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We need a national day for unity, not division

Irrespective of its origin, the date of Australia Day has now become a national divisive issue in need of review. Australia indeed deserves a day to celebrate our successful nation building. It is inevitable that Australia will need to find a new day for celebration by everybody. And it needs the Voice. It cannot do otherwise for its ultimate nationhood. Perhaps in the end, it will become necessary and opportune for the date to be the first day of a future republic, hopefully before. Les Reedman, Cooranbong

Australia is the only nation that takes the beginning of colonisation as its national day, writes Berthold. Says it all. Vic Alhadeff, Kirribilli

New developments leave cold city in their shadow

I shudder when I hear the words “international design competition” applied to public land in Sydney (“Station redesign prompts radical alternative”, January 24). That’s because the phrase, coupled with Sydney’s so-called planning regime – a.k.a. ad hoc interference from interested parties – has given us such grotesqueries as Barangaroo: that phallic forest obliterating a once striking and unique foreshore.

Now a “vast land deck covered by parkland” is proposed near Central Station, to be paid for by building high-rise towers on historic and beautiful Prince Alfred Park – for generations a traditional camping site, more recently a Sydney landmark, loved and used by families, walkers, exercise junkies, commuters, swimmers and cyclists. The proponent’s spokesman admits the firm’s plan would be “contentious”. Can I say, sir, you’ve no idea how bloody contentious. Geraldine O’Brien, Redfern

Trading green space never works: put the 15 towers on a land deck over the train lines and keep the precious open green space at Prince Alfred Park. The architects are already talking about only keeping an “avenue of fig trees and historic buildings”. It takes 10 to 40 years for trees to mature as is evident at Barangaroo park and the historic buildings are important to our history and are irreplaceable. Helen Simpson, Curl Curl

Separate proposals for the area to be redeveloped around Sydney’s Central Station.Credit:NSW government, Bates Smart

I cannot believe it. The NSW government has spent millions making Central more pleasant with Central walk. It plans nice green areas between Railway Square and the station. But it also wants to bury the platforms under a deck which will turn most of the station into a dungeon where you will not be able to see the clock tower. A dungeon where heritage steam specials cannot run. Where commuters and travellers cannot see the sun – or the stars while waiting for your train to leave. The cynic says in me that the only reason for putting it underground is to make money for the Transport Assets Holding Entity. Are these proposals for the benefit of the travelling public?

To add insult to injury, the plan also proposes destroy the adjacent Prince Alfred Park. There is enough high rise already. Leave Central alone. Grant Robinson, Springwood

Any government that contemplates consuming the little remaining parkland in Sydney should be sent to Siberia, the entire lot. I’m happy to contribute. Sydney and NSW desperately need someone with vision, not more wind-funnelling towers and a koala-less countryside. Rather than seeking advice from the big end of town, let’s try Clover Moore and her team – the only ones with their integrity intact. Ashley Berry, Toolijooa

PM speaks clearly on the Voice

Shrinking support for the Indigenous Voice to parliament is heartbreaking but not surprising (“Voice support falls as debate heats up”, January 24). Sadly, it will continue to fall for as long as its proponents blur the detail and rely merely on goodwill and a sense of fair play to assert their argument.

Anthony Albanese has been passionate in making the case for constitutional recognition of Indigenous Australians so cruelly overlooked when the nation’s “birth certificate” was drafted in the last years of the nineteenth century. But while his form of words provides for a Voice, there’s no overriding symbolic statement of inclusion declaring that Indigenous Australians form the keystone of our national polity. The narrow focus on the Voice itself – a practical idea but nebulous in how it might work – is not accompanied by any soaring vision. There is no attempt to correct the original constitutional injustice.

On the matter of detail, the prime minister’s soothing mantra is that there’s plenty of it “out there” – Australians just need to seek it out and all will become clear. This is far from certain. I doubt that any but a small minority of Australians are sufficiently constitutionally literate to make an assessment of the proposal on offer or to understand the nuanced position that the machinery of the Voice itself will be constructed later when it is debated and legislated in the parliament. Principle first and detail later will seem a big ask, even when the principle itself is sound.

Critics of the Voice have been quick to exploit the inevitable cautionary doubts and uncertainties of Australians when they are asked to consider proposals to change or amend the Constitution. This suggests failures of strategy and advocacy. John Thompson, Darlinghurst

There is no doubt Peter Dutton is playing political games regarding the Voice and polling would suggest it is having an impact.

The prime minister is becoming increasingly entangled by constantly referring voters to a 272-page report for detail, a bridge too far for the average voter.

When questioned on the legislative recommendations within the report he refuses to endorse them. He needs to reset the debate. Mike Kenneally, Manly

Health system still suffering

While the promise by Labor of an increase in funding for women’s health centres is a good thing, it would have far more impact to increase funding for all health centres and to increase pay for these essential workers (“Leaders step up election promises for women’s health, domestic violence”, January 24). We need more fundamental changes to the health system, not vote-grabbing tweaks. Robyn Thomas, Wahroonga

Toll road roundabout

The government uses taxpayers’ money to build expensive motorways, then leases the roads to private companies who make vast profits by charging those taxpayers to use the roads (“Half a million Sydney drivers to access toll relief scheme”, January 24). Then the government uses more taxpayers’ money to reimburse those same taxpayers for the road tolls. I’m not an economist but from the point of view of the taxpayers there seems to me to be something wrong with this system. Judy Christian, Castle Hill

The reason we have an “expensive toll system” on our roads is because the system, set up by the current Coalition government in NSW, is one that guarantees high profits to Transurban, an overseas company which now owns them. The original idea was that users would be paying for these profits, however, as they have now reached astronomical levels for such users, and there is an election looming, the profits will now be paid by the state as a whole. Brenton McGeachie, Queanbeyan West

Blinded by big bucks

The editorial said the economic benefits of closing the Sydney Harbour Bridge totally for seven hours was a responsible use of the public asset, whereas the closing of one lane for 25 minutes by a climate crisis advocate to raise awareness of the danger we are in was an irresponsible act (“Bridge closure will bring more benefits than inconvenience”, January 24).

Last November, the CSIRO released a state of the climate report which showed the increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere will bring about global temperature rises of up to 4.5 degrees. We are playing a deadly game of chicken with ourselves.

The climate activist faces 15 months in jail. The film company has been subsidised by the NSW and federal governments to the tune of $45 million. There appears to be something wrong with our priorities. Simon Chance, Richmond Hill

Short flight, long wait

If only flying between Melbourne and Sydney took just over an hour as your correspondent claims (Letters, January 24). Add on security screening, waiting for baggage, the inevitable delays if not cancellations, travel between the airport and the CBD, and you can easily take up to four hours. Kate Lumley, Hurlstone Park

Cashless costs

The current issue of the transition to cashless commerce has yet to acknowledge the actual amounts people pay when making a digital transaction (Letters, January 24).

If a retailer adds an extra 1 per cent to the total when a card is used for payment, this fee can become a significant additional cost if a large sum is involved. A $15 purchase is charged an extra 15 cents, but to buy something with the same card for $1500 sees the cost jump to $15 for the same service.

I don’t imagine that the processing cost to the retailer or the bank increases with the purchase price.
It is disingenuous for businesses to imply that large surcharges are the result of banking practice. William Galton, Hurstville Grove

Put bot on the spot

If an educator thinks ChatGPT might have written an assignment, why don’t they just ask it (“If AI has all the answers, universities need new questions”, January 24). It has no reason to lie – indeed it can’t, really – and can no doubt detect its own authorship better than anyone. Andrew Taubman, Queens Park

Ageism lives on

The only reason that your correspondent finds it baffling as to how someone can give their best in their 80s and 90s is because he is obviously not there yet (Letters, January 24). Judith Bennett, Umina Beach

Your correspondent’s letter is a blatant expression of age discrimination. If he were an employer he would risk being liable to prosecution under the Age Discrimination Act. I would rather our governing persons be selected on proper merit than by arbitrary labels like “ageing”, Gen X, Gen Y etc. Age and youth should not be set against each other in this prejudiced manner. Bob Hinchcliffe, Wahroonga

No relish for pickles

Anatomy of a modern Aussie burger.Credit:Jennifer Soo

Fascinating reading about what is or is not an Aussie burger (“An ode to the Aussie burger”, January 24). However, the ubiquitous pickle, while not mentioned in the article, appeared twice in the photos of an “Aussie burger”. Must we forever be assailed by the American pickle in burger assessments? Just leave them out and avoid the offensive preserve. Greg Crawford, Leppington

You can experiment with as many fillings as you like with my Aussie burger, just leave out that tasteless, salty, chewy, plastic beef patty. Kevin Eadie, Drummoyne

The digital view

Online comment from one of the stories that attracted the most reader feedback yesterday on smh.com.au
‘Sheer terror’: Rosemary’s horror at her $65,000 robo-debt
From Randroid: ″⁣Whatever your political leanings, whatever your voting intentions, it’s really hard to believe that key ministers didn’t understand what they were doing here.″⁣

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