Letters to the Editor

Staying on the buses

It would be interesting to see what evidence Minister Simon Corbell has for his bullish projections for Capital Metro patronage (''Government stays firm on tram line'', May 29, p1). He claims the ''200-capacity trams [will] be full for travel to and from work''. But how does he know this? Is he basing this on existing ACTION patronage between Gungahlin and the city? If so, how does he know how many existing ACTION passengers will switch to the Metro?

For example, my suburb of Palmerston is in Gungahlin and presumably part of the intended market for the Metro.

However, Palmerston has enjoyed a relatively direct, single-fare ACTION service (route 56) to the city ever since 1992, and this has been reflected in excellent peak-hour patronage. What will happen to ACTION's route 56 service to the city and its passengers once the Metro starts? It's hard to see the service continue if it risked a diminution of light rail passengers.

But why would Palmerston's public transport users want to wait for a different bus which would travel only as far as the Metro terminus, perhaps four or five kilometres away, for the pleasure to have to wait again for a Metro tram? The answer is they won't, they'll find some other way of getting to the city.

I hope Minister Corbell isn't counting on every city-bound bus user in Gungahlin switching to light rail.

David Brudenall, Palmerston


The bus stops in my suburb don't have shelter and some don't have seating. Schoolkids sit and wait on footpaths. I can only presume that the scarcity of facilities at these bus stops is due to a lack of resources and not lack of care for our public transport travellers. We are now being asked to accept that our local government is about to commit to a tram line from Gungahlin to Civic, costing between $610 million and $10 billion. We are also now being lectured by Simon Corbell who, borrowing from the 1961 John F. Kennedy presidential inaugural address, has addressed Canberrans with ''don't ask what's in it for me, rather, ask, what's in it for Canberra''.

I'm confident, after hearing that pep talk from Mr Corbell, that shivering schoolkids, sitting on freezing concrete waiting for their school bus, will be so inspired they'll forget about the cold and lack of facilities.

Mr Corbell, how about you and your colleagues fix the current public transport system before you start dreaming about committing the ratepayers of Canberra to a new network, that we don't need and clearly can't afford?

Gordon Maher, Gilmore

Has any one noticed that pig-headed, blind, ideological stupidity is not solely the property of Tony Abbott?

W.A. Brown, Holt

In response to Beryl Richards (Letters, May 26), the daily southbound commute into the city is a frustrating start to the work day for a growing number of Canberrans. Lines of cars span the length of Northbourne Avenue and beyond, with traffic coming to a standstill on the Barton and Federal Highways.

The battle then turns to finding a parking space, at which point the forces of necessity and opportunism result in city workers parking cars in surrounding suburbs. This behaviour impacts on students, residents and local workers.

By offering a faster and more convenient alternative, light rail is exactly the type of project to demonstrate why this city is a great place to live.

At a time when the Abbott government is determined to punish Canberra's public servants it's more important than ever to attract private investment into the Territory. Given this, such a large-scale public private partnership, with its flow-on community benefits would seem the right way to go.

Will Macleod, Dunlop

Innovation, not trams

I refer to the recent ASX announcement by the Australian regenerative medicine company Mesoblast, and I quote: ''Singapore offers Mesoblast important benefits for our commercial, manufacturing and research operations. In particular, Singapore's business friendly environment, focus on cellular therapies and strong scientific base, supported by the Economic Development Board and the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A *STAR), are all assets to Mesoblast.''

Apart from no graffiti and possibly short hair cuts I don't know what Singapore can offer that we can't.

Could our local government please investigate and stop talking about housing and trams?

Eric Lindemann, Greenway

Origin 1 challenge

Much has been said as to why NSW won in Origin 1, such as an ageing Queensland side and that NSW finally played some attacking football. There is merit to those claims. However, it may also be true that the result was a symptom of overachievement for the eight-time champion Queensland side. Although Queensland scored the first try, NSW had started much better with more metres gained per sets of six and dominating territory until the defensive lapse led to Darius Boyd crossing over in the fifth minute.

This Queensland side has conquered every challenge in the last eight years, but now the ultimate challenge awaits; not winning 10 series in a row as Mal Meninga foolishly asserted, but going to Sydney one game down in a must-win clash before game three. This is the only feat left unconquered for Meninga's champion side, the only other record worth breaking. My prediction, 2-1 to Queensland.

A. Chan, Chisholm

Give obesity lessons

The simple realisation there are eight or 10 teaspoons of sugar in a can of regular Coke (''Australia now the 'fat country', obesity rankings reveal'', May 29, p6) is not likely to be sufficient to influence what a person consumes.

Food habits are notoriously hard to change. What is required is a clear understanding of why that level of sugar consumption is a problem for that person, and why those concerns should trump the immediate gratification of consuming the product. Prevention messages always face an uphill battle because the effects are long-term and difficult to ''prove'' at an individual level, but there is an additional problem.

Yes, tackling food advertising, marketing and reformulation are crucial. However, individual outcomes still rely on people making ''healthy choices'', so we need more effective and meaningful communication which explains why all of this matters and why concerns about overweight and obesity should not be dismissed as just middle-class, ''do-gooder'' ''healthism''.

M. Saunders, Weetangera

Sorry, the Libs have lost us as supporters with this budget

We are self-funded retirees and have both been Liberal voters for more than 50 years. Until now. We are unable, in all conscience, to support budget proposals that directly take money from those who can least afford it and spend that money on unnecessary items like the Paid Parental Leave Scheme, the purchase of fighter aircraft and the Schools Chaplaincy Program.

If, as Joe Hockey claims, there is a budget emergency, why not postpone these programs until the finances are in order and they can be implemented without taking from the old, the young and the unemployed?

The government's actions now contrast strangely with its election promises and we believe that, ideologically or financially, we do not fit into the class it is seeking to benefit.

Messrs Abbott and Hockey obviously do not care about the dire effects their actions will have on a large section of the community, possibly because they do not consider them Coalition voters.

The simple truth is that the government has abandoned a large class of people and does not seem to realise it or care about them. So, two less Liberal voters at the next election.

Bob and Jacqui Gilleland, Gungahlin

We have now had a fortnight to analyse and attempt to make sense of the Abbott government's first budget.

Much has been written about the lack of fairness in the budget, and this has been clearly demonstrated by NATSEM research. It is not surprising that there is a clear lack of equity in the financial burdens being placed on different sections of our society, given that our federal government draws much of its support from the most powerful and wealthy.

However what is so very puzzling is the extent of irrationality and irresponsibility embedded in the budget formulations. For instance, abandonment of preventative health programs. Severe cuts to scientific research that would help Australia to be more productive in sustainable ways. Medical co-payments that may well create more severe health problems down the track for those people unable to pay. And, most astonishingly, abolishing an agency that promotes clean energy initiatives and which returns a substantial economic profit to government. The list goes on.

I am driven to conclude that it is overriding ideology that drives the Abbott government to make such irrational and irresponsible decisions. Whenever ideology drives critical decision making there is always the danger it will damage our community, and that is demonstrably the case now.

But as the economic and social inconsistencies and costs of the budget inevitably emerge these will undermine the viability of the current government. I can but hope that as a consequence a more rational, responsible and fair government will take its place.

Tim Hardy, Florey

Idea total nonsense

Is it an actual requirement nowadays that government ministers should speak before engaging the brain? If minister Pyne had thought for one moment before floating his idea of collecting student debts from the dead (''HECS debt may continue to grave'', May 29, p1), he would have realised his suggestion was total nonsense. Some retired people returning to study might have the misfortune to die of old age before repaying their HECS (even if they do not pay up front as I did) but there are extremely few retired people taking undergraduate courses - far less than 1 per cent of the total undergraduate population, I would estimate. Graduates in their 20s and 30s are, firstly, very unlikely to die, and, secondly, unlikely to have many assets if they do. Which means Pyne's idea, if implemented, would produce almost no revenue but would cause serious financial distress to the partners of those who died young after pooling their savings to buy a house, probably incurring a large mortgage debt in the process.

John Rogers, Cook

The federal Treasurer feels that HECS debt should be treated in the same way as a mortgage upon the death of the debtor, to be paid from the deceased's estate. There are some major differences. Upon their deaths, mortgagors leave an asset that should provide beneficiaries with a significant positive equity.

A HECS debt has no corresponding asset base and no associated financial benefit.

The Treasurer says that a HECS debt finances studies that lead to greater lifetime income from which the debt can be repaid. If someone dies with a HECS debt, the lifetime income to pay off the debt also ceases. The government, as its own insurer, normally covers similar losses of ''assets''.

Joe Hockey has made an error of judgment in supporting Education Minister Christopher Pyne's call for HECS debts to be paid from deceased estates. This error of judgment is one of many evidenced in the recent budget.

Worse still is Mr Hockey's serious lack of empathy for those less fortunate, also evidenced in bucket loads in the budget. The sooner a person dies after graduating, the larger will be their HECS debt. If they have no dependents, will parents need to sell their dead child's bedroom furniture, car or bicycle? If the deceased has a young family of their own, does it become their partner's responsibility to add the repayment of a HECS debt to their misfortunes?

Mr Abbott, perhaps for reasons of self preservation, did well to so quickly burst the Hockey/Pyne thought bubbles.

Harry Samios, O'Connor

Lessons in past

''The budget should be balanced, the Treasury should be refilled, public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, the assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed, lest Rome will become bankrupt. People must again learn to work instead of living on public assistance.''

- Roman Emperor Cicero, 55 BC.

So, evidently we have learnt bugger all over the past 2069 years.

Patricia Holden, Albury, NSW

Give Tony Abbott's girls a fair go at success

Now that the Whitehouse Institute of Design, where Tony Abbott's daughter Francesgot her scholarship, has been vandalised, what happens next?

A brick through the window of the Australian embassy in Geneva where another Abbott daughter, Louise, was engaged after going through what appears to be a normal interview process?

Your columnist, Jenna Price (''Privilege begets privilege when elites are first in the queue'', Times2, May 26,p5), also implies that our ambassador, Peter Woolcott, as a former ''staffer'' of Alexander Downer, had a hand in the appointment.

But it's really all about their father, isn't it?

My impression of the Abbott girls is that they can succeed on their own merits. It's not their choice to be in the public eye. So lay off them. It's cheap, it's cruel and it's mischievous.

Maureen Hickman, Mawson

Katy's no fiscal wizard

Lotte Beaupipe (Letters, May 27) cannot be serious when she suggests that if all state and territory leaders were like our Katy, this country would be in better shape. Katy was a member of a government that wasted vast sums of taxpayers' money on things like the $4.5 million write-off on ''FireLink'', $5 million on ''Buslink'', $1 million on hospital pay parking, the $2.5 million detention centre blowout Rhodium, the appeal against the bushfire Coroner, Olympic torch relay and duplication of the GDE. And Katy continues in this style with support for light rail, gay marriage, associated legal appeals despite advice that this is a federal issue, excessive payments to ACTEW bigwigs and the like. The ACT's narrow tax base cannot afford such follies even if other states can. So let us not use Katy as a shining example of financial and fiscal responsibility.

Ric Hingee, Duffy



The inquiry into David Eastman's conviction has confirmed what most Canberrans knew. I reckon that the ACT government owes him $1 million a year for every year of torment and it should take it out of the police and the DPP's budgets for the fraud they collectively perpetrated.

Michael F. Buggy, Torrens


I suppose the ACT government should be commended for rolling out a Wi-Fi service across the city, but let's not sell it as a free service. The cost of this service as reported is $3.1 million, i.e., a cost paid for by ACT taxpayers and others who have contributed to the government coffers.

It is far from ''free'' and no doubt the ongoing services will continue to be paid for out of our rates and taxes.

Peter Toscan, Amaroo


Everything that is wrong with the NRL model is evident in the dismissal of Josh Reynold's offence. Much like the mysterious and poor decisions for years around the Raiders' coaching position, clearly there is nepotism operating in the extreme behind the scenes.

How does the league expect to promote the game when obviously dangerous tackles are downgraded, ending in no penalty? Is Alex McKinnon's predicament not enough impetus?

Jevon Kinder, Murrumbateman, NSW


I am a strong advocate of the Capital Metro project, believing it will be a catalyst for the long-overdue re-development and intensification of parts of the Northbourne Avenue corridor, and an attractive and sustainable transport option for the inner north and Gungahlin (and, in the future, beyond).

However, if, as Kirsten Lawson suggests, it might indirectly attract the Hillsong organisation to a redeveloped Exhibition Park (''Government stays firm on tram line'', May 29, p1) , then I'll change my mind.

Matt Meyer, Campbell.


The use of the ''I don't recall'' response, which became fashionable in the Nixon era, has been recently and most notably employed by Senator George Sinodinos and former senator Mark Arbib - who managed it no fewer than 128 times.

I find it hard to grasp the efficacy of the formula, when it is used in circumstances when it appears, beyond reasonable doubt, to be mendacious.

The recent use of a song-and-dance defence by Rolf Harris may set a new standard for legal stratagems.

Chris Smith, Kingston

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