Federal Politics


Bushfire wake-up call

YOUR editorial, ''We must not forget lessons of the firestorm'', (December 30), should serve as a wake-up call as the ACT government blunders along with its head in the sand, complacent to the accelerating risk to our precious community of disaster from wild fires.

The government takes the words of its ''experts'' as gospel that recommendations emanating from the 2003 bushfire debacle reports have been adequately covered, but in reality those recommendations are, in the most part, obsolete.

The government and its ''experts'' are failing to even recognise that there has been a major change in bushfire fuel in the ACT. The after-effects of 2003 have nurtured fuel loads in our mountain and park areas that have never been known. Regrowth in the mountains prevents us from even walking to a lightning strike, let alone doing textbook back burns or hazard reduction.

In the older suburbs, with three high-rainfall summers, we now have a massive continuous fuel canopy.

None of the ''experts'' mention the fact that we mostly have a generation of bushfire fighters who have little experience of fires, and few, if any, experienced firefighters to mentor them.

Simplicity and commonsense are the number one priorities in bushfire fighting, and the ACT has lost them.


ACT rural landholders are no longer encouraged to be a valuable part of the attack team as they have been alienated by the insistence on unnecessary formal training and fitness testing. I have recently viewed a government paper on the subject that waffles on for over 35 pages with only a couple of paragraphs mentioning anything in relation to the most important aspects - preparedness and operational integrity.

That is, firstly preventing fires and, secondly, providing the best possible bush firefighting operational management - putting fires out.

With the escalating bushfire fuel problems alone, without the deterioration in bushfire operational integrity in the ACT, the next ''firestorm'' will take out at least 80 lives and over 1000 houses.

Your editorial reality check is true, but so simply forgotten: ''We have learned our city is vulnerable, and there is much we need to do to protect our homes from nature's wrath. We owe it not only to those who were affected 10 years ago, but to the generations who will inherit Canberra to ensure that knowledge is passed on, acted on and not allowed to disappear''.

Val Jeffery, Tharwa

B-quadruples next?

AS STUDIES have indicated, the quicker we build freeways, the faster do more and bigger vehicles materialise to fill them up.

An iteration of Murphy's Law, perhaps.

It was inevitable that sooner or later we would be faced with the prospect of three-piece monsters competing with ordinary motorists.

As Guy Swifte quotes Ralph Nader (Letters, January 4) these intimidating behemoths are unsafe at any speed. And it won't stop with B-triples.

Once they are firmly established, the trucking lobby will be pressing for B-quadruples. Imagine one of those bearing down on you on the highway with a driver on wake-up pills behind the wheel, battling to keep up to schedule.

Surely, enough is enough. It is a no-brainer that freight of such dimensions belongs on the under-utilised railways, not on the overcrowded roads.

The policy levers and financial incentives are in the hands of the federal and state governments.

Yet somehow the logical pieces - environment, freeways, railways, very fast trains, second Sydney airport - don't seem to come together into a rational and cohesive whole.

For a federal government that stared down the international tobacco cartel on packaging laws, a precedent and a victory of truly epic proportions, standing up to the trucking lobby ought to be a walk in the park.

It's an area where we need the protection of national laws and standards.

It should not be left to opportunistic state governments, which can be picked off one by one.

Ray Edmondson Ray Edmondson, Kambah

Grow, and bust

AS A. QUINN (Letters, December 30) points out, if the ACT population continues to grow at the present rate we'll be facing severe water restrictions again within just 10 years, and our reservoirs may have to be topped up with recycled sewage.

For many years Jenny Goldie and others have been urging the powers-that-be to address the problem of apparently endless growth, but Labor and Liberals duck the issue. Shamefully, even the Greens seldom mention the subject.

Given that they're supposedly so concerned about the environment - and given that virtually every environmental problem in the world has been caused by, or is aggravated by, overpopulation - you would expect them to be front-and-centre on the issue.

I know two people who have written to Shane Rattenbury asking if his party has a figure in mind for the ACT's maximum sustainable population.

His response? No reply.

So let's make this an open letter to the Greens leader:

Mr Rattenbury, tell us how many people you think we should cram into these valleys. And please don't say ''natural growth'' can't be controlled - this has been a planned city from day one. Come on, give us a figure - just a rough figure would be OK: 800,000? Two million? Six million?

While you're at it, check with your federal colleagues and let us know what they consider a reasonable ceiling for the overall Australian population.

Ms Goldie, Mr Quinn, Dick Smith, Kelvin Thompson MP, Tim Flannery and many others will be interested to hear what you have to say.

Tony Healy, Florey

Drought one aspect

I CONCUR with A. Quinn in their criticism of the article by Peter Jean (''ACT gains in population stakes'' December 26) and the Editorial (December 27), which both saw Canberra's growth in population as something positive.

Population increase will make matters worse when we face the next drought, but it also means more congestion, more pollution, increased housing prices, increased land and water rates, and deterioration in our overall quality of life. My prediction is based on what has actually occurred in Canberra over the past 30 years.

It will be interesting to see if our remaining ''Green'', Shane Rattenbury, veers to the right like his federal colleagues and appeases big business at the expense of future generations by supporting the mantra of endless growth.

Paul Remington, Gordon

Could be time to leave

TIM SCHILDBERGER'S column is often quite interesting.

But l found his column on December 30 (''Watch and learn from all the deranged fanatics taking centre stage'') fascinating.

He hardly had a good word to say about the United States. So my question is, ''Why is he living there?''

Geoff Barker, Flynn

Why extradition?

TWO MEN have been arrested in Sydney pending extradition to the US over ''an alleged illegal gun supply route between Nashville in Tennessee and Sydney'' (''US pair arrested'', January 4).

The report does not make it clear, but it seems likely that their crime was committed in Australia.

If so, once again the question arises, why are they being extradited to the US?''

The question of their nationality, although unspecified, is irrelevant. Consider the Bali nine, two of whom are on death row.

Gary J. Wilson, MacGregor

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