Letters to the Editor

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Introducing democracy into ACT planning and development Special development precincts (''ACT fast-track development laws bypass key planning processes'', April 5) should be supported with a caveat or two.

All fast-track development proposals need to be based on comprehensive and transparent community engagement. If such engagement is included, then the new processes should deliver a much-improved system compared to the presently convoluted and irrelevant ACT Planning and Land Authority (ACTPLA) processes.

This new fast-track process means that the elected Assembly members become directly responsible. That's the wonderful nature of democracy.

The major concern is that while this fast-track process is to be introduced for special areas, unfortunately the precincts most precious to residents, their suburbs, remain subject to the whims of a non-elected, faceless ACTPLA.

What the introduction of the fast-track process demonstrates is that the ACTPLA experiment has passed its use-by date. The ACTPLA should be abolished and a new Development and Planning Commission established to work with and for the people who live in Canberra.

The key strategy for this new commission would be to come to planning and development proposals through realistic and honest community partnerships. Subsequent recommendations would need to be signed off jointly by the community and the commission before being presented to the elected Assembly for final considerations. A little more democracy in planning could go a long way!

And concerning the proposal to revitalise Northbourne Avenue, we need to ensure more than the present number of trees are planted as part of an innovative and well-designed boulevard into the city.

Paul Costigan, Dickson

Old housing should go

The ''heritage industry'' is worried that the government's plan to fast-track some development proposals (''More talks before new planning laws ticked'', April 8) will stop the decrepit public housing on Northbourne Avenue from being heritage-listed. It'll be a good thing if it does.

The great flaw in heritage legislation is that it doesn't require these heritage bodies to take into account the economic cost of heritage-listing something, event though preserving the past usually involves a current and future cost.

If it did, these old public housing units on Northbourne Avenue wouldn't stand a chance of being heritage-listed. The land on which they stand is obviously of very considerable value, and should be used accordingly - either for decent-looking high-rise residential buildings or for some commercial purpose.

And that's not only for economic reasons; it's also quite ridiculous to have such unsightly buildings on the avenue that's the main entrance to Canberra.

R.S.Gilbert, Braddon

Nature's kindness

Shocking as it may seem to sexually idealistic young folk, the ''freeze-fright'' concept seems to be one of nature's rare kindnesses: to separate the mind from the physically inescapable (''Finally, rape 'freeze fright' has its day in court'', Times2, April 7, p5). That sex isn't always a game for the female participant was once unspoken common knowledge. Why else would Queen Victoria have advised her newly married daughter to ''… close your eyes, lie back and think of England''?

Barbara Malpass, Sutton, NSW

Free speech for racists

Jenna Price's column (''Free speech is for Abbott elite, not public servants'', Times2, April 8, p5) was a diatribe of epic proportions, but I shall confine myself to her views on freedom of expression.

I am not aware of any conflict between the public service code of conduct and freedom of expression under the Brandis proposal.

Should a public servant break those rules they may lose their job, but in most cases, they will not have committed a crime. And, security and privacy restrictions aside, they are then free to say whatever they like about the government they despise. The same would apply in most work places.

Price is ignoring the core issue, when she implies that the government's position makes it ''perfectly OK'' for Australians to use racially offensive language in public.

The distinction here is that it should not be illegal to use such language, but society should not, and does not, tolerate such behaviour.

In a free society a racist of whatever stripe should have the right to be heard, but not the right to an audience, nor the right to go unchallenged.

H. Ronald, Jerrabomberra, NSW

Pell needs our prayers

Perhaps Father Kevin Brannelly (Letters, April 7) can be commended for his loyalty in defending Cardinal Pell but in my opinion Elizabeth Farrelly's criticism (''Exit Pell, not with a whimper but a bombshell'', Times2, April 3, p5) doesn't go too far, and as a 76-year-old Catholic I too feel embarrassed by the way Cardinal Pell has handled the situation that has badly wounded our church.

The ''strenuous efforts by Cardinal Pell to address the perfidy of child abuse'' haven't been very obvious to me nor have they been revealed in the present royal commission.

Pell has reportedly admitted he should have exercised greater oversight in the handling of one well-known matter and has admitted deliberately discouraging victims from suing the church.

Reports out of the royal commission describe how Pell contradicted not one, but three of his closest advisers in connection with a sum of money that would be accepted by one victim in compensation for a crime committed by a Sydney priest. So Cardinal Pell is saying the three of them are all lying? Extraordinary!

Also, as Pell seems to have accepted that priests are going to continue committing this type of abuse, he recommends some sort of insurance scheme.

Wow!

The cardinal appears to have lost quite a lot of credibility through the commission inquiry and it follows that the church is perceived to have lost the same, through his own actions as well as those of the perpetrators of these offences. The church's moral image has thereby been seriously compromised.

Mary Loft (Letters, April 8) suggests Cardinal Pell needs prayers. I'll go along with that, but perhaps Catholics should also pray that the person chosen to replace him is not tarred with the same brush.

John Maher, Jerrabomberra, NSW

Free trade pacts threaten country's sovereignty

Peter Martin (''Free trading cards laid on the table, but beware the ace up the sleeve'', BusinessDay, April 9, p12) raises an important point about the loss of our sovereignty through trade deals that allow foreign companies to sue sovereign governments for the rules and laws they might enact to protect their people and way of life. This ''invasion by stealth'' draws no opprobrium from the Foreign Minister or Prime Minister, yet when Russia took the bold and open step to take over the businesses of Crimea there is outrage.

Where is the righteous indignation against the overthrow of our national sovereignty delivered to the corporates of the world by the hand of our politicians who seem so eager to bend over backwards to sign trade deals that on closer inspection have features which are against our national interests?

Denis Waters, Nicholls

 

Free trade agreements are being initialled every day by our far-sighted PM. His acolytes tell us that each is worth billions of dollars and innumerable extra jobs to Australia.

However Australia and the co-signatories will surely be about the same size next week as last week, eating in toto about the same amount of beef, and buying the same number of cars and electronic gizmos.

The only thing that will change is that tariffs that formerly went into government coffers will disappear, and goods might cost less. So from where will all these billions and jobs come from? Perhaps FTAs are just another of the capitalist ''exponential growth'' myths, which if repeated with conviction often enough must come true.

Adrian Gibbs, Yarralumla

 

The free trade with Japan was initiated by John Howard with the ALP working towards it. Now Tony Abbott has jumped in and is taking all the credit. This policy was nine years in the making.

I find it hard to believe all Australians will benefit from this policy by saving large sums of money.

It is true some primary producers will be better off but unless one is buying Japanese cars or white goods or electronic items how can all Australians save so much money?

Robyn Lewis, Raglan, NSW

The Australia/Japan Free Trade Agreement deconstructed: cheaper Japanese cars, higher Australian unemployment. I can't wait to see what the Australia/China Free Trade Agreement brings us!

John Rodriguez, Florey

The Sinodinos mystery

You have to feel sorry for poor old Arthur Sinodinos, who apparently can't remember what the company whose board he was chairing was doing, who apparently didn't notice large donations to the political party of which he was treasurer and who didn't think it was relevant to tell the ministers he was lobbying that he stood to gain millions personally from the deal he was advocating.

It makes me wonder how somebody with so little awareness of what was happening was worth being paid several thousand dollars an hour for his services, or why he was seen by the Prime Minister as the appropriate person to reform the financial advice sector. But the people I really feel sorry for are the female back-benchers in the Coalition, who were told by the PM that their failure to attain ministerial office was due to their not reaching the standards of excellence of men such as Arthur …

Ian Lowe, Marcoola, Qld

Super's inequity

I write in response to Robyn Lewis (Letters, April 8) to clarify the tax situation of superannuation. Contributions to superannuation are taxed at 15 per cent when they go in. Other income people receive is taxed at a marginal rate starting at 19 per cent for income over $18,201 and rising to 45 per cent for income over $180,001. So if you earn more than $18,201 you pay less tax on your income if you put it in superannuation than if you get it in your pocket. Similarly income in your super fund is only taxed at 15 per cent - much less than other income tax rates.

The biggest inequity starts once you reach 60 and can take a pension. Your super fund then does not have to pay tax on the income it earns on your behalf and you don't have to pay tax on the income you get from your super fund. Why should other tax-payers pay more so privileged over-60-year-olds (such as myself) don't pay tax on their super?

Caroline Le Couteur, Downer ACT

Cover-up fears

Paddy Gourley's excellent article Operation Sovereign Absurdity (April 1, p4) raises many issues warranting further public debate.

Gourley observes, correctly, that Operation Sovereign Borders is a civilian function. Presumably Campbell is outside the military chain of command under the Defence Act, that is, as manager of Operation Sovereign Borders, he is not responsible to the CDF and the Minister for Defence. He is managing a civilian function for the Minister for Immigration. If that is correct he is entitled to no more, and no less, respect than any other civilian manager.

That CDF Hurley would engage in the political controversy seems unusual. Generals do not normally engage in partisan political debate, the more so in relation to a civilian operation outside the military chain of command. Where a civilian manager is instructed by a minister to withhold information from the Parliament, it is legitimate and appropriate for the person to inform the Parliament.

Parliamentarians routinely respect the position of officials acting on ministerial instructions. Where on the other hand a manager purports to withhold information on his own authority, surely that action invites the ''cover-up'' response. As Gourley observes: 'This is not an illicit cover up; it is a gratuitous one.'' That officials are engaged in such cover-ups is worrying.

Ernst Willheim, Forrest

Parking fee furore a load of nonsense

I almost choked on my cereal when I read the nonsense in Noel Towell's article ''Workers will need a pay rise to park'' (April 4, p1).

What an absurd argument that bureaucrats could seek an increase in their salaries to make up for the amount they choose to pay to park in the Parliamentary Triangle precinct. How ridiculous!

As a former bureaucrat who was kicked out of the precinct in the 1980s and moved to Civic I do not recall any suggestions that we warranted an increase in salary at that time to pay for the inconvenience of losing easy access to free parking and having to pay for parking if we chose to drive to work.

What is more, I recall starting my career in Canberra working in the ''woolsheds'' in Barton in the 1970s.

There were no services located near to where we worked and what did we do? We walked - yes, walked - to Kingston to take advantage of the many services available there.

Alternatively, it was quite possible to catch a bus into Civic from Commonwealth or King's Avenues (and there are even more bus services these days) and return and so have good access to services in Civic.

The pathetic ''do good'' arguments from the current member for Canberra, Gai Brodtmann, on this matter do her no credit.

To suggest, as she is quoted, that ''if they are to pay for parking they need to have access to the services available to public servants working in other town centres'' is arrant rubbish. Ms Brodtmann should concentrate on real issues of concern to Canberra.

Tim McGhie, Isabella Plains

TO THE POINT

BEWARE FEMINIST PLOT

Is Dr Susan Harris Rimmer (Letters, April 8) engaged in a feminist plot? The love of my life is my wife, not ''spouse''. Tony Abbott when in diplomatic circles would introduce Margaret as his wife not spouse. The Christian marriage vows are between husband and wife - not spouse and spouse!

Dave Roberts, Dickson

Could Dr Susan Harris Rimmer (Letters, April 8) advise if the plural of spouse is spice?

Peter Snowdon, Aranda

AGE DISCRIMINATION

A flyer from GIO arrived in my letterbox this week offering a discount, conditional on my age, if I made it my CTPI insurer. The flyer asked ''So what makes a good driver?'' and then provided the answer ''Between 30-69 years old''. I would ask GIO ''so what makes a good insurance company?''

GIO is apparently not concerned about age discrimination issues. How hard would it be for GIO to base its discount on past accident claims, for all ages?

John Burke, Weston

BEGA FLATS PUZZLE

If the Bega flats are to be demolished, why were six fire-damaged flats restored to pristine condition and then left empty for months?

Gail Boate, Gowrie

TAXPAYER SLUGGED

I noticed on the ABC news last night that the entourage travelling on air force planes with Tony Abbott to Japan and South Korea include James Packer and Kerry Stokes - two of the richest individuals in Australia. Is it the humble taxpayer who is funding the travel of the 600 delegates of the biggest businesses in Australia?

Pauline May, Lyneham

PLUTOCRACY RULES

What a cosy relationship James Packer and Tony Abbott have tripping around Japan and South Korea (''James Packer accuses Kevin Rudd of damaging Asian relations, praises Tony Abbott'', canberratimes.com.au, April 8) drumming up business together, denouncing Rudd, and how lovely it is that Jamie's mother stumped up $580,000 for the Liberals to be elected. That should buy plenty of cosiness and hopefully a relaxation of the visa rules for Chinese gamblers. I don't remember voting for Jamie but then I guess that's the point in a plutocracy.

Julie Kidd, Bonner

JAPAN TRADE DEAL

Did Japan bug Australia's embassy and listen in on our negotiation planning? Perhaps it didn't need to! To paraphrase Alexander Downer, it taught us a lesson on how to negotiate a ''free'' trade deal.

Mark Hartmann, Hawker

 

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