Polls apart: Gillard can't afford to ignore warning signs
I am really sick of the Prime Minister, or any other politician, on a regular basis dismissing the opinion polls with remarks such as ''oh, I don't spend any time examining the opinion polls. If I did that, I wouldn't have time to do my job'', or ''we're just going to get on with the job of running this shop'' (''Abbott takes lead as preferred PM'', February 18, p1).
Well, hello, with the Labor primary vote down to a mere 30 per cent, hasn't it occurred to the Prime Minister and her many minders that voters don't like the way her government is running the shop? Dismissing voters' opinions out of hand is the height of arrogance. No matter how busy Julia Gillard is, may I suggest she takes some time to consider why her government is on the nose and perhaps start thinking about changing tack. Just a thought.
Anne Willenborg, Royalla, NSW
The statement in Monday's editorial (''Labor stares into the abyss'', February 18, p8) referring to ''the deservedly positive sentiments Julia Gillard generated with her stinging parliamentary rebuke of Tony Abbott last October'' left me gobsmacked. Gillard's well-prepared rant was one of the most cynical exercises of spin and unwarranted personal smear that I have witnessed in Australian politics and how savvy journalists can allow themselves to be duped by such self-serving tripe is anybody's guess.
H. Ronald, Jerrabomberra, NSW
Imagine that you are sitting down, drinking a beer and eating a slice of pizza, at the party to celebrate the victory of your candidate.
Your feet are sore after all the pavement pounding and your mouth dry from the continual chat with voters. Your winning candidate is thanking you for your efforts and saying how humble he is to represent you. All your weariness fades away.
Before the hangover can disappear, you hear that your ''Young Lochinvar'' has decided that he can see his name in lights on a larger stage and he prefers the sound of senator to MLA.
The candidate to whom you gave your trust has deserted you for greener pastures and his own advancement.
Don't my feet hurt now!
David Ash, Narrabundah
It was comforting to read that Senator Gary Humphries says the national capital will be protected during any cost cutting by a Coalition government (''PS cuts: Abbott under attack'', February 16, p1). With 20,000 public servants about to lose their jobs, the best Senator Humphries can come up with is ''we told you so''. I'd like him to enlighten us on what he means when he says he is going to protect Canberra against cost cutting by an incoming Coalition government.
Gordon Maher, Gilmore
As a habitual watcher of question time, I wait for the moment when the member for Mackellar approaches the dispatch box with her ''book of rules'' as she usually does. As she raises her point of order, I recall that the Leader of the Opposition has oft-times stated that his current frontbench will form his frontbench should he win the next election.
That promise gives me great concern, which is only heightened as I look at others on that frontbench. Are they really up to the standard required to form the next cabinet? I very much doubt it. I think I will have to consider my vote very carefully.
Alan Parkinson, Weetangera
Not enough hours
There is no place like home. Just spent a great weekend in Canberra, on Friday evening attending a performance of Calendar Girls by the local rep. On Saturday, watched the Brumbies win at home. On Sunday, attended the outstanding performance of Australian artists in The Secret River and there were lots of other amazing attractions I missed - the Prom at Government House, Tropfest and more.
Margaret Tuckwell, Aranda
In the climate-change debate that's raging, there seems to be a strange desire to introduce the term ''ad feminem''. I guess this is an attempt to provide a gender alternative to ad hominem. However, ad hominem refers to the informal fallacy of ''attacking the person'' coming as it does from hominid or ''human or near enough''. It is used as ''attack the man (species)'', rather than ''attack the man (sex)''. I would say this is political correctness gone mad, but it's merely a mistake.
While I'm in the game of correcting mistakes, Neil Porter (Letters, February 14) states that it is not an ad hominem (he also uses ad feminem, but I'm not going to repeat that mistake) to ask a person's expertise. He also states that ''the appeal to irrelevant authority is another of the standard logical fallacies''.
Correct at the second attempt. They are both ad hominems, as they both ignore the argument being put forward and instead attack the hominid forwarding the argument. However, we would allow the first use of the argumentum ad hominem, as it is legitimate to ask a person's qualification when they claim authority. Which is why we listen to climate scientists about climate science and statisticians about statistics, and why we do not ask the reverse.
Andrew Turner, Kingston
On the contrary
Though beginning with the words ''Contrary to'', Dr Andrew Leigh (Letters, February 15) fails to contradict, or even address, the primary concern I expressed in my letter of February 8, i.e., signal latency with satellite internet connections. Point-scoring aside, there may be little that can be done about latency for remote areas of Australia's vast continent, but it is frankly dishonest to pretend it doesn't exist and will have no impact. That impact can best be reduced by minimising the area and population that relies on satellite connections.
Peter Marshall, Captains Flat, NSW
In his opinion article (''ACT's prison design is a fundamental problem'', February 15, p 19) Simon Rosenberg suggests that in my recent comments about the problems at the Alexander Maconochie Centre I missed the point that current administrators had an impossible task because of the need to separate different classes of prisoners.
I think that he is right but I did not miss the point as my last article focused solely on some of the problems at the AMC and did not venture into the solutions. There is a limit to how much can be covered in a 1000-word opinion piece.
Simon also referred with approval to the recent article by Carrie Fowlie (''Jail costly way to tackle scourge'', February 12, p9) which proposes a method of diverting many indigenous offenders away from jail. On this subject, Simon and I part company. I will be having more to say on that subject in the next few days. David Biles, Curtin
Time for a rewrite
I would point out to F. Lamb (Letters, February 15) that Ross Peake's report did not suggest a solution, or that dumping states would not be an uphill battle. It was the political editor's favourable report on the promising efforts of the Beyond Freedom group. Any change to the 1901 constitution will never be simple, because its amending clause 128 was obviously written to impede change. It gives the opportunity firstly to each house of parliament, then the states, then the whole electorate, then to rub it in, the majority of electors in any state adversely affected by such a proposal, to reject it .
How democratic is that? The only way to bust out of this impasse would be, as I suggested in ''Centenary an opportunity to rewrite the constitution'' published on January 5 (to which incidentally I did not receive a single response), to initiate a democratic review and a complete rewrite of the failed model we have laboured under since 1901. It's time.
Geoff Armstrong, Monash
Put visitors first
Canberra has grown and not everybody can expect parking to be available at all venues. However, it is surely time to install boom-gate systems at tourist destinations such as the National Gallery, National Museum, Portrait Gallery and Questacon.
Parking could be free for genuine visitors to those venues by swiping the ticket at the office/counter prior to departure in a manner similar to the systems used by some Canberra clubs. Other car park users would be required to pay daily rates. The cost of installation would be outweighed by the increased patronage of these venues.
For example, this morning I arrived at the National Gallery and found limited parking available by 10am, while obvious public servants, ID cards swinging from their lanyards parked and walked away. By 11am there were no parks left. Last week, at 9am, a similar situation occurred at the National Museum where a number of business people or public servants quite openly boasted that they work in town and occupied the parking spaces all day without fear of penalty.
Genuine visitors to these institutions are just driving away in frustration. If Canberra wants to attract visitors for a pleasurable experience, then this issue must be addressed.
David Hall, Wanniassa
Sally Pryor (''No more positive slog'', Panorama, February 16, p7) seeks to categorise Oliver Burkeman but there is really no mystery: employing the technique of negative thinking, I would surmise that he is a self-help author with a new angle for selling a book. What he says is not really new. I suspect most of us have both positive and negative thoughts in the course of any day, despite what the gurus say.
Mr Burkeman's prescriptions for happiness are not particularly profound: they appear to rest on, first, the proposition that happiness depends on one's definition of it, and second, the idea of carpe diem or live for the day. There is a better explanation in the item immediately following [''Taking note at last'', Panorama p8, CT Saturday 16 February]. Within a review of the documentary Twenty Feet from Stardom about support singers, Rolling Stones backing singer Lisa Fischer says, ''You have to make peace with yourself. And it's a good life … I get to sing every day and that's all I ever wanted to do.''
John Robbins, Farrer
Trashy magazine covers offend far more than breastfeeding
Karen Hardy, sadly, missed the point in her opinion piece ''Woman's right to breastfeed should never be challenged'' (Forum, February 16, p3). How is it that our society has no problem with boobs on show in all their 3D glory on the cover of Ralph or Cosmo or Who in every supermarket, newsagent and billboard, performing no useful function other than to titillate for profit, yet we continue to condemn women who expose a bit of breast in what must be one of the least provocative and natural acts in the world.
I'd much rather my daughter came across a woman breastfeeding in the supermarket than be confronted by a display of surgically enhanced breasts hanging out of the bikini of a wannabe in a trashy magazine.
It seems that our society has got to a perverse state where the only acceptable display of a breast is in a sexualised context and we are repulsed by the sight of the very act the breast was invented for.
Josie May, Hackett
Brian Smith (Letters, February 16) is concerned about a perceived role of the pied currawong in reducing populations of other birds. The issue exists throughout and beyond Canberra. However, it is hard to be sure about the exact impacts. Bird populations of many species fluctuate in Canberra due to many reasons and none have been shown to have been reduced due to predation by this species.
For example, the crested pigeon, which often suffers loss of young to the pied currawong, has continued its rapid increase in numbers since its arrival in the late 1980s. It is unlikely that if there has been any reduction in other bird species in Mr Smith's area, that this is the main reason.
In its breeding season, the pied currawong is a major predator of nestlings and fledged young of other birds. The increase in its summertime breeding population over the past three decades is well documented in my book Canberra Birds: A Report on the first 21 years of the Garden Bird Survey, (which is available in any ACT library).
This increase is the main reason for its impact. The major cause is the regrettable habit of people feeding currawongs and the availability of so much food for them over winter from weed shrubs such as cotoneaster and pyracantha. These enable the species to maintain permanent territories, whereas decades ago it was a migrant.
I strongly encourage Mr Smith and anyone with similar concerns to contribute to the garden bird survey that has been run by Canberra Ornithologists Group in Canberra since July 1981, to provide valuable information for this important long-term research.
Philip Veerman, Kambah
Masses of thicket in your garden will give smaller birds somewhere to hide from Wily 'Wong and Predatory Puss, Brian Smith (Letters, February 16). In my garden I see literally clouds of baby wrens and willy-wagtails darting in and out of two- to three-metre high hedges of yellow-flowered jasmine and abelia. Spiny bushes are even better: a cat or a currawong won't come back for seconds if, in search of a meal, it tangles with a few long, sharp thorns.
Barrie Smillie, Duffy
Yet another excellent opinion article from Richard Denniss (Playing to crowd pays off, Forum, February 16, p9). Population growth does indeed cost more than ageing, simply because of infrastructure costs which must be in place before or at least concurrent with the arrival of more people.
Population growth in this country, however, is actually worse than he cited.
In the latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, which refer to the year ending June last year, population growth was just under 360,000. This means Australia's population grows by a million in under three years. Of this figure, 208,300 was from net overseas migration and 151,300 from natural increase (births minus deaths). Our total growth rate of 1.6 per cent, if maintained, will mean we will double our population to 45-46 million by 2056. It's a Third World rate and one we can't afford.
Jenny Goldie, Michelago, NSW
TO THE POINT
GOD NOT ON POLLIES' SIDE
The outcome of Assembly Speaker Vicki Dunne's church service is ''an ugly debate in the Assembly chamber'' (''Tempers fray over article of faith'' February 15, p2). Prayers for our politicians haven't worked. Perhaps God has decided to distance him/herself from politics.
Patricia Saunders, Chapman
Amin Saikal (''Netanyahu vulnerable to pressure for change'', February 15, p19) is being disingenuous. He states that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is making ''too much'' of Israeli opposition to Hamas. What he ignores is the Hamas Charter which explicitly calls for the total destruction of Israel as a nation, as well as the remainder of the Jewish Race. Is he really surprised, then, at Israeli opposition to Hamas?
Vic Adams, Reid
TOO MANY POLITICIANS
So the ACT budget will be in deficit to the tune of $360 million by the end of the year (''Property slump hits budget'', February 15, p1). This example of gross financial incompetence and mismanagement will be made worse if the Assembly unilaterally chooses to foist even more politicians on the suffering electorate at enormous and yet unspecified cost. Once again I call for a referendum so the people can decide if more politicians are really necessary, especially when the budget is in such poor condition.
C. Lathbury, Fadden
How proud we are of our local government … if you voted Liberal your leader abandoned ship after three months and if you voted Labor, Simon Corbell is going to save you 90 cents a week over the next five years on light bulbs. That's a winner in anyone's books.
J. Colin Poore, Macarthur
I am wondering if under Cricket Australia's rotation policy some of our elite cricketers will be rested during the Indian Test matches (''Pattinson in aggressive mood'', Sport, February 16, p10) so that they are fit and ready to earn millions of dollars playing in IPL matches. Will they again be rested during the Ashes tour after their hard work during the IPL?
Dr Zak Rahmani,Melba
While it was great to see the Brumbies get their season off to a good start on Saturday, the experience was ruined by the constant playing of some electric noise (music???) over the loudspeakers. This was intrusive, annoying and prevented the development of any atmosphere, tension and thus crowd involvement. Please, will the management, of the Canberra Stadium find the off button and let the paying public make the noise.
Cliff Brock, Flynn
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