Letters to the Editor

The real sticking point

It defies belief that WorkSafe ACT commissioner Mark McCabe or anyone else could hold the view that no one was at fault for damage to the Parkes Way tunnel ("Unplugged and on the road again ... tunnel clear but not permit issue", October 23, p1).

The permit issue is a red herring because, even if a valid permit had been issued, it would not have authorised the haulage company or the driver to cause damage to a public asset.

It's not rocket science either; anyone with a heavy vehicle licence can tell you who is responsible for securing and transporting a load.

Canberra Times reporters Alexandra Back and Katie Burgess and/or editorial staff are not off the hook, either. How they could allow the commissioner to make such a ridiculous statement and not challenge it?

And, so far, I've not seen any mention of who will foot the bill. ACT ratepayers and taxpayers should not be expected to bear one cent of the cost of repairing the tunnel, and if that puts a company and jobs at risk, then so be it.

Canberra Times: you've done the easy bit, so now do the hard part; stand up for the ordinary citizens of the ACT.


James Elsbury, Campbell

Why no scrutiny?

The ACT government is running a draft variation to the Territory Plan (DV 351) for comprehensive residential and related development of vast tracts of environmentally sensitive land and waterways west of Holt and Macgregor extending to the NSW border.

Virtually all of the planning work has been done by private-sector consultants engaged by the landowners.

The proposed development extends across the border into areas where, at present, municipal services are mostly provided by the ACT, with Yass Valley Council picking up the tab. So, in effect, the whole thing is an ACT matter, significantly affecting the order and balance of urban growth, and environmental protection, etc, here.

The National Capital Authority is running its own plan variation. Somewhat sheepishly, and quite informally (no time frame, etc), the ACT Planning Minister is making his directorate's responses to the developers' proposals and private consultations (and presumably those proposals and consultations themselves, but maybe not all of them), available for public scrutiny (see "Public Availability Notice", Times2, October 23, p29).

However, the minister refuses to refer this highly significant development proposal to the Assembly (cross-party) Planning Committee, which is specifically set up to properly and formally examine and hold public hearings on such matters. Why?

Jack Kershaw, Kambah

Upset by poor planning

Stephen Foster echoes my concerns about Canberra's planning (Letters, October 26). Since self-government, we have been driven remorselessly towards the standards of old cities, which Canberra's early planners had tried to avoid.

The push by planners from Sydney and Melbourne about the need to have a dominant Central Business District has been supported by dubious rhetoric and led inexorably to the congestion typical of those old cities.

The satellite town concept, which was designed to avoid those problems, has been neglected, aided by federal government contempt for the national capital and single-minded acceptance of economic mantras about location of Commonwealth agencies.

Currently, we are seeing the privatisation of our lake shores, loss of our natural vistas and erosion of buffer zones between urban areas. Urban development is encroaching insidiously on the major waterways, planners ever confident that water-sensitive urban design will overcome any problems – as long as such infrastructure is continuously maintained. The inconvenient fact that infrastructure in established suburbs is disintegrating through lack of maintenance is ignored.

The truly disturbing thing is the blindness and deafness of our elected representatives. I'll join Foster's "better planning" party.

Robyn Coghlan, Hawker

Immigration jam

I am glad that Mike McGettrick's experience at Sydney airport (Letters, October 23) was so different from mine (Letters, October 20). I can only assume that his flight was not one of several arriving about the same time, when immigration staff levels do not seem to be able to cope – an unfortunate situation for a country that promotes itself as a major tourist destination.

Perhaps some of the enormous number of AFP members wandering around our airports could be put to more productive use at immigration gates.

Timothy Walsh, Garran

Military propaganda

Casting the issue of defence-related advertising at Canberra Airport as one of freedom of speech ("Anti-ad drive ignores reality", Forum, October 24, p6) is over the top – the issue was never whether defence contractor advertising at the airport ought to be allowed, but whether it was appropriate or judicious for the national capital.

Sure, it is legal to sell defence equipment, but so is it legal to sell alcohol and tobacco – the advertising of which is highly regulated. To argue that it has some relationship to defence personnel getting good-quality equipment is also bizarre: if anyone thinks an ad at Canberra has any direct or effective influence on the quality of products manufactured thousands, if not tens of thousands, of kilometres away, then I sincerely hope that person is not employed in defence procurement.

Similarly, the idea that the good works of the Snow Foundation and the airport owners' support for worthy causes such as marriage equality is relevant is totally beside the point. If the airport changed hands and the new owners were supporters of immigration restrictions, would it be all right to have signs saying "Piss off, we're full!"?

Finally, the complaint that objections to the ads at the airport unfairly single it out from other forms of advertising, such as newspapers or TV, does not recognise the natural monopoly position of the airport.

Users of newspapers and other media can choose whether to continue their support of them if they don't like defence ads. Users of the Canberra airport have no other option open to them: there is no competition in the local air services market.

Why didn't the airport management just 'fess up and say that they run the ads because no one else will pay so well as the gun-runners?

Ric Innes, Weetangera

PM's smooth talk cannot reverse shameful scientific brain drain

The Canberra Times editorial "At last, a PM who 'gets' science" (Times2, October 23, p2) is correct in stating that the early signs of Turnbull's rule look promising for science. But the real proof will be in the undoing of a long, long catalogue of crimes against science by both the LNP and ALP.

Humanity has known since the 1970s explosion of the Asian "tiger economies" that growth and wealth are driven by science and its shrewd application as technology, not just by investment of capital and labour. However, not one Australian federal leader in the past 35 years has truly understood this. Yes, the rhetoric has been there in a few cases, but not the follow-through in policy delivery. The public record shows steady erosion, in both real and nominal terms, in support for science, accompanied by the bizarre belief that science should somehow be performing the roles of business and commerce, instead of doing R&D. The crack-brained Abbott anti-science crusade was merely the latest low in a long line of luddite policy.

This may be explained by the fact that the vast majority of Australian MPs are either lawyers, accountants or trade unionists, people adept at redistributing the wealth of others – mostly to themselves and their mates – but without a clue how wealth is actually generated de novo. The number of people with technical insight in the Parliament can be numbered on the digits of an amputee. In this respect Australia differs materially from the world's front-running democracies.

Hence we have had governments who set out to ensure Australia missed the world renewables boom when once we might had led it, who slashed scientific investment in water in the world's driest inhabited continent, who have butchered the CSIRO and starved the CRCs, who have coldly sacrificed the coming generation to climate chaos, who have cut R&D investment in mining and farming (our main export generators), who have deprived science of the necessary equipment and major facilities and who now wonder why there is an unending brain-drain of bright young Australians to countries where they reward scientific and intellectual brilliance by backing it.

From a purely Martian perspective, it is hard to make the case for intelligent life in Australian Parliaments of the past 30 years. Turnbull's proclamation to the gathering at the PM's science prizes may herald its discovery but, like the enigmatic sands of Mars itself, the proof is still wanting. It will require more than silver-tongued eloquence, Malcolm.

Julian Cribb, Franklin

Smoke blurs progress

Economics and ecology are both derived from the Greek root oikos, meaning house. John Warhurst describes Malcolm Turnbull's engaging style as "economically conservative and socially progressive, such as combating climate change" ("It's Turnbull's time now", Times2, October 22, p1).

Environment Minister Greg Hunt has disingenuously and irresponsibly moved in the opposite direction by rushing through a new approval for the Indian Adani company to build one of the world's biggest coal mines in the Galilee Basin, thereby creating a disorderly house by draining 12-billion litres of precious groundwater from the driest continent on earth, with the highest per capita greenhouse gas emissions, to export coal to the most polluted country in the world.

It beggars belief how such stupidity can prevail, as particulate pollution in Dehli and other Asian cities reaches choking point and atmospheric CO2 concentrations approach the tipping point for catastrophic global heating and climate disruption throughout the planet.

If Turnbull's policies were progressive he would be phasing out fossil fuel combustion and replacing it with clean, renewable energy in Australia, and exporting our technical expertise to assist India to develop sustainably, while improving employment prospects for us both, and leaving coal in the ground. Economics and ecology must walk hand in hand if we wish to preserve civilisation beyond this century.

Bryan Furnass, Hughes

Nauru demeans us

On October 16, our heroic government sent back to detention on Nauru Abyan, a helpless rape victim who had come originally to Australia seeking refuge from violence in Somalia, and has now met with the same violence here. She has been returned to the same environment which allowed the rape to occur in the first place, which has not found or punished the perpetrator, and which will not offer any but the most grudging and basic of heath care.

The appalling lack of compassion evident in the treatment of Abyan has been compounded by the extraordinary lengths indulged in by our paranoid government to get her out of the country and away from any possible help from any of the agencies to which, under Australian law and the 1951 UN Refugees Convention, she is entitled.

Minister Dutton's indignant repudiation of claims that Abyan was not accorded proper medical care is belied by the secrecy and undue haste, not to mention the extraordinary cost, of deploying an RAAF 737 to whisk her back to Nauru when it became evident that her presence in Australia would prove highly embarrassing to the government.

Is our government aware that the "Australian model" is being held up as a shining example by neo-Nazi groups in Europe and Britain?

I am ashamed to admit that I am Australian.

Robyn Fetter, Downer

Acknowledging that the Immigration portfolio is what many Australian people may consider would be difficult to manage, Minister Peter Dutton's appalling handling of the case of the deportation of the young and clearly traumatised Somali woman demonstrates that he and possibly a number of his underlings are incapable of achieving a humane outcome for her. His handling of this situation and his strong criticisms of the many advocates attempting to support this young woman yet again places in question his credibility and his ability to manage his portfolio effectively, openly and honestly.

Kerry Burton, Stirling

Faith rewarded

God's in His heaven, Malcolm's in charge, all is right with Australia.

Cynthia Moloney, Yarralumla

Canberra was never to be like other cities

Thanks to Rosemarie Willett for her thoughtful reminder of the architectural origins of Canberra ("Respect the original vision", Times2, October 23, p1). I agree that recent Civic developments are banal at best and a betrayal of the agreed Griffin legacy.

Canberra was never intended to be like any other city and we can be proud it was designed and originally expanded with the Griffins' unique priority connecting the land, water and sky axes.

Our sister city, Washington DC, is protected by the 1910 Height of Buildings Act specifying no building could be more than 20 feet taller than the width of the street it faces. This preserved the "light and airy" character of Washington that is similarly so much appreciated in this town.

Cutting it off with towers that privatise our public views is not our future. Can our Parliament House architect, Romaldo Giurgola, be engaged to advise the ACT government? Please.

Peter Graves, Curtin

W-league fans

My Saturday afternoon was spent relaxing on the grass at McKellar Park with mates, watching some of the finest young talent in women's football that this country and the world has to offer. The $5 price of my student ticket was ridiculous value for money to watch a free-flowing and entertaining game that saw Canberra United bag three goals.

Yet these players deserve more. Their talent demands that they play in front of large grounds and big venues for high ticket prices. So I urge the Canberra community, next time a W-League game is in town, don't spend $5 on a beer or junk food. Spend it on a wonderful afternoon at McKellar Park. These players don't just need our support, they deserve it.

Rory O'Sullivan, Bruce



I have been trying to figure out why NBN plans to roll out to suburbs that already have TransACT/iiNet vdsl2 broadband, which, in my case, gives me download speeds of up to 80Mbps. The answer, no doubt, lies in NBN's desire to address iinet's lousy customer service (as highlighted in recent letters and which I have experienced).

Dan Buchler, Waramanga


Can someone with a knowledge of rugby please tell me why the Wallabies forwards seem to struggle and strain for anything up to five minutes to pilfer possession from their opponents, only to then have Genia, Foley or Folau almost immediately kick the ball back into the possession of the opposition?

Brian Smith, Conder


Time for Tony Abbott to move on. After all, being paid $40,000 to speak ("Lucrative circuit beckons Abbott", October 24, p6) ought motivate him to vacate the Reps. I'd give him that just for him to be quiet.

Linus Cole, Palmerston

I would like to let it be known that, like Tony Abbott, I am making myself available for the lucrative speakers' circuit. For $40,000, I will speak to any group at any time on any subject. In fact, this price is negotiable. My only reservation is that if no one invites me to speak, the exercise may prove to be less than lucrative.

H. Simon, Watson


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stoops to being a Holocaust fabricator when linking the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Amin al-Husseini, as the reason why Hitler conducted the Holocaust. Perhaps we should insist on the same laws and condemnation for fabricators and deniers.

Peter Harris, Belconnen


One question I would like the pro-light-rail supporters to answer: why do they believe people will use a tram, when the same people have the opportunity to use a bus right now for the same travel time?

D. Walters, Monash

When considering the merits of light rail in Canberra, we ought to ask one question: is there even a single place in the world where residents have regretted the building of subways, tramways or suburban rail? Beforebeing built, the cost is often a concern. Once the infrastructure is in place, people always recognise the transport, economic and social benefits.

Bill Scott, Downer

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