Tough punishments a better way to stop drug deaths

Bill Bush (Letters, January 15) recommended drug testing at dance festivals. I suspect that his personal involvement clouds his judgment.

For example, he stated ‘‘festival organisers go to considerable lengths to stop drugs getting in’’ and ‘‘thousands have survived to testify’’. If thousands are supplied with drugs, then clearly organisers are not going to considerable lengths.

Importantly, Bush seems incapable of criticising drug users. He irresponsibly stated ‘‘it comes across as a bit rough to insist that young adults can’t choose to consume what they like. It’s no one else’s business’’.

The Australian Festivals Association says it's time state and territory governments adopt pill testing. Photo: James Alcock

The Australian Festivals Association says it's time state and territory governments adopt pill testing. Photo: James Alcock

He is wrong. Drug users facilitate drug peddling to other naive members of the community. People who are reluctant to punish drug users inadvertently encourage drug use; they are as dangerous as the fools who campaign against vaccination for prevention of disease.

Drug suppliers are murderers. They exist only because they have customers. Those customers are thus also criminals, and should be treated as such. There should be zero tolerance of illegal drug usage.

Bush and others claim that zero tolerance does not work. It hasn’t worked because it hasn’t been tried.

Slapping drug customers over the wrist with a limp lettuce leaf isn’t zero tolerance. An appropriate mandatory punishment for a first offence would include twelve months of weekend detention and five years loss of driving licence.

It is nonsense to argue that strong penalties are ineffective. They do reduce speeding, drink-driving, and use of mobiles while driving. Similarly they would reduce use of illegal drugs.

Teach responsibility

If we give into the current pressures and start pill testing for concert-goers, then we are condoning behaviour which is illegal under current laws.

Would anyone agree to the notion of providing free advanced driving lessons to those who would like to shoot red lights? Of course not, but what’s the difference?

Surely the best approach is to teach kids to act responsibly, rather than taking a nanny-state approach and doing the thinking for them.

Besides, who are distraught parents to blame if a pill-tested teenager dies at such an event?

It would be opening the floodgates to litigation. People need to learn to be responsible for themselves and their own safety, or we’ll be forced to fence off the puddles when it rains.

The real grand slam

The issue of grand slams has again raised its head, and my thanks to Eric Hunt (Letters, January 12) for raising it.

The grand slam used to be the pinnacle of tennis competition, being the winning of all four major tennis tournaments in a single year.

I also acknowledge the achievement of the incomparable Steffi Graf, who added an Olympic gold medal to her time in the sun.

The degrading of the term ‘‘grand slam’’ seems to be due in part to people like Pancho Gonzales, who declined to compete in the Australian Open, for whatever reason, whether it be seasonal or other reasons.

I continue to be caught by surprise when a champion in the modern era is accredited with more than 20 ‘‘grand slams’’, when that seems impossible in the lifetime of a player.

I do not wish to detract from the achievements of modern champions like Roger Federer and Venus Williams, who are spectacular players in their own right. There must be another way to recognise their high achievement.

Population solutions

Expect to hear more about population problems in 2019 as Shane Wright’s article ‘‘Australians do not want any more migrants: ANU poll’’, (canberratimes.com.au, January 16) suggests.

Congestion and cost of living are crippling issues in our capital cities but halting population, and subsequently economic growth, is not the answer.

We need to see incentives for decentralisation and regional relocation assistance for individuals, families and business.

Our regional cities are thriving. They want to grow, and they need to grow if we’re serious about economic growth including a stronger renewable energy sector, increased agricultural exports and more international tourism.

It’s time to talk about solutions, and that can only happen if we stop viewing population problems as a city crisis.

Addressing it is a challenge for us all, including regional NSW, and we must act now for the benefit of current and future generations.

PM needs better image

Scott Morrison seems to want to present a public image of an everyday, knockabout sort of guy (‘‘Morrison, board shorts and passing pub test’’, canberratimes.com.au, January 15); almost a latter day Bob Hawke if you will.

Is this the image we want our Prime Minister to project?

I think not. An image more in keeping with being prime minister, with being a decision maker, with being a leader, would be more appropriate, especially in the current political and economic environment.

Now I’m not suggesting ScoMo should come across looking like a Malcolm Turnbull mark II (he was too much silver spoon in the mouth for my liking), but a more polished, business-like image surely is to be preferred; one where he looks and acts like a decision maker, a leader; one where he is instantly recognisable as prime minister.

The knock-about image does not cut the mustard for me.

Offering refuge

The news that the Saudi woman, Rahaf al Qunun, has been given refuge in Canada is heartening.

I hope and pray that she will find security and acceptance in that country.

It is unfortunate that our country was not able to offer protection to her.

Her plight reminded me of the Middle Eastern proverb on the pole at the SIEV X Memorial in Weston Park, marking the death of Donya Sobie, aged 14, and created by the students of Our Lady Queen of Peace School in Albert Park, SA.

It reads: ‘‘How do we know when it is dawn? When we have enough light to recognise in the face of the stranger that of our sister’’.

Cormann counts cost

If Mathias Cormann spent the equivalent of his VIP flight on the famous Cohiba Esplendidos cigars they would reach 177.8 metres and take countless hours to smoke.

This equals 344.8 one-way flights, Canberra to Perth.

However, I expect he wouldn’t care less because as the Peter Dutton for PM pitch proved, Cormann can’t count.

Preserve our lakeside

The most important designed landscape in Australia, the Lake Burley Griffin system with its lake waters, parklands and stunning vistas, has no overall heritage protection.

Although a national heritage assessment for central Canberra, including Lake Burley Griffin, was ready for listing by Greg Hunt in 2013, that did not happen due to Chief Minister Andrew Barr’s opposition.

Barr instead proposed a modified plan excluding the lake parklands under ACT custodianship and stated, ‘‘It is important that any future listing does not impose unnecessary additional regulatory burden or economic uncertainty of any kind’’.

The ACT government, supported by the NCA seems to believe iconic lakeshore landscapes are developable land that can be privatised.

At West Basin the public will need to forgo its park and hectares of lake waters for a ‘‘you beaut’’ concrete path, perhaps dotted with brass sculptural follies while the proposed building estate (for the privileged few) will block vistas and cast cold winter shadows.

Once West Basin is sold off what is next?

Lotus Bay, Orana Bay, Yarralumla Bay and Grevillea Park are just sitting there begging to become post-industrial-looking waterfronts choked with the apartments the City Renewal Authority believes are great models for urban lakeshore development.

Now, with demonstrable climate change, and intense densification in central northern Canberra, the need for lakeside green parklands is extreme.

West Basin’s Acton Park area has deliberately been let run-down and its bike and boat hires were obliterated.

But it still supports over 100 trees that mitigate heat bank build-ups.

The park has great potential for revitalising to support some cultural features, protect the wetland native habitats and provide much needed recreation and social space for apartment dwellers. Lake Burley Griffin is too small to have its heritage seriously damaged and its waters diminished for development.

Down with drones

The Project Wing drones are back in action in Bonython, shattering our peace and privacy with their hideous screaming noise, and scaring our beautiful birds away again.

There were 20 fly-overs of a backyard recorded last Saturday due to drone deliveries, and that was not the only day.

It is not only Bonython residents who are disturbed by this drone operation. There are many friends and family of Bonython residents who are concerned for their welfare. One such person is a 96-year-old NSW resident, who was a pilot in Bomber Command in WWII, and who has seen and done a lot of significant things in his lifetime.

He watched the Channel 9 television programme A Current Affair, aired on January 3 about Project Wing’s Bonython drone delivery ‘‘trial’’, and says he was shocked to hear the outrageously loud drone noise and shocked that any government would allow such a thing to happen to its constituents.

Another person is concerned that a drone might be blown by wind onto power lines and the potential for injury and death to people, and for the starting of bushfires.

Off to the pub

Given that nowadays the merit of political issues is judged by pub test, the Australian Electoral Commission should re-jig arrangements for the next federal election to replace polling stations and ballots with public bars and beers. At least voters would likely end up feeling happy whatever the election outcome.

Extremes the new norm

It is interesting, and a little worrying, to learn that large parts of Europe and the US have suffered unusually cold and wild winter weather, with heavy snowfalls in much of Europe, and in the US as far south as St Louis, Missouri (‘‘Killer freeze hits US, Europe’’, January 15, p14-15), while large parts of Australia suffer an extreme heatwave.

However, these extremes are entirely consistent with climate science and the predictions that climate scientists have been making for decades.

The oceans absorb about 93 per cent of the solar heat that is trapped by greenhouse gases. Oceans have a major role in warming the atmosphere, giving it more energy.

This energy increases the level of disorder, which in turn causes increased unpredictability in the weather and an increased likelihood of extreme weather events.

Warming of the oceans also results in increased evaporation. In cold weather, such as that being experienced in the US and Europe, that high level of atmospheric moisture will result in heavy snowfalls.

In warmer weather, the result is likely to be heavy rain. Last year saw numerous examples of heavy – sometimes record – rainfall, and several catastrophic floods.

This is all rather unfortunate for us, but the Earth is simply abiding by the laws of thermodynamics.

Poor choice of plants

The landscaping surrounding the light rail was finally beginning to look promising, once the selected native eucalyptus were planted, until the dry native grass was planted both sides, along the rail corridor among the wood chips.

That particular native grass looks good when it is first planted, it then takes on a depressed, sheep paddock, dried out appearance. And a type of wheat weed appears to be growing among the grass to take on an even more desolate, depressed appearance.

Were the people of Canberra consulted on the choice of plants for the light rail landscaping?

So many other choices would have worked so well. Why have we not seen the selection of species to form part of the light rail landscaping as shown in The Canberra Times on March 10, 2017, and pictured with the Canberra Metro chief executive, at the Yarralumla nursery, along with the growing Eucalyptus Mannifera.

The plan, which at the time was awaiting final approval, was for muted tone native grasses and lower shrubs peppered with native flowers.

We can live in hope that those are yet to be planted.



Why Vacy Vlazna (Letters, January 14) is it that the Coalition are extreme, racist and offensive, when it was the Labor Rudd and Gillard governments that set up these so called ‘‘concentration camps’’, which the Coalition have been emptying & closing since they came to power? As for the targeting of Australian-African youth in Victoria, that too would be the incumbent Labor government.

Mark Sproat, Lyons


Government bureaucrats and science experts have completely stuffed up management of the Murray-Darling river system causing the deaths of millions of native fish species. Now they want to manage the Earth’s climate system. Go figure.

Aert Driessen, McKellar


James Allan’s ‘demise’ letter on ‘greed and self-interest’ (Letters, January 14) might also have seen religion as adding to our apathy on the dire effects of global warming. Even unconsciously, and even among self-proclaimed nonbelievers, who could imagine that our god would let us perish?

Billions among us are still held in thrall to the fairytales we heard when very young.

Barrie Smillie, Duffy


What is the difference between the ridiculously expensive but supposedly necessary Cormann flights and Bronwyn Bishop’s ‘‘Choppergate’’? One was by a female and the other by a male. Same outcome? I do hope so.

Vanessa Lauf, Bungendore, NSW


Good on Dr Alex Wodak (Letters, January 14) for coming out so strongly against the NSW Premier’s (mistakenly?) populist position. Berejiklian’s unwillingness to accept the common sense and realistic approach to harm minimisation through pill testing is more than reminiscent of climate change denialism and lobbied governments’ refusal to act.

Catherine Moore, Braidwood, NSW


What do you do when you haven’t got productive, coherent strategies on the environment, energy, water, population growth, industry, education, defence and so on? Start an argument about the date of citizenship ceremonies, of course.

Gordon Fyfe, Kambah


I am surprised some of my pithy one-liner fellow correspondents haven’t sentenced this event before now (‘‘Seeking pun-ters for Canberra’s pun competition, Capital Punishment’’, Canberra Life, January 8). Perhaps there has been too much sole searching over the well-heeled PM’s shoes?

Allan Gibson, Cherrybrook, NSW