The Canberra Times generally and the territory government particularly, need to become much more realistic about Canberra's future. The imminent loss of 14,000 jobs is not an aberration, it presages Canberra's likely economic future (Editorial, p2 January 28) of which the Abbott government is just the starting point. The following summary points are some of the realities that I, as a town planner, think will have to be faced.

The Commonwealth public service is well advanced on decentralising its workforce away from Canberra to state capital and regional cities, which it needs to do as social, economic and environmental issues are increasingly place-bound, require more effective collaboration with state and local governments and communities, with an emphasis on service delivery rather than policy development, the latter being what the Commonwealth is prone to. There will be fewer federal public servants and national capital development activities to underpin a city envisaged as having half a million inhabitants and rising.

The ACT is a mendicant territory and Canberra's image as the national capital has been on the wane since the advent of self-government. It will never achieve the historic and cultural significance that Washington has achieved, for example.

The rest of Australia, including parliamentarians, will not be willing to fund the growth and development of Canberra beyond the Central National Area for much longer, nor should they. More national capital institutions will be located in state capitals, once state governments start to bid for them and the institutions themselves see the benefit of their more diverse societies and economies.

There is no prospect of the ACT economy diversifying away from its government client base. It has nothing going for it in that regard. In addition, the failure of successive territory administrations to engage with local business in an informed, confident and trusting manner means that the combination of a predominant public service culture and the city's inland, resource-poor location, seem to be insuperable.

The more Canberra grows, the less effective it is becoming as a comfortable, convenient and affordable place to live. The longer the ACT government puts up with the Hawke government's onerous obligation to develop and administer the capital on the strength of land sales and the backs of ratepayers, increasingly devouring the natural environment of the territory in the process, the more it fails in meeting obligations to its citizens.

When the federal government looks more closely into the administration of its property holdings the more readily it will see that it has a mess on its hands, which will bear upon the future of Canberra's commercial property sector. The more the Abbott government and its successors begin to understand most of the work of public servants is devoted to so-called policy development and not to the material delivery of tangible goods and services, the more they will see it is really ''Claytons' work'' that could be beneficially dispensed with to the tune of about 40 per cent. And there is a lot more.

Tony Powell, Griffith

Justice for Eastman

Jack Waterford's column of January 29 (''Eastman inquiry suffocates'') is timely in the light of the most recent legal intervention intended to prevent any examination of what was highly suspect evidence, which comes on top of various interventions by other interested parties. What has been an enigma since the inception of the inquiry, however, is the attempt by the DPP to quash the inquiry altogether. It appears that the purpose is to cover up the part which the DPP's office played in the perpetration of a serious miscarriage of justice.

There is so much festering unease about the outcome of the original case and subsequent reviews that one would fervently hope that this inquiry is allowed to be played out in full.

T. J. Marks, Holt

Return to sender

What's with Ian Warden's bizarre sniping at Margie Abbott for not spending time at the Lodge (January 29)? Does The Canberra Times really pay journos who don't know that the Lodge is being renovated and the Prime Minister is living in the Police College ?

Andrew Campbell, Fadden

Greens, Labor not close

John Warhurst appears to have papered over ALP and Greens differences (''Centre-left's fractious future'',January 30).

The ABC Vote Compass provided some evidence of the significant chasm between the views of the Greens and other mainstream parties. Its position is far to the left, whilst the ALP and Coalition parties were clustered closely around the middle of the political spectrum.

The Warhurst analogy of the Coalition being mirrored on the left between Labor and the Greens is completely faulty, with vastly more similarities between the Coalition and Labor than Labor and the Greens.

I don't have an issue with same-sex issues, but as Warhurst has implied that if that is accepted the Greens will be perceived as mainstream, fundamentally misreads the Green agenda on social and economic policy (much of it is closer to Marxist logic). Here in Canberra it is puzzling why the ALP entered into a pact with the Greens to implement the Greens agenda, not its own.

The Greens are fundamentally at odds with Australia's foreign and domestic positions on virtually all issues. It is not simply a function of being ''in opposition'', but of a fundamentalist ideology, which sees everything through a prism of right (them) versus wrong (everybody else).

M. Gordon, Flynn

Workplace regulation

Des Moore of the HR Nicholls Society wrote (Letters, January 30): ''In short, [industrial] peace often has to be purchased in Australia. That must be changed.'' The society's home page advocates that ''the regulation of workplace relations should be minimal.''

Corrupt union officials in any industry are only thugs. They protect the criminal practices of their employers. The only peace that big business buys on the industrial front is peace from legislative constraint.

Gary J. Wilson, Macgregor

'Reform' a nonsense

I am not against work for the dole per se (Letters, January 29). I am in favour of evidence-based policy. The only quality evaluation of work for the dole (done in the Howard years) found that it increased joblessness because it ended up diverting people from job-search activities into work-for-the dole activities. This kind of so-called ''welfare reform'' traps people in poverty.

Dr Andrew Leigh, Braddon


The job is to report impartially - as straightforward as ABC

It is the job of the Australian Broadcasting Commission journalists, as it is for journalists everywhere, to report on events as they happen. If some information is lacking or withheld by a party or government, so be it; they can only report on the information that is available. It is not their job to take sides or act as cheerleaders for any individual, organisation or government. That is the job of commentators.

Margaret Leggoe, Wanniassa

I am appalled that our Prime Minister is seriously suggesting that journalists should censor themselves based on the interests of the government of the day. I am especially appalled that he has chosen to express his thin-skinned attack on the ABC in terms of failing to take Australia's side, attempting to imply that people who question the acts of his government are un-Australian.

Providing the information the people need to make up their minds at elections and debate the great issues of the day is, at the most fundamental level, a patriotic act. It is patriotic because it underpins our nation's democracy and expresses the fundamental faith upon which that democracy is built - that the Australian people can and should decide what our nation's future will be and what will be done in our name.

The Abbott government's hostility towards critics and lack of transparency demonstrates that it lacks this fundamental faith in ordinary Australians. Mr Abbott needs to grow up, accept that sometimes the government will be criticised and let the Australian people decide.

Joshua Smith, Gordon

I do not feel represented by the Prime Minister's rabid attacks on either the journalism of the ABC or Edward Snowden's unveiling of US surveillance and endorsement of torture. He is an embarrassment.

Rowan Ford, Crace

I would prefer that Tony Abbott was more subtle in his attacks on the ABC. Taking a swipe at the ABC's lack of patriotism will always play well with the shock jocks and tabloid newspapers, but it is a distraction from the real issues. The ABC is a welcome friend to many of us who enjoy quality broadcasting, but its palpable green/left agenda when engaged in political and social commentary not only grates but also damages its credibility as a reliable, impartial source of information. It is high time all taxpayers got full value for their money from this culturally stagnant organisation. I would prefer to see our federal government leading a sensible debate that shines a light on the failure of the ABC board to carry out its duties rather than pandering to the shallow end of public discourse.

H. Ronald, Jerrabomberra

The ABC has annoyed quite a few prime ministers: McMahon, Whitlam, Fraser, Hawke, Keating, Howard and now Mr Abbott. What that tells me is that the ABC is doing a damn good job of trying to stop politicians getting away with mendacity and obfuscation.

The Coalition would prefer a tame government-funded media organisation to serve as a mouthpiece for its propaganda, one that works in tandem with a laughably one-eyed outfit like Rupert Murdoch's The Australian (referred to as ''Pravda'' in our household since it has about as much to do with the truth as did the old Soviet publication). Tamper with the ABC at your peril, Mr Abbott. Try to throttle its independence and even oldies like me will take to the barricades in frightening numbers.

Steve Ellis, Hackett

The comments by the PM that ''A lot of people feel at the moment that the ABC instinctively takes everyone's side but Australia's'' sends shivers down my spine. I dispute that the numbers are ''a lot''. I dispute that the ABC makes decisions that are not adequately and reasonably considered. Most importantly, I dispute that the ABC does not operate in the interests of ''Australia''. I'd love to hear a Fact Check on that one.

I strongly support an independent national news broadcasting system that is without fear or favour, unlike the leader of the Liberal Party, whose comments appear to be a very determined assault. The ABC is a genuine friend of democracy, no matter who the electorate choose to lead them. The value of a free media is under attack by the very person who should be its staunchest defender. The ABC needs us all to resist these attacks.

Alan Rich, Lennox Head, NSW

Republic is a non-starter

Congratulations on your editorial, (''Cosgrove is a fine choice as next G-G'', January 29, Times2, p.2). It expresses very well what most Australians feel.

Two issues, however, stand out.

You express the hope, ''in the interests of accuracy, that monarchists will stop referring to the governor-general as Australia's head of state, as they argue to preserve the status quo''. The simple fact is that more than a century ago, in 1907, the founding fathers in the High Court described the governor-general as the ''constitutional head of the Commonwealth'' . The same High Court described the monarch as the sovereign. So our constitution states that the governor-general is the head of state. The only way to change that is by a referendum.

Secondly, your editorial once again seeks to revisit the republic issue. You claim that ''at some stage Australians may vote for the symbolic change to a republic''. There is no evidence for a demand for such a change in the foreseeable future. While a small minority yearn for an undefined republic, it remains a political pipedream. Republicans themselves cannot agree on the form of such a republic. It can only come about by a referendum and the rules governing such a referendum make success virtually impossible. The republican referendum 14 years ago failed to carry a single state. We will not see any change in our lifetime.

Robert Willson, Deakin


Not all schools are equally resourced

Vicki Harris (Letters, January 30) suggests that NSW schools are just fine because Yass Primary School is working well for her family. While I am very glad to hear that a NSW public school is well appointed enough to have reverse-cycle airconditioning - a thing that most office workers would take for granted - I wonder if any of the teaching staff would consider it to be well resourced? My point, though, was that there is no basic standard.

There are indeed some well-resourced public schools in NSW, but I would say that this is the exception not the rule, and that there is great variability in what facilities schools can access. It is the application of faulty logic that assumes that one system is inefficient simply because there are other systems that can do it cheaper.

Joanne Larkin,Wanniassa

Design overlooked

Your January 30 editorial ''Fair go for builders, sun seekers possible'' didn't mention suburb design. It gives over a disproportionate amount of land to infrastructure (look at Wright), while struggling to respond to ACT Treasury's demand for decreasing house-plot sizes. Such micro-plots need level land to optimise privacy and solar access. We need more single- and double-level ''cluster housing'' in all sizes, with fewer roads and associated infrastructure, and wasteful ''linear'' parks and lost open space on steeper land.

That format can achieve attractive individuality in house and landscape design, good solar orientation, excellent privacy, usable yards and good servicing access, including on steep land.

Jack Kershaw, Kambah





The Irish ambassador took 350 words of legalistic gobbledygook to deny his country's status as a tax haven (Times January 27, Letters p3). Some of the world's largest and most profitable international companies took only a simple ''yes'' to respond to a British parliamentary committee's assertion that they paid virtually no tax in the countries where their profits were made. They were able to claim legally that all profits were generated in Ireland, where their tax was negligible. That is as good a definition of a tax haven as you can get.

Michael Game, Farrer


How can this possibly be ? (''ACT the nation's assault capital'' p1, January 29) On the one hand ABS figures show the ACT as having the highest rate of physical and sexual abuse in the country , on the other we are told Canberrans feel safe within the same community. It does not compute!

Mario Stivala, Spence


Your report of the public servant who resigned because of her disability (December 27) does not know how lucky she has been. If her disability had been a mental illness she would not have been employed at all.

P. Linford, Narrabundah


What hypocrisy for Jon Stanhope (January 26) to express concern about asylum seeker ''babies'', ''children'' and ''pregnant women'' and yet be ''quite chuffed'' about recognition of his work in legalising the wholesale destruction of the most vulnerable of all human beings - the unborn.

John Popplewell, Hackett


I am not dismayed by ABC reporting. I am proud we have a media outlet prepared to do what it is meant to do: put the truth before the public.

Rajend Naidu, Glenfield NSW

In November as I watched the Australia Network on TV in Guangzhou all I could do was cringe at the amount of climate-hoax-related and lefty ideology content they were showing - nothing about what a good place Australia is. Then I watched a Chinese show about Australia with subtitles - and found out it is a good place after all!

William Burrell, Gowrie Junction Qld


The Liberals accuse Labor of being in bed with the unions. Labor accuses the Liberals of being in bed with big business. Both major parties should stop wasting time spying on each other through bedroom door keyholes and get on with running the country.

P.J. Carthy, McKellar


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