Letters to the Editor

Relic still has power

David Smith (Letters, February18) says an Australian government would hardly be likely to use section 59 of the constitution to advise the Queen to disallow a law that that same government had advised the governor-general to assent to.

Maybe so. But s.59 is not confined to legislation of the same government.

In terms, it applies to the more recent legislation of a former government.

S.59 is not otiose; it is a colonial relic that still has potential today, enabling an incoming government to get rid of legislation of the former government without the need to obtain the Senate's concurrence.

And as regards Smith's misconception about the governor-general being our head of state, he might want to rethink his reliance on a 1907 High Court decision that actually had nothing to do with that issue

In the recent High Court decision upholding the legality of our offshore detention system, Justice Stephen Gageler made it clear the monarch is our head of state and the governor-general is the monarch's representative in the Commonwealth of Australia.


Frank Marris, Forrest

David Smith is right: section 59 is "indeed otiose". It should be deleted along with all the other expended and outmoded provisions of our constitution.

The provisions are as follows: sections 26, 41, 52(ii), 69, 84 to 87, 89, 93, 95 and 97; the second paragraphs of sections 83, 90 and 92; the introductory words of section 96; the expended words of sections 3, 15 and 66.

Their repeal would have no effect whatever on the operation of the constitution and would create a clearer, less confusing and more readable document.

Ken Maher, Ainslie

The debate over section 59 of the constitution is becoming overly protracted. David Smith does not provide an example of a legal ruling, but simply provides what would be today's practice. Has it ever been practised?

Perhaps we should ask why the section was placed in the constitution in the first place?

Was it to assure Australians that if their ultimate federal government were to persecute them, there would be an avenue of higher appeal, thereby enabling the selling of the proposed constitution? Who knows?

C. J. Johnston, Duffy

David Smith still doesn't get it. It may be convention for the monarch and the governor-general to act only on the advice of ministers. This works effectively under the unwritten British constitution, where such conventions have become binding by osmosis.

The written Australian constitution does not so bind the monarch (or, indeed, the governor-general in some cases) to act only with ministerial advice (and it nowhere binds the governor-general to act in accordance with that advice).

Thus, an activist future monarch and his representative at Yarralumla would be empowered to act unilaterally – legally, if unwisely.

Unwritten and informal convention cannot safely amend statute law.

It's hard to understand why monarchists defend the retention of this system when they also argue it is ineffective.

Mike Hutchinson, Reid

On their own head be it

There is a simple solution to the question of the compulsory wearing of bicycle helmets in the ACT ("'No cycle helmet' rules change may help improve road safety", February 16, p1).

We all need to make decisions in life and this also involves accepting the consequences of those decisions.

If, in the future, the wearing of helmets is to become the personal choice of the individual cyclist, then I suggest anyone hospitalised or seeking medical attention for head injuries occasioned by a cycling accident while not wearing a helmet should have no call on the public health system and instead be expected to cover all costs of treatment themselves.

J. Reksten, Hughes

Slowest project ever?

Has anyone in authority the slightest idea when the contractors will finish reconstructing the London Circuit-Constitution Avenue corner in the city?

As a regular bus user, I have spoken with many drivers who are bitterly frustrated and angry with the problems created by this long-drawn-out saga, which must be breaking records of some kind.

Perhaps there is someone taking unofficial bets that it will not be finished before 2021 or thereabouts.

T. W. Campbell, Belconnen

Conspiracy theories

OK, I give in. I see now that we should not believe anything that doctors from Argentina and Brazil say about the Zika scare being a diversion from government, the WHO and big pharma culpability in releasing the toxic agent pyriproxyfen into Brazil's water supply.

We should instead believe a Brazilian media release saying there is no scientific basis to their claims ("Conspiracy theories spread with Zika virus", February 17, p7).

Silly me to ever have thought that doctors working with the local communities would have any clue about what is really going on.

New York Times journalist Andrew Jacobs can surely be trusted completely when he says that these people spreading alternative theories to Zika as the cause are part of a "well-known coterie of critics of genetically modified crops and creatures".

Absolutely. How could there be any dangers in tampering with nature?

Only complete nutters could think that, right?

Chris Williams, Griffith


Manuka won't be an international stadium

One regards with scorn the Greater Western Sydney Giants consortium's proposal to upgrade Manuka "sports stadium to an international-standard facility" ("$800m plan to revamp Manuka", February 17, p1).

The Sydney Olympic Stadium was built to hold 110,000 spectators. Subsequent modifications limit its capacity to 83,500. It was the largest Olympic stadium ever built, although the MCG held over 120,000 before its redesign.

Even with proposed modifications, Manuka won't hold 15,000. It can never reach international standard.

The GWS announcement is gross hyperbole. It doesn't even merit Auntie's description as a "slick promotion".

Gary J. Wilson, Macgregor

When I read of the proposal to redevelop Manuka Oval, it looked good at first glance. But when I read of only 450 parking spaces, I was horrified. As if parking is not already a problem with a ground capacity of about 9000, an expansion to 20,000 should include parking for at least 5000 vehicles on game days.

A world-class sporting facility for AFL and cricket is much needed in Canberra. Why can't it be built in Symonston to the south-east of the Hindmarsh Drive-Monaro Highway intersection? There is plenty of room to build the stadium, as well as the new rugby/soccer stadium (instead of building one in Civic), along with adequate parking and other facilities.

Wal Pywell, Wanniassa

The Manuka redevelopment proposal, like other projects, seems to justify itself mainly on the number of jobs it will "create" – in this case, 2000.

But why are bald job numbers seen to be an acceptable key criterion when they are seldom quantified?

For example, how many will be taken by Canberrans already in work and how many will genuinely be "new jobs"; if some are real new jobs, how many will be FIFOs?

And what will happen when the construction is finished (do we keep designing new "vibrant" developments, just for the sake of "creating" jobs)?

Other questions, although I don't expect answers, are: how much profit do the developers and builders expect to gain? And, how much of this profit will stay in Canberra?

Shouldn't we also ask more basic questions, such as what are the real benefits to Canberra of such seemingly endless development projects?

What evidence is there that we are a better and more distinctive capital with them?

Before the "anti-progress" accusations come pouring in, let me say I am not against developments, I only seek to be convinced that they are genuinely in our best community interests. I'm still waiting.

Eric Hunter, Cook

The revamp of Manuka will not only destroy the village atmosphere of Manuka, but also its village neighbour, Kingston.

Enough is enough: Manuka Oval was never meant to be an MCG.

Dave White, Deakin


Numbers suggest light rail will increase congestion, not end it

It's difficult to fathom the implication by Infrastructure Australia's director of policy and research, Adrian Dwyer, that "the need to improve public transport capacity on the northern corridor and to avoid costly congestion delays" was the reason to include the Canberra's light-rail project on its priority list ("Light rail goes on infrastructure priority list", February 17, p1).

Kent Fitch (Letters, February 4) pointed out that, during peak hour, ACTION buses from Gungahlin have "capacity for 2130 passengers, of whom 1360 can be seated", while the proposed light rail will have capacity for "2070 passengers and just 660 seated".

Moreover, Capital Metro says in its environmental impact statement that tram priority signal delays ("Traffic lights plan will give tram priority" February 16, p1) will result in extra delays to general traffic.

So the whole expensive exercise will increase congestion, yield a doubtful one-minute-faster tram journey than the current ACTION red-rapid service, and possibly result in fewer public transport users.

To quote my favourite TV detective, "someone has been telling porkies" to Infrastructure Australia.

A. Smith, Farrer

Patrick O'Hara's suggestion that hysteria is being hurled at the tram proposal (Letters, February 16) is curious, as is his question as to the motivation of those opposed to it.

The reasons have been stated time and again, but there is no anti-Labor bias, as he suggests.

Yes, the proposal is likely to result in the defection of a considerable number of long-time Labor supporters to the Liberals at the next election, but that is a different issue.

It is something I and others will do with regret. On this occasion, the Liberals are the better choice.

Labor has let us down.

Stan Marks, Hawker

Based on Ron Crichton's description of trolley buses (Letters, February 18), it would seem a good idea to try them.

Evelyn Bean, Ainslie

Respect seniors

C'mon, Andrew Barr, show some respect for ACT pensioners and seniors ("Barr flags cuts to concessions", February 16, p1)!

Many of us were born here before the population reached 35,000. We grew up, worked, built houses, raised children and contributed our income to the growth, prosperity and economy and, dare I say, "vibrancy" (a hip word these days) of the emerging city over seven decades.

Hands off concessions – we deserve a few privileges. It will be your turn one day!

Rebecca Lamb, Wanniassa

Shades of green

It's a shame Angela Murray (Letters, February 18) received such an apparently flippant response at the ACT Greens stall, and I do wonder where a Canberra resident would get their news from, if not The Canberra Times (like it or loathe it).

Like any political party, there is room for diversity of opinion within the Greens.

Though a nearby member of the NSW Greens rather than the ACT group, I certainly think the ACT government's plan for a light-rail route between Civic and Gungahlin is a missed opportunity to install a genuinely useful loop between the airport, parliamentary zone and Civic. There's a reason why many cities' light-rail routes involve airports.

There are also many Greens who object to the cruel and unnecessary annual kangaroo cull.

It's hard to find a party to vote for whose policies you agree entirely with, and I wish Murray well in finding one.

Peter Marshall, Captains Flat, NSW

Angela Murray may consider it reasonable to base her voting behaviour on her interpretation of a relatively throwaway line about personal preferences for news media – in a contemporary media environment rich with choices – from a party volunteer at a booth at a festival.

I've always preferred to award my vote based on policies and candidates.

Felix MacNeill, Dickson

I'd like to add my experience with the Greens to Angela Murray's. I found myself queuing behind a group of ACT Greens in Civic a few months ago.

When I mentioned my opposition to the tram, a staffer or volunteer told me not to worry about it, as it was a trivial issue.

Felicity Chivas, Scullin

Scrap league tables

Year after year, we have seen NAPLAN results published for no good reason.

I urge The Canberra Times to show some leadership and refrain from engaging in this gratuitous parading of student testing results as if it were a marketing exercise targeting parents on where to get the best education for their children. Nothing could be more inaccurate or more unhelpful.

Education is not a commodity to be bought and sold in the marketplace. It is a human right and it occurs in a social context.

What we need to focus on as a society is not a judgment of performance but rather an investment in our kids' future.

The jury has long been in with the verdict on that score.

It is clear we need the federal government to commit to the full Gonski needs-based funding formula.

This, rather than laying blame falsely and mischievously at the wrong doors, will actually deliver an equitable education future for all children and young people.

Jacqui Agius, Red Hill

I believe it is now the correct moment for The Canberra Times to abandon its practice of publishing NAPLAN results in the form of league tables.

The children of Canberra deserve better than to have the educational journey they are upon reduced to nothing more than a churlish exercise more akin to studying sporting results than a meaningful analysis of Canberra schools.

This annual shaming of schools and, by proxy, their communities who have least economic advantage serves as a painful pillory, a public reminder of the very disadvantage to which they have little ability to address.

End this divisive practice and let us celebrate the achievements of Canberra's children in unity, rather than use NAPLAN results as an elitist tool to attack the poor.

A.C.T.Jennings, Watson




User-paid roads could be introduced if cars had devices that recorded where and when they travelled. Drivers would be given a choice of whether to pay registration fees or road-use fees. The choice protects users who must travel long distances, while rewarding low-use drivers.

David Clark, Scullin


Scott Morrison told us nothing during his press club speech ("Morrison warns there'll be no 'fistful of dollars' to be spent before election", February 18, p5). Yet voters will still be awestruck by Malcolm Turnbull and his smile. What a sad and delusional country we have become.

Robyn Lewis, Raglan, NSW


Malcolm Turnbull: no Seinfeld, but still a show about nothing.

Annie Lang, Kambah


It's amazing asylum seekers at sea could be assessed within 24 hours as to their refugee status and then returned to places like Sri Lanka, while it has taken over five months to settle 26 desperate Syrian refugees from an "emergency" intake of 12,000 ("ACT waits ... and waits for refugees", February 19, p6). We need to improve the timeliness of our screening to offer some small relief in this crisis. Less cherry-picking and more action.

Annette Gilmour, Melba


There are 267 refugees facing deportation to Nauru and, consequently, permanent misery. The Prime Minister has not ruled out resettling those refugees in New Zealand, who offered to take them. Let's hope he shows compassion and accepts this offer.

Christopher Budd, Belconnen


On the battle lines of class warfare, or is that class welfare, Peter Martin fails to explain what upper, middle and working class mean in 21st-century, egalitarian, everyone-have-a-fair-go Australia ("Wealthy believe they are battlers", February 15, p3). We can't leave the past behind, can we?

Andrew Leask, Belconnen


Someone in Victoria has actually snaffled state and Commonwealth money to build a walkway for cricket fans and tourists around the top of the MCG. This is supposed to be a rival to the Story Bridge climb in Brisbane. And the Harbour Bridge climb in Sydney, too, of course. Proof positive yet again that cricket is boring and there is just nothing to do in Melbourne.

G.T.W.Agnew, Coopers Plains, Qld

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