Comment

Letters to the Editor

Get tough on tenants

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I applaud Judy Diamond (Letters, December 30) for having the guts to speak out about the ACT government's public housing plan.

While I believe that the policy of peppering public housing among private dwellings has merit, it will only succeed if the government and its agencies are vigilant in ensuring that the public dwellings are properly maintained and that the tenants are matched to the properties.

In particular, there are too many examples of people being placed in houses on blocks of land that they either refuse to maintain or are incapable of maintaining and where dysfunctional groups are placed into a neighbourhood without any consideration of the impact on their neighbours.

The result, as Judy Diamond points out, is fence-high grass, out-of-control shrubs, old cars and other junk in the front yard. When this is combined with a lack of care by the tenants and a lack of maintenance of the buildings by the ACT government, the impact on the surrounding properties is substantial.

The three-strikes-and-you're-out policy is more than reasonable. There is no excuse for not keeping a property neat and tidy and there is no excuse for the ACT government not carrying out regular inspections to ensure that tenants are maintaining the properties owned by the people of the ACT to a suitable standard. Neighbours, including those in public housing, should not have to continually complain to get public servants to act.

My advice to any private property owner who is about to experience the peppering policy in their area is to do what you can to delay it, until such time as the government and its agencies can demonstrate that they have the will to enforce reasonable standards of occupancy and to take the necessary action if they are not met.

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Unfortunately the actions of a few public housing tenants and a lack of action by the ACT government to bring them into line, reflects poorly on the majority of those in public housing that take pride in their homes, and puts the peppering policy at risk of failure.

Peter Langhorne, Narrabundah

Act on Ginninderra

Your excellent editorial ("Ginninderra Falls needs park status", Times2, December 29, p2), following a recent serious accident, raises issues needing immediate attention.

Of vital importance to us is the appropriate boundaries for a national park which will be cherished, especially by all Canberra's citizens and visitors. It will have Ginninderra Gorge and its two falls as its core, but also must include the grand Murrumbidgee Gorge. It is now high time for ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr to work with NSW Premier Mike Baird to create such a park, which will be mainly on NSW land.

This is a necessary follow-up to the earlier work done by ACT's Katy Gallagher and NSW's Barry O'Farrell. Professional park experts are urgently required to delineate the boundaries before any rezoning of nearby land for urban subdivision can be contemplated! Many factors, such as the area's biodiversity (including threatened species), restoration of native habitat, and scenic and landscape values need to be assessed.

Certainly no suburban housing must be visible; consider Kambah Pool reserve on the Murrumbidgee as a model. The area's Aboriginal cultural heritage must definitely be respected. It needs to be protected under relevant NSW legislation.

It's now over to us all in the ACT and region to catalyse action between London Circuit and Macquarie Street!

Dr Chris Watson, president, Ginninderra Falls Association

Credit card fee heist

Yet another business enterprise has opted for the right little money earner of charging a percentage fee for the use of a credit card to pay an account.

The latest is ActewAGL, which has announced that payment using a card will incur a 0.55 per cent fee of the payment amount.

It graciously advises that payment by cheque, cash or eftpos will not incur such a rip off; it's simply really, they have no way of taking your money if you pay in this way.

The iniquitous nature of this impost was first brought home to me when I attempted to pay for an overseas airline ticket using my visa card; a quick calculation showed that I would be paying an extra $70 for the privilege. Surely the handling of the card payment should be a fixed cost, independent of the actual amount being processed.

Perhaps there are costs to businesses when credit cards are used, but to employ the technique of percentages as opposed to a flat fee, is, as I say, a right little money earner.

Norman Lee, Weston

Rail is light years old

The articles "Beware price shock as Uber ready to surge" (December 31, p2) and "Convenience is king for car-share company" (December 31, p5) are reminders of the fast-growing effect that technology is having on public transport modes. No such headlines would have been realistic a couple of years ago.

In 2016, the ACT government will have to think long and hard before contracting the Gungahlin-Civic light rail plan. The limitations of this proposal are striking, especially when it is being framed as the first stage of a 25-year roll-out of light rail lines across Canberra.

If TAMS Minister Shane Rattenbury will "call tenders for car sharing in Canberra in the first quarter of 2016" for what amounts to an automated car rental scheme, why not a system like Uber Commute, that is currently being trialled in Chicago?

Ride sharing among commuters is particularly well-suited to Canberra, where centres of employment and education are concentrated around Civic, and commuters drive relatively long distances. This could significantly reduce peak-hour traffic, especially with parking concessions and T2 lanes.

Since there are good and economical options to avoid serious traffic congestion in the short term, a rethink of the long-term transport/land-use plan is mandatory, especially in the light of the apparent underestimation of the impact of technology.

A.Smith, Farrer

Airport fails users

Daniel Muller (Letters, December 30) draws attention to the pathetic lack of consideration given to aged and/or disabled people using the new Canberra airport. The airlines try to enable and assist such passengers to travel by air, but the design of airports and associated parking is outside their control.

The least the owners of the terminal could do is to provide adequate free disabled parking.

K.L.Calvert, Downer

 

Males outdo older drivers in crash stats

I think Bill Gemmell (Letters, December 31) is being disingenuous to a vulnerable proportion of the population with his apparent concern for old drivers. Government policy on road safety should not be deflected from proper analysis by knee-jerk reaction to media headlines even if "driving the wrong way on one-way streets" or "pressing the wrong pedal" may seem perversely amusing compared to high-speed crashes.

While it is true that older drivers are somewhat over-represented in fatal crashes based on distance travelled (as of course are young drivers), it is well known that older drivers generally travel much less, resulting in their overall involvement in fatal crashes being similar to other drivers. The Bureau of Transport and Regional Economics' report Road Safety of Older Australians states "Of all fatal crashes, 17per cent involve an older (65 and older) operator" which is consistent with the number of over-65s in the total population.

I've been unable to find any research data, but it seems likely that old people may die in crashes that a younger, less frail person would survive. If this was the case, the fatality rate of older drivers would be over-represented in the statistics due to their frailty rather than their diminished driving skills.

And I can hardly wait for your next idea to address the fact (BITRE Statistical Report) that "on the basis of deaths per population, males are more than twice as likely to be killed in a road crash than females".

Geoff Clarke, Holder

United in corruption

You wouldn't mind wasting tens of millions on a witch hunt into the unions if the mob who wanted it held in the first place ensured they were without sin. But usually those with the most to hide sing the loudest.

D.J.Fraser, Mudgeeraba, Qld

 

Government's corruption bias ultimately undermines workers

Well, thank God for Dyson Heydon and the royal commission into trade unions for the timely release of their lifeline to the government ("Heydon puts heat on ACT secretary", December 31, p1 and "Turnbull takes on the unions", December 31, p4). Two ministers gone in one day, Gonski hamstrung on another and Medicare is not looking too healthy under this government either – all actions occurring in the "quiet" period between Christmas and New Year and then, the final report by Heydon of the party faithful.

The latter is the only issue on which the Prime Minister wants to focus because it is a distraction from the more serious issues. Things like the GST, Medicare and education funding will have a lasting impact on the entire community but Malcolm has avoided discussion about those. He chooses to focus upon the trade unions because they are a soft target and he is calculating that the community will be more easily frightened and manipulated around that issue. Criminal behaviours conducted by union officials should be taken to court, just as similar behaviours by politicians and business people should.

We don't need to reinstall the travesty that was the ABCC to target a particular industry.

Don't let Malcolm and this government fool you into thinking he is working for the workers by attacking the unions. There has never been a better example of self interest so clearly displayed.

W.Book, Hackett

Employment Minister Michaelia Cash said money spent on the inquiry into unions was well spent with about one individual or organisation per million spent found to have committed criminal acts.

I'd like to see her and/or Attorney-General George Brandis spend the same amount of time inquiring into politicians, government and business.

M.Pietersen, Kambah

Corruption nuanced

On September 9, 2014, two days after Mal Brough's infamous 60 Minutes interview, I emailed then speaker Bronwyn Bishop to ask if she "had taken any action either through the Attorney General or the AFP to investigate whether any crime or breach of Parliamentary rules [had] been committed by [James] Ashby or Mr Brough" in the alleged copying of Peter Slipper's diary.

Ten months later (on July 22, 2015) I received a two-sentence email from the Speaker's office stating that "this matter does not fall within the responsibilities of the Speaker". The long awaited report of Dyson Heydon's Royal Commission was released on Wednesday and hogged all the headlines.

Mal Brough, who quietly fell on his sword 24 hours earlier, and his alleged crime slipped quietly into history.

Funny how crimes demand such differing responses. Some cases of alleged fraud and coercion command a $80million Royal Commission. Others are largely ignored.

Mike Reddy, Curtin

US paved way to IS

Tobin Harshaw's neat analysis of the rise of Islamic State makes it clear this brutal movement was the creation of an individual who was, at some stage, imprisoned by the Jordanian government ("Terror group's dark origins" Times2, December 31, p1).

What is equally clear is that IS attacks in Iraq did not begin until Saddam Hussein was toppled following the United States-led invasion in 2003.

One wonders if the US leadership ever considered that if it had not pushed ahead with the claim of Iraq possessing weapons of mass destruction – with the sole intention of getting rid of Saddam – then the current chaos in the region would not have surfaced.

However, that is in the past. Sadly, the future of the region is hardly shrouded in peace.

Sam Nona, Burradoo, NSW

Senate stacks up

Roger Dace (Letters, December 31) suggests scrapping the Senate because it is "unrepresentative swill". Some basic arithmetic shows that the current Senate is much more representative than the House of Representatives.

It is even technically possible for a party to form government in the lower house with just 51per cent of the vote in 51per cent of the seats, after preference allocations – little more than 25per cent of the votes overall.

While that's an unlikely scenario, the current government's 45.5per cent of the primary vote in the 2013 election demonstrates how little "mandate" it actually has. The Senate performs a vital role in damping the excesses of inefficient and ineffective pendulum politics, not only through being more representative but also least because senators sit for about six years rather than three.

Failure to gain control of the Senate shows a failure to convince the electorate, and the Senate itself, of the merits of one's policies. If we were to scrap a chamber, the House of Representatives should be the one to go.

Peter Marshall, Captains Flat, NSW

Roger Dace makes an interesting, if impractical, suggestion about getting rid of the Senate. Impractical, in that it would never achieve the "majority of the states" referendum requirement, even if an overall majority of voters agreed – which is also highly unlikely. Nor should we be looking at it purely in terms of its financial cost. We should also realise that if the Senate were to be abolished we might need, at the same time, to look at the upper houses of the various state parliaments. Are they worthwhile keeping?

I lived in Queensland though part of the Bjelke-Petersen era and saw how his government ran riot. We can all recall the disaster of the Newman government in the more recent period. Both governments ruled in authoritarian fashion with unchecked one-house majorities.

[It] would be far better, and more possible, to ensure that some of the present Senate voting anomalies be looked at and, if deemed worthwhile, changed. The essential issue here would be that any such examination be carried out by a genuinely independent expert group – not just a committee of self-interested parliamentarians.

Upper houses, if they do their job properly, can and should act as a democratic brake on government excesses and incompetence.

Eric Hunter, Cook

 

TO THE POINT

 

COUNCIL PRETENDERS

Colin Lyons's assessment of the lack of benefit derived from local council amalgamations in contradiction of the claims (Letters, January 1) raises another possible outcome. If state governments continue to push this idea, local councils could become so large that a federal Labor government would be encouraged to implement its policy of eliminating state governments.

Robyn Coghlan, Hawker

WRACK AND RUIN

Sometimes organisations wishing to clear land of historic buildings try to avoid backlash by neglect, thus allowing vandals or nature to do the job for them. Although I am not saying that is what occurred with Cantle Cottage ("Historians angry after fire destroys Queanbeyan cottage", December 31, p1), I would like to be assured by the ACT PCYC that it is doing everything it can to ensure its historic but unused Turner building does not suffer a similar fate.

Nancy Tidfy, Chisholm

SNAIL MAIL STANDSTILL

I had to conduct some business at Australia Post on Thursday. Sensibly, I checked opening hours on the company website. I drove to three post offices and found two closed, including Woden (a main post office). Five other people turned up; it was a business day after all. Tried to ring the third PO but all listed numbers were incorrect. Good luck, Australia Post.

Sue Henderson, Hughes

BOWLERS' REVENGE

I was delighted to see Nathan Lyon take seven wickets against the West Indies. I didn't see the "discreet but demeaning" hand gesture that was referred to by R.J.Wenholz (Letters, December 30). However, I would be surprised if it was anything more than pointing the way back to the pavilion. A similar action that is on display at any cricket match, on any given weekend by an aggrieved bowler who has been hit for six!

Chris Doyle, Gordon

NATURE STRIPS NO OASIS

The idea of bedraggled dead pumpkin vines and tomato stakes on nature strips makes me shudder. Because of the past and ongoing dry summers and regulations, our nature strips already resemble a brown desert for lack of water.

Paul O'Connor, Hawker

SELECTIVE MYTHOLOGY

Andrew Bolt should apologise to the original inhabitants of this continent for saying the "stolen generation" is a myth. This is the man who was seen dressed in his flak jacket in the safety of the green zone in Baghdad, telling the world the war was over in Iraq.

Richard Ryan, Summerland Point, NSW

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