Bringing in qualified outsiders will soup up Assembly
Before we get too far with the proposal to increase the size of the ACT Legislative Assembly (''Working group to look at 25 MLAs'' December 14, p9), consideration should be given to a better and more economical change to the system.
Even with 25 members the Assembly would be far too small for a Westminster or cabinet system with ministers chosen from and by the majority party or coalition. The ridiculous situation of the frontbenchers outnumbering the backbenchers would likely continue.
We should have a chief executive (however titled) directly elected for the same fixed term as the Assembly, with power to make a limited number of appointments of political heads of portfolios who would not be Assembly members and not necessarily party members. They would appear before the Assembly and its committees as required.
The Assembly would remain at its present size and concentrate on legislating and inquiring, without worrying about shifting the couple of votes to change the government. The chief executive could get on with governing without worrying about losing those votes.
The nonsense of an opposition shadow leader and ministry with the imperative to oppose everything and wage a continuous election campaign would be abandoned.
The ACT (Self Government) Act already embodies significant departures from the Westminster model, having the chief minister formally elected by the Assembly and no equivalent of a state governor. A further departure would be beneficial.
Harry Evans, Page
The latest developments in the Peter Slipper case bear a striking resemblance to the famous Fitzpatrick-Browne case of 1955. Fitzpatrick, the owner of the Bankstown Observer, and Browne, a journalist, were referred to the federal Parliament privileges committee for attempting to intimidate the Member for Reid with the purpose of Fitzpatrick eventually winning his seat.
On the report of the committee, both men were brought before the bar of the Parliament to answer for their actions. Fitzpatrick grovelled and Browne raved, but both were sentenced to jail for three months, Parliament using its power under Section 49 of the constitution.
The Slipper case is uncannily similar. Justice Steven Rares found James Ashby, with Mal Brough's help, had sought to destroy Slipper. Brough hopes to take his seat. I studied this case in a law unit in the 1970s. The consensus then was that it could not happen again. Now, amazingly, it has.
If precedent is anything (and in law it is everything), Ashby, Brough, co-worker Karen Doane and Ashby's lawyer, Michael Harmer, should be brought before the bar of Parliament for sentencing. Deputy Opposition Leader Julie Bishop and leader of opposition business Christopher Pyne, who both had numerous contacts with Ashby (originally denied, later admitted) could also answer questions before the bar. Opposition Leader Tony Abbott and shadow attorney-general George Brandis, who led the parliamentary attack on Slipper, should also be given the opportunity to answer to the Parliament for their actions.
Geoff Smith, Belconnen
Fraud call all at sea
The navy has surely made itself a laughing stock for finding Captain King guilty of fraud for claiming away-from-home allowances when he was absent from his Canberra home because, even though he was still living with his wife, the Navy says he was ''emotionally and sexually separated'' from his wife (''Captain facing jail time for fraud'', December 13, p1).
I wonder how many commercial travellers, business executives, public servants, etc, who are away on business, and might or might not ''play'' up while away, are in the same situation? Why is it a crime to be ''emotionally and sexually separated'' from your wife, but still live in the same house?
The decision really raises the question whether naval officers, sitting as a court martial, are as competent as judges to make decisions on such matters. I suspect not.
R.S. Gilbert, Braddon
Crib light rail work
The announced intention of the ACT government to have a light rail study (''Yet another light rail study'', December 13, p3) is, in the opinion of many, a complete waste of money. The primary reason why it is a waste is that, once the figures are in, they will reveal that a cartwheel-shaped city such as Canberra is no place for a light rail system.
At a meeting on light rail earlier in the year, Sustainable Development Minister Simon Corbell said his government was willing to spend $30 million on such a study.
Given that the Queensland government has already spend five years on a similar study on light rail for Surfers Paradise, surely the ACT government can access relevant sections?
Queensland estimated the cost of the Surfers Paradise system would be $1.5 billion over 15 years. This included infrastructure such as terminals, ride and parks and subsidies for operating expenses.
The system, to stretch 13 kilometres, was started in January.
Howard Carew, Isaacs
Huawei hands tied
The article stating that Huawei ''reneged'' on its deal with the Brumbies is totally incorrect (''Brumbies tip finance turnaround'', December 14, p28). There was no negotiated deal but we were on the way to finalising one. The federal government's NBN decision came as a complete shock to Huawei and as a result we were not in a position to give a firm and final commitment to any sponsorship.
We informed the Brumbies that we needed to review our situation in light of the NBN decision and would not be in a position to give a clear commitment before the end of year. This did not suit the Brumbies' timeline and as such we ended up with the Raiders sponsorship, which we are extremely happy about and have not looked back since - go the Raiders.
Jeremy Mitchell, director of corporate and public affairs, Australia, New Zealand and South Pacific, Huawei Technologies (Australia)
Ric Hingee (Letters, December 5 and 14) claims that Middle Eastern peace has been damned by successive Palestinian leaders' failure to compromise.
Contrary to Hingee's ''understanding'', Ehud Barak offered nothing at Camp David in 2000.
Israel has never offered anything to the Palestinians but suffering, expropriation, imprisonment and death.
Yasser Arafat offered agreement with the 1967 borders in 1993, a massive concession. Israel responded immediately by upping the settlements, and Ariel Sharon subsequently by destroying Palestinian Authority infrastructure and Arafat himself.
Hamas has offered negotiations on the 1967 borders, to no avail.
Hingee claims to have been educated at the ANU, but he has apparently learnt nothing about discerning the reliability of sources and the analysis of evidence.
Evan Jones, Glebe, NSW
Bid for relevance
In reading the views of unionists such as David Chadwick and Brian MacLeod (Letters, December 13) does anyone doubt that shrill union efforts to keep worksite safety high on the political/social agenda, in large part represent union attempts to cling to relevance in the modern era?
Militant unions lost the battle for public support years ago when they routinely held worksites and workers expensively to ransom, because they could. As the world became a more competitive place, their activities were too expensive and became a critical target for reform.
Chadwick and MacLeod say it's a fundamental human right to return home uninjured every day. Of course it is. So governments must refine relevant legislation and maintain adequate safety enforcement. Negligently hoping workplace safety could be a side-effect of restored union power is not an option.
And, of course, governments must build safer roads. Because that's where most workers get injured, commuting.
Adrian Milton, Higgins
Case for cycling
In the editorial ''On your bike - or a similar device'' (December 12, p14), the author opined only ''certain people'' would be willing to bicycle to work.
One of the main reasons seemed to be the greater time required to travel that way than by car. I'm a certain person who has elected to bicycle regularly to and from work (Charnwood to the ANU and back), because I did my sums. In ideal traffic conditions my commute takes about 20 minutes by car each way (often longer), so at least 40 minutes all up. It also takes me about 40 minutes out of a day to get a decent amount of exercise.
I found that it takes me 35 minutes to cycle to work and 40 for the return trip. By cycling, I'm spending about the same amount of time while saving on the running costs of a car, decreasing my carbon footprint, and getting twice the exercise (thus decreasing my carbonara footprint). That ticks all three boxes on the triple bottom line.
Mike Smithson, Charnwood
Pets are not toys
Well done to the Adelaide pet store that has stopped selling puppies before Christmas (''No Santa pups'', December 13, p4'').
It's unfortunate that all pet shops don't stop selling puppies all year round as animal rescue groups and the pounds are left struggling to cope with the vast number of unwanted and dumped pets.
So if you're going on holidays organise a place in the kennels beforehand, take the dog with you, arrange for a neighbour to feed and walk your pet. If the dog is no longer a cute puppy, go to training classes. Your pet is for life, not an unwanted ''toy'' to be discarded when you're tired of it.
Carol Anderson, Kambah
To the point
EASY JUDGMENT CALL
All right then, Mr Abbott; unsubstantiated scandalmongering about the Prime Minister, versus a damning judicial statement referring to the prostitution of the legal process, and clearly implicating some members of the opposition parties. I know what my judgment is.
Peter Dark, Queanbeyan
THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE
By all means hold an inquiry into the Slipper affair, we should know the truth. But of course politically, that would require one on the AWU as well. I won't hold my breath.
H. Ronald, Jerrabomberra
A CAREER POLITICIAN
Did I detect a hint of sarcasm in the sub-editor's headline on Barnaby Joyce's article yesterday (''Views based on little or no idea'', December 13, p19)? It was a very succinct summary of his entire career!
Harry Hobbs, Deakin
COMPARISON AN INSULT
Bruno Yvanovich (Letters, December 14) considers Senator Cory Bernardi and Tony Abbott in the same mould as King Canute. What an insult to Canute! The Danish King of England was exactly the opposite. By attempting to stop the tide, he was demonstrating to his sycophantic courtiers just how puny mankind is when it comes to opposing the forces of nature.
Eric Hunter, Cook
Gary Kent (Letters, December 13) mentioned ''the potential adverse impact of industrial development … in Queanbeyan''. Which way was he looking? The railway line is the border and from bridge to bridge it is a very nice residential area, with the heritage-listed railway station and community garden. On the ACT side there are ugly sheds and a fuel depot. Don't blame Queanbeyan for that!
Thomas Boom, Queanbeyan
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