Letters to the Editor

Canberra Times Letters to the Editor: Extracting sting from wasp tale

Your article "Fears of European wasp 'super nests"', (January 16, p9) defines a "super nest" as having up to 10,000 wasps.

Based on a detailed population census of more than 150 European wasp nests in south-east Australia over the past 50 years, I have never seen such numbers during the annual cycle of the European wasp.

The largest number of adult worker wasps found in any nest in Canberra was 4876. Very occasionally, however, nests succeed in overwintering and become perennial, reaching a prodigious size.

One I examined in Hobart, Tasmania, was estimated to be the weight and volume of half a Morris Mini Minor with 300,000 adult wasps.

Another in Kambah in 2012 was nearly 2metres in diameter.

But these are very much the exceptions.


The invasive European wasp is indeed a problem in suburbia and it is important to raise awareness and alert the community about appropriate responses, but it would be best not to use "fake facts" to achieve this aim.

Dr Philip Spradbery, Yarralumla

In the name of fairness

Robyn Lewis (Letters, January 17) notes that family homes are not part of the assets test. Correct. But she then claims it is "reasonable" for residents of "million-dollar homes" to receive pensions.

This is debatable.

Pensions paid to retirees who have over-invested in their residential property relative to other assets are effectively subsidies to the inheritance value of their estates.

Such retirees have avoided their obligation to provide, as far as possible, to fund their own retirement. Of course sale of the family home should not be forced. But nor should taxpayers be obliged to pay unwarranted, inequitable subsidies.

Access to prudently regulated, fair, reverse mortgage facilities, or progressive vesting in the Commonwealth of deferred equity in the property to reflect excess pension payments, are but two ways of addressing this issue.

To be fair to established arrangements, the change would require gradual introduction, a high initial threshold, and appropriate transition arrangements.

But in the name of fairness it should start.

Mike Hutchinson, Reid

And still we suffer

Further to Jack Kershaw's letter (Letters, January 16) about the overdevelopment of that Mr Fluffy block in Chapman, the issue is more than simply "breaching boundaries". It is about fairness – fairness to the original block owners, fairness to the neighbours and fairness to the long-suffering ACT ratepayers.

A lot of money stands to be made from this long-running issue now that RZ2 zoning has been introduced for the Mr Fluffy developments, and none of it accrues to these people. The original block owners did not share in the windfall gains when their blocks were auctioned off by the government, the neighbours are not sharing in the profits from any redevelopment despite the disruption of the demolitions and rebuilding, and you can bet our rates won't go down once the new dual-occupancy homes come on-stream.

In fairness to the neighbours of the block in Chapman, if the new development is outside the approved plans, then I'm with Jack Kershaw – it should be demolished and the original plans followed.

Malcolm Robertson, Chapman

My war on waste

I refer to the letter from Elizabeth Paul (Letters, January 16) headed "Collection concerns". Ms Paul states she was dismayed when she was told by the operators of the trash-pack businesses she contacted four years ago, after moving into her new home, that there were no restrictions on what she could throw into her trash packs as they were all sent to landfill.

I have always been a very keen gardener and as I'm a person who hates spending my time going to the tip I have always been a big user of trash packs.

In fact, for the past 15 years the trash-pack operator who services my property has provided me with two trash packs, one for landfill and one for green waste. I'm retired now and have time on my hands, so after reading Ms Paul's letter, the contents of which I thought strange given my experience, I thought I would ring around all other trash pack providers I could find and ask them would they also be prepared to provide me with an exclusive green waste trash pack.

They all said yes and said that service has always been available to their customers.

They all said they are passionate recyclers and that the bonus to them was there were no tip fees for exclusive green waste.

Gordon Maher, Gilmore

Trammy McTramface?

Your article "One tram a week ..." (January 18, p3) quotes Andy Barr as saying that the first tram should be named "Cam", but there are more appropriate names than that.

I think that the first tram should be called the "Katy Gallagher", after the mother of the project.

It was Katy who, in 2012, gave in to Green blackmail and agreed to build the tram for $614 million in order to retain government, even though she must have known that work done under Stanhope found that the project was not viable.

The second tram should be the "Andy Barr", after the project's father.

As Chief Minister, he should have been asking whether there were other places where $900 million could be better spent.

The third tram should be the "Shane Rattenbury" after its spiritual father.

The whole tram project needs a name. I think that the "Great Northern Green Elephant" would do just fine.

Stan Marks, Hawker

Worse that it looks

Eryk Bagshaw's article ("Counting the cost of low wage rises", CT, January 16, p4) expresses concern because "the government has predicted inflation will rise from 1.9 per cent to 2.25 per cent by next year, which could leave some workers with a pay cut in real terms".

It is, and will be, much worse than that.

Mr Bagshaw may not appreciate that the government's published measure that it calls "inflation" does not measure the retail price of "... the rising cost of a bag ofgroceries", nor of many other household items.

There is no published figure for the retail prices of all the items that go to make up the Consumer Price Index.

The prices of many of those items are discounted before being published.

Thus, even a wage rise that is equal to the CPI, i.e. "inflation", will actually result in a reduction in the worker's standard of living.

If that occurs for several years then, dueto compounding, standards of living willfall significantly, which will have apronounced effect on the national economy as many people try to cut theirretail spending to match their disposable income.

Richard Griffiths, National President, Australian Council of Public Sector Retiree Organisations

No sense sacrificing reservoirs for sake of Snowy Hydro 2.0

The proposal to dump the spoil generated by the excavation of two large "caverns" and a 27-kilometre tunnel for the Snowy Hydro 2.0 ("Warnings of 'catastrophic' harm to rivers", January 19, p 5) seems to me questionable, if not foolish, for two main reasons.

The first, discussed in the article, concerns the danger of dumping rock fragments containing pyrite (FeS2 – also known as "fool's gold") into the Talbingo and Tantangara reservoirs. This could result in the formation of large amounts of sulphuric acid, as the pyrite reacts with oxygenated water, and the acidification of rivers fed by the reservoirs.

The only way to minimise or eliminate this risk is to dump the spoil into the part/s of the reservoirs where oxygen levels are lowest, or zero.

However, this would involve taking the spoil well away from the shore, probably by barge, so that it could be dumped in the deepest parts of the reservoirs. This would necessarily increase the cost of the project.

My second reason for questioning the dumping of spoil into the reservoirs is that it necessarily reduces the capacity of the reservoirs, which seems a foolish thing to do, not least because it flies in the face of the ever-strengthening evidence of global warming and the increasingly unpredictable weather patterns that go withit.

Douglas Mackenzie, Deakin

Better hydro options

With the latest study into the feasibility of Snowy 2 finding "risks" which will require further investigation and management; and a water quality expert from the University of Canberra pointing to the likely "catastrophic" effects the work may have on the fresh-water systems involved ("Warnings of catastrophic harm to rivers", CT January 19, p5), it is high time the federal government pulled the plug on this ridiculous scheme.

Andrew Blakers of the Australian National University has already demonstrated the folly of the scheme.

He stated there were 6000 sites for pumped hydro stations in Australia, 800 of which were in the ACT region. Unlike the Snowy 2, these pumped hydro stations would not require extensive and expensive tunnels, only short lengths of piping.

Snowy 2 is an unnecessary, high risk, "blue-sky" scheme that would be astronomically expensive and crippling for the country. Bury it before any further money is wasted on further studies.

Murray Upton, Belconnen

NSW police on the job

Can I share a little good news story for those that lament the lack of a police presence on the highways?

On a recent trip to Sydney, a regular check of rear vision mirrors showed a car weaving at speed to overtake cars.

I wondered as he passed me  about whether there was an emergency being attended to. The baseball cap on backwards suggested not, but not to worry, a highway patrol caught up with him 30 seconds later.

A further 15 minutes into the trip, almost the exact same circumstances (except a different perpetrator) and the same happy ending.

Well done, NSWPOL.

Kim Fitzgerald, Deakin

Other ways to relax

The welfare of the Noah's Ark animals is not the reason visits to UOC students should be cancelled ("Uni's destressing program 'too stressful' for animals", CT p6, 10 January 2018; "Stressing animals", letters, Sia Brook, CT p19, 18 January 2018).

There is no apparent reason to think these animals are not well cared for, or that they are badly affected by students.

Experience teaches that accustomed animals love friendly attention.

However student welfare is of concern. One should have mastered relaxation well before exam time: it is part of any study regime, it was required at high school-senior college level, and unquestionably at post- secondary studies.

The student association could better teach and implement the simplest mode of relaxation, with walking tours circulating the University environs. 

There are likely volunteers to lead tours. This activity should not need any expense for tour leaders or equipment, not even an app. 

Walking can be pursued in every student's home environment. There are other simple physical activities, for home and university environments.

Relaxation is a habit learnt over a few weeks before exams: just worrying about relaxation as an added burden increases stress. Patting friendly animals for minutes or even hours is a nonsense in this context.

Warwick Davis, former student, Isaacs

Climate disruption

Your correspondent Owen Reid (Letters, January 15) believes he has a novel critique of climate science.

Global climate change has been increasingly studied and increasingly understood for close on two centuries.

A few researchers in the 1970s proposed that a cooling sun would result in a new ice age, and equally few media outlets supported this view.

Further research soon demonstrated that the science was not sound, but this was not always reported in the popular press (who enjoy a disaster, however far-fetched).

Meanwhile, sober and reputable research continued to demonstrate the facts of both global climate change and global warming. 

These are technical terms, with precise meanings, though it is also a fact that US Republican Party adviser Frank Luntz advised then-President Bush to use the term "global warming" as being less scary to Republican voters.

Professor Will Steffen is quite correct to use the term "climate disruption" to describe one of the main consequences of global warming. 

Researchers are reluctant to directly associate any specific event, such as the recent California fires or the recent record Northern Hemisphere cold, with global warming, as it is all part of a very large and complex system.

The cumulative scientific evidence, however, continues to mount, while climate scientists gain ever better understanding of global climatic patterns – and their disruption.

Nick Goldie, Cooma

Union apparatchiks

It irks me to the bone hearing of Labor party machine hacks drawn from unions, squabbling over potential seats in various parliaments around the country.

These individuals can hardly claim to be representing the Australian workforce, when only 15 per cent and falling of workers are union members.

Curiously having been a member of BWIU, BLF, CFMEU and TWU I have never once been approached by a union official to join the Labor party.

Minor parties have however shown interest in an encouraging and fraternal way. 

Talking to friends and colleagues, this seems to be the contemporary Australian experience of involvement in politics and policy setting.

Matt Ford, Crookwell, NSW



I read Gary Wilson's letter about January 26 (Letters, January 17) several times and I'm still not sure whether it's satire or just plain ignorance. Before 26 January 1788, Australia wasn't in a Stone Age. It was already home to the oldest continuous civilisation on Earth – civilisations and cultures that continue today. If Mr Wilson would like to learn more about the sophistication of Australia's First Nations, he could do worse than read Bruce Pascoe's excellent "Dark Emu".

Joel Dignam, Watson


Your editorial of 16 Jan described the Greens as having become "a traditional party of the far left". It said they should concentrate more on household costs, job security and wage stagnation. The party described as "far left" is criticised for neglecting the traditional issues of the Left. The Greens may be far out, but – aside from a few minor issues like death duties and negative gearing – in what way are they far left?

S. W. Davey, Torrens


Queensland MP Peter Dutton would do better to take some responsibility for the behaviour of white racists in Brisbane than to worry about the behaviour of Africans in Melbourne.

Michael McCarthy, Deakin


I nearly dropped my tea and crumpet when I read comments about the Viking Clap. Until enlightenment by your correspondents I thought the Vikings Clap was a Nordic form of venereal disease.

James Grenfell, Spence

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