Macklin / Tram rolls on despite no decision

“Not good enough, Katy. Light rail’s such a big and expensive decision it deserves a special vote from all Canberrans – a mini-referendum,” says Seven Days columnist ROBERT MACKLIN

THE revelation that the ACT Government had applied for the rezoning of seven sites along the proposed Gungahlin light rail route strongly suggests that Cabinet has already decided to go ahead with the project.

Robert Macklin.

Robert Macklin.

The so-called “final decision” scheduled for a couple of months hence seems suspiciously like window dressing.

Not good enough, Katy. It’s such a big and expensive decision it deserves a special vote from all Canberrans – a mini-referendum – with all the financial and planning cards on the table.

ON the other hand, the call by Jeremy Hanson for an inquiry into the Mr Fluffy imbroglio was premature. Time enough for that when the government has dealt with the crisis; and the Feds have shown their hand in contributing (or not) to its resolution.

THE overflow of the Googong dam was a symptom of a much wider problem I discovered on a week-long journey through the backblocks of Queensland. Our national weather events have developed a disturbing pattern – massive downpours and unusually high winds followed by long periods of very little rain.

Winters are milder and end sooner. And in the bush more high summer days are becoming unbearably hot. The birds really are falling from the trees in Western Queensland. We Canberrans probably have the best of both worlds.

THOUGH they would deny it to their dying breath, all prime ministers like to have their own little war – preferably in a distant land and with America taking the lead. It lets them wrap themselves in the flag of Team Australia, knock about with beefy soldiers and divert attention from their domestic troubles like, say, a very unpopular Budget. Made to measure, you might think, for a proudly Christian PM with his perception of “pure evil” among the jihadists of ISIS.

ACTUALLY, the Feds often provide our ACT Ministers with a similar target. This week Simon Corbell was on the warpath even before the Abbott Government decided whether to trash the renewable energy target, calling the Warburton report “dangerously radical and extremist”.

“All bets are off,” he cried, if they dared to withdraw support for rooftop solar. Not exactly “pure evil”, but his stand brought him an invitation to join a panel at an international conference of Nobel Prize winners in Hong Kong next month. Simon was packing his bag before you could say, “climate change”.

EDUCATION Minister Joy Burch also jumped on a solid bandwagon with her stand against the Abbott resuscitation of the legally discredited Chaplaincy scheme.

At a time when our Muslim community is feeling alienated by notions of Team Australia, it does seem unnecessarily provocative.

Canberra school teachers tell me they would much rather see the funds devoted to professionally trained school counsellors. These days there’s only one for every three schools.

HARD to feel much sympathy for the War Memorial’s complaint that its funding for travelling exhibitions has been cut. Much better for Canberra – and the nation – that the Memorial remain the font of our military history and bring visitors to the National Capital to share in it.

Besides which, Anzac museums are springing up all over the nation. Just how militarist do we want our country to be?

robert@robertmacklin.com

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