Inside story of Churchill House shows it's still heritage-worthy

Inside story of Churchill House shows it's still heritage-worthy

Allison Barnes (Letters, January 8) laments the failure to give Churchill House a heritage-listing.

I served 10 years there last century, and the architect's regard for his art did not extend to his creation's inmates.

Though superficially attractive, the building was a nightmare of dysfunction – freezing in winter and stiflingly hot in summer. Downstairs, a bizarre split galley arrangement defied the integration of work units.

The official opening of Churchill House in Canberra in April 1972.

The official opening of Churchill House in Canberra in April 1972. Credit:Thompson

Upstairs were low ceilings and concrete walls. The warden was resolute in his determination to spend little. In hot weather, he would get his underlings to stand on the roof and hose the building down.


Worst of all was the ventilation. The building's windows did not open, and the air intake was located in the adjacent underground car park, where the daily thrum of truck engines ensured a steady supply of monoxide.

Perhaps fate was kind to us.

A taller inmate once thrust his head into the air-conditioning duct to find that the tube designed to move air through the building lay in unjoined segments, gathering grease and dust.

In an inspired effort at team-building, one manager installed a glass tank in the centre of his section and asked staff to select individual goldfish.

One by one the fish succumbed to the foul air, their names added with haloes to a large whiteboard.

Old Jack, the resident philosopher, would stand outside smoking and chortling, while his boss, the director of facilities, prayed in his office for deliverance to a better place.

Awful. But heritage, yes.

Paul Feldman, Macquarie

Move to Wattle Day

We are now in the run-up to Australia Day on 26 January, increasingly a day of division rather than nationwide celebration.

For the Indigenous, it is invasion day or a day of mourning, while the followers of Captain Cook and Captain Phillip laud the arrival of "Western civilisation". Post-war immigrants (Italians, Vietnamese, Syrians, Cambodians, Sudanese etc — choose your own war), the third strand of Australian society, are non-plussed.

Some municipal councils have moved citizenship ceremonies to another day.

But what other day ? There is no historical, political or social event that we can all — Indigenous, European, other immigrants — wholeheartedly rally round and celebrate being Australian.

There is, however, Australia itself — "the wide, brown land", the vision splendid of the sunlit plains extended" with its fires, floods and droughts which have fashioned our sense of Australian community: our first peoples "belong to the country" ; to the convicts, settlers and their descendants Australia offered the chance to own their piece of dirt where Jack and Jill were as good as their masters — and later immigrants fled chaos and corruption to get a new start in the land of the fair go.

September 1, proclaimed Wattle Day by the Australian government in 1992, encapsulates ideas and ideals all strands of the Australian community support.

It is the most appropriate and probably the only widely acceptable date for our national day. Let's change the date and celebrate being Australians on September 1.

John Brummell, Duffy

Light rail doesn't add up

Thank you, Howard Carew (Letters, January 4) for your details about the light rail costings.

With Canberra's population density of 445 people per square kilometre, there is no way of justifying the building cost of light rail when there are better and cheaper alternatives available. Light rail, which is virtually 200-year-old technology, is about as sensible as reintroducing a landline telephone system.

Although light rail is currently fashionable, I cannot find any justification for its enormous cost. I have discovered that there are only two main arguments to support light rail:

1. People like light rail as they know where the trains go.

2. It is supposedly cleaner than diesel. However, the argument is no longer valid.

Take the city of Shenzhen in China as a comparison.

Shenzhen has multiple transport systems as it has a population of 12.53 million, with a density of 5963 people per square kilometre.

Canberra has a population of less than 390,000 and a population density of 444 per square kilometre.

In Shenzhen, they have 16,359 electric buses and have just opened their first light rail.

The cost of the Shenzhen light rail was $245,700,000 per km or $19.60 per capita.

If the cost of the Canberra light rail is $1.4 billion (similar to the Gold Coast project), the per capita cost to Canberrans is $3590.

If we assume that the light rail will attract travellers from the surrounding square kilometre, that is 500m each side of the light rail; the figures become truly scary.

For Shenzhen, with a population density of 5963 per square kilometre, the per capita cost per kilometre is $3522.

For Canberra, with a population density of 444 per square kilometre, the cost per capita per kilometre is $286,650.

Barry Faux, Kingston

An opaque process

Thomas Natera and J. Kershaw (Letters, January 8) are quite correct in what they say, respectively, about "self-assessment" of light rail by the ACT government and PPPs.

The question of any government inspecting the standard of its own work has always been a farce perpetrated with the presumed aim of saving money rather than doing the correct thing by independent accreditation. In the case of Public Private Partnerships (PPP), governments love them because they can kid themselves that they are passing the project risk to the contractor/s (wrong!) and that they can hide behind the confidentiality of private contracts.

This is exactly what the ACT government has been doing all along with light rail – how much critical or even important data does the public really know about the $1.8billion 20-year cost of Stage 1? Virtually nothing, upon critical examination.

A nasty aspect of PPPs not often talked about is that they automatically cost significantly more.

The contractors are expected to carry all financial risk and cannot borrow money as cheaply as the government.

M. Flint, Erindale

Not up to the mark

I don't feel strongly about whether the Harry Seidler designed house in Deakin should be heritage listed. It has always struck me as being somewhat overrated.

The aerial photograph did demonstrate the changes occurring in Canberra, even in the old suburbs.

The Seidler house is surrounded by McMansions and swimming pools and tennis courts. It is about the only one retaining a mature tree canopy.

John Mungoven, Stirling

Regional strategy needed

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Well done to Yass Valley Council for its settlement strategy which argues carving up rural land into smaller lots compromises the ability of people to make a living off the land.

Rural residential lots are not a good way to manage land. They place pressure on the council's ability to pay for services and roads to spread-out properties ("Zone war brews on ACT border, January 7, p 1).

The comment by NSW Planning that the plan would impact on "the expectations of existing landowners and businesses" suggests it is a captive of the development lobby and abrogating its planning responsibilities.

Rural land owners have no entitlement to an upzoning; an expectation of speculative gain is no justification.

While Mr Ginn, a rural landowner, states allowing development would make better economic, social and environmental sense, no evidence is presented to support the claim.

The argument that Canberra is running out of land is also questionable, but understandable given the ACT government's failure to investigate the merits of potential settlement areas such as Kowen.

The debate highlights the need for a regional settlement strategy analysing all the relevant factors.

M. Quirk, Garran

Confusion on grand scale

Is bestowing unqualified "Grand Slam" titles on many current tennis players an example of sloppy journalism, lack of knowledge or combination of both? The latest example appeared in The Canberra Times "Trivia" section (January7, p8), where Rodger Federer was credited with winning the most men's grand slam titles.

Without doubt Roger Federer is one of the greatest champions that has graced the world's tennis courts. His conduct is exemplary on and off the court. Federer won six Australian Open titles and 20 tennis majors which are also known as Grand Slam events overall, but is yet to win his first true "Grand Slam".

A Grand Slam in tennis is winning all four of the singles majors or Grand Slam tournaments during a calendar year.

They are the Australian Open, the French Open, the Wimbledon Championship and the US Open.

The last time such a feat was achieved by a man was in 1969, by Rod Laver.

Laver also won the Grand Slam in 1962 during the amateur era. The last time a woman won the Grand Slam was in 1988 — by Steffi Graf.

Yet our TV and radio commentators and sport experts persist with crediting many current players with winning "X" number of Grand Slams, when they should be referring to winning tennis majors or individual Grand Slam tournaments.

Describing any current player as a multiple Grand Slam winner without qualification, including the peerless Roger Federer, takes away from the exceptional achievement of the very few who managed to do so.

R. S. Baczynski, Isaacs

Parking woes

Thank you to Felicity Chivas (Letters, January 4) for her advice on parking alternatives in order to enjoy a movie at the Palace cinema at New Acton.

If you are able to find a park in the streets around the Palace,the next issue is having a maximum parking time of only two hours.

To illustrate the problem, thisweek the Palace are showing 13 movies, 11 of which run in excess of 104 minutes.

Let's assume one arrives a minimum of 30 minutes before a session starts in order to find and pay for parking, walk to the cinema, find your purchased on-line allocated seat before the lights dim, in order to avoid tripping or stepping on people's toes.

There are always ads and future movie trailers before the main feature starts which adds time to the session, maybe a visit to the toilet after the movie before the trip home, then the walk back to the car.

It is not hard to work out from this that a two-hour parking limit is totally unrealistic and ridiculous.

The Palace cinema has admitted a loss of business as a result of the shortened parking limit and the cancellation of a parking discount at the Wilsons underground car park.

In all fairness to the Palace cinema and its movie patrons would Access Canberra please review and increase the two-hour parking limit?

Gail McAlpine, Griffith

Ambulance aces

Congratulations to the ACT ambulance service which on Tuesday rose above and beyond in assisting a horse rider whose horse had slipped and fallen on her.

A passing team slowed their vehicle when I signalled "Here's the turn-off".

I thought they were the requested help.

Despite really being on a return to base at the end of a long shift, these gracious women took care of the injured rider until the assigned team arrived.

They handed over in a professional manner and departed, allowing the second team to continue care, which they did ably.

The rider was discharged from hospital later that day, sore but assisted.

Lin Enright, Latham

Spending up

Fraser Anning seems to be hell-bent on spending as much taxpayers' money as he can in order to associate with his soul mates of the far right ("'He invited himself': How the accidental senator ...", January 9, pp4-5).

Since he is now sitting in the Senate as an independent, he can no longer hitch a ride with a political party.

Thankfully we will no longer be assailed by Mr Anning's far-right views after he fails to be re-elected.

Douglas Mackenzie, Deakin

Project issue

We agree with Frances Wieg (Letters, January 8) re the Immigration Bridge.

Our family purchased a plaque in my parents' name as a Christmas gift to them.

They have died and the opportunity for them to see the plaque has long gone.

We also ask "what happened to the project?" and "what has happened to the money?"

Reading an article by Han Nguyen (Canberra Times, November 3, 2018) leads me to think that I know the answer to the above questions.

The answers?

"Nothing" and "Blown".

M. and V. Juskevics, Flynn



Some years ago The Canberra Times reported on a small Seidler house in Yapunyah Street, O'Connor. The owners were going to demolish it to make way for a new house. Their architect refused on the grounds of heritage because of the Seidler link.

Apparently when the owners asked Harry Seidler if they could knock it down he said "yes".

Gail Allen, Pearce


Wanted for the Northbourne tram: Summer sweepers – all the leaves and bark you can eat.

Jack Kershaw, Kambah


A Saudi girl in Bangkok has the UN in overdrive, and even our government is seeing what it can do for her. A Bahraini refugee in Bangkok, dobbed in by Australian Federal Police (again) is banged up in the Bangkok Hilton, with a very good chance of being sent back to his death. And our government says ...?

Bob Gardiner, Isabella Plains


The story "Do you earn enough?" ("From architect to zoologist, how much jobs pay", January 9, p4) indicates a Member of Parliament receives $184,840.

Does this amount include rorts?

T. Puckett, Ashgrove, Qld


"ScoMo" is looking more and more like the exhausted and out of ideas Herbert Hoover who was slaughtered in the 1932 US presidential election. The pity is that no matter how much you squint you just can't make Bill Shorten look anything like Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

N. Ellis, Belconnen


Well, what great news! ("Leyonhjelm quits federal politics", January 8, p6) It could only be better if he had announced that he was taking Peter, George, Pauline and Fraser with him.

W. Book, Hackett


Could history repeat? Dr Hewson lost the unlosable election before.

Mr Shorten can do the same if he keeps coming up with stupid policies.

Mokhles k Sidden, Sydney, NSW


What has possessed Senator Pauline Hanson to advocate for "Cash for Cane Toads" and to have work-for-the-dole recipients catching these introduced species, freezing them and taking them to local councils? They call this the silly season but this is just stupid.

Allan Gibson, Cherrybrook, NSW


If Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun is given accelerated access to enter Australia it will confirm it is not the quality of the hurt you might have suffered that will determine your place in the refugee queue, it is the number of likes you can amass on social media.

Roger Dace, Reid

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