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Sunday, July 14, 2024 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

No big surprise in the Manteena contract affair

Letter writer MAX FLINT reminds us of the MOU between the ACT government and Unions ACT that provides for all tenders being let by the government to be reviewed by Unions ACT and, by association other unions, such as the CFMEU. 

WHY am I somewhat surprised to read about the Manteena affair ( about a contract allegedly let upon direction, against the recommendation of best tender? 

Write to

Because, for many years now there has been extant an MOU in place between the ACT government and Unions ACT (Agreed Memorandum of Understanding on Procurement of Works and Services by the ACT Government), signed by Chief Minister Andrew Barr and Unions ACT on March 28, 2016. 

An earlier MOU with Unions ACT provided for all tenders being let by the government to be reviewed by the Unions ACT and, by association other unions, such as the CFMEU. 

Although denied by the government, the earlier MOU gave the unions an effective veto power over all contracts let by the government, given that Unions ACT had the right to be involved in all tenders let by the government and subsequent selection of a contractor and contract negotiations. 

The latest MOU has been the subject of the Freedom of Information request (CMTEDD07022017-110). A copy of the MOU may be made available from

Max Flint (a former director of capital equipment acquisition in government), Erindale Centre

Manteena ‘wasn’t what the minister’s office wants’

Constrain migration to take pressure off housing 

THE housing supply actions identified at the national cabinet meeting are welcome, but more needs to be done to overcome the housing crisis.

Yes, as agreed at the meeting, the supply of land for higher-density housing in areas of high-accessibility needs to be increased but the supply of greenfields land (as is being done in SA) also needs to be increased. 

Such areas to be developed with high-quality transport, facilities and services to reduce price pressures on inner-city land and better meet housing preferences.

Given the level of need, substantially more social housing needs to be constructed than that proposed. To help fund the increase, the proposed tax cuts and tax concessions for property investment should be reduced. However, substantive action on tax reform is unlikely given homeowners benefit from increases in property prices and the inevitable fear mongering of the coalition. An action that could have some acceptability would be the restriction of negative gearing concessions to two properties.

To reduce demand, first home buyers and first home builder’s schemes should be abolished as they simply bring forward demand and increase prices; and immigration should be reduced to a level consistent with our ability to deliver new housing, infrastructure and services. 

After addressing current skills shortages, net overseas migration should be reduced closer to its average of about 90,000 between 1991 and 2004 rather than the 219,000 it averaged between 2005 and 2019.

Mike Quirk, Garran

How about sending unwanted clothing to Maui?

WITH one of the latest human tragedies, the wild fires on Maui, wiping out the historic town of Lahaina and much of the island’s sustainability, could we not look to converting this country’s gross non-perishable and reusable waste into a lifeline for these unfortunate people? 

For example, according to the ABC’s program “War on Waste”, tonnes of our unwanted clothing eventually ends up annually in huge storage facilities waiting to be disposed of. Where? To landfill somewhere? Surely there are agencies such as the Red Cross for instance who, given government support, could organise the transfer of such “donations” to areas of need around the world, currently like Lahaina? 

Instead of wasting time and rhetoric, might I suggest that the federal government act to underwrite the collection of some of Australia’s unwanted and almost unused clothing and household goods. 

Surely it would then be possible to authorise the deployment of sections of the armed forces to ferry and distribute them to this devastated island nation. 

Would this not be a more satisfactory and humane outcome for all concerned? 

Such action could also serve to pave the way for the future beneficial disposal rather than the destruction, from time to time, of the tonnes of manufactured goods that this lucky country is discarding.

Patricia Watson, Red Hill

Flag placement is all about protocol

THE former coalition governments rarely used the Aboriginal or the Torres Strait Islander flag as backdrops to media conferences. The Albanese government now routinely uses all three flags. This has prompted some to question why the Australian flag is placed on the left and not displayed more prominently in the middle.

Protocol demands that the Australian flag be placed on the far left when facing the flags.

The Australian Army website, “Smart Soldier”, explains military customs and procedures to young soldiers, and particularly school cadets. It states that the Australian flag is placed on the left – symbolising closeness to the heart. This left placement of the national flag is followed by many other nations, and particularly the US.

However, the Army explanation of this widespread tradition may not be as romantic as claimed. The military often gives preference to the left side. Marching soldiers begin with their left feet because weapons are carried in their right hands. 

When flags and banners were used in combat, swords were carried in the right hand. The flag was defended to the last and was most effectively defended by strong right arms when placed on the left. The placement of the Australian flag on the far left when facing a group of flags accords with protocols, whatever the true origin of this tradition.

It has no relevance at all to the current bitter debate on the recognition of the First Australians in our constitution.

Noel Baxendell, Holt

Conveniently looking in the other direction

LAST month the chief minister announced that the City Renewal Authority would soon run an ideas competition to help design the future of City Hill and improve its role and use by “reimagining the space as a city park”.

Unfortunately, the only competition northwards along the national capital’s gateway boulevard is between major developers, to see who can cram in as many compact units as possible on every tract of rapidly sold-off land. 

The increasingly densified Northbourne Avenue illustrates how the ACT government continues to turn a convenient blind eye to the need for significant green spaces, generous and well-vegetated frontages, parks, and urban forest sites that could break up the kilometres of very ungentle urban intensification that they and the NCA happily signed off on in December 2018.

Community consultation had raised the need for much more visual and physical relief and open green spaces for new and existing residents and passers-by, both in and around this major city entrance-way. 

These views continue to be expressed but are not responded to in subsequent planning processes linked to the corridor’s current infill sites and future high-density residential precincts. 

Yet in the wake of the UN’s recent warning about “global boiling”, the ACT government has more than a duty of care to both analyse and mitigate, in evidence-based ways, the additional and long-lasting urban heating impacts caused by highly concentrated renewal zones, impacts that, in turn, are exacerbated by the unhealthy harms caused by climate change.

In the meantime, distracting us with the vision of a popular and very green park kilometres away in the other direction only highlights the worsening dearth of balanced planning outcomes north of Haig Park.

Sue Dyer, Downer 

The customers are the worst noise polluters! 

DOES anyone know of cafes and restaurants in Canberra where the noise is controlled to a level where you can hear anything other than people bellowing at each other. 

Among coffee machines, TV, music, traffic and open kitchen noise, the guests are the worst noise polluters. 

I’ve been to outdoor cafes where groups of men or women seem to think that their conversation should be blasted at decibel levels that are ear-splittingly painful and less than confidential. 

Perhaps dining reviewer Wendy Johnson has some favourites?

Sue Pittman, Kambah

Other countries have just got on with it

THE PM has stated on many occasions that he is committed to following the Uluru Statement from the Heart in full – eg, the Voice, Makarrata (Treaty) and Truth Telling. The PM says it would not take long to read as it is only one A4 size sheet of paper.

He claims the Voice is not a treaty, which is theoretically correct, but it is all part of the Uluru Statement from the Heart. He argued with commentators Ben Fordham, Waleed Aly and Patricia Karvelas that the Voice was not a treaty, but refused to say the treaty followed.

The PM is not being truthful. The Uluru Statement is not only one page, there are25 further pages following of what the Uluru Statement from the Heart really is all about – land rights, reparations, rent, autonomy, self-determination, sovereignty, violent dispossession (not true), invasion (not true, there was no invasion, it was an amicable settlement if you read the history books). The first fleet was trading with the local Aboriginals. Would this have occurred if there was an invasion?

The history books I have read indicate the settlers got on with the Aboriginals. There may have been some fighting, but not to the extent the Voice is pushing. There definitely was no genocide.

Countries all over the world have been taken over by other country/countries and they have just got on with it.

Vi Evans via email

I do agree the Voice should be legislated

I WOULD rarely agree with fellow letter writers Mario or Dr Doug, but I do agree that the Voice should be legislated (Letters, CN August 10)

I cannot support a constitution that offers different rights to people based on their race, whether intended either positively or negatively. All people are equal and should be treated equally before the law, in society and under the constitution. Race should never be a factor. 

We are all so mixed in breeding that “race” is hard to define. If it is not defined in the constitution it will eventually be defined by the High Court.

I would like the right for the government to legislate on the basis of race to be removed from our constitution. Recognition of the prior occupation of these lands by the Aboriginal people should be included in that document.

Geoff LeCouteur, Dunlop

Where is evidence the sky will fall in?

LIKE Douglas Mackenzie (CN August 10), I don’t often agree with our fellow letter writer Mario Stivala. This time I don’t agree with the good doctor, although I usually do. 

Learned though he is, he is not listening to the Uluru Statement from the Heart with its request that the Voice be enshrined in the Constitution. The very valid reasons for doing so have been stated over and over again and will follow established parliamentary and constitutional processes, including the checks and balances of full parliamentary debate and undoubtedly much public discussion.

What do we fear will happen if we meet this simple request, both symbolic and practical, and do so with the same level of grace and dignity as displayed in the Uluru Statement? Where is the evidence that the sky will fall in if we don’t?

Eric Hunter, Cook

Is Eric but a manifestation of AI?

THE concerns expressed in your August 10 letters pages by Messrs McDonald and Hingee about recent contributions by “Eric Hunter, Cook” could be allayed by explaining that no such person exists in reality, being but a manifestation of encroaching artificial intelligence into public media which, by all evidence of what is constantly being proffered, reveals being far more united to the first word than the latter. 

That rarely a week passes without the appearance of written interventions by the aforesaid scribe suggests that some electronic device is automatically stimulated to issue comments regardless of topicality, logic or value, but merely to avoid an implosion of accumulated current that inclusion of a safety valve in this Dalek-based machine would have rectified.

It appears to have an avatar back-up in the Deakin Doctor, which lends credence to a recent review determining that letters to the editor are primarily the purview of multi-opinionated old men with nothing else to do, about whom today’s monosyllabic youth would deride by shrieking “Get a life!” To avoid being similarly designated I shall say no more.

John Murray, Fadden

Editor’s note:Eric Hunter most certainly exists. His letters, as are John’s, are as welcome as anyone else’s, young, old, male, female or whatever. 

Send pollies for a night at the camp

IF CEOs and caring business people can live hard on the street roughing it in support and understanding of the plight of the homeless, why don’t our politicians, in small, regular, rostered numbers, at indigenous invitation, live rough overnight in their camps minus their first-world creature comforts in fuller appreciation of the difficulties facing these marginalised Australian folk. 

If they don’t, maybe the elected righteous aren’t that credible and the Voice referendum is questionable, or does the too-hard factor feature here?

John Lawrence via email

We can’t become the ‘easy’ death territory

AS a strong supporter of dying with dignity – I’ve even written a novel “Twilight” in its defence – I share Jeremy Hanson’s concerns (CN August 10) over our Labor/Greens proposal for radical euthanasia laws.

The last development we need in this sensitive area is for our so-called “progressive” ACT government to race ahead of the country in extreme legislation involving children and dementia sufferers, among others, to choose to die. 

I do not want to see Canberra become the “easy” death territory.

Thousands of Australians have worked long, hard and sympathetically to bring us to a considered position upon this complex issue not to have it abused by enthusiastic neo-Nazi type legislation playing into the hands of our opponents.

The 80 per cent of Canberrans in favour of death with dignity did not support this extremism.

Greg Cornwell, Yarralumla

Of windmills and global warming

I FEEL compelled to respond to two letters in the “City News” edition of August 10. Bob McDonald accuses Climate Change Minister Chris Bowen of wanting to “cover the landscape with windmills (wind turbines), solar panels and transmission lines rather than keeping coal and gas going for reliable base-load power and seriously promoting adopting the nuclear option”. 

Mr McDonald goes on to claim that minister Bowen’s “virtue signalling will ruin our economy and have practically zero effect on the world’s climate”. Mr McDonald’s comments seem to have been recited from the Murdoch media.

The second letter is, if anything, even more bizarre. Ian Pilsner claims that I am concerned about global warming because of the record high temperatures in Europe and North America. That much is true, but record high temperatures and extreme flooding have been reported in northern China, including close to Beijing. 

Mr Pilsner goes on to claim that I am not concerned (about global warming) because of the “record low temperatures and rainfall in Australia in the last few years”. Really? I remember clearly my primary school days, in the late ’50s when the soil in my father’s garden was frozen solid and the water from sprinklers that had been left on overnight was frozen into spectacular icicles.

Dr Douglas Mackenzie, Deakin

The double whammy if trucking in wood

IN relation to the article on wood heaters “Heater policy wanting, government urged to act” (CN August 10), the need to act on wood heaters is greater than gas. 

The ACT government is actively encouraging the transition from gas, but needs to do a lot more on transitioning from wood heaters.

Burning wood is worse for climate emissions than burning gas. In Canberra’s case, it is even more unsustainable. 

I was amazed to learn that firewood is trucked in using diesel fuel from Queensland, Victoria, and the south coast of NSW. This is a double whammy in climate-change terms. 

Merrilyn Fahey, Reid

Wood smoke responsible for chronic disease

THERE is still considerable ignorance in the community of the harms resulting from wood smoke.

Wood smoke is responsible for considerable chronic disease of the heart and lungs. It is more carcinogenic than cigarette smoke and the PM2.5 particulates in wood smoke are known to be particularly health hazardous. 

Leading respiratory physicians in Australia such as Prof Guy Marks, at UNSW Sydney, and Dr James Markos in Launceston, Tasmania, are in no doubt about the harm done by wood heaters and want them phased out.

The NSW government states that health costs from wood heaters in Greater Sydney are more than $2 billion annually, topping the list of air- pollution sources. 

With less than 5 per cent of households using wood as main heating and perhaps another 5 per cent burning wood as supplementary heating, the health costs equate to more than $10,000 per wood heater a year. An $8000 health cost per wood heater per year has been estimated for the ACT.

Education about wood heater risks as recommended by the ACT Environment Commissioner is badly needed, particularly when wood heaters are heavily marketed appealing to warm-glow imagery.

Murray May, Cook

Solution is turning NIMBYs into YIMBYs

NATIONAL cabinet has agreed to try and greatly increase housing supply.

It is said that a way to do this is to “simplify” planning. 

This usually means making it easier to redevelop individual house blocks.

We know, in the ACT and other jurisdictions, that this mainly results in bigger, very expensive, single houses and less space for trees, while at the same time we are supposed to be countering “heat-island” effects with more tree planting. 

The solution is, not less planning, but precinct-scale planning to identify areas suitable for medium-density redevelopment with greater requirements for communal open space and tree planting and with the agreement of local communities, so turning NIMBYs into YIMBYs!

Richard Johnston (life fellow, Planning Institute of Australia), Kingston 


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