On August 5, the Legislative Assembly legislated an increase in the size of the assembly from 17 to 25 members, to be elected five from each of five multi-member electorates. This is a retreat from proportional representation and serves the bigger parties more than the smaller.
The same day the Select Committee on the Review of the Electoral Act tabled its report. The majority, ALP/Liberals, recommended an increase in public funding from the present $2 per vote to $8.
Public funding is designed to reduce the need for parties to seek donations, with the risk of corruption. (Think ICAC, NSW.) Lest the fourfold increase in public funding be just a grab from the public purse, Shane Rattenbury, Greens, recommended in a dissenting report that the existing caps on spending by candidates and parties be reduced.
The committee recommended that the total electoral expenditure per candidate should be capped at $40,000; for a party contesting all 25 seats in the new assembly, $1 million may be spent.
It would be reasonable to set a cap on the party total considerably below $1 million.
The committee considered the existing cap of $10,000 on individual donations but made no recommendation, leaving the assembly to decide. $10,000 should also be reduced. Mostly the committee has done a good job. But on the recommendations described here, the larger parties are favoured.
Easy to guess how the majority of the assembly will vote. With big political parties you needn't find a mens rea, it's sufficient to know cui bono?
John Cashman, Yarralumla
An overdue decision
I am glad David Eastman's conviction for the murder of Assistant Federal Police Commissioner Colin Winchester has been quashed. It has taken too long.
Notwithstanding some circumstantial evidence against him, I have always held grave concerns about his trial and the conviction decision.
My concerns about the conviction stem in large part from the interruption to the provenance of the gunshot residue and I will have more to say about this if the ACT Director of Public Prosecutions applies for a retrial.
But does there come a point where the apparent inability of the DPP to understand straightforward matters of the administration of justice calls into question his own fitness to serve?
Richard Johns, Blairmount, NSW
No reason to fear
To my memory, David Eastman has had only one criminal conviction in a reasonably well run life.
If memory serves me right, Ric Ninness (''Detective in Estman case fears revenge'', August 22, p1) had a conviction for a serious assault, later quashed.
If anyone should be nervous I would suggest it should be David Eastman.
Howard Carew, Isaacs
Drugs battle valued
B. McConnell (Letters, August 20) expresses some sympathy for the police doing their job knowing it will make no difference to the illicit drug trade. I suggest this inverts the priorities applicable to drug use.
Primary prevention is the most important of the three principles of public health governing epidemics, including drug epidemics. Arguably this principle has never been so vital and necessary as with the Ebola virus. Virtually all first contact must be stopped or the results are deadly.
The lives and health of our kids are paramount in the drug scene and no one could argue convincingly that the police believe their seizures of up to 14 tonnes of illegal drugs annually don't save hundreds of kids' lives. The article ''ACT drug lab makes history'' (August 20) is an excellent example of the police acting out primary prevention.
It reported in effect that the equivalent of more than 4 million ecstasy tablets did not reach our children. The thin blue line is frequently fattened by thankful parents.
Colliss Parrett, Barton
Methane red herring
John Morland (Letters, August 21) has misunderstood the thermal effects of methane entering the earth's atmosphere. He states that because the infrared absorption lines of methane overlap those of carbon dioxide, the existing carbon dioxide will have already absorbed most of the infrared energy, leaving little or nothing for the methane to do. If he is correct, his argument equally applies to more and more carbon dioxide entering the atmosphere. Following John's argument, the new carbon dioxide would have no infrared energy to absorb, as that would have already been done by the carbon dioxide (and water vapour) already there, and so there would be no further warming.
Clearly this is not so. The observed increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere since about 1850 has coincided with an observed steady increase in temperature.
Methane is a stronger absorber of infrared radiation than carbon dioxide, and would warm the atmosphere even faster than carbon dioxide alone.
Alastair Stewart, Campbell
No room for jihadists
I tend to agree with the editorial, ''Approach to jihadists flawed'' (Times2, August 20, p2). I too object to would-be jihadists in Australia having their passports cancelled. They should not be cancelled until after they have entered the war zone. As for similarly cancelling their dole, that's a no-brainer.
The issue is not whether their cause is just or not. The point is the commitment of such groups to deadly action in their country of citizenship. Allow them to cede residency and citizenship.
Gary J. Wilson, MacGregor
Refugees in rehab?
Prisoners spend a fixed time in prison, often shortened by good behaviour, and then they are considered rehabilitated and released. Why can't the government use similar measures with refugees deemed to be a security risk? Considering that nobody knows what ASIO's opinion is based on, I feel that we should give these people the benefit of the doubt. And certainly not hold them forever in facilities that are only meant for temporary stays.
M. Pietersen, Kambah
Private schools greedy
Meg Wilson (Letters, August 22) asks, ''Why isn't public school funding sufficient to render private schools redundant?''
The answer is simple and I think Meg answered it herself: public school funding is insufficient because taxpayer money is siphoned off to greedy private schools. All government education funding should be going to public schools so that all young Australians have the same opportunities in life.
Michael Lucas, Conder
Cost of ATO job cuts outweigh salary savings
As a former Assistant Commissioner in the Office, I am quite prepared to use the ''dud'' word to describe some ATO staff - unlike Tax Office second commissioner Geoff Leeper (Letters, August 20).
I'd start with the commissioner and second commissioners, not because I think they are work shy, but because their staffing policies are duds. Clearly what the commissioner and the other representatives of the 1 per cent now in charge of the ATO are doing is cutting back massively on staff numbers with the effect that their mates in big business will pay even less tax than some of them now do. Of course, more than 40 per cent of them pay no income tax anyway.
The Tax Office will deny that job cuts advantage big business and will claim that they can collect just as much after cutting 10 or 20 per cent of their workforce. I'd like to see the ATO release all their analysis of the impacts of staff cuts on revenue collections. If they don't you'd have to question why not.
The confusion about the impact of the cuts among senior tax officials - evident at a previous Senate Estimates hearing - will continue. Some of that evidence indicated that the loss of revenue could be as high as six to one, that is six times the amount saved in expenditure on staff could be lost in revenue collected.
It is my understanding that the loss of experienced tax officers is already having an impact on revenue collections and with more job cuts to come the decline in collections, especially from the tax risk takers in big business, will only get worse.
But not to worry. Treasurer Joe Hockey can just use that as further ''evidence'' to back up his false claims about a Budget emergency and cut more public services and public service jobs.
The 1 per cent will be pleased.
John Passant, Kambah
MPs get ticket to lean
In addition to earlier references to the hypocrisy of politicians being ''leaners'' not ''lifters'', one should be aware that politicians appear to have granted themselves the right to use their travelling allowance to acquire property to use as accommodation when they chance to be in Canberra. In reality, the taxpayer is footing the mortgage.
In 1992, a public servant on long-term posting to Washington who acted similarly was successfully prosecuted and had to forfeit the property he was in the process of acquiring. What could be the basis for the latitude granted to politicians?
P. Robertson, Rivett
Empty trough in stages
In response to information that there are 226 members of parliament from both houses who have ownership stakes in 563 properties, Alan Parkinson (Letters, August 21) remarked ''no wonder the issue of negative gearing is not on the agenda''. Well, it should be on the agenda.
If it's good enough for the Coalition government to cut or reduce a range of assistance to the poor and needy, then surely the age of entitlement of taxation concessions for the wealthy to negatively gear multiple properties is also over. The Coalition is fond of announcing hard measures with a future implementation date, so just to avoid politicians having apoplexy at the thought of their wealth being reduced, and investor voter backlash, why not simply decide that for any investment property purchased after January 1, 2015, there will be no taxation concessions in relation to maintenance expenses or reduced capital gains.
This will enable Joe Hockey, Mathias Cormann and probably a significant number of their advisers and senior public servants with negatively geared properties to keep their snouts in the taxpayer trough, while phasing out this significant diversion of funds available for major projects of national importance.
If you agree, I urge you to write to MP's, particularly those on the cross benches who seem to have the guts to tackle vested interests in this age of unfairness.
Bill Bowron, Farrer
Profits for the people
Reserve Bank Governor Glenn Stevens thinks companies give too much of their profits to shareholders in dividends and capital buybacks (''Reserve Bank chief implores business to wade into risk'' BusinessDay, August 21, p9), and don't retain enough in the business for future growth. With respect, I disagree.
There's a strong argument that companies should give their shareholders in dividends the whole of their profits in any year (as do listed Property Trusts), and leave it to the shareholders to decide whether they want to re-invest some of that money in the company, or somewhere else.
In other words, all companies should be legally required to give shareholders the whole of the after-tax profits their investment has earned, and have a Dividend Reinvestment Scheme (as some companies do have) to let shareholders decide how much to reinvest.
That would be justified on both competition grounds (given the competition between companies for capital), and on equity ground (allowing shareholders, rather than the company, to decide how they want to reinvest their earnings).
R.S. Gilbert, Braddon
Give City Hill its day in sun
Despite overwhelming national support for the Renewable Energy Target, there are disturbing signals from groups closest to its implementation. At Mildura, the country's largest planned solar farm is on hold. Uriarra solar farm has met with intense local resistance.
To counter rural nimbyism, a determined national gesture by the ACT administration would be installation of a solar farm on City Hill, the centre of Canberra City. This area is designated a park, yet while being conspicuously visible, it is virtually inaccessible.
As a solar farm, it be an agreeable central component of the Capital, as well as enhancing a strong statement of national intent of renewable energy.
Now is the moment to rescue this priceless park from being an uncertain emptiness and proclaim a national symbol of world significance.
Jack Palmer, Watson
Assembly's ranks too hard to breach
The Chief Minister (''Women, stand up and stand for Assembly, Times2, August 15, p5) has not looked closely at the record of Assembly turnover or of female representation under the Hare-Clark system since the move to three electorates in 1995.
With no safe seats available, at subsequent elections between four and eight newcomers have entered the Assembly, some after retirements rather than by defeating incumbents. Hare-Clark offers electors practical alternatives if they are not overly impressed with particular MLAs. Most women have come into the Assembly by defeating someone or through countback, rather than at the expense of an incumbent. In contrast, new male MLAs have been far more likely to replace either a retiring or defeated colleague.
Except in the fourth Assembly (elected in 1998), where two incumbent women who had become MLAs through countback were narrowly defeated and two others in Ginninderra also lost their places, there have been at least five female MLAs and usually six or seven. That has placed the ACT at the forefront of Australian experience. Over the six Hare-Clark elections to date, women have taken 36 per cent of the Molonglo seven-member vacancies and 28 per cent of those in five-member electorates, including majorities in Ginninderra in both 2008 and 2012. Those proportions have generally aligned with the percentages of votes female candidates received.
The difficulty women have had breaking through in five-member electorates, particularly in Brindabella, shows how much of a hurdle a quota of nearly 16.7 per cent - rather than ones of 12.5 per cent or 10 per cent - can be expected to constitute in the Assembly that is about to undergo the second-largest percentage expansion of any Australian parliament since federation.
Bogey Musidlak, convener Proportional Representation Society of Australia (ACT Branch)
TO THE POINT
PALMER KNOWS LIMITS
Like many others, I have been waiting in vain for a sign of intelligent life from the ranks of the Palmer United Party. Maybe their leader has provided it by so far failing to attend meetings of the powerful Economic Committee of the House of Reps. Is it possible, just possible, that he recognises that he is not equipped to contribute?
Charles Smith, Nicholls
NEWS BENCH IN SESSION
Two days in a row The Canberra Times publishes the names and photos of two military personnel who have ''allegedly'' committed sexual assaults (''Cadet accused of sex assaults on women'', August 21, p1, and ''Duntroon cadet charged with Anzac Day sex assault'', August 22, p2). A trial by the court, or a trial by the CT?
Susan Cowan, Yarralumla
HOCKEY OUT OF TOUCH
Joe Hockey seems to be a nice guy but, given his private school upbringing and executive-funded lifestyle, he is obviously out of touch with the day-to-day needs of everyday people and should, in the interest of the Australian majority, not be the Federal Treasurer.
P. J. Carthy, McKellar
ASADA's ultimatum to the Cronulla players is nothing short of blackmail. Surely it is time for a complete review of this little empire.
Michael F. Buggy, Torrens
LABOR POOR SPORTS
It was not the ''blackest day in Australian sport'', but in Australian politics, when Labor besmirched the reputation of all Australian sportspeople to divert attention from the Craig Thompson affair. Only a few clubs in two football codes have been implicated, and after 18 months 17 players asked to show cause.
Instead of obfuscating, Labor should make an unqualified apology to all Australian sportspeople.
John Shailer, Ainslie
I have to correct David Ellery (''Literary cat happy ending to tail'', Gang Gang, August 21, p10). ''All that glisters is not gold'' is in Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice, written a long time before Thomas Grey, who was quoting it.
Dr Alan N. Cowan, Yarralumla
WHEN WORLD WATCHES
Tony Abbott sheds public crocodile tears about an American journalist beheaded by the Islamic State. Yet he has not a shred of compassion or even concern about a refugee murdered in our concentration camp on Manus Island under his watch.
Richard Keys, Ainslie
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