A city levy to pay for light rail (''City levy may help pay for light rail'', May 10, p1) is preposterous. Not a cent of public funds should be spent on this absurd proposal.

A tramway from Gungahlin to Civic would be of no benefit to the great majority of Canberrans. Even for the residents of Gungahlin, buses would be more flexible, and cheaper. If fanatics are determined that Canberra should have a tramway, they should put their money where their mouths are by setting up a private company, and raising the necessary capital. Ten thousand people each putting up $50,000 (and pledging a further $50,000) could raise sufficient funds to start the project. If the project is a success, they will benefit, and I will praise their foresight. However, if they are not willing to fund the project themselves, because even they recognise how risky the project is, they should cease attempting to steal the required funds from Canberrans who do not support the project.

When Shane Rattenbury fails to raise the necessary capital, perhaps he will realise how few Canberrans genuinely support his fantasy.

Bob Salmond, Melba

The best way to forecast the future of this project is to look at similar rail systems existing. Phoenix Arizona light rail was funded by a yearly state sales tax levy of .05 per cent. Its best yearly result has been a return of a quarter of the levy in one year. Their demographics are far superior to ours. In other words, Phoenix businesses will be subsidising their light rail indefinitely. Mr Corbell has tried Infrastructure Australia for support and their view was that, for Canberra, it was not practicable.

Undeterred, he is seeking finance from overseas. If it finally gets off the ground we will find that it loses, partly because of its construction costs, at least triple the loss that ACTION incurs in the existing bus service.

In the name of economic sanity the project and its overall costs should be examined by the ACT Auditor.

Howard Carew, Isaacs


Steps to discovery

I can understand Michael Travis (Letters, May 6) raising particular questions about the (re)discovery of the ''new'' superheavy element 117 (Uus). Too little serious science is taught in Australian schools, and too few students take science at university or even high school. It is no longer valued by society, nor is it valued by our political ''leaders - we do not even have a science minister.

To address Mr Travis's questions: ''Only four atoms were observed.'' That's sufficient Michael! ''They disappeared in a tenth of a second''. On scientific timescales, that's a long time! ''How were they weighed?'' They weren't. The mass numbers of two isotopes of Uus are known (293 and 294, in amu), as are their component proton and neutron masses (in g), and atomic masses for elements adjacent to UUs in the periodic table. One does not need enough to place on a microbalance to closely estimate the masses for such new elements from known data. ''What did the research cost?'' Lots! The gear itself cost billions.

''What is the use of the element?'' This is the wrong question. Scientific research is not about discovering ''useful'' materials, although a bonus if it eventuates, but rather it is discovering the nature of non-living and living matter all around us, their origins and structure, how they function, the laws behind behaviour, and plausible rationalisations which may provide some predictability. Research, such as with nuclear physics, is but one of many cogs in this process, albeit seemingly esoteric.

Professor Greg Jackson, Kambah

Dingoes help graziers

I refer to your editorial ''Our disappearing native animals'' (Times2, May 9, p2). During the years I was working as a field geologist in the open savannah woodland country of far-north Queensland, I learnt two important things about the regional ecosystem.

One was the now well-known disastrous effect that cane toads have on wildlife, especially reptiles, but also birds of prey (except the tawny frogmouth) and small mammalian carnivores.

The other I learnt from local graziers and from my own observations. Feral pigs do enormous damage to the richest grasslands along rivers and in low-lying, seasonally swampy areas.

They also prey, in groups, on cattle, particularly on heavily pregnant cows and on cows giving birth. The only natural enemy of the feral pig (apart from man) is the dingo. I once watched, fascinated, as a pair of dingoes, one in front drawing the defending larger pigs towards it, the other behind the mob making occasional lightning raids on the piglets trailing behind. The mob was almost exhausted, and it would have been only minutes, over the ridge and out of my sight, before the dingoes had their meal. In that part of the country, at least, dingoes are one of the graziers' - and the ecosystem's - best allies.

Douglas Mackenzie, Deakin


No defence for abuse

There has not been one word of denial or explanation from Defence in response to serious allegations of incompetence and waste raised by Michael Mackay (Letters, May 6). One might have expected that Defence could have learnt something from the disastrous results of its evasive and dishonest handling over decades of the sexual abuse and bullying questions - the adoption of small target tactics is quickly recognised by Joe Public as a clear sign of having something to hide.

Furthermore, as the top brass continue to be promoted as a matter of course, it seems that the current abuse investigations are being managed on the basis that anyone above the level of major is assured of exoneration.

Ron West, Fadden


Saving future mothers

Writing this on Mothers' Day is difficult. Following the Normandy invasion it was discovered that three of four brothers in the US forces had been killed. Only one - paratooper Francis Ryan - was thought to have survived, but his whereabouts were unknown. General George Marshall ordered that he had to be found and returned to his mother. The Steven Spielberg film Saving Private Ryan is now film history.

How horrendous that 70 years later the world stood by for weeks after hundreds of future mothers were brutally kidnapped and delivered into slavery like chattels. How can it be that extraordinary courage and compassion by a handful could be exercised for an individual during one of the fiercest battles ever known, but studied soullness indifference by the world is the lot of hundreds of human beings seized by evil? Did international conscience die on Normandy beaches?

Colliss Parrett, Barton

Be a good sport and get on with your life

Looking forward to watching a winter weekend feast of sport - kids/local/national/international (on yer Brumbies) - I thoughtfully read Clyde Rathbone's column ''Why do we put so much importance on sport?'' (Sport, May 10, p9).

Sport is a part of life, a slice of the pie, all of the pieces of which make up the whole that is a hopefully balanced life. It is entertainment - unpredictable, exciting and fun. Nothing wrong with that. It is also so much more than just that.

Spectating or participating, sport is a microcosm of the wider world - win some/lose some/fair/unfair/teamwork/ community/tenacity/resilience/work and reward. The only ''deep sense of pity'' is for those who don't love sport.

To suggest the ''emotional state of millions'' depends on their team's win is overanalysing it. The Liverpool fans will get over it (resilience).

The passionate fans I know all work, raise kids, have a social/environmental conscience, do volunteer work and have full lives, with their love of sport in perspective.

Talking about Life (and therefore sport) and the universe being meaningless is unhelpful and annoying. We are all here, so make the best of it. Like the saying goes: Life is what you make it … in my opinion. Meaning comes from connection to other humans and to the natural world.

Every working day, I am privileged to work with oncology patients, and it is a safe bet not one of them considers life meaningless when faced with the prospect of eternal rest looming closer than ever expected. So enjoy the game!

Jacqueline Sweeting, Isaacs


Tax Office jobs massacre likely to continue for years

It would be a mistake to imagine that the destruction of jobs in the public service will only be a one-off this year. Take the Tax Office as an example. Given the KPMG accountancy firm background of the current Commissioner of Taxation and the apparent need for the Treasurer to be tough on his own portfolio, my guess is that the mooted 3000 sackings from the ATO in the budget this year is just the beginning. It could, for example, be that the commissioner's 2020 Vision (get the joke?) is for an ATO of 13,000 staff, about half the size it currently is, in six years' time.

To do that would require sacking a net 1500 staff every year for the next six years on top of the mooted 3000 by October. Thus if the Tax Office were to recruit 500 people in one year (graduates and people with particular skills it desperately needs) that would require sacking 2000 other staff that year. Government revenue would plummet as the rich lurks-and-perks men rape the fisc.

Isn't it time the Community and Public Sector Union organised its members to strike to stop the jobs massacre in the ATO and elsewhere across the public service? If not, then the best thing Abbott and Hockey have going for them is CPSU leader Nadine Flood.

John Passant, Kambah

One really must wonder whose side the Abbott government is on if reports that it is set to make major cuts to the staffing levels in customs and the Tax Office are accurate. According to The Economist, it seems that ''traffickers, terrorists and the tax-evading rich'' are using ''trade-based money laundering … to evade taxes, duties or capital controls''. The aim is to get ''dirty money'' into the banking system.

In other words, just when money laundering is increasing worldwide and becoming more sophisticated, the Commonwealth government is reducing the capacity for Australian agencies to tackle this insidious, immoral and costly crime.

Timothy Walsh, Woden


Do as I say, not as I do

The upcoming budget is rumoured to have significant changes in store for military members and their superannuation plans, all to be applied retrospectively to currently serving members. Contrast this with the recent small changes made to politician entitlements that were only applicable to new members, from that time onwards. Meanwhile, Amanda Vanstone talks up the possibility of legal challenges to any changes to existing pollie perks.

Treasurer Hockey pushes his talking point that the heavy lifting must be shared by all. However, recent superannuation taxation legislation (Division 293, making the super system fairer) signed into law by the government conveniently excludes ''higher-level office holders'' and ''Commonwealth judges''.

George Orwell was so right when he said: ''All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.''

Robert Nelson, Kambah


Pollies should suffer, too

Our politicians are trying very hard to make us believe they are going to suffer, too, in their endeavour to contribute to the fixing of the budget by refusing any pay increase. It sounds good until you start to look into it.

They are thinking of reducing the minimum wage of $645 by $140, which represents a cut of 22 per cent. On the other hand, the Prime Minister is going to refuse a pay increase of $10,000, but on a salary of $500,000 a year, which represents a diminution of only 2 per cent.

If the politicians want us to believe they are being fair in trying to redress the finances of this country, let them take a 22 per cent cut in salary.

G. Coquillette, Spence


Risk from within

Australians are being hijacked. The Abbott government wants to blindfold and gag us and - under the guise of a ''budget emergency'' that does not exist - slash and burn the fabric of our nation. The attacks on Medicare, education, health, welfare and public media are as ugly as they are unnecessary.

The only reason is to reshape Australia to fit the ideology of the Abbott government - an ideology that has absolutely no mandate from the Australian people.

The government wants to change our broadly egalitarian society into an American one. The American way disadvantages many citizens, but it does work for the wealthy and privileged. This group is now Abbott's main target group.

Abbott has arrogantly ignored anything said by anyone except those he has hand-chosen. It is easy to get the answers you want if you only ask those who already agree with you.

Australia is in, perhaps, the greatest danger it has ever experienced. How ironic that in the midst of all the rhetoric about ''sovereign borders'' that the greatest risk is from within - from our own government.

Lyn Farrand, Kambah


Phoney Tony

Good old ''phoney Tony'' is at it again (''Tony Abbott to pass budget pain to politicians with pay freeze: reports'', canberratimes.com.au, May 11). While the rest of the community is expected to ''share the heavy lifting'' allegedly required to restore the health of the budget - by giving up entitlements they already have - Abbott and his mates will only be giving up something they never had.

Perhaps the ''age of entitlement'' will truly be over the day that the Prime Minister participates in a charity event without the cost being funded by the taxpayer?

John Richardson, Wallagoot, NSW


Enjoying a free ride

As Treasurer Joe Hockey and his Finance Minister entered Canberra Stadium (gratis) for the Brumbies-Sharks game on Saturday night, they were asked by volunteers collecting for a charity if they would like to contribute to the cause. Don't have any money, was the reply. Leads one to reflect on how much real pain politicians will suffer from the budget if they can move in public without the worry of having to have cash in their pockets.

P. Robertson, Rivett





We must remember the Coalition inherited a substantial budget deficit from the Gillard/Rudd government (and other Labor governments) over the years, and it will just keep getting worse unless someone fixes it. We are going to go through a hard time for a while, but when we get back in the black it will have been worth the battle. Unfortunately, far too many people are living for the present.

Anne Prendergast, Reid


I'm bemused by the government's intention to transform immigration into the big new department of border security, including customs and other bodies involved in border security. Does immigration abandon all the other elements of its current role? And what do all these people do? Build a series of rafts to encircle Australia, joined by barbed wire and alarms, as some kind of new version of Hadrian's Wall, perhaps?

Jennifer Bradley, McKellar


A government that finds wind turbines in the landscape ''confronting'', yet supports the destruction of large tracts of the Pilliga Forest and other memorable landscapes for coal-seam gas extraction and coal mining makes this old woman voter as cranky as a Bungendore bull.

Meta Sterns, Yarralumla


It would be interesting to know the provenance of the cigars which ministers Hockey and Cormann appear to have been smoking recently. If they were of Cuban manufacture, might this not offend our great and powerful friend, the US government, which discourages intercourse with that neighbouring outpost of the monolithic worldwide Communist conspiracy? Under such circumstances, the ministers would no doubt cling to time-honoured practice and refuse to disclose their brand preference, on national security grounds.

Peter Grabosky, Forrest


How times have changed. An important event in Adelaide on Saturday saw a horse named Smokin' Joey win the group 1 Goodwood, and another named Whitlam ran last.

Greg Simmons, Lyons


I have reached the end of my tether in dealing with Telstra about my internet and mobile phone services. How is it possible this company is allowed to get away with abrogating its fundamental responsibility to communicate effectively with its customers? Surely it is time the government stepped in and put a stop to this pervasive, cynical disdain that Telstra manifests towards its customers.

D.N. Callaghan, Kingston


Email: letters.editor@canberratimes.com.au. 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).