Federal Politics


Timing of challenge source of anger among ACT Libs

Many Canberra Liberal members will unfortunately be denied a vote at this weekend's Senate preselection meeting. There was no indication to members that Senator Gary Humphries would be challenged and so his supporters were lulled into a false sense of complacency. These members did not feel there was a need to attend a branch meeting to qualify to vote for the preselection. Others may have been informed in confidence of planning for a challenge, however, and so ensured their attendance at qualifying meetings.

Zed Seselja announced his candidature after all the qualifying meetings had been held, so that the voters' roll applicable to the preselection had closed. The effect of this timing has ensured many of Senator Humphries' supporters were not qualified to vote in the preselection process. Had Mr Seselja announced his candidacy earlier, there would have been no allegation of ''unfair play and dirty tricks''. It is also highly likely this would result in a more widely attended and presumably more representative preselection.

While the preselection may conform with the relevant constitutional provisions, it is seen by many members as not being in accord with the ethical precepts and ideals of the party.

This is the predominant reason for the recent outrage among members of the party over the preselection process.

Dianne Anderson, member, Canberra Liberals, Red Hill

I suggest the ACT Liberals put both Gary and Zed on the Senate ticket, register a 50-50 split above-the-line ticket and let the ACT electorate decide who will represent us in the Senate.


Martin Kenseley, Rivett

As a long-time Liberal voter I am more than a little concerned by the behaviour of some members of the ACT Liberals. It is the sort of conduct one might expect of their political opponents. ACT Liberal senator Gary Humphries will most likely be the only representative the ACT will have in an Abbott Liberal government if the current opinion polls are any indication. Why then would the Liberal Party preselect a new Senate candidate in these circumstances?

It seems the ACT would be much better served by incumbent Senator Humphries who has the experience of government at ACT and federal level rather than Zed Seselja who has not even had government experience at our Legislative Assembly level. We do not need someone who is learning the ropes at this particular time when the ACT may need a strong advocate acting on his own. Zed should back off until he gains more experience as that is what we need in our ACT Liberal senator. Politicians and political parties should realise they are only relevant when they have voter support.

Robert Ridgway, Evatt

Deal or no deal

With reference to the Gillard government's deal with the Greens, which has now come unstuck, Tony Abbott was quoted as saying ''I don't do those kind of deals!''

We have Tony Windsor's statement to the contrary. Abbott reportedly said, ''I'd sell anything but my arse to form government'' when he was wooing the vital crossbench support he needed. This support went to Gillard because she commanded greater respect for her plans for our country.

Tony Abbott would do a deal in a second if he thought it would make him Prime Minister.

K. L. Calvert, Chifley

No commonsense

The ink had not even dried on my letter concerning our over-regulated, over-governed nanny state (Letters, February 18) when the article ''Scorekeepers quit after safety laws call time on tradition'' appeared on the same day (February 18, p5). It is time that commonsense was declared a value to be placed on the ''endangered'' list before it is regulated out of existence.

Ric Hingee, Duffy

Methane solution

All coal seams contain methane. An open-cut mine releases vast quantities of methane into the atmosphere because there is no method of collecting it as the coal is dug out (''Go-ahead for Maules Creek coal'', February 12, p11).

Why can't coal deposits marked down for open-cut treatment have the methane drained before the overburden is removed, using standard ''fracking'' procedures currently in use for coal seam gas extraction? It would increase the value and gross return and avoid the wasteful discharge of a greenhouse gas.

To my mind, unschooled in mining technology, it seems like a no-brainer!

Colin P. Glover, Canberra City

Stone neglected

For a city about to celebrate its centenary, Canberra's s foundation stone out the front of Parliament House is looking pretty neglected. The grouting is falling out from its six segments and there are old bird droppings baked on the marble surface.

There are at present lots of photos around showing the foundation stone, including the very informative exhibition on the first floor of Parliament House, but it seems the poor old foundation stone itself has been forgotten in all this hoo-ha.

Why not place some sort of recognition in front of the stone so tourists can see its significance because everyone I saw yesterday approaching the area didn't give the monument a second glance.

Glenda James, Narrabundah

ADF ship myths

Renewed ''debate'' about the Australian Defence Force's new amphibious ships reinforces the maxim that one of the quickest ways to spot a strategic policy amateur or ideological zealot is by their continental or isolationist mindset. Particularly when they ignore or deny that Australia is organically a maritime power in near and wider maritime regions.

Similarly fraudulent is using ''aircraft carrier-sized'' or ''assault ships'' when describing the new LHDs, or peddling the myth they are somehow intended for supposed use in high-end war in the Taiwan Straits, the South China Sea or off North Korea.

In reality, Australia has long needed a better capability for the emergency evacuation of Australians from regional troublespots and for manoeuvre, stability support operations, peacekeeping, disaster relief and general support to our diplomacy.

Each successive class of our amphibious transports has necessarily been bigger because of lessons from a wide range of events in our immediate region, such as the Bougainville, East Timor and Solomons interventions, Fiji coups, rioting in Tonga and Vanuatu, and tsunamis, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions generally.

Plus all that could go wrong in PNG. The LHDs are therefore primarily designed for amphibious manoeuvre in lower-end crises. They have some limited capability for tactical assault, but one clearly focused only on plausible contingencies in our near region.

Moreover, the wider ADF lacks all the supporting capabilities for large-scale amphibious assaults like Normandy and Iwo Jima - and indeed medium-scale ones such as Lae, Inchon and the Falklands - and no one credible is arguing for them.

Finally, the LHDs will necessarily further advance true ''jointery'' in our defence force and referring to them only as naval ships again misses the point.

Neil James, executive director, Australia Defence Association

Democracy farce

Howard Ubey's call for optional preferential voting (Letters, February 18) is dead right. The undemocratic aspect of our voting system is not the fact that we are required in federal elections to tick off our names at the polling booth. It is that if we wish to cast a valid vote we must vote for one of the major parties!

Personally, I want to vote for a party with an independent foreign policy. Yet even if I can find such a party on polling day (Katter perhaps?) unless a majority of my fellow electors also vote against foreign subservience, I will have to give a preference to tweedle-dee and tweedle-dumber who vie against each other to be the greater lickspittle of the US. That is the truly undemocratic compulsion in our system.

Chris Williams, Griffith

Wheels falling off

The leadership imbroglio that has been consuming the ALP for more than two years can be likened to a paradoxical competition by a car manufacturer as to which of its models is least suitable for Australian conditions. It is reminiscent of the early Soviet Union Ladas when the unproven and noisy Samara sedan was ousted in favour of the novel, if chunky, cross-country Niva, lacking after-sales support and under-performing its advertised expectations.

In contemplating a return to a revamped version of the former model, it must be remembered that among its original selling points was that it had one internal and two external rear view mirrors, prompting one motoring critic to comment that this allowed the driver an almost panoramic view of the parts falling off as it was driven down the street.

John Murray, Fadden

Bumps in the road

I would like to reassure G. Elphick (Letters, February 7) that the on-road cycle lanes are far from dangerous, and that - contrary to that reader's experience - they are very well patronised. The shared path network is excellent for its intended use, the lazy recreational meander on a Sunday afternoon. As an option for a commuter, they tend to be a poor second choice, due to pedestrians, their often highly indirect route, and the cyclists' requirement to give way at every intersection.

My own route to and from work takes advantage of both on-road cycle lanes and shared paths, but includes large sections of ''bare road'' as well, as I attempt to balance directness and speed with safety.

Motorists (I am one of them) need to understand that both roads and bicycles were around long before the car ever was, nor does registration have a jot to do with road funding or road use.

Mark Raymond, Manton, NSW

Dual-nationality Arabs greater threat to our national interest

Chris Williams (Letters, February 16) seems inordinately concerned with Australia's bipartisan alliance with democratic Israel and America.

He feels that a handful of dual-nationality Jews here and in America can influence our respective foreign policies (policies which he hysterically describes as ''vicious'') in favour of the democratic West.

I'm more concerned about 300,000 Arabs, many dual-nationality - but living here - with undue influence in the Labor and Greens parties, reflected in the recent abstention vote in the UN, an influence that is against our national interest and our moral equilibrium.

I'm also more concerned about dual Arab-Australian nationals caught fighting or training for Islamists overseas, then coming back here looking for soft targets.

Chris Smith, Braddon

So, federal Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus can't see any reason for an independent inquiry into ASIO's involvement in the Ben Zygier ''Prisoner X'' affair (''Jewish group breaks silence on Zygier'', canberratimes.com.au, February 19).

Given reports that Mr Zygier had provided ASIO with details of Mossad's illegal use of Australian passports, prior to his detention and suspicious death, surely questions must be asked as to why action was not taken by ASIO and the Australian government to secure Zygier's safety and pursue his release from jail?

Under the circumstances, perhaps Mr Dreyfus, Foreign Affairs Minister Bob Carr or Prime Minister Julia Gillard could advise all Australians as to precisely what value Australian citizenship has?

John Richardson, Wallagoot, NSW

Greens come of age

The former Greens leader in the ACT Legislative Assembly, Meredith Hunter, seeks an explanation for the result of the October 2012 ACT election (''Hunter starts new career but puzzles over loss'', February 4, p5).

In that election the number of Greens MLAs was reduced from four to one. It's worth comparing the results of the ACT elections in 2008 and 2012.

In 2008, more Greens MLAs were elected than were warranted by their proportionate share of first-preference votes. The Greens won 17 per cent of the first-preference votes, and received four out of the 17 seats. Seventeen per cent of the votes gave them 24 per cent of the seats.

In 2012, the Greens won 11 per cent of the first-preference votes, but received only one seat.

In this election, 11 per cent of the votes gave them only 6 per cent of the seats. So while in 2008 the Greens were lucky to win four seats, in 2012 they were unlucky not to win more than one.

Nevertheless, during the Parliament of 2008-2012, the ACT Greens came of age. Their MLAs worked effectively as a team and succeeded in achieving many of their policy objectives by co-operating with Labor.

Though under-represented in the present Parliament (in comparison with the proportion of votes cast) the sole Greens MLA carries full ministerial responsibility in the Labor-Greens government. With a portfolio comprising territory and municipal services, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs, corrections, housing, and ageing, Shane Rattenbury is working for greener legislative outcomes for the ACT community.

David Teather, Reid

Barrier Reef at risk

Your editorial ''Fracking not yet shown harmless'' (February 20, p16) seems to be a fair summary of the issues behind fracking - except that it ignores the enormous potential damage to the Great Barrier Reef which is happening courtesy of the developments at Gladstone Harbour and Curtis Island.

That's where the CSG is to be processed, prior to export on huge tankers, via the reef. The cost-benefit analysis of the industrial development at Gladstone needs to be included in the debate - for that is the driving force behind Tony Burke's approval of more than 50,000 CSG wells in Queensland. His approvals of these developments and the dredging of Gladstone Harbour are a travesty of his responsibilities as Environment Minister.

Denis Wilson Robertson, NSW

To the point


The PM's office is being refurbished in Muirhead fine Scottish leather. What about fine Australian leather? Has the PM the hide to put a foreign leather under the highest posterior in the land? Shame!

Jeff Thompson, Yass, NSW


Some wry humour saw adjacent letters of February 19 highlight the contradictory role of the noxious but ornamental Himalayan weed, firethorn, in avian ecology. The red berries of pyrocantha crenulata provide winter feed for expanding numbers of predatory pied currawongs while, as a thorny hedge, it provides sanctuary for the nestlings of species like blue wrens.

Gary J. Wilson, MacGregor


Far be it for me to give Bishop Stuart Robinson a lesson in Bible studies (''Pilgrimage via Eden is Bishop's Dolorosa'', February 15, p3) but I'm perplexed by his quote that ''I actually don't know the weight of [the cross], but it's certainly not onerous. I imagine I'll come back in one piece … unlike Jesus''. Isn't the very point of Easter that Jesus did indeed come back in one piece?

Julian Taylor, Yarralumla


I read Sally Pryor's article "No More Positive Slog" (Panorama, February 16, p7). Christianity has taken quite a bit of flak lately, yet it does help us to accept every negative as an ultimate positive. A universal self-help?

Reg Dyett, Braddon


As our government is warning the Malaysian people about possible electoral fraud, why don't we set an example in our next federal election by requiring voters to show identification. Now wouldn't that be a fine idea.

Dr Judy Ryan, Lyons


I'll vote for Kerrie Cue (Times2, February 20, p2) any day to become Popess. I might not be of the same denomination but I've attended sufficient meetings to satisfy any preselection committee. I would say that as a mum, with a spouse and kids to care for, as well as a job, she must have it all over those in the Vatican whose sole occupation seems to be money and politics.

Baden Williams, Lyneham


Much has been written recently calling for Kevin Rudd to be returned to the ALP leadership, but why would he want it? Though popular enough to stave off an ALP annihilation, Labor will almost certainly lose. After the loss, union and party apparatchiki will callously terminate him for a union puppet like Bill Shorten.

Thos Puckett, Ashgrove, Qld

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