Federal Politics


PM must act on ruling meetings constitute bullying

The decision of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal to declare that one-on-one meetings by a supervisor of an underperforming staff member constitute bullying is a disgraceful decision (''Public servant 'bullied' by her supervisor'', November 17, p1). What on earth could they have been thinking?

The implications of such a poorly considered decision are profound; and unless something is done to reverse the decision quickly, will have devastating effects on the capacity of good managers, such as the one in this case.

Apparently, AAT members Robin Creyke and Bernard Hughson have said that because other staff members were aware of these one-on-one meetings that the supervisor should have found another way to approach the underperformance issue. Unremarkably, these sages of the AAT don't say what that method would be. Presumably the only way that any meeting could not be known by other staff members would be for it to be clandestinely arranged outside the workplace and outside normal hours! And what about the implications for meetings which have nothing to do with performance!

It is extraordinary that at a time when the public service is shedding thousands of staff members that the AAT could proffer such rubbish. The management of underperforming staff is already a ridiculously cumbersome and process-heavy burden on the business of government. What needs to be criticised is not the valiant attempt by a supervisor to address underperformance but rather the larger failure of public service leadership to inculcate a culture which understands that performance management is part and parcel of what comes with the privilege of working in the public service. How ridiculous that other staff should regard performance management sessions as a matter of ''notoriety''.

The Prime Minister must intervene. Abolishing the AAT's role in such matters, or abolishing it altogether, might be the necessary signal the government needs to send to demonstrate it wants an effective and efficient public service, and not one that is a slothful burden on taxpayers.

Chris Williams, Griffith


Fuel price inertia

John Murray (Letters, November 17) drew attention to the difference in price between Sydney and Canberra and suggested the 24c a litre seemed excessive for fuel freight costs. Over the past 12 months, the price of fuel in Canberra has been set by Coles and Woolworths. With few, if any, private operators in Canberra, the two supermarket chains are the price setters for fuel and the price relates to the discount offerings at their respective outlets.

The higher the discount, the higher the base price of fuel. In this respect, they are cross-subsidising their other businesses, and the Canberra motorist is the one who suffers. I am surprised that with all the effort the ACT government has put into ensuring there is competition in supermarket pricing, the same effort has not been put into ensuring there is competition in the fuel market. Could it be there is a conflict of interest in this area, with both the tax and GST governments receive from the price of fuel?

Don McDonough, Florey

Australia complicit

How sad it is that Palestinians have to fire homemade rockets into Jerusalem to gain some attention from the United Nations and those countries who subscribe to Christian decency. There are not many such countries and sadly Australia is not one, either. Just listen to Ms Gillard and Mr Carr pushing Israel's barrow. Sixty-four years of occupation and still going. Starvation, ethnic cleansing, brutality, apartheid. Makes one proud to be Australian.

Rhys Stanley, via Hall, NSW

Study of little help

The study on wind farms reported on by George Papadopolous (Letters, November 16) is less helpful in assessing the claimed health problems associated with wind generation than he asserts.

According to online discussion by technically qualified researchers in the field, the study is of low scientific reliability because it involves a very small sample and control group, did not involve any actual measurement of the noise from the wind turbines in the areas surveyed and mistakes correlation for causation in the interpretation of the results.

Importantly the authors do not disclose pre-existing biases as anti-wind generation activists and the thanked reviewers do not declare conflicts of interests arising from being paid as anti-wind generation experts. Against this we need to take account of 17 major reviews worldwide of the peer-reviewed literature on wind energy, health and noise that have found no evidence of health impacts.

Doug Hynd, Stirling

Inner bigot

Ian Warden (''A need for the good book, but not the one you think'', Forum, November 17, p4), writes of his need to wrestle back control from his ''inner curmudgeon''. Perhaps he should be more concerned about the emergence of his ''inner bigot''? The self-styled nimble-minded Warden writes how uncomfortable he would be to find himself Irish in his origins or Roman Catholic in his faith, because ''that would say to me … I wasn't in search of what is true''. A curmudgeon might sometimes be humorous, bigotry never is. No journalist worthy of the name should ever stoop to it, not even in jest.

Paul McMahon, Isaacs

Housing fusion

Bernard Salt (''Call for housing of Anglo-Asian fusion'', November 16, p5) questioned the focus on building separate houses on separate blocks when ''couples and singles were the fastest-growing households in Canberra''. However, singles generally desire to find partners and then have families. This means houses on blocks of land, and room to play and move, allowing for an enjoyable lifestyle.

The growing numbers of Indian and Chinese residents is due to our high immigration rates, which will increase in the coming years. It's not a ''natural'' or grassroots phenomenon, but socially engineered by a political choice.

Salt said if he were a politician he would ''champion the cause of how Generation Y could access affordable housing''. The solution is a stable population, with existing houses for everyone.

Salt then had the audacity to say we should ''move towards more semi-detached and unit dwellings''! What can the next generation expect to live in? Shoe-boxes?

''Demographer'' Bernard Salt is a paid mouthpiece for the pro-growth lobby and, as such, his reports should not be taken any more seriously than any other group or individual with vested interests in high-density housing and business growth.

Vivienne Ortega, Heidelberg Heights, Vic

Viv's crowd source

In his new role as mentor to the Melbourne Stars in the Big Bash League, Sir Vivian Richards says he wants to ''keep things as simple as possible'' (Sir Viv returns to scene of glory, but in mentoring role only'', Sport liftout, November 17, pp2-3). That won't be easy. Alongside Sir Viv will be the head coach, the assistant coach (batting), the assistant coach (bowling), the assistant coach (fielding), the assistant coach (spin and strategy) and a sports psychologist. Oh, and we must not forget all the players, those in the team and the remaining members of the squad. Shane Warne's coach may come in handy in getting them all to the ground but things will be somewhat crowded in the dressing room.

Peter Crossing, Curtin

Pecking order

My congratulations to ''magpie whisperer'' Barrie Smillie on his success (Letters, November 13). Unfortunately, I have a different perspective of the little rotters. I used to jog for many years and, consequently, have spent a very big chunk of my life staring at a point on the pavement about two metres in front of my feet.

However, my downcast gaze and non-threatening posture did nothing whatever to prevent countless un-provoked attacks by the feathered, biffo-seeking missiles. In my experience, the only thing that reduces the chance of attack is to hold the gaze of the magpie. Of course, jogging backwards, on Canberra's deteriorating footpaths, while continuing to stare at the (beady) eyes of your wannabe attacker, presents its own safety risks.

Gordon Fyfe, Kambah

What we owe them

As a Pom who was born and lived much of my life in the UK, and who is now an Australian citizen, I feel I must reply to Robert Willson (Letters, November 3). I fail to see what relevance a 700-year-old battle might have on a 21st-century Scottish voter in any type of decision-making. Should it be relevant, there is no reason why there should not be referendums ''south of the border'' on any number of things.

To suggest that the republican movement is ''comatose'' because major changes to the constitution would be needed, is baffling. Surely if any faction, republican, monarchist or whatever, is feeling sleepy, it is because it knows it cannot get the numbers to succeed and it has very little to do with referendums or the constitution.

In UK elections, anyone can vote if he or she is British or is a citizen of a British Commonwealth country. In other words, if Robert Willson had been in the UK in 1975 at the right time, he could have voted in the UK referendum which took the UK into Europe with a majority of two to one.

No, the UK does not have a written constitution, it has Common Law instead. This allows much more flexibility in solving problems, which is probably why the UK has never had a written constitution. Much of the Australian constitution is founded on British Common Law, and we should, indeed, be grateful for it.

John Sidebotham, Berowra, NSW

We need an institution to educate us about our special fauna

Congratulations to The Canberra Times for publishing the edited extract of an article by Tim Flannery on the extinction of our unique wildlife (''New extinction wave in full swing'', Forum, November 17, p5). Tim showed that Australia is losing species at an alarming rate and clearly spelt out what needs to be done to protect our fauna for the future.

However, there was one important factor that he did not dwell on and that is the need to better educate all Australians on just how special our animals are. Australians know more about lions and moles from other countries than their marsupial counterparts. We need more people to really care about all our creatures, both great and small and not just cute furry ones.

Millions of years of isolation have made Australia's lands and wildlife different from other continents. Our natural history is unique but there is no national institution that tells this story of our past, our present environment and, most importantly, what we must learn for the future. Many other countries with less important natural history have institutions that focus solely on this topic. The need for such an institution is becoming even more critical given the threats to our environment due to climate change.

It is vital that we learn from the past to understand the present in order to ensure the future. Educating, researching and meeting these challenges would be the focus and purpose of the proposed institution.

Phil Creaser, McKellar

Climate change

Further to Judy Ryan's letter (November 19), I suggest that fervent climate change denial will not change whether or not planet Earth decides to raise sea levels and temperatures in response to humans' ever-increasing emissions of carbon dioxide. However, what could be said is that if it does happen, most of the deniers, who seem to be senior males (Ms Ryan excepted), are not likely to be around to experience the worst of it.

Ian Webster, Curtin

Heritage skin deep

It's no wonder that heritage protection has become a facade (''Heritage protection is just a facade'', November 17, p3) when architects and developers thumb their noses at the already clear mandatory (defined by Collins' dictionary as ''obligatory, compulsory'') requirements listed in already clear and long-standing heritage legislation for these defined areas of Canberra.

Couple this with a large department (Heritage) which continues to fail to enforce the requirements under Mr Corbell (who refuses to meet with concerned residents decrying the McMansions springing up throughout these suburbs), the concept of ''heritage protection'' is non-existent. The government, supported by the bureaucracy, continues to hide behind the facade of heritage while the buildings disappear on a daily basis. And once it's gone it's gone forever.

Andrew Gordon, Griffith


Come down off your high horse, David Stephens (Letters November 17), and put your politically correct pieties in your pocket. Don Aitken was merely stating the obvious in his ''alleged slur'' and should, say, a blond, blue-eyed individual have forebears who were victims of the Highland Clearances, one of whom married a full-blooded Aboriginal eight generations ago with successive generations only marrying into Scottish migrant clans, then it seems that by today's idiotic standards and sanctimonious luvvie logic, he can call himself a victim of discrimination against Aborigines - but not Scots - and claim whatever benefits may accrue. Still, the one ray of hope against this madness is that now even some people who are obviously of Aboriginal descent are starting to look sideways at some other claimants.

The fuzzy nebulosity of ''reconciliation'' and the moveable feast of the date on which it will be achieved will only be put to rest when someone, unknown but with some greater or lesser element of Aboriginal ancestry, suddenly gains worthy prominence without the accompanying media report feeling obliged to mention the fact in the currently patronising and insulting manner which has a flavour of ''Oh look, aren't they getting clever!''

Bill Deane, Chapman



If Israel is truly interested in peace, let it show that by withdrawing all its forces and citizens behind the borders given it upon its creation as a modern nation-state, not those it seeks to impose by force of arms. To do any less demonstrates that it is an expansionist power, as obsessed with the idea of lebensraum as Nazi Germany.

Paul McElligott, Aranda


After hearing or reading all that has been said about the AWU affair, the public is left with making one of two judgments: Ms Gillard is guilty of being young (35?) and naive; or Ms Gillard knowingly participated in establishing ''Australian Workers Union-Workplace Reform Association Inc'' for criminal purposes.

Ed Dobson, Hughes


I am not a Roman Catholic, but I see moves to oblige priests to pass information received under the confidentiality of confession on to the police as wrong-headed, even dangerous. The consequence will be that sinners will not confess transgressions which might land them in trouble with the police. Hence, the priest will know his parishioners less well and cannot guide them towards making amends and changing their ways.

Hans Kuhn, Campbell


I note that the two sports dream machines in the article ''Our dream machine runabouts'' (November 18, p5) are owned by people of Greek origin. I am pleased to see some Greeks are doing well, and are no doubt paying all their taxes.

C. Coulthard, Pyrmont, NSW


Perhaps we should forgive Carl Vine's outburst (Letters, November 16) over the reasonable comments of Jennifer Gall in her review of Musica Viva's concert regarding the inclusion of the work of Australian composers. He is MV programmer for the imminent Huntington Estate Music Festival, where some of the regular audience will, before and after and at interval at eight concerts in five days, persist in complaining about the inclusion of any living or recently dead Australian composers.

Sue Edmondson, Kambah


Thursday, November 15, at 08:09, BP service centre, 1175 Hume Hwy. 38.76 litres of 91 octane fuel, $51.52 at 132.9¢/litre inc GST.

Thursday, November 15, at 15:57, Caltex service Centre, Kambah. 36.60 litres of 91 octane fuel, $60.16 at 151.9¢/litre inc GST.

This fine newspaper rightly wouldn't allow me to use the adjectives I am tempted to apply.

Ian Warren, Kambah

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