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Civic barbarism afoot

Date

Letters to the Editor

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In the late 1960s the NSW state government proposed the demolition of the ''eyesore and unhygienic'' Rocks area in Sydney and redevelopment with high-density residential accommodation. Architectural competitions were held and winners announced. To Sydney's everlasting credit the proposal did not proceed. Instead, imaginative reuse of the original buildings has provided what is now a vibrant and historic precinct on what must be some of the most valuable real estate in the world.

Meanwhile, in Canberra our territory government tackles the sensitive issue of what to do with the Northbourne Housing Precinct. The precinct was state-of-the-art in its day and remains an historic reminder of Canberra's glory days when the federal government actively promoted it as a wonderful place to live and work. Its architect, Sydney Ancher, was described by Sir John Overall, then head of the National Capital Development Commission, as ''the most outstanding domestic architect in Sydney''.

It would be an act of civic barbarism to lose this sensitively and beautifully designed housing group. Surely this city can generate the imagination and ingenuity to adapt the Northbourne housing group for current-day uses. For example, if the dwellings are small by today's standards, knock two together to make one. Let the higher density residential areas occur one block further back from Northbourne Avenue. The Northbourne Housing Precinct is not an eyesore, just rundown, and the presence of relatively low-density buildings on now valuable real estate clearly annoys some people.

In its plans for light rail and the redevelopment of Northbourne Avenue, the government must follow world's best practice especially in respect of the capital city's unique heritage. If the government is not prepared to follow best practice, it should stop its planning right now.

Penleigh Boyd, Reid

Trust tax no freebie

Memo to Graham Macafee (Letters, June 10). The suggestion that dad's $109,200 income will be tax free by distributing to his wife and four kids is not quite correct. Subject to limited exemptions, only the first $416 of trust income (unearned income) is tax free for ''kids'' under 18.

Income between $416 and $1307 is taxed at 66 per cent, at which point the entire income is taxed at the maximum rate of 45 per cent. There are also ''personal exertion'' income provisions such that if dad's ''income'' was in fact due to his wage/salary being diverted to his family trust, these provisions effectively strip away the trust so that the income is assessed as if it were earned by ''dad'' subject to the normal tax rates. Let's not set the hares running without getting the facts straight.

Peter Toscan, Amaroo

Toxic Raiders fan

With fans like Noel McNamara (Letters, June 9), the Canberra Raiders don't need enemies. He says coach Ricky Stuart was ''toxic'' at the Sydney Roosters and Parramatta Eels and is ''toxic'' at the Raiders. And he suggests that recent transfer setbacks are Stuart's fault.

Stuart was coach of the Roosters for five seasons from 2002. In that time, the team won their first premiership since 1975 and were beaten grand finalists twice. Most clubs would be ecstatic to make three grand finals in five seasons, especially after a long drought.

When Stuart took over at Parramatta, the wooden-spooners were a club in total crisis at both administrative and football club level. Though the team again finished last in his only year as coach, Stuart made bold decisions about the playing roster, sacking a number of players and making new signings for the 2014 season. The current Parramatta side, largely assembled by Stuart, is playing strongly and sits just two points behind the league leaders.

On transfers, three high-profile young players - Kevin Proctor, Josh Mansour and James Tedesco - were pursued by numerous clubs. All decided to stay with their teams. In other words, Canberra was one of several clubs to miss out on signing any of them. But all three came closer to signing with Canberra than with any rival bidder.

The Raiders clearly have some problems. They are not of Ricky Stuart's making. He has a tough job in front of him but it won't be made easier by ill-informed abuse from so-called fans.

Phil Teece, Sunshine Bay, NSW

Support a bit light on

Damien Haas (''Light rail commitment to pay major dividends'', Times 2, June 6, p5) asserts there is strong community support for the Civic to Gungahlin light rail proposal. Really? Considering the number of objections and considered arguments from your correspondents raising serious doubts about the proposal , I would have thought a mere assertion of community support would be an insufficient criteria to spend more than $650 million of ratepayers' money; especially where we already have a reasonably effective express bus service on the Northbourne Avenue route.

Perhaps, under the circumstances, a plebiscite to all Canberrans to demonstrate, or even prove, this ''strong community support'' would be a reasonable suggestion.

John Morland, Curtin

Energy misdirected

It was disappointing to read that the ACT government has reduced its renewable power purchases substantially (''Emissions up as ACT cuts green power'', June 9, p1).

Investing in energy efficiency is a fine thing to do from the perspective of saving money, but it does not address greenhouse gas emissions in any meaningful way.

It simply is not possible to ''conserve'' our way to climate sustainability when electricity is generated with fossil fuels. Not now. Not ever. Every saving can be offset by an added demand somewhere else (think population growth).

Reducing demand for electricity may even inadvertently increase emissions if it results in the shutting down of renewable generators in favour of dirty, coal-fired electricity being flogged off at bargain basement prices that do not reflect the environmental and indirect financial costs of their carbon, nitrogen and heavy metal emissions.

On the other hand, the use of 100 per cent renewable energy always helps reduce atmospheric greenhouse gas loads while requiring no change in how you use your energy.

Should the concerted attack on the renewable energy target by some in the Abbott government and most of the fossil fuel industry be successful, government and individual contracts for renewable power offer an alternative approach to achieving the same objective.

Dr Bradford Sherman, Duffy

Abbott aligning with Canada is also too warm for comfort

Tony Abbott has apparently accepted the reality of climate change. One step forward - not before time. However, his ''deal'' with the Canadian Prime Minister (''Abbott seeks global alliance'', June 10, p1) is two giant steps backwards. Planting trees to stop the colossal impact of fossil fuel- burning is the equivalent of trying to cure heroin addicts by giving them pot plants (pun intended).

Fortunately China and the US are heading in the right direction. The BBC report of rising sea levels washing bodies from World War II mass graves on the Marshall Islands, along with contamination of water supplies and vegetable gardens there, is a glimpse of what is already occurring because of the astronomical amounts of coal and oil we have already burnt.

We need urgent action because delay will vastly increase the cost of safeguarding coastal cities and ameliorating the impact on agriculture and thus the world's food supplies. Governments must react effectively now to the mess we have made burning fossil fuels.

Rod Olsen, Flynn

Tony Abbott would be foolish to align himself with Canada on climate change policy. Canada may well see global warming as being to its immediate advantage (never mind about the long term), with its frozen wastes becoming warmer and more liveable and easier to mine. But Australia is already too warm for comfort, and extremely damaging weather now assails us every year. Our self-interest alone demands support for, not obstruction of, President Barack Obama's initiatives.

Michael McCarthy, Deakin

Compromise makes sense

Clive Palmer and Nationals senator John Williams are on the right track with their compromise for the paid parental leave scheme (''Palmer offers deal on paid parental leave'', June 10, p4). Extending the present 18 weeks' leave and paying superannuation is ideal and should save taxing the 3000 richest companies in Australia. Company tax was reduced by 1.5 per cent in the budget but in the same breath a 1.5 per cent tax was imposed to pay the ludicrous sums of the paid parental leave scheme.

Paying all mothers an equal sum of money for a few more weeks, plus superannuation, makes sense.

Robyn Lewis, Raglan, NSW

Once bitten, be prepared

The protestations by Glenn Druery that Michael Willesee's interview of senator-elect Ricky Muir was ''not fair'' because he is ''inexperienced'' (''Muir must learn to communicate'', June 10, p4) is somewhat lame given that it was Druery's manipulation, albeit legal, of the Senate voting system that has delivered Muir his seat and subsequent position of considerable potential power.

Given that Druery is about to become Muir's ''senior adviser'', it is to be hoped he is able to persuade Clive Palmer that it is in Muir's and Palmer's collective interest that Muir be provided with some extensive media training before embarking on his next interview.

If, however, suggesting that it's a good idea to throw an ''inexperienced'' politician into an interview with one of the country's most experienced and calculating inquisitors, is the standard of advice that Muir is going to receive from Druery, then it is highly likely that they will both be found to be out of their depth.

Druery may well know how to manipulate rules of the voting process, but it does not mean that he knows how to play the game on the field.

Ian De Landelles, Hawker

Questioning answers

Unlike Paul Pollard (Letters, June 9), I was bemused by the results of the two climate change questions in the Lowy Institute poll. Even when given choices that presupposed global warming was a problem, only 45 per cent of respondents said that they would support action that had significant cost.

This is at odds with the second question, the one Pollard chose to mention. He finds it significant that 63 per cent said Australia should take a leadership roll in emission reduction.

Is the discrepancy between the responses due to Australian competitive spirit, an unrealistic view of Australia's influence in the world or a starry-eyed view of renewable energy and the cost of its wide-scale implementation?

This second question was a replacement for one in last year's survey on the carbon price/emissions trading scheme. That survey found only 36 per cent of respondents favoured this legislation.

John Bromhead, Rivett

Cambodia no solution

The Cambodian Daily newspaper last week expressed the mounting criticism on all sides against the Australian government's plan to send asylum seekers to Cambodia. A deal is held imminent between the two countries, first proposing some asylum seekers detained on Nauru be transferred there. The Cambodian government insists such transfers be voluntary - any applicant must sign a consent form. This sounds considerate towards the newcomers, but once they sign it may also mean permanent commitment to accept whatever provisions await them.

If the situation for the 68 asylum seeker detainees already in Cambodia is any guide, newcomers will be denied an all-important work permit. These 68 are also refused the right to move to any other land and struggle to access education and healthcare.

Gareth Evans, on behalf of the UN, finally forged the agreement that formed the Cambodian government after the defeat of the Khmer Rouge. Evans has pointed out recently that Hun Sen, the country's Prime Minister, revoked the UN agreement's democratic terms soon after its implementation and effectively assumed rule as a dictator. Is there any more chance he would honour this asylum-seeker deal in the future?

The patent fact that Cambodia's population is abjectly poor and incapable of providing for any more people is at the heart of general opposition to Australia's plan. If some of the locals express antipathy towards the newcomers, as happened on Manus Island, might it all end up as a similar fiasco?

Helen Wiles, Narrabundah

Woolworths' word is its bond to farmers

Having been convinced for years that our two dominant supermarket chains have their producers over a barrel, and that their dominance means farmers either deal with them or forget about selling their produce, I found great solace in your article ''Vegie growers feel rotten over Woolies campaign'' (June 7, p6).

Woolworths assured us its move to ask farmers to contribute to the cost of its new Jamie Oliver-centred fruit and veg marketing campaign was entirely voluntary. Well, thank goodness! I'm so relieved to hear there'll be no reprisals on any farmer who cannot afford to contribute - such as having his/her contact reduced or terminated. I hope Jamie's as relieved as those farmers and I.

Ian Duckworth, Griffith

Weight watchers

When it comes to deciding how the government spends money on medical resources, the great emphasis should be on keeping the working population healthy, not on keeping old people alive longer to experience a diminishing quality of life, costing more and more to support as life spans extend, exacerbating the population explosion and the cost of age pensions.

In particular, overeating should be a prime target. I propose an obesity inspectorate (lean people in uniform), authorised to measure body mass index on the street and issue warning notices, with follow-up checks after a six-month compliance period.

Also, airlines should start weighing passengers and charging for extra weight that costs a fortune to lift to cruising altitude.

Meantime, I shall shout ''fatso'' as I pass.

When they look round, they'll see only an old gent pretending to trap his sneeze germs in his handkerchief.

Colin P. Glover, Canberra City

TO THE POINT

LIGHT RAIL FAIL

I have taken Kevin Cox's advice (Letters, June 7), put aside emotion and politics, and informed myself about light rail using the Capital Metro website. This waffly, vision-heavy website convinces me that improving the bus system would be a cheaper and more effective option than light rail.

Michael Plummer, Watson

Marianne Pietersen (Letters, June 8) clearly has never been to Hong Kong where the tram service is exclusively double decked. And where they have a population that could actually benefit from such a tramway.

Athol Morris, Forde

CAR OWNERS PENALISED

Simon Corbell is at it again. After reading two of the articles on the front page of Tuesday's edition of The Canberra Times, ''Drivers to bear brunt of fee rises'' and ''Now it's porridge with less pudding'', it appears to be a bigger crime to work hard and own a car than it is to break the law and go to jail.

Anne Prendergast, Reid

ISRAEL SETTLEMENTS

Australia is the only country other than Israel to publicly deny the existence of illegitimate settlements in the Palestinian territories. Even Israel's arch-ally and military benefactor, the United States, has reiterated that ''we consider now and have always considered the Israeli settlements to be illegitimate''.

The actions of the Abbott government in siding so closely with Israel are shameful.

Rex Williams, Ainslie

JUSTICE FOR EASTMAN

Should the Eastman trial judge, recently reported as saying he still believes Eastman was guilty, have been appointed to the Eastman judicial review committee? Probably not.

P.J. Carthy, McKellar

BOLT FROM THE BLUE

Pat's editorial cartoon (Times2, June 9, p1) was wide of the mark when portraying Andrew Bolt and Alan Jones using offensive language. One may not agree with these two conservative spruikers, but this media junkie has never read or heard either one of them in this light.

Indeed, scurrilous nastiness and appalling language seems to be a common characteristic of the left these days.

H. Ronald, Jerrabomberra, NSW

SENATOR'S IGNORANCE

Does Motoring Enthusiasts Party senator-elect Ricky Muir demand that the person who repairs and services his car has at least a basic knowledge of how it works (''Muir must learn to communicate'', June 10, p4)?

Tony Judge, Belconnen

 

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