Few sitting days to keep government to account

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Letter writer COLIN LYONS, of Weetangera, thinks our Legislative Assembly doesn’t sit nearly enough, especially compared to other parliaments. 

AFTER a recent meeting in the Legislative Assembly with one of the new members, I picked up a copy of the Sitting Calendar for 2021.

I knew they didn’t sit for many weeks, but I was surprised just how little they did. So I did some international and interstate comparison.

In 2018, the House of Commons sat for 122 days, the Canadian Lower House sat for 127 days, the US House of Representatives sat for 124, Japan’s Diet for 150 days, Germany’s Bundestag 104, NZ’s Parliament 93, and Australia’s House of Representatives, 64. The Senate sat for 58 days.

The position in the state legislatures is more dismal. While each jurisdiction uses slightly different nomenclature, the sitting calendar for the lower houses is as follows for 2021: NSW, 51 days; Victoria, 45 days; SA, 51 days; Tasmania, 47 days; WA, 40 days and the ACT, 35 days plus 10 for Estimates.

I pose the question, is this adequate opportunity for the various oppositions, the media and the public to assess performance and hold governments to account?

Colin Lyons, Weetangera

Fudging the FOI requests

“IT’S always a fight for freedom of information” heads Jon Stanhope’s informative column (CN February 11). Yet when FOI was introduced, the idea was to make it easier for interested members of the public to access details of what governments were doing – or neglecting. 

Soon though, the public service (and politicians) realised that freely releasing information might occasionally be embarrassing as well as taking time away from vital civic duties. 

So FOI fees became the norm – along with the idea that, the higher the “cost”, the more it might dissuade the more detailed (and more potentially embarrassing) ones.

Thus the noble idea that the public is entitled to freely know details of what is actually going on has been replaced by long waits and high costs for requests to be fulfilled, plus the more that is redacted, often under the spurious banners of “national security” or “commercial-in-confidence”.

Thanks, Jon Stanhope for again pointing out the self-serving nature of too much of our public service and especially its masters. 

Thanks also for gently reminding us the solution lies in the hands of us voters (if we care enough) to insist that the real purpose of FOI is to serve our democracy, not the gatekeepers.

Eric Hunter, Cook 

Schools need to do their bit

I COMPLETELY agree with Cedric and Gerdina Bryant about motorists needing to obey school speed zones (“Scared for the kids”, Letters, CN February 11). 

However, schools need to do their bit as well. A local school regularly has the 40kph signs displayed throughout holiday periods when motorists know that the school is closed. Another one had the sign locked closed when school had started so motorists were not required to slow to 40kph.

It needs ALL schools to show responsibility and to make sure that all signs show the appropriate speed at the appropriate time. It is too late when an accident occurs for school authorities to say: “I thought they were open”. Who would then be at fault?

Barry Peffer, Nicholls 

Bring builders to account

I READ Ian Meikle’s column piece about footpaths (“Seven Days”, CN February 4 ). 

I want to add another aspect to the situation; I have noticed that indeed many footpaths are damaged, but I wonder if it really is the responsibility of the City Services to fix some of them again.

I have now seen several incidents where a perfectly good footpath is damaged because heavy vehicles of builders, working on an adjoining property, drive over the paths that are clearly not built to withstand such heavy loads. The results are cracked and damaged footpaths.

I would assume it is the responsibility of these builders to fix the damage again after their job is finished. But this never happens. It then becomes the task of the government (and taxpayers’ money) to fix the paths again.

Perhaps it would be much more cost effective to check and enforce remediation work after a building project is finished rather than leave it up to the government to fix the paths.

Silke Smaglinski, via email

I’d pay to fix path!

IAN Meikle’s “Seven Days” article on the state of our footpaths pointed to some of the main problems. I also have fallen on the footpath outside my home, fortunately not as badly as poor Cheryl Guthrie.  

The footpath outside my home has needed repairs for almost 20 years.  After my fall a couple of years ago I contacted the relevant ACT department. I too now have some painted arrows to admire. 

I grudgingly understand that this is a problem out of control throughout Canberra, but what particularly irritates me is that as it is a government responsibility I am unable to pay a private contractor to do the work.  

I would gladly pay a private contractor to do the work if only ACT rules allowed me to do so.

Anne Willoughby, Griffith

Great expectations for Dickson

THE experts in Planning, City Services, Transport ACT and the CRA will be working overtime for the next three years or more to ensure that the construction of a massive supermarket and apartment complex in the middle of the Dickson Group Centre is monitored and managed well from a problem-prevention perspective (“Finally supermarket plan gets to the checkout”, Paul Costigan, February 11). 

Some of these authorities have just knocked back a long-running plan for a new McDonald’s in Chisholm for reasons linked to parking, vehicle and pedestrian impacts and attendant community facility concerns. 

So they must have some excellent answers and solutions up their sleeves for addressing the much more major transport, parking and people movement and management issues that are looming for central Dickson and the surrounding residential areas. 

Interim replacement parking is not the only issue needing urgent attention. Bus users also need to be reassured that they will be able to get to and from places on time and make connections elsewhere according to published timetables, not just during the long construction period, but after the complex’s completion, when queues of cars and buses are expected to mount up even more at the many lights on the four sides of the Woolworths/Coles block because there is to be only one entry and one exit for the two-storey underground car park in the new complex. 

It is 11 years since this Dickson development was formally proposed and no-one impacted negatively by it will have tolerance for spin and superficial and impractical solutions to the real on-the-ground issues that many in the surrounding communities have identified over the years. 

Sue Dyer, Downer

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