As Roderick Holesgrove reminds us (December 28, 2021, p22), the proposal in the early 1970s to build the Black Mountain Tower created a huge controversy in Canberra. The Committee to Save Black Mountain was established and supported by a large number of Canberra citizens, 1500 of whom contributed to the cost of subsequent legal action.
As Eric Sparke has documented in his excellent history of Canberra, Canberra 1954-1980, the 14 citizens who became plaintiffs in a case against the Commonwealth made legal history in Australia by gaining the Attorney-General's fiat for a relator action, enabling them to act as plaintiffs in a matter of public interest. Together with the original members of the Committee, they constituted a regular Who's Who of the ANU and CSIRO.
The case, which began in the ACT Supreme Court on August 31, 1973, was ultimately successful and the erection of the tower was deemed by Mr Justice Smithers to be unlawful, both on environmental grounds and on the grounds of the illegal exercise of the powers of the Postmaster-General and the executive power of the Commonwealth. Thus, it has been taught in the ANU College of Law as Canberra's first major environmental case. The court's decision was only overturned, and the tower built, when the Governor-General in Council ordered Tom Uren, Minister for the National Capital Development Commission (NCDC) which opposed the tower, to disagree with his Commission.
Rather than upgrading it as a tourist venue, the tower could be removed, as an acknowledgement of Canberra's enhanced environmental consciousness.- Ann Kent, Forrest
This important part of Canberra history, which would form an excellent subject for a PhD thesis, bears repeating because it has almost been forgotten, or has been mistakenly remembered as a legal case that was lost. But it does not only belong to our past. The Tower has just been closed down. Rather than upgrading it as a tourist venue, the tower could be removed, as an acknowledgement of Canberra's enhanced environmental consciousness, a due recognition of technological advance, and a tribute to the foresight and vision of a remarkable group of Canberra citizens. Black Mountain could return to the beautiful, serene mountain depicted by Roland Wakelin in his 1944 painting, and celebrated as a focal point in the original plans of Walter Burley Griffin and his wife Marion. It could be returned, unspoiled, to the people of Canberra.
I agree with Jasper Lindell (Virus advice needs public face in times of change, December 31, 2021, p4) that more public information and explanation from senior health officials as COVID circumstances and responses change would be welcome. There is also an onus on the journalists who attend any press conferences to ask meaningful questions and follow up on topics previously left hanging. While COVID press conferences were daily I watched many of them. Far too often the questions from the floor were on topics already thoroughly covered (Andrew Barr generally showed the patience of a saint in dealing with those) and didn't request the further detail often promised by the Chief Health Officer "tomorrow," when that day came.
When indoor mask wearing was re-introduced Dr Coleman said that it was a very simple measure. Did any of the assembled press ask why, given its simplicity, rising case numbers in NSW, and all the unknowns of the Omicron variant, it was not taken until case numbers had also increased significantly here? Was Dr Coleman asked for an estimate of the number of cases that could have been avoided at that stage by acting sooner?
By all means press for more direct communication from public health officials, but please also ensure that your journalists are willing and able to make the most of the opportunities they have to ask questions.
As a journalist who worked in Old Parliament House and respected its historic relevance, I was devastated and deeply saddened by the wanton destruction of one of the premier historical buildings of the national capital.
If the fire was deliberately lit, as news reports showed, and no perpetrators charged by ACT police, then the national capital might be better run from Sydney.
Greens Senator Lydia Thorpe was not just out of line with her insensitive, not to say truly polemic, comment, confirming the opinion of many, that she has no place in a democratic parliament.
While arguing that seaplanes could operate on the lake safely (Letters, December 30, 2021), on reflection I don't think that they should. Three points: they would create damaging wash; they would deny the lake to other users, and they would privatise a public asset. Conclusion: possible but undesirable.
Does the Australian Open really need Novak Djokavic? This individual is trying to set the eligibility critera for the event with his petulant refusal to adhere to the requirement to prove his COVID-19 vaccination status. Everyone else is happy to comply, so why not the precious Novak? Personally I couldn't care less if he plays or not. It gives some possible up and comer a chance to play in one of the premier tennis events.
Gerry Gillespie (Letters, December 31, 2021) says that our ignorance of the environment is further highlighted by recent conversations on the "threat" of trees to houses and humans alike.
I agree trees are very important for helping to address urban heat island effects in suburbs dominated by dark roofs far more than greenery and soils. Encouraging wildlife via suitable habitat is also most important.
Nonetheless, the location of suitable trees is also very important, particularly with more intense storms raising risk factors even more.
Gerry suggested to me that trees which grow beyond five metres in height should not be planted where they can break and cause damage to homes or vehicles.
He further suggests that there are many species of eucalyptus, as well as others such as bottle brush and grevillea to choose from, with sizes ranging from dwarf to several metres or more.
I've recently been an inpatient at the Canberra Hospital, three years since my last admission to the hospital. Back then, I experienced what I would consider to be akin to third-world standards of health care: dirty wards, shortage of staff of all types and mostly inedible food. To anyone who would listen I became the hospital's greatest critic.
Fast forward to now and the experience is anything but third-world standard. The care and treatment I have just received has been nothing short of sensational. I don't know how the standard has lifted so dramatically in such a relatively short space of time, but I do know how grateful I am. Thank you to all involved.
Who thought four hours close contact was "best medical advice" other than Bridget McKenzie? From a tickle in the back of the nose to a jet powered smogma cloud takes a millisecond. You certainly don't have time to get it all focused into your elbow pit. A second opinion would have been prudent.
In her excellent article 'Fixing Parliament Changes Everything' (Opinion, p25, January 1, 2022) Kim Rubenstein makes the point that: "The threat to women's safety in the very houses of Parliament exemplifies the need to improve equality across the country".
The very fact that the majority of people standing as independents in the coming election will be women hopefully demonstrates that the days of one-sided Parliamentary male inanity are seen as stale and dead.
We will not get good governance in this country until we have equality and we will not have equality unless we elect women. More than 50 per cent of the population are women, 50 per cent of the Parliament should be women. In the coming election regardless of party political or independent candidates, vote for a woman!
Compare the two articles on page 5 (Friday, December 31, 2021): the first featured Andrew Barr and the other Scott Morrison. Andrew keeps it simple and explains the current COVID situation succinctly, talking to us as intelligent readers.
Scott tells us what to do in a dramatic and complicated manner.
Keith Hill (Letters, December 31, 2021) was at Manuka Oval in the summer of 1965-66 but he would not have seen Sir Donald Bradman batting there.
The Canberra Times of December 18, 1965 lists the batsmen in the previous day's MCC v PM's XI match. The list does not include Sir Donald's name.
Committing what appears to have been an act of arson at Old Parliament House will do the cause of the group responsible no good. Shame on all of those involved.
J Rodriguez is confused if he thinks that, but for Whitlam, he would have been sent to Vietnam (Letters, December 30). Prime Minister McMahon had begun withdrawing our combat forces a year earlier. Had John been Swiss though, then or now, he would almost certainly have had to don a uniform and do national service.
While I generally agree with John Rodriguez about the hypocrisy of much of Australia's involvement in foreign wars he perpetuates the myth Whitlam withdrew draftees from Vietnam. By the time Labor came to power the Australian commitment had been reduced to a tiny training command. A remarkably large number of draftees were failing the medical and, even if you passed and did not want to go to Vietnam you simply failed the jungle warfare course.
The idea of a cable car to Black Mountain has history, and interference with the telecommunication tower's technical functions was reportedly not an issue (Douglas Mackenzie, Letters, December 30). Objections to the original route passing over the ANU and the Botanical Gardens were raised. However, the 2.5 kilometre route I suggested would not travel over those places.
If state borders were closed there would be no need for travel testing and no lockdowns. It's a no-brainer.
Scott Morrison is right when he says we have changed gears in the battle against COVID-19. I have changed from drive into park whilst waiting in a testing queue. I expect that many Australians are in the same gear, except those who have to go into reverse when the testing site closes. Good choice of analogy, Prime Minister.
The Prime Minister claims his decision not to provide free RATs was based on pressure from the suppliers. They claim they did not pressure the PM. Who is telling porkies?
Is there a prize for the most ridiculous argument printed on the Letters page each year? If so, the 2021 prize must surely go to that written by Christopher Ryan (Letters, December 29) which included his fascinating conclusion that the "PRC owes its very existence to Taiwan". Was the editor attempting to end the year with a little humour?
With the number of deaths attributable to COVID-19 mirroring Australian road deaths the contrast in the government's resource commitment response could not be greater. Anthropomorphising roads and cars as the villains neglects the real cause; it is the nut that holds the wheel.
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