Federal Politics


Actions, not the act, nurture the root of injustice

ACT prosecutor Shane Drumgold blamed the Human Rights Act in allowing the perpetrators of crime more rights than the victims (''Human right of hypocrisy'', January 9, p13).

However, he raised the point that judicial decisions are ''according to the values of the judicial officer, no doubt influenced by the quality and cost of the arguments presented before them''.

The manipulation of judicial officers on the basis of their personal values by lawyers who are in the know is the root of injustice, not the act which allows equal rights to all parties.

Drumgold said: ''It is difficult … to see what human rights legislation has done for the child cowering in [a] bedroom while his drunken father beats his mother again while on human rights-compliant bail for beating his mother last time.'' If the judge/magistrate turns a wife-basher loose to continue his reign of terror under the excuse of granting ''human rights-complaint bail'', then her or his interpretation of the law is at fault, not the legislation.

Unfortunately the legislation can't prevent misinterpretation corruption of the law by lawyers aiming to win at all costs and by magistrates who have their own personal agenda.

Caroline Ambrus, Calwell


Unfortunately, Shane Drumgold's article about the Human Rights Act contains some important errors.

First, the core of the act - the obligation to interpret laws where possible to be consistent with human rights - was neutered by the High Court in Momcilovic and by the ACT Court of Appeal in Fearnside. The result of those two cases is that the act now adds very little if anything to the task of interpreting local laws. And the act cannot be used to interpret the common law.

Second, in any event, the act cannot override clear laws to the contrary. It does not operate like the Bill of Rights in the United States. For example, it cannot override a statutory presumption against bail if that presumption is clearly expressed.

Third, he complains about a failure to balance competing rights. Yet section 28 does precisely that. It expressly allows for restrictions on an individual's rights that are justified in a free and democratic society.

This provision has been invoked a number of times by ACT courts - for example, to uphold the power of police officers to direct someone to leave an area where they are making a nuisance of themselves (even though the direction is inconsistent with the individual's right to freedom of movement).

Christopher Erskine, Red Hill

Ideology challenge

In response to the Institute of Public Affairs saying the ACT government ''imposes higher taxes on business than any other state or territory'', Treasurer Andrew Barr says this report stems from the institute's ''ideological commitment to cutting taxes and government services'' (''ACT's tax regime too harsh: IPA'', January 8, p5).

That's quite ironic, because one of the reasons (perhaps the main reason) why ACT taxes are higher than the states' is because of an ''ideological commitment'' the ACT government has (and the states do not) to the socialist theory that increases in land values should accrue to the government, not the home owners.

This is the basis for the lease variation charge, payable when land is to be used for medium- or high-density housing - a charge that has no equivalent in the states.

And it's particularly ironic because the government isn't even consistent in applying the theory; it doesn't take from land owners the inevitable increases in land value that occur for other reasons because it knows it wouldn't be in office for very long if it tried to.

R. S. Gilbert, Braddon

Ear plugs needed

I hadn't previously attended the Summernats but did this year. It is a show for young people and mostly for males.

It seemed to me that once you've seen one refurbished old Holden or Ford with a shiny silver engine sitting above the bonnet line, you've seen them all, but clearly many people love them.

I stood close to the track where cars parade and occasionally accelerate to spin the rear wheels and make a little smoke. This was foolish. When these cars accelerate the noise is like repetitive gunshots close to your ear.

This is noise of a volume and sharpness that I have never experienced in any other circumstance.

I think I lost some hearing capacity in the few seconds of exposure to it.

It would be quixotic, no doubt, to insist that these cars be silenced. The noise is part of the attraction, but surely something should be done.

Notices warning of hearing damage could be a start, and why not issue free or sell some sort of hearing protection?

The many young people attending over several days are the most at risk but probably don't think about it.

Peter Dawson, Hughes

Credibility hit for six

It's no surprise that Shane Warne considers his penalty for his Big Bash verbal and physical misdemeanours to be harsh (''Warne takes Bash ban on the chin'', January 8, p18).

Of greater concern is the attitude of Cricket Australia's James Sutherland who, while he ''does not condone'' the churlishness of Warne, Marlon Samuels and other players, sees that it ''inspires a greater rivalry'' and ''creates greater interest for the Big Bash League''.

Well, good on you, James. Greater rivalry between greedy, prima-donna cricketers with no allegiance to anyone but themselves and their wallets is just what the game needs. Greater interest?

I'm of the opinion that more people, certainly the families of young cricketers, will stay away from rather than be attracted to ''entertainments'' such as this.

Peter Crossing, Curtin

Murdoch off mark

Once again Rupert Murdoch demonstrates that you don't need to be intelligent to be rich (''Murdoch right on carbon and trees, were it that simple'', January 8, p2).

Tweeting about the partial and transient benefits of increased atmospheric carbon dioxide on plant growth, as if they were unknown and not dose-specific, is wonderfully foolish - about as useful as noting that, apparently, you experience a delicious feeling of warmth shortly before dying of hypothermia.

Perhaps he would also like to advise the poor to solve their winter heating problems by lying naked in the snow in order to benefit from this effect?

But he doubles down on dumbness by reminding people of Matt Ridley's risible December 18 op-ed from The Wall Street Journal.

This piece was so riddled with basic scientific and mathematical errors that it should embarrass a newspaper owner who had anything to do with it.

Among a host of absurdities, Ridley attempted to cite work by Dr Michael Schlesinger of the University of Illinois in support of his nonsense, but had misunderstood it so badly that Schlesinger himself noted, in a response to the Journal, that: ''In his article, Ridley is just plain wrong about future global warming.''

Of course, given that Murdoch's intent was to dog-whistle his fellow bigots rather than publish factual evidence or engage in rational discussion, the double dose of dumb will doubtless go undetected by its target audience.

Felix MacNeill, Dickson

Inapt sentencing

Whatever the eventual outcome of the accusations made against Peter Slipper, he doesn't deserve to be subjected to the sort of reporting in which possible penalties are canvassed even before the man has been formally charged (''Slipper 'faces jail' as dishonesty charges detailed'', January 9, p1).

While it is acceptable for details of the accusations made in court to be given publicity, inclusion of ''colour'', such as a description of a particular wine available at a winery allegedly visited by Slipper, adds nothing to the veracity of the reporting.

More concerning is the publication of opinions by some lawyers as to the possible penalty should the case proceed and Slipper be found guilty.

What game are these lawyers playing? By making such public comments surely they are disqualifying themselves from accepting a brief for the defence, or is that the intention?

E. L. Fisher, Kambah

A lease is not a right

R. S. Gilbert (Letters, January 4) correctly notes the argument that a concessional lease no longer needed for the original purpose should be handed back so that the community, not the club or church, should benefit from any redevelopment. He claims the argument is misplaced because a betterment charge has to be paid.

However, Gilbert fails to explain why the holder of the concessional lease should have the right, as against the rest of the community, to develop for a new commercial purpose a lease originally granted for a community purpose.

And does anyone really believe that the betterment charge would bring the same contribution to public revenue as an open public auction?

Ernst Willheim, Forrest

Paul's irony missed

I appreciated David Brooks giving us the exhortation to ''Mind your manners, it's only the rude that look foolish'' (January 7, p11).

He reminds us that the phrase ''to suffer fools gladly'' comes from the New Testament version of William Tyndale, who in II Corinthians 11:19 translated St Paul's mocking rebuke to the Corinthian Christians who were taken in by false apostles and teachers.

Tyndale gives us the words of Paul: ''For ye suffer fools gladly, because that ye yourselves are wise.''

This beautiful irony might be lost on 21st-century atheists who condemn Christian believers as gullible fools.

For such atheists God is, to quote Richard Dawkins, a kind of celestial tooth fairy. Some might reply with another phrase, first used by Roman orator Marcus Tullius Cicero, that they are their own worst enemy.

To which the response might be: ''Not while I am around, they're not!''

Robert Willson, Deakin

To the point


I could not disagree more with David Kurthi (Letters, January 8) on the issuing of parking tickets for cars parked illegally near Dickson Pool. For too long selfish or lazy Canberra motorists have parked illegally on nature strips without fear of a fine. The new minister, Shane Rattenbury, is to be congratulated for having his officials enforce the law to protect the nature strips. That law enjoys the support of an overwhelming majority of the ACT electorate.

Chris Smith, Kingston


David Pope's brilliant cartoon (January 9) compares the testosterone-fuelled Summernats burnouts with the tension between ecology and economics in the climate debate. A classical comparison is the Roman two-faced god Janus, who guarded the gate of heaven and could see in opposite directions and is associated with two-facedness and war.

Bryan Furnass, Hughes


John Passant (Letters, January 7) is absolutely right: what Australia needs is a revolutionary socialist government. Then we shall all be as prosperous, happy and free as the fortunate citizens of those Marxist regimes which have been such a shining light for mankind.

Dr Alan N. Cowan, Yarralumla


Gordon Fyfe has unwittingly hit the nail on the head regarding the Legislative Assembly, aka our town council (Letters, January 8). He wrote: ''I don't know of other councils that are responsible for such things as education, law and order and health.'' Nor do I, the Northern Territory excepted.

Gary J. Wilson, MacGregor


It's not often I am able to crow when playing dominoes, but recently when my five-year-old great-niece Amelie was visiting from Melbourne, I did win 20 per cent of the games we played. The humbling experience gave me comfort in the knowledge that Australia is destined for great achievements in the years to come.

John Sandilands, Garran


Isn't this the same Peter Slipper who was endorsed and elected eight times as a Coalition member, yet somehow Tony Abbott now claims he ''isn't a fit person to be a member or speaker''? Now, that's what I call rewriting history!

Graeme Rankin, Holder


As we approach the 10th anniversary of the 2003 bushfires, please, WIN and ABC, do not give us pictures of that ghastly day in your coverage. Some of us still get nightmares!

Scott Bennett, Kambah