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Canberra Today 15°/19° | Wednesday, November 29, 2023 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

Typical Barr – when facing blame, he shifts it

When the blame lies clearly with the chief minister and his government, he shifts the blame to someone else, says letter writer RON EDGECOMBE, of Evatt.  

CHIEF Minister Andrew Barr’s protestations about the leaking of the Sofronoff Board of Inquiry report into the handling of the Brittany Higgins rape allegations are typical of his behaviour. 

Write to

When the blame clearly lies with him and his government, shift the blame on to someone else.

Consider the following:

  • It was the ACT cabinet, including Barr and his Attorney-General, who appointed Shane Drumgold as the ACT Director of Public Prosecutions.
  • It was the ACT government that tolerated the obviously unsatisfactory (as now coming to light under the Sofronoff inquiry) performance of Drumgold in the DPP role.
  • It was the ACT government that failed to notice the increasingly difficult relationship between the DPP’s office and the ACT police; and take steps to rectify the situation, a situation which fundamentally put at risk the whole integrity of the ACT judicial system.

When this dysfunctional situation was finally exposed by the actions of Drumgold in the Higgins matter, the ACT government was forced, under enormous political pressure, to finally stand up an inquiry into the matter.

Now, it is the ACT taxpayer who will have to foot the cost of the inquiry and quite likely the multi-million dollar cost of compensation to the defendant, Bruce Lehrmann, who is now suing the DPP’s office on the grounds of misfeasance in public office.

And Barr’s response to this is a serious suggestion to refer Sofronoff to the ACT Integrity Commission for the pre-emptive release of the report. One would think that Mr Sofronoff with his learned experience as a judge of the highest order would have been more than concerned with his findings from the inquiry and worried whether the ACT government, given the damning findings, would attempt to spin the report findings more favourably. His release of the inquiry shut down this pathway and this is why Barr is fuming.

One would have also thought that the ACT Integrity Commission, with its poor track record of reports completed to date, and with the increasing number of potential referrals related to various Barr government decisions, would have matters of higher order to consider.

Ron Edgecombe, Evatt

Henry and Will in front of their “letter”… and the letter that’s affixed to the Red Hill Nature reserve sign.

A sad message from Henry and Will

NOT the regular letter to the editor, but a poignant one nonetheless. Brothers Henry (11) and Will (9) live in Deakin and their mum says they’ve been left devastated by the killing of kangaroos and their joeys in this year’s cull.

Included in this cull were two large kangaroo families that Henry, Will and their parents used to encounter during regular walks up and down the reserve.

“In memory of those two families and all the others killed this year they drew and wrote this tribute and stuck it on the nature park sign at Red Hill, and took a moment to remember those killed,” says mum Natalie Baczynski.

Woolies a ‘done deal’ in Hawker development

IF columnist Michael Moore is looking for examples of shonky consultations (“Decision made, just the ‘consultation’ box to tick”, CN August 3) he need look no further than the self-interested “community consultation” being conducted in relation to Woolworths’ proposed expansion and adjoining redevelopment at the Hawker Village shopping centre. 

This shopping precinct is an intermediate size – ie, smaller than the shopping centres at Kippax and Jamison – and is located in a residential area. 

The proposals include purchasing the current surface parking area from the ACT government; replacing the modest-sized suburban supermarket with a much larger, full-line supermarket with basement parking; additional “specialty shops” on an upper level; and non-specified changes to other public areas.

The process allows the proponent (Woolworths) to conduct their own “consultation”, with seemingly no guidelines or directions. Conducted over a six-week period, including two weeks of school holidays, this consultation has been an object lesson in poor communication. 

The only information available to customers at the Hawker shops as notices provided by a local community group. Not even the Woolworths supermarket provided information to their customers about the consultation. 

Many local traders had not been contacted or were unclear about what was being proposed. Initiatives included a limited letterbox drop to households in the immediate area; a presentation to a Belconnen Community Council meeting; one registration-only evening “workshop”; and two on-site afternoon information displays. 

There was no media publicity about the proposals or the consultation. Importantly, there was no attempt to collect data by means of surveys of residents or shopping centre users. 

The value of this type of community “consultation” must be questioned, as it clearly allows the development proponent to formulate a report to the ACT government (which has had no official role so far, but with whom discussions have clearly been held) to suit its own interests. 

In this case, there is a strong suspicion that “the deal has been done” and that a “community consultation” such as this is a mere formality, rather than a genuine attempt to discern community views, prior to the lodging of a development application.

Karina Morris, Weetangera 

Did Berry apologise to anyone in person? 

DID ACT Housing Minister Yvette Berry apologise in person to any of the public housing tenants she had forced to relocate?

Certainly not to any of my friends living in public housing who have emailed me claiming Berry and Housing ACT treat them with contempt, but will not say so publicly for fear of being victimised by the minister and her department.

Here are some of their comments with names excluded:

  • “Berry and her crew look down on us, the less well-off, with arrogance and disdain, attitudes not dissimilar to racial and religious bigotry.”
  • “Political and bureaucratic conceit by unethical and incompetent elites.”
  • “Why did it take an ombudsman’s report for Berry to treat battlers with decency and respect? We need a judicial inquiry into public housing.”
  • “Barr and Co have moved to the far right, more interested in their developer mates and trams than the 20,000 plus people in public housing and the 1,600 homeless in Canberra.”
  • “Berry and Housing think social justice is a horse in the fifth at Randwick.”

Sinead O’Neil, via email

All that matters is the algorithm and AI

JANINE Haskins (Letters, CN August 10) doesn’t understand why car thieves get harsher penalties than paedophiles and other sex offenders. Allow me to help Janine out. We are literally in the grips of a cultural revolution that seeks to overthrow Western civilisation, which whether it was religious or humanist secularist in nature, viewed human beings as having innate worth. 

But this is not the case for the post-modernist-cum-post-humanist society, when all that increasingly matters is the algorithm and AI’s freedom to see humans as nothing more than data factories. 

As such, when we try, through the prism of religious or humanist secularist sensibilities, to understand why cars are now more important than innocent children, it makes no sense to us all. 

But once we understand that the age of innate human worth is quickly coming to an end – albeit only in the minds of a sick but very influential few – what we see happening in the world makes perfect sense. 

Vasily Martin, Queanbeyan 

Civic Hotel followed the failed ‘alcohol cafes’

I READ with interest Wendy Johnson’s review of the Civic Pub (CN August 10). I appreciate her kind and encouraging reviews. However, I could not let the historical inaccuracy pass. 

The Civic Pub did not open in the early 1920s. There were no pubs in the Federal Capital Territory then because the sale of alcohol was prohibited until 1928, thanks to King O’Malley.

After the 1928 plebiscite, in which voters overwhelmingly agreed to resume the sale of alcohol, the government experimented with “alcohol cafes” in Civic, Kingston and Manuka. That experiment failed miserably.

Eventually, in 1935 Tooheys were able to build two purpose-built pubs in Canberra. 

The Hotel Kingston in Griffith opened in July 1936. It has operated continuously and is doing a very busy trade these days.

The next to open, in August 1936, was the Civic Hotel, located on the corner of Northbourne Avenue and Alinga Street. It did good trade until it was demolished in 1985. 

Back to the present day – both pubs are, I believe, under the same management and there are distinct similarities in the tasty food offerings, thoughtful seating options and distinct décor. Canberra does have “real” pubs!

Nick Swain, Barton

In an ideal world, we’d have a caring neighbours

MICHAEL Moore incorrectly reported the wood heater Your Say Panel Survey results (CN August 3). In fact, 52 per cent of the 1955 Canberrans surveyed supported a phase-out in the ACT, 19 per cent were neutral and only 27 per cent opposed it.

The panel survey also found that 28 per cent of Canberrans – more than 2.5 times the 11 per cent respondents owning wood heaters – were frequently or sometimes impacted by smoke from a neighbour’s wood heater. Complaints about the problem often remained unresolved.

Results from Asthma Australia’s Nationally Representative Survey were similar. Three-quarters of the general population (77 per cent) agreed that woodfire heaters should not be allowed in urban or built-up areas and over half agreed they should be phased out (55 per cent) or banned completely (54 per cent). Equally importantly, those who are exposed to woodfire heaters said they are largely unable to protect themselves from the smoke.

Dr Sophie Lewis, ACT Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment, highlighted the inequity in current policy settings, which prioritise the rights of a small proportion of people to burn wood over the health costs for all Canberrans, especially those affected by wood heater pollution.

In an ideal world, we’d have a caring, compassionate society where neighbours weren’t forced to breathe harmful pollution.

Dr Dorothy L Robinson, Australian Air Quality Group 

Douglas can’t have it both ways

I AM always an interested reader of the letters page in both “CityNews” and the “Daily Telegraph” and I was perplexed by two letters, one in each publication, both penned by your regular contributor, Dr Douglas Mackenzie from Deakin. 

In the “Daily Telegraph” letter he writes about Canberrans continuing to vote in the Greens-Labor government, stating in his conclusion: “When will Canberrans wake up?” 

The same week he wrote in his letter to “CityNews”: “Like my father, I have been a Labor voter all my life and despite his disapproval of many Greens-Labor policies and actions, the ACT Liberals have a lot of work ahead of them to win my vote”. 

It seems like many, Douglas Mackenzie needs to wake up. After all, the Liberals cannot be worse than the current Greens-Labor government!

Andrew Sutton, Campbell

Articles likely to offend shouldn’t be published

I AM happy a few readers took issue with columnist Robert Macklin’s article, “Give us this day our daily hypocrisy in Parliament” (CN July 13). I also found it offensive. I did not write to “CityNews” as I had taken issue with Mr Macklin about an offensive article he had written previously, and I was simply brushed off.

We live in a multicultural society in which everyone is encouraged to be respectful and understanding of each other’s culture, religion and so on. Even common courtesy dictates that. If Mr Macklin is unable to be respectful, I suggest future articles of his likely to cause offence not be published, or as a minimum be redacted.

Herman van de Brug, Holt

Aunty’s not happy with the editor (not ours)

MY aunt recently sent an email to the editor of “The Canberra Times.” This is what she wrote: “On 8 October 2014 the OECD declared Canberra to be the best place in the world to live. Does anyone remember this, I do, having lived here for over 50 years? The Labor/Greens have been in power for 20 years and Canberra in many ways has declined.” 

She gave it the title: “Do you remember?”

“The Canberra Times” completely altered the title and contents to make it look like my aunt was happy with the way the ACT has been going. 

She rang the editor and he said they had every right to alter her comments.

What is the point of sending in comments if they do not end up yours? She told him that “The Canberra Times” was very left wing and the Liberals hardly get any good press.

Another question. What has happened to Canberra, it was not mentioned on any list of most desirable cities to live? 

I have to admit I much prefer reading your magazine, you have great articles including what concerts are up and coming. Also you are not biased and print both sides of what is going on in the ACT. I have also lived here for 52 years and I think the place has declined as well.

Melanie Glover, Duffy

Canberra flight costs are sky high

OUR chief minister keeps voyaging overseas to try and get flights in and out of Canberra when the locals would prefer he got some reasonable-cost interstate flights. 

Flight costs in and out of Canberra are way above what they should be 

Ben Gershon, via email

Go back to football, Senator Pocock

I SAW on the news that our illustrious Senator Pocock has come up with a brainwave. He has suggested that Parkes Way be put underground and then build a stadium on top with a group of houses as well.

Did Senator Pocock give much thought to this? Did he consider doing a feasibility study, a cost benefit analysis, consider the practicality, the scale of the project and how long it would take? 

We know from the Labor/Greens debacle of the trams how long it takes and the inconvenience to the populous. 

The senator was a footballer, so he knows how big a stadium is and he wants to put it over Parkes Way. 

Does this also include an enormous car park? Then there are the houses. How close would they be to the stadium? The structural work would have to be phenomenal to take the weight of the stadium, car park and houses. 

Has he considered the cost and the fact the ACT is already in so much debt and climbing? Go back to football, senator, if this is the best you can come up with.

Vi Evans, via email

Worry less about mynas, more for kangaroos

IN answer to Errol Good about Indian Mynas, I can understand how he thinks about native animals and birds, which is commendable.

Providing nest boxes for native birds is exactly what Indian Mynas are looking for and they will kick out anything that is nesting inside.

In summer I wear a T-shirt that has a photo of an Indian Myna on it. The comments I get are that it’s a nice photo of a magpie! Unfortunately the general public wouldn’t know the difference between a mudlark and a magpie.

I would suggest we worry less about Indian Mynas and be concerned a bit more about the horrible culling of the kangaroos, which in other countries people cannot believe.

Mr Barr likes to spend money; how about he has a Shoo-Ross fitted to all ACT cars. It may be cheaper and not so cruel.

John Hobbins, via email

It’s time for a referendum date, Mr Albanese

WITH the Voice campaign now perceptively losing traction, it’s time for the PM to finally announce a referendum date or risk antagonising voters into voting “no” at the upcoming referendum. 

Voters are now sick and tired of having the Voice forced down their throats on a daily basis. 

As apparently a vast number of voters have already made up their minds one way or another, and the voting pattern to date would be hard to change, I can’t see how delaying announcing a referendum date would advantage a moribund Voice. 

Instead of procrastinating, Albo should “do the right thing” by announcing the referendum date now and put an end to this never ending political charade.

 Mario Stivala, Belconnen

Sir has told the class umpteen times…

MARIO, have you not been listening in class again? (Letters, CN August 3).

Sir has told the class umpteen times that because the parliament has power to make special laws in relation to a race of people, Mr Albanese wants the referendum to decide if it’s fair for members of that race to be able to tell parliament how those laws affect them. 

It’s a matter of principle. How would you feel if Sir decided all the boys in the class had to have an apple – with no complaining – because he thought it was good for them, while the girls in the class were to be given money to buy whatever food – including lollies – they wanted.

Sir has also said that if the referendum decides a Voice is fair, then Mr Albanese wants the Parliament – not him or his government – to decide how the members of that race could make their views known to the members and senators. Parliament will no doubt at that stage have to decide many matters of detail.

Bill Bowron, via email

It was the other way around, Michael

MICHAEL Moore (CN August 3) says we need to listen to people’s views more rather than just having “tick-the-box” consultations. I agree, but Michael needs to get his facts right as well.

He quotes a Your Say survey on wood heaters as follows: “Nearly 2000 people participated with just 27 per cent supporting the phasing out of wood heaters.”

What the published survey in fact shows is that 52 per cent of all respondents supported phasing out wood heaters, and only 27 per cent opposed this.

The Your Say survey results are therefore more in keeping with the current ACT Environment Commissioner’s recommendations to phase out wood heaters.

Murray May, Cook

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One Response to Typical Barr – when facing blame, he shifts it

Jane says: 15 August 2023 at 8:39 am

Karina Morris, I wouldn’t be too worried about Woolworths’ and the ACT government’s plans for Hawker Shops, though the lack of consultation is typical these days.
There have been similar changes proposed for Kambah Shops for at least 10 years, possibly 15, and nothing has actually happened yet, apart from some minor landscaping in a playground a few years ago.


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