Canberra Times Letters to the Editor: Australia needs a day dedicated to focusing on reconciliation
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Canberra Times Letters to the Editor: Australia needs a day dedicated to focusing on reconciliation

It sounds like the political class have stirred from their Christmas slumber, as I can hear two opposing groups shouting 'change' and 'keep' at each other.

They can't hear each other, due to the shouting, but from a distance their shouts sound like calls for two dates, an Australia Day and a Reconciliation Day.

Accounts from 1808 tell us of a celebration on the 20th anniversary of the colony, and 1818 was the first official celebration. It was known as Foundation Day on the 50th, and Anniversary Day on the 100th. By 1938 on the 150th the day was widely celebrated around Australia, and the Bicentennial saw 2.5 million people attend events around Sydney, while the rest of the nation watched the tall ships on the telly.

The 26th of January is stamped in history as the date Arthur Phillip raised the flag to mark the establishment of the colony, and only the self-interested try to re-write history. The day is the beginning of modern Australia, all the good and bad.

Last year in the ACT Assembly all three parties jointly agreed to have a public holiday on the first Monday on or after 27 May, to be known as Reconciliation Day, which is the anniversary of the 1967 referendum and the start of National Reconciliation Week.

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State and federal governments should consider expanding Reconciliation Day to be a nation-wide public holiday to celebrate the people and culture of Indigenous Australia, and a day to focus on reconciliation.

Stuart Walkley, Lyneham

Citizenship Day

I support Ian Foster's suggestion (letters, 16 Jan) that January 26 should be re-named Australian Citizenship Day. Many of us can happily celebrate that day when we received Australian citizenship.

Currently, Australia Day, celebrating the day when the Australian nation was founded, is divisive and a source of sorrow to our Indigenous peoples.

Despite prime minister Kevin Rudd's welcome apology, federal funding has been slow trickling down to those who really need it in remote communities, partly because of alleged corruption and diversion of funding by some local councils. Racial attitudes have been slow to change.

If we need to rename Australia Day I have two suggestions: June 18 or August 10.

It wasn't until June 18, 1962 that the Menzies Liberal and Country Party government finally gave the right to vote to all Aboriginal people.

The Australian referendum of 27 May, 1967, called by the Holt government, approved two amendments to the Australian constitution relating to Indigenous Australians. It led to the Constitution Alteration (Aboriginals) 1967, including Aboriginal people in the census and allowing the Commonwealth to create laws for them, which became law on 10 August, 1967. Not that it was perfect, but it was another step in the right direction.

Susan MacDougall, Scullin

Victim blaming

Every time there is a movement to address inequality in our society, there is a reaction which relies on blaming the victim to maintain the comfort of the status quo for the dominant group in our society.

Women who protest against the harm of sexual harassment and sexual assault are blamed for attacking men's rights to act as men, which means they should have the right to define what the difference is between flirtation and sexual harassment, not women.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who protest against celebrating Australia Day on 26 January are attacked for being overly sensitive.

What does it matter if it was the start of an invasion which meant that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people lost any power over their lives?

It is white people who should determine if they have a legitimate reason to be upset.

Poor people who have few resources who protest that they the benefits they receive from the government are not enough to live on are labelled dole bludgers and leaners. That way, we well-off people can continue to enjoy our comfortable lifestyles without a guilty conscience.

It seems we are reluctant to give up even the smallest amount of privilege.

Elizabeth Dangerfield, Crace

Cyclists at risk

Regarding the debate about cyclists and pedestrian crossings, one must consider the following.

Your average pedestrian has since they could walk been taught when approaching a road to stop, look left, look right and then left again before crossing the road.

I for one do not blindly just walk out onto a pedestrian crossing without ensuring that I think it is safe to do so (people glued to their phones is becoming an exception).

This means that most pedestrians are not doing around 6 kilometres an hour before and at the early stages of their crossing.

However, a cyclist does not generally stop to check the road and just assumes that a car will see them and stop in time to avoid hitting them.

This suggests that any cyclist that tries to put themselves on par with pedestrian speeds at crossings is just trying to fool themselves.

Stephen Petersen, Dunlop

Forests are priceless

It saddened me to read Sigmund Jorgensen's comments on Australia's mainland old-growth forests and his call for the creation of a Great Forest National Park for Victoria ("We must act to protect our forests before it's too late", canberratimes.com.au, January 13).

I too have had the privilege of experiencing the beauty and majesty of several of Australia's old-growth forests from Queensland to Tasmania, and never fail to be awestruck by the intricacy, complexity and diversity of the ecosystems that have evolved. I've also stumbled across areas laid to waste by clear-felling and have been moved to tears.

Destroying these living treasures by harvesting the trees is little different to cutting off shark fins and throwing the creatures back into the sea to perish.

That we permit the destruction of entire biomes to produce wood chips for export sickens me.

These forests are one-offs – once they're gone they'll never return.

We should be preserving them not just for future generations, but for their own sake.

Jorgensen highlights the conflict between political expediency and maximising the long-term benefit for all, but employment numbers and tourism revenue aren't the biggest issue.

At some point the preservation of nature must take precedence over short-term profits for a select few – developers, investors, jobs in unsustainable industries be damned – otherwise humanity's seemingly inexorable march towards extinction will continue unabated.

James Allan, Narrabundah

Barr wrong on tram

In the article "One tram a week ...", (January 18, p.2) I see the Chief Minister again claiming the tram was the secret of his success at the last election. He would do well to stop drinking the government's Kool-aid.

He then refers to "Those sceptics also said there wouldn't be this sort of investment and renewal of the Northbourne corridor ...".

Given that the government is spending $600 million (the government's own figure) to relocate some 1300 public tenants from Northbourne Avenue and elsewhere, Mr Barr's claim may have more credibility if he were to publish a 'balance sheet' of gains/losses for Northbourne Avenue development as a result of the tram.

In respect of Stage 2, Mr Barr expects the Cabinet to consider the business case this month. The business case for Stage 1 was not worth the paper it was written on and that for Stage 2 may not be any better, should the public ever be able to view it.

M. Flint, co-ordinator, Smart Canberra Transport, Erindale

Batteries the future

The 100-megawatt lithium battery built in South Australia by Elon Musk's company can synchronise to the power grid in only 0.14 seconds, compared to the 5 to 10 minutes needed by the fastest of the "fast-start" (presumably gas-fired) power stations.

The battery has also demonstrated an 80 per cent "round-trip" efficiency (the ratio of energy dispatched to energy required to recharge it).

Bruce Mountain of Carbon and Energy Markets has said that batteries can also be useful in taking up excess energy (from slow-reacting coal or gas-fired generators) by using it to recharge themselves.

He also said that the energy industry and the regulators are dominated by major energy operators, including AGL, Energy Australia and Origin Energy, and have the regulators firmly on side.

Mountain also estimated that the Snowy Hydro 2.0 scheme would need 1.8 megawatts-hours (in pumping) to store each megawatt-hour, and that its cost could balloon out to $8 billion.

It looks to me that the future for the storage in batteries of solar and wind energy is looking very rosy already.

Douglas Mackenzie, Deakin

An insult to Curtin

We are very disappointed to see the contempt with which the owners of 44 Curtin Place are treating the residents of Curtin and members of the local small business community.

Having terminated the leases of 7 businesses their shops are now empty and surrounded by an ugly wire mesh fence.

We assume the fence has been erected to protect the owners' assets and prevent occupation by squatters.

But the best method to protect their assets would surely have been to keep the shops occupied until a development application had been submitted and approved.

Unfortunately the owners' current behaviour seems to be aimed more at punishing the local community for opposing their original development application.

Their decision to close and fence off the shops altogether, with no formal application for development of the site lodged, has been distressing and disruptive to the local community – and it's bullying behaviour.

Fortunately our culture now abhors bullying and we trust our politicians to back the community.

Vikki McDonough and Michael Mulvaney, Curtin

ATSIC was a failure

Kenneth Griffiths (Letters, January 15) and Eric Hunter (Letters, January 17) support the general idea of providing our first nations peoples with a body to provide advice to parliament on matters of direct concern to them.

But when we have had this previously, think the National Aboriginal Conference followed by ATSIC, they have been beset by nepotism, corruption and claims that they failed to truly represent the needs of their constituents.

Why should we think that an ATSIC Mark 2 will be any different, or even better than the existing failed system?

Roger Dace, Reid

Quirk of history

But for a small change in the political, military and economic imperatives of European nations in the 17th and 18th centuries, Australia may have been colonised by the Dutch and/or French.

If so by the 19th century and the conclusion of the Napoleonic Wars those settlements and claims would very likely be taken over by Britain, as were the Dutch African and French Indian possessions.

At the end of hostilities it is possible that some settlements in New Holland were handed back as was the case with several islands in the Caribbean.

I wonder what Australia Day would represent in that event?

P. R. Clark, Isaacs

Rates, taxes add to rents

Han Nguyen's article ("Canberra Rents Spike", January 18, p.1),missed one of the most significant contributors to increased rents in the ACT – the ACT government's rates and land tax on rented properties.

For example, rates and land tax on a detached house in Braddon renting for $550 a week total about $250 a week.

Before 2017, flats were not as badly affected as detached houses, but now a studio flat in Campbell renting for $285 a week pays $85 a week in rates and land tax.

In summary, much of the high cost of renting in the ACT is due to the budgeting policies of the Barr government.

C. Williams, Manuka

Federation Day

I am puzzled as to why more people are not suggesting the most obvious day to celebrate Australia Day – the date that Federation was inaugurated, January 1.

The community (or at least those who voted in favour of federation) were certainly prepared to celebrate on the first day of federation, so why did it not continue?

January 26 certainly wasn't a day of significance to colonies other than New South Wales and its derivatives, Victoria and Queensland.

Worried about losing a public holiday? Simple – just move the New Year holiday to New Year's Eve, which is when those celebrations take place anyway.

Chris Mobbs, ACT

Email: letters.editor@canberratimes.com.au. Send from the message field, not as an attached file. Fax: 6280 2282. Mail: Letters to the Editor, The Canberra Times, PO Box 7155, Canberra Mail Centre, ACT 2610.

Keep your letter to 250 words or less. References to Canberra Times reports should include date and page number. Letters may be edited. Provide phone number and full home address (suburb only published).

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