Letters to the Editor

Unions' role is affront

From a detailed read of the ACT government/UnionsACT memorandum of understanding on goods and services procurement ("Unions don't have say on contract", March 17, p1), one can only conclude that the government has handed the unions an effective veto power over who gets government work in the ACT.

This is yet another unbelievable affront to democracy by the Barr government. Not only are we having a useless, expensive tram rammed down our throats, legislation passed to prevent legal action against the tram, ourhealth system in crisis, developers allowed to run rampant, Mr Barr's public endorsement of the preposterous LGBTQI Safe Schools program to brainwash young children in schools to be sexless and now the unions able to dictate who gets work from the ACT government. What next? This government should not be allowed to win in October. Enough is enough!

M. Silex, Erindale

Canberra lovable as is

In discussing the possible future of Manuka Oval, Richard Fox (described as a communications specialist and cricket fan – does this mean lobbyist I wonder?) says that Canberra is shaking off a decades-long reputation of being dull and lifeless ("Manuka Green proposal good fit for go-ahead capital, Times2, March18, p5).

I have lived here for 40 years and have travelled widely in Australia and overseas in that time. Whenever I discuss Canberra with people I meet, theones who says disparaging things are inevitably those who have never visited the place.


Those promoting a new, thrusting, commercially orientated Canberra should do better than merely disparaging the Canberra we all love and have helped create.

Timothy Walsh, Garran

Fine hospital staff

You would think that people who work in a hospital would be more attuned to danger. Apparently not so, if the actions of numerous Canberra Hospital staff are to go by. Every morning and evening, hospital staff cross Yamba Drive in an unsafe manner for themselves and other road users.

To try to address the issue, the ACT government spent ACT ratepayers' money to erect 150 metres of fencing to stop cars and pedestrians from simply crossing over the median strip.

It did not work, they simple drive or walk around it. So much so that there is dead grass and huge areas of tyre tracks to prove it.

Could the ACT police attend and start handing out infringement notices? That would hopefully save the staff from their own stupidity.

Tony Brown, Fadden

Go easy on herbicide

I don't know whether one should be annoyed or grateful when Elizabeth Farrelly pushes one to reach for a dictionary.

While reading her article ("Grass could save the planet", Times2, March 17, p4) about grass and her early view of it as "distinctly jejune", I had the impression that she was talking about the genus cannabis and that "jejune" had some narcotic connotation. It proved, sadly, not to have and to simply mean barren, or unsatisfying to the mind.

Her reliably entertaining and edifying discourse convinced me that all grasses were important to the survival of the planet.

One can only hope that the various "weed inspectors" of rural councils keep this in mind when they spread that pink stuff willy-nilly along road verges and in playgrounds.

Philip Telford, Tarago, NSW

It's time for sponsors

How disappointing but unsurprising that the current Liberal-National government has further squeezed the National Library of Australia to the point it must curtail its rich Trove resource ("Treasured Trove will languish without funding", March 12, p1).

Of course, any cultural asset this valuable for our heritage and collective memory, used widely by researchers and school students, must be ripe for corporate sponsorship.

But why stop at Trove Ltd? Let's serve those gullible NatLibInc customers with books from LookMart, news from SadBrokes, computers from AshConverters, maintenance from GymsCleaning, and staff from CentreShrink even on public holidays.

To fund the $8 million Lodge upgrade the prime manager could retire to the BuyKea wing after meals courtesy of ScupperWare and BurgerFling. And there'd be loads of corporate funding for defence hardware with LeanSeas and GoneWest diving for the $20 billion Soryu subs deal and LiteWings and CakersDelight desperate for a piece of the $12 billion Joint Strike Fighters project.

The best dividend for this country would be if the Liberal-Nationals vacate the government corp boardroom with innovation and agility at the early Selling Stuff election.

C.C. Kenna, Murrumbateman, NSW

Arboretum trees dying

Gardening writer Cedric Bryant and I visited the National Arboretum in 2008 to assess the progress of the Wollemi pines. At the time I described the situation as being "a hospice for trees". In the intervening years I have no reason to change my opinion and I would extend that comment to describe certain other tree species subsequently planted at the Arboretum.

Jon Stanhope and John Mackay denounced us at that time, with the latter branding us as charlatans in a subsequent article in The Canberra Times. Therefore I am not surprised at the recent adverse comments in the media by Peter Marshall regarding the trees at the site. The chosen plan for rare and endangered species was doomed to failure from its inception on that difficult site.

Various excuses, explanations, and obfuscation have been used as to why the trees have withered and died and the same species have been discreetly replanted on a regular basis each year. But, with a few exceptions, most of those are coming from people who would find it difficult to distinguish a pittosporum from a platanus.

Perhaps in the future the arboretum could be utilised for a hotel complex and an exclusive housing development to complement the few surviving forests that have adapted to the site?

Ron Gray, Cook

Drover's dog too smart

I don't get Gerry Murphy (Letters, March 18). He seems to think that because cigarettes are legal, they shouldn't be taxed any higher and if they are, he'll vote for the drover's dog. Given his other odd views on climate change, I suspect Bluey the kelpie, being a smart dog, would say, thanks, Gerry, but no thanks.

Eric Hunter, Cook


Patient survey flaws will skew results

ACT pubs and clubs are quite right in querying the value of the trial of asking patients at Calvary Hospital's emergency department ("Pubs, clubs wary of hospital booze study", March 16, p2) as the design of the project is fundamentally flawed. The outcome will be biased against larger venues simply because they have more patrons and thus, purely on the numbers of people involved, will have a higher representation in presentations at emergency. The information on attendance at possibly several venues is likely to be sketchy and "pre-loading" where patrons have several drinks before going out seems to be ignored.

The most significant issue is that this project will deal only with those who need medical treatment and is unlikely to include the perpetrators of violence; there will be no comparison with those who do not get into altercations or fall after consuming alcohol or drugs.

This will result in a gross exaggeration of the impact of alcohol consumption; perhaps this is the intent of the trial, given that its supporters are prohibitionist by inclination. There is a need for better information on the causes of violence by intoxicated persons.

In more than 50 years in bars as a patron or staff, I have witnessed very little violence; those who have been violent have had a history of violence or malicious injury while sober. Research into this observation would be most fruitful in dealing with the perceived problems in accident and emergency departments.

Michael Lane, St Ives, NSW

Wrong on booze laws

Colliss Parrett (Letters, March 17) argued by analogy that since road mortality would not be reduced by doubling the allowable blood-alcohol limit it makes no sense to relax laws on illegal drugs. By that token, outlawing alcohol should reduce alcohol-related road mortality to zero. History has disproved that. Mr Parrett has made a profession out of flying in the face of reality. Prohibition doesn't work.

Gary J. Wilson, Macgregor


Push to trim funding, regulation affects fundamentals of society

Jacqueline Maley ("Credlin criticism creates a feminist hypocrisy crisis", March 12, p5) correctly comments that the way a nation spends its money is reflective of how truly it keeps to the values it claims to hold.

I am very uncomfortable with both parties' blithe support of a huge increased spend on military hardware which ultimately puts pressure on other countries in our region to take parallel action. At the same time, we are told that the budgetary situation necessitates pressures to cut funding on education, health and other social programs which contribute to the fair, innovative and caring society that we are proud to have.

These pressures to reduce spending and regulation are also affecting the fundamental basis of our society, through the maintenance of a healthy, sustainable environment.

Do Australians really support this massive shift in our values or are we too busy with short-term issues to voice our concerns?

L. Alexander, O'Connor

Climate is a priority

Every political leader and media tycoon with a smidgen of foresight should read Andrew Gilkson's prescient letter (March 17). The recent Paris Climate Change conference concluded with a wave of optimism that a consensus could be achieved on taking urgent action to mitigate the potentially fatal future of climate disruption by lowering the desirable limit of global temperature rise from 2.0 to 1.5 degrees.

Instead, Australia is going full speed ahead in continuing to plunder fossil fuel reserves, cutting funding for renewable energy technologies and undermining the biodiversity on which the future of our beautiful planet depends. Scientific illiteracy and irresponsibility have moved Australia towards the bottom of the OECD table for taking positive action, in keeping with the motto "None so blind as he who will not see".

They include senior scientist James Hansen, of NASA, who asserts that we must move rapidly to switch from a carbon economy to a photon economy to avoid climate to catastrophe, and ANU Vice-Chancellor Brian Schmidt, who urges us to evolve from economic reliance on digging up non-renewable resources to investing in brain power, from childhood onwards.

It may be too late to change, but at least this privileged corner of this unique planet should elevate the protection and sustainability of the biosphere above the grooming of political egos, and "get real".

Bryan Furnass, Hughes

CSIRO has been busy

Baden William's rather bitter diatribe against CSIRO Land and Water (Letters, March 17) claims that the organisation has not produced a single remedial action for land and water problems in the last 10 or 20 years presumably since the day he retired from CSIRO. I have news for him – this claim is demonstrably untrue.

For example, research I have personally been involved in within the last 20 years has supported the development of the NSW Algal Management Strategy, Gippsland Lakes Environmental Strategy, and (GBR) Reef Plan to name three such initiatives as well as projects concerned with the mitigation of evaporation from farm dams and the water requirements of the Coorong. All of these projects have been instigated by one community or another to address issues that concern them. My ex-colleagues at CSIRO have added to this list in other ways many times over.

Of course, scientists have no authority to implement strategies as this is properly the role of land and water managers under the direction of politicians. Williams also claims that CSIRO has given up on soil carbon research. This is another demonstrably false assertion as contact with the CSIRO Adelaide laboratories will affirm. However, I agree with his assertion "who reads about soil and water salinity these days?" Media attention seems to be more interested in outhouses burning down in California than on this vital issue.

Ian Webster, Curtin

Lesson for Australia

Associate Professor Lesley Russell's crisp insight into the decline of the GOP ("Violence and mayhem on the political trail", Times2, March 16, p5) neatly sums up the deep malaise in contemporary US politics. During Obama's bid for the White House I was in the US and snapped up a number of Obama campaign badges as I suspected, if he were to be elected, it would be a long, long time between another US president of colour. Since Obama's ascension, politics in the US has become even more nasty and personal.

Should the Democrats' likely candidate Hillary Clinton be beaten and Trump becomes president – because the dysfunctional party machine was unable to manoeuvre him out of contention in favour of someone, anyone, else – the GOP will have reaped what it has sowed. Australia's political elite ought to take heed as we seem to be following a similar path.

A. Whiddett, Yarralumla

Migrants contribute

David Roth (Letters, March 17) chides me (Letters, March 15) for not providing evidence that the economic growth in 1900s America and 1950s Australia might have been stronger without immigration. I did not "claim" this, but raised the possibility precisely to highlight his lack of evidence for the opposite assertion.

Mr Roth's claim was that my "multiplier of 7 per cent of GDP for 1 per cent of immigration does not clearly apply to historical cases such as the US at the turn of the 19th century which combined high immigration, high birth rates and high economic growth".

Of course it does clearly apply, as more homes and infrastructure were built than would have been without the population growth and, as a result, less was available to be spent improving standards. That those resource booms were rich enough to carry this burden with some to spare is a different matter entirely.

The Snowy Mountains scheme might have taken longer to build without immigrants, as Mr Roth notes, but its current electricity capacity is enough for about five years' population growth. Snowy Hydro says the scheme avoids carbon emissions equivalent to about a million cars. That's fewer cars than our population growth has added in the last five years.

Jane O'Sullivan, Chelmer, Qld




The photograph of Donald Trump ("Trump juggernaut into overdrive", March 17, p7) does not show him giving a V for Victory sign. He's indicating his true attitude to United States voters.

Probyn Steer, Hawker


I refute David Jenkins' claim (Letters, March 18) that being a geologist doesn't make one a climatologist. By unravelling the complexity of the rocks you can uncover the story of climate at the time of the rock formation and the change in climate; geologists have mapped such things as the changes over time of corals, captured in the planet's limestone, and the levels of CO2 in ice cores from Antarctica. This has contributed to our understanding of climate change.

Deborah Crossing, Curtin


The "Storm-battered photos restored" (Gang-gang, March 17, p8) damaged by Hurricane Ivan belonged to a family from Grenada in the Caribbean, where Ivan occurred, not "Granada", which is in Spain.

Bill Deane, Chapman


James Gralton (Letters, March 11) wonders if there is a difference between the churches' response to abuse in their institutions and Australia's response to what is happening on Manus and Nauru. One clear distinction is that it's plausible not all the church hierarchy were aware of the occurrence and extent of the abuse. There is no doubt, however, that every Federal Parliament MP knows of the abuse occurring in our immigration detention centres. And then turns the blind eye.

Eileen O'Brien, Kambah


I craved trash TV on Thursday night, Geordie Shore or something of that ilk. So I switched on, and sat there watching a bunch of self-absorbed individuals ramble incoherently and argue repeatedly about things that made no sense whatsoever for hours on end. Then I realised I was watching the Senate debate voting reforms.

John Howarth, Weston


Telstra offers "unlimited free mobile downloads" for a day to those customers inconvenienced by its latest national outage ("Telstra CEO Andy Penn 'sincerely sorry' for second outage",, March 18).

Well, Mr Penn, how about sending your team of international experts to our place where Telstra can't even provide an effective mobile service for one day, let alone offer an apology or compensation.

John Richardson, Wallagoot, NSW

Email: 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.

Keep your letter to 250 words or less. References to Canberra Times reports should include date and page number. Letters may be edited. Provide phone number and full home address (suburb only published).