Make ACT more liveable

Housing affordability remains a concern, despite Canberra being ranked as Australia's most liveable city by a recent Property Council of Australia survey (''Canberra wins liveability poll but housing still a concern'', March 3, p1).

This is evidence that the issues of affordability and liveability are directly and inseparably linked.

Solutions to the affordability crisis can no longer come only from a mindset of offsets for stamp duty and rates nor from strategies to provide cheap and distant land with construction quality cut to the bone. The problems deriving from such an approach are already widely acknowledged.

Isolating the less well off in far-flung new suburbs on the outer edge of this city will not assist us in our goal of maintaining Canberra's recently achieved status as Australia's most liveable city.

Affordable housing starts with affordable neighbourhoods and affordable lifestyles and there is interstate evidence to confirm the realisation of such benefits to urban communities that have concentrated redevelopment along transit corridors.

I agree with Catherine Carter (''As Australia's most liveable city, we have much to do'', Forum, March 3, p4), that, in seeking the objective of housing affordability, ''we must build a city that is liveable for everyone''.


How do we do that?

The proposed light rail project from Gungahlin to the city will be a good start; together with the continued facilitation of rezoning for mixed use developments and the replanning of neighbourhoods where more trips from home can be conveniently taken on foot, transit, or bike.

Changing these policies and practices will begin to not only resolve our housing affordability crisis, but also address the build-up of traffic congestion, deteriorating air quality, loss of open space - and help respond to the climate change challenge.

David Flannery, Torrens

Abuse of power

Jeff House continues to defend the Raiders' proposed developments for Northbourne Oval - most recently on ABC Radio. It is such a curious position in which he has placed himself.

I would have thought that Simon Hawkins would be the front for the Raiders, not Jeff House.

In his article (''Clash of ideological positions for Rattenbury'', Times2, February 26, p5), Mr House made the astonishing revelation that it was not the Raiders who instigated the move in 2007 to construct a commercial car park on the site of the Braddon Club but a senior official of the Chief Minister's department. This was confirmed by Simon Hawkins in an email to me a day or so later.

So I have written to the Chief Minister saying inter alia: If the Raiders assertions are true ''then I put it to you the actions of your department represent a disgraceful abuse of power and influence. As far as I know the Chief Minister's department does not have any responsibilities for planning matters in the ACT, certainly not at the detailed level. So I ask you on what authority and at whose instigation did the department decide to intervene in this way.

''At best their actions are deplorable … And did anyone in the ACT government think about the ongoing consequence of this intervention? Did anyone think that the middle ranking officials in ACTPLA approving subsequent applications by the Raiders might be mindful of the views of senior officials in the Chief Minister's department about development of Northbourne Oval? I suspect not.

''If House and Hawkins are correct in their assertions, this sorry saga smells of undue influence peddling by your department when it had absolutely no right to do so.

''And as a former Commonwealth deputy secretary I believe your department's behaviour smacks of cronyism and is simply outrageous. It warrants a full and open investigation. All current development approvals concerning the oval should be put on hold''.

Rob Palfreyman, Braddon

Hooray for our buses

Cuthbert Douglas (Letters, March 5) thinks there are good reasons why only 6 per cent of Canberrans use ACTION buses. As one of the krill swept up and disgorged every working day by what Mr Douglas calls ''those trawling leviathans'', I can hardly fault the service.

Hardly ever has a bus been unreasonably late, or not turned up. I have encountered few instances of bad behaviour by bus commuters. But I am regularly disappointed by the lack of courtesy and terrorised by the reckless driving displayed by other drivers when I take the car.

It's true that there are too many krill packed in at peak hours. Otherwise, I catch up with the news on my iPad, enjoy unexpected meetings with friends, and best of all whiz past the traffic queues on Barry Drive in the bus lane. Keep up the good work, ACTION!

Heather Crawford, Evatt

ACT'S real oldest club

I wish to correct the reported claim by Rick Reeks (''Club split on secret merger report'', March 5, p1) that the Canberra Club is ''the oldest social club in Canberra''. The Canberra Burns Club was formed in 1924; this year it chalks up 90 years of community service.

My understanding is that this not only makes us the oldest Canberra club, but perhaps also one of this city's longest functioning organisations. We are very proud of this and intend to celebrate with a number of events throughout the year.

Having said that, we do understand very well the financial challenges facing small clubs. We wish the Canberra Club all the very best in its endeavours.

Athol Chalmers, president, Canberra Highland Society and Burns Club

Gittins' gobbledygook

I tried to read Ross Gittins' article ''We're now a nation of rent-seekers'' (BusinessDay, March 3, p10) but gave up in despair. It is absolute gobbledygook! It is so full of (presumably economic) jargon as to be unintelligible. What on earth are rent seekers? His use of the term does not accord with any definition in any recognised dictionary. When I saw the headline I expected an article on the difficulties of finding housing. Instead, it seemed to be about the proliferation of lobbyists.

I am a practising scientist, and reasonably well read but I have never seen use of the term ''rent seeker''. If he is going to write articles for the public can he either cut out the jargon altogether, or at least explain what it means?

Daryl Powell, Griffith

Joyce wants capital inflow, but hasn't said what he will do with it

Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce wants to increase the capital flow into Qantas to rectify its economic problems. He does not seem to care if the capital flow is achieved through a government grant, a debt guarantee or the repealing of foreign-ownership restrictions. Why Qantas does not use its $1 billion of cash revenue to address its problems?

Obviously, Qantas does not intend to use the capital inflow to bridge the gap between revenue and outlays, to do so would only make the situation worse. The objective must be to use the capital inflow to improve revenue and/or decrease outlays. It has given no information on how the capital inflows are to be used. Simply slashing staff won't correct the imbalance between revenue and outlays.

Ed Dobson, Hughes

On March 5, Treasurer Joe Hockey, on the Qantas funding dilemma, emphasised that ''Labor has no plan B''. When asked by the ABC 7.30 host ''What is your plan B?'', Mr Hockey replied, ''Our plan B is plan A.''

Equally gobsmacking, despite the recent confession before the courts by rating agency Standard and Poor's that an AAA rating ''means nothing'', some of our ex-Labor treasurers and prime ministers trumpeted that such ratings were wonderful for Australia.

These two examples beg questions about our politicians' competence or sincerity. How much bovine-sourced fertiliser can continue to be fed to the populace without many giving up on the so-called integrity of any federal political party, no matter what flavour? Monty Pythonesque idiocies live on each day in Australian politics.

Greg Simmons, Lyons

Just did a comparison of two Australian competitors during March-April for Sydney-Los Angeles return. Qantas was more expensive by 8 per cent, 26 per cent and 46 per cent for economy, premium and business. Strikes me that a major problem is non-competitive fares.

Why would a prospective customer pay that much more? And please don't blame it on the carbon tax. Both providers of the service are subject to it. Either underlying cost structures or greed must be driving the difference. Hoping it's the former, they must be freed to bring those costs down if they are going to survive. That and having a management team in place with business acumen to make the right decisions along the way. If it goes under there will be more than 5000 Australian jobs lost.

Mark Hartmann, Hawker

Environmental offenders

Rejecting Crispin Hull's ''prejudices'', Christopher Smith (Letters, March 5) defended farmers/graziers, saying our battlers in the bush receive almost no assistance. Subsidies and tax breaks may be scarcer now, but plenty remember how it was when Black Jack McEwan and Doug Anthony looked after rural sacred cows.

Besides, the big assistance cockies receive is via not having to mitigate their gross environmental damage. It makes me laugh when Greens rail against the environmental impact of this proposed mine or that factory/ suburb.

Such impacts pale into insignificance against cockies clear-felling the bush, killing everything and permanently replacing it with exotic grasses and crops, rising salt, topsoil loss and damaged rivers and reefs.

And unlike with mining where, after billions of dollars in export revenue are generated, sites must be rehabilitated, our battlers just slowly go broke caning marginal country and give nothing back, ever.

It's all history: happened back then? No. Natural ecosystems typically return within a generation where ploughing or grazing ceases.

Cuthbert Douglas, Bonython

Treated with contempt

The recent comments made by the recently retired naval officer Barry Learoyd ('''Incomprehensible' excuse for entering Indonesian waters'', March 3, p3) that GPS data, up to and including the Indonesian archipelagic baseline, is not only programmed into the navy's guidance systems but is ''well known to commanders and senior officers. It's part of the training we all get'', once again illustrates the arrogant, mendacious and patronising nature of the government.

The contempt in which it holds the Parliament and, more importantly, the Australian people is so glaringly obvious that it does not even attempt to hide it: we are treated like mushrooms.

Paul McElligott, Aranda

Abbott, Hockey at odds

Is there no end to Liberal lunacy? Treasurer Joe Hockey needs revenue to pay for Tony Abbott's refugee prisons and reduce debt. Meanwhile, Abbott is sacking Australian Taxation Office staff (who assess tax returns) and letting big business assess what it owes the ATO.

Abbott letting big business assess its own tax also opens the door on fraud. Abbott sacking ATO staff slows processing and delays revenue.

I posted my 2013 tax return before the October 31 ATO deadline. Weeks passed. No ATO tax bill. It came on February 24.

Abbott's ATO sacking spree is retarding Hockey's revenue. A house divided against itself will fall. It's only a matter of time.

Graham Macafee, Latham

Couldn't have put it better

Well put, Andrew Bolt (Letters, March 6), your stitch-up of The Canberra Times' resident agony aunt's article ''We are all Matilda, betrayed by Tony Abbott'' (Times 2, March 4, p5), bewailing the proposed changes to the Racial Discrimination Act, was factual, forensic and far superior to my intended ponderings.

I can only add that Jenna Price and other hand-wringers of her ilk who wish to cast a protective, motherly carapace over those who apparently willingly turn to water the instant they are faced with being called an insulting name or someone offering an offensive opinion, discourage the development of a personal quality that has stood this country's inhabitants in good stead following 226 years of invasion, drought, flood and bushfires - resilience.

Bill Deane, Chapman

Abbott wrong to inflame timber issue

A survey of 8000 Tasmanians, reported in The Examiner in Launceston last week, has found that 92 per cent support the Tasmanian intergovernmental forest agreement, which was reached after lengthy negotiations between all stakeholders in the forest industry. Extreme fringes of the green organisations would like to see still more forests locked up, but few in the forest industries want to unlock world-heritage areas for more logging as the federal Coalition government proposes.

The agreement signified the end of the Tasmanian forest wars, and most Tasmanians want it to stand as it is.

The timber industry is at a low ebb in Tasmania, Gunns and Forest Enterprises have been wound up, with a great loss of expertise to the forest economy. Prices for plantation timber are a third of what they were in 2006. Investors can find better returns elsewhere.

Unlocking world-heritage areas will not begin to solve Tasmania's financial woes, and may only serve to reignite ugly confrontations with the Greens. This would no doubt serve the Abbott-Truss government very well, but it is making a plaything of the state of Tasmania for their political ends. I thought the grown-ups were going to be in charge when the government changed. Where are they now?

K.L. Calvert, Downer

Mr Abbott must have been fed a load of weevilly industry-spiked porridge to conclude (at a timber industry dinner on March 4) that ''we have too much locked-up forest''. I'll stake my last dollar on Australia's eminent climate and environmental scientists, all conservationists, all threatened species, and most of the general public being revolted by this ignorance. Climate 101: forests store carbon and support wildlife, water and soil. Protection, at all costs, is critical.

Dr Bronte Somerset, convenor, South East Region Conservation Alliance Inc, Quaama, NSW

To the point


I refer to the proposal to expand the size of the ACT Legislative Assembly. One simple question. In a democracy, irrespective of the merits or not of the proposal, shouldn't the voters have a say?

Paul Kinghorne, Narrabundah


As a result of the sale and privatisation of federal government assets and services over the years by consecutive Labor and Liberal governments, there will soon be no requirement to have a federal government. I can hardly wait.

P.J. Carthy, McKellar


If you are a village idiot looking for a soft option you have three choices. You can become either an environmentalist, an economist or a senator.

Noel Carter, Cooma, NSW


It is disappointing to learn despite making billions of dollars from casinos, James Packer still isn't happy (''Candid Packer'', March 5, p2). Just think how much worse the people who lost all that money must feel.

G. Burgess, Kaleen


There is no section of Parkes Way between Cooyong Street and Anzac Parade as described by Sandra Smith (Letters , March 6 ). She is actually trying to point to Corranderk Street, as Cooyong Street ends at the intersection adjacent to Glebe Park.

David Elliston, Holt


I refer to your article ''Corby in reported suicide attempt as jail looms'' (March 5, p2). If that young woman (Schapelle Corby) goes back to jail (forget her family), it will be the Channel Seven Network and various other parasitic journalists in this country who may have blood on their hands!

Ed Harris, Bonython


Is anyone surprised by Russia's move into Ukraine? Putin has the tact and diplomatic skills of a sledgehammer and wouldn't look out of place in The Sopranos.

Tony Pelling, Nicholls


Professor Sharon Beder (''Public interest being spun out of asylum seeker issues'', Times2, March 5, p5) earns her keep as an academic, showing a numerical tie between the number of spin doctors maintained by politicians and the flimsiness (or otherwise) of the ideas they are pushing at the public.

A pity more academics don't have the guts to share their expertise on matters of public interest like this.

Hugh Jorgahan, Lyons

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