Letters to the Editor, Canberra Times

Vintage Reds members are a prolific source of informed comment in the letters pages of our local paper. Here is a selection, carefully gleaned online…

Canberra Times, 18 December 2019: Hemlock anybody?
Those criticising Greta Thunberg should note that Socrates said when the debate is lost slander becomes the tool of the losers.
Fred Pilcher, Kaleen

Canberra Times, 9 December 2019:
Scott Morrison says his just announced public sector changes will improve both services to the public and delivery efficiency. But he didn’t ask the public about what we need or the service about how they can improve delivery.

So who advised him? Was it political staffers, or perhaps business lobbyists? Or did a bunch of politicians just get together and make stuff up?

And would now be a good time to start feeling afraid? Or even very afraid?
Pauline Westwood, Dickson

Canberra Times, 27 November 2019: Why Westpac? Why?
Westpac has been accused of breaking anti-money laundering laws 23 million times and will ostensibly be fined for having done so.

That’s like accusing my lawn mower of cutting my grass too short and fining it some of the petrol in its petrol tank. Westpac is a legal entity composed of nothing but pieces of paper; it has no more capacity to break the law than my lawnmower has the capacity to choose the height of its blades.

While Westpac hasn’t broken any laws per se, the people running it who must take responsibility for what has occurred will walk away with little more than a reduction in their multi-million dollar bonuses.

It’s well past time we abolished the legal nonsense that corporations are “natural persons” which can be held responsible and punished for crimes resulting from the actions of executives and employees. Until the people who are actually responsible are held personally liable nothing will change.
Fred Pilcher, Kaleen

Canberra Times, 27 November 2019: Firefighters on welfare
I wonder how many of our wonderful volunteer firefighters are subjected to the cashless welfare card?
Pauline Westwood, Dickson

Canberra Times, 18 November 2019: Humpty Dumpty moment
This is Frydenberg’s journey “Through the Looking-glass”, where, like Alice’s Humpty Dumpty, words can mean anything, even more so in translation(!) in a subjective legal environment.  Time may subliminally foil “Enforceable conditions” imposed on Bellamy’s sale contract “supporting jobs in Australian” (Takeover deal no real threat, CT, 16 November, p.6).
Albert White, Queanbeyan

Canberra Times, 17 November 2019: Pot calls the kettle black!
The pharisees are out in force!  Cynicism knows no bounds in the contest between canine abusers and equine torturers.  Observers, subject to electronic footage, might label it a dead-heat (We were banned for less, says greyhound club president, Sunday CT, 10 November, p.3)!  Both groups were caught in flagrante delicto of the dastardly deeds they subsequently denied or, alternatively, implausibly, denied knowledge of.  Equally improbable were public denials of supervisory bodies – state and industry – of any hint that behind the glamour were hidden unsavory aspects all wished buried (advisedly).

ACT “sentient beings” legislation, intended to protect dogs and prevent abuse, represents a follow-through to banning greyhound racing in the Territory.  Having taken this courageous step to protect “man’s best friend”, it seems somewhat contradictory for a government spokesman to, off-the-cuff, abjectly proclaim “there were no known issues in horse racing in the capital”.  Might it be a case of la belle indifference as to the fate of horses or maybe a sign of laziness in it being too much of an effort to examine possibilities?

NSW’s Baird, shamefully, back-flipped as a result of chicanery and horse trading, not on the merit or integrity of arguments for greyhound retention.  NSW now awaits a, heroic, Hercules-like figure prepared to demonstrate sufficient fortitude to clean the detritus left in the wake of several compromised administrations, in both the canine and equine Augean Stables.  Just like blue-collar workers and little battlers greyhound racing is consigned to the pages of history, as are its advocates.
Albert White, Queanbeyan

Hypocrisy rife on Downer
Canberra Times, 15 November 2019: How the mighty have fallen!
As Downer’s harangue at the National Press Club demonstrated, hell hath no fury like a political hack/lobbyist suffering relevance deprivation, especially a scion of a silver-tail dynasty, who firmly believe they alone are deigned, by Divine mandate, to rule over all (Corbyn ‘hostile’ to Western interests: Downer, CT, 13 November, p.11).  Downer’s intemperance in advocating on behalf of a Boris Johnson victory, hence sidling up to Trump, whose mates are salivating at prospects of profiteering from privatizing the NHS, represents ignoble crassness in one who was Australia’s top diplomat and longest serving foreign minister.

It is exceedingly indiscreet of a high-profile Australian to castigate China on issues of human rights when asylum seekers’ rights are ignored (abused!), government has enacted 75 pieces of legislation (since 9/11) curbing personal freedoms, whistleblowers are unprotected, media and journalists are state targets.  Listening to a person who was a protagonist in some of Australia’s most recent nefarious (mis)adventures – AWB, Iraq’s WMD, children-overboard, Timor Este spying – inveigling a “holier than thou” stance, represents intellectual dissembling.
It would not need a (former) diplomat of Downer’s intellect acumen (?) to accept that Australia’s boast of 29 years of “uninterrupted growth” – only of profits and wealth accumulation – would not have been possible without China being prepared to support, taxpayer subsidized, basic extractive raw material.  Downer, in his speech, presented a tatty image of a very generously superannuated fat-cat, whose public profile will not be enhanced by his selective patronage and accusatory pronouncements.
Albert White, Queanbeyan

Canberra Times, 8 November 2019: Tell Canavan he’s dreaming
With Delhi’s 20 million citizens choking in toxic miasma, visible from space and 10X greater than acceptable pollution limits, someone needs to tell Resources Minister Canavan he’s dreaming and risks committing crimes against humanity should he persist flogging coal to India (Australia joins Asia trade pact, CT, November 6, p9).
Albert White, Queanbeyan

Canberra Times, 22 October 2019: Whistleblower fail
There is a urgent need for legislation with strong protections for whistleblowers, especially in the public sector, as indicated by the article “Watchdog powerless to protect: inquiry” (October 19, p15).

Whistleblowers Witness K, David McBride and Richard Boyle, along with lawyer and former ACT Attorney-General, Bernard Collaery, face harsh sentences in unjust prosecutions that should never have been brought. These prosecutions exemplify abuse of power.

Along with the raids on the ABC and journalists they are an attempt to intimidate truth-tellers and are a serious danger to our democracy. Arthur Moses, SC, recently said “Since September 11, About 75 pieces of federal national security legislation has been passed, and there has been a slow erosion of our freedoms” (“Security claims mask power play”, September 7 p.30). Intimidation under the guise of ‘national security’ is now the practice of this government.

A rally to defend whistleblowers and press freedom, which includes speakers Andrew Wilkie, MP, Senator Rex Patrick, Sister Susan Connelly and journalist Jack Waterford, is being held this coming Thursday, October 24, 12.30pm on the Parliament House lawns. The rally is endorsed by Civil Liberties Australia, Timor Sea Justice Forum, Medical Association for the Prevention of War, and Independent and Peaceful Australia Network.

If we don’t want our freedoms eroded, we need to speak up and oppose such travesties of justice.
Kathryn Kelly, Chifley

Canberra Times, 27 March 2018: Rohingya need help
Instead of making unsolicited offers to South African farmers who may possibly lose their farms at some future time, we should offer asylum to the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees now in Sri Lanka.

Not only have they already lost their homes and lands, but they have suffered violence, rape and massacres.

They cannot return and are living in horrendous circumstances in an extremely poor Third World country which is doing its best but cannot cope.
Pauline Westwood, Dickson

Canberra Times, 7 September 2017: Pyne steals IQ gag
On the ABC’s Insiders on Sunday (September 3) Malcolm Turnbull’s Leader of the House, Christopher Pyne, quipped that any walkout over Barnaby Joyce’s New Zealand citizenship would “increase the average IQ” of the Parliament. Mr Pyne would have done well to have done his homework before opening his mouth.

He clearly wasn’t aware that it was New Zealand’s vertically challenged but larger than life National Party Prime Minister, Robert Muldoon, who originally uttered the immortal line: “New Zealanders who leave for Australia raise the IQ of both countries.”

I wonder what the late Sir Robert would have made of Barnaby’s predicament?
Nigel Thompson, Queanbeyan, NSW

Canberra Times, 2 September 2017: Who will stand?
Does Peter Dutton’s “final departure Bridging E Visa” that has cut off the pittance of income and accommodation support provided to asylum seekers legally in Australia permit them to beg? Or will that be a violation of the “code of behaviour” they will be compelled to sign? Nothing would surprise me.

Australians, and the Australian Labor Party in particular, have historically taken pride in a commitment to the “fair go”. Can we expect our alternative government’s spokespersons to stand up for that principle now?

Or will the fear of being “wedged” cause them to say “me too” in response to this latest outbreak of petty vindictiveness.
Nigel Thompson, Queanbeyan

Canberra Times, 11 August 2017: Progress can increase speed
Progress and its inherent change can take a long time and then an event occurs that accelerates support for change.

For many years the voices for same-sex marriage were in a minority in Australia, and only growing slowly. Then Ireland held a referendum in May 2015 after an ugly and hurtful public debate, and the Irish voted “yes”; Ireland being the most Catholic country in the English-speaking world.

Here, the pendulum swung and within two years the majority of Australians now support same-sex marriage.

I hear the Liberals saying that prime minister Gillard and opposition leader Shorten did not support change, and are hypocrites, but this was before the Irish vote and the consequent rise in support in Australia.

Our prime minister-in-exile, Tony Abbott was our leader then but, as we all are aware, progress is not in his DNA.

As for Prime Minister Turnbull, his lack of leadership has been pitiful.

It is nonsense to talk of a mandate when you just scrape into power. A postal plebiscite will be ugly and divisive, will have logistical problems, and is not binding on the Parliament.

I wish the Labor Party were more savvy and would refute the constant calls of hypocrisy and blaming from the Liberals without reference to the context of events when Labor was in power.

As for the media, the lack of knowledge and depth in their reporting of politics is creating an ignorant public.
Lucille Rogers, Kingston

Canberra Times, 19 March 2017: Shorten missed the mark
I am very angry at the comments made by Bill Shorten in response to the answers Sally McManus gave to Leigh Sales (on the ABC) on Wednesday evening.
Sally is absolutely correct. Nobody has to put up with bad laws in Australia or anywhere else. It is protests that bring injustice to the minds of politicians and the conscience of ordinary people. To make changes we need strong public condemnation plus strong politicians prepared to make the changes.

Where would women be if we didn’t have the feminists of the first and second wave? Where would Indigenous Australians be without all of their civil protests? Where would Australian workers be?

Australian Unions do have to tell all Australia the ABCC, Workchoices and now Workchoices Light (aka Fair Work) are a very serious problem.

Bill, before you become PM develop some integrity, principles and a spine.
Jane Timbrell, Reid

Canberra Times, 26 May 2016: Appoint a famous five
We should all support Ian Dunlop’s call for national unity government after July 2 (“Citizens awake – we are being taken for fools”, Times2, May 25, p5). Winston Churchill, three days after election as prime minister in 1940, informed the House of Commons “A war cabinet has been formed of five members representing with the Labour, Opposition, and Liberals, the unity of the nation”. Perhaps Turnbull PM, Joyce Energy, Shorten Industry, Di Natale Climate and Wong Finance. After this famous five, other ministers could be selected on merit. If we see voters move to the ALP we could have Shorten PM and Turnbull in Climate, Marriage Equality and the Republic !
Michael Flynn, Downer