Australia need a national natural history museum, as suggested by Phil Creaser and Alex Ritchie? We think so, and have begun to explore the idea. Our vision is not one of a museum based on 19 century ideals, under which grandiose buildings are full of cabinets with stuffed animals. A modern museum would combine tangible, state-of-the-art research and collection facilities with the ability to reach out to the community using 21st century technology. The broadband network, robotics and the inclusion of social media and real-time interactions could extend the reach of such a museum to all Australians, wherever they are.
We believe a physical and online museum would be an excellent means of assisting people, both professional and citizen scientists alike, to learn more about our unique biodiversity, particularly in a changing environment. It would assist us to preserve our amazing natural history collections, and would complement efforts undertaken by state museums. Developing an associated strong research agenda would enable scientists to reveal important knowledge essential to the preservation and responsible use of our plants and animals.
In the meantime, go to the website for the Atlas of Living Australia ww.ala.org.au. This is a joint activity among all Australia's biological collections to bring information about Australian biodiversity to you.
Dr Joanne Daly, CSIRO,
Black Mountain Laboratories
Alas, poor green caps
Australian cricketers, where be your gibes now?
R.J. Wenholz, Holt
I read with a mixture of delight and relief the opinion pieces by Professor John Mulvaney (''Australia's heritage protection process is in crisis'', November 26, p9) and Professor Ken Taylor (''Battle for the soul of the city'', November 26, p9). A rethink of the vision for Canberra and the introduction of accountability into the planning process is long overdue.
The concept hinted at by developers and some politicians, that Canberra should emulate other cities and become some sort of less enticing version of Sydney or Melbourne, is as ridiculous as it is offensive. Every city needs to capitalise on its assets, which in Canberra's case include: its beautiful bushland environment, views to the mountains, degree of forethought in its original planning, low-density housing and ease of movement around the city. To deliberately destroy one or many of these for short-term economic gain will backfire in decades to come. There are plenty of high-rise, busy cities in Australia that people can move to easily if they so desire. Let us try to preserve one that has some originality and character before it becomes just another clone.
N. Watson, Turner
Thank heavens for Professor Ken Taylor (''Battle for the soul of the city'', November 26, p9). He's right. Our planning emperor has no clothes.
Why would we, in this tiny bush city, want to create deliberately the urban density profiles forced on mega-cities? That the ACT government has embarked on such a program in order to try to reduce a burgeoning annual bus subsidy and to maximise its revenue from housing, is tragic and wrong.
Only 6 per cent of Canberrans use buses. If more buses come to bus-stops more frequently and reliably, that share might rise to 8 per cent, but at substantially higher per-user annual subsidy.
The way forward? As Professor Taylor implies, the 92 per cent of Canberrans who prefer to use their cars are much more interested in that electric Mini Cooper that travels 240 kilometres between (Greenchoices) charges.
Adrian Milton, Higgins
If it is true that schools are encouraging parents of lower achieving students to withdraw them from NAPLAN tests or keep them home on test days, then we need to take a long hard look at the plan itself.
The objective of NAPLAN should be simple, unequivocal and transparent - to improve the teaching of literacy and numeracy, and to raise the numbers of kids who can read and write and count competently.
It should not be about competition between schools. Such competition becomes unhealthy and counter-productive. NAPLAN in its current format encourages manipulation of stats by schools to improve their corporate image at the expense of the individual student's best interests.
The plan ignores demographic, economic and other social factors that affect overall school scores one way or another. In the best interests of every child in the system, NAPLAN's administrators should be held publicly to account, to demonstrate clearly that its objectives are being met, and to show that any flaws have been ironed out. If the administrators are unable or reluctant to do this, then the plan should be scrapped.
John Bell, Lyneham
A warning for employees of the failed company mentioned in the article ''Catering empire's final bill at $4m'' (November 24, p1). When you do eventually receive the compulsory employer 9 per cent superannuation payments, the ATO does not take into account the payments relate to a period of employment in an earlier financial year. So, for the year you receive the back payment, if the total payments of 9 per cent compulsory employer superannuation contributions exceeds $25,000 you will be charged penalty tax. I repeat: the employee is liable, not the employer.
I know this because my employer pays superannuation irregularly and made 18 months of 9 per cent employer superannuation payments in the one financial year. I ended up paying the penalty tax out of my own pocket. I do not make salary sacrifice payments. These are the compulsory employer superannuation payments.
In my discussions with the ATO no one enforces whatever duties are required of the employer to pay regularly, and the industry-based super funds don't care to warn you of the irregular payments.
The only reason I can see for the situation occurring is that it was a bit too hard for the ATO computer programmers to take into account the payment period associated with an employer superannuation transaction.
So much for a fairer tax system. Employees pay the penalties for an employer's actions.
Gordon Matthews, Gungahlin
It is obvious Ian Webster (Letters, November 21) did not view either the rice video or the climategate emails, but decided, even with his lack of knowledge, to do some name-calling anyway. I assure him every fact reported in the rice video can be verified in peer-reviewed scientific papers.
No scientists are denying that the climate may be warming or that there is a small amount of anthropogenic CO2 in the atmosphere (which, by the way, is predicted to have a slightly beneficial effect). If you are so sure of your facts, why don't you ask Tim Flannery, David Karoly or any other IPCC scientists to provide the evidence for anthropogenic global warming (AGW). The fact is that they can't, because not only was the AGW hypothesis tested and found to be invalid, but more disturbingly, their work has been discredited.
Did you know that the IPCC is now so discredited it has not been invited to the next worldwide get together on climate change: www.thegwpf.org/wanted-ipcc-invited-climate-summit? Did you also know that David Karoly et al have been required to withdraw a paper recently submitted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal because the analysis seemed to be flawed: www.quadrant.org.au/blogs/doomed-planet/2012/11/speak-loudly-and-carry-a-busted-hockey-stick? This paper is quite long, but very interesting. I'd advise Mr Webster to read it before continuing the dialogue.
Dr Judy Ryan, Lyons
Maybe Defence should come out of dark and see the light
After taking 12 months and no doubt spending hundreds of thousands of dollars, the Department of Defence says it cannot determine why an Afghan soldier shot Australians (''Defence still in dark about rogue Afghan attacks'', November 24, p12). I can tell them in 10 seconds, with five words, and for free: Because We Have Invaded Afghanistan.
If the Afghans invaded us, Defence would no doubt encourage soldiers, and possibly civilians, to take pot shots at them, and no doubt award medals for certified ''kills''.
At least we would know why they were doing it!
Richard Keys, Ainslie
More than parking
Your columnist Richard Denniss (''Parking lite: a metre less'', Forum, November 24, p7) raises the subject of street parking. What a great idea; turn 2-3 common size parking bays into four bays suitable for compact cars. But let me take this a step further and add some much needed safety to our busy streets. My fervent hope is that the local government takes action to remedy a problem that affects all cyclists, pedestrians and motorist. This is visibility of cross traffic at intersections, which is exacerbated by the plethora of SUVS and tradesman type vans on our roads. When one or two of these type vehicles are parked in the first 2-3 parking bays on the right hand side of the intersection, it becomes almost impossible for anyone to see oncoming traffic from that direction. The simple solution is to restrict those first 2-3 parking spaces to vehicles other than the SUV's buses and vans. Visibility and safety will be improved for all intersections, all cyclists, pedestrians and motorists.
Charles Landwehr, Kambah
Too many mistakes
Considering legislating to prevent increases in State mining royalties from reducing the Commonwealth's mining tax (''Mining royalties back in spotlight'', November 22, p4) reveals yet another mistake the federal ministers made when they 'negotiated' a more generous mining tax for the industry. This was by excluding Treasury advisers from the negotiations.
The first mistake was increasing the annual profit the company could earn before the tax kicked in, from 6 per cent to 13 per cent of the value of the company's assets. The second mistake was to allow that calculation to take account of the market value of the company's assets instead of book value which, because market value is considerably higher than book value, raised still further the profit that could be earned before the tax starts. And the third mistake was to not guard against the states' ability to kill the mining tax altogether by increasing State royalties.
However, legislation now to correct the third mistake won't achieve anything because the first two mistakes mean that no tax will be paid anyway; no company is going to reach the extremely high profit threshold before the tax starts! This is already evident; in the first three months of the tax, ''not a single cent (was) collected'' (''Greens, independents riled up over Swan's lack of revenue'', October 26, p4).
R.S. Gilbert, Braddon
Argument so windy
Doug Hynd (Letters, November 21) wrote a considered article about the nonsense of health damage from the noise emission from wind turbines. Murray May and George Papadopoulos in separate responses (Letters, November 24), beg to differ. George's letter contained contradictions, and finished with a statement of unassailable scientific fact that did not require a special study, namely that ''the degree of noise (harm) correlates very neatly with distance''. Of course it does. Does George really understand the meaning of 'inaudible low-frequency noise' and 'electromagnetic radiation'? I doubt it.
As for 'experts' on noise damage, that is simply nonsense. Al Gore once asked that evidence be found for climate change. It did not surprise me that it was found. Similarly with wind turbines. The issue is political people living nearby just don't like them, and they are the ones stirring the noise damage pot, and, getting some support. If I asked for a noise damage report for cars hooning day and night up and down my street I would get it, and I would bet it would be more damaging that that from wind turbines.
Greg Jackson, Kambah
To the point
HISTORY PROVES OWNERSHIP
Bill Arnold (Letters, November 24) says the West Bank was part of Israel at its creation. This is at odds with the history and maps I have read, which show clearly the West Bank was in the Arab portion of Palestine under the partition plan passed by the UN in 1947. According to these accounts, the West Bank was not in the Jewish portion of Palestine and therefore not part of the State of Israel when it was created.
Mike Hettinger, O'Connor
TROUBLE IN THE GARDENS
I thank Greg O'Regan (Letters, November 23) for his expressed sympathy and his likewise expressed concern regarding the transfer of some neighbourhood planning and approval to the private sector. Unfortunately, ACT residents are unaware of the demise of past planning restrictions until they themselves are directly affected and, before too long, our garden city will be no more.
P. J. Carthy, McKellar
HOLD ON TO STIRLING RIDGE
I have heard of no protagonists for the handing over of land on Stirling Ridge to foreigners, and yet it appears the National Capital Authority looks to this as an option. This land would be lost to Canberra residents and visitors to our lovely city. In addition, it would solve nothing as there is an ever growing number of countries requesting facilitation to acquire a site for an embassy - what is needed is a new diplomatic area, such as the Molongo Valley, to accommodate them.
John White, Deakin
MISUSE OF BENEFITS
In my heavily edited letter of November 23 about the public benevolent institution tax exemption, I was making a point about any public sector employees receiving these benefits. I do not know if the executives can claim meal and entertainment expenses, pretax, that have nothing to do with their work but I do know that this is enjoyed by some non-executive public sector employees and I do not understand why. Such benefits are meant to apply to the community and charitable sector.
D. Lucas, Lyneham
LISTEN TO THE MUSIC
You can call me a wowser, but I am also a paying patron who attended the Voices in the Forest concert at the Arboretum on Saturday night to enjoy the music. There is a year to go before the next event, hopefully enough time for certain parents on the sidelines to learn to show some respect to the artists and teach their children how to behave. Organisers please note that the disruption to last year's inaugural event may have been forgiven but the audience has now been twice bitten, the third time perhaps too shy?
Alan Sinclair, Waramanga