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Canberra Today 9°/12° | Friday, May 24, 2024 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

Voted with our feet and left a city drowning in debt

Letter writers PHILLIP and BETH HARRIS moved to Goulburn because “under the Gallagher and then the Barr governments, we have seen health, education, city maintenance and public housing funding continually pillaged to fund the tram”.

AS former residents of Canberra for over 50 years, we are writing in response to Paul Costigan’s article (“Enough! The time has come to finally walk away“, CN September 7). 

Write to

We will certainly miss his very insightful articles on the decline of Canberra at the hands of the long-term LGBT (Labor, Greens, Builders/Developers, Trade unions) government.

Like Paul, we voted with our feet and chose to move out of Canberra, following an earlier re-election of the Labor/Greens unholy alliance. 

We both moved to Canberra in the early ’60s with our respective parents, married in 1972 and shortly thereafter bought our new house in Holt, where we lived for some 48 years. Our three children grew up there and, like us, benefitted from the then excellent education and sporting facilities.

Canberra was, for a large portion of that time, a great place in which to live. It was well maintained and a delightful place to show off to relatives and friends who visited from interstate. We feel that we and our family experienced the best of Canberra growing up during that time.

Unfortunately, the rot started when self government was foisted on the residents by the Hawke government, but this accelerated with the Katy Gallagher territory government when, after publicly rejecting the Greens call for a tram, she then did a deal with the Greens devil to cravenly retain government after the following election. The tram was the resulting devil child of this unholy alliance!

From then on, under the Gallagher and then the Barr governments, we have seen health, education, city maintenance and public housing funding continually pillaged to fund the tram, the true exorbitant cost of which has never been revealed by those governments. Wonder why? Add to this the massive government borrowings that have consigned Canberra residents to decades of mounting debt to pay for a 19th century, inflexible transport system.

We have since seen Northbourne Avenue become a wasteland of weeds and wires; suburban infrastructure and maintenance become almost non-existent; planning rules totally bastardised to allow for substandard multiunit and highrise development approvals for builder mates at the expense of green spaces and cooling vegetation; all driven by the unreal government ideology and total ineptitude.

We feel that we and our family experienced the best of times growing up in Canberra before it started, and continues, to degenerate under the hands of the current government.

While we are happy to have moved, we nonetheless feel very sorry for Canberra’s residents who are now saddled with massive government debt for which they, the residents, will be paying for decades.

Phillip and Beth Harris, Goulburn

Shocked by Paul’s pending departure

IT was quite a shock to read that Paul Costigan is to depart our city. 

I recently went on holiday and on returning I looked for Paul’s regular column in “CityNews” but it was not there. It wasn’t there the next week either or the following week. I was very concerned. Where was he, why is his column not in “CityNews” any more? 

He has been my adviser and educator on matters concerning my city. I even had hopes that he, along with other favoured “CityNews” contributors, could form a very special political party that would oust this ratbag Labor-Greens mob and bring sanity back to our city. 

I will miss you Paul. I wish you were not leaving. However, I send good wishes for your happy re-establishment in Melbourne.

Daphne Harding, via email

I shall miss Paul’s weekly articles

I AM saddened to see that “Canberra Matters” columnist Paul Costigan and his partner are moving from our beloved city, but wish them well in their new endeavour. I shall miss his articles each week.

Being a resident of Canberra since 1970 my wife and I have seen many changes and, like Paul has mentioned, sometimes not for the best, especially over the past 20 years. The “ship of fools” he mentions sure knows how to rush in, where angels fear to tread. Let’s hope 2024 sees a change.

Canberra, the capital of Australia, was indeed conceived as a unique city with a visionary purpose. Designed by American architect Walter Burley Griffin and his wife Marion Mahony Griffin, it was meant to be a city that integrated urban, social and community elements seamlessly into its layout. The city’s distinctive design, with its radial roadways and focus on natural landscapes, was meant to reflect harmony between nature and human development.

However, as with many cities, Canberra has faced challenges and changes over the years. The current government and planners may not always align with the original vision, leading to concerns about urban sprawl, traffic congestion, and other issues.

While it may be challenging to fully replicate the past, revitalising Canberra’s original concept is possible with thoughtful planning, citizen involvement, and a commitment to preserving the city’s unique character.

Errol Good, Macgregor

Shameful treatment of indigenous people

COLUMNIST Jon Stanhope (“Why the apathy around harsh indigenous issues?”, CN September 7) is right to call to the attention of Canberra people the appalling statistics relating to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community here. 

Many people seem to think that as we have a so-called “progressive” Labor-Greens government that the terrible rates of incarceration, child removals, health and education outcomes we know about in other jurisdictions couldn’t possibly apply here – but they do. 

And it is all the more shameful, given Canberra’s high socio-economic level overall. We need to remember that this data represents trauma and hardship for many indigenous families. 

It is time the ACT government and its bureaucracy put much more priority on solutions to these issues – solutions the indigenous community has if they were listened to and if more determination, urgency and action were injected into the government response. Perhaps the many ACT volunteers campaigning for the national Voice could keep the activism going into the ACT election in 2024 and demand better for local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Janet Hunt, Dickson

Hard work undone in one fell swoop

ON a pleasant spring Sunday morning I was extremely saddened to discover a lot of mature trees snapped in half and/or limbs broken off at the duck ponds near my home.

Thank you to all the local Friends of Conder Landcare volunteers who, over the last few years, have tirelessly worked to improve the area by removing weeds and planting beautiful native plants, bringing back birds and wildlife.

I hope the perpetrators receive the appropriate karma. I’m not sure whether to be sad that these people don’t know the value of community and the benefits of volunteering, obviously not being shown by their families, or be angry on behalf of the selfless volunteers who have had a lot of hard work undone in one fell swoop.

Vicki Wallis, Conder

Drop the tax, I’ll drop the rent

I AM appalled that the Greens still want to impose a rent freeze. Do they not understand that landlords are people too, who have put their life savings into a rental property, rather than a term deposit or the stock market?

Will they also push for a freeze on our expenses? My tenants were not aware of the ubiquitous Land Tax, which is levied only on rental properties. The ACT rates on the house they rent from me are $3417, the land tax is $5457. Both have hugely increased since the Greenslabor tram.

If our government is serious about helping renters, perhaps they might abolish Land Tax. I would be happy to reduce the rent by $100 a week.

Norm Hughes, Narrabundah

Peter Norton-Baker, of Crace, sent in this photo with the comment: “My bins were emptied and someone found one bin as an ideal receptacle for my sign display. How very sad.”

Dual names are confusing and divisive

SERIOUS questions have arisen about the influence of the Voice concerning dual names.

The recent issue of the Qantas magazine has an article on NSW beaches with each identified in a dual sense, such as Bondi Beach (Gadigal Country).

Elsewhere, some other places have been similarly identified, eg, Melbourne (Naarm) and Fraser Island (K’gari). 

So what is to stop a “Yes” Voice victory demanding all non-Aboriginal names in Australia: cities to towns, suburbs to streets, geographical sites, rivers and roads, be so dual named?

Confusing, expensive, divisive – and permanent.

Greg Cornwell, Yarralumla 

No to Voice, Burney needs to do her job

THE referendum will ask a single question, namely, “A Proposed Law: to alter the Constitution to recognise the First Peoples of Australia by establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice. Do you approve this proposed alteration?”.

This implies that the referendum is only about recognition of ATSI peoples in the constitution, quite contrary to the second and third parts of the proposed wording for the constitution, dealing with implementation of a Voice.  

Unfortunately (but counted on by the “Yes” proponents), a great many voters will simply read this as: “Do you agree with recognition of aborigines in the constitution”, in complete ignorance of the ramifications. 

No other information will be provided on the ballot paper and the question is therefore misleading by deliberate omission. 

The acid test for the referendum is whether a Voice enshrined in the Constitution would make any difference to “closing the gap”. 

The answer is a clear no, given that the means already exist in the NIAA and its 1300 staff under Minister Burney’s control, with a charter that reads exactly like what that of a Voice would look like.  

Minister Burney and the government simply need to do their job. They do not even need new legislation to do so. 

Max Flint, Erindale 

Maybe time to take a cold shower, Max

MAX Flint (Letters, CN September 7) says the use of ticks at the referendum to indicate a “yes” while a cross does not represent “no” is “sinister and deceitful” and possibly “unlawful”. 

Max is either pushing, or falling for a misleading “No” campaign talking point.

Max further says the AEC “should immediately clarify” the great (manufactured) scandal.

For the record, with all points below accurate and factual:

  1. The acceptance of a tick as a “yes” and a cross as a “no” goes back almost around decades for Australian referenda. It is lawful.
  2. The reason is ticks are universally accepted as a “yes”, while a cross in a box on a form is sometimes a “yes” and sometimes a “no” (think about the forms you have marked a box with a cross). Nothing sinister or deceitful there.
  3. The AEC has already made multiple statements about this issue. Clarified.
  4. Data analysis shows any confused or unintended vote due to ticks and crosses represents 0.1 per cent at most.

Max, it’s time to stop pushing the “No” campaign hysteria or take a cold shower.

Kel Watt, Braddon

The more of ‘Yes’ leads to more ‘No’ 

I HAVE to agree with letter writer Max Flint about the AEC supporting the government in allowing ticks to count as “yes” but crosses not as “no” in the coming Voice referendum. 

Imagine the outcry if ticks were not counted as “yes”. The “Yes” vote would be up in arms and there would be changes straight away. 

Don’t “Yes” voters realise that the reason people are voting “no” is because they are sick and tired of Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and his “Yes” cohorts favouring the “Yes” side any way they can?

Whether it is through the Australian Electoral Commission, the taxpayer-funded ABC, big businesses such as Qantas or getting celebrities and sporting stars to ram it down our throats, the more they do this, the more likely people won’t vote “yes”. 

Ian Pilsner, Weston

Great models for the ‘missing middle’

CANBERRA has some great models for the “missing middle”. They are here in plain sight.

They include Wybalena Grove (Aranda), Urambi Village (Kambah), Swinger Hill and the Radburn housing in Curtin. Two of these were developed as co-operative housing ventures – a model that should be encouraged for more affordable housing that meets the needs of the residents.

Many of the features of these developments should be strived for in “missing middle” developments, including:

  • Being close to regular public transport, shops and work.
  • Developing a pleasant, desirable neighbourhood to live in.
  • Providing sufficient community space within the development to host shady trees and encourage community interaction.
  • Being genuinely affordable.

To achieve these features the missing middle developments will need to be on large blocks that amalgamate several standard housing blocks. They cannot be achieved by dual occupancy on existing housing blocks because this results in long driveways, reduced canopy cover and minimal community interaction.

It’s over to the planners to ensure that Canberra remains a pleasant place to live in. Are they up to it?

Nick Swain, Barton

The black hole of ACT under-delivery

ON September 4, Pedal Power and a range of active and public travel linked bodies drew attention to priority two of the ACT government’s long worked-on Draft Active Travel Plan.

They called on Transport Minister Chris Steel to “immediately improve the proposed active travel network as part of the final draft of the Active Travel Plan and commit to conducting annual reviews of the project.” 

While the minister produced some innocuous commentary about looking forward to implementing the final plan after the end of 2023, the slow finalisation of this document and more bland words suggest that major financial commitments will be further delayed until the 2024 budget and then perhaps mainly funnelled into a smattering of lofty election promises for 2025 and beyond.

Northside active travellers have already been shortchanged by a lack of money and action despite intermittent streams of words about necessary but as yet undelivered basic “people movement” and public travel efficiency infrastructure improvements, ever since the new “improved” public transport system started in 2019. 

In particular the lack of priority lights, lanes and turns promised by the government for buses at the main and highly congested Northbourne Ave/Mouat Street rail and road intersection, and their lack of response to numerous community calls for bus priority improvement and efficiency measures in and around the whole Dickson Group Centre, for upgraded and safer foot pathing to rail stops north of Dickson, and the provision of toilets at the Dickson Interchange. 

The current spinning out and cutting back on a range of localised infrastructure projects and on the maintenance of much used yet neglected public spaces suggests also that there is actually little spare money or skilled staff available for the development and implementation of anything other than pre-determined and contentious planning reforms and associated light rail preparation, construction and likely cost blow-outs. 

Sue Dyer, Downer

Headaches as red wine hits the streets

RICHARD Calver’s wine column (“Where the wine lake’s hardly a puddle”, CN September 14) brought to mind a report in “The New York Times” about an incident in Levira, Portugal. 

On Sunday, September 10, a blunder in a winery resulted in 2.2 million litres of red wine, enough to fill an Olympic-size swimming pool, flowing down the streets of Levira.

I hope it wasn’t one of the best Portuguese red wines, which some connoisseurs regard among Europe’s best.

We may never know how good (or bad) the wine was, but 2.2 million litres is a lot of headaches – and possibly an awful lot of drink-drive offences.

Dr Douglas Mackenzie, Deakin 

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2 Responses to Voted with our feet and left a city drowning in debt

Robert says: 19 September 2023 at 3:59 pm

Just wait until Phillip and Beth see what a mess Goulburn-Mulwaree Council is, or look at the eye watering debt pile NSW has as well.

It isn’t always greener on the grass next door.


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