Letters to the Editor

People make a city



Here we go again ("Attempt to transform struggling CBD", November 30, p1). If there is one common factor in the cities of the world that we enjoy it would have to be human activity and interaction on the streets.

The current disintegration of the Civic CBD began with the removal of Ainslie Avenue and its conversion to an enclosed shopping mall. The once lively street activity became internalised and, to all intents and purposes, invisible. The Canberra centre then expanded westward turning the once pleasant Bunda Street into a viewless canyon and sucking life out of the formerly lively surrounding streets, shops and public plazas.

Destination shoppers may make a quick visit to an enclosed mall, but people wanting to savour a city prefer to promenade, interact, or just sit and watch the passing parade, in the open air.

The visible presence of people on the streets is what makes interesting and lively cities.

Surprisingly, at the same time as bemoaning the lifelessness of Civic, our current city fathers have poured money into Westside Acton Park in an attempt to add "vibrancy" to this once pleasant lakeside area, miles from the CBD.

Would the money not have been better spent on renting disused shops in City Walk, Petrie Plaza and Garema Place and letting them out at peppercorn rent to artists, craftspeople, musicians, performers, hot-dog vendors and the like to inject life back into these once lively areas? One million dollars, the reported cost of Westside, could have rented a lot of empty shops and funded such a scheme for a couple of years. Then, market forces may take over for the long term, once people see how much fun a street-smart city can be.


Penleigh Boyd, Reid

Gorges need protection

I'm glad some negative effects of the population growth of our national capital have been highlighted ("Urban sprawl 'trampling' farmland", November 30, p2). There are also impacts on our river and creek corridors that need federal oversight.

A serious problem is urban development planned to cross into NSW in the region of Ginninderra Falls. It is imperative that any housing is set well back from both Ginninderra and Murrumbidgee gorges to provide an entry point for a national park that is reflective of this beautiful area. At the moment, a plan prepared under the auspices of the developer and the Land Development Agency depicts homes coming within 100 metres of the main area of the upper falls.

An independent panel of park experts is obviously needed to suggest appropriate corridor widths.

Dr Chris Watson, president, Ginninderra Falls Association

What's the agenda?

What is our proselytising local daily's real agenda?

First, readers are asked by Jenna Price to endorse more abortion training for medical students ("Push to train doctors on carrying out abortions" Times2, November 24, p5). Apparently, willy-nilly copulation where women don't need to consider the consequences drives her thinking. Rape and incest naturally need separate, resolute management.

Second, a public servant hiding behind the pseudonym of Frances Smith berates DFAT staff for sporting high heels on White Ribbon Day ("High heels just don't cut it", Times2, November 27, p4). Apparently, what she viewed as a puerile strategy had been designed to bring into relief domestic violence issues and, simultaneously, secure some funds, which could go some way to minimise the curse. But remember, she had no solution herself.

Third, Nassim Khadem serves up yet another whinge about the gender pay gap ("Want more pay? Fight for it, women", BusinessDay, November 27, p14). And the usual polemic! Women are less aggressive in pay negotiations; significant numbers are in part-time work; women fill jobs that traditionally pay less; and workplaces are women unfriendly. Grudgingly, puffing and panting at the end of her lament, Ms Khadem acknowledges women have children.

They're known to like it that way. However, there are ramifications for career progression. Add to that workplaces that call for tertiary qualifications and what must be recognised is that women are graduating in significant numbers in sociology, literature, poetry, psychology, women's studies and fine arts. There's not much call for those disciplines in the dog-eat-dog world of commerce.

Women! Enjoy motherhood when you can. There's no greater calling. Simultaneously, exhibit the refinement that study preferences offer. The world desperately needs you doing your thing.

Patrick Jones, Griffith

Not about the heels

Frances Smith has misrepresented the intent of those people who walked in high heels to raise awareness for White Ribbon Day. The high heels were obviously meant to draw attention to the walk, and it worked, but it wasn't about the heels. I hope that Frances can see past the heels and her own hurt and pain to the people who did something to raise awareness and funds for what is a worthwhile cause.

Joe Murphy, Bonython

Violence against women is a fundamentally important and horrific issue. But please, Frances Smith, try to find some room in your thinking for tolerance and perspective.

Peter Dark, Queanbeyan, NSW

Family violence

The White Ribbon campaign conducted by the police, at the instigation of the federal government, was a highly commendable attempt to change attitudes towards women so that violence and disrespect are no longer acceptable.

The police who are expected to chase up the ugly results of domestic violence, but have until now been discouraged to say how they feel about it, are at last being asked to express an opinion.

It is hoped the results of the firearms review, which police have a large role in contributing to, will make it harder for amateur hunters to get hold of firearms. This would play an important part in stopping the insidious creep towards an American-style culture of guns.

As a practical demonstration of concern for the wellbeing of families, the Eurobodalla Shire Council should rescind the five-year licence issued to the South Coast Hunters Club to hold a festival of hunting, with sale of guns, in the main street of sleepy seaside Narooma. This event is designed to improve the accessibility, desirability, and affordability of firearms and is contrary to the safety and wellbeing of the community.

Susan Cruttenden, Dalmeny, NSW

Tracking system off the rails

I have been a customer of a couple of United States clothing companies for the best part of 30 years – initially catalogue and telephone-based in the '90s, now through the internet. Until recently most packages arrived via Australia Post couriers. This has changed.

Mysteriously, international purchases intended for Christmas gifts have begun to go missing. In one instance a "while you were out" card appeared at a time when I was at home, and it directed me first online, thence to a local newsagency as a depot.

Several days of inquiries ensued, with the courier company asserting firmly that the package had been "scanned in" at the newsagency, with the newsagency vigorously denying that. The courier company, after blaming the newsagency, undertook, or so I was told, a depot search. The package materialised a day later on my porch without explanation.

Now, I had purchased items from two different vendors within a day or so. Last week I made inquiries of the vendor about non-delivery. Seems there is a similar occurrence: different vendor, same international despatch company, apparently different primary courier company.

After my anxious queries to the vendor, assurances came that the tracking system established that the package had been delivered (same week as the first one) and had indeed been signed for.

It has emerged that the primary courier company had subcontracted delivery to the same courier company which had so curiously lost the first package. Inquiries are now under way in the US, Sydney, and Canberra.

I am awaiting the outcome. Could this be a replacement from the vendor? Perhaps a claim that someone impersonated me? One doubts there will be any public acknowledgement that the so-called tracking systems are open to a bit of fiddling.

Your readers making internet purchases should be very wary of certain couriers.

Marie Coleman, Watson

Cut consultancy distractions

The article "Soaring consultant costs cancel out public service salary savings" (canberra, November 28) confirms what most public servants have known for many years.

As a recently retired SES level manager, I know that it is almost impossible to for managers to maintain an adequate level of staffing for the core functions of public service business. However, it is always possible to find funding for a consultant to initiate a project with a title something like "Strategic realignment and rightsizing of resource allocation".

That consultant will usually require at least one full-time middle manager to act as a babysitter and at least two administrative staff to organise meetings and prepare endless PowerPoint presentations. Every other middle manager will then be taken away from their work teams to attend meetings, explain their job and complete complex surveys.

The consultant will then develop a thin but powerful report that identifies the core problem as the lack of time spent on leadership and supervision by middle managers. That report will lead to a further consultancy on developing effective middle level leadership skills. Middle managers will spend even less time with their teams and the problem will get worse. Services will decline along with staff morale and customers will suffer. And so it goes.

Strangely, the consultant will never identify a problem with senior levels of management.

From time to time, there will be a need for the specialised skills or broad experience that a consultant can bring to solving a problem. Those times are nowhere near as frequent as the levels of spending on consultants suggest.

Redeploying some consultancy funds to support higher levels of staffing would be appreciated by overstretched public servants and by the long-suffering clients of government.

Tony Judge, Woolgoolga

Youth best ignored?

The article "Winning hearts and minds in the fight against radicalisation" (Forum, November 28, p4) and its discussion of various programs to prevent Muslim youth from going astray reminds me of a piece in New Scientist about 35 years ago.

Authorities in a large British Midland city, concerned at the high recidivism rate among juvenile criminals, convened a conference of all interested parties – police, probation officers, teachers, parent associations, social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, prison officers and so forth – to discuss what measures might be usefully taken to reduce it. A decision was made to experiment by dividing the targeted kids into two groups.

One group would carry on being given the usual probationary program. A second group would have twice the resources normally allocated, with visits to sporting events, weekend trips to seaside resorts, extra counselling sessions, occasional meals in Chinese restaurants and so on. The convening group would meet again a year later and view the results.

When the convention assembled again a year later and examined their data, they were mystified to discover that the favoured group had a slightly higher recidivist rate than the group less favoured.

After much earnest discussion, the only conclusion they could come to was that the favoured group perversely felt that they should be doing something to justify all the extra attention they were being given.

Bill Deane, Chapman

Biblical barbarism

Henk Verhoeven (Letters, November 23) asserted that violence and conquest is intrinsic to Islam, from when its adherents first attacked Christians; [they] killed many throughout the Middle Ages.

He may be right. The Wahhabist strain of Islam that has spread from Saudi Arabia to inspire evil from Pakistan to Paris certainly appears derived from the verses of the Koran that Verhoeven cites.

I suppose, however, he thinks that the Christian population of AD800 all joyously converted, rather than through suppression of other religions in the region by Justinian of Byzantium. Presumably the Crusades, including the anti-Jewish pogroms of Europe, didn't happen, nor did the destruction and murder across the Americas and Africa, all in the name of Christ.

Christianity is the religion of the Spanish Inquisition and the internecine wars and brutal repression by the Catholic Church against the Protestants of the late Middle Ages. (Followed, of course, by the exact reverse when opportunity presented itself.) It was the religion of the Catholic Fascists of last century –Mussolini, Franco and Salazar.

It is the religion of the Ku Klux Klan and those trying to enact capital punishment for gay and lesbian people in Uganda and Russia.

Christianity was also, memorably, cited as inspiration by United States president George W.Bush and British prime minister Tony Blair for their "crusade" in Iraq.

There may not be calls for conquest in the New Testament. One wouldn't know it, however, from the way its adherents have behaved for the entirety of Christian history.

Martin O'Connor, Latham

Redefining high-res

WIN (Channel 9) advertised that the Adelaide Test would be broadcast in high definition – a welcome alternative to the poor standard definition. As a Canberra resident, this did not happen. I called WIN on their help line (1800 173 055) and was referred to a website that was full of promises but not informative.

On ringing the local after-hours number in Canberra I was told that there is a technical fault and that they have been inundated with complaints. The commentators on the program consistently refer to the improved service, asking us to retune our televisions to the new service. Believe me, I have, and there is no channel 90 to which they refer.

This is false advertising and tantamount to planned deception. I wonder if there is anybody in Australia who is getting a HD broadcast, other than the technicians in the broadcast vans behind the stands? I note also that GEM has been downgraded to SD as part of the "new" service!

It really is ruining an expected great game of cricket.

Steve Provins, Latham



Let me see if I have this correct. Theywant pregnant women, families with toddlers, small school children, the elderly, disabled and sick to walk up to a mile in the heat of summer andthe freezing cold of winter to catch a tram. For this privilege, theyare going to raise our rates everyyear and also take away pensioner rebates to help pay for the same tram.

Marie McCulloch, Nicholls


Your obituary for Adele Mailer ("Artist had volatile life with novelist Mailer", November 27, p12) mistakenly says that the "point of no return" for her stabbing by Norman Mailer was when she compared him unfavourably to Dostoyevsky. The"point of no return" was NormanMailer's decision to attack his wife. He – and only he – made that happen.

Bill Browne, Lyneham


One of Simon Corbell's staff needs to explain to him the difference between inferred and implied before he writes letters to the newspaper (Letters, November 30).

Peter Moran, Watson

I get quite peeved at politicians' use of letters to the editor to redress whatever bees get in their bonnets. All serving politicians, but particularly deputy chief ministers, have ample means to get their points across in the media. Leave the limited forum of letters to the editor to citizens.

John Collet, Redlynch, Qld


Australia Post looks set to increase the cost of an ordinary stamp from 70¢ to $1, while reducing the quality of the basic mail delivery service. This is an insult to the Australian people and does not pass the fairness test. These changes will surely discourage the next generation from discovering the very profound joy of sending and receiving postcards, letters and Christmas cards, and I, for one, find this very sad.

Lyndon Megarrity, Annandale, Qld


I congratulate the ACT government for the introduction of natural burial ("Natural burial site at Gungahlin cemetery", November 30, p3). I definitely feel far more comfortable with my final demise knowing that I can be passed back to Mother Earth with a minimum of fuss and bother – not to mention cost. As a long-time jogger, I look forward to being run over by the hot and sweaty, the odd padded paw or even the sure-footed claw.

Patrick O'Hara, Isaacs

Email: Send from the message field, not as an attached file. Fax: 6280 2282. Mail: Letters to the Editor, The Canberra Times, PO Box 7155, Canberra Mail Centre, ACT 2610.

Keep your letter to 250 words or less. References to Canberra Times reports should include date and page number. Letters may be edited. Provide phone number and full home address (suburb only published).