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Tram research flawed

It is not surprising the ACT government's own "market research" on light rail ("Govt polls say majority on track with light-rail plan", October 19, p2) produced an incredible 61per cent of respondents saying "they would start using public transport because of the addition of light rail". This figure was apparently drawn from responses to the vague question: "Would you be more likely to use public transport if it involved a light-rail system within easy walking distance or was accessible via other means?" Which means what exactly?

If the question was "would you use light rail if it meant you had to first catch a bus to get to the light-rail station" or "if you had to walk three kilometres" would the response be 61per cent or something closer to 0per cent?

This is, of course, exactly the situation that residents in my suburb of Palmerston will be faced with when our direct ACTION bus to the city is inevitably cancelled, given the untenable competition it will pose to the newfangled tram. Our perfectly good existing public transport arrangement will be downgraded to a multi-trip, time-consuming transfer arrangement, almost certainly pushing many people to use their cars – the exact opposite of the stated intention of introducing light rail in the first place. Even more concerning is that 61per cent is something like 10 times the actual mode share of public transport in Canberra.

It's simply impossible for this percentage to reflect actual usage of light rail, even by those who might live close enough to see the light-rail platform from their front windows.

The fact that minister Simon Corbell appears to be using this dubious "market research" to bolster the government's case is proof enough that he is willing to go to any lengths to justify this white elephant. Some proper market research on actual likelihood of Gungahlin (or any other residents) using the tram is sorely overdue, but I'm not holding my breath.

David Brudenall, Palmerston

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The results of the survey on the Gungahlin tram are interesting, but neither surprising nor very useful. Since you only voted if you wanted to, it reflects the views of a group of people who feel strongly about the issue and not necessarily the views of the community as a whole.

The one question that really should have been added is "Do you think that the letting of contracts should be delayed until after the next election?". The answer to that probably would have been enlightening as most people, whether for or against the tram, probably think it should.

Only those pro-tram nuts who recognise, as was suggested in the survey, that the tram may well cost the ALP government, are likely to agree with the irresponsible step of letting contracts before the election when the community is so divided.

Stan Marks, Hawker

I'll bet anything that 56per cent of Canberrans will never use light rail. In only a few short years, 56per cent of Canberrans will be whingeing about their rates doubling and wanting to know where the money is going. That's already started, but it won't be the end of it.

Ray Atkin, Ngunnawal

Bigger not better

Further to Vince Patulny (Letters, October 15) I would remind people that the current debate regarding light rail and other massively expensive infrastructure options would not be necessary if we weren't addicted to rapid population growth. Our current growth rates are both economically and environmentally unsustainable and are failing to improve "quality of life" for the majority of Canberrans.

Getting endlessly bigger has limits imposed by the environmental and economic state of a region. As these limits are reached and exceeded, getting bigger becomes counter-productive. It produces diminishing benefits at increasing costs.

But, if we redefine "growth" and change the focus of our intellectual and economic capital from getting bigger to getting better, we face a future of unlimited opportunity ... growth unlimited.

Martin Tye, Broulee, NSW

Another stupid idea

I'm not sure what Mike Dallwitz (Letters, October 15) believes road planners understand that local road users don't.

I use the intersection of Bowman and Redfern streets regularly – well, I did until the "upgrade". As a local, it worked very well for me over the last 25 years, but I avoid it now. It wasn't broken, but the apparently required fix has just ruined it.

It was safe, but now I find it dangerous. This example is, in microcosm, what the ACT government has done to almost everything it has touched since 1988. It has perfected the King Midas touch in reverse.

How did we end up with such woeful government? Passive torpidity on our behalf, that's how. We've become the comfortably numb bourgeois, slowly boiling to death like the proverbial frog.

If we don't contest their stupid ideas, then we deserve the stupid outcomes these dullards create for us.

Jamie Geysen, Aranda

Protect lake foreshore

In 2004, the Griffin Legacy proposed the West Basin development as instating a "Griffin geometry and intent". The same spin has perpetuated to Amendment 86 of the National Capital Plan. All of Griffin's plans show parkland space in West Basin, as does the 1963 NCDC plan that gave Canberra its lake landscape heart. West Basin development promotes access and an attractive foreshore, but it is selling off public parkland for an irrevocable building estate. That estate will block views, unbalance city form, and force public open space into residential, commercial and business use. An isolated commercial urban component in West Basin will not help Civic, which badly needs a vibrancy hit. Access to the lake would be most valuable in the city expansion area along Constitution Avenue, but instead planning is promoting an obstructing stadium structure.

A city needs its beautiful open spaces and Lake Burley Griffin's landscapes should be protected to provide community use forever, rather than a real estate harvest for the Land Development Agency. The LDA is selling as much lake landscape as possible. Now Black Mountain Peninsula Park is permanently impacted by an industrial complex. West Basin is lined up for a bonanza sale and a bonanza impact.

As the Canberra Times editorial ("Developments must protect treasured lake", October 4, p14) noted, in the current NCP review, plans can be corrected.

If that fails, new Commonwealth legislation is needed – a Lake Burley Griffin and Lakeshore Landscape Protection Act.

Juliet Ramsay, Burra, NSW

Deportation of tetraplegic callous: what happened to a fair go for all?

I read with disgust of the dumping of a tetraplegic man in Auckland, New Zealand, with a one week's accommodation voucher and $200 – a man who has spent the last 36 years in Australia.

What has happened to the fair dinkum Aussies I worked and lived with in the 1950s and '60s? The ones who stood by their mates and gave everyone a fair go? Where is the Anzac spirit that saw Kiwi and Aussie troops fighting side by side to defend a common cause?

Then there is your latest temporary prime minister, showing as much courage as a Syrian soldier. Too scared to overrule his party's poor law-making. A sorry excuse for a good bloke.

But then what can you expect; he is a politician and a Tory as well. So don't worry you poor Aussie hypocrites – we will not shy away from our duty to those in need. And we will never ever bowl under-arm.

Trevor Kale, Feilding , New Zealand

Not in 'real world'

Public Service Minister Michaelia Cash ("Public servants are not living 'in the real world"', October 17, p1) is not being offered a 1.5per cent over three years pay rise. Nor is she being asked to produce productivity requirements.

I have never seen any increased efficiency standard put to our politicians, and I have been around for a few years now. The public service covers a huge range of hard-working, highly trained people, all serving their political masters and the Australian public. They most definitely live in the real world of trying to survive and get ahead, and do so without any of the taxpayer-funded lurks and perks of the self-indulgent world of Michaelia Cash. She is obviously the one who has no understanding of the real world, be it industrial relations or any other.

To compare the public service with small business is ridiculous. They are chalk and cheese. The nature of the work and the motivations behind the work are different.

Patrick O'Hara, Isaacs

Senator Michaelia Cash justifies the government's hard-nosed stance on APS wage negotiation by claiming that getting a pay rise without a productivity offset is "frankly unacceptable" in the "real world" where Australians live. I'd be interested to know what productivity offsets MPs have to provide to achieve the regular wage rises they receive and maintain their generous perks. I also wonder whether Senator Cash, encased in the hermetically sealed realm of Parliament House, waited on hand and foot by staffers and drivers, has much of an idea of how "real Australians" live.

Mike Reddy, Curtin

Quick economic fix

Scott Morrison can boost the sluggish economy, reduce unemployment, make a start to trimming the deficit and help those Australians who are worse off all in one hit. All he has to do is to increase welfare payments, say by 10per cent, across the board. People who are struggling to make ends meet will spend every extra dollar they receive on basic necessities, thus giving a strong boost to consumer spending.

The flow-on effects will increase economic activity, with a boost in business confidence and increased employment. The increased tax revenue will help to reduce the budget deficit and/or finance other programs. In the medium term, the multiplier effect will see a boost to GDP of approximately two to three times the initial cost of the increase in welfare, making it a very good investment indeed.

It seems the only problem with this is that it flies in the face of Scott Morrison's religious convictions that it is immoral to help the weakest and worst off in our community.

David Hicks, Holt

Animal cruelty

I attended the rally in Canberra on Saturday protesting against the appallingly cruel live export of animals from Australia based on dubious economic premises. Apparently, no more than 7per cent of the animals produced for meat by Australian farmers are sent for live export. Yet, the federal government insists in encouraging this trade, rather than improving the viability of the far less cruel export meat trade, where animals are killed in Australia.

However, I think the issue that astonished me most arising from the speaker's presentations at the rally was the government's inaction in the face of some live-export companies' blatant disregard for our laws.

Despite the government's assurances, it is obviously impossible to monitor treatment of all Australian animals sent overseas for slaughter. And, despite threats to do so, it appears an equally impossible step for the government is to take to court live-export companies that ship to countries that do not comply with Australia's standards for treatment of animals. This inaction continues, even with calls by some in the industry for the government to enforce its live-animal export regulations.

As one speaker put it, minister Barnaby Joyce said no one is above the law when he challenged film star Johnny Depp bringing his dogs into Australia outside customs rules. How then is it that when it comes to the cruel live exports of Australian animals, the companies concerned that flagrantly disregard existing Australian laws are not penalised?

Turning a blind eye to this blatant law breaking seems to boil down to the major political parties' primary motivation apparently being not to disrupt powerful interests.

What I call team LIBOR – Liberals and Labor – less and less represent the interests of ordinary community members in favour of powerful lobby groups.

Geoff Pryor, Kambah

Dubious appointment

I see that the erstwhile member for Cubbie Station, Barnaby Joyce, has been given full ministerial responsibility for water in Malcolm Turnbull's government.

Presumably, this is because the National Party has such a proud history of not at all degrading the ecological health of the Murray-Darling Basin by plundering its water reserves through massively over-allocating flows for the short-term benefit of its core agricultural/economic constituency, while simultaneously promoting the further spread of water-rapacious, unsustainable industries.

Talk about putting Dracula in control of the blood bank.

David Jenkins, Casey

Let's copy London's congestion charge

It seems obvious that medium to high density is an important consideration when it comes to combating climate change, because of more efficient use of scarce resources. In a roundabout way, the Barr government (at the behest of the single Green MLA) is trying to use the light-rail system as a catalyst for the intense urbanisation of the Northbourne Avenue corridor at least in stage one of the plan. That can be done without light rail.

But one of the other significant reasons for insisting that light rail is good for Canberra is to reduce congestion, because of its economic cost to the community. This can be done without every rate/land taxpayer being forced into subsidising light rail, which is the likely scenario at present.

Reducing congestion is simple. London has its £11.50 daily charge for driving a vehicle within the charging zone between 7am and 6pm, Monday to Friday. Implementing that in Canberra would reduce the number of cars using the road during peak hours and most likely increase the use of public transport.

I would suggest 7am to 10am and 4pm to 7pm as the congestion timeframes and only for the inner (north and south) city and perhaps the airport precinct. A $10 a day congestion tax along with the current parking fees accounts for around $100 per week in just getting to and from work. But using public transport only costs around $40 a week, so would people be willing to try to save $60 per week? If not, then user pays and you can bet those people are not going to use light rail if it was available, as convenience is more important to those people than any financial impact.

There are bound to be problems with this, such as dropping kids off to school inside the zone, or seeing specialist practitioners, but given technology these days, these problems are not insurmountable.

Stephen Petersen, Dunlop

TO THE POINT

PRODUCTIVITY GAINS

I look forward to Senator Michaelia Cash ("Public servants not in the 'real world"', October 17, p1) making the same comments about politicians prior to their next generous pay rise, and wonder what "productivity" off-sets she may have in mind for herself. Perhaps an undertaking to abandon insulting facile comments, and apply a degree of intellectual rigour when speaking of serious issues, would be a good starting point.

David Hewett-Lacon, Gowrie

In the real world, Senator Cash and her colleagues in the Senate (described by Paul Keating as an "unrepresentative swill") would have to give productivity gains for any pay rise. I'd like to see that.

J. Grant, Gowrie

CAUSE AND EFFECT

If Karen Hardy ("The assignment too many parents flunk: homework", Forum, October 17, p3) looks for spelling errors in the printed version of her article, she will be able to enjoy the same affect that she did on finding grammatical errors in homework sheets.

Mike Dallwitz, Giralang

SINGULARLY WRONG

Whenever I read in a report a phrase that says "the football club have increased their membership", I wonder what educational level was attained by the writer. I was taught that a club is an entity, ie, a singular noun, and would have been marked down unless I wrote "the club has increased its membership". On the basis of this letter, will Team Pedantry welcome me as a member.

Ken McPhan, Spence

CIVILIAN DEATHS

While appropriately decrying recent attacks by Palestinians on Israeli civilians, does Rabbi Meltzer (Letters, October 15) mean to imply the deaths of 495 children and 253 women among 2100 Palestinians killed during Israeli Defence Force bombings of Gaza over July-August last year were not due to, using his own words, "attacks perpetrated against civilians trying to live their lives"?

John Murray, Fadden

Perhaps D.Fraser (Letters, October 19) could advise the Palestinians not to take a knife to a gun fight.

Alex Wallensky, Broulee, NSW

BE WARNED

The days of parking officers looking under an external sunscreen for valid vouchers has passed. In the parliamentary triangle, an infringement is issued to a vehicle with a sunscreen, even though the sunscreen is then lifted to attach the infringement notice. The moral, don't attach your sunscreen.

John Turner, Kambah

Email: letters.editor@canberratimes.com.au. Send from the message field, not as an attached file. Fax: 6280 2282. Mail: Letters to the Editor, The Canberra Times, PO Box 7155, Canberra Mail Centre, ACT 2610.

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