High-rise a lowlight

In his response to Professor Ken Taylor's comments about Canberra's diminishing green space and growing density, Cameron McDonald (Letters, March 18) observes, quite correctly, that Paris is both a high-density city and one of the world's most liveable cities. How do Paris and similar cities such as Washington achieve this?

Paris has a higher population density than New York, with few buildings higher than six storeys. In short: density without high-rise is what makes these cities so liveable and attractive. Other attributes of attractive cities (and national capitals) such as Washington, will sound familiar to Canberrans: an abundance of parks and open spaces, a lack of outdoor advertising, and a limit on building heights. It is increasingly recognised that high-rise development is not consistent with ''smart growth'' or ''sustainable development'', which are more likely to be supported by ''human scale, fine-grained neighbourhoods'' (see:

There are many cities that achieve population density while being walkable, charming - and low-rise. The legitimate concern of many Canberrans is that density is being pursued as an end in itself, rather than as one means to building a better city.

Karina Morris, Weetangera

It was encouraging to read Romaldo Giurgola's advice (Letters, March 18) about planning of Canberra to retain its ''unquestioned'' beauty. While a number of self-proclaimed experts have recently decided that the only resolution to our planning problems is ''high-rise'', it is worthwhile recalling that Giurgola's solution to locating a large number of people in one place was to go underground.

He thereby converted what was once a very unremarkable hill that supported a foundation stone no one visited into a glorious Parliament House, largely concealed in a verdant rise. Any ideas for City Hill?


John Flynn, Macgregor

Flu vaccination blues

Regrettably, getting a flu vaccination is not as cheap or as easy as the Chief Minister makes out (''Flu vaccine best winter precaution'', March 18, p3). On reading this article, I dropped into the North Canberra Family Practice in Belconnen to get vaccinated. There, I was told that as a new patient there may be a consultation fee of up to $80 depending on the discretion of the doctor. Holding a Commonwealth Seniors Health Card made no difference.

Eighty dollars for a flu vaccination? Seemed like usury to me. While I want the vaccination, I don't have a lazy $80 hanging around waiting for a doctor to use his discretion. Needless to say, I cancelled the appointment.

Geoff Smith, Belconnen

Employee letdown

With the sale of ACTTAB under way, it is interesting to note the Legislative Assembly discussions from late last year in relation to ACTTAB employees, bearing in mind the many cases in which the new owner of a business removes or significantly reduces working conditions.

In an attempt to add certainty to the treatment of ACTTAB employees, the Liberals moved an amendment to Andrew Barr's motion covering the sale, requesting that the motion include the words ''appropriate transition and/or support arrangements are put in place for ACTTAB staff''. Regrettably, the Greens and Labor combined to change these words to ''ensure that employee welfare is considered''.

These replacement words are weak and lack any substance. They remove any real onus on the purchaser to ensure proper treatment of employees. ACTTAB employees have every right to feel let down by the Greens and Labor in this matter.

John Sever, Higgins

School parking chaos

I was gobsmacked this week when I called Parking Operations about a car parked across our driveway near Telopea Park School and another on our nature strip. I was advised, after the operator had talked with her supervisor, that it no longer enforces parking around the school because of abuse received by parking officers. This work is now left to the federal police, who usually have more important matters to attend to.

This return to unregulated parking is a sad situation and reflects poorly on parents who should be modelling responsible behaviour. While parking enforcement officers should not suffer abuse, it is sadly an unavoidable part of their work. If training and competence are not adequate it must be improved so they can enforce safe parking around schools. The safety of children is paramount, but residents have rights too.

Nick Swain, Barton

A powerful case

Fortunately, Alan Parkinson's concern about wind and solar electricity (Letters, March 18) is well wide of the mark. Grid stability is a significant but not major issue. For example, South Australia's grid is stable despite wind and solar photovoltaic generation comprising one-third of the annual total, and rising fast.

Solutions to variable generation include the complementarity of wind and PV in that it is often sunny when not windy and vice versa; dispersion of wind and PV generators across large areas to mitigate against local cloud and wind lulls; improved demand management such as interruptible loads and shifting loads from night to day (rather than the reverse as at present); hydro storage; and pumped hydroelectricity whereby water is pumped uphill when wind and solar are available and released to generate electricity on demand - 140,000 Megawatts of pumped hydro is currently installed around the world including 1500 MW in Australia.

The federal government's 2013 Australian Energy Technology Assessment shows that wind and PV are now competitive with new-build gas and coal generators, but without pollution. Wind and PV contribute most of the new-generation capacity added in recent years, and will reach about 20 per cent of national electricity production by 2020.

If the current installation trend of wind and solar is maintained, Australia will have 90 per cent renewable electricity by 2050 by natural attrition of fossil fuel power stations as they reach the end of their service lives.

Wind, PV and energy efficiency are reducing greenhouse gas emissions effectively - national greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity sector have been falling since 2008. I commend the ACT government on its 90 per cent target, which is both achievable and affordable.

Professor Andrew Blakers, director, Centre for Sustainable Energy Systems, Australian National University

Scramble to cut red tape may lead to worker exploitation

Four workers died in the Rudd government's insulation program. Was this because it was hastily designed and poorly regulated (''Weekend to design insulation program'', March 18, p4)?

Now in another bit of hasty design, public servants have been scrambling to discard 9000 regulations (''Greatest net benefit must be for all'', Editorial, Times2, March 18, p2).

The loss of ''red tape'' often means the loss of wages and conditions for workers who can then be more ruthlessly exploited, probably resulting in more injuries and deaths. Powerlessness and poverty are enablers of slavery.

Twiggy Forrest (''Billionaire Forrest's dream is to set all slaves free'', March 18, p4) should be vigorously opposing Abbott's actions in throwing people onto the unemployment scrapheap and disempowering those who have jobs, if indeed he wants to end slavery. People who have to work three casual jobs to survive can seldom rest or spend time with their families. They are already slaving because their choices and health are severely compromised.

They find it difficult to refuse immoral jobs like building flying drones to torment asylum seekers. Will Forrest oppose such deregulation? It is all very convenient for the big-end business community who are the beneficiaries of Abbott's government.

Rosemary Walters, Palmerston

Protecting penalty rates

Businesses small and large want to take penalty rates from their workers. Will they compensate them with higher regular wages? Or is it just a grab for money from workers to inflate company profits?

But penalty rates can be viewed differently to the way businesses are presenting them; they pay their workers a decent wage over the weekend when business is good, then pay them a discounted wage for the rest of the week.

That sounds like a good deal to me. If I walked into a shop and demanded to buy everything at a discounted price I'd soon be shown the door, but it seems that businesses want to do exactly that with wages. And as usual, business is again shooting itself in the foot; don't they realise that every time they reduce wages they reduce workers' capacity to buy their products?

David Hicks, Holt

Defending our forests

Tony Bartlett (Letters, March 13) seeks to defend Tony Abbott's claim that we have far too much of our forests ''locked up'' from exploitation by forestry interests.

In view of his attack on the World Heritage listings of the Tasmanian Tarkine Wilderness, doesn't it follow that Mr Abbott will soon be encouraging delisting of our national parks so these too can be logged as well?

If he has been a forester for nearly 40 years, he would have seen the rapid decline in availability and affordability of our native timbers over that period. Vast areas of native forest have been clear-felled for softwood plantations and woodchips during this time to the detriment of our native wildlife.

The forest industry has a lot to answer for, and doesn't need any defending by Mr Bartlett or Tony Abbott.

John Webster, Kaleen

Virgin on the ridiculous

Matt O'Sullivan (''Joyce faces new Senate grilling over Qantas' future'', BusinessDay, March 18, p9) comments that Qantas CEO Alan Joyce is going to contribute to a Senate inquiry for the second time. Given that Qantas recorded million-dollar losses, without any cash injections, whilst concurrently Virgin Australia, after cash injections from its backers, proceeded to also record millions of dollars in losses, room should be made for John Borghetti to join in the Senate fun again.

These two airlines and their senior managements are as bad as each other. The pilots' strike of the late '80s made it very clear to everybody (management, staff, and unions) at the national airlines that the nation soon adjusted to getting by without them. Mere paying passengers like myself would simply appreciate something resembling service.

Michael Doyle, Fraser

So, Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce has insisted he has the full support of the Qantas board (''Qantas head Alan Joyce cops a grilling from senators'',, March 19th). Says it all really.

John Richardson, Wallagoot, NSW

Putin facts straight

Thanks to The Canberra Times and Dr Kirill Nourzhanov (''Putin: hard, pragmatic but not imperialist'', Times2, March 17, p5) for giving us a more balanced appraisal of the Ukrainian/Crimean situation than we usually get on anything concerning Russia. After the disaster of the Yeltsin years, under Putin Russia is re-emerging as an important power and, while not agreeing with everything he does, many of his countrymen say Putin does ''what is best for Russia'', not kowtowing to anyone.

He therefore often doesn't fall in line with what the West/America wants and thus is seen as a threat, so is demonised - or lampooned - by much of the Western media.

How would the US react if Russia criticised and tried to curtail American involvement in its neighbours' affairs, or wanted to put defence shields close to its borders?

NATO, along with the EU, is expanding further and further east into Russia's sphere of influence, breaking a tacit agreement between Gorbachev and the US. NATO was established to combat Communism and Soviet military power, so why does it still exist? Is it to give America a ''presence'' (or say) in Europe? Is there any wonder that Putin and Russia have taken a stand?

Many countries have vested interests, both political and economic, in what's happening in Ukraine. Sure, Russia may be taking a stand there, but does anyone really believe the US and Europe are not heavily involved ''supporting'' the anti-Russian side, whoever they may be? So let's stop the hypocrisy: how can we accuse Russia of intervening in other country's affairs after what has been done by the West/America, including major military ''interventions'', over the last decade!

Gail Ford, Kambah

Land sale mocks the eco position on park

Next to Justice Robert Hope Park in Watson is an area that the ACT Land Development Agency recently offered for sale at auction. In information circulated before the attempted sale, the LDA claimed the park as an offset, despite JRHP being ''saved from development'' by community action, some 12 years ago, and considerably enhanced by volunteer work since then.

This makes a mockery of government commitment (both federal and ACT) to the spirit of the offset policy, and also of the community's efforts to regenerate threatened ecological spaces. For those who doubt this, listen to the latest ABC Background Briefing (available on podcast) that was devoted to the problems of environmental offsets and which referred to JRPH. When destruction of an endangered ecological area is proposed, the developer is required to obtain and manage an equivalent ecological area, in an effort to maintain species biodiversity. This is termed an environmental offset for the destruction of endangered habitat. The offset area is to be chosen from land that would be threatened by development in the future.

Gillian Helyar, Watson

Quit the brand blame

Phillip Thomson (''Record run for Triangle's most heavily fined driver,'' March 18, p1) obviously doesn't drive a Subaru. Far from tending to be ''family cars'', Subies range from WRXs for rev-heads through Tribecas for netball teams to Foresters for the school pick-up to Outbacks for gentleman drivers of a certain age. Phillip should avoid ''brandism''.

David Stephens, gentleman driver, Bruce

TV critique charms

Well done Ben Pobjie for his well written and amusing TV reviews of NCIS and 2 Broke Girls (''Naval crowd-pleaser misses the boat'', Times2, March 18, p15). When you get more entertainment from the reviews than from the shows themselves, it says a lot about the state of television.

Dominic Stinziani, Higgins



Tony Abbott said in Parliament on Tuesday that it is important to note that Arthur Sinodinos was not a senator when he was involved with the Sydney Water company. Craig Thomson was not a member of Parliament when he had his troubles with the HSU and look what has happened to him. I wait with bated breath!

R. Stewart, Weston


First there was Bob Hawke's ''By the year 2000 no Australian child …'' Now is Twiggy Forrest's ''By the year 2020 no one will live in slavery''. What is it with Aussie liberators and their grandiose plans, can't they settle for solving some of our more mundane problems, like the 20 per cent youth unemployment of some of our regional cities?

John Rodriguez, Florey


I trust all those demonstrating at the weekend realise how lucky they are to live in a democratic country where freedom of speech is accepted (''Marchers all fired up about Prime Minister, but the molotov cocktail is just a prop'', March 18, p6). These same protesters were horrified by the ''ditch the witch'' placard against Ms Gillard but were happy to display crude and other inflammatory placards calling for the death of Prime Minister Abbott.

Sheila Duke, Ainslie

Why the deathly silence in the letters pages about the March for March? I suspect most decent Canberrans are embarrassed by both the silly incoherence of most participants and the vile nastiness of the few.

H. Ronald, Jerrabomberra, NSW


If, as has been reported in the media, Flight MH370 was flown low to avoid radar detection then that might explain why the pilot had his own flight simulator.

Has the simulator's program been investigated to see if a particular route program was run? Perhaps it is worth investigating the circumstances under which the pilot's home simulator was bought, installed and programmed?

Roger Dace, Reid

Am I the only person to be puzzled by current references to the ''southern [air] corridor'' stretching from south-east Asia to the southern Indian Ocean? The route would seem to take a plane south of the only plausible destination beyond that area of ocean, namely Johannesburg. Singapore Airlines, for instance, fly to J'burg but on a northerly route over the Maldives and north of Madagascar. Can anyone explain the significance of this so-called corridor?

Alvin Hopper, Dickson

Email: 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.

Keep your letter to 250 words or less. References to Canberra Times reports should include date and page number. Letters may be edited. Provide phone number and full home address (suburb only published).