Letters to the Editor

Voters should not re-elect Burch - the invisible MP



Emma Macdonald's comment piece on Joy Burch's ministerial role following her resignation from the ACT government ministry ("Departure long overdue, but the damage is done", January 20, p1) is a succinct and accurate assessment of her performance. In conclusion, Ms Macdonald reflected that Tuggeranong residents can look forward to a "more visible" local member.

Her report, understandably in the context, did not canvas Ms Burch's performance as a local member during the period she was a minister. But Ms Burch has already announced her intention to stand for re-election for Brindabella in 2016, claiming, somewhat disingenuously, she would be a champion of Tuggeranong and Lanyon. It is important to ask now why the electors of Brindabella should put any faith in her as a local member, in light of her abysmal performance as a minister and her past history as a local member.

The reality is that she has failed to represent the views of her electorate, preferring to hold a ministerial position than adequately fight for the electorate which put her in the assembly in the first place. She remained silent about the disparity of government spending in favour of northern electorates, relative to Tuggeranong; she has shown complete disregard for the majority of her electorate who are opposed to the Gungahlin tram project, and has remained virtually invisible within the electorate during this period, including ignoring written representations sent to her in her local member role.

Peter Cummins, Monash

Tears for Scrubby

To all those who snub Canberra as a soulless, lifeless city I ask: how many in your community would rally to mourn the death and celebrate the life of a quiet, modest windshield-washer ("Canberrans mourn Scrubby, the much-loved Dickson car washer", January 21, p3)?


In the seemingly endless onslaught of bad and ridiculous news we confront each day, I was uplifted to see The Canberra Times deemed a tribute to "Scrubby" worthy of its news pages. And I am heartened to be a part of a community which acknowledges the relevance and contributions of its most modest citizens.

Heather Moore, Ainslie

Spin drives MPs

Quentin Grafton ("Empty slogan, empty result", Times2, January 15, p1) offers a concise analysis for the reason the views of the majority of electorates in modern, Western democracies diverge and contrast sharply with the politico-media class.

I'll take it further. Politicians worry more about the 24-hour media cycle than they did in old days. They are a collective lily-livered lot.

Lobbyists and the rise of the NGO exacerbate the problem. The latter even presume they're almost another branch of government. They are not.

Politicians reply to the spin pushed by NGOs too much, a loss for true representative democracy. Sadly, during an election campaign smarmy pollies pretend to pay heed to their electorate's wishes, visit supermarkets, annoy all and sundry and kiss a few babies.

Gerry Murphy, Braddon

Cars for fleets only

While urging the ACT government to lead the adoption of self-driving cars, Canberra Business Chamber chairman Glenn Keys does not believe they will make the proposed tram line redundant because it will be years before all cars are autonomous ("Canberra urged to take lead on self-driving cars", January 20, p5). However, a rapid and significant take-up of autonomous cars will happen around 2020, for very simple reasons of economic self-interest and convenience.

This change will not be based around private ownership of such cars. Rather, self-driving electric vehicle fleet operators will commercialise 24/7, door-to-door, on-demand mobility for around 25 cents per kilometre: much lower than the real costs of private or public transport and parking, and much safer, greener, less congesting and more convenient.

This change will drive a bottom-up shift in urban form, reducing demand for new roads and space dedicated to parking. The question we should be asking is whether the design of such mobility services (and the operating surplus they generate) should be guided by public or corporate motivations.

This is an example of the transport planning (as opposed to "ideology") that Dr Jenny Stewart ("Canberrans love their cars" January 20, Times2, p1) called for.

Jurisdictions rising to this challenge include Adelaide, Singapore and Milton Keynes, England's planned city of the 1960's, which recently abandoned plans for light rail in favour of new transport technology including a shared fleet of autonomous cars.

Kent Fitch, Nicholls

Jenny Stewart's excellent article "Canberrans love their cars" illustrates yet again, if any further evidence was necessary, that the ACT government's transport policy is way off the mark. Its not just Canberrans who love their cars; it is everyone in the Western world, and elsewhere. The early planning, by the NCDC, for a city based around cars, was not short-sighted, just realistic.

People use cars because they are convenient, and public transport, in the form of trams or buses, cannot beat that, unless you are in a really congested city where the roads are bad. But there is a very real sense that they are the transport the public wishes to and does use, so cars are "public transport" in Canberra.

The best thing that the present government could do for transport in Canberra is to make car transport more efficient, not less. We need buses because they are good for commuting, especially where users can get to town without having to change, and for those without the money to buy a car. But the idea that they can undertake social engineering and put us all on bikes and buses (or trams, which won't do much that buses don't) is stupid.

Stan Marks, Hawker

Don't vilify vegans

A storm of social media controversy followed the news that several hundreds complaints had been lodged with the Advertising Standards Bureau over the screening of the Meat and Livestock Association's latest "lamb promotion".

I've observed first-hand a torrent of dismissive, hurtful and even aggressive comments directed at people who had done little more than suggest rethinking our food choices that we might spare so many animals from unnecessary suffering.

Even more unsettling, however, was the morning TV show whose hosts laughed hysterically at a long tirade by a character known as the "lambassador", who suggested that vegans are devious and treacherous, perpetually hungry, unable to attract a partner, and in dire need of a good lamb chop. Oblivious to the fact that many vegans feel strongly about their philosophy, this fellow held up a lamb chop and invited vegans to try one so that their "life will change".

Why are people who want to reduce the impact of humans on the natural world a legitimate target for condescension?

Indeed, it seems bigotry and vilification are acceptable behaviours when responding to the people who speak up for the voiceless, for perhaps the most oppressed creatures on the planet – our food animals.

Graeme McElligott, Isabella Plains

It's a hot topic

The major estimates of global surface temperatures now all been published and they all show that 2015 was (by a large margin) the hottest year in the instrumental record. This is not good news, even though several climate scientists stand to win substantial bets with people like Christopher Monkton.

At any rate, we can hope that this will put an end to the nonsense about a "pause" in global warming and that we can get on with implementing some serious mitigation.

Paul Pentony, Hackett

Get breathalysers

Further to your article "Hundreds fined in holiday road blitz" (January 19, p3), there is currently no reliable means to be tested, except by courtesy of the police. There are some self-test breathalysers located in clubs. However, a unit from our company was removed from a club after it had been used some 158,000 times in the past seven years.

The reason given was that at $5 per day, it was too expensive for the club to continue the lease. Self-testing has never been accepted in the ACT and one of the main reasons given is that it is not supported by people with a vested interest.

Try telling that to those who get caught and the thousands who are never tested but want to observe the law. The current NSW/ACT Alcohol Policy alliance policy paper, which the ACT government is considering, states "while this measure may assist in determing a patron's intoxication level, it should not be seen as a harm reduction measure".

I am sure those injured on the roads or caught up in intoxicated violence would not agree.

T. Toohey, Crace

Beat the butts

When are the public houses and bars in the Tuggeranong area going to fully accept responsibility for the mess left by some of their patrons – cigarette smokers – after a night out at their venue. The vendors' practice of using a blower the next morning to flush the butts into the gutters and onto the roads makes it easy for the noxious material to find its way into the storm water drains. Eventually those butts make their way into Lake Tuggeranong and finally the Murrumbidgee River system. Surely it is about time this issue was addressed.

Ed Harris, Bonython

Check beet facts

Owen Pidgeon ("Hard to beat nutritious silverbeet", Food & Wine, January 13 p14) cites silverbeet as a "good natural source of iron". If I recall the comments of my ANU chemistry lecturer correctly, iron in spinach or silverbeet is in a chelated form and cannot be digested or absorbed by the human body. Can we please have some legit lit (as in peer-reviewed research papers) to support Mr Pidgeon's assertion. Is it absorbed in material amounts from a reasonable ingestion of the stuff or do we in fact need to consume, for example, 5kg a day to make any difference to our bodily iron levels?

Carmel Helman, Farrer




I bought several loaves of prison-made bread a few years ago, but the hacksaw blade in each loaf made it difficult to swallow. Bring on the modern improvements at the AMC bakery ("Inmates to be kept busy in bakery and laundry", January 18, p1).

Linus Cole, Palmerston


I propose we actually locate our light rail on Northbourne Avenue itself. After all, the point of light rail is to reduce car usage. So presumably, fewer cars on the road will mean at least one traffic lane each way along Northbourne Avenue will become available. It's a world-standard approach. Saving the trees would be an added bonus.

Emily Towers, Barton


Research shows that transport corridors are unhealthy place to live and work. The major problem is tiny dust particles generated by vehicle exhausts, tyre and brake-pad wear, etc, which are breathed deeply into the lungs. I look forward to all the people enjoying the "bustle of urban living" as they sit at their favourite Northbourne Avenue cafes while wearing dust masks and ear muffs.

Arthur Davies, Ainslie


The announcement that Singapore Airlines will fly into Canberra is welcome. But I doubt if this service will last long once arriving passengers discover that expensive taxis are the only transport away from Canberra airport.

Bea Duncan, Barton


Joy Burch retweeted that Christopher Pyne was the c-word! Where was the outrage committee when this went down? Or is it only men who must suffer from that wrath? Pace the "outrage" when Dutton called a journo a witch. Go figure.

Sonya Georgalis, Kingston

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