Your Comment columnists John Wilson and Kieran Pender ("Free speech denied in the High Court in Bernard Gaynor case", canberratimes.com.au, September5) give a brilliant analysis of the implications for "free speech" inherent in the matter of the High Court of Australia's refusal to hear an appeal by Bernard Gaynor concerning his army commission being terminated in 2013 for "provocative comments".
I believe strongly that everyone has the right to free speech within the limitations of current laws and, where appropriate, conditions of employment. I understand Gaynor to have made his comments, critical of the military, while off duty and not in uniform, nor subject to any other reasonable constraint.
In this context, I believe Gaynor to have every right to free speech without fear of dismissal. Having said that I support Gaynor's right to speak his mind, I would likely strongly disagree with what he had to say.
The article referenced Evelyn Beatrice Hall's remark: "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."
This is the gold standard of free speech. Once we degenerate into types of "free speech", or situations in which free speech applies, we lower the gold standard and there is, from that point, no freedom of speech, ideas, opinions, beliefs and so on.
I wholeheartedly congratulate John Wilson and Kieran Pender for exposing some of the obvious risks that arise from the High Court's decision not to hear Gaynor's appeal.
Geoff Johnston, Bargo, NSW
This planet is in the fight of its life to survive climate change, so what is the Australian government doing?
Well, they're fiddling with the energy target in an attempt to outmanoeuvre Bill Shorten. ("Coalition eyes revised target", p1, September13).
Imagine if we'd taken that approach in World War II: "Sorry, but we're too small a nation to help much so we'll leave the hard yakka to everyone else, and anyway, we're busy with local politics."
Our attitude to fighting climate change is pathetic, but not surprising from a coalition that builds the economy by creating record numbers of homeless people.
Rosemary Walters, Palmerston
It was difficult to see the point of the header "Fake news creates outrage over PM" over a photo of the PM seated at the footy and kissing the head of a baby he was holding while also holding a beer (September12, p15).
The shot seemed real enough. It wasn't really that media had misrepresented the degree of criticism on social media of the boozing babysitter.
Jacqueline Maley had told us in her first paragraph the PM had posted it on Facebook himself. That meant the photograph was taken by a friend or even relative. That meant it was a posed shot contrived by the PM himself.
Still, even though the man's a poseur, it seems a bit extreme to call him a fake.
One hopes that the roar of the crowd did not distress the infant.
Gary J.Wilson, Macgregor
On the buses
Brendan Cox came close to the mark with his observations on light rail (Letters, September12).
He suggested we forget the infrastructure and superstructure relating to light rail. The company filling our order for trams also makes a battery-run version. We could also request that the steel wheels be changed to ordinary bus tyres.
The only drawback for our ACT government would be the fact that we would finish with electric trams that for all purposes were the equivalent of the electric buses we are trialling now.
However, the plus factor is that we would save a billion dollars.
That money could be spent on affordable housing, which would mean that we were not the city with the second-highest proportion of homeless people in Australia.
Howard Carew, Isaacs
Two sets of rules
Late last month, asbestos works were undertaken at the Forrest Fire Station Museum in Forrest.
This work is long overdue and welcomed. However, it seems that two sets of rules for notification exist in Canberra – one for government-owned buildings and one for others.
When asked, the ACT government (WorkSafe) said that immediate neighbours should be notified of the pending works, and that the company would be reminded of this obligation.
Neighbours were also informed that the plastic wrapping of some of the building could indicate friable along with non-friable asbestos. Even when tradesmen on site, with men in orange suits and masks, were asked to speak with neighbours and provide information, nothing happened.
A query in relation to this issue still remains unanswered in Minister Gentleman's office.
R. Scouller, Forrest
Apart from being a veritable eyesore, from a security point of view, that fence is about as effective as boobs on a bull.
Without using a ladder, several readily available items found in many backyard sheds would enable a reasonably fit person to get over it in no time at all.
For the fence to be secure, a "tamper" alarm system would have to be installed.
Mario Stivala, Spence
I admire the optimism of those responsible for "The Wharf Review: The Patriotic Rag". The high degree of self-parody by local and foreign leaders makes it almost impossible to satirise current events right now.
N. Ellis, Parkes
Luckily, Gallileo didn't have to listen to Mathieson on science
The kind of science that Craig Mathieson enthuses about ("Controversies catalyse smart changes", The Guide, p.3, September 11) is the kind of science that would still have us believing that the sun revolves around the Earth, or worse still, that the Earth was flat.
He said: "Under these new parameters ... science is viewed as a means of future possibility, not a tool for challenging the accepted norm".
Luckily, Gallileo didn't have him to listen to.
Mathieson cited the Catalyst programs that raised questions about the purported link between saturated fat and heart disease.
I ask: Did he watch Maryanne Demasi's Hearts of the Matter Catalyst episodes? If so, how didn't he see the scientists she interviewed?
They were real people from real universities with peer-reviewed literature to support them.
Perhaps the new Catalyst format will regain the audience trashed by the ABC in its lack of support for and mis-handling of Demasi's challenging programs. But articles like this aren't going to reassure me, for one.
Jenny Hobson, Spence
Falling into the trap
Tony Abbott is right in stating that "At one level, the same-sex marriage debate is of vastly less relevance than most people's daily struggle to pay their bills, to improve their lives and that of their families, and to try to get on with their neighbours and workmates. But at another level, almost nothing is more important than the values that we cherish and the principles on which our society is based." ("Same-sex marriage would shake foundations", September 13, p.17)
Unfortunately by cherry picking examples of poor behaviour and certain unproductive actions of "gay activists" he's fallen into the trap of focusing on the extremes of the debate and ignoring the quiet wishes of the silent majority.
By doing so, he contributes to the polarisation of the discussion in this inane "he said, she said" argument and ignores his own call to uphold the values cherished, and principles sought, by most.
Stoking the fires of extremism is not good governance.
Good governance seeks not to be distracted by such destructive views and to act on behalf of the reasonable and compromise-focused positions of the majority, precious little of which is on display from the far left or far right.
I can come up with just as many examples of appalling behaviour by "heterosexual activists". But that's not really the point, is it.
David Barratt, Yarralumla
I am beginning to become concerned that the continuous promotion of the "Yes" vote via articles, letters, social media and street demonstrations will have a negative impact upon those who felt neutral about the vote, but now feel bullied into voting in the affirmative.
They are just as likely to now vote "No" because they think the "Yes" vote is a foregone conclusion and wish to protest against taxpayers' money being used to push a particular line being stuffed down their throats.
It might be well to remember what happened with Brexit and the election of Trump.
I would not be surprised to see a protest vote gather real support as a result of these tactics.
Ric Hingee, Duffy
I feel it is time to put a media ban on any advertising, whether it be for the "Yes" or "No" campaign. We have a media blackout for elections so why not for the survey?
Anyone who has been half awake for the last few months will know the thoughts of politicians, the clergy and general public.
Perhaps a few gentle reminders to return the votes would be beneficial.
Robyn Lewis, Raglan, NSW
A private matter
I still don't understand why anybody who isn't same sex attracted needs to have any say over whether or not same sex couples can marry.
Mind your own business.
M. Moore, Bonython
President Trump says his prime responsibilities are to keep his nation safe and secure.
How safe is his population when he continues to ignore the implications of burning fossil fuels on climate change?
How many more destructive storms and the associated extensive economic and human costs will it take for Mr Trump and other climate deniers (including Coalition conservatives) to consider real action, including carbon pricing, to mitigate climate change.
Mike Quirk, Garran
What can be done?
A great question M. Moore (Letters, September 8) as to what Canberra is coming to. Canberra is coming to a population of 400,000. Purportedly a city's crime rate increases exponentially above this figure.
The follow on question to yours is .. "what can be done?"Perhaps taking a look at Mayor Giuliani's attack on crime in New York will provide some answers. Attacking the bottom dwellers first, being graffitists and moving up from there proved to work. Consider reading Freakonomics – Levitt and Dubner and The Tipping Point – Gladwell.
Phil O'Mara, Palmerston
A White House statement said Trump gave "conceptual approval" to the sale of "many billions of dollars worth of military equipment" to South Korea.
That single statement covers what all the Korean brouhaha is all about. US military weapons sales … again, with a major regime change for good measure.
The real reason for the Korean hiatus is a US base to threaten China at any cost, yes, even war.
Rex Williams, Ainslie
Court not bound
Crispin Hull asks how the High Court could make a ruling in the section 44 constitutional cases that is contrary to the precedent of a previous High Court decision ("It's in the past: High Court could surprise us with s.44 ruling"; Forum pp 2-3; September 9).
The short answer is that the High Court is not bound by its previous decisions. It doesn't even have to "distinguish" an unpalatable previous decision (by saying that it is "different", legally speaking, from the current case); it can simply overrule it.
Frank Marris, Forrest
TO THE POINT
LOSING SAFETY NETS
J Collet (letters, September 11) is right about the history of privatisation and Labor's part in it. But Hawke and Keating brought the unions along with the Accords, which maintained wages, and the "social wage" of maintaining publicly administered safety nets. Howard and Costello, on the other hand, monstered unions, empowered bosses, suppressed wages and encouraged welfare payments to the middle class.
S. W. Davey, Torrens
Why are taxpayers paying $850,000 to advertise the Riverview development, in which the government has only a 40 per cent stake?
Why did we pay $4.5 million to buy land which Riverview is now developing? The division between government and developer has become blurred.
Dave Kelly, Aranda
I dreamed last night that our innovative, exciting, agile Prime Minister said, "Let them eat coke."
Annie Lang, Kambah
IT'S TIME TO BE FAIR
Standing before you A. Two ladies B. One lady, one man. C. Two men. All six contribute financially to this country through Federal Government income Tax, GST, and any other levy by State, Territory, City, Town, Village local Governments. Until same sex couples have equal rights Australia cannot claim to be a true democracy.
Allow same sex couples to marry or reduce their tax payment.
Lindsay Bingham, Hackett
Will there be threatening signs telling citizens to keep out? The ghastly and dreadful design and secret cost of the Parliament House security fence speaks volumes as to why pollies are so mistrusted and disliked.
Thos Puckett, Ashgrove, Qld
At a time when we have conflicts all over the Middle East, genocide in Burma, issues in Ukraine, possible civil war in Venezuela and Korean Penisula tensions that could lead to the unthinkable, NASA has decided we might as well declare war on Saturn by dropping a bomb on them in the form of Cassini. What did the Saturnians do to deserve this?
Bruce MacLeod, Florey
A. Moore exudes a sinking sensation with his dive into the bottomless thoughts lapping your Letters on September 12.
The Nationals might steal his innovative suggestion. Imagine Baa-naby's post-political sinecure as Admiral of our coal-powered submarine fleet, headquartered in Alice Springs.
Don Burns, Mawson
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 words or less. 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).