Letters to the editor
The recent decision by the Heritage Council not to give heritage protection to sections 47 and 48 in Turner is a difficult one to understand for a number of reasons.
First, no request was made to list the homes themselves, only the ''streetscape'', which gives the dual benefit of making little difference to residents wanting to modify their homes, but would have protected them from steadily encroaching apartment blocks. This would have required little management from the Heritage Council and had little or no impact on house prices in the area. Second, the National Trust, which supported the nomination, in its ''places most at risk for 2012'' listed ''Canberra's residential suburbs''. This, in combination with the 2012 National Heritage Listing nomination for Canberra (which incorporates Turner) would have been an ideal opportunity to protect an archetypal example of that heritage which is under immediate threat.
Third, the implication was made in the report that there were more detractors than supporters. This is simply not correct. Part of the precinct under consideration had been the subject of a moratorium on development for several years. In 2011 this was reviewed with 63 per cent of the submissions arguing for keeping it in place as the area had heritage potential.
Despite this, that moratorium was lifted. There is little vision evident now in Canberra's planning laws. Walter Griffin's forethought and design has steadily been eroded to the point where soon it will be unrecognisable. The emphasis now is on quick money from development applications, but little or no consideration or responsibility taken for the consequences. This recent decision is a sad one not just for Turner residents, but for the city as a whole. The character is being steadily eroded out of Canberra, which will soon be rendered fifty shades of dull and grey.
Nicola Watson, Turner
I am gobsmacked by the reported comments by the chairman of the ACT Heritage Council, Duncan Marshall, justifying its decision to reject an application for heritage listing of section 47 in Turner. It appears that the council rejected the assessment of its own commissioned assessor's conclusions possibly in favour of one representing the views of the principal protagonist for redevelopment.
Mr Marshall claims that there has been a lot of redevelopment and a loss of integrity in the subject area but this is blatantly untrue to anyone with 20/20 vision. Perhaps he is thinking of the adjoining section 48 along Condamine Street, which would seem a fatal factual error. One of the key features of the Holder Street portion of section 47 is the unique 'pocket' parks which have served as a focus for children's recreation for 60 years. Curiously, the council has recognised areas of Griffith which have similar but different park features and which are contemporaneous with Turner, right down to the identical design of the former Griffith primary, but which have undergone much more and extensive alteration and redevelopment.
Is this a case of affluent Inner South bias? Then there is his suggestion that there was little support for nomination because there were five responses opposing the listing. There would have been many submissions supporting the listing if the council had gone to the trouble of seeking submissions rather than leaving it to luck or self-interest.
This is no less than barbarism. To be rejected on justifiable grounds would be disappointing, but to be rejected with such spurious and flawed reasoning is a betrayal of the essence of Canberra.
David Jenkins, Turner
Pay them the same
Before 1997, all public servants employed at the same level, no matter what department they happened to work in, naturally received the same pay. However, since then each department has had to negotiate wages and conditions for its employees - with the result that, now, the pay and conditions of officers working at the same level varies significantly from department to department (''PS pay disparities make classification system redundant'', August 1, p1).
This is quite ridiculous. Not only is it inconsistent with the reality of one unified Australian Public Service (APS) with one employer; it also creates other problems, such as jealousy and dissatisfaction, discouraging desirable movement between agencies, and even the farcical situation of someone being ''promoted'' from one department to another but getting less pay! It's also uneconomic, in that it requires senior officers of every department, rather than doing the work they're paid for, having to spend time in pay negotiations, instead of having such negotiations centred in one agency (the Public Service Commission) to apply to the APS as a whole.
This ridiculous situation has arisen from a mistaken urge by some enterprise-bargaining enthusiasts in 1997 to copy the private sector. Nonsense. While enterprise bargaining is a good thing in business (because it's part of the competition process to reduce costs and prices), it's counter-productive in the public service .
The sooner this is realised, the better.
R.S. Gilbert, Braddon
Jenny Goldie (Letters, August 1) is absolutely right in criticising the media, politicians (and co-incidentally economists) for always giving priority to economic over environmental news.
This is exemplified by your front page and appended articles on corruption by wealthy politicians and businessmen, which fail to mention the devastating effect that open cast coalmining would have on the community and landscape of the beautiful Bylong valley.
We see much media cover about the adverse effects on human societies of economic recessions and depressions, but these pale in comparison to the catastrophic global ecological consequences which could ensue from following the current business-as-usual model of plundering the natural environment for extraction, leakage and combustion of fossil fuels to meet the illusional demands for endless economic growth.
Bryan Furnass, Hughes
Courts cannot be judged using flawed methodology
In the debate about the need for a fifth judge in the ACT Supreme Court Patrick Jones (Letters, July 31, p2) expresses the view that a review of the efficiency of the court is more important than having an extra judge, and he praises Attorney-General Simon Corbell for resisting such an appointment.
I don't know whether the Supreme Court is as efficient as it could be, but I am absolutely certain the methodology used by Mr Corbell to prove it is inefficient is seriously flawed and is therefore an inadequate basis for decision-making. In a lengthy article in these pages on May 20, Mr Corbell cited data which purported to show that the number of lodgments in the ACT Supreme Court was, on average, lower than in similar courts elsewhere in Australia.
But he also stated measures had been taken to improve access to justice and to reduce delay, saying ''fewer bail applications are now heard in the Supreme Court'' and ''the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court has been narrowed so that it only hears the most serious cases''. This must mean cases that do come to this court are more complex and time-consuming than was the case before these measures were taken.
This is a clear case of ''criterion contamination''. The measure, or criterion, being used is contaminated or altered by the person or agency doing the measuring. If one really wants to measure the relative efficiency of different courts, a much more sophisticated approach is needed. It should at least take into account factors like the hearing time required for each case, the volume of evidence and the number of cases for which reserved decisions are delayed for lengthy periods.
David Biles, Curtin
Netanyahu for peace
Amin Saikal (''Peace still a distant dream'', Times2, August 1, p1) seems to believe that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ''always opposed'' the principle of ''land for peace'', which is curious, as Mr Netanyahu has explicitly endorsed the principle for years. For just one example, he said in May 2011: ''I am willing to make painful compromises to achieve this historical peace … I recognise that in a genuine peace we will be required to give up parts of the ancestral Jewish homeland.''
It is somewhat concerning that Professor Saikal does not seem to have performed so much as a Google search to check his assertions.
Justin Said, Coogee, NSW
Daring to question
Jon Stanhope (Letters, August 1, p2) attacks the National Tertiary Education Union for daring to raise important questions about how universities expend public funding. The NTEU has simply asked what evidence is there that high-cost football sponsorships and now elite researcher programs initiated by University of Canberra management are actually an effective use of public funding.
This is a legitimate matter of public debate. Given the management chose a month ago to close its successful languages programs and introduce paid parking due to ''budget pressures'', it is inevitable the members we represent want answers on the real value of other multimillion-dollar expenditures. For instance, the elite researcher scheme will cost more than double the claimed savings from recent budget cuts.
Rather than attacking the union for raising these questions, Mr Stanhope would have been better off providing evidence that these strategies are a worthwhile use of public expenditure.
Stephen Darwin, ACT division secretary, NTEU
Gas no cure-all
Roger Quarterman (Letters, August 1, p2) is only too right about the damage caused by coal-fired electricity generation - not only in terms of carbon emissions but also other negative environmental and health impacts, to the point where, in economic terms alone, all the benefits we've gained from all the electricity generated by coal are outweighed by the costs caused by this damage.
But, sadly, he may be over-estimating the extent to which alternatives like natural gas are really ''cleaner''. There is a growing body of evidence suggesting that the damage from fracking and fugitive emissions means that gas may not be much better than coal after all.
But what Mr Quarterman misses is the key long-term advantage of light rail: our electricity generation systems can and are beginning to be transformed into renewable generation with virtually no emissions. And the day we hit peak sun or peak wind, I suspect electricity generation won't be much of a worry any more.
Felix MacNeill Dickson
R.S. Gilbert (Letters, August 1, p2) once again gets it wrong. We create wealth by getting more value, over the life of our investments, than we spend in creating them. Economists fall into the trap of discounting future benefits but not initial costs. If we adjust costs and benefits for inflation then we find that the NBN and light rail will return many times their cost over their lifetimes.
The calculation methods used by economists do not match the real world of investments. In 1924 economists would have said benefits from the Sydney Harbour Bridge would have to be $750,000 each year for the bridge to show a profit. They would have advised against building because the toll total in the first year was $10,000. Now $750,000 is collected in a day.
Kevin Cox, Ngunnawal
I applaud Lorraine Walsh for refusing to allow HELP debt halt her postgraduate ambitions (Higher learning, lower loan costs'', Times2, July 31, p14). I believe that it matters little if debts of university students have increased in recent years. Indeed, what better way of spending taxpayers' money than to produce a highly educated generation, who will repay their debts several times over through their services to the country.
Sam Nona, Burradoo, NSW
Military pensioners deserve a fair go
I suspect that Peter Reece (Letters, August 1) has never served in the Australian Defence Force, let alone served for 20 years or longer. If he has then I would be very surprised that he has called those who have ''whingers''. I will not try to correct the many errors in his letter but I need to emphasise some essential points for your readers.
Mr Reece makes some inappropriate comments regarding the uniqueness of military service (''… they constantly remind us, are unique … blah blah … ''). All ADF members (retired, veteran, non-veteran, serving) readily acknowledge the outstanding (and often dangerous) work done by our police, ambulance and emergency service personnel. However members of the ADF are unique and they are trained differently to the police, the ambulance and emergency services. And they are definitely completely different to the Commonwealth public servants.
The military are the only ones who are trained to kill people and destroy infrastructure using every weapon at their disposal: bullets, artillery, tanks, bombs and naval weapons. We are also deliberately placed in harm's way by our own people, which often results in our having to put this training into practice, often with our own being killed or wounded. So we are very much different to all these other professions. Just look at the number of fine young Australians who have been killed or wounded in action in Afghanistan. Many of these will be scarred physically and mentally for life and their families will also suffer. And yet, Mr Reece calls us whingers?
Sometimes we need to be blunt because political correctness hides the brutality of what we both do and endure on behalf of our nation.
No, Mr Reece, we are not whingers. We simply want to have an entitlement reinstated, without retrospectivity, and to have our retirement pay maintain parity with the cost of living; that is to have our retirement pay indexed exactly the same as the aged pension.
Is that asking too much?
Neil Weekes, MC, Brigadier (retired), Banksia Beach, Qld
To the point
CRUEL AND UNWANTED
In an online Fairfax poll last week of more than 3000 people, asking: ''Which party's asylum seeker policy do you prefer?'' 44 per cent answered that they preferred the Greens' policy.
These polls are not remotely scientific, but this should at least tell Ned Ovolny (Letters, August 1) that a significant number of people want a different approach from the cruel and ineffective deterrence of Labor and the Liberal-National Coalition.
Peter Marshall, Captains Flat, NSW
JUST BORN LUCKY
I'm sure Michael Jordan (Letters, August 1) waited patiently in the ''queue'' himself. Or perhaps he was lucky enough to be born in Australia?
Nic Sheehan, Fraser
RIDING THE HIGH HORSE
So an Islamist refuses to stand for His Honour? But we've known our very own (indigent) people to say, ''I don't recognise the authority of this court'' - and get away with it. How does C. Thomas in his/her ''imperfect fit'' letter (August 1) cope with that one?
Luckily, in this country, His Honour seldom rides the high horse. In some places, you'd be shot.
Gordon Nevin, O'Connor
CALL FOR EXECUTION
So ''Roger Dean gets life in prison for nursing home fire'' (canberratimes.com.au, August 1). Life, for goodness sake? This man pleaded guilty to the death of 11 elderly, helpless and defenseless human beings.
If this gutless incident by Dean isn't a walk-up start for execution, I don't know what is.
Michael Attwell, Dunlop
IGNORING THE DRONES
Lockheed Martin's self-serving full-page advertisement, ''Providing national security by the flight'' (July 30, p5) extols the company's virtuous contribution to making Australian air travel safer. What they fail to mention is that their technology is also co-opted by the CIA to perpetrate Obama's murderous predator drone campaign.
Albert M. White, Queanbeyan, NSW
BAN SMOKING NOW
An increase on tobacco tax to raise an extra $5.3 billion over four years (''Smokers will pay $5.3b more into revenue kitty'', August 1, p5) sounds like a lot until you compare it to the social cost of tobacco-related products, which stands around $31billion a year (cancerwa.asn.au/resources/2012-06-07-Weighing-the-evidence-Tobacco-Control-report.pdf). Taxing tobacco is a false economy when we could achieve so much more with an extra $31billion in the economy. Ban smoking now.
Joe Murphy, Bonython
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