Chief Minister Katy Gallagher states that calculating the net cost to the government of allowing Fluffy owners to retain their land is "more complicated because people are likely to want to keep the more valuable land and surrender the less valuable" ("High cost of buying Mr Fluffy homes", December 1). She has failed to understand, or is wilfully ignoring, the submissions to the government from Fluffy owners who want to stay.
These are not speculators hoping to capitalise on prime blocks of land. These are people wanting to stay in place, in their community. Neighbourhood values and social inclusion are not measured by land value, and the smallest, most ill-aspected block can have immense value to the owner if that is where they want to be.
Christine Wilson, Curtin
As a young building contractor in the ACT in the late 1960s and '70s I commissioned Dirk Jansen to install his wonderful new insulation in the roof of one of the houses that I was building. I observed the installation and didn't like what I saw – dust flying around and the appalling working conditions of Dirk's employees. I resolved never to use the product again even though I didn't know of the carcinogenic properties of asbestos.
Fast forward to the article November 29, p1 and there it was, the ACT government using the blackmail tactics common to the public servants that advise them that they "have the power" and are resolved to using that power to ride roughshod over the owners of "Mr Fluffy" houses. This smacks of the same type of attitude which led to the "stolen generation" and we all know how that worked out for the participants, similar to the ASADA use of power.
The one property that I plead guilty for has been renovated, extended and cleaned up in the initial asbestos clean-up.
I believe that the hysteria surrounding the Mr Fluffy houses cannot be decided by the "one size fits all" attitude of the government. I for one would be prepared to remove the four or five asbestos fibres remaining in the house at minimal cost to the people of Canberra without causing the occupants any duress while doing the job. The house in question sits in a beautiful location and it is not fair the owners should be blackmailed into accepting the flawed decision of the government.
Michael F. Buggy, Torrens
Master plan for lake
Juliet Ramsay ("Lake Burley Griffin needs government action", Times2, November 26, p5) rightly decries the lack of a whole-of-lake master plan, and the ACT government's exploitation and destruction of the lake shores for profit. Grevillea Park is the latest veiled development target of the ACT Land Development Agency.
Both the then National Capital Authority and ACT government accepted appalling advice to relocate the ACT Hospice from its superb discrete north-facing Acton Peninsula site to an isolated, south-facing Grevillea Park one, right on Griffin's important Causeway Axis with its potential for his lake crossing.
Ramsay's plea is clearly justified by other past, current, and proposed lake-shore travesties. After the ignorant demolition of the Royal Canberra Hospital, built to Griffin's design and siting on the Acton Peninsula, the National Museum was ignorantly moved there, for "commercial visibility", from superb Yarramundi Reach. There, it could have evolved in an evocative lakeside "tract" setting, appropriately close to the National Arboretum.
With the installation of "RG Menzies' Walk", the NCA fluffed a chance to achieve Griffin's important formal geometry of the northern shore of Central Basin, creating much needed parkland at Rond Terrace, and an improved visual connection between the opposing Land Axis shores, a la Griffin's original plan. The proposed south-facing West Basin foreshore development is shaping up as another developers' playpen. We need that (binding) master plan all right.
Jack Kershaw, Kambah
Essential service rises
I agree with Suzanne Vidler's sentiments (Letters, November 29) regarding the establishment of yet another review into the process of setting water and sewerage prices in the ACT. I sit here waiting for the next rise in an essential service. My recent gas, electricity and water bills came and all I could muster was a sigh. I wait for the out-of-towners to come down with a decision that may be fine in Victoria or NSW or wherever they are from but not for us. I wait for ACTEW (Icon) to sit and not take responsibility for starting this whole fiasco.
I wait for the government to say, well as much as we don't like it, it is the decision of the umpire.
Speaking of umpires, it was the umpire's decision that Katy and Andrew et al didn't like. Why didn't they represent us, the owners and ACTEW appealing? How many ACT residents wanted this review? Despite what Mark Sullivan claimed, that if he didn't appeal, the world was going to end, ACTEW was in dire financial straits, etc, ACTEW seems to have turned a healthy profit to the government ($40 million-plus). If the panel agrees even in part with ACTEW then will the government get super profits? Will we water users pay for the light rail, Mr Fluffy? When will this end?
Adrian Smith, Yarralumla
Lower limits supported
Greg Baker (Letters, November 28) sought a definition of "success" for Canberra's 40km/h zones in shopping centres. Traffic evaluations were conducted following the introduction of 40km/h zones in Woden, Gungahlin, Civic, Belconnen and Tuggeranong town centres. The findings showed significant speed reductions of up to 10km/h in Woden and 16km/h in Gungahlin. The evaluation of Civic, Belconnen and Tuggeranong town centres showed speed limit reductions up to 22km/h were achieved, with average speeds in the sign-posted areas now generally 40km/h. Further to this, surveys of the areas found that 72-78per cent of the community supported the lower limits.
Shane Rattenbury, Minister for Territory and Municipal Services
No fall in petrol price
With the price of crude oil being at four and five-year lows (nearly 40per cent lower than at the start of the year) why aren't we seeing a decrease in the price of petrol at the bowser in Canberra? Petrol companies used to state that a rise/fall of $1/barrel equated to a rise/fall in petrol prices by 1c/L. Surely petrol should be cheaper than 151.9c/L. On Tuesday it was 141.9c/L in Murrumbateman. Canberrans are being taken for a ride!
Anthony Reid, Murrumbateman, NSW
Policies will turn Australia into international backwater
The sharemarket is at its lowest point for 12 months, the dollar keeps sinking, iron ore and coal prices are low and coal is increasingly on the nose internationally, unemployment keeps rising, Australia is getting a very bad international name over such matters as its climate change policies and UN criticism of our refugee human rights record.
What did Abbott crow about at his press conference on December 1? We "stopped the boats, ended the mining and climate taxes and are building the roads". What a pathetic claim by the government on its contribution to Australia's wellbeing. None of its signature policies will help Australia, but will further drive us into an international backwater. Like the Napthine government one can only hope that Abbott's government is a one-term statistic.
Rod Holesgrove, O'Connor
If you want to know what is wrong with the Liberal Party, it has relied on politicians like Tony Abbott, Joe Hockey, Malcolm Turnbull, Julie Bishop, Eric Abetz, Christopher Pyne, John Howard and Peter Costello to carry its water. The buckets have holes in them. The Liberal Party has yet to produce a comprehensive critique of statist intervention, the welfare state and Keynesian economics. No Liberal politician has ever provided a theory of the size and functions of the federal government or a cogent theory of taxation (how much taxation is to be levied). This is proof positive that the Liberal Party is intellectually bankrupt.
When you see Liberals voting for a larger federal budget and an expansion of the police and surveillance state you can be sure that these Liberals are not ready to vote for smaller government and lower taxes.
The odd thing about the debt and deficit debate is this: most members of the parliamentary Liberal Party think of themselves as fiscal conservatives.
Victor Diskordia, McKellar
I read Michael West's article "Big business misses the tax elephant" (BusinessDay, November 27, p13) with keen interest, and especially his comment: "Google has been allowed to get away with paying no income tax in Australia on its Australian sourced advertising revenue". I suspect that Google pays no Australian income tax precisely because it has no Australian-sourced advertising revenue.
Australia (like most countries) asserts a right to impose income tax on the worldwide income of Australian residents and on the Australian-sourced income of everyone else. For the most part, the source of income is not explicitly defined but depends on judicial interpretation. This considers factors such as where the services are provided and where the contract was made.
The Google entity that has Australian customers is probably a resident of Ireland. This means its Australian tax liability depends on whether the amounts its customers pay have an Australian source.
Although the advertisements can be viewed in Australia, they are probably hosted on an Irish server. So, the service would be provided in Ireland (it is like a billboard you can see from Northern Ireland that is located across the border in Ireland). And the contract would be made in Ireland, so that too suggests an Irish source for the revenue.
Google pays no tax here on its advertising revenue because we have not asserted a right to tax it.
We could change our income tax law to tax the revenue but that could create a precedent we might not like. For example, could China claim that the amounts it pays BHP for iron ore are taxable in China because that's where they're paid from. This is a difficult problem that would be next to impossible to correct unilaterally and could take years to put right.
Greg Pinder, Charnwood
Senator Eric Abetz says APS pay rises have been excessive and have exceeded inflation by 14per cent over the decade since 2004. APS wages on Senator Abetz's figures increased by "nearly 42per cent" compared to 28per cent inflation ("Abetz lays into APS excessive pay rises," December 2, p6). Incidentally, Senator Abetz talks about a "per cent increase" but he is actually subtracting percentage points. But I here follow Senator Abetz's simple approximation.
Of course wages go up faster than inflation – this is the increase in living standards we expect under normal conditions. Is it "excessive" for wages to increase with community standards?
The ABS data show price inflation was 31per cent from December 2004. So Senator Abetz's nearly 42 per cent becomes "nearly" 11per cent more than inflation. Over the same period wages across the economy increased 41per cent. That means the pay scales as a whole increased by 10per cent more than inflation – not far off the APS. The wage price index does not adjust for changes in the composition of the workforce.
In the 10 years to the latest figures for May 2014, average (full-time adult ordinary time) earnings increased by 53 per cent. These figures show how actual wages elsewhere in the economy have moved. If average earnings are comparable to the concept Senator Abetz uses then in fact the APS has fallen behind substantially.
What was that saying about statistics and lies?
David Richardson Senior Research Fellow, The Australia Institute
Professor Ross Fitzgerald ("Open university offer government greater value, Times2, December 1, p5) points the way for any government dedicated to getting a bigger bang from the taxpayer's buck. Linking Open Universities Australia to the National Broadband Network is the most cost-effective way of supplying remote Australia with 21st century tertiary education. It is time for Christopher Pyne and Malcolm Turnbull to get out of their silos and work as smart strategic partners to deliver the real solutions we need.
Michael Baczkowski, Corrimal, NSW
How Australians respond to history
The Australian War Memorial has reopened its World WarI galleries. From television reports, it seems the new galleries are an interesting mix of the old and new.
Many Australians will visit the galleries and be intrigued by them. Unfortunately, however, in his understandable desire to advertise the galleries, director Brendan Nelson has again fallen victim to hyperbole. Australians who are able to do so, Dr Nelson says, have "not only an opportunity but a responsibility" to see the galleries. (This was in the ABC report, though not in the Canberra Times story, "New-look galleries show how war shaped the nation", December1, p3.)
In similar vein, Anzac Centenary Minister Michael Ronaldson has often said the children of today have "an obligation" to carry forward "the torch of remembrance".
If this type of florid overstatement continues during the centenary of Anzac, many Australians will become heartily sick of it. We do not need promoters and politicians dictating how we should feel about and respond to our history and how we approach our future.
Dr Nelson went on to say "every nation has its story – this is our story". Again, misleading hyperbole. War is an important part of our history, not so much because of what we have done in war – the depiction of which is the memorial's main stock in trade – but because of what war has done to us. But there is much more to our story than is presented by the memorial, no matter how bright and shiny the new galleries are.
David Stephens, secretary, Honest History, Bruce
If the ACT Assembly eliminates the cap on political donations, I will stand for the next election with the slogan, "I will table, support or oppose legislation as deemed by my major political donors".
Ed Dobson, Hughes
TO THE POINT
UNION GETS VOTE
Congratulations, Victorians. You have just voted the CFMEU into
Owen Reid, Dunlop
BAD TASTE CARTOON
Appalled as I am by the federal government, its actions and its policies, I nevertheless found Tuesday's editorial cartoon (Times 2, December 2, p1) "Victorian cricket bats" cartoon to be in abysmally bad taste and not at all helpful to those of us who are waiting for this government's political demise.
Meta Sterns, Yarralumla
Your article on unplanned leave ("Public servants fail to show up when they're waiting to depart", December 1, p1) is very helpful. The finding that "the more leave the departments' public servants were entitled to, the more they took" is particularly insightful.
More seriously, I wonder what might be learned in ATO and DHS if some intellectual rigour and effort were applied to understanding the amount of, and need for, unpaid overtime?
Wal Collins, Scullin
Well done, David Pocock, for standing up for his convictions and how fortunate the Brumbies are to have such an intelligent and compassionate player in their ranks. If only there were other sporting identities who showed his courage. Australia needs more people like David.
Alison Chapple, Macquarie
In contrast to the usual reports in the media about football players' activities off-field, I find David Pocock's action against the Maules Creek coal mine – and his thoughtful statement about why he did it – refreshing. It demonstrates his integrity and good character ... and isn't that what sporting codes of conduct are about?
GM King, Narrabundah
For the way in which he helps and supports his neighbours when help and support are needed, I would like to nominate Ian Handberg of Chapman for the best neighbour of the year award.
John Milne, Chapman
WORTH WET WAIT
Jennifer Gall, reviewing Sunday's Voices in the Forest ("Voices in the Forest 2014 spoiled by storms", canberratimes.com.au, December 1) paid dearly for scarpering, wet, before the glorious reward of Act 3. All performers were superb; paramount, Inessa Galante whose spellbinding execution of her craft transcended damp bottoms and leaking coats.
Carey Gaul, Garran
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