Comment

Letters to the Editor

Follow the money

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The unsolicited proposal dubbed "Manuka Green" by the GWS Giants and Grocon to develop Manuka Oval and the surrounding area appears to be founded on a commitment to provide three VFL games a year and enhance the oval amenities. The proposal appears to acquire, at no cost, a significant amount of public land and entail construction of 1000 units and various commercial retail outlets up to seven storeys high. The ACT government would achieve a significant cash flow from rates.

There has been no call from the community for this development. The website is very vague and promotes the view that the city needs growth and sophistication. I will watch the money trail with great interest. The ACT government should initiate any upgrading of the oval amenities, if and when there is seen to be a need.

Charles Stanger, Manuka

I take Richard Fox's point about development and Manuka Oval ("Manuka Green proposal good fit for go-ahead capital, Times2, March 18, p5). In fact, the old Manuka, where we used to drive in the back gate, park on the grassy knoll and watch the ACT play, for instance, Manly second grade and toot our horns at the boundaries, is obviously long gone.

My doubts are not that Grocon can come up with a plan that promises community value as well as profits. It is that the community value aspects will be whittled away to virtually nothing once we give the go-ahead. Like, for instance, James Packer's new casino.

If we do a deal with Grocon, let's have vicious financial penalties for any attempt to expand their benefit at our expense.

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S. W. Davey, Torrens

Water worries

The article "Village is 'showering in own excrement", March 21, p2) was a bit on the nose. This and the front-page article ("Fears Gundaroo growth will accelerate pollution") pointed out that some of the bores tested in Gundaroo had E coli, and local organic farmers Michael Plane and Joyce Wilkie asserted this meant our showers, our drinking water and our food suffers from faecal contamination. Is it just me, or is it a bit ironic, an organic gardener telling us of the dangers of manure on our food?

I wonder how many times we will have to flush this argument before it goes away. Like most in Gundaroo, I drink and shower in rainwater collected off the roof.

Dr Stephen Myers, Gundaroo, NSW

Aboretum design

Various critical comments on the arboretum (Letters, March 21) prompt me to add to the discussion. After the bushfire of 2003 and taskforce report, I was invited by the Chief Minister's office to attend a meeting to discuss future options. There were about six invitees. After presentation of what seemed to me to be sketchy ideas for an extensive arboretum, we were asked our opinions. Being the last person to comment, I asked what is the purpose, objective and why? Further, had anyone considered the challenges Charles Weston encountered when he attempted to set up a series of test plots on the site. It took him two or three attempts before success. His palette of trees was limited and tree-planting centres were generous, as were Lindsay Pryor's later test plots around Canberra. My suggestion that consideration should be given to re-establishing the endangered native yellow box/red box grassy woodland as a positive contribution to ecological conservation was met with incomprehension.

I am aware a leading forestry expert gave the same advice.

Needless to say, I was not invited to any further meetings or planning sessions, learning later that the notion of native plantings was not high on the agenda of those pushing the arboretum.

Unlike Ron Gray and Cedric Bryant, I kept my counsel. For their troubles, they were denounced by John Mackay in an article that I well remember, thinking at the time, what price expertise. It is not surprising things have gone awry, given the brief for the arboretum design competition.

Professor Ken Taylor, Centre for Heritage and Museum Studies, the Australian National University

Not waiting for fast rail

I wholeheartedly subscribe to The Canberra Times' enthusiasm for the Brisbane to Melbourne fast rail link. But, titillating as your editorial ("Time is right to revisit plans for fast rail", Times2, March 21, p2) is, I am not fully convinced anything will happen in the next 10 years.

Coming from Malcolm Turnbull, the most promising prime minister, yet, so far, the most scant deliverer of promises, I now take his "revelations" with a big pinch of salt.

Sorry, six months ago, I would have believed him. Today, I think he is just playing with our emotions.

John Rodriguez, Florey

While the "Time is right to revisit plans for fast rail", one would have to conclude that the Barr government and its planners are oblivious to any significance this eventuality might have for the citizens of Canberra. Beyond an interchange at the airport where passengers will board the light-rail day trip to Civic, words fail. Canberra already extends 45 kilometres north to south, but the government's 25-year plan is for a tram that will trundle at 10km/h over the saddles between the valleys and ding-ding through innumerable intersections, causing more road traffic congestion.

You don't service a 45-kilometre urban extent with a street-level tram network.

I am sure Canberrans would be happy with express bus services until a long-term plan was implemented to build a heavy rail spine the length of Canberra. This would not only form the backbone for a fast transit network, but it would also seamlessly link the towns to the fast inter-city rail of the future.

It is time Mr Barr forgot about social engineering and changed his government's focus from real estate to some serious planning involving the towns.

It won't be long before Canberrans get their say.

A. Smith, Farrer

Corralling the drunks

The emerging controversy about querying battle casualties about where they had been drinking with a view to controlling licensing ("Pubs, clubs wry of hospital booze study", March 16, p2) reminds me of the situation here in Canberra some 20 years ago.

The police licensing branch was all set to apply for the delicensing of a well-known trouble spot, known to cabbies as "Jurassic Park West", only to find that two nearby licensed clubs were going to object. The principal reason for this objection being that while JPW was open, the club management knew where the monsters were.

Fredrik Limacher, Kambah

When winning everything becomes the goal in politics, everyone loses

The time for playing games is over? Hell no! The Turnbull government is playing on.

Move one: nobble the micro-party senators. The Senate reform allowing voters to specify preferences by party was necessary, but only to stop gaming of Senate elections and to allow voters to better record voting intentions.

It's not democratic for candidates to be elected by tiny minorities. It's irrelevant how capable the micro-party senators are. It wasn't necessary to stop filibustering. Politics is the art of the possible; the government should deal with the Parliament like Julia Gillard did: govern, and not try to rule.

Move two: prorogue Parliament. Apparently it's legal, but it was only for political advantage, not necessity. Move three: resubmit the ABCC bill to the Senate. Whatever its merits, the refusal to improve the bill shows the true purpose: a ploy to get a third trigger for a double dissolution. The obvious goal is to win majorities in both houses. The government wants a compliant Senate to force through legislation, but that's usually bad.

When politics becomes about winning everything, everyone loses. Just because you can, doesn't mean you should.

Richard Neville, Fraser

Malcolm Turnbull's haste to sack the Senate reveals profound ignorance.

The Senate is not a rich man's servant. The Senate is a house of review. How does he react when the Senate says a policy needs changing?

Turnbull rants and raves like a spoilt brat and vows to wreck the Senate. A sane prime minister would change a rejected policy. He would include the Treasurer in budget events. Megalomania – thy name is Malcolm Turnbull. He suffers from the insolence of office.

Graham Macafee, Latham

Messiah needed

I hardly think Arthur Sinodinos was the most creditable chap to rush out of the trench to spruik the latest version of the trickle-down effect ("Corporate tax cuts benefit workers", March 21, p4).

Aside from the fact that most business are able to reduce their tax below 30per cent, any additional benefit to a company would see the workers elbowed to the back of the queue behind shareholders and company executives.

If the Libs are going to do a rerun on the tired old trickle-down line, they need a messiah on the job – someone who can convince us a Liberal corporate Shangri-La would bring a three-day week, free lunches, a lend of their yacht on weekends, provide a cure for baldness and encourage our chooks to lay hard-boiled eggs. That's a job for Mal-con.

Robert Bruce, Fadden

I am bewildered by the logic displayed by politicians. Arthur Sinodinos suggests half of any cuts to corporate tax flows to workers via higher wages. But what surety do we have that this will continue to occur? Further, what happens to the other half of the tax deduction?

Increased profits transferred overseas? Pay rises for CEOs? Higher dividends for investors? Mr Sinodinos suggests cutting company taxes encourages investment or higher productivity, yet no figures are offered to support this claim. Wishful thinking perhaps? Surely, tax cuts to workers, who seem to have missed out, would have the same effect once these people started to spend their tax cut. This has an additional benefit of advantaging a larger number of citizens. So why not?

C. J. Johnston, Duffy

Thought for workers

While some of us will no doubt be put out by the strike action being taken by Australian public servants, spare a thought for them, who have been denied even CPI pay increases over the past two years.

Worse still, the federal government's idea of "good-faith bargaining" is to offer the removal of all the workers' conditions out of the workplace agreements and have them put into policy and regulation on the promise from Tony Abbott and Eric Abetz and now Malcolm Turnbull and Michaelia Cash that the workers can "trust" them not to rip their entitlements away.

Any Contracts Law 101 student will tell you: if your conditions are not protected under the contract, then you have no protection of these conditions, no matter what "promises" the relevant government minister gives you to the contrary.

Anthony van den Broek, Erskineville, NSW

Greek myopia

One would expect Christopher Mackie, a professor of Greek studies, to be sympathetic to the Greek nation, but not perhaps as myopic as his article "Greeks' compassion for refugees an example", Times2, March 21, p5) would indicate.

Drawing on antiquity and the present refugee crisis, Professor Mackie would have us believe the Greeks are charitable and hospitable to a high degree. It's a pity he seems to be suffering from amnesia about the Greek role in the Balkan Wars from the 1890s through to World WarI. I don't think the Turks or Greece's Balkan neighbours would be so forgetful and forgiving.

As far as the Greek role in the refugee crisis is concerned, it needs to be remembered that until now Greece has seen itself as a transit route to other countries. There has been little question of refugees staying long term in Greece, as very few of them would wish to stay in a country in economic crisis and with a none-too-generous benefits regime for immigrants.

Lastly, I find Mackie's criticism of Australia's refugee policy to be deplorable. It ignores the fact Australia has been built by migrants, many of whom were refugees.

Our politicians have taken a sensible approach to limiting the scale of refugee intake in order to avoid the economic and social disruption the refugee crisis is bringing to many countries in western Europe. We should be thankful for that.

Peter Hawker, Burra, NSW

Geology's lessons

I endorse Deborah Crossing's comments (Letters March 21) about geology and climatology. Many geologists agree the geological record of over 3billion years of earth history from sedimentary rocks, sediments, and ice cores is entirely consistent with predictions of warming climate, and also major impacts on ocean chemistry and biota, if atmosphere carbon dioxide levels continue to rise.

Max Brown, Mawson

New book sale venue disadvantages Lifeline

I dropped off some books to Lifeline on Monday and asked whether their next big sale would be at Epic, as it has been for quite a number of years, and was told the ACT government has moved their September monster book sale to Thoroughbred Park.

I was then informed the Thoroughbred Park venue is smaller than Epic and not as many books can be displayed for sale.

The end result could be reduced income for Lifeline, an organisation that not only helps many people in distress, but also helps to save many lives each year. The question that is being asked is why the change and why disadvantage an organisation that does so much good in our community.

One would have thought Lifeline should have some priority because of the valuable community services it provides and the fact it is becoming more and more difficult to raise funds these days.

Anthony Senti, Kaleen

Trees by any other name

Ron Gray (Letters, March 21) alludes to the National Arboretum being a "hospice for trees".

In 1955, Hugh Waring established an experiment in six-year-old radiata pine on the eastern slopes of Dairy Farmers Hill where the National Arboretum is planted.

By 1973, the average cumulative mortality on the 64 plots was 50per cent, but it was greater than 72per cent on 12 plots. The deaths were attributed to droughts, which occurred every five to seven years.

Trees in the Stromlo plantation can also be affected by the direct effects of high radiation whereby deformation can result from the death of cambium on the north-western side of the upper stem. Undoubtedly, other species would be similarly desiccated.

The chosen site is indeed at high risk of becoming a "hospice" for trees.

Peter Snowdon, Aranda

TO THE POINT

SENATE DOING ITS JOB

The PM is complaining the Senate is obstructive and not doing its job. I am not keen on obscure individuals being able to gain Senate seats with minuscule support, but, to my mind, the Senate has been exactly doing its job: rejecting bad legislation put forward by a government with a startling total inability to negotiate on anything.

T. J. Marks, Holt

I note the Prime Minister "has taken control of a sea of floating imponderables" ("Ditherer to decisive leader in a single stroke", March 22, p1). No doubt he has also "taken arms against a sea of troubles – to by opposing end them".

Michael McCarthy, Deakin

On Monday, I heard Malcolm Turnbull say, "the time for playing games is over". But it sounded more like "let the games begin". Is Malcolm Turnbull a marathon man, I wonder, or will he go in the high jump?

Annie Lang, Kambah

Prime Minister Turnbull must be serious about a double dissolution. Even our own Senator Zed "Rip Van" Seselja has been stirred and has started conducting interviews.

Rob Ey, Weston

WAITING FOR SERVICE

If ever John Richardson (Letters, March 21) gets that visit from Andy Penn's exceptional team, please send them over to Wandella, postcode 2550, when they have finished. I would like him to explain to me his interpretation of "service". I have had none ever since John Howard promised the same when selling off our public asset.

P. Leslie, Wandella, NSW

How can Telstra provide Wallagoot with a service if it is not on the map and has no postcode? Binalong, however, is in the Canberra telephone district, and we are still waiting for a mobile service.

Steve Grimsley, NSW, Binalong

DOUBLE STANDARDS

Congratulations to Pat (Editorial cartoon, Times2, March 21, p1) for pointing out double standards and hypocrisy in Parliament's approach to handling care issues in schools.

Graham Hannaford, Ainslie

NOT IN MY BACKYARD

How is it that a third-rate Sydney football club with a handful of ACT supporters, and which has already cost this city far too much, sees itself in a position to eviscerate our shared and treasured cultural heritage by imposing its philistine development aspirations on Manuka? Others, outside the ACT, may be far more deserving of such crassness, but not in my backyard.

Ian Pearson, Barton

Email: letters.editor@canberratimes.com.au. Send from the message field, not as an attached file. Fax: 6280 2282. Mail: Letters to the Editor, The Canberra Times, PO Box 7155, Canberra Mail Centre, ACT 2610.

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