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Politicians paid to attend sessions of parliament, not to play games

We elect our politicians to do a job for us and part of that work is to attend the House/Senate on scheduled sitting days. The fact that one side or the other disagrees with a bill being tabled does not give them the right to boycott a session or part thereof as a demonstration of their disdain ("Coalition snub for Shorten's moment", June 2, p4). Members should have their pay docked for unauthorised absences, unless they produce a medical certificate, have special dispensation granted by the Speaker, or can call on some other entitlement to cover their absences.

That's roughly how it works in the wider working world and, as one of the government's employers, I wish to express my displeasure with the lack of professionalism exhibited by the PM, our interim manager, and his team. 

W. Book,  Hackett   

A matter of judgment

Malcolm Whyte (Letters, June 2) does not understand representative democracy if he thinks that MPs should "always vote for what the majority of their constituents want". Hanging in most of the British Empire/Commonwealth, and segregation in southern US are just two policies that were abolished against the wishes of the majority of voters in those jurisdictions. 

As the great philosopher-statesman Edmund Burke MP said: "Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays instead of serving you if he sacrifices it to your opinion." 

Troy Reeves, Turner  

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Phantom profit

If you bought a house in 1995 for $200,000 and sold it in 2007 for $600,000, how much profit did you make?

A) Nil. B) About $200,000. C) $400,000. D) None of the above. The correct answer for most people would be D. If it was your only house, you would have needed to buy another house in 2007 to replace the one you sold. An equivalent replacement would cost $600,000. Add to that the costs of selling (say $20,000) and the costs of buying and moving (around $40,000), then you would have spent an extra $60,000 to be in the same position you were in 1995.

Many people think that they are better off when the price of their house goes up. They aren't. It is still the same asset. What does go up is their capacity to borrow.

One of the most outstanding achievements of the last Liberal/National government was to double household debt. The profit of Australia's major banks was closely aligned with this increase in debt.

It is a concern that the Prime Minister wants housing prices to continue to increase ("PM's wish for house prices to rise at odds with Treasury, RBA", June 2, p1). 

Keith Calvert, Chapman  

Foreign investment

Your columnist Michael West ("Affordable housing cure under nose", BusinessDay, June 1, p7) wrote that Chinese investors "are regularly paying cash for $1.5 million-plus homes in Sydney and Melbourne. Putting aside the "back money" issue, how is it that Chinese investors are able to do this, when the Australian government's foreign investment policy guidance, note 3, on residential real estate clearly and unambiguously states: "Non-resident foreign persons cannot buy established dwellings as investment properties or as homes"?

Is this policy simply being ignored and/or is it a case of the Foreign Investment Review Board not having enough teeth and/or resources to enforce this government policy? Are real estate agents aiding and abetting this apparent policy breach by Chinese investors?

Don Sephton, Greenway 

Why pick on Israelis?

Rex Williams (Letters, May 30) ostensibly welcomes efforts to stop dual-national Australians fighting overseas, but not because of the potential threat of radicals returning home and wreaking havoc. No, he appears more concerned with dual nationals who might have served in the Israeli Defence Forces. Sixty-four countries have universal conscription – including major Australian partners like Vietnam, Singapore and Thailand. But, apparently, it's only Israeli citizens who become terrorists if they meet their legal obligations to serve in their national forces.

I am unaware that the IDF conducts beheadings, crucifixions, rape, recruits children as fighters, willfully pillages ancient treasures, or has declared war against Australia.

Moreover, there is no record of our intelligence agencies expressing  concern about dual-national Australians returning from Israel with the intention of launching terror attacks. 

Alan Shroot,  Forrest  

Legal term explained

Gordon Fyfe  (Letters, May 30) expresses puzzlement over  the word "non-refoulement". Like Gordon, I, too, have a thick dictionary, which also makes no mention of this strange term.

But a few minutes on the internet reveals that it is a principle of international law, which forbids the return of victims of persecution to their persecutors. It is given effect in Article 33 of the 1951 Convention relating to the status of refugees, to which Australia appears to be a signatory, as it is to the 1967 United Nations Protocol, which further defined the obligations  accepted by the participating states.

In recent times, the Australian government has pursued litigation asserting its right to ignore those undertakings.

Leon Webcke, Gordon 

Attack on democracy

Can you imagine the Australian Electoral Commission calling a random 26 members of the major political parties and deregistering them if two said  they were no longer members? It would never happen. But that's exactly what happened to three small parties recently. Ross Fitzgerald's article "Weighing party support on a different scale" (Times2, June 1, p5)  supports what we 6000-plus members of the Australian Sex Party suspected:  it was a politically inspired hatchet job.

Regardless of who you support, confidence in the independence and professionalism of the commission is fundamental to trust in the electoral process and trust in our democracy. The common desire of the major parties to politicise our public institutions may be understandable, but the consequential chickens are coming home to roost in the continuing flight of voters to minor parties and independents.

Fred Pilcher, Kaleen

Our taxes squandered

The release of a big-spending budget by the ACT government might seem to have benefits to the whole community, but, on closer inspection, many of the items in it are of purely political value.

The light rail project is the perfect example. It would cost less in the short- to medium-term to put all those who are projected to use this system into taxis to commute and this is done solely to garner the support of the ACT Greens. 

The unfortunate thing about this budget is that those who can least afford to pay will be the ones who do, with ongoing rates increases, 9per cent this time and 20per cent vehicle registration cost increases over four years.

Those who work in the business centres will have to pay substantially higher parking fees, which will also continue until 10pm. Both of these represent disincentives to businesses.

If our politicians think  the public will not react to having to pay for the excesses of this government, then they must be off with the fairies. Bring on the next election.

Christopher Price,  Garran   

Andrew Barr can no longer complain about the cuts Abbott, Hockey, and Abetz have made to Canberrans and their livelihood.

In his budget, he's just done the same thing, just with a different set of knives. They must think we're all made of money?

J. Coleman, Chisholm 

When a collection of amateurs in "government" has as its priority an unquestionably unaffordable light rail project of little value to anyone but the contractors, the only recourse left is to charge everyone more for every single budget item, forever. That's management by crisis. That's the ACT. 

Rhys Stanley,  via Hall, NSW 

I watched the ABC doing post-budget interviews with Andrew Barr and Jeremy Hanson. The interview ranged from Mr Fluffy, health and education to trimming nature strips. Neither mentioned what they were doing or would do for Canberra's saddest problem, which is homelessness. There was a fleeting reference by both to the sale of over $300million of public housing.  Mr Barr announced that the money raised from sale of public housing would go towards light rail. At least this showed where his priorities lie. I, and doubtlessly many others, would be left with a strong inclination to vote informal at the next election.

Howard Carew, Isaacs  

Unfair to point finger

Very curious that vandalism unverified by police evidence for a second year in a row is immediately blamed on anti-cull activists by ACT officials, in this case Simon Corbell ("Horses distressed after vandals set them loose",   May 30, p8). A horse owner quoted in the article declined to join the minister in instant blame and accusation, based fairly on lack of any evidence. Perhaps one should ask who benefits from the vandalism? 

The ACT government gets a second year of distraction from the story of nightly kangaroo slaughter. The activists can reap nothing but bad press, and would have to be animal haters to subject horses to what was done at Rose Cottage horse paddocks.  

M. J. Taylor, Cook  

Slow to learn

I was at the Brumbies game on Friday night when,  with about four  minutes to go, Brumbies ahead and possession paramount, Nic White did  another one of his infamous box kicks that went out on the full. Luckily, from the resultant lineout, we got the ball back. 

About a minute later, White decided  again to kick away possession. A boy of  about 12 sitting near to me said  to his father:  "Why did he kick it, Dad?" There was silence. 

Work it out, Nic: your box kick sucks, and aimless punts can cost games. Do it against the Crusaders and they will punish us severely.

Dave Long, Chapman 

Tennis centre superb

As a former council member/director of Tennis ACT for more than 30 years but currently holding no office with that body, I cannot let  R.S.Gilbert's inference  (Letters, May 30)     that Tennis ACT has unjustly benefited from the waiver of lease variation charges for an ensuing "residential and/or commercial redevelopment" go unchallenged. 

The redevelopment has replaced run-down and out-of-date tennis and sporting facilities with modern state-of-the-art infrastructure that will last well into the 21st century.  

I am sure  Tennis ACT chief executive Ross Triffit would be more than happy to provide Mr Gilbert with a guided tour of the new complex and to arrange an application for his membership.

The waived fees to which Mr Gilbert refers relate mainly to the removal of the concessional status of the existing leases, which acted as an impediment to any redevelopment of the site as a modern tennis centre, and to some technical amendments to the leases in relation to lease conditions such as number of tennis courts permitted, gross floor areas of buildings and parking requirements. Without these changes, not even a toilet, let alone the much-needed indoor tennis centre, could have been constructed on the block containing the tennis courts.

 In addition, without the changes it would not have been possible to bring about the partnership between Tennis ACT, the ACT government, Tennis Australia and Next Generation Clubs, which has seen an investment of over $20million in a state-of-the-art complex, which is available to all residents of Canberra, as well as having the potential to attract international standard events to Canberra.  

John Heinemann, Spence 

Dismay at job losses

Many of my  friends and  I  are senior members of the Lakeside Leisure Centre and use these facilities regularly every week to exercise and swim. It has become quite a social club for us "oldies", so it was distressing to learn  that some 120 young casuals – lifeguards, office and aquatic instructors – were handed letters of termination last week ("More job losses as pools to cut staff", May 30, p1). 

Many of them have rental and lifestyle payments to make and Canberra is not an easy city for young people without means to survive. They are pleasant young men and woman who do an excellent job and deserve better than this.

We understand that renovations are necessary to the pool, but why preclude the only bidder for both the pool complexes at Civic and Tuggeranong from continuing to provide what is considered on the whole to be a well-run and maintained service.

Please, Shane Rattenbury, reconsider.

Norma Yates, Wanniassa

Study proves we all need to move more

Research conducted at Sydney University on the benefits of an active lifestyle ("Active kids reap health benefits in teenage years, new study shows", May 29, p3) lends further weight to the growing body of evidence on this topic. Exercise is good for you and the lack of exercise is bad for you.

The CEO of the Heart Foundation has already called for a national conversation on this topic, and more recently the Canberra Times reported on successful strategies employed at Campbell High School.

The challenge to be more active is something in which we can all play a part, just as surely as we will all pay the cost in the future. We need more teachers stepping up to model the behaviours  our children should adopt. We need more parents supporting the teachers by pushing their children outside and into physical activity, and we need more opportunities for people to be active in ways  they find enjoyable and convenient. Failure to act on this challenge will have consequences for our community that can be predicted from many years out. 

Fortunately, the strategies to address the challenge are low-tech, low-budget, easily scalable and extremely effective.

What is needed now is leadership to support our change agents and to encourage others to become involved in this long-overdue conversation.

Philip Winkworth, Campbell 

A dedicated Rotarian

Thanks for your photo of  Jack Olsson   ("WWII  veteran revisiting Borneo to pay last respects", May 29, p1). Apart from his  service in Borneo, Jack has been a distinguished Rotarian and a member of Canberra Rotary Club since 1956. In 1988, he led a group of Rotarians who re-established Rotary in Poland after Russia released its grip on eastern Europe.

He also helped establish my own Rotary Club of Canberra Burley Griffin 29 years ago.

Keith Gray, Weetangera 

To the point

CORBELL UNFAIR 

Simon Corbell's duties as ACT Attorney-General  include the administration of justice. Therefore, his thoughtless, irresponsible and spurious accusations directed towards animal activists ("Horses distressed after vandals set them loose",   May 30, p8) are a concern for all who accept the concept of justice as a foundation of society.

Chris Doyle, Gordon 

MISSING BILLIONS

With the power of the state being such as to apprehend people merely "thinking" of plots and collecting money for nefarious purposes, it strains credibility that laundered billions elude AUSTRAC, Reserve Bank exchange controls and AFP ("Affordable housing cure under nose", BusinessDay,  June 1, p7).  

Albert M. White, Queanbeyan, NSW 

PRESUMPTION WRONG

Some letters might be published to represent an opinion held in the community, but I sometimes wish the editor would add a footnote when a letter contains an incontrovertible error of fact.  Johann Sheller (Letters, May  2) presumes that clergy would be required to perform same-sex marriages or face prosecution. No proposed legislation includes that. 

Peter Campbell, Cook  

CHURCHES IN SUPPORT

It is disappointing The Canberra Times gives so much prominence to the predictable views of the Catholic Archbishop on social issues such as marriage equality. Other Christian churches interpret Jesus' message of love differently and support couples wanting to enter a committed relationship. The Quakers in Canberra held the first marriage of a same-sex couple as long ago as 2007.

Peter Williams, Campbell 

LET PARLIAMENT DECIDE

The Prime Minister is right. The marriage equality legislation should be owned by the whole Parliament. If he invites leaders of the other parties to join him in putting forward a suitable bill, I am sure Labor and the Greens will agree, and Parliament can give effect to the wishes of the electorate.

Ron Walker, Campbell 

NO LAW NEEDED

No, Greg Cornwell (Letters, June 1), euthanasia does not require legislation to be legal. In fact, nothing does, because all things are lawful which are not unlawful. All that is required for euthanasia to be legal is to repeal any legislation that makes it illegal. Thus, it would not be state-sanctioned killing, it would be state-sanctioned ambivalence. I would always caution against asking for legislation where none is required.

S. A. Simmons, Conder

Email: letters.editor@canberratimes.com.au. Send from the message field, not as an attached file. Fax: 6280 2282. Mail: Letters to the Editor, The Canberra Times, PO Box 7155, Canberra Mail Centre, ACT 2610.

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