The Chief Minister correctly identifies the conservatism of the Liberals greatly increases the chances of the re-election of his government ("Public service, social policy to frame ACT election debate, Barr says", canberratimes.com.au, July 20).
The under-funding of the health system and the bus network, declining housing affordability, the under-supply of social housing, increasing congestion, the over investment in light rail, the absence of an evidenced based ACT planning strategy, excessive rate increases and the failure to genuinely consult and respond to community criticism should all be nails in the government's coffin.
These unmet needs and the fragile state of the ACT economy, as documented by Khalid Ahmed, Jon Stanhope and Pegasus Economics, require priorities to be determined on evidence to ensure the best use of limited funds.
It is astounding, for example, the government has not provided evidence to support the more than $1.6 billion extension of light rail to Woden. Does it meet transport needs and city development objectives better than the far cheaper bus rapid transport?
To win government, the Liberals need to move to the centre. Whether they can is questionable. What they cannot continue to do is to wait for the Barr government to fall over. As the federal election shows, incompetent governments can be re-elected.
The only hope for improved governance of the territory is maybe the election of independents, holding the balance of power, requiring government to justify decisions.
Mike Quirk, Garran
Documenting alcohol's harm
Brewers Association chief executive Brett Heffernan suggests that recent data released on alcohol-related attendances in Canberra's emergency departments exaggerates the risk. He begins by describing "isolated and potentially selective snap-shots", suggesting these are of limited use (Letters, July 19).
Driving Change has been running for two years, collecting information from every person attending nine emergency departments across Australia. Its robust methodology involves emergency department personnel asking direct questions about people's alcohol use, in real time.
We found where people had consumed alcohol in the last 12 hours, at least 80 per cent of the diagnoses could be directly attributed to alcohol. Most of these cases would not be counted in the limited annual reporting by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare because their method fails to count many types of alcohol related attendances, and excludes all injuries
Even with the more robust Driving Change methodology, the full magnitude of user harm and injuries and harm caused to others - family, friends or strangers - is not captured This has been found to be up to 30 per cent of alcohol-related attendances in some hospitals. So the true scale of alcohol harm is likely very much higher.
Consequently, it is not in the public interest for the burden of alcohol harm on Canberra's hospital emergency departments to be downplayed by industry bodies such as the Brewers Association, especially when these alcohol-caused presentations stop ambulance officers, doctors and nurses attending others in need.
Professor Peter Miller, Deakin University, Dr Michael Hall, Canberra Hospital Emergency Department, Dr Nicholas Droste, Deakin University, Dr David Caldicott, Calvary Hospital Emergency Department
Electing a moral dilemma
I take this opportunity to respond to Jon Stanhope's elegant articulation of the moral dilemma before us all. He put to us a question: what will it take for the major parties to end the illegal and immoral policy of indefinite mandatory offshore detention of asylum seekers who arrived in Australia by boat (Letters, July 19)?
As Mr Stanhope knows very well, our representatives are decided by a democratic process called elections. We have had that opportunity more than once. This time we used it to choose a government lead by a self-proclaimed Christian who does not exemplify, either by his actions or policies, any Christian values at all as it concerns this issue. He did not even include these suffering people in his list of those he prayed for at a recent major event.
We consistently have not, as electors in the greatest democratic country on earth, deemed it necessary to end this obscenity. It is now what we are. And it's a miracle. Mr Stanhope is right to keep calling out our elected representatives on this issue. Please ask them again at the next interval you consider appropriate. Keep asking them.
H. Tan, Deakin
High rent while Canberra pays
Peter Bradbury says the higher rents for lower-value properties in the ACT follow from 2017 land tax and rates changes (Letters, July 19).
Then why have the ratios of rent to property value for the ACT been much the same for decades? Why were they just as much higher before the ACT took the advice of the boffins, and started to shift stamp duty down and rates correspondingly up? Why have the ratios of rent to property value hardly shifted, whether there has been a relative glut or a relative shortage of building land generally or of unit development sites in particular?
Landlords in the ACT always charge more because the local market will bear more: people who must be here for study or for work are a higher share than in other Australian markets. They already charge the most they can - and so rents don't change their relationship to property value when the tax mix changes, or even if overall tax for them rises.
Unit owners under a body corporate own a share of the total property, owned by the body corporate. A rating method that rates the whole property and shares that out among the unit owners, according to their share of the whole, might trouble some. But it's hard to identify anything 'bizarre' about it, and harder still to miss the obvious case for such a method.
Or is Mr Bradbury merely offering special pleading to reduce landlord bills ... but not the rent they charge?
Christopher Hood, Queanbeyan
Financial double standards
Re: "Is APRA the physician to heal itself? (July 20, p20).Included in the editorial's wide number of criticisms about APRA was the following: "...sublime indifference to any ethical imperatives that may have infringed on profits..." Yet, on the international field, Australia is still continuing to sign trade agreements that include investor state dispute settlement provisions that are increasingly being used by global corporations to sue nation states for anything that could impinge on current or future profits, that is, environmental or health legislation, such as the plain packaging for cigarettes. This despite the Australian government in 2011 announcing that it would discontinue the practice of seeking inclusion of ISDS provisions in trade agreements with developing countries.
Ann Darbyshire, Hughes
A booking for the future
It was indeed serendipitous that my partner read aloud to me Matthew Finch's excellent article, "How public libraries can help prepare us for the future" (July 20, p30) the day after I had come across Mike Thompson's just published book, Syria's Secret Library, in our own outstanding public library in Dickson.
Can this story of starving students avoiding snipers in a besieged town close to Damascus in order to collect books in sheets and store them in the basement of a bombed-out building inspire us? Surely we should take up Dr Finch's suggestion that we use our libraries to plan our future.
As a character, Omar, in Thompson's book tells his interviewer, "Books motivate us ... and compel us to plan for life".
Jill Sutton, Watson
Stop the building materials
Surely Peter Dutton can help "stop the rorts" by ensuring that substandard building materials do not enter this country for fraudulent use by a rotten core of construction operators.
Instead of seeking taxpayer support to paper over the deepening cracks of its own making, this trillion dollar industry should draw on its members' profit-making to assist financially both governmental co-ordination of national clean-up actions and the robust internal industry reforms that are needed to restore consumer confidence in the sector.
Sue Dyer, Downer
Fund public health instead
Private health insurance is a total ripoff. It only perpetuates the high cost of medicine because doctors and specialists charge whatever they like, knowing they will receive their payments from the patient, Medicare or the private health insurer. The whole system should be abolished and the billions of dollars currently spent propping up the industry should be directed straight to the public system, accessible to everyone. Only then could Australia claim to have something that remotely resembles the world's best health system.
Anne Willenborg, Royalla, NSW
TO THE POINT
NOT ALL CRIMES...
If George Calombaris had robbed a bank of $8 million he'd be jailed, but having only robbed his employees he receives a paltry (for him) fine ("Calombaris sorry for underpaying", July 19, p12). Where's the justice in that? It's about time that wage theft was treated as what it is - just plain theft.
Fred Pilcher, Kaleen
...ARE TREATED THE SAME
If, as Anatole France proclaimed, the law delivers "majestic equality", why, following the egregious, endemic corporate behavior exposed by Haynes banking commission, and yet another celebrity escaping consequences of blatantly illegal activity, do society's lower quintiles seem to monopolise prison populations?
Albert M. White, Queanbeyan
David Purnell (Letters, July 19) said that instead of spending on the military we should consider "social defence" for Australia, that is non-cooperation, persuasion and non-violent protest against any invader. For a minute you had me going there David, I thought you were serious.
Tom Lindsay, Monash
FOR AND AGAINST
The opinion columns featuring letters in Saturday's Canberra Times are termed "Forum", despite most of the letters being "agin' 'em" rather than "for 'um".
Peter Baskett, Murrumbateman, NSW
LOOK CLOSER TO HOME
Donald Trump has urged four US Congresswomen to "go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came". Perhaps Trump should return to the Manhattan-Palm Beach axis where he, Jeffrey Epstein, and Bernie Madoff spent their formative years. Still plenty to fix there.
Peter Grabosky, Forrest
LIVE IN INTERESTING TIMES
To President Donald Trump: You could certainly go back to where you came from and if you went back in time as well, say to 1938, you would be totally at home.
Jeff Hart, Kingston
A TERRIBLE TRIO
Donald, Scott and now Boris! The Three Amigos. Now that's really scary.
H. Merritt, Downer
WAITING FOR myGOV
The only genius to the myGov portal is the complaints section that won't let customers progress to "next". Forms won't accept input to proceed to lodgement. The ultimate insult is having to listen to the voice recording on the phone insisting I can do my business online while I wait on hold to progress "updating a change of care". Clearly the people who pat themselves on the back for this self-service option to the Australian public are not some of the desperate people forced to use it.
Courtenay Trinder, Karabar
A question for conservative Christians (such as Scott Morrison): it is written that Jesus cared for all people, including beggars in the street. Does this make him one of those dangerous socialists?
Douglas Mackenzie, Deakin
BUDGET MAKETH THE MAN?
Juian Leeser ("Newstart rise bad for budget: Liberal MP", July 20): the budget was made for man (i.e., people) - not man for the budget.
Michael McCarthy, Deakin
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