Letters / Government has a limited life experience

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Reader CHRISTOPHER RYAN says the ACT government lacks fundamental connections with the community…

LETTER writer Sue Dyer (CN May 20) is absolutely correct about the ACT government’s lack of public toilet facilities.

A government run by people with no children, not out and about using public transport with them, or older parents, is lacking one of the fundamental connections with the community. 

I add that the government cannot properly maintain the existing toilet facilities – soap and water are beyond its ability.

The government cannot learn because of its limited (or no) life experience of the fundamental older and younger human needs.

Christopher Ryan, Watson 

Planner turns to ‘thought leaders’

CHIEF ACT planner Ben Ponton is reported as turning to nationally recognised “thought leaders” to help inform future design decisions for Canberra, while also considering lessons the territory can learn from cities overseas. 

Eight years ago, Ponton was reported to have “simplified” the ACT’s planning system by adding more than 100 new elements to the Territory Plan, giving each of them the innocuous title of “Suburb Precinct Map”, authorising them to permit land uses that would otherwise be prohibited and authorising them to prohibit land uses that would otherwise be permitted. He also created 19 “District Precinct Maps” that collectively cover the entire territory. 

Provisions in those District Precinct Maps can conflict with provisions in underlying Suburb Precinct Maps. He did not provide a way to resolve such conflicts.

Ponton does not seem to be proud of those changes. Since 2014 he has insisted that he “merely relocated provisions”.

Will the “thought leaders” also consider lessons the territory can learn from its own chief planner’s efforts to “simplify” our planning laws?

Leon Arundell, Downer

Think of the prison officers

WHO’S taking care of the prison officers and their families they have to go home to after these riots? 

The minister has no empathy or support for those prison officers involved or their families. They are just sent home and expected to be in a normal mindset after these violent, aggressive and personal attacks by detainees. 

I need to add these detainees are there because they have broken the law and been found guilty because they have committed a criminal offence.

For crying out loud, do your jobs as investigative journalists and help those who are working in the jails and don’t listen to the minister’s spin!

Andrew Sarri, via email

It’s still electricity for cars

THANKS to Douglas McKenzie for raising the issue of hydrogen vehicles (“Hydrogen power gets closer”, CN May 13). 

While renewable hydrogen has huge potential to reduce emissions by replacing fossil fuels in industry, there is not a strong case for vehicles. The main reasons are cost and efficiency. 

A recent report by BloombergNEF concluded that: “The bulk of the car, bus and light-truck market looks set to adopt [battery electric technology], which are a cheaper solution than fuel cells.”

But the killer is efficiency. The reason why hydrogen is inefficient is because the energy must move from wire to gas and back to wire in order to power a car. 

For a hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV), from 100 watts of electricity to make the renewable hydrogen, cool it, transport it, convert it back to electricity to power the vehicle, the output is only about 40 watts (40 per cent efficiency).

For an electric vehicle (EV), there is energy lost in transmission, charging and discharging the battery, but from 100 watts, the output is about 80 watts (80 per cent efficient).

In other words, the hydrogen FCEV is half as efficient as the EV. Given the number of vehicles in our energy-hungry world, wasting renewable hydrogen powering cars does not make economic or environmental sense. 

On the other hand, the advantages of using hydrogen as an aviation fuel are well-known… but that’s another story. 

Ray Peck, Hawthorn, Victoria

Beware the can-do consultants

THE rise of consultant “can-do” outfits is a worry. 

The recent expensive use of one such major outfit by the federal Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, in relation to covid drugs, has caused political and professional consternation. 

The consultants apparently can’t abide highly trained, experienced professional specialists such as doctors, scientists and architects. 

Many arise from large accounting, law and engineering firms – number crunchers and control freaks who have apparently extensively (and expensively) inveigled their way into politics and government. 

When it comes to the crunch, those showy outfits often flounder, and their clients belatedly have to turn to the professionals.

Jack Kershaw, Kambah 


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