Firefighters are shocked at claims by ACT Emergency Services Commissioner Dominic Lane that extra firefighting resources won't increase the safety of Canberra residents.
Canberra has a single aerial firefighting appliance for high-rise fires, while three smaller Victorian towns with an equivalent total population share four.
Canberra's appliance is prone to breakdown and has been offline for more than 40 days since July 1. But Mr Lane says citizens need to have their own safety plans and heed smoke alarms.
He told ABC TV on January 14: "In no means can one, two, three or 10 aerial appliances further guarantee citizen safety."
Canberra residents should be alarmed at the so-called efficiencies being sought by ex-British fire chief Mark Jones, who started on Thursday as director of the ESA's strategic reform agenda.
The focus is clearly on saving money. Firefighters prefer to focus on saving lives and property.
Two days later Mr Lane said to The Canberra Times ("High-reach firefighting vehicle out of action", January 15, p2) that the people of Canberra should "make sure that over a period of time, apathy does not creep backin", when speaking of the catastrophic bushfires of 2003.
Unfortunately, Mr Lane's comments on the aerial appliance suggest that he should take his own advice. Not only have we had our only aerial appliance off the road (critical in fighting fires that ladders can't reach at four storeys and above), but in recent weeks we have had faulty pumpers and compressed air foam tankers off the road; yet bureaucracy continues to expand at great financial cost.
Greg McConville, acting secretary, United Firefighters Union (ACT Branch)
Bread and porridge
The establishment of a bakery and laundry in the Alexander Maconochie Centre seems an excellent idea to provide meaningful occupations to combat the boredom and loss of freedom that accompany incarceration ("Inmates to be kept busy in bakery and laundry", January 18, p1). This is in keeping with the Scandinavian system, which regards imprisonment primarily as an opportunity for rehabilitation rather than punishment.
Nils Oberg, director-general of the Swedish prison system, hasstated: "Prison is not for punishment in Sweden. We get people in better shape."
As a result, reoffending rates are around 20 per cent, about half those in Britain, the Swedish prison population has fallen by more than 20 per cent since 2004, and several prisons have closed. About a decade ago, there was an outbreak of violence in one prison, which an enlightened governor managed by supplementing the stodgy monotonous diet with fresh fruit and vegetables, resulting in a significant fall in violent behaviour.
Why does the Alexander Maconochie Centre not establish its own garden, where inmates can grow some of their own food, as is proving to be successful in promoting the physical and social health of "free" Canberra citizens ("Growing tomatoes onthe tennis court", Forum, January 16, p1)?
Bryan Furnass, Hughes
The article "Self-harm culture in detention revealed" (January 16, p1) really must not be left to fade into history without serious discussion about whether or not it should have been published at all. My opinion is that it should not. I guess that young journalists do not carry with them all of the ancient protocols specifying what subjects should be handled with the utmost care, if they are covered at all.
Into this category would be the self-imposed ban by railways on publishing details of suicides in which the individuals throw themselves into the paths of oncoming trains. That prohibition has been in place for well over 100 years.
About 50 or 60 years ago a number of very angry prisoners developed ingenious methods of constructing wire crosses that would spring open about an hour after they had been swallowed. Expensive surgery was needed to save their lives.
So what's wrong with the article? The problem is it contains far too much highly specific detail of how anyone who can read can learn how to kill themselves. By my rough count there are 37 methods described. They are all lined up for copy-catting. The best thing to do would be to require journalism students to read it and learn what not to do with this subject.
David Biles, Curtin
So Chief Minister Andrew Barr plans to turn Northbourne Avenue into "a grand tree-lined boulevard" ("Grand entrance for city planned", January 18, p1).
Can he really not have noticed that Northbourne Avenue already is a grand tree-lined boulevard?
What he and his government actually plan to do is cut down and dig up all of the 200 or more beautiful, mature eucalypts that already grace the Northbourne median strip and replace them with tram lines. Wonderful! All visitors from Sydney to whom I have ever spoken have nothing but praise for the current appearance of the northern entrance to Australia's Bush Capital. Barr's comments are indicative of the fantasy land in which he and his government nowadays seem to operate.
Peter Trickett, Fraser
The article "Tennis rocked by fixing rumours", January 19, p1) is very disturbing, but should anyone be surprised?
For the past two years, viewers of Channel Seven's coverage of the Australian Open have been subjected to extensive advertising from one or other betting agencies.
I imagine I am not alone in finding this deeply offensive and sufficiently off-putting to discourage my viewing. In taking the path it has, Seven's desire appears to be to wring every dollar it can from its coverage rights. Much less clear is why Tennis Australia would enter into such a contract (one must assume it had some idea of the nature of the advertising that would occur during the event).
Nothing good can come of sports betting and, surely,
paying the bills cannot suffice to explain and justify Tennis Australia's poor judgment on this matter.
I am very keen, of course, to make a distinction between Tennis Australia on the one hand, and Channel Seven on the other.
TA, no doubt, is motivated to secure the income needed to promote their wonderful sport. However, truckling with sports betting is an unconscionable folly and can only diminish that which it would seek to nurture.
Graham Clews, Kambah
Restricted access to secret report changes parliamentary powers
It seems that the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet is to decide which selected parliamentarians are to have access to confidential volumes of the report of the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption ("Senators' access to report limited", January 18, p4).
If senators agree to this restriction, they are endorsing the proposition that parliament is subordinate to executive government. Is it that we missed noticing a new edition of the Magna Carta – the 2016 Liberal Party version?
Ian McAuley, Yarralumla
We all need to know
The situation goes from bad to worse. The government can't decide whether or not to release the Heydon report to all senators. ("Senators' access to report limited", January 18, p4). It is not a difficult decision to make. NONE of the report should be withheld, as it is a report that has cost the taxpayers many millions of dollars and we all deserve to see, not just a few recommendations, but ALL of it. And the fact that Heydon requested that some of the "secret" volumes be withheld to protect the witnesses throws the entire operation, including the credibility of those witnesses, even deeper into the shadows.
How can taxpayers give any credibility to a report commissioned on their behalf that is kept secret or released only if redacted?
The entire operation was tainted from the outset and continues to fester. Release the lot in its entirety or feed it all to the shredder.
W. Book, Hackett
One rule for cats
I have a cat that has cancer. The vet keeps reminding me that I can have the cat put down. The cat is still pretty chirpy, so that is not yet an option, but if and when he is curled up in a corner looking miserable, it is certainly an possibility, because I don't want him to suffer.
I also suffer from a debilitating disease, which is in a progressive phase and which seriously affects my quality of life, and will do so even more as time goes on. I am not contemplating suicide at the moment, since, like the cat, I am still chirpy, but I would like to have it as an option for the future, as do many other people ("Marked increase in elderly exploring 'rational suicide', January 18, p5).
Unfortunately, the Kevin Andrews of this world, so hung up on "right to life" that they deny our rationality and enjoy our suffering, have blocked this, although I can do the same thing to the cat without even asking him.
Giving quotes from psychiatrists and phone numbers for Lifeline and Beyond Blue does not address the problem. What we need is an acceptance that there is a time to go, that for the person going this can be a welcome release and that person may want and need to choose that time.
David Walker, Ainslie
Haven for psychos
Would it be accurate to define the people who mistreat asylum seekers in offshore prison camps as psychopaths?
The Macquarie Dictionary defines a psychopath as "outwardly normal but characterised by a diminished sense of social responsibility, inability to establish deep human relationships, and sometimes abnormal or dangerous acts".
In the colonial era, when transported convicts were being flogged, the damage could be seen. When asylum seekers are being mentally flogged in prison camps, the damage can't be seen.
Mandatory detention should be abolished. It's a haven for psychopaths.
Graham Macafee, Latham
We need fuel backup
Jenny Goldie (Letters, January 16) is right when claiming that Australia is in default of the International Energy Agency rule for 90 days' oil reserves. And as long as we don't have 90per cent of our energy supply from renewables (solar, wind, waves and so on), Australia is in a dangerous position without such reserves. Without petrol/gas how do we drive our cars? Europe is enabling electric cars, but where are ours? Apart from the Darwin to Adelaide race, I see no such enabling.
I recently bought a new car and wanted to buy an electric one, but apart from the super-expensive Tesla (sorry, not in my budget), there is no electric car available here that will allow one to drive from Canberra to Sydney in one day.
There is no serious advertising by car dealers for electric cars. There are no charging points for electric cars at convenient distances in the ACT or most of Australia, free or paid.
In Europe, electric car recharging happens in many locations and drivers get to park close to shopping centre entrances, where there are free charging points. Meanwhile, we coast along in our pollution spreaders, eyes closed, dreaming our resources will keep us going forever.
M. Pietersen, Kambah
Voting system is safer
Baden Williams (Letters, January 15) is to be commended for his democratic enthusiasm. However, what marks out Hare-Clark's single transferable vote, under which we indicate the order in which continuing candidates can be assisted by any portion not yet used in electing candidates, is that vote wastage is deliberately kept to a minimum and as many electors as possible get an effective vote.
Allocating different values to succeeding preferences up front, irrespective of individuals' actual assessments, is very prone to orchestrated manipulation (for instance, through the running of dummy candidates to weaken the vote for serious opponents) and comes with no guarantees for individual electors about levels of vote effectiveness or vote wastage.
Bogey Musidlak, convener, Proportional Representation Society of Australia (ACT Branch)
Open to question
I agree with Richard Ryan (Letters, January 19) when he suggests feral cats be curbed by cat flu since, after all, even abortion is legal. I am bemused, however, when he refers to unborn human beings as "human resources". William R. Tracey, in The Human Resources Glossary, defines human resources as: "The people that staff and operate an organisation ... as contrasted with the financial and material resources of an organisation".
Henk Verhoeven, BeaconHill, NSW
Good grammar: an academic question
My Alma Mater, the ANU, has been ranked Australia's most "international" university ("International outlook boosts ANU ranking", January 15, p3). According to new vice-chancellor Professor Brian Schmidt, this "reflects the unique role ANU plays in linking Australia to the world". Great news.
So why am I, an editor specialising in academic material, writing this letter? Because it comes hard on the heels of news that the ANU is currently investigating "an essay farm selling completed assignments to Chinese students in Canberra ("ANU investigates essay cheating service", January 14, p1).
When I was a student at the ANU, I didn't have access to editors to check my writing to make sure it was up to academic standard. It was all my own work and I had to stand or fall academically without seeking outside help.
There was always the study skills centre, which I attended, to learn about academic writing, as opposed to any other kind of writing. The international students took full advantage of the study skills centre to help them overcome their shortcomings in writing in English, too.
I describe myself as a descriptive linguist, not a prescriptive grammarian, butIcouldn't be a good editor without a background of English grammar. And this is the difference between me and today's students: I was taught grammar thoroughly at school and followed it up with linguistics at university.
Today's students, whether home-grown or international, seem not to have learnt how to write. They want the qualification that the university offers, but are not equipped to undertake the essay or thesis writing that is required for that goal.
At the beginning of a new academic year in Australia, Iurge all students to look seriously at their general writing ability and seek help in overcoming shortfalls by attending classes in English grammar.
Elizabeth Manning Murphy, Isaacs
TO THE POINT
IS IT ACCEPTABLE?
Is it OK that Survival Island 3 – Australia Story 3D, a game available on some app stores, developed by NIL Entertainment, promotes violence towards Australia's Indigenous people by allowing and encouraging players to kill Indigenous Australians?
Katherine Beauchamp, Ainslie
HEIGHTS OF MADNESS
The good citizens of Curtin should not relax their vigilance over the
12-storey proposal for their mainly residential area.
In Reid, the planning height to replace the three-storey Bega Flats was decided to be 12 storeys, despite over 100 written objections.
Chris Emery, Reid
THE BLAME GAME
Mark Austin (Letters, January 18) blames Tony Abbott for domestic violence deaths, which apparently only started during his brief tenure as prime minister.
Not only that, but people disagreeing with Jenna Price are guilty of "another form of violence, albeit intellectual and bloodless".
I have heard some preposterous PC blather in my time, but surely this example must be in contention for some sort of award.
Alan N. Cowan, Yarralumla
CARDS ON THE TABLE
Janet Reynolds (Letters, January 18) disagrees with Felicity Chivas (Letters, January 15) re the NSW seniors cards used by interstate seniors.
I suggest that Ms Reynolds has a look at the opal.com.au website, which definitely says that interstate seniors cards are only valid for 60 days. Perhaps Ms Chivas is referring to adult (as opposed to senior) Opal Cards.
N. Power, Holt
THAT'S NEWS TO ME
The ongoing debate about whether "news" is singular or plural (Letters, January 18) was resolved years ago, when the editor of an American newspaper, who firmly believed that "news" was a plural noun, asked his reporter in an outpost, "Are there any news?" to which the reporter replied, "Not a single new."
Don McMichael, Hughes
Assuming (but not agreeing) that the Australian government statistician has the power and duty to run a monthly population survey, how does the AGS have the right to ask participants the nature and basis of the participant's relationship with another person listed at the same address (married, de facto or partner, et cetera)?
If there is such a power, why refuse to specify that power when asked to do so?
D.J. Peters, Kianga, NSW
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