FREE speech is undoubtedly a cornerstone value of a functioning democracy. Some folk, erroneously in my view, choose to interpret this as anything goes. There must always be limits, boundaries and rules that provide the social scaffolding around which free speech can operate. That's why the laws of defamation exist, why you can't tell the referee or umpire what you really think of their decision or (as allegedly happened at the cricket Test match in Sydney) make certain comments about Indian cricketers.
Words have meaning and truth has substance. Whether you are Donald Trump, George Christensen or Craig Kelly (pictured), simply asserting and spreading untruths and misinformation does not make them true and does not make them harmless. History is replete with the harm caused by the verbal excesses of populist figures.
The terms and conditions under which Facebook, Twitter and other social platforms decide that access should be denied are problematic and worthy of careful and considered deliberation. In the interim I certainly have no difficulty in denying Donald Trump access to a megaphone. He has demonstrably used to undermine some of the fundamental values of truth, respect and tolerance which underpin a viable and functioning democracy.
John Buckley, Floraville
Clean city is a priority for all
WORDS are hard to write without using expletives about the state of the ocean baths and Newcastle beach as it was at the weekend and previous weekends. Early morning swimmers, who arrive between 4.30am and 9am and can number up to 100 when the weather is good, arrived to find the sheds closed and the pool in a state.
Fortunately most are mature people who are now experienced with getting dressed in the open air without fear of being ridiculed by perfect people. Some of us have now invested in hoodies.
It's ironic that to receive the newsletter from the City of Newcastle with employees dressed in tailored uniforms, in the rented glass building, boasting about new technologies, all at ratepayers expense while the beaches, roads and gutters of the inner suburbs are in my opinion being neglected.
We the ratepayers are paying huge salaries to some council employees and expect our city to be kept in pristine condition. A visitor commented that they had seen cleaner streets and better roads in a third world country. To name some areas that were seen were Jenner Parade, Gordon Avenue, Maitland Road at Islington, around Newcastle High School and a lot more.
It is an overwhelming agreement by the users that restoration is the preference of all interested beach goers including the canoe pool with a caretaker in residence, but are the bureaucrats interested?
Pat Wilson, Newcastle
Expand light rail on right track
I HAVE not long returned from a trip to Melbourne. In order to get around the city and its suburbs I used the trains and trains. I was pleased with the trains. They were fast and effective. I also liked the trams. However, while the trams are good where the streets are wide enough to take them without the cars blocking the tram lines, on narrower streets it was a different matter.
The cars blocked the tram lines which held up the trams, making journey times longer than they should have been. This is why I have often said that if the Newcastle tramway network is to be extended, it needs to be on a separate alignment and away from the roads. How and where this should be done must be decided by the experts; the engineers and the planners, not the politicians or developers.
I also noticed in Melbourne that one can catch a tram from suburbs on one side of the city to suburbs on the other side. This is why, if the tramway in Newcastle is to be extended, it must be compatible with the existing network. Going for trackless trams would only force people to change unnecessarily. We don't need to make the same mistake that was made when the railway into the city was closed. I hope our decision makers can get it right this time.
Peter Sansom, Kahibah
Trump comparison's merit clear
I'M quite sure she wouldn't feel this way, but I believe Julie Robinson (Letters, 11/1) is entitled to feel vindicated. Several weeks ago, Ms Robinson compared Trump rallies to archival film footage of Hitler rallies during the 1930s. This passing reference excited one Trump groupie in particular, who has since waged a campaign to discredit Ms Robinson and anybody else who dares mention the names Hitler and Trump in the same sentence.
But the problem is that Hitler is generally seen through the prism of the Holocaust. Go back to the 1930s and Hitler became a populist leader and was able to do what he ultimately did because he developed a cult following. He achieved this partly through slogans, one of which could be reduced to "make Germany great again" (although he didn't have the foresight to trademark the phrase and make lots of money out of it, in contrast to Trump and "Make America great again"). He also used the favoured method of Trump, repeating lies over and over until his followers believed them as truth. For Trump it was the birther movement, "Crooked Hilary", fake news and his endorsement and use of "Stop the Steal", among others. I believe the invasion of the Capitol and the attempt by the insurgents to subvert the lawful political process was a direct consequence of Trump's lies and his encouragement of his misguided followers
It was Hitler's cult following built on lies that enabled and empowered him to wreak the havoc that he did. Yes, the Final Solution and the murder of millions of Jews may distinguish Hitler from Trump, but in my opinion the modus operandi in recruiting, brainwashing and emboldening followers is fundamentally the same.
John Ure, Mount Hutton
We can't let issue wait in wings
GREG Hunt neatly states the problem with real political action on climate change in Australia when he claims I show "obvious left leanings'' because I defend the warnings of Tim Flannery.
Taking his cue from our federal government, he dumbs it down and makes climate change into a political issue of left or right when it's clearly not. Mr Hunt, if diagnosed with a deadly disease, would you choose to override the science behind your doctors' advice and instead make your decision whether or not to believe and act on that advice according to your political beliefs? Of course not, but that's what's happening with climate warnings in Australia.
What I have is obvious scientific leanings, just like Greta Thunberg, David Attenborough and, according to the Climate of the Nation report last October, the 68 per cent of Australians who want an ambitious climate target, the 71 per cent who want Australia to be a global leader in climate solutions and the 59 per cent who want to see the post-COVID recovery led by renewables. If these percentages were all left leaning then the Coalition would never be in power.
The majority of Australians want serious action but the Federal government's stubborn refusal to accept science over political dogma is wasting time we don't have.
John Arnold, Anna Bay
THE billion litres of diesel mentioned in the article Applications to open for fuel storage grants (Herald, 8/1), should not be placed anywhere near the 10,000+ tons of Ammonium Nitrate on Kooragang Island unless you want a bloody great explosion. Angus Taylor is continuing his incredible litany of boneheaded mistakes as the current Federal Minister of Energy!
Bruce Jensen, New Lambton
AMERICA is in a bad place with its people lead by Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani his lawyer who have incited the gun carrying morons to make America so weak, not great. Under Trump and his denial of the COVID virus the death toll will surely exceed the USA deaths in World War II of 450,000 and yet his supporters say he brokered peace
John Johnson, Toronto
THE Australian government has been paying people the JobKeeper allowance, but I can't work out why the government hasn't considered paying Australian citizens overseas an allowance to stay put. That way we won't have the mutated COVID virus transported to our shores. Bring them back home once the menace COVID settles and the authorities gain control.
Karen Mitchell, Lakelands
SEVERAL senior members of the Australian government are defending Donald Trump's right to free speech. Where were they when Dutton's storm troopers were intimidating Australian journalists?
Peter Moylan, Glendale
SUSIE Johnson (Short Takes, 12/1) is right; six days in and still no Australian conservative politician has condemned the attempted sedition orchestrated upon the USA by Donald J Trump. That's a national disgrace. Our own PM Scott Morrison is more interested in taking leave than leading!
Mac Maguire, Charlestown
THE opening of a second religious high school in Medowie is an indictment on the NSW Government. Children who choose a secular education are forced to spend hours each day on a bus. Neither fair nor right.
Joan Lambert, Adamstown
I have watched cricket for many years and that was the most courageous innings by India's Vihari that I have seen for some time, way back to Rick McCosker returning to bat with a fractured cheek. Tim Paine should pay more attention to his catching than his sledging. I will not comment on Smith; he is in the news again.
Robert Menhenick, Charlestown
It sounds like vaccination against COVID will commence around March with varying effectiveness. It has already been stipulated that you will not have a choice as to which one you can receive. My question is twofold; will the second injection have to be the exact brand (type) of vaccine, and what is the time span between the first and second jab? Also there is a third vaccine manufacturer, so I just hope that our medical records regarding these vaccine types and jab dates are transparent to your local GP, but I believe that pop up injection clinics will be set up, so how sure will we be that previous injection information will be available and accurate?