Comment

Letters to the Editor: Elf surveillance part of a disturbing trend

I know it is meant to be fun, but I find a new Christmas visitor the stuff of nightmares.

The Elf on the Shelf, according to its promoters, is a visitor who puts young children under 24-hour surveillance and reports all behaviour direct to the North Pole. It is an echo of George Orwell's worst visions. Let's face it, Orwell's "Newspeak" is already applied widely through Twitter, while Skype is a suspicious echo of 1984's two-way TV sets.

"Thoughtcrime" is with us too through the guise of political correctness. Admittedly hard copy diaries have vanished, but into Cloud computer files--or worse still, Facebook entries.

With the cute Elf on the Shelf indoctrination, the next generation will be easier to persuade that some benign figure has the right to constantly watch and report on what they do to — in this case  – Big Brother Santa.

Me? Paranoid? Maybe, but my Elf on the Shelf is back in a lead-lined box, permanently. Or maybe until next December when Christmas lights trigger an irresistible urge to turn him loose again on my unsuspecting grandkids.

Geof Murray, Ngunnawal

Merits of monarchies

Christopher Hood (Letters, December 29), Paul Pentony and J. Adamson (Letters, January 01) offer common misunderstandings about how both constitutional monarchy and republican systems actually work.

The fundamental difference between genuine constitutional monarchies (UK, Canada, Australia, Sweden, Netherlands, etc), and evolving ones (Malaysia, Morocco, Jordan), versus absolute monarchies (Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Oman, Lesotho, etc) and their pseudo-constitutional cousins (Wilhelmine Germany, pre-war Japan, Thailand), is that the latter do not actually separate power and authority as an enduring constitutional escape valve.

Paul's Italian example also misses that the 1943 fall of dictatorial prime minister Mussolini was  possible only because there was still a king with the national authority to harness a swing in popular support, eventually able to dismiss the dictator.

Whereas in republican Germany, following the death of President Hindenburg, Hitler was able to combine national authority as president with his governmental power as chancellor to become a lifetime dictatorial "fuehrer" who could only be removed violently.

J. Adamson similarly obfuscates that in constitutional monarchies no politician — no matter how temporarily popular or abusive of their power — can ever supplant the enduring national authority all citizens vest in their constitutional monarch, no matter how politically powerless or "symbolic" the non-political institution of the crown is on a day-to-day basis. Finally, Paul incorrectly claimed our Governor-General is not accorded head-of-state status when representing Australia overseas.

Gough Whitlam actually stopped one such visit until the host country complied.

Neil James, Burra, NSW

Australia's a terrorist

Australia is a recidivist terrorist state. We bombed civilian Vietnamese peasants indiscriminately; we invaded Iraq without provocation; we occupied Afghanistan without just cause; we bombed Syria in order to cherry pick which bad guys occupy the throne; we intercept ships on the high seas to impose our legal systems on them; we support Israel's tyranny over Palestine; we hide behind "national security" to obscure the truth; we implement unjust group punishment against North Korea.

We react with horror when a lone shark drives a car through a Melbourne crowd and we call it terrorism while we call the actions of our armed forces legitimate and collateral damage.

Australia's filthy hands are why terrorism is on the rise around the world and why it will continue to get worse. IS will morph into something else just as Saddam's Sunnis did after we bombed the hell out of their country.

We perpetrate our terrorism under the pathetic tutelage of US hegemony. Do you really think we would be selling arms to Saudi Arabia if we were a country with an independent foreign policy? Our civility is only domestic deep (and even there on the wane); on the international stage we are no more than barbarians who implement "to the victor go the spoils".

Adam Bonner, Brogo, NSW

Tests of fairness

Full marks to the English cricket team for their much improved performance in the Fourth Ashes cricket test. Australia has no excuses, our bowlers were simply not up to the task. And we dropped too many catches.

There were some issues arising from the game. During England's first innings, two of their batsmen were given out leg before wicket when subsequent replays suggested that each batsmen had "snicked" the ball onto their respective pads.

The previous day, an Australian batsman was given out caught from what turned out to be a "no-ball". He was called back to resume his innings.

The English batsmen were both settling in and both appeared likely to make good scores, when, incorrectly and undeservedly, they were each given out. Another issue arising from the game was the calling into question of the honesty of a fielding player claiming to have taken a catch close to the ground. In this situation the on-field umpires should consult with the third umpire to determine whether any part of the ball touched the ground during the catching process.

If the third umpire, having fully utilised the technological equipment at his disposal, is unable to conclusively establish this, then the batsman must be ruled "Not out". The honesty (or otherwise) of the player is not an issue here as the umpire is the sole arbiter in determining fair and unfair play.

Andrew Rowe, Florey

Hot winds of change

I totally agree with Douglas Mackenzie (Letters, December 28) about the cooling benefits of grass and trees, as we have experienced in our own garden where the hot winds blowing through the trees are cooled by many degrees making most areas of the garden and house comfortable on the hottest of days.

However, money-hungry governments and developers give little thought or encouragement to this concept as home owners are now restricted to ever smaller housing blocks sandwiched between larger multi-storey apartments.

With little room to grow a tree of reasonable size, and ever-increasing water charges making even small lawns unviable, temperatures will continue to rise in new suburbs where the proximity of houses creates hot wind tunnels, exacerbated by the heat given off from evaporative air conditioners on the roof.

Trees and grass also provide a visual relief from large expanses of bricks, mortar and bitumen, as well as an inviting area to relax and enjoy fresh air.

Frances Cornish, Spence

Drivers get no warning

The problem for car drivers with cyclists on pedestrian crossings, Matt Gately (Letters, January 1), is not the cyclist's 10km/h speed on the crossing nor the visibility of the crossing, it is the sudden emergence of the cyclist onto the crossing. Reacting in time to that demands too much of the car driver.

Anyone who can crunch the numbers in basic physics will discover that it could take less than 1s for a cyclist cruising at 20km/h on a path to be 1m into the crossing doing a quite legal 10km/h. Less than 1s is not enough warning for even an astute motorist.

The typical motorist not watching for the cyclist's braking sees this cyclist jump onto the crossing at 10km/h, and the motorist gets all of one third of a second before the cyclist is 1m into the crossing.

The legislation does ask the cyclist to be ready to stop in order to give a motorist sufficient time, but the cyclist has right of way on the crossing.

That mish-mash of obligations cannot work.

A dismount obligation puts cyclists on the same footing, as it were, as a pedestrian, and stops motorists getting a nasty surprise. As a motorist I view a cyclist on a path near a crossing with great suspicion as I know I won't have the time to react if they do dart out. As a cyclist, I always stop at a crossing, then I'll ride or walk across. There is nothing wrong with a cyclist doing 10km/h on a crossing, but stopping before entering is the essential part.

Terry Werner, Wright

Young terrors run riot

Ian Douglas ("Imagined risk", Letters, December 30) is wrong to say children are absent from our streets during school hours.

I have lived within the speed-restricted (30km/h) zone of Latham primary school for more than a decade.

I have been retired the whole time and don't get out much. I have witnessed, from my home, or experienced, in my car, more than a few random acts of (mainly) boys behaving badly on the roads between 9am and 3pm.

For instance, lads aged about 12-13 playing "chicken" at the school crossing on O'Loghlen Street  about 11.15am.

When I encountered these boys, I was travelling under the speed limit. I slowed down even more and watched them, ready to react to any unexpected action on their part.

I was merely treated to some rather interesting hand gestures which, in my opinion, these lads were too young to be using with such fluency.

In another instance, I saw a boy aged about 7-9 running along Onslow Street, on the road, not the footpath, and throwing himself on the tarmac at the T-junction of Onslow and Wanliss Streets.

Before I could get outside to rescue him, two  young male teachers had appeared, dragged the miscreant to his feet and frogmarched him back to the school yard. Time? About 1.45pm.

The ACT government and our schools' staff are doing all that is reasonable to protect the misbehaving element of our school children from themselves. 

It is up to us motorists to go past ACT schools at or below the speed limit, always, while keeping a lookout for mini-terrorists trying to commit unintentional hara-kiri.

M. Philip, Latham

Settle asylum seekers

Sovereign borders have worked in blocking the sea route to Australia for asylum seekers.

Punitive offshore detention, if it ever could be justified, can no longer be justified as a deterrence to maritime access for asylum seekers.

The men, women and children held on Nauru and Manus, or under community detention here in Australia, must be quickly settled in the US or New Zealand, and if not there, then in Australia.

They, who were already invested in their flight to Australia long before Kevin Rudd vanquished their prospects for settlement in Australia, have paid too high a price.

Current policy is vindictive policy, and the elected representatives of the ACT — Leigh, Brodtmann, Gallagher and Seselja — should be held to account.

Peter Morris, Canberra

Think about others

Every time someone is badly injured or killed in a motor vehicle collision/accident, it is necessary to someone – most often a member of our Police, to inform the family/relatives of the injured/dead person of what happened and the result.

And very often the family will demand answers to many questions — so how would you answer them?

This is clearly a really terrible responsibility and a close to impossible thing to do without any feelings by the person doing the informing.

So whilst you are out driving, and before you do anything not right/illegal, have a think about this — how would you like it if somehow the person having to tell the family was you?

Geoff Cass, Tewantin, Qld

Light rail overhyped

Mike Reddy, a supporter of the ridiculous light rail project, (Letters, December 31) says it doesn't need to service the Canberra Hospital, already serviced by several bus routes. Fair enough.

Using the same logic, how is it then that the tram route currently under construction, from Gungahlin town centre to Civic is necessary?

This journey is already serviced by a frequent, virtually direct bus service, Red Rapid route 200, which runs seven days a week.

We do not need this over-hyped, ludicrously expensive and redundant Green's vanity project.

I'd rather go to the Canberra Zoo to see a white elephant.

Dale Fletcher, Kambah

Movement possible

Michael Hancott (Letters, January 1) is quite wrong to link movement off the pitch with the action of the bowler in the way he does.

Sideways movement can be produced in many different ways.

The classic description of a googly or wrong un is "an off break delivered with a leg break action".

Except for a left-handed bowler, where a googly is a leg break delivered with an off break action.

Everything is in mirror image.

A left-hand fast bowler such as Mitchell Starc, bowling with what for a right-hander would be a "classic off cutter style", will produce a leg cutter.

Howzat?

David Stephens, Bruce

TO THE POINT

XENOPHON'S POSITION

The media are flush with excitement at the prospect Nick Xenophon could end up as South Australia's Premier. I suspect it is something he will work hard to avoid. All of his career he has flourished as someone who has the luxury of considering two or more options and coming down in favour of the most politically appealing.

As Premier, he would have to nail his colours to the mast.

Roger Dace, Reid

DRIVERLESS CARS NEEDED

The recent horrifying accidents on our roads prove three things: an increasing population driving an increased amount of vehicles causes more deaths on the roads; humans are too human and need help to drive safely; and the transition to driverless cars cannot come soon enough. We are an ingenious lot and whatever form it takes it will be better than what we have now.

Howard Carew, Isaacs

CABINET SHOCK

You cannot imagine my recent shock at opening up the Canberra Times (December 29, p.22) while a double shot of arabica did it's work.

With intensifying dread what I had first dreamily thought was a still from the Rocky Horror Picture Show, is actually Alex Ellinghausen's photo of Malcolm Turnbull's latest Cabinet.

Matt Ford, Crookwell, NSW

NONSENSICAL APPROACH

In denying the facts of climate change, Alan Barron (Letters, December 30) asserts his intuition trumps the reasoned opinion of every reputable scientific institution in the world. On the strength of that, he would have us conduct an unconscionable global experiment, encouraging poor nations to increase fossil fuel burning while rich nations cease their reductions.

Peter Campbell, Cook

FLUSHED RESPONSE

"Pleading insanitary" indeed. Your editorial on December 28 about relieving Tent Embassy tensions and Gary Wilson's swirling response (Letters, December  30) suggest Monty Python could contribute positively to strategy debates inside the tent. 

"What have the Romans ever done for us?" Flushing toilets maybe. Flushed.

Don Burns, Mawson

WHY SUMMERNATS

Why on earth does the national capital host, apparently proudly, the Summernats burnout competition ... with heats, semi-finals and finals etc? It must be the crudest exhibition of illegal activities, for which drivers can have their licences suspended and vehicles confiscated for some time?

David Kennedy, Newport, NSW

ABORIGINAL EQUALITY

Now that we have same-sex equality, it is time to achieve Aboriginal equality. I don't know how to do this, but I am sure there are those who do.

Michael McCarthy, Deakin