Federal Politics


Who needs a smoking gun when there's so much mud?

Jack Waterford says Julie Bishop must find an old, smoking gun in the young Julia Gillard's hand or decisively lose this battle (''Only one should survive mudfight'', November 28, p9).

But perhaps there's value for the Liberals in the process, not just the result.

It might be old-hat to cynics like Waterford, but isn't it significant, post-Craig Thomson, that everyone else re-reading the details of this scandal has accepted the implication that smartarse union officials routinely perpetrate frauds involving union funds, some inducing left-leaning girlfriends/tame lawyers to assist them?

Aren't we being reminded that these are the bent people behind the key Melbourne factions of the Labor Party who decide who Labor offers-up as national leaders? Including after coups?

Surely there's some less-lumpy mud sticking, to the benefit of Gillard's political opponents, even without a smoking gun?

Michael Jordan, Gowrie


The Canberra Times editorial of November 28 is headlined ''AWU Mud is not sticking''. What's this ''not sticking''? Notwithstanding the carbon tax promise, the Thomson and Slipper fiascos, and the Rudd knifing affair, what better barometer do we have that the ''mud'' is indeed sticking than by using the paper's own barometer of public perception - the daily Pope cartoon. In Wednesday's editorial cartoon (p8) we see the usual suspects around a table and a figure remarkably like our Julia taking notes for a possible ''slush'' fund. Not sticking, indeed!

Michael Matthews, Kingston

Prime Minister Julia Gillard claims to have done nothing wrong over the AWU Workplace Relations Association Fund during her time as a lawyer. That is her prerogative, just as its mine to say that she appears to have done nothing right since.

Mario Stivala, Spence

Some famous quotes from the character Horace Rumpole of the Bailey are very relevant to Julie Gillard's ''bold denial'' in the Australian Workers Union episode such as the following: ''I could win most of my cases if it weren't for the clients. Clients have no tact, poor old darlings, no bloody sensitivity. They will waltz into the witness box and blurt out things that are far better left unblurted.''

One could have heard the unsurpassed fictitious English barrister mutter these lines when the PM said that the union official Ralph Blewitt was described as ''a complete imbecile, an idiot, a stooge, a sexist pig, a liar, a crook and rotten to the core'' (''PM goes on attack in AWU episode'', November 27, p1); and further warn his client not to say any more when she followed on asking to the media conference audience ''His words against mine? Make your mind up''. Mine was made up, part of the description going both ways.

Noelle Roux, Chifley

Bishop's role

So now that we've had a good look at Julia Gillard's role in the AWU slush-fund saga , shouldn't we turn our attention to Julie Bishop's role as legal counsel to CSR Pty Ltd, to assess what knowledge she may have had about the attempt to cover-up the company's foreknowledge about the deadly effects of asbestos and, the efforts of the company's legal team to find every legal loophole possible to deny the victims like Bernie Banton a red cent in compensation? Surely, Bishop's role in this illegal cover-up and the CSR (and Hardies) legal strategy to ''litigate til the victims are dead''.

Chris Williams, Griffith

It is high time Julie Bishop stopped her tedious, timewasting and bitchy attacks on the Prime Minister about a non-issue of 20 years ago. Enough! Hasn't Ms Bishop got a job to do as a shadow minister? Then get on with it and stop wasting your taxpayer funded salary.

C. Thomas, Deakin

Trouble in store

Thank you to Westfield for turning the former Woden Shopping Plaza into a third-rate shopping centre. This is supposed to be the primary shopping complex for the Woden Valley.

On the Westfield Woden website, there are 11 jewellery stores listed. I counted nine today (November 26). Is this a record for a plaza the size of Woden? How many more jewellery stores can be sustained? There are six telcos, selling mobile phones and accessories, some in more than one location. Now there are two masseurs and two day spas. The only store of any consequence left is David Jones, with Harvey Norman and Dick Smith having left Woden. To be able to buy any major household items, there is no option for Woden residents but to travel to Civic, Fyshwick or Majura Park. Is it any wonder that Canberra is so ''car reliant'', when it is impossible to be able to shop for anything of consequence within reasonable walking distance?

Myra Bentley, Chifley

Numbers on Gaza

Sharyn Mittelman's misrepresentation of the actions and roles played by the two main parties (Hamas and the Israeli Defence Force) in the current flare-up between the Israeli government and the Palestinian people is astounding. So much so that she needs to resort to dubious claims (''Israeli army makes tens of thousands of phone calls to Gaza …'') to support her defence of the IDF's actions (''Hamas the real villain in attacks on friends and foes''. November 23, p17).

However, the numbers speak for themselves. The three (daily average according to the IDF) Palestinian rockets that land in Israel have resulted in four civilian deaths (all adults). On the other hand, the ''carefully targeted'' bombing of Gaza by the IDF of ''known terrorist, weapons stores'' have resulted in more than 140 deaths, including that of more than 20 children.

John Rodriguez, Florey

Chris Williams (Letters, November 27) attacks Alan Shroot, Bill Arnold and myself for providing one-sided support to Israel. Having worked in both Egypt and Israel as a UN military observer, with numerous trips to Gaza, I think I have a pretty fair idea what is happening there. It is pretty simple, really: Hamas fires rockets from Gaza into Israel at the behest of Iran and supplied by them, and Israel responds. Hamas stops, Israel stops.

Vic Adams, Reid

Back off nature

While welcoming the news that the government is going to toughen action on illegal parking (''Drivers can now forget excuses'', November 26, p1), I note that there is no suggestion the Office of Regulatory Services will in future comply with the law and fine owners of vehicles parked on nature strips. I estimate that about 5 per cent of property owners are selfishly misusing the nature strip in this way to the detriment of their neighbours and pedestrians.

Oddly enough in this environment, the City Manager's office will nevertheless force owners whose nature strip is at all overgrown to remedy that situation, meanwhile turning a blind eye to the two-tonne SUV parked on the nature strip next door.

Chris Smith, Kingston

Trip a stumble

Originally we were advised in Canberra Times reports that the Canberra odyssey of Robyn Archer and David Headon had been paid for by sponsors. Now it turns out that the taxpayer has picked up half or $20,000 of the bill (''Centenary tours justified, Archer says'', November 24, p3). The trip seemed to include some quasi-religious ceremony at Walter Burley Griffin's grave in India and other highlights which we are assured will attract hundred of thousands of visitors directly as a result. Luckily, or fortunately, most visitors to Canberra in 2013 will not be polled to determine the accuracy or otherwise of those bold predictions, and those making them will be long gone. At $20,000 a piece for 20 days' work, that's about $1000 a day per person. It may have been cheaper to get someone to invent the Canberra equivalent of Gangnam Style for Facebook.

Rohan Goyne, Evatt

Out of power

When playing Monopoly, I always thought the utilities were the best to buy. Real life, I think, proves this. Smart meters - what a moneyspinner (''Electricity smart meters just another ruse running up consumers' costs'', November 26, p11). We, at great expense, put in airconditioning a few years ago. Why? So we could be comfortable on really hot days. Living in Canberra, we need decent heating too. Now there is serious talk of not being able to use cooling or heating at peak demand. I thought the excuse for the electricity price rise hikes was the poles and wires to cover peak periods. What a farce.

My job, and many other people's, means starting work at set times, so we have to shower at set times. Do we need to prepare only cold food or have dinner in the middle of the night or be penalised for having to cook at peak demand? So we are expected to swelter when it's hot but can use the aircon when there isn't a high demand? Sounds completely illogical to me. The utility companies don't really want us to use less power. Looked what happened when people saved on water - the prices went up. Now, where's that Monopoly board? I want to try to buy a utility company.

Heather Sorensen, Kambah

This noise annoys

On Saturday, my house in mid-Campbell was infiltrated from 2pm to 11pm by a disturbing throbbing noise that even closing the windows could not shut out. It came from the outdoor Summer Foreshore Festival in Commonwealth Park. There is a simple way to mitigate such nuisance and that is to adjust the amplifier electronics to reduce the low frequency sound that is emitted. It is this that travels farthest. ACT officials failed to ensure that this was done. It is the duty of the ACT government to maintain a tolerable environment for all residents of Canberra and not allow the majority to be inconvenienced for the benefit of commercial interests.

Andrew Stewart, Campbell

Hanson has talent and drive, but the numbers don't add up

While ACT Liberals leader Zed Seselja has given considerable consideration to the portfolios he has given to his party room colleagues (''Seselja takes on new faces and extra portfolios'', November 27, p2), there is little doubt that the most interesting decision he had made is to demote Jeremy Hanson by taking the whip's position from him and handing it to Alistair Coe.

Probably a wise move as it is well known that Mr Hanson has long coveted the leader's role. The success of newcomers Giulia Jones and Andrew Wall at the October election has strengthened Mr Seselja's position, as both are strong Seselja supporters.

Despite Mr Seselja now having lost two consecutive elections, including the unlosable 2008 poll where Labor was unpopular with some of the electorate over the school closures, the Liberals also lost votes.

There is no way that Mr Hanson has anywhere near the numbers to successfully challenge Mr Seselja for the top job. Even if he did launch a challenge he would probably get only his own vote, particularly as he was the only Liberal not to swear on the Bible when members of the Legislative Assembly were recently sworn in.

Mr Hanson has the same problem that afflicted Richard Mulcahy, despite having the talent and the ambition, he hasn't got the numbers. Unless the leader makes a real meal of the leadership, and gives Hanson an opening, there is little he can do to about furthering his ambition.

The task for Seselja is making sure he does not provide that opportunity.

B. Hicks, Dunlop

Abbott's absurdity

I applaud the Times editorial taking to task Tony Abbott's absurd claims (''Cheap abuse of our public service'', November 26, p8) that since the demise of the Howard government in 2007, the Australian Public Service has grown by 20,000 and Australia doesn't need these staff.

Setting aside the ludicrous exaggeration, as I said in a media statement last week, I am fed up with Liberal politicians seeking to capitalise on anti-Canberra sentiment and constantly attacking public servants. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's Value for Money report concluded that Australia remains at the forefront in integrating service delivery to citizens and business. The organisation found that the Australian Public Service has been highly effective in ensuring efficiency in service delivery compared to other nations. In October, I said that without public servants, massive projects such as the $15 billion Pluto LNG project wouldn't have happened. And in September, I said Australia has one of the best public administrations in the world and it does not deserve ill-informed and inaccurate criticisms.

While the government looks for innovative ways of delivering efficient government services it will do so without targeting jobs.

Gary Gray, Minister for the Public Service

Put people first

The wilful disregard and abuse of young citizens by those entrusted with their care and well-being serves to remind us just how rotten some organisations have been and can be towards the individual citizen, across the breadth of our society and all its institutions, public and private.

At the moment the focus is on the Catholic Church for its gross violation of too many of those in its care. The same can be said of the Anglican Church. A former GG was hounded from office for taking a not-dissimilar approach to the Catholic Church.

They are not alone.

Defence Minister Stephen Smith made a parliamentary apology to victims of sexual and other abuse within the Australian Defence Force and the Department of Defence. But don't stop there. Just ask our teachers in the ACT public education system, bullied by an inept bureaucracy, made the scapegoat by the politicians for the appalling standard of behaviour in high schools, abandoned by their union, massively under-resourced, working conditions that would not be tolerated in any other government department, too often away from a fine profession, stressed and disillusioned. Too much has been done to protect the institutions, while the individual is abandoned or abused. There is something very wrong in a society that places the care of an ''institution'' above the individual.

Peter Funnell, Farrer


Pat Campbell's editorial cartoon of two creatures waiting for their visas rather than escape from drowning (November 25, p18) sums up the delusions of our two major parties who expect refugees to stay and die quietly elsewhere rather than bother us.

Both parties seem to be under the impression there is a thing called the refugee torture convention as they race each other to the bottom of the deepest seas with punishment heaped on punishment of innocent people.

Marilyn Shepherd, Angaston


I am one of the 848 people on Cleanaway's register (''Garbo, rescuer … and laundry helper'', November 26, p2) grateful to have my bins collected, emptied, and returned each week. My garbo even brings my copy of The Canberra Times to the front door, bless him!

J. Holland, Lyons


Is there a better place in Canberra to see the Walter Burley Griffin-inspired Garden City than Belmore Gardens in Barton? Probably not at present, but in a few months that won't be the case. What bureaucratic madness allowed approval of a car park for 30 cars at one end of the Belmore Gardens vista? ACT Heritage should be ashamed to be a party to this decision.

E.A. Swain, Barton


Professor Ken Taylor (''Battle for the soul of the city'', November 26, p9) points to the damage being done to Canberra because planners disregard the vision of Griffin and others to create a beautiful national capital drawing upon the beauty of its natural landscape. The commercially-driven ABC development is a classic example of what we must avoid.

John Brudenall, Reid


What a great idea of Richard Denniss to give more spaces to small cars (''Parking lite: a metre less'', Forum, November 24, p7). Why not extend it further - charge rego on the basis of area occupied, weight and fuel consumption and hopefully we would see less of these gargantuan SUVs on our city streets.

Dave Roberts, Dickson


I wish people would appreciate the difference between apes and monkeys. The very fact something similar to a ''midlife crisis'' was observed in chimpanzees and orang-utans (''Aping humans'', Forum, November 24, p4) seemed significant was because, like Karen Hardy, me, Ian Warden, George Pell and 7 billion others, they are great apes not monkeys. It's all in the mind, you see.

Colin Groves, O'Connor

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