Canberra Times Letters to the Editor: Obsession with security may lead to end of freedom

Canberra Times Letters to the Editor: Obsession with security may lead to end of freedom

History should remind us that what we value most is vulnerable.

Since the events of September 11, 2001, there has been an exponential focus on security, and an explosive worldwide growth in government security spending, security technical hardware and services, contracting, training and consulting.

Delayed by only several years, universities worldwide — again at an exponential rate — began proliferating initially degrees, then postgraduate qualifications, relating to a nest of subjects in areas variously called security studies, counter-terrorism, and so on.

There are concerns here that may bear some public exploration.

Students in this specialty become versed in what is effectively an industry that has grown and spread rather like the opening-up of the American "wild west"; and there would seem to be a very real risk of an uncritically supportive careerist interest in the new orthodoxy of ever more resourcing and laws, and in pressing security measures into new vistas and spheres of activity, and in propelling the government and media security bandwagon which most will ride upon for years to come.


Such "experts" in their writings and various media appearances seem to be both predictably "forward leaning" on security and to be members of a mono-culture.

The closing sentence of Clive Williams article ("Gun culture: America's internal haemorrhaging", October 6, p.33) is blandly typical.

This may play out as a swelling cult of security that parasitically and very quickly degrades an open society that has been centuries in the making.

Ross Kelly, Monash

$50b whirlpool

Ahh — it's great to be back in the capital. Non-stop building of apartments filling up every bit of green space they can find. Light rail still a bone of contention with many. Horns honking if you delay to move by point one of a second. Not to mention newspeak — Orwell would be so proud.

I have just read the definition for "local build" is actually 60 per cent for the new submarines — 40 per cent is allowed elsewhere.

Still — what's 40 per cent.

The question arises however — and notwithstanding the fact we don't have the people with the knowledge to build them — if these subs are not even getting wet until the 2030s how do we know they will be appropriate for our needs in two-three decades?

Will drone subs have taken over by then? Will "AI" have advanced so far, our new subs will be obsolete before they are even launched?

Still, its only $50 billion.

If a poor layman can ask a question — why don't we just have the subs built overseas now — at a cheaper price, by a competent workforce, that knows what they are doing and we can have them in five years — allowing the Collins to quietly slip away?

Or let's have the Americans build us a few nuclear submarines that will last much longer and really be a deterrent.

Michael Matthews, Kingston

Staying on song

I am a strong supporter of the "yes" case in the same-sex marriage debate, but have left it to others to write letters to the editor on that issue.

I see the debate has turned to a conflict of opinions on the lyrics of Hammerstein v Macklemore (Bill Deane, Letters October 5, and John Galvin, Letters October 6).

As a professional songwriter of nearly 50 years experience, and as someone who has made a point of studying the craft across a range of styles, Hammerstein's a hero of mine.

His words sit beautifully with their tunes, are understated, direct, and most certainly doggerel-free.

While I have listened to a lot of Hammerstein, I only have Macklemore's Same Love to use as a comparison.

I love the way its lyrics cascade in irregular bursts of rhythm and near-rhyme. They are far from banal.

So that means I agree with half of the argument put by Deane and half of that of Galvin.

Can we look forward to a day when people with differing lyrical persuasions may be able to get married?

John Shortis, Bungendore, NSW

Good to go, Nick

Good Ole Nick Xenophon is throwing in the towel as a senator and returning to South Australia to have another go at getting back into the SA Parliament.

He thinks he will be able to work wonders there and sort out all their many problems.

Of course his decision would have nothing to do with the High Court deciding his eligibility to sit in Federal Parliament; would it?

I sure won't be missing Nick; the darling of the media.

He was forever getting a microphone thrust in his face and asked to make comment on a variety of subjects.

I could never, and still can't figure out why the media gave him so much attention.

He was just another politician with no original ideas like the rest of them. Going along to get along; that was Nick.

One good thing about his decision to return to SA politics is that we shouldn't be bothered hearing from him on the national media.

Jay Nauss, Glen Aplin, Qld

Thanks, ICAN

As President Trump and Kim Jung-un raise the distinct possibility of nuclear war, it is thrilling that the International Campaign Against Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) has won the Nobel Peace Prize.

The group was founded in Melbourne in 2007, helped along significantly by Canberra-based Dr Sue Wareham.

Her tireless efforts on behalf of the Medical Association for the Prevention of War laid the groundwork for ICAN. On the other hand, it was a matter of national shame that, in July, Australia avoided the talks when 122 other nations adopted a UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

Once again, Australia played lapdog to the Americans who stayed out of the talks. Too often our government lets us down internationally. Thank heavens for groups like ICAN.

Jenny Goldie, Michelago, NSW

"No" camp's wisdom

I returned my "no" vote two days after I received it. I can see behind the innocent-looking question there is a heaving, conniving can of worms.

I love this country and its people and don't want to see it go down to oppression and Marxism.

J. Halgren, Latham

How to ruin a city jewel

If Canberra has an icon it is surely the jewel in the centre of the city that is Lake Burley Griffin.

Juliet Ramsay (Letters, October 2) and Heather Henderson (October 6) reflect the widespread view that the garden city character of the national capital's central area is being destroyed by filling in part of the lake and misappropriating public green areas for private apartment development.

There is an urgent need for a review of what is planned to happen in West Basin.

Shortly the National Capital Authority will publish its strategy plan for the western side of West Basin, the so-called Acton Peninsula Precinct.

If the draft plan is anything to go by, much of Canberra's rich early federal capital heritage at Acton will be seriously compromised.

What are the federal politicians on the other side of the lake going to do to save Canberra from ruin?

Where are politicians like Heather Henderson's father, prime minister Robert Menzies, who drove Canberra's development and the construction of the lake more than 50 years ago?

Trevor Lipscombe, Campbell

Land grab

Heather Henderson (Letters, October 6) asks why anyone wants to "amputate a piece of our lake" for development?

Maybe the developer lobby has run out of space at Kingston Foreshore and now has its eye on more lakeside property to develop as profitable private housing. Whereas Kingston Foreshore was a parcel of post-industrial land needing a new use, the park at West Basin is public land and a community asset.

The park at West Basin was not always rundown, as has been deliberately allowed to happen. The park once thrived as a centre for family entertainment including Pedalo boats, bike hire, cruises and even a swimming beach. With government-promoted greater density in the Civic area, retention of public parks should be a priority for community health and enjoyment.

There is plenty of land for new apartment developments in the Civic area (A, B, C flats in Reid and Braddon, CSIRO site Campbell, Northbourne Avenue corridor, Constitution Avenue sites) and there is no community gain for government to steal a lakeside park for private use.

The question is not why this land grab is happening but how is it allowed to happen?

Who is guarding Canberra's community assets? It would seem not the National Capital Authority, not the territory architect, not the local government opposition and certainly not the Labor/Greens government.

Penleigh Boyd, Reid

People power key

In his recent Canberra Times article, "Federal government's obsession with selling off buildings puts a price on city's heritage" (, September 28), Peter Dowling takes the federal government to task for its decision to sell off two of our original national capital buildings, East and West Block, both in the heart of the parliamentary triangle.

For West Block, the deal has been done for $6.25 million, while East Block remains for sale.

Let's clarify this reckless, short-sighted decision: a group of DOFA bean-counters sits down at a table a year or so ago to consider the fate of two priceless Canberra buildings, two of a tiny number built during the first stage of the capital in the 1920s. The call is made to sell these irreplaceable examples of the nation's heritage by a department culpably unqualified to make it.

It is supported (or perhaps prompted) by the minister (Mathias Cormann), and the buildings are put on the market for about $10 million-$12 million – 10 per cent of the cost of the same-sex postal survey.

The public is given no reason for the decision.

This must qualify as the worst heritage decision ever made for this city?

What we need is the formidable voice of people-power in this city, the collective voice of proud Canberrans who will simply not allow it.

Readers, listeners, tweeters, texters, over to you.

David Headon, Melba

Housing difficulty

The ACT government appears unwilling or unable to address Canberra's affordability problems ('Housing summit expectations low', October 7, p5).

Hence, the current choice in housing is essentially between a box in a multi-storey, often shoddily built, apartment complex, or a free-standing house subject to the government's punitive rates.

I won't speculate on their apparent inability but I will offer a partial solution to the housing problem.

Increase the supply of residential blocks by allowing in-fill on land already zoned Residential RZ1 (which is most of Canberra's existing residential areas), under strict conditions.

These should include no increase in the RZ1 plot ratio and payment of an appropriate lease variation charge.

This would allow existing owners to downsize and free up existing land for other people, and offset some of the money the government currently gets from selling former sheep paddocks to us at an inflated price.

Development in my back yard ('DIMBY') please.

Bruce Paine, Red Hill

Scaffolding concern

Interesting reading the report "Only one in five passes the test" (October 7, p3) regarding the lack of compliance with scaffolding erection in the ACT.

Good to see that Worksafe is taking an interest. Also interesting to read that the Master Builders ACT chief executive Michael Hopkins "welcomed the report".

It is refreshing to read the MBA takes a positive view to keeping "workers safe".

I hope this also extends to clients and members of the public.

Geoff Barker, Flynn


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Our soldier was James Herman Breuer. He died at Passchendaele on October 12, 1917. Would some kind Canberran please place a red poppy next to his name at the Australian War Memorial on that day and send me a photo? I shall be enormously grateful for this kindness. My address is 45 Ullapool Rd, Mount Pleasant, Western Australia. My phone number is 08 9364 4605.

B. Havercroft, Mount Pleasant, WA


Why such a fuss over the prospective incarceration of 10-year-olds. I've come across three-year-olds who warrant being locked up for a few days.

M. F. Horton, Adelaide, SA


Is our government going to do nothing while Trump tweets his way into war? It is beyond belief neither Turnbull nor Shorten have the guts to tell Trump to pull his head in and restart the six-party talks for the Korean crisis. Negotiations have worked in the past as previous Australian ambassadors Broinowski and Williams have outlined. War is not inevitable. Australia should help in avoiding it.

Kathryn Kelly, Chifley


Has Nick read the mind of the High Court ("Nick Xenophon to quit Senate and run for state seat of Hartley",, October 6)?

Allan Gibson, Cherrybrook, NSW


The Attorney-General, George Brandis, thinks politicians should be taken at their word if they "honestly swear" they didn't know they held foreign citizenship. Given senators Canavan and Roberts changed their stories I find this suggestion preposterous. If someone can't keep their own affairs in order, should they be a politician?

Felicity Chivas, Scullin


Some acronyms that need updating:

NRA - no longer really appropriate.

NBN - now buffering Netflix.

NDIS - not doing it soon.

Dennis Fitzgerald, Box Hill, Vic


While someone with Heather Henderson's significant background defends the green values of Lake Burley Griffin and attacks the vandalism of the West Basin infill (Letters, October 6), the ACT Greens are missing in action. I thought the ACT Greens were supposed to be about green values and action.

Murray May, Cook


I think Stephen Paddock killed and injured hundreds of people just to show what he could do. That's the only motive he would need.

Michael McCarthy, Deakin

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