Rates assessment notices and invoices for Canberra residents are starting to arrive and some could be surprised to see very prominently displayed on the front of their notice a "Please Pay Now" box with the full year's rates amount.
There is also a much less prominent sentence if one reads further noting that turning over the page will reveal payment options.
So why not make the options clear on the front page? Well, according to the person I spoke to at the ACT Revenue Office, it's part of an office-wide policy aimed at encouraging full payments for a range of ACT services rather than payments by instalments.
It doesn't seem to be a very subtle or clever form of encouragement and could leave some folk paying out more than they need to at a time when they might be struggling.
If the office would like ratepayers to pay full amounts to keep the coffers healthy then a partnership approach, perhaps offering some minor incentives, would be a better solution.
While public sector organisations are striving to be more engaged with and spend more effort in listening to citizens this may not be a great example.
George Gamkrelidze, Watson
Flaw of land economists
"Land economists" have moved in on town planning, architecture, and urban and landscape design.
They "bludge" off the extant hard work of experts and professionals, telling them things they already know. But quasi-intellectual land economists can pull off a pose and make the right noises at meetings. They demanded "commercial visibility" for the National Museum, forcing it to leave the site preferred by museologists, Yarramundi Reach, for Acton Peninsula.
A land swap deal was foisted on, and was a loser for the ACT; a fine hospital was tragically lost; and Griffin's plan for prominent built forms there were ignorantly trashed.
Then it was found that fine shoreline trees (a cultural landscape) prevented that "commercial visibility", so they were summarily cut down.
Other examples of land economists' interference is the expensive and disrespectful extension to the National Gallery (again supposedly for "commercial visibility"); the new "Henry Rolland Park" that is actually a forecourt for proposed West Basin flats; and the ignorant, cringy and expensive changing of the place name "Civic" to "City".
Good work land economists (not). Leave the built environment, especially the planning of Canberra, and the design and siting of national institutions, to talented experts and professionals.
Jack Kershaw, Kambah
Fix our hospital system
In his response to my letter of August 2, in which I questioned the priority being given to fixing the ACT hospital system, Greg Pinder (Letters, August 4) diverted the conversation, questioning whether I 'support self-government for the ACT but only if we aren't allowed to pass laws he doesn't agree with'.
He has supported the very point I was making.
The abysmal management of ACT hospitals by successive ACT governments, as shown by the catastrophic blowing up of the old Canberra Hospital, fudging performance figures and presiding over a culture of bullying and violence against staff, has been daily fare in the Canberra Times.
It's time that proper priority be given to addressing the management of ACT hospitals.
Self-government was granted to the ACT despite the population twice voting against it.
Now that self-government in the ACT is a fact of life, Mr Pinder might be relieved to know I disagree with the token, second-tier version of self-government so cynically granted to the ACT.
The ACT government should have precisely the same legislative powers as the other jurisdictions.
Those who disagree with the ACT government's legislative program can do so through proper democratic processes, ranging from letters to the Canberra Times through to their vote in the ACT elections.
Ian Pearson, Barton
Private health reforms
Your article "Private Health Insurance 'excluding benefits under the radar"' (canberratimes.com.au, August 4) which quotes a number of medical specialist groups, misses the point of the private health transparency reforms introduced by the federal government.
The policy is not a mechanism to increase funding for medical specialist procedures, but is designed to help consumers choose and use their private health insurance.
Over a two-year review, in which the Australian Medical Association and consumer representatives participated, health fund products were categorised into four tiers based on cost and conditions covered.
This important reform has been designed so it will not increase premiums or reduce the value of existing policies.
Medical specialists are well aware that forcing more medical treatments into lower cost categories that people choosing these products do not want will increase premiums massively and cause more dropouts from the system.
Many people who have held basic level products for decades to access their specialist of choice in a regional public hospital will be disadvantaged by the removal of lower cost policies.
The Health Department has modelled this will cause premiums to increase by at least 16 per cent.
Sustainability of private health depends on our ability to ensure consumers have access to health fund products appropriate for their circumstances and their life stage.
Dr Rachel David, CEO Private Healthcare Australia
Crispin Hull suggests liberal democracies such as Australia and our allies are too lenient with authoritarian regimes such as those in Russia and China.
Once we've put Bush, Blair and Howard on trial for their 2003 invasion of Iraq, the most disastrous illegal act of aggression in recent memory, and stop appeasing Israel in its crimes against Palestinian people, we might be justified in doing a bit of preaching.
Dr Sue Wareham, Cook
We’re running out of time – let’s stop squabbling and take action
The research paper Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene warns that the Earth is at serious risk of entering an irreversible "hothouse" climate which would see many parts of the planet become uninhabitable ("Dire warning on 'hothouse Earth"', August 8, p4).
The paper also warns that the Earth is already more than halfway towards being irreversible.
Australia's Professor Will Steffen, a co-author of the paper, says that present efforts to combat global warming by reducing emissions may be insufficient to prevent this dangerous scenario.
He also said that if global average temperatures increased to two degrees above pre-industrial levels — well within the Paris Agreement targets — this could trigger natural processes that would cause further warming even if all human-caused emissions ceased.
The boosted warming could reach 5 degrees above pre-industrial levels — the hottest for 1.2 million years — and sea levels could rise by between 10 and 60 metres. Such a sea-level rise would flood, or cause increased risk of storm damage in, large areas of the Earth, including parts or all of many coastal cities and low-lying areas such as the major food-producing areas of the Mekong and Ganges deltas.
If a temperature threshold or "tipping point" were exceeded, huge volumes of methane, a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, would be released from sea floors and from the Arctic permafrost. This would in turn result in a further acceleration of warming.
In the context of these warnings, it is disappointing, to say the least, to see our politicians squabbling about such issues as the National Energy Guarantee ("Rattenbury in NEG standoff", August 8, p1 and p4) and, in the federal government's case arguing for trivial reductions in emissions and the continuing use of coal-fired energy.
Douglas Mackenzie, Deakin
Recycled paper best
Gordon Soames (Letters, August 3) promoted the myth of the biodegradable plastic grocery bag.
It needs to be made clear that plastic made from petrochemicals may be made to degrade or disintegrate, but it does not biodegrade.
In fact, the problem is made even worse by the resulting minute particles going back into the food chain.
Even plastic made from plant materials requires special conditions to biodegrade. Yes, we desperately need to move away from "single-use" plastic bags, even those that many of us then use to line our kitchen trash bins, as well as many other plastic items.
However, the current "biodegradable" types are not the answer.
We need to develop and implement a truly workable and effective solution to this problem, maybe even one that goes back to an older method.
Why are we not strongly considering recycled paper bags, which are both sustainable and, subject to the absence of deleterious chemicals in the process and product, much more environmentally friendly?
John M. Schmidt, Monash
Pandering to coal lobby
The NEG target for emission reduction from electricity generation is not consistent with our 26-28 per cent Paris commitment.
Electricity generation produces about one third of our emissions. Therefore a reduction of 26 per cent from electricity will only meet a third of our commitment. There are enough renewables projects completing in the next two years to reach this point and it is this, not the NEG, that is responsible for the predicted price reductions. The NEG is a policy to lock out any further competition to coal generation.
If we don't have much greater reductions of emissions from electricity, which is relatively easy and lowers prices, we will need reductions of 26 per cent to 28per cent from every other emission source, such as transport and agriculture, to make up the other two-thirds of our commitment.
However, the LNP have also ruled out policies that would reduce emissions in those areas.
When can we have a government that does not pander to the coal lobby and the loony fringe of climate science denial?
Peter Campbell, Cook
It appears we may have to drastically reduce numbers of cows, sheep and pigs if Australia is to meet its emissions target.
Having grown up on a farm, I thought those animals were quite well mannered compared with horses that never hesitated to let fly when attached to a wagon, cart or sulky.
Dogs were more discreet, but still made their presence felt whether in a car or a lounge room even though they sometimes got the blame for other offenders.
In my day, errant teenage boys joked about the benefits of their emissions. How were they to know that they were affecting the climate?
I wonder if the Greenies will also insist on reducing numbers of humans?
Perhaps they should volunteer to make this sacrifice as they seem to be of little use in today's society.
I don't wish to upset market gardeners but my research suggests beans, peas and cabbages may have to be removed from human diets if we hope to reach our [emissions] targets.
Ken Waters, Maida Vale, WA
Has to be a better way
I respond to Douglas Mackenzie (Letters, August 6), where he refers to Tony Abbott and Matt Canavan as being dinosaurs for advocating coal-fired power.
How does he explain the conundrum whereby Australia refuses to build coal-fired power stations, but China, India and Japan are building hundreds of HELE coal-fired power stations, and to add insult to injury, are buying millions of tonnes of Australian coal for the required fuel.
Do they know something we don't, or is Mr Mackenzie smarter than all the leadership in these countries ?
It is also a fact that the US, China and India have not signed up to any obligations relating to the Paris Agreement, and they can therefore emit as much CO2 into the atmosphere as they wish — no penalties involved.
Even Alan Finkel, Australian Chief Scientist, has stated that even if Australia met all of its climate change commitments, it would be barely noticeable and would have no effect.
Our tiny 1.3 per cent of world total emissions is dwarfed by China's 30 per cent, which also increases by 4 per cent per annum. If everyone in Australia died tomorrow, if all industry shut down, there would be no practicable effect.
I'm not a climate change denier, but logic and mathematics tells me that spending billions of dollars for essentially no measurable result is a total waste of money.
There has to be a better way.
John Burns, Hall
TO THE POINT
THE QUESTION OF ACCENTS
I had to laugh when I read Meta Sterns' letter (Letters, August 4). As an ex-German who still understands some words in German, my wife and I were only just talking about reports that Mathias Cormann might be a future Australian PM. I commented that I had no problems with a PM that had a Scottish, any of the many English or even an American accent, but a German accent would just be too weird.
Hans Müller, Tuross Head, NSW
THOUGHT THAT COUNTS
Before "fluent German speaker" Meta Sterns (Letters, August 4) condemns Finance Minister Matthias Cormann for his accent, she should reflect that Australians speak with many accents. It's not the sound of the accent, but words and thoughts behind it that the man should be judged on. Nicht wahr? [Isn't that so?]
Christina Faulk, Swinger Hill
Did Mr Dutton take charge of rescue and recovery at Lombok? He was Australia's man on the spot. No? Figures.
Bob Gardiner, Isabella Plains, Qld
POLICY PR PROBLEM
According to conservative commentators and their letter-writing acolytes, the only problem the Liberal Party faces is the presentation of their wonderful policies. Perhaps they should start searching for an appropriately qualified communicator who is skilled in the much sought after art of polishing turds.
J. Jovanovic, Lenah Valley, Tas
JUST A LITTLE LOST
Kirsten Lawson's review of Molto Italian (Good Food, August 7, p3) brought back fond memories of Tosolini's Manuka restaurant. However, Lawson's sense of direction is a tad astray. The development-thwarting plane tree to which she refers is on the corner of Franklin Street and Flinders Way, not Franklin and Furneaux Streets where Tosolini's was situated.
Frank Marris, Forrest
TORN BETWEEN CHOICES
There's a federal election next year and an ACT one in 2020. Both incumbents have a similar thing going for them: the Opposition. Still, I'm tempted.
Gary J. Wilson, Macgregor, ACT
BARNABY'S BEST 'CELLAR'
We all love those large book stores where on ground level the top books walk out the door, the others head downstairs. I suggest Barnaby's latest contribution to the literary world will quickly become a best "cellar".
Linus Cole, Palmerston
Love our wonderful winter weather ("Front brings hint of the white stuff", August 8, p3). Snow news is good news.
N. Ellis, Belconnen