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Anonymity can't shield Fluffy owners from basic economics

Gordon Fyfe (December 31) notes that letters to the editor from Mr Fluffy owners are subscribed "Name and address withheld by request", and implies that the writers do not trust the government. The correct implication is that they do not trust the Asbestos Taskforce. 

It has great power over their future. The buyback scheme is voluntary. They offer to buy you out at a good price as if your house had never had asbestos in it.

If you want that, you sign up. You can't then challenge any of their decisions, because you have volunteered. If you don't sign up, later on they may compulsorily acquire your property at its real market value, in other words, the land value minus the cost of demolition and remediation. This alternative is so bad that everyone will "volunteer".

Name and address withheld by request

HELPING THE DISABLED

Of course, as the headline to Clementine Ford's thoughtful article (Times2, December 31) puts it 'Simple kindness [is] not enough', which is not to say that a touch more kindness would go amiss. 

Ford argues that provision for people with disabilities is not only a social issue, but it's also a corporate one. Too often, the issues of access are placed in the "unnecessary expense" basket.' 

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I'm sure this is right, but we need to ask, first, where does government fit into this story? Much of what Ford goes on to say about business applies equally well to governments throughout Australia. 

We need to ask, second, how do issues of disability become candidates for the "unnecessary expense" or "too hard" baskets?

Two answers suggest themselves. First, once disability is flagged as a separate issue, it appears as something further that has to be dealt with. Imagine that a design for a new entrance or a new facade to a building or plans for new parking arrangements have been approved and budgeted for and then someone says "what about the disabled?".

At this point, doing something for the disabled can only appear as something extra, as an additional expense. Only by ensuring that disability access is treated as a normal part of the design/planning process can we avoid treating it as an added burden. Second, like Tolstoy's unhappy families, each of which is unhappy in its own way, people with disabilities are each disabled in their own way. Not all of us spend our lives in wheelchairs as the ubiquitous symbol of a stick figure sitting in a circle seems to suggest. 

Consequently, a solution that works for some will do nothing to help many others. No wonder so many businesses and government agencies opt for what seem to be simple solutions: tack an unsightly ramp on the front of a building and pick a few random parking bays to be designated as disabled only, then at least you can say that you've done something for the disabled.

Barry Hindess, Reid

BILLIONS ON THE MOVE

It is  increasingly difficult not to participate in the current debate on the "high cost of growth", particularly after reading Karina Morris' tirade (Letters, December 30).

According to Thomas Piketty (Capital in the Twenty First Century), the world population is  growing at 1.2per cent  per annum, which means that within one generation (30 years) the present world population of 7billion will increase to 9.87billion. 

Does Karina really think that those extra nearly 3billion souls will sit at home, wherever they are born, and see Canberra on their TVs without thinking: wow, wouldn't it be nice to live in a place like that?

Perhaps Karina and her co-religionists can tell us how to stop the inexorable migratory movements, legal and illegal, taking place all over the world, of which we are a part. 

John Rodriguez, Florey

SLEEPWALKERS REVIEW

While I agree with much of Nicholas Stuart's review of Christopher Clark's excellent book about the origins of World War I (The Sleepwalkers), he has left out the most important bit. Clark distributes responsibility for starting the war fairly evenly, resisting the majority view that Berlin and the Kaiser were the "moral fulcrum of the crisis".

The explanation for the war does not arise entirely from the irrationality and ill will of the Kaiser. It is disappointing that so many new works do not follow Clark's lead in re-examining the sources, but instead recycle old and outdated certainties.

David Roth, Kambah

NO SOFT TOUCH FOR AID

Kathleen Calvert (Letters, December 30) also is wrong in suggesting Australia should ignore corruption in funding aid programs or tsunami-type tragedies. Surely the point of any assistance is to help people to permanent sustainability and not simply to be seen as an equally permanent soft touch.  For these reasons, I support tightening our foreign aid budget and more targeted supervised assistance.

Greg Cornwell, Yarralumla

Don't pave this green paradise

Having read Ross Gittins' excellent article ("For your mental health, get back in touch with nature", December 24), I realised even more the importance of maintaining trees and grass in urban areas. 

He wrote "A study followed the experience of more than 1000 people over five  years, in which time some moved to greener urban areas and some to less green areas. The results showed that, on average, people who moved to greener areas felt an immediate improvement in their mental health."

I think our government has ignored the importance of green spaces in the plans for West Basin in the City to the Lake project. The pleasant green surroundings of West Basin are  used for walking, picnicking, cycling and fishing and are frequented by large numbers of birds, which feed and raise their young in the trees, grass and reeds. It seems that most of this will be replaced by buildings, concrete, car parks and boardwalks.

I would like to see the planners rethink the plans in order to maintain a "bush capital".

Susan Robertson, Canberra 

No fare for naysayers

How apt that the Capital Metro's proposals for dominance of Canberra's public transport come to light at Christmas, with a proposed network of trams criss-crossing the city from Kippax to the airport, Calwell to Belconnen and Molonglo to Fyshwick. 

The astronomical cost of funding such a fanciful network means the ACT Treasury will need a financial "magic pudding" just to pay the annual franchisee payments to the successful PPP(s). 

The only troubling aspect of the public consultations is that all the naysayers are completely ignored – even acknowledged public transport experts. This leads me to think that the tram network is nothing more than the Emperor's New Clothes for Canberra. 

The PPPs will happily swindle the honest ratepayers while our ministers turn a blind eye and willingly believe any fanciful story about how the network transforms Canberra into a great and modern city.

Jeff Carl, Rivett

If the ACT government proceeds with its light rail program, it will become a classic that will be studied in national and international economic, accounting and audit courses. 

According to the latest reports on the proposed program, it will be run by a "public-private partnership to finance, design, construct and operate a light rail service from the city to Gungahlin" and "the fare revenue will go to the government, and  the government will pay the operator a yearly fee" (Paul Malone, Canberra Times, December 28.

Under the above arrangement, it can be assumed that the yearly fee will cover the private partner's annual repayments for their capital borrowings to finance their contribution to development, acquisition of rolling stock, maintenance, replacement and operating costs, plus a fixed "profit" margin on their capital borrowings. Under this arrangement, the private partners would plead to be allowed to provide 100percent of the capital  required to develop and operate the program as it guarantees a "no-risk" return on capital.

All the studies conducted to date on the light rail program have concluded that the revenue obtained from the service would not cover development and operating costs, regardless of the government's associated population, commercial and industrial plans for the rail corridor. Hence Canberra's taxpayers and ratepayers will make up the difference between costs and revenue, in particular cost over-runs.

An important factor in this arrangement is the public-private contract arrangement – the longer the duration the happier the private partners would be and the shorter the duration the higher would be the Canberra tax and rate payers' contribution to the service's subsidy.

Ed Dobson, Hughes

How pathetic to see Minister Gentleman on the 7pm ABC news (December 29) attempting to sell the overall light rail network, when he knows full well that it can never happen, given a conservative cost of $10billion to build and more than $100million a year in subsidies. 

This government has enough problems convincing the majority of taxpayers to pay for the initial 12kilometres from Gungahlin to Civic, let alone 70 to 80kilometres of a total network. It is curious on two counts: why the promotion now, when half the Canberrans are away? Could it signal a change in strategy, being to take the talk away from  Stage 1, pretending it to be already a fait accompli?

M Silex, Erindale

In response to my letter to the ACT government concerning trolley buses being cheaper than trams, producing less noise, and their flexibility greater because they don't require rails, Simon Corbell responded as follows: "Light rail and trolley buses are both sustainable modes. However, based on experience in other cities, I believe light rail will contribute more to achieving the revitalisation and economic objectives." 

He also asserted that overhead wiring for trolley buses is more complicated than for trams. I'm only an economist (doubting the economic objectives), not an engineer, but wonder whether any of our readers can shed light on this assertion?

I do know that trolley buses are able to do short distances without overhead rail,  (for example:  going around the scene of an accident). I also know that Amsterdam is planning to introduce trolley buses to replace its trams.

M Pietersen, Kambah

STOP BLAME GAME

Patrick Kilby ("Domestic Violence" Letters, December 30) tells us that, as a man and a witness to domestic violence during his childhood, he finds the letters of Remington and Wilson offensive (December 27), particularly Wilson's assertion that the ABS's statistics do not support the common public misconceptions about male dominance of domestic violence.

I can assure Mr Kilby there is no shortage of extremely violent women, and trying to pretend otherwise is like trying to pretend gravity does not exist. 

Why are we wasting energy on a pathetic gender blame game instead of  accepting that we are a violent species and directing all our energies towards stopping violence, irrespective of who is most likely to commit it?

Nancy Tidfy, Chisholm

PARTY REFUGEES

I challenge any senior members of the shadow cabinet to tell me that these [refugee] policies reflect what the Labor Party stands for. 

As an independent socialist and someone considering standing for the Senate in the election in 2016, this is a challenge I am more than willing to direct to incoming ACT Labor Party Senator Katy Gallagher and former Stanhope confidante.

John Passant, Kambah

NEW YEAR TIPS

Some suggestions for New Year's resolutions for the media and MPs.

Stop using the words "iconic", "devastated" and "scared" in nearly every TV news report.

Spin doctors working for MPs stop adding the word "people" after the words "Aboriginal" and "Australian" in every speech. We know that we are people.

MPs stop saying that they are "praying" for us after a death or disaster as we are a secular country where 30percent of the population do not have a religion and others who may be baptised no longer go to church or pray.

Stop talking about "miracles" as they don't happen when the word "luck" or "good science or surgery" can explain why someone survived, for example.

I could go on.

Adrian Jackson, Middle Park

To the point

PREMATURE PASSING

Brian Hatch (Letters, December 30) complains the Canberra Times failed to note the "death" of  "Shimon Perez" on July 24, 2014. Perhaps that is because Shimon Peres retired as president of Israel on that day but remains very much alive.

Dr William Maley, Reid

SAFETY FIRST?

Josie Roberts might be bemused as to where the access for vehicles is in the light rail system but where are the stanchions to support its overhead wires and the safety fencing keeping commuters from near the line?  Oh well, substance should never get in the way of progress.

Ken Stokes, Wanniassa

ARM LESS

It seems a retrograde step to arm customs officers ("Customs staff to be armed at airports, new Immigration Minister announces", December 30). At present in Australia, several people are shot by police each year but none by customs officers. How long before a customs officer shoots a traveller?

Michael McCarthy, Deakin

DISS HONOURS

The downhill slide started with the announcement of knights and dames approved by the Queen of Australia on the PM's personal recommendation and has continued unabated.

Sarah Brasch, Women for an Australian Republic, Weston

TESTING PATIENCE

What sport goes for five days and then all drop tools and call it a draw when a result could be obtained by extending the game for a short time? Cricket! The ending of the last test was a farce. Smith could and should have declared earlier.

Ray Armstrong, Tweed Heads South

FAR AND AWAY

Idly scanning the Canberra Times' weather page today, I noticed (to my astonishment) that it doesn't give the temperature in Delhi or Port Moresby but does for Gallipoli as well as Istanbul. Could there be a better proof of our undue obsession with the place?

Prof Peter Stanley, Dickson

LENGTHY SENTENCE

Jon Stanhope (December 26), in delivering his message on asylum children, has also submitted a late entry for longest sentence of the year in the Letters columns. His 106-word sentence must surely be the winner for 2014. 

Peter Baskett, Murrumbateman

HOLLOW WORDS

New Year's resolutions are of the same genre as politicians' promises.

M Horton, Clarence Park

Email: letters.editor@canberratimes.com.au. Send from the message field, not as an attached file. Fax: 6280 2282. Mail: Letters to the Editor, The Canberra Times, PO Box 7155, Canberra Mail Centre, ACT 2610.

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