ASIO's spying shame

ASIO's spying shame

THE list of now-prominent Australians reported as having been ''subjects of interest'' to ASIO in the 1960s and '70s should give us pause. Those who later rose to the positions of High Court judge, premier of Tasmania and president of the NSW Legislative Council, among others, were never threats to national security. That citizens of a democracy could be subject to such surveillance is shameful, and a waste of tax dollars.

Can the ASIO of today, which is much larger and more powerful than it was then, assure us it is serving our interests more justly and wisely? And how might we verify this?


Peter Grabosky, Forrest

Help youth survive drugs


THERE is no doubt illicit drugs such as powdered ecstasy, or Molly, can cause adverse health consequences (''Powdered form of ecstasy takes off among users'', December 29).

Many dangers come from the unknown quality and strength of the drug because it is illegal, thus there are no controls over those factors.

Other dangers come from the way we deal with the users. Getting caught with these drugs means involvement of the law and the consequences that entails. Thus use is in secret.

Police might use sniffer dogs at dance venues, frightening young, naive users into swallowing the remaining drug to avoid detection, thus multiplying the drug's dangers, sometimes to the point of death.

Clearly, the safest thing is not to use the drug. In a similar way, the safest use of alcohol is not to use it. But young people do use.

For those using alcohol, we provide advice and education on safer use and how to get home safely after a night out. After all, we do want them to live through that experience unharmed.

It is astounding we do not do the same for users of drugs. Would it not be more sensible to do all we could to help them live through the experience by providing safer use messages, and including drug-testing facilities and amnesty bins instead of sniffer dogs?

Indeed, do whatever it takes - these are, after all, much-loved children doing what children do.

B. McConnell, Higgins

Tortured history

PLEASE be outraged. There is little doubt ''Ministers knew Hicks could face torture'' (December 29), as Guantanamo Bay was established by US secretary of defence Donald Rumsfeld to house and interrogate ''extraordinarily dangerous'' prisoners and prosecute them for war crimes.

The US, exercising its ''exceptionalism'', modified, at CIA request, the United Nations Convention against Torture, so it would have a free hand. The US Supreme Court challenged this decision, but in 2007 attorney-general Alberto Gonzales approved ''enhanced interrogation techniques'' and offering ''safe harbour protection'' for authorised government actions, thus rendering waterboarding acceptable. Australians, in official capacity, might have been present during some torture sessions.

In 2005, Amnesty International described Guantanamo as the Gulag of our time. A 2010 review by US Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson claimed president George W. Bush, vice-president Dick Cheney and Rumsfeld knew the majority of detainees were innocent, and were being held for political expediency. In his ruthless quest for oil - chaperoned by acolytes John Howard and Tony Blair - Bush established the prison franchises Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, Bagram and covert others. Bush's plan B, ''extraordinary rendition'', took detainees to global black holes provided by friendly dictators such as Egypt's Hosni Mubarak.

Edmund Burke (1771): ''The greater the power, the more dangerous the abuse.''

Albert M. White, Queanbeyan

Make hard choices now

TONY TROBE asks what we need to do to save the planet (''It's a paradox: sustainability is just making our problems bigger'', December 29).

I agree that redirecting demand into areas that have less impact is a good thing. We would leave coal in the ground, rapidly develop and use only renewable electricity, while restricting gas and oil for essential services such as manufacturing fertilisers. That way, greenhouse pollution might be reduced to a point where we have a future on a liveable planet.

But this is not enough. Humans need resources to survive, and we are fast running out of some that are irreplaceable. Phosphorus, for example: no phosphorus, no crops or animals to eat.

We need to reduce the population and thus demand. We should stop encouraging couples to have more than two children, and educate women in the Third World while providing them with the means to control fertility.

The hardest action will be to reduce consumption. We should go on a war footing and introduce rationing. If we did this now, it would be easier than when it is forced on us by nature.

Julia Richards, Kambah

Bright ideas or bust

I SUGGEST we establish a national gallery of famous Australians. This gallery could be in a prominent position in the central basin of Lake Burley Griffin. We could name this exhibition ''Australia's Wisest and Most Informed, 2014''. Bronze busts of these people could be put on display.

Prime ministers, ministers, premiers and champions of private enterprise could be nominated for inclusion. Imagine their chance to be remembered and held accountable for their intellect and foresight.

I will even start by nominating Barnaby Joyce. I wonder if he would be interested.

Patrick O'Hara, Isaacs

Burnt by weather stats

WE ARE being fed nonsense by global warming proponents (''Records add heat to climate debate'', online, January 4).

Canberra's record hot day was January 18, 2013, with a record of 42 degrees at the airport. That weather station has been open only since September 19, 2008.

The previous airport weather station was used from 1939 to 2010. Its hottest day was February 1, 1968, with 42.2 degrees. Walgett did not break a record. Its hottest day on January 3, 2014, of 49.1 degrees was recorded at the weather station that has been open only since 1993. The previous station ran from 1878 to 1993, and recorded its hottest day on January 3, 1903, at 49.2 degrees.

And there is no mention the US recorded the lowest-ever temperature at minus 40 degrees in International Falls, Minnesota, a few days ago. That is on top of the more than 1200 cold records in the US four weeks ago.

Of course, hot days prove global warming and cold days are merely outliers of no relevance, as letter writers remind me.

Brian Hatch, Red Hill

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