In days gone by, publishing unemployment figures was a simple exercise. The Department of Social Service collected figures from government employment agencies and published the latest trends.
However, in the 2000s, cost-cutting measures saw the unemployed and those seeking employment placed in the hands of job-recruitment agencies. The outcome? The reporting of figures for those seeking employment became haphazard and unreliable.
To tackle the problem, the Australian Bureau of Statistics invented a formula. Every month, the bureau surveys around 26,000 households and asks who in them worked in the past two weeks and who did not. It surveys the same households month after month for eight months, then, on the ninth month, it abandons one eighth of its survey and replaces it with a new eighth, chosen at random.
The new eighth stays in for eight months, and so on. The idea is to get both continuity and change.
The flow chart for October shows unemployment down to 5.9per cent.
However, around half of that figure of 58,600 newly employed workers appears to have been a statistical artefact, caused by a difference in the type of households that left the survey and the type that joined. A "thimble and pea" effect of "now you see them, now you don't".
John Macleod, Berry, NSW
Indigenous war service
It is good to see the Australian War Memorial acknowledging Indigenous service in war, even if it illogically and unjustifiably denies that the frontier wars are a part of the story it tells of Australia and war.
The memorial has named a gallery after Captain Reg Saunders, who is widely but wrongly believed to have been the first Indigenous person commissioned in the Australian Army, in 1945.
Researchers have recently found evidence that several other Indigenous men were commissioned, in the Great War.
The earliest appears to have been Lieutenant Alfred Hearps, of Tasmania, who was commissioned in the 12th Battalion in 1916, shortly before he died on the Somme.
It is well to celebrate Reg Saunders's achievements in war and peace, but becoming Australia's first Indigenous commissioned officer was not one of them. Should not Lieutenant Hearps be honoured rather than Captain Saunders?
What is the memorial going to do?
Professor Peter Stanley, Dickson
Given that P.M.Button (Letters, November 13) has the wits to acknowledge Professor Peter Newman is one of Australia's foremost public transport experts, whose opinion deserves serious respect, it is puzzling that he or she is unaware that Professor Newman is on the public record on several occasions as a strong advocate of Capital Metro – most recently in this paper on June2.
This apparent lack of awareness may explain why P.M.Button believes that playground polemics like "light-rail tram folly" make a useful contribution to adult debate.
Felix MacNeill, Dickson
How soul-destroying and upsetting it was to see the ACT government's Asbestos Taskforce glossy insert in Saturday's Canberra Times. The p2 article didn't help either. Too bad about the sick-at-heart homeowners – it's all about getting touchy-feely with the neighbours and community. The homeowners are now just part of the past.
I doubt the taskforce or government contacted any of my neighbours, if their voice contact with me is any guide – possibly three phone calls in the last 12 months and no reply (let alone acknowledgement) to letters I wrote last November-January. The words to describe official behaviour are unprintable.
Kathleen Read, Watson
The owner of the Parkwood Poultry Farm has commissioned a report that shows he needs a three- to four-kilometre buffer around his operation, which precludes the development of housing in West Belconnen ("New suburb sparks egg farm odour stink", November 14, p1).
Given that such a buffer includes many of the existing suburbs of Belconnen, presumably this means Pace Farm has been operating in contravention of its lease? Certainly, the diagram accompanying the story suggests this to be so for at least Holt and West Macgregor, if not more widely – in which case, the government should probably be investigating closure of the farm immediately.
Chris Williams, Griffith
The great concern in Melbourne by mothers unable to purchase milk products for their children, resulting from the Chinese pressures on Australian-made dairy products, creates the motivation, already well in place, for Chinese ownership of dairy farms in our country. Add to that the current ridiculous prices for Australian beef courtesy of Indonesia and China and any number of other products sold wholesale overseas and Australia will become what our politicians are planning, the food bowl for Asia, yet unable to feed our own people. This is just the start.
Rhys Stanley, via Hall, NSW
New road rules
In response to Leon Arundell (Letters, November 6), the road-rule changes that allow cyclists to ride across pedestrian crossings also require cyclists to approach no faster than 10km/h, look for approaching traffic, cross no faster than 10km/h, give way to pedestrians on the crossing, and keep left while crossing. The changes will improve amenity for bicycle riders and provide a safe alternative to the previous rule, which required bicycle riders to dismount and walk across the crossing.
The new road rules also clarify that motorists must stop or give way to bicycle riders at crossings, as well as to pedestrians. The changes are accompanied by an education campaign to explain the rules and to remind everyone – whether they are driving a car, riding a bike or a motorbike, or walking – of their obligations to follow the rules and ensure the safety of their fellow road users.
Shane Rattenbury, Minister for Justice
The suggestion to call the suburb of Whitlam simply "Gough" (Letters, November 12) was a good one. Following on, the suburban recreation ground/park could be named "Comrades Park", an ideal place for "Men and Women of Australia" to gather.
Peter Baskett, Murrumbateman, NSW
Officials have gone too far with food list
While I was dropping off some grocery items to a single-parent family, the six-year-old consistently asked whether the food that was being donated was "healthy". The parent told me the child is so insistent on making sure food that is sent from home is within the ACT government's permitted list because of the taunting the child received once. The parent also mentioned how difficult it is to comply with the healthy food policy. Being on a low income made compliance difficult.
I suspect the ACT bureaucrats who came up with this policy did not consider the consequences of this policy on those who are on low incomes and, indeed, how such a policy can lead to instances of taunting and bullying of non-compliant children.
This government is either too dim-witted to recognise that its policies are creating a nanny state or the MLAs are being hoodwinked by claustrophobically short-sighted bureaucrats.
Under this government, the ACT has seen an explosion in costs, projects that were expensive, or not needed or abject failures, and, above all else, the ACT has seen a decrease transparency in government.
Simon Corbell should have recognised that under his tenure as Attorney-General, the ACT has seen less accountability of government than before. But I suppose he is either too concerned about other interests to see the damage that's been inflicted. When will the government stop and think about the consequences of its policies such as healthy eating?
The ACT government should provide advice on health, but should never presume to know more than we do and impinge on personal choice associated with food. If the ACT government is so concerned about our health, perhaps they should take over our children's health insurance premiums if they are dictating what children should and should not eat.
Adrian Smith, Yarralumla
Europe pays price for throwing open its doors to all and sundry
Europe's weak acceptance of refugees from Muslim countries has now directly resulted in the worst terrorist atrocity in France since World War II. If only a small percentage of refugees flooding into Europe now hold extremist views, then I fear this attack will only be the first of many many more to come.
It does appear now that Tony Abbott was correct all along. For quite some time now the media, academics and the left in Australia have ridiculed him about his policies on refugees. With recent events in Europe it looks as though stopping the boats is the only way to go. Reducing immigration from Muslim countries or even stopping it completely might also be necessary to try and stem the flow of potential extremists and extremist thinking. Europe has thrown open its doors and is now suffering the consequences.
Most of the left-wing controlled media in Australia have been trying for years to brainwash us into thinking that recent terrorist events have nothing to do with religion and that we should embrace diversity and all cultures equally. Christians, Buddhists, Jews, Hindus and atheists have been doing this for decades. Unfortunately one prominent religious group refuses to accept this and continues to plan mayhem and destruction.
A. Pavelic, Queanbeyan, NSW
The events in Paris are horrific. There needs to be a response but what sort of response? Were I being asked for my advice on how to respond, I would suggest the following. Treat these outrages as the crime they are and investigate them thoroughly and diligently. Do not increase actions against Islamic State; do not close borders; do not put more troops into Syria or Iraq. What should be done is to continue current actions against IS; continue to support anti-IS forces in the Middle East; maintain existing levels of security in our countries; continue to support UNHCR efforts with refugees from these countries. Change nothing. My reasoning?
IS perpetrated this horror to produce a reaction. They don't actually care what reaction they achieve, so long as there is a reaction. Any reaction provides justification for their actions and provides them with the wherewithal to further radicalise and recruit. If troops are withdrawn from the Middle East or operations against IS are suspended then the message from the terrorists will be that they are succeeding in driving Western imperialists out of the "caliphate". If operations are ramped up and numbers on the ground increased then the message will be that more "good" Muslims are needed to fight the growing evil of the Satan of the West. No reaction is the last thing they want and would be, without doubt, an indication of absolute failure of their methods since it would provide proof that they have achieved nothing by their actions. After all, it's pretty difficult for anyone to recruit foot soldiers to a lost cause.
Penny Bowen, Chisholm
As a result of the barbaric, cowardly and unprovoked terrorist attacks committed by some Muslim extremists associated with Islamic State, it is now time for all the bleeding hearts within the judiciary, the Greens and the population to take a really good look at their philosophies.
Can they really, with hand on heart, assure us that not one of those asylum seekers from the Middle East are IS sympathisers and that they are capable of becoming terrorists?
Should just one of them escape detection then a certain amount of blame can be laid at the door of those decrying our severe border control regulations.
If such atrocities, as witnessed in France, occur here then without doubt blame will attach to those "do-gooders".
N. Bailey, Nicholls
Again innocent people have died and politicians continue their mantra of being strong, solidarity against evil etc. Perhaps they would be focused on more than empty slogans if they were the targets.
Greg Cornwell, Yarralumla
Malcolm Turnbull described the recent mass killing in Paris as the "work of the devil". I think it highly unlikely that any devil had a hand in this atrocity. Rather, I think it highly probable that it was the work of zealots whose deeply unpleasant values and beliefs are founded on 6th century myth, legend and fairy tale.
Peter Moran, Watson
Will the Abbott haters now face reality and, concede that his London speech was not only prescient but sound advice?
Owen Reid, Dunlop
My wife recently received an income tax bill. I was astounded that there was no information on or with the assessment notice advising how to pay the amount owing. We found the information on the ATO website – not that we were told that is where we needed to go.
Once there, it was surprising to find the fee-free option of direct credit among options available "if you can't make a payment using BPAY or credit card".
The ATO needs to do better in ensuring that their systems and communications are client-focused.
John Burge, Curtin
Making a point
My thanks to Terry McDonald (Letters, November 13) for pointing out my abject ignorance of economics and taxation when I cheekily asked how much GST Malcolm Turnbull pays on his Cayman Islands income (Letters, November 11).
You would have thought as a former assistant commissioner of taxation in the Australian Tax Office in charge of international tax reform and a former tax law lecturer at the ANU and University of Canberra I would have known that a GST applies to goods and services, not income.
Perhaps, that was my point. Maybe, I was trying to suggest that very rich people like Malcolm Turnbull, with millions invested in Australia and offshore, don't pay GST on income from their investments.
Perhaps, just perhaps, dear Terry, this was my way of highlighting in what I thought was a pithy comment of one sentence the point that ACOSS, GetUP! and NATSEM among others have been emphasising in their page upon page of analysis, namely that the poor and low paid workers pay much more GST as a percentage of their income than rich people do.
John Passant, Kambah
TO THE POINT
Isn't it time for a Canberra speakers' corner, similar to those in Sydney, London's Hyde Park, and many others around the world? Several sites suggest themselves, with the area opposite the Bus Depot Markets and Glassworks being a Sunday precinct with existing patronage.
John Beagle, Weetangera
It would be appreciated if the shareholders of Icon Water, Messers Andrew Barr and Simon Corbell, could explain why the chairman and deputy chairman of Icon Water do not live in Canberra. It is hard to believe there are not people of sufficient skills and experience in Canberra who could undertake these roles. Also, why there does not appear to be anyone on the Icon Board with water or energy industry experience?
TAX WINDFALL GAINS
I completely support Leon Arundell (Letters, November 13). If the government is looking for further taxation options for consideration, a tax on all windfalls, not just on inheritances, is very egalitarian. Lottery and other winnings should be taxed in a stepped manner, after an agreed threshold.
Fred Barnes, Bruce
Traffic lights on the Barton Highway roundabout? Can the government please explain what future benefits this will have when the CSIRO sells all its land along the highway and it fills it up with even more suburbs? No doubt, they will be as badly planned as Gungahlin as far as traffic flow is concerned and put even more pressure on the existing already overcrowded roads.
Roland Schmitz, Nicholls
If you beat people up for nothing, you are denied a visa to come to Australia. If you beat people up for money, you are welcomed here, paid vast amounts and feted in the media. Is it just me who thinks there is something wrong with that?
Barry Jones, Weetangera
PROOF OF IGNORANCE
In chastising Jan Gulliver, Gerry Murphy (Letters, November 13) has succeeded in demonstrating his ignorance of how disgusting and intrusive other people's smoke can be.
E. Reeves, Kambah
WASTE OF BREATH
Why do police, at random breathalysers, bother to ask if you have consumed any alcohol, when they clearly have no intention of believing any answer you may have?
Phil O'Brien, Flynn
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