Simon Corbell's comments on building inspection (''Leaks top homebuyer woe'', Forum, March 8, p3) demonstrate an artful disingenuousness that cannot go undissected.

It is no secret, in the ACT any more than in NSW, Victoria and everywhere else, that under deregulation a developer not only selects and pays an ''independent'' inspector and certifier, but will keep selecting the same people on subsequent projects, effectively becoming their employer and source of income.

If Mr Corbell claims a lack of acquaintance with the concepts of symbiotic relationships and, conversely, of blacklisting in an industry always notorious for its ruthlessness, he should say so.

We have had a user-pays culture rammed down our throats by governments for a generation: want a passport, as an Australian citizen? Pay your 200 bucks. Applying for an Aussie resident visa? $5000 for processing and medicals, please. Need some information under the Freedom of Information Act? That will be $900 per request.

Inspection and certification are just another statutory requirement and operating cost for developers. They are supposedly already paying for these services directly, so where is the problem with the government enforcing laws and maintaining standards via a user-pays system whereby inspectors and certifiers are randomly assigned by the building statutory authority, with the service fee charged to the developer? How about treating our poor developers like everyone else in Australia?

I suspect that Mr Corbell, like Mr Barr before him, feels that because the Liberals are even more pro-developers than Labor, he is so invulnerable that he does not have to do any better than offer such tendentiousness, even in a public interview.

He ought to be impeached for this obstinate pro-developer nonsense over the critical problems we have with deregulated building inspection and certification.

Alex Mattea, Kingston

I support Gary Petherbridge's comments (''Leaks top homebuyer woe'', Forum, March 8, p3) regarding private certifiers, and find Simon Corbell's response disingenuous.

From my own experience I had no choice in the selection of a private certifier. He just turned up one day towards the end of my home extension. He had been chosen by the builder, and I believe that's where the present system falls short.

It can lead to the whole process being open to collusion between the private certifier and the builder, resulting in deficiencies being overlooked, deficiencies which may not become apparent to the person having the work done until long after building completion.

In my experience, two important items that the private certifier should have spotted were missed, and later caused much frustration in their rectification.

Tom Charnock, Aranda

Cricketers must lift

Congratulations to The Canberra Times for the balanced and perceptive article ''Australian team winning matches but losing fans with bullying behaviour'' (Sport, March 7, p30). The writer, David Sygall, is spot-on. Of course the team is to be congratulated for winning in Australia and South Africa with sterling performances. But in the minds of many these pluses are overshadowed by boorish, ugly, and thoroughly unsportsmanlike incidents involving Australian players.

We can only hope , most fervently, that future contests which involve Australian players will be free from such behaviour, but if not, that the cricket authorities will deal very firmly indeed with any perpetrators.

William Higgie, Campbell

Halt to club merger

In the article ''Club split on secret merger report'' (March 5, p1) Canberra Club president Rick Reeks said that: ''Of the proposals submitted to the club over the years, this proposal is the only one that creates a true merger with a like-minded club.''

To set the record straight: The Canberra Services Club has had informal discussions with the Canberra Club since September.

Earlier this year I wrote to the president of the Canberra Club proposing that formal talks be held to explore the ''opportunity of working together in a joint venture project to merge our two clubs given the Canberra Club and the CSC have long and distinguished histories, which are similarly founded on service to our country''.

Unfortunately this invitation, and further attempts to engage, have not amounted to anything.

Greg Ranse, president, Canberra Services Club

Facts on super funds

For Mike Gilligan to claim that the fund model for not-for-profit superannuation funds gives ''effective control to unions'' (''Super hoax or just another stuff-up?'', Public Sector Informant, March 4, p12) contradicts the facts.

Not-for-profit funds employ an equal representative governance structure that by law must have equal numbers of employer and employee directors on their boards. Moreover, all these boards have a two-thirds majority voting rule in place, so all decisions require consensus between both employee and employer representatives.

Suggestions that somehow these funds could be set up to support the unions are also without substance, and offensive.

Not-for-profit superannuation funds are trusts. The money is the members' money and is managed and invested by the fund on the members' behalf.

The funds' focus is to deliver the best retirement outcome for their members.

Superannuation is a well-regulated industry. Indeed, those nominated to serve on super fund boards are subject to higher legal obligations and transparency requirements than the directors of ASX companies.

Serious debate about superannuation should focus on facts rather than conspiracy theories.

Tom Garcia, CEO, Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees

Light rail rejoinder

Geoff Nickols (Letters, March 6) claims that there has been no professional cost/benefit analysis on Canberra's light rail project and that the only justification is my ''glib statement'' that every dollar invested results in (about) $2.40 of benefits.

Actually, the cost/benefit analysis is on the Capital Metro website, and my statement simply quoted this analysis.

Mr Nickols also says the project responds to a non-problem. Far from it. Northbourne Avenue is the most congested road in Canberra, with an average peak hour speed of about 20km/h.

Light rail seeks to tackle this problem.

Shane Rattenbury MLA, Minister for Territory and Municipal Services

Unfair shifting of the blame for destroyer overruns

Defence Minister David Johnston blames the Labor government for current delays and overruns on the navy's Air Warfare Destroyer project (''Warship project marred by errors: report'', March 7, p6). The minister might care to remember that it was John Howard who announced the award of this contract in June 2007. It was his government that set the strategy for the construction of these ships in Australia led by a government-owned shipyard and shipbuilder to a Spanish design and US combat system.

Perhaps Mr Howard and his cabinet got the combination wrong at the time, as seems to have been proved by events.

One does tire of the current government continuing to blame its predecessor for whatever comes to its mind, rightfully or wrongly.

B.L. West, Yarralumla

No free lunch on free TV

Broadcasters most definitely do not want ''a handout from the taxpayer'' (''Turnbull must tune in to TV games'', Times2, March 6, p2).

Free TV networks are after a fair go on taxation and regulations so we can continue to deliver great Australian content to all Australians for free.

Our businesses are responding to audience demands for content when and where they want on the device of their choice, with catch-up services, mobile services and the soon-to-launch hybrid TV service, Freeview Plus.

Free TV networks pay broadcasting licence fees in addition to company taxes. We also pay for spectrum with onerous local programming, classification and captioning requirements, while many of the new players make no contribution to Australian content, are not subject to broadcasting regulations and in some cases pay virtually no tax in Australia.

That's not a level playing field.

The world we operate in has changed forever and we need a taxation and regulatory framework that ensures we continue to have a strong and vibrant Australian voice.

Julie Flynn, chief executive, Free TV Australia

Green minerals

Nothing illustrates (literally) the cocooned mindset of Canberra's citizenry better than Pope's editorial cartoon on March 6 (Times2, p1). No matter that Tasmania has Australia's highest unemployment rate (with 25 per cent youth unemployment in the north-west of the state). Just so long as he and other metrosexuals can come south to hug trees as and when drinking lattes in inner-city cafes start to pall.

He would have more ''cred'' if he ever objected to the mining in Western Australia and Queensland that until recently underpinned this lifestyle in general and Canberra's public sector in particular.

Perhaps Tasmania should redefine forests - in any stage of growth - as ''green minerals''.

M.K. Macphail, Richmond, Tas

We, the forgotten people

It has become very clear that one of the goals of the Coalition is to lower real wages and erode working conditions. Every business failure is blamed on the employees or on the policies of the previous government, with all evidence to the contrary. Tony Abbott and his ministers continue to rely on the ''big lie'' to promote most of their policies.

No one should be surprised by this; the Liberal Party has been a wholly owned subsidiary of the big end of town for several decades and has not been interested in Sir Robert Menzies' ''forgotten people'' for a very long time.

Any wage earner who voted for these servants of vested interests and the captains of industry needs to think a little harder in future before voting against their own best interests.

Steve Ellis, Hackett

Shorten needs to improve

A significant number of people (primarily current and former ALP supporters) have commented to me recently that Bill Shorten is coming across as if his heart is not in the job. To many observers, he has not yet demonstrated the level of commitment and confidence an opposition leader needs to hold this flaky LNP government to account and to eventually win over the support of the electorate. I appreciate he is learning his new role on the job, but the opposition seem to be wasting a lot of opportunities to put the blowtorch to the government.

The Prime Minister and his front bench seem to be getting away with policy inconsistency, incompetence, flip-flopping and breaking promises.

I appreciate that the ALP is hampered in the House of Representatives by being significantly outnumbered by the government. However, this makes the Opposition Leader's job even more critical.

Mr Shorten needs to start putting his stamp on the job by demonstrating he can cut through in the Parliament and in the wider electorate.

I'm not angling for a leadership change but Mr Shorten and his advisers need to lift their game for the good of the party and the country.

Barry Harris, Curtin

Short-sighted approach

I am appalled the West Australian branch of the ALP has chosen not to preference Greens senator Scott Ludlam for the Senate election. This has to be one of the greatest acts of bastardry in a long time. It seems that in Western Australia, the ALP has seriously lost its way, or it just doesn't get it.

This means the ALP will let Tony Abbott rape and pillage Australian society rather than have an excellent and progressive Green in the Senate. What short-sightedness!

Jane Timbrell, Reid

Sex and politics

The current Minister for Women won't use the term ''feminism'' (''Minister for women doesn't have to identify as feminist, says Senator Michaelia Cash'', canberratimes .com.au, February 7). Why does that minister even need to be a woman?

We will have true equality when the sex discrimination commissioner is a man.

Brian Hatch, Red Hill

Solar panels provoke a nice glass of whine

The Canberra Times cannot be serious. The world is facing the gravest threat from climate change and must make a rapid transition to renewable energy, a task few governments take more seriously than the ACT's. But splashed across your front page is a tear-jerking story about one women whose ''evening glass of wine on the verandah comes with the glare from a paddock of solar panels'' (''Forced to reflect on a clouded future'', March 7, p1). Jesus wept. As if the Canberra region were not already infested with self-centred whingers who would rather see the earth go to hell than have their views ''blighted'' or their sleep disturbed by imaginary ailments.

Why does The Canberra Times actively promote this kind of foolishness?

Clive Hamilton, Barton

Feathers fly

Dr Judy Ryan (Letters, March 8) wants Simon Corbell to read up on what the World Council for Nature has to say about solar farms killing birds. Don't bother Simon, I've done the research. Apparently, birds mistake solar panels for a lake and dive in.

Simon, I think you'd better scrap the solar farms, and while you're at it shut the airport, remove all glass from windows, eliminate anything posing a danger to our fine feathered friends.

Hey, maybe we can run our power stations on guano?

Ralph Rowsby, Richardson

Senator correction

A small correction to Peter Hartcher's article ''PM Tony Abbott will be forced to horse trade with the Senate's motley crew'' (canberratimes.com.au, March 8): Reg Withers was a senator for Western Australia, not Tasmania.

Michael McCarthy, Deakin




I'm no flora expert but that appears to be quite a healthy line of young trees dividing Ms Howlett's property from the solar panels (''Forced to reflect on a clouded future'', March 7, p1). One wonders if Ms Howlett will be able to see any valley grass at all for the trees in a couple of years.

Malcolm Bernhardt, Fraser


If the US gets this excited when Crimea decides to leave Ukraine, even though it has only been a part of it for 50 years, what is it going to do when Scotland decides to leave the UK?

Rick Causebrook, Melba


W.A. Reid's letter (March 4) combined both style and substance, but as usual when the message isn't liked, the messenger is attacked (Letters, March 6). It is a mark of honour to stand outside the flock, whether of geese or galahs; that is, to be egregious.

P. Edwards, Holder

In response to W.A. Reid (Letters, March 8), I say: I'm with you: ''anserine'' rocks! Anyone saying otherwise is a goose.

David Lovell, Hackett


Sorry to rain on W. Book's parade (Letters, March 9), but according to the Fair Work Australia website, the national minimum wage is $622.20 per week, not the $493.70 per week you quoted. I hope the MPs he suggests live on the minimum wage for a month don't waste their $128.50 per week windfall.

Don Sephton, Greenway


Has Aunty Jack taken to rugby league? Her constant threat to ''rip your bloody arms off'' seems to have taken hold. According to the article about shoulder charges (Williams facing four-week ban'', Sport, March 8, p5), ''tackles where an arm is separated from a body will be deemed not a shoulder charge''. I would have thought it was just the opposite and that should an arm be separated from a body, it could only be a shoulder charge.

Alan Parkinson, Weetangera


In the dead of night with no one around in the Senate chamber, Senator Scott Ludlam makes the scurrilous accusation that Tony Abbott is both racist and homophobic. Despite being manifestly untrue, his morally bankrupt supporters on Twitter react like flies on warm dog droppings and the speech goes viral. The only thing that descends faster into the political sewer is Ludlam's character.

H. Ronald, Jerrabomberra, NSW


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