Letters to the editor


S. Gerrard and Dr Nick Abel detail the government's proposed incursions into Tasmania's World Heritage Area and the Great Barrier Reef (Letters, February 5) but these are just part of many government failures to protect the environment.

The government is transferring its powers under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act to the states and territories, giving them greater freedom to exploit our natural resources.

The government is about to cut its funding to all Environmental Defender's offices. The EDO has given invaluable legal advice to volunteer conservation groups, including the National Parks Association of the ACT, in their efforts to protect the natural environment.

Feral horses in the Kosciuszko National Park are estimated at between 11,000 and 14,000, increasing at 20 per cent a year. They are trampling through creeks, eroding banks and polluting the water. While feral horse numbers escalate, horse riders are being granted access to wilderness areas in the Kosciuszko National Park and will further contribute to the damage of fragile areas.

Our national parks and reserves are vital refuges for plants and animals but they are being neglected because of populist policies and lack of resources and staff. Our conservation reserves have suffered neglect from both major parties but now the situation is growing worse. Concerned readers should lobby federal representatives to protect our natural environment.

Rod Griffiths, president, NPA ACT

Dam statistics

Michael Jordan (Letters, February 6) has provided interesting assumptions in his comparisons of major projects, specifically with his reference to the enlarged Cotter Dam project.

It's worth noting that, aside from the engineering feats and world firsts on this project, which provided jobs for more than 3000 people, it also substantially increased the territory's water supply. The project increased the capacity of the Cotter Dam by about 74 gigalitres - that's up to 78 billion litres - which takes the dam to nearly 20 times its original size.

The advantage of the Cotter Dam project is that it allows the capture of overflow from the dams upstream as well as the water released from these dams as part of the environmental flow requirement to maintain the health of the Cotter River. It also, of course, captures the lucrative rainfall in the lower Cotter basin.

The Cotter Dam expansion, along with the Murrumbidgee-to-Googong pipeline, has helped form part of a water network designed to minimise risk and maximise options in helping secure our water supply for future generations, while ensuring we get maximum value for our water.

David Hohnke, communications manager, ACTEW Water

A united flag

The Aboriginal flag is a good one. The Eureka flag is a bit stark, but (notwithstanding its militant origins) also good. Canada (still a monarchist country) adopted a clear and simple flag with success in 1965. New Zealanders are now being offered a choice. The Australian flag is a mish-mash, reflecting colonial history. John Blaxland's proposal (Flying the flag for a fresh start, Forum, February 1, p4) is better but also a mish-mash. Would not something simple like the Southern Cross on an Aboriginal red-and-black background be a better representative of this one-nation continent, with its long history of human occupation?

Harold Brookfield, Cook

Head of state dilemma

In her Boyer lectures, Governor-General Quentin Bryce ended with a vision of an Australia where ''one young girl or boy may even grow up to be our nation's first head of state''. Clearly she doesn't believe she occupies that post. However, the old debate has been reignited in the Letters pages about whether the governor-general or the Queen is the head of state.

Recent letters appear to be more about whether the governor-general has become the de facto head of state, and whether this is reflected in a 1907 High Court decision and the Queen's understanding that the crown's prerogative powers firmly rest in the governor-general's hands. The question surely becomes: if the G-G is already the de facto or perhaps even the de jure head of state, why do we need the confusion of having a monarch as well?

Paul McMahon, Isaacs

Real value for money

The ACT Administrative Appeals Tribunal decided the Turner Precinct did not meet section 10 of the Heritage Act and it could not provisionally register the precinct, effectively agreeing with the Heritage Council's decision last year. Lodging the appeal was important for all Canberrans. By highlighting where Canberra has garden city heritage values, even in part, we are noting exceptional features of our city.

We are starting to see inappropriate development being rejected as out of character with the area and the intensity of the development becoming an issue.

The inner north and highly attractive areas, such as the Turner Precinct, cannot stay the same forever. We believe that, for developers to get their ''value for money'', avoiding wasting their resources by pursuing developments that are out of step with areas would do us all a favour. It would help keep developer costs down, keep housing more affordable, create new housing developments that are appropriate and enable us all to continue to value our garden city urban areas.

Judy Anderson, Turner

Some taxes are fair

Nicholas Stuart (Why our tax system is unfair, Forum, February 1, p9) calls ''unfair'' the fact that capital gains tax is on only 50 per cent of the capital gain, negative gearing (where losses on a housing investment are written off against other income) and the exemption of the family home from capital gains tax. These criticisms aren't new.

Regarding the 50 per cent capital gains tax, there was no such tax before 1985 and, from then until 1999 the taxable capital gain was reduced (quite reasonably) by the extent to which it was due to inflation. The 50 per cent rule was then introduced, not as a concession, but in lieu of the ''inflation reduction''.

As for negative gearing, Australian income tax is a tax on a person's overall net income, not on particular activities that produce that net income, so there's no logical reason to exclude profits or losses due to the activity of investment in housing.

The exemption of the family home encourages home ownership, which is a policy of all governments.

R.S. Gilbert, Braddon

Taxpayers shouldn't foot the bill

The federal government's refusal to contribute $25 million to the upgrade of SPC Ardmona's fruit canning factory is questionable at least, but critics of that decision should desist from referring to the operation as an Australian-owned business as many do, including Pamela Fawke (Letters, February 6).

The troubling aspect of this matter is that it is yet another example of a successful Australian-owned company being bought out by a multi-national conglomerate, in this case Coca-Cola Amatil, which takes profits while the going is good but fails to maintain the plant. When that plant becomes inefficient, the overseas owners effectively demand financial support from Australian taxpayers as a condition of continuing the operation. GMH did much the same thing.

While reasonably agnostic on the merits of providing public financial support to overseas companies, it seems relevant to compare the SPC Ardmona decision with the government's refusal to allow the $3-billion takeover bid by the huge US agribusiness Archer Daniels Midland of GrainCorp. That decision was criticised by some business leaders as discouraging future foreign investment in Australia. While such investment is generally welcome, indeed necessary, it should not come with the implied condition of Australian taxpayer support when plant and equipment need upgrading.

Graham Downie, O'Connor

Can we please have an end to this fiction that the Holden and SPC decisions mean the industry assistance pork barrel is no more?

To put a Politics 101 question: Compare and contrast government assistance to Cadbury's and Huon Aquaculture in Tasmania with refusals to assist Holden and SPC.

Answer: When a party forms government they control the Treasury benches. This means they decide, within constitutional limitations placed on all governments, where money is to be spent. Governments apply money where it is politically advantageous to them. Tasmania has 12 senators and five House seats.

SPC is in an electorate held by the government with nearly 71 per cent of the two-party preferred vote. Holden? Well, South Australia is about to kick Labor out anyway, so why waste a dollar?

Peter Edsor, Bungendore, NSW

Regarding the problems experienced by SPC Ardmona, I believe an appeal to the public for support may be considered. A donation of $10 by individuals through a designated fund of a major bank would possibly raise at least $20 million within Australia.

This amount could be matched by the Victorian government and also Coca-Cola Amatil. Such a scheme would be similar to the funding of natural disaster appeals.

Of course such funding appeals to the public have never been used to bail out private companies and would set a precedent.

The demise of an iconic company such as SPC Ardmona would lead to mass unemployment including orchardists and related industries in the region. Reduced income tax to the government would be the result.

It is imperative that Australia's only remaining operation should be saved for future generations and also for food security in the country.

Ron Gray, Cook

Historical warning

The editorial, ''Political move but Howes has a point'' (The Canberra Times, February 7) contained a veiled warning from history. In considering the skills and aspirations of the national secretary of the AWU, the editorial arrived at a point of reverie, ''the ugly pilot's dispute of 1989''.

That would be when the Labor prime minister Bob Hawke gave at least $100 million assistance to the airlines, promised a further $30 million for tourist industry reconstruction and brought in the RAAF and foreign pilots as strike breakers.

The Australian Federation of Air Pilots never really belonged under the Labor umbrella. The pilots run their own union. The officials, all pilots, were elected by their own members and were not paid.

Such bloody-mindedness from the ACTU, in the current environment of global economic and military instability, would be an unfavourable portent for the country.

Gary J. Wilson, MacGregor

Like Narcissus in the ancient myth, Paul Howes will come to a sticky end if he keeps staring at his reflection in the political pool. Paul, you are no Bob Hawke, so just be a team player and assist Labor to win government by being an ordinary trade union official.

John Davenport, Farrer

Uni misguided

It is a disgrace that the University of Canberra congratulated the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka on its 66th anniversary of independence from the British (66th anniversary of Sri Lanka's independence, advertising feature, The Canberra Times, February 4). Sri Lanka is neither democratic nor socialist. It is run by war criminals committing genocide against Tamils.

It is also a disgrace that the university is using taxpayer funds to give succour to such a rotten and corrupt regime.

The only people who support the war criminals in charge of Sri Lanka are the likes of Tony Abbott who have a material interest in cuddling up to the regime and ignoring its human rights abuses.

Is the university courting the regime for more Sri Lankan students? Could it really be that money is more important than principles to the neoliberals in charge of the University of Canberra?

John Passant, Kambah

Hiding behind hysteria

Australia is governed by a bully. The more questions the Prime Minister (captain) and his political party (aka the Australia team) are asked, the more upset, angry, loud, aggressive and nasty they become. Hysterical even.

For example, after reports alleging that some individuals in the armed forces are not perfection incarnate, this patriotic team have suggested that the ABC should apologise and be brought to account. It's amazing really. And the opposition aren't much better.

Susan Archer, Yarralumla

More to discover with nameplates

I have admired the suburban nameplates that appeared last year telling us a little about particular prime ministers - and explorer James Cook. But why have we stopped there? Apart from making the unchanged nameplates look old and tatty (eg, Chapman in Namatjira Drive), an excellent opportunity to tell us where the names originated has been lost. Who were Rivett, Torrens, Franklin and Garran, for example? What is the origin of Kambah, Kaleen, Weetangera or Waramanga? Is it too much to ask that all nameplates have name origins and be coloured in a similar style?

Scott Bennett, Kambah

Letting off steam

For some years the bus used on Action route 227 ex Campbell Park 1639 to Cooleman Court via Woden has been a clapped-out orange bus. It is very well patronised despite having no air-conditioning, and it is the only route accessible to Waramanga and most Fisher residents. Last Thursday, we had a bus with 11 windows, of which only five could be opened to at least get some air flow on a 29-degree day. In the heat of last week and that forecast for next week, there may well be an health and safety issue for passengers and driver. Can we please have an easing of this persecution, perhaps by allocating more modern buses on a rotational basis?

Neil Hutchinson, Fisher

Socially irresponsible

Directions ACT (''Prison needle exchange warning'', February 7, p2) says it is a ''socially responsible intervention'' to introduce such a program at the ACT jail. I disagree; it's socially irresponsible. Social responsibility is denying criminals access to drugs and drug equipment. Alcoholics don't go to AA and get told: ''Here's a quick fix for you.'' The hard yards are called abstinence.

Ian Jannaway, Monash



After a wait of more than 70 years for a legitimate use of the word, I can now assert with confidence that opponents of the Queensland Government's Vicious Lawless Association Disestablishment Act (2013) may be properly described as believers in antidisestablishmentarianism.

Michael Game, Farrer


I see that a UN committee on the rights of children has pilloried the Catholic Church. Not that there really is a hell or heaven; but I do wonder what the Catholic Church says about where priests who abuse children, and those who cover up that abuse, go after they die.

Peter Moran, Watson


Perhaps the Catholic Church and Salvation Army homes had a policy against disclosing operational matters.

Tony Judge, Belconnen


I think the ACT flag is one of the most beautiful in Australia - indeed, the world (I am a trained artist). The colours of blue and gold/yellow and symbols are the best and should never be altered. It is now part of our heritage.

Penelope Upward, O'Connor


Thank you, John Warhurst (''NZ debate unfurls flag issue'', Times2, February 6, p4) for the valid points you make. However, new-flag enthusiasts should recognise that our existing flag does reflect the constitution's colonial structure. The Queen is sovereign, is part of our Parliament, and must approve its laws. Until that changes, a new flag minus the Union Jack would be a form of camouflage.

Bryan Lobascher, Chapman


Alan Castle (Letters, February 4) deals effectively with John Richardson's objections to the nomination of General Peter Cosgrove as the next governor-general. Mr Richardson may have been disappointed not to be offered the opportunity to serve Queen and country, and would probably have been offered the title of Lord Wallagoot if nominated. In the wash-up, it may emerge that General Cosgrove's most serious deficiency is that he is a Richmond supporter.

Peter Baskett, Murrumbateman, NSW


Shane Rattenbury has allegedly said car theft is a ''minor'' crime (''Mother of driver in horror chase doesn't blame police'', February 7, p1). Seriously? I can only assume he has never had his own car stolen.

Gordon Fyfe, Kambah


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