I refer to the article about the future of Bruce Hall, "'No plans' in place to bulldoze Bruce Hall" (April 8, p2), in which a university spokesman denied that a decision had been made to bulldoze the complex.
My wife and I attended the forum for alumni held on Thursday night. While plans are not yet finalised, it was made very clear that the university intends to demolish (most of) Bruce Hall so that a new Bruce Hall and a sibling Hall could be constructed during 2017, with the new halls to be open for students in 2018. The effect would be to increase capacity from about 240 to 800.
The consultation was about preserving the character of the old Bruce Hall in the new. ANU vice-chancellor Professor Brian Schmidt made it clear that preserving the central admin/dining building was just not feasible.
Why is the university spokesman engaging in such misleading spin?
John Hutchison, Gunning, NSW
Light rail ugly
We now seem to be committed by opaque politics to considerable expenditure on light rail with hardly any information on the consequences arising from expansion of the system.
So far we see sketches of ugly overhead wires and poles but no real evidence of alternative in-ground electricity supply or battery-powered vehicles. Once the pattern has been set by a contract we are bound to continue the selected technology in future extensions to the south.
How do the trams cross the two bridges in the centre to align with the central median strips? What about the ugliness of overhead wires over the elegant bridges? Is any expensive tunnelling envisaged?
New and very expensive bridge structures? Light rail will also need its own maintenance depot. Light rail is very inflexible to future needs. Why the unseemly rush to commit us all before the election with its extreme cancellation cost?
Stage 1 to Gungahlin may well seem cheap compared to future extension costs. Canberra development really took off with the NCDC in 1957, but I am appalled by recent city developments which are turning us into a copy of Sydney and Melbourne with all their disadvantages – and now our future city transport system is to adopt antique technology with the ugliness of poles and overhead wires which we have largely managed to avoid.
We have (had?) a lovely city but there is a social cost to development.
Could we please have some realistic answers to hidden consequences ?
Derek Wrigley, Mawson
Felix MacNeill (Letters, April11)is mistaken. Both of Perth's planned light-rail projects havebeen cancelled and replaced with buses, due to excessive cost.
Professor Peter Newman promoted Perth's very successful heavy-rail project, a solution that Canberra needs but unfortunately we didn't reserve any suitable routes.
Vancouver is only at the planning stage for introduction of streetcars. It currently has three lines of elevated driverless light/heavy rail "SkyTrain" and numerous buses, many of which are fully electric.
Chris Emery, Reid
Nimbies have to share
Greg Cornwell (Letters, April 9) says nimbies are simply trying to "protect their suburb and lifestyle".
Perhaps, but they should remember that they don't own"their" suburb, only a block of land in it (and, in Canberra, not even that), and that they onlylive in "their" suburb temporarily. And other residents in the suburb, probably the silentmajority, realise that nothing in life remains unchanged – and that includes the character of "their" suburb, as the population (and thus the need to house people more densely) grows.
Also, nimbies should realise that other people, with different tastes in housing, will also want to share in the benefits of living in "their" suburb (particularly if it's an inner suburb), and that it's selfish to not recognise and accept that.
R. S. Gilbert, Braddon
Emotional literacy vital
Bravo, Sarah Fitt (Letters, April9), in making the point about boys being unable to convey their feelings and that "someone has got to have a better idea" for addressing the issue of late-night violence.
In 2007, I established the Canberra Emotional Literacy Forum, and this was one of the main aims of the forum. I have been unable to attract the attention of any politician, journalist or academic in this concept and the forum is dormant. However, anyone with an interest in promoting the idea of helping children (and adults) understand their own emotions and behaviour is welcome to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ken Fraser, Kambah
Road rules apply to all
I don't know which is worse: the flagrant flouting of road laws by members of the Saudi embassy or the supine response from DFAT's chief of protocol that heis "not happy" and will call inthe Saudi ambassador to express strong concern ("Saudi diplomats find fast excuses to justify their flouting of road rules", April 11, p1).
Surely we can be stronger than this and tell the ambassador that serial traffic offenders will be made persona non grata. Perhaps the chief of protocol, Chris Cannan (or the envoy), could enlighten Canberrans as to why this dangerous flouting of road rules is countenanced.
Eric Hodge, Pearce
Rich want status quo
Jane Caro's article "Maybe it's class warfare behind opposition to Gonski" (Times2, April 11, p5) hits the nail on the head about the argument against Gonski funding for all schools.
It is clear to me that the conservative establishment that supports the private school system in this country is determined at all costs to stop the Gonski education system. The establishment sees it as a threat to the class system, in this case the rich schools or the rich class. Yes, it's alive and well , this offensive viewpoint that only divides our people and produces a third-rate education system.
All my schooling was in the private system. I had no better education than anyone else; in fact (to my shame) at times I thought I was better than state school kids. That's what the class system of private schools does to children.
The evidence shows that without private schools – such as in Finland – and with a Gonski system, they produce the best educated children in the world without pretending that class is more important than equality.
Michael Gardiner, Coombs
Trade deals more about corporate profits than people's wellbeing
There has been a recent spate of trade deals with China, Japan and Korea, and the signed but not yet ratified Trans-Pacific Partnership. Despite many requests for the Productivity Commission to carry out independent cost-benefit analyses of these deals, this government has always refused.
Evidence from past trade deals, notably the Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement, has revealed only negligible impacts on our economy, and in some cases aworsening in the balance oftrade. Academics tell us toexpect negligible if any economic benefits. If it's not about the economy, we might well ask what is going on?
I think we've just had a few clues. Problems with unsafe building materials imported from one of our major trading partners have prompted calls for a royal commission to look into the steel industry, but the government has replied that we have obligations under trade treaties to accept these imports. Similarly, it has rejected callsfor an inquiry into the banking industry, lestoverseas investors be frightened off by our insistence on standards being met.
These trade agreements, they say, are ushering in the new services economy, and we must not hinder the process.
On the other hand, re-establishing the Australian Building and Construction Commission, with its draconian limitations on union powers to protect workers, apparently sends just the right message to overseas investors.
Could all this really be about remaking Australian society along neo-liberal lines, without the need of an electoral mandate, and putting the profits of tax-dodging overseas corporations ahead of the health, safety and wellbeing of workers and the community?
Pauline Westwood, Dickson
Just in the last few days, we'veheard Treasurer Scott Morrison demur on some obvious measures to save astrategic local industry thatunderwrites the town of Whyalla as it would contravene free trade agreements.
Then there's American firm NuCoal, which is lining up the US government to press the Australian government for nearly $1 billion in compensation over a failed deal. Again, that's under thegeneral terms of an FTA ("Public interest must come first", Forum, April 9, p6).
The benefits of FTAs have been questioned in terms of how long it takes to accrue net gains for the economy and how modest the percentages turn out to be (according to this or that method of calculation).
One thing is clear. The loss ofsovereign action within our borders is more immediate, and, worse, it is impossible to quantify the outcomes of likely future compensation claims.
An Australian government is now apparently unable to give Australian orders to anAustralian company on Australian soil. And why? Because of new allegiances to superpower trading partners.
Ross Kelly, Monash
Better access needed
In the article "Chinese investment in Australian property doubles as FIRB real estate approvals overall jump 75 per cent" (domain.com.au, April 9), we learn that Chinese investment is expected to double or triple by 2020. Sydney and Melbourne are now unaffordable property markets for most Canberrans and especially for their children, who may want to enter the jobs market in the bigsmoke.
Are Sydney and Melbourne going the way of Vancouver property, a storehouse for foreign embezzled cash andhot money?
We should restrict the purchase of Australian residential property and land for residential development toAustralian citizens and permanent residents. Australians need better access to housing, not bigger prices.
John Haydon, Lyneham
No idea on Defence
Does Frank O'Shea ("Defence spending just a gigantic waste of public money", Forum, April9, p6) have the most basicunderstanding of matters military? From his column, I can only conclude that he does not.
If he believes Defence always gets what it asks for, he should try talking to the Defence planners and learn how difficult it is to decide what can be asked for within a budget, what has to be deferred or outright rejected, and then get procurements approved, even those considered vital.
If Mr O'Shea believes the only purpose of a submarine is to sink "enemy shipping", he should arrange a briefing from the proud men and women who crew the navy submarines and learn more about what they do, and at the same time apologise for calling them "macho gunslingers with shining medals and egos to match".
I am all for free speech, but if I am going to write some 800 words about a subject and havethem published in a major newspaper, I would try to grasp some of the core concepts regarding that subject. That way I would not look like an ignorant fool.
Evan Burton, Callala Bay, NSW
Cars are big enough
Amanda Vanstone's op-ed piece about who should build our new submarines ("Home-built subs are a must", Times2, April 11, p4) was in many ways typical of her work: sprawling, ill-defined and full of opportunistic digressions.
Put simply, her argument was that the Japanese can't be trusted to adapt their domestic submarine technology to Australian requirements or topass on their knowhow.
Whatever the validity of these views, she chose to adorn them with the suggestion that the Japanese designers would need to overcome their mindset to build things small, to accommodate our larger submariners. The Japanese have for decades built cars bigenough to fit Australians, even Vanstone.
Paul Feldman, Macquarie
Sex Party ticks boxes
Congratulations, Ross Fitzgerald ("It's never too late to make a foray into politics", Times2, April11, p5).
Like you, I found it arevelation to discover a party based on fundamental human rights and, for the same reason as you, I joined the Australian Sex Party.
In the face of so much racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia and prejudice, it's heartening to see the support from people who get past the name and take the trouble to read the party's policies.
Fred Pilcher, Kaleen
Swedish show us rehabilitation works
Not only are disproportionate Indigenous detention rates for minor offences a disgrace, as labelled by the Australian Bar Association, they are a violation of human rights, particularly against children, whose mental health may be damaged by their experience ("Indigenous detention rates a'disgrace"', April 8, p1).
A ray of hope for progress shines from the November 2014 Longford lecture in London by the head of Sweden's Prison and Probation Service, Nils Olsen, saying: "Our role is not to punish, loss of freedom being punishment itself. Our role is rehabilitation."
As a result of re-education, teaching of skills, sport, good fresh food and regular exercise, reoffending rates have fallen to 40per cent– less than half of Britain's and the rest of Europe's rates.
Since 2004, four of Sweden's prisons have closed and several others have been mothballed for lack of prisoners. Sweden's enlightened example is being followed in Kenmore, in northern South Australia, where the first Aboriginal TAFE college has been established, teaching a variety of skills from motor-vehicle repair to cooking, providing Aboriginal students with marketable qualifications to enable them to earn a living.
Minister for Indigenous Affairs Nigel Scullion recognises the need for "tackling the acknowledged drivers of crime, including unemployment and poor educational outcomes". But he dodges his responsibilities by saying mandatory sentencing is "primarily a matter for states and territories".
Bryan Furnass, Hughes
Why no women?
Each of the 81 photographs in the Canberra Museum and Gallery's Bush Capital exhibition was taken by amalephotographer.
Aren't there any female photographers in Canberra?
Megan Mears, Watson
TO THE POINT
Barnaby "Chopper" Joyce appears to be the only living Australian who believes he is too important to spend time travelling as a normal person to visit his constituents ("Joyce chartered $2211 chopper for town visit just 120km from office", April 9, p7). With luck, we'll maybe see him sitting on the back bench with Bronwyn Bishop, hoisted on his own petard of self-importance.
W. Book, Hackett
THE KEY TO SUCCESS
A $300,000 dinner and chartered helicopter flights might be "living within our means" for some. The rest of the hard hats must learn to be agile and innovative and aspire to become top hats. Come on, working class. We can get there if we use offshore funds; stack our super and negative-gear our multiple properties. Stop struggling and join the most exciting time to be Australian.
Jeff Bradley, Isaacs
Something must be dead on Manuka Green. I can smell it from here.
J. Pearson, Phillip
No omission and no coyness at all, Jeremy McGrane (Letters, April 9). The byline for my comment piece ("Manuka Oval can set a design benchmark", Times2, April 7, p5) advised very clearly that I have agreed to act as jury chair for the Manuka Green design competition, should it proceed.
Shelley Penn, Williamstown, Vic
A VERY SLOW ARRIVAL
Cynthia Moloney's optimism (Letters, April 8) that Malcolm Turnbull is practising the bridge stratagem of the "slow arrival" reminds me of an argument I overheard. The wife identified several of her husband's faults. "I hide my light under a bushel," he replied. "Must be a damned small bushel," she said. Must be a damned slow arrival.
Bill Browne, Lyneham
PUPPET OF THE UNIONS
In calling for an early election, your correspondent, Carolyn Doyle (Letters, April 9) notes that "at least Billy Boy Shorten won't be puppet for the far right". Of course not; his puppetry commitments to the CFMEU and TWU will be taking up all his time.
Kym MacMillan, O'Malley
Mike Sweet (Letters, April 11) raises legitimate concerns about the repeated words "f---ing" and "arsehole" being broadcast to families at the Brumbies. However, I wonder if the stadium's DJ is really to blame; perhaps it was just an accidental live feed from the executive suite.
John Howarth, Weston
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