The NSW government has announced – in time for the NSW election – that it is replacing the ageing NSW regional rail fleet with new trains that will improve ‘‘safety, comfort, accessibility and reliability’’, including between Sydney and Canberra.
The one thing the new trains won’t do is go faster.
It commented: ‘‘While some time savings may be possible through timetable changes, increasing train speed would require significant infrastructure upgrades to train tracks, stations and platforms’’.
Back in September 2016, I travelled on a Spanish-built Talgo fast train in third world Uzbekistan. It completed the 344-kilometre journey between Samarkand and Tashkent in two hours and eight minutes — at an operating speed of 250 km/h.
On return to Australia, I took the train from Sydney to Canberra, a distance of 282 kilometres. The journey took 4 hours — at an average speed of 66 km/h.
I subsequently encouraged a Talgo representative to come to Australia and meet the ACT, federal and NSW governments with a view to upgrading our train service.
During the meetings in April 2017 the Talgo manager said it should be possible to have three Talgo fast train sets operating on the Canberra-Sydney route, with minimal track work required, for $100million.
Depending on the number of stops, a time of two to three hours was feasible. The service could start operating within 12 months.
Since then nothing seems to have happened.
It’s time for ACT Transport Minister Fitzharris to tell the NSW government what Canberrans need in the 21st century is a fast modern train service.
We are reportedly spending $1 billion for stage one of light rail, so surely we could afford to subsidise a fast (two to three-hour) train service between Canberra and Sydney – with all the likely flow-on benefits for Canberra?
C. Williams, Forrest
Do-gooders do good
Architect Ric Butt is wrong to criticise ‘‘do-gooders’’ (‘‘Do-gooders under fire’’, February 20, p8 and 9).
People who are generous with their time in making Canberra a better place for future generations should be encouraged as part of the democratic process.
Jamming too many units into the corner block with minimal car parking and landscaping just generates health and social issues.
John Skurr, Yarralumla
Taxis in demand
John McKeough (Letters, February 20) makes the emotive claim that the ACT government has ‘‘screwed the holders of [taxi] perpetual licences into the ground’’ by, among other things, releasing ‘‘many more taxis into the market than are needed to meet demand’’.
To which I would evidence that the ACT government’s actions seem perfectly reasonable to me when, based on recent experience, there was a 30-minute wait for taxis at Canberra Airport on a Sunday evening (and we were sixth in line – who knows how long arriving passengers waited after us?).
It’s called demand and supply.
Dr Matt Overton, Braddon
I walked across Northbourne Avenue at Alinga Street on Thursday and I saw the much talked about new street furniture between the Sydney and Melbourne buildings.
What struck me was the absence of visual warning markings on kerbs and guttering, which are imperative for those with a low-vision disability such as myself to provide warning of these obstacles to prevent potential falls.
I have heard government spokespeople recently say accessibility is a priority.
However with respect to recent street redecorations in Civic it appears to have been missed, which is greatly disappointing given the professed (but not practiced) emphasis.
Maybe the government needs to put some muscle behind the words.
The visual warnings should be in place if the street furniture has been installed.
What the government could do is an audit of all its public places to ensure that it meets its minimum accessibility obligations for the disabled.
The city of Hong Kong is an excellent example of a disability compliant city if government officials need to visit somewhere to get the idea.
Rohan Goyne, Evatt
Will drones need to be employed for regular surveillance and compliance patrols of suburban front and backyards across the whole of Canberra if households are allowed to cultivate fewer than four cannabis plants in open garden space?
If grown hydroponically in a garage, how would plantings be monitored?
Will the growing number of apartment complexes need to include tillable sunny spaces on the ground or on a roof for residents’ use and would community garden plots provide opportunities for members to nurture cannabis legally on a very small scale?
For ratepayers’ sakes, may this inquiry stop further squabbling between our political parties and just address all practical and cost- creating issues associated with any proposal to allow Canberrans to grow their own legal supply of cannabis.
Sue Dyer, Downer
Tree losses feared
I fear recent reports about some of our heritage trees in the parliamentary triangle needing replacement sometime in the future may be the first shot in a campaign to soften us up for the effects of the proposed Stage 2 of light rail.
There are many quite stunning trees on Commonwealth Avenue and State Circle that could be at risk.
I, for one, do not want to see defoliation on the scale of Northbourne Avenue.
Could the media please obtain and publish some information on route proposals that is more detailed than the single blue line that we have seen so far?
For example, where will the tram go after it comes off Commonwealth Avenue bridge?
Will it stay in the centre of the road necessitating removal of trees outside the Hyatt, or will it track to one side?
Chris Mobbs, Torrens
Dust a warning sign
Have you noticed that droughts, floods and dust-storms are more severe?
Recently, I was on a train from Sydney to Canberra. The sky was brown.
Back at home, my eyes hurt and my throat was sore from dust.
Maybe what’s happening is the desertification of inland Australia.
For years, climate scientists (around the world) have warned us that extreme weather events are getting more extreme.
For years the Coalition government has ignored climate change.
Only an election can cure the do-nothing Coalition.
Graham Macafee, Latham
Hudson’s great contribution
I have written previously on the subject of the importance of the Hudson bomber in Australia’s defence against Japan, in particular, from late 1941 to 1943.
On the 77th anniversary of the bombing of Darwin this week a 99-year-old aircrew member, Brian Winspear, who had served with one of the two Hudson squadrons based near Darwin attended.
A plaque was unveiled in honour of the 200 crew lost. That was three-quarters of all the aircrew members.
The Hudson was vital in taking the fight to the Japanese occupying our northern propinquity.
Australia’s ‘‘battle of Britain’’ was fought around and over the Darwin region.
Let the Hudson sit proudly at Canberra Airport as a reminder of its contribution to our freedom.
It will also let that sole 99-year-old survivor know that his courage was not in vain.
If the anti-military, naive peaceniks are in doubt they should reflect on the contribution of Gough Whitlam.
E. G. Whitlam flew as an RAAF navigator out of northern Australia during those years.
Our former PM was accorded the great honour of an RAAF ‘‘Missing Man’’ formation flyover at his funeral service.
The Hudson is an honour to those countless others to whom we owe so much.
Christopher Ryan, Watson
Bombings a watershed
On the anniversary of the first bombing of Darwin I was very surprised the ABC radio and TV did not mention Darwin was not just bombed on February 19, 1942.
Darwin was bombed 64 times between February 19, 1942 and November 12, 1943.
There is a wonderful book about this called The Bombing of Darwin: an awkward truth.
Australians were kept in the dark about this and apparently still are!
Other places bombed by the Japanese were:
Queensland: Horn Island from March 14, 1942 to June 18, 1943, 10 times; Townsville three times, Mosman once.
Western Australia: 15 times, nine different places.
With a number of other brave RAAF men, my father was a bomb disposal officer in Townsville.
He was sent to Port Moresby a month before the Japanese got within 30 miles of it.
My brother was 10 and I was eight.
Lest we forget.
Penelope Upward, O’Connor
Keeping it quiet
Repetitious extensions of the argument about mandation of disclosure of molestation of minors made in the Catholic confessional are futile.
Not only would such cases be almost impossible to prove, they would be unnecessary. As the royal commission established, the information was readily available to associates of the perpetrators, church hierarchy, police and even parents in some cases, all of whom variously suppressed it.
G. Wilson, Macgregor
The US has accused Russia of interfering in the 2016 presidential election by hacking into Democratic and Republican computer networks and selectively releasing emails.
The US has a long history of attempting to influence elections in other countries; it’s done so as many as 81 times between 1946 and 2000, according to a database amassed by Carnegie Mellon University.
Such a record shows the hypocrisy of the US yet again and it’s total disregard for the ‘‘rule of law’’ as it ramps up its criminal sanctions for a possible military takeover of Venezuela.
Rex Williams, Springwood, NSW
Close the gates
Chris O’Connor (Letters, February 19) wrote: ‘‘The refugee convention gives us no obligation to rescue refugees from camps abroad, but makes it very difficult to remove asylum seekers once in Australia.’’
If this is true, and I think it is, then Australia should withdraw from the anachronistic convention which is the major cause of our illegal immigration problem.
Many other countries are not signatories.
Australia should each year determine the number of asylum seekers it will accept, and then accept only asylum seekers who have been processed in foreign countries.
Except in exceptional circumstances (for example asylum seekers from neighbouring countries) Australia should never accept asylum seekers who arrive in Australia without prior acceptance.
Such queue-jumpers should be immediately returned to their home countries, or swapped for asylum seekers already in refugee camps awaiting settlement overseas.
Rigid adherence to this process would cause illegal immigration to dry up almost completely as it would be known to be useless.
A consequence of this would be that the current enormous costs of detecting, processing, housing and caring for illegal immigrants would disappear, thus providing money to assist genuine refugees.
R. Salmond, Melba
Restore tatty reputation
I have been particularly struck by statements that efforts to gain international support for Haikim al-Arabi were hampered by Australia’s treatment of refugees.
It is certainly my perception that Australia’s reputation as a fair and decent nation has been diminished by our harsh refugee policy.
Similarly we had a very good global reputation on the protection of the environment.
We were one of the first countries to introduce a market-based carbon reduction scheme.
We had a significant policy to assist South Pacific countries on climate change adaptation – both programs abolished by the Abbott government.
We were the first country to have national sustainability and biodiversity strategies (under the Hawke government).
Lets hope the next Australian government can restore our somewhat tatty international reputation.
Rod Holesgrove, O’Connor
Coalition cries wolf
Reports about a big swing against Labor in the Ipsos poll are being interpreted as a reaction to a perception that Labor has softened its policy on asylum seekers and weakened border protection (‘‘Warning for Labor as support plummets’’, February 18, p1 & p4).
The reality is that Labor has undertaken to take a more humanitarian approach to the medical treatment of detainees now on Nauru and Manus Island.
All of these people have been found to be genuine refugees.
If, in the unlikely event of a refugee sent to Australia for treatment being found by the government to be a risk on legal or security grounds, he or she would be returned to offshore detention.
The Morrison government chooses to ignore these facts, and instead desperately signals to people smugglers to resume their trade by, for example, loudly announcing a plan to reopen the Christmas Island detention centre.
If Labor is guilty of anything, it is failing to get its message across over the loud cries of wolf from the Morrison government.
Douglas Mackenzie, Deakin
TWU raid issues
Senate estimates revealed that taxpayers paid $288,812 in legal fees for minister Michaelia Cash in regard to the TWU/Shorten raid, adding to the $550,000 in legal fees incurred by the Registered Organisations Commission in relation to the same matter, also coming from the public purse.
Compare this with the $250,000 fine issued against the CFMMEU in a different matter plus the personal fine of $44,000 (a record amount) determined against one of its organisers, Joe Myles by High Court judge David O’Callaghan who introduced a new type of order that prohibited the CFMMEU paying this fine on behalf of its employee, Mr Myles.
Not exactly what one unskilled in the law would judge to be a level-playing field.
Ann Darbyshire, Hughes
Email: email@example.com. Send from the message ﬁeld, not as an attached ﬁle. Fax: 6280 2282. Mail: Letters to the Editor, The Canberra Times, PO Box 7155, Canberra Mail Centre, ACT 2610.
Keep your letter to 250 or fewer words. References to Canberra Times reports should include date and page number. Letters may be edited. Provide phone number and full home address (suburb only published).