Letters to the editor

No confusion at top



Murray Upton's interest in planning and development in the Belconnen town centre (Letters,   May 5) is encouraged. However, I assure him there is no confusion regarding planning and development within the ACT government.

The Environment and Planning Directorate has been working closely with the Land Development Agency regarding the development outcome on section 200 Belconnen, including requirements such as replacement car parks. This particular block has been part of the land-release program since 2010 and is key to the urban renewal of the Belconnen town centre.

It is also worth noting sections 34 and 37 and 52 Belconnen are privately owned land with an approved development application. This development has already been subject to community consultation, as part of the ACT planning and land authorities' independent planning process.

I look forward to the release of the Belconnen draft master plan in mid-2015. The draft master plan will seek the community's views on the proposed directions for building controls, including building heights, and address a range of other issues to ensure the town centre remains an attractive, desirable and accessible location for the Canberra community.

I encourage Belconnen community members like Mr Upton to consider the recommendations of the draft master plan when it is released and importantly, provide feedback on it.

Mick Gentleman, ACT Minister for Planning  


Not so fashionable

For a moment, I thought H.Ronald (Letters, May 3) was mellowing, so balanced and thoughtful were his remarks about Anzac Day. But then I noticed he could not resist the dogwhistle epithet, "the left", when referring to James Valentine, and the description of Valentine's remarks as "fashionable". 

In fact, one of Valentine's most perceptive points on commemoration was this: "I'm being told repeatedly what I should feel. Exactly how solemn I should be, which parts of the story I should mark and what lesson I should draw from them." Learnt behaviour, doing what is expected, following fashion, all contribute to the mass emotion that takes hold of many of us when we commemorate and celebrate past military exploits. It is not the so-called left that is in the grip of fashion.

David Stephens, Bruce 

Discontent explained

Rod Frazer (Letters, April 21) believes the ACT government's treatment of the owners of asbestos-contaminated houses is "extremely generous",  and has been "surprised at times to learn that some homeowners do not agree".

The homeowners' dissatisfaction is not about the money the government will pay to acquire the properties, but about how much they will have to pay to buy the properties back after remediation. Many of them have very good reasons for wanting to live where they have been living. The government's plan will make this practically impossible for all but the very rich. 

The Public Accounts Committee received many submissions and spent two long days in hearings.   The dissatisfied owners wanted a "knock down and rebuild" option. The committee's report vindicated the owners' position (recommendation 19). Their report was unanimous, being agreed to by both Liberal and ALP members. But the government  promptly rejected a number of its key recommendations. The government's plan is "at the outer limit of affordability", according to Andrew Barr. But affordability is not the issue. The demolition and remediation will cost whatever it costs and the government has committed the ACT community to paying for it. The government's plan is really about how the cost is distributed. Their plan is to recover two-thirds of the cost from people who buy the remediated properties  by changing the territory plan to allow dual occupancy and strata title for most of the properties.

This plan is disadvantageous to owners who want to return, who will be priced out of the market, and to neighbours who trusted the territory plan to protect the character of their neighbourhood. The demolition of a thousand houses will affect everyone in the ACT. Everyone will pay something through tax. Buyers and renters, including people displaced from the asbestos-contaminated houses, will pay more in rent or purchase price, because the housing stock has been reduced. Neighbours will find themselves unexpectedly in the midst of higher density and their houses may lose value. Other things being equal, uncontaminated houses will rise in value.     

John Kilcullen, Macquarie   

Electoral reform

John Warhurst is right to suggest wider electoral reform ("Let's widen voting reform", Times2,  April 23, p4), including rotation of names on the Senate ballot paper that would do away with party boxes and end the opportunities for election through tight interlocking numberings of candidates with catchy party names but little public support.

While the Joint Select Committee on Electoral Matters divided on roll updating procedures and the degree to which multiple voting is a problem, there was no focus on the appalling level of safe seats and wasted votes in House of Representatives elections, from where the disturbingly distorted nature of campaigning derives. The committee earlier recommended Senate informality hurdles no greater than those unsuccessfully proposed by the opposition when proportional representation was introduced in 1948. If party boxes persist, candidate numbers will increase greatly, as has happened in NSW Legislative Council elections, because most parties and groups will nominate more candidates. Electoral officials will spend most of their advertising budget on the two ways of registering a formal vote, instead of how electors can best translate their wishes into an effective vote. 

Despite spending much time on the lost Western Australian Senate ballot papers, the committee did not come to grips with the 1948 failure to recognise that obtaining the quota is the goal of candidates and, therefore, the Court of Disputed Returns should have power to remedy electoral deficiencies far more flexibly than under the winner-take-all rules that have an entire fresh election as a  default. It also failed to grasp the importance of a weighted definition of transfer values when elected candidates have a surplus, to promote the fairness to all candidates whose importance was underlined by the initial knife-edge scrutiny before papers intended for the recount disappeared. 

Bogey Musidlak, convener, Proportional Representation Society of Australia (ACT branch) 

Interest rate cut  will stimulate only more debt, slowing growth

When it comes to the federal government and the Reserve Bank of Australia, the Australian economy is getting even less bang for the buck ("Spend, says Hockey after rate cut",  May 6, p1). They think  another fraction of a percentage point cut in interest rates will get the Australian growing. It won't. The RBA's interest rate cut will stimulate nothing but more debt which slows the rate of real economic growth.

Capital – what you get from saving and investing wisely – is the real muscle of an economy. Artificially low interest rates lead to wasteful investment by either diverting capital from more important to less important uses or making projects without genuine economic merit appear profitable. Artificially low interest rates also obliterate returns on saving while the rewards on speculation and financial engineering soar.

What will the RBA do when the Australian economy moves into recession, which it surely will? 

Victor Diskordia,  McKellar 

Spend, says Hockey! Borrow and invest, he says. He could give the same advice to the Government: stimulate economic growth and economic innovation by borrowing and spending and investing in the future of the nation. The returns would be great for everyone.

Marguerite Castello, Griffith  

Leave it to the experts  It seems Jim Coates, Bronis Dudek and Elizabeth Patz (Letters,  May 4) possess a clear understanding of the motives and thought processes of the convicted and executed drug runners Chan and Sumarakan and precisely how to dissuade others, (or bizarrely, in the case of Bronis Dudek, the same deceased men), from committing such crimes. They point out that the executed men were aware of the penalties involved, but that didn't prevent them committing the crime. This points to the lack of logic in their argument that execution is a deterrent. 

I am not sure of the credentials of the letter writers in regard to law or law enforcement, but I prefer to consider the views of professionals such as former Victorian Police Commissioner Ken Lay, who recently said  we can't arrest our way out of these sorts of problems.

Matt Noffs of the Noffs Foundation said  the foundation's position is that law enforcement alone will not solve the problem and it was time to look at health and education solutions. I just wish people would recognise these are complex problems of both supply and demand, with no simple answer, especially not just "hang 'em high".

Michael Smith,  Braddon

AFP response sickens

I have to say I am quite disgusted with the response the AFP gave in response to the sharing of information to the Indonesian authorities. They claim they had insufficient evidence to arrest some  of the Bali 9 and knew full well  the death penalty would apply if they were found guilty. If they didn't have enough evidence, why did they hand them over to the Indonesian authorities? 

And then to deny the families of Andrew and Myuran an apology is just sickening.

Adam Hamilton,  Ngunnawal 

Now this is news

Shame on you Canberra Times! Tucking the article  "Feeling the Heat: one in six species faces extinction by 2100" (May 2, p12) away in a corner. This follows on from news some months ago  the world has lost half its wildlife in the past 40 years. 

Put such things on your front page. For every species lost, we are diminished and all the more so for saying and doing so little about it. 

Graham Clews, Kambah 

Camps condemned

Alan Garnet (Letters, April 29) says my description of Australia's "detention" centres as concentration camps "denigrates the victims and survivors of the concentration camps of World War II". That is not the case. The comparison doesn't denigrate the victims of the Nazis – quite the opposite. Anyone who condemns the concentration camps must also condemn Australia's detention centres.

Can I suggest Alan look into the history of concentration camps? He will find  the concentration camps the Spanish set up in Cuba, the Americans in the Philippines and the British during the Boer War are similar to Australia's detention centres. So too were the first Nazi concentration camps, those set up after they came to power to smash the organised working class, namely the Communist Party, the socialists and trade unionists. It wasn't till later that the Nazis set up their even more horrific and genocidal extermination camps. 

John Passant, Kambah 

Academic standards 

Ross Fitzgerald ("Declining university academic standards need examination", Times2,  May 4, p1) is, as usual, right on the money in pointing to the problems associated with declining academic standards. 

Any reluctance to fail inadequate work to prevent the loss of revenue is a blight on the whole system. It is not only that some students are allowed to enter university without the ability to pass unless the standards of marking are lowered, but also that they are allowed to continue in later years.

In my view, the standards should be increasingly tough in second and third years, the object being to produce a really skilful elite rather than a multitude of mediocrities.  And these best and brightest should not have to pay for their tuition, but should be allowed to have the time to develop other life and personal skills.

Richard Mills, Leura, NSW 

Entitlements to exit

The government has set the "ending of the age of entitlement" as the compass by which it would steer the ship of state. Fair enough, and rightly so. Let us hope  the budget for 2015 continues the good work, and focuses on a few entitlements other than those singled out last year. For example: Let us hope that foreigners' entitlement to come and buy our country freehold will be curtailed, and the entitlement to transfer our trading surpluses to low tax havens overseas will be restricted. Let us hope  our entitlement to pollute our atmosphere unless paid not to will be done away with, and the entitlement of those  who are well enough off to use trust accounts and negative gearing to reduce our income tax liability will be severely limited.

Leon Webcke, Gordon 

Move ACT border north to include falls 

Cross-border land development is complex. Certainly well resourced "Riverview" is. 

It's proposed for West Belconnen and beyond towards the junction of Ginninderra Creek and the Murrumbidgee River ("Rezoning would bring access to breathtaking falls", May 4, p3).  I understand that the canny early ACT surveyor, Charles Scrivener sensibly used the Cotter River catchment to determine parts of the border with NSW. That resulted in the current straight border line running north-east from Mount  Coree. Apparently Scrivener missed a tributary of the Cotter, which if included, could have seen the above creek-river junction included in the ACT.

It'd be much better for all concerned if "Riverview" and environs were completely in the ACT.  As well as a beautiful stretch of the Murrumbidgee corridor, the currently privately owned attractive Ginninderra Falls area would become part of the ACT, and would be optimally accessible and managed. Yass Council would be relieved. Clearly, the subject border line needs to be  moved north, perhaps into two facets. The related thorny machinations with NSW and the Commonwealth would be best resolved through a land swap, eg, the subject land for parts of the ACT's remote Kowen "peninsula" extending incongruously eastwards into NSW. 

Jack Kershaw,Kambah 

The Riverview Group is keen to point out that if allowed to proceed with their plans for 11,500 homes that the people of Canberra would once again have access to Gininderra Falls ("Rezoning would bring access to breathtaking falls", May 4, p3). What they are not keen to discuss is the questionable choice of building a suburb of McMansions on microscopic blocks right on the edge of town away from any services or employment opportunities.

Stephen Maddocks, Higgins



Sophie Mirabella endorses Scott Morrison as the next prime minister. Oh well, that's the end of his political career.

Linus Cole, Palmerston


The letter by J.Ryder (Letters, May 4) reminded me to thank Patrick Stewart-Moore (Letters, May 1) and to "join him", as invited. I, too, have not been to Indonesia and now have no wish to go there. Naive and irresponsible as it may be, I do not even care whether the "important relationship" returns to "normal" or not. Remember the Balibo Five? And don't forget West Papua.

Meta Sterns,  Yarralumla 


The AFP appear to have put themselves above Australian law. This is not right. They must conduct themselves in a manner that does not result in outcomes that are contrary to Australian law.

 Mark Hartmann, Hawker 


It is reported  Mike Phelan has had an "agonising 10 years" since dropping the Bali Nine into the Indonesian justice system. It is also reported  Mr Phelan would do the same again in similar circumstances. Well, I suppose he has to say that, doesn't he? Incidentally, Mr Phelan was Michael when he was an ACT policeman; now he's Mike. If he becomes head of the AFP, will he become M? 

Peter Moran,  Watson  


Further to Ron Sheargold's complaint (Letters, May 1), I would like to clarify the ACT government did not have parking inspectors operating on Anzac Day and, consequently, did not issue parking infringement notices at the time of the dawn service, as Mr Sheargold suggests.

Dave Peffer, deputy director-general (Access Canberra), Treasury and  Economic Development Directorate   


I would think it entirely appropriate for the traditional custodians of the land surrounding Ginninderra Ponds to interact with the dreamtime through sacred song and dance. It was a highly insensitive and inflammatory suggestion from the Milners (Letters, May 4) that the beer cans and bottles were the result of a corroboree.

Chris Doyle, Gordon 

Perhaps the Milners  (Letters,  May 5) weren't meaning to be racist, but did they not think fire and beer cans more likely to be Aussie barbie than corroboree. And notifying the AFP? Why?  

Catherine Stein,  Rivett

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