Letters to the Editor


Further to the debate on the overshadowing planning laws (''Shadowing planning law may be rolled back'', January 29, p1), I am in full agreement with Caroline Le Couteur (Letters, February 2). It would be a great shame for the laws to be rolled back. They could be a little more flexible but it has been a shameful thing that Canberrans/builders have been allowed to build homes with no thought for solar passive designs.

Furthermore, planning authorities should make housing divisions with the long side of blocks facing north as often as possible, as per our new suburb of Wright.

We have built a ''wedding cake'' design, which we prefer to the ''office block'' style of homes, where the gutters almost touch. Our home lets the neighbours enjoy solar access, and we have the joy of the winter sun warming our home.

We don't use airconditioning and are coping well with ceiling fans in the heatwave. It is a pleasure to live in and we rest easy knowing we are using less energy.

Lou Tidy, Wright

Fairer tax relief

Accepting the logic of R.S. Gilbert's argument (Letters, February 10) that housing investments should not be excluded from negative gearing, does it not follow that investment in one's own home should also not be excluded?

Removal of the exclusion would encourage and assist home ownership. Moreover, it would seem reasonable in terms of social justice, as the only home owners now excluded are the owners of just one house.

Such a policy shift would probably be costly. One solution would be to place a limit on the amount of the tax benefit to the owners of just one home, and to fund that amount by limiting all other ''negative gearers'' so the overall cost is budget neutral.

There are numerous arguments for and against negative gearing. I am not a supporter, however, if there is a majority view that it is worthwhile, so be it. But let's make it more inclusive and fairer.

Bob Budd, Curtin

A porn excuse for ban

I was distressed to learn recently during a trip to the Alexander Maconochie Centre that music has been effectively banned from inmates due to some kind of prohibition related to a crackdown on pornography.

I can appreciate that there are certain types of media content that are obviously damaging (such as illicit pornography), but to blanket ban all music to prevent contraband pornography seems extreme. Music is a cornerstone of life, and so too rehabilitation, surely? Why would pornography (the legal kind) be banned in the facility when it's legal in Canberra? I am generally opposed to pornography as it denigrates women, but depriving one section of the community is not right either.

David Jenkins, O'Connor

Negativity not healthy

The Canberra Times is the hammer of the Canberra public hospital system, regularly reporting its failings with emotional intensity.

Shock/horror reports on poor medical treatment and photographs of mournful family members holding portraits of dead relatives are among the more predictable cliches. You do the hospital system a grave injustice.

On February 5, I went to Canberra Hospital suffering chest pain and was seen immediately by a nurse and a doctor. Without delay I was given a blood test, my blood pressure was monitored and an ECG was done. After several hours, it was established that my concerns were unfounded and I was sent home, tired but relieved.

I filled out no forms and no payment was sought, although I was asked in passing whether I had private medical insurance.

Of course hospitals occasionally get things wrong, sometimes with tragic results. That's a risk they cannot entirely eliminate. But I learnt two things that day: the hospital system is civilised and decent and deserves to be protected from economic ideologues who would consign emergency healthcare to market forces; and in Canberra at least, much of the initial heavy lifting in emergency medicine is done by young African, Indian and Asian doctors and nurses who work very hard. We should remember them when populist politicians playing to bogan racism start braying with their ''Stop the boats'' mantra.

G.J. Barker, Red Hill

Forex fee-for-all

Further to Ray Edmondson's experience with bank fees and charges (Letters, February 13), I am prompted to draw attention to the $22 fee charged by the Commonwealth Bank for each online international money transaction via Netbank.

In the case of euros, the Commonwealth Bank inexplicably imposes a minimum transfer amount of €100. For US dollars, on the other hand, the minimum is $US1. Despite several attempts to seek an explanation, I have never been able to obtain an adequate answer.

As someone who regularly needs to make small payments to European institutions to obtain various research documents, I have learnt that the only way I can pay for these services is by converting the invoiced fee to US dollars and then incurring the bank's $22 fee for each transaction. Consequently, I can end up paying four times the actual value of the amount I need to pay.

Excessive and unexplained fees for international money transfers also need scrutiny.

Anne Laisk, Weston

Warden wasting talents

I agree with other correspondents (Letters, February 11) that Ian Warden should have refrained from criticising Ross Solly in such a mean-spirited fashion.

It was indeed both petty and self-indulgent, the more so because Mr Solly had given no real offence and Mr Warden's gratuitous insults hid behind negative comments made to him by an anonymous associate in Perth. Gossip?

I wonder if the source of the comments was aware that Warden would print them. Either way, not very brave, and in no way was it in the public interest for us to be made aware of such opinions.

I'm reminded of the disparaging comments regarding his students that Warden was prone to make when he was employed by the University of Canberra.

As well as using his considerable talents entertaining Canberra Times readers, Warden at one time was capable of making useful, occasionally profound, contributions to debates on issues of political and social importance. Not at the moment, it seems, which many of us must feel is a great pity.

May I urge Warden to lift his sights: he is capable of much better.

Roger Virtue, Hawker

Population growth defeats all efforts to live sustainably

Population growth is worshipped by megalomaniac governments and most economists. It carries the elusive promise of greater wealth and higher incomes. However, disparity of incomes is widening.

Once our cities reach an optimum population, continuing to add people through immigration and fertility levels can be detrimental, counter-productive and costly.

Loss of productivity is seen through traffic congestion, unemployment, infrastructure debt, homelessness and families trapped by mortgage stress.

Professor Jenny Stewart (''Steady growth the way to go'', Times2, February 14, p1) says ''consuming less, and going for quality more, would be a start'' to reducing environmental costs and prices for what we buy. But consumption of energy, water and food, and emission of greenhouse gases are all increasing due to Australia's nearly 2 per cent rate of population growth.

Any ''savings'' or efforts to live sustainable, cheap, humble, low-impact lifestyles are outpaced and negated by our federal and state governments' fast-paced ''growth''. Considering about 60 per cent of our population growth is due to net overseas migration, a level decided outside democratic debate and public consultation, any individual efforts towards a sustainable, alternative, steady-state economy are merely feel-good, futile and impotent.

Vivienne Ortega, Heidelberg Heights, Vic

Electricity rip-off

Jenny Goldie (Letters, February 12) is absolutely right to question the accuracy and purpose of the message placed on electricity bills in NSW.

I'm sure Jenny and a good many others would be surprised to learn that according to the Australian Energy Market Operator , the organisation responsible for the energy markets and systems in eastern and south-eastern Australia, the carbon tax rate is 2.2588 cents per KWh, which, when calculated against the typical 6.5kWh household bill referred to in the NSW government's message, equates to a carbon tax cost of just $146.82 - less than half the claimed figure.

Jenny and others might be interested to know that the NSW Coalition government, while sledging the former federal Labor government over the alleged cost of the carbon tax, quietly trousered $1.8 billion in dividends from the electricity sector last year, generating a return on equity of nearly 35 per cent, more than three times the average return recorded by ASX industrial companies and more than twice that generated by the banks.

It all gives a new meaning to the term ''racket''.

John Richardson, Wallagoot, NSW

Navy deserves better

Given that senior members of the federal government, from the Prime Minster down, are claiming there is incontrovertible visual evidence that members of the Australian navy are in no way guilty of any inappropriate behaviour with respect to the burns suffered by asylum seekers, you have to ask what is the real reason for them refusing to release the footage of what happened.

The claim that to release the evidence would give advantage to the people smugglers is an obvious ruse as the footage needed to absolve those involved would, by its nature, be brief and restricted to the specific incident, and unlikely to provide any tangible assistance to the operation of the people smugglers' business.

Perhaps a more credible explanation is that the government, in fact, wants potential asylum seekers to believe they are indeed in significant danger of being mistreated by those charged with keeping our borders safe, and that outcome is a higher priority than clearing the reputation of the navy men and women who are carrying out the orders of their political masters.

Surely the members of the Australian navy deserve better treatment from the government they serve.

Ian De Landelles, Hawker

Hockey's entitlements

It seems to me that Treasurer Joe Hockey is a tad hypocritical as he talks against the ''age of entitlements'', which, by the way, a Liberal prime minister named John Howard bought in.

A quick check on the Google god shows Mr Hockey has three young children, who I suspect earned him an entitlement of about $30,000 before tax in baby bonuses and other welfare payments.

Given his bleating about people who grab what they can on welfare, does this mean he donated his entitlement to charity? Perhaps he contributed to a mission school in Africa? Or did he buy a barbecue?

Total hypocrisy to bleat about others when you yourself are at fault! Open the door and then everyone can be transparent and we can all know the truth.

Jane Wilson, Narrabundah

Israel and the 1967 war

Stewart Mills (Letters, February 7) is right that it is inadmissible to acquire territory by war. However, this does not apply to Israel and the West Bank, because it does not apply to defensive war, and the 1967 war in which Israel gained control over the West Bank was a defensive war. UN Security Council Resolution 242, passed in the wake of the war, implicitly acknowledges this. It did not say Israel's possession of the West Bank was illegal. It required Israel to withdraw ''from territories occupied in the recent conflict''.

It did not say ''the territories'' or ''all the territories'', and the drafter of the resolution later confirmed the intention was that Israel did not need to withdraw from all the territory, and that the final borders were to be negotiated.

Israel's settlements do not prejudice negotiations, as Mills claims. Just about everyone involved with the negotiations accepts that any deal will include Israel retaining settlement blocs in return for land swaps. Israel has demonstrated in the Sinai and in Gaza that it can evacuate settlements to advance peace. The settlements have not taken any new land since 2003 - they have only grown within existing boundaries.

Alan Shroot, Forrest

Time to review guidelines for breast cancer screening

Evidence from a large study of breast cancer in Canada raises doubts about the value of mammography, finding it tends to over-diagnose (''Breast tests don't alter death rates from cancer'', February 13, p3). I wonder if the other risk for women who rely solely on mammography is a false sense of security - that having had a mammogram, you can relax. Reliance on mammography is perpetuated, perhaps even encouraged, by the orthodox thinking reflected in Cancer Council Australia's response to the Canadian evidence.

The medical profession knows the mammogram is poor at detecting certain types of breast cancer. Magnetic resonance imaging is a far more effective screening technique for detecting these breast cancers, but is expensive. The Medicare rebate for a breast MRI cuts out at age 50 - a gross inequity considering that age is a major risk factor. Guidelines for breast cancer screening are outdated and should be reviewed.

Cathy Hales, Aranda

From pillar to post

I empathise with Liz Blackwell (Letters, February 14). I have experienced several instances recently where a parcel sent to me through Australia Post has been returned to the sender despite being correctly addressed to my home. In each case, no calling card was left and no explanation was provided to the sender. One sender was private, another was a business, both sending from Melbourne.

I contacted Australia Post, which informed me that parcel delivery was undertaken by contractors and it was unable to help me without a tracking number.

This week, an item was sent to me from the US with a well-detailed tracking number, but Australia Post advised me it could not follow the item's progress in Australia because its system did not recognise international tracking numbers.

In an ideal world, Australia Post would regard parcel delivery as part of its business.

Max Blyton, Nicholls



I'm surprised the Abbott regime allowed information about the worst jobless rate in a decade to become public. Shouldn't they have followed Scott Morrison and suppressed it for operational reasons?

Thos Puckett, Ashgrove, Qld


Your report ''Giraffe death highlights Copenhagen Zoo's controlled circle of life'' (canberratimes.com.au, February 12) does not diminish the outrage of animal lovers everywhere regarding the brutal killing of the young giraffe, Marius, and its subsequent public dissection. Shakespeare got it right when he wrote in Hamlet: ''There's something rotten in the state of Denmark.''

Brian Millett, Yass, NSW


In the 1970s, Australia's two leading federal political groups were referred to as Tweedledum and Tweedledee. In the '90s, they were Tweedledum and Tweedledumber. In recent years, it has been said that performance-enhancing drugs should be banned in sport and made compulsory for Australia's federal politicians.

Les Brennan, Sunshine Bay, NSW


I agree that the ''age of entitlement'' should be over and personal responsibility should take its place, but will it happen? The worst ''entitlement'' claimers are our federal MPs. They claim expenses to attend any function at which a constituent might be present, they claim subsidised meals and accommodation, the provision of mobile phones, and they travel first class. This gravy train should be curtailed in the national interest.

John Daly, Lyons


We would all wish that Brian Hatch's conclusion about climate change (Letters, February 14) was correct. However, like most climate-change deniers, Mr Hatch cherry-picks the data. His ''analysis'' ignores mean global temperatures, the frequency and duration of the extreme weather, and whether or not there were El Nino events at the time.

Dan Buchler, Waramanga


Time to move on from the past, Jack Pennington (Letters, February 14). No one - Melissa Breen in particular - would contemplate a comparison with Betty Cuthbert. Enhancements in technology over time have seen the disappearance of cinder running tracks. Comparisons between now and then are therefore pointless. Breen's breaking of such a long-standing national record is in itself a great achievement.

Tony May, Pearce


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