Letters to the Editor

A perplexing handout



The Canberra Times has again set out the impact of the federal government's budget cuts on the cultural institutions which are at the heart of our national identity ("Library jobs, programs to go as razor cuts deep", February 23, p4). The six Canberra-based cultural institutions face cuts of $20 million over four years.

Perplexingly, the government has decided to hand over more than twice this amount – $47million – to two of the richest corporations in the United States: 20th Century Fox and Walt Disney. This is to help them make films in Australia, in the Alien and Thor series, respectively. Just what this expenditure adds to Australian culture (or civilisation generally) is problematic.

No doubt there might be some fleeting jobs created. Perhaps, too, there might be photo opportunities for politicians with movie stars. But, in the end, why is an economically rationalist government giving handouts to giant, profit-making, American corporations?

Stephen Brown, Forrest

Planet being raped

I support Marcus Fillinger in setting up his kangaroo fertility trial and his slamming of the ACT government's annual kangaroo cull which is out of date, too slow and doomed to failure ("Kangaroo fertility trial slammed", March 1, p3). I would like to see him include another species – humans – that also breed wantonly and randomly in both good times and bad but cannot claim ignorance for breeding like rabbits.

There are experts out there who are aware of, and have informed us of the consequences of the rape of our planet and the foregone deaths from starvation and the lack of potable water that will be experienced by our grandchildren and outlying generations.


I hope that the shysters, developers and conservative politicians who wax lyrical about the planet's future don't have a next generation that will die wondering why the previous generation was so selfish.

Les Brennan, Sunshine Bay, NSW

Just enjoy the forest

The thought of festooned lights and overhead lighting among the stately forest of Haig Park fills me with despair at the despoliation of nature areas within our urban landscape. Do we really need to establish "sight lines" through the forest at the top of Mort and Lonsdale streets, probably at the cost of a few trees? "Playful and feature" lighting? Overhead wires?

By all means upgrade footpaths in a sensitive way but let us all enjoy the simple, albeit regimented rows of dense greenery. The LDP (Sydney lighting consultants and their client) need reminding that the Bush Capital is not a derogatory title but a delightful place to live in.

Haig Park was established as a wind break to protect the early city – please don't make holes in it.

I deplore the attempts to make us look like Sydney or Melbourne. We can, and must, do better.

Derek F. Wrigley, Mawson

Assertions not true

I read with stunned amazement M.T. Rollins' claim (Letters, March 1) that there had been no consultation about the development of Campbell Section 5. I attended several of the community consultation meetings that were called during the evolution of this project. I did not keep count of the total number of meetings called, but I would guess it was at least six.

At these meetings there were presentations by representatives of the various planning and project entities, several alternative proposals were put forward, and attendees were invited to vote on their preferred option, and the most preferred option was the one finally selected for development.

Discussion at the meetings was for the most part positive and helpful, though there were inevitably one or two Luddites whose narrow view was that the only acceptable development was no development.

I have lived within sight of Section 5 for 39 years, and used the area for walking to and from work amongst other things. I have had long running battles with TAMS to get the grass cut frequently enough to prevent the weeds from growing to shoulder height. The suggestion that there were "clearly defined cycling and walking tracks" used by "hundreds of daily site users" is fanciful.

There was an informal footpath around three sides of the block that was overgrown in places, and passed through a drainage gully that got flooded after rain. There has never been a recognisable path across the site, so getting from one side to the other always involved going around the edge. My perception of the daily usage is closer to dozens than "hundreds".

It will always be the case that any development will not please everyone. However in this case there was extensive consultation, and most of the people I have spoken to agree that community views were given fair consideration, and the final compromise between the objectives of developers and the local community was a reasonable one.

The assertions made by M.T. Rollins are quite simply not true.

Roger Quarterman, Campbell

Risk fear trotted out

Here we go again; the "sovereign risk" canard. This time it's Brendan Lyon ("Liberals have to get over their unhealthy obsession", Times2, March 2, p5) saying that Canberra is at risk of becoming a "global hot spot for sovereign risk".

Like Tony Abbott, he seems to believe that if a stupidity is repeated often enough it will magically acquire some sheen of veracity. Cancelling a contract will not put Canberra at sovereign risk, though not cancelling it might, as the government struggles to fund the light rail project.

And if he thinks that Canberra could ever be a "global hotspot" for anything, then he's never travelled Australia, let alone overseas.

We didn't even get a spot on the "Where the bloody hell are you?" tourism campaign.

Lyon's byline has him as the chief executive officer of Infrastructure Partnerships Australia, the "nation's peak infrastructure forum".

If that's the best that the peak forum can do, I shudder at the thought of what an offering from one of its subsidiaries might have looked like.

Bronis Dudek, Calwell

If Brendan Lyon is so concerned about supposed sovereign risk he would advise the Capital Metro consortium to hold off signing any contracts until the next election. That would give the certainty to investors who he desperately craves while allowing Canberrans to have their say whether this project should go ahead.

Gordon Williams, Watson

Why don't they call an election and put us out of our misery?

In spite of his claims following his dismissal by his party that he would not undermine or white-ant the government from the backbench, Tony Abbott continues to do a pretty good impression of the white ant in the ranks ("Sting for PM in Abbott's silken words", March 2, p4).

There is no way that he will allow his agenda, that of the fundamentalist right, to languish, while Malcolm Turnbull jockeys for position with a neutral budget. I wish they'd just call the election and put us out of our misery, one way or the other.

W. Book, Hackett

Faces of failure

The photo accompanying thearticle "Sting for PM in Abbott's silken words" (March 2, p4) says it all. A vacant-faced failed former PM sitting in front of pictures of three failed Liberal leaders!

Richard Keys, Ainslie

Better to plan well

The March Public Sector Informant included a lot of comment on the Shergold Report, Learning from failure, and much was made of Peter Shergold's prescription for more and better risk management, which is a pity.

Risk management consists of looking at the ways a project can fail, judging their likelihood and severity, and trying to find ways of avoiding or mitigating them. It's rather like planning to drive to Sydney by blocking off all routes out of Canberra except the northbound Hume Highway. Of course, that's not the way we go about a trip. We buy a map or a sat-nav device and read the road signs.

A project is much more likely to succeed if it has a decent project management plan, showing who's to do what by when and how progress towards the objective will be monitored and demonstrated.

Remember the old "Plan, do, check and correct"? Sure, that's not being innovative, but it's still smarter than thinking success is achieved by looking for ways to minimise failure.

Bronis Dudek, Calwell

Good manager

On the contrary, Mario Stivala (Letters, March 2), Gough Whitlam being a failure is afallacy perpetuated by the Liberal government. Turn to your history books for a fact check and you will find a list of his many achievements all for the betterment of society.

Fiscally, the Whitlam government left zero net government debt to Fraser. With further fact-checking, you will discover that the most profligate governments have been Liberal governments, despite their self-promotion as "better economic managers".

Julie Hawken, Glenbrook, NSW

Negative gearing

There has been a lot of discussion about the negative gearing of rental property: keep it, scrap it, new buildings only, all buildings, and so on, but no one appears to have looked at the types of negative gearing.

One popular method of gearing is an interest-only mortgage, so the mortgage remains negatively geared. What would be the effect of scrapping interest-only mortgages, so that there is at least a minimum rate at which rental property owners are required to repay a mortgage? A maximum 25-year mortgage, requiring each $100,000 of mortgage to be repaid at an average minimum rate of no less than $4000 a year, would be a good starting point for such a discussion.

David Wade, Holt

Tax for 21st century

Why is it that the taxation table with allegedly everything on it actually contains nothing more than stale, archaic offerings? Indeed, income and consumption taxes are, in principle, little advanced since the pharaohs and Caesars.

Our politicians seem unaware that the electronic age has changed the dynamic of how money changes hands and the need and the potential for a methodology of revenue collection which recognises that reality.

For example, the concept of a tax on electronic transfers is, in fact, already well known and discussed in international thinking. Just Google it. Oddly, however, it hasn't found its way anywhere near our table despite the fact that, for Australia, a financial transfers tax of just 1 per cent on each transfer could raise about 25 to 30 per cent more tax than the present income and consumption-based system with almost no possibilities of avoidance and evasion.

Moreover, it could very easily be phased in: starting from much less than 1 per cent, while income and consumption taxes could be gradually reduced (potentially to zero), with the final impact arriving virtually unnoticed.

Come on, guys, if you really mean everything, why not give serious thought to something both highly effective and using 21st-century technology.

Don Fraser, Oxley

Reducing liabilities

In his article "Words Without Meaning" (Times2, March 1, p4), Nicholas Stuart poses the question, "Ask yourself where the money is coming from." Mr Stuart may wish to familiarise himself with the Australian Government Actuary report, 2014 Military Superannuation Schemes: Review of long-term costs (published October 2015). Specifically, this report details the closure of the current superannuation scheme, the Military Superannuation and Benefits Scheme, to new entrants into the Australian Defence Force from July 1, 2016. According tothe report, the closure of MSBS will reduce projected unfunded liabilities by $202.5billion over the term of the report (39 years), compared with maintaining MSBS in its current form. This equates to about $5 billion per annum, or 15 per cent of the annual defence budget.

Unfunded liabilities, of any government superannuation scheme, are a real cost to the Australian taxpayer. Saving $5 billion a year on defence personnel costs is a significant productivity improvement that has gone unnoticed, but will make a significant contribution to the national security of Australia.

G. Gough, Dunlop

Stained-glass jungle

A conspiracy by the archbishop, the Catholic Education Office and priestly colleagues to withhold information about paedophile priests from the incurious Cardinal Pell. Yes, indeed, it's a stained-glass jungle out there.

Thos Puckett, Ashgrove, Qld

Spare a dollar to help cyclone-ravaged Fiji

It is to be hoped that Australians will give generously to the various appeals to help Fiji after Cyclone Winston: for

instance the Red Cross, UNICEF and Triple J, the ABC radio station.

I spent three weeks in Fiji last year and not at a snooty resort but travelling on my own on the three major islands.

Fiji is a desperately poor country. Most people live in villages where they grow their own food and that is all they have (they sell food to buy goods). In other words, the economy is a subsistence one, as it is in most of Polynesia and Melanesia.

Tens of thousands have lost everything. There has also been an unstable political situation since 1987. I have seen how even taxi drivers in Suva struggle desperately for a fare. Help is also desperately needed to build houses. We cannot forget our neighbour.

Paul Knobel, Lyneham

Un-real estate plan

So real estate has overtaken mining to be Australia's most profitable industry ("PM turns positive as property overtakes mining", March 1, p1). Is this really good for the economic future of Australia? Where does Malcolm Turnbull's agile innovative nation fit in this?

Turnbull criticises Labor on its negative gearing proposals on the basis that it will make real estate investment less profitable and the reality on innovation is that he is dead against Labor's technologically innovative support for climate mitigation action, on communication and on support for tertiary education and research.

Poor unlucky country!

Rod Holesgrove, O'Connor

Check for cancer

Following on from correspondence regarding "middle age cancers": As a male in that category I bit the bullet and have had "the procedure" and must continue to do it.

I watched my dad die slowly from bowel/prostate cancer. I say, get checked. No more said.

Linus Cole, Palmerston



Cardinal Pell's testimony sounds just like Owen Newitt in The Vicar of Dibley. However, Owen comes across as more believable than Pell.

Alex Wallensky, Broulee, NSW

"What a piece of work is a man, hownoble in reason, how infinite in faculties, in form and moving, how express and admirable in action, how like an angel in apprehension, how like a god: the beauty of the world; theparagon of animals." (Hamlet, act2, scene 2).

Shakespeare's beautiful words do not, I think, describe Cardinal George Pell, apparently hoist with his own petard (act 3, scene 4).

Annie Lang, Kambah


Just imagine that John Howard had opposed the Iraq war because it wasbased on a lie, and that his government had shown a more humane way of dealing with asylum seekers. Imagine that he had not made statements that would cause Indigenous Australians to turn their backs on him and that he had not derailed the debate concerning an Australian republic. Now, that would be something to celebrate.

Peter Crossing, Curtin


A prime minister who blubs ("PM shed tears during TV interview", March 1, p4)? It's been a long time since Australia had a PM it could be proud of.

C.J. Mountifield, Greenway


It should assist voters in deciding between the opposing views of the Coalition and Labor on negative gearing, if the number of MPs and senators by political affiliation who benefit from negative gearing were to be revealed to the public.

D.N. Callaghan, Kingston


Was it the author or a sub-editor who mistakenly slipped a "1" into Eric Pozza's odd claim (Letters, March 2) that defence investment is somehow 17 per cent of the federal budget?

Neil James, executive director, Australia Defence Association


I am disappointed the government seems interested in investing in land, water and the atmosphere only to the extent that it will get tanks to drive on it, submarines to sail in it and fighters to fly through it.

Nathan Cassidy, Florey


The Defence white paper presumes, and Tony Abbott is a present example, that Australia can be self-sufficient in loose cannon.

M.F. Horton, Clarence Park, SA

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