Letters to the Editor

Certification a failure



Emma Kelly's article "Substandard work on buildings investigated" (March, 14, p3) refers to "questionable" private certifiers. There will always be a builder out there who will be dodgy, below standard, over-stretched or who has just overlooked something.

The certification of the building work is meant to protect the buyer in these circumstances and is there to ensure buildings are safe and enduring. My own newly built house had only half the recommended downpipes installed according to the Building Code of Australia. As a result, it floods internally during extreme storm events.

But somehow the private certifier ticked off this blatantly inadequate and noncompliant work. The certification system is broken and needs to be fixed.

Philip White, Crace

Mentally ill need help

Natasha Boddy's article on a campaign to make affordable housing an issue in the upcoming ACT elections ("Two sides to Canberra as housing affordability becomes a problem", March 14, p3) raises an important concern in our community. For people with mental illness, the situation is more severe.

Appropriate, secure, affordable housing is virtually unavailable for people with mental illness. It can take upwards of several years for a person with a mental illness to obtain accommodation under the government's social housing scheme. Lack of suitable housing alternatives for people with chronic mental illness will only increase with the planned closure of Brian Hennessy House, which has been a lifeline for many people with mental illness and their families. Brian Hennessy House currently has accommodation for 20 (rehab centre) + 10 (extended-care unit) people with mental health needs.


The members of the U3A Mental Health Forum, a support and advocacy group for families caring for people with mental illness, opposes the closing of Brian Hennessy House and calls on the Health Department to expand the long-term residential options for people with mental illness.

forum is circulating a questionnaire about mental health issues to all ACT MLA candidates to increase awareness and visibility of mental health issues in the ACT.

Pamela Collett co-convener U3A Mental Health Forum

Plenty of competition

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission won't allow Superbarn's owner to sell two of his six Canberra stores to Coles, asserting that would "substantially lessen competition" ("Supermarkets have us cornered: Barr", March 11, p1). As a former deputy chairman of that organisation, and a resident of Canberra for 69 years (and therefore familiar with Canberra residents' shopping habits), I disagree – for two reasons.

One, although it's impossible to measure the degree or intensity of competition in any market, with the well-known intense competition between supermarkets in the ACT (Woolworths, Coles, Aldi, Costco, IGA, Superbarn – which will still operate here), it's surely incorrect to assume that a change in ownership of two relatively small suburban Superbarn stores would lessen competition – let alone "substantially".

Two, the ACCC's opinion is based on the situation in the two "local" markets, the suburbs in which the two stores are located. But in Canberra, with its extremely good road network and Canberra's heavy reliance on motor travel, people who don't like a supermarket in one suburb travel to one in another suburb or in one of the town centres, so there's no such thing as a "local" market. The market is the whole of Canberra – or perhaps Canberra North and Canberra South. And it's surely wrong to say that competition in that/those markets would be "substantially lessened" by the sale of two suburban shops.

R. S. Gilbert, Braddon

Redesign no better

The revised plan for a mixed supermarket (Coles and Aldi) and residential development at the Dickson shopping centre is no better than the earlier rejected one. Being very "blocky", it doesn't even have the architectural panache of the original. There's still no usable public open space.

The noisy, smelly loading docks still blankly front Antill Street, and are still directly underneath the flats. Traffic lanes still trap cars into going into the commercial underground car park with no way back. And the flats are still pokey, with many of them sunless.

The loading docks should be on the west side facing the body of the Dickson commercial precinct, as should the supermarkets' underground car park entry/exit. There should be a sunny public open space fully contiguous with existing Dickson Square, and adjoining the fine neighbouring public library.

The open space could be achieved by putting the Aldi component on the first floor, like at Cooleman Court, Weston, where it works very well, attracting other shops, etc, to that level. The residential part could have a smaller footprint and be taller to achieve quieter and sunnier flats.

Jack Kershaw, Kambah

Cycling etiquette

The rules on shared paths haven't changed, Wendy Cook (Letters, March 14), unfortunately.

I have no doubt you are one of the few courteous cyclists who alert fellow users of our "shared" pathways of your approach. However, many of your fellow cyclists are not so courteous, with too many whizzing past from either direction at speeds as high as 40km/h, often without warning. The term "shared" doesn't compute with many of these lycra-clad enthusiasts with the apparent view that shared pathways are their own personal race tracks.

I propose that cyclists on our shared pathways not only politely warn others of their approach, but also slow to walking speed when passing pedestrians and maintain a clearance of at least one metre.

We may then see a reduction in the verbal abuse between all users.

Peter Toscan, Amaroo

Both Wendy Cook and the woman she met are wrong. In the ACT (but not elsewhere in Australia), adult cyclists may use footpaths. However, they do so under sufferance and must always give way to pedestrians. Most pedestrians will let a cyclist through where possible.

Some, like some cyclists on the road, exercise their right to inconvenience others. Footpaths are not shared paths.

Paul Pentony, Hackett

Here's an idea: reinstate funding for innovation already happening

If the Prime Minister were serious about an "ideas boom", he would direct a fraction of his $28million advertising campaign ("Ideas boom' is just a fantasy", Times2, March 11, p4) to restore slashed funding to places where innovation already happens. The loss of 100 staff working on climate monitoring and modelling is a much-discussed example of heading backwards instead of innovating.

Another is the National Library's Trove database of records, books, journals, maps, music, diaries, gazettes, etc from across Australia and digitised catalogues across the world. Over the past five years, Trove has revolutionised the way research is conducted in Australia. This year's "efficiency dividend" might bring its expansion to a halt. How innovative, Malcolm Turnbull!

Ann Smith, Curtin

Sadly comedic

Cory Bernardi (Letters, March 12) is right to question the use of "horrific" in regard to his many pronouncements on the Safe Schools program. "Warped" and "hysterical" almost certainly apply better. "Disingenuous", "intellectually nonsensical" and "ideologically driven" also come to mind, but "sadly comedic" is probably the best fit of all.

Here's just a few of the senator's gems on the public record. Bernardi told Sky News: "The Safe Schools Coalition is actually more about intimidating and bullying kids into conforming to what is the homosexual agenda," he said.

If that isn't clear enough, here's his reported email response to program supporter William Russell: "Bullying isn't something confined to homosexuals, yet you are encouraging a program [Safe Schools] that actually bullies heterosexual children into submission for the gay agenda."

To give the senator his due, he did get one thing right when he said: "Our schools should be places of learning, not indoctrination." This makes his support of school chaplains and religious instruction programs, in particular, more than a little hypocritical. Teaching our children and youth the basics of ethics and analytical thinking would be a far better investment for the future of this country.

Jon Stirzaker, Latham

True intolerance

Senator Cory Bernardi (Letters, March 12) beat me to the punch in defence of his unremarkable position on the so-called Safe Schools Program. Indeed, it is interesting to contrast the tone and substance by those who support the Safe Schools Program and those who do not. The former seem to be bigoted, intolerant and unwilling to even consider that others may have a different opinion.

The intolerance of Chief Minister Andrew Barr, who labelled those who do not share his views as homophobic and transphobic, is a case in point. As a community leader and and an openly gay man, Barr, of all people, should be setting an example, rather than fanning the flames with ad hominem and inaccurate characterisations.

I suspect the vast majority of parents in Australia would have misgivings about the focus of the Safe Schools Program, which appears to be a clumsy attempt to mask a laudable anti-bullying initiative with an LGBTI agenda as distorted as the excesses they are claiming to remove. Who is really out of step here?

We are constantly warned that opening up debate on issues such as the Safe Schools Program and gay marriage will release a torrent of bile from conservative red-necks when, in truth, the bile is far more likely to come from the other side, something that does not escape the silent majority.

H. Ronald, Jerrabomberra, NSW

Not unexpectedly, Andrew Barr is happy to offer his support to the gay and gender-diverse schoolchildren – referring to them as normal ("Barr in heartfelt support for value of Safe Schools program" March 10, p1).

Be that as it may, one is intrigued to know with what term would the Chief Minister refer to those who have followed in their parents' footsteps and married a person of the opposite sex. Surely, the term normal does not apply to them as well.

Sam Nona, Burradoo, NSW

Devoid of empathy

Like George Pell, H.Ronald (Letters, March 12) just doesn't get it. He has, in fact, articulated the real problem in his letter and still doesn't get it! Most people aren't upset because they think Pell is guilty; they're upset because he's so startlingly unempathic, except for himself.

I'd have thought that glaringly obvious, but perhaps you need to actually understand empathy to see it.

What's even more upsetting is how the organisation would not only employ, but embrace and promote to enormously important positions in the church, a man whose personality H.Ronald himself describes as aloof and lacking in empathy.

David Barratt, Yarralumla

For once, I agree with H.Ronald, who comments (Letters, March 12) that our news seems dominated by mob mentality. Every day a new scandal is chased, reputation destroyed, and bank balance ruined by fines for "bringing the sport into disrepute", etc.

I was, therefore, amazed to learn from Wikipedia that the term "kangaroo court" originated in 19th-century America, not Australia.

The "pillory", it seems, was invented much earlier in Europe, and has many interesting variants for which modern "social media" versions have yet to be devised.

Adrian Gibbs, Yarralumla

It's all about money

Every few weeks, there is a different argument put forward as to why aged pensioners roaming around in houses too big for them should downsize. They'd be happier, so the line goes, and should stop being selfish and denying younger buyers with families access to these homes. Always the family home becoming part and parcel of the asset test is proposed.

No one, but no one, dares speak the covert stand-alone reason. It has nothing to do with empathy for or the sometimes underhanded condemnation of aged pensioners.

It has everything to do with the banking, real estate, developer, and construction industry getting their greedy hands on $1trillion tied up in paid-off housing and property.

Dr Paul Recher, Yarralumla

Shrieking Sharapova should be shunned

Regardless of the outcome of Maria Sharapova's positive drug test, the mind boggles that profit-driven corporations would find it in their interests to sponsor her so lavishly.

Having seen her practise with no hint of a scream, I have refused for years to watch this screaming banshee's matches. Years ago, such blatant attempts to intimidate opponents were called "gamesmanship" or just another unfair form of trying to gain advantage. It is a wonder and a pity that by now she hasn't developed permanent laryngitis.

If tennis followers on mass refused to watch her matches, I have no doubt the screaming (and the excessive sponsorships) would have stopped years ago.

Tennis officials have consistently lacked the guts to confront players who put their mouths where the money is instead of, like Roger Federer, letting their racquet do the talking. Sadly, tennis officials continue to insult the goodwill of the tennis-following public by kowtowing to badly behaved players and their sponsors.

David Weeden, Evatt

Charge the wife

Congratulations to Hazem El Masri for being quick enough to get evidence to protect himself.

I would plead with the police to bring charges against his wife. This would send a strong message to those who would use the system as a weapon against their partner.

There are too many women who need help for the police to waste their time, and these charges must be taken seriously.

As a woman, I feel very strongly about this.

C.V. Hackett, Ainslie



Visiting Canberra for the long weekend, we enjoyed a meal and a drink on Lonsdale Street on Sunday evening. Wandering back into Civic to catch the bus across the lake to the Hyatt, we were astonished to find the last one had departed shortly after 7.30pm. We weren't expecting all-night transport, but does the national capital really expect people to bolt down their food and dash for the bus when dusk has barely fallen?

Andrew Dye, Prahran, Vic


Since the government is shirking its responsibility by imposing a plebiscite on marriage equality, could we please also have plebiscites on the budget, superannuation concessions, negative gearing, multinational and national companies paying (or not paying) tax, politicians allowances, etc. And the list could go on. I guess not.

Peter Dahler, Calwell

If a gay marriage plebiscite is too expensive ("Marriage plebiscite considered too costly", March 14, p4) why not a referendum at the next election along with a dying with dignity question?

Greg Cornwell, Yarralumla


Further to James Allan's response (Letters, March 13) to Louis Pretorius, weather, as well as climate, can be forecast reasonably accurately. It is, however, probabilistic. That is, weather computer models permit estimation of a chance of a volume of rain. It's not perfect but reasonably accurate, and relied on by airmen, sailors and many others every day.

Peter Taitt, O'Connor


Ross Fitzgerald ("Canberra next stop on Linda Burney's unfinished journey", Times2, March 14, p5) does well to draw our attention to the importance to all Australians of the increasing presence of Indigenous Australians in Federal Parliament. I hope the Greens and the other minor parties will give a high place on their Senate tickets to Indigenous candidates in the upcoming federal election and not leave it all up to the ALP and LNP.

Sophia Yates, Parkville, Vic


If there is a better bike path in Canberra than the one that runs alongside the Majura parkway I have yet to ride it. It's a smooth as silk and a delight to ride, especially downhill. This pathway and all the bike paths in the ACT are a credit to the many workers who built and now maintain them. On behalf of my colleagues in the pensioners peloton, our thanks for a job well done.

Ken Begg, Barton

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