Federal Politics


Arrows aimed at big-spending Archer right on target

At last! A Canberra writer who dares to question the way Robyn Archer is handling the centenary celebrations (''Sadly capital still a city of lite'', December 4, p11).

I think Robyn's gone the wrong way in that she seems to want us to party, party. I would like exhibitions, talks, films about the history of Canberra beginning with the Aboriginal people plus Alan Mawer's wonderful book Canberry Tales, launched this year, about Canberra and early pioneers before it became the national capital and ruined to a certain degree by really bad developers.

Another must is a small exhibition of the founding fathers' tour of senators who worked out the site for Canberra with wonderful, funny anecdotes (NLA has the collection). People need to know our heritage: buildings, places and wonderful people such as writers, poets, dancers and actors.

Bush picnics, bush dances, hikes and walks are all great but Archer's celebrations look as though they are going to be a huge financial extravagance.

And for heaven's sake, Robyn, healthy criticism of any place is essential. How about a soap box by the lake expounding on where the powers that be went so wrong such as with our grossly polluted lake. Honesty is better than shallow, expensive promotion.

Penelope Upward, O'Connor


It was disappointing to read Nicholas Stuart's opinion piece (''Sadly capital still a city of lite'', December 4, p11). First he takes aim at Robyn Archer, the creative director of Canberra's Centenary Celebrations. I thought this was a miserable pot shot at someone whose energy and enthusiasm for Canberra as well as the centenary makes me proud. She is successful and acclaimed and has brought enormous breadth in programming to our centenary celebrations. She deserves the keys to the city already.

Second, nitpicking about how many venues have live music demonstrates how hard it was for Mr Stuart to find fault with the centenary program. If he had thought about just looking at the Times2 in the edition in which his opinion piece was published, he would have found many opportunities, including Bush Baroque (a free concert) at the High Court this weekend, QWIRE at the Australian Centre for Christianity this weekend and a preview of The Nutcracker (including music!) scheduled for the Ainslie Arts Centre and a review of The Polyphonic Bard which ran at the Street Theatre last week.

It was quite clever blaming the effects of 9/11 on faceless bureaucrats for causing security systems to exist where they didn't in the good ole days. Oh, and the artwork policy in the private offices of politicians and others up on the Hill is an interesting twist in canning Canberra, its centenary and creative director.

Mr Stuart must exist (note, not live) in a windowless bunker, given his claim that the city has remained crippled by infighting by bureaucrats and others. My family has lived here since 1962. Most of us have been those faceless bureaucrats that Mr Stuart criticises.

In the intervening 50 years, we have enjoyed thousands of concerts and live music. In our official roles as faceless bureaucrats, we have supported the development of this city from a tiny bush capital to a thriving metropolis. We have witnessed and been part of the expansion of our economic base from one totally dependent upon the whim and fancy of the federal government to one that has many planks. We love the fact that we have a marvellous education and health system, and indeed most of our kids have been born and educated here. And we continue to enjoy the opportunity to go to festivals, theatre and concerts whenever the moment moves us. We love the environment, the hub of the city and the town centres, the fact that most suburban shopping centres have a busy life around them and the opportunity to ride or walk in the bush nearby.

I say keep up the great work Robyn Archer and the centenary team.

Anne Cahill Lambert, Lyneham

Refugees' plight

Julia Richards (Letters, December 4) seems to think that if we have a few thousand more refugees we will all collapse in a heap in our utterly worthless and degraded country. There is no such thing as a quota system for asylum seekers. Everyone has the right to seek asylum from persecution and we have to allow them to enter, treat them with dignity and respect and stop punishing them. We do have a minuscule quota for a few thousand of the 15 million refugees in the world and pat ourselves on the back for our meanness.

I wonder how she feels about the millions of tourists, foreign students, permanent migrants and others who trample our environment without being endlessly abused for doing so?

Really and truly I am sick to death of selfish Australians constantly claiming refugees are a problem for us when the reality is they have problems we could not imagine, certainly more than trees being cut down.

Marilyn Shepherd, Angaston, SA

Taking the heat

Crispin Hull, in an otherwise good article (''Time to take the heat, then fight harder'', Forum, December 1, p2), unfairly accuses climate scientists of inaction and spinelessness, though the bravest have already received death threats. Does he expect them to fight for the cause as well as develop the science? They are not ''failing us badly'', the media is.

There have been many books on climate change every bit as bold as Rachel Carson's Silent Spring; the journalists and politicians just don't read them. No doubt under a policy of ''balance'', the CT has published an unending stream of denialist letters from the same few ill-informed, or cherry-picking, contrarians with no scientific qualifications. It is not in the public interest to publish their misinformation, and unfounded opinions, after your editorials have clearly put forth the accepted scientific position.

Letters to the editor should be held to the same ethical and evidentiary principles as journalists. Readers need intelligent, well researched and brave letters, as well as longer articles, to balance the ignorant rants of people like Alan Jones. Stand for something. We are heading for six degrees of average warming, which of course will not be evenly distributed, and would be catastrophic. Providing truthful information should be the highest priority of a quality publication.

John Symond, O'Connor

Roundabout way

Further to R.J. Wenholz's letter to the editor (December 4), the big mistake was made when Holt was designed in about 1970. William Hovell Drive was not built (or even planned) to directly connect Drake Brockman Drive to the city. West Macgregor was for horse riding or going to the dump. So Higgins has its backyards facing the first section of Drake Brockman Drive, because of traffic going to Holt. But the rest of the ring road along Drake Brockman Drive and Spofforth Street has houses facing the traffic. Residents now find that the most direct uninterrupted route from the airport - Fyshwick, Civic and Tuggeranong to West Macgregor - goes past their front doors.

Thirteen speed cushions in Spofforth Street are not the answer, as others have pointed out. Traffic, even large trucks when necessary, should not be denied this route. That's what ring roads are for.

The best solution is to take McCullough Street in Curtin as the model, where traffic between Cotter Road and Carruthers Street is slowed sensibly by relatively narrow-laned roundabouts at intersections. Put roundabouts at the Holt ring road intersections with Macnaughton Street, Trickett Street, Messenger Street, and both ends of Spofforth Street and the problems will be solved as best we can.

Frank McKone, Holt

Tunnel logic

The Canberra Times displays wisdom in its editorial ''At some point, rail is the future'' (December 4, p1) laying out some options for an ACT terminal for the High Speed Train. The HST is for the benefit of Australians along the eastern seaboard, although of course with their large populations, Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney and Canberra will probably benefit the most. A major requirement of a terminal is ease and cost of access not only to travellers coming to it but to those delivering or collecting these travellers and travellers who may wish to leave their cars at the terminal.

Parking near the Jolimont Centre is almost non-existent, while parking in the car parks of the Canberra Centre is showing the strain. If we eventually receive 24-hour international flights into Canberra, long-term/24-hour parking there is not available.

That leaves Canberra Airport, with its vast parking and room for much more. I am sure management of the airport is astute enough to factor in these requirements at a train terminal. The cost of a tunnel into Civic will defeat that idea but nevertheless, we must think of the larger region around Canberra, not just ourselves by wanting a terminal in Civic .

Paul O'Connor, Hawker

Re the story (''Plan for Mt Ainslie train tunnel'', December 3, p1), I hope provision is made in the costings for a multi-million dollar blowout.

Remember the cost of the Gungahlin Drive Extension blew out from $53 million to $200 million, the cost of the Cotter Dam blew out from $120 million to at least $405 million, and the cost of the ACT Emergency Services Agency Headquarters blew out from $13 million to $76 million. On this basis a multi-million dollar blowout will need to be factored in to the cost of a tunnel through Mount Ainslie.

John Milne, Chapman

A tunnel through Mount Ainslie for a fast train? Is it any wonder that the rest of Australia think that ACT planners thrive on funny tobacco. If Canberra is to ever get a fast train the logical extension from Queanbeyan is to the large empty area in Majura, to the east of Defence's Campbell Park offices. Plenty of space for a station and infrastructure, ideal for international passenger and freight flights into the airport, and reduction of gridlock in the city.

Roger Dace, Googong, NSW

Selfishness has overridden our traditional gift for giving

Dick Smith recently sought to publicly embarrass our millionaires so that they would donate at least 15 per cent of their income to charity, consistent with their American counterparts. A noble cause. Philanthropy seems to have a more solid foundation in the USA. In a radio interview, Mr Smith called our millionaires ''greedy'' and referred to some of his millionaire friends who argued they paid their taxes (no doubt, taking maximum advantage of the tax system that favours the rich).

I support Dick's plea (which seems to have attracted little public attention) but it raises questions about the charity of the rest of Australians, including in their day-to-day lives. In my view, we have a strong historical and current culture of supporting those in need. We had to in the early colonial days because we were strangers trying to survive in a harsh land and this sense of charity is now part of our fundamental make-up. Data on charity seems inadequate and dated. According to the National Australia Bank's inaugural Charitable Giving Index of October 2012, charitable giving in the seven months to July 2012 increased by 4.7 per cent from the previous year and the average annual donation per donor increased 0.7 per cent to $292. Data seems to include only donations via credit card, direct debit, BPAY and EFTPOS. However, according to ABS data for 2006-07, 36 per cent of taxpayers claimed gifts as tax deductions (a wider base than NAB's) and average donations claimed increased by 18.6 per cent to $440 per person.

And what about charity in our day-to-day lives. Have we deteriorated as a society in this regard over the years? I think so. Sure there are arguments to the contrary, but I see every day a general disrespect of one's fellow human beings, whether it be on the road, in the shopping mall or wherever. We have become a more self-absorbed and selfish society.

Geoff Clark, Narrabundah 

Hear what is said

I frequently read just plainly wrong interpretations of viewpoints. What I said about Al Gore is indisputably correct (Letters, November 28) but Murray May interpreted this as discrediting climate change (Letters, December 3). Rubbish. I expressed no view on its accuracy or otherwise, and he totally missed my point. George Papadopoulos missed it also (Letters, December 3). I rarely believe what fellow scientists tell me, without assessing the evidence. Measurement is only a beginning. Reasonable interpretation of such measurements sorts the sheep from the goats. Murray labels my views ''idiosyncratic''. I hope so. May raises the issue of radiation from mobile phones. His point about research fund sources and the dishonest thrust of reported outcomes I agree with. Radiation from power lines, high voltage ones in particular, can be, and has been, easily measured. Wind turbine ''noise'' is more difficult to isolate.

Genuine noise, propagated in air, and electromagnetic radiation (requiring no propagation medium), are totally different effects. Both decline with distance from the source, as do the anxieties of those living nearby the turbines. Scientists who understand cause and effect, and control experiments, are not fooled by ''experts'' fabricating correlations between wind turbine ''noise'' and illness.

I did not deny that people have real or perceived health issues about these problems. However, it remains abundantly clear to me that the actual source of the purported health problems remains unestablished.

Greg Jackson, Kambah

Generating favours

It should come as no surprise that wind energy companies especially are salivating at the prospect of securing much of the CEFC's $10 billion green fund (Rush on for green fund's $10b, canberratimes.com.au, December 4)

No doubt Infigen will be among the first. Its close relationship to state and federal Labor seriously warrants an ICAC investigation. NSW Labor under Iemma and co gave $180 million in public money to Infigen to ''power'' the Sydney desalination plant.

Both Rudd and Gillard as PM have opened Infigen's wind farms at Bungendore. Unable to secure funds through regular financial channels due to high debt levels and a sustained low share price, the ''green'' fund will now make possible Infigen's further expansion of wind industrial sites to the detriment of local residents and the environment. Labor still supports this white elephant even though it is aware that our coal-fired generators continue to burn coal at the same rate regardless of wind turbine output.

William Gray, Bungendore, NSW


Justin Said's defence of Israeli settlement construction in the Palestinian occupied territories (Letters, December 4) is as laughable as the story about the boy found guilty of murder who begs the judge for mercy because he is an orphan, whilst expecting everyone to overlook the fact that his victims were his parents.

John Richardson, Wallagoot, NSW


Well said Nicholas Stuart (''Sadly capital still a city of lite'', December 4, p11). I'm sick of the centenary year and it hasn't even started yet. Surely Robyn Archer has been beaming from the pages of the newspaper for well over 100 years.

Jim Jones, Charnwood


What a mean-spirited bunch of opposition politicians we have. To think that none who practised as accountants or lawyers ever assisted a close friend or a voluntary association with professional advice without opening an office file and then sending an account.

Helen Berryman, Bruce


Louise Lyon (Letters, December 3) suggests that Amaroo may have been named when someone misunderstood the use of ''Emohruo'', but I recall that word as the name of houses depicted by cartoonist and master of whimsy Emile Mercier that sat perched on springs in his wonderful illustrations of daily life in the long gone Sydney newspaper The Sun.

Greg Friedewald, Isaacs


Perhaps if there had been less hugging and kissing and bum patting amongst the players, we might have seen some better cricket skills being displayed in the ''Test cricket'' series between Australia and South Africa.

Dr Baden Williams, Lyneham


Can we all please move on and forget about light rail and trams? Both require ugly rail tracks and overhead wires that are not becoming of our beautiful garden city. A better, cheaper and non-restrictive public transport option is battery/solar powered or even motorised buses using dedicated bus lanes, which can be used by ambulances, fire engines, police and other emergency services.

P.J. Carthy, McKellar


There's another very fast train option - Airport/Bungendore via the Cullerin Range. Thence to Goulburn in the present corridor where it diverts to cross the GDR (some heroic engineering here no doubt) and then the really arduous essay - getting it to Central if that is the desired Sydney terminus.

Stuart J. McIntosh, Isabella Plains

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