How to blow a budget

How to blow a budget

This budget according to Andrew Barr, is for the ''vulnerable people''. So up go the rates for the vulnerable, an unwanted railway of value to few, capital expenditure beyond understanding that add to debt. When you factor in the poor history of fiscal management in ACT major projects, the proposed $614 million railway will no doubt blow out by hundreds of millions of dollars.

Canberra is not a business and/or manufacturing centre, and trying to make it such is foolhardy. The public servants who may lose their jobs are not the people who can be labourers on a railway, nor would they want to pursue such work, but that is Simon Corbell's theory.


Wrong objectives, wrong solutions and justifying an urgent change of government without Greens support before we face bankruptcy.

Rex Williams, Ainslie


Jobs on the line

What is occurring with planning the future ACT? The latest report of ''over 3000 jobs'' created by the construction phase of the light rail project and ''a footprint of 50,000 jobs by 2049'' in the light rail corridor (''Light rail to deliver 'over 3000 jobs''', June 2, p1) is incredible. Following revelations of the rapid business case assumptions for light rail, including a need for ''government to prioritise the corridor'', one ponders the structural impacts on the inner north.

An augmented ACT population, mostly residing along the tramline, is supposedly going to use trams between Gungahlin and their jobs in Civic. Perhaps - if they actually work in Civic. If not, how do they reach their jobs elsewhere?

It would be helpful to know the source of the 50,000 new, permanent jobs in Civic that will employ the residents of the tram zone. Will these jobs employ all who move into that zone, or will there be a proportion from elsewhere in the ACT? How will the light rail and associated changes to the northside be co-ordinated with that other priority development area at Canberra Airport?

A scan of the recently released draft Canberra Airport master plan indicates jobs expansion over the next 10 years or so in that precinct to something over 30,000 (an increase in the order of 20,000). The precinct will apparently attain town-centre status with ACT government endorsement and consistency with the territory plan. To achieve these two priorities, several ducks must line up.

The ACT's population must grow sufficiently to fill all of the new apartments proposed for Northbourne Avenue and City to the Lake, in addition to those now being built/approved elsewhere in the ACT. Homes across the ACT not converted to high rise must remain occupied. The ACT economy must evolve and grow to sustain existing jobs in current town centres while not less than 70,000 new, permanent jobs emerge in Civic and Canberra Airport by 2049. And the ACT government must give concurrent development priority to both the light rail corridor and Canberra Airport precinct. What chance of a priority upgrade for my local shops?

Mark Anderson, Campbell

A bonnie lesson

Canberrans of a Green complexion will no doubt rejoice at the opening, last weekend, of Edinburgh's light rail route.

In 2007 its burghers were told they were getting 12.7 kilometres of network for £375 million, completed in four years. Seven years later what they got was 8.5 kilometres, for £775 million plus £200 million in projected future interest costs. Oh, and the fare is £1 more than the competing bus.

If we must have environmentally correct public transport along Northbourne Avenue, can't the government build a bus lane and wait a few years until battery-powered buses become available?

Paul Mason, McKellar

Long-term planning is rare, particularly in regard to infrastructure. Visit Melbourne and Sydney, where examples abound in the form of traffic jams for as far as the eye can see.

A government that is prepared to think ahead in the interest of the public is something we should all applaud. A proposal for a light rail system does just that, it looks ahead. The cost is only going to get more expensive and difficult over time. Putting infrastructure off to some time into the future is uneconomic and short-sighted. There are people out there who oppose everything.

There were people aplenty who opposed the Arboretum. They have been and will continue to be proved wrong. The light rail proposal is another example where blinkers need to be taken off. Opposing sensible planning because it is an example of forward thinking simply because it is being done by Katy Gallagher is cutting off our nose to spite our face. It will be a very expensive tragedy if this proposal fails simply because of blinkers and spite. Canberra is a wonderful place to live. Let us hope it remains so with planning and open minds.

Patrick O'Hara, Isaacs

Reynolds reality check

I read with incredulity the ignorant, petulant comments of Josh Reynolds regarding the response to his dangerous tackle on Brent Tate during the State of Origin (''Angered Reynolds bites back at Maroons critics'',, June 1). He claims to be ''a bit disappointed'' by the reaction because he believes ''what happens on the field stays on the field''. He should try telling that to Alex McKinnon and his family. For Reynolds' father to come out and say that ''bringing Alex McKinnon was disgraceful'' is asinine, it was entirely appropriate. The fact is that their actions cannot always ''stay on the field''.

It shows how far the NRL still has to go to stamp out this style of play, when players are unable to draw a link between their actions and the consequences something significant needs to be done. The opportunity to do something significant has now been lost. The soft treatment of the NRL in downgrading the charge so that Reynolds is able to play in the next State of Origin sends no message at all and will hardly help.

Reynolds said it best himself, ''I'm not thinking about that now because I got off''.

Phil Johnston, Ainslie

Doctored thinking

Behavioural economics 101: People doing an activity which gives them a positive feeling are more likely to overuse it if it's free. Think free chocolate. Going to the doctor is not such an activity. It's an inconvenience at best.

Purpose of a doctor's visit is to lessen a negative feeling - you or your child being unwell. For most people, there is no positive outcome in going to the doctor if you don't need to, even if it's free. So the notion that the public is abusing visits to doctors who bulk bill is a bit of a furphy.

Bruce Pittard, Fadden

Prime Minister, listen to the scientists: they can save us

Ian Dunlop's article (''Burning science books is not the answer'', Times2, June 2, p5) should be required reading for all members of the federal government.

Tony Abbott's speech to the World Economic Forum in January extolling the virtues of economic growth, while not understanding we have passed planetary biocapacity by 50 per cent, indicated an appalling ignorance of current reality.

As climate change bears down upon us, we need to place science and scientists centre stage so that we can get through the necessary transition from a high-carbon to low-carbon economy - the only thing that will save us.

Jenny Goldie, Michelago, NSW

Ian Dunlop's opinion piece contains a host of unsupported assumptions and platitudes - just what you would expect from someone involved with [the think tank] ''The Club of Rome''.

He wrote glowingly of the Climate Commission. These scientists only mention the harmful effects of the mild warming that has occurred or is likely to occur. They do not mention that most of it has been, and will be, entirely natural - that is, non-anthropogenic, a fact that is well supported by scientific studies. Even the IPCC's fifth assessment report agrees that the warming, during this century, will be on the whole beneficial. The issue is not climate change but climate change alarmism, and the hugely damaging policies that are advocated in its name. And alarmism is a feature not of the physical world, which is what climate scientists study, but of human behaviour; the province, in other words, of economists, historians, sociologists, psychologists and - dare I say it - politicians.

J. McKerral, Batemans Bay, NSW

Crime will be their pay

The recent budget is largely about the federal government shoving the cost of various functions onto other people and agencies. So, for example, we saw states loaded up.

The move to leave jobless under-30s with no visible means of support for 12 of the first 18 months of unemployment is a crude attempt to shove responsibility back to parents. But many such unemployed adults are beyond parental assistance.

How might those people cope in their ''gap year''?

The answer is that the framers of this budget are happy to have part of dole cost savings picked up by the insurance industry (as stealing cars and burgling homes increases) and by careless members of the night-time public and emergency wards (as muggings surge).

They surely understand that there are real limits to how many more unemployed (in an increasingly unemployed world) can be accommodated by drug selling and prostitution.

Cuthbert Douglas, Bonython

Not worth it

I think drug testing dole recipients goes too far and the federal government would be wise not to go ahead with this idea. Most people on the dole don't take drugs, so we would be spending a lot of money every year just to cut the job seekers' dole payment.

Given that the major arguments in favour for drug testing are that taxpayers should not have to fund their drug habits gives rise to other questions such as should alcohol testing be done in addition to drug testing and should we ban smoking as well for these people. After all, why should the taxpayer pay for their smokes and booze.

Lay this idea to rest otherwise it will just end up costing the taxpayer more in the end.

Adam Hamilton, Ngunnawal

Alvarez deserved better

Rather than blaming Vivian Alvarez Solon, a person with a serious mental illness who was a victim of government incompetence, and assuming that everyone ''probably'' acted honourably in her deportation, Bob Salmond (Letters, June 3) might like to familiarise himself with the findings of the inquiry by Neil Comrie. The report is still available on the Immigration Department's website. Whether the minister and her department acted with ''thuggery'' is debatable.

But unless we have totally abandoned the concept of ministerial responsibility, Amanda Vanstone deserves some criticism.

I hope that if Mr Salmond ever loses his mental faculties, and is unable to give a coherent account of himself to government authorities, he receives better treatment than Ms Alvarez Solon and Cornelia Rau before her.

Peter Marshall, Captains Flat, NSW

Just a tip, Tony

Jenna Price's conversation with colleagues, as to whether an unpopular Tony Abbott would be re-elected for a second term (''Agreed. Abbott is unpopular enough to survive'', Times2, June 3, p5), reminded me of what happened during Margaret Thatcher's era.

Despite being constantly accused by her opponents of having divided the nation, Thatcher was entrusted with leading the country for three successive terms.

Curiously, Thatcher never pretended to be a professional politician; nevertheless, she put her ideas across with such conviction and precision, even when the odds were overwhelmingly against her, that most voters developed an admiration for her.

Clearly, Abbott's chance of getting a second term would be greatly enhanced if he were to establish a more harmonious rapport with the people.

Sam Nona, Burradoo, NSW

Scrap campaign funds

Public funding of election campaigns are deemed unfair, expensive and could be unconstitutional (, June 3). I believe election campaigns no matter how they are funded are also unnecessary.

Weeks of being bombarded in the media certainly becomes tiring and boring. Most voters will vote for the performance of the current government.

If they do not like what they see they will vote for another party, but we do not need so much advertising.

Robyn Lewis, Raglan, NSW

Cost of action plan stifles public debate

At last, after nearly 20 years the Action Plan for Australian Mammals has been updated. And I am amazed that federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt plans to rid our country of feral cats. I wonder how he can reconcile such conservation plans with destruction of the Barrier Reef and other ecosystems, as well as climate change which the federal government is facilitating.

However, such action plans are part of government policy and should be accessible freely to all Australians, without paying $120 for the privilege. Is this a new way to stifle public debate?

Dave Kelly, Aranda

Energy-intensive May

Although Canberra had a warmer May than average (''Warm May with mild June on way'', June 3, p5), it also had a more energy intensive one for buildings. This is because the average daily temperature being higher than the average was countered by the beginning of May being much colder. From hourly weather data collected by the CSIRO at Black Mountain, simulation results using three typical building models (a three-storey office, a 10-storey office and stand-alone suburban supermarket) all showed that both heating and cooling energy consumptions are higher than the average May

- a most unusual result.

Trevor Lee, ARAIA director (buildings), Fyshwick

Hotline running cold

I recently had need to call the Department of Human Services on their ''hotline''. After spending the usual several minutes talking to a computer who continually said something like ''Sorry I am having trouble understanding you - was that xxxx you wanted?'' I was eventually told I was being put through to an operator. At last, I thought! I then waited 57 minutes for someone to speak to me. Total time for the call: one hour and three minutes. And Tony is cutting back the public service. Won't things improve then!!

Geoff Barker, Flynn



Being a former public servant, it's probably not surprising that I look forward to each edition of the Public Sector Informant. It invariably contains at least several articles that are worth reading and mulling over. The June issue was excellent. I read and enjoyed it from front to back - with Paddy Gourley's article reaching a new high in relevance, reason and clarity. Keep up the good work.

Bronis Dudek, Calwell


WorkChoices, like its retired chief proponent, is doing a Lazarus: was cremated, then buried, but is now in the process of resurrection!

Greg Simmons, Lyons


Would it be too churlish to suggest that Scott Rashleigh's view from the heights of O'Malley (Letters, June 3) might be very different were he part of those sections of society whose lives and financial positions are being drastically ''rebalanced''? As a fellow ''boomer'', Mr Rashleigh's relief at the supposed end to entitlement is rather smug considering our generation enjoyed government largesse in a variety of forms for many decades.

Jon Stirzaker, Latham


If the Abbott government wants to save money, why is it spending millions conducting a fruitless search for an aeroplane in the South Indian Ocean?

Phylli Ives, Torrens


Fear not, those who think light rail is a daft proposal for Canberra. It won't be built for centuries or even millennia. The several ''artist's impression'' pictures in the CT show the overhead power cables just sitting up in thin air. No ugly stanchions and the usual rats-nest of supporting wires. Obviously the cables are held up with anti-gravity technology. Some time off, I think.

Roy Bray, Flynn


It would be good if the two ACT MLAs who recently went overseas to study prostitution could do some street walking in Canberra to study how the footpaths in many suburbs can be repaired.

John Milne, Chapman


Well, we've sorted David Eastman, now for Sandor Earl. The new tsars of the NRL are way out of their depth, it's time that they were made to eat crow for their role in Kate Lundy's debacle. Smith and co claim that Earl took ''performance-enhancing drugs'' but he was out injured for the entire time that he took them in the hope of a speedy recovery, with no evidence of any intention of using them during any ''performance''.

Michael F. Buggy, Torrens

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