Letters to the Editor


The Canberra Times editorial ''A gateway fit for the national capital'' (Times2, April 10, p2) summarises the issues facing the proposed redevelopment of Northbourne Avenue.

Perhaps now is a good time for the ACT to demonstrate how well we do things here. We have been self-governing for 26 years. Canberra's early guiding hand of the federally sponsored National Capital Development Commission, with its teams of planners and architects, has slipped away. We have had enough time to make our own mistakes (for example, Sky Plaza, Woden). A single, strong controlling hand has never been to the detriment of planning or architecture. But that alone does not guarantee harmony and cohesion in design (for example, the airport precinct).

Consequently, the ACT government, by taking unilateral control of the Northbourne redevelopment, has taken on a huge responsibility that it declines to share with the community. The mixture of heritage concerns, vastly increased residential populations, associated need for recreational spaces, as well as the design integration of a light rail system with the need to retain a ''bush capital'' feel, all combine to offer a unique opportunity for the ACT government to demonstrate an outcome equal to world's best practice. Is government alone up to such a task? Only time will tell if the redevelopment was done with a vision, conviction and grace fit for the national capital.

Penleigh Boyd, Reid


Rattenbury's goals

The article ''Room for 45,000 more on city strip'' (April 9, p1) quotes Shane Rattenbury as saying ''there are times when society's overall goals should be able to come at the expense of individual needs, so long as they do not infringe on basic human rights''.

However, what he believes is ''there are times when Rattenbury's goals should be able to come at the expense of Canberra's needs, and basic human rights are irrelevant''.

Rattenbury's main goal is the tramway, costing about $1 billion for the Civic-Gungahlin line, but about $5 billion when extended throughout Canberra. Such extreme expenditure would preclude adequate expenditure on most of Canberra's actual needs.

If he had any respect for good government he would arrange for the fast-track legislation to be withdrawn, or for it to require at least a two-thirds majority of the Legislative Assembly for any particular project.

Bob Salmond, Melba


Carr's contribution

I agree with Bob Carr that ''a healthy ego'' is important for everyone, especially those in leadership positions.

But there is an enormous difference between having a healthy ego and being a narcissistic snob with a grossly inflated sense of self-importance. Mr Carr's attitudes towards his entitlements are sickening and serve to show how extreme is the divide between ordinary citizens and the ruling class.

At the same time as we are being asked to tighten our collective belts and accept that ''the age of entitlement'' is over, our politicians continue to sink their snouts more deeply into the taxpayer-funded trough. These are people who are already generously rewarded for their service and enjoy pay and working conditions far beyond the reach of most of us. It's obvious to me that more time spent by our politicians and CEOs back in cattle class with the plebeians would help them stay attached to the real world, not the rarified world of privilege.

As for Mr Carr's arrogant belief that ''trivial'' criticisms will increase the sales of his book, I can only say ''tell him he's dreaming''. It will be avidly read by the handful of political junkies obsessed by such matters, and will then quickly join all the other political memoirs in the bookshop bargain bin. It is unlikely that a future Penguin edition will compete for shelf space with Plato, Machiavelli and Alexis de Tocqueville.

Steve Ellis Hackett

The lighthearted content of articles in The Canberra Times regarding Bob Carr's book should not diminish the important comment that refers to the Zionists influence in Australia. No amount of name-calling by MP Michael Danby can diminish the fact that he is a spokesman for his Zionist lobby in Parliament.

Mr Carr should be commended for highlighting the continued theft of Palestinian land by Israel.

Rex Williams, Ainslie


Privatising flaws

The belief that privatising the Defence Materiel Organisation will save millions of dollars of taxpayers' money needs to be re-evaluated.

Recent experiences of privatisation of defence procurement in many OECD economies show few if any productivity gains. The British government recently abandoned its attempt to privatise its Defence Equipment and Support agency by pursuing a GoCo model - government-owned, contractor operated. One of the reasons cited was that the GoCo model had inherent risks and many unanswered questions regarding potential savings.

Effective charge-out rate per employee for any management services from private industry is on average 300-400 per cent more than what it costs the public service.

Proponents of DMO privatisation talk about the probable savings in DMO's management costs (which is about 9 per cent as against 12-15 per cent in private industry), but ignore the fact that 91 per cent of costs are attributable to industry.

Questions are seldom asked about defence firms' performance in delivering projects on time and on budget - the blame always attaches to the public sector. Thankfully, someone recognises this. In his address to the ADM Conference 2014, Defence Minister David Johnston expressed concern about industry performance, saying ''industry must deliver productivity. We must be cost-effective, so our earned-value figures must be right up around a dollar for dollar.''

Steven Bradley, Belconnen


Brennan's wrong

Regarding George Pell's final appearance at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, Frank Brennan (Letters, April 9) says: ''It was Justice McClellan, not the cardinal, who floated the idea of the paedophile priest being self-insured … it was the judge who got it wrong.''

It seems Frank Brennan got it wrong. The transcript has Maria Gerace, the counsel assisting, raising the idea when she asks, ''Does Catholic Church insurance insure a priest for criminal conduct?'' The nearest McClellan comes to Brennan's roundhouse swing is this: ''There's no reason why the insurer couldn't provide insurance for a civil wrong, could it?'' To which Pell replied, ''I simply don't know, but if you say they can, good.''

Brennan's nit-picking over insurance legalese draws focus from the guts of the transcript: Cardinal Pell amassed considerable legal muscle to deny a victim's claim for far less than the cardinal's breathtaking legal outlay; despite contrary evidence to the commission from his legal muscle, Pell denied knowledge of the modest claim and denied orchestrating the details of the legal cruelty. The cream on the cake - even though Pell rationalised a legal tactic to deny the abuse had occurred - he's been promoted to the Vatican.

Peter Robinson, Ainslie


Shoddy headline

I enjoyed the responses (Letters, April 10) under the salubrious headline ''Beware feminist plots'' to my original letter (April 8).

To clarify, I was querying the appropriateness of the front-page banner ''Consular life: Diplomats and their wives: Forum'' (April 5, p1). The story itself (''Home and away from home'', Forum, April 5, p4) by Meredith Clisby about Mrs Prieto, is charming. I applaud The Canberra Times for running a series on consular life, to profile how much richness the diplomatic corps, including their diverse families, bring to Canberra life. I just object to a headline, which suggests that all diplomats are male, heterosexual and married, as it is not accurate, nor helpful to public understanding of the modern profession.

Would you publish ''Departmental secretaries and their wives'' on the front page and not expect comment? Foreign Minister Julie Bishop addressed a network for female diplomats last month. This would be an excellent piece for your new series. Or, how about a feature reviewing an excellent new article ''Is international affairs too 'hard' for women? Explaining the missing women in Australia's international affairs'' in the Australian Journal of International Affairs?

Dr Susan Harris Rimmer, Asia Pacific College of Diplomacy, ANU


Eastman doubts

As a disinterested member of the public, I am becoming more than ever convinced that the Supreme Court action by the DPP to challenge the Eastman inquiry can only be motivated by a desire to suppress any potential criticism of the incompetence, bias and/or corruption of police, public servants, politicians or members of the judiciary, at the time of his earlier trials. Why else would anyone go to such extreme lengths to hound this man who now seems a mere sideshow in his own case?

In what possible way can public confidence be restored other than by an independent inquiry and publication of the full facts? If the reputations, or even freedom from jail, of the corrupt are threatened, so be it. We the people demand no less. We should all be thankful for Jack Waterford.

Peter Haddon, Jerrabomberra, NSW


Dobbing culture

CPSU national secretary Nadine Flood must have been so busy gargling with nice words that she has not noticed that to dob in a workmate is not a ''new and nasty feature'' (''PS social media rules slammed'', Thursday, April 10, p1). This nastiness is part of the culture.

Many public servants don't need to be forced or encouraged ''to spy on their colleagues''.

Yes, it ''is incredibly divisive'', but the ''seeds of mistrust'' have already given many crops of discord and dissent before the advent of new policies on the use of Twitter and Facebook and other websites.

They go against their own sense of goodness in the name of ambition, losing life's inherent harmony and creating inner conflict.

Accuse or excuse one another, that is the question, for mental peace with a good conscience.

Noelle Roux, Chifley

To the point


On Wednesday, I read that six Royal Australian Navy sailors have been sacked over views they expressed on Facebook (''Navy sailors sacked after racism probe'', April 9, p2). Then I read that Human Rights Commissioner Tim Wilson says that the federal government does not own the bodies, souls or speech of its public servants (''PS social media rules slammed'', April 10, p1). Perhaps the sailors concerned should appeal to the Human Rights Commission.

C. Thomas, Deakin


What's that, you say? The government is trying to restrict political debate? Well, you may very well think that. I couldn't possibly comment.

Peter Edsor, Bungendore, NSW


Interesting to read Father Kevin Brannelly's letter (April 8, p2) in response to Elizabeth Farrelly's article (''Exit Pell, not with a whimper but a bombshell'', Times2, April 3, p5). Has he stopped to consider why churches are almost empty now, and why no new ones are being built? For evil to flourish, good people have to stay quiet. Give 'em curry, Elizabeth.

Richard Philippa, Theodore


With the Treasurer Joe Hockey delivering yet another warning about Australia's dire financial state (this time from Washington), I presume he will be telling our imminent royal visitors that he will be sending them the bill for the cost of their Australian public relations exercise.

Eric Hunter, Cook


Dave Roberts and Peter Snowdon (Letters, April 10, p2) don't get it. As a spouse to a diplomat I would have hated to be introduced as my wife's wife.

S. Engstrom, Deakin

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