Letters / Stanhope ‘right’ about tram cost

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IN referring to the light rail project (CN, February 16) columnist Jon Stanhope was correct in his observations.

As he implied, the business case for Stage 1 was terribly flawed and not a sound basis of decision to proceed; it was a political decision, not an economic one.

He is also correct to ask how the project will be paid for. It will undoubtedly be by extra rates and taxes or by additional government debt. Readers may recall that the “official” cost of the contract for Canberra Metro Stage 1 (Gungahlin-Civic) is $939 million. In fact, it will be at the very least $1.3 billion (June, 2016 prices) and that’s before any cost blowouts during construction.

This translates into a burden on every ACT taxpayer of about $550 or more per year for 20 years, irrespective of how it may be paid for. Every passenger using the tram will be subsidised by at least $11 a ride. Stage 2 to Woden has been promised, but will be even more uneconomic than Stage 1. Stage 2 could even be shelved and there is virtually zero chance of the network being extended past Stage 2. These are a few things to think about for those readers who voted for the tram, whether deliberately or indirectly in ignorance.

M Flint, via email

Stanhope ‘wrong’ about refugees

I THINK columnist Jon Stanhope is an ostrich with his head buried in the sand (CN, February 16, “What goes around, unhappily comes around”). The people on Nauru and Manus are neither innocent nor asylum seekers. They are simply economic migrants. They arrived here illegally for no other reason than to take advantage of the benefits afforded in Australia.

Refugees cease to be refugees the minute they land on safe soil. In the case of the boat people who came from Indonesia, they were on safe soil in Indonesia so ceased to be refugees (if they ever had been). They had plenty of opportunity to enter the legitimate refugee system but elected instead to bypass that system yet expect to be allowed to jump the queue and possibly even deny access for a refugee that complied with the system.

They were committing a crime by coming here without approval, and given prisoners are incarcerated for years for committing crimes then why not these illegal economic migrants? Yes, there might be children with them, but the parents chose to come here illegally and to bring the children so putting those children in danger. It wasn’t Australia that did this – it was the parents.

If you remember, it was Labor that started the camps on Manus and Nauru after deliberately dismantling our then border protection and the current government is simply trying to sort out that mess.

In regard to ACT Labor winning the last election, is it surprising? Canberra is and always has been a Labor town because it is full of public servants who invariably vote for the Left.

My husband and I visited Norfolk Island a couple of years ago and spoke to a number of people on both sides of the debate. The general consensus was, although they wanted to stay independent they knew they could not financially support themselves. We were told only a small proportion of the islanders voted to stay independent, but as always it is the vocal minority that makes the most noise and people like Jon Stanhope focus on those vocal minorities as a source of opportunity to self-aggrandise. Pauline Hanson won in various locations because people agree with her stance that no other party will voice.

Vi Evans, MacGregor

Helicopter patrols are ‘essential’

IT is important to correct the impression created by Ric Hingee’s letter (CN, February 21, “Give the ‘copter the chop”).

The helicopter patrols are essential to ensure the ACT has a safe and reliable electricity network. Safety is non-negotiable and this essential work is critical to minimise the risk of prolonged blackouts and fires.

We have inspected 1800km of powerlines and efficiently assessed the condition of the network using LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) imaging technology. We achieved this in approximately 40 hours of initial flying time compared to the 12 months it would take to conduct ground inspections.

The cost of our helicopter patrols is 40 per cent cheaper than the total cost of inspecting assets on the ground, making helicopter the most efficient and cost effective way to conduct our essential inspections.

We are always monitoring developments in technology and we will be starting a trial of drones in March to inspect overhead infrastructure in some north Canberra suburbs. Residents in these areas will be notified. This trial will help us to assess the costs, reliability and risks to determine the best option to carry out the aerial survey in the future.

Clinton McAlister, ActewAGL branch manager Works Delivery

Keeping track of the darker side

I TRUST the genuinely ill will soon get medicinal cannabis approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration. However, it is useful for politicians and the community to keep track of the darker side of reported benefits in the US and other countries.

For example, in July, 2012, the “Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry” revealed that in Denver, Colorado, where cannabis and medicinal cannabis are legal, 73.8 per cent of adolescents who were questioned about their medical marijuana use, admitted it wasn’t scripted for them, but to persons registered to use it, usually adults!

This traps first-time users without a medical need. Progressively in Australia, the anti-drug message in our youth culture is received as ‘you can take drugs anytime and anywhere and little will be done, other than assistance for you if things go pear shaped’.

The descent of society into the cesspool of ice and the new horror carfentanil, means police are at serious risk of death daily. If governments had any empathy for their plight they would quickly introduce a five per cent drug-risk loading on their salaries.

Colliss Parrett, Drug Advisory Council Australia, Barton


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