Letters to the Editor

How to save our city

There's much debate about the new worthwhile urban projects such as the ones for Yarralumla, City to Lake and those just announced for Dickson. Luckily, we can easily identify that the Liberal Party continues to use these forums to gain a strike on the popularly elected ACT government. We should allow most of that shrill to pass by and await the outcomes of the formal consultations.

While I am definitely not a fan of a new stadium in Civic, the main issue for these major projects is the quality of the build and urban spaces. The challenge for the ACT government is to introduce an improved regulatory process to decrease the number of bland-box, cheaply rendered buildings and to enhance the green infrastructure with each DA proposed. Green-wash star ratings should be outlawed.

The idea that the National Capital Authority (NCA) should have any influence on any design innovations across Canberra is a joke, given that its new design panel is dominated by old-style consultants. Luckily, the NCA's panel offers advice to the NCA but it can then be ignored by everyone else.

As stated many times now, the NCA's role is no longer relevant and needs to be integrated into a new planning authority for Canberra. This new body's key corporate strategy should be to use community engagement to deliver architecturally integrated designed spaces and buildings that provide for enjoyment, sustainability and enhance the green infrastructure of this wonderful capital city.

Paul Costigan, Dickson


Bus use discrepancy

What does it mean when the ACT government estimates only 12 students are using a school bus service from Belconnen while a student diary of the route records 21 regular users? My initial response is to praise the student's interest in environmentally friendly travel. My second response is the worry that ACT bus-use estimates based on MyWay cards may have major data-quality issues. Unfortunately, to the ACT government, it appears to mean students travelling from Belconnen don't count and if they really wanted to use a bus to their school they should be living in Civic, where their bus will be from now on.

Cris Brack, Evatt

Nation's troubles real

If the present outrage about a tiny increase in petrol prices is anything to go by, I don't think Australians are ready to address the nation's increasing financial problems. As always, the snake-oil salesmen in the opposition parties encourage the less fortunate to think all is well and they have pain-free solutions that will eventually be revealed.

Unless something gives, this will prove to be very bad advice for those at the bottom of the ladder, who will eventually bear the brunt of any serious future remedial action.

H. Ronald, Jerrabomberra, NSW

Time for plain speech

If ever there was a time when we need free speech and calling a spade a spade without fear of legal retribution, that time is now.

There is no doubt the majority of Muslims are peace-loving, moderate, and compassionate people who abhor unspeakable violence in the name of Islam, but if I were a Muslim, I would dissociate myself completely from a religion that is, for whatever reason, capable of breeding such violent fanaticism, and convert to Christianity, a religion that has and has had its own problems, but none of which even come close to Islam's.

Claude Wiltshire, Queanbeyan, NSW

New trial avoidable

The retrial ordered by the ACT Court of Appeal (''New trial for accused in one-punch attack'', August 16, p1) instils not a little anger in this taxpayer, who now sees huge resources devoted to averting a judicial cock-up.

Nowhere on Earth is there a judge who is infallible and/or omnipotent. But then, Chief Justice Murrell, otherwise a breath of fresh air in the ACT's jurisdiction, is not in my sights.

The accused's barrister, enjoying some standing in the legal community, should have discretely signalled the trial judge that she was going down the wrong path when she inadvertently attached incorrect weightings to key statements.

It was Mr Dhanji's obligation, as this taxpayer sees it, to steer the Chief Justice's summation back on track, right there and then.

Patrick Jones, Griffith

I am dismayed that your reference to the Irish tourist in the article ''New trial for accused in one-punch attack'' (August 16, p1), who was the victim in this tragic case, is qualified by the adjective ''drunk''.

Whether or not this was the case, I am at a loss to know what relevance it could have in the matter reported. Is it intended to suggest the victim was in some way complicit in what occurred? I hope not. Or perhaps it is simply gratuitous and pejorative stereotyping. On any interpretation, it is unacceptable.

Sadly, and more importantly, it can only add to the distress of Timothy McCarthy and his family who, I expect you will agree, have suffered enough.

Noel White, Ambassador of Ireland, Yarralumla

Mr Fluffy rule risible

It appears the Chief Minister has taken a leaf out of the book of the creators of Yes Minister/Yes Prime Minister. From a recent media report, as I understand it, because I didn't have the foresight to keep electricity bills or rates notices from properties I rented or owned in Canberra in the early 1980s, I am unable to seek access to information on whether our family has been exposed to Mr Fluffy.

I challenge the Minister for Mr Fluffy or the members of her taskforce to produce such documentation from their past.

It makes one wonder if there isn't, in fact, a television show in the making here.

Malcolm Paterson, Greenleigh, NSW

Three terms enough

Tom Dale's suggestion (Letters, August 16) that Assembly MLAs be limited to one term in office to avoid an era of professional politicians would only ensure little was achieved. The United States' term limits of, say, a maximum of three terms (12 years in Canberra) should be examined.

Certainly, the problems of ongoing leadership and quality service needs to be addressed, but overall a dozen years is enough for most politicians, committed or careerist, and their constituents.

Greg Cornwell, Yarralumla

How will cutting government spending create more jobs?

I am not surprised Joe Hockey has a problem with his budget. If he was really serious about getting the budget back to surplus, why would he abolish a tax that nobody noticed (the carbon tax) and replace it with an increased petrol tax that impacts on just about everybody? And why, when the age of entitlement is supposedly no longer with us, do the big miners still get a rebate of diesel fuel excise? And, at a time of very healthy profits by the big miners, why is the mining profits tax is being repealed?

No wonder we will all have to pay an extra $7 to visit our GP or have a blood test. And no wonder he has problems with his budget.

And it would be helpful if he could explain how savagely cutting back on government spending helps to create jobs.

David Denham, Griffith

Michael Bakos' observation (Letters, August 15) about Joe Hockey prompts me to mention the following. A few weeks ago I heard our PM say that, ''for most Australians a visit to the doctor is free''. That mantra is continued regularly by the Treasurer and the Health Minister. What planet do these people live on?

I'm a wage-earner. I went to the doctor this week, a normal suburban practice, for a standard consultation. That cost me $79. The Medicare ''benefit'' was $37.05. That's just under 47 per cent - doesn't seem ''free'' to me. The proposed $7 co-payment would effectively reduce my Medicare benefit to $30.05 or 38 per cent. On top of that I pay a Medicare levy of 2 per cent which works out at $1600 a year. Over a 12-month period I'd be lucky to break even. How is this ''free''?

This Government is so out of touch with reality. I can just hear them saying ''Let them eat cake''.

R. Schneider, Pearce

Hockey being hypocritical

Poor Joe, the Treasurer. He is struggling to pass his budget measures that hurt the needy and we have just witnessed his inept handling of his fuel excise comments about the poorest of us. Now, some of us are questioning his integrity over his $270 a night travel allowance.

Sure, from a legal point of view, he is entitled to claim a purported $108,000 a year, just like many other politicians.

But you have to wonder whether the ownership structure of the Canberra house (i.e.. majority owned by his wife) has been carefully chosen. This reminds me of the proverb: ''Caesar's wife must be above suspicion'' yet alone Caesar.

The Treasurer is paid very well and has considerable assets. He does not need this money but has risked the public's ire . Does the age of entitlement apply to him? Is there a degree of hypocrisy and a lack of empathy in his thinking.

Jack Waterford (''Joe Hockey gets it too much'', August 17, p17) said of Joe, ''one has never sensed in him the desire to 'give back', or to make the lives of ordinary Australians better''.

Alex Millmow (''Hockey fails to grasp a truth that might redeem him'', Times2, August 15, p4) said: ''The one adage we have not yet heard is ''Honest Joe''.

That, it seems, may never apply because Hockey has sure used up a lot of political capital.

I like Joe but he needs help.

Geoff Clark, Narrabundah

We hear much from Joe Hockey about the age of entitlement being over so I thought readers might be interested in one of the entitlements that many parliamentarians have, in relation to the rest of us. That ''entitlement'' relates to their ability to accumulate property. According to the parliamentary register of members' interests, there are 226 Members of Parliament from both houses who have ownership stakes in 563 properties, sometimes with spouses.

In 2013 there were 76 members of the Senate who had 202 property holdings and 150 members of the House of Representatives holding 361 properties. Top of the pile is National Party Senator Barry O'Sullivan with 50 properties, David Gillespie with 18 and Clive Palmer with a seemingly 13. Total value of all the properties is estimated at around $300 million. Joe Hockey himself appears to own five, beating Mathias Cormann who has four. So much for entitlement.

Ric Hingee, Duffy

I am Joe's body revisited

In his opinion piece on Joe Hockey (''Hockey fails to grasp a truth that might redeem him'', Times2, August 15, p4) Alex Millmow recalls one of the most successful features that ever appeared in the Reader's Digest. This was the series ''I am Joe's body, I am Joe's brain'' in which 33 variants of Joe's anatomy were examined over a number of issues of the magazine.

During a long, hot teenage summer in a remote part of this country (or, maybe, in a doctor's waiting room) I remember reading, transfixed, one of these essays, the one called ''I am Joe's left testicle'' (I am not joking).

I'm not sure if this would be as entertaining as one called ''I am Joe's conscience''.

Of course, conscience does not qualify as anatomy.

Annie Lang, Kambah

Clearly the Readers Digest will have to emend their ''I am Joe's Brain'' article.

Phil O'Brien, Flynn

Tony, don't interfere

So our PM is sticking his nose even into UK politics. I can only envisage that he is worried that the two rich mineral States of WA and Queensland might follow Scotland and try to secede from Australia's Federation unless they get a better deal for the GST leaving Tony as PM of the lesser States.

David Roberts, Dickson

Ah Tony, Tony, laddie, laddie, Ye maun hae stopped yer tongue frae clashin' in yer hied.

It's nane o' yer business loon.

Tom Middlemiss, Deakin

Let's all play spot the dangling Telstra box

Instead of the usual competition as to who is first to be attacked by a magpie or to sight the first blowfly of summer, may I suggest one - who has had their Telstra box dangling in the air longest after pole replacement?

Mine has been like this since May 30. After two calls, a technician came, took photos and said it required a team to come in to reconnect. When I rang two weeks later, I was told the job had been done. Oddly, the box is still blowing in the wind.

Since there were a number of poles replaced in the area at the time, I feel an effective approach would be for Telstra to obtain the list from ACTEW and reaffix them all ASAP. Communication does not seem to be Telstra's strong point.

J. Hogbin, Hackett

Costings questionable

In April 2012, before the last election and the Labor grab for power deal with Mr Rattenbury, the ACT government commissioned a report that found a light rail route between Gungahlin and Civic would cost up to $860 million.

In May 2012, Australia's peak rail industry group said costings for the 13-kilometre light network were significantly inflated.

The following day, Mr Corbell stated the cost was not inflated. He also said costing estimates for the Canberra project ''were conservative''.

These days, the quoted price is $614 million. If the $614 million is really a 2011 figure, why did Mr Corbell release the ''conservative'' $860 million estimate, vigorously defend it and then go back to the supposedly earlier $614 million?

This light rail project seems to be made up of concocted figures with quite a bit of creative accounting and large additional sums being hidden in the budgets for other projects.

David Fuller, Duffy



It is not surprising that the ANU has fallen in world rankings (''ANU fall on respected international league table'', August 16, p5), given how many current academics condone the selective reporting of important research results. It has become an institution of opinion.

Dr Nick Melhuish, Hughes


I have read your editorial (''Hockey let down by his judgment'', Times2, August 18, p2) in which you very faintly suggested a rearrangement of ministerial portfolios or a fresh budget. I will go for the second option.

Sankar Kumar Chatterjee, Evatt


We can exclude earthquake as the source of the blast that shook northern suburbs of Canberra last Thursday (''Blast shakes northern suburbs but residents left wondering'', August 16, p3). The Aranda seismograph recorded nothing around 10.30pm, should residents still be wondering.

I distinctly heard a blast about this time but assumed somebody has a stash of old crackers that they occasionally detonate to annoy their neighbourhood.

Kevin McCue, Aranda


Colin Handley (Letters, August 18) is absolutely wrong to assert that any of the fuel levy is tax-free under any novated lease scheme. The fuel levy enjoys no tax-free status under those provisions, no matter upon what basis it is paid!

Greg Hollands, Gungahlin


I fear Peter Ellett (Letters, August 15) has barely scratched the surface of disappearing syllables. But he might be consoled to know that sometimes syllables are unnecessarily added, with ''in-ci-dents'' now almost universally spoken as ''in-ci-denc-es''.

Peter Marshall, Captains Flat, NSW


People waiting for public housing are not tenants till they get it, contrary to your story headlined ''Hundreds of properties sit empty as tenants wait'' (August 16, p1). Some of your journalists clearly are not thinking of what the words they write mean.

Michael Travis, Cook


In reply to John Popplewell's assertion (Letters, August 13) that abortion is indefensible, I would say that though highly undesirable, it is totally defensible. I would also say to him and others who hold his opinion, to note that until we live in a utopia, we, as a society, will continue to try to make the best of bad situations.

John Kelleher, Red Hill

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