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Letters to the Editor

Rail needs to catch up

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One day last week, the 12.12pm Explorer train from Sydney to Canberra stopped in the middle of nowhere five times and the driver had to get out and fiddle to restart one of the engines. Without this engine running there was no power to run the air conditioning and lights and power for the cafe bar. Eventually the engine died at Bundanoon and all the passengers were off-loaded with the promise of coaches (in 10 minutes) to take us to Canberra.

After 50 minutes, the buses finally turned up. Two hours later, with minimal air-conditioning, the coaches finally made it to Canberra.

Isn't it time that Infrastructure Australia spent some money on important rail links and to bring us into the 20th century, never mind the 21st century.

Dave Roberts, Dickson

Transport of the future

With Canberra's reliance on petrol and gas driven vehicles as the main source of transportation, both private and public, we are a city vulnerable to forces of nature beyond our control. All our fuel and food is sourced elsewhere and relies heavily on the roads and transport systems, which consist of tankers and freighters travelling the long distances to supply our necessities of life, with only a small percentage of these coming by rail or air.

Far from knocking light rail networks, we should be insisting on all main areas having a reliable, non-fossil-fuel-based, public transport system. We also need for the politicians, both state and federal, to get behind a major electric rail transportation system to and from the ACT to other regional areas. Yass, Goulbourne, Cooma, Bungendore and Braidwood rely heavily on Canberra and need to be taken into this consideration. A fast train service between Sydney and Melbourne is a necessity. Get a system going first and set up the renewables later.

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Road congestion will only get worse, and electric cars will only be part of the solution.

Canberrans seem to suffer from NIML (Not In My Lifetime) syndrome. If they have realised these facts they do nothing about the future problems that could occur.

Evelyn Ashton, Spence

Naming casualty

I am surprised to see that the the new hospital to be built on the grounds of the University of Canberra is referred to as a "The University of Canberra Public Hospital". I'd suggest that the accepted understanding of the term "public hospital" includes such facilities as an ED, operating theatres, intensive care units, surgical and medical wards. The new hospital will contain none of these amenities and is therefore, by definition not a public hospital.

It will be a "Sub Acute Rehabilitation Hospital" and should be referred to as such. Yes, it will be a public facility, but not a Public Hospital. What is the ACT government trying to achiever by this blatant act of misrepresentation?

Kerin O'Brien, Wanniassa

Leave park alone

As a former Braddon resident, I had intended this letter to be a dignified protest at the suggestions by Simon Copland ("Historic park has turned into a waste of space", Forum, February 22, p5). Expanding on modest official proposals for barbecues, toilets, improved paths and lighting, Copland's urbanisation ideas for Haig Park include open spaces for sport and sporting competitions, large barbecue and seating areas, basketball courts, and open spaces for cafes, restaurants, markets, and concerts, no doubt all paved. Not satisfied with this in-fill proposal, Copland wants the treescape changed to native. But I cannot match the eloquence of Melissa Adams's photograph that accompanied the vandalism article — majestic trees, dappled sunlight on a glade and peace. Haig Park does not need "improvement".

Ian Mathews, Garran

Save arboreal heritage

Some days it's a joy to open the Canberra Times and discover a new ACT Government thought bubble. This week brought us a report on Canberra's new draft climate change strategy ("Canberra gearing up to beat the heat", February 23, p2). To be fair, the strategy is a pretty solid bubble: it appears to provide a sound basis for consultation and future action. Its aims are laudable. Among many other emphases it stresses the importance of shade trees in keeping urban areas cool: government should "invest in the urban forest to provide sufficient public area shade and shelter" and should ensure "maintenance of the urban forest".

Many inner-north residents would have choked on their cereal when reading these fine words. Once again government thirst for the shiny and new is at sad variance with its runs on the board. The inner-north has long been distinguished by a wonderful tree canopy but it is under grave threat from government inaction and incompetence.

The inner-north is staggering under the weight of government densification policies: multi-unit developments and huge single dwellings (often with multi-car underground basements) are gradually dominating the old neighbourhoods.

In order to fit the palace onto the block all trees are removed. In almost every case the development application specifies that the nature strip and street trees be fully protected from construction activity. This requirement is almost always ignored; at most the tree trunks, but not the root zone, are fenced.

Yet the ACT Government blithely continues to approve DAs that mandate full verge protection.

A suggestion: in conjunction with issuing a draft climate change policy full of admirable words about the value of the urban forest, perhaps the ACT Government could also attend properly to its day job: protect the existing, irreplaceable mature trees in the older suburbs; work with builders to ensure that they can do their jobs without trashing our arboreal heritage; assist residents who raise concerns about these matters.

The current government has a sad record on the protection of Canberra's heritage. It's an election year; let's demand better government.

Maggie Indian, Turner

Occasion to mark

I understand the former home of activist Charlie Perkins in Gilmore Crescent, Garran, is on the verge of being demolished. Such a sad end for a house which must have many memories of the great man, and be a place of spirituality and sacredness for the Aboriginal community.

Surely if it is to be demolished then it should have some sort of ceremonial send-off, and its site be marked with a plaque or something.

Guy Swifte, Garran

Lack of vision and addiction to attack underlies disillusionment

Mark Kenny's piece on Turnbull government moves that might be misjudgements ("Hamfisted Coalition struggles to bring home the bacon", February 23, p4) is understandable. Kenny is right to be piqued. Why would the Treasurer turn up to the Press Club, speak for so long, and say so little? And then why would he go on a pilgrimage past holy relics of media opinion, all waiting to stick pins in him?

And then later in Question Time, when the PM is accused of doing little substantive in office thus far, why would the PM provide an answer with barely a glimpse of a fact? Perhaps Kenny should be more curious about whether something else is going on.

Conservative 'dries' in government ranks may now be pondering whether they will still have jobs if a sufficiency of voters do not share their tough views. They may be a little disturbed by the ringing sound of those polls and the messages they send. It's Malcolm's way or the highway, boys.

Roy Darling, Florey

Both parties to blame

I used to enjoy politics, showing my age but going right back to the "It's Time" campaign. Being fairly "rusted on" to one side meant that I happily took the high ground when the other side said or did something I disagreed with. Now I am totally disillusioned with both main parties, as all they can do is vehemently criticise each other, giving us little insight into their own vision and policies if they indeed have any. How boring. And I blame the media for propagating this adversarial situation, with 30 second sound bites emphasising the negativity. Election year 2016 is going to be a hard slog.

Janet Cossart, Stirling

A tangle of hatred

Amin Saikal may be right when he states that unless there is a quick resolution to the Syrian conflict, the crisis is likely to spread beyond the region ("Syrian war a global threat" Times2, February 23, p1). Unfortunately, the likelihood of peace seems remote, because the region is made up of factions who have nothing but hatred for each other.

Thus, numerous extremist groups are determined to topple Syria's Assad regime, no matter how many innocent lives are sacrificed, while the animosity between Turkey and the Kurds is too deep-seated to be wiped out overnight.

Worse still is the attitude of Saudi Arabia and its Sunni supporters towards Iran and its Shia supporters, who are trying to prop up the Syrian regime.

Is it any wonder, therefore, that no one is smiling in the region except the Islamic State, of whom no one would have heard had some thought been put into the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Sam Nona, Burradoo, NSW

Geared-down dreams

Australian property prices have become amongst the highest in the world, fuelled by negative-gearing. It has created a situation where young and/or low wage earners are competing with investors to purchase properties and are easily out-bidden, due to the tax avoidance advantages of negative gearing.

In order to slow down the property market it is time to put on the brakes and remove negative gearing, which will also increase the government tax take. And yes it may mean that property prices will stall and even decrease a little, but as all the marketplace is affected, buyers and sellers, very few people will suffer adversely. If we want to maintain the Australian Dream to own your own home, we need to halt the current trend to own someone else's home.

Our current Prime Minister, slammed negative gearing in 2005, because it disadvantaged PAYE workers who have limited deductions. How right he was. It is one of the major reasons Australia is experiencing growing inequality.

Lucille Rogers, Kingston

Quid pro quo

Talk about negative gearing and the so-called 50 per cent "concession" on capital gains tax being a government "subsidy" is nonsense. The Commonwealth gets the same amount of tax from these activities, at normal marginal tax rates, as it does from other activities. True, with negative gearing the government doesn't get the tax until the property is sold. But it could easily fix that if it wants the tax earlier (and wants to take a chance on how that would affect the housing market) , by, as Trevor Boucher (Letters, February 23 says, "holding the excess interest over rents received ... for deduction against the capital gain on disposal".

And as for the 50 per cent so-called "concession" on capital gains tax, when are people going to remember that this was introduced as a quid-pro-quo for not continuing to allow for inflation when calculating capital gains –and realise, if they do the arithmetic, that it yields more tax than the former system of taxing capital gains 100 per cent and allowing for inflation!?

R.S. Gilbert, Braddon

Be nice to pandas

Nicholas Stuart has demonstrated many, many times that he appears to be one of the few people in Australian public life who is capable of thinking like a grown-up when it comes to international strategic politics. His latest article highlighting the dangerous, nonsensical futility of provoking China over sea lanes in the South China Sea ("Folly of sea land protests"', Times2, February 23, p4) once again shows him capable of discerning what is in Australia's best strategic interests and not simply what it is the US wants us to do. A distinction which this, and previous, Australian governments appear to struggle with.

Stuart reminds me very much of that legendary Fairfax international politics analyst of decades ago, Warren Osmond, who was read religiously by the senior officer of the Defence, Foreign Affairs and intelligence agencies to get deeper insights on events than they could glean from internal sources. But whereas Osmond was listened to, in this post-public policy world of political hacks and media grabs, is anyone in government actually listening to Stuart's sage advice?

We can only hope so. If I were Malcolm Turnbull I would snafu Stuart and put him in a position of influence in directing our diplomatic and strategic policy before the slavish attachment to US interests finds us in really deep water without a paddle.

Chris Williams, Griffith

Church prince must answer to his people

How interesting to see the phrase "bigoted stupidity" used by H. Ronald (Letters, February 23), this time in relation to George Pell.

Cardinal Pell, a "prince" of the church, has been the architect of his own abysmal public standing.

His gross arrogance and apparent heartlessness are evident every time he answers a question. His "Melbourne Response" was an obvious tactic to keep the spotlight from shining too brightly on the church's response to child abuse.

Pell still thinks that the issue is about him, and that protecting his reputation and that of the Catholic church takes precedence over the crimes that have been committed by child abusers and enablers within the church. He simply doesn't "get it" and never will.

This is why there are attacks on Pell and why he is justifiably seen as a hindrance rather than an aid to humane resolutions for the many victims of child abuse within the church.

The question of "guilt or innocence" is a different one, though it is hard to believe that such an able and ambitious administrator could have been completely in the dark about what priests and brothers were up to considering that their cruel behaviour had been whispered about in many Catholic communities for decades.

Steve Ellis, Hackett

I am sorry H. Ronald (Letters, February 23)) feels that Tim Minchin's song about George Pell is derogatory or bigoted.

I am a victim's wife and the damage these so-called brothers (who are supposed to teach Christianity and love) left my husband and others in is disgraceful. I think Tim Minchin's song is correct in its wording and it is thought provoking which is what Tim Minchin is about, he makes you think.

George Pell thinks because he has been to the commission twice he doesn't need to go again; this is wrong and there are many more questions he needs to answer truthfully and not the standard "I can't remember".

V. Harris, Yass, NSW

TO THE POINT

OIL COMPETITION

Congratulations are in order for Saudis. Their strategy in driving down crude oil prices is showing dividends. I'm sure they took a leaf out of the book of our local supermarket chains in dealing with minor competition in the shopping centre environment. In the Saudi case, dealing with minor competition in the world oil market.

Chris Thorne, Monash

IN AGREEMENT

It is good to see that Trevor Boucher (Letters, February 23) is still going strong. He and I broke a few lances back in the 1980s. It is a pleasure now to be able to express my complete agreement with his comments on the capital gains discount.

John (Jack) Monaghan, Lyneham

ARTICULATE ABBOTT

I had thought that Malcolm Turnbull was a compassionate human being, but hearing him rant in Parliament recently about how we have to send babies and children back into our off-shore hell-holes, I realise that he is just an articulate version of Tony Abbott.

Richard Keys, Ainslie

BILLY-CART WAS FIRST

Yes, Colliss Parrett (Letters, February 24), your evocative trip down Memory Lane adequately describes days long gone that may now be contributing to our longevity. Trouble is, longevity also contributes to memory loss – I think we had billy-carts well before go-karts.

Bill Deane, Chapman

CHANGING THE RULES

Changing the Senate voting rules, Ricky Muir claims, is unconstitutional.

I reckon holding one of just 76 Senate seats in Australia with 0.5per cent per cent of the primary vote is undemocratic.

Brian Hale, Wanniassa

STATE OF GOVERNMENT

If the ACT government had been a shire or municipal government in NSW an administrator would have been appointed long ago. And just don't get me started on the lunacy of what is being contemplated for Manuka Oval, nor the state of the territory's schools, hospitals, roads, cycle paths and stormwater systems.

J.F. Bishop, Flynn

A TEACHER'S JOB

In a good school, everybody from the boss down is something of a model of ethical behaviour, including equal treatment of "differentness".

Sack activist teachers preaching causes. A teacher's job is to encourage independent thinking, not to win converts to their own pet project.

Barrie Smillie, Duffy

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