Jack Waterford's documentation of the Northern Territory's failures (to put it politely) to allocate Commonwealth funds to meet actual Indigenous needs ("The great remote rip-off", Forum, January 13, p1) is certainly an egregious example of what he calls the "Commonwealth's long, lamentable record in actually checking on states and territories" and their use of Commonwealth grants.
Another comes in the recently released report from the 2017 Parliamentary Inquiry into Migrant Settlement Outcomes. The report documents submissions received regarding the complete lack of transparency in how Commonwealth loadings for students with low English proficiency are actually spent in schools, and that this failure extends to the individual school level.
Teachers report that this "funding is not being used for the purpose it is intended", that principals have complete discretion over what is done with loadings for students with low English proficiency, and even cite an example of this money paying for a new school driveway. The inquiry points out that a framework for accountability exists through the Council of Australian Governments.
It recommends that this framework be given teeth with a requirement for annual reports against student outcomes.
Is this common sense reform really too much to hope for? Must we accept Waterford's pessimism that "living up to clear and public commitments" about what happens to our taxes is "a concept ... that is foreign to politicians on both sides"?
No wonder people are cynical about paying taxes.
Helen Moore, Co-author of the Australian Council of TESOL Associations' submission to the Inquiry into Migrant Settlement Outcomes, Cook
Standards not viable
Is it reasonable for extremely remote, tiny, unproductive communities to claim entitlement to an equal standard of living and facilities as that enjoyed in modern Australian towns and cities?
Jack Waterford pursued an old theme in "The great remote rip-off" (Forum, January 13, p1).
He wrote that the Yothu Yindi Foundation used Grants Commission data to show the NT government is diverting about "$10,000 per Aboriginal resident of the territory" to other purposes.
He discounted expenditures on bureaucrats and health services in Darwin and Alice Springs as unnecessary or insignificant.
He mentioned the commission's objective, "to provide the same quality and standard of state and municipal services everywhere".
He wrote that any tinkering with the commission's methodology "with weasel words about a 'reasonable' – rather than 'equal' – access to services is a step backwards". These Aboriginal tribes refuse to move. They seek to substantiate their claim of exclusive sovereignty, to the exclusion of all others, over hundreds, even thousands of square kilometres of land, yet demand support from those whose sovereignty they deny.
Whether or not Aboriginal funding has been redirected, or the sovereignty claim by Michael Anderson from the Tent Embassy is valid, entitlement to an equal standard of living by remote communities is insupportable.
Gary J. Wilson, Macgregor
Cheap Labour Party
In Doug Dingwall's article in "$350m in wage rises unpaid" (January 9, p1) one aspect is overlooked. In Australia, only two parties can form a government: the Labor Party and the Cheap Labour Party.
The Cheap Labour Party is also known as the Coalition, which, in reality, is a conservative party. The conservative party (lead by Malcolm Turnbull) has but one purpose: To crush workers, crush unions and crush wages and conditions.
Worker pain is meaningless to bosses. Only their pain counts. The best cure for public servants' pain is to walk off the job. And don't come back until real (not fake) negotiations begin.
If public servants don't belong to a labour union – join one.
Labour unions ensure workers' rights. A non-union worker is as powerless as a kitten.
Graham Macafee, Latham
Early regal troubles
Neil James (January 6) is not quite correct in stating that no Australian governor-general has ever declined to sign a bill into law. In fact, all the first four governors-general saw themselves as agents of the British government, there to influence and even control the Australian government to the degree necessary to ensure that our government did what the UK wanted and all clashed with the Australian government as a result.
The first governor-general, Hopetoun, declined to sign into law the Immigration Restriction Bill 1901 until it was substantially amended to suit the Colonial Office.
Then Lord Northcote declined to sign into law a bill restricting appeals from the High Court to the Privy Council in 1907 and ended up resigning as a result.
Governor-generals from No.5 on all accepted that they were merely vice regal representatives and these issues never arose again.
Stan Marks, Hawker
Being a greenie at heart, when we moved into a new home four years ago we made enquiries about private trash-packs collections.
Imagine my dismay when we were told that there were no restrictions on what we could throw into the packs because it was all sent to landfill.
Why should Canberran households pay for a collector rather than use our household bins if it ends up in the same place anyway?
Why should collectors be compensated for a business model which profits from poor environment practice, and an activity not permitted by private individuals?
Hopefully there are collectors which do offer genuine green waste diversion from landfill, although we didn't find one.
I urge all current users of collection services to find out where your green waste goes and make the switch to green waste disposal that is diverted from landfill.
Needless to say we've been eagerly awaiting the ACT government program to be rolled out more widely.
Elizabeth Paul, Gungahlin
I congratulate the student activists and PETA for lobbying the University of Canberra. This resulted in a business decision of a consumer to end the engagement of a service provider, nothing more. It hardly constitutes the "majority of people in Canberra being denied their rights". (Letters, January 13).
Chris Doyle, Gordon
Punishment in the air
Somebody has plagiarised "Love is in the Air?" Talk about scraping the bottom of the musical barrel. Wouldn't singing it be punishment enough?
G. Flitcroft, Gungahlin
There's an isolated, Mr Fluffy, two-storeyed, side-by-side, maximised-site-coverage, living-rooms-upstairs, dual-occupancy redevelopment under way in Chapman in the RZ1 (typical suburban) zone, on a large, wide single block, sloping steeply down from the street.
The lower floors appear to have been built above the levels shown on the approved plans, and a long, high, rear retaining wall installed.
While the apparently much taller buildings could remain just within the Mr Fluffy Territory-Plan-permitted overall height "envelopes", the original approvals were sensibly within it.
The apparent height increase seizes even better views for the new buildings. However, they will be uncharacteristically bulky and intrusive in the RZ1 context, and appear likely to overlook neighbours' treasured private open spaces, and windows.
The RZ1 Mr Fluffy redevelopment scheme itself is outside normal planning protocols; the government is a commercial participant; and its original enabling planning controls were quite sympathetic to the RZ1 environment, but were apparently relaxed with regard to height and bulk etc after "industry" representation.
For the maintenance of good planning and design, approval process integrity, unwanted "me-too" effects, and neighbours' rights and expectations, any built structures that do not comply with the approved plans should not be retro-approved, but demolished. Then the original plans should be followed.
Jack Kershaw, Kambah
Abuses of power
I must dispute Anne-Elisabeth Moutet's article (Forum, January 13, p12), supporting the letter signed by 100 French women that champions the male right to "bother".
The original letter states: "As women, we don't recognise ourselves in this feminism that, beyond the denunciation of abuses of power, takes the face of a hatred of men and sexuality. We believe that the freedom to say 'no' to a sexual proposition cannot exist without the freedom to bother."
They exhort us to understand "the difference between an awkward attempt to pick someone up and what constitutes a sexual assault".
Some random bothering I have experienced includes arse-grabbing and slapping by male bosses, public catcalling and abuse, breast grabbing while waiting on tables, breast grabbing in trains and breast grabbing in railway subways.
I await the 100 French women's advice on how best to deal with these "awkward" approaches to the female body. They assure us that their daughters will be brought up to deal with it, charmingly and laughingly, no doubt.
Will they bring up their sons to "bother"?
Denunciation of abuses of power is the essential rationale of the #metoo phenomenon.
#metoo has nothing to do with sexual attraction, mutual flirtation, dinner dates, sexual liberation, sexual enjoyment, personal attractiveness or Victorian puritanism. It is the result of men exercising an unjustified sense of entitlement to women's bodies.
Sheridan Roberts, Bemboka, NSW
Cars also key to toll cut
Colin Smeal (Letters, January 13) notes that the death toll on Australia's roads has decreased "dramatically" since the period 1964 to 1984. He hails the "long-term improvement of safety on our roads", especially in the last 10 years.
Some of this improvement may be due to improved driver attitudes and behaviour, but certainly not all.
A very significant factor driving down the incidence of road casualties is the cars themselves.
Back in the 1960s and 1970s, for example, cars were not subjected to rigorous safety assessments like those employed today.
Cars were not fitted with air bags; nor were front-impact and roll-over protection anywhere near as effective as they are now, if they were enhanced at all.
It was also relatively common for cars to have brakes that were far inferior to today's ubiquitous disc brakes.
It's still "the nut behind the wheel" that is the main culprit in the awful – and any deaths are awful – road toll such as during the recent holiday period.
Douglas Mackenzie, Deakin
Thank you everyone
On January 2 in the Charnwood shopping centre I had the misfortune to have my car's fuel line separate from the filter with the result the engine stalled and could not be restarted. Almost immediately two gentleman in Woolworths shirts materialised and pushed my car from the traffic lane.
Then one of the gentlemen spent many minutes attempting to get NRMA to respond to my emergency.
My wife was with me and, as we were expecting visitors, wondered how she could get home, whereupon the second gentleman said he would drive my wife home as he lived a couple of streets away.
A Fire and Rescue team arrived and cable-tied the line to the filter, sufficient for me to drive home.
An NRMA patrolman eventually came, inspected the repair and followed me home to make sure there were no further problems.
I did not have the chance to thank, especially, the two gentlemen from Woolworths, but hope to do so via this letter – thank you to all who helped.
Ken McPhan, Spence
Another program on domestic violence which didn't get to grips with its essential cause! (Ray Martin, SBS, January 10).
What is the essential cause? It is politically incorrect because it relates to a lack of nurturing by mothers of violent people; it is also in Freudian denial and hard to discover; admit to, and deal with.
The existence of an existential reservoir of anger within (in Freudian denial) going back to childhood is generally not admitted to in psychology because there is as yet no "scientific" explanation of how this energy is stored.
It can be literally overwhelming; hence violent and out of control behaviour.
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) does not properly deal with it.
It does paper over the cracks though.
Only when these truths are accepted will society begin to effectively deal with this issue.
David Collier, Narrabundah
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