Is the ACT government planning directorate under-resourced?
The recent flurry of building fences and posting protests in the Curtin Group Centre ("Signs of concern over family's high-rise bid", February 3, p16) comes 12 months after the community rallied in protest, and after the ACT planning directorate rejected the six-storey development application. In the meantime there has been a series of community panel meetings that looked at the Draft Master Plan for Curtin centre and several developers' proposals at the same time.
But the government has been unable to respond with anything more than was said 12 months ago: that the plan is being finalised and developers will have to work to it. Where is the revised plan for community consideration? Where is the redevelopment proposal that meets that plan? Canberra sees so many proposals from developers that batter away at the planning rules while many community assets and services are being stranded. The Woden Town Centre has had derelict ruins for more than five years, now there is this block in the Curtin Group Centre, and soon there will be the planning and development challenges of the southern tram route. It's more than time for the government to permanently fund a better resourced planning directorate.
The directorate needs to be able to move faster and with more authority. We do not need more special agencies that can set their own rules. We need better enforcement of the existing planning guidelines under a directorate that can hold long-term plans in view, and ensure developers keep to the principles of those plans.
Chris Johnson, president Curtin Residents Association
Family keeps pushing
It is a pity the Haridemos family is still working against the wishes of Curtin community. It now appears they want to block the western sun and degrade the ambience of the shop square by building a five- rather than the first proposed six-storey edifice ("Signs of concern over family's high-rise bid", February 3, p16). Current planning laws sensibly only allow up to two storeys of development fronting the square. Does the Haridemos family really think the ACT government is that weak-willed it will give into their bullying? Or that the Curtin community would sit idly by as this happened?
Vikki McDonough and Michael Mulvaney, Curtin
Overseas tram training
I thought it was April Fools' Day when I read that Canberra's new tram drivers will be sent to Edinburgh and Karlsruhe for training ("Fancy a new career on the (light) rails?", February 3, p20).
Trams recently made by the same manufacturer as those for Canberra — CAF of Spain — run the service on Sydney's light rail line from the city to Dulwich Hill. There's no need to go overseas. And Sydney's instruction manuals are written in English, unlike those in Karlsruhe.
For added training, the world's largest tram/light rail system is close by in Melbourne.
While competent operators are essential, tram driving is not rocket science. What will this overseas travel cost?
Here's an opportunity to save many thousands of dollars on the project.
Jeremy Wainwright, O'Connor
Learn from bus drivers
We are now into the recruitment stage for drivers of the light rail. They will be required to have qualifications in working with vulnerable people, customer relations and conflict resolution.
All this with an emphasis on providing the public with a quality service. This is, from my experience, what we have received from our bus drivers in the ACT for a very long time. And long may it be so.
Technological advance should not have, or need to be at the expense of human interactions that bring us all closer together in our daily working lives.
Patrick O'Hara, Isaacs
There are at least two yawning sinkholes in the restrictions described in The Canberra Times editorial of Friday, February 2 ("Law change a hard pill to swallow"), now imposed on what were over-the-counter pain medications like codeine.
Firstly, it is all very well to counsel chronic pain sufferers not to go down the self-medication route but instead "work out a pain management plan in conjunction with their GP or a specialist". However, the paper earlier described the plight of a woman with chronic pain who had to wait two years for an appointment. The report added "it takes nine to 12 months for public patients to get an appointment at the pain management unit at Canberra Hospital" ("Codeine changes hit endometriosis sufferers hard", January 31, p2).
Secondly, there is a vital need for enough opiate treatment places for those who have become dependent upon over-the-counter or prescription pharmaceuticals. As the CEO of the large ACT treatment service, Directions, wrote in a letter: "There is an urgent need to increase investment in specialist drug and alcohol treatment services and better educate clinicians across the health sector on how to respond to people who experience drug and alcohol issues." (Letters, January 26)
If these failings are not rectified, the clampdown will simply boost demand for illicit drugs and swell the bottom line of drug dealers.
Bill Bush, Turner
West Basin archive
I support the proposal to move the National Film and Sound Archive to a new purpose-built building, including to better display those aspects of Australia's heritage.
However, West Basin is a much more appropriate location for the new building (rather than the tentatively proposed Acton Peninsula), since at West Basin the archive can be supplemented over time by other national institutions and publicly accessible open space to create something similar to Washington's Mall district.
That is a much better vision, rather than selling waterfront land for the exclusive private use of the wealthy.
I won't be surprised if West Basin is also the NFSA's preferred site, but that it has been "warned off" the better location by the ACT government, who is probably relying on selling the site for apartment developments in order to pay for light rail.
Bruce Paine, Red Hill
Ned Manning hits the nail on the head (Forum, February 3, p1) when he says teaching has become more of a job based on a greater concern with data collection, documentation, testing and more reporting to all and sundry including governments as opposed to interesting and engaging teaching and learning.
I would even go further than that and say it is one of the reasons Australia's students aren't performing as well.
More funding seems to go into setting up more testing and documenting regimes. This funding instead should go to support rich learning.
The resultant extra time and energy saved on continuously expanding programs of testing and reporting instead could go into more engaging teaching and learning.
From this, improvement would result.
Angela Wall, Weetangera
Private schools a choice
Ross Fox claims Gonski 2.0 will force Catholic parents to pay even more ("Claims on school funding don't add up", February 2, p19).
No one is forcing parents to send their children to private schools.
They choose to do so — presumably because they feel that the education offered in public schools is not good enough.
Rather than try to improve their public school, those with the money have chosen to support private education for those that can afford it.
When my children were young I did the same thing, but in recent decades I've come to realise that I should have fought harder for the improvements I felt were needed, so that all would benefit.
Mr Fox attempts to discredit the government's socio-economic status ranking system by claiming that the government's system shows only 11 per cent of ACT families are on low-incomes compared with the ABS's figure of 40 per cent on below-average incomes.
He obviously doesn't understand that low-income families are a subset of below-average income families.
All the figures actually show is that families on low incomes – incomes probably so low that the families can't afford to send their children to private schools – are particularly disadvantaged in relatively affluent Canberra.
In recent years the Catholic education system has claimed that it assesses the relative needs of its schools better than the government.
Would Catholic education authorities please make their system public so that we can all see how good it is — and if it's better than the government's we can lobby with them for its acceptance for use by Gonski.
But all this is beside the point.
What's important is that, in a pluralistic, multicultural society like Australia's, it is particularly important that all of us come into contact with fellow Australians from a diversity of cultural, religious and economic circumstances at a young age before our prejudices solidify so that we come to understand that even if we don't agree with someone and even if we dislike something about them, nevertheless they are fellow citizens, or at least fellow humans like us, who must be treated fairly – just as we expect to be treated.
The two best ways of ensuring this happens are to have as many children as possible in public schools open to everyone and to have a public transport system that most of us use regularly.
Chris Ansted, Garran
Letter omits fact
I am afraid that some people reading Pamela Collett's letter (Letters, February 2) could wrongly get the impression that government funding per student for the non-state school sector was significantly more than government funding per student for the state school sector.
However, the opposite situation applies, a fact which, unfortunately, does not get mentioned in Ms Collett's letter.
As a result of some parents sending their children to non-state schools, governments spend significantly less on schooling than would otherwise be the case. (In this regard, it may be better for relevant social equity issues to be addressed by progressive income tax or other arrangements rather than through school funding regimes, given that the sort of means testing that applies to non-state schools does not apply to state schools.)
Ms Collett and others with an interest in the school funding debate might do well to have regard to the views on school funding of the late Mr Allan Fraser MP (Labor, Eden-Monaro 1943-1966 and 1969-1972).
On February 13, 1966, in a television broadcast, Mr Fraser, after referring to his beliefs in favour of state aid for private schools, went on to say: "Those beliefs are founded on the principles that the education of his children is the fundamental right of a parent if he chooses to exercise it and provided that the education reaches the standards necessary for membership of the community.
"I further hold that, since this is a fundamental right, no man should be penalised for exercising it and that as a matter of practical politics the state is therefore entitled to pay a private school the amount which the state saves by not having to educate that child."
D McNeill, Rivett
I'm extremely envious of Ian Warden that he has seen the gobsmackingly blasphemous entertainment of The Book of Mormon ("Mormons, Libs equally deluded", Panorama, February 3).
However, I fear that I and other secular Australians might be deprived of our opportunity to enjoy The Book of Mormon because Treasurer Scott Morrison, who worships at a Hillsong-style Pentecostal church, has called on the government to ban religious mockery and jokes ("I'm not going to put up with it any more': Morrison vows to defend Christianity in 2018", canberratimes.com.au, December 22).
Perhaps if the Treasurer were to reflect upon how counter-productive calls for bans can be (eg Tony Abbott's call for the NRL to ban Macklemore's Same Love pushed that song to number one on iTunes and massively boosted the ratings of the NRL's grand final pre-game entertainment), he might reconsider his call to ban religious jokes.
And as John Cleese famously quipped, calls by religious leaders for Monty Python's Life of Brian to be banned "actually made [him] rich".
Although the Treasurer might not realise it, some religious beliefs are so extreme and ridiculous (eg Creationism and Scientology) that they're incredibly difficult and near impossible to lampoon.
The actual religious beliefs are a joke! Indeed, the term Poe's Law has been created to recognise the difficulty of parodying extreme views without a transparently clear indicator (such as a winking emoji) of the author's intent.
Bruce Taggart, Aranda
Freedom of speech
It is unusual for me to complete reading an article by Elizabeth Farrelly let alone agree with her, however, her recent oped ("Freedom to speak is sacrosanct", Forum, February 3, p10) was an exception. How refreshing to read a self-described left-leaning feminist arguing strongly for freedom of speech in the John Stuart Mill tradition and heaven forbid, the importance of the rule of law. I think I need a Bex and a good lie- down.
H. Ronald, Jerrabomberra
To the point
SCEPTICAL AT LAST
Bill Shorten says in the last few months he has become sceptical about Adani. Was he in a slumber before that?
People with an uncompromising commitment to environmental protection and the integrity of the Great Barrier Reef have been sceptical about Adani from the very outset – and that's ages ago.
Rajend Naidu, Glenfield, NSW
WRONG WAY UP
Parliament House was designed with the lawn over the building to signify that the people are above the politicians The lawn is no longer accessible to the public, which reflects politicians' ingrained mentality that it is the people who are to be trodden on by politicians, not the other way around.
Mario Moldoveanu, Frankston, VIC
KEEPING IT SHORT
To Eric Hunter (Letters, February 3), who laments the use of abbreviations, what are "promos" you raised more than once in your missive?
Greg Simmons, Lyons
Beaumont children search called off! See you next Australia Day.
Jeff Bradley, Isaacs
How does a department apologise for anything? A department can't talk.
Perhaps a human with a mouth could.
C Lathbury, Chisholm
Barrie Smillie, if you mean for paying bribes to our politicians (at all levels) I'm sure it would indeed be a huge growth industry.
Mike Webb, Swinger Hill
I'm not surprised Christopher Pyne doesn't want Alex Hawke and Julia Banks referred to the High Court. He is worried what the Court might say.
Michael McCarthy, Deakin
LACK OF COMPASSION
Lyle Shelton to join Cory Bernardi's ultra Conservative party.
A match made in hell methinks. Jesus would not like either of these two men and their lack of compassion for the people they see unfit to be part of our society.
Jan Gulliver, Lyneham
DIM DARK PLACE
At the end of federal member David Feeney's hunt for his purported missing citizenship papers, you wonder how thoroughly he searched the figments of his imagination and his conscience.
M. F. Horton, Adelaide, SA
TIME TO STOP
Genocide in Myanmar. Enough.
Indonesia, America, the UK, China, Australia, France, and other nations must send troops to Myanmar to protect the Rohingya in Rakhine state, and in Bangladesh. The UN isn't up to it. Any comment from former PMs?
John Dobinson, Brisbane, Qld
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