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Canberra Today 3°/5° | Friday, August 19, 2022 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

That child might wonder at our weak politicians

“Budget deficits and borrowings started not in 2021 when the lockdown required payments to support those who lost their job, but some eight years earlier when preparations for the light rail from Civic to Gungahlin began,” says letter writer ROBIN UNDERWOOD.

I WOULD like to congratulate Jon Stanhope and Khalid Ahmed on reporting in a series of “CityNews” articles what is arguably one of the most urgent problems Canberrans are facing, namely the debt created by the Greens/Labor government and the prospect of insolvency. 

Write to editor@citynews.com.au

It is interesting to note that budget deficits and borrowings started not in 2021 when the lockdown required payments to support those who lost their job, but some eight years earlier when preparations for the light rail from Civic to Gungahlin began.

As Stanhope writes, a child in primary school today will be paying off the debt until retirement. 

Twenty years from now, this child might also be amazed at the stupidity of its elders to borrow massively for a transport system that permits no updating either with regard to technical advances or routes in accord with changing passenger requirements. 

It might also realise that the government’s promotional speak that it “is building light rail to Woden to help make Canberra a more connected, sustainable, and vibrant city” was no more than a euphemism for permitting property developers to create urban heat islands by high-density, high-rise constructions along the tram line. 

Finally this child might wonder why no MLA had the moral courage to stand up against this project that, under their very eyes, resulted in an underfunding of essential public services cruelly impacting on those at the bottom of the income scale. 

Surely, it is absurd that in one of Australia’s richest jurisdictions, discussions need to be held on whether a vulnerable elderly person should be evicted from public housing so a young mother with her children suffering from domestic violence can be provided with accommodation.

Robin Underwood, via citynews.com.au

Rates rise, time to can the tram?

THE ACT government’s announcement for future infrastructure spending was justified by Chief Minister Barr as capitalising on the “lowest interest rates since Federation”.

Clearly our government ignores the RBA forecasts. Rising rates will propel the ACT into even further debt, which its citizens have no more tolerance for. 

Now is the time, with a perfect excuse to cut spending, to finally can the tram for good.

Ken Murtagh, Hughes

How will we charge electric cars?

SHOULD the 2035 aim of electrical vehicles be realised (citynews.com.au, July 18), we can but hope that the ACT has an incredibly robust and reliable electrical grid with plenty of spare capacity and expansion capability in place long before then.

I want to see independently verified modelling complete with extensive costings provided in 2022, that clearly tells us what is required to upgrade the electrical system throughout the ACT to enable the recharging of all these electrical vehicles in the next decade or two. Just imagine 250,000+ cars all being plugged in each afternoon for charging.

Make no mistake, the ACT electrical system (everything from substations and infrastructure cabling) will require an overhaul/upgrade. And how much will it cost to put in public recharging stations throughout the ACT? You just know the ratepayer is going to get stuck with an astronomical bill – remind you of rail, anyone?

Additionally, there will be the household cost of buying electric cars (which will remain a high cost asset for a long time yet), coupled with the cost of installing recharging stations at home premises. 

Consider also the reduction of fuel tax revenue, which will have to be made up somewhere – so expect your rego to increase significantly and/or services to be dropped. 

And you think we have high electricity prices now – the cost of electricity will only ever head in one direction so long as coal and nuclear is demonised by the left. 

I predict this government will ultimately say: “Oh well, the grid is maxed out so if you don’t have power generation at home (eg solar) then too bad you can’t recharge the car” – so likely you’ll pay for a solar system now, too.

No support from me until I see what it’s going to cost – we have been absolutely fooled and smashed by the ever increasing cost of rail by this government, and I predict this will be more of the same.

Bjorn Moore, via email

Greens cave in to developer bias

COLUMNIST Paul Costigan is right about the ACT Greens and their compromised values as “just a branch of Barr’s neoliberal Labor” (CN July 14). 

For example, the ACT Greens’ commitment to light rail, as Paul has pointed out previously, is a huge free kick for developers to erect more characterless buildings for apartments, further enhancing the ACT government’s rates base. 

While I do support some federal Greens’ policies such as including dental care in Medicare, the ACT Greens on light rail exhibit that religious zeal and hanging on to dogma, no matter how logical the arguments are against the further extension of light rail, such as the massive financial cost, greenhouse gas emissions and alternative, cheaper and more flexible transport options.

Open-mindedness and flexibility of thinking seem to be features of Greens’ thinking that are absent. Instead there is either rampant zealotry on the one hand, or caving into ACT Labor’s developer bias on the other.

Murray May, Cook 

Clay toes the party tram line

IN a recent interview on the 666 ABC morning program, Jo Clay, a Greens MLA for Ginninderra stated that she did not think the expenditure of nearly $100 million on upgrades to four roundabouts on major roads on Canberra’s southside was sensible investment in transport planning because the roads would quickly become congested again. 

That was a sound comment on her part as transport planners have known for many years that expanding road capacity achieves no discernible benefit in the long term.

That’s where her sound argument finished. When a listener called in to ask her how the government could justify spending hundreds of millions on Light Rail Stage 2 when cheaper and better systems were available, all Clay could respond to was that many people were using the existing light rail!

What a woeful justification for such a disgraceful waste of taxpayers’ money. 

One might ask how could the residents of Gungahlin commute to the CBD given all the bus services were stopped? 

Clearly, Clay was toeing the party line and could not offer a plausible justification in terms of the business case. The auditor-general has said as much in questioning the analysis carried out.

Colin Lyons, Weetangera

Crisis, what crisis?

IS this Housing ACT’s considered response to Canberra’s housing crisis?

Paul Varsanyi, Kambah

Another hour calling Access Canberra

FURTHER to Michael Moore’s article about Access Canberra gilding “its own wilting lily” (CN July 21), I’ve just spent the greater part of an hour trying to speak to a human about my driver’s licence being suspended without notice despite my having completed my medical and submitting the certificate. 

I must have dialled the recommended number 20 times, only to have it suddenly ring off.

When I finally spoke to a human, she tried a few numbers – without success – then told me to visit the Woden office of Access Canberra in person. No doubt I’d also wait there for ages.

Douglas Mackenzie, Deakin

I don’t have Mario’s insider knowledge

LETTER writer Mario Stivala is quite happy to provide his opinion on numerous occasions, but does not appear to accept other opinions and suggests they are “living in the dreamtime” in my case (Letters, CN July 14). 

You can usually tell about a person’s character when they resort to insults, but even though I am an economist, I won’t pretend to know what is better value for money than the PM, his treasurer and his finance minister. If they think a Royal Commission into Robodebt is worthwhile (and presumably Stivala wasn’t impacted by it, unlike thousands of others), then I am willing to go along with the ALP on that decision as I don’t have the insider cost/benefit knowledge that Stivala appears to have to argue about its merits.

Ric Hingee, Duffy 

Too many heads deep in the sand

EXACTLY! to this piece, “We’ve lost the plot on covid messaging”, citynews.com.au July 14. 

In mid-July 2022, state and federal government leaders and their senior health personnel resemble lemmings heading for the proverbial cliff. Limp statements that do nothing to ensure broader application of sensible preventive health measures abound. 

Our Chief Minister’s recent negative stance and commentary about influencing behaviour was particularly notable for its defeatist tone and poor role-modelling. 

Hopefully, the upcoming ACT Budget’s economic and social well-being analyses will include data on the current and projected productivity losses from covid across our main employment sectors and the local impacts of the longer-term costs being borne by hundreds who may suffer from “long covid”‘ for extensive periods of time, and the thousands more who now are more likely to experience the serious longer health impacts arising from catching covid more than once. 

Funding is well overdue for large, well-lit and eye-catching public health messaging in major public spaces, across all shopping centres, transport interchanges, bus stops and outside all crowded gathering places. Strong messages on the sides of our buses and light rail vehicles would also be an effective way of spreading information into our suburbs and around our schools about behavioural requirements and expectations . At the national level, a far less shambolic approach to reducing and slowing transmission is overdue, too. The federal government’s lacklustre ads also need an urgent make-over and reboot. 

Sue Dyer, Downer

Barry’s right, there’s more to transport

LETTER writer Barry Peffer correctly points out (“Emissions are not the full story”, CN July 12) that there is more to transport than greenhouse emissions.

He asks, “if all [public transport] journeys… were to use cars, what effect would that have had on our roads and congestion?”

With average car occupancy of 1.46 (as measured in the 2017 ACT and Queanbeyan Household Travel Survey), the number of car trips would increase by nine per cent. If government incentives were to increase average car occupancy to 1.5, there would be no increase in the number of car trips.

Leon Arundell, Downer

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