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Canberra Times Letters to the Editor: Humanity is facing huge threats and we do need to be prepared

In a recent blog, the eminent Australia21 director and ANU Professor Emeritus Bob Douglas states "a number of us at ANU have been recently arguing that a plan for human survival should be a central element of the mission of our national university and that every one of our graduates should be 'survival literate"'.

He goes on to argue "We have become besotted with the idea that money and markets will solve all of our problems".

Professor Douglas is correct. Humanity is facing huge threats which most of us — especially our governments — contrive to ignore: ecological breakdown, resource scarcity, weapons of mass destruction, climate change, global poisoning, food insecurity, overpopulation, pandemic disease, megacity collapse and uncontrolled new technologies (like AI, universal surveillance and killer robots).

Wise people – and there are many here in Canberra, especially our elders – know that our grandchildren face an increasingly perilous world, epitomised in the recent determination of the US Trump administration to wreck the Earth's climate and environment and Australia's gutless pursuit of similar policies.

Providing our children with the skills, the information, the sustainable technologies and the wisdom needed to survive on this dangerous planet is core business for every parent and grandparent.

We should all support Professor Douglas in his campaign.

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Julian Cribb, Franklin

A brave act

Judy Bamberger's defiance towards the most non-democratic law the Israeli Knesset has ever passed, in forbidding foreign nationals from entering Israel because of their public calling of boycotts against the Jewish state, must be applauded ("Canberra woman Judy Bamberger defies Israeli boycott arrest threat", March 29).

Nothing can ever justify such a law that calls for these extreme vetting procedures except for the fact that it serves the interests of those who believe that Israel is first and foremost a Jewish state es tablished by God and not a democratic one established by the people.

Nor can this law obliterate the fact that as the Abrahamic children of Ishmael, Palestinian Muslims have as much right to this land as Israeli Jews, who similarly consider themselves to be divinely chosen, but instead as the children of Isaac.

Though Ms Bamberger may be only one of many voices that have spoken out against Israeli oppression, it appears that by the unwillingness of the Israeli authorities to arrest her they will sorely discover that ultimately no law will silence the truth of this flagrant breach of democracy.

Reverend Dr Vincent Zankin, Rivett

Faulty premise

Bob Salmond says Pauline Hanson's proposed ban on Muslim immigrants would have prevented the London attack "because had the terrorist's parents not migrated ... the murders would not have occurred" (Letters, March 30).

But the attacker, born in England, was the child of English parents. Neither was a Muslim. It seems neither was an immigrant.

The attacker, born Elms, became Ajao by taking up his stepfather's name. Then, converting to Islam in middle age, he took a new name: Khalid Masood.

Christopher Hood, Queanbeyan, NSW

Sale plan misguided

There is a large "For Sale" sign in front of the Dame Pattie Menzies Building in Dickson. I presume both buildings and the multi-storey car park are part of the sale.

The ACT government is selling off one of its valuable assets for short-term gain to fund infrastructure development.

Ratepayers will then be stuck paying rent for the government tenants to the private owner for years to come.

If this was such a smart idea, I wonder why there has never been advice telling people to sell their own homes to an investor and then rent them back.

John Milne, Chapman

Uniform approach

Mary Barry, CEO of Our Watch, ("School uniform changes would have big impact", canberratimes.com.au, March 28) could check her facts more thoroughly. I retired from teaching at a government school in Belconnen 23 years ago, when the school uniform included choices of skirts, shorts and tracksuits. In a photo of my class in 1985 of the eight girls sitting in the front row six are wearing tracksuit pants. This change in uniform at government schools began about 40 years ago.

Gwenyth Bray, Belconnen

Speaking out (or not)

On ABC Radio Canberra on Friday March 24 Dr Andrew Leigh, the federal member for Fenner, said he believed in social justice: "I'm someone who cares deeply about the way policies affect the most disadvantaged". It made me wonder why he doesn't speak out on behalf of refugees and asylum seekers in our detention centres, surely one of the most disadvantaged groups.

Felicity Chivas, Scullin

McManus error

Brad Norington, in a News Corp "exclusive", claims there is no evidence that Sally McManus was president of the Macquarie University student union. ('Mystery of union chief's uni claim', The Australian, March 29). The only mystery is how Norington could confuse the presidency of the student union with the presidency of the student council.

Between August 1991 and August 1993 McManus was president of the student union.

I look forward to a sincere apology being issued to her.

John Passant, Kambah

Reading meters

A number of people have written to complain about estimated power bills from ACTEW AGL. I received a bill from Origin this month followed by a notice a few days later saying it had been an estimate as the meter reader could not gain entrance to the meter because the gate was locked.

I rang them to tell them there is no lock on the gate. I was then asked if I had a savage dog. No. They then proposed they could estimate all my future bills at a fixed price, even if I used more (How does that sound?) It sounds as if they want to save money by not employing meter readers.

Glenys Hammer, Narrabundah

Save space to save souls

Hugh Malcolm (Letters, March 29) and Michael and Christine O'Lóughlin (Letters, March 30) have, I suspect, both misunderstood the real reason behind community opposition to the proposed public housing estate on the grounds of the former Holder Primary School.

The older suburbs of Canberra (developed before 1990) had 10-12 per cent of their land area reserved as public open space so that members of the local community had areas for recreation and play.

This open space included suburban playing fields, public school ovals and small local parks.

Holder, as developed, had two public schools (Holder Primary School and Holder High School) and two small local parks, but no suburban playing fields.

The former high school oval is now occupied by the Canberra Montessori School and is no longer available for public recreation. This means that Holder has less than 7 per cent of open space, with most of this space being the former primary school oval. The loss of this oval means that the few per cent of open space remaining in the suburb consists of the small parks, an archery range, pathways and an open drain for Weston Creek.

The ACT government says it wants to build healthy communities in Canberra. It demonstrates its commitment by proposing to build housing on the only large area of public open space remaining in Holder.

Jeff Carl, Rivett

Review required

The ACT government says public housing is allowed on community facility zoned land because it is supportive housing.

When the Territory Plan was changed more than 10 years ago to allow supportive housing on community facility land the use was restricted to support for reasons of age and disability. How is general public housing now supportive housing?

The answer lies buried in a 2015 technical amendment that changed the definition of supportive housing to include "social housing".

This was the subject of limited consultation.

The Planning and Development Act restricts the use of a technical amendment to clarifications of language that do not change the substance of the plan.

The residents of Canberra's south no doubt think it has changed the substance of theplan.

The change to the definition means the government no longer needs to use valuable residential land for public housing and has more residential land to sell.

At the same time it can use community facility zoned land atno cost.

But there is a cost to the community and that is the supply of community facility zoned land is rapidly diminishing and won't be available for childcare centres, residential care accommodation and supportive housing as originally intended.

This is not the first time a technical amendment has changed the substance or policy of the Territory Plan.

It raises the need for an independent review into whether technical amendments are being prepared in accordance with the act.

Keith Burnham, Stirling

So grows a ghetto

I am amazed the ACT government is still spruiking the need for public housing, this time a block of 30 apartments at Holder ("Residents warning", March 29, p1).

Has not the ACT government learnt that socially unmixed public housing becomes ghettos, and that eventually they are bulldozed because of community outrage?

Does not the ACT government remember Baringa Gardens Melba, Burnie Court Lyons and Fraser Court Kingston, all bulldozed at great public expense?

Frank Boddy, Lyons

Billed for monstrosity

Last week Chief Minister Andrew Barr was not forthcoming as to "why" and "how much" for the gross Media Centre on Manuka Oval. By Monday the ABC was told "some millions".

The presenting government employees at Coles Manuka advised a substantial $9.8 million.

Now for the "why". That is, why are ACT ratepayers paying this $9.8 million when only eight cricket and Greater Western Sydney events are scheduled for 2017 and about the same any other year.

These elite sports have multimillion-dollar media deals, with the AFL alone reaping a colossal six-year $2.508 billion broadcast rights agreement starting 2017.

B. Moore, Kingston

A breath of hope

The designer of the about-to-be-demolished Westside container village "said the village had been designed as a 'sales suite' ... to showcase the view over Lake Burley Griffin to potential buyers of lakeside apartments" ("Call for container village to be reused not dumped", March 31, pp8,9).

That's good news. It gives one some slight hope that the shore-side residential developments might not proceed.

As for recycling the structure, the ACT Emergency Services Agency might be able to utilise some of the components as bushfire watchtowers.

Gary J. Wilson, Macgregor

Pricing white elephant

It was a good letter by Stan Marks (Letters, March 30) in response to Jack Palmer's (Letters, March 28) concerning light rail. However, trying to change Palmer's views by force of logic will not succeed. He lives in Watson and is probably driven by the savings and convenience of light rail near his suburb at the expense of the majority of people, who do not stand to receive any benefit but who, along with their children and grandchildren, will have to bear the extravagant costs associated with this white elephant.

Ric Hingee, Duffy

TO THE POINT

BREATH OF HOT AIR

Ed Highley (Letters, March 30) asked a question about the benefits of increased CO2 in the atmosphere.

Well, increased CO2 in the atmosphere increases productivity of the biosphere and makes plants more drought tolerant, which is of benefit to all on this planet.

John McKerral, Batemans Bay

I am not sure where John Mckerral gets his idea that "Australia is a net CO2 sequester" (Letters, March 28). Australia has one of the highest CO2 emissions per capita in the world and our sequestration is practically nil.

Brendan Dobson, Macgregor

GAS UNTAPPED

Judith-Ann Sjostedt (Letters, March 29) is spot on. You don't have to have gas flow through the gas pipes to your home. We have been paying for gas we do not use because we sought a gas connection two years ago with ActewAGL. We have been unsuccessful in stopping the bills for the non-use of gas. Que?

George Cho, Kaleen

ActewAGL's webpage advice on reading your gas meter says to "deduct the previous reading from the figure on the meter. You can find your previous reading on your last gas bill." It is a pity ActewAGL has so much difficulty comprehending such a simple calculation. Are meters tested by a National Association of Testing Authorities approved agency?

D. Connolly, Holder

BIG MELT ON ICE

Why hasn't all the Arctic ice disappeared as predicted by the UN, Al Gore and other experts? CO2 in the air has increased markedly in the last 50 years. Perhaps Trump is correct and the Paris Agreement is politically, not science, based.

Robert Brooks, Geraldton

A UNION DISUNITED

Isn't it interesting that the "United Kingdom" has chosen to cut the umbilical cord from the "European Union", but now finds England against at least one member of the local "Union" to which they genuflect as being so sacrosanct.

Greg Simmons, Lyons

USE POWER ON POWER

Malcolm Turnbull should regulate the electricity market immediately, to provide lower and reasonable prices to consumers, even if company profits tumble.

Rod Matthews, Melbourne, Vic

A MIGHTY WIND

I read there are power outages in Queensland.

Must be those damned unreliable renewables again. Oh, there were lots of power lines knocked down again? I can't let that get in the way of my ideology.

Martin Grimm, Red Hill

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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