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'Breather' berated

I believe that your ACT budget banner headline "Rates breather ahead of poll" (June 8, p1) and your editorial ("Combining craft and craftiness", Times2, Jun 8, p1) are very generous and, in many respects, misleading. A "breather" would imply a rates increase of zero or no more than inflation, but as it is, the Treasurer has hit the community with an average increase of 4.per cent (actually 5.7per cent here in O'Malley).

That's more than double inflation, or the rate of increase in wages and pensions. But according to your assessment, we should be relieved that it wasn't much more – that's hardly a "breather". Being hit with a mallet instead of a sledgehammer might be better, but it's hardly praiseworthy. And of course, it's only a slight and temporary reduction in the gouging, with the promise of a return to even greater increases next year (coincidentally after the election).

This is not a carefully scripted, responsible budget at all – merely a cynical exercise in making ratepayers fund profligate spending on indulgent programs. Substantial rate increases and additional federal funding has meant that the government again avoids the hard budgetary decisions.

Kym MacMillan, O'Malley

Considering that the consumer price index has gone up by about 1.3per cent and ACT public sector wages have gone up 1.8per cent, I do not regard the rates rise in any way a "breather".

Ric Hingee, Duffy

Advertisement

The introduction of a safe families levy in the budget is nothing but a blatant money grab.

If Andrew Barr wants to fund domestic violence services, fund it through consolidated revenue, which his government has plenty of given the massive increase in rates it has and continues to inflict on long-suffering homeowners. With the precedent now set, I can only look forward to paying a sexism, racism and homophobia levy in futurebudgets.

Gordon Williams, Watson

Barr off-track

In his interview with Virginia Haussegger on ABC TV News at 7pm on June 7, ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr keenly listed areas in which Canberra was leading Australia. Mr Barr missed the opportunity to also point to out that in light rail Canberra will be leading the world – that is, if he is re-elected he can give Canberrans the world's most expensive light rail project per passenger kilometre.

Why pay for a Rolls-Royce tram to replace what buses already do between Gungahlin and Civic at no improvement in travel time for commuters? Expanding the bus lane system and more frequent peak-hour express services between town centres would be a much better use of the dollars to be wasted on one 12-kilometre tram service.

Bill Crawshaw, Fadden

Project should halt

The $4.2 million spent by the Land Development Agency to secure land in Glebe Park for relocating the stormwater pond on Parkes Way ("LDA chief made call on Glebe Park land", June 7, p1) raises other questions.

The article claims the pond relocation is needed for the lowering of Parkes Way for the City to the Lake project. However, LDA officers recently informed Lake Burley Griffin Guardians that Parkes Way presents a significant barrier to access between the City and the Lake, and that tunnelling it several metres underground as originally considered to create a grassed/treed boulevard above for pedestrians andvehicle crossings is going to be too expensive.

Therefore the LDA has engaged consultants to provide a range of potential alternatives to a Parkes Way Tunnel. It is curious that such a huge sum was spent for the proposed pond site prior to undertaking the engineering research.

The Guardians has made formal requests to the LDA chief and to the Chief Minister for a review of the West Basin component of the City to the Lake due to serious concerns about adverse impacts arising from the appropriation of West Basin parkland for the building estate.

The City to the Lake project needs to be halted and democratic consultation processes conducted before the intersection across Commonwealth Avenue introduces the sequence of works – the closing of Barrine Drive by Point Park, infilling part of the lake, constructing an extravagant promenade with natty gardens, and the appropriation and selling of parkland for apartment blocks.

Juliet Ramsay, Burra, NSW

Property developers, Messrs Potts and Morris, charged the ACT Land Development Agency $4.2million for a former bit of Glebe Park based on, some say, a tenuous valuation.

LDA head David Dawes wants the land for a replacement roundabout pond when Parkes Way is lowered for the City to the Lake development.

Mr Dawes may think he'll get that money back when those two line up to buy land at say, the City to the Lake's West Basin and City Hill developments. However, there is growing agreement that the former is not at all appropriate for that part of the lake shore, in the context of the open-space ambience of the Central National Area.

That factor extends to the southern slopes of important City Hill. There, tall, dense, view-blocking development is also proposed on the existing three "cloverleaf" road reserves, integral to the proper functioning of Parkes Way, and on a similar adjoining plot. Their fine symmetrical open spaces preserve critical views of the CNA from City Hill, and vice versa, and should not be built out. There's further sentiment that Parkes Way itself is an important element in the evolution of the city, worthy of preservation, and that more and better pedestrian links from the city to the lake can be installed without the expense and disruption of vertically duplicating Parkes Way. So, LDA, please be very careful with ourmoney.

Jack Kershaw, Kambah

Privacy protection

As if to underscore the privacy concerns of former ABS public servant Ross Hamilton (" I would not trust ABS with my personal data, former employee says", May 21, p3), the ABS has sent me an unsolicited email, with no contact details other than a return email address, that asks me to "Click here" on a link that directs to a privately owned web page that uses an Australian Bureau of Statistics logo to make it look like an Australian government web page.

In 1940 the Danes destroyed their census records so that invading Germans could not use them to identify Danish Jews and gypsies. If my information is controlled by a private company, who will protect my privacy?

Leon Arundell, Downer

Jobs and growth dependent on improving housing affordability

To suggest, as Scott Morrison does, that the only way to stimulate the Australian economy is to lower company tax ("Shorten shifts focus to the economy as Morrison highlights company tax benefits", canberratimes.com.au, June 8) seems to ignore the real engine room of economic growth: consumption.

Prior to the 21st century's stratospheric rise in housing costs, Australian consumers had a lot more disposable income to spend on items such as clothes, holidays, home improvements and going out. For baby boomers, such as myself, who lived in a higher inflation/ higher wage growth environment, mortgage payments became more manageable every year and we had more money to spend in our middle years. Our spending employed people and kept the economy humming.

Gen Ys will find the going much harder. The initial cost of their homes will be much higher and our current low-inflation/low-wage-growth environment will ensure a large proportion of their income will continue to be siphoned off into mortgage payments right up to (and beyond) their retirement. Gen Y incomes may further enrich shareholders in banks but there won't be much left over for discretionary spending. Consequently, the vast bulk of the economy that relies on consumer spending will slow.

The "jobs and growth" that Morrison and Turnbull are spruiking will not materialise unless the problem of housing affordability is addressed. Scaling back negative gearing would be a good start.

Mike Reddy, Curtin

Film an eye-opener

Australians with a conscience should see the new film Chasing Asylum. It is no Pilger-esque left-wing propaganda.

It shows painfully that, in our name but secretively, the federal government is systematically dehumanising asylum-seekers through indefinite extra-judicial offshore detention in inhumane and brutalising conditions. On the pretext of curbing deaths at sea, the government is knowingly and immorally destroying innocent lives.

Yes, our borders must be secure – but against real threats, not the modest numbers of the truly oppressed who legally risk their lives to seek our protection – and whose forerunners have contributed so much to our society. Regardless of how they arrive, the conditions of reception and accommodation of asylum seekers pending prompt assessment and resettlement should be civilised and sympathetic. They are deliberately the opposite – by a wide margin; criminally so.

We have an absolute legal and moral responsibility to afford suitable protection to bona fide refugees who seek that from us. We are deliberately failing, while also pandering to the worst traits of racism and xenophobia in our society – traits that our leaders should be working to expunge, not foster. Shame, Australia, shame.

Stephanie and Mike Hutchinson, Reid

Tax argument tosh

The prosecution of the case for reduction in corporate tax rates (certainly for larger Australian businesses) has been ineptly pursed by both Malcolm Turnbull and earlier by Bill Shorten. Larger businesses are years away from any serious reduction in tax rates unlike smaller businesses.

There is a fallacy given rise to by The Australia Institute recently. The fact is current US tax rates of 39 per cent only applies on overseas operations when profits are remitted from overseas to the US. At the end of 2015 the accumulated profits of big American firms (ie, not all US firms with overseas operations) exceeded $2 trillion (The Economist, April 9, p55). This figure is actually larger than the Australian entire GDP. Given the current US tax system there is no sensible prospect of US companies remitting profits into the US. This entire argument of our proposed tax changes subsidising the US Treasury is complete tosh.

M. Gordon, Dunlop

None so blind ...

Bravo Jenny Goldie for her iconoclastic observations (Letters, June 2). The Federal Environment Department has insisted on removing every reference to Australia in the UN report on how UNESCO World Heritage sites are threatened by climate change. Moreover, our current government disingenuously supports the plunder of the vast Carmichael coal deposits in central Queensland by the Indian Adani company, which will pollute artesian water and promote aquatic and terrestrial degradation, including death of the Great Barrier Reef. When Malcolm Turnbull declares that "there has never been a more exciting time to be an Australian", he should, in truth, say "a wealthy Australian", since inequalities are increasing. Our government is apparently unaware of the fact that wherever it is combusted, coal is toxic to the atmosphere by producing greenhouse gas emissions and consequent climate disruption, as well as lethal local particulate pollution in cities of the developing world, and should be left in the ground.

If our government were really concerned about Australia's responsibilities, it would think and act globally and locally, listening to people who know what they are talking about. These include James Hansen, senior scientist of NASA, who declares that the only way to avert global disaster is to shift from a carbon economy to a photon economy, and Fatih Birol, head of the International Energy Agency, who has stated that public enemy number one of renewable energy development is the fossil fuel subsidy. The adage "none so blind as he who will not see" applies to our politicians.

Bryan Furnass, member, Strategic Council, the Climate Institute Hughes

Double standard

Greg Ellis is right (Letters, June 7). Palestine doesn't count particularly since it's not a nation, its descendants of Arab regional conquerors, armed by Hamas terrorist allies, fire missiles at Arab and Jewish Israelis on a regular basis, self-detonate in civilian crowds, and for good measure preach murder to kindergartners.

I wonder how Greg would feel if I lobbed missiles onto Murrumbateman on a daily basis, refused a generous peace settlement for the umpteenth time, and then sent the self-proclaimed martyrs in to murder his kin?

Gerry Murphy, Braddon

Plenty of evidence for phone cancer scare

Faye Flam ("Mobile phones, cancer and the anatomy of a good scare", Forum, June 4, p7) claims "there's no compelling reason to suspect that mobile phone use has anything to do with cancer."

Yet in 2011 the World Health Organization/International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as possibly carcinogenic to humans (Group 2B), with other examples in this group including the pesticide DDT and carbon tetrachloride (used in dry cleaning).

Even the manufacturers of mobile phones carry fine print safety warnings about not having such devices too close to the body.

The inconsistent results relating to risk of cancers from mobile phone use have come about from methodological differences in study design, industry influence over study designs, and the fact that some studies are too short to detect an increase in brain cancer.

Studies conducted by the Hardell group in Sweden indicate that those who began using either cordless or mobile phones regularly before age 20 have a fourfold increased risk of glioma and an almost sevenfold increased risk of acoustic neuroma (two types of brain tumours).

That the precautionary principle is not considered at all by Faye Flam is cause for considerable concern, particularly given the ubiquitous and rapidly growing exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields worldwide.

Young people, adults and particularly parents of children are well advised to get themselves up to speed with the risks linked to mobile phone and wireless device

usage.

One good website to view in this regard is the Environmental Health Trust (ehtrust.org) under its "Educate yourself" tab.

Murray May, Cook

TO THE POINT

ENTHRALLING, NOT

The editorial cartoon by Pat (Times2, June 8, p1) depicting a couple watching paint dry rather than TV due to the election was perfect in summing up how most people must feel about the federal election campaign. Not only do politicians "hit" us with a slurry of platitudes, but they also bore us senseless.

G. Thompson, Narrabundah

BACK TO THE FUTURE

Alas promises promises! I fear that the Labor Party is about to promise to build a "flux capacitor" planning to take us back to the future to November 24, 2007. Any one have an old Delorean DMC-12 in good condition for sale?

Brian Hale, Wanniassa

MERITORIOUS EFFORTS

The articles by Paddy Gorley and Richard Mulgan ("Little merit in the latest review" and Merit is no mere optional extra", The Public Sector Informant, June 7) on merit-based employment and promotion were excellent.

Some years ago, in another jurisdiction, I came across the following definition of merit: Mates Employed Regardless of Intellect or Training (or Talent if one prefers).

Sadly, all too true at times!

Julian Yates, Pearce

LIVING IN DENIAL

If Andrew Bolt didn't know that former speaker Bronwyn Bishop was going to resign before she did, he would have been the only person in the country who didn't (" 'Andrew Bolt knew I was resigning before me': Bronwyn Bishop", canberratimes.

com.au, June 7). Talk about living in denial.

John Richardson, Wallagoot, NSW

LEVY UNFAIR

If, as claimed, domestic violence exists at all levels of society why are ratepayers only paying the new "safer families levy" in the 2016-17 budget and not government housing tenants as well?

Greg Cornwell, Yarralumla

RATES ANOMALY

I was strongly disappointed that the ACT budget has been lauded, despite the higher than CPI increases in rates being foisted upon homeowners in the ACT. Why so little concern about the massive 20 per cent increase for apartment owners, many of whom are pensioners?

G. Ginn, Flynn

TRIAL A TRIAL

The territory budget includes $5 million for another David Eastman trial. When are taxpayers going to be spared from having to paying to satisfy the egos of some government lawyers?

R.S. Gilbert, Braddon

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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