Comment

Letters to the Editor

No civic pride evident

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R.Wright (Letters, February 17) points to how disgraceful Canberra is looking at the moment. This is not new; Canberra has been on the downturn for a number of years.

This slow neglect has resulted in a government that apparently has no civic pride, making massive savings by avoiding essential municipal services, in spite of ratepayers paying over 40 per cent higher rates. We can only blame this current Labor government.

It is not unreasonable to ask, how can the government expect to manage the very expensive light-rail system when it simply cannot keep Canberra tidy?

I suggest the Labor/Green assembly members take a short trip to the cities of Goulburn or Wollongong and take in some of the civic pride at a lower rating cost.

This year, Canberra voters must vote on results, not on promises.

John Whitty, Hawker

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Real democracy please

Shame on our current PM and his demoted minister who are attempting to alter Senate voting to favour their own party.

Our ACT government and federal government are always telling us about our wonderful democratic electoral systems in Australia, which are based on the tried and true British Westminster system. They may be mirrored on the Westminster system, but the Australian systems in no way can be considered democratic. Both the Hare-Clarke and preferential voting systems are far too biased towards major parties.

Yes, we do need a full Westminster system – but a total Westminster democratic system, which has been proven and has worked well for centuries – with non-compulsory and first-past-the-post voting. No biased preferences voting or the unfair Hare-Clarke systems, please.

P. R. Temple, Macquarie

Try tolley buses

A similar concept to light rail that operates in many countries is the trolley bus. Trolley buses often have a similar appearance to light-rail vehicles, and have the same benefits by being powered by overhead electricity cables. But the best of it is that they run on standard road surfaces in the same way as an ordinary bus.

The trolley bus can pull over to the side of the road for passenger pick-up and drop-off, while remaining connected to the overhead cables.

It's amazing, I know. No stops in the centre of the roadway are required with a trolley bus but are essential with light rail.

Many of us will be familiar with the experience of driving alongside Melbourne's trams: if the tram stops, you stop. By running on rubber tyres rather than steel wheels, the trolley bus is very quiet and offers a more comfortable ride for passengers compared with light rail.

Of course, trolley buses could run equally well up and down the centre of Northbourne Avenue if a specialised transport corridor is seen as part of the requirement.

Trolley buses would be an excellent compromise that possibly both Libs and Labor could support.

Ron Crichton, Flynn

Bordering on nonsense

Gary Wilson seems to be under the impression Australia has borders when, in reality, we have 60,000 kilometres of coastline, which is mostly unguarded, while the navy hunts refugees on one small island 2600 kilometres from the mainland.

The refugee convention demands open borders for all signatory nations and others, because we sent Jewish refugees back to be slaughtered and the world promised to protect refugees instead.

All this whining that we have to turn away or torture human beings on the spurious ground of protecting borders drives me insane. No border comes before human rights.

Marilyn Shepherd, Angaston, SA

Unfair to backpackers

Shame on you, Mr Morrison et al. Fancy wanting to whack a 32per cent tax on backpackers' income from the first dollar. It is discriminatory and inefficient.

Why should a group of lawful workers, irrespective of their visa status, have to be subjected to a different tax regime than the rest of the taxpayers?

And it is inefficient, as it could end up costing us more to collect the tax than we collect.

It might even help to create another black economy by criminalising a segment of the population (backpackers and their temporary employers) who are just trying to survive in a very competitive world economy.

Lets face it: you don't have what it takes to chase up the big tax dodgers, so you target the weak.

For many years, Australia has been a great destination for young Europeans and Americans, who then go back home and tell the world what a wonderful people and country we are.

John Rodriguez, Florey

A quick turn-off

On the weekend, I visited the Greens stall at the Multicultural Festival. To one of the volunteers, I expressed my objection to the proposed tram and mentioned that many letter writers to The Canberra Times felt the same.

To my astonishment, I received the smug retort, "I make a point of never reading The Canberra Times". This profoundly arrogant, one-sided view of this proposal has turned a former supporter of the ACT Greens off for good. They'll not be getting my vote in October's election, or in any other one.

Angela Murray, Lyons

Chink in constitution

C.J.Johnston (Letters, February 14) knows of no ruling that would prevent section 59 of the constitution from being enforced. Allow me to provide one.

When the constitution was written, section 59 would have allowed the British government to advise the Queen to disallow a law that had received the Governor-General's assent.

Today, that advice would have to come from the Australian government, which would hardly be likely to advise the Queen to disallow the assent that same government had advised the Governor-General to give.

So section 59 is indeed otiose, and does not fetter the powers of the Governor-General.

David Smith, Mawson

Population balance

Everything Julia Richards (Letters, February 16) said about population I support, including that net migration should be zero, or immigration should equal emigration. Her figure of 200,000, however, was wrong. It should be about 83,000, which is the average emigration figure between 2006 and 2015, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Jenny Goldie, Michelago, NSW

No reason to be frightened of plan to change negative gearing policy

Scott Morrison's claim that "mums and dads" will be adversely affected by changes to negative gearing has now been taken up by the Property Council of Australia ("Mums and Dads could be the big losers", February 15, p7). The council claims the prevalence of negatively geared homes is in the outer suburbs of Sydney and regional towns further afield. That may be so, but it doesn't mean the investor landlords live in those suburbs; I'd imagine many investors live in more upmarket suburbs closer to the city and the beaches. The council also claims many people who negatively gear have incomes below $80,000, but omits to clarify whether that is gross income or net income. There is nothing to scare the average mums and dads about by changing the current policy to concentrate investment in new housing in the future; they can continue with their current investments in existing housing and enjoy the tax concessions, or they can invest in the future in new housing and enjoy the concessions.

The latter has, of course, the bonus of boosting national growth through adding to the stockpile of available housing and creating thousands of jobs in the construction and related industries.

Bill Bowron, Farrer

The Coalition is dismissive of proposals to reduce or eliminate negative gearing because, they say, it will distort the housing market. This is clearly back to front.

The (free) housing market does not have government subsidies or allowances involved. The introduction of negative gearing was a government fiscal measure intended to modify people's behaviour in the market (and benefit the big end of town).

It is the existence of negative gearing that distorts the housing market, and removing it would not introduce distortions; it would remove them.

Roger Quarterman, Campbell

Peter Martin points out the obvious, that people who "negatively gear" (that is, whose annual interest payments on funds they borrowed to buy a rental home exceed the rent they get) would have a higher taxable income if they didn't negatively gear. ("Poverty isn't always what it seems when it comes to negative gearing", February 16, p4).

But why is there so much negative comment about that? How does that differ from someone starting a business, knowing they'll incur losses in the early years, which they hope will be offset by later profits — in the case of negative gearing, the capital gain they hope to make when they sell the property?

And the Taxation Office doesn't lose; the capital gains tax payable when the property is sold will often more than offset the tax "lost" because of the annual losses. (Why would someone negatively gear if they thought their capital gain would be less on sale than their annual losses during the period of ownership?) True, capital gains tax is payable on only half the capital gain; but that's a separate matter for debate. And bear in mind there was no capital gains tax before 1985.

R.S.Gilbert, Braddon

Bigger battles to fight

I spasmed with frustration when I sat down to read Monday's paper and found the article "Wealthy believe they are battlers" (February 15, p3). Yet another example of the delusion surrounding the "top 10 per cent", and another great example of how humans are never satisfied with what they've got. Don't whinge to me that you're working more and "battling" to survive because you need a 50" LED TV in your spare room and to get your fourth kid an iPad.

Justin Wilkes, Duffy

Cost of imprisonment

Ross Gittins wrote that the cost of custodial sentences in Australia, which would put "100,000 students through university", is inordinate ("Prisons trap our money along with crooks", February 16).

He quoted national incarceration and crime statistics which were, admittedly, not strictly comparable. He also wrote, "Careful analysis by criminologists finds that a higher rate of incarceration does reduce crime, but only to a small extent, too small to explain much of the extent of the fall".

That opinion is not necessarily supported by his data. Australia's "imprisonment per head of population [over] the past 30 years, [has] more than doubled ... crime rates have been falling since 2000 ... national robbery rate is down by two-thirds, as is the burglary rate. Motor vehicle theft is down by more than 70per cent and all other forms of theft by more than 40per cent."

The time scales are not identical, but there is no reason to assume each convict committed only one crime, so the data tend to support those inclined to "argue that crime is down precisely because more baddies are locked up". Gittins' reference to the opinion of Dr Don Weatherburn, director of the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, that "it started in the 1960s when servicemen returning from Vietnam brought heroin with them" is another matter. That's all politics and prohibition; nothing to do with custodial sentences.

Gary J. Wilson, Macgregor

Pedestrian precinct would lift Manuka

We were appalled to see a developer suggesting Manuka Oval and associated areas need to be massively redeveloped ("$800m plan to revamp Manuka", February 17, p1). Please take your revitalisation elsewhere. Local residents are still living with the adverse consequences of the government's suburban densification of Forrest and Kingston.

If the government wants to do something positive for our quality of life in Manuka, a cheap and simple option would be to close off Franklin Street between Flinders Way and Furneaux Street and make it a pedestrian-only precinct.

C. Williams, Forrest

Apologist for Turnbull

I have been reading your column for a few years now, Nicholas Stuart, through the Rudd/Gillard/Abbott years. Where your dislike for Julia Gillard was evident, it appeared Tony Abbott wasn't your favourite PM either.

Now, like a lot of journalists/ writers/commentators you seem to be enamoured with Malcolm Turnbull. Stating Mr Turnbull is moving slowly, as if that is a good thing. This LNP government is at a standstill; it has not "governed" since elected. No budget has been passed, little substance in policy making, backflipping, losing ministers, current count between 10 and 14, depending on whether they have just lost their frontbench status or resigned. The good things, like the carbon tax, environment protection, Gonski, all gone.

Mr Turnbull has been part of this government since they were elected and before that on the opposition frontbench and before that the leader of the LNP. If there hasn't been much "pizzaz", maybe Mr Turnbull should find some or call an election before the country isn't just at a standstill but goes backwards.

Maybe, Nicholas Stuart, you should get excited about Labor's pledges. At least policies are on their agenda for us to see and discuss.

Jan Gulliver, Lyneham

TO THE POINT

FIDDLING AROUND

So we have the Greens (Rattenbury) fiddling with helmets and vegetable gardens, while the government (Barr and co) demolishes the Bush Capital entry to the city and 800 carbon-consuming trees. Quo vadis?

Marguerite Castello, Griffith

THE REAL MOTIVE

Further to G.T.Agnew's letter (February 17), it is important to remember Andrew Barr's light-rail proposal has nothing to do with his vision for the city. It is about keeping Shane Rattenbury on side and himself in the Chief Minister's job.

Stan Marks, Hawker

GIRL POWER

An old boy like Ian de Landelles (Letters, February 16) should drop his political correctness. Why can't young Fiona Nash call herself a girl? In fact, Middle English called both boys and girls "gurles".

Barrie Smillie, Duffy

SENIORS THE TARGET

The Chief Minister's plan to cut ACT concessions claims to target high-income households ("Barr flags cuts to concessions", February 16, p1) but the numbers don't add up for that claim when most of the cuts are evidently aimed at senior pensioners. Seniors are an easy target, and that's a special shame in politics.

J. R. Huggett, Bruce

AN IDLE THREAT

H. Ronald (Letters, February 17) says he "idly" watched the Sunrise sketch and believes Virginia Haussegger should "turn her gaze to far more serious threats to her cause". H.Ronald shouldn't fret; he has proved again he poses no threat to anyone's cause, except perhaps his own.

Eric Hunter, Cook

After a welcome break, H.Ronald is back (Letters, February 17) with his pithy comments on the Armitage/Hausseggers kerfuffle. It says something that H.Ronald is a Sunrise watcher, but I guess that helps to explain where he gets material for his multiple contributions to the letters page.

Ray O'Brien, Wavell Heights, Qld

POLITICAL PLUNGE

So, Malcolm and Barnaby over the cliff together.

Leora Kirwan, Kambah

STRAIGHT TO THE POINT

David Smith (Letters, February 15) says section 59 of the constitution, which provides for the Queen to disallow Australian laws, is otiose (idle). He has missed the point. The points are: why was that provision ever in our constitution and why is it still there?

E. A. Masey, Bywong

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