Comment

Letters to the Editor

Power of deception

Your editorial "ACT government leads the way on renewable energy" (Times2, March 7, p2) states that the ACT is expected to reach 90 per cent of power generation from renewables by 2020, and compares this favourably with the federal government's target of 23.5 per cent. Such figures are not comparable. When there is insufficient renewable energy to meet demand, the ACT can import energy generated from non-renewable sources, but Australia can't. The main purpose of the ACT's target is to deceive voters, and it seems to be succeeding quite well.

The editorial mentions "the Royalla 20 megawatt solar power plant". This figure, originating from the ACT government, is also intended to deceive. The Royalla plant is not comparable to a 20 megawatt coal- or nuclear-powered plant. Other media reports state that the Royalla plant will generate 37,000 megawatt hours per year. This amount of energy would be produced by 4.2 megawatts of continuous output but, of course, the actual output is intermittent and seasonal. The plant is said to have "the capacity to power more than 4500 ACT homes". This number should be zero, because homes need continuous power. I'm in favour of environmentally friendly projects, but Idon't like the use of deception to promote them.

Mike Dallwitz, Giralang

It is highly commendable that the "ACT leads way on renewable energy" and that Canberrans have "shifted further away from dependence on fossil fuel-generated electricity" than most other mainland states or territory (Editorial, March 7).

Before we become too smug we have to deal with the fact that the ACT State of the Environment Report for 2015-16 reveals that Canberrans have the largest ecological footprint, "each needing 8.9 hectares to support their cashed-up lifestyles – three and a half times the world average".

Consumerism is very evident in our city, and most of us are part of it.

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Consumerism is not easy to "fix". Also it is intertwined with population growth. Both have to be tackled. We have to change our way of living and challenge the precept that population growth is necessary and inevitable. Those who live extremely frugally through sheer necessity in any teeming city in a country with high fertility rates cannot be accused of consumerism and their lot isn't enviable. We have to tackle the twin problems locally and globally before the earth can no longer support us.

Judy Kelly, Aranda

Water cost excessive

The charges for water in the ACT are a matter of grave consequence. For water consumption over a very minimal level, Icon more than doubles the charge! It jumps from $2.60 per kL to $5.22 per kL. It should be graduated according to use. I can understand why this great impost was made during a drought. Why is it continued?

It is the system of charging that needs to be changed. There is no proportionality in terms of the excess water use charges. The effect of the current system of charging is that the gardens of Canberra will die off, because people will not be able to pay this amount of extra surcharge.

This issue is of grave concern to all Canberrans who tend for and care about their gardens. We have been known as the garden city, enjoyed by residents and visitors alike. Such a detrimental policy will affect the environment for decades to come. When the possibility of gardens on nature strips was debated recently in the Canberra Times letters to the editor, people pointed to the cost of water as being a disincentive to this proposal. The most frustrating aspect is that no one will take responsibility for this state of affairs. The Chief Minister Andrew Barr says it is Icon Water's responsibility to determine water rates. Icon Water maintains price is set by the Independent Competition and Regulatory Commission.

The commission says it receives submissions, but does not state the rationale for Icon Water's absurd policy. It says it is not responsible for Icon Water. Finally, when all the gardens of Canberra are dead, all will say — but it's not my fault!

Gardeners, and people who love our environment, complain now about the water charging system to your local elected member. Or vote for an independent who promises reform. At least politicians should be sensitive to losing votes in the upcoming election in October!

Dr Kristine Klugman, Fisher

Third World wages

Penalty rates are paid for nights and weekends to attract persons to work at times when most would prefer to be with family/friends enjoying entertainment which is geared for weekends, such as sport and socialising.

Attempts to reduce them smack of a long-term attempt to reduce low paid workers to Third World wages.

In general, we are talking about those earning around $3000 for 100-plus hours of work over the fortnight. It does not compare with the obscene amounts paid to chief executives around Australia.

If the government really wanted some serious money to inject life into the economy and abolish the national debt, then it needs only to look at slightly increasing the tax on self-managed superannuation funds currently paying 15 per cent tax, and now estimated at $650 billion and predicted to reach the trillion dollar mark within a couple of years.

Those receiving penalty rates are very unlikely to be part of this tax haven.

Gerard Monaghan, Florey

Why should existing rates for weekend work not be raised, not cut?

Has it not mattered that weekend work is time away from family, with rest and relaxation compromised? One also often misses out on weekend social integration and community involvement. Weekend rates are primarily a boost and a rejuvenation to workers being satisfied and looking forward to a productive week to follow.

We do not want it any other way for a Fairer Australia.

Patricia Nathan, Macquarie

Fire failings

Greg McConville (Letters, March 8) is spot on in regard to Christine Nixon's failings on Black Saturday 2009. He might also have mentioned that Russell Rees, the Country Fire Authority chief officer, was heavily criticised for being out of touch with the situation; this despite the fact that his office was a short walk from CFA's operations room.

You don't need to be in Melbourne to be too far away, and the people on the ground appreciate leaders who know exactly what's happening and are prepared to act on rapidly changing circumstances.

Bob Gardiner, Isabella Plains

Abbott, not Credlin, given the mandate to run the country

Other than the poor benighted Margie Abbott, who really cares whether or not Peta Credlin had an affair with Tony Abbott? Either way, it is none of our business.

What people do care about is that she either took it upon herself or that Tony Abbott more likely granted her permission to run the government while he swaggered about pretending to be a four-star general.

Peta is very keen to let everyone know that she defines herself. Well, I'd like to let her know that I decide who gets my vote to run the country and it certainly wasn't her!

E.R. Haddock, Weston

Niki Savva's historical fiction, a malicious and vitriolic attempt to further denigrate a man she has vilified from the day he defeated Malcolm Turnbull for leadership of the Coalition. Savva is prepared to accept claims by the Abbott betrayers and bedwetters without question. But when justifying her reason for not seeking comment from Abbott or Credlin, "their version of events often differ very widely from everybody else's". So much for balanced journalism.

Owen Reid, Dunlop

Scrutinise Abbott

Former prime minister Tony Abbott has been strident in his denials of any involvement in the leaking of the defence White Paper to News Corporation. However, someone in the government certainly gave them to his disciples at News Corp – and Abbott has taken full advantage. The Australian Federal Police, Defence Department and presumably ASIO too are now responsible for investigating who caused the leak and how Abbott got hold of it.

Since Abbott was himself the prime mover in the use of metadata for spying on the entire Australia citizenry, it seems only fitting that he (and all his associates) should be subject to close scrutiny by the same methods he himself advocated, in the interests of national security. If this is not carried out with diligence, and the results made public, Australians may be forgiven for assuming that the federal security apparatus now works mainly to protect the reputations of ambitious politicians, rather than serve the nation as a whole.

Julian Cribb, Franklin

Middle-class collapse

Ross Buckley's article (Trump is voicing the pain, anger of average Americans", Forum, March 4, p5) was very good indeed. Most of us find Trump appalling – rude, boorish and crass, as Buckley says – but he is indeed voicing the anger of ordinary Americans whose standard of living has plummeted thanks to globalisation. It's not just globalisation, it is 20 years or more of significant illegal immigration. In an article in The Wall Street Journal, Peggy Noonan describes "the protected and the unprotected. The protected make public policy. The unprotected live in it." She goes on: "Many Americans suffered from illegal immigration: its impact on labor markets, financial costs, crime, the sense that the rule of law was collapsing. But the protected did fine – more workers at lower wages. No effect of illegal immigration was likely to hurt them personally."

My American nephew said to me last year when I visited him in San Francisco: "Hardly anyone can write a cheque for $1000 any more." That sums it up. The US middle-class has collapsed.

Jenny Goldie, Michelago, NSW

Does one need any more evidence than the spectacle of disgusting Republican cronies like William Kristol, Mitt Romney and John McCain falling over each other to attack Donald Trump, to be convinced that he is the best thing the Republicans having going for them!

What a laugh! Kristol even said he'd vote for Stalin in preference to Trump. This helps us to see the true nature of neocon criminals like Kristol.

Chris Williams, Griffith

Friends and enemies

In his informative article on the Syrian crisis, Clive Williams suggests that the West, led by US, does not have a sound strategy for the region ("Cracking the IS headache", Times2, March 4, p4). I was, however, surprised at the suggestion it would be in West's strategic interests to support al-Qaeda affiliate Nusra Front simply because it is an implacable enemy of Islamic State.

Is the West so desperate now that it would seek help from al-Qaeda to defeat IS?

Perhaps whoever coined the phrase "my enemy's enemy is my friend" was not that wrong.

Sam Nona, Burradoo, NSW

Hidden heroes

I always enjoy reading Andrew Leigh's articles and I usually find some data worth committing to memory to refute critics of government or the public service. I was duly impressed with his point that "all this, with a public service that is actually smaller per capita than in the past. In 1968, there was one federal public servant for every 57 people in Australia. In 2015, there was one public servant for every 156 people" ("The hidden heroes who should be household names" , The Public Sector Informant, p14).

However, casting my mind back to 1968, I realised that this was almost the dawn of computerisation and although many governmental functions were moving onto the monolithic mainframes that were being installed, the consequential staff rationalisations were yet to filter through.

Another factor which makes this comparison less persuasive is the extent to which out-sourcing has reduced departmental workloads. The engagement of outside management consultants, staff training companies, software development specialists, etc, was nowhere near as common in the '60s as it appears to be now.

A public servant/total population comparison between, say, 1985 and 2015 would be more trustworthy.

Denis Coen, Macquarie

Business creators

It is obvious that Hugh McGowan (Letters, March 7) has never taken a risk by mortgaging his house to raise capital to start a business which creates real jobs and assist in growing the economy.

This is what happens in the real world of commerce. Labor's policy to remove negative gearing (a misnomer) will block this form of capital raising to create small businesses. It's not all about real estate.

Brendan Ryan, Mawson

Cut prices for kids to get bums on seats

Another footy season and the same old story. How to get more supporters to the games. Cheap pies, mmmh, I've a better idea. How about cheap entry prices for children to the general admission areas to encourage more families?

While we love to support our local teams, it doesn't take more than a few defeats, poor scheduling and cold weather to see the annual appearance of many thousands of empty seats. These reasons, TV coverage and significant entry prices make it an easy decision for families to stay at home.

Compare the following GA prices for children: Raiders $15, Brumbies $10, A-League $6-15, GWS (Manuka) $5, Swans (SCG) $14, AFL (most Melbourne club games) $5 (pre purchase).

Incidentally many AFL games offer $2.50 entry for children paid at the ground. The "family " composition and size of AFL crowds in Melbourne says it all really. The clubs here argue that they offer better value "family entry" (2+2) packages, but these are inflexible and do not meet many combinations of adults and children attending or children alone.

Raiders and Brumbies at least give cheap child entry a decent trial, or don't complain at empty seats.

John Mungoven, Stirling

Choking applauded

As reported in our venerable broadsheet, Miesha Tate scored a victory over Ms Holly Holm in the fifth round of their UFC fight by "choking her out" ("Tate, Diaz earn upset victories", Sport, March 7, p19).

Say what? Let's read that again. Yep, that's what it said. Ms Tate apparently choked Ms Holm into unconsciousness to take the applause and the title.

And this is reported matter-of-factly!

Have I gone to sleep, Rip Van Winkle style, and woken up in some dystopian future century?

Ross Kelly, Monash

TO THE POINT

FUELLED BY GAMBLING

So the Raiders club spent its pokie money to hire Richard Farmer to slag off Chief Minister Andrew Barr, whose party receives pokie money from the Labor clubs, because Barr might let Canberra Casino fund its development with pokie money ("Clubs up pressure on Barr over casino pokies", March 7, p1)? A plague on all their houses.

Bill Browne, Lyneham

TROLLEYBUS FACTS

Now that the Minister for Planning has returned from his "fact-finding" mission to certain cities in the US and Canada, I trust he will report to us on the very extensive trolleybus networks operating in Seattle and Vancouver – how efficient, how user-friendly, how environmentally friendly both networks are in the provision of public transport in each city. You did actually notice these networks, did you not, Mr Gentleman?

Paul E. Bowler, Holder

COMPLICIT IN CRIMES

Having watched much of Cardinal Pell's testimony to the commission last week, a thought comes to mind. Paedophilia is a crime and those who had a hand in moving them to new pastures, and giving them access to even more children, are complicit in aiding and abetting criminal activity. I think the police should charge all those senior members of the church who were responsible.

Ken Cantle, Kianga, NSW

DEFENCE EXPENDITURE

I stand (partly) corrected by Neil James (Letters, March 4) and for that my apologies. Defence portfolio expenditure is 13per cent of the federal budget, not 17per cent. He's right that Defence Department expenditure is 7per cent (I read 8per cent). But in addition, Defence materiel and super and various materiel special accounts make up another 5per cent. My source is TheOpenBudget.org. But my comment on expressing defence expenditure as 2per cent of GDP stands.

Eric Pozza, Red Hill

RETURN THE COURTESY

People should be allowed to die with dignity, and no amount of quality palliative care is going to dignify existing in a totally vegetative state pumped full of painkillers or being cleaned up after one has shit oneself. Pro-euthanasia followers don't prevent the right-to-lifers following their edict; is it too much to ask that the converse apply?

Alex Wallensky, Broulee, NSW

CBA UNSCRUPULOUS

Fairfax Media's investigative reporting on CommInsure shows the Commonwealth Bank is to ethics as Dracula is to the blood bank.

Thos Puckett, Ashgrove, Qld

Email: letters.editor@canberratimes.com.au. 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).

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