Politicians can take a lead from McCain's moral compass

Politicians can take a lead from McCain's moral compass

As we lurch towards another dreary spectacle of what passes for democracy in this country when Parliament resumes next week, you could be forgiven for yelling, "Hey, that's not how we are meant to be governed!".

Similar sentiments were expressed by the late US Senator John McCain about his country's version of democracy as related in Jason Israel's "Lesson from McCain I will pass on to my son" (Forum, page 11, September 1).

John McCain lies injured in North Vietnam.

John McCain lies injured in North Vietnam.Credit:AP

In fact, Senator McCain seemed to be judging the state of all Western democracies when he noted "we seem convinced that majorities exist to impose their will with few concessions and that minorities exist to prevent the party in power from doing anything important".

As ministers defend their integrity with claims of hypocrisy against their accusers, the new PM will no doubt remain staunchly supportive. Scott Morrison has little choice really. After all, his "values-based" leadership is so superior to his opposite number's it automatically excludes any minister that may be lacking in the integrity stakes. Or does it?


Values-based leadership as exemplified by John McCain, says John Israel, was "guided by true north on a well-calibrated moral compass".

What a pity such a well-calibrated moral compass isn't a prerequisite for election to Parliament, because the amoral nature of today's so-called "pragmatic" politics is clearly a poor substitute.

Michael Crowe, Hawker

Dutton's discretion

Our new Prime Minister maintains that ministerial intervention is a good feature of our system, and that Peter Dutton's decision to grant entry to two au pair girls is completely consistent with how the power should be exercised.

Email your letter to letters.editor@canberratimes.com.au.

Email your letter to letters.editor@canberratimes.com.au.

In the case of the au pair girls, it took only a telephone call to reverse the Border Force's actions.

In the case of the Tamil family with their two Australian-born children, a petition signed by 120,000 Australians has been insufficient to persuade Peter Dutton to intervene to allow this family, loved and wanted by the Biloela community, to stay in Australia.

In the case of the Afghan interpreters, who wore Australian uniforms and saved Australian lives, the continuing efforts of our returned soldiers pleading for the minister to grant permission for these brave men to seek refuge in Australia have been ignored, despite it being an issue of life and death.

Yes, it is legally within the power of Peter Dutton to exercise his ministerial discretion, but is it acceptable to the Australian public? Is it an accurate reflection of Australian values?

Is it wise to give such power to a single individual?

Is it the way a democracy should operate?

J. Vandermark, Larrakeyah, NT

Room for cheap help

Cheap labour reigns. Well-off property owners and householders, as well as churches and charities, have sought and received, with government help, a lot of very cheap or slave-like labour for much of the past 230 years, be the workers convicts, press-ganged Indigenous Australians, South Sea islanders, Indigenous Australians uprooted from their lands and food sources, members of the "stolen generations" or British child migrants.

We are now reminded that a certain stratum of society still expects to receive, without paying fair wages and taxes, basic household help and knows that the federal government can step in quickly and lend a hand when their valuable asset encounters difficulties at an airport.

Bearing in mind the large numbers of student visa holders who have encountered workplace exploitation and wage theft across a wide range of industry sectors, it appears that more than one Coalition minister is involved in propping up another low-paid labour force, this time to satisfy the day-to-day domestic support needs of those who can easily accommodate low-cost household and general property help in their large homes and appealing locations.

Sue Dyer, Downer

Insane climate policy

The Morrison government must know that it's in real trouble when Malcolm Turnbull's son Alex tells Fairfax media and his followers on Twitter to donate to the Labor Party ("Turnbull son wants Labor win", September 2, p6).

Of course Alex Turnbull's motivation could be, at least in part, vengeance for his father's ousting by conservative forces in the Liberal Party. However, he has said that his "motivations are clean government and sane energy policy". Alex also said that he cannot support the Coalition because of its climate change policy (or lack thereof) and it's being "hijacked by the coal industry". This "hijacking" has been done not only by the fossil-fuel industry, using donations as a weapon, but also by ultra-conservative members of the Coalition itself.

The Coalition's lack of action on climate change is brought into sharp focus by the report "Melting ice sparks scramble for Arctic" (September 2, p20 and p21) of the melting of Arctic ice and permafrost. The report also points out that Tromso, Norway's northernmost city, 350km north of the Arctic Circle, was last week warmer than Sydney.

Douglas Mackenzie, Deakin

The bad Samaritans

It is charming to see the new Pentecostalist Prime Minister and his ministry sworn in, "armed with bibles", as you put it. I wonder how quickly afterwards they turned to Luke 10: 30-37 to read the parable of the Good Samaritan.

I guess the episode of the "certain man [who] went down from Jerusalem to Jericho" wasn't "an on-water matter".

Lucky for him! Interesting, too, that all the PMs who have overseen the current offshore detention regime with its near-catatonic children have been Christians, ie Rudd, Abbott, Turnbull and Morrison. Thank heavens an atheist wasn't in charge.

Geoff Page, Narrabundah

Thank you, Mr Turnbull

Protection of democracy – the system of government and society chosen by the majority of people – was Turnbull's greatest achievement and legacy.

In the last hours of his leadership he fought and held off a brutal right-wing minority from within and its right-wing fellow travellers in the media, and he saved the nation from that minority from within his party that almost stole a government; he sacrificed himself for others by holding off the right-wing long enough to enable a more tolerant and acceptable leadership to form and take the helm.

Turnbull by self sacrifice defeated the maniacs, the insane right-wing ideologues and cultists who managed to permeate the Liberal Party, and to Mr Turnbull, Australians of all parties interested in serving people and not ideological madness should say, thank you.

John Dobinson, Brisbane

Class lesson for critics

I volunteer on a weekly basis at Fraser Primary School. I visited the school on Monday for "Grandfriend's Day", during which I spent 45 minutes with my granddaughter as she took us through her learnings of the past three terms.

These topics covered maths, English, science and geography.

Her work showed clearly that she was being taught amazing analysing skills across all subjects. She was learning different strategies for summarising, in depth discussion of topics and using experimental investigations for science, such as how heat impacts various structures. My daughter, (her mother) did not experience any of this when she was in Year 3. As a volunteer, I help children with their reading and help them use the strategies taught in the larger classroom.

In the preschool class which my grandson attends, I am constantly amazed at the energy and dedication of the teachers. Their patience in teaching these young children how to listen, to use scissors, to make patterns and enjoy the amazing world of textures is wonderful. They are also taught basic writing in so far as they learn to write their names on their pieces of work.

This all prepares them for the more formal aspect of schooling when they progress to kindergarten next year. Those who are quick to criticise ACT education would greatly benefit from experiencing children's classroom activities. My grandchildren both love school, which, I believe is the most important and essential ingredient for future learning. I congratulate those teachers for the work that they are doing.

Merrie Carling, Gungahlin

Lake crossing has future

Minister Fitzharris is misguided to oppose the Joint Standing Committee's preference for crossing the Lake via Kings Avenue.

Instead of forcing an early commitment to crossing the lake, an extension along office-lined Constitution Avenue to the Russell Defence Centre will guarantee more light-rail patronage and bring it closer to enabling a future extension to the airport.

Contrary to the superficial claims of Minister Fitzharris, the King's Avenue rail route takes out no more trees than it would on Commonwealth.

The Joint Committee's conclusions need to be taken seriously, and be followed up by detailed long-range analysis.

Ian W Morison, Barton

South spared light rail

It seems the light rail may not make it across the Lake. The south side will be spared the shambles of Northbourne Avenue, the destruction of beautiful trees, and the peak hour traffic chaos.

Gungahlin is a disaster zone: tramlines fill the main street, it is almost impossible to cross. A Gunghalin doctor told me that her elderly patients can't get to see her, as the bus drops them too far away.

Anyone without tunnel vision could see that a 100 new buses would have been far cheaper and more flexible and less disruptive.

Richard Keys, Ainslie

Down Avenue's memory

Minister Megan Fitzharris seems very adept at spinning her way out of situations involving questions about government lack of transparency or tight corners. Health being a case in point. But when it comes to being loose with facts it gets a bit annoying. Like in Saturday's "The Crossing – lake roils waters of priority project" (September 1, pp 14-15) where she blithely spruiks "Federal Labor government's track record of investing in infrastructure in Canberra, including Majura Parkway and Constitution Avenue".

If the Minister wants to score political points it pays to get the facts right.

Either she has a short memory or is just not across the fact that it was the Howard government that allocated $70 million for a proper Constitution Avenue makeover as the "High Street" of Burley Griffin's plan.

However, when Kevin '07 won the 2007 election Labor withdrew the funds – later, given the hue and cry, they announced with fanfare a $40m watered down version whereby we now have an each-way single lane street plus dedicated bus lanes.

Earlier in the article Chief Minister Andrew Barr was confidently "blunt in saying a change in the federal political environment in 2019 would enable his government to get on with a number of projects"? Maybe he should be careful for what he wishes for?

Len Goodman, Belconnen

Humane side to cull

In its Saturday editorial, The Canberra Times referred in somewhat emotive and pejorative terms to the ACT government kangaroo culling program as a "slaughter". Regular letter writers criticise culling as being barbaric, cruel and unnecessary. The ACT is currently experiencing a dry period which has resulted in much of the feed which sustains kangaroos in the nature reserves being eaten out.

Many reserves, such as Red Hill currently significantly exceed their sustainable kangaroo carrying capacity, resulting in starving kangaroos seeking food in surrounding residential areas and roadsides. In July 2018 alone, ACT rangers were required to "euthanise" over 700 kangaroos suffering an unpleasant and lingering death after being hit by vehicles.

Travellers along the Monaro Highway are greeted by the sight of dozens of bloated kangaroo carcasses on the verges. On a visit to a property near Bredbo, the paddocks were strewn with whole families of dead kangaroos — males, females and joeys — all having starved to death. The unmistakable smell was hard to avoid. This experience of kangaroo slow death by starvation or vehicle strike inevitably gave pause for thought. What would I prefer? Lingering death by starvation or being splattered across a road?

Or would a bullet in the head as part of the hated "cull" be more humane?

Paul Ratcliffe, Yarralumla

He may not have a point

Clive Palmer's back, I saw his ad on TV. Rushing to buy his offer I became sceptical. Surely all his stocks of ever super sharp knives went to Liberal HQ weeks ago.

Linus Cole, Palmerston

Tiptoeing forward

It's time for the Abbott/Dutton faction to leave the Liberal Party and establish a new party. I suggest it be called Conservatives Rejecting Evidenced-based Evaluation Party (CREEP).

Mike Quirk, Garran



Reading "Brace yourself, for magpies 'tis time to swoop" (canberratimes.com.au, August 31) reminded me yet again how vulnerable we are to attack by "protected species" of various classes. That aside, the allusion to "Hitchcock's nightmares" in the article is fake news. Sure, Hitchcock made the movie, but it was Daphne du Maurier who dreamt up The Birds.

Ed Highley, Kambah


Why do we have to pay for fake honey with real money?

Dennis Fitzgerald, Box Hill, Vic


Before the next election I propose that all candidates publish their IQscore, with three [points] being the minimum to qualify for preselection. Further, once qualified, all MPs (no exceptions) receive thesame wages equivalent to thecurrent minimum wage. Thismight sort out part of theproblems in the government circus.

V. Lauf, Bungendore, NSW


I like ScoMo's "It makes my skin curl". The version I'm used to is "It makes my flesh crawl" (or creep).

Michael McCarthy, Deakin


We need leaders who focus on the future of the nation. Stop playing your petty little games. Have we asked you for a list of MPs who sought help with visa cases? Get over yourselves. Now.

Maggie Indian, Turner


This is bound to set the republican hounds running ("Newly minted image of head (and shoulders) of state", September 4, p3).

Allan Gibson, Cherrybrook, NSW


Scott Morrison displayed his faith in Parliament when some months ago he took a lump of Bible-black coal into the House of Representatives and delivered a passionate sermon overit.

Sandor Siro, Ainslie


There goes the last reason I had for listening to local ABC 666. Good luck and goodbye, Tim Gavel. Thanks for your excellent work.

Geof Murray, Ngunnawal


Alex Turnbull, the son of our former prime minister, has endorsed the Labor candidate, Tim Murray, for the seat of Wentworth. Vindictiveness must be a Turnbull family trait.

Mario Stivala, Spence


What a wonderful effort by 18-year-old Emily Patterson to organise the Hay Runners Ball last Saturday and raise $43,000 for farmers in the region. She is a role model for us all.

Hugh Watson, Hall

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