PUBLIC TRANSPORT Common sense and the connies - why do we wait?


Common sense and the connies - why do we wait?

I WAS amazed by Lynne Kosky's response to The Sunday Age's investigation into the feasibility of returning conductors to trams. Her spokesman said "evidence suggests that the current method of fare collection is far more cost efficient than employing conductors . . . What would have been staffing costs is instead invested into infrastructure." The main item of "infrastructure" is a ticketing system, which looks like it will cost $1.4 billion dollars. Since the system is expected to have a life of 10 years, that's an annualised cost of $140 million a year. It is not "cost efficient" to replace a system that cost $11 million a year and worked with one that will cost $140 million a year and probably won't.

Surely now, even the Government has to admit that automated ticketing has been a massive failure. If it's a choice between conductors and automated ticketing, then it's conductors all the way.

Perhaps we could get rid of the vile "customer service officers". Perhaps we wouldn't need to carry a sackful of change to buy a ticket. Perhaps there would be more money for infrastructure that might actually be useful - more trains and trams - instead of unworkable, inconvenient and grotesquely expensive ticketing systems.

Philip Branch, Burwood East

It's our service, after all

ALL I can say is "hallelujah" to the idea that conductors and station staff should be brought back to Melbourne's public transport system.

There is a lot of talk about it being the best way to curb fare evasion; frankly, what interests me is the possibility that we might return to the idea of public transport being, first and foremost, a service to the people before it is an enterprise for profit, public or private.

Ticket inspectors make me feel like I live in a police state. I'd choose public transport much more easily if I felt safe, with all stations manned all the time, and conductors there to help, rather than ticket inspectors there to check up and accuse.

Kerry Dawborn, Cockatoo

Hail Frenchie and Roberto

OH TO bring back the joy of conductors, many of whom we knew by name, instead of the grim bouncer wannabes who monitor us. I grew up with Frenchie, who kept us in fits as he monkey-barred his way up and down the old W-class trams, and Roberto, who amused my son. But bean counters and Kosky can't see the point that human service actually means better service and that people might then feel like paying for their tickets.

It's another sad example of how this Labor Government is a do-nothing government when it comes to public transport. John Brumby, ever defensive, is in for a hiding at the next election. That's a warning from a frustrated life-long Labor voter.

Larry Stillman, Elwood

Time to admit failure

BRINGING back conductors would be a popular and cost-effective move. At the same time, train tickets should be manually sold, with all those unused ticket boxes at Flinders Street Station reopened.

I think the main stumbling block to this idea is the Government's refusal to admit that wasting hundred of millions of dollars on an automatic system is a fiasco. It should realise that to admit failure and introduce the above measures would go down well with the public.

Chris Dollman, Traralgon

View from the north

EXCUSE this Sydneysider intruding into things Melbourne, but on our only light rail line from Central to Lilyfield, fare evasion was rampant, the ticketing system was not working and revenue loss was enormous. The company decided that roving conductors, even allowing for their wages bill, were justified - to cut out evasion and for the security of the drivers as well.

The line became profitable and the company has never looked back. Melbourne's trams would benefit from such a system for the same reasons.

Even allowing for the wages, the incidence of fare evasion would almost be wiped out, as well as protecting the crew from physical attack.

Frank McQuade, Kogarah, NSW

Aborigines need our own government

THE report prepared for Tom Calma on an Aboriginal political body ("Bold plan for native powers", The Age, 12/7) proposes little more than a bunch of poorly paid lobbyists. It lacks vision, and is paternalistic in the extreme.

Jenny Macklin will be happy because the proposal maintains all her powers to ride roughshod over Aborigines while this proposed group can - get this - question bureaucrats and politicians.

Aboriginal people deserve our own government, nothing less. We need to take stock of what we have not already lost but will lose without a government.

Begin discussions now about which areas of territory our leaders can use to rebuild our people; a guaranteed budget, with a legitimate right to say "no" to other governments.

Disputes between Canberra and the black government can be resolved by the High Court, as happens with other governments. The constitution allows for adding new states or territories, and Fletcher Christian's descendants on Norfolk Island have their own government and passports. Not for Aborigines though, eh? Aborigines get models that would be laughed at if intended for anyone else.

We should be sitting at COAG discussing which areas each state and territory will concede to our government so that in 10 years we will be up and running, giving the next generation of Aboriginal kids something to study for and aspire to.

Michael Mansell, legal director, Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre, Hobart

Marathon has future

THE announcement that the Australian Red Cross has decided to withdraw its support of the Murray Marathon after this year ("Murray race to end", The Age, 12/7), does not mean that the iconic event has come to an end.

There has been an enormous groundswell of opinion from competitors, volunteers and Murray River communities, and already moves are under way to continue the event with another charity from 2009.

A committee is working to ensure that the 2008 event will be a spectacular celebration of the input the from Red Cross in the past 40 years, and then will aim to maintain the event in its present format in 2009 and beyond.

Bill Robinson Mount Eliza

Short-term indeed

ANN Rutland (Letters, 12/7) should realise that the doctor shortage Australia faces is because the Government stepped in to restrict medical undergraduate positions more than two decades ago.

This was typical of the short-term political thinking, which was to save money without regard for the future demand for doctors or the long lead time required to produce them.

Dr Dennis Harvie, Berwick

Laws should be for all, not just Catholics

GREG Craven's piece (Comment & Debate, 12/7) could not help but raise a smile. The time-expired NSW Government has passed severe laws that, far from being necessary to maintain public order, are designed to curry favour with what it sees as significant political supporters, the Catholic hard-liners.

I would be impressed by Mr Craven's article if he called for these laws to be used against Christians exercising their right of protest during the gay and lesbian Mardi Gras. Even better, the victims of Catholic pedophilia could be protected by these laws, from the annoying presence of Catholics, by the removal of their provocatively public places of worship.

Freedom of religion is an important feature of secular (note, not religious) states, but when religious values conflict with human rights, religious values must always be suppressed. If you think that this is extreme, note that the Bible requires new husbands to slaughter wives who are not virgins on their wedding night. Try doing that, Mr Craven, and see what happens. Although come to think of it, in Iemma's NSW . . .

David Harris, Daylesford

Hatred is the barrier

ALTHOUGH it causes difficulties for many Palestinians, Israel's security fence ("Scorned by Palestinians, applauded by Israelis, this wall hides shape of peace", World, 12/7) has achieved its aim of thwarting terrorist attacks against Israelis.

Despite false Arab claims of its being a land-grab, Israel has long acknowledged that the fence is a security barrier rather than a political barrier, which, unlike the lives taken by Arab violence, is reversible. While making every reasonable effort to re-route the fence in order to accommodate Palestinian needs, Israel cannot be expected, in the absence of peace, to dismantle a barrier that has saved the lives of so many of its citizens.

The "impenetrable obstacle" to resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict is not the fence, but the intractable Arab hatred of Israel that made its erection necessary. That hatred remains the real barrier to lasting peace and reconciliation between Israeli and Arab.

Merv Morris, East St Kilda

Outrage and Israel

THE US has built an enormous wall to separate itself from Mexico. There are no security issues here, none of its citizens are in danger of being blown up by Mexican bombers, no one in Mexico is firing a daily dose of rockets across the border hoping to kill schoolchildren. It is purely an economic thing, to protect jobs.

No one is claiming that the US stole New Mexico, California, Arizona, Colorado, Florida or Texas from Mexico after winning a war that it waged against Mexico. But when Israel builds a wall to protect its citizens from actually being killed, the media and much of the world are enraged. I wonder why.

Peter Cohen, Bentleigh

Quit now, Dean

DEAN Solomon of the Fremantle Football Club, your act of thuggery at Kardinia Park on Saturday must go down as perhaps the most despicable act on a football field in the AFL of the modern era.

No matter how many times you apologise - was it three times in the one segment on television after the game? - you will never be able to forgive yourself for what you have done.

Your name and reputation will be tainted by this act for the rest of your career.

OK, you might have been a hard man of football, but with your experience - 200 games at the highest level - you well know the difference between hardness and assault. What an appalling example to any other footballer of any age or ability.

The closest you'll get to redemption for such an act, Dean, is to announce your retirement immediately.

Peter M. Dillon, Newtown

Your iNumber's up

A WORD of warning to all those eager buyers of the iPhone - beware of buyer's remorse.

Do you need an iPhone? How will you feel in three weeks when the novelty has worn off and you are $700-plus out of pocket?

In 12 months there will be another "must have" gizmo, and you'll want money for that. I'd say always wait a few months before buying and see if the price s, or ask if you really need it.

Buyer's remorse is something we all feel when we spend big bucks on something we feel that we have to have only to realise that this was an act of irrationality based on emotion.

Greg Byrne, Rowville

I've got a beef about this natural claim

JEFF Walker (Letters, 12/7), the "open grasslands" you cite did not "evolve" in some kind of natural process. The vast majority of grasslands now used for agriculture in Australia were created by European settlers clearing the native forests that used to grow there.

There are many in the cattle industry who would like us to believe that there is a natural order in the Australian environment, consisting of cattle and the grasses they feed on, living in a beautiful symbiotic harmony.

The reality is, the cattle and the majority of grass species they consume are introduced and require considerable applications of herbicides, pesticides and fertilisers to sustain them, all of which carry an environmental and carbon cost.

Furthermore, most beef cattle end their lives in feedlots eating artificially fertilised grains, far from the bucolic splendour of the open plains.

By all means, exempt agriculture from the emissions trading scheme until the science on its emissions is more definitive, but let's not kid ourselves that beef cattle production is somehow a "natural" part of the Australian environment.

Cathrynne Henshall, Bungonia, NSW

The joke's on us all

IT'S 2018. Petrol is $8 a litre. The Eddington east-west tunnel was supposed to open this year. However, it was abandoned long ago, half finished, when the investment banks realised that no one could afford to drive on a road, let alone a tolled road. Melbourne long ago lost its crown as most liveable city because public transport seized to a rusty halt.

It's OK though; myki is expected to be online next year.

There is a small consolation for Melbourne citizens: a new public holiday on April 1. It was renamed, a few years ago, John Brumby Day, in honour of the man who got us into this nightmare.

Kathryn Miller, Travancore

There's a seat for you

IT'S people like Candy Spender (Letters, 12/7) who are as much the cause of public transport problems as they are victim. For decades, tram and train services were neglected and run down for the very reason that people like Candy ignored public transport and stayed away in droves.

Then, petrol hits $1.50, and they have a revelation. What did you expect, Candy - that for all those years when you were whizzing past in your own personal gas guzzler, we'd been saving you a seat?

Tony Gerard, Warragul


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