Comment

Letters to the Editor

A new load of manure

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J.H.Crawford, ("Social benefits justify a move towards car-free cities", Forum, March 12, p7), is another ideologue stuck in the past (see carfree.com) whose ideas fit well with the nouveau ruling class of Canberra and the planning disasters they want to inflict upon us.

Amongst the flaws already identified in their light-rail project we find inequity, poorer service, disruption, slower journeys, myopia, exploitation, and the spoiling of a unique and beautiful city.

Had Crawford acknowledged the possibility of Canberra becoming a personal-car-free city, he would have been near the mark (see Kent Fitch, "Why the ACT needs to hedge its public transport bets", Times2, February 26, p5).

Instead, Crawford began his article with the observation that "cities were car-free little more than a century ago". He should have acknowledged the presence of much horse manure, both then and in the proposals that emanate from the Barr government today.

A. Smith, Farrer

Rapid way to go

The ACT government is completely ignoring its own research on the benefits of a bus rapid transit system.

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The government's 2012 light-rail business case highlighted that a BRT system would return $4.78 for every dollar invested, as opposed to light rail's return of $2.34. The most recent business case for light rail shows the figure has reduced to $1.20.

In 2012, the ACT government determined that building a BRT system to service the Flemington Road and Northbourne Avenue area, would cost between $300million and $360million – less than half the cost of the Gungahlin to the City light-rail project. Compared with an efficient BRT system, light rail is an inflexible form of public transport. If an accident occurs near the tracks of a light-rail system, trams cannot be quickly diverted and commuters could be stuck for hours. In comparison, an efficient BRT system can quickly redirect drivers and take alternate routes.

A BRT system would also be compatible with a future fleet of autonomous vehicles and provide a more flexible public transport solution for Canberra.

Joel McKay, Conder

An improvement

The ACT Council of Parents and Citizens Associations congratulates The Canberra Times for its coverage of the release of school NAPLAN results ("Our NAPLAN tables now rank improvement", March 9, p6). This is a very complex issue and your intelligent coverage included many of the necessary nuances and caveats.

The ranking of schools by student improvement, rather than raw scores, is also much more relevant to school performance, measuring the change in student knowledge and skill during their time at the school.

We thank you for listening to parents on the need to move away from raw-score rankings.

Obviously, we would prefer to see no school rankings at all. Our excellent public schools have so many things to offer that cannot be captured in any sort of leagues table.

John Haydon, council president, ACT Council of Parents and Citizens Associations

UnEnlightened

Walking around enjoying the wonder of the Canberra Enlighten festival on Saturday evening was suddenly marred as we returned from Old Parliament House to the National Library, where we were confronted by the disgusting unsightly mess of shoddy lean-tos and makeshift camping structures.

How much longer are we Canberrans to endure and tolerate the freeloading interstate interlopers turning our city into a "Yuendumu look-alike" camping ground? What is the purpose any more?

L. Christie, Canberra City

Aloofly, the High Court declined to be Enlightened.

Jack Kershaw, Kambah

Heritage valued

The GWS Giants are acutely aware of the value of the heritage assets in the Manuka precinct, which is why they will all be kept and enhanced by the proposed redevelopment.

The organisation believes the best way to protect the heritage values is to design new components in a way that enhances and highlights the heritage values in the precinct, making them a feature of the newer development.

Employing design excellence to draw more attention to heritage values is the Giants preferred approach.

As a result, we have put in place a design competition between Australia's best architectural practices under the auspices of the Australian Institute of Architects. The design competition will ultimately determine the detailed design for the precinct.

A key criteria for that design competition will be how the design responds to the need to protect and enhance the heritage values in the precinct.

I would welcome the opportunity to meet Marguerite Castello (Letters, March 10) or a group of your interested friends or colleagues to discuss further these matters.

Richard Griffiths, chief operating officer, GWS Giants

A cruel death

I write in response to Bev Cain (Letters, March 10). I returned to Canberra this week after attending my mother's funeral in Queensland. Several years ago, she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's-type dementia and had been living with my brother and his wife when he was dissatisfied with the level of care she had been receiving in an aged-care facility. Fortunately, they had the help of the wonderful Blue Care nurses, who provided a wide range of services.

Although most memories were gone, Mum received high-quality care and stimulation over the last two years. However, close to the end, she lost the capacity to swallow and was no longer able to eat.

She became very weak from weight loss and began sleeping more every day. Effectively, she starved to death. A cruel death.

My mother was a very private woman who would have been humiliated by needing such intimate care in her latter years. Not the death I would wish for myself or my loved ones.

While I acknowledge that everyone has the right to the death they choose, equally, I believe we should have the right to choose the time of our passing when there is little quality of life.

I sadly had to euthanise my little dog at the end of last year because she was in a great deal of pain and unwell.

I was able to cease her suffering and I wonder why I do not have the same right for myself.

Paula Calcino, Oxley

Actions would mean far more than words

John Hargreaves ("Former Labor MLA tells of hospital horror story", March 9, p2) is lucky! I was sent post haste with an urgent GP letter for a low blood count after nearly 11 weeks in another hospital, recovering from MRSA (golden staph). After a waiting period, the male triage nurse seemed not interested in the letter proposing the need for blood transfusion – but did list me for admission to an emergency bed.

Feeling pretty low, this was great news, but there followed seven hours sitting in the emergency waiting room wrapped in a blanket (along with another man with a heart condition). It is hard to describe the exhausted relief when a bed finally eventuated. After being processed with acknowledgment that a blood transfusion was indeed necessary, one had to wait to be seen by a doctor. Fair enough, but a further seven hours?

So, all up, about 16 hours after arrival at Canberra Hospital emergency, the wheels sped up and the transfusion arrived — as did a second bag!

As with John, the nursing and medical staff were "professional, emphatic, caring and dedicated", but even they couldn't find a proper pillow for me.

I wrote to then minister for health Katy Gallagher and she took up the matter, promising there would be improvements. Thus, I smiled at current Health Minister Simon Corbell's stock spin response to John's ordeal: "I think they serve as a timely reminder that there remains work to be done to improve co-ordination of care in the acute care space."

Gee, Mr Corbell, now that's really perceptive – after all, it's only five years between John and me. Or is it 15 years of government spin?

Can't wait for more about extra beds coming on stream, but what about the "archaic systems". Will they just expand as the facility gets bigger?

No doubt, we Canberrans and the professionals will hear more spun promises in this election year. Pity actions cannot speak louder than words.

Len Goodman, Flynn

Using a one-off bonanza to fund tax cuts is not showing leadership

The article, "Coalition eyes off resources recovery for budget" (March 10, p1) implies in the second last paragraph that Malcolm Turnbull may consider using revenue from rebounding iron ore prices and recoveries in copper and gold prices to fund revenue-neutral income tax cuts.

Australia has a structural imbalance between budget income and expenditure resulting from former prime minister John Howard's several income tax cuts and other sub-optimal decisions including selling our gold reserves either before or during a period when a mining boom generated additional revenue for the government that he expected to last forever.

Mr Howard wasn't the first prime minister to make this mistake and, unfortunately, will not be the last.

Australia has budget deficits piling up and no sustainable increase in revenue is in sight to redress the situation.

Using a one-off bonanza that will not last in the post-modern world to fund tax cuts rather than showing strength of character and leadership by addressing structural problems; which should be a major part of a national leader's responsibility; does not sit well with the vast majority of the Australian people who do not enjoy being part of a continuing sinkhole of debt.

Les Brennan, Sunshine Bay, NSW

Need for balance

Regarding the article "Good riddance to the Defence Materiel Organisation – but is industry any better?" (The Public Sector Informant, March 2016, pp16-17), I spent a similar amount of time in the RAAF and defence industry to Peter Rusbridge, although not as an engineer, and I agree with him that we should not forget the past. Lest there be any inference from his article that the RAAF engineering profession has been faultless in adapting to change, my recollection is otherwise.

I remember how the acquisition and effective introduction into operational service of the Lockheed SP-2H Neptune were impacted by a RAAF support organisation where "traditional" trades (ie, radio and instruments-electrical) were more concerned about preserving their own fiefdoms than tackling the challenges of then-emerging systems engineering.

I also recall that the performance of both the P-3C Orion and the F/A-18 Hornet relied on industry software engineers for some time as RAAF expertise was, belatedly, being established.

While DMO might not have been the best model of interfacing the RAAF as a customer and industry as a supplier, my experience suggests that there is a need for a balanced blend of in-house and industry engineering expertise in maximising RAAF operational effectiveness in a timely manner. No doubt there are various ways of bringing them together to achieve this.

Bob Howe, wing commander, retired, Chapman

Slow the growth

David Roth (Letters, March 11) insists on portraying opposition to population growth as an attack on migrants. This straw man is commonly used to shut down the population debate.

Migrants are not categorically more or less burdensome than anyone else, but population growth is a dead weight burden. We could have a stable population with net immigration at around 0.3per cent of our population per annum, and a fertility rate around 1.5 children per woman (that's about two for every couple who wants any).

That would maintain in perpetuity, the current level of around a quarter of Australian residents being foreign born. If you love migrants and ethnic diversity, have fewer kids.

Roth further insists that historical incidents where economic boom has coincided with high immigration prove that immigration-driven population growth can be advantageous. But he does not consider that Americans or Australians might have benefited more from their boom years without the immigration.

Their resources may have been exploited more slowly without the extra labour, but how is that a bad thing, if the income they generate per capita is higher, the wealth is more equitably distributed, the resource lasts longer, and the environmental impact is reduced?

Jane O'Sullivan, Chelmer, Qld

Fairer system

R. King (Letters, March 12) advances the surprising proposition that the Liberals won 20per cent of all the Senate seats in 2013 from just 7.28per cent of the national first preference votes. More pertinently, however, it may be noted that the Coalition won about 43per cent of all the Senate seats from about 38per cent of the national vote (a slight over-representation).

By contrast, Ricky Muir won 2.5per cent of all the Senate seats from just 0.13per cent of the national vote (a massive over-representation).

So, I agree with King that the Senate voting system needs changing. The proposed system, with its abolition of group voting tickets and its introduction of optional preferential voting both above and below the line, would seem to provide a fairer result by putting the vote back into the hands of the electors.

Frank Marris, Forrest

The Coalition seems now to be desperate to have an election before the proletariat has fully sussed them out. Proposed changes to Senate voting are a serious erosion of democracy.

Why doesn't the Labor opposition pledge that it will debate everything, but oppose nothing, before the next election, but if returned to power will revisit every piece of legislation passed during this moratorium.

In that way no early double dissolution election is triggered, and the Coalition is given more time to hang itself.

Bruce Gibbs, Tharwa

Another philistine

I urge Canberra Times readers to pick up a souvenir copy of the March National Library of Australia Magazine, as it is the last ever to be published. Why is this?

Federal government funding cuts are the reason. As well as this, these funding cuts will cease the aggregation of content into Trove from museums and universities.

Who said Malcolm Turnbull isn't a philistine like his predecessor?

John Davenport, Farrer

TO THE POINT

WAKE, SLEEPING DOGS

Now we know: ACT taxpayers contribute $1 million to greyhound racing but just under $700,000 to the RSPCA (TAMS figures). It is bad enough that we fund this so called 'sport' — so who else is outraged by this revelation?

Suzanne Jedryk, Griffith

CLARITY OF THOUGHT

If there were any politicians with the eloquence and pragmatism of Paul Pentony (Letters, March 10) I'd actually consider voting.

James Allan, Narrabundah

JUST VOTE ON IT

So much huff, puff and reckless expenditure to fudge who can, and who must not, be lawfully married. An ancient media mogul just cancelled past marriage vows to marry a new, moderately less ancient, mate. Prospects for progeny or permanency were not essential requirements for this, and many, conventional unions.

Can Parliament win respect for diversity and equality while using gender to exclude soulmates who seek lawful recognition of a life-long commitment?

Don Burns, Mawson

HIGHWAY TO CANBERRA

Tony Windsor: An independent Aussie farmer's voice of commonsense and sanity crying in the wilderness. Welcome back Tony.

Sylvia Miners, Isabella Plains

GREEN DEAL

Richard Di Natale recently stated that a preference deal with the Liberal Party was not possible because of the party's stance on health, education and asylum seekers.

Is that the only reason? Do "The Greens" agree now with the Liberals stance on the environment and climate change?

Roger Brown, Rivett

PRO–STATES

It is good to know that John Maclean is still standing and not prostrate, after operating on his prostate using his wife's manicure set (Letters, March 12).

Murray May, Cook

ATTACK OF THE DRONES

If we are to be subjected to loosened drone flight controls ("Proposal to loosen drone flight controls", March 13, p4) then at the very least all drones should be registered so that I know who to sue when some fool with the hand/eye coordination of an arthritic newt drives their drone into those I love or into property that I own.

Roger Dace, Reid

It's a shame that drones are to be set free in the ACT. I was hoping they would stay in the Legislative Assembly until after the election.

Peter Harris, Belconnen

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