Comment

Letters to the Editor

New angles on alcohol

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As the debate rages about lock-out laws as a means of curbing alcohol-related violence ("Bar owners united against lockout laws", February 24, p1), the elephant in the room remains unseen.

Almost 60 years ago we successfully tackled the problem of drink driving by introducing blood alcohol limits for those wanting to get behind the wheel.

In a similar vein, a blood alcohol limit for people in a public place would seek to reduce harm by curbing the menace sparked by excess alcohol consumption. Like the drink driving laws introduced in the 1960s, we could expect such laws to offend the sensibilities of a vocal minority who would view breath testing as a contravention of their human rights.

The ongoing spectacle of drunken violence and public disgrace is a contravention of my human rights.

Such a proposal needs consideration of resourcing, legal conflict and public interest. But it also needs consideration, full stop. It may be a solution. The question is, is the ACT government brave enough?

Kate Morris, Dickson

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After reading your editorial "The ACT toys with lockout laws" (Times2, February 25, p2) explaining that "lockout laws" applying to the CBD and Kings Cross precincts in Sydney have led to an appreciable reduction in alcohol-related violence, late-night admissions to inner-city hospitals and fewer police being required in these areas late at night, it seems to me that these outweigh disadvantages to the hospitality industry here in Canberra.

Evelyn Bean, Ainslie

Speed studies needed

Last Tuesday morning at 9.50am, my speed was checked by two police with a hand-held radar while I drove in the restricted speed zone in front of Narrabundah College. Fortunately I was driving within the speed limit. Narrabundah College caters to year 11 and 12 students aged 16 to 18, many of whom seem to drive their own cars to college. By this time, classes have well and truly begun and there is no sign of students arriving or leaving.

In the ACT the 40km/h speed limit outside schools applies from 8am to 4pm. In NSW, the school speed limit applies only for the periods when students are arriving or leaving school.

If the ACT government or the Australian Federal Police have any studies showing an increase in collisions with pedestrians outside schools between 9.30am and 2.30pm these should be made public if the ACT policy is to have credibility.

At the moment motorists could be forgiven for thinking that enforcement by police at these times, particularly outside secondary colleges, is motivated by raising revenue rather than child safety.

Jenny Harper, Griffith

Burning issue

A total fire ban on Friday reminded me that I have still to see a report by the government into the handling of the recent Mount Clear fire. I understand that despite portents of what happened after the McIntyres Hut fire was not attacked on January 8, 2003, no night crews were sent to the Mount Clear fire on day one, despite Parks having crews on the way.

It appears that the Rural Fire Service duty officer (who I understand has no experience in fighting remote forest fires) told them to stand down without consulting senior Park officials. If this is true then I think the ACT community has a right to know the reasons for that decision along with any other details on how the threat was managed.

Ric Hingee, Duffy

Park life

I'm sorry Simon Copland ("Historic park has turned into a waste of space", Times2, February 22, p5) feels Haig Park is a "waste of space" . The 2012 draft Haig Park Master Plan was written after considerable consultation with residents and interested people from the area. It is a shame that the recommendations of the report have not been acted on.

The development of the "Central Activity Node" and the grassing of some of the existing open areas as described in the draft report might go some way to satisfying Mr Copland's desire for facilities within the park. Haig Park is different from other Canberra parks because of its historical past, and is used every day. The removal of trees to make areas for sport and markets goes against the ACT government's recent statement for the need to have more trees to help keep our city cooler. The ongoing development of the Lonsdale Street precinct has provided sufficient cafes and restaurants for the area.

Wendy Dodd, Braddon

Cardinal points

While Cardinal Pell may be as pure as the driven snow, and while H Ronald (Letters, February 23) may deplore the "odour of mob rule" in the "demented" attacks upon the Cardinal, the problem is that, well, Pell's actions to avoid coming home have, for many people, an odour of him trying to get out of something. Many people obviously think that Pell has a bad track record in covering things up and protecting the church from the victims, so they scoff at his not coming home. After all, while he has a medical opinion that he cannot fly that doesn't prevent him using surface transport.

So, in scoffing at Pell's current actions and being outraged at his past conduct people may well expose their bigoted stupidity. And they are entitled to, just at Ronald is.

Dallas Stow, O'Connor

Steve Ellis and V Harris misunderstand (Letters, February 26). I carry no candle for George Pell, but even a serial killer has his day in court and the same must apply to George Pell, who has yet to be found guilty of anything. To accept anything less is to signal our descent into anarchy.

H Ronald, Jerrabomberra, NSW

More carnage

I share the view with Julian McMahon ("Lawyer spends life working for justice", February 25, p6) that Thomas More is a fascinating character to study. I do though find it difficult to accept More's writings in connection with the death penalty.

This was a man who had no problem with burning people at the stake because they did not share his religious opinions, one of whom, William Tyndale, an equally erudite person, he would have had burnt at the stake for translating the Bible into English if his agents in Europe had managed to catch him.

His own execution was as a result of refusing to accept that the Catholic Church should be subjected to the rule of the secular state. I leave others to question if that resonates today.

Steve Thoma, Yarralumla

In 2000, Robert Shiller wrote his classic Irrational Exuberance in which he accurately predicted an imminent massive economic collapse. Nobody took any notice, of course. Eight years later, after he had been totally vindicated, Shiller wrote another book, The Subprime Solution, in which he made suggestions about what we should and should not do to avoid a repetition.

In it, he wrote specifically about real estate, identifying what he called "a peculiar tendency" to regard surging house prices as a good thing. They are not, he said. On the contrary, falling house prices are in no way bad news. When they fall relative to incomes, people are much more likely to be able to afford to buy a home, especially our children and grandchildren, which surely we should all welcome.

But among Professor Shiller's many other expert observations, perhaps this one should raise the loudest alarm bells for Malcolm Turnbull and his current hyperbole on Labor's modest housing proposals: "The idea that public policy should be aimed at validating the real estate myth, preventing a collapse in house prices from ever happening, is an error of the first magnitude."

In the face of this, who are we to believe – a distinguished Yale economics professor with an impeccable record for getting it right or a new boy prime minister rapidly receding to the scare campaigns of his discredited predecessor?

Phil Teece, Sunshine Bay, NSW

Time to get serious

Why can't we find politicians who are serious about governing the country for the better? Why do we have to have a confrontationist approach to everything? Bill Shorten comes up with some seemingly sensible proposals for negative gearing and capital gains tax only to get shot down by Malcolm Turnbull and that awful confrontationist Scott Morrison, in a fashion reminiscent of the previous three-word-slogan PM. Why can't parties work together to get the best result for the country?

Turnbull doesn't seem to have a clear direction on a workable outcome except to preserve the status quo for his wealthy mates. If all taxation issues are on the table then let there be a sensible debate and thorough consideration of issues without either party wanting to score points.

Tom Collins, Palmerston

Deadly imports

Large amounts of money are being spent to protect us from terrorists, and unauthorised maritime arrivals, and invasion by sea and air. However there seems to be a large loophole in these protections brought about by our eagerness to embrace "free trade", and abolish pesky red tape.

It seems we are in danger of being electrocuted or consumed by fire from the substandard building and electrical wiring that has been imported on a large scale and used in many of our newer buildings, both residential and commercial.

How is it that this risk to health and safety is not being dealt with as vigorously and expensively as the other risks listed above? Do we have to wait for a major catastrophe, maybe a hotel burning to the ground with considerable loss of life, for the government to regulate this aspect of "free trade" effectively?

K.L. Calvert, Downer

Indigenous inclusion

Stan Grant's call for greater Indigenous representation in the public service ("Grant calls for more indigenous representation in public service", February 23, p7) recalled for me a situation in the early 1970s following a similar move by the Whitlam government. In response, CSIRO employed at its Katherine Research Station a number of local Indigenous workers to assist in a research program of a year's duration. Their sudden departure just before harvest meant that the year's work was wasted.

The chief of the CSIRO division involved declared that no Indigenous employee should be engaged subsequently. Now it seems that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees are still more likely to quit or be fired than others. Would not this fact alone be enough to discourage their selection?

Does the Indigenous community not have the same opportunities to prosper in the fields of education, health, social services and common law? Stan Grant is a fine example of where these facilities have been quite adequate for success.

We have been talking about Indigenous inclusion in our society for at least 50 years to my knowledge and still need specific Indigenous objectives to be identified. Stan Grant's aim for communities to determine their own destiny is far too general to assess.

If we are ever to overcome the problems of Indigenous employment and inadequate parliamentary representation we need a thorough open debate about the reasons for the failure of current systems.

Eric French, Higgins

Don't stifle range

There may be legitimate criticism of the way minor party candidates in the Senate can be elected on a minuscule percentage of first-preference votes, but it is important not to stifle the range of representation in that chamber. Control of the Senate by a major party brings problems of its own.

I believe the concept of "above-the line" voting for a party's nominated candidates is fundamentally flawed. Personally I always vote below the line, but I recognise that many voters do not want to have to cast 40 or so votes. Certainly, the large number of candidates typically found nowadays on a Senate ballot paper presents a challenge.

My solution would be to abolish "above-the line" voting. Then, quite simply, a voter need only cast as many votes as he/she wished, perhaps subject to a minimum number (e.g. six). Party candidates could still be listed under their party's name (eg. "Keep-Australia-Safe: Celia Standup, Jason Votewell, Anna Havago, etc."). Another improvement would be use of the Robson rotation to remove the so-called "donkey vote" factor.

The proposal, if implemented, would simplify voting, practically eliminate the risk of accidentally spoilt papers and ensure – as far as practicable – an outcome that accorded with the electorate's wishes. Will this come about?

Of course it will, just as soon as the major parties cease to be motivated by self-interest.

Alvin Hopper, Dickson

 

Gentleman's trip must be an acceptance issue

Why is Mick Gentleman spruiking trams from Tucson, Arizona ("Successful streetcar in the desert is no mirage", February 24, p2)? Isn't the government's decision signed and sealed? It must be that pesky community-acceptance problem.

Beyond the vandalism to Northbourne Avenue, the fatal weakness of the tram proposal is exposed by this question – why sink enormous funds and political capital into one artery of a uniquely huge, sparse and sub-standard network? Tucson's density is over two-and-a-half times that of Canberra. The government defends this anomaly with the cock-eyed notion of manufacturing density along the tram corridor. Of what possible use is this Gungahlin/Civic vampirism to our several other centres and their commuters?

Who is this government barracking for? It beggars belief that the answer is not the population of Canberra, but a single Green MLA.

Peter Robinson, Ainslie

Yet another light rail article not comparing like with like. Tucson City has a population of over 520,000 with another 500,000 in the immediate surround. Total more than 1million. Tucson City area 611 sq km, population density 1100 per sq km.

Canberra has a population of about 397,000 with another 40,000 in the immediate surround. Total about 437,000.

Canberra area 814 sq km, population density 487 per sq km.

What the article does not tell us is that the Tucson tram takes only 30 minutes to travel six kilometres and that the system cost $45 million per km to build.

If the Canberra tram is just as fast it will take one hour to travel from Gungahlin to Civic and cost $58 million per km to build, plus of course a few extra million for intersection upgrades plus a few extra million for more traffic lights plus a few extra million to move underground services.

Roger Brown, Rivett

 

PM should temper his hyperbole with a substantial dose of Shiller

In 2000, Robert Shiller wrote his classic Irrational Exuberance in which he accurately predicted an imminent massive economic collapse. Nobody took any notice, of course. Eight years later, after he had been totally vindicated, Shiller wrote another book, The Subprime Solution, in which he made suggestions about what we should and should not do to avoid a repetition.

In it, he wrote specifically about real estate, identifying what he called "a peculiar tendency" to regard surging house prices as a good thing. They are not, he said. On the contrary, falling house prices are in no way bad news. When they fall relative to incomes, people are much more likely to be able to afford to buy a home, especially our children and grandchildren, which surely we should all welcome.

But among Professor Shiller's many other expert observations, perhaps this one should raise the loudest alarm bells for Malcolm Turnbull and his current hyperbole on Labor's modest housing proposals: "The idea that public policy should be aimed at validating the real estate myth, preventing a collapse in house prices from ever happening, is an error of the first magnitude."

In the face of this, who are we to believe – a distinguished Yale economics professor with an impeccable record for getting it right or a new boy prime minister rapidly receding to the scare campaigns of his discredited predecessor?

Phil Teece, Sunshine Bay, NSW

Time to get serious

Why can't we find politicians who are serious about governing the country for the better? Why do we have to have a confrontationist approach to everything? Bill Shorten comes up with some seemingly sensible proposals for negative gearing and capital gains tax only to get shot down by Malcolm Turnbull and that awful confrontationist Scott Morrison, in a fashion reminiscent of the previous three-word-slogan PM. Why can't parties work together to get the best result for the country?

Turnbull doesn't seem to have a clear direction on a workable outcome except to preserve the status quo for his wealthy mates. If all taxation issues are on the table then let there be a sensible debate and thorough consideration of issues without either party wanting to score points.

Tom Collins, Palmerston

Deadly imports

Large amounts of money are being spent to protect us from terrorists, and unauthorised maritime arrivals, and invasion by sea and air. However there seems to be a large loophole in these protections brought about by our eagerness to embrace "free trade", and abolish pesky red tape.

It seems we are in danger of being electrocuted or consumed by fire from the substandard building and electrical wiring that has been imported on a large scale and used in many of our newer buildings, both residential and commercial.

How is it that this risk to health and safety is not being dealt with as vigorously and expensively as the other risks listed above? Do we have to wait for a major catastrophe, maybe a hotel burning to the ground with considerable loss of life, for the government to regulate this aspect of "free trade" effectively?

K.L. Calvert, Downer

Indigenous inclusion

Stan Grant's call for greater Indigenous representation in the public service ("Grant calls for more indigenous representation in public service", February 23, p7) recalled for me a situation in the early 1970s following a similar move by the Whitlam government. In response, CSIRO employed at its Katherine Research Station a number of local Indigenous workers to assist in a research program of a year's duration. Their sudden departure just before harvest meant that the year's work was wasted.

The chief of the CSIRO division involved declared that no Indigenous employee should be engaged subsequently. Now it seems that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees are still more likely to quit or be fired than others. Would not this fact alone be enough to discourage their selection?

Does the Indigenous community not have the same opportunities to prosper in the fields of education, health, social services and common law? Stan Grant is a fine example of where these facilities have been quite adequate for success.

We have been talking about Indigenous inclusion in our society for at least 50 years to my knowledge and still need specific Indigenous objectives to be identified. Stan Grant's aim for communities to determine their own destiny is far too general to assess.

If we are ever to overcome the problems of Indigenous employment and inadequate parliamentary representation we need a thorough open debate about the reasons for the failure of current systems.

Eric French, Higgins

Don't stifle range

There may be legitimate criticism of the way minor party candidates in the Senate can be elected on a minuscule percentage of first-preference votes, but it is important not to stifle the range of representation in that chamber. Control of the Senate by a major party brings problems of its own.

I believe the concept of "above-the line" voting for a party's nominated candidates is fundamentally flawed. Personally I always vote below the line, but I recognise that many voters do not want to have to cast 40 or so votes. Certainly, the large number of candidates typically found nowadays on a Senate ballot paper presents a challenge.

My solution would be to abolish "above-the line" voting. Then, quite simply, a voter need only cast as many votes as he/she wished, perhaps subject to a minimum number (e.g. six). Party candidates could still be listed under their party's name (eg. "Keep-Australia-Safe: Celia Standup, Jason Votewell, Anna Havago, etc."). Another improvement would be use of the Robson rotation to remove the so-called "donkey vote" factor.

The proposal, if implemented, would simplify voting, practically eliminate the risk of accidentally spoilt papers and ensure – as far as practicable – an outcome that accorded with the electorate's wishes. Will this come about?

Of course it will, just as soon as the major parties cease to be motivated by self-interest.

Alvin Hopper, Dickson

 

TO THE POINT

NOTHING'S CHANGED

At the end of Tony Abbott's time, leaked agendas of cabinet meetings showed a government with no ideas or purpose, committed only to abusing refugee children, attacking gays and spreading fear. Plus ca change.

Glenn Meeves, Penrith, NSW

WHISTLEBLOWER

Irrespective of where one sits on the spectrum of anti or pro slaughtering of kangaroos, ACT taxpayers really ought to question if prosecuting a 70-year-old man for blowing a whistle is a sensible and measured use of the public purse.

Chris Doyle, Gordon

FONDLY REMEMBERED

The article "Revitalisation conjures the spirit of Ralph Wilson" (Times2, February 25, pp6-7) brought back fond memories for me of Ralph and theatre in 1970s Canberra. He gave me the courage. And what a great photo of him.

Mike Giles, Fadden

WHO'S IN CHARGE?

I just want to know who made Cory Bernardi prime minister? Yet again, Australia is blessed with a government more concerned with getting re-elected than actually doing anything for the country. Those in power should look up the meaning of the word leadership, as they appear to have forgotten.

Sue Gerrard, Dunlop

SPOT THE SIMILARITY

I heard radio chat on the US primaries followed by the forthcoming Iranian elections. I started thinking about the similarity between the foreign policy rhetoric of Trump, Cruz and Rubio, and that of former Iranian president Ahmadinejad. All this aggressive hate mongering is just about domestic politics, right? If only foreigners could remember that when our leaders bag them.

S. W. Davey, Torrens

A BLOT ON DEMOCRACY

Ross Fitzgerald ("Hypocrisy taints vote laws", Times, February 26, p1) hits the nail on the head: the Senate gerrymander cobbled together behind closed doors by the Greens, Nick Xenophon and the Coalition is a shameful blot on Australian democracy.

Dr Peter Smith, Lake Illawarra, NSW

BRAINS AT RISK

I despair at what we are likely to see this football season if a training session looks like this ("Brumbies spill blood before opener", Sport, February 26, p32). Head wounds are accompanied by concussion. Perhaps the Brumbies (and Chris Dutton) could use one of their training sessions to see the film Concussion.

Bob Gardiner, Isabella Plains

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.

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