Letters to the editor


Mike Hettinger's perceptive article (''Raiders punt on precedent'', Times2, March 6, p1) opened a can of worms: that is the ACT government's desire to toady to ClubsACT.

Before the last election Clubs ACT sent a letter to all political parties demanding an undertaking that if they gained power they would not disadvantage ClubsACT. Both Labor and the Liberals assured them they would not and only the Greens declined. Within a week of the Greens' refusal, Jeff House had an article in The Canberra Times asking club members not to vote for the Greens.

The ACT government over the past 15 years has been unduly obliging to large clubs. There have been six closures of small clubs and changes of their recreational land usage to commercial. The last two being the Pitch 'n' Putt and recreational land at Griffith to the Brumbies.

I agree with Mike Hettinger, ClubsACT should pay if they want to use recreational land for commercial purposes.

These clubs were given the privilege to operate poker machines for the benefit of their members and the community. In the opinion of many, they have lost their way.

Howard Carew, Isaacs

I agree with Mike Hettinger (''Raiders punt on precedent'', Times 2, March 6, p1) that the Canberra Raiders-leased Northbourne Oval and adjacent clubhouse/parking land should become a public park. More so with the proposed massive government-sponsored ''ABC'' flats redevelopment along the cold side of adjacent Cooyong Street. It would be necessary to include the clubhouse/parking land to make the park visible (and accessible via new pedestrian crossings) from Civic, and to prevent that land from being developed with high-rise flats (as currently proposed) that would overlook the park.

Already, the sole reasonably close-by public open space, Glebe Park, is intrusively overlooked by hundreds of high-rise flats and a hotel. Unacceptable social, privacy, and solar-access problems remain, even after the recent perfunctory height reduction of the ''ABC'' flats.

The Raiders' lease issues can and must be settled equitably via the government's planning and leasehold powers (couldn't the Raiders be offered a free share in the proposed new City stadium?). And so must those amenity problems of the flats be solved. That can be achieved without further reduction (or increase) in the number of flats. A large number of them should be moved across to the sunny side of Cooyong Street on to the open car park land at the bend in that street (scheduled for Canberra Centre expansion which surely nobody wants), and even above the multi-storey car parks currently blighting that side of Cooyong Street.

Jack Kershaw, Kambah

Vision is dangerous

Lecturer in architecture and pro-development advocate David Flannery (Letters, March 7) offers a handy checklist of the fallacies in planning Canberra's future. The evidence shows that urban infill and high-density development, rather than being the panacea, have adverse effects on energy use and environmental sustainability, as well as on traffic congestion, air quality, and preservation of open spaces. Mr Flannery's vision is dangerous and unwanted.

Karina Morris, Weetangera

Energy reality check

Letters from W. Gray and M. Diesendorf (March 4 and 6) on the merits of power generation fail to address the realities of our energy future. In reducing carbon emissions, the objective is to mitigate the long-term threat to our children from climate change.

The energy choices we make must be contingent on this goal, but we also need to maintain competitiveness and security of supply as we change - not a trivial task. It is a deception to suggest this can be achieved at no cost, but every country in the world is faced with this issue. To progress we have to fundamentally shift the way we provide energy services over time.

Solar panels and wind farms are already disrupting our practices and the profitability of the present grid operators, but the technologies that we use at the start of this journey may not be those that will predominate later on.

We have to learn by doing and adapting our regulatory and business models as we go.

However, the major problem is the lack of national acceptance of the reality of climate change. There has to be a bipartisan approach and an adult conversation with the public about costs and consequences. Failure will waste money and continue the squabbling between political opportunists and vested interests. The main losers will be our children, the only ones who do not have a voice in this issue.

Trevor Powell, Bruce

Counting the coal cost

William Gray (Letters, March 4) trots out the old chestnut that wind power is several times more expensive than coal-fired power. It is true that if your coal plant was paid off years ago, you have no plan to replace it, and you are exempt from the costs you impose on public health and the environment, you can generate very low-cost electricity.

However, many of our coal plants are nearing the end of their lives. Some analysts have asserted that new wind farms are already cheaper to build and operate than new coal plants. We may soon arrive at the absurd situation where renewable energy reactionaries will be demanding that new coal plants be built at higher cost than the alternatives. Perhaps this presents a future marketing opportunity for ''Green(house) Choice''? Polluting electricity for devotees willing to pay a premium for it.

Ben Elliston, Hawker

Fix food reviews

The Canberra Times' Food & Wine supplement reviews a different Canberra restaurant each Wednesday. These reviews are used to select the top 20 restaurants for the year based on a score out of 20. Restaurants which are not reviewed during the year cannot be selected among the best 20. This leads to an occasional anomaly whereby some very well-regarded restaurants don't appear in the list. In addition, the system of scoring is confusing, and often inconsistent.

Last week's review scored a restaurant as follows: 3 (out of 4 ''stars'') for food, 4 for wine list, 3 for style, 3 for value for money, and 4 for service. While this looks like a total score of 17 out of a possible 20 points, the actual recorded score was 14.5. While the review cautions that the ''stars are a quick reference'', wouldn't it make more sense to use them as the total? Introduce a ''half star'' if that makes it easier for the reviewer.

Rob Ewin, Campbell

Heaven help our forests under genius PM

Isn't it wonderful to see the Prime Minister involve himself in the debate on what should happen to Tasmania's forests? (''Abbott's timber vow creates rift on forestry deal'', March 6, p5). Look how easily he engages on the deep issues of forest management and protection. You can't help being intrigued by his observation that too much of Australia's forest area is ''locked up''.

Notwithstanding our faith in his genius, there are many of us who apparently do not have the insights of the PM, and are confused by his conclusion. We have been told that Australia already has a very low percentage of its land covered by forests. Some of us know that the government's carbon emissions reduction strategy relies heavily on retention of forests, which absorb and retain huge amounts of carbon.

Clear-felling or ''sustainable'' logging practices will release large amounts of this stored carbon. Plantations to offset this would have to be huge in area: subsidies, anyone?

So, all the love and care that the PM assures us will be lavished upon these forests by the forest industries will not work for emissions reduction. I look forward to his further analysis on this matter.

Jim Douglas, Kingston

Tony Abbott will join Vladimir Putin in his bid to repeal World Heritage Status for 75,000 hectares of old-growth forest in Tasmania. By backing the forest industry, Abbott has picked a loser. Logging and woodchipping required heavy subsidies in the past ($2 for every dollar they earned in Victoria up to 2000). Now after huge fires, and mountains of woodchips no one wants, we have even less native forest left.

The forest industry wants to get its subsidised hands on national parks forests to privatise the profits of what are treasures set aside for their natural value as public assets.

Hands off our national parks, Prime Minister.

Colin Handley, Lyneham

Why such hate?

I am a decent, middle aged, law-abiding citizen. I was a schoolteacher and a public servant until retirement.

I do volunteer work, I pay my taxes, I enjoy being with family and friends and listening to music. But every time I open the newspapers, Tony Abbott is attacking me.

I must be stupid for worrying about climate change; I am a socialist subverter for wanting an open-minded education system; a spendthrift for wanting an effective disability support scheme; an elitist for listening to the ABC; anti-Australian for wanting a fair go for refugees.

Feminism is simply about raising female children. And now I am a pinko-greenie for thinking we need more marine and national parks to protect our dwindling native species.

Why does the Prime Minister hate me so much? The truth is I don't think he cares one way or another. He just wants to be popular. He is the new school captain saying what he thinks his audience wants to hear, unaware that in the modern media age, his words last well after the glow of the applause. As does the damage and offence those words cause.

Christine Goonrey, Kingston

Vilification is bullying

People are asking that something be done to eliminate bullying, whether in schools or work, whether in person or via various media, and based on any personal characteristic, including religion, race, looks and ability.

The damage done to individuals by such harassment can last through their lives and costs society as well.

In other words, the damage done by words, by slurs and insults is well known.

So it is strange that the government wants to remove the provisions against racial vilification, citing ''freedom of speech'', to justify a move that can only be seen as encouraging behaviour that has the same characteristics as bullying.

Jennifer Bradley, McKellar

Correction on WWI

With respect to World War I, S.W. Davey (Letters, March 5) offers the view that Germany sued for peace as early as 1916, offering a conditional surrender, and that the British refused, unreasonably. This is not correct. In late 1916, the US president asked the warring powers to outline their conditions for peace.

The German terms were that Belgium would become a virtual German protectorate; France would relinquish territories in its north to Germany; German protectorates would be set up over the Baltic provinces and Poland; the dominance of Austria would be restored in the Balkans; and colonial concessions would be granted to Germany in Africa. Quite reasonably, these terms were rejected.

Germany then launched unrestricted submarine warfare, knowing this would probably bring the United States into the war but estimating, incorrectly, that submarine warfare and Germany's strong position on the Western Front would bring Britain and France to their knees before US involvement could make a difference. Until early 1918, Germany still hoped for, planned for and fought for a decisive military victory.

In 1916, there were parties and people in Germany supporting a reasonable negotiated peace but they were not calling the shots.

S. Henningham, Curtin

Turnbull's many coats

The editorial ''Turnbull must tune in to TV games'' (Times2, March 6, p2) expected too much of Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull by suggesting he should treat the lobbying by free-to-air television for yet another licensing fee cut ''with the disdain it deserves''.

Turnbull is a wealthy businessman. He was managing director of Goldman Sachs Australia, a partner with Neville Wran (former NSW Labor premier) and Gough Whitlam's son Nicholas (a former bank chief executive). He also chaired Axiom Forest Resources, which ran a clear-felling operation in the Solomon Islands accused of constant breaches of logging practices. As a young lawyer he defended Kerry Packer, the so-called Goanna. This is not a man tainted by altruism.

Gary J. Wilson, MacGregor

Australian Sports Institute has lasting effect on Canberra

With the Australian Institute of Sport changing its direction with the Winning Edge strategy, I have been reflecting on its legacies to Canberra.

Established in 1981, the AIS has brought to Canberra many talented athletes, coaches and sport scientists. Many of these people have stayed in Canberra after departing the AIS and are contributing to improving the lives of Canberrans.

Two prime AIS examples are Rob de Castella and Dick Telford. De Castella, an inaugural athletics scholarship holder and AIS director in the early 1990s, has established SmartStart for Kids.

This program aims to improve the health and lifestyle of children in Canberra. On a national level, he set up the Indigenous Marathon Project, which encourages healthy lifestyles in indigenous communities.

Telford, inaugural head sport scientist and later distance-running coach, has set up the Look Lifestyle Study to examine physical activity of primary schoolchildren in the Canberra region.

In addition to this research, Telford continues his passion as a distance-running coach, particularly assisting young women in Canberra to pursue their passion.

National institutions such as the AIS have made Canberra a better place as they attract talented and committed people.

I am sure these people play an important role in making Canberra Australia's most liveable city.

Greg Blood, Florey

Floating question

As if the reality of climate change and prospect of floods were not frightening enough, the Treasurer, Joe Hockey, said on radio last week, ''We are focused on lifting the tide (so the boats can float).''

He might have been referring to the economy, or perhaps he was describing the government's asylum-seeker policy.

But how would we know?

Annie Lang, Kambah

To the point


After discounting the public service, we find that union membership has been reduced to 10 per cent of the workforce. It is interesting that the recent companies (Qantas, Holden, Mitsubishi, SPC to name a few) seeking a government handout are highly unionised. Is there a trend here?

Brendan Ryan, O'Malley


So the federal government will not permit the use of cabinet documents from the Howard era in an investigation into the funding of the ABC (''Not your ABC'', March 6, p2). Notwithstanding this decision, it fully intends to use cabinet documents from the Rudd era in its investigation of the ''pink batts'' episode. Why does the word ''hypocrites'' spring to mind?

C. J. Johnston, Duffy


I wonder if the Brits will send the Light Brigade back to the Crimea to support Kevin Rudd's mission to Russia? Will we rearm Fort Denison and Bare Island in Sydney to repel any likely Russian invasion?

Rob Hanna, Gowrie


The wind farms I am familiar with have no geese in close proximity (Letters, March 6). The only geese are those against wind farms who continue to find medical reasons why wind farms are so dangerous.

Robyn Lewis, Raglan, NSW


A big thank you to Joe, the panel beater who came to my rescue when I had a flat tyre in Belconnen Mall car park late last Thursday afternoon. He expertly changed the tyre, putting on the spare and advising me of the nearest repair shop. It is so nice to know that there are still good Samaritans in the world!

Carolyn Clark, Macquarie


So now the Brumbies' David Pocock is out for the season, just like last year. What is he being paid, for about three games in two seasons? The Brumbies seem dead unlucky. The last so-called star we had, Rocky Elsom, was exactly the same - highly paid and played about three games in two seasons. When will the Brumbies give up on these so-called stars?

Vic Adams, Reid


Unlike Cuthbert Douglas (Letters, March 5), I'm happy to see my rates and taxes spent on useful, shared services like buses, roads, parks, libraries and so on. And while aboard an ACTION bus, we're pretty safe from the appalling lack of road awareness previously spouted ad nauseam by that same Cuthbert Douglas.

Don Clark, Latham


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