The High Court's decision to uphold the sacking of immigration department official Michaela Banerji over her anonymous social media posts is a real setback for freedom of expression in Australia.
Now, the roughly two million federal, state and local public servants have every reason to believe that if they express their view on issues that concern them then that can be used to sack them from their job. Private companies are increasingly including similar policies on public comment in their employment contracts. The Israel Folau case is just the most high profile example of this. Thus, pretty much anyone who has a job or wants to get one is getting the message: keep your opinions to yourself. Already, in Australia it is mostly retirees and people who are independently wealthy who attend protest rallies, write to their local MPs, sign petitions, speak up at town hall meetings, and send letters to the newspapers.
It is no surprise then that these groups have a disproportionate influence on our politics and the issues that get the most attention in election campaigns. The High Court's decision in the Banerji case will only serve to silence most people from having a say about the issues that matter to them.
Dr Kristine Klugman, President Civil Liberties Australia
Time to cut defence spending
As someone who worked in Defence for the better part of two decades I support Stephen Bartos's sentiments about increasing defence expenditure ("Hugh White and the defence community's war on taxpayers", August 9).
However I would go further and cut it back. The armed services could be cut twenty per cent and the civilians at least 60 per cent without any loss of capability because there are so many areas which are essentially functionless. I worked alongside an area known as Materiel Policy but remain baffled about what it did. Likewise another branch Exports and International Policy seemed to do nothing other than "administer" a grant scheme costing $20-40 million a year.
When an audit showed no defence benefit the report was suppressed until it was clear it had been leaked and the FAS responsible was merely sent to the US for three years as an 'Overranked Officer' as there were no FAS positions. Space precludes me giving many other specific examples.
John Coochey, Chisholm
South doesn't need the tram
Herman van de Brug (Send the tram to Tuggeranong, Letters, August 6) is under the misapprehension that a tram to the district would reduce congestion on the Parkway and improve the access of residents to facilities and services.
The provision of light rail, as the experience in Gungahlin demonstrates, does little to reduce traffic congestion or improve access to facilities and services. Most of the population in Gungahlin do not live or work along its route and gain little benefit from its provision. Similarly the intertown public transport route (IPT), along Athllon Drive, is not convenient to the majority of Tuggeranong residents.
It is wishful thinking to suggest extending light rail to Tuggeranong would attract Federal funds.Mike Quirk
Any extension of light rail is unnecessary with the city's transport needs more cost effectively met by bus rapid transport on the IPT route, improving the coverage and frequency of the bus network and the adoption of strategies to reduce the need for travel including incentives to disperse employment and to increase working from home.
It is wishful thinking to suggest extending light rail to Tuggeranong would attract federal funds. The federal government has many higher priorities, as should a responsible ACT government.
Mike Quirk, Garran
Your editorial (August 6) about nuclear power stations is unfortunately incomplete. Yes, uranium-powered energy has real issues as you point out. But there are two other nuclear sources available, primarily thorium, and possibly new "breeder" uranium. Of the three systems already known to work, thorium-cycle nuclear power is less attractive to bomb-making terrorists, its waste products are far less noxious than those of uranium (300 years to fade away compared to thousand of years) and they can't melt down.
Thorium is abundant in Australia (currently discarded from sand mining rather than concentrated for later sale). Certainly the word "nuclear" raises such fear that it is unlikely Australia will ever develop such electricity generators. Possibly after China and India have used thorium for a decade or two we might buy a complete unit from them. Informed discussion about energy is so important that we should consider everything.
Tony Eggleton, Belconnen
Canberra's nuclear legacy
I refer to the article Hiroshima victims (page 3, August 7) and it is timely to recall Canberra's role in the Manhattan Project which developed the atomic bomb. The worldwide search for U235, the element within the Hiroshima atomic bomb, included samples from the Pyramid Hill and Mt Painter uranium mines in South Australia being tested by the Minerals Survey Office (then situated at Alinga Street in Civic, the site of the GPO today) for purity for use in atomic weapons.
The then prime minister, John Curtin, had agreed to investigate the mines for the British to develop atomic weapons as uranium was a scarce commodity. We should mark this location to reflect these facts as we remember the atomic age.
Rohan Goyne, Evatt
Check your water bills
Thank you Richard Taber (Letters, August 6). We are not alone. Our most recent letter from ICON advised us that our fortnightly direct debit would rise from a current $54 to $122 from August 31. We haven't had a meter change, and we don't use any more than we used to. Two oldies having four-minute showers, and not watering the garden.
Nothing has changed in respect of our water usage, but our bill has risen by around 120 per cent. When I rang ICON to complain I was told "you must have a leak". No leaks anywhere, and I wonder how many others have had their bills more than doubled as recompense for incompetence.
P. Reynolds, Gilmore
Time for mob to move on
The climate protest mob blocking Brisbane streets are wasting their time. The world at large is ignoring them, doing the opposite of what they want and planning to still meet 85 per cent of energy needs with fossil fuels in 2040, according to Wood Mackenzie, an energy consultancy firm whose recent report laments the lack of progress and the certainty of increasing CO2 emissions for decades.
The big emitters obviously don't believe the climate catastrophe scare. China currently burns half the world's coal and is building hundreds of coal-fired power plants. India, too, plans to increase coal consumption, as does much of Asia. All done with no obvious concern for their grandchildren, having noted the tiny changes - well within historical levels - to world-wide temperatures and sea levels despite decades of alarmist forecasts.
Add to that recent studies from Finland and Japan confirming the increasingly obvious fact that CO2 is a bit player at best in the complex and unpredictable climate scene and the mob's despair can only deepen.
The climate scare is failing in the face of realty and the mob must now look elsewhere for something to get angry about. But I suggest they check the facts more thoroughly before making such a damn nuisance of themselves.
Doug Hurst, Chapman
Little chance of seeing the light
Peter Campbell (Letters, August 7) asks "Why does the Federal Government have no policy to encourage electric vehicles running on home-grown energy?" The answer is obvious.
The government gathers huge amounts in fossil fuel excise and is highly unlikely to be willing to sacrifice even a small proportion of this by promoting the take-up of electric vehicles. It's a case of ignoring climate change and do anything to look good by producing a budget surplus.
PJ Bewley, Barton
Political match made in heaven
Could The Canberra Times encourage Barnaby Joyce and Amanda Vanstone to band together to co-draft an opinion piece for your esteemed paper on any way-out political issue that takes their collective fantasies? There could be several benefits from such a collaboration, particularly the fun for all of us in trying to decipher what the heck their piece is all about - mangled language and all.
Although it would be an opinion piece, I would suggest that the claptrap they would end up submitting could best be found on the puzzles page, where it would provide hours of mirth and fun for the whole family.
James Lee, Holder
Economy not so rosy
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg repeatedly tell us what wonderful economic managers they, and Coalition governments in general, are. This is despite many indications to the contrary, including weakening consumer demand, imports and housing approvals, and stagnant wage growth. With the official interest rate at 1 per cent, the RBA will soon have nowhere to go.
Investor Roger Montgomery said the most effective way for the federal government to stimulate the economy was to reduce the tax rate on lower income earners. But the Morrison government is determined to skew tax rates in favour of high income earners, who are far fewer in number and are much more inclined to spend their money on imported goods and overseas travel.
Douglas Mackenzie, Deakin
TO THE POINT
Correct me if I am wrong, however, am I witnessing David Pope dining out as a cereal offender (Editorial cartoon, August 7)?
Allan Gibson, Cherrybrook NSW
CANAVAN COMMENTS DIVISIVE
Matt Canavan ("Busybody' politics is threatening democracy, Resources Minister warns", August 6) argues that any Australian who expresses a view on national issues, such as water management or the Adani coal mine, is a "loud" Australian, who undermines a united democracy.
He then goes on at length to play the city-country divide. Rather than promoting a united Australia, it's Canavan who is divisive.
Patricia Saunders, Chapman
CLEAN ENERGY IS POSSIBLE
Alan Parkinson (letters, August 7) makes an argument from incredulity that "surely nobody would be foolish enough to attempt to provide all of [Australia's electricity] by renewables". I prefer to note that at least nine sophisticated studies over the last decade from various universities, CSIRO and the Australian Energy Market Operator have shown that 100 percent renewables is possible for Australia.
Peter Campbell, Cook
WASHINGTON THE TYRANT
The US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's supreme arrogance about America's presumed exceptional entitlements and god-like superiority are a sign to all that Washington is now incapable of being a normal state. The real world tyranny comes from Washington where it considers that it has divine right to destroy other nations if they don't grovel sufficiently at its feet. Now more than obvious to everyone, those feet are made of clay clearly signifying a doomed power, while Iran's dignity and defiance is revealing to us all.
Rex Williams, Springwood, NSW
GRASS IS GREENER
Reading your back page (sport, August 6), one is reminded of the adage: "watching Test cricket is like watching grass grow". Given the number of acknowledged cheats currently wearing the baggy green in the Ashes team, I'm leaning towards the grass.
Michael Doyle, Fraser
MIGHT NOT RIGHT ON ROADS
Trevor McPherson (letters, August 7) argued that vehicle priority in our transport system should essentially be determined by the mass and power of those vehicles, overriding any egalitarian notion of road rights. By logical extension of that argument, he made an excellent case as to why when driving his car, he should stop and give way to any truck crossing his path even if he is the driver with right of way. Wisdom indeed.
Terry George, Kingston
Steve Smith batted well - perhaps even brilliantly. But that of itself has nothing to do with 'redemption'. To all the commentators and letter writers using that term, if you can't separate performance from morality, you are no better than the proliferation of sports cheats and sledgers who think that winning is all that matters. Perhaps those who pen 'redemption' letters to the editor should also be given a year's ban to grow up ethically.
Richard Manderson, Narrabundah
GET A GRIP
Smith can deftly handle a bat, and that being said, will always be that.
Rod Matthews, Melbourne
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