Letters to the editor

Gas cost need not rise

Once again we hear of gas prices rising, this time ActewAGL raising the price to households by 32 per cent.

What I cannot understand is that if we took a similar stance to many of the countries that mine their own oil we would ensure that the local price to consumers was not based on the price paid by customers overseas.

It is Australian gas that is being sold to Australian consumers and the companies that have managed to get a licence to get the gas out of the ground should have a clause in their contract that ensures that the price paid by Australian users is not linked to the much more profitable prices that these companies can squeeze out of their overseas customers.

If the new senators really want to help Australia then they should push the major political parties to start ensuring that Australian consumers are not overcharged for products that are either produced on or taken out of the Australian continent.

Tim Duffy, Kambah

Save levy for essentials

The ACT has 273,924 registered vehicles (Census 2013) and we all have to pay an extra $34 per vehicle per annum to cover a ''levy for new lifetime care and support scheme'' from July 1, 2014.


If the costs to the ACT government to supply care for ''catastrophically'' injured people, which I do not object to, are approximately $2 million per annum and the ''levy'' raises almost $9 million where is the balance of $7 million going? Hopefully not to funding such projects as the unneeded and future ''white elephant'' called the City-to-Gungahlin tram service. Maybe $10 extra, not $34, to cover this ''levy'' would be a more soluble amount.

Graham Stripp, Richardson

Heed the warning

Where are the alarm bells ringing about the grim warning by Paul D. Egan and Philip Soos (''The housing bubble and the pin factor'', Forum, July 5, p2) that the housing bubble is about to burst and real house prices could fall 30 to 50 per cent across the capital cities, devastating the economy and rendering Australia's financial sector insolvent? Hopefully they are ringing in the corridors of Parliament House and chambers of all members.

Contingency measures are needed in the light of overseas experience since the global financial crisis to manage any crisis in the 123 Australian banks, credit unions and building societies covered by the current government guarantee of deposits up to $250,000. Hopefully this can be done on a bipartisan basis.

The New Zealand Open Bank Resolution Scheme adopted in 2011 provides a model.

Such a scheme would ensure appropriate contingency measures are available should any Australian bank become insolvent or operated in an imprudent manner. The primary objectives of the OBR in the ongoing statutory management of a failed bank are to:

  • Ensure that, as far as possible, any losses are ultimately borne by the bank's shareholders and creditors;
  • Enable the bank's customers to continue to have access to most of their deposits;
  • Enable the core of the bank to be kept intact as possible to minimise disruption to the payments system and wider banking system; and
  • Ensure that the government is not forced to bail out the bank simply because there are no acceptable alternatives.

The current guarantee of bank deposits, one of the highest in the world, is potentially the Achilles heel in management of government debt in Australia and should be also reviewed as soon as possible.

It is not a specific term of reference for the current financial system inquiry.

Geoff Mannall, O'Connor

Engaging the public

It is regrettable that Paul Ratcliffe (Letters July 9) is so disparaging about the consultation process being undertaken by the Land Development Agency in relation to the proposal to redevelop Canberra Brickworks. Before the release of the proposal, extensive work was undertaken with a broad range of stakeholders, which included the Yarralumla Residents Association as well as experts in the fields of heritage, town planning, traffic management, architecture and landscape architecture.

The LDA has undertaken a rigorous community engagement process which has not only seen individual briefings provided to stakeholder groups and a direct mail out to the three surrounding suburbs, but has also included an extension of the time till July 14 for members of the public to make comment.

Once the responses have been assessed, a further newsletter, addressing the key comments and concerns, will be distributed to all residents and businesses in the three surrounding suburbs and be placed on the LDA website.

Further opportunities will be also be available for the community to comment as part of the formal processes associated with the draft variation to the Territory Plan, the amendment to the National Capital Plan, the referral under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and the Environmental Impact Statement under the Planning and Development Act 2005.

The LDA believes that community engagement is an important part of the work that it undertakes and will continue to engage with the Canberra community at every opportunity.

David Dawes, chief executive, Land Development Agency

Opt for diversity

As Professor Ken Taylor pointed out, a spreading fungal infection in the Northbourne Avenue eucalypts means that the ''trees will have to be replaced over the next decade, irrespective of the tram'' (''Off-track on Northbourne'', Times2, July 10, p1).

They replaced red box trees planted in the 1940s which replaced deciduous trees planted 1921-23. Recognising society's aversion to change, the professor considers ''it is highly likely [the replacements] will be eucalypts''.

Nevertheless, he ventured the suggestion that ''we use a mixture of eucalypts and evergreens''.

One could take this heritage heresy further and completely omit the notorious, limb-dropping eucalypts. A mixed avenue would, ideally, contain trees of widely different lifespans. Complementary plantings of species which benefited each other could be considered.

Possibly a dash of colour with the occasional Illawarra flame tree or jacaranda would not be too adventurous. The blanket of tiny white flowers produced by the pleasantly scented weeping peppermint, would be doubly beneficial as a magnet for bees. We could have an avenue of diversity.

Gary J. Wilson, MacGregor

PM minus vision consigns us to economic backwater

Tony Abbott and his government still fail to articulate any vision for Australia's future. Small government, better conditions for commerce, expendable environment and disregard for quality of life are what is preached. But these tell us nothing about what business, government and individuals will be doing 10 years from now.

We do know that Australia no longer aspires to be a clever country, but what are we aiming for instead? Do we hope to be anything more than a farm and a resource pit for cleverer countries? Is there any strategy for improving our quality of life or for developing a worthwhile role within the global economy?

The answers appear to be ''nothing in particular'', ''no'' and ''no''. Smarter countries develop plans to capitalise on their strengths. Tony Abbott gets no further than the half-baked thought that clean coal is something to look at, but then fails to put up a strategy or provide the scientific or commercial environment that would allow us to achieve anything worthwhile in this field.

Meanwhile, China and the US are already building pilot plants and swapping clean coal technology that will leave us well and truly in the cold.

Our only role will be to dig up the coal that will then burn somewhat cleaner (thanks to other countries' science and engineering) and to later buy that technology to improve our own coal-fired power stations.

Meanwhile, renewable energy, an area in which we do have natural advantages, is being trashed. This will become yet another field in which we are outrun by smarter and bigger countries: another strategic opportunity squandered.

The government, on its current course, is likely to harm our quality of life for a long time as it confuses extreme political and social ideology with ''vision'', and favouritism, tactical deregulation and institutional destruction with ''strategy''.

Julian Robinson, Narrabundah

When supply is blocked

David Townsend (Letters, July 9) does me an injustice. I don't protest at all, as he claims - I simply respond as courteously as I can to letter writers who appear not to understand some aspects of our political history and constitutional conventions.

When Gough Whitlam was attempting to use the Senate to block the Holt and Gorton governments' money bills in 1967 and 1970 he clearly enunciated in Parliament the consequences, were he to succeed.

He declared that a government that cannot get supply from the Senate must resign and recommend an immediate election to put the deadlock to the people. Although it is the governor-general who orders elections, he first requires a recommendation from the prime minister. With Whitlam's own money bills blocked in the Senate in 1975, he repudiated his earlier view of the appropriate constitutional convention and refused to recommend an election. That left the governor-general with no alternative but to commission a caretaker prime minister to recommend an election. This was the only option open to the governor-general to preserve the constitutional convention that Whitlam had twice defined and defended.

With the Whitlam government starting to run out of money, something had to be done to prevent a default on national debts, severe damage to the economy and our government grinding to a halt. Indeed, in October and November 1975, the media and writers of letters to editors were demanding that the governor-general break the parliamentary deadlock. The governor-general did the only thing that would put the deadlock to the people, as Whitlam required in 1967 and 1970.

David Smith, Mawson

More invaders at the gates

Our wintry morning was brightened by about 10 white-winged choughs (pronounced ''chuffs'', I'm reliably informed) that flew in to strut around our garden and peep in windows for a couple of hours. Black save for wingtips, of currawong size, and not seen previously in our 25 years here. Cheeky and unafraid, too. Possibly a Clive Palmer initiative, do you think?

Frank Duggan, Chisholm

Lessons lost to sleep

On ABC's RN on Thursday morning the Family First senator, Bob Day, who claimed a background in science, stated that the greenhouse effect was becoming known in about 1990 and he insinuated there was no such effect because the amount of CO2 was so insignificant. Well, I'm afraid he is almost 200 years out because in the 1820s Joseph Fourier and other scientists had understood that gases in the atmosphere might trap the heat received from the sun and in experiments in about 1860 John Tyndall showed that water vapour and CO2 would have this effect, even though only a few parts in 10,000 are present in the atmosphere. Bob Day must have been asleep when this was covered in first year physics at university.

Norm Johnston, Monash

Articles require apology

Sarah Whyte, in her article '' 'Utter despair': Mothers try to end lives to aid children'' (July 9, p4), wrote ''A wave of attempted suicides has swept Christmas Island as 12 mothers tried to kill themselves.''

In her follow-up article ''Experts fear for mental health on Christmas Island'' (July 10, p5) Ms Whyte explained that the 12 mothers comprised seven who made threats of self-harm, four who self-harmed, and only one who attempted suicide. The correction was buried in the article when it should have been highlighted under a heading as least as bold as that of the original article.

No mention was made of the extent of the ''self-harm''.

The second article gave the opinion of a single cherry-picked and seemingly naive ''expert'' who visited Christmas Island in March - four months before the release of information that allegedly led to the alleged despair and self-harm. I'm sure there would have been many experts with opposing views.

These articles were disgracefully unprofessional. The editor of The Canberra Times should publish an apology to readers.

Bob Salmond, Melba

ACT keen to identify best canine locations

I would like to reassure John Ramsay (Letters, July 10) the ACT government is committed to promoting responsible dog ownership and providing suitable and safe areas for residents to exercise their dogs.

Far from trying to ''get rid of users'', the community consultation is intended to gain input from Canberrans so that when finalised, the new maps provide a suitable balance between providing spaces for dogs to be exercised, and protecting the natural environment and the ability of others to enjoy recreational spaces.

The existing maps are almost 10 years old. The consultation has been undertaken in an effort to more clearly define on- and off-leash areas as well as areas where dogs are prohibited.

It is important to note that the changes put forward for community input are only proposed. Changes to the maps can only be made through amendments to the Domestic Animals Act, and this process will not start until feedback has been thoroughly reviewed.

In the two weeks the consultation has been running, over 450 people have already provided feedback. I encourage all interested residents, including non dog owners, to visit to view the proposed maps, complete an online survey and find out about the five remaining information sessions.

Fleur Flanery, director, City Services, Territory and Municipal Services

Sailors honoured

G.T.W. Agnew (Letters, July 11) rebukes Tony Abbott for admiring the ''skill and honour'' of the Japanese sailors who entered Sydney Harbour in 1942, and says ''This will be news to the RSL''.

It will not be to the Royal Australian Navy who arranged a funeral for the submariners with naval honours.

Richard Johnson, Ainslie

To the point


The article ''Liberals question light-rail passenger figures'' (canberra, July 10) raises more issues. With 90 per cent renewables by 2020 at the time the tram is running, how do the Greens expect to run their train set without reliable baseload power?

Brian Hatch, Red Hill


It is Fred Pilcher who needs educating regarding Islam (Letters, July 10). Allah has no connection whatsoever with Jehovah, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, who together constitute the Holy Trinity, One God and yet Three Persons. Allah is a different person and nature altogether.

J. Halgren, Latham


Tony Abbott likes to tell individuals (the Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe), groups (e.g. pensioners) and institutions (e.g. Medicare) that he is the best friend they have ever had. Perhaps Mr Abbott should get a dog and leave the rest of us in peace!

Dan Buchler, Waramanga


More power to the arm of those calling for the erasure of everything Rolf Harris from the landscape.

I look forward to them moving on to calling for the razing of the edifices that represent the churches and schools where the convicted paedophiles were employed and plied their evil practices.

They might like to start with the Marist College in Pearce and move on to a few Catholic churches!

A. Brown, Fadden


Dr Alan Normington Cowan (Letters, July 10) refers to Rolf Harris' crimes, which include having sex with a 13-year-old girl and indecently assaulting others as young as eight, as putative.

All charges were proven and he was found guilty. Dr Cowan's letter almost sounds as though he condones Harris' actions, because they weren't all that bad and there are others who may have done worse. How bizarre!

David Fuller, Duffy


Am I alone in tiring of Coalition politicians referring to their electoral ''mandate'' to repeal the carbon tax? Especially after all their other broken pre-election promises.

The simple fact is that after the incompetence of the Rudd/Gillard/Rudd governments, the Australian electorate would have voted for Kermit the Frog in 2013 had he been standing for election, with or without any commitment by Kermit on the future of the carbon tax.

Come to think of it, it did.

John Mellors, Mawson