The ACT government's response to COVID-19 has been based on independent experts' advice and facts, and has been risk-averse. This all is welcome.
It contrasts with some of their decisions in recent years; particularly on Light Rail Stage 1 (that required $1 billion of what amounts to borrowing) and the proposed Stages 2a and 2b (perhaps a further $1.5 billion).
With the light rail, a political deal was done some time after the 2012 ACT Election. Since then the government has used its political weight and "carefully deployed" technical experts to push through Stage 1 irrespective of the facts.
With respect to cost, we have been repeatedly (at least until recently) assured that Canberra's ratepayers could easily afford the light rail, despite rates rising much more quickly than wages. While there has not been any sense the government's spending (reportedly $126 million) on the health crisis has been constrained by a lack of finance, the virus has shown $2.5 billion is a lot of money to bet on one project.
Light rail is inherently risky financially because, while most of the expenditure is upfront, it is meant to provide transport services over succeeding decades.
The sudden, virus-induced switch to working and learning from home has shown how quickly this demand can dry up.
A smart move would be to hit "pause and rethink" and commission an open and expert study into alternatives such as buses.
Bruce Paine, Red Hill
The extraordinary comments reportedly made by Brendan Murphy relating to a rumour that health workers attended an illegal party on Easter Monday are serious enough to need investigative clarification.
The Chief Medical Officer's apparent retraction of his comments does nothing to explain what happened.
There are two main questions. The first is: just how reliable was the source of the rumour? The second is whether or not it was appropriate to make a public statement about the rumour regardless.
Recent comments reportedly made by Professor Brendan Murphy relating to a rumour that health workers attended an illegal party on Easter Monday are serious enough to need investigative clarification.Philip Telford, Tarago, NSW
The issue is serious because, while the position of Chief Medical Officer is important at any time, it is particularly so in the present circumstances.
It is essential everyone has complete confidence in the advice coming out of that office.
Philip Telford, Tarago, NSW
Good one ScoMo
I have nothing but praise for the PM for speaking out against the WHO endorsement of the reopening of the "wet markets" in cities such as Wuhan in China where the coronavirus is said to have originated.
I have had the misfortune of being taken through these markets.
I have seen the terrified animals, including wildlife and rare birds, as well as domestic dogs and cats, crammed into cages and waiting to be dragged out and slaughtered for their meat, skins and "medicinal" body parts.
All I can say is give your own dog or cat or bird a special hug today and campaign to have these wet markets closed permanently.
John Davenport, Farrer
The editorial from Dr Sarah Callinan and Dr Michael Livingston ("Will COVID-19 change our drinking habits long term?", canberratimes.com.au, April 14), which suggests that Australians are drinking more during the pandemic, couldn't be further from the truth.
As researchers in the alcohol field, they should have had more caution in equating an increase in packaged liquor or home-delivery sales to many Australians drinking to excess while at home during this crisis.
There has been a total decimation of "on-premises" sales through pubs, bars, clubs and restaurants.
Our beer, wine and spirits-producing members are all telling us that this loss of sales has only marginally been made up for by an increase in packaged retail liquor sales.
Indications are that overall sales and volume loss range from 10 per cent to 30 per cent, with many small producers even more severely impacted as they are unable to access the retail channel and/or have had to close their cellar/brewery/distillery door.
It is also important to understand consumption doesn't necessarily occur shortly after the time of purchase for packaged liquor sales, but normally occurs over a considerably longer period of time.
In time, I'd anticipate that we'll learn that the trend towards moderation and "premiumisation" that has occurred over the last two decades has been maintained.
Andrew Wilsmore, CEO, Alcohol Beverages Australia
A new development
On March 20 the owners of property in Irving Street, Phillip, received the standard letter from the ACT Government Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate advising of further construction of multi-unit developments at 11 Irving Street.
The letters states that people affected by the application should make a written submission.
An additional 400 high-rise units in Irving Street (one way in, one way out) will see another 600 cars trying to enter and exit a short street.
Whenever traffic congestion has been raised previously the concerns have fallen on deaf ears. So what's the point? The existing 323 Trilogy apartments and the existing 296 Ivy apartments in Irving Street have about 1000 cars.
These already create ongoing traffic issues.
While traffic lights are apparently going to be installed at the intersection of Irving and Launceston Streets, that won't happen until 2022, after the new developments are completed.
Come on. Irving Street is still a one-way-in and one-way-out street. Surely the authorities can create an additional entry and exit point for Irving Street.
J R Ryan, Phillip
Will the national cabinet help domestic violence victims? "Seeking to avoid domestic violence" should be made an officially acceptable reason to be away from your home. And it should get you help. States could do this. If hotels and cheaper "starter" rentals are vacant as unemployed renters move back with parents, there is scope for the government to fund safe shelter accommodation options to protect victims.
Erica Burford, Page
Send 'em packing
Re: "Diplomats exempt from hotel isolation" (April 13, p2). I am outraged. No, it is not a belated April Fool's Day joke.
Fortunately, according to the article, there are no diplomats fresh from overseas in Canberra at the moment. The Vienna Convention was cited as the reason for the exemption. How can that apply in the midst of a global coronavirus pandemic? Who is responsible for this nonsense?
If a coronavirus hotspot appeared in the diplomatic community in Canberra I'd hope that heads would roll at DFAT and the minister would resign.
Local police chief Ray Johnstone, to allay our fears, said he wasn't aware of any evidence of diplomats flouting self-isolation rules. Has he checked? He also said: "I would expect diplomats to understand why we are doing what we are doing and comply and support the community."
He obviously hasn't lived in Canberra long, as a significant minority of the diplomatic community traditionally behave extremely badly in the city, even worse than some politicians coming to Canberra do.
There is still much confusion coming from government and this merely adds to it. I wish the Chief Medical Officer, Professor Brendan Murphy, and his colleagues in the states had emergency powers like bushfire commissioners. This is what is needed.
Dr Tony Stewart, Hughes
A diplomatic anomaly
Diplomatic visa-holders may very well be guaranteed freedom of movement and travel under the Vienna Convention and so can't be forced to quarantine in a hotel or embassy.
That doesn't mean they are any less likely to infect others as anyone else .
Given this is a matter of life and death, I believe that if they don't voluntarily agree to being quarantined they should be classified as "persona non grata" and expelled for breaking the laws of the land.
Mario Stivala, Belconnen
A recent trip to the shops at Gungahlin Village was made a lot easier by management installing self-serve hand sanitisers in pivotal positions. Coles was offering hand sanitiser as I walked in.
They offered trolley wipes and prompted people over the PA system with health guidelines. They also had additional markings on the floor.
I really appreciated this service. The staff and management were taking this seriously and kept their distance.
By way of contrast, I try and avoid a local supermarket where I live. They only have a few green dots on the floor and staff walk very close to customers.
Desiree Rees, Lyneham
TO THE POINT
The government is tying itself in knots to maintain the economy. When life reverts to some semblance of normality the long-term goal of a universal basic income, under which work, enterprise and entrepreneurship could flourish, should be explained, debated and considered.
Gail Allen, Pearce
NOT THAT BAD
The government is holding unemployment at 10 per cent. That means an employment rate of 90 per cent, the same as much of Europe before the coronavirus crisis, and better than we had in the early 1990s. The end is far from nigh. Sympathy and help for those affected is essential, but exaggerating the problem won't help them, or the rest of us.
Doug Hurst, Chapman
IT'S YOUR ABC
Working from home, I really appreciate being able to watch ABCNews 24 after breakfast. It's a great way to catch up on what was on Sunrise and Today, the sources of many of their stories. Trouble is I now gag (it's a Pavlovian reflex) every time - and it is often - they play that nauseatingly patronising "We are one" song.
N Ellis, Belconnen
A NICE TRY
China is showering needy countries with medical teams, supplies, and money. It is an attempt to head off any international inquiry into the origins, and notification, of the coronavirus outbreak. Will the countries accepting these gifts fall for this and forget to ask who is responsible for this worldwide disaster?
Phyllis Vespucci, Reservoir, Vic
MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE
I feel sorry for the highly paid "suits" who are irrelevant and marginalised at present. I hope they now have a better understanding of their true value to society and moderate their financial expectations in the post-COVID-19 restructuring of the economy.
Steve Thomas, Yarralumla
IT'S NOT THE DOLE
Can the media and others stop using the word "dole" when referring to those who have lost their jobs and are applying for support? It has, rightly or wrongly, long been associated with those who did not want to work; "dole bludgers". To quote the PM: "Stop it."
Mary Robbie, Farrer
"Things could be a lot worse ..." suggests Gail McAlpine (Letters, April 15). Consider the scenario of a "Donald Trump" as the president of an Australian republic and working in league with our current Prime Minister. It makes the mature constitutional monarchies of the Commonwealth look benevolent and robust.
Ronald Elliott, Sandringham, Vic
The Morrison government's spending/meddling/planning is just socialism under another name. This will end very poorly.
Victor Diskordia, McKellar
TAX REFORM NEEDED
When COVID-19 is put to rest it would be a good thing to have tax and treasury officials across the world ready to go with a no-tax-haven policy, and an end to transfer pricing rorts. A tax on revenue for companies not domiciled in the nation in question would be a good start.
T E White, Evatt
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