Seeking rail statistics


Ian F. Bell (Letters, July 18) refers to overseas experience of the effect of light rail on property values but gives no references to valid scientific research into these effects. While it is valid that higher densities, both residential and commercial, would assist light rail, evidence that the reverse - light rail helps property values - is scarce.

My own slender research quoted in my report for the ACT Liberals is that ''a 20 per cent increase in accessibility should increase housing values by just over 3.8 per cent''. If anyone knows of any further research on this issue I would like to hear of it. Our ''local'' experience in economic assessment of these issues will, I hope, always be in a learning stage, but currently it is world class.

There is no assumption the project is worthless after repaying the debt. It is only after debt repayment that it begins to repay its financial losses. It is normal to analyse projects over 30 years because, after that, returns are so heavily discounted they add little to the result.

For this reason I did not include a ''salvage value'' although I could have done so without any significant change in the results.

Bell's calculation that the estimated fare revenue leads to ''six or seven full vehicles'' is misleading as the off-peak vehicle loadings are not full and, although fare policy has not yet been revealed, a number of people pay no fares or have fare concessions on ACTION.

I did not include loss of parking revenue in the financial evaluation but included reductions in the cost of construction of parking places. Further, for the first time in any of the previous assessments of light rail in Canberra, visitor travel was included in the patronage analysis.


Bob Nairn, Hawker

Leo Dobes (''A simple sanity check on ACT's light rail'', Times2, July 17, p5) asks ''how many people will die if [unspecified] health service funding is diverted to light rail?'' Emotive indeed, though with the variety of types of health expenditure each claiming a figure for its specific mortality prevention, is it in totality measurable other than to express some desired view? Nevertheless, what can be more accurately estimated is the following: ''What reduction in traffic accidents will result from reduced road traffic achieved by the installation of light rail?''

Jack Palmer, Watson

Thank you, for publishing the excellent article by Leo Dobes on the need for a sanity check for light rail. It reflects many of the thoughts I have had for quite some time about this unneeded project. In particular, it emphasises the huge opportunity costs of the tramway, exposes the fallacy of employment numbers that could be generated by any equivalent investment and the fiction of ephemeral social benefits to justify the expense.

M. Silex, Greenway

Nelson's big day out

I write on behalf of the Australian War Memorial in response to the letter ( Nelson's Big Decision, Times2, July 17, p3) in which Mr Rowe mounts an unjustified attack on Dr Nelson around his presence on Anzac Day next year - the centenary commemoration of the Gallipoli landing.

Dr Nelson was never going to be anywhere but at the Australian War Memorial for that commemoration.

Allan Yates, Communications and Marketing, Australian War Memorial

Walking challenged

Martin Miller (Letters, July 16) wrote of a utopian vision of shopping centres where everyone walked or cycled to the shops or used public transport. I think Mr Miller must be young and fit (as I once was many years ago), because not everyone can manage to walk long distances, especially if you are, like me, old, or disabled, or a mum with children including one or two in a pushchair. Apart from not being able to walk the distances, there are a couple of other problems. It takes time, which not everybody has to spare, and if you are buying weekly groceries, walking to the shops may be possible, but heaving several kilograms of fruit, veg, juices, and assorted groceries is simply not feasible.

Not everybody comes out of the shops bearing a dainty parcel. Incidentally, the weather has a role to play in this situation, too. I have seen these dreamy town planning architects drawings too, but practicality rears its ugly, mundane, head.

M.D. Curtis, Kaleen

Smuggling heroics

It was terrific to read of Canberra resident David Savage being nominated for the Australian of the Year (''Recognition for ex-cop who suffered in the line of fire'', July 17, p5). How great to have a local hero like him.

But hang on a minute. Three quarters of the way through the article it says, ''While working with the United Nations in Sri Lanka, he helped smuggle Tamils and Tamil sympathisers, including journalists who were at risk of government retribution, out of the country''.

It had to be a misprint or misinformation! How could we have a people smuggler nominated for Australian of the Year? Aren't they guilty of the most heinous of crimes? Then I got it. He was working for the United Nations. It must be OK then. And I know there just wouldn't have been any boats involved. Simple really. Good luck David. You sound exceptionally worthy of the award.

Judy Aulich, Giralang

Divine confusion

David Wilson (Letters, July 17) points out one of the confusions (who was Jesus' Dad?) arising from the Christian concept of the Trinity. Confusion is unsurprising since the Trinity was a rather desperate compromise cobbled together by the leaders of competing Christian sects at the behest of the Emperor Constantine in 325 CE.

Constantine recognised, or perhaps even invented, the oft-quoted political remark that disunity is death, and it worked a treat despite being a good example of the camel, i.e. a horse designed by a committee.

It's all in response to J. Halgren's proposition (Letters, July 14) that Allah, worshipped by the Muslims, is a different ''person'' to Jehovah, worshipped by Jews and Christians alike. J. Halgren would, I assume, agree that Jehovah, as worshipped by Jews, is a third of the Trinity, since Jesus was a Jew. (According to John 10:30, Jesus was also ''one with the Father'', so perhaps that would make him two-thirds of the Trinity, adding further confusion. No wonder they call it a mystery. But I digress.) J. Halgren's assertion is on shaky ground.

The Koran is clear (verses 3:33, 4:163, 7:59 and others) that Allah is the deity worshipped by Abraham and, thus, Jesus. This is why Judaism, Christianity and Islam are called Abrahamic religions.

Fred Pilcher, Kaleen

No-one cares, vice-chancellor? The students and voters do

On the  day   ANU vice-chancellor Ian Young (pictured) claimed no one cares about university funding (‘‘Survival of the deregulated’’, Times2,  July 15, p1), polling reported by Mark Kenny in The Canberra Times demonstrated exactly the opposite. People do care about university funding, and they roundly reject the radical deregulation model proposed by the Abbott government and supported so uncritically by Professor Young. He claims there are ‘‘no easy answers’’, yet  he is opting for  the easiest solution of all: forcing students into grinding lifelong debt through ‘‘deregulated’’ (read uncontrolled) fees. Government should be about choice.

If there is money for needless fossil fuel rebates, for lavish superannuation tax concessions and brutal offshore refugee detention regimes, then there is money to properly fund universities and public education. Instead of giving in to the  market obsessions of Abbott and Christopher Pyne, Professor Young should accept  responsibility as custodian of  our national university and make a stand for proper government funding and high quality  universities, rather than wasting time writing mournful statements of defeat. Otherwise it is likely Professor Young will be left exposed on the wrong side of history.

Stephen Darwin, ACT division secretary, National Tertiary Education Union

Carbon fightback strikes

Your editorial ‘‘The tax is axed, but what’s next’’ (Times2, July 18, p2) is spot on when it says the reactions to the axing of the carbon tax will be long-lasting. They have already influenced  anti-Abbott/Coalition opinion polls, and there will be more to come.

In 1989, when I was managing an environmental education centre in the Hunter Valley, I distributed a questionnaire on environmental issues to students and adults. Each question offered alternative answers for our management guidance. We asked: ‘‘Do you think adults will leave a satisfactory environment for us to live in?’’ and 19 per cent said ‘‘Yes’’, 76per cent said ‘‘Only if they work hard’’, and 5 per cent said ‘‘They have already done too much damage’’.

‘‘Do you think environmental problems (greenhouse effect, ozone layer, global warming) will become more serious?’’ Yes 86 per cent, Be controlled 10 per cent. There were many more similar subjects, questions and options, virtually all with similar answers from adults and students. Not one of the students was then of voting age. Every one of them would be now, and the number of environmental believers will continue to grow yearly with more educated school leavers and university graduates. One of our 1989 students is now an acclaimed feature writer in the Fairfax stable. It’s going to get much, much worse. So bad luck, PM and Coalition.

Geoff Armstrong, Monash

Hunting for carbon action

In his victory speeches after the ‘‘carbon tax’’ was repealed, minister Greg Hunt pledged to press calmly and methodically ahead with ‘‘carbon farming’’. However, the required size of his farm was not mentioned.

Internet data permits back-of-envelope calculations on what might be required. The best figures come from Rothamsted in Britain, where five hectares of bluebell woodland fixed around a tonne of carbon per year over one century, as  did a heavily manured arable field nearby.

So to farm all  100 million tonnes a year of carbon used by Australia’s population, Mr Hunt will require a bluebell woodland covering two-thirds of the country!

If he settles for just Victoria, then in a good growing year he will be able to claim  ‘‘the Coalition’s ‘direct action plan’ has buried more carbon than Labour’s toxic tax did’’ (3-4.6million tonnes in 2013-14; Frank Jotzo, The Conversation, July 19), which is presumably the sole aim of the whole exercise anyway.

Adrian Gibbs, Yarralumla

Pope’s in the picture

I want to congratulate Pope for the finest example of political cartooning I’ve seen in  more than 40 years. The image, front page of Times2 section of the Canberra Times (Friday, July 18) does an excellent job of taking on the big polluters as well as their supporters, the Coalition government of Tony Abbott.

If we go ahead with selling our coal overseas we will do more damage to the global environment than ever.

This image should be made available as a poster and stuck up in every politician’s office and every polluter’s boardroom too.

Thanks for such informative and high-quality work.

Bill Hall, Page

Bring back Vietnam policy

Gary Humphries in his article ‘‘We’re lost in refugee divide’’ (Times, July 18) presents a balanced overview to the  refugee debate. He’s certainly correct in suggesting that until the world addresses the causes of people fleeing their countries there is  little Australia alone can do to solve  a hugely growing problem.

Until then we should be negotiating, as part of our aid  program, with the UNHCR and the governments of neighbouring ‘‘first contact’’ countries with a preparedness to contribute to the establishment and provision of refugee camps where sustenance, medical services and facilities for children will be provided.

From those camps, officers on short-term missions would  assess claims for refugee status and screen applicants for entry. Those accepted   should  be  given discounted air passages for travel by government-chartered flights to   Australian cities, depending on the availability of hostel  accommodation, employment and  support and assistance.

Until such camps are established to enable proper offshore processing,  our border controls must  be maintained and the boats stopped as is being achieved at present. When the camps and processing are in place, the people accepted would  be able to save the extortionate amounts now being demanded by  people-smugglers with leaky boats.

Such an approach would ensure the reintroduction of policies that were successful 40 years ago in resolving the mass exodus of Vietnamese people fleeing their country by boat after the Vietnam War. That policy was called ‘‘the Orderly Departure Program’’ and it worked.

There is no reason why it could not succeed again if the processing camps are established.

P. M. Button,  Cook



So who made the mistake or was disrespectful to commence the music and fireworks at Saturday night's Brumbies finals game during the minute's silence for the deceased passengers of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17? Perhaps the Brumbies Club should publish a public apology.

Edward Corbitt, Farrer


Madonna King [July 19] reveals that Joe Hockey almost quit politics to take a job in America. Given the opinion polls, perhaps Mr Hockey should reconsider the offer.

Thos Puckett Ashgrove


The alleged overheard words in Parliament, as quoted by D.A. Nolan (Letters, June 18), are disrespectful, inappropriate and rude. I cannot imagine a female politician expressing this view. Whoever it was is no climate messiah, just a naughty boy.

John Morland, Curtin


Pup in Oxford dictionary means young dog. Young dogs are playful and bark at the wrong trees. The Palmer United Party or PUP is a young entrant in Australian politics. It's making a lot of noises at the wrong places. Its ETS policy is a case in point. It's simply laughable.

Sankar Kumar Chatterjee, Evatt


What the Israelis are doing to the people of Gaza now will produce generations of unstoppable, ruthless and fearless suicide bombers. We will all pay the price in the future.

Mokhles K. Sidden, South Strathfield


Abbott might call for the condemnation of Russia but the non-combatants of the contested territories of eastern Ukraine ought to evacuate. The only thing that will convince Russia of the determination to resist its newfound imperialism is the employment of its own WWII tactic: burnt earth.

Gary Wilson, MacGregor


Reading J. Evans' letter (July 18) I feel glad for the first time that I'm not a Pom and therefore subjected to the royal wrath of God.

Barrie Smillie, Duffy


In this the 50th year since the publication of Donald Horne's The Lucky Country, and when our nation proudly restated its ambition to be the world leader in carbon pollution per capita, it's time for another published analysis of Australia. May we suggest a title The Mucky Country.

A. and F. Moore, Melba

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