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Canberra Today 11°/13° | Wednesday, October 20, 2021 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

The scandal of empty buses and fare evasion

Canberra, bus, Action

No doubt, the losses on the buses will be easily recovered by the recent yet another hefty jump in the already disgraceful rate burden in the ACT,” says letter writer COLIN LYONS, of Weetangera. 

THE ACT government and Transport Canberra strongly urge people to catch public transport only for essential purposes. Still they run hundreds of buses every day, virtually empty.

It is understood that a reasonable level of bus service should be maintained, but why do they continue to run the Inter City R services at virtually the same frequency as they did formerly, largely empty? Is it to keep drivers employed?

The cost would be enormous and the losses are magnified by the fact there is widespread fare evasion on the buses through the policy of not accepting cash. People know of this policy and pretend they only carry cash or that their MyWay cards have no remaining credit. This has been going on for more than a year.

No doubt, the losses on the buses will be easily recovered by the recent yet another hefty jump in the already disgraceful rate burden in the ACT.

The argument is that rates are being increased to offset the losses in revenue from reduced stamp duty receipts. However, such receipts have increased because of rapidly escalating property prices!

In no other jurisdiction in Australia, would the government get away with their never ending increases in taxes and charges, well in excess of inflation.

Colin Lyons, Weetangera

We have to keep wearing masks

CONGRATULATIONS to Anthony Stein for his refreshing analysis “Painting a different picture” (Letters, CN September 30). 

Just to complete the picture we will all need to wear masks even when we have reached the highest possible levels of vaccination in our community. 

If only people would understand that their immune system can only cope with a certain amount of virus even if they are fully vaccinated. Infection will take hold if there is too much virus. 

A mask, worn correctly, reduces the amount of virus that enters their body. Understanding this numerical reality might make mask wearing acceptable to all. 

Hilary Warren, Waramanga

Woden still a work in progress

WELL done re the expose on the plight of the Woden town centre (“Why has the valley been neglected for so long?”, CN September 30) although I’d have to agree somewhat with Minister Chris Steel that it has turned a corner. 

Sadly, the new Woden masterplan, completed in 2015, promised so much but has only delivered for developers and very little for the community. 

The background studies to the 2015 masterplan had several recommendations for Woden, such as a new aquatic centre, indoor sports facilities, better cycling and walking connections, upgraded infrastructure and a community/arts centre.

Minister Steel had made it his priority to deliver a Woden community centre since becoming a minister, but we are yet to see any development proposals. 

The delivery of the Canberra College performing arts centre was certainly welcomed, but a stand-alone performing arts and gallery space has yet to be delivered for Woden. 

Also the ACT government gave away the Phillip pool to the lessee in 2008, something that the government is reluctant to speak of. 

Why? We still don’t know, but there has been no improvement to the swimming facilities in that time, in fact it’s stayed the same for more than 50 years! 

Now Woden residents are expected to go to the new Stromlo facility in Molonglo, which can take up to two buses and an hour trip each way!

By contrast Tuggeranong has its own arts centre, community centre and indoor aquatic centre. Belconnen has just had its performing arts centre extended and the Belconnen Community Centre also has a performing arts facility co-located within the facility along with the CISAC aquatic centre and the outdoor splash and water park at Jamison. 

Minster Steel also points to the lack of nightlife and that Woden is dead after 6pm and that is the reason for there being no residential development in the town centre core. This is incorrect as Sky Plaza was built in the early 2000s.

The Woden clubs have provided most of the nightlife and still do today. But even then, there were bars, night clubs and live music venues in the town centre and the Phillip trades services area. Something that surprises young ACT government planners today.

The new CIT is good news, but it will be built on the old Woden bus interchange, a surprise location for the facility. One would have thought the car park site behind the Hellenic Club would have been the better site rather than behind the new high-rise apartment development.

After all these years Woden is still a work in progress. An area that I still call home. I certainly wouldn’t want to live anywhere else in the ACT. 

Martin Miller, Chifley

Arts centre, but where?

CHRIS Steel MLA said in the article “Why has the valley been neglected for so long?” (CN September 30) that the government had built a performing arts centre in Woden. Does anyone know where?

Geoff Harding, via email

Let’s not spend on white elephants

Dear Minister Steel, 

I too grew up in Woden, starting at Curtin and ending in Kambah.

Woden Plaza has always been a commercial warehouse in the image of a mall from California in the ’60s in the age of the car. 

Neither one of us are to blame for its creation, but it needs tremendous improvement along with our urban transport systems. One would not point to any town centre in Canberra as being the high point of the city’s civilisation.

From where I live in Kambah, I can ride my bike about 18 kilometres into the city, by-passing the town centre, take a shower and get dressed for work in less time than the express buses get me there (or new bus/tram combo, I would predict). In other words, public transport is slower than 18 kilometres an hour, especially in a small city with a population the size of Canberra!

Building a new tram to take me from Woden town centre into the city won’t improve my ride as I would have to get off the express bus, wait, and then stand, crushed in on the way to work and on the way home – so that’s a fail because it doesn’t improve the travel time and nor does it improve the comfort!

And aside from being married, I wouldn’t take a hot date to Woden if I wanted to impress someone, as I’m over the Marvel movies and there aren’t any cultural spaces or restaurants of significance to go to at the Plaza – so that’s a fail, too!

It takes me 25 minutes in my car to get into Civic on a Friday or Saturday night, seated, with the air-con on and playing music; so how will the new bus/tram combo encourage me out of my car for any cultural events, culinary outings or celebrations in the city centre?

I think [planner] Tony Adams’ assessment of the “town centre” is correct. Given there are no green spaces inside the bitumen noose of arterial roads and wall-to-wall concrete surrounding the Woden town centre, building the “Melrose” on the last available patch of open ground also represents a huge fail, unlike say the Brindabella office park playing field and the green spaces at Canberra airport

I, too, want to reduce greenhouse emissions, embrace new technology and limit urban sprawl, so how can we do that in a smarter and more agile way that really works for us over the long term rather than spending on huge fixed assets or white elephants that we find we will be stuck with later on, like the Woden Plaza?

Ron Kelly, Kambah

Government was rolled by its own

WITH respect, ACT Minister Chris Steel and private town planner and super-high-rise fan Tony Adams seem to be out of touch with the needs and desires of the people of Woden Valley, as they reel under the influx of high-rise residential developments and changing transport/traffic arrangements, etcetera, in their town centre, ( “The Woes of Woden” CN, September 30). 

Both appear to have laissez-faire faith that property developers will somehow automatically deliver desirable synergies for this beleaguered town centre, and that considerations such as comfortable public transport facilities, visual amenity, the protection of Woden’s heritage, access to sunshine and shelter, landscaping and workable/unintrusive traffic arrangements, etcetera, are troublesome secondary considerations. 

On the contrary, the government must acknowledge that it was rolled by its own Land Development Agency and developers, in the production of the Woden masterplan and that its role now is to more seriously, honestly, and proactively consult with, and listen to the community, across the board. 

In conjunction with the community, and with the help of enlightened town and social planners, urban designers, architects, landscape architects, engineers and economists, the government must now come up with a plan that will deliver those synergies.

A plan in which land-sale revenue in particular is tempered, and balanced against the social and cultural well-being of residents, traders and users, all in the context of Woden’s location, and urban form (currently being destroyed by the likes of the “W2” high-rise, slap-bang against the iconic town centre marker, the former MLC Tower), current difficult pedestrian arrangements and its importance as a proud and time-honoured Canberra town centre. 

Jack Kershaw, Kambah

Government should accept responsibility

COLUMNIST Jon Stanhope’s demand (CN September 30) that the ACT government acknowledges responsibility for the illegal and degrading strip search of a woman at Canberra prison must be met.

Corrections Minister Mick Gentleman, according to Jon, has chosen not to comment on the incident, regardless of the findings by the ACT inspector of correctional services.

The ACT Opposition shouldn’t have to pressure the responsible minister. 

The Labor/Greens government has long been emphatic about its stance on human rights, with a particular emphasis on indigenous rights. They should have jumped out of the gates about this already and reported to ACT taxpayers about who was responsible, why the responsible minister allowed it to happen and what they are doing to prevent it from recurring.

I appreciate that the ACT government is working very hard on covid measures, but it also needs to work hard to preserve the decency that women, including incarcerated women, deserve. That includes total accountability.

David Pye, Fraser

It’s Chris who’s wrong about sport

UNFORTUNATELY, Chris Doyle in his letter (“Stefaniak’s comment was ‘completely wrong'”, CN September 30) has been selective in his comments about the winding up of ACTSPORT, the industry representative group for sport and recreation over a 20-year period to 2015. 

Bill Stefaniak is not “completely wrong” in his comments in relation to ACTSPORT.

As I stated in a “CityNews” report in 2015, ACTSPORT did a self-examination of its sustainability and the future needs of Canberra sporting organisations and decided to wind up. It is not as simple as Chris Doyle wishes to portray and he should have done his homework before making a statement like he did. 

ACTSPORT’s sustainability was severely affected when its funding was cut by the ACT Office of Sport and Recreation, without consultation, as a result of a very poorly designed, biased survey commissioned by Sport and Recreation. 

That, combined with the reneging of a financial support package to facilitate the move of ACTSPORT to the sports hub with the Brumbies, at Canberra University, put enormous strain on the organisation’s ability to continue to operate and hence the decision was made to wind up. 

That’s politics, sad but true. Shane Rattenbury was the minister at the time, but there is serious conjecture that he was fed a great deal of misinformation by the office of Sport and Recreation.

There is now a need to bring back ACTSPORT. The sector is suffering and desperately needs a collective voice to work with governments of the day to ensure sport is vibrant and effective in its contribution to the positive health and wellbeing of the overall ACT community. 

Jim Roberts, ACTSPORT founding and long-term president

Then there’s Kim, a ‘real’ choice

IN “Seven Days” (CN September 30) columnist Ian Meikle looks at Senator Seselja’s prospects for re-election. However, no account is taken of the emergence of a strong independent candidate, Kim Rubenstein, with a range of policies, climate change, support for the Uluru statement and support for the right of the ACT to make its own decision on voluntary assisted dying, that will appeal to many. 

Voters now have a real choice. An amazing number of voters have already joined her Kim4Canberra Party. 

The rising support for independents generally together with Ms Rubenstein’s outstanding personal qualities as well as the many failures of the Morrison government, from sports rorts to the submarine debacle, must surely cast doubts on Senator Seselja’s prospects.

Ernst Willheim, Campbell

Craig Kelly would get no votes

THANKS to Greg Cornwell for the “No-Vax, No-Vote” suggestion (“Here’s how COVID could change the way we vote”, CN September 30). 

Craig Kelly wouldn’t get any votes at all and only sensible policies would be considered by the smarter voters.

Ray Peck, Hawthorn, Victoria

A word for the Being upstairs

I’D like to act pro bono for the Being upstairs who seems to cop the blame for everything adverse that happens on this planet from the common cold to COVID-19. 

One quote from G. K. Chesterton shows how we get things upside down – “God is not a symbol of goodness. Goodness is a symbol of God”. And who could not learn from Oscar Wilde: “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”

Colliss Parrett, Barton

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