I have recently been told that Clive Palmer has claimed that my father, R. G. Menzies, was once the leader of his recently created (Palmer) United Australia Party.
That, clearly, is nonsense, as Mr Palmer must know. Has he made this absurd claim so he could trade on the Menzies legacy?
The old UAP was amalgamated with other groups to form the present Liberal Party.
It seems there is nothing to stop anyone from taking the UAP name, but there is absolutely no connection between the old UAP and Mr Palmer's new UAP.
I am horrified that my father's name has been used so dishonestly.
The actor Liam Neeson recently admitted that 40 years ago, in his mid-20s, he wanted revenge against black men for the rape of a close friend.
Despite his evident remorse he has been condemned by self-righteous media commentators and social media trolls, many even suggesting he should be blackbanned from the film industry.
Apparently the context of Neeson's rage, the elapse of time and his remorse are not enough to excuse him, in the eyes of some. His contrition is being used as a weapon against him. Tut, tut, how could he?
Neeson should be applauded for his candour. His remorseless critics might like to look deep into the vault of their own lives to assure themselves that they have always behaved and thought perfectly and purely.
I suspect they won't like what they discover.
War's civilian deaths
The news of possible civilian deaths from Australia's role in the bombing of Mosul, Iraq, in early 2017 is of course tragic. But is this really "news"?
When we bomb cities, it's inevitable that many civilians will be killed and severely impacted in multiple ways, despite efforts to avoid this. To believe otherwise is merely wishful thinking.
In 2017 Amnesty International published a report, At Any Cost: The Civilian Catastrophe in West Mosul, Iraq, which estimated that 5805 civilians may have been killed between February 19 and June 19, 2017 as a result of the attacks by Iraqi and US-led coalition forces.
The report also stated that "Pro-government forces [which included Australia] failed to take feasible precautions to protect civilians during the battle for west Mosul".
Australian governments and our allies are so concerned for civilians that they keep no official record of civilian deaths, injuries, displacements etc in the places where we fight our wars, or of the resources available to look after these people.
They simply don't count. A report in the New York Post on December 20, 2017, stated that "The coalition ... says it lacks the resources to send investigators into Mosul" to assess civilian damage.
It's commendable the ADF has investigated these particular killings, but let's not pretend that Australia's wars don't kill civilians, or that bombing cities is a rational response to terrorism. It simply augments it.
Get what you pay for
The biggest problem with free-to-air television is you get what you pay for. Pay TV is not much better.
It is amusing to read various items in the press about Labor's policy in relation to franking credits; paying tax refunds to shareholders who have not paid any tax.
One of the latest is from Geoff Wilson, chairman and chief executive of Wilson Asset Management ("Labor will regret unfair tax policy", January 5, p21).
It's no surprise he wrote: "Low-income earners and modest retirees would be the hardest hit."
Elsewhere in the same edition two letters to the editor rail about the probably inevitable policy change.
Ah, there's no interest like self-interest. It seems it is all about "me, me and me" and never mind the notion of equity and fairness across the general population.
In the same edition it was pleasing to see that despite the headwind from self-interested beneficiaries of the Coalition's current tax give-aways, Mr Bowen is sticking to his guns.
His explanation was simple and quite cogent: "Half of the benefits of dividend imputation refundability... go to self-managed super funds [with] balances greater than $2.4million."
Just as with that other big rort, negative gearing on property, the clever and wealthy ones among us have arranged their affairs to get the most out of the tax system that they can.
As Bowen says, "it is perverse that we send cheques to people with big share portfolios that amount to more than we provide a pensioner with no assets and no other source of income". It is time to clean up the rorts. Once that is done people can choose investments on the basis of proper return on capital rather than tax fiddles.
The current crop of rorters will just need to rearrange their affairs to build asset portfolios that are more realistic.
Poorer being penalised
Labor's claim that "[SMSF trustees] are wealthy and can afford [to not get the dividend imputation cash refund]" has been refuted by Treasury documents in which a Treasury official states: "By number more than nine in 10 individuals receiving refunds have a taxable income below $87,000."
Of interest is that more than half of the number of individuals receiving a franking credit refund have a taxable income below the tax-free threshold ($18,400).
Labor appears to have had a thought bubble when they saw that "two-thirds of refunds paid to self managed superannuation funds go to SMSFs with average balances over $1 million".
While that may seem obscene to many people, the real issue is that one-third goes to SMSFs with balances under $1 million. About 50 per cent of SMSFs are in the $200,000 to $1,000,000 asset range.
Labor clearly needs to impose a floor on the size of the SMSF balance to allow ordinary people who need that average $5000 refund to keep getting them.
SMSF account balances are not a mystery as all of them lodge a return with the ATO. The ATO currently provides the cash refund so it would be relatively simple for it to look at the balance and refund the dividend imputation if appropriate.
A limit of $1 million would mean Labor could still get two-thirds of the refunds but not impose a financial burden on what would seem to be average people.
Labor's plan will penalise many thousands of ordinary people who had a legitimate expectation of what to expect in retirement.
Who's in the right on right-hand turns?
I would like some clarification of the road rules for a bike making a right-hand turn at an intersection.
When I was a boy, the rule was for the rider to keep as close as possible to the centre of the road and to signal that they wished to turn right.
When I was executing this manoeuvre on Wednesday a driver passing on my left suggested I should not be on the road if I didn't know the road rules.
On getting home, I tried to research what the rules were but it was not easy to find a definitive answer.
As far as I can tell when a bike rider is turning they should do what I did unless there is signage saying a hook turn is compulsory.
The rider may do a hook turn if they chose unless there is signage prohibiting hook turns.
The main objective should be safety.
If a bike rider stations themselves near the centre of the road, they indicate to other traffic they intend to turn right. It also allows room for cars going straight ahead to pass the rider on the left.
If the bike rider stations themselves near the left-hand side of the road and executes a right [hook turn], that may take other traffic by surprise.
It also assumes car drivers will let the bike turn right rather than queuing up and preventing them from turning right until all the traffic has cleared.
I would be interested to know what other readers think.
Clearly it is best if bike riders and car drivers have a common understanding of what the rules are.
Ambiguity needs sorting
I would like to bring an ambiguity in the ACT road rules to your attention, particularly the interpretation of road rule 197 and 198 of the ACT Parking Infringement Guide, as it relates to parking in suburban streets, where residents have been booked with infringement notices in front of their houses.
According to these rules, a car should park in the street rather than slightly off it to avoid potential hazards.
Problem is that if you do park on the street it could cause damage or accidents if two cars approached from different directions, especially on a bend or close to a hill.
A service vehicle would also barely be able to pass a car parked in such a way, potentially causing damage.
In practice most visitors and residents around my street park slightly off the road, running the risk of infringement notices.
I brought this to the attention of the ACT government last January, pointing out with numerous photographs that there is uncertainty and ambiguity regarding this road rule.
I said parking signage was required to clarify the matter.
There has been no action to date. If this is not clarified, a parking inspector could book dozens of vehicles on any given day by interpreting road rule 198 strictly, and with no allowance for reasonable behaviour, right across Canberra.
Brian Bell (Letters, February 7) is correct in saying we in the ACT are being pretty constantly gouged when it comes to petrol.
But he comes to that correct conclusion through incorrect but fortuitous reasoning.
Five cents per gallon more is in fact just over one cent per litre more, not 22.5c. It seems unbelievable now that in 1968 we were paying around 8c/litre so an extra cent on that was a large amount, a similar percentage to the extra 20-25c/litre now.
The question is, for what? I suspect the answer is simply that Canberra is a market that has shown it can continue to cough up.
Strata Community Association ACT president Chris Miller is only half right to say that the ACT government's unit-title surcharge "robs Peter to pay Paul" ("Unit owners punished for driving ACT's economic growth: strata boss", canberratimes.com.au, February 3).
It robs Peter to pay Andrew (the Treasurer), block-title owner Paul misses out on a reduction in his rates in this ham-fisted attempt by the government to extract rates on a market value basis from just unit-titled properties.
Here in Holt, with the surcharge that adds 23 per cent to rates, unit-titled properties are paying between 30 per cent over, and 32 per cent under, general rates on a market value basis. About two-thirds of properties miss the government target by greater than 10 per cent.
Using the same inept statistical skills that the government used to justify this bizarre surcharge in the first place, they would say everything is fine, "on average".
The discriminatory nature of the surcharge means that there are two-bedroom unit-titled townhouses that pay 22 per cent more in general rates than similar block-titled townhouses despite the block-titled properties having a market value that is greater by 30 per cent. Apparently, the government's dictionary defines this as balanced.
Garden City no more
In 1958 an internationally renowned and highly respected town planner and architect advised Canberrans and the new National Capital Development Commission that "It will be of some importance to the development of Canberra that there should be more and more people who care, and care deeply, what it looks like and what it becomes as a town to live in".
In this expert's major report on the future development of the national capital, one of his three main recommended objectives was that Canberra should remain "a Garden City".
He would turn in his grave if he could see what so many private individuals and communities are having to respond to in order to try to improve and ensure this city's long-term liveability, its viability and the remains of its unique character ("We have to fight this: Downer residents fear high-density takeover", canberratimes.com.au, February 6).
They should not be the only ones who care.
Under the bed?
A quarter of Australians have less than $1000 in the bank. What do they know we don't?
TO THE POINT
DO THE MATHS
According to Tony Featherstone ("Who's really to blame for too many unwanted graduates?", canberratimes.com.au, February 7), Telstra chief executive Andrew Penn complains that Australia is behind India in the production of new software engineers – only 1200 here in the past 12 months compared with 44,000 there. Given that 1200 is 0.0048 per cent of Australia's population (24.963 million) while 44,000 is 0.0032 per cent of India's (1.363 billion) – Australia would seem to be well ahead.
Michael McCarthy, Deakin
CALL IT WHAT IT IS
Bankers keep referring to "mistakes" they made. They weren't mistakes, they were greed-driven actions – or crimes.
Biff Ward, O'Connor
Once upon a time there was a royal commission into banking in Australia. It gave its report to our federal politicians, and everyone lived happily ever after.
M. F. Horton, Adelaide, SA
WHO'S NEXT IN LINE?
Now that the royal commission into the banks is over, and they have all received a swipe across their respective faces with a wet dishcloth, surely it must be the mega unions' turn to be scrutinised . I wonder if the leader of the opposition will be as eager to do so, as he has with the banks.
Mario Stivala, Spence
SPREAD THE LOVE
So the Prime Minister is offering millions of dollars to support the Paralympians.That's great news. Now when will funds to assist in their training be given to competitors in the Special Olympics?
Mary Samara-Wickrama, Weston
Karl Marx was an intellectual giant. The intellectual imbecile who damaged his London tomb with a hammer attack is not expected to understand that.
The tragedy of the human race is that it has these intellectually deficient individuals in its midst.
Rajend Naidu, Glenfield
FOLLOW THE LEADER
Robyn Lewis' call for Scott Morrison to say to Environment Minister Melissa Price "where the hell are you?" (Letters, February 7) is unlikely to be acted on. Price is doing exactly what Scott Morrison wants her to do in respect of the environment — nothing.
Don Sephton, Greenway
Robyn Lewis (Letters, February 7) makes a good point about Melissa Price being "missing in action" during the Darling River crisis. But she's off target with her advice to Scott Morrison. In that (in)famous ad, Lara Bingle actually said "where the bloody hell are you?".
Douglas Mackenzie, Deakin
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