Federal Politics

Letters to the editor

Sorry, PM, but all the spots on the lake are occupied

The Lodge on the Lake Design competition (''It's time: The Lodge officially on the nose'', January 26, p1) is another ludicrous Annabelle Pegrum-led exercise (a la Immigration Bridge), which totally ignores the reality that National Capital Authority studies have shown that Attunga Point, Stirling Ridge and Stirling Park are valuable conservation areas that require urgent rehabilitation. This entire area is unlikely ever to receive approval for buildings such as a prime minister's lodge or embassies.

Unfortunately, two areas suitable for a new lodge on the lake have gone. Acton was handed over to developers to create an over-congested design blight and Kingston Foreshore was assigned to be an ugly isolated enclave for the rich. Neither met Walter Burley Griffin's idea for civic spaces around the lake.

Given that the lake foreshores are now all accounted for, the only place left to build a lodge on the lake is at the Governor-General's residence. Here, the federal government could ingratiate itself with the ACT government by building a McMansion next to Government House with both having minute areas for landscaping and gardens, thus meeting the current norms of ACT residential planning.

John Holland, Dickson

It's great to have a design competition for a new PM's lodge. Let's solve the problem of endangered species and losing our lakeside parkland at Attunga Point by locating it somewhere else.

Let's use Collins Park in the middle of Tasmania Circle, Forrest. It's similar in size, has a northerly aspect, is among prestige properties and is close to Parliament House. I'm sure the neighbours will have no objections!


While we are at it, let's set a date, say 2020, for it to be completed no matter which lucky prime minister will occupy it first. Then we can turn The Lodge into a house museum celebrating all PMs and their families who lived there.

Lainie Shorthouse, Lyneham

Ron Radford's criticism of The Lodge's furniture as being ''cheap and nasty'' (''It's time: The Lodge officially on the nose'', January 26, p1) was historically uninformed. The interiors of The Lodge and the Governor-General's residence at Yarralumla were designed by Ruth Lane Poole in 1926 and 1927 to be ''comfortable gentlemen's homes'', as well as to serve official purposes. She was one of the few interior designers in Australia at the time. Her designs followed the ideas of the Arts and Crafts movement and can be seen easily on the National Library of Australia's website. They were certainly not cheap. Federal cabinet specified that they were to be made in Australia of Australian materials, and where this was not possible to be ''best British''. Although costs were kept to a minimum, quality was not scrimped and budget supplements were provided. Details can be read on the National Archives of Australia's website. Fashions in furniture, as in art, change. The ideas of the Arts and Crafts movement were soon overtaken. Now we have new fashions, but I hope that they will give the personal comfort for our Prime Minister, that Ruth Lane Poole's often elegant but unpretentious designs did.

John Dargavel, Florey

Furniture at The Lodge is ''shocking, cheap and nasty, covered with awful floral chintz - it's terrible, an embarrassment'' says National Gallery of Australia director Dr Ron Radford, looking forward to its replacement (''It's time: The Lodge officially on the nose'', January 26, p1).

The good side of old furniture is it was probably made of natural, nice smelling materials such as wood, cotton, wool, horse-hair stuffing and the like, and at the end of its life it could harmlessly biodegrade.

Much of today's fancy furniture has mostly synthetic, plasticky components that are hard to recycle and likely to end up cluttering landfills while leaching toxicants into the water table.

Planning for those substantive items to go into the new lodge offers the opportunity to look beyond appearances by selecting a panoply of fittings, not just furniture, chosen mainly for their environmentally friendly character, thus providing practical examples for all to emulate.

Jorge Gapella, Kaleen

Reasonable to expect that all workplaces should be safe

The article ''Electrical shock: worker in hospital '' (January 25, p3) highlights a laissez faire attitude among some of the site managers and construction companies operating in the territory. The rationale of Paul Murphy that every building site in Canberra had safety defects is not a reasonable one, and it's certainly no excuse for neglecting the rights of workers to expect a safe workplace. In 2012 The Canberra Times ran a campaign to get every worker home safely. This potentially fatal lapse so soon after the failings at the Nishi construction site and the death of a 21-year-old apprentice at another site in Kingston demonstrates that young workers are being unreasonably put at risk by their employers or site managers. It is a reasonable goal for all work places to be safe environments regardless of the industry.

Robert Guest, Maurice Blackburn Lawyers, Canberra City

Judge and jury

Crispin Hull is at it again: belittling juries (''The new can make the old so much better'', Forum, January 19, p2) Yep! ''Juries mess it up all the time …'' ''Twelve randomly chosen people … evaluate often-complex evidence.'' Supposedly a single judge is automatically better than a dozen mature adults with a range of skills. Where's the evidence?

In 2000 Mr Hull arrogantly and ignorantly described juries in this paper as uneducated dross. That coincided with my service where one of its members could claim a double masters from the University of NSW, post-grad qualifications in secondary education from UC, additional post-grad qualifications in religious education from ACU, and executive management qualifications from the AGSM. Do judicial officers in this country with management school qualifications exist? Where's the evidence? Betcha it's thin!

Patrick Jones, Griffith

Call to arms

I have no idea in which units or corps Messrs Jobson, Wilson, Wohl or Cameron (Letters, January 21) might have served in South Vietnam but I was conscripted in April 1967 and allocated to Infantry as a rifleman. It was made clear that unless we had a good reason for remaining in Australia we would be allocated to a battalion gearing up for active service in Vietnam. I know of no one who opted out. But two prominent Australian-representative sportsmen were allocated a Sydney-based battalion, so they could continue playing professional sport while in the army. Twenty-four regular army and national service members of my battalion were killed in action and 100 were wounded during its tour of duty. Unlike the sporting heroes, they were ordinary blokes who had no option but to do their bit.

D.N. Callaghan, Kingston

If Marilyn Shepherd (Letters, January 23) wants to know why so many Vietnam vets harmed themselves and, often, their families, she should carefully read the last sentence of the letter from Noel McLaughlin (same day). Vietnam vets did not get the re-settling ceremonies common to returning soldiers throughout history, they did not get the formal return to the cultural routines they had put aside. As a former Viet Cong commander said they (the North Vietnamese) didn't win the fighting war but won the political war. (Thanks to homeland activists.)

Barbara Malpass, Sutton, NSW

Chris Johnson (Letters, January 21) seems to have misunderstood Bruce Haigh's argument (''Conscription was an abuse'', Forum, January 19, p9) about national service being an ''abuse'' by the Liberal government of the time. I was a national serviceman and certainly felt abused by the process. In 1966 I was an ANU graduating forester, assured by my employer, the Department of Territories, that my call -up could be ignored as I was due to start post-graduate work in 1967 in Papua New Guinea. This proved to be incorrect advice and, newly married, and as a result of the government ''lottery'', wasted two years of my life in a corps of engineers posting in Australia. Robbed of an opportunity to put my new forestry degree to use in a developing country, I, as other nashos, was given the princely gratuity of an $80 payout, on completion of my two years' service.

Rod Holesgrove, O'Connor

High and dry

Unfettered capitalism has led to the amazing situation whereby Weston Creek, with a population of more than 20,000, is served by a single petrol station: the Caltex Woolworths at Cooleman Court. This station is out of action from time to time, and then we have no outlet. Once, almost every suburb in Weston Creek had a petrol station but price competition has put paid to that.

On Sunday, the computer system was down, all the pumps were out service and I was advised to come back in 20 minutes. As I was very short of fuel and unsure about reaching Woden, I returned to Cooleman Court.

What if there was a firestorm warning and people in our suburbs needed fuel to escape the fire? Just imagine the danger of having to rely on a single petrol station.

It is clear that only Coles/Shell can compete with Woolies/Caltex, so the logical answer would be for the ACT government to provide a suitable location for them in Weston Creek. However, as there is no Coles store in Cooleman Court, they are unlikely to be interested in having a petrol station there.

Could Katie Gallagher or the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission please find a solution to this ridiculous and hugely frustrating situation?

Neville Exon, Chapman

Idiotic walk rule

The problems between walkers and cyclists on bicycle pathways could have been avoided had not the silly rule been made that, in the ACT, pedestrians should walk on the left side of the path. When this rule was made, I wrote to the minister and pointed out that in Britain there had been a terrible accident in perhaps the late 1940s, when a troop of boy scouts, walking on the left-hand side of a road, were mown down by a truck.

The coroner said that pedestrians should walk on the right-hand side of the road so they could see, and avoid, oncoming traffic by moving off the road to the right. As another letter writer has said, this has been the practice ever since in Britain.

My letter was ignored. The ACT's ''walk on the left side'' rule is dangerous and, before it's too late and someone is killed, it should be changed to ''walk on the right''.

John Casson, Cook

Education first

With Senator Evans's veto of the University of Canberra's latest get-rich-quick scheme, the Holmesglen TAFE adventure, perhaps it is time for the ACT's Chief Minister and Higher Education Minister, Katy Gallagher, to pay a bit more attention to the neoliberal forces in charge of the university.

One might hope that a defence of education as a public good, rather than turning the University of Canberra into a profit centre, might be high on her thinking in any review of the descent of the university into the hell of the market at all costs, including its precarious employment contracts, its high level of sessional and casual employment, concerns about bullying and top-down management and increasing grade inflation to keep customers (sorry, students) happy.

Add to that a number of failed course reorientations towards markets that are not there and the question has to be raised as to the university's long-term viability as a provider of quality education.

John Passant, Kambah

Territorians count

John Blaxland's suggestion for a new Australian flag (''Time for an inclusive, more meaningful Australian flag'', Forum, January 26, p3) has much to commend it. In support of his proposal, he wrote that the new flag ''being inclusive but distinctive is the best way to replace a flag that currently presents Australia as a subordinate nation''.

He also wrote that ''the traditional Aboriginal sun is converted into a seven-pointed federation star, which symbolises the Australian federation with its six original states and the Commonwealth government''.

How can this new flag be inclusive when it leaves out the territories? Aren't territorians Australians? If they are, they should be included on the flag along with every other Australian.

I think this omission is offensive. On any new flag we should be treated equally with the states, thus recognising that we make a comparable contribution to the nation.

Fortunately, the design can be easily changed by having an eight-pointed star, with each point representing a state or territory, with the star as a whole representing the country. This change should not be hard to make and detract nothing from the design.

Bob Sutherland, Holder

Patriotism in 2013

Having read Ian Warden for what seems like centuries, I had thought he had gone off the boil. However, his piece ''A quiet love'' (Panorama, January 26, p7) reassures me that he is back in top form. His searing paragraph about the centenary of Gallipoli warns us about the patriotic orgy to come and he also nails the ''Oi, oi, oi'' types of ockerdom.

Soon after reading the article, I watched an Australia Day parade in Broulee of tattooed, tiddly youths, so this shaft of Warden's became particularly poignant. While I cannot agree with his proposal for a new national anthem, the article as a whole should be sealed in a time capsule as an indication of sensible patriotism, circa 2013. (By the way, visitors to Wales will hear the locals chanting ''Oggi, oggi, oggi''. Not even our patriotism is original.)

David Stephens, Bruce

Local resonances

It was with a warm heart that I read Emma Macdonald's delightful piece about her favourite children's novel Gangles, set in Canberra (''Candybar inspiration'', Panorama, January 26, p2). I had never heard of it. In the hunt for interesting and original books for my own children, I shall be looking it up.

I share Macdonald's thrill of pride when I read about Canberra in novels. Recently, I enjoyed Christopher Koch's The Memory Room.

Steve Lewis and Chris Uhlmann's hilarious The Marmalade Files was even more fun because I could guess which part of the lake, which inner-north cafe, which corner in Barton, the authors were describing.

Also, Ian Warden's piece on patriotism was thought-provoking.

Our local writers demonstrate such skill and speak so well to Canberra readers.

Jane Aylen, Latham

To the point


Before carrying out Annette Barbetti's commendable suggestion (Letters, January 25) that Seville orange trees be planted as roadside trees in the ACT, a restrictive migration regime would be necessary for white cockatoos. Perhaps an out-of-territory processing agreement could be developed with NSW?

Peter Baskett, Murrumbateman


If an elected politician attended a religious event and took the opportunity to espouse a political view to all attending we would never hear the end of it.

I did not vote for my ACT-elected official to attend a religious ceremony simply because another politician with religious convictions thinks it should happen. There is so much mangled discussion these days about ''political correctness'' but it seems to get far less oxygen when it comes to mainstream religions. Bring on the debate, if you are game!

Linus Cole, Palmerston


As a visitor to Canberra, I made several trips by taxi, and we found them to be well organised and efficient. But on one occasion during the whole journey the driver watched a movie on a digital device. I was sitting in the back seat and I could see his eyes going down for more than five seconds at a time. It was a rather scary trip.

Val Ewenson, Melbourne, Vic


One wonders what would happen to our democracy if we became a republic and someone like Julia Gillard was elected president. I am more certain than ever that the path to follow for Australia to become a republic is the minimalist approach where the president is little more than a figurehead and is appointed by a majority of both houses of Parliament.

Tom Cooke, Pearce


Michael Travis has hit a clear winner in slamming the sports media's devaluation of the grand slam (Letters, January 25 ). Travis may be in for a sexist serve though in implying the last Australian winner of the grand slam was one of the ''blokes''. It wasn't. Rod Laver did it in 1969, but Margaret Court was the last Australian to achieve the feat in 1970. And to rub more salt into male egos, the most recent player to take out the grand slam was Steffi Graf in 1988.

Eric Hunter, Cook


James Mahoney (Letters, Jan 25) would be well advised to check facts before parroting Liberal Party lines. Peter Garrett was elected to Parliament in 2004 under the leadership of Mark Latham, not Kevin Rudd.

David Grant , Murrumbateman

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