Letters to the editor
In your article headed ''Bungendore calls for help in replacing its fire fighting trucks'' (Page 4, January 20), you quote the RFS Lake George zone manager Tim Carroll as stating ''the station's fleet had been modernised in recent years''.
What has been omitted is that while the brigade's fleet has been ''modernised'' this is a reflection on its increase in capability, in that the Bungendore brigade had to have replacement trucks to take the breathing apparatus equipment that the brigade is now qualified to use.
These vehicle replacements in no way increase the brigade's ''capacity'' to pump water on to fires; only with more trucks can it increase its capacity to attend more incidents at the same time.
It could be argued that the increase in ''capability'' exacerbates the reduced ''capacity''. This is because, being specialised in BA operations, the Bungendore brigade may be called away from the town to deal with an incident elsewhere in the Lake George zone.
The residents of Bungendore should be able to feel that they are well protected by having a pumper (similar to the urban/paid fire fighters).
Unfortunately, without this dedicated pumper, I have to question the level of protection that can be supplied to the town in times when resources are stretched, as in recent weeks.
Over the recent emergency there was an instance when all three Bungendore trucks were fighting the bushfires and there was no immediate protection within the township.
The NSW Rural Fire Service command says ''extra resources can be called in from nearby brigades''.
In general this is true, however when we have an emergency of the level of the past few weeks these ''extra resources'' are stretched very thin indeed.
Another fire-fighting fact is that unless a suitable fire truck can get to a burning house within 15-to-20 minutes, the chances of saving that house or anyone trapped in it are very slim.
The Bungendore Volunteer Brigade has an average turnout time of six minutes, which gives it about 10 minutes to get to the burning house.
In addition, we have the capability with BA to enter a burning house, and we also have sufficient depth of membership to be able to respond with a crew of at least four fire fighters even when crews are out elsewhere. If, as over the recent weeks, all the Bungendore trucks are out fighting grass and forest fires, there are no suitable vehicles left in town to deal with a house fire. An appliance would have to be called from a neighbouring area. Response time? Anything from 20-to-30 minutes depending on where the appliance has to come from - and that vehicle may not have BA capability as only a few brigades are trained and equipped with BA.
I mentioned that the Bungendore brigade has sufficient membership depth to respond to a domestic house fire while also attending other emergencies, such as bushfires or motor accidents, which is more than can be said for other brigades in this zone. Bungendore brigade has nearly 50 members and only three fire-fighting appliances while there are some brigades within the Lake George zone that have six fire-fighting trucks but fewer than 20 qualified members.
Over the past 10 years the township has grown quite rapidly but the emergency services' capacity to deal with a growing population has, in my mind, been drastically compromised by the removal of the town pumper, which was dedicated to providing protection to buildings within the township.
I believe that the residents of Bungendore have every right to ask questions of their local member and NSW RFS command, and I would encourage them to exercise that right.
Dereck Clarke, Deputy Captain Bungendore Rural Fire Brigade
Garden to pulpit
A priest takes advantage of a vulnerable person for sexual gratification over a number of years and has 16 months gardening leave and is back to the pulpit. Had that been a teacher, psychologist, doctor, nurse, lawyer they would no longer be practising.
This comes amid further reports that child-molesting ministers of religion have been shielded from the full measure of the law in what can only be described as church managers being accessories after the fact. And these organisations are on the public purse, don't pay tax on their business interests and are legally allowed to discriminate against ordinary Australians. This is all very, very wrong.
John Taylor, Aranda
An earlier fire
I did not notice on radio 666's anniversary of the Canberra bushfire last Friday that anyone mentioned we had had another major fire just over a year before on Christmas eve of 2002.
This fire started on the Uriarra Road. At the time I was helping a friend protect his property on Lady Denman Drive near Scrivener Dam by standing on, and hosing down his roof and hearing trees exploding in flames nearby, while he and two others were using his fire tender to put out spot fires as it went through his property. We were told by the fire brigade that we were on our own as the fire continued on over Red Hill until it was eventually stopped behind the houses on Mugga Way.
This fire seems to have been ''lost in dispatches'' and there is no doubt in my mind that it acted as a fire break for the major event a year later. I remember the comment at the time being that it would have been 2000 homes lost - not 500 - had it not occurred.
It was this 2002 fire that wiped out the pine forests, which allowed the establishment of the Arboretum, not the major 2003 fire, as Robyn Archer mentioned on Radio National.
Byam Wight, Jerrabomberra
All left out
After reading Jack Waterford's article (''Abbott dodges sex abuse wedge'', Forum, January 19, p1), I don't know if I am soft left or hard left. Could I be putty left, starting off soft and ending up hard? Why does he characterise the sympathetic left as hard and the tough left as soft?
But I can't see why he feels the need to search for ulterior motives in the government's decision to establish a royal commission into child abuse.
With many issues, a point is reached when circumstances force governments of any persuasion to initiate effective action. Child abuse is now one of these issues.
Michael McCarthy, Deakin
I laughed out loud when I read the Raiders trumpeting the $320,000 ''windfall'' that will come to the ACT when the lease on the Braddon Club is de-concessionalised. (January 19, p9).
Not so funny is Simon Hawkins failing to mention the true ''windfall'' of millions of dollars in profit that the Raiders will take from the community if the government gifts them a highly valuable community/development site. The Canberra District Rugby League must be rubbing its hands in glee. $320,000 is less than the value of a backyard in neighbouring Braddon, so let's get real about who is making money out of this deal.
Caroline Salisbury, Braddon
Ever tried to speak to a DHS call centre operator on a Centrelink matter? Don't bother! After four minutes and 16 seconds negotiating my way through the myriad of recorded messages and automatic selections, listening to endless propaganda in the process, I managed to get to a ringing number only to be told by yet another recorded message that I could expect a 25-minute wait before someone could attend to my query. After a further 29 minutes and 44 seconds and still no human contact, I gave up!
L. Christie, Canberra City
Natives and fires
On January 19, you published a letter by me warning of the fire danger of excessive planting of gum trees along Canberra's western thoroughfares. I suggested that some could be replaced with oleanders: drought-resistant, long-flowering, non-deciduous trees, without much bulk, which are widely planted in countries with climates similar to that of Canberra.
On January 21, a response from Fred Hart responsibly warned that oleanders are ''highly toxic, especially to dogs, goats and horses''. However, I suspect that the danger (and perhaps toxicity) of oleanders is greatly exaggerated. Perhaps a vet could provide information on how many animals in Canberra are poisoned by oleanders. Any danger from oleanders would be negligible in comparison with that of fires. Further, there are few goats (of the four-legged species) in Canberra, and dog and horse owners can surely supervise their animals while on public property.
On January 19, CT also published, Forum p4, an excellent article, ''The burning issue: native gardens a killer on our doorstep'', by Joan Webster, the author of Essential Bushfire Safety Tips.
She opined that highly flammable native vegetation close to homes was arguably the main reason for the fires in Canberra, Kinglake and Tasmania. Her message is even more important than the excellent message on preparation of safety plans which is currently being repeatedly screened on our TVs.
Bob Salmond, Melba
In stating that ''no national serviceman was forced to serve in the [Vietnam] war'' (Letters, January 21), Christopher Jobson perpetuates one of the greatest myths of the war.
In February 1967, the army minister (Malcolm Fraser) directed that infantry battalions in Vietnam were not to comprise more than 50 per cent national servicemen. A greater allocation of regular soldiers was therefore directed to infantry from recruit training units.
Commanding officers of some battalions abused the increased flexibility that this provided them, by transferring national servicemen to non-operational units if they did not want to serve in Vietnam. Other corps did not have any such luxury and national servicemen had no choice. Some of them quite rightly become livid when told now that they did not have to go. Whether they wanted to go or not, Australia owes a great debt to all national servicemen.
Bruce Cameron, Campbell
To the point
In a book review (Panorama, January 19), Diane Bell is identified as a feminist and professor emerita. Having grudgingly come to accept terms such as actor and waiter for both sexes, am I now to understand that use of a style specific to gender has again become the preference of feminists?
Eric French, Higgins
I'm not sure why there is such a fuss about pedestrians wearing headphones (''Headphones a problem'', Letters, January 20). I listen to music through headphones on my walk, and I have no trouble hearing vehicles, cyclists bells, or the sound of the whoosh as they pass.
C. McKew, Forrest
I have noticed that a preponderance of competitors of both sexes are wearing white and yellow outfits at the Australian Open this year. Could it be that Macca's is giving them away with every hamburger purchased or maybe they were the special of the day at the January sales?
Mario Stivala, Spence
A SPORTING CHANCE
The Sri Lankan cricketers seem to be friendly, competitive and a decent bunch of blokes. Perhaps all those Sri Lankan boat people are, too.
Graham Roberts, Garran
A LINE TO GOD?
Sam Nona saw ''mobilised'' teens at St Mary's altar, so what chance has Wordsworth got? he asks (''Heaven help them'', January 21). Fair go, Sam, they were trying to text God.
Barrie Smillie, Duffy
Lance Armstrong now admits that he wasn't strong enough to win a race fairly. I don't support him for what he has done. But it would be interesting to know what role was played by those people in the laboratory who were supposed to check on athletes administering performance-enhancing drugs.
Sankar Kumar Chatterjee, Evatt
Ross Peake in his column (CT, January 19) states that ''a small but vocal number of scientists dispute that humans are causing global warming''. He should have stated the corollary that ''the majority of scientists consider that humans are causing global warming''.
Rod Holesgrove, O'Connor
During winter we are told it is colder than the thermometer indicates because of the ''wind chill factor''. Yet on summer days like Friday nobody suggests it is warmer than the thermometer indicates because of the ''wind heat factor''. Why?
C. J. Johnston, Duffy
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. 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).