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Oh joy! Here in the Wally State, our future is safe

ISN'T it wonderful to have, in John Brumby, such a visionary leader who is "in the business of making the right decisions now to secure the long-term future of this state" (Analysis & Debate, 28/7). I, for one, am looking forward to the time when the desalination plant comes on line and water restrictions are ended. Once I've disconnected my rainwater tank and reinstalled my "torrential downpour" shower rose, I will get into my car - with its new "Wally State" moniker - and back out of my freshly hosed-down driveway. The only problem will be the price of petrol, but I have a uniquely Victorian suggestion for how to deal with that, Mr Brumby. Let's develop cars that run directly on brown coal. Then Victorians will be able to motor happily into Mr Brumby's secure future.

Paul Tyndale-Biscoe, Flemington

Getting bang for our bucks

OUR reportedly shy but "can-do" Premier is charging towards a public transport nonsense decision of epic proportions. The Eddington rail tunnel, while slow to build and hugely expensive - $8 billion - would add only 40 trains an hour to central Melbourne's suburban rail capacity. That's poor "bang for your buck".

The same money spread over a suite of smaller projects, including new suburban rail corridors, would "gold plate" the whole system, including a doubling of train capacity. Much of our present infrastructure is still from the 1920s and the average speed of our electric trains is the slowest in Australia, 30% slower than in Perth. Please consult widely and publicly before we commit.

John McPherson, Collingwood

Hindsight and a crystal ball

IN TRYING to defend the State Labor Government's lack of foresight and its subsequent inaction, Premier Brumby claims that five years ago climate change wasn't on the agenda and that no one could have predicted an increase in petrol prices or in public transport patronage. This raises the question: what planet has John Brumby been living on?

In 1996, during his first speech to Parliament, Greens leader Bob Brown said that 1575 scientists, including 100 Nobel prize laureates, had been petitioning world leaders since 1992 to take notice of the serious risk of runaway climate change.

You'd hope, as Mr Brumby has now apparently got his "crystal ball" in working order, that the ALP might shelve its plans for more freeways and road tunnels and instead support the Greens' push for massive investments in public transport and reducing our reliance on non-renewable fuels.

Tommy Clarke, Brunswick East

A place in history, on rail

LAST week I travelled along EastLink for the first time, and was overcome by the immensity of the engineering works, and the generous use of resources in its speedy construction. By comparison, we have watched the slow progress of the work on the long overdue duplication of the railway line past Clifton Hill. If Premier Brumby really wants to be remembered as the one who actually completed large infrastructure projects, he should start by building the railway line we need to link Huntingdale, Monash University, Rowville and Glen Waverley, and beyond.

Margaret Finger, Clifton Hill

Arrogance and the vandals

THE invasion of privacy by high-tech agricultural businesses has been brought out into the open by north-south pipeline protesters. John Holland staff, as late as Friday, were denying they had trespassed on farms. Yet Saturday's Age carried the truth: John Holland's manager admitted his "workers entered private property without the owners' knowledge and broke health protocols" ("Apology after pipe staff enter Glenburn farm", 26/7).

The behaviour of the arrogant Brumby Government makes this a totalitarian state. Never mind that it is the ultimate act of environmental vandalism to take more water out of the stressed Murray-Darling Basin. Former water minister John Thwaites wisely put a moratorium on water extraction and harvesting in the Yea River valley. Farmers in the Yea Valley were "the full bottle" on water issues well before the pipeline was thrust upon us without consultation.

Don Lawson, Mansfield

Think small, tiny even, in a bigger city

ADAM Morton (Comment & Debate, 28/7) makes yet another call for high-density living, with six-storey apartments along main roads. But returning to Melbourne's leafy suburbs after living in apartments in Paris and Barcelona brings only relief, joy and clean nostrils. We leave behind constant traffic and neighbour noise - and their cooking smells. Add a canyon existence with weedy pot plants, little sun or sky, and home is an incentive to be out; not a refuge.

Instead of degrading our existence, we can do the obvious and take up imminent technology to give Melbourne a rail and micro-car transport network. First, devote all possible resources to a modern metro system for greater Melbourne. Second, encourage micro-car ownership by building free metro parking for micros and restricting council parking to micros.

Since most households have more than one car, this plan does not attack the Australian right to bear a V8, it merely partitions the household fleet.

Garth Price, Brighton

Frogs in a pot

THE Liberal Party demonstrates that no advantage accrues to humans due to our large frontal lobes. Like a frog in the proverbial slowly heating pot, it is so complacent about the safety of its environment that it won't hop out. Soon it will be too late and it will be gently boiled.

I care about this because it is determined to cook my goose as well. I would like my Government and my fellow citizens to do what is possible, as soon as possible, to reduce our contributions to global warming, regardless of the causes.

This requires a capacity for leadership that can recognise a garden path when it sees one. John Howard has left behind a party of yes men, to the point that it now wants us to take leadership from India and China rather than be clear about our own collective best interests.

Mairi Rowan, Coburg

Doctor in the House

BRENDAN Nelson should remember the first rule of his Hippocratic Oath (do no harm), and apply it to the Earth. If he really wanted to show leadership, he would take that message to his party's natural business constituency and get it on board, rather than putting the long-term existence of humanity in jeopardy.

The rhetoric in the climate change debate is "save the planet". But what is overlooked is the fact that Earth will survive. It is us, the most evolved inhabitants, who won't. Mother Nature takes care of itself.

Lead by example, Dr Nelson. Heal your own self at the same time. Your crumbling leadership just might survive.

Jan Whitaker, Berwick

One for the girls

AS OBVIOUS as it may seem to Emma MacDonald that women should have the right to compete in the Tour de France (Comment & Debate, 28/7), I don't think she is really making the argument she means to make.

Women and men compete separately in many sports where there are physiological differences in performance (such as athletics and swimming). There is a wide variability in performance among the 180 or so elite men who compete in the Tour each year. The slowest rider this year finished nearly four hours behind winner Carlos Sastre.

On average, even elite women cyclists would complete the race much more slowly than the men. Potentially, the last of the field, if it contained women, would finish many hours behind the winner.

What MacDonald is really complaining about is the lack of recognition of women's sport. Women's cycling certainly suffers in this regard. But creating a slower, two-tiered Tour de France is not the solution.

Rebecca Tooher, Summertown, SA

Our safety really is up in the air

QANTAS and the Civil Aviation Safety Authority must both be held accountable for the apparent emergency oxygen cylinder explosion. Wasn't CASA aware of faults in emergency oxygen cylinders on Boeing 747s months ago, after US officials ordered their airlines to examine them?

Why now, only after the explosion, has CASA belatedly ordered Qantas to check cylinders on its aircraft? CASA is not the appropriate body to investigate and answer these questions, especially when its spokesman, Peter Gibson, is already saying that the belated checks will give passengers the reassurance that everything is being done that can be. It clearly hasn't been.

Lawrie Bradly, Surrey Hills

Points of order

IVAN Lazarus (Letters, 28/7) reminds us of the reference to Qantas' safety record in Rain Man, and suggests that he is looking to other airlines for travel. The date of that movie (1988) is a fair starting point. Since then, Qantas has had a few mishaps, but has killed no passengers. Let us know when you find the airline with a better safety record.

Robin Rattray-Wood suggests a connection between the latest incident and overseas maintenance by "second-rate people from Third-World countries".

He is 35 years out of date, as a visit to any large retailer will show. Those countries have become leaders in high-grade engineering and technology. They passed us about 10 years ago, accelerating in opposite directions.

Don Hampshire, Sunbury

Make mine a double

THE rush to interpret alcopop sales figures as adverse for social benefit is predictable, coming from the liquor industry. Liquor pricing and social benefit will always be a tough calculation, made worse by those who think social policy should yield benefits in three months.

It takes years to change drinking habits, but a short time to signal to young people that lolly-grade alcohol is a quick way to get sloshed.

Why not measure the noise on my street, and count the beer and spirits containers left by the young people going home late? There has been a marked in unruly behaviour here, and effective policing policy can take the credit for most of that. But thirst for alcohol drives buying patterns. There is no doubt that high alcohol availability is responsible for enormous property and personal damage. The alcopop tax is a good move. Now let's look at cheap spirits and liquor outlets and hours.

Reverend Brad Harris, Robinvale

Clowns are running property's circus

CAPITAL Gain ("REIV blames miscommunication for underquote", BusinessDay, 26/7) highlights what a circus the Real Estate Institute of Victoria is and how ridiculously underquoting laws are policed; the circus is being run by the clown. Here, we have the state industry body supposedly upholding and policing real estate ethics among agents, doing exactly what it tells its members they shouldn't do - it is preposterous.

This conduct should never have occurred. Chief executive Enzo Raimondo proffering the excuse of miscommunication is pathetic; anyone would know that a board of real estate agents would have asked their appointed agent what the quoting range would be, especially if they had already knocked back an offer for $600,000 more.

This example shows the legislation is not working, is not policed and purchasers are being misled. Perhaps Consumer Affairs Victoria should look to the industry body and make an example so the real estate landscape can be cleaned up, and to ensure a level playing field for all, including the REIV.

David Morrell, Morrell & Koren, buyers' advocate and property consultant, South Yarra

Robots? Not likely

GRAHAM Phillips (Opinion, The Sunday Age, 27/7) argues that robots would be better than humans for space exploration.

Yesterday ("Mars soil bites dust", The Age, 28/7), it was reported that most of a soil sample, collected by the robotic arm of NASA's Phoenix Mars lander, got stuck in the scoop and would not fall into an oven. It could not be heated for analysis. Robots might be good at some things but I can't help thinking that a human would've had no trouble at all, just digging up a bit of soil.

Mervyn L. Robbins, Coburg

How not to save money on the net

I RECENTLY moved to Truganina, in Melbourne's west. I am flabbergasted that I cannot receive ADSL. I am reduced to three options: dial-up, Telstra Next G (incredibly expensive) or I am eligible for the Australian Broadband Guarantee, where taxpayers will pay $2750 to have a satellite dish installed at my house. I live about 20 kilometres from the CBD but must use a satellite connection to achieve decent speed (512k) for connection to the internet.

According to the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, 41% of Victorians use broadband. With a forecast population of 4200 in 2008 for Truganina, this is 1722 people that would connect to broadband. With an average household size of 3.3 (census 2006), if everyone were to use the Australian Broadband Guarantee, this would be 521 households at a cost of $1,432,750. It boggles the mind that this is allowed.

This situation also exists in Point Cook, condemning thousands of people to live behind the times. Point Cook, using the same assumptions, would cost $17,298,387. What a joke.

Courtney Squires, Truganina

Truth in advertising?

IT SEEMS the banks are finally coming clean with their advertising. ANZ has shown its true colours by sponsoring Wicked, the musical, and National Australia Bank has ped all pretence of what it does - by lower-casing its initials, it's admitting it just wants to nab your money.

What next? Will the Commonwealth change to Cononwealth and will BankWest swap the order of its B and W?

Sheila Hollingworth, Daylesford

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