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Letters to the Editor

Extra people a worry

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Australia's population growing to 24 million is not a cause for celebration for those who care about the country's environment. That should be all of us since the environment underlies human existence, not to mention that of our unique flora and fauna; also not to mention those who are frustrated by traffic gridlock, overcrowded public transport, air, noise, light and water pollution etc.

Our flora and fauna are the biggest losers, as extra people means destruction of their habitat to provide those people with housing, roads, schools, hospitals, shops and other public amenities.

Many think that we have "boundless plains to share" but most of Australia is desert, which is growing, and the remainder is relatively infertile. Immigration rates are extremely high and akin to population increase in third world countries, not a mature western country. Increasing fertility was encouraged by the Howard government through the provision of the baby bonus and other child benefits, whereas we should be rewarding those couples who limit their children to not more than two.

The only aspect of population increase not to benefit is the paltry number of refugees we accept each year. We could take many more refugees if the large number of other immigrants were limited to zero net migration. This would still allow some 200,000 immigrants to settle here annually as a similar number of the existing population leaves Australia on a long term basis.

Julia Richards, Kambah

Ulterior motive

Canberra's population is to double by 2055, says Richard Dennis (PM lives in city of his dreams, February 13") yet we still have hysteria being hurled at the prospect of light rail every day in this newspaper. I wonder where this hysteria comes from. My guess is that very few of these opponents to light rail ever use any form of public transport.

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Perhaps their real goal is to bring down the Labour-Green alliance we currently have in the ACT. They would prefer a Liberal government under Jeremy Hanson. This would be a government that lacks any vision for the ACT and opposes any socially progressive policies supported by the majority of Canberra residents.

Patrick O'Hara, Isaacs

Case overstated

For Richard Denniss to describe Joe Hockey's asset recycling scheme for the states and territories as, in the ACT's case, a "Commonwealth subsidy for light rail" is a bit much ("PM lives in a city of his dreams", February 13). The scheme was essentially acknowledgement of a funding deficit with a promise to find a dollop more cash for those who sold off their assets to get operating capital.

Gary J. Wilson, MacGregor

Read the fine print

Recent Grattan Institute reports contain some extraordinary statements, such as: "... it is unreasonable to expect superannuation savings alone to fund a comfortable living standard in retirement." "... women have just over half the superannuation savings of men at retirement age. As of 2013-14, ... a man aged 60 to 64 years could expect to retire with average superannuation savings of $292,000, whereas a woman had an average super balance of only $138.000." "Incomes tend to be fairly consistent. So those with high incomes in any given year are likely to have high lifetime incomes. Consequently, it is fair enough to target superannuation tax breaks on the taxes of annual incomes and contributions"; "Arguably, the fact that people tend to save almost the same amount irrespective of the tax rate on savings means that savings should be taxed more."

Government ministers and advisers should read these reports critically.

M. Aken, Holder

Swing to Labor

The Rudd-Gillard-Rudd governments went down to Tony Abbott because of internal fighting and Abbott lost his leadership to Malcolm Turnbull because he couldn't do anything new to regain the confidence of the electorates. Now we see Turnbull government has taken a hit in the opinion polls. ("Turnbull government loses ground in new polls", February 15, Page 1)

It stands at 52-48 – a difference of four percentage points because the Turnbull government has so far shown no leadership at all and Malcolm Turnbull's position is not as strong as some people would like to believe.

I won't be surprised if the polls in the coming months will show 48-52 in ALP's favour.

Sankar Kumar Chatterjee, Evatt

Slanted news

It is understandable that a TV station, even a public broadcaster, would seize the opportunity of a headline like: "... employee's six year long sicky ... discovered when employer tried to contact employee to grant a long service award ..." or words to that effect. The story [on SBS] refers to an employee of a public authority in a Spanish city.

What is not so understandable is that that same broadcaster hasn't made any reference to the prolonged and severe political crisis that has besieged that same country for the past three months. Obviously, SBS does not consider that aspect newsworthy, not even for the Spanish migrant community.

Has SBS sunk so low that now it concentrates only on gossipy news, with attention-grabbing headlines?

Juan Rodriguez, president, Spanish Residents Council of the ACT

Light rail's true cost

The report on the tram bid was of interest ("No compo for unsuccessful tram bidder", February 15, p3). The part where all costs of progressing down Northbourne Avenue to be borne by the contractor seemed to defy reason. Originally there was to be a contingency sum of around $170million. Now at the most it will cost around $80million. This government of ours can spin faster than a centrifuge.

There is no mention of who will bear the cost of the duplication of Flemington Road and its traffic lights and pedestrian crossings. Nor is there any mention of the interest that will be paid to the successful bidder over 20 years or so of the contract on their investment.

The $375million lump sum provided by the government will come straight out of ratepayers' pockets. All public housing sold off has to be replaced before the tenants are evicted. The aged government offices are to be replaced by a super government complex of offices.

In the interest of all ratepayers I hope the ACT auditor does a real audit on the true cost to our community of light rail.

Howard Carew, Isaacs

Tax concessions for houses need overhaul

Les Brennan's concern (Letters, February 15) that there will be shortage of rental accommodation if changes are made to current negative gearing tax concessions may prove to be true for a transition period, but avoids the point that something has to be done to end the generally unproductive policy of permitting tax concessions for existing houses.

Malcolm Turnbull has made very clear that tax reforms need to "promote growth", "create jobs" and "be fair". The current policy in regard to existing houses does not tick these boxes. By concentrating the tax concessions to investment in new buildings Bill Shorten seems to be aiming for a significant increase in the stock of housing available and the creation of many new jobs in the construction and associated industries, hence promoting national growth. Landlord investors will still be able to buy new properties to rent, thus providing accommodation and still enjoying the tax concessions for negative gearing.

How is it in the national interest to end the subsidies to the car industry with the loss of thousands of jobs, technical expertise and export products, while allowing subsidies through tax concessions to enable investors to acquire multiple existing houses.

Bill Bowron, Farrer

Project off the rails

The government-funded greenhouse analysis of light-rail to which Richard Denniss refers ("PM lives in the city of his dreams", February 13) unfortunately has many disqualifying failings, including ignoring the project's construction greenhouse gas debt which will never be repaid. As well, road congestion will be much worse if the tram is built, according to Capital Metro's own "do nothing" comparison. A careful reading of the project's environmental impact statement dispels any remaining "feel good" feelings for this project which started with such good intentions but is now off the rails.

Kent Fitch, Nicholls

Australian politics good example of how hereditary rule plays out

It is no wonder that there are so many monarchists in the Australian Parliament. After all, monarchy is a form of hereditary rule wherein the rulership is passed down from one member of the family to the next, something that the major parties prefer.

Hereditary rule was apparent when Simon Crean (ALP leader) followed in the footsteps of his Treasurer father, Frank. ALP Leader, Kim Beazley Junior and Kim Senior between them logged up 59 years of service in Canberra.

Martin and Laurie Ferguson chose a career in politics just like their deputy premier dad, Jack. Larry Anthony, like his father deputy PM, Doug, found the food in the members dining room to his liking. Even Australia's youngest and smallest Parliament has had two generations of the Berry family since it kicked off in 1989.

One of the front runners in Andrew Robb's old seat of Goldstein has the very familiar surname "Downer". If successful, Georgina, will follow her father, Alexander (1984-2008), grandfather, Sir Alick (1949-1963), and great grandfather, Sir John (1901-1903) into federal Parliament. Alexander and his dad also both scored the position of high commissioner in London.

Perhaps it would save electoral costs if the first born Downer was sworn into Parliament on their 21st birthday.

Mike Reddy, Curtin

Suffering continues

Greg Pinder (Letters, February 12) raises an interesting moral issue: is Australia's cruel treatment of asylum seekers justified on the basis that it discourages others from embarking on dangerous boat journeys? It is a valid question and deserves a response. But it is based on the false assumption that our policies are effective because they have stopped the boats.

That our asylum-seeker policies are cruel is not in dispute. Indeed, the whole point is to make conditions in detention centres so appalling that other asylum seekers will prefer the misery they are currently enduring to the misery of our detention centres. Some asylum seekers who might have considered coming to Australia are almost certainly embarking on dangerous journeys across the Mediterranean instead.

It may be that our asylum-seeker policies have largely stopped the boats coming to Australia but we have certainly not stopped the suffering. We have simply transferred it to other places in the hope that we can ignore it.

Charles Body, Kaleen

PM's healthy jog

When Richard Denniss wrote about Malcolm Turnbull living in the "city of his dreams" (Opinion p7, February 13) I think he was confusing the house in Forrest with the one in Point Piper with its proximity to the eastern suburbs railway. I am sure Simon Corbell would say that the 2km walk from Turnbull's Point Piper digs to Edgecliffe station would make him almost as fit a prime minister as Tony Abbott.

On the contrary, if Denniss did really mean Malcolm to take the even healthier jog from Deakin up to Civic and catch the scenic tram ride out to Gungahlin in 2020, then Malcolm would then realise that his minister for cities had been had.

The Barr government's vision for a battery driven tram on Constitution Avenue had necessitated installing a wind farm on Russell Hill so that the batteries could be recharged before each ascent on foggy mornings. Public holidays were being declared on still foggy days. Meanwhile Russell workers had found that they could jog into Civic faster than the 15 minute tram ride.

A. Smith, Farrer

Trap for the unwary

Shoppers at the Belconnen Fruit and Vegetable Markets should be aware but not afraid when parking their cars in the new two hour limit zones around the markets, including the gravel area.

Your car is photographed and timed each time you use these zones throughout the day. There are parking condition signs displayed but they are written in legal mumbo jumbo.

We had the distressing experience of receiving a $65 parking fine recently when we made two visits to the markets in one day and was not aware that parking in these zones at different times and locations, is accumulated. We have shopped at these markets for over 30 years, but will be avoiding them in the future.

Clare and Peter Best, Weetangera

Clause has a purpose

David Smith (Letters, February 15) suggests that section 59 of the constitution is otiose and therefore serves no practical purpose.

The framers of the constitution surely inserted the clause with an intended purpose. I readily agree that it has never been used. Nevertheless, while it exists it is a fetter on the power of the governor-general.

Albeit, I suggest if used by the monarch, Australia would immediately become a republic. The section is written in plain, simple English, "The Queen may disallow any law within one year from the governor-general's assent".

I know of no legal ruling which suggests this could not be enforced.

C. J. Johnston, Duffy

TO THE POINT

LAW BEING IGNORED

Would someone please explain why the Australian Republic(an) Movement's latest strategy (a yes/no referendum followed by a congress of political and community leaders developing a preferred republic model) is ignoring the procedures laid down in Chapter V111, Section 128, of the Australian Constitution?

Ed Dobson, Hughes

GIRL POWER

While pleased the Nationals have finally been brought dragging and screaming into the 21st century by electing Senator Fiona Nash as deputy leader of their federal parliamentary party, I am disappointed that at her first media conference she chose to refer to herself as a girl.

Ian De Landelles, Hawker

WE'LL RUN OUT OF LAND

If the world's population continues to double every 46 years ("Population hits 24million as fertility, migration soar," February 13, p3), by 2500 the amount of dry land available for each person on Earth will be about 15 square metres. That's without allowing for the possibility of rising sea levels.

Conrad Burden, Braddon

BOUQUET FOR PETUNIAS

The gorgeous petunia pots in Civic are much appreciated, adding a touch of colour to the somewhat drab city area. Thank you to whoever pays for them, as well as to the waterers and gardeners, who have kept them looking lovely all summer.

Judith Ballard, Kaleen

RUSSIA RIGHT ON SYRIA

Galling, perhaps, for John Kerry but Russia's got it right. Assad is the lid on Syria's pot. So save Assad first. Better the devil in charge than nobody.

Ned Ovolny, Duffy

TAXING DISCREPANCY

Natural persons are taxed on their income before expenses, yet companies get taxed only on what is left after all the bills have been paid. Why don't we replace the tax on company profits with a tax on company income? Or are natural persons second class citizens when it comes to paying tax?

John Trueman, Downer

SUPPLY AND DEMAND

Regarding Les Brennan's letter (February 15) forecasting a supply shortfall of rental accommodation because property investors will hypothetically sell out to owner-occupiers if negative gearing rules are changed: wouldn't the demand for rental accommodation also decrease if renters become owner-occupiers? Categorising people looking for accommodation as either renters or owner-occupiers is irrelevant.

Doug Foskett, Griffith

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