Letters to the Editor

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Regarding your editorial ''A gateway fit for the national capital'' (Times2, April 10, p2), the character of Northbourne Avenue should be more like Commonwealth Avenue between the lake bridge and Parliament House. That fine expression of a city in the landscape can be readily achieved for much of Northbourne by preserving, renovating and allowing only incremental expansion of the many existing low-rise residential buildings there, and planting many more trees around them.

That won't take the avenue's population to the apparently sought after (but insufferable) 45,000 (half the population of Tuggeranong). However, for those driven by land values, the resultant apartments would be among the most attractive in Canberra. That's especially as the Majura Parkway will significantly reduce traffic on Northbourne Avenue, and offer an approach route of a more national-capital nature (via Morshead Drive, or Fairbairn Avenue with or without Northcott Drive).

Jack Kershaw, Kambah

The ACT government's crazy plans for Northbourne Avenue are, I think, completely at variance with what most ACT residents want for that part of our city. No, we don't want an extra 45,000 people living there. No, we don't want super-high-density there. No, we don't want high-rise there.

Yes, we like it pretty much the way it is - moderate density, lots of variety, low buildings, and green space. Moreover it's clear from the CT article that the government plans plans rely largely on shoving the residents of the eight existing public housing complexes into outer space. They're going to be moved, but nobody knows where to.

Isn't life hard enough for them, without being abruptly moved so that some rich investor can make a killing on the rezoned property? This whole plan is crazy, unwanted and ugly. Stop it now.

G. Soames, Curtin

According to Minister Simon Corbell (''Room for 45,000 more on city strip'', April 9, p1) all these new residents can be accommodated ''along Northbourne Avenue under redevelopment''. Further down, it is reported that ''the government plans for additional residents along the Flemington Road, Northbourne Avenue corridor, extending between 1 and 1.5 kilometres either side of the roads.''

However, Minister Corbell ''stressed that the Northbourne precinct would not be that wide and the government would not rezone suburban areas in the corridor''. So, from that assurance, only Northbourne Avenue north of Antill Street to Flemington Road, and Flemington Road north from Northbourne Ave will be affected by this 2-3 kilometre-wide ''redevelopment corridor''. What is there already, to be redeveloped? On the west side of Northbourne Ave there are the Southwell Park sports complex, Yowani Golf complex and Canberra Racecourse. On the east side, there is Downer. Along Flemington Road, northwards from Northbourne, there is EPIC on the east, Canberra Nature Park/Crace Grasslands on the west, then Mitchell and then Franklin on the west. North of EPIC there is some open ground, then the Mitchell Resource Management Centre and then Harrison!

All of these necessary and accessible facilities public apparently are to be either relocated (where?) or abolished (why?) so that 45,000 extra souls (coming from where?) can be accommodated, to create (ex post facto) justification for running a light rail line along Flemington Road and Northbourne Avenue. What will be the next justification for the Capital Metro protagonists?

Paul E. Bowler, Holder

Rational suicide exists

C. Coulthard (Letters, April 9) is right. End-of-life issues must be discussed openly by the community. We all need to plan for the inevitable. Everyone should make a will, assign powers of attorney for finances and health, sign a Respecting Patient Choices form and an Advanced Care Directive or Living Will.

Nursing homes and palliative care provide wonderful services for the elderly and terminally ill and many people benefit from them.

But if we don't choose to go with the flow and have our deaths drawn out slowly, often through painful and futile interventions, we should have the choice of doctor-assisted death, or voluntary euthanasia, which is currently illegal. At present, the only other option is DIY suicide. Exit International remains the best source of help for achieving this quickly and painlessly. Membership is only for people of 50 years or over or who are terminally ill and don't have a mental problem.

There is such a thing as rational suicide.

Susan MacDougall, Scullin

End-of-life winners

It is unsurprising the community is ''in denial'' about ageing because it is in the interests of those servicing end-of-life needs that the status quo should not be challenged. Provision of accommodation for aged citizens, of varying levels of physical and mental competence, is a major employer and, judging by numbers of organisations willing to enter the business, lucrative. It would be worth trying to determine if the community is ''really'' obtaining value for tax dollars invested in aged care.

Informed consent is a fraught issue in ageing, and undue influence is a risk factor, which, all too frequently, results in patients being subjected to non-quality of life interventions. Too often tests may be performed because it is nice to know, rather than to produce outcomes contributing to well-being.

Multiple drug prescriptions are a significant moral issue. They represent a huge PBS cost to the Commonwealth. Patients pay a high price by way of side effects too.

This is not merely a question of dollars, but more importantly, of human dignity, rights and respect. Deferral of this community responsibility will not cause it to disappear!

Albert M. White, Queanbeyan, NSW

C. Coulthard rightly notes that half a person's medical expenses occur in the last six months of life. Yes, we do need to have a conversation about keeping people alive long past the point of their having any quality of life.

To go into a high care nursing home with most residents barely functioning is a deeply depressing experience. Many cultures have, in the past, left their elderly on exposed hilltops in recognition that there is a time to die. I would not advocate that, however, we could start with a blanket rule that, after 90, a person not receive any medical intervention in case of illness except palliative care.

Pneumonia, after all, is known as ''the old man's friend''.

Jenny Goldie, Michelago, NSW

Freedom of speech becomes HRC exercise in semantics

Laypersons listening to the president of the Australian Human Rights Commission, Gillian Triggs, address the National Press Club on Wednesday might well form the view that she was arguing for less rather than more freedom of speech. The meanings of words were a main subject. Bad words, good words, and what does ''vilifying'' mean? Who but another lawyer knows?

Rather than fiddling about with words in an expensive and lawyerly way, why not concentrate on what freedom of speech is, rather than what it is not? Repugnant views may then be expressed, but at least they can be openly examined in the court of public opinion. Prejudice and bigotry will still be there, down in the basement, and acted upon, if their public airing is not permitted. Better out than in.

Roy Darling, Florey

Democracy's high cost

Ian De Landelles (Letters, April 9) postulates the price of democracy as being about $5 million per seat, based on Clive Palmer's expenditure in last weekend's WA Senate rerun. Actually, it is probably higher. In the last federal election, Tony Abbott promised $10 million to Manly Rugby League Club for the refurbishment of Brookvale Oval, smack bang in the middle of his Warringah electorate. Apparently aided by Joe Hockey, the $10 million was found after a $16 million grant promised by Labor for a sports complex in the Kingsford Smith electorate, and home of South Sydney Rugby League team, was withdrawn. At least Clive Palmer apparently used his own money and not taxpayers' funds.

Bill Bowron, Farrer

GST whingers take note

To all those who complain about rising taxes and the GST, think of the Danes who, as we know, pay higher taxes than anybody, plus 25 per cent GST on everything. Everything. No exemptions. But they don't complain. Rather, for the third year in a row, the Danes have been found to be the happiest people in the world. Why? Because they get something in return for their high taxes.

The Danes enjoy a very high standard of living, great education system; high life expectancy; universal free healthcare; great unemployment benefits and age pensions; great public transport and many other services. They live in an egalitarian social democracy, free to say what they think and send up anybody.

So, if you don't want to pay your tax and GST and levies and excise duties and mining tax (if you are a miner) and rates and road tolls and speeding and parking fines (aka revenue raising tools), then don't expect better hospitals, smaller classrooms and better schools, better roads and public transport and better services across the board, including shorter waiting times if you try to call Centrelink or the Tax Office.

Here is my favourite quote from The West Wing, ''Taxes are the price we pay for a decent society.''

Anne Willenborg, Royalla, NSW

Some people, e.g. Stan Cronin (Letters 8 April), oppose an increase in the GST (or its widening to include all goods and services) because it's ''regressive'' - people on lower incomes paying the same tax for a purchased item as people on higher incomes. It's time this attitude (and even the descriptions ''regressive'' and ''progressive'' - and people apply the latter to income tax, because of the higher tax rates that people on higher incomes pay) was questioned.

Actually, the GST isn't regressive, in the sense that people on higher incomes will usually buy the better quality (and therefore more expensive) version of an item than people on lower incomes (e.g. a BMW instead of a Holden), and therefore pay more tax. But even leaving that aside, why is it regressive (which my dictionary says is to ''move backwards'') if people pay the same tax on the same item?

And as for income tax being ''progressive'', if the criterion is that people on higher income should pay more tax, that happens automatically if the same tax rate applies to both high and low income earners - so what's the justification for taxing higher-income earners at a higher tax rate, thus making them pay even more?

R.S. Gilbert, Braddon

Winners and losers

Christopher Smith (Letters, April 9) is mystified how an increase in economic efficiency could hurt anybody. There really is no mystery. Most changes produce winners and losers. If the winners win by more than the losers lose, the change is said to be economically efficient. Unless there is a transfer of some of the winnings to the losers to compensate them for their loss, such a gain in efficiency does hurt somebody. Needless to say, it is governments rather than the winners that arrange such a transfer.

And this government does not appear to have much sympathy for losers, at least not those at the bottom of the pecking order.

Bronis Dudek, Calwell

Honours critics king hit

We have seen a wave of lively correspondence in the Letters column following the decision of PM Tony Abbott to reintroduce knights and dames, on a very limited basis, into our Australian honours system. Most of the reaction has been very negative. People see these titles as a revival of British imperial traditions and irrelevant to modern Australia.

Yet when the Australian system of honours was introduced, great care was taken to retain the custom of awarding the Victoria Cross (for Australia) for supreme acts of heroism on the battlefield. We did not want to depart from a tradition that is a rich part of our military heritage, as well as being a clear link to our British imperial past.

It also links us to Queen Victoria, who signed the documents creating the Australian Commonwealth just before her death in 1901.

Two of our states are named after this great Queen.

Robert Willson, Deakin

Mint solar plan could help city reach target

I was pleased and excited to read the Royal Australian Mint in Deakin is considering installing solar cells on its 900-square metre roof (''Mint may cash in with solar plan'', April 9, p3). There are many acres of roof spaces here in Canberra that could do the same - government, commercial and private - and this would contribute significantly to Canberra reaching its goal of 90 per cent sustainable energy. These arrays would not only produce significant power but would provide another layer of roof protection from the elements, thereby reducing the energy costs of heating and cooling. The argument that solar arrays don't produce power at night is a furphy as we can use this excess daytime power to pump water back into the hydroelectric dams among other 21st century technologies, including molten salt and hot rock for use at night. Good on you over in Deakin, how's it feel to be a ground-breaker and initiative-driver! Imagine how the place would look if the lawns of Parliament House were all solar panels? This would be perceived worldwide as another ground-breaker and we Australians could again hold our heads high, knowing we can and should be world leaders in renewable energy.

Bill Hall, Page

Royal baby privilege

The Canberra Times featured a picture of the Duchess of Cambridge and her baby, George, on Tuesday. They made a very attractive picture. We all, I am sure, wish George a happy and healthy future, as we hope for all young children. But George is different from any Australian child, as part of his future includes being Australia's head of State, an honour for which he will need to have done absolutely nothing to deserve.

Indeed, he will not even need to become an Australian. There are thousands of young Australians who can never attain that great honour, no matter how deserving.

B. Cox, Bruce

TO THE POINT

SUBMARINES SUNK

Could it be that the final nail in the coffin of the Australian submarine project (''Rudd's submarine fleet plans take deep dive'', Times2, April 9, p5) was not financial, or technical, or strategic, but fundamentally political?

Could the desire to undo as much as possible of the Rudd-Gillard legacy have been brought to fever pitch by South Australians daring to return a Labor government? The timing is certainly interesting.

Douglas Mackenzie, Deakin

APOLOGY ON PELL

In light of Frank Brennan's letter (April 9) clarifying Cardinal Pell's true position on insuring the clergy (from information that was available to any journalist who cared to look), I look forward to reading an apology from Elizabeth Farrelly.

H. Ronald, Jerrabomberra, NSW

SHARK FIN SCANDAL

Now that Japanese whaling seems likely to be scaled back (''Japan's Antarctic whaling banned'', April 1, p1), perhaps the Greenpeace organisation should turn its attention to the wicked practice of catching sharks only to cut off their fins for the shark fin soup trade and discard the dying animal. What a waste!

Colin P. Glover, Canberra City

REBUILDING CARLTON

Caroline Wilson's article ''Malthouse can rebuild Blues: Kernahan'' (Sport, April 8, p22) discusses the rebuilding of Carlton after its huge defeat by Essendon last week.

Essendon showed the result of strong teamwork - backing up and supporting one another - which Carlton lacked.

Dave White, Deakin

FREE SPEECH RULES

If I read Tim Wilson (''Code of respectful conduct'', Times2, April 9, p1) correctly we can say anything about any group, unconstrained by racial discrimination laws. But, if we are public servants, one group we cannot comment on is the government.

Even if we are writing as citizens, affected by a policy that has nothing to do with our employment/department, and even if we comment in our own time, at home. I did not find Mr Wilson's argument persuasive.

Jennifer Bradley, McKellar

LIGHT RAIL COMPARISON

While I do not disagree with what C. Ward (Letters, April 9) says about Perth's train system, it's misleading to compare it with the light rail proposal for Canberra.

Perth has built a suburban rail system, not a tramway like that planned for Canberra. The two systems are like chalk and cheese.

M. Silex, Greenway

 

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