Letters to the Editor

Dust is perfect condiment for nature strip vegetables

If Lewis Carroll was alive he would find endlessly satisfying satirical material here in Canberra, even beyond the extravagant distraction of metro-light rail. Shane Rattenbury has exhorted us all to grow vegetables on our hard, dry, water-deprived (Icon very-water-expensive) nature strips ("Greens' plot for nature strip vegetables", December 30, p1).

I was not long ago rebuked by a ranger during our enduring drought for cultivating hardy vegetation on my nature strip that grew higher than half a metre, the set official height limit apparently. I was told my meagre efforts in countering the drought offended neighbours.

Now, Rattenbury trusts that the myth of Oz "mateship" will mean that the vegetables I cultivate on my nature strip will remain unmolested and unharvested by the odd passing un-Australian. Doubtless Rattenbury will lead by quixotic example.

A.Whiddett, Yarralumla

So the Greens would relax the rules to allow us to grow vegetables on nature strips because vast tracts of land are unused and it will connect people better to the land.

Last time I looked, most nature strips are used as free car parks, a rapidly diminishing resource in the ACT.


Indeed even if I wanted to grow vegetables, the cost of boutique Canberra water would make them the most expensive in Australia. If the vegies survived the dry climate, then the rabbits from the nearby nature reserve would be the beneficiaries. Unless, of course, Mr Rattenbury had something else in mind and closer to the Greens' heart – weeds of the medicinal variety – which would be a far more valuable crop. At least the neighbours would benefit and certainly get to them before the rabbits.

Zac Zaharias, Campbell

The government's nature strip rules are hard to find, can be changed at the whim of a government official, and are not actively enforced. Canberra's few city rangers are not authorised to issue spot fines for rule violations.

In April, I counted 150 obstructed nature strips in a single Canberra suburb. Now the government plans to allow people to plant vegetable gardens on nature strips. Unless it gets serious about making nature strips accessible for walking and cycling, this initiative will further limit travel options, and further undermine the government's own health, transport and greenhouse strategies.

Leon Arundell, Downer

Corruption clarity

Could Dyson Heydon or any analyst please advise what percentage of union officials are tagged for investigation or already charged with an offence? Break it down into the various unions, the position of the union official by all means.

I want to get a sense of perspective on the issue of union corruption. I want to connect that perspective with evidence, which is presumably what Mr Heydon has been dealing with.

Statements like "this is the tip of the iceberg" are not good enough. Let's dig further and get the problem clear.

Kris Sloane, Ainslie

Turnbull missteps

Finally, Malcolm Turnbull has made a decision about Mal Brough. Any decision to be made about Jamie Briggs's future was made easy by him continuing in his yobbo ways, so Malcolm didn't have to decide. Anne Davies suggests ("Turnbull takes his time in first real test of leadership", December 30, p4) that Malcolm looks decisive by dumping two at once but that is debatable.

Neither of the men was appropriate for the ministry from the outset so their appointments cast some doubt on Malcolm's judgment. To wait until the quiet time before acting may demonstrate some political nous but it also indicates a lack of courage and a degree of desperation.

W.Book, Hackett

Great NBN swindle

In regard to your article "Competitor giving NBN a run for its money" (December 30, p3), I was stunned to see the NBN described as "Malcolm Turnbull's vision for the future". In fact, of course, the NBN was the former Labor government's true vision for the future which Malcolm Turnbull, when he was the minister for communications, did his best to emasculate.

Thanks to Turnbull, what we now have is a mere shadow of the technological leap forward which the Labor government envisaged and it now turns out that Turnbull's fourth-rate version will cost almost as much and take about the same length of time.

It is indeed ironical that as Prime Minister, Turnbull now talks avidly of the need for "innovation".

Richard Moss, Chisholm

Penalty rate rejig

I'm a great supporter of penalties imposed on employers who require employees to work long and/or unsociable hours. But lately the nature of work has changed such that weekends and some public holidays have become normal workdays in some areas of employment.

If an award/agreement specifies, say, a 38-hour working week or multiples thereof, additional hours required by an employer should result in the employer being penalised in the form of additional wages/salary at a pre-determined rate. Treating penalty payments routinely as a part of ordinary employee earnings is a misnomer and, consequently, misleading. Similarly, treating sick leave as a quantitative entitlement is a waste of administrative effort.

It should be removed as an entitlement and replaced with a process by which an employee takes time off when sick as required. Sure, it's open to abuse but a few "hides on the fence" would fix that. Imagine the savings if the armies of people who administer sick leave could be redeployed onto more productive work!

Ashley Stanley, Kianga, NSW

War still with us

On the centenary of the publication of General Relativity by Einstein, and of The Unconscious by Sigmund Freud, Robert Wilson (Letters, December 28) draws our attention to how these two intellectual giants have transformed our modern world. It is also worth remembering that they attempted another transformation that has so far had little success.

In 1931 the League of Nations asked Einstein to discuss of topic of his choice, and he chose to discuss with Freud the question, "Is there any way of delivering mankind from the menace of war?"

The dialogue took the form of an exchange of letters. After a discussion of how and why wars started, they examined the strengths and weaknesses of the new-formed League, which had been set up to answer this very question. Freud noted that what was needed was the setting up of a "supreme court of judicature" with "adequate executive force". Because the member nations refused to allow the League "adequate executive force", it was unlikely to succeed.

Even at an optimistic time, before the League had failed, both men thought the league was doomed, because "the craving for power which characterises the governing class in every nation is hostile to any limitation of the national sovereignty" (Einstein). Their analysis holds today. The United Nations suffers from the same restriction of power, as individual nations refuse to cede what they see as part of their sovereignty, in the interest of world peace.

Harry Davis, Campbell

Lease charges low

R.S.Gilbert (Letters, December 30) suggests that a golf club wishing to develop unused land forming part of its concessional lease has to pay a lease variation charge "equal to the value of the land as development land". In cases where it is intended to broaden the purpose clause of a concessional lease to allow for residential development, section 277 of the ACT Planning and Development Act 2007 essentially sets the Lease Variation Charge at 75 per cent (not 100 per cent) of the increase in land value. In addition, the Act allows the Minister wide discretion to reduce Lease Variation Charges.

Leon Arundell (Letters, December 29) lists a number of cases where such discretion would appear to have been exercised and also notes that the ACT government's current Lease Variation Charge Stimulus Package operates to reduce the charge generally.

The combined real and potential effect of these mechanisms is to reduce the return to government and, when applied to the land development activities of golf clubs, diminish community benefit.

Paul Feldman, Macquarie

Authority is bliss

Gerry Murphy (Letters, December 29) presents some long discredited climate-denialist notions together with a gratuitous sneer. Spare me, he says "appeals to higher authority". Sorry, mate, but I'm appealing.

As a layman I'm appealing for information to the global climate science community, the Royal Society, the Academies, CSIRO, the great research institutes. These people don't make authoritative scientific statements lightly. I'm appealing to the higher authority of the Pope, too, and the British equivalent of the Grand Mufti. For economic higher authority, I'm appealing to the World Bank, the IMF, even the Rockefeller Foundation. Or does Gerry believe that all these "higher authorities" are part of a devilish left-wing plot?

Nick Goldie, Michelago, NSW

Uber a travesty

By capitulating to the demands of Uber in October, the ACT government deviously shafted all the mums and dads who own or drive taxis in the territory.

Uber is a foreign company which siphons all earnings and due taxes to offshore tax havens. They pay low rates to drivers, have no regard for our rules or standards, and pay scant heed to their community service obligations. Just look at how they raised prices when people were trying to flee the site of the Lindt Cafe siege in Sydney.

They are actually in court at the moment arguing with the Australian Tax Office that they don't have to pay GST – it is the drivers that do. But they haven't even told UberX drivers of the debts accruing or owed. Its has been the ATO who have notified Uber's contractors at Australian taxpayers' expense. What a travesty.

My investment of $265,000 in a plate supported three families. They are all gutted by this move and will be forced onto the dole. An odious decision by a weak government.

Peter Leslie, Cobargo, NSW




I was saddened to read how much Senator Eric Abetz missed the company of his former boss, Tony Abbott. He suggests Malcolm Turnbull promote Tony to the frontbench. A far better solution: have the good senator join his conservative colleague on the (very) backbench!

Stuart Kennedy, Corunna, NSW


I believe I may have a solution to the problem of what to do with Tony Abbott. He should resign from the Liberal Party and join the National Party. Ian Macfarlane has already set a precedent, and he only wanted to return to cabinet. When Warren Truss retires next year, Tony could stand for the leadership. He would surely win, and automatically become Deputy Prime Minister. What fun that would be.

C.J. Johnston, Duffy


The reintroduction of California's ban on kangaroo products is great news. It's a pity it doesn't extend it to the foolish local politicians, bureaucrats, their agents and misguided conservationists and environmentalists (so-called) responsible for the slaughter of thousands of kangaroos in the ACT each year.

D.N. Callaghan, Kingston


So, 70-year-old Ian Warden ("Who is that nice young man?", Gang-gang, December 31, p8 ) doesn't know what a Kardashian is. Well, Ian, as all we sprightly 66-year-olds know, a Kardashian is someone from Kardashia.

Brian Wenn, Garran


It is great Canberra people come to Batemans Bay for holidays, but our residential streets have 50km/h speed limits. Please respect our town laws, as visitors respect yours.

D. Loveday, Batemans Bay, NSW

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