Development haste

While Canberrans celebrate their first century, mockers of the ''heritage industry'' encourage the sacrifice of places and buildings of historical and cultural significance for immediate and utilitarian objectives.The recent pre-emptive strike to fast track planning legislation over-rides heritage considerations. Now, Simon Corbell, the Minister for Environment and Sustainable Development, damning the buildings nominated fronting Northbourne Avenue (''Room for 45,000 more on city strip'', April 9, p1), adds his value judgment that ''many found them an eyesore''.

Heritage assessments should not be based on judgments of the eye (or taste of the expedient beholder), nor on the value of the land on which the buildings sit. Each generation cultivates different perceptions of pleasing vistas and architectural styles. Consider Britain, where about 440,000 registered heritage properties include many which today rank as ugly and ill-conceived, but whose existence evokes the spirit of a period or connection with a notable person.

Canberra is more than its grand national institutions. At the present rate of suburban destruction, there will be little communal heritage for future generations.

It is sad that ''progress'' cannot even wait upon an expert verdict on Northbourne's potential heritage places. Minister Corbell is unduly hasty in promoting development. Last year he argued against the heritage status of the Law Courts because they were not listed on the ACT register. The reason is simple. The administration of the federal Register of the National Estate (RNE) had been returned by the Howard government to states and territories. Yet the ACT had not incorporated the RNE places into the ACT list. The Law Courts were on the RNE.

So, too, for example, are the Dickson-Lyneham flats on Northbourne, designed by Sydney Archer.

Ironically, when the transfer of RNE was first proposed by Senator Hill, Commonwealth Minister for the Environment (press release June 30, 2000) he claimed ''state heritage protection systems now offer more effective protection''.


Yet another misplaced value judgment.

John Mulvaney, Yarralumla

Not everyone in Canberra is against higher density development along the Northbourne Avenue and Flemington Road corridors - despite what some of your letter writers are saying.

We cannot continue to have more and more low-density development and expect to be able to drive our cars when and where ever. There is no way we can continue to build roads to enable that to occur - we are close to the maximum road space now. And road congestion is a feature that will only get worse unless we get some of us out of our cars.

There is nothing wrong with high-rise, high-density development for those who wish to live that way (me included). And with decent public transport and walking and bike-riding facilities there will be less need to use cars, particularly in peak times. Then those living on the fringes in low rise will be able to drive reasonably comfortably.

So stop berating the government about residential density and improved public transport and give it some positive solutions.

John Widdup, Lyneham

A new methodology

The DMO is ineffective, says Gary J. Wilson (Letters, April 15) admitting that the best that can be said of the organisation is that its documentation ticks all the boxes (although clearly this is not the case for whole-of-life costing).

Given that the DMO and its predecessors have included whole-of-life costing in its evaluation processes for at least the past 40 years to my knowledge, and that such an evaluation is a critical factor in assessing and pursuing the involvement and integration of Australian industry, it should be of considerable value to our national security and interests if Mr Wilson would provide the DMO with a viable whole-of-life costing methodology.

And, given the current stringent financial circumstance of the government and the DMO, if he would make this his gift to the nation.

B.L. West, Yarralumla

Senseless attack

For over 10 years St Mary MacKillop College has shared the corner of Isabella Drive and Clive Steele Avenue in Monash/Isabella Plains with the Canberra Islamic Centre.

Relations have always been both warm and mutually respectful.

Our community received the news that the Islamic centre had been viciously attacked by vandals with outrage.

Vandalism on private property and public institutions is always a cowardly and senseless act, usually the product of cowardly and senseless people. It is particularly disturbing when such an attack is perpetrated against an institution that proclaims an adherence to a faith tradition and a set of values that ultimately make a positive contribution to a group of like-minded people and to the broader community.

Indeed our own school has not been immune to vandalism.

It would be particularly disturbing for all of us were it to be found that this act of vandalism against the Islamic Community Centre was based on bigotry, sectarianism and the Islamic faith.

Canberra is a city that deeply values inclusiveness, respect for diversity and difference: a phenomena that has been hard won and which is regularly and rightly celebrated.

All of us who value these qualities of our city will no doubt stand with the Islamic community and offer our support and concern to it.

Michael Lee, principal, St Mary MacKillop College

Royal dissent

Robert Willson, a long-established defender of monarchs and monarchy, referred (Letters, April 11) to Victoria as a ''great Queen''.

Readers might be interested in a contrasting, contemporary assessment of the same woman by Moncure Conway, American-born Unitarian Minister, later head of London's renowned South Place Chapel for over two decades, and prolific author of more than 70 books, many of them published as Harvard University's prestigious Riverside editions.

When Conway visited Australia, to great acclaim, in 1883, he noted that ''a Queen less loved, or even cared for, never reigned in England … She is variously referred to as morose, morbid, stingy, grasping, ugly, sullen, ill-humoured, and torpid, if not stupid''.

David Headon, Melba

A broke nation can't afford to treat refugees so poorly

Joe Hockey says ''the cupboard is bare'', and millions will have to be cut from health, education and pensions.

So why does the government squander millions on a witch-hunt of the previous government's pink batts scheme, spend $700 million on the ASIO white elephant by the lake, now lying empty (it is like the Yes Minister hospital with hundreds of staff but no patients, which caused so much mirth, especially among conservatives) and squander $31 million a month (yes, a month!) paying Transfield to run Scott Morrison's concentration camps?

If refugees were treated like humans (as Malcolm Fraser did) instead of unwanted slabs of meat, and processed onshore, it would not only be more humane, it would be cheaper. And we would not have serving defence personnel moonlighting as prison guards. Then perhaps the battered international image of our poor country may one day be repaired.

Richard Keys, Ainslie

Bring back taxes on rich

We hear a lot from the Coalition on the need for cuts in government expenditure, usually at the expense of society's most vulnerable.

But we hear nothing about increasing revenue.

The Howard government in its last three years had revenue of more than 24.2 per cent, 24.2 per cent and 23.8 per cent of GDP. It cut taxes to benefit the wealthy and put loopholes in superannuation where the super-rich could and did put most of their fortunes, becoming virtually tax-free.

The result was the Labor government's last three years of revenue were 21.5 per cent, 21 per cent and 20 per cent. In 2012 GDP was $1520 billion and it is higher now. Three per cent of GDP equals $45.6 billion-plus. That would give us a budget surplus.

The Coalition should thus look to increasing income to historic levels by reimposing some of the taxes it has taken off the rich. That it is not even talking about it shows whose interests it is really looking after. It is not the interest of the great majority of voters.

David Goss, Woonona, NSW

The real street view

Amanda Vanstone is usually good value with her candid assessments of people and life around her, but her criticism of Bob Carr (''Confidence, trust are of the essence in politics'', Times2, April 14, p5) was a bland and soft defence of the career of politics.

Indeed, her justification for the comment on Carr seemed only to be what she believed the average person in the street might say.

Not all politicians go into the job with helping the country as their main goal; not all politicians are benevolent altruists; not all politicians are in their career of choice.

It follows that some of them might not feel or be obliged to ''respect'' confidences, nor to abstain from public revelation of their opinions of colleagues. Some will act on the basis of principles they may hold.

Vanstone needs to make a clean break from the tired old views of her political mates and she might then not assume that everyone in the street thinks like ''Bob and Mary Stringbag''.

Philip Telford, Tarago, NSW

Case for subs lacks depth

Nicholas Stuart (''Logic on hardware spending easily torpedoed'', Times2, April 15, p5), exposes the fallacies in arguments for a new fleet of submarines.

We should remember the wise advice of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who in his farewell speech warned about the dangers of the ''military-industrial complex'', an iron triangle of industries pushing their special interests with legislators and the military doing the same.

At best, wasteful use of national resources and efforts is implied.

At worst, it is an example of wilful distortion of our national interest, cloaked by appeals to ''patriotism''.

Stuart is right in arguing that a strategic, military case has not been made for a new fleet of submarines and that emerging ways of giving effect to national security suggest big investments in large lumps of military hardware is questionable. The government should avoid creating yet another mendicant industry that ultimately has no future.

Keith Croker, Kambah

Left, right and wrong

Ex-senator Gary Humphries should know better than to use the tired old terminology of ''left'' and ''right'' when analysing the current political scene.

Greens, he says (Minors trouble for Liberals, Times2, April 11, p4), are ''philosophically creatures of the far left'' and he suggests that this is the reason why successive conservative governments have failed to achieve stable government.

In fact, as Humphries knows, the Greens are far from being a monolithic bunch of socialists. Like the Australian Democrats before them, they have party members and senators (Lee Rhiannon comes to mind) who are from a left-wing background. But there are plenty of conservative conservation-minded activists as well. Author William J. Lines, with his history of the Australian conservation movement (Patriots, 2006) is an example.

Right-wing and left-wing are simply inadequate descriptions. A more useful distinction is between those who mindlessly act and vote according to their left-wing or right-wing party rules, and those - like the Greens and the Democrats before them - who assess every issue on its merits, think about it, listen to the arguments, and vote accordingly.

Nick Goldie, Michelago, NSW

The gospel truth

I read with interest of scientific efforts to authenticate the scrap of papyrus referring to the supposed wife of Jesus being his disciple. (''And Harvard said: let the doubters know 'Jesus's Wife' is real'', April 12, p18).

In fact the test results prove no such thing, only that the papyrus scrap does date from ancient times. Such a tiny fragment seems suspiciously targeted at two controversial issues: the mythical wife of Jesus, and her status as a disciple. What a coincidence!

We should focus on the four gospels, which give us a very reliable account of the life and death and resurrection of Jesus, written from various perspectives.

There is no evidence in them that he ever had a wife.

Father Robert Willson, Deakin

Motorbike trend is a win for all road users

It was good to see an article highlighting parking issues for motorcycle and scooter riders working in the Parliamentary Triangle (''Public servants buying motorbikes to beat parking fees'', April 15, p2).

While the motive for some may be to avoid the newly introduced parking fees, the end result is a win for all road users when motorcycles and scooters replace cars as a mode of transport. Less congestion, less pollution per road user and more efficient use of parking facilities are all direct results of an increased number of riders. There has also been research that suggests commuting by motorcycle increases brain function!

As for those commentators predicting an avalanche of motorcycle accidents involving these new riders, I invite them to look into the level of training required before new riders obtain a full licence. Current riders in Canberra who want to brush up their skills can sign up for formal advanced training with Stay Upright (

For returning riders, there is the MASTERS course, also available from Stay Upright. Informally, groups such as the Motorcycle Riders Association of the ACT ( and CanberraRiders ( have ''Discovery Rides'' for those wanting to brush up on skills, MOST practice sessions and online forums with tips for better riding.

Of course, considerate driving by road users of all persuasions ensures a safer commute for all, not least more vulnerable road users such as those on two wheels.

Nicky Hussey, secretary, MRA ACT



At the end of Julie Novak's article (''ABC must get with the program'', Times2, April 16, p1) we read she is a senior fellow of the Institute of Public Affairs. It should be noted by either herself or The Canberra Times that the institute is closely affiliated with the Liberal Party. Her article therefore is biased in the extreme and is not worth the paper it's written on. Yet another opportunity for the right to kick the ABC.

Jan Gulliver, Lyneham

Thanks for printing your comedy piece ''ABC must get with the program''.

I'm still laughing over the image of the commercial channels crying into their pillows every night because that mean ol' ABC stops them doing quality current affairs.

Julie Novak is wasted at the Institute of Public Affairs - she should run away and join the circus. Oh. Maybe she already did …

Michael Williams, Curtin


Peter Dawson, who asserts (Letters, April 15) that Prince George ''inherits the divine right of kings'', should be aware that the theory of divine right was abandoned in England during the Glorious Revolution in 1688.

Some inheritance!

David Cook, Wanniassa


Slightly ironic that NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell, who many thought was a 1959 vintage cleanskin, would be brought down by a 1959 Grange.

Harry Samios, O'Connor

Once I thought that the ABC television series Rake was a satire on NSW politics and the law. Now I realise that it is a documentary.

Tony Judge, Belconnen


Thanks are due to former foreign affairs minister Bob Carr for clarifying the mysterious and elusive concept of a foreign affair. Perhaps influenced by James Bond, it had seemed that this might have involved silk sheets and a mutually enthused colleague.

So it was a step backwards to find that in business class, one rests in one's own clothes, and in first class, pyjamas are offered but little else. Could this all have been worth the effort involved?

Peter Baskett, Murrumbateman, NSW


I was tempted to say that anyone who needs subtitles for Siegfried doesn't deserve to be travelling first class, but what Bob Carr has to say about Zionist influence in Australia is too serious for jokes.

Chris Williams, Griffith

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