Politicians wrong to assume public forgets GST pain
So-called ''independent'' Rob Oakeshott is the latest to join a growing list of politicians, ex-politicians and ex-bureaucrats calling for ''changes'' (an increase in both the rate and scope) to the GST, confirming my view that these people think the community is both stupid and suffer memory loss.
The ''never ever'' GST was first introduced by John Howard after devious then-Democrat leader Meg Lees decided to support it. We were told back then the GST would not be increased past 10 per cent and that it would replace inefficient state taxes. Inefficient state taxes did not disappear and there have been repeated calls to increase the GST. Politicians are not to be believed and it would appear from the latest Nielsen poll that voters are overwhelmingly against any increase in the GST and should therefore chuck out any politician that disagrees.
Ric Hingee, Duffy
Vote on euthanasia
Richard Willingham's article on voluntary euthanasia (''Greens set to rejoin battle for voluntary euthanasia'', November 19, p1) raises many personal, ethical, legal and political questions. While possibly the majority of the population is in favour, legislation has hitherto been blocked by religious, legal and medical objections, although many doctors follow the dictum ''thou shall not kill, but neither strive officiously to keep alive''. Two developments in recent years have lessened the call for voluntary euthanasia. First is the home-based/hospice palliative care program, where the focus is on the physical and emotional needs of the patient rather than on their disease. Secondly is the Respecting Patient Choices consultant (phone 6244 3244 or visit www.respectingpatientchoices.org.au), where patients can indicate their wishes regarding medical intervention in the case of severe illness.
Medical technology now enables life's quantity to be extended without benefiting its quality or prognosis. As a retired physician, my view is that voluntary euthanasia is a personal human rights issue which, provided legal protection against abuse is assured, should not be over-ruled by religious dogma, family pressures or political power.
The legal right to die humanely rather than through the consequences of an insufferable disease should be subject to a democratic conscience vote in Parliament. Experience overseas has shown that many patients, having been given that right, fail to use it, but appreciate the liberty if they eventually decide to do so.
Bryan Furnass, Hughes
NCA failing criteria
The National Capital Authority, through the National Capital Plan, is required to achieve three major objectives: (1) maintain and enhance the landscape character of Canberra as the setting for the national capital; (2) protect the undeveloped open spaces which divide and give form to Canberra's urban area; (3) support and promote environmentally responsible urban development practices.
The NCA proposes placing a diplomatic subdivision which has the potential to be a visual disaster on Stirling Park close to the foreshore of Lake Burley Griffin, and proposes Attunga Point as the site of a new prime minister's residence. Most reasonable people would see this plan as blatantly ignoring the objectives the NCA is required to fulfil. The fascinating point is that under the Australian Capital Territory (Planning and Land Management) Act 1988, the NCA has a legal obligation to satisfy the demands imposed upon it by the Act.
Is the NCA acting outside the law?
Peter McGhie, Yarralumla
ACT held to ransom
The mind boggles at the amount of money given to ACT Legislative Assembly members to run their respective offices.
Millions of dollars given to what amounts to a handful of employees to perform a clerical support job is a difficult pill to swallow for the unfortunate residents of Canberra who voted overwhelmingly against self-government. It is difficult to see the productivity of a bunch of upwardly mobile young suits running around as gophers for politicians when the money to pay them would have been channelled into badly needed local council services if the collective voice of the people of Canberra had been listened to.
Democratic process was the victim when self-government was proclaimed. The money spent today on politicians and their staff is called progress as we mug punters are held to ransom to foot the bill.
John Bell, Lyneham
PBI lurk unfair
Ben Sweaney (''Union alleges 'fat cat' tax rort, November 19, p1) highlights what he describes as the ''unacceptable and disgusting'' conduct of allowing emergency services executives to claim Public Benevolent Institution status. The PBI was intended to apply to the community sector, the charitable sector, where workers have traditionally received poor conditions and low wages. Instead our taxes have been supporting financial benefits to workers who have historically enjoyed much better wages and conditions.
And could the executives enjoying this lurk please explain why they are also able to claim meal and entertainment expenses, pre-tax, that have nothing to do with their work? If the government wants to seriously rein in its budget perhaps it could start looking at this, as the Henry Tax Review recommended.
D. Lucas, Lyneham
NSW State Coroner Mary Jerram issued her findings last week in relation to the inquiry into the death of Roberto Curti, who was Tasered 13 times by police in March. Ms Jerram was critical of police evidence, stating one officer's evidence ''was so self-contradictory, self-serving and obscure that it hardly bears narrating''. She stated the officer was unable to explain the constant difference between his version of events and what was shown by Tasercam footage. What would have been the finding had there been no Tasercam footage?
It is of grave concern that the Australian Federal Police in Canberra do not have the Tasercam hardware fitted to their Tasers. All state police have it. The Police Federation of Australia believes ''it is important that Tasers used in Australia by frontline officers have the Tasercam fitted and operating at all times that the Taser is drawn''. What do the AFP have to hide?
Peter Woodhouse, Ben Aulich & Associates, criminal lawyers, Canberra City
I sympathise with P.J. Carthy's irritation (Letters, November 16) that the first notification of a significant extension to a neighbour's house, likely to impinge on his quality of life, was by mail and was a fait accompli.
Our case is similar. Gossip informed us that the run-down house next door was to be demolished. Hoping to study the plans, we made inquiries and found there was no room for discussion. The plans were approved and that was that. The builder sent us the building plans according to his duty and confirmed that there was no appeal. The new house is out of alignment with neighbouring houses which in 1968 were built for light, space, winter sun, and views. We have no grouch with the new owners building on almost every inch of their block. We are disappointed that with some prior consultation, minor adjustments would have preserved some of the early morning sun and our view up the street.
An appeal to the Minister for Planning drew a response that fantasised about community consultation and the ability for ''private certifiers'' to issue building approvals. So P.J. Carthy and fellow Canberrans be alert, someone near you may be planning to lessen your quality of life and legally you cannot do a thing about it.
Greg O'Regan, Farrer
Harmony a tall order
R. Salmond (Letters, November 19) raises some good points about community consultation for Westfield's proposed 24-storey development near the shore of Lake Ginninderra. The height of the main building was discussed by the architects with ACTPLA in May, so it would have been possible, at that time, to make the community aware of the concept and obtain feedback. Another issue this proposal highlights is the role of master plans, if any. Neither the Belconnen Town Centre Master Plan of 2001 nor the Belconnen Town Centre Design Concept Report of 2008 envisage anything like this height in this location.
R. Salmond suggests ''the policy for building height limits in Belconnen town centre also need to be reviewed''. In actual fact, the master plan opines that a blanket height limit is not desirable, rather the height should be determined by the surrounding characteristics of the landscape. This means that considerable time and effort is required by ACTPLA assessors to decide whether a proposed height is appropriate. This leads to the general question of what kind of planning system do we want? One that focuses on bricks and mortar, satisfies developers and tackles problems in a piecemeal manner or a system that focuses on providing solutions that are in the best interests of current and future communities?
Robyn Coghlan, Hawker
Climate of denial
Judy Ryan (Letters, November 19) is apparently a carbon denier of the old school: ''climate alarmist drivel''; ''climategate''; ''IPCC pseudo-scientists''; ''null hypothesis'' (meaning ''give carbon dioxide the benefit of any doubt'') and so on.
Surprisingly, her short review missed out on stating the most powerful and irrefutable denialist argument of all: that the sea level rise that we detect may be due to planetary warming, but that warming cannot possibly be due to human activities. Because if it was, it would be bad for established business. End of story.
Ian MacDougall, Farrer
Israel's latest violent rampage in Gaza act of pure thuggery
To those who support Israel's latest rampage in Gaza on the basis that Israel is entitled to defend itself from Hamas rocket attacks, consider this. For at least 20 years, the citizens of mainland Britain suffered hundreds of casualties from Irish Republican Army bombs.
However, I cannot recall the Royal Air Force laying waste to Catholic areas of Northern Ireland, from which the bombs and bombers originated. Nor can I recall the Spanish army invading the Basque country and killing scores of Basques in response to ETA bombs. Israel's current action in Gaza is pure thuggery, designed to win votes for Benjamin Netanyahu in the upcoming Israeli elections.
Paul Dixon, Fraser
Israel has a right to defend itself, as stated by those who rallied recently at the Israeli embassy, including Parliamentary Secretary for Defence Mike Kelly (''ACT protest calls for peace and support for Israel'', November 19, p3); however the people of Gaza also have rights. Judging by where the majority of the deaths are occurring in the current escalation of violence between them, it seems that, yet again, it is the Palestinian civilians who are bearing the brunt of the suffering. As Israeli troops threaten another ground invasion, the situation is eerily reminiscent of the Israeli ground attacks four years ago in which approximately 1400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis died.
The right to self defence has limits, including the prohibition on attacks on civilians. Self defence does not justify collective punishment of the people of Gaza, in the form of land, sea and air bombardment, any more than it justifies the infliction of terror on Israeli civilians by Hamas rocket attacks. The punishment of civilians is prohibited, even in ''self defence''. To date it is the Israeli Defence Force that has inflicted far greater civilian suffering than their opponents.
The current escalation cannot be isolated from the context of Israel's ongoing occupation of the Gaza Strip. If Israel were to end the occupation and the humanitarian tragedy that it represents, they might find the elusive peace that Israeli governments have denied their people.
Dr Sue Wareham, Cook
I find Pope's editorial cartoon (November 20, p8) extremely clever - and tragically one-sided. While I cannot disagree with anything the cartoon ''says'', I'm deeply saddened by what it omits: the hundreds of rockets and mortars fired into Israel this year alone, before the recent escalation.
Perhaps Pope is providing the ''mirror cartoon'' in the next day's paper; something about the 12,000-plus rocket and mortar attacks since 2001.
Judy Bamberger, O'Connor
It could be inferred that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu authorised the killing of Ahmad al-Jabari in a bid to emulate President Obama's elimination of Osama bin Laden and so enhance his prospects of re-election. The Israeli government repeatedly conducts strikes and assassinations outside its borders, making a mockery of its contention that such actions are in defence of Israel.
The time has come for Israel to realise that continued repression of the Palestinian people leads to repercussions. Bombardments, suicide combings and self-immolations are sure signs of utter desperation and appropriate action should be taken to address the concerns of those affected. People should be judged by their aspirations, not their beliefs; what I am really saying is ''live and let live''.
There are so many Pyrrhic victories in the offing that the mind boggles.
Who is to meet the cost of restoration of destroyed infrastructure? And what of the ruined and lost lives of both sides?
Ron Lucas, Holder
Privacy on the job
Counselling and mentoring subordinate staff is part of every supervisor's job, surely, but the recent Administrative Appeals Tribunal decision (''Public servant 'bullied' by her supervisor'', November 17, p1) has occasioned considerable and unusual comment.
I agree with Chris Williams's assessment (Letters, November 21), but should not the supervisor's assessment of the subordinate's performance and any subsequent discussion have been conveyed and conducted on Facebook rather than in the privacy of the supervisor's office, where all such interviews would normally be held?
Leon Webcke, Gordon
TO THE POINT
Words of wisdom
I am a practising but not perfect Catholic. I think the letter by Father Peter Day (November 19) should be read aloud at every Mass in every Catholic church in Australia next Sunday.
John F. Simmons, Kambah
Decision hits mark
It is refreshing to read that recreational hunters are not going to be allowed into ACT national parks (''Hunters not welcome in parks'', November 18, p10) . Here in NSW, the O'Farrell government has let us down badly for purely political reasons which many voters consider unforgivable. It is sickening to realise that soon amateur shooters will be allowed into many of our precious NSW parks. Where will it end?
Margaret Glen, Bathurst, NSW
Meaning up in the air
The heading ''It's welcome to Wedgetails and farewell workhorses'' (CT, November 20, p2) could be taken to mean that all Hercules aircraft will be phased out. Does this include the C-130J?
Ken McPhan, Spence
Acton tunnel a vision
Never mind the colour of the lights (''Canberrans demand return of retro Fanta glow, November 20, p2), at least they have finally cleaned the northern wall of the eastbound lane.
P.A. Pemberton, Hawker
So, the General Synod of the Church of England has again refused to allow women to become bishops (''Church gives women bishops the thumbs down again'', Canberra Times online, November 21). This decision gives new meaning to the term ''blind faith''.
John Richardson, Wallagoot, NSW
Drivers taken for a ride
While the topic of fuel prices is hot on the agenda, the powers that be may like to investigate the recent price variance displayed at the two servos in Gungahlin. Last Sunday I filled up at the Coles servo as I had an 8c/litre discount docket and noted that their price for unleaded was 4c per litre dearer than the Woollies outlet across the road that only had a 4c per litre discount. Further evidence that we mug motorists are being taken for a ride.
Peter Toscan, Amaroo
Regime change needed
My sympathy for Israel evaporated some years back when they started to elect governments which supported illegal settlers at all costs. I retained some sympathy for the Palestinians even after their voluntary diaspora of 1948. However this was destroyed by their choice of Hamas, a terrorist organisation, as their government. One can only hope that as a first step, at least both sides come to recognise their desperate need for regime change.
T. Marks, Holt