Debate on the ACTION network needs to be informed by facts as well as sentiment.
ACTION presently has direct costs of about $180 million per year. But it raises only a token $15 million in fares.
The $165 million gap is mostly filled by government payments (aka a ratepayer subsidy). That subsidy is about $1100 annually for each Canberra household, rich or poor, whether they use the service or not.
Only a fraction of households use ACTION and around 8 per cent of workers are bus commuters.
Most forms of public transport are subsidised by government and therefore by taxpayers. The rate of subsidy varies widely but it's usually in the range of 30 to 70 per cent.
That means commuters, as is only fair, make a contribution to the service they use (but others don't).
Up to a decade ago, ACTION patrons paid about 30 per cent of the service's costs. By 2015 that was down to 17 per cent. Now it's closer to 8 per cent. That's well below what's considered a reasonable user contribution nationally.
In 2014-15 a government-commissioned study (the MRCagney Report) and the ACT Auditor-General each looked at ACTION and found that it was not meeting its service targets and that patronage levels were stagnant.
Nothing much has improved since then. ACTION, for all the laudable efforts to boost services — holding down fares, upgrading the bus fleet, increasing parking fees etc — is a financial basket-case.
A root cause of the problem is, to paraphrase Professor Jenny Stewart in The Canberra Times a year or two back, "Canberrans love their public transport but just not quite so much that they'd actually use it".
More buses might be nice for some, and possibly viable in peak hours, but someone will have to pay for them.
Bob Bennett, Wanniassa
No. 3 invaluable
I would like to add my humble voice to those of correspondents responding to your article, "ANU students angry after government scraps campus bus", (canberratimes.com.au, November 5).
I, a severely visually impaired burgher, will join the cohort of public transport users who will be directly affected by the liquidation of the bus No. 3 service to the ANU, and to other nearby institutions such as the NFSA, Theatre 3, Street Theatre and Llewellyn Hall.
The ANU and the other institutions hold a rich and varied array of public events. For the handicapped and elderly, bus No. 3 provides those of us from the north and the south sides with convenient access to these institutions.
Without the regular bus service currently provided by ACTION, attendance for us would become difficult, if not impossible.
The effect of the changes would be to deprive us from access to a wide range of quality events. The ANU shuttle bus is not an option for us.
By all means, let's have the long overdue tram, but please not at a cost to vulnerable members of the community.
I urge ACTION and the transport authorities in the ACT government to have another look at the new timetable with a view to minimising the collateral damage it might cause.
Otherwise, to paraphrase ACTION's slogan, it'll be a case of "More buses, more often, 7 days a week – but not necessarily where it matters".
G. L. Hunt, Hughes
Climate action now
An excellent letter by Roger FitzGerald (Letters, November 5) on the neglect by the federal government and the naivety of other contributors to the Letters pages in regard to climate change and Australia's tepid and unworldly responses.
Global warming, the cause of changes in climate, is very real, well documented and visible to even a casual observer. Glaciers are retreating, ice shelfs are melting, sea levels are rising.
Droughts are extending globally with famines increasing, severe weather conditions are occurring more frequently and with greater force, flooding and devastation and wildfires are more frequent and widespread, to name but a few.
In the Pacific, our close neighbours on the small island states, especially Kiribati and Tuvalu with very low elevation, are facing inundation and the resettlement of whole populations is a guaranteed requirement in the future.
This will be a very expensive operation as will the many other results of ignoring, or ridiculously denying, climate change as a current phenomenon.
Even if Australia continues to present itself as an uncaring and unsympathetic rich nation and mockingly relies on its only 1.3 per cent share of global emissions, it will have great economic and political concerns as global climate change continues.
Our national economy and the welfare of our nation is at stake yet is being treated in a most cavalier manner by our present government.
It is most certainly time to change this government's bombastic rhetoric, rejection of science and embrace the clearly articulated scientific evidence that demands substantial and immediate policy and financial action.
Dr K. Williams, Bonython
Contrast in responses
On page 8 in Thursday's edition soprano Helen Dix, performing in London, received an anonymous email complaining that Dix, an Australian, was taking work that should have been performed by someone British. ("Soprano hits back at tweet attack", November 7, p8).
Dix called the emailer a "spineless creep" and made a fuss about it.
Why not just delete the email and get on with what she is excelling at?
On page 35, new Socceroo, African refugee Awer Mabil, says it is "normal" to be racially abused in Australia, but does not "judge Australia as a racist place" ("Racial abuse normal", November 7, p35). He is proud to represent Australia because the country has given him and his family a second chance of life.
Mabil is simply keen to get on with what he excels at.
What a contrast in responses.
Bruce Kennedy, Melba
Reporter in the right
The banning of White House correspondent Jim Acosta was evidently because he challenged Donald Trump's references to the "caravan" of central Americans heading to the US border to seek refuge as an "invasion" ("Reporter banned by Trump", November 9, p13).
Mr Acosta's question was an entirely fair one in the light of Trump's campaigning "almost entirely on immigration and race" and his producing an ad so littered with "brazen lies and racist overtones" even Fox News refused to broadcast it (Waleed Aly, "Trump displays his limits", November 9, p20).
Mr Acosta was quite right to accost President Trump on his seeking to stir up racial tension and feelings of insecurity.
Douglas Mackenzie, Deakin
Late bill a real shocker
I am writing to raise another issue with rates and land tax in the ACT.
A letter I received in August 2018 stated that since 2015 (nearly three years) my pensioner card had been incorrectly applied to my account. This resulted in a debt of $2469.12 being applied.
The letter I received states that I "...did provide written notification to the ACT revenue office to advise that the property would no longer be my principal place of residence" and that "The pensioner discount was incorrectly left on your account".
I had actually spoken to the Revenue office on numerous occasions over the three years. I called every year to update my pensioner card details as they are only valid for 12 months.
Despite this not one staff member picked up on this error.
Although the ACT Revenue Office took three years to tally up this debt on my account I, a pension card holder, have only been granted 10 months to clear it.
What a great result.
May I suggest that everyone who pays rates or land tax in the ACT should call the revenue office to ensure they are being charged the correct amount. If you don't you to may get a huge, stressful shock in the mail.
S. Roberts, Curtin
In an excellent article, ("Enough war memorials", November 3, Forum, p1) Jack Waterford nailed Dr Brendan Nelson and his $500 million redevelopment scheme for the Australian War Memorial, as the extravagant and preposterous scheme that it is.
What part did the AWM council play in this? How readily did it agree to all that the AWM stands for being turned upside down? Are parallels to be drawn with the complicity or ineffectiveness of the ABC board in recent times?
The AWM council of 13, it needs to be said, is made up of nine military or ex-service members, an AWM-tragic as chairman and three others.
Over four years Australia has spent $500 million on the centenary of Anzac: five times that spent on the centenary of World War I by the UK, Canada and NZ combined.
Then there was the $100 million spent on the Monash Centre at Villers-Bretonneux.
Now we are up for another $500 million for what has been described as a "dog and pony show museum".
A populist government, with bi-partisan support, has endorsed this scandalous squandering of public monies while the other national cultural institutions continue to battle with the infamous efficiency dividends.
There is currently a parliamentary inquiry into the financial difficulties confronting, collectively, the national cultural institutions. So what does that say?
Well perhaps in the eyes of some, the Australian War Memorial stands above and apart from the rest.
Nelson's memorial tag "for we are young and free" is a national affront to all first Australians and the tragedy of our "Frontier Wars".
Simon Gratton, Congo, NSW
Technology is great when it works, however, when it fails our reliance on cashless payments comes into sharp focus ("Ombudsman, Telstra flag compensation", November 5, p5). As much as I try and carry the least amount of cash in my wallet, on Saturday I was fortunate to have sufficient to buy items from a local store. Good news for Telstra, I won't be seeking compensation.
A. Gibson, Cherrybrook, NSW
Fires and climate change
That was a good editorial (November 3) on heeding the lessons of the Pierces Creek fire.
As was noted, an early November bushfire in the ACT is fairly unusual.
But in another sense, the fire, the low moisture content of the bush and rising temperatures are the new normal as predicted by climate change impact modelling and being born out empirically.
Climate scientists have been warning for years of the likelihood of increased fire risk, more extreme fires and longer fire seasons as a result of climate change.
So another important lesson of the Pierces Creek fire is that at the next federal election Australians must vote for a party that is committed to effective action on climate change.
Only with an effective national climate policy can Australia argue on the world stage for effective global action and hence reduce the likelihood of more and more damaging wildfires in our country.
Rod Holesgrove, O'Connor
Gill makes his mark
Meteorologists may have been puzzled by the highly localised thunder heard over the ANU campus last Wednesday night. However, those privileged to attend the Canberra Symphony Orchestra concert in the Llewellyn Hall know the cause because it erupted as members of the CSO, under the baton of Nicholas Milton, struck up The Dam Busters March in tribute to the much loved and sorely missed Richard Gill. It was simply their late friend, moved by their sublime artistry, tapping his foot in the gods.
V. R. Condon, Narrabundah
War museum not needed
Are we not becoming guilty of turning the AWM into a war museum.
As a young military officer I, and my compatriots, were each tasked with visiting a nearby small country town on Anzac Day to take part in their commemorations.
In uniform with a staff car and a driver we would travel to our appointed small town. Everywhere I visited over the years I found the reverence for the fallen as high, if not higher, than that at the AWM on Anzac Day.
The only memorial would be a small plinth listing those from the area who had fallen.
I accept that those who attended the ceremony were, in some remote way related to the fallen.
They needed little in the way of a memorial to display their thanks to those who had died.
Have we lost sight of what is needed in the national capital? We should have a memorial to the fallen and not a museum.
C. J. Johnston, Duffy
Famous last words
Turnbull has vowed not to meddle in politics. It must be true. He said it on a TV program that was all about him.
M. Moore, Bonython
TO THE POINT
I trust the expanded Australian War Memorial will have enough space to house a commemoration for the drones brought down by the Gungahlin anti-aircraft batteries.
Peter Toscan, Amaroo
RETHINK IN ORDER
Our Prime Minister tells us he has been touring Queensland, "listening, hearing and doing", with emphasis on the "doing".
Given recent events, a bit of pondering, reflecting and thinking wouldn't go astray.
Ann Villiers, Scullin
Perhaps the member for Cook is simply displaying a new endeavour? (David Pope's cartoon, November 9, p19).
A. Gibson, Cherrybrook, NSW
NOT SO SUPER
What is the reason for employers being given a stay on when they have to make their obligatory super contributions?
All employers should be required to pay contributions alongside salary, not when they pay tax instalments.
K. Hill, Isaacs
ANOTHER BLACK MARK
Will minister Mitch Fifield be complaining to the ABC about Malcolm Turnbull's Q&A; appearance?
T. Puckett, Ashgrove, Qld
In the Liberal Party is a group of traitors who brought down the Turnbull Liberal government. These smiling assassins need to be purged from the party now.
They are the cancer of the Liberal Party.
R. Ryan, Summerland Point, NSW
WE'RE MISSING OUT
Good to hear more discussion on the arboretum with hotel plans and so on. Where are we at with the proposed amphitheatre which will definitely bring world-class acts to Canberra (just ask Michael Chugg).
Surely this should be fast tracked as Canberra still does not have a quality venue and we are missing out.
Ernie Nichols, Evatt
Attorney-General Porter has again shown an inconsistent approach to the control of communications ("Sacking of public servant defended in High Court", November 9, p8).
A public servant is sacked for an anonymous tweet which gave out no sensitive information, just an opinion the government didn't like.
Bob Gardiner, Isabella Plains
Anthony Albanese seems to have disappeared.
Is he sulking, lazy, complacent or just adopting the "small target" strategy. Given the current debates about cities, population, immigration and infrastructure I would have thought he would be all over the media.
John Mungoven, Stirling
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 words or less. 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).