October 24 significant
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October 24 significant

Kym MacMillan's moral compass is astray (January 16) by asserting that a change of date of Australia Day is not justified by the "British invasion and occupation".

Indigenous Australians are rightly offended by the status given to this day and all of us should share this concern. Real reconciliation is not possible without a change.

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Kym also claims that historically January 26 is important for Australians, but this day is Sydney-centric and has nothing to do with the history of settlement of other parts of Australia.

A more meaningful day is October 24, when in 1889 Sir Henry Parkes, the "Father of Federation", gave his pivotal speech at Tenterfield in NSW, which set the course for federation.

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There are several subsequent dates of legal, constitutional and political significance, including the effective date of proclamation, January 1, 1901, but they do not have the necessary symbolism for Australia of October 24. Moreover, they create practical problems, including clashing with existing holidays, such as New Year's Day, closeness to Christmas or occurring in winter.

Anzac Day is also not appropriate, as it serves a different purpose, commemorating our war dead and others who served. I do not believe there are any real obstacles to this date.

A nice piece of synchronicity is that it is United Nations Day.

We are conditioned to January 26, as Australia Day but that is no excuse for resisting the change to a more meaningful day of October 24.

Warwick Williams, Nicholls

Holocaust denial

I think Tom Switzer and Nicole Hemmer blundered by lumping the prosecution of Holocaust deniers into the same basket as the prosecution of Brigitte Bardot for claiming Muslims and gays were destroying France ("Scrutiny over censorship", January 20).

Holocaust denial is a particularly mindless form of hatred because it is also an incontrovertible denial of a major historical event.

It is as historically twisted, for example, as claiming that the massive losses on the Western Front between 1914 and 1918 were not caused by guns but by disease and food shortages.

Mr Switzer and Ms Hemmer would have been more convincing had they limited their list of hate mongers to prosecutions of those solely interested in spreading mindless prejudice.

Free speech is a subject, of course, that we need to debate, though one in which we listen, speak and discuss calmly, as Nicholas Stuart said well ("Free to discuss, and to listen", January 20).

I look forward to more thoughtful discussion.

Terry Craig, Holt

Raise Medicare levy

The recent spectacle of government policy-making on the run has resulted in utter confusion on the issue of a "co-payment" for medical services.

Minister Sussan Ley says the principle of "co-payment" is still on the government's agenda, but she and the government want to listen to the medical profession and to the public on the matter.

She claims that her style of "consultation" will result in a more workable and acceptable "co-payment" policy.

But if we accept what has been said previously on the various incarnations of the government's proposed "co-payment" or "price signal", such proposals have ostensibly been driven by the government's perceived need to make Medicare "sustainable" into the future through crude expenditure cuts – cuts that will impact in large measure on the lower-paid members of the workforce, widening the gap between rich and poor.

The actions of the government are, frankly, aimed at one thing: the dismantling of the universal free health coverage system for all people that was to be equitably funded by a modest levy on personal incomes.

If they are serious about making Medicare "sustainable" into the future, they must realise that cutting the Medicare budget is not the answer (indeed, many health professionals argue that a cut in rebates/introduction of "co-payments" will dissuade many middle- and low-income families from seeking early medical care, resulting in more serious health problems and costly treatment down the track).

In the case of Medicare, to ensure its sustainability into the future, rather than its continued corrosion and ultimate dismantling, the simple and most equitable solution is to increase the Medicare levy.

But we all know that this will hit Liberal/National Party voters more heavily than Labor voters, so this will never happen under the current government.

Philip Bewley, Barton

Population control

During his recent visit to the Philippines, the Pope is reported to have said that man is primarily responsible for climate change and urged negotiators at the next round of climate talks in November to take a courageous stand to protect the environment (January 17).

Reflecting on his visit to a country with over 100million people, three times the population density of Indonesia, placing enormous pressure on the environment, he could ask himself what can he do to help protect the planet.

My suggestion is that he moves the Church to a position where it accepts the need to reduce the numbers of humans on the planet by ethical means.

The Church's support for family planning would help alleviate poverty and save the lives of many women in countries such as the Philippines.

Steve Thomas, Yarralumla

Critical thinking

I thank Crispin Hull for drawing attention to the importance of teaching critical-thinking skills to the next generation (Forum, January 17).

However, as a primary school teacher librarian, I disagree that these skills must wait for a child to turn 17.

Learning to think critically (like reading, writing, mathematical and physical skills) must begin in the earliest years of schooling, so that students are ready to engage at the sophisticated level required at university. Indeed, this is why critical and creative thinking is a priority in the Australian curriculum, beginning in kindergarten.

Teacher librarians teach critical thinking skills as an essential part of information literacy, for example, deep engagement with information and formulation of probing research questions.

Perhaps if there were teacher librarians in every school, Mr Hull wouldn't so "often despair", because learning to think critically wouldn't be a novel experience for so many of his students.

Holly Godfree, AEU member, Kambah

Future taxpayers should pay for transport improvements

Kevin Cox, in discussing the cost of the Gungahlin tram and other transport infrastructure (Letters, January 17), says "we should source infrastructure funds from residents [presumably by taxes] and not go into debt". He's wrong.

It's future taxpayers who benefit from transport (and other) infrastructure, and they should pay for it, not current taxpayers.

The way to do that is to use loan funds to build the infrastructure, so that future taxpayers bear the principle repayments and interest over future years.

R. S. Gilbert, Braddon

Opposed to light rail

In response to Kevin Cox (Letters, January 17), here are my reasons for opposing light rail:

The transport corridor plan leaves all those who live away from the corridor with third-rate public transport. Even those who live within the corridor will not have express services.

The policies foreshadow a radical change in the urban form of Canberra, imposed to serve conventional public transport. The policies should be about developing public transport to serve the unique urban form of Canberra.

There are ways of compacting urban development that are compatible with its current form. For example, make every suburban centre the focal point of a compact and "vibrant" community.

The Capital Metro argument that people will walk further to light rail services than to bus services is a furphy. People will walk further to gain access to faster services, whatever the mode. (Never mind the frail and the aged.)

While there may be issues with Uber networks, such services foreshadow a revolution in commuting by car and a move to public transport based on short-term rental of driver-controlled and autonomous vehicles. In spite of this, the government is proposing a huge long-term investment in light rail, spanning distances that can only be realistically serviced by heavy rail.

There is a large research and development community in Canberra that could play a part in making Canberra a leader in public transport.

This potential is being ignored by a government that is simply basing its plans on what is being done in other cities around the world that are completely dissimilar to Canberra.

A. Smith, Farrer

Firm motive for antithesis

Mr Cox, I'm having trouble deciding what I dislike most about your article about people's motives for complaining about the cost of infrastructure projects ("Infrastructure motives", Canberra Times, January 17).

I, for one, have a very firm motive for not wanting the wasteful tramline from Gungahlin to Civic.

I am one of the 80per cent of Canberrans who are expected to pay for it ($1.9billion to $2.4billion over 20 years) but never use it.

In particular, I would dearly like to know how you would "source infrastructure funds from residents and not go into debt".

Which would you choose: issuing government bonds, tolls, full cost recovery fares, or taxing only those living within the catchment area of the particular piece of infrastructure, or did you have some other means of funding in mind?

M. Silex, Erindale

High-stakes gamble

There are people who think the earth is flat, Elvis is alive, Harold Holt was taken by a Russian submarine, and that vaccination is a government conspiracy designed to make children sick.

Most of the people holding these views (for which there is very little credible evidence) are harmless. Vaccination deniers (including those who have written to the Canberra Times this week), however, go further than most eccentrics and conspiracy theorists.

They are willing to put the health of their children at risk on the chance that 99per cent of medical opinion is wrong. It is inevitable that some unvaccinated children will catch diseases for which vaccinations exist and will either become seriously ill or die.

I suspect that some time in the future an unvaccinated child who has become deaf, crippled or mentally impaired will sue their parent/s for unreasonably exposing them to risk.

The court will weigh up how credible the claims of vaccination deniers are and the parents will have a chance to put their money where their mouths are.

Mike Reddy, Lyons

Shark just defending itself

Your report is a clear case of a small shark not attacking but defending itself against an unwise human with a spear ("Shark attack at capital's summer playground", January17).

It has nothing to do with great whites lurking off Newcastle, Western Australia and other beaches as recorded in your "Deep impact" box. What was young Sam Smith thinking? All young men seem to think they are bullet-proof, but lack the experience to realise that they are wrong until it is too late.

John Robbins, Farrer

'She'll be right mate' won't save the planet

Brilliant cartoon by Pope (January 17) capturing the unthinking optimism of many on planet Earth who consider "she'll be right mate" technology (and I would add adaptation) will make us safe as we leave the known waters of the Holocene period ( the last 11,700 years in which civilization has developed) into the unknown waters of Anthropocene period, the geological world of our own making in which various planetary boundaries are likely to be crossed.

For example, the boundary of level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere already being crossed as reported in The Canberra Times of January 16 in its report on ANU's Will Steffen co-led international study.

The more Australians understand these issues the more pressure can be put on politicians to develop sustainable earth policies.

Rod Holesgrove, O'Connor

Expertise lacking

The story, "Cuts lead to fears of hobbled Tax Office" (January 17) reported a former ATO staffer's opinion that "that depth of experience, the [loss is] irreplaceable".

What rot! The ATO has had decades to address the major defects in its collection methodology and it did nothing.

The two issues are profit shifting by major multinationals and the great mass of tax avoiders in the lower echelons who are actually middle class, the enormous black economy. Instead, it has chased a few high flyers. There is no expertise in the office on these issues, even if there was a political decision to pursue them.

Gary J. Wilson, Macgregor

TO THE POINT

REFUGEE PRISONS

On taking office, the Abbott government junked the carbon tax onrich mining companies. If it closed its offshore refugee prisons, the government could save $3.5 billion ayear. Instead, it bribes Nauru, Papua New Guinea and Cambodia tobe its refugee rubbish dump.

Graham Macafee, Latham

TICKET TO RIDE

After wading through all the bad andodd glimpse of good news (The Canberra Times, January 19), how delighted I was to see the doggy picture in Times2. Loved it. "Well -behaved dogs should be allowed onpublic transport." I agree.

Evelyn Bean, Ainsley

SPORTING PLEASURE

How lucky are we in Canberra, to be able to watch international football teams and embrace the cheerful crowd, players, goals and skills with fellow Australians and visitors.

Margaret Tuckwell, Aranda

AN EYE OPENER

My wee eyes opened wider and wider as I read Richard Denniss' exposé of the machinations of Joe Hockey the Tory and his subservient Treasury (January 17). There is ammunition galore here for Shorten's mob.

Lotte Beaupipe, Dickson

SUPERB PHOTO

Matt Bedford's photo of Glenn Maxwell in Forum (January 17) is just superb. Surely it's worth an entry in any top photo competition.

Gail Tregear, Red Hill

STICKS AND STONES

Apparently some people (Michael Lee, January 17) have gaps in their education regarding free speech. They may be excused for not reading Voltaire, but they should know: "Sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me".

Bruce A. Peterson, Kambah

FREE SPEECH LIMITS

Hear hear, Michael Lee (Letters, January 16). It 's one thing to be satirical and irreverent, but another to be insouciant and irresponsible. We need (Section) 18C (of the Racial Discrimination Act) and other laws which impose restrictions on "free speech" simply because laissez-faire will never deliver a society of conscience andcoherence.

Jon Stirzake, Latham

CLOSE THE DOOR

Clive Williams' compassion for those returning disillusioned from fighting in Syria and Iraq (January 15) is commendable. However, firmer action is required. Cancel the passports of those fighting for Islamic State to prevent them fromreturning to Australia.

Greg Cornwell, Yarralumla

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