You report the Brumbies chairman as saying that they ''could have been broke … had the controversial sale of their Griffith training site been blocked by the ACT government'' (''Brumbies back from the brink'', Sport, December 19, p32).

That's one way of putting it.

I suggest that, far from any blocking thoughts, the ACT government pulled out all stops in three ways to wave this development through.

1) Instead of allowing the development application to follow its full course, the Development Minister overrode the process by ''calling in'' the project in April 2013, surely because the application was in conflict with the planning rules. Otherwise why bother? 2) The project is in zone RZ4, which is defined as ''medium density'', whereas the 131 apartments on this site constitute ''high density''. 3) The Development Minister's approval of the project was explicitly subject to the payment of the lease variation charge (betterment tax) of $7.5 million. However, this payment was later ''waived'' by the Treasurer, to that cost to the ACT community.

The ACT government abused its own rules and proper processes to wave through this inappropriate development for the benefit of the Brumbies.

Hugh Dakin, Griffith

Flood alert

The ACT government is to be applauded for producing and distributing maps showing the location (levels) of the high water marks for the 1 per cent annual exceedence level flood (incorrectly referred to as the one in 100 years flood). However, residents should be told the meaning of those maps so they do not get a surprise when their home is flooded.

Every year, regardless of when the last flood occurred, there is a 1 per cent chance that a flood up to or greater than the level shown in the maps will occur. How big such a flood is likely to be is not addressed in the maps. So being above the level shown on the maps does not make your home safe from flooding.

During your lifetime - say 75 years - there is a better than even chance that such a flood of whatever size will occur at least once.

And during the time many people stay in a home - say 25 years - there is about a one in four chance of such a flood.

So be aware, not alarmed.

John Widdup, Lyneham

Changeable weather

One swallow does not a summer make. Nor, as Brian Hatch implies (Letters, December 19), do cherry-picked examples of unseasonably hot or unseasonably cold weather tell us much about climate change. Indeed, more extreme weather is to be expected and is consistent with scientific explanations of global warming.

Readers wishing to learn more about the science of climate change should consult the Australian Academy of Science website, www.science.org.au, or Tony Eggleton's recent book A Short Introduction to Climate Change. Those with a strong stomach for what the future holds if we fail to reduce CO2 emissions may choose James Hansen's Storms of My Grandchildren or Four Degrees of Global Warming: Australia in a Hot World, edited by Peter Christoff.

David Teather, Reid

Brian Hatch says we need more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere (!) because of the cold weather in Europe and Egypt. This is despite every scientific study showing that the atmosphere is warming and that this is correlated with rising CO2 levels. I don't think snow in Cairo, as cited by Mr Hatch, does anything to change this long-term trend. But the announcement on December 19 by the US National Climatic Data Centre that, globally, November was the hottest November since records began 133 years ago is consistent with the long-term warming trend.

Rod Holesgrove, O'Connor

Proud legacy

I found John Blount's letter (December 18) a virtual blueprint as to how the past five years of refugee intake should have been handled. As one of many officers who helped in receiving thousands of post-Vietnam War refugees, I agree with Mr Blount's statement that a good deal of relevant institutional memory is available on the Comprehensive Plan of Action which underpinned the operation. At that time, instead of waiting until refugees were risking their lives to get here, compassion was taken direct to them in the person of selection and medical officers co-operating with the UNHCR. As a result, our northern waters today carry no stain from that time of a thousand deaths. I would recommend our nation's decision makers read and take to heart Mr Blount's letter.

Colliss Parrett, Barton

Fawlty reasoning

Sorry, Stephen Jones (Letters, canberratimes.com.au, December 20), but your support for Tim Wilson's appointment as a Human Rights Commissioner is entirely misplaced. The Human Rights Commission has done an outstanding job in inventing as many ways as possible for the helpless among us to be offended, insulted, intimidated or bullied, and current commissioners, all with sound Labor credentials, can hardly be blamed if they view askance the arrival of someone with old-fashioned conservative leanings who believes in almost utter, complete freedom of expression. Who knows where such abandonment of the common courtesies, which can generally be referred to as political rectitude, will lead? Life's occasional incongruent conjunctions displayed in politics, the public service, religions etc will be cruelly exploited by ratbag cartoonists, satirists, journalists, bloggers and the like. Where is it all going to end?

This is not to say the HRC itself is above criticism. I have been distressed by constant replays of a heartless British TV series depicting a Torquay hotel run by a maniacal English owner who employs a cognitively challenged Spanish waiter and a mentally deficient Irish building contractor, three clear cases of racism and bias against the intellectually handicapped combined. The Spanish government have already banned it. I urge the HRC to live up to its responsibilities and do the same.

Bill Deane, Chapman

Beautiful Canberra

In 1972, as a very young student travelling in a taxi from the airport to the ANU, I thought: ''Canberra is such a beautiful city.'' Yesterday I drove along Northbourne Avenue and noticed the hanging pots of brightly coloured flowers and thought: ''Canberra is such a beautiful city. Thank you, ACT government, for adding these little touches (and for the magnificent Skywhale, of course).

Kit Huang, Yarralumla

It's time to 'be afraid... be very afraid'

Some may say the Prime Minister's behaviour during the election campaign was fair enough because it was a campaign and promises are made in that arena that will never be met fully, if at all (''Fend for yourselves, PM tells manufacturers'', December 19, p5).

Others might call it as it appears; that is, provide assistance for those who assisted the Coalition to election victory and then decide who may be strategically essential for victory at the next election. It's called ''mutual aid'' and is this ''honest'' government's dishonest misrepresentation of reality.

If you catch yourself accepting the government's statements - and protests about the opposition's ''negativity'' - at face value, review the campaign speeches and you will soon become aware that you elected a monster, a master of lies, fear, deceit and spin. Be afraid … be very afraid!

W. Book, Hackett

Scorched earth policy

I hate to be the bearer of bad news but, to Rick Godfrey (Letters, December 19) and others who despair at the government's ''scorched earth policy'' approach to environmental stewardship, I can only say: ''But wait - there's more!'' The Attorney-General's Department has recently notified Environmental Defenders' Offices (EDOs) across the country that their funding has been cut, effective immediately. This decision will put real pressure on most of the offices operating in each state and territory, and could result in some smaller offices, such as the ACT EDO closing.

EDOs provide free legal advice to individuals and community groups on environmental laws relating to town planning and development, mining operations, marine protected areas, water laws, pollution and heritage issues. They are the only place many people can afford to go for such advice when they feel threatened or affected by a development.

EDOs also prepare expert submissions on government policy proposals and have been critical of government decisions such as the one-stop shop process for state-run environmental approvals.

It would be difficult to conceive of the announced cuts - which pre-empt the findings of the Productivity Commission's current inquiry into civil dispute resolution and access to justice and equality before the law - as anything other than a blatant attempt to silence those who wish to stand up for their local environment.

Karina Morris, Weetangera

Love thy public servant

Everyone in Australia feels sorry for the 2000 poor workers at the Holden plants in South Australia and Victoria who have been given two years' warning that they will be out of a job.

Australia simply does not have the population to support an automobile industry, and falls way behind other countries in quality and costs.

The states have been offered another $100 million to assist in training the workers for suitable employment after the closures. That is all well and good, but what about the 12,000 public servants who are also on the chopping block through no fault of their own. Every new government decides that their first economy drive is to attack the public service. They expect departments to do more with less and demand they cut costs at every turn but continue to provide a service the public is happy with and makes their political career safe.

The Australian public is continually criticising Canberra and its public servants as a city full of lazy, self-serving ''fat cats''. Little do the people in other cities realise that without the public service they would not be able to operate or survive. In addition, not all public servants live in Canberra - they are Australia-wide.

They all deserve more respect and assistance than they receive, and it is about time the Australian public and the politicians recognised it.

Trevor Willis, Hughes

Paying due homage

I appreciated Romesh Thakur's account (''India stands tall after arrest'', Times2, December 19, p4) of the current diplomatic stoush resulting from India's deputy consul-general's trouble with events surrounding her domestic help.

The US is certainly not well-known for its finesse in dealing with such matters and invites the invective it may well deserve.

Full-body searches should not be performed without serious suspicions of major crime, and underpaying a domestic worker does not fit into this category.

It should be noted that CNN has corrected the assertion that she was arrested while dropping off her children at school - it was, in fact, on returning from that task.

Curiously, not mentioned by Thakur, the arresting attorney, Preet Bharara, seems to specialise in dealing with his compatriots - he was instrumental in bringing hedge fund manipulator Raj Rajaratnam and Rajat Gupta (chief executive of McKinsey) before the law.

The humiliation of public figures that Thakur suggests may help the career path of a district attorney (and this may include Bharara) reminds one of the Clinton-Lewinsky affair, but the advantage of the US is that high-ranking public officials are not a protected species, nor should they be.

Turning to lax Indian practice regarding filling out forms, although understandable when dealing with the suffocating local bureaucracy, it is no excuse for a career diplomat who should be well versed in Western processes.

In terms of status, expectations of privilege are much more shameful than not paying due homage.

David Williams, Watson

ABC repeating on me

The staggering salaries paid to ABC public servants is now being reflected in the television offerings of fourth-rate British TV rejects, repeat programs (some for the fourth time), and the ridiculous ad nauseam rounds of cooking and news programs. The ABC executive glee club can have a big-spending Christmas while the public does without anything of value. Is this what we pay $1.22 billion for each year?

Rex Williams, Ainslie

School's rebuilding must be investigated

It was reported recently on the ABC TV news that the virtually rebuilt Taylor Primary School in Kambah ''never looked so good''.

Well, it did - in its original architectural form, meticulously designed, detailed and supervised by my colleague, project architect Ian McMillan.

The original architectural expression, unlike the new very bitty one, was an attractive unified composition, with ground-breaking, superbly detailed and constructed curvilinear moulded compressed asbestos cement external wall panels, in a wondrous colour scheme.

The vibrant colours were later ignorantly dulled down to the uninspiring school colours, and, as usual, inadequate maintenance on the building was carried out.

Rain ingress a year or so ago required an investigative partial opening up of the walls, and someone apparently panicked about the presence of asbestos cement, recommending a virtually total rebuild. No need, because the critical panel fastenings were concealed and the fibres would have been stabilised by their compression.

This apparently has now been acknowledged, according to the above media report, unfortunately after the $13 million-plus rebuild. I suggested to the then education minister that a rebuild was probably not necessary.

This apparent shameful waste of ratepayers' money, causing great inconvenience, needs to be thoroughly investigated so as to possibly enable cost recovery, and to prevent future such travesties with our public assets.

Jack Kershaw, Kambah



What a brilliant idea from Claude Wiltshire (Letters, December 19). Could I suggest we start with some top examples of Australian classics. The Morris Marina, Valiant VH Hardtop, EJ Holden, Leyland P76, Morris 1500, Toyota Corona with the Starfire engine and the Austin Freeway, to name a few. That would keep the redundant automotive experts off the street for a while!

Neil Stevenson, Fisher

Claude Wiltshire's suggestion (Letters, December 19) to have more people restoring and recycling older cars might not go down so well with Watson residents.

John Howarth, Weston


So, AAMI has new analysis which indicates where the city's accident black spots are (''City's arteries worse accident black spots, insurer survey reveals'', December 19, p3). And kangaroos are not mentioned. Given the ACT government's rhetoric of the past five years, how can this be?

Philip Machin, Wamboin, NSW


Caroline Fitzwarryne (Letters, December 18) should not be misled by the ''wisdom'' of her team leader in Yemen. Cutting the foreskin may well have originated for health reasons, but cutting the clitoris is likely to have only ever had one purpose - to reduce or eliminate female pleasure.

Michael McCarthy, Deakin


The point, Peter Edsor (Letters, December 20), is not that weather extremes exist but that they are increasing. More extreme ''statistical outliers'' were predicted by climate change models and are part of convincing proof of the reality of carbon dioxide-related climate change.

Julian Robinson, Narrabundah


San Francisco has its Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART). Dallass has its Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) Canberra's proposed old-fashioned method of tram transportation should be: Canberra Area Regional Transport (CART).

Ken Keirven, Melba


Whoopee, we are to be graced by a visit from two royals, plus their spawn. No wonder Joe Hockey has to find budget cuts. Child-minding staff will be delighted to know their salary sacrifice is being put to good use, paying for these parasites on the public purse to swan around the countryside shaking hands with sacked Holden workers, lifting their spirits no doubt, and offering Abbott and Co the opportunity to fawn all over them.

L. Christie, Canberra City

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