Federal Politics


ACT government's selling taxpayers down the line

You really have to wonder about the ACT government. It is 50 per cent owner of ActewAGL Retail, so it gets 50 per cent of its profits.

Yet it goes and gives its electricity contract to ERM Power Retail, thereby reducing the ActewAGL Retail profit and its own dividend (''ActewAGL loses ACT govt contract'', January 17, p1).

One hopes the people who decided this included this dividend factor in their tender evaluation (as they should because such evaluations must include cost impacts of the decision to arrive at the true cost of the offer).

Otherwise, both ACT government revenue and the ACT's taxpayers are the real losers in this fiasco.

Congratulations to ERM for a sales job well done.

Jack Cornell, former director of ACTEW Energy Ltd, Evatt


If ever there was evidence needed to show that the bureaucracy runs the ACT government, Shane Rattenbury's admission that ministers were not involved in ActewAGL losing the contract to supply the government with electricity must surely be the clincher.

Part-owned by the ACT government, ActewAGL is a major sponsor of Canberra community initiatives.

I bet the new interstate supplier, ERM, could not give a toss about the crucial community service provided by Actew, and is beholden only to its profit-focused shareholders.

If a bunch of bureaucrats can convince ministers that this new contract and contractor is in the ACT government's best interests, it says two things.

The first is that the government does not know what is in the best interests of the ACT community; the second is that the bureaucracy rules.

John Bell, Lyneham

Exclude intolerant

Exclusion of homosexuals from teaching in Christian schools on the grounds that homosexuality contravenes the Christian belief system just perpetuates the notion that belief systems are sacrosanct and immune from being questioned (''PM backs right to reject 'sinners' '', January 16, p1).

Why don't we rather reject widespread acceptance and inculcation of all arrogant belief systems that contravene basic humanitarian principles such as kindness, humility and acceptance of all human beings, whatever their gender, race, skin colour or sexual orientation?

Looking around the world, it is fairly evident that religions are in fact belief system choices made by social groups.

Religions might be useful in maintaining social order and cohesion, but can become dangerous power blocks when they seek to influence governments.

The Gillard government needs to recognise that belief in the Christian religion is a choice people make, but gender, race, skin colour and sexual orientation are givens, not choices, and deserve primary protection against discrimination in Australian society.

Chris Kain, O'Connor

Roll on light rail

The January 17 editorial is a timely reminder of how Walter Burley Griffin's vision has been eroded by the insidious pressure of the private car.

The lure of private personal commuting, with illusory urban freedom, appropriate for a small town, has infiltrated weak administrations that successively released central areas to car parking.

Inevitably, these areas become inadequate as valuable urban sites vanished.

Our current administration was elected, inter alia, on the platform of building a light-rail network.

While this might not have immediate economic advantage, it will be a great step towards achieving an advanced urban metropolis.

Such plans have hitherto been eroded by small interests.

Now, with our current enlightened administration, there is the opportunity to realise the Griffin plan of a functional and beautiful city.

Jack Palmer, Watson

Footpaths first

Joe Murphy is spot-on in suggesting that general traffic should be banned from Bunda Street (Letters, January 18).

That is the only change needed, however.

Raising the street to the level of the footpath is unnecessary expense.

Retaining the different levels will remind pedestrians that some vehicles still use the road for deliveries and other services to businesses with no alternative street access.

If the ACT government can find the funds for the changes envisaged, my preference would be for those funds to be devoted to maintaining pedestrian footpaths and underpasses in suburban areas.

Many of these are now cracking and decaying with age to the point of being hazardous to pedestrian and cyclist alike.

Furthermore, the edges of these paths are gradually being covered by vegetation, which is never trimmed back.

Consequently, the paths are becoming narrower and less safe.

We already have an excellent pedestrian thoroughfare in City Walk, which has been sidelined by the ACT government and the Queensland Investment Corporation.

Why should we spend $6 million creating another such space when maintenance of existing infrastructure is neglected?

Robyn Coghlan, Hawker

Greens maligned

Martha Kinsman expressed surprise that the Greens haven't done something about the building of unsustainable houses (Letters, January 17).

In fact the Greens have been active in this regard, as I discovered last year when I lodged an objection on environmental grounds to a proposal to knock down a perfectly good block of flats in my suburb and put up a bigger block. (The proposal was approved, of course.)

I copied various politicians into my objection and the only response I received was from the Greens, who described various reforms they had achieved or were pursuing in relation to the ACT's planning system and referred me to sources of further information.

More recently, of course, we have voted all but one of the Green MLAs out of office.

I guess we'll get the Canberra we voted for.

Monica Pflaum, Curtin

Close the loophole

I always thought that my eyesight was going when I looked at the McMansions and tried to work out how they fitted the plot ratio building requirements.

Now I know (Letters, January 17).

For some bizarre reason, knock-down/rebuilds are exempt from the plot ratio requirements.

Why? It's time this loophole was closed.

Perhaps at the same time the government could consider imposing an ''environmental'' tax on these monsters.

C. McKew, Forrest

Eucalypts a peril

John Casson (Letters, January 17) wrote: ''It is ridiculous to seek a eucalyptus monoculture in this much-altered environment.''

My feelings are stronger: gum trees are unsuitable as city trees, and most of them should be removed from Canberra.

My primary concern is fire.

The gum trees lining the major roads of Belconnen seem to have been planted with the intention of destroying the whole city.

Ten years ago, that nearly happened!

If the fire had not been stopped at William Hovell Drive, then the trees lining Kingsford Smith Drive, Belconnen Way and Ginninderra Drive would have acted as fuses to carry the fire through all Belconnen suburbs, and burning trees would have cut off all escape routes.

We were extraordinarily lucky.

During that fire, breaks were bulldozed adjacent to William Hovell Drive.

Immediately after the fire, gum trees were planted along that drive and Kingsford Smith Drive.

That was exceptional vandalism.

Importantly, the bulk (i.e. fuel load) of Canberra's gum trees is constantly increasing, thus increasing the danger.

A second concern is falling branches.

This danger is also dramatically increasing.

Ironically, many of the trees are unattractive, with their litter making Canberra one of Australia's scruffiest cities.

I recommend a 90 per cent reduction in Canberra's gum trees, starting with trees lining the avenues of West Belconnen.

Replacements could include long-flowering oleanders (common in counties with a similar climate), autumn-colour trees, and natives.

All of Canberra, rather than one hill top, could be a beautiful, safe arboretum.

Bob Salmond, Melba

No Assembly vote

Chris Lathbury (Letters, January 18) ends by pleading: ''If we are to have meaningful democracy in the ACT, a referendum on the Assembly's size is essential.''

Well, before self-government in the ACT, we citizens of Canberra had not one but two referenda on the very subject of ''self-government''.

On both occasions we voted resoundingly in the negative - ''thanks, but no thanks''.

However, the then federal government knew better and the bastardised system under which we suffer today was inflicted upon us.

So much for democracy!

In any case, increasing the number of MLAs will not solve any problems.

The only sensible solution (which vested political interests will never allow) is to transfer the ''state functions'' (health, education, etc) to the state that completely surrounds us (NSW) and to change the legislative assembly to a city council, with members elected singly from (local) wards.

Paul E. Bowler, Holder

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. 

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).