May the force be with our new Adelaide-based space agency
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May the force be with our new Adelaide-based space agency

I welcome the news that Australia’s new space agency now has a home, on the site of Adelaide’s former hospital.

When I was a child at Sydney’s Clemton Park Public School we waited for hours to see the first landing on the moon, and we grew up waiting for the arrival of the promised future in space as seen on Sci-Fi TV, which never really arrived.

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Send your opinions to letters.editor@canberratimes.com.auCredit:Fairfax Media

So, in retirement, I am pleased to see that the Australian Space Agency has moved on from being an aspirational web page, even if its location will cost Australian astronaut Andy Thomas so many future Flybuy air mile credits.

This site could also be well used to house the Morrison government’s science policy advisers on climate change denial, clean coal and other flat earth research.

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The former psych ward might be appropriate.

But now that we have do have an Australian Space Agency with staff and headquarters, an urgent new question arises: ‘‘Who is to be Australia’s Bruce Willis, to be on call to save us from any threat that emerges from space?’’

Wishing you well in all things and, of course, may the force be with the ASA and all who journey with them.

G. Dalrymple, Earlwood

Results not life defining

It is timely when so many students are receiving their year 12 results and when some students are perhaps becoming overly concerned about their results, to reflect briefly on the actual importance of these results.

First, I would note that the results are indeed significant, and do provide a gateway for students to gain entry to courses and jobs of their choice.

It is important, however, to recognise that these opportunities are but one of many, many educational opportunities and pathways.

Failure to gain the result that one hoped for is inconvenient, but it is not — repeat not — any sort of ‘‘all important’’ permanent educational or employment handicap. No educational or employment doors are permanently closed as a consequence of results.

There are a huge range of courses available, and many ways to gain entry to the courses/jobs of one’s choice.

In this respect it is worth noting that within a couple of years of sitting year 12 examinations students are eligible for mature student special entry tertiary education schemes.

Speaking as someone who has taught year 12, marked year 12 exams, sat on Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) examination setting panels for many years and had three of my own children sit VCE, I would urge students – and parents of students – to keep the actual importance of year 12 results in perspective.\

Year 12 results are but one of a whole lifetime of educational and employment pathways. It is counterproductive and just plain wrong to invest these results with long-term permanent importance that they simply does not possess.

Dr Bill Anderson, Surrey Hills, Vic

Trump out of depth

N. Ellis in the letter ‘‘Trump outclassed’’ (Letters, December 8) said of Trump ‘‘Not only was he overshadowed by his immediate predecessor, he also had to listen to others eulogise a man who was everything he was not and nothing that he could ever be’’, referring to president No. 41, George Bush snr.

When the man formerly known as George Bush jnr became president (No. 43) I thought he was a buffoon so out of his depth that I was surprised the country still managed to function.

However, his time as the occupant of the office of president of the US, an up-until-recently internationally respected office, made a better man out of him.

His friendship with Michelle Obama and the humour and the gracious good-natured support they show each other is heart-warming and also shows that Bush is also everything Donald Trump isn’t.

The Obamas (No. 44) , the Bushes (No. 43 and 41), the Clintons (No. 42) , the Carters (No. 39) and Melania Trump all behave with and exude courtesy, respect and decorum.

And then there is No. 45.

George Bush (43, and no longer jnr) has aged into a likeable statesman and is an intellectual giant in comparison to 45.

Trump is a man so vain and self-absorbed that he has the number of his presidency either embroidered or printed on his shirt cuffs.

A President who thinks of his actions in terms of TV ratings.

He is a man so out of his depth the world needs a life guard.

Rory McElligott, Nicholls

Adelaide wrong fit

Australian governments have waxed hot and cold on Australia’s ‘‘involvement’’ in space activities over many decades.

Morrison’s announcement our space agency will be located in Adelaide is just the latest episode in defining Australia’s ‘‘bit player’’ role for the foreseeable future. While it might satisfy some perceived decentralisation urges, this decision complicates the agency’s effective role in all government consideration of space-related matters without any real compensating benefits.

Trevor Wilson, Chifley

Writer takes his leave

Philip Robinson of Bruce (formerly of Holt) died recently. He was my uncle of 64 years.

Philip was active in trade union politics in the 1950s, voting with the anti-communist block.

His interest in public affairs was maintained for decades [as letter writer]. A few years ago the P. Robinson of Ainslie versus P. Robinson of Holt exchange was lively.

Press freedom, and published freedom of expression by readers are vital for the health of democracy.
Mr Robinson of Ainslie, the field is yours.

Christopher Ryan, Watson

Cyclist on right track

Stan Marks expressed frustration (Letters, December 12) that, ‘‘There was a sealed shoulder on the road ... but the cyclist, instead of using it, rode about a foot to the right of the white line in the vehicular lane.’’ That’s understandable but the last time I checked, the shoulder outside of the line is not part of the road and persons using it are not covered by the protections of road laws.

Additionally, the heavy tyres of motorised vehicles sweep aside all the broken glass and detritus from the traffic lanes making it extremely expensive for cyclists who ride on the shoulder to keep rubber on the road.

G.Wilson, Macgregor

Border farce

D. Mackenzie (Letters, December 13) might be on the money when he rather cynically suggests the Coalition wouldn’t be too upset if a few boatloads of asylum hove to on the horizon ahead of the 2019 election. It does explain their willingness to keep the guard ships close to the shore.

N. Ellis, Belconnen

Lynas plays vital role

Lynas Corporation is indeed strategically important to global manufacturing supply chains (Letters, December 12).

As the only miner and processor of rare earth materials outside China, we have grown to become the second largest producer of neodymium-praseodymium (NdPr) in the world.

We take a comprehensive approach to safety and sustainability at our mine in Western Australia and our chemical plant in Malaysia and the materials we produce are sought after by manufacturers around the world.

We would like to point out that our choice to locate our plant in Malaysia was based on the business conditions offered.

These included the ability to site the plant in a mature industrial estate, excellent access to a skilled workforce and raw materials, and proximity to our key customers.

Malaysian environmental laws follow (and in some cases exceed) international practice.

We also apply international best practices in both countries, over and above the regulatory standards.

Our customers and our stakeholders demand excellent environmental standards.

Amanda Lacaze CEO, Lynas Corporation, Kuantan, Malaysia

Days of dogfights over

I believe the new RAAF aeroplanes are too expensive and the delivery platform is obsolete technology.

Why fly manned fighters to deliver bombs and missiles when this ordnance can be delivered to target with unmanned aeroplanes or rockets?

The days of ‘‘Battle of Britain’’ dog fights are over despite a senior RAAF officer sporting a ‘‘Biggles’’ moustache when the two J-35s were delivered to RAAF Base Williamtown.

A good infantryman or artilleryman with a cheaper, modern surface-to-air missile would soon make short work of a enemy aeroplane, just ask MAS.

RAAF bases are vulnerable to attack too. RNZAF scrapped their old fighters years ago and did not replace them and the RCAF sensibly cancelled their F-35 order when the current PM was elected.

Australia is not a part of the USAF. Nor is it bound by US foreign policy decisions that all too often drag our weak governments into overseas wars that are none of our business.

Adrian Jackson, Middle Park, Vic

Fauna and the facts

By blaming kangaroos for the appalling state of ACT reserves, Jeannette Ruxton (Letters, December 10) is merely parroting the errors of the ACT government.

Kangaroo populations always crash during time of drought, mainly because they stop breeding, so there is no risk that they will ever exceed the carrying capacity of a reserve during a drought.

Kangaroos are not confined to reserves. In a good season where a larger number of young survive this species’ very high infant mortality rate, some young adults may disperse in search of other suitable habitat. Many of these die on the roads because of careless or speeding drivers. CSIRO (2014) reported that on ACT reserves, ‘‘a positive relationship exists between kangaroo density and native species richness’’ and there appears to be ‘‘no upper limit of kangaroo density beyond which vegetation richness, diversity and overall condition declines’’.

So much for Ruxton’s accusations that kangaroos eat new growth.

Kangaroos are, in fact, a keystone species without which many native species, both plant and animal, cannot survive.

Ruxton also urges control of rabbits.

This is equally counter-productive but for different reasons. Slow-breeding animals like kangaroos can easily be driven to extinction, and soon will be with the current open slather on them under way in NSW.

Fast-breeding animals like rabbits can rarely be driven to extinction. While individuals may suffer hideously from human ‘‘management’’ techniques, culling rabbits can only ever achieve a permanently young, fertile, healthy and huge population of them.

Frankie Seymour, Queanbeyan, NSW

Rule support selective

Where on earth did Nicholas Stuart get the idea that ‘‘in a war, for example, it would be perfectly permissible to bomb a dam, flooding land and destroying houses downstream’’ (‘‘We urgently need space and cyber forces’’, December 12)?

The fact that it happened in World War II doesn’t make it lawful; by that argument, concentration camps are lawful. International humanitarian law specifically states that civilian objects shall not be the object of attack in wartime.

Rather than talking up the notion of space warfare, we should focus on the need for global restraint, as increasing militarism – including in Australia – seems to be preparing us all for bigger wars to come.

And let’s not pretend that Australia is regrettably having to play catch up in an increasingly aggressive world. Rather, we are complicit in practically every bit of US warmongering.

In a speech on November 30 Foreign Minister Marise Payne reported proudly that Australia recently voted against a UN resolution, ‘‘No First Placement of Weapons in Outer Space’’, sponsored by Russia and China.

Once again we were in the minority.

Stuart is, of course, correct that cyber warfare has the capacity to do untold civilian damage. But rather than helping ensure an arms race in space (in which there are unlikely to be ‘‘winners’’) we could co-operate with other nations in strengthening the international law that relates to space.

Our government talks enough about the rule of law, but supports it very selectively.

Sue Wareham, president, Medical Association for Prevention of War (Australia), Cook

Garlic overload

As a fellow sufferer of garlic allergy, I strongly agree with P. O’Connor’s comments on its profligate use, particularly in TV cooking shows (Letters, December 12).

Apparently it is no longer possible to produce an entree or main course without the inclusion of copious amounts of garlic.

How long before desserts suffer the same fate?

Richard Dunworth, Spence

TO THE POINT

CASH SPLASH ILL-FATED

If the federal government will spend up for 12 submarines, a few frigates and a space station to get Christopher Pyne elected, what will it spend on Craig Kelly? Just his preselection has cost the party the local Liberal supporters team. ScoMo is emulating Howard’s 2007 cash dash but, like Howard will not get elected.

Warwick Davis, Isaacs

MINISTER GOES MISSING

Chris Emery (Letters, December 11) asked if we still had a Minister for Planning. I don’t think we do. Numerous letters I have written to that office have remained unanswered.

Mary Robbie, Aranda

POOR ENGLISH A DANGER

Inadequate English among non-English-speaking-background medical staff jeopardises the accuracy of patient to doctor reporting. Jurisdictions need to bring English standards into line with the nature of an English-course graduate’s employment. Cleaner-level command of English could cost lives.

B. Smillie, Duffy

COMPLACENCY CURSE

Hillary Clinton had it in the bag, but look who won. If Shorten becomes too complacent he will only spoil it for himself.

Mokhles K. Sidden, South Strathfield, NSW

GOING THE DISTANCE

Chris Emery (Letters, December 11) claims twice that the closest supermarket to the suburb of Wright is 10.1 kilometres away.

It is true that Wright (and Coombs) are without a supermarket, but the Cooleman court supermarkets are only about four kilometres away, and the Curtin shops are about six kilometres away.

John Hutchison, Coombs

POST OFFICE TRIUMPHS

Three cheers for Tuggeranong Post Office. A Christmas card arrived there for us without a house number on the address. They checked us in the phone book, rang to see what the number was and the card arrived the next day. What an excellent service.

P. Lloyd Jones, Tuggeranong

TRY SHOPPING ELSEWHERE

If Ms Wareham (Letters, December 11) is so concerned about the shopping choices at the souvenir shop at the War Memorial the simplest answer is for her to go elsewhere, while the rest of us enjoy the AWM.]

K. MacMillan, O’Malley

COSTLY CHANGES

So dumping Malcolm Turnbull cost about $4.5 million. I’m guessing ditching Tony Abbott as PM would have cost about the same. In the case of the latter it was definitely bang for the buck. I’m not so sure if that was the case with Malcolm. He was a nice change.

M. Moore, Bonython

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 or fewer words. 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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