There are alternatives to the Rail Loop

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The call by transport expert Marion Terrill for the Suburban Rail Loop to be cancelled (Comment, 8/11), is timely, given the Allan government is soon to sign up for a project that seems set to monopolise transport spending for the next two generations. Given this government’s reputation for blowouts on other transport projects, which has seen state debt spiral, proceeding with this project seems a highly risky and questionable action. Other projects such as the much-needed airport rail seem set to sit on the back burner, along with many newer and outer suburbs that are crying out for rail infrastructure.
Mathew Knight, Malvern East

Surely, commonsense should prevail
This government cancelled the Commonwealth Games on the pretext that it was going to cost too much. Many major projects around Melbourne suffer from major cost blowouts. Why should the Suburban Rail Loop be an exception? The state’s finances are already deeply in the red thanks to such cost blowouts as well as tackling too many major projects simultaneously thereby severely straining the construction industry causing costs to rise anyway. Commonsense needs to prevail now with a measured approach to maintain keen competition between construction companies, perform robust risk assessments and keep a lid on the state deficit. Finish the current projects first, take stock of finances and listen to Infrastructure Australia. Neville Kidd, Safety Beach

Cheaper options are available for transport
Yes it is time to axe the Suburban Rail project before we inundate ourselves with colossal debt. But the city does need a public transport outer loop to address a long standing infrastructure deficit. There are far cheaper options available. Electric buses with dedicated lanes, light rail, and trams are all feasible. All of which can be powered with green energy at much lower rates than rail.
Greg Gardiner, Brunswick

How can we smell the flowers, now?
The state government seems to care no more about where the money will come from than about ruining the lives of Heatherton residents and destroying the Chain of Parks, long-promised in our Green Wedge, for a project that none of the planning or infrastructure experts think stacks up. We endured three decades of noise, dust and smells from quarries and landfills on the government promise that this would all become parkland. Lihla Wyles, Heatherton

The Loop is an irrelevancy
Marion Terrill argues cogently against proceeding further with the Suburban Rail Loop on economic grounds. She also mentions the questionable need for such a service, which begs the question of pressing unmet needs being shelved elsewhere. This point was driven home to me on a recent visit to Ardeer, 15 kilometres from Southern Cross Station and within the arc of the Western Ring Road, and no electrification of the train service. The station is on the Ballarat line which passes through Bacchus Marsh, but before reaching there runs through a region of suburban expansion between Caroline Springs and Melton, and is serviced only by small diesel country trains. Add to this the recent shelving of the airport rail link, and the pressing demand for improvements to rail services to many expanding regional centres, and the Suburban Rail Loop looks more and more irrelevant.
Roger Foot, Essendon

The money could be better spent
At a time when state debt is soaring to levels never seen before, Premier Jacinta Allan is about to sign off on contracts to build the tunnel to nowhere. How often have you thought “I need to travel from Box Hill to Cheltenham? Never? The first stage is budgeted at $35billion. How crazy does the government have to be to do this? Could this money be better spent fixing our country roads, or delivering a modest Commonwealth Games? Wayne Alexander, Eltham


The right decision
The High Court decision (″⁣Indefinite immigration detention rules unlawful″⁣, 9/11) is a welcome outcome. While it appears to apply to only stateless persons, it does not exempt any government from continuing to pursue indefinite detention for people rightly seeking asylum and who are not stateless. Indefinite detention, especially for those who have been detained for many years, is a blight on our humanity and has caused irreversible damage to detainees’ wellbeing.
Judith Morrison, Nunawading

Keep up plastics pressure
Shopping is no longer packed in plastic bags, but major supermarkets are dragging their feet when it comes to the packaging of merchandise. I don’t want to buy lettuce hearts, blueberries, sushi, baby cucumber, potato salad and the many other food items that are sold in hard plastic containers. The plastic still generated by supermarket products is unnecessary. There needs to be more public pressure.
Maria Prendergast, Kew

Leave Biden alone
Columnist Nick Bryant’s characterisation of Joe Biden as a ″⁣doddery 80-year-old incumbent″⁣ (Comment, 9/12), does not do justice to the remarkably experienced and astute veteran US politician. In an era of hucksters like Donald Trump, Biden is more akin to a more engaged version of Dwight Eisenhower or Ronald Reagan, presidents who were underestimated during their White House terms because of their folksy veneer and tendency to delegate but who have been judged well by presidential historians.
In terms of foreign policy, Biden has been skilfully measured in a fraught time. Domestically, his administration’s real economic achievements have been obscured by the infantile antics of congressional Republicans. His tendency to trip over the odd sandbag can be forgiven, especially when one considers the daunting prospect of a Republican presidential nominee bereft of rational thought and basic empathy.
Jon McMillan, Mount Eliza

How to fight inflation
Many writers are calling for an alternative to the blunt instrument of interest rate rises to fight inflation, given its slow and unfairly distributed negative impacts.
Some have suggested making the GST a floating rate. However, while raising the GST would reduce demand, it would also itself increase prices and thus inflation.
An increase in the rate of compulsory superannuation and/or the Medicare levy would more widely affect demand while providing some benefit for the sacrifice over the longer term. However, all of these measures are moot because no government would be brave enough to put them into operation because of the political counterattack that would occur from the opposition. The government should initiate a broader inquiry into the most effective ways to deal with anomalies in the rate of inflation with the aim of developing a broader range of tools to deal with the problem.
Graeme Henchel, Yarra Glen

Seeing red at lights
Fixing traffic light cycles would alleviate some of the anger and abuse on the roads. How many times are you frustrated at not getting through a green light because of myriad annoyances: you can’t make your left turn on the arrow because the driver in front is not turning; the right turn lane doesn’t all get round in the time span; the new accessible tram-stop design failed to address the traffic light cycle; you’re held up by pedestrians crossing in front of you; you wait forever at a stop light when nothing is coming on the green; your high-density inner-city intersection’s cycle hasn’t been updated since the 1950s, (take a drive down Albion Street across Brunswick).
VicRoads needs to revamp traffic light across the metropolitan area.
David Marshall, West Brunswick

True family subsidy

Looking at workforce participation from a gendered perspective is welcome news (“Would you work for nothing?“, 8/11). Disincentives for women are many and varied including cost of childcare, if you can get a place, transport costs, higher domestic load and responsibilities, ie the second job and a workplace culture and structure that is often inflexible to meet the needs of parents (and particularly women) caring for children.
An important first step is for government to accept responsibility for all early childcare needs as they do for education, so provide free child care to everyone who needs it, improve the wages of childcare workers, increase places to enable better kindergarten access and do all of this in consultation with parents and the relevant communities.
We make choices about how we spend our money, so instead of subsidising fossil fuels, how about “subsidising” families for a change?
Denise Stevens, Healesville

A seat of rights?
If Qantas says we are not buying tickets for a particular flight but rather a “bundle of rights”, how is it that when we buy a ticket they allow us to select our actual seat on the flight at the same time? Are we really only selecting a seat on a “bundle of rights”?
Neale Meagher, Malvern

Roadside protection
The horrific disaster in Daylesford highlights the need for some protection for patrons who sit on footpaths next to busy roads. Town planners should now insist on bollards or guard rails adjacent to outside tables. In France this protection is everywhere.
Ron Reynolds, Templestowe

Eroding democracy
Can’t it be realistic rather than cynical to have disengaged from our democratic system? (Letters, 9/11). For decades the major parties have doggedly imposed unpopular market ″⁣solutions″⁣ by which citizens are reinvented as customers. Privatisation, public-private partnerships and the shield of commercial in confidence exclude public participation or even scrutiny. The new Victorian Housing Statement promises to cancel the public and municipal role in the shape of the state when notice of big developments and appeal are denied and sole authority is vested in the minister for planning. Citizenship is a matter of grace and favour: what is given in our legislated Victorian constitution, namely representative democracy, can be and is being taken away.
Angela Munro, Carlton North

Cycles of light
My take on cyclists sharing the road is wear whatever colours you like, but a quality flashing light both front and rear is an essential item, even in daylight. Commercial airliners, even in daylight, display navigation lights.
Michael Slocum, Ascot Vale

Visible invisible
A major cause of collisions is that people see what they expect to see. Motorists are in an overwhelming majority on roads and a cyclist is an unusual and unexpected phenomenon. ″⁣Invisibility″⁣ is the result. Brighter dress and extremely defensive riding seems to me the only solution on shared roads. This is why it’s best to have bike paths. However a similar phenomenon seems to occur here with respect to cyclists and walkers sharing a path. In my experience, 90 per cent of cyclists do not sound a warning when coming up behind pedestrians. It could be just bad manners, but I suspect the ″⁣invisibility″⁣ of walkers/joggers plays a part.
Don Jordan, Mount Waverley

Outage all over a relief
I was so relieved to hear the Optus outage was nationwide and not a fault with my account. A massive nationwide outage is nothing compared to the true horror of having to deal with Optus’ so-called customer service.
Catherine Miller, Chewton

Imperfect technology
The Greens have secured a Senate inquiry into the Optus outage and Senator Hanson-Young wants “those affected to be fairly compensated and to work so this doesn’t happen again”.
I’m sorry Senator Hanson-Young but it will happen again and not just to Optus. For technology to work without fail, it has to be designed and built perfectly, which is no simple task. At times, it only needs a simple error to bring a system down. And we have sophisticated hackers out there who are paid and determined to wreak havoc. And something that is often overlooked – a disgruntled employee who feels he or she has been unfairly treated and who has access to the systems can easily cause mayhem.
Technology is great, and I use it every day, but it isn’t and can’t be perfect.
John Cummings, Anglesea

The real genius is human
The Beatles’ new song, Now and Then, is an interesting exercise, but would John Lennon and George Harrison be pleased? I doubt it. What made the Beatles great was their collaboration including their producer George Martin. Their experimentation and combining segments of different tunes was brilliant.
Now and Then relies on an AI program which is only as good as the programmer. It is the same as AI being able to paint. What makes great paintings are the observations a person makes, which are then interpreted by their brain, which then requires skill and co-ordination to translate onto a canvas.
Although I have not been, I marvel at the pyramids and the Islamic buildings of Alhambra. Built with no AI or computers of any kind. Now they are a marvel.
Michael D’Aloia, Coburg

For peace flowering
Every year when the poppies flower in our garden we are reminded of the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of the year. Would that peace comes to all countries this year.
Christine Barnes, Glen Iris


Australia: one day without Optus phone or internet. Gaza: no phone, no internet, no water, no power, no food, no homes. A bit of perspective please.
Julie Perry, Highton

With Optus down, a lot of business activities never got up and running on Wednesday. However, it didn’t stop the accounts department issuing my Optus bill for the month at 12:12pm.
Paul Gooley, Ringwood East

Hindsight is little help to anyone struggling with emergency communication during the Optus “out(r)age” (Letters, 8/11). It’s not a “non-Optus device”, that’s needed, it’s a non-Optus service, with proper back-up.
Jenifer Nicholls, Armadale

A US Republican has called Israel the United States’ greatest ally. Just how many greatest allies does the US have?
Alan Inchley, Frankston

Perhaps the opposite of a close-knit society is an unravelling society.
Pamela Pilgrim, Highett

If I was a Pacific nation, an essential component of the entry fee for credibility in international relations for the Albanese government would be scrapping of subsidies for fossil fuel projects.
Jenny Smithers, Ashburton

Nick Bryant’s dodderer v diddler trope (Comment, 9/11) deserves to be on everyone’s fridge door. A Trump v Biden choice at the next presidential election would surely signal the end of US world leadership.
Tony Haydon, Springvale

If horses didn’t respond to being whipped, why would jockeys want to use them?
Debbie Lustig, Elsternwick

Could the federal government replace the Union Jack on the Australian flag with the Indigenous flag as a show of support to First Nations people?
Jim Baxter, Bundoora

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