St Patrick’s Church

The Catholic Church wishes to appeal against the listing of St Patrick’s Church on the ACT Heritage Register (”Debate over heritage value of St Patrick’s”, August 17, p6) because it wishes to use the realised profits from the land for other redevelopment.

Monsignor John Woods is reported saying that ”there are mechanisms in the Planning and Development ACT where the archdiocese could argue that the economic values of the site were greater than the heritage values”.

If such mechanisms were in place or perceived to be in place due to purposeful misinterpretation of words, the heritage of all of Canberra and also Australia for that matter would be in jeopardy.

The acceptance of arguments based on incompatible values can easily lead to illogical conclusions.

All civilised societies aim to preserve their heritage. The owners or users of heritage buildings are only their custodians.

Have economic pursuits reduced everything else to insignificance?

Lydia Frommer, Lyons

Gonski review

Low-fee community schools such as the Blue Gum Community School had high hopes for Gonski. We believed it would finally offer an alternative to the seriously-flawed SES (Socio Economic Status) ranking for school funding. Replacing the inequitable SES model was a primary motivator for setting up the Gonski review. And certainly no one would challenge Gonski’s laudable objectives transparency, needs-based funding etc, the same objectives the SES model initially claimed to deliver. But just as SES failed to accurately assess a school’s wealth or need, now the modelling data is revealing that Gonski has failed to deliver a more equitable alternative to SES (”Gonski funding could force school closures”, August 20, p1).

This data indicates that most ACT schools – government and non-government – will be worse off financially under Gonski. If governments are committed to transparency, then the modelling for each school under Gonski should be made public. Such transparency is an essential pre-requisite to an informed judgment on whether Gonski’s recommendations do in fact produce fair and equitable outcomes.

Maureen Hartung, executive director, Blue Gum Community School, Hackett

Student fees

So Senator Eric Abetz (”Uni fees spent on cupcakes, nightclub”, August 18, p1) wants to know what students at the ANU can do if they disapprove of the way their student association spends its money.

Even for a veteran asker of silly questions like Abetz, that one is a corker.

The answer is obvious. They can get themselves elected to the association and try to do better.

Young Liberals in fact do often run in campus elections. And when they do, they usually shunt their concerns about freedom of association to one side and promise free food and more and drunker parties – an agenda remarkably similar to the one that their local representatives are now out traducing ANUSA for implementing. At the University of Queensland, the president of the Liberal-controlled University Union went so far as to email students decrying the introduction of the Student Services and Amenities Fee. The union took the new money anyway.

Most of Australia’s student associations and unions will be having their elections shortly. If students think that the incumbents have spent their money on silly things (and one or two of them no doubt have) they can vote them out.

Chris Monnox, Curtin

In response to Senator Eric Abetz’s comments (”Uni fees spent on cupcakes, nightclub” August 18, p1) where he poses the question ”what avenues are available to students who feel that their funds are being misspent?” If you don’t like the way ANUSA is being run, stand for election. A platform of a fiscally conservative ANUSA, with policies like ”The most frugal O-Week ever” or ”buy your own mulled wine” would surely bring back the student engagement that apathy seems to have defeated.

Mark Rowe, Isaacs

Iraq action

Hard to believe that Ramesh Thakur (”Why did we go to war in Iraq?”, August 16, p17) is questioning yet again why 40 successful and democratic countries including Australia were part of an international police action to overthrow the murderous Ba’ath Party and install a democracy of sorts in Iraq nearly 10 years ago, but here he is at it again. I can’t recall Thakur and the like getting excited about Bob Hawke and the Labor Party eagerly ”going to war” with George Herbert Bush and George Shultz because of Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, just John Howard and the Liberal Party.

The great democracies did not overthrow Hussein because he might have had weapons of mass destruction, but because he gassed the Kurds, financed suicide bomber’s families to the tune of $25,000 , fired missiles at non-combatant Israel’s population centres and, oh, because he murdered 300,000 fellow Arabs and drained the Ramsar-listed marshes on the Persian Gulf to facilitate killing the Marsh Arabs. The International Court of Justice wasn’t interested in dime-a-dozen Arab murderers. That leaves just us.

Chris Smith, Braddon

Soldier’s sentence

Peter Dark’s criticism of Israel for sentencing a soldier to 45 days for the alleged killings of two Palestinian civilians (Letters, August 16) is based on an erroneous reading of the case.

The soldier in question was convicted and sentenced for unauthorised discharge of his weapon.

A plea bargain was reached after evidence provided by the defendant’s lawyers showed the soldier’s weapon infraction occurred on an entirely different day than the deaths. In other words, there appears to be no evidence that this soldier was responsible for the deaths of two civilians.

Even B’Tselem, an NGO often highly critical of the Israeli army, accepts the validity of this plea bargain based on the evidence.

Yet, somehow, the Israeli criminal justice system must be condemned for not punishing the soldier for a horrific crime he didn’t commit.

Ahron Shapiro, policy analyst, AIJAC, South Melbourne, Vic

by AWPR

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