I first joined the APS just as The Beatles burst on to the scene. We newcomers regularly attended a course on "the machinery of government". We spent hours training on the job and were taught that as public servants we served the Australian public.
Then things changed. "Seniority" was dropped as a selection criterion, opening the way for slick interviewees, many lacking proper experience. Then job-specific knowledge was no longer required. We were sent to courses on career path planning, where we were advised to spend half our time networking and not to stay longer than 18 months in any job, lest we get stuck.
Apparently we were now to focus on career advancement, not the public good. Thus they destroyed the service ethos of the APS staff.
Then, against our vociferous advice, they decided to outsource IT and much policy advice. They paid a fortune to consultants who spouted suggestions based on what they learned from much lower-paid APS staff.
They dismissed experienced staff, many of whom returned as consultants at twice the salary. Thus they further eroded our skills base and professionalism.
Then when they began to introduce desktop computers in the late 80s, they decided to abandon our registry system, which was expertly designed and indexed, providing a department-wide record of all departmental papers and correspondence. This ensured consistency and supported ministerial responsibility. Automation provided the chance to set up a better, faster system. Instead, the replacement was relatively useless.
Thus they eroded our precious knowledge base.
Then they imposed managerialism and "performance appraisal".
We were to be regularly assessed by people who knew less than we did, against totally arbitrary criteria largely unrelated to our workflow.
To all this nonsense was added opaque and meaningless managerial jargon and regular "restructures".
By the time I walked out in the mid-90s, along with many others, our workplace was like a scene from a dystopian novel by Franz Kafka.
The catastrophe of today's APS is a mirror of our society.
It will take a lot more than yet another review in order to rebuild it!
Pauline Westwood, Dickson
D. Fitzgerald (Letters, October 30) notes the possible presence of sadism in Australian politics (Letters, October 30). Given the refusal by ultra-conservatives in the Liberal Party to allow the government to embrace policies that would be popular with most voters there seems to be a fair amount of masochism present in Australian politics as well.
G. Fyfe, Kambah
Big loss to libraries
I, too, am worried about the declining number of qualified library staff in school libraries over the past 10 years (Amy Byrne, Letters, October 27).
Qualified library staff, like teacher librarians, are a critical part of the 21st-century school environment. The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (2006) states that "when teachers and teacher librarians work in partnership their students achieve higher literacy levels, improved problem solving abilities and superior ICT skills."
Unfortunately, a recent study by the Australian Council for Education Research shows that the number of teacher librarians in Australia dropped from 5600 to 1300 between 2010 and 2013. With so much discussion about how to improve NAPLAN scores and how to prepare our students for the future, the evidence speaks for itself.
Students need qualified staff in ACT school libraries.
Natalie Otten, teacher librarian, Amaroo School
Grow up, Assange
Asylum seeker Julian Assange is upset that he must pay for phone and internet (like the rest of us mere mortals); he must pay his own medical bills (like the rest of us battlers); he must clean up after his pet cat (as expected of any adult). He's been told not to ride his skateboard through embassy halls, not to play soccer on embassy grounds, and to behave appropriately with security staff.
Assange is 47 years old and currently a guest of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. Seems to me instead of whinging and suing, he should do his chores, follow house rules, and behave respectfully, as expected of any guest.
He should grow up ... or get out and face whatever music he must face.
Judy Bamberger, O'Connor
What isn't OK
Rob Jay (Letters, October 30) is puzzled by the objection to "It's OK to be white".
He should look up its history; it first surfaced as a joke to counter "It's OK to be black" and to get a reaction from liberal US media.
It was then taken up as a snarling comment by racists and white supremacist groups, including the KKK.
Rob questions what's wrong with the phrase. He should ask the Coalition why it reversed its support for Pauline Hanson's Senate motion that included the words.
Even they realised it had become unacceptable. Or, to put it another way, let's consider the state of affairs over past centuries, that is, "It's OK, [but] only if you're white".
Eric Hunter, Cook
Let's try Victus Games
Each Olympic Games is followed by a Paralympic Games.
Prince Harry has demonstrated compassion for disabled soldiers through his patronage of the Invictus ("undefeated") Games.
Can we prevail on him to show equal compassion for civilian victims of wars — including wars that through military interventions we and our military allies have created and/or prolonged – by supporting the establishment of Victus ("defeated") Games at which those civilians may compete?
It would be fitting that the arms manufacturers who support the Invictus Games should also support the Victus Games.
Leon Arundell, Downer
Dangers of growth
It was nice to see the Canberra Times give Vince Patulny's letter the prominence it deserved ("We are asking too much of the Murray Darling basin system", Letters, October 29).
Patulny's letter displayed a wisdom often absent in the writing of the professional scribes.
Turn half a dozen pages further on in this edition (or any edition) to the business section and one will find countless examples of the mindless "growth forever" mentality.
Rarely do these "greed and growth" columns address the question of sustainability. Perhaps this is because it requires a particularly artful writer to put "growth" and "sustainability" in the same sentence.
Unless, of course, it is to identify their fundamental incompatibility.
Graham Clews, Kambah
Welfare before profit
Members of the Canberra Gambling Reform Alliance were surprised to read the response of Clubs ACT to our research providing recommendations to better protect the Canberra community from gambling harm ("Clubs ACT claims ambitious reforms could send gamblers over the border", canberratimes.com.au, October 29).
Clubs ACT suggested the ACT government should not move to strengthen gambling laws because NSW laws are very weak, and will see ACT clubs missing out on gambling losses generated from people experiencing gambling harm as they shift their gambling over the border.
This is a concerning suggestion, given the ACT is an independent jurisdiction that prides itself in being a leading local government.
We believe the Canberra community does not support our government being held hostage to an NSW government that is unwilling to legislate in the face of strong evidence.
Comparing these proposals to the ACT smoking laws introduced in 2006 is very ironic.
These ground-breaking laws are strongly supported by the community and save lives.
The Canberra community was not persuaded to roll back smoking laws and led NSW in progressive reform.
As we learn more about the impact of gambling harm and dangerous design elements of poker machines, likewise Canberrans should be compelled to act to prevent harm, even if it will dent the profits of the gambling industry.
The Alliance has always acknowledged there is a need to support community-based clubs to reduce their reliance on revenue that comes from products that can harm people.
This does not mean we should sacrifice the health of the community. We continue to call on the ACT government to act quickly to better protect our community from gambling harm.
Rebecca Vassarotti, Jeremy Halcrow, co-chairs, Canberra Gambling Reform Alliance
Not many federal Liberal politicians have covered themselves with glory recently.
There is at least one exception, Ben Morton, the (Liberal) Member for Tangney.
Mr Morton, as chair of the Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories has been serving it up to the ACT government over its obsession with Light Rail 2 and posing difficult questions over the project's efficiency, design, proposed and alternative routing, impact on NCA areas, heritage considerations, congestion issues, outdated technology and much more.
Who would have thought a Liberal politician might save the ACT from stage 2.
Reading between the lines Mr Morton clearly sees this dog of a project what it is — expensive, inflexible, out of date technology, slow, intrusive, ugly, development not transport driven, etc etc.
Good on you Ben. If you succeed in this task, I will certainly support your nomination as Canberran of the Year. Good work by an ex-bus driver as yourself.
John Mungoven, Stirling
Fair go for cyclists
I am a recreational cyclist who avoids the main roads like the plague.
Luckily I can tap our extensive bike path network close to my front door. However I can't get over how inept successive planners in Canberra have been in accommodating cyclists who have to use main roads to get to work.
When I was in Munich last year I couldn't help reflecting how on the main roads you have the road traffic, then a separate lane for cyclists next to it, often divided off by a concrete border, then the pedestrian footpath.
On the major arterials, each lane has its traffic light. I point out I was walking around the rebuilt Munich, much of which had been smashed to smithereens by the attentions of the Royal Air Force.
So, the rebuilt city in the 1950s got it right in the reconstruction, affording a fair go for all road users.
This is the common experience as many know, in lots of modern European cities.
Why do we imagine a painted green lane on a road will make cyclists safe?
We have so much space near these roads for parallel bike paths.
This network needs to be completed to the great standard of the off road network.
Michael McPhillips, Richardson
I read that Bec Cody, ALP member for Murrumbidgee, has found a new cause – namely to revisit and rename Canberra streets if their current names offend anyone.
This follows her last crusade, namely objection a while ago to some tiling in a south coast public toilet. In my opinion she has done absolutely nothing positive as an MLA for any resident of her electorate, not least by remaining completely silent on the many planning issues confronting Molonglo Valley.
She is, in my opinion, the perfect example of an ALP ACT Assembly member who is only there thanks to their union connection, draws her salary and allowances and has nothing else meaningful to offer.
I have no great hope that ACT electors will wake up to her and her kind next time around but we live in hope.
Hope, even, that ACT Labor could find more worthy candidates for preselection.
John Mellors, Coombs
Oversee public housing
The ACT government ought to be getting back to commissioning the professional design, and competitive-tender construction of public housing (investing in it), instead of relying on the "industry" to deliver it.
The latter approach results in dwellings being relegated to depressing locations within developments, poor levels of privacy and solar siting, very uninspiring design including architecture, internal layouts, and landscaping (uplifting, well-thought-out design doesn't cost more), and low-grade construction, finishes, fixtures, and fittings.
Jack Kershaw, Kambah
Making the switch
Are any ACT Labor politicians putting their hand up to be the next chief executive of ACT Health?
I would like to see that.
John Hutka, Ngunnawal
TO THE POINT
It's great to see new politicians like Bec Cody taking up important issues such as offensive place names.
I'm sure the residents of Wanniassa would welcome the renaming of Barr Place.
Also, it's high time we got rid of blatant spelling mistakes. Parkes, Deakin, Curtin and Reid for example. Surely these should be renamed Parks, Deacon, Curtain and either Reed or Read.
No wonder our children can't spell.
Garth Setchell, Canberra
It's good to see Labor MLA Bec Cody isn't wasting her time on housing Canberra's homeless or other trivial matters.
At least the homeless can now rest easy knowing the streets they sleep on are properly named.
Tom Lindsay, Monash
KEEP DOGS ON LEADS
Twice in the last 48 hours while walking, I've had a dog come right up to me while the owner is unsuccessfully calling it back, with a lead in his or her hand. I find myself speculating whether these people, when driving, promise themselves that they will put a seatbelt on just as soon as it looks like an accident could happen.
Trevor Mobbs, Richardson
At the end of his master plan to help Australia's drought-struck farmers, (Letters , October 31) Bob Katter MP says the plan is a no-brainer. Well, he'd know.
Peter Moran, Watson
Terry George (Letters, October 30) makes some valid points [about restrictions on landlords by the ACT government]. If you consider that home owners have also been threatened with a tax for not renting out their vacant property, removing their right to object to certain tenants becomes even more draconian.
Keith Hill, Isaacs
ANIMAL WAR HEROES
It is to be hoped that tributes and purple poppies will be distinctly displayed on Armistice Day around Australia to thank our often forgotten other heroes. Purple poppies are dedicated to our wonderful, loyal, dumb, "volunteered", animal conscripts. Only one [General Sir William Bridges' horse, Sandy] returned after WW1 battles to our peaceful land.
Our thanks, and accolades from our great-grand and grandparents, who bonded with their animal "mates", cannot be over-stressed.
P. R. Temple, Macquarie
DOCTORS IN THE HOUSE
First Dr Phelps takes Wentworth. Now Dr Owler is having a tilt at Bennelong. What are we going to see next? Pauline Hanson recruiting Dr Edelstein for the Senate?.
Allan Gibson, Cherrybrook, NSW