Rail benefits ignored

Your report ''Light rail 'to cost $915m, not viable''' (June 12, p1) gives a summary of Robert Nairn's study. Nairn says that a benefit/cost ratio of 2.5 to 1 is needed for such a project. It is reported that Nairn has not taken into account the expected increase in passenger numbers, nor is there any indication that the value of benefits includes redevelopment of Northbourne Avenue, higher densities along the transport corridor, or the value of commercial property built near stations.

If the Gungahlin/Civic route means another 20,000 dwellings can be supported, and if the average land cost of those dwellings is $100,000, then even at $915 million the benefit/cost ratio will be greater than Nairn's 2 or 2.5 to 1. We know the trips required to support another 20,000 dwellings cannot be achieved with buses, cars or bicycles. If we wish to make good use of the Gungahlin/Civic corridor, some form of high-capacity fixed rail seems the only economically viable option.

Kevin Cox, Ngunnawal

The subsidy's on us

John Davenport (Letters, June 10) says taxpayers foot the bill for roads so it's OK to spend $1 billion getting 10,000 of us Gungahlians down Northbourne Avenue at peak-hour.

Our roads are used by everyone, including those benefiting commercially, and $1 billion buys a lot of freeway. I worry that this first tram is just the start of a multibillion-dollar gold-plated solution to the modest transport problems of this big country town.

Further, beyond maintenance, taxpayers don't subsidise ongoing road use. We're already spending $120 million every year subsidising a bus system used by 6 per cent of us. And now we're being told to lie back, dreaming of the romance of rail, while shelling out operating subsidy for a massively underutilised (outside peak-hour) tram to where I live.


Manson MacGregor, Amaroo

Rail move makes sense

I have lived in Canberra for more than 60 years, and am more aware than most of the way in which its population density has been remarkably low and stable over that period.

In 1954 Canberra's population was recorded as 30,315. Paris in the same year had 5,850,000, but the areas occupied by those two cities were much the same.

Evidently Canberra's population is much larger now than it was 60 years ago, but its population density has remained remarkably stable over that time. It is that stability that makes it appropriate now to switch to light rail.

Ken Brewer, Belconnen

Confected concern

I'd applaud Property Council ACT executive director Catherine Carter's criticism of the Northbourne flats as ''inhospitable places for people to live … difficult to maintain and … unsightly'' (''Northbourne flats Bauhaus but 'unsightly''', June 11, p1) if I didn't think that she wants this prime real estate for her members to make a handsome profit. Her confected concern for the less well-off is transparent.

Paul McElligott, Aranda

Bad land management

Geoff Mannall (Letters, June 9) is absolutely right in drawing our attention to the devastating escalation of mega fires as portrayed in the timely Catalyst program ''Earth On Fire'', presented on ABC TV last week.

However, to entirely blame mega fires on climate change is a weak excuse to cover the failures of land management to protect us, coupled with control mechanisms that have become an industry thriving on ever larger bushfires.

Maybe temperatures have risen a degree or two, but the development that has driven the world into the mega-fires scenario is the dramatic rise in fuel loads propagated by misguided environmentalists and the evolution of a fire control industry that is thriving on bigger fires.

Fortunately, land management under ACT Parks and Conservation's highly experienced fire management director, Neil Cooper, has recognised the problem and developed practical plans to address it in our parks. However, it is a target that is not going to be achieved for decades.

We can put our heads in the sand and pretend that the massive destruction caused by mega fires is a result of the populist climate change scenario, but the reality is that mega fires have evolved from the misguided management of lands and bushfire control.

Val Jeffery, Tharwa

ABC thought police

It seems that the thought police have invaded the ABC. Your article ''Gone with the Wind: A story out of time'' (June 9, p4), reported that the ABC had suspended sports commentator Warren Ryan for quoting from the 20th century film classic Gone with the Wind.

Understandably, Mr Ryan resigned, saying ''there was no offence intended''.

To make matters worse, the ABC also stood down his co-commentator, David Morrow, to investigate why he found the commentary humorous.

Must we now be careful before we smile at something someone else has said?

Henry Lawrence, Belconnen

Question time rabble

On June 3, I took an overseas visitor to question time. He was amazed, I was embarrassed. Speaker Bronwyn Bishop had little control, she was contending with rabble on both sides of the House.

When my guest asked about the behaviour, I could not begin to explain other than to say that there have been some dignified politicians in the past (I have in mind people such as Margaret Reid and John Langmore).

If politicians wonder why the public holds them in low regard, they only need sit where we did. Then again, I wonder if their theatrical egos would allow them to care, or realise the depths to which they have sunk. Embarrassingly, they are our political leaders.

Sadly, some ACT politicians were among the offenders.

Barry Smith, Weetangera

Parking at a premium

Re Peter Burrows (Letters, June 6) constantly being diddled of 1¢ and G.S.McKergow (Letters, June 11) lamenting the loss of 10¢, I failed to find a parking space below the Convention Centre last Sunday for the Handmade Market and had to pay $3 in order to leave!

E. Broomfield, Googong, NSW

In England, where I have just spent a few weeks, if the price of an item includes the amount of 99 pence and a pound is offered in payment, a one-pence coin is returned. Since 1¢ coins are no longer available in this country, an honest price should be quoted or appropriate change given.

Magda Sitsky, Chifley

Funny things happened on Abbott's way to the forums

I am confused by the message our Prime Minister is trying to disseminate about ''Australia [being] open for business'' and how he is going about it. For instance, he cancelled an interview with the presidents of the World Bank and IMF and the US Treasury Secretary. One would assume that if you want to increase the level of business in your country, those people should know a thing or two on how to go about it. The reason was probably given by Tony Abbott himself some years ago when he acknowledged that he found economics boring and that he did not understand the subject very well.

He did find the time, however, to visit Rupert Murdoch, the only person with politics he understands, the politics of populism.

It seems that our Prime Minister relies more on his personal relationship with Murdoch to get re-elected than on mastery of economics. How is it possible for a man to be so full of himself and his ideology that he is ready to sacrifice a country for it?

G. Coquillette, Spence

Tony Abbott is hardly making positive impacts on Australia's relations with its most important friends. His overseas visits seem to be wrapped mostly in rather empty symbolism, harking back to historical collaborations in wars, rather than mapping out pathways for development.

He has failed to assuage the sense that he cannot come to terms with China's future role in the world; he has not noticeably repaired damage he has done to Australia's relationship with Indonesia; he stood by his hardline climate change stance, despite President Barack Obama's more balanced approach, as he headed to Washington; opportunistically, his only real ''mate'' seems to be the ultra-conservative Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper.

Problematically, Abbott's simplistic proposition that ''Australia is open for business'' - even before his controversial budget is passed by Parliament - and his penchant for travelling with large contingents of our business leaders (at what cost? for what benefits?), only reinforce the impression his government primarily serves the interests of business (but not if it means ''innovation'').

If he has ideas to put forward, or proposals relevant to any current world problems, or if he relishes Australia's opportunities to contribute while it is chairing the UN Security Council Chair or G20, this has yet to be disclosed.

Trevor Wilson, Holder

So we taxpayers met the bill for Tony Abbott to circuit the world just to get his latest instructions from Rupert in New York. How predictable.

Linus Cole, Palmerston

Nothing but hate mail

The undeniable reactionary left-wing bias of The Canberra Times has long been irksome to moderate and considerate Canberrans of a conservative bent. It is the editorial board's right to cater for the core readership that pays for its daily sop of juvenile university union sophistry, but the publication of the letters from Bettye Pearce, Peter Harris, and Chris Bell (June 11) deserves condemnation.

These letters, nothing more than hate mail, provided no debate or argument, added nothing but spite and childishness, and, most glaringly, were wilfully ignorant of facts.

The PM of this nation (all of us) has two much envied trade deals with countries that are the future of our trade, and a third in the works with China; a lauded and respected trip to Canada with important speeches widely covered in the world press; and is engaging in many important conversations with our largest world partner in the United States.

Our ambassador to the US, Kim Beazley, has said the visit has been much anticipated as the Americans are fascinated with the wonderful progress the Prime Minister has made in Asian diplomacy in such a short period in office. And he has calmly and without self-aggrandisement made great progress in repairing the minor rifts with Indonesia over Labor's spying debacle.

To insult and denigrate a PM merely for that act's own sake, out of hatred, pettiness and tribalism, and to place such cheap nastiness ahead of national interest, speaks for itself.

Zoltan Kovacs, Kambah

Leading the way

Joe Hockey says criticism of his budget is reminiscent of class warfare from the 1970s. He is right, and this government and its budget are fomenting it.

As Warren Buffett said: ''There's class warfare, all right, but it's my class, the rich class, that's making war, and we're winning.''

If you don't believe the US is relevant to Australia, look at data from the OECD or any other reputable source and you will see that, as the Treasury said last year, ''… overall income inequality in Australia has been rising since the mid-1990s''. And if you don't think inequality matters, look at Wilkinson and Pickett's The Spirit Level and their rebuttal of its critics.

Chris Ansted, Garran

In black and White

Hugh White's recommendation that appeasement of China be expanded proceeds from a dangerous false premise (''China must have a bigger role'', Times2, June 10, p1). It sees China as a welcome phenomenon: a poor country getting richer (and more powerful) by buying and selling us stuff, but needing more respect.

It's not. It's a big, nuclear-armed, fascist police state run by an astoundingly corrupt power elite. And, with the power of that elite now unassailably entrenched, its behaviour will deteriorate.

The accepted original theory on China's future (evolution to democracy and the rule of law driven by an expanding middle class) has been revealed as laughably misguided wishful thinking. The West allowed its economic welfare to come to depend on those ridiculous foundations when what was demanded was sustained Cold War-style containment.

Chamberlain's 11th-hour attempted appeasement of Hitler's Germany was only recognised as misguided when that fascist police state started killing its neighbours. So will China. Start analysis from that premise.

Cuthbert Douglas, Bonython

Socio-economic status key to pupils' success

Christopher Bantick's assertions about the ways in which private schools are better than public (''Old-school values still appeal in modern world'',, June 6) are wrong on many scores.

He asserts that independent schools ''do so well in university entrance'' because of their ''old school values'' of ''discipline, respect for authority, academic achievement for its own sake, scholarship, goodness and common decency.'' While not only ignoring that these values permeate every ACT public school I have ever walked into, Bantick is also wrong. Recent analysis of ACT NAPLAN data by Nobel Laureate Brian Schmidt concludes that when the socio-economic status of students is accounted for, private school test performance is no different to that of public schools.

The better test performance of private schools is entirely due to the type of students who attend these school. This follows from a sad fact in Australian education: that a student's socio-economic status is a strong predictor of their ''success'' at school (regardless of the school they attend).

It is this terrible fact which needs-based funding seeks to address. Streamed classes have been shown by a raft research to benefit no one (contrary to Bantick's claim). Why, then, does the federal government continue to fund a streamed education system? The large increase in public funding for private schools is probably the best answer to Bantick's question of why the private school community is growing.

Mr Bantick thinks that ''some students are infinitely better than others academically'', seeming to suggest academic ability is fixed at birth. Are we to throw these students on some academic scrapheap and forget them, or provide the resources they need to become great members of society?

Vivienne Pearce, president, ACT Council of P&C Associations



John Davenport (Letters, June 10) believes we should all use public transport to get to and from work. If I take up his challenge, will there be room on the bus for my tools, scaffolding, ladders and planks?

Mike Harding, Holt


Before the abolition of penalty rates becomes a reality, the electorate really needs to consider if it is reasonable to have to work a 12-hour day at flat rates, as the porters at my club in London do.

Gary J. Wilson, MacGregor


What will be the impact of lower rainfall across southern Australia as foreseen by climate scientists? Can we be assured the Murray-Darling Basin will continue to be a major food bowl? We have the example of the Australian Aborigines, who over millenniums had to match their numbers to the inherent productivity of the land.

Christopher L. Watson, Latham


I would have thought, Bea Evans (Letters, June 10), that Julia Gillard did a good job of destroying herself without the help of Andrew Bolt and Alan Jones.

Brendan Ryan, O'Malley


Phillip O'Rourke (Letters, June 10) is simply deluded in endorsing Gary Humphries' TINA view of the budget. Certainly, something drastic needs to be done, but there are clear alternatives as to what that something might be. Sweating the less well-off while maintaining subsidies and tax breaks to the relatively better-off and to overseas interests is not the only option.

Chris Whyte, Higgins


In the midst of Graham Macafee's tirade in favour of negative gearing (Letters, June 10) he referred to ''Catholic rabbits''. Pardon me for thinking it was negative gearing landlords who were breeding out of control and putting house prices out of the reach of first home buyers.

John Popplewell, Hackett


Don Sephton (Letters, June 9) obviously has a short memory or I presume he holds Josh Papalii in similar disdain to James Tedesco, remembering that Papalli did exactly the same to Parramatta last year. Also, as a long-standing and some might say long-suffering Parramatta fan, our best signing last year was Ricky Stuart for the Raiders. Noel McNamara (Letters June 9) is spot on, although he forgot that Stuart was also toxic at Cronulla.

Andrew Sutton, Campbell

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