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Sunday, July 14, 2024 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

Barr believes in budget surpluses, he told us so

Over time, did Andrew Barr simply stop aspiring to prudent fiscal management? Was it all too hard and debt and deficit was easier to deliver – and conceal, asks letter writer ALISON HUTCHINSON, of Coombs. 

So, Andrew Barr has never posted a surplus in his 11 years as ACT Treasurer (CN February 29). Quite some record. 

Write to editor@citynews.com.au

Now, let me see, that must be the same Andrew Barr who, in his inaugural speech to the Assembly stated: “Running a surplus operating budget provides inter-generational equity. It means that each generation of the ACT community pays for the government services they are receiving. 

“A surplus budget is vital to maintaining the territory’s AAA credit rating. A surplus budget also provides a basis for managing the risks and uncertainties that will inevitably arise in the future.”

So, what happened? Did he not believe what he said in 2006? Did he believe it, but not have the skills to deliver, as treasurer? Or, over time, did he simply stop aspiring to prudent fiscal management? Was it all too hard and debt and deficit was easier to deliver – and conceal? 

Further, since 2014, since when has held the joint portfolios of chief minister and treasurer, were there fewer internal checks and balances on the budget outcome and his performance? 

All I know is that no newly elected Labor MLA will praise the merits of a surplus operating budget in their inaugural speech any time soon.

Alison Hutchison, Coombs

Light rail taking on farcical proportions

Recent breathless headlines have said: “Light rail to Woden by 2033 says ACT govt”, but Chief Minister Andrew Barr’s media release said: “The government is working towards a construction period of 2028-2033 for future stages of the project”. 

This seems to me to be a long way from a clear commitment to deliver light rail to Woden “by 2033”.

The Light Rail Stage 2 saga is taking on farcical proportions, quite apart from its lack of economic justification. 

The documents with the ACT government’s referral under the EPBC Act indicate that its heritage and other environmental impacts are likely to be severe and need much more detailed investigation. 

The alternative “Barton dog-leg” route is said to be preferred by the community and may have a bit less impact on the historic trees in Commonwealth Avenue, but it is an extraordinarily convoluted route and would be disowned by any self-respecting dog! 

It is difficult to see how it could possibly be viable.

Richard Johnston, Kingston

Lots of promises as election nears 

The ACT election will be held on October 19. Is this why the March edition of OUR CBR is full of promises of what the ACT government is going to do? 

They are “getting on with a number of infrastructure upgrades right across the city”, “early works are beginning on the next stage of Canberra’s light rail”, “there will be more help for Canberrans in their time of need” (11 additional paramedics), “work is on track for the opening of Canberra Hospital’s new state-of-the-art Critical Services Building” and “a range of upgrades will soon begin at the Kippax Group Centre”.

And this: “The ACT government is committed to provide free period products for every Canberran who needs them. In every ACT public school, students, staff and visitors can access free period products.” Why staff? They are in paid employment and getting a pretty good salary. So why them? 

First it was free lunches in the schools, now free period products for everyone in Canberra. I can understand, maybe, for the disadvantaged, but for everyone, this is going too far. 

Where is all the money coming from for all of this? We are already up to our eyes in debt and cannot afford to hire more police, nurses or teachers. 

The emergency services buildings are in dire need of maintenance and upgrades, yet we can afford to give free period products out to the people of Canberra. 

Before the last election, the government put up signs on William Hovell Drive, stating it was to be upgraded and widened. After the election, the signs disappeared. Miracle of miracles, the signs are back, I wonder why? 

All of these things reek of vote-catching.

Vi Evans, via email

Let’s get serious about the election

G Hollands’ letter (CN March 29) advising to get rid of Labor/Greens and offering the rationale: “Don’t worry about who the new crew are just as long as it’s not Labor/Greens” is a classic example of change them, elect anyone – ie the drover’s dog argument. 

Can we please get serious about the election and put a laser eye over candidates and policies? Treating the election like a lottery is a surefire recipe for disaster. 

The government we elect is reflective of the intellect of the electorate. So how does everyone want to be measured and remembered?

John Lawrence via email

A day later and the police turn up

Stephanie Munk rang police about a suspicious person who subsequently broke into a neighbour’s property (CN February 29) and apparently police did not respond until the next day. 

If correct, that’s simply not good enough. The AFP in the ACT costs ACT taxpayers $205 million annually and has a staff of 1015, of whom 745 are sworn officers. 

A question a taxpayer could reasonably ask is: “What are all those people doing with their time if the police can’t respond to criminal activity in a timely manner?”

C Williams, Forrest

Barr fails to honour Labor values

I voted Labor all my life until Andrew Barr took ACT Labor to the right, but also to the green. 

His failure over many years to honour the basic values of the Labor Party, such as health and housing, will be his legacy. Not the tram, which serves a few; not the rainbows, not the woke policies. 

He will be remembered as a failure to those who looked to Labor to make their lives better.

Bob Howden, via email

Any photos of early peafowl sightings?

After reading Fintan O’Laighin’s letter (CN March 7), I checked my “archive” and found an article by Sherryn Groch, of the Canberra Times from September 2018. 

She looked at several theories about the origins of the Narrabundah peafowl. One was that they had escaped from the Mugga Lane zoo when it closed in 2002. 

She reported that peafowl had been sighted in the Narrabundah area from the late 1970s. The owner of the Mugga Lane zoo also said he had been asked to catch a couple of them around 1982. 

One of the other unproven theories is that a diplomat released a brood when leaving Canberra. 

Does anyone have dated photographs of early sightings?

Nick Swain, Canberra & District Historical Society

No wandering peafowl 60 years ago

Like Anita Lacey’s family (Letters, CN February 29), I lived near the intersection of La Perouse Street and Carnegie Crescent, Narrabundah. There were certainly no peafowl wandering in that area 60 years ago.

Frank Marris, Barton

A lone planning bombshell or more to come?

The ACT’s newish planning minister announced at the end of February his use of the controversial call-in powers still available to him under the old planning system, in order to approve a very major Molonglo housing proposal that a Terry Snow development company had submitted some time ago under the old system.

The environment minister and conservation groups slammed the move as “reckless”, lacking in consultation with them on environmental and other relevant policy matters, and as not being in the spirit of the new planning system environment that lacks ministerial call-in power opportunities.

Leaving aside the location of this project – in the minister’s electorate – and the considerable inter-party and governance ructions that the minister stirred up, it is hard to know if this Molonglo move was the last hurrah of the former ACT planning system. 

Or whether everyone, including other relevant government ministers, might still be in for some more significant surprises regarding other major development and densification proposals that were also being considered somewhere in the bowels of the old planning system at the end of last November, when the new “outcomes” planning system was bulldozed into being. 

Perhaps we should be prepared for anything to happen, given that both the old and new planning systems incorporate levels of murkiness that can help deliver hidden agendas and avoid providing far more transparency about decision-making by a planning minister and related authorities on the use of particular tracts of land.

In addition, the limited content of the planning minister’s media release, and his explanations in news broadcasts about accessing the still extant call-in powers of the old planning system, were disappointing.

Nor did they engender faith and trust in future planning communications being more informative, candid and comprehensible than what has been served up to the public in the past. 

The underlying spirit of the government’s “like it or leave it” planning pathways for this city lives on and can still be influential in many different ways, to the detriment of achieving higher quality, more balanced, and timelier planning “outcomes” that are not just about housing.

Sue Dyer, Downer 

Valley threatens heat-island hell

In his article “Flapping politicians miss the key planning point” (CN March 7) Michael Moore refers to the Molonglo Valley containing “more than 70,000 (dwellings) by the year 2050”. 

At a very conservative estimate of two people per dwelling, that could mean an addition of almost 150,000 people to Canberra’s population. That poses significant problems.

At present the Molonglo Valley development is connected to “older” Canberra by only two roads: Cotter Road and John Gorton Drive. These cannot possibly cope with the traffic generated by 150,000 people: their capacity would have to doubled or tripled – at commensurate cost.

Another growing problem, touched on by Mr Moore, is the heat island effect. As I wrote in my February 29 letter, the developing suburb of Whitlam is “devoid of the upper soil horizons on which most plants depend in their infancy. Overly large houses are crammed into small allotments, leaving little or no room for trees, or even green space such as (non-artificial) lawn”. 

If there are to be “more than 70,000 dwellings”, the Molonglo Valley could be a giant “Whitlamesque” heat island – hardly a place I would choose to live.

Dr Douglas Mackenzie, Deakin

We had the bush capital image

In response to John Lawrence’s question: “Is Canberra deteriorating and becoming third-rate?”, here is the reason.

Most attractive cities have an image based on something aesthetic that is (or once was) tied to the spirit of the people. Canberra’s image was the bush capital. Civic and town centres were carefully planned to provide that visual appeal.

Today when I visit Woden town centre the description that comes to mind is “Death Valley”. Not only is the bush panorama being replaced by walls of glass and concrete and narrow lanes, but the population will age rapidly judging by the lack of facilities for children.

The bush capital had families, community and pride. 

John L Smith, Farrer

Recriminalise the possession of hard drugs

The US state of Oregon has just announced that it is recriminalising the possession of hard drugs three years after it legislated to allow possession of these substances. 

Common sense has finally prevailed. One hopes that the amateurish, student legislation passed by ACT Labor/Greens in 2023 will similarly be repealed.

A recent visit to Portland, Oregon, vividly demonstrated the colossal failure of loosening penalties on hard drug possession. 

There were large parts of the city centre, previously vibrant and bustling, that were essentially no-go zones due to hard-drug users populating these locations. 

Elsewhere in the city, there were constant signs of drug use paraphernalia littering the city pathways. People high on hard drugs were prevalent in some of these locations.

Hard-drug use has many causal symptoms. It would be much better use of scarce public funds for the ACT government to reallocate funding to some of these causes including mental health, domestic violence, education, employment etcetera, but I am sure that the current ideologue Barr government would, based on past behaviour, pay scant attention to this policy focus.

Ron Edgecombe, Evatt

Dining area all cleaned and pruned

A month ago, you published my letter and photograph regarding the disgustingly filthy and overgrown public eating area for Hungry Jacks and Oporto in Belconnen.

We would now like to advise that, on visiting the area in early March, we found it to be cleaned and the shrubs pruned. Thank you.

Tom and Claire Eames, via email

Mental health security ‘doesn’t make sense’

The question begs why health staff could not have prevented the escape of a man who was undergoing a mental health assessment at Canberra Hospital’s adult mental health unit.

He “escaped” from the ACT Adult Mental Health Unit (AMHU) after being court ordered under Section 309 for a mental health assessment.

The justifications by people such as Katie McKenzie, executive director, Mental Health, Justice Health, Alcohol and Drug Services, are simply unacceptable; as I have personally observed in other matters involving people experiencing mental health issues.

While I partially agree with Ms McKenzie’s statement of “the overwhelming majority of people with mental illness were not a risk”, I am also cognisant that some people are at risk, of both harming themselves and others; this has culminated in suicides, assaults and, in other matters, death.

Ms McKenzie stated that “we also have other security means as well as the doors. We have secure windows, and we also work in very close collaboration with our security guards who are part of the team, so we do have security guards when needed.” 

Well, that raises the question of how the man was able to escape from a “secure” window. I wonder if Ms McKenzie has visited AMHU and checked out the “security”?

Then we have people asking why this patient was being evaluated in an insecure facility when they had come from the justice system.

Nothing makes sense here.

Janine Haskins, Cook

Kim hits the nail on the head

The incoming head of the ABC, Kim Williams, has hit the nail on the head by highlighting that: The ABC is not a platform for employees to present their own views; if you work at the ABC you need to respect its charter and the ABC is too introverted.

Mr Williams correctly asserts that the ABC has a clear and concise charter that most haven’t even looked at, let alone complied with.

Regrettably, the ABC has transformed itself from a once well loved and respected media organisation into a biased, de facto left-wing sub-branch of the ALP. 

It is continually getting sued, owing to its “loose cannon” investigative journalists, at enormous cost to the taxpayers .

I, for one, wish Kim Williams well. He has a mammoth task ahead in reforming the ABC to its former well-respected status .

Mario Stivala, Belconnen

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One Response to Barr believes in budget surpluses, he told us so

Jim says: 12 March 2024 at 12:01 pm

It is clear that Mario Stivala from Belconnen hasn’t watched the ABC for a very long time. Otherwise, he would know the inane dribble he presents is just that.

The ABC needs change – but to pretend it hasn’t swung wildly right under the guardianship of Buttrose is frankly a hilarious laugh for a Tuesday.

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