Federal Politics


Centenary an opportunity to rewrite the constitution

Congratulations on the theme of your editorial (''Party, but look to the next 100 years'', January 1, p12), but why not expand it to national level to promote a review of our British model, poorly-planned, dysfunctional, undemocratic 1901 Australian constitution, which two High Court judges described in 2009 as based on ''a limited franchise'' (French) and ''given grudging acceptance in the absence of any preferred model'' (Mason).

With a hung federal parliament, a politically disengaged electorate, a plethora of bodies already promoting change, and a sympathetic, well-staffed press in Canberra to educate us politically, we are probably in the best situation since federation to initiate such a review, which would require bi- or tri-partisan support to authorise, pursue (it would take some years) and fund it.

But this time, unlike the 1890s process, a review body independent of political parties and protected from lobby groups must be democratically appointed or elected to consider all aspects of our constitutional needs, and to fully consult the Australian people before bringing forward a third millennium model.

If initiated successfully, what a gift it would be from oft-criticised Canberra to Australia during this, our centenary year.

Geoff Armstrong, Monash

There is something sad and disturbing about the current celebration of our city's centenary. We have been asked recently what we like about Canberra. Residents of Sydney or Melbourne are not asked what they like about their city, yet Canberrans seem to have to justify their city. This implies we have an inferiority complex or, if we don't, that we should.


Over recent years, we have been subjected to continual inferences that Canberra is lacking in comparison to other cities, that it needs to grow up. Canberra was envisaged as a well-planned city that would avoid many of the less desirable characteristics of existing cities. Now we are being told that these characteristics are what makes a city desirable and vibrant. A blatant example of this is the claim that on-street parking is safer than off-street parking because the congestion and sharing with pedestrians encourages drivers to slow down. Funny, that. It was precisely past experience of the hazards of on-street parking that led to the creation of off-street car parks. Is black really white? Are we being conditioned to accept a decline in our city's attractiveness - to want it, even?

Robyn Coghlan, Hawker

Stars and gripes

It's ironic that John Mason (Letters, January 2) can profess a nostalgic longing for the America of his youth, with all its warts, a land of shared values and unity where people pledged allegiance to ''the nation'', even as he celebrates the demise of that nation with a glee that can only be described as pure, diabolical schadenfreude.

What happened to the America of Mason's youth? That mythical Happy Days America probably existed for a brief time, after World War II and before the US government embarked on a series of foreign wars, culminating in the ultimate war without end, the War on Terror. Strangely enough, however, that time of shared values and unity was before the birth of the Civil Rights Movement, and before President Johnson's Great Society programs had taken effect.

It was a time when Americans relied on themselves and their communities, instead of counting on the government to take care of them; and, perhaps most importantly, it was a time when America was still a ''melting pot'' where it was OK to say ''merry Christmas'', before it became a multicultural ''fruit salad'' of ''happy holidays''.

So the real irony is not that Mason feels such malevolent joy at the passing of something great, which he claims to once have had some fondness for, and which was a product of the good intentions of individual Americans, but that he looks to our government - a government at war with itself and with the people it is supposed to represent to build a cohesive, caring society.

D. Zivkovic, Aranda

Budget busters

The challenge by Adam Bandt to Jenny Macklin to live with him for a week on $35 per day (''Try living on $35 a day, Macklin is challenged'', January 3, p2) is far too simplistic. The pair should try first to find rental accommodation and then settle in for a month to provide a fair and honest trial. There is little doubt one can probably feed oneself satisfactorily on $35 per day but then add in rent, gas, electricity, kids' schooling, bus fares, car expenses, etc, and one begins to realise just how idiotic Ms Macklin's statement is and why Mr Bandt's challenge is not worth a candle.

N. Bailey, Nicholls

I remember that Michael Hodgman, as minister for the Capital Territory (1980-1983), made the same mistake as Jenny Macklin by stating that he could live on the dole. He was taken to a local Canberra supermarket accompanied by a consumer advocate and attempted to buy a weeks's worth of groceries with just the dole money. He failed miserably and had to replace a lot of his purchases to stay within his budget.

Nothing really changes, does it?

Ron Stewart, Rivett

The heat is on

Thank you, Ben Elliston, (Letters, January 1) for your brilliant analogy. It will enlighten some readers who have not yet engaged with the climate change issue. However, the analogy breaks down in the seriousness of failure. The financier who fails can declare bankruptcy and, nowadays, start afresh. If we fail to respond adequately to climate change and the problem escalates (positive feedbacks) beyond our ability to influence the outcome, we and our descendants risk the equivalent of life sentences in a Dickensian debtors prison. That's why it's vital to reduce greenhouse gas emissions much more quickly than we are yet contemplating. We already know how to do this.

But instead, state and federal governments are moving strongly in the opposite direction. Yielding to short-term and misguided commercial interests, they are supporting a huge expansion in coalmining and coal seam gas extraction.

David Teather, Reid

Serious situation

So John Moulis (Letters, January 2) would have us believe that climate change is a dead issue that doesn't affect our standard of living, claiming that the rest of the world has ''moved on''.

While News Limited has continued its extraordinary campaign of climate denial (search online for ''10 dumbest things Fox said about climate change in 2012'' or ''The Australian's war on science''), and Alan Jones has been forced to take a fact-checking course after making a string of blatantly untrue claims on climate, the reality has become more and more clear and urgent.

Eighty per cent of Americans polled in December believe climate change will be a serious problem for the US unless action is taken. The science itself, on the basic questions of whether warming is happening and whether it is mainly caused by human activity, is now incontrovertible: there are mountains of evidence in support and literally zero credible lines of evidence against.

The recent Climate Vulnerability Monitor report, commissioned by 20 governments, found that climate change is already contributing to the deaths of nearly 400,000 people a year and costing the world more than $1.2 trillion, wiping 1.6 per cent annually from global GDP.

And this is just a very early stage of the impacts - things are projected to get much, much worse in the coming decades unless we stop fiddling around the edges and start taking this thing seriously.

Matt Andrews, Aranda

One man's opinion

It's typical of some conservative commentators to confuse their own opinions with those of the general public. John Moulis (Letters, January 2) says that the PM has alienated ''every mainstream male'' and that the ''rest of the country'' has moved on from climate change. I would urge him to avoid these grand and self-important claims of omniscience, since they are at great risk of refutation by actual evidence. Even The Australian has given extensive coverage to climate change issues. Moulis says he is having a chuckle, but his use of the word ''drivel'' is unfunny, unpersuasive and mean-spirited at the start of a new year.

David Roth, Kambah

Small is beautiful

The pages of The Canberra Times have recently expressed a flurry of interest in the issues surrounding the continuing growth of Canberra. Shortly before he retired as chief minister, I asked Jon Stanhope, on ABC Radio's Chief Minister's Talkback to identify any ways in which Canberra would become a better place to live as a result of getting bigger. His response was a classic example of how a politician ducks an unwanted question. He gave a great burst on what a wonderful place Canberra was, how much he loved living here, and how much better it was than the small country town in which he grew up. But he did not offer the slightest hint of a suggestion about how Canberra might get better as a result of getting bigger. The conclusion is obvious: it won't!

Roger Quarterman, Campbell

All revved up

After enjoying the bush over Christmas and New Year, it was rewarding to have the Summernats waking up our capital, enlivening staid Watson with their exuberance. Our enlightened administration permitted resurrection of the City Cruise, with constraints. Enjoyment among the throng on the centre of Northbourne Avenue showed appreciation of our privilege in welcoming the dedicated superskill on view. Sadness at their restraint - no wet T-shirts, loud exhausts, the odd burnout, but well done, we'll come and enjoy. Fun in privileged Watson. Thanks, Summernats, we love you.

Jack Palmer, Watson

To the point


I had a dream the other night that Campbell Newman had set up in Canberra. And then I saw what was being done to Manuka Oval and I thought, bloody hell, perhaps it wasn't a dream after all!

Geoff Pryor, Narrabundah


I don't know how John Moulis defines a ''mainstream male'' (Letters, January 2) but most males that I talk to think that Julia Gillard is doing a remarkable job under difficult circumstances. The alternative, a government led by Tony Abbott, would be most undesirable.

David Hobson, Spence


Could someone please explain whether the group choosing to enjoy Lake Burley Griffin using a motor boat powered by an outboard motor and pictured in the article ''In the swim: Burley Griffin ready to make a splash'' (December 28, p3) required a special permit to use such a craft? Or have the Water Police taken action against these offenders?

David Kyburz, Kambah


Brian Smith (Letters, January 3) believes you can practise Christianity without religion. This begs the question what constitutes ''practising Christianity''? Here's the rub, if Smith's opinions on Christ's divinity and his message differ from all existing religions then we potentially have a new tax-free entity - the Smithians.

Peter Robinson, Ainslie


I could not agree more with Caroline Salisbury (Letters, January 2). The Raiders have let the Braddon Club run down so they have the excuse to redevelop the site for residential spaces at great profit. Hand the lease back if you do not want to use it as intended.

Geoffrey Davidson, Braddon