Comment

Letters to the Editor

Our great lake at risk

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A recent flurry of speeches on Canberra's development from ACT power players shows we do not know what to believe. David Dawes, CEO of the Land Development Agency at his presentation on urban renewal at the Albert Hall on February 16, clearly stated there would be no sale of land in West Basin for two to three years.

He also committed to a review of the West Basin development with full community consultation prior to the sale of land. Meanwhile, Chief Minister Andrew Barr told a meeting of business leaders that selling of land for 200 residents and commercial space will start this year.

Civic's CBD needs attention, while a review West Basin's building estate is desperately required to offset the misappropriation of community space and its social benefits. Some of us were naively relieved with Dawes' agreement for a review, but then devastated at Barr's announcement to start selling West Basin's Acton Park land this year.

There appears to be no decision on the lowering of Parkes Way, supposedly critical for the City to the Lake and the West Basin scheme. The troubling scenario now surfacing is that the West Basin's parkland will be sold regardless of any City to the Lake connection.

This means a devastating loss of needed parkland for the growing city residents forever, as well as ongoing serious traffic congestion. We have already witnessed the snatching of lakeshore parkland by the LDA to compensate for selling community properties in Kingston Foreshore. Lakeshore parks should not be a cash cow for government revenue.

Canberra has a right to best-practice urban planning with community consultation, instead of vulgar development deals backed by politicians who have no qualms in destroying our beautiful lake.

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Juliet Ramsay, Burra, NSW

At sixes and sevens

I read with some hope Kirsten Lawson's article "ACT government backs down on six-storey apartment buildings for Red Hill" (canberratimes.com.au, February 18); but my hopes were dashed yet again, as I began to realise that under DV332 and DV333, six storeys for Griffith and Narrabundah really means seven storeys plus plant and equipment on top, with no height limit in metres in the variations approved by the minister.

Furthermore, the Barr government would appear to be continuing to insist that RZ5 (high density), supplemented by overriding the usual controls applied via the Multi-Unit Housing Development Code, is suitable for locations such as McIntyre Crescent, Narrabundah, and, I assume, Red Hill public housing precinct, when both sites have few, if any, local facilities such as doctors, dentists, and decent public transport nearby.

In addition, neither are in group or town centres such as Kingston or Woden, as the Territory Plan specifies is required to support high-density RZ5. I have no doubt that four storeys for Red Hill will also really mean five in the future revised Territory Plan, unless Shane Rattenbury and all ACT Liberals agree to disallow the minister's approval on the floor of the Assembly in the coming weeks.

I would love to confirm the detail of the changes for Red Hill that Minister Gentleman announced to the media on Thursday morning have been approved, but, unfortunately, they are not available for public scrutiny until the minister is safely overseas on his latest jolly to discover the importance of planning for light rail.

Bit late don't you think, Mick? Or is light rail an evolutionary project?

S. Rogers, Red Hill

Manuka Oval plans

Processes that allow Canberra to guard public rights to develop land are fundamental to good government, as Jack Waterford ("Is Manuka Oval redevelopment plan a good deal for Canberra?", canberratimes.com.au, February 19) has so elegantly explained.

That process is being subverted, to the great cost of Canberra residents, by an ACT government that's keeping us in the dark. The Manuka Oval deal with Grocon promises to be a spectacular example of how the process is being trashed. What's the real value, and costs, of the development rights that Grocon and the Giants will receive for what they are offering? We don't know, and neither does the government, because it has no credible expertise to properly do the sums. But it would be a lot, as the market for choice inner-south land alone, from LDA records, has for years been consistently above $2500 per square metre. We cannot afford to have our politicians continuing to covertly fritter away land and other community assets.

Canberra needs development, but it must be guided by an open process. A good start would be an independent review of plans for the Manuka Oval precinct.

Ian Morison, Barton

The secret to longevity

A salute to those born in the 1930s, '40s and '50s. First, we survived being born to mothers, some of who smoked and/or drank while they carried us and lived in partly asbestos houses. They took Vincent's and Bex, ate fatty cheese, raw egg products, red meat, loads of bacon, canned tuna, and didn't get tested for diabetes or cancer. We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors or cabinets, and when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets or shoes, not to mention the risks we took hitchhiking.

As children, we would ride in cars with no seat belts or air bags, or in the back of a ute. On non-school days we would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the street lights came on. No one was out looking for us all day. We would spend hours building our go-karts out of old prams or fruit boxes and then ride down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. Our bikes had back-pedal brakes, but only for as long as the chain stayed on. We built tree houses and dens and played in creek beds.

We did not have Play Stations, Nintendo, or Foxtel. No video/DVD films, no mobile phones, no personal computers, no Internet or Internet chat rooms. We went outside and played with our friends and found new ones. And that's why today we are long-livers.

Colliss Parrett, Barton

Who's behind leaflets?

The Electoral Commissioner is not the only person questioning the provenance of the Can the Tram leaflets ("Electoral Commission questions legality of anti-light rail flyers", February 22, p6). Do these light-rail haters, with their desire to make Canberra into a concrete jungle, simply represent a spontaneous outpouring of public outrage? Not likely. Let's see who is organising them.

John Mason, Latham

Constitution Avenue now paved with gold?

On May 24, 2012, then federal minister for regional Australia, regional development and local government Simon Crean and former ACT chief minister Katy Gallagher executed a project agreement for the Commonwealth's Centenary Gift to Canberra, namely $42million to upgrade Constitution Avenue from Vernon Circle, Civic, to Blamey Crescent, Campbell, a distance of barely 2.5 kilometres. Table 1 in part 4 of the agreement specifies the upgrade works were to be completed in three stages, each of which was supposed to take about two weeks: service relocation works from 31 April [sic] 2013 to 14 May 2013; stage 1 construction from 14-28 February 2014; and stage 2 construction from 14-30 April 2014.

The ACT government was to submit a final project report to the Commonwealth within 90 days of the completion of stage 2 and before 30 June 2012 [sic], presumably 2014.

Having casually observed Constitution Avenue since the upgrade works commenced in 2013, I am absolutely staggered that works that were scheduled to take about six weeks to complete over a 54-week period could blow out for almost three years and cost so much.

I doubt there has been another upgrade project that has taken so long to achieve so little and for such an exorbitant price. By my calculation, the upgrade cost $16.8million per kilometre. Taxpayers in other parts of Australia could be forgiven for thinking that the streets of Canberra really are paved with gold.

Bruce Taggart, Aranda

All well out west

I have noticed substantial correspondence recently complaining about failure of the ACT government to provide adequate municipal services.

In the far-flung province of Weston Creek, I am happy to report grass is still being mowed, garbage and recyclables regularly collected, roads sealed and water and sewage are still flowing as needed.

Doug Hynd, Stirling

Marshall's message insulting to staff who have undergone change

CSIRO CEO Larry Marshall's portrayal of himself as a bold "disruptor' may strike a chord with politicians and bureaucrats within the industry and innovation portfolio. But too much disruption is the enemy of productivity, as any bureaucrat knows. CSIRO has been subject to continual cultural change over the last 15 years, commencing with the restructuring under former CEO Geoff Garrett.

The staff who experienced this period of turmoil learned to be adaptive, innovative and resilient in the face of round after round of cuts. It is deeply insulting to staff be told that they now need to change. This message displays a mean-spirited ignorance of CSIRO's recent history. Marshall has said that "the notion of a 'customer' is a new one for many scientists". Yet, this has been a focus for CSIRO for some time: one of Garrett's mantras was "partner or perish"!

CSIRO needs a nuanced balance between commercial research that benefits industry and public good research, not one at the expense of the other. Public good research provides long-term benefits in ways the private sector will not support. Alerting the public to the nature and extent of environmental change and its consequences for society and the economy is one such example. CSIRO plays a critical role in delivering such research, and this is why the public has been the organisation's greatest and most consistent supporter.

Ignoring the importance of that public good research risks breaking the contract of trust with the Australian people.

Matt Colloff, Melba

A soothing betrayal

He can certainly talk, our Malcolm. He'll never be caught out like our Tony was. But yes, it's just that — all talk, no action. I have loved listening to Malcolm talk — it's so soothing. But unfortunately I'm forced to wake up and see it's just papering over his betrayal of every principle he's ever committed himself to. A betrayal I've been appalled by recently is the CSIRO decision to cut areas looking at climate change. Emulating Malcolm, they're happy to acknowledge climate change is a reality. And just like Malcolm they're planning to avoid doing anything about it.

[Another is the ongoing budgetary cuts to the arts, and particularly to galleries and museums. None of Malcolm's love of fine things is saving them from having to make such savage cuts that they will damage the integrity of our collections for ever.]

It's a bit embarrassing to have gone from a prime minister who was an inept bully only to be duped by an eloquent but futile emperor, smoothly fiddling while the country burns.

Marion Barker, O'Connor

Eliminating flukes

Any purported analysis of what might happen at a Senate double dissolution election ("Coalition could win majority in Senate", February 17, p5) if group voting tickets are abolished is speculative, depending on a host of assumptions. Instead of repeating the mistakes of 1948 and 1983, it is preferable to enact sound principles surrounding what will be a formal vote, and let parties then work on having policies and candidates that attract strong voter support. Our form of proportional representation ensures vote wastage is minimised.

Letting electors easily indicate the order in which they are prepared to allow candidates to have access to what is unused of their single transferable vote means no-one will be elected without significant voter support. Outcomes will closely mirror votes received, without any scope for tightly-interlocking numberings on group voting tickets being turned into a fluke quota.

Bogey Musidlak, convenor Proportional Representation Society of Australia (ACT Branch)

P.R. Temple (Letters, February 18) advocates a British-style non-compulsory, first-past-the-post voting system for the Senate. That is actually one of the crudest, least democratic electoral systems imaginable. In Senate elections held under a first-past-the-post system prior to 1949 a major party often won every seat. Far from achieving Temple's objective of overcoming what he regards as the current bias in favour of the major parties, his proposed system would give a candidate from outside the major parties virtually no chance of getting elected.

Frank Marris, Forrest

Defining democracy

Western society has been educated to accept the misapprehension that democracy is about majorities and elections.

Democracy is actually about the best methods for making decisions that affect all of society, so that those affected by the decisions make them. In large societies we chose representatives and give them responsibility for deciding on our behalf. To get the best decisions, we need to use the best selection method. Ours is pretty good, although it can be improved.

Peter Tait, O'Connor

Health funds question

Congratulations to George Savvides, Medibank Private's outgoing chief executive, for raising the interim profit by 58per cent ("Healthy $227.6m profit for Medibank", February 20, BusinessDay, p8). Policy holders may not feel the same way, as their fund has taken over $227million in the half year – money which would, in a not for profit fund, be used for their health needs.

Health Minister Sussan Ley may have as many reviews as she likes but the fundamental change to for-profit funds being allowed into the sector is diverting over a billion dollars a year from health needs in the community.

Why more people do not change to not for profit funds is a question which needs some answers.

Steve Thomas, Yarralumla

Who is listening?

Mark Kenny ("Two Australias poles apart (Times2, February 19, p4) states that there are an estimated 44,000 Australian kids who are "unsafe" on any given night. More than twice that number, an estimated 110,000 Australian children, are regarded as homeless.

I'd like to see some sympathy and effort from the various refugee groups give priority to protect and care for these kids. They have no future either. Aboriginal and other leaders have been documenting this home-grown child and family disadvantage for as long as I can remember.

Who amongst the refugee advocates is listening?

Dianne Thompson, Fisher

TO THE POINT

BARE BOTTOM EXPOSED

Most political commentators greeted the opinion polls showing a drop in support for Malcolm Turnbull and his government with the predictable "the honeymoon is over" stories. I think Australian voters are a bit more observant than political commentators and have actually noticed the emperor has no clothes.

Tony Judge, Woolgoolga, NSW

Malcolm Turnbull: all teeth, no ticker, no trousers.

W. T. O'Connell, Waramanga

DOUBLY DISILLUSIONED

We may all be suffering from double disillusion. However, could someone please explain to those on TV and radio discussing the probability of a double dissolution for the current federal government just what the difference is please?

Christine Tutty, Page

A CIRCLE OF HATRED

Iraqi troops fled Islamic State forces but Kurds bravely stood and fought IS. Now, to further tangle the Middle East's can of worms, Turkey bombs Kurds trying to get Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to face the music. All because Turkey hates Kurds. Vindictive stuff indeed.

Gordon Nevin, O'Connor

BIRDS OF A FEATHER

Are the Pell haters also Howard/Abbott haters? Probably. George Pell is a Christian, a conservative and a global-warming sceptic.

Owen Reid, Dunlop

SILLY COMPARISON

"Psychiatrist likens immigration detention to Nazis and gulags" was the heading on a February 17 article in canberratimes.com.au. Had Dr Michael Dudley lived in either Germany or Nazi-occupied Europe, or been a gulag inmate in the former USSR during the first half of the 1940s, he would have refrained from making such a silly statement.

Henk Verhoeven, Beacon Hill, NSW

ON THE RIGHT TRACK

Perhaps the ACT government could build a new cricket/AFL stadium somewhere between Civic and Gungahlin. Then maybe someone will use the tram outside of peak hours, Monday to Friday.

John Mungoven, Stirling

GET ON WITH IT

In commenting on his decision to allow baby Asha to move into local detention, rather than being sent back to Nauru, federal Immigration Minister Peter Dutton claims: "I have said to you before I want to get the number of children in detention down to zero". Excellent. So why the continuing delay? Just do it.

Tim Hardy, Florey

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