Moggie was about to jump ship while going was good

Your article ("Mascots and heroes: animals in wartime remembered with love", February 23, p16) reminds me of the story of the ship's cat aboard HMAS Perth.

Both naval engagements occurred 77 years ago this week, off the Netherlands East Indies (Indonesia).

Red Lead, the ship’s cat, on board HMAS Perth. Photo: Supplied, Australian War Memorial

Red Lead, the ship’s cat, on board HMAS Perth. Photo: Supplied, Australian War Memorial

After the fall of Singapore to Japanese forces in December 1941, Japanese naval units covering an invasion force to East Java were met on February 27, 1942, in the Java Sea by Dutch, British, US and Australian warships, including the Australian cruiser, HMAS Perth. Both naval forces clashed in the Java Sea north of Surabaya with the more powerful Japanese fleet sinking several Allies vessels. HMAS Perth and the US Cruiser Houston managed to break free and sail for Batavia (Jakarta). Batavia was under air attack and was waiting for its impending fate as both ships decided to sail west for the Indian Ocean via the Sunda Strait between Java and Sumatra.

But on February 28, the eve of their departure, Red Lead, the Perth's cat went missing.

The incident was seen as a mariner's omen and Perth's captain, Hec Waller, gave stern orders that Red Lead be found. He was located but went AWOL again.

Found again, the wayward feline was "clapped in irons" – a small metal drum with holes in it. And, as if to emphasise the "omen" the cat from the USS Houston also went missing.

It's said that animals may foresee impending disasters.

On the evening of the February 28 both ships left Batavia heading west for the Sunda Strait and hopefully to safety in the Indian Ocean.

It was not to be.

At midnight the Perth and Houston ran into a large Japanese invasion force from Singapore, bound for West Java. Both ships were sunk just after midnight on March 1.

Of Perth's crew, 353 sailors were lost, while 334 were taken prisoner – many to serve on the infamous Burma Siam railway. Only 218 returned to Australia after the war.

History does not give us the fate of the ships' cats.

No 'ordinary' retiree

Retiree Jim Bonner (Letters, February 27) is an old mate of mine and remembered as a good bloke. We worked together for a number of years at the ABC and he was always open about his personal party preferences (which, incidentally, were more pronounced than most of us).

And, while retired, he still sticks to the script, trying to strike fear into fellow retirees.

Besides, I think it was disingenuous of Jim and his producers to pretend he is just an "ordinary" retiree. If Jim had remembered his fine reputation for journalistic ethics he would have insisted on full disclosure regarding his political interests. They are not irrelevant.

Gambling diversion

The Canberra Gambling Reform Alliance (CGRA) notes the valuable information provided in the article "Canberra clubs hit the jackpot with poker machine cuts" (canberratimes.com.au, February 23).

We note, however, our concern about the comments provided by the CEO of Clubs ACT, particularly his categorisation of the respected researcher Dr Charles Livingston as an "anti-gambling activist whose shortcomings as a gambling expert were highlighted in a recent federal court case".

This comment is a misrepresentation of what occurred in a recent court case, and a transparent attempt to divert the conversation from the important topic of evidence-based measures to reduce gambling harm. When CGRA undertook the process of engaging a researcher to undertake a peer-reviewed piece of research around gambling harm, we were surprised at the dearth of researchers who had not accepted funds from the gambling industry to support research. The research commissioned from Dr Livingston was generated out of his position as an Associate Professor at Monash University with expertise in this field, and was peer-reviewed. We encourage the gambling industry and its lobbyists to engage with the evidence and work with the community to reduce gambling harm in our community.

'No' needed for Nelson

Your editorial ("Paradise paved by memorial," February 25, p14) asks how the memorial "seems to be somehow immune to the usual processes of public consultation when it comes to development".

There are two reasons for this apparent immunity. First, the memorial's director, Dr Brendan Nelson, is a consummate salesman. He could sell ice to eskimos, so it is easy for him to convince politicians, including former colleagues, of the worth of whatever project he is spruiking.

Secondly, and more importantly, Dr Nelson can draw upon the idea that the memorial is a "sacred site", and those who question the Anzac legend and associated projects risk being seen as unpatriotic.

Anyone who has seen Dr Nelson sail through Senate estimates hearings can attest to this; as the spokesperson for the "sacred" memorial and Anzac he is virtually untouchable. (One senator asked, only half facetiously, whether anyone ever says "no" to him.)

The memorial should be subject to the same rigorous accountability as other national institutions. Anzac is not a state religion, and we are entitled to be atheist or agnostic about it, while respecting those who feel the need to worship at Anzac altars. It is time we said "no" to Dr Nelson.

Exquisite timing

Christopher Prowse has exquisite timing, and we thank him for his inadvertent highlighting of the church's special pleading of the case for non-disclosure ("Priests face an impossible choice", February 26, p18).

I remind the archbishop that a royal commission was necessary to get some light on the church's failings. If the church had not failed so egregiously perhaps civil society would not have found it necessary to legislate.

And perhaps civil society has less confidence than him in the ability of the church to prevent future offending and/or future cover-ups. And perhaps that lack of confidence extends to members of the faithful.

I counsel the good archbishop to look to his own church laws for the solution to his, and I repeat, his dilemma. In the meantime, as he wrote, "priests are not above the law".

Difference profound

So, Gary J. Wilson (Letters, February 27) wonders: "Just how different is it here?"

May I suggest he prepare a placard on some issue of interest to China (anything that refers to the Falun Gong, the Uyghurs, the South China Sea or Tibet should do the trick) and hold it up outside the Chinese embassy. Nothing will happen but when he gets bored he could then go and hold it up on any street corner in Beijing. Then he'll discover what the difference is!

Workers the true church

Send your opinions to letters.editor@canberratimes.com.au

Send your opinions to letters.editor@canberratimes.com.au

As a grassroots Catholic, the "church" to me has always been the people on the ground working to help others: the thousands of St Vincent de Paul volunteers; those spending their lives in third world countries to help the disadvantaged; the many religious sisters organisations doing their "boots on the ground" work; local parish teams helping people in need; and so on.

"Church" has certainly never been the hierarchy and their distorted view that the "real church" – its heart and soul – is the superstructure and the priestly caste.

While so many of their members sexually abused the vulnerable and countless bishops and priests concentrated their efforts on supposedly "protecting the church", the irony is that their misguided efforts have actually damaged the church – easily seen in the empty pews at Sunday masses.

Furthermore, there seems to be little hope of real church reform, given Pope Francis' bland pronouncements at this week's Vatican summit that these appalling crimes and their systemic cover-up are nothing less than Satan being at work in this "mystery of evil".

Playing with numbers

Federal Finance Minister Mathias Cormann appears incapable of managing his own credit card as shown in the Singaporean adventure.

Former WA treasurer and now federal Attorney-General Christian Porter also seems to have difficulty with his sums. The latter claims the government is looking into hundreds of asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru, with red flags over dozens on character grounds, yet only two have been charged and another three mentioned ("Labor reaches into Asia with smuggler warning", February 18, p10).

With recourse to the logic of "reductio ad absurdum", our top legal eagle manages to reduce hundreds to dozens and then to a mere five. However, Prime Minister Scott Morrison blithely assured those at his recent National Press Club appearance that restoring the nation's finances was one of the three achievements that would engender confidence in his government by voters come the election. One can but wonder if, on available evidence, this claim is a miraculous reversal of the five loaves and two small fish.

Strange policies

As a long-time resident of the ACT, I must admit I am becoming somewhat puzzled with the focus of the ACT government. It is proposed to have cannabis grown and used legally in the territory.

We are not going to restrict outlaw motorcycle gangs from congregating and operating (often illegally) in the ACT, despite such laws passed by other states.

We are going to have pill testing of illicit drugs at festivals and restrict police from being adjacent to where this testing is taking place.

We have severely curtailed police from pursuing stolen cars even though they often are later burnt out in the bush, thus causing bushfire emergencies.

Builders can apparently build any shoddy building without any government restrictions.

I am, however, pleased to see that the ACT government is leaping into action to prevent school chaplains from operating in schools where they have been requested. It is good to see that the government has its priorities right.

Furniture on the move

Helen Goddard, of Turner, (Letters, February 26) laments the household items currently adorning nature strips in Turner and O'Connor. I suspect it's a seasonal thing. That is, they were left there by graduating ANU students departing sharehouses at the end of last year.

If so, it'll be a matter of cometh the student, cometh the hour as they're gleefully scooped up by impoverished new undergrads doing their O Week scouring of local nature strips for household items for their sharehouses.

(I swear I've seen the same battered couch move around the suburb over the past few years.)

So I'm confident that the problem will soon disappear. Except for the cots and prams. I don't know what's going on there.

Support for e-cigarettes

Dr Shroot's aversion to smoking is well known, and is commendable, but he doesn't really offer any practical help to those with a nicotine addiction, (Letters, February 27). Because some e-cigarettes are faulty is no reason to ban the product, but it is a valid reason for regulating better quality standards.

Many readers might recall the poisoned smallgoods food case in South Australia in 1995; this did not lead to a ban on smallgoods but did result in the responsible authorities enforcing manufacturing standards.

Yes, nicotine is addictive, but many of the adverse health consequences of smoking result not from nicotine but from the constituents in the tar.

If we are to help addicted smokers to quit, we should accept that properly manufactured e-cigarettes have a role to play, and that giving the smoker access to e-cigarettes with a reducing nicotine content might help them, over time, kick the habit.

A taxing profession

Another ill-informed opinion about the Canberra taxi service (Letters, February 23).

Dr Matt Overton took John McKeogh (Letters, February 20) to task over his claim that the ACT government had screwed the holders of taxi perpetual licences into the ground by releasing more taxis into the market than are needed to meet demand.

What is it that causes someone who waits 30 minutes to be somehow suddenly imbued with the knowledge of the problems of the taxi service and how to remedy them. The peaks and troughs of taxi work — especially at the airport, where several planes arrive in a short time creating a sudden backlog of passengers and then nothing for the rest of the evening — means that there is no more work at the airport for the entire night.

Yet Dr Overton says that there should be more taxis to cope with this. More taxis would soon go out of business. If more taxis were introduced there would simply be insufficient work for them overall.

John McKeogh is right. The ACT government has robbed taxi plate owners of their investment, and it should compensate them.

Fortunately, I've never been an owner of a taxi licence.



A cartoonist's gift from above, a Pope's take on a fallen cardinal (Editorial cartoon, February 27).

Allan Gibson, Cherrybrook NSW


Robin Brown's short and succinct take on Julie Bishop: "Big on style, small on substance" (Letters, February 27) is a superb summing up that cuts through the mystique and veneration of an ordinary state actor.

Rajend Naidu, Glenfield, NSW


Apropos Margaret Lee's (Letters, February 26) complaint about the general public's indifference to obscure limited-release films, I was reminded of Phil Dunphy's (Modern Family) exasperated "why do I have to watch a French film? I haven't done anything wrong".

Christopher Smith, Braddon


The government; the church; and business exercise power. Power corrupts; absolute power absolutely corrupts. Today we are observing this truth at every level.

Jeff Bradley, Isaacs


It bugs me that we are constantly told that the government is working hard to do the best it can for everyone. If that was true how come there is suddenly more it is able to do now? I would happily vote for a government that comes to an election and says there is no more it can do for us as it is already doing it.

Ed Gaykema, Reid


I strongly support solar and other renewables for our energy generation and I am strongly opposed to the continuing use of fossil fuels in Australia. The LNP government should wake up. The activist school kids have awoken and I will join them on March 15 as they march for sanity in politics in the interests of climate change.

Jenny Holmes, Weston


How ironic and unfortunate for the Catholic Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn Christopher Prowse that his article defending the seal of confession ("Priests face an impossible choice between respecting the seal of confession or the law", February 26, p18) appeared on the same day that the suppression orders around the guilty verdict in Cardinal George Pell's child abuse trial were lifted.

Roger Terry, Kingston


Scott Morrison, when treasurer, took a lump of coal into Parliament asking people not to be afraid. Following an election-induced epiphany he is now pretending the Coalition has good credentials for reducing greenhouse emissions.

Coal can't hurt you? Oh yes it can, Prime Minister.

It can burn your fingers and the seat of your pants as well.

Brian Cooke, Waramanga

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