Letters to the Editor

Size should not matter in question of ACT democracy

Regarding ''Assembly to get 25 members in 2016'' (The Canberra Times, August 6, page 1) and ''Assembly expansion to cost taxpayers'' (August 7, page 1), the argument that a bigger population justifies a bigger Assembly is quite fallacious and insulting to the electors' intelligence.

There might be a requirement for more nurses if the hospitals have to cater for a bigger population but Assembly members initiate and amend legislation which has absolutely nothing to do with population size.

''Ministers'' whose portfolios include, for example, police or property development have a bevy of public servants to deal with increased workloads due to greater population. Ministers' tasks and responsibilities remain exactly the same if they practise good management.

The real issue is that existing MLAs have a personal vested interest in making the Assembly bigger. They are also looking after their mates in their parties.

In my various submissions I stated that the decision on the size of the Assembly ought to be put to a referendum particularly as we, the taxpayers, will so dearly pay for it. But MLAs have now denied our right to choose by voting for their own benefit. It is perhaps that they fear, like the self-government vote, the electors will vote ''no'' (or even ''yes'' for reduced size) and the politicians do not want to risk that.

They are treating us with contempt implying that we cannot be trusted to make the ''right'' decision.


Simon Fisk, Kaleen

George Tafe (CT Letters, August 6) is, I believe, the latest of your correspondents to equate the ACT government with a town council. This is nothing short of preposterous.

How many town councils do you see with state government responsibilities like education and health?

The ACT government also has numerous social responsibilities which municipal councils do not touch. To envisage the workload on ACT ministers and shadow ministers one has only to look at the multiple portfolios assigned to them, some of which are broad brush.

Trevor Marks, Holt

Metadata mistake

The big mistake people make in trying to find simple explanations for complex issues is to use bad analogies. This is true of politicians and, to a lesser extent, journalists.

The current debate about metadata retention is a perfect example. The government, through the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General, has tried to explain metadata retention.

Their first mistake is to use electronic mail as a paradigm for the internet, and then to use telephone and postal services and analogies for electronic mail. All good, so far.

However, the internet is very much more than electronic mail. In particular, the world wide web is a much more widely used, and useful internet application, than electronic mail. Indeed, this is the reason metadata retention is (wrongly) seen as important in defending against international terrorism and crime.

A much better analogy for the web might be a library. Let's say a library similar to the Attorney-General's. Now let's assume that the AG is suspected of having an interest in poodles. If there were a book about poodles in the AG's library, then that might strengthen any suspicion, whether or not the AG had read the book. Proving that the AG had indeed read the book could be damning.

So, what is most important here - knowing that the AG has a library, knowing that there is a book about poodles in this library, knowing what this book says about poodles, or knowing if and when this book was borrowed from the library, by whom, and what pages were read - that is, the so-called metadata?

In this analogy it's the metadata which is most damning of the AG, not the content. It's the same for the internet.

Rob Ewin, Campbell

Met a data recently?

Rod Matthews, Fairfield, Victoria

Service irrelevant

Gavin O'Brien (CT Letters, August 7) is typical of so many now who feel it necessary to preface a comment by adding he is a returned serviceman and had an uncle killed in World War I. Why is such detail relevant to the merit of an opinion?

Michael Piggott, Cook

Light rail tax due

The ACT government has committed to progress the light rail program with a commercial equity partner or partners. This should involve the commercial participants paying their share of market value of land used and its rates and taxes.

How much would this cost initially and annually? If Thoroughbred Park was sold for urban or commercial development the public would expect consolidated revenue to receive at least market value and equivalent annual rates and taxes charged elsewhere in Canberra.

Does the government intend to negate those charges and subsidise its partners for capital and operating costs not covered by revenue?

Ed Dobson, Hughes

No magic pudding

In responding to my letter of August 6 about the poor state of public infrastructure in Kambah, Kevin Cox (CT Letters, August 7) opines that there is a magic pudding that will allow us to complete the whole portfolio of pressing projects around the city.

I wish. His magic pudding is crowd-funding. It sounds more like pie in the sky to me.

Ed Highley, Kambah

Give rugby a try

The Raiders coach, players and management have rightly received criticism for the difficulties the club is going through.

What has surprised me is the lack of criticism targeted at Andrew Barr as Treasurer and Sports Minister. He has often stated and demonstrated his love for AFL and his increasing dislike for rugby league since the Super League war.

This has driven him to fund AFL and the Greater Western Sydney team with $23 million of Canberra taxpayers' money for just four games a year. This is more than the Raiders and Brumbies get and they play and represent the Canberra region all season.

The continual poaching of Raiders players by other clubs using third-party money has made the Raiders struggle and made Canberra look like a terrible place to live.

Surely Mr Barr's $23 million could have been better spent on the teams that really represent Canberra and to make the ACT look like a great place to ply your trade.

Brendan Halloran, Kambah

Child rights first

Article seven of the 1996 UN Convention on the Rights of a Child states that a child has a right to know its own name, own nationality and own family. Childless couples do not have a right to own a child because they want one. A child is not a commodity.

Philippa Boldiston, Kensington, Perth

Spare us, ALP

The CPSU speculation about a reduction in public service superannuation contribution rates seemed little over the top (''Move to abolish PS super guarantee'', CT, August 8).

For those old enough to remember, the PSS involved a reduction in generosity over the old CSS and all the states have cut down their schemes, including the ACT.

The PSS and ACT changes (and many of the others in the states) were inspired by the ALP, in large part to meet budget realities.

The local ALP representatives can spare us their sermons, if they feel the need to comment at all.

Martin Gordon, Flynn

Inherent racism

A bus full of Jewish students is attacked by drunken louts. Outrageous but obviously worthy of prime-time news coverage.

What if the bus had been full of indigenous students? The louts would have probably been arrested by local police and no media coverage involved. That is Australia today.

Mike Phoenix, Greenway

Marijuana dangers

Dr Alex Wodak states there is no good evidence that medical cannabis increases the use of recreational cannabis (The Canberra Times, August 5).

In the US those states that have introduced medical marijuana have double the cannabis use of states which have not.

It is not yet established whether medical use of smoked marijuana has been a cause or, alternatively, whether states with greater cannabis use have legalised it.

However, in Colorado, 48.8 per cent of adolescents admitted to substance abuse treatment obtained their marijuana from someone registered to use medically.

This finding by professionals demonstrates the potential proportion of leakage of the drug if given approval and that control of this dangerous substance becomes extremely difficult where medical use of non-pharmaceutical cannabis has been legalised.

This strongly reinforces the conclusion by Dr Nora Volkow, one of the world's top addiction experts, that ''as policy shifts towards legalisation of marijuana, it is reasonable and probably prudent to hypothesise that its use will increase and that, by extension, so will the number of persons for whom there will be negative health consequences''.

Colliss Parrett, Barton

Windy cabinet

Barrie Smillie and Douglas Mackenzie (CT Letters, August 7 and 8) laud a couple of celebrated flatulists in performing all sorts of skills.

But I put it to you that these performers can't hold a candle to our own country's cabinet of ministers who, with the same technique, are attempting to run a government.

Brian Smith, Conder

To the point


Is it too much to hope that the United Nations will organise funds to repair the damage to Israel and Gaza caused by the recent war and send the bill to the manufacturers of the weapons that were used?

Adrian Gibbs, Yarralumla


Christopher Pyne's comments on the vexed issue of the Gaza conflict were unacceptable, and he most definitely does not speak for me. The minister would do well to read Peter George's article, ''Leader's vision tarnishes Israel'' (The Canberra Times, August 6).

Keith Powell, Weston


I still remember Jim Hacker as minister for administrative affairs trying to come to grips with metadioxin. I thought Yes Minister episodes were required viewing for all ministers. It seems one of them at least missed the session.

Fredrik Limacher, Kambah


I love Senator Brandis. If I lived in his electorate, I would vote for him. His Sky News interview indicates I'm not the only old codger who is computer illiterate. However his willingness to approve laws he appears not to understand is a bit of a worry.

C.J. Johnston, Duffy


The ''adults'' may be in charge but they're having trouble explaining internet and phone house rules to their tech-savvy underlings.

Ross Pulbrook, Wyong, NSW


Are George Brandis' numerous goofs, taxpayer-funded bookcase purchases and his claim that ''people do have a right to be bigots'' examples of metadata? I suspect the ALP will be storing these for more than two years.

Thos Puckett, Ashgrove, Queensland

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