Building industry needs to root out conflicts of interest
Letters to the Editor
The Master Builders Association's Jerry Howard can't understand ''how we lost the plot so completely'' with respect to building work quality (January 21, p4). Well I have some suggestions.
We started to lose the plot with the privatisation of public building inspectors. Many of those same inspectors worked for much higher remuneration as private certifiers.
The theory is that certifiers work for the building owner. However, the owner may often be the builder, who transfers the building after completion. Certifiers are usually appointed to a building project by the builder on behalf of the owner. Obviously it is in the interest of the certifier, with an eye on future employment, to keep the builder ''sweet'' as far as possible.
While legislation now penalises certifiers who are found to transgress, the pressure is on certifiers not to be too tough on builders. The private certifier's role in inspecting and approving building plans may have contributed to our lost plot. I believe some jurisdictions are reverting to public building inspectors. The ACT could follow suit.
With respect to the quality of licensed builders, the ACT could stop accepting interstate qualified builders and establish a testing authority independent of the training institution.
Gina Pinkas, Aranda
Jerry Howard of the MBA is right. He has many years of experience and like me has seen the building industry lose a lot of its pride in work and become a money-making venture at all costs - especially safety. Jerry gave some practical advice to prospective home owners.
Whenever anyone has asked me for advice about building, one thing l have always advised is to make sure the builder belongs to a reputable organisation such as the MBA or HIA.
I ask therefore whether the MBA and HIA look at the qualifications and experience of potential members the same way many other professional bodies do, or do they just accept their membership fees and say thank you?
Geoff Barker, Flynn
The Canberra (2003) firestorm memorial is elegantly done with curving walls embedded with messages from those affected and a circular pond in the central amphitheatre evoking contemplation.
In the 10th anniversary ceremony last week there were several good speeches; by fire victim spokesperson, Jane Smyth, Chief Minister, Katy Gallagher and (Bishop) Pat Power.
But there was something odd about it. Three Christian denominations played roles in what the master of ceremonies described as a ''service''. A piece of Christian scripture was read by one Uniting Church minister and another prayed on behalf of us all. It was as if we were back in the '60s and most people in Canberra had acknowledged Catholic or Protestant affiliation, few would have admitted atheism and other religions had little presence.
After the formalities at the memorial, a Buddhist monk in saffron robe and conical peasant hat silently offered flower petals and many of us happily helped him float them on the pond - a beautiful moment but apparently unscripted.
Intentionally or not, it was the gentlest reminder that we are a multicultural community, located in south-east Asia.
We have well-established Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist as well as other religious communities (and atheists) within Canberra as well as mosques, temples and Buddhist and Islamic centres.
Should we look for ways to include these fellow citizens and institutions, meaningfully, in our public ceremonies? I think so.
Peter Dawson, Hughes
Chris Jobson's response (Letters, January 21) is spot on. Having served my first tour of duty in Vietnam as a proud nasho, I echo completely his assertions regarding who went and who didn't.
On re-enlistment as a regular soldier and a second tour in Vietnam, I saw no change to the status quo. I had exactly the same terms and conditions of employment whether I was a nasho or a regular soldier, and formed friendships that have endured for almost 50 years.
The education, skills and capacity to endure that we attained served us very well later in life. What we do not remember fondly is the treatment every one of us wore on our return from active service in Vietnam.
Noel McLaughlin, Macgregor
The use of a silly lottery to pick out teenagers to serve in a war we joined to appease the US is abuse no matter how it is prettied up now. I know many who were treated this way and whether or not they did go to 'Nam they are still traumatised.
In 'Nam they were still exposed to agent orange, they were still open to being slaughtered, they were still unwilling in the first instance and many I know who came back killed themselves in despair.
Regular army blokes made their own choice to join the services; conscripts had the choice of going to war or going to jail.
Marilyn Shepherd, Angaston, SA
What a happy, fun little army unit Christopher Jobson of Monash (Letters, January 21) must have served in where all the nashos wanted to be in the army and were happy to go to Vietnam. My unit was full of men without a vote who bitterly resented being put in harm's way to meet the outcomes of a government two generations older than they were and whose politics they opposed.
And as for being able to opt out of going to Vietnam (news to me and, I'm sure, news to a whole lot of them), it would be a brave infantryman asking Sergeant-Major in a polite voice, ''Please, Sir, I don't want to go to war. Please post me somewhere safe.''
Dallas Stow, O'Connor
An issues paper released by Peter Garrett advocates teaching business to primary students in grades 5 and 6. The argument apparently goes that an awareness of ''key business ideas'' and ''the world of work'' is at least as useful as anything else they learn in those formative years.
How about some education on things that seemingly cannot be left in the realm of common sense, such as the life and death issue of locking children and pets in cars in anything other than the mildest weather?
There are any number of matters that could be visited in a ''survival skills'' unit: not diving into water of unknown depth; what to do if health emergencies (such as anaphylaxis, asthma and seizure) are witnessed; and what to do in personally threatening situations (whether the threat is a person, a dog, or other).
Lives could be saved within weeks or months of such a component being added to formal education and, over time, a great many lives would be positively and profoundly affected.
Ross Kelly, Monash
There is a Monty Python sketch in which an architect who usually designs abattoirs turns his hand to the design of an apartment block and mystifies the client during his design presentation with talk of blood gutters and the like. The startled client objects.
This very funny sketch came to mind on first seeing the giant fly swats encrusted with dead fly bodies now poised over the Manuka Oval.
Oh, what fun the proverbial fly on the wall must have had at the design presentation of the Manuka Oval lights to the National Capital Authority (''Let there be light: Manuka ready for night shift'', January 10, p14).
But, now that the light towers are built, is it too late to say we are not amused?
Penleigh Boyd, Reid
Graham Bridge sticks to the left of the footpath and has no problem with cyclists (''Stick to the rules'', Sunday Canberra Times, Letters, January 20, page 14).
I was sticking to the left of the pedestrian footpath walking up Athlon Drive when I was knocked to the ground unconscious. When I came to, I saw the bicycle that had hit me.
The cyclist said that he had seen me up ahead, but had put his head down to pedal up the hill and forgot about me until the heavy impact with my back. From then I have always walked on the right-hand side of the footpath so I can see the silent death cyclists (SDC) coming towards me.
My SDC did not sound his bell, nor shout out ''bike'', or give any other warning. The fact is that footpaths are exactly that - footpaths. They are not cycle paths. Mr Bridge may be interested to know that there are signs on Athlon Drive that clearly advise cyclists that they must give way to pedestrians, even if pedestrians do upset him.
In a shared zone both cars and bicycles give way to pedestrians. This is common sense when you think about it. Mr Bridge may be driven insane by rude, ignorant or plain stupid pedestrians. Being so uptight and irritated when riding his bicycle on the footpath perhaps he should consider riding on the road.
We have heard about road rage; perhaps the tone of this letter is an example of bicycle rage. Mr Bridge should brush up on the laws governing cyclists then take a chill pill.
In the article that Jack Waterford wrote in SundayFocus (''No need for civic velodrome'', January 20, p16), he hit the nail on the head when he referred to ''flat land without a pedestrian to be knocked over (with free added extra abuse from the Lycra-clad rider)''.
Footpaths are not for the open-slather, no-holds-barred use of bicycle riders, Lycra-clad or otherwise.
Chris Lathbury, Fadden
Not a fair cop
The recent letters regarding Ned Kelly do not do him justice. Compared with some of the bushrangers, he was a gentleman. At 12 he was awarded a sash for saving a boy from drowning. There was little to separate felons and police in those days. With Ned, it was very much a case of doing as you would be done by.
Howard Carew, Isaacs
To the point
WHAT'S SO GOOD ABOUT IT?
The CommSec report (CT, January 21, p1) praises Canberra for having ''good population growth''. Can somebody please explain: what is good about population growth?
Roger Quarterman, Campbell
GOD ON LINE
Sam Nona (Letters, January 21) may be doing an injustice to the teenagers in St Mary's Cathedral. As this is probably the only way of communicating they know, these earnest young people were probably texting God.
Meta Sterns, Yarralumla
ONWARDS A REPUBLIC
The Carr/Smith ''defence'' treaty with a British Tory government (backed by Abbott Tories) was not approved by our Parliament, another example of abuse of our colonial constitution that needs republican reform.
Bryan Lobascher, Chapman
Other places have had far bigger tragedies and disasters than the 2003 Canberra bushfires, but The Canberra Times seems to be determined to go on and on and on about it. I realise it is a quiet news time, but please give all us readers a break.
Vic Adams, Reid
DIDN'T HE START IT?
The high priests at the Bushfire Memorial had participants talk to the very God who, according to their usual message, sent fire (if not brimstone) down on Canberra 10 years ago. It's a wonder they didn't claim it was punishment for our sins! Only a rationalist can enjoy on such occasions.
Gordon Nevin, O'Connor
OLDEN NOT GOLDEN
I am sure, Robert Willson (Letters, January 18), that in Shakespeare's day there were curmudgeons complaining that no one could recite Ovid or Homer verbatim any more. Much as I am sure you would prefer stultifying stasis, societies do not work like that, and the ''golden era'' unto which you yearn is gone, no more, finis.
Get over it.
Paul McElligott, Aranda
CONSIDER THE LIZARDS
During this hot spell of weather it is important to keep the bird bath filled with water if you have one and/or provide a dish of water in a suitable spot at ground level in the garden for lizards, possums and any small wild life that may visit your garden.
Elizabeth Broomfield, Googong
NOT SO STEEP
The job market is on the slide, we are told. Well, I have to say our slide is not a very steep one. Almost all developed nations have higher unemployment rates and even miracle economies like Switzerland had an increase in December 2012.
Fred Hart, Weston
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