Re: "ACT Planning Minister's latest US trip cost taxpayers $56,334" (canberratimes.com.au, August 4).
Like Mr Gentleman, our Minister for Planning, I have visited Detroit, Savannah, New Orleans and San Francisco – but all on my own dime, as our American friends would put it so eloquently.
I enjoyed very much my time in each of these cities — well, I would not be in a rush to re-visit Detroit (even just driving through Motown on the Interstate system is not for the faint-hearted).
However, in each case, I found not the slightest similarity between those cities and Canberra. None of those cities is a state (or territory) capital and none is the seat of the [US] federal government.
In addition, each city is part of a county — the second level of state governance and administration — in the case of San Francisco the city and the county cover the same geographical area.
San Francisco, New Orleans and Savannah are major sea ports and major tourist destinations — just like Sydney.
Each has a major domestic/international airport and one or more major military establishments — just like Sydney.
So, instead of a taxpayer-funded junket to the US, perhaps the minister and his staff could have taken a Murray's bus to Sydney and talked to politicians, city officials, planning professionals there.
Oh, I forgot — Lord Mayor Clover Moore and her eponymous Independent Party form the majority on Sydney City Council and the state government is run by the Liberals and Nationals.
What would any of those people know about "economic diversification" and "long-term sustainability of a city" which would be useful to a Labor planning minister from the city-state of Canberra?
Paul E Bowler, Chapman
Much more to Boney
I respond to the views of Harry Davis (Letters, August 6) on Napoleon.
There is more to be said.
On one hand Napoleon was a chancer who got out of Corsica when it got too hot for him and managed to stay on the right side of the Committee for Public Safety by good luck.
On another view he was a lawmaker and reformist with the Code Napoleon.
Then there is the romantic image of Josephine and, for that matter, Desiree.
Then there is the facilitator of knowledge and what Napoleon did for Egyptology shows yet another side of Boney.
Indirect influence can be claimed for 'War and Peace' perhaps, not to mention the 'Charterhouse of Parma'?
No Harry, Napoleon had rather more to him than bloody murderers such as the Genghis Khan you praise, or the later invader who destroyed the irrigation system in Iraq.
You might even have liked Boney.
Roy Darling, Florey
Too kind to Napoleon
Harry Davis's worthy exhortation on Napoleon (Letters, August 6) focuses on the death and oppression generated by tyrants rather than their romantic veneer.
Unfortunately it contains an interesting error: "Napoleon was the man responsible for the invasion of Russia, which turned into a calamity for the Grande Armee, with only one man in 10 making it back to France."
Harry is too kind to Bonaparte.
An extraordinary 1869 graphic by engineer Charles Joseph Minard, easily found on the web, shows the Grand Armee in space-time pared from 400,000 to 100,000 on the journey to Moscow; then, with the added dimension of temperature, reduced to 10,000 on the return.
Harry's sentence should read "one man in 40".
Peter Robinson, Ainslie
Two-year itch a danger
So the yellow and purple Wiggles, Emma Watkins and Lachlan Gillespie, have announced their separation just two years after their marriage.
Why am I not surprised?
So many marriages continue to fall apart after only two years. Everyone's heard of the seven-year itch — the idea that after seven years together, the shine comes off a relationship and couples "itch" to separate.
But neuroscience has found that the itch really hits at the two-year mark — the point at which divorce rates spike.
On average, people tend to divorce between the second and third year of marriage.
My own relationship begun to suffer at the two-year mark but we persevered and stuck it out and 16 years later we were still together.
So be patient people and get through that two-year period and you will be OK.
Sebastian Cole, Ngunnawal
Blow-ins signal spring
Blowflies are found throughout the year in Canberra and, according to local entomologist Roger Farrow, who recently published 'Insects of South-East Australia', are probably just torpid on cold days, hiding in sheltered spots.
Sunshine will stimulate their flight activity.
The blowflies (Calliphoridae) are the largest flies to be found here: the 'brown or blue bombers' whose maggots feed on carrion and are important forensic indicators.
There are also Flesh flies (Sarcophagidae) with their black and white chequerboard markings which breed in rotting carrion and vegetation. The Bushflies (Muscidae), which look like smaller versions of Houseflies, are the ones that get into our eyes and ears seeking food and stimulating the "Aussie Salute".
They are considered one of the worst features of Australia by departing tourists and were remarked on during Cook's voyage of discovery. They lay their eggs in dung and since the introduction of livestock to Australia have become the most ubiquitous of nuisance insects.
Bushflies do not overwinter in south-east Australia and are blown in on weather fronts from late spring and then begin local breeding, although the introduced dung beetles have helped reduce their impact.
These are the true insect harbingers of spring in Canberra and an observer can rightly claim to see the first Bushfly of spring, but not the blowfly as reported by Ric Innes (Letters, July 28) and McComas Taylor in previous years.
Dr Philip Spradbery, Yarralumla
Pay-later solar relief
During the Great Depression a foreclosure moratorium was instituted for mortgages which assisted those affected greatly.
In the current drought couldn't solar companies offer solar power installation and connection at no or a reduced fee until after the drought and then institute a reasonable payment plan?
Electricity/gas companies offer good discounts on electricity and gas supplies and usage; councils offer discounts for supply and usage for water; and councils offer discounts for land rates.
These sorts of things are as good as any handout of money or food and would enable farmers to hold their heads up. If skies are blue all the time it makes sense to install solar.
Amanda Ruffin, Latham
Bottle recycling farcical
I have religiously collected bottles over many years to recycle at the normal recycle centre at Belconnen and at Parkwood. I am a committed long-term recycler and now I simply want to recover the increase in the price of beer (10 cents per bottle, $2.40 per carton) due to this system of recycling.
I have always carefully collected used beer bottles in the original carton so that they are easily recycled at collection points. The new system now requires me to remove the bottles from cartons and place into plastic bags before I can register the number of bottles and affix a sticker to the appropriate bag. (I am a registered user) I need to then recycle the cartons at the local recycle centre in Jolly Street, Belconnen (two deliveries 15-plus minutes rather than 5 mins).
My first "deposit" of bottles at the recycle centre (St Vinnies, Belconnen) is instructive — although I had deposited 72 bottles (three cartons saved over time for the opening of the recycle system) I was only credited with 56.
When I questioned this on line I was then credited with a further 10 bottles.
This is a policy disaster for the Barr ACT government — pandering to the enveloping NSW government installing "recycling policies" in Queanbeyan and surrounds.
My questions are: What happened to the six bottles not counted? Why are plastic bags involved in a recycling system? Why is there someone counting my bottles? Can the person counting my bottles "count"?
How does this system improve on previous ACT systems (if at all?) Until this system has significant review, I shall be depositing my recycling in the perfectly usable bins in Jolly Street, Belconnen.
My last effort to donate my bottles to Vinnies was also a disaster as the system did not recognise my phone number.
I drove away and left my bottles at Jolly Street.
Not happy Jan.
Steve Provins, Latham
Thanks to Gordon Fyfe (Letters, July 28) for pointing out the difference individuals can make by picking up litter.
It can be good exercise, though it is more of a skill than might at first be thought. Try changing hands (right hand for odd dates, left hand for even dates) for maximum benefit.
Ted Lilley, Aranda
The government is clearly intending to have revenue-generating dual occupancies proliferate throughout our RZ1 (typical suburban) zones, by presently allowing them on the scattered "Mr Fluffy" blocks there.
However, total demolition precedes Mr Fluffy redevelopment, and highly valued amenity, privacy, and landscape character were largely ignored in the formulation of the applicable quantitative and qualitative redevelopment controls (urban-sprawl blight [which we don't have], is often invoked as the raison d'etre).
They're amateurish, excessive, and mostly driven by the property development "industry", and Treasury.
That's got to be redressed now, especially before any wider-spread "densification" starts to happen.
Total site clearance is unlikely to be the norm for densification of the non-Mr Fluffy blocks, so that makes it even more important that the applicable design and siting controls are made more sensitive, respecting the existing local/neighbouring built and natural environments (notably, good old backyards); and more sophisticated, perhaps with respect to some currently excluded building typologies.
Jack Kershaw, Kambah
Blight on lake
The now topical barge in West Basin is heralding the 14-year-old City to the Lake proposal.
The ACT continues to claim the proposal is about extending access for people to the lake to make the city "vibrant".
But where is the bridging of Parkes Way in the fragmented planning debacle?
The infilling of 2.8 hectares of the lake, the City to the Lake proposal commences the damaging development proposal that is fundamentally about packing in as many apartments as possible over part of the lake and the entire parkland.
Griffin would never have wanted an apartment estate over his Basin parklands despite the chief executive of the City Renewal Authority (CRA) who seems to have celestial communication, stating on ABC radio that Griffin intended the development.
We will be seeing the infill of the lake firstly with an eight-metre wide concrete public walk, a commercial zone, a bike path, a road and services for the apartments.
Somewhere in the future there may be some bridging of Parkes Way. The strategically important West Basin parkland area has so much potential for a great park like Barangaroo with perhaps a public pavilion or an Arts Centre surrounded by public gardens.
Instead the entire park is to be sold off for private apartments that will cast winter shadow across the miserable public realm..
Juliet Ramsay, Burra, NSW
Currently with the Australian armed forces, there has been a lot of upgrading for new and updated military hardware.
The RAAF will soon start taking delivery of the new J-35 Strike Fighter jets, which will strengthen Australia's air defence capabilities for many years to come.
Another way to strengthen the capability of the RAAF would be a fleet of bombers.
An RAAF bomber squadron could consist of between six to eight planes. It could be based in Darwin.
The federal government has already placed an order for more drones from Northrop Grumman to help protect northern Australia.
A bomber squadron would also greatly strengthen the protection of Australia's north.
Most nations in Asia are upgrading their military capabilities. Australia needs to do the same.
One possible choice the RAAF could consider is the Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider expected to come into service in 2025.
Australia is soon to become a nation of 25 million people.
It is large enough to have an RAAF bomber squadron.
Malcolm Webster, Boronia, Vic
TO THE POINT
COMPASSION – FOR SOME
On the ABC news on Sunday night, I heard, before I choked, the Prime Minister say that: "We are a government of compassion." My thoughts turned to the refugees the government have persecuted for years. Compassion my foot.
Jeff Bradley, Isaacs
NO INTEREST THERE
The theme of the Arnhem Land Garma festival is truth telling. Does this explain who so few pollies have attended?
Thos Puckett, Ashgrove, Qld
As I did not see the University of Melbourne report, Tim Forcey (Letters, August 3), I do not know if the report took cognisance of the Canberra temperatures, which during the past week have been as low as -6. I have a ducted gas heating set up so the air to be heated is drawn from inside the house and therefore about 1 degree lower than the temperature set on the thermostat.
Ken McPhan, Spence
Coles has lost the plot but not the bags.
Dennis Fitzgerald, Box Hill, Vic
Is this just another brick in the wall ("Lego is so much more than just child's play", August 5, p11).
Allan Gibson, Cherrybrook, NSW
MISSING THE PLOT
It is the responsibility of action officers to put documents on file, thus turning them into records ("Search under way after claims of missing Dickson land swap documents", canberratimes.com.au, August 3). It is not good enough just to leave them in boxes.
Michael McCarthy, Deakin
A SONG OF LOVE
It's two in the morning and a magpie mother is crooning to her eggs: "Your dad's been busy lately, looking after you. He's having lots of fun. He dive-bombs all the cats and really makes them run!"
Barrie Smillie, Duffy
I haven't seen a live kangaroo in two weeks in Central Australia. They are all in Canberra.
John Mungoven, Stirling
Re "Back on track" (August 4, p17). It's great to hear that the Canberra Railway Museum has been saved for future generations. A great result.
N. Ellis, Belconnen
I can hardly wait for the day to arrive when "trickle down economics" is as vilified as "eugenics".
Jane Timbrell, Reid
Given public money is involved, why is Emma Husar being investigated by the ALP and not the authorities?
M. Moore, Bonython
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