Comment

Letters to the Editor

High rises a mistake

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The new ACT government plan for Northbourne Avenue is excessive compared to the carefully measured plans and designs in the relevant section of the Griffin Legacy produced for city development guidance by the National Capital Authority in 2004.

The greedy paw prints of the ACT's Directorate of Economic Development are all over the new plan, revved up by real estate agents aping the excesses of massive new high rise developments along Melbourne's Swanston Street and Sydney's South Dowling Street, both city approach routes.

Instead of wall-to-wall, jaw-breaking, mostly vacant high rises beetling over Northbourne Avenue, why not reduce the building heights to those preferred by the NCA, and also have a generous sprinkling of cool, calm, leafy, oh-so-Canberra developments á la Commonwealth Avenue's Hyatt Hotel.

Heritage-listed buildings and gardens could be incorporated into that scenario. Canberrans and visitors would instantly find that appealing and appropriate for our main approach route. And it would not compete with the proposed intensification of Civic.

Jack Kershaw, Kambah

Your editorial ("Northbourne Avenue – a fix of sorts", Times2, January 19, p2) gives quite a fair account of the government's plan for a future Northbourne Avenue. Resultant action remains to be seen though, given that the discussion paper could be considered grandstanding in an election year and even a little bit of propaganda to boost the government's flagging support for the extravagant tram.

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The editor has hit the nail on the head in saying "the party's [Labor's] record to date suggests its highest priority is chasing the development dollar".

The government has made no secret that it considers the Gungahlin-City tram as primarily a "catalyst" to corridor development. Why else for this corridor that serves no institutions like hospitals or universities?

But people planning to live along this corridor could be in for a rude shock when their health starts to deteriorate due to considerable noise and pollution generated by motor traffic and trams, most of the day and especially at night.

This has been ignored by the pro-tram and urban-infill fraternity, as well as by those estimating the dollar value of so-called "benefits" identified in the government's business case.

M. Silex, Erindale

Keep the trees

One cannot help but be amazed at the persuasive rhetoric used by Chief Minister Andrew Barr and his supporters for "light" rail in Canberra.

As Mr Barr promotes light rail, which will entail all the trees down the centre of Northbourne Avenue being destroyed, federal acting Cities Minister Greg Hunt proposes planting more "tree canopies to create cooler, greener cities" ("Hunt proposes tree canopies to create cooler, greener cities", January 19, p5).

The article also mentions correctly, people "broiling in an asphalt jungle susceptible to extreme heat" and how "urban development can lead to treeless streets that amplify the heat." This heat can cause the death of older and young people. Up to 12 lanes of traffic down Northbourne Avenue and destruction of trees will be a very hot and ugly entry into Canberra.

I have lived in Canberra for 48 years and the thing I notice most is our summers have increased in their relentless, dry heat. We need all the trees possible.

Penelope Upward, O'Connor

Bad site for bins

Susan Swift's concerns about charity bins (Letters, January 18) are shared by Friends of Hawker Village. We, too, have expressed our concerns to Shane Rattenbury over the past two years to no effect.

The eight bins at Hawker were moved from a site where trucks had easy access, to an entirely inappropriate and less accessible site.

The bins, together with their dumped goods, now sit adjacent to a grassed area (formerly used by tradesmen to have their lunch), between two other car parks and directly opposite residences. Trucks are often either prevented from accessing the bins due to occupied parking spaces or are forced to drive onto the grass to access the bins from the other side.

The new site was apparently chosen because it offered better surveillance that would discourage dumping. The end result: we now have bins in a problematic location, while dumping continues.

Robyn Coghlan, secretary, Friends of Hawker Village Inc

Art to inspire us

Ian Warden ("Something lovelier than lorries", Gang-gang, January 19, p8) shudders at the thought of ordinary folk having any say in the choice of public art and wants that choice to remain the exclusive province of the clique of connoisseurs responsible for previous questionable choices, including bent tramlines embedded in concrete (which cost $750,000 and is meant to symbolise native grass), or the boulder atop a pile of painted wood (which is meant to represent the body of a bogong moth).

Holding a public art event on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin (ideally in spring after Floriade and before Sydney's Sculpture by the Sea) would not only attract more tourists to the city but also provide the means by which the public could have a say in choosing the city's public art.

Although there would have to be a committee to organise the event and decide which submitted art works should be exhibited, there would be no place on the committee for the sort of patronising art snob who turns up his nose at works that inspire ordinary folk while fawning over commissioned works because they are controversial, expensive and by a high profile artist.

Agreement to sell a submitted work to the ACT government at a nominated price would be a pre-condition for exhibition.

Like Sculpture by the Sea, funding for the event would come from the government, sponsorship and crowd-funding.

Bruce Taggart, Aranda

No need to punish

Re the decision to charge a 72-year-old father with negligent driving following the death of his daughter in a vehicle accident ("Father to face court over fatal accident", January 20, p3), is this just the blind application of the current blanket policy of charging anyone who has an accident with negligent driving (which is basically a revenue raising measure) no matter the circumstances, or does the ACT DPP think that the price paid was not enough? Compassionless bureaucracy at its best I feel.

Putting revenue before humanity is not good policy.

Ian Shepherd, Cook

No boost to national economy from universal company tax cuts

Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison is talking up company tax cuts in the next budget. This sounds weird for a country that has inadequate government revenue to fund needed services.

But it could make more sense provided it was targeted to yield maximum economic gain for the nation.

An across-the-board 5per cent reduction in the company income tax rate would have little effect on investment and employment. It would not cause CBA and Qantas to slow the rate of their staff cutting, open a single new branch or buy a single new plane. Instead their increased earnings would in part be retained, in part distributed to shareholders and a small but obscene share donated to the Party that gave the bonanza.

But if the company income tax were set in brackets, like personal income tax, the benefits would be considerable.

For instance the tax rate for small enterprises could set at 5 per cent or preferably 0per cent, medium-sized ones at significantly lower rate than at present and the nominal rate for larger companies should remain at 30per cent (as we know the effective rate they pay is only 10per cent for the largest companies).

Then many small and medium sized enterprises would take on more staff and venture expansions. There would also be many more start-ups. There would be a big boost to domestic demand, which would help individuals, tax revenue and even the rent takes like CBA and Qantas.

Ron Walker, Campbell

Vaucluse free-for-all

It seems odd this week to read that the federal government is applying foreign ownership rules to force the sale of eight residential properties around Australia, worth in total $8 million – with seven accounting for less than half of that – after the rapturous reports just last week of the sale in Vaucluse, Sydney, of a $36 million house to a well-known mainland-Chinese mogul.

There was no mention then of how this squared with foreign ownership rules.

It seems that, at best, huge loopholes abound, via which owners of exclusive waterfront real estate in the PM's home electorate, at least, can con-tinue to rely on money-no-object overseas buyers to supercharge values, when cashing in on property. As, presumably, is right and proper.

Alex Mattea, Kingston

Iran gets makeover

It is remarkable how Amin Saikal ("Iran takes pragmatic course", Times2, January 19, p4) can make the evil doings of the Iranian regime appear almost mundane. Yes Iran has "strong leverages" in various places in the Middle East.

It has achieved these through keeping in power the Assad regime in Syria, which murders its own people through chemical weapons, barrel bombs and starvation among other methods; by helping to start and perpetuate the tragic civil war in Yemen; and by arming, funding and directing various terrorist groups such as Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Unfortunately, the lifting of sanctions will only enhance the regime's capacities in these areas.

Saikal also says we should have taken the regime at its word when it said it wasn't aspiring to nuclear weapons, even though the International Atomic energy Agency recently said there is strong evidence it was working on nuclear weapons till at least 2009; it was and still is developing missile and trigger technology that can only be used for nuclear weapons; and it constantly proclaims its intention to wipe Israel off the map.

The regime may have been pragmatic enough to be prepared to do a deal to have the sanctions removed, but this deal will only delay Iran's nuclear capabilities, and will only achieve that if Iran's adherence to the deal is strictly enforced.

Alan Shroot, Forrest

Graduates hard hit

Our universities' high reliance on fees from overseas students is short-changing Australian students in more ways than described by Amy Walters (Letters "Degrees of Profit" January 19). This federal government changed the regulations to make Australia more attractive to foreign students in April last year. It allows those with rudimentary English (IELTS minimum 5) who have graduated in any field to obtain a two-year work visa. These foreign graduates can then look for a job in any occupation whether or not there is a labour shortage.

This will sharply increase the competition for that first job that young Australians, including graduates, already face. Universities and other education providers are effectively being subsidised by these young Australians. This is no different to subsidising the car-making industry. If our universities and other education providers were providing degrees that were being purchased for the intrinsic merit of the degree there would be no need for these incentives.

Philida Sturgiss-Hoy, Downer

Menzies clarification

J.R.Nethercote's treatise on Menzies retirement ("How a weary Menzies quit the prime ministership", Times2, January 20, p5) contains a couple of errors which need to be corrected. Menzies did not resign on January 20, 1965, as stated in the opening sentence – a typo by the looks of it. He indicated that he would resign to his colleagues on January 19, 1966, on the following day.

However, my understanding is that his resignation as prime minister took effect from January 26, 1966, and as a member of parliament on February 16, 1966. It is agreed that Menzies spent so long housed in The Lodge that he did not own a home in his electorate.

Despite what Nethercote says, he did not "buy a home" in Melbourne in mid-1965. The house at 2 Haverbrack Avenue, Malvern, that he finally retired to in 1966 was built and bought for him by a group of wealthy supporters on the understanding by Menzies that it would be sold on his death and the proceeds given to charity.

Terry Walls, Mawson

Do-gooders defended

Could Edwina Barton (Letters, January 19) and others please refrain from using the slighting term "do-gooders" suggesting hypocrisy for those who pursue what they see to be benefits for society. Ms Barton does not enhance her cause by denigrating others because they do not share her point of view. She has no grounds for doing so.

Eric French, Higgins

Please, no tantrums over Australia Day

As Australia Day comes around, it's time to brace for the permanently outraged to throw their annual tantrums on all things that are wrong with both the date and nature of the celebration. It has started a little earlier this year with unusual hysteria from the usual suspects directed at the annual lamb promotion that for many has become part of the Australia Day scene.

This year the irrepressibly ocker Sam Kekovich has teamed up with a purring Lee Lin Chin to produce a masterpiece of tongue-in-cheek fun with a theme redolent of Mission Impossible. For a number of particularly sensitive souls, this is beyond the pale.

Apparently the spoof is either too militaristic, insulting to Indigenous people, disrespectful to vegans or all of the above.

In addition to the normal Australia Day awards, I propose an annual medallion for the most vacuous, pathetic and hysterical whinge leading up to Australia Day.

The man who tweeted that he was seriously offended by the depiction of a vegan's food being torched by a flamethrower (yep, the ad is that silly) gets my vote for now! One can only imagine how these fragile people function in everyday life.

H. Ronald, Jerrabomberra, NSW

Refugee offer from NZ

For the past two years, the federal government has said that the refugees on Nauru are awaiting a host country to accept them because Australia will not.

According to the Guardian Weekly this week, a two-year-old offer by the New Zealand government to accept 150 refugees a year from Australia's offshore detention centres has not been accepted by Australia, but remains open.

If this is true, the awful conclusion to draw is that the government intends to hold these unfortunate people, including children, indefinitely on Nauru as a deliberate policy of deterrence by torture.

Hugh Tyndale-Biscoe, Hackett

TO THE POINT

POLITICAL DECISION

Now that Joy Burch has finally seen the light and stood down from the ministry, all she has to do is consider retiring from politics altogether.

Having her in the background as a backbencher will be like a festering sore to her party, and a gift to the opposition, in the lead-up to the forthcoming election.

Do not risk humiliation at the ballot box by standing for re-election, Ms Burch. Retire gracefully.

Mario Stivala, Spence

TRAFFIC CONFUSION

Andrew Barr recently suggested the Gungahlin Drive Extension and Majura Parkway have been so successful it's now possible to consider cutting out a lane from Northbourne Avenue. Meanwhile Shane Rattenbury/Simon Corbell insist a light rail running to Gungahlin is essential to ease a growing congestion problem on Northbourne. Anyone else confused?

Robin Eckermann, Campbell

BEWARE, IT'S A SCAM

ACT police are warning about a scam whereby phone calls are being made stating money is owed to the ATO. I received one of these phone calls about eight weeks ago. I phoned ACT police to report this and was told the scam had been going on for some time. Perhaps if the warning had gone out then people would not have lost their money. A case of the horse has bolted.

Jan Gulliver, Lyneham

DRIVER BLITZ

Is anyone worried that nearly 15 percent of the drivers tested positive to their roadside mouth swab tests? ("Hundreds fined in holiday road blitz", January 19, p3). I would have thought this statistic would be the lead to the article rather than being buried down in paragraph four.

Gerard Ryan, Turner

TRUCKING IN MEAT

There is a prophetic element to Woolworths' "plans to truck in pre-packed meat from a central facility" ("Butcher jobs chopped as pre-packed meat rolls in", January 19, p6). Before long cattle will be shipped overseas to be fattened, slaughtered, butchered, packed and shipped back. You can bet on it.

Gary J. Wilson, Macgregor

PRIORITY FEE

I actually read the Australia Post blurb found in my letterbox today. Most extortionists don't publish their blackmail notes, Austpost tells us that unless we pay a 50c "priority fee" they will keep our mail for an extra few days.

No point telling the ACCC; they'll tell us what good lawyers Austpost have got.

Michael F. Buggy, Torrens

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