Canberra's form militates against public transport
Letters to the editor
RMIT Academic Paul Mees has made no allowance for Canberra's unique circumstances when slamming our public transport system (''Transport failure 'spectacular''', January 15, p1). Admittedly, our bus system is pretty ordinary.
However, as an engineer, I believe the characteristics of our wonderful city unfortunately make this a virtual certainty. Our city has:
■ a low population;
■ a large footprint (as tall from Gungahlin to Tuggeranong as Sydney is wide from Bondi to Blue Mountains);
■ a very low population density;
■ an even lower apparent population density given that our developed areas are spread out and separated by vast open spaces and our suburbs are relatively far from the CBD;
■ an extremely decentralised workforce given we have five town centres plus the Parliamentary Triangle, Defence precinct, Airport precinct, Fyshwick, Mitchell, Deakin etc; and
■ an extremely low percentage of workers in the CBD (about 35,000 out of a workforce of about 150,000).
All this means we are travelling from town A where we live to town B (or C, D or E) where we work. It is quite common for a Gungahlin resident to work in Woden and a Belconnen resident to work in Tuggeranong, for instance.
And it is quite common for partners to work in different town centres. In other words, we have a fully meshed network, rather than the traditional hub and spoke network. Our bus (and potentially train) system will simply never be able to provide a fast, efficient, frequent and convenient service. Why not? Because ''fast'' means fewer stops, ''frequent'' means more services on the same route, ''convenient'' means services that run close to where people live and work and ''efficient'' means people don't have to change buses. And that cannot be achieved affordably given the characteristics of our city. In fact to do so, would resemble a taxi network!
The only way to change that, would be to move back to a more centralised workforce where more people work in the same location.
It beggars belief that the main reason Mees has given for the failure of our public transport is that too much money has been spent on roads!
Surely he isn't suggesting that a good public transport system requires bad roads to force people onto buses and bikes?
Mees even compares our current public transport system to that from the mid '70s to late '80s when it apparently performed much better. Is it any surprise, given that back then we only had two and perhaps three town centres?
Thomas Manley, systems engineer, Braddon
What a tweet he is
Once again a federal politician, Andrew Laming of Queensland, has been caught out using social media to wrongly disparage a federal parliamentary colleague, this time the Prime Minister, on social media. This serial offender has again engaged his fingers before engaging his brain.
When will he and his ilk learn that social media is nothing but the plaything of the frivolous and those who crave instant attention and not for serious political commentary?
Graeme Rankin, Holder
The rollback state
Is there a better electoral advertisement for Queensland Premier Campbell Newman? Under Anna Bligh's Labor government, Queensland suffered extraordinarily catastrophic flooding in 2011. The first thing Can-do Campbell did upon taking power was to initiate the ''most significant rollback of gay and lesbian rights by a government in the Western world, ever'' - the view of electronic magazine and website Crikey on June 26, 2012. The result? A flood peak ''much lower'' than in 2011.
Well done Premier!
Here's hoping he spends the next years of his term in office continuing to rollback hard won social reforms to ensure Queensland never again experiences floods.
Harry Hobbs, Deakin
Self-rule went to referendum, why not the Assembly's size?
As the release of the official investigation into the number of members in the Assembly is imminent, it is well to look again at John Nethercote's views (''Bigger need not mean better'', January 18, p17). His article exposes the arrogance of the Chief Minister and ACT Labor. Increasing the size of the Assembly may be a ''priority'' for her and ACT Labor, but it is not for most Canberrans. Many still have memories of the dictatorial way self-government was inflicted upon the ACT by federal Labor, after negative referendums, to suit not the aspirations of its citizens but the accounting of the Hawke-Keating government.
Labor did not win the 2012 elections and has no mandate for the increase.
Nethercote makes very strong arguments against the manner in which the ACT Labor is proceeding, particularly with an ''expert'' committee being chaired by the Electoral Officer who would normally be an expert witness. He should withdraw at once in order to remain objective. The objectivity, let alone the expertise, of other members of the ''expert reference group'' should be challenged.
Do we have a compliant ''expert'' committee that accepts as a prior conclusion Gallagher's assumption that an increase of members is necessary and that she has the authority to make that decision?
Increasing the size of the ACT Assembly has fundamental consequences for Canberrans now and to come. A referendum was deemed necessary for self-government, so why is not a referendum being proposed for increasing the number of Assembly members to represent us at our continuous cost?
Greg O'Regan, Farrer
I refer to the article by David Wroe (''New Hornet purchase to plug air defence gap'', January 28, p1) and specifically to the proposal, allegedly from a leaked draft of the 2013 defence white paper, that some F/A-18F Super Hornets will be purchased to cover an air defence gap resulting from the delayed delivery of the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. In that article Wroe asserts that ''Analysts say that the JSF is the best fighter on the market''.
Trouble is, the JSF is not necessarily the best fighter and it is not necessarily on the market.
The Lockheed F-22 Raptor is the fighter we should have had but, unfortunately, the US government refused to sell it to anybody (including close allies such as Australia and Canada) and stopped production over a year ago.
The Sukhoi Su-37 Flanker is a better aircraft which can fly circles around the others. However, having a mixed fleet of F-18 and Su-37 aircraft would create more problems than a mixed fleet of F-18 and JSF aircraft.
The real kicker, and partly conceded by the white paper's alleged prediction that just two JSFs will be delivered by 2020, is that, in reality, the JSF is never going to happen.
The development program is already very late and getting later, it is hugely expensive and getting more so, and the promised capabilities of the JSF are not being met.
Sometime soon an announcement will be made by the US that the JSF program is to be cancelled - quite possibly as part of the response to the fiscal problems faced by the US.
Paul E. Bowler, Holder
I'm not sure Crispin Hull's logic (''Changing how we vote might not go to plan'', 15 January, p9) is sound. He says that if we want to drive we must stay on the left, if we have children they must be sent to school, if you get the dole you must seek work etc. How is it different that if we live in a society where we benefit from the rule of law, you must vote to elect the people who make those laws?
In fact, of course, you can't actually be made to cast a valid vote in a secret ballot system, but there is a penalty if you don't participate in the process. That is a compromise, but I think a reasonable one if we we want to retain both the secret vote and a society based on the rule of law.
Kathryn Kelly, Chifley.
Flags have ugly side
I thank Ian Warden for his article ''A quiet love'' (Panorama, January 26, p7) and share his unease at our celebration of Australia Day. One of the in-your-face changes at recent Australia Day events is the proliferation of flags adorning even the faces of children.
While there's a place for our national flag, it can be a hindrance rather than a help in expressing the things we love about our country and our aspirations for it. A sea of flags at national events can cover up the festering sore that is our inhumane treatment of refugees, those who did not share our good fortune to be born in this country and who have no place to celebrate as home. It can cover up the fact that Australia is progressively giving away any sense of military independence to our ally the US.
A flag-waving crowd could all too readily become the cheer squad needed as our troops are sent to the next senseless and futile war.
Patriotism at its best can represent a willingness to examine how we stand as a nation. But at its flag-waving worst, it can easily take on a very shallow jingoistic nature, with an ugly hidden sense of competition with other countries.
Most fundamentally, January 26 is the date on which Australia's original inhabitants had their land stolen.
A change of date would be a good starting point to making this a day of reflection as well as celebration of all that is good in this country.
Sue Wareham, Cook
Jack of the union
Are we a colony or a country? As long as the Union Jack comprises a quarter of our flag we will always be considered a colony of Great Britain, a colony which hangs off its coat tails. We are a vibrant multicultural country which has developed through the migration of many people from all over the world.
I fail to see the logic of a flag which looks backwards in our history. What do those in favour of maintaining our current flag fear?
Surely we are mature enough to agree that we need a flag which represents our country and the people in it, and takes us forward as a united entity.
Merrie Carling, Gungahlin
Hogging the gongs
I'm sure everyone named in the Australia Day honours was worthy of recognition. As a resident of the ACT, however, I am concerned Canberrans are recognised more frequently than other Australians, for example those from Tasmania.
We make up only about 1.6 per cent of the Australian population but Canberrans, if we include Brian Schmidt, took half of the four ACs, the highest award.
We also took out three (8 per cent) of the next highest award (the AO) and 11 (7 per cent) of the AMs.
By comparison, Tasmania, which has a much greater population than the ACT, received no ACs or AOs and only three (2 per cent) of the AMs.
I suspect this imbalance is largely due to the fact that Canberrans are physically close to the body that awards the gongs and Canberrans are more used to making submissions than their Tasmanian cousins.
I suggest that the Australian Honours and Awards Secretariat ventures out of Yarralumla and arrives at a process that recognises worthy Australians equally across the continent.
Mike Reddy, Lyons
Sour over fast claim
Anthropologists often spout the most complete nonsense.
The article by Nick Herriman ''Barbie: secret men's business'' (January 25, p19) contains so many unsubstantiated and trivial assertions I hardly know where to begin.
I will pick just one. He asserts that an Indonesian Muslim breaking fast will typically start with a sweet food and/or drink and then move on to more bland/filling dishes and that this somehow reverses the cultural habit we have of following the bland dish with a sweet one.
In fact all Muslims will break the Ramadan fast with a sweet dish (such as medjool dates) because they are very tired and energy drained, especially when Ramadan falls in the summer with its long daylight hours. This gives them a quick energy hit and rekindles the appetite.
George Beaton, Greenway
I thank Michael McCarthy (Letters, January 25) but I take issue with his assertion emeritus is used in English as a Latin adjective. My dictionary clearly defines which Latin words are still seen as foreign (e.g. sine die and persona grata) and which ones now have full recognition as naturalised English adopted from Latin (e.g. dux and opus). Emeritus is one of these adopted words and may therefore be applied as readily as actor or waiter to both sexes.
My question as to whether the use of emerita for Professor Diane Bell indicates feminists again prefer terms specific to gender remains unanswered.
Eric French, Higgins
Human rights blot
Last week, John Kiriakou, a former CIA officer, received a 30-month prison sentence following his conviction for disclosing the identity of a colleague who had been involved in the interrogation of suspected terrorists. To my knowledge, no CIA officer has ever been prosecuted for torture.
President Barack Obama, a Nobel peace prize recipient, has reportedly authorised the targeted assassination of US citizens. The legal opinion justifying this unusual punishment remains classified.
Australia has not been reluctant to publicly remind other nations of their shortcomings in the protection of human rights. Should we not accord the same respect to our good friends and allies?
Peter Grabosky, Forrest
I am very disappointed to learn that the official Canberra Day public holiday for this year's centenary is not in fact on Canberra Day, on March 12, but falls the day before on March 11. What is the sense in this?
I expect there to be numerous events for the public to attend on the actual 100th birthday of our city but we are being told we have to attend the day before and just pretend it is the big day.
Surely for this year we could have the official public holiday on the actual anniversary of the founding of Canberra and revert to the usual second Monday in March next year.
Gail McCulloch, Ngunnawal
To the point
THE SILENCE IS SURPRISING
Canberrans do become agitated about some issues, such as plastic bags, public art and conservative misogynists, but it is intriguing to observe that in the most educated constituency in Australia, people seem oblivious to the threat to freedom of expression posed by Nicola Roxon's anti-discrimination bill.
H.Ronald, Jerrabomberra, NSW
JUST THE TICKET
Following the argument of H. Ronald towards ''Perisgate'' (Letters, January 24) to its logical (?) conclusion, the best way for Julia Gillard to demonstrate she is neither racist nor sexist is to instead select a white man as No.1 on the ALP Senate ticket for the Northern Territory in the next election.
Paul McElligott, Aranda
Anne Prendergast (Letters, January 24) says the appointment by the Prime Minister of an Aboriginal woman, Nova Peris, to a winnable position for the next federal election is illegal. Could she please explain how? I note that during the recent ACT election campaign, I received a letter from Prendergast telling me to vote for Liberal candidate Guilia Jones. The letter was a signed political document but had no address for attribution. How legal was this?
Vic Adams, Reid
That the PM had to intervene to preselect an ALP Aboriginal candidate for a safe seat says everything about Labor's commitment to federal indigenous representation.
Greg Cornwell, Yarralumla
PRAYER OF HOPE
Amen to the last words of the Editorial ''Pray for a bit of dignity in politics'' (January 25, p18) - pray ''that the ACT and the nation will be better served by our political leaders this year''.
Dave White, Deakin
Sam Nona (Letters, January 28) is right: a polished insult has no need of profanity. But Churchill didn't just dish it out. As a young and trim man himself, he once gave Lord Haldane a poke in his pot belly and asked him cheekily, ''What are you going to call it?'' Lord Haldane said if it was a boy, he'd name it after the king; if a girl, after the queen. ''But, if it turns out to be no more than wind, I'll call it Winston.''
Barrie Smillie, Duffy
BEATEN TO IT
Pity to see patently incorrect statements published (''Call to toughen plastic ban'', January 25, p3); some people might believe them. The uninformed/ignorant comments in your article about the ACT's ban on plastic shopping bags that ''not one other place in Australia'' has such a ban. South Australia banned them in 2009 and the Northern Territory in 2011.
Harvey Marchant, Weston
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