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

Taxpayers are being ‘fleeced’ billions and billions

All up (build plus 20 years operations and maintenance), light rail Stage 2 to Woden will be about $5.2 billion ($1.7 billion for 2A and $3.5 billion for 2B. Hair-raising stuff, says letter writer MAX FLINT

When are Canberrans ever going to wake up to how we taxpayers are being fleeced on light rail by the sole-source, contractor/unions consortium, with the impotent compliance of the Labor/Greens government? 

Write to

It can be shown from published sources that, to date, some $3.3 billion has been committed (much of it spent) on Stage 1 ($1.78 billion) and on Stage 2 planning and build contracts ($1.524 billion). 

At this point, $1.32 billion has been committed for Stage 2A (Civic-Regatta Point) for planning and a build contract alone. 

To this must be added the Operations & Maintenance (O&M) (20 years nominal) of $0.384 billion, for a total cost of Stage 2A of $1.7 billion. Not bad for 1.7km of track. 

For comparison (and a source of wonder), Stage 1 (12km) cost $69 million per kilometre to build but Stage 2A (1.7km) will be $305 million per kilometre to build (excluding raising London Circuit). How could that be short of snouts in the trough? 

The outrageous contract price of $519 million to build Stage 2A (excluding raising London Circuit, extra trams and facilities), for 1.7km has prompted a revision of probable costs of Stage 2B, Regatta Point to Woden. 

The most probable build cost now for Stage 2B (10.1km) is $2.2 billion. An extension from Woden to Mawson (2km) would be another $0.32 billion. By the time 20 years of O&M and off-contract related expenditures are included, Stage 2B will be about $3.5 billion.

All up (build plus 20 years O&M), Stage 2 to Woden will be about $5.2 billion ($1.7 billion for 2A and $3.5 billion for 2B.

Hair-raising stuff!

Max Flint, co-ordinator, Smart Canberra Transport

Barr’s ‘fudget’ ignores any pretence of honesty 

At the risk of sounding like a Stanhope/Khalid fan club member, I did enjoy their ACT Debt/2023-24 Budget Review (CN March 7). 

I think that Andrew Barr’s sophistry with finances suggests that the budget just be called a “fudget” and avoid any pretence of honesty or credibility. 

The downgrade of the ACT credit rating seems to be of no concern to the supreme leader (aka Barr) or the eternal regime either, despite its importance.

As an accountant, I am a bit of a budget tragic. The four takeaways from the “fudget” are: one, the main problem is spending (not revenue); two, revenue is sky high anyway, and apparently on track to new highs; three, capital spending seems to be very opaque but is in the range of $1 billion-$1.5 billion each year, and masked by the fourth and most irritating fudge of net debt. Given we pay interest on the gross debt, the gross debt really matters.

Then there is the scale of decay of ACT services (from decrepit road signs) to delays in projects (the Molonglo bridge plus hospital building delays are great examples). The tram will reach Woden by 2033 (apparently). 

Our national capital is not the showcase it should be, some regime change could only be a good thing for our democratic order. 

Once revolutions were led by people with pitchforks chasing the vanquished regime out of town, we are so much more civilised these days – we use pencils instead. 

Given the four-year spells between pencil use, don’t miss the opportunity to change the ACT management in October.

Martin Gordon, Dunlop

Light rail could never survive a cost-benefit analysis

In his letter “Light rail taking on farcical proportions” (CN March 14), Richard Johnston commented on the Barr government’s undertaking to build light rail (to Woden) “by 2033”. 

That “promise” was soon replaced with “working towards a construction period of 2028-2033 for future stages of the project”. 

Mr Johnston concludes “it is difficult to see how (the light rail project) could possibly be viable”.

I would go further: at no stage could Barr’s light rail project survive a cost-benefit analysis. If construction of light rail were to go ahead, and even if a network were extended to Belconnen, Tuggeranong and Canberra Airport, we would be left with a “skeleton” – Gungahlin to Woden being the “spine” – of high-rise apartment blocks with the surrounding single-level suburbia as the “flesh”.

The Walter Burley Griffin vision of a “bush capital” would be sacrificed – on the altar of political pressure.

Dr Douglas Mackenzie, Deakin 

We need a government that keeps us safe

I write about jail shortcomings. Janine Haskins’ March 11 letter is spot on. 

Police are understaffed and under-resourced, and our court system fails the community by light sentences instead of punishment. Criminals ignore the prospect of jail, continue to undertake criminal acts, go before the courts, seldom incarcerated for acceptable periods, and are released on bail to repeat the process.

Jail experts have visited, advised and reported yet the AMC largely continues to do what it always does – fails the inmates who are expected to be rehabilitated to gain the keys to a productive life in the community.

Low-risk prisoners should be offered work experience with local businesses. 

I note many crimes are drug related. How many of these brought before the courts are already on drug-rehabilitation programs? How many are repeat offenders? 

The buck stops with the responsible ministers. You elected this government, and they have failed. We need a government that makes the community safer, that punishes and fully and holistically rehabilitates inmates to become worthy citizens. This government has the keys but fails to use them.

Russ Morison, Theodore

Mrs Socrates may have been wronged

Re Clive Williams’ Whimsy column “There’s a word for when words start morphing” (CN March 7): I always enjoy Clive’s articles, and I acknowledge his expertise in this field. 

I have a comment on his anecdote about Socrates, which as he says, may be apocryphal (probably is). 

In the process of scrutinising the other person’s account, trying to make sure that it is truthful, good and useful, the anticlimax is that there had been a malicious possibly untruthful story about his own wife. 

He, therefore, was spared the anxiety of doubt about the woman he loved. The final remark implies that she was guilty as supposed. 

My knowledge of Greek mythology has no information to add about the veracity of these allegations.

Stewart Bath, via email

There’s no butter, it’s a ‘flutterby’!

Many decades ago I read a similar article to Clive Williams’ column (“There’s a word for when words start morphing”, CN March 7), which included another “wronged” word which still annoys me. 

Although it is not a fly, nor has anything to do with butter, the delightfully descriptive “flutterby” became the totally meaningless butterfly. In my mind it will always be a flutterby!

Rozlyn Eyre, via email

Where have the ‘concerned citizens’ gone?

Following the tragic defeat of the referendum for constitutional change for indigenous peoples to overcome poverty, repression, exclusion, disadvantage and a multitude of other failures one has to ask t if the condition of indigenous people has suddenly improved because concern has fallen silent. 

Out of sight, out of mind, got rid of that nicely! Where have all the worrying noisy citizens gone? Moved on to the next shallow trendy issue have we? It’s okay, coz I voted in the referendum? 

How pathetic if that’s true, why aren’t you maintaining the rage – bugger all has changed?

John Lawrence via email

Why Israel can’t accept a ceasefire with Hamas

I am writing in relation to the opinion piece by Kathryn Kelly, titled “Why are we following the US on Israel?” (CN March 14).

In her opening paragraph, Kathryn suggests that it is the “Palestinians in Gaza” who are facing “plausible genocide”. This suggests that she doesn’t know what is written in the Hamas Charter that is available on their website. 

Also, it shows that she doesn’t understand what the slogan “from the river to the sea …” actually means. This is actually calling for the genocide of every man, woman and child, be they Jew, Gentile, or Muslim who are actually living happily in Israel. 

The IDF is doing everything in its power to keep the death toll just to the Hamas militia with all care being taken to prevent civilian deaths – unlike Hamas who do not care who they have to kill to achieve their aims, including their own people. Any death in Gaza is 100 per cent the responsibility of Hamas.

Golda Meir is quoted as saying (which was paraphrased by Benjamin Netanyahu): “If the Arab lay down their arms there would be no more war, but if Israel lays down its weapons there would be no more Israel.”

I believe this quote is 100 per cent accurate. Neither Hamas nor Hezbollah are interested in the safety of their own people. They are only interested in destroying Israel whatever it might take to reach that end.

On the matter of International Law, Israel has been adhering 100 per cent to Article 19 of the Geneva Convention, which “also considers the discontinuance of protection of hospitals. If a decision is made to attack a hospital, international humanitarian law requires advanced warning to that hospital. If the hospital fails to heed the warning, the subsequent attack on that hospital must adhere to the principles of precaution and proportionality”.

As well as: “A building ceases to be a hospital when it is used as a base to launch rockets. Under these circumstances, a building is transformed from “hospital” to “legitimate military target.” 

Finally, I would just like to repeat what I have heard and read in various sources – “you can’t negotiate with someone who wants to kill you”. 

If Israel was to accept either a ceasefire of any duration or even a pause of several hours a day Hamas would just use this time to regroup. 

Israel should not agree to either of these until Hamas has been removed and the Palestinians of Gaza are truly free to vote in what should be genuinely “free and fair” elections for a civilian government and I just can’t see this happening. 

I heard recently of a survey carried out in the West Bank in which the residents were asked how they would vote in a future election and there was, allegedly, a 60 per cent plus response for Hamas.

Paul Myers, Karabar, NSW

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6 Responses to Taxpayers are being ‘fleeced’ billions and billions

Curious Canberran says: 19 March 2024 at 11:19 am

I myself did not vote for a train. Regardless of my view expressed at the voting booth, here we are.
Sometimes we don’t get what we want and have to try our best to accept it and move on.
I believe in time the train will be viewed by the vast majority (if you don’t already), as the single biggest calamity that occurred in the ACT since it’s creation.
I, like many others, wish that the money wasted on the train was put into other projects (fibre to the home, health, maintenance and upgrades… on and on), in fact there is so much money there could be a bit of something for everybody’s wish list.
But no, we have a vanity project driven by the Greens as they basically run Labor.
My point is; the train is a colossal waste of money and it will adversely change Canberra – we know that.
One of my favourite days of the week is Tuesday reading people’s letters in our beloved City News magazine.
However, skimming past the letters about the train is a given at this point because it’s just flogging a dead horse.
I also hope the Opposition doesn’t make the train the centre piece for the next election – otherwise they won’t have a chance and it will prove they don’t have any real alternative vision and lack policy.

Jim says: 19 March 2024 at 12:41 pm

As always, a misleading picture is presented by Mr self-titled ‘smart transport’.

Showing what all this vomitron of numbers means in an actual annualised cost projection would actually tell a far more informative story, than the usual ‘throw out big numbers’.

And for someone all about ‘smart transport’, it is pretty amusing how consistently absent is a ‘smart transport’ alternative proposal.

cbrapsycho says: 19 March 2024 at 1:35 pm

Agree with Max Flint on taxpayers being fleeced, but this is ratepayers only and much of the ACT voting population are not ratepayers so they don’t care. Many are only here short-term for study or work, not living and paying rates so the costs don’t affect them. They just see the benefits. Perhaps if someone alerted them to the costs on ratepayers and therefore landlords, they’d see that it does affect them indirectly through the high rents they pay.

cbrapsycho says: 19 March 2024 at 1:56 pm

To Paul Myers on Israel – You can believe what you wish as it suits your values which seem to disregard Palestinians rights. You must remember that Netanyahu promoted and supported Hamas because he knew there would be no two state solution with Hamas in power in Gaza because he knew their beliefs. He put them in power and kept them there. It was his people who enabled Oct 7 to happen through negligence and poor intelligence. Netanyahu doesn’t care about Israelis and certainly not Israeli hostages. For him it is all about staying in power and he knows he will not be removed until the war is over, so he has every reason to continue it, no matter what it costs Israelis and Palestinians. The future for both has been severely harmed by his time in power.

cbrapsycho says: 19 March 2024 at 1:58 pm

Jim, many of us had smarter, more reliable, more frequent, more direct public transport before the tram.

Jim says: 19 March 2024 at 5:57 pm

That is perfectly fine. But why won’t the self appointed expert tell us what his alternative view of doing things is.

I’m no fan of the tram’s extension on the basis of the inability to deliver in a reasonable amount of time, and its seeming excessive cost. But presenting no alternatives, plus presenting numbers in a misleading/non-comparable way doesn’t help anyone’s argument.


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