Ratepayers being taken for a ride on forecasts for light-rail project

Ratepayers being taken for a ride on forecasts for light-rail project

To quote Walter Scott: ‘‘Oh what a tangled web we weave’’ etc. The original cost of light rail was estimated at a bit over $600 million. The latest forecast by the ACT government is about $939 million.

Taking Surfers Paradise light rail as a comparison, its cost was about $1.4 billion. They are both about the same length.

One would have to be very gullible to imagine that we could build light rail for even half the cost of the Gold Coast project.

The Gold Coast light-rail project cost about $1.4 billion.

The Gold Coast light-rail project cost about $1.4 billion.Credit:Glenn Hunt


Moving on to financing each project, Surfers light rail was financed by a one-third contribution from Infrastructure Australia, the Queensland government and Gold Coast Council. Our light rail is financed by the firm building it at a high rate of interest, which, with the cost of building, interest, operations and maintenance will amount to well over $2billion over the repayment period.

As in the case of other tramways, our white elephant will run at a loss.

This will be paid by ACT ratepayers. If these rough figures leave you feeling rather ill I sincerely hope the deluded souls who voted our present lot of economic illiterates into government at the last election have a different approach at the next one.

Howard Carew, Isaacs

Ethics above affiliation

Mario Stivala (Letters, December 30) agrees with me that a prime minister’s capacity to alone select the governor-general is undemocratic but that it has nothing to do with monarchists. This, despite the fact it is our monarchical-based system that allows the prime minster such an unacceptable ‘‘privilege’’.

Mario also argues all politicians take advantage of the ‘‘system’’ saying he recalls no similar mention by me of similar, pre-election decisions by Labor’s Andrew Barr in relation to the tram. Sorry, Mario but you are wrong.

I have written several times against the tram decision and Barr’s role (including a direct condemnation of his pre-election tactics, published on September 8, 2015). I couldn’t care less about a government’s political stripes unless they impinge on honest governance, ethical and transparent behaviour. In that, I would hope we are all in total agreement.

Eric Hunter, Cook

Parking puzzle

I am surprised that some people have problems with parking at the Palace Electric Cinema or accessing it. It is only 1.3 km from the Canberra City Bus Interchange, which is a seven to 10 minute walk.

Alternatively, the National Film and Sound Archives are only 350 metres away with parking. At weekends and evenings there is plenty of parking there as well as on the ANU campus.

Perhaps the number of disabled parking places outside the cinema could be increased for those unable to walk.

Felicity Chivas, Scullin

Progress reasonable

I appreciate Victor Diskordia’s desire (Letters, January 3) for things to stay as they are. And no reasonable person would object to things remaining as they are as long as nothing better is available.

But if improvements can be made – without jeopardising what we have – shouldn’t we make them?

The problem of course is when a proposed change may benefit some but disadvantage others. The primary task of government is to make changes that will provide a net benefit for the community.

Michael McCarthy, Deakin

Healthy scrutiny

According to ADHA’s annual reports about My Health Record (MHR), there were ‘‘42data breaches’’ in 2017-18, ‘‘35’’ in 2016-17.

Data breaches discovered included ‘‘suspected fraud’’ for ‘‘unauthorised Medicare claims,’’ resulting in ‘‘incorrect records appearing in MHR,’’ sometimes ‘‘viewed without authority.’’

Increasing data breaches resulted from ‘‘data integrity’’ issues.

Seventy-seven data breaches out of millions of legitimate accesses ... truly a tiny fraction, but what would happen if there were ‘‘purposeful or malicious attacks [intent upon] compromising the integrity or security of the [MHR] system’’? Can our government assure us data integrity and security are maintained during ‘‘purposeful or malicious attacks’’?

What has the government done to ensure the MHR system is secured from malicious attacks (eg, denial of service, which crashed the ABS census system) or from someone (eg, purposefully masquerading as a ‘‘real person’’) creating an MHR account, entering the system legitimately, then ferreting around and illegitimately accessing data?

I’m not a ‘‘critic’’ of MHR; I’m merely an IT professional with enough experience in complex, distributed systems to know that automatic opt-in for My Health Record is a huge mistake.

It’s a huge mistake for the government to assert that ‘‘There has never been a reported security breach of the system’’ (Health Minister Hunt, November 15).

It’s a huge mistake for Labor to hammer the government for ‘‘incredibly hamfisted management’’ (Deputy Opposition Leader Plibersek, December 31).

Parliamentarians must work together and report on system and data integrity and security in laypersons’ terms, not techno-geekie mumbo-jumbo. Users must make informed consent before using MHR. The mandatory opt-in policy must be stopped until there’s a unified, secure, integrity-ensuring way ahead.

Judy Bamberger, O’Connor

Coalition must reflect

So is being in opposition a waste of time? (‘‘Reminder of Coalition’s dark days ahead’’, December 31, p3).

Being in opposition could give the Coalition an opportunity to decide what they are really on about. If, as we suspect, it’s about looking after their rich mates, is that best done by creating an unequal and thus angry nation? Do those rich mates enjoy stepping around homeless people as they entertain overseas visitors? Can we look after shareholders without driving wages down? Is it necessary to be cruel to the unemployed? How many more episodes of Grand Designs must we watch before the ABC is properly funded?

Tackling these questions could enable Liberal voters to return to their party less embarrassed than they are now. The Coalition is well represented by the symbol of a pair of showy, expensive, empty shoes, going nowhere.

We need an election soon because we hate the pointless blundering around with a ‘‘boy’’ in a cap shouting platitudes and pretending that coal is harmless when really he isn’t (I hope) that stupid.

We need a Labor government but it won’t be perfect so I suggest that the Coalition try something, for them, completely new – using their time in opposition to provide a calm, constructive commentary on government choices, thus putting our wellbeing ahead of their addiction to power.

Rosemary Walters, Palmerston

Veganism very viable

I refer to Mike O’Shaughnessy’s letter on January 3, and totally agree that veganism is a lifestyle and diet is just one aspect that vegans seek to change as non-human animals are cruelly exploited for experimentation, sport, food, clothing and entertainment.

However, a well-balanced vegan diet, containing vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, seeds and grains contains all essential nutrients, is scientifically proven by the World Health Organisation to be adequate for all life stages, and including during pregnancy.

Vit B12 is essential and is available to vegans in fortified foods or as a supplement. Changing dietary habits can affect humans and beans were mentioned as sometimes culprits for methane production. To aid their digestion, the easy solution for beginner vegans is to soak uncooked beans overnight, then discard the soak water, replace it with fresh water and cook until beans are tender.

Then drain and blend them before adding them to recipes.

All plant foods are full of fibre and nutrients for gut and bowel health and soon become part of inexpensive vegan meals.

The internet addresses animal cruelty and environmental issues, has vegan health advice and has thousands of deliciously easy recipes.

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) is just one excellent resource and ‘‘Bosh’’ recipe ideas are fabulous.

Diane Cornelius, Seacliff Park, SA

Cooleman heartless

Recently, the management of Cooleman Court provided a bench at the southern entrance, for the comfort of shoppers.

Imagine management’s horror to discover that those in need were sullying their pretty scene by seeking assistance and young buskers were offering a moment of music for a small recompense, so away went the bench and any welcome or empathy. Scrooge got the spirit eventually, can Cooleman Court management?

Bronwyn Driscoll, Rivett

Question of consistency

So, former foreign minister and well known civil libertarian Gareth Evans has joined the chorus line of those demanding stronger action by the Australian government to secure the release of two Canadian nationals detained by the Chinese government for allegedly threatening that country’s national security (‘‘We must step up protest on China’’, January 2, p10).

While it is obviously open to Mr Evans to champion the rights of individuals based on his personal dealings with them, some might wonder why he hasn’t also found his voice to defend the rights of his fellow countryman, Julian Assange, against the wilful predation of our alleged ‘‘special friend’’, America.

John Richardson, Wallagoot

Weak excuse for inaction

Owen Reid (Letters, January 2) writes that ‘‘Australia’s emissions make no difference to global temperature’’. This is a very weak excuse for taking no action on reducing our emissions.

Alan Finkel, Australia’s Chief Scientist, said that Australia’s emissions on their own make little difference to global temperatures. However, a recent paper in Nature Climate Change pointed out that Australia’s share of global emissions is exceeded by only nine countries, including China, the US, India and Russia. If all of these 186 countries failed to act on emissions, the world would face a very bleak future.

If Mr Reid were as well informed as he seems to consider himself, he would know that reducing emissions by phasing out fossil fuels, particularly coal, in favour of solar and wind (with storage backup) for our energy supply is making increasingly good economic as well as environmental sense.

Mr Reid, we are climate realists, not ‘‘alarmists’’, and not inclined to keep keep heads buried in the sand.

Douglas Mackenzie, Deakin

Unabashed denunciation

I note T.J. Marks’ querulous objection to my repeated use of the terminology of ‘‘town council’’ to refer to the Legislative Assembly (Letters, January 3).

He is correct to describe it as puerile denigration.

Puerile, derived from the Latin puer, pueri for boy, would indicate my unquenchable, youthful enthusiasm for denunciation of the Commonwealth for the financial inequities it foisted on its employees and their service providers in this single-employer city-state with negligible corporate revenue base, whereby parks, gardens, roads and hospitals, among many more of our town council’s services, are disadvantaged by the diseconomies of scale in this politically generated enclave, lumbered as it is with government departments and foreign embassies which make no contribution to municipal services.

Gary J. Wilson, Macgregor

Easy to be green

Timely article by Ross Gittins (‘‘As more people pile into the big cities, what our economy really needs more of is trees and parks’’, January 2, p20). Given the huge redevelopment of public housing about to occur along Northbourne Avenue and other locations, the ACT government would be well advised to ensure that substantial green elements are specified before the land is sold and we end up with a further proliferation of chicken-coop type boxes of units along the Northbourne corridor and in the other precincts. How to do it has been ably and innovatively set out by the Singaporean architectural firm WOHA.

For several years they have been designing buildings which feature multiple landscaped ‘‘ground levels’’ throughout high rise multi-purpose redevelopments which will enable the occupants to easily access the open air, communal spaces and landscaped garden environments.

Further, they’ve enunciated a five-point template for rating buildings and how they contribute to the holistic quality of the city – Green Plot Ratio, Community Plot Ratio, Civic Generosity Index, Ecosystem Contribution Index and Self Sufficiency Index. WOHA recently won the 2018 World Building of the Year award.

The ACT government could benefit substantially from examining how their approach could be applied in the ACT to the overall benefit of the Canberra community.

Graham Anderson, Garran



Can it be that even in 1997 a cabinet submission would say, ‘‘... the delivery of a wide range of government services are at risk ...’’ ? (‘‘Apocalypse when? Australia slow to deal with threat of disaster,’’ January 2, p8). Or has the ignorant grammar checker struck in the writing up?

Incidentally, Peter Brewer (‘‘No last rites as FJ hearse is resurrected for return to Summernats’’, January 2, p12), Kyogle is not in Queensland.

Lawry Herron, O’Connor


In the words of a former fish and chips seller, please explain the term (probably of US origin) ‘‘doubled down’’ (‘‘Pope’s advisers quit amid crisis’’, January 2, p15).

Ken McPhan, Spence


Maggie Scott (Letters, January 2) perceptively points out that the ACT Labor government would not understand the community ties that are at the heart of Ainslie Village these days.

Only people like former chief minister Jon Stanhope would get it, but this underlines again just how far to the right the current ACT Labor government has moved. Developers, not established community, are the priority.

Murray May, Cook


Yes Dr Hewson, Australia, as designed in the 1890s, is past its use-by date, we absolutely need a federation reform, but Shorten! ScoMo! I cannot see this happening if either wins the next election or in their lifetime.

M. Sidden, South Strathfield, NSW


Albert White (Letters, December 30) and Peter Sealy (Letters, January 3) seem to agree that spying is the second-oldest profession, and by implication, prostitution is the oldest. I suggest that hunting might be the oldest profession.

I mean, surely, eating must be more important than umm, you know, the other thing?

Peter Moran, Watson


Your timely editorial on water might also have touched on general fitness. My PE man drove us till we dropped, 100 knee bends became 110, sighs of relief turned to groans. PE in schools today is constrained by helicopter parents and is a farce. And in drownings complicit more and more are obesity, grog, drugs. We’ve gone to the dogs.

Barrie Smillie, Duffy


To answer Victor Diskordia and Mark Sproat (Letters, Jan 3) I say I hate Abbott and Trump because they hate me. Previously they hated Rudd and Gillard, positively loathed Obama, and now they hate Shorten.

PS. You don’t seem to publish my letters any more. I guess you must hate me.

S. W. Davey, Torrens