Yes, we need more housing, but we also need stricter building regulations

Yes, we need more housing, there is a shortage, but what needs to happen first is the introduction of stricter building regulations to ensure that every apartment block built is free from building faults that render those apartments uninhabitable, leaving the owners in debt and homeless (“Rich suburbs must build higher: tsar”, May 31). Building more apartments for cashed up investors to buy will not solve the housing problem for low-income families, a demographic growing by the day. If approval for all future development applications for high-rise apartment blocks was conditional of some percentage of those apartments being available for low-income families, either for rent or at a below-market price, that would have a far greater impact on the housing problem, than following the tired old mantra “if you build more the price will come down”. Real estate prices do not come down, unfortunately only the buying power of wages does. Julian Hare, Penshurst

Illustration: John Shakespeare

Illustration: John ShakespeareCredit: John Shakespeare

As a millennial whose peers are struggling to afford a home, I applaud the NSW Productivity Commissioner’s support for increased density, with one major caveat. A vastly improved cycling and public transport network for these areas needs to be completed before the first residents move in. Sydney cannot afford its current level of car dependency, let alone letting it grow unchecked. Kin-Yat Lo, Croydon

If Sydney’s inner suburbs are to increase household densities, a reduced level of car parking is essential. Otherwise, only large-scale towers with basement parking will work. I would also extend that approach – manor houses with four apartments and only two car spaces – to established middle ring suburbs. That way we can transform rental availability and start to make headway on the housing crisis. Matthew Bartinel, Killara

People living in higher density need a proportionate increase in public space for recreation. Hopefully, the planning minister will be take this into consideration. John Croker, Woonona

In the 80s and 90s Landcom was the largest land developer in NSW and because they knew roughly how fast Sydney was growing, they produced enough new residential land to satisfy demand. There was always a balance between supply and demand. Around 2000 the government decided to get out of land development and leave it to the private developers. Their philosophy is quite different. They only make enough land available to ensure there is never quite enough so demand and prices are high, and they don’t produce more than what they can quickly sell because it is expensive to hold unsold blocks. It’s no wonder there is a shortage of available land because it’s in the interests of the land developers to do so. To relieve the land shortage, we need to bring back Landcom. David Cahill, Northwood

I would be happy to live in an apartment if it were a reasonable size, had noise insulation in walls and ceilings, and provided adequate ventilation. The apartments currently being built offer “bedrooms” barely large enough for a single bed, “kitchens” with little bench or cupboard space, mould-inducing bathrooms without external windows, and intimate knowledge of your neighbours’ lives. Increasing density makes sense but not if we are forced to live in shoe boxes. Anne Kirman, Kellyville

‘Bludging’ public servants not so bad after all

I had a 50-year career in the NSW Public Service (“Outsourcing led to PwC scandal”, May 31). For the first half of my career, I was an employed public servant, watching as at each election, parties promised to sack bludging public servants. Of course, the work still had to be done, so consultants were hired, at a greater cost. I eventually got the message; left the service and offered myself as a consultant. I was hired back the next day to do the same job at double the salary. All fine though; I was no longer a bludging public servant. Michael McMullan, Avoca Beach

If the government and the ATO do not take all possible steps to distance themselves from PwC for a considerable period of time, and to punish PwC as much as the law allows, then they are for all intents and purposes endorsing what PwC has done (“PwC blocked ATO efforts to investigate leak scandal”, May 31). This would then leave others thinking they can act with impunity because the law and the regulators will do no more than slap them with a wet lettuce leaf. This is part of a wider and serious problem caused by the continuing cuts in the public service and the outsourcing to “consultants” – as witnessed by the Morrison government’s spending some $20.8 billion on “consultants’” fees and outsourcing in its last financial year in office. The government must stop cosying up to big business, lobbyists and vested self-interests. The public is rightly enraged. This issue will not blow over, and initiating an inquiry and asking for the names of the offenders will not suffice. Elizabeth Sides, Chatswood

One of the more interesting things to come out of the PwC debacle is that the perpetrators were willing to risk billions of dollars of work for a few extra millions in fees. That tells us, not only are they rapacious, morally dubious and unprofessional, they are dimwits as well. We are well rid of them. Tony Mitchell, Hillsdale

Illustration: Simon Letch

Illustration: Simon LetchCredit:

In light of the neoliberal and economic rationalist wilful destruction of the public service, government services were a sitting target for the rebadged accounting/consultancy firms by offering a welcoming and self-serving managerial class the unrivalled convenience and protection that comes from transferring responsibility to a third party. This metastatic culture has overwhelmed all aspects of public life with impacts throughout education, training, health, finance and every government service. Its excision will be prolonged and painful. But no doubt much better out than in. Bill O’Donovan, Thirroul

Fixed fares would thwart rogue taxi drivers

On a recent trip from the airport to the city, we noticed $15 of “extras” had quietly appeared on our meter en route (“Crackdown to target taxi rogues”, May 31). On asking the driver for an explanation, he said it was due our two suitcases and return toll fares. Upon checking the Transport NSW website, no extra charge for suitcases is noted, and “recent changes to the rules means that you will now only be charged the toll during your trip and not the cost of the toll for the driver to return”. A good place to start with addressing rouge taxi drivers would be to reinstate fare rules signage, in clear text, in every cab (missing in our cab), and a list of common toll charges. In Madrid, there is a fixed taxi fare from the airport to all central city metro areas, to address over charging. I am sure our hapless tourists, who mainly stay in the CBD and Kings Cross, would appreciate a similar arrangement here. David Mackinnon, Kings Cross

Brick by brick

Surely the facade of the Surry Hills building that was destroyed by fire last week could be rebuilt as it was (“Dust flies as risky demolition begins downtown”, May 31). Reuse the bricks and make it a modern hotel on the inside. It’s a win-win for the community, keeping some history in the area. Diane Grant, Caringbah

Toxic media

Your correspondent listed a number of positives of social media, but most could be gained in a much more satisfying way by engaging directly with friends, the local community, books or traditional media (Letters, May 31). Now is the time to consider whether the convenience of having access to sentimental or amusing reels, pretty images of overseas locations or someone’s breakfast is worth the toxic damage and destruction that is being wrought on individuals, society and worldwide political systems by social media. Elisabeth Goodsall, Wahroonga

Airport NIMBYs

It is tiresome to read of people whinging about noise from the new Sydney Airport (“Flight path fears plague quiet towns near airport”, May 31). One resident moved to Silverdale, within cooee of the construction, four years ago and is now “worried” how their lives will be affected by flight paths and landing noise. This airport has been on the drawing board for many, many years – more than I can remember – and the first plans drawn up in 2016. If you are bothered by noise, then don’t move there. It is no different to moving near Kingsford Smith Airport today. If you don’t like aeroplane noise, then don’t do it. Judy Jones, Thornleigh

Driven to distraction

The death toll on Australian roads is primarily the result of very poorly trained, easily distracted drivers who then go on to “train” their offspring (“Reign of the car must end to reduce road toll”, May 31).

Yes, high speeds are often involved and usually with the younger groups, but it is really the level of driving ability that is the root cause. Add to that increasing distractions like phones and in-car screens, the move towards poor handling, brick-like pick-up trucks and things are going to get worse.

I learned to drive in the UK some 50 years ago, have lived here a total of 11 years and every day I cannot believe the incompetence I see on the roads here. The cars today are incredibly safe compared to what I started driving, so it takes a considerable effort to perish in one. John Elder, Annerley (Qld)

Shiv’s revenge

No-one should be surprised by the ending of Succession when Shiv’s nickname has foreshadowed her final action from early on (“Shiv’s twist changed everything”, May 31). Shiv is the most intelligent, most strategic and least emotionally unbalanced of a bad lot of siblings, but the struggle for succession is always between the two brothers. Why is Shiv never even in the running? Why is every one of the panoply of women Shiv has as role models, old and young, ignored and/or cast aside and walked on? The answer is too obvious to state: Shiv is a woman.

Then suddenly and more by luck than anything else she holds the balance of power. She uses it for her own best future, yes. But the satisfaction, pure and sweet and perfect, of the ending is her revenge. Go girl! Judith Wheeldon, Roseville Chase

AI dictatorship

Your correspondent is right about the need to prevent AI from running rampant, but modelling AI rules after the “three laws of robotics” is a bad example to follow (Letters, May 31). Isaac Asimov, the author who coined the Three Laws of Robotics, deliberately designed them to be broken. The three laws were an allegory on the paradoxes that emerge from prescriptive, mandated morality – how instructions can be misinterpreted and loopholes can be exploited. Many of Asimov’s robot stories are focused on how the three laws are bent and evaded by the very robots that are ostensibly programmed to obey them.

For instance, in Asimov’s short story The Evitable Conflict, the three laws end up creating the situation that they were supposed to prevent: robots use the First Law’s order that a robot “cannot, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm” to justify replacing human government with an AI-controlled dictatorship. Humans cannot be trusted to rule without harming themselves, so it is robots’ moral obligation to take action to rule in our place. Asimov wrote it positively, as a benign dictatorship imposed for our own good, but would we see it that way if we were under its heel? Robert Frazer, Campbelltown

Azimov’s three laws seem airtight until you consider the real breakthrough in artificial intelligence, which brings to mind an old episode of Lost in Space. The Robinson’s benign robot protector was pitted against a “robotoid” (played by Robby the Robot from Forbidden Planet). The robotoid was not bound by its programming and could create its own, thus happily lying to the family about helping them while at the same time plotting their destruction.

AI is adept at indiscriminately learning from the flood of inputs to which it has access. Algorithms presently give it a goal, and AI just goes for it. There are already examples of AI lying, making up research data or legal precedents, and going off the deep end when its romantic advances are spurned, just to get to where it was going – wherever that was! Very human! What about humans and laws? There are airtight laws about red lights, for example. But if you have the facility to learn and interpret those laws you become like the alien Starman learning to drive: “When I see humans drive I learned that red means stop, green means go and yellow means go very fast.” Thomas Gough, Casula

Illustration: Andrew Dyson

Illustration: Andrew DysonCredit:

Bleak City consolation

As a lifelong Sydneysider, I can offer disgruntled Melburnians the consolation of one area where Sydney can’t compete: Melbourne’s wonderful Victoria Market, and its smaller local counterparts, offering incomparable architecture, excellent produce and a great sense of community (Letters, May 31). Their public parks are pretty good too. Gillian Appleton, Paddington

Some years ago we arrived home in Sydney in the early dawn on board the Queen Mary II, having stopped in Melbourne to pick up passengers for a circumnavigation of Australia.

As we rounded Bradleys Head, the Melburnian lady beside me exclaimed “This is unbelievable”. Says it all really. Bill Riley, Cammeray

Wants and needs

I spent most of my economics classes poring over a McCall’s fashion magazine under the desk (Letters, May 31). I don’t think I absorbed much sartorial advice, sadly. But the teacher’s first lesson has echoed in my ears: “Know the difference between wants and needs”. If governments honoured this precept, they would save the community from rash spending and have more for the most pressing needs of humanity. Robyn Cashman, Fernhill

I am glad no one mentioned that economics is also known as “dismal science”. Mustafa Erem, Terrigal

The digital view

Online comment from one of the stories that attracted the most reader feedback yesterday on
Collapse in home approvals tipped to worsen housing affordability crisis
From mark: ″⁣With the cost of materials used in constructing a home going up 25 per cent or more what did they think would happen. Housing is unaffordable and yet no politician is interested in addressing this issue.″⁣

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Justin Scaccy

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