New concerns surround the government’s increased use of legislative powers to bypass the parliament and create laws that cannot be amended or overturned. The federal government has embedded special powers in new Covid-19 laws to make unilateral changes to non-pandemic-related legislation, using what are known as ‘Henry VIII clauses’ – named for the unchecked power they involve.
The independents in the senate continue to disrupt the traditional balance of power in that chamber. Malcolm Turnbull prides himself on being an innovative kind of guy and his business history supports that claim (Paddy Manning, “Born to unspool”, September 17-23). However, in government he has been shown to stubbornly adhere to the old ways of doing things. If he wants to gain control of the senate and mitigate the damage done by outliers such as Pauline Hanson and David Leyonhjelm, he needs to remember his innovative past and insert a bit of disruption himself. We need an agile prime minister, and we also need all of our politicians to look at their roles in a new way. Collaboration is one of the cornerstones of innovation. A collaborative approach, rather than the current adversarial method, might seem contrary to the traditional way of governing, but this country needs new ideas and new approaches, not the dreary continuation of outdated government we currently suffer. C’mon, Malcolm, stop mucking around and show us what you can really do.
– Frank Pollard, Wurtulla, Qld
More plebiscites the answer
Since we are being asked by our government to vote on the vital social issue of same-sex marriage (Mike Seccombe, “Battlelines drawn on same-sex marriage plebiscite”, September 17-23) – mostly so our PM can avoid putting himself at odds with the Catholic boys’ club on his backbench – I have a suggestion. How about a vote on other potentially contentious matters, thus saving our dear much-overworked politicians from having their political equilibrium disturbed? I’d like a vote on: when to send our defence forces overseas; levels of funding to private schools and hospitals; the reasonable amount of income required by folk at the end of their working lives; the disparity in pay rates between those who look after our children, sick and elderly (teachers, nurses, carers) – as opposed to those who look after our property (accountants and lawyers). How’s that for a start?
– Sue Pechey, Hampton, Qld
Put it to the vote
Perhaps we should have a plebiscite to decide whether we should have a plebiscite on same-sex marriage.
– Jenni Carrington, Collombatti, NSW
Call for a fair go
Congratulations on the challenging articles by John Martinkus (“Forbidden island”, September 10-16) and Karen Middleton (“0ffshore matters”, September 10-16). They play no small part in helping to keep these issues of national shame before us. Both major parties have played a disgusting role in treating people who have come to us seeking protection from the suffering and trauma they have experienced in their homelands. I and hopefully many other Australians will endorse a call for a bipartisan approach to try to reverse all the harm and damage we have done to these people. We are better than that. Recently, our nation was outraged at the treatment of young people in youth detention centres. Time and time again our nation has been shamefully exposed both nationally and internationally for a similar system of abuse and neglect instigated by one of the most privileged and wealthy nations in the developed world. Our response has been to shroud the treatment of these asylum seekers with a veil of silence; to legislate to imprison any person who has worked on Nauru or Manus should they make incidents public. We have also witnessed the establishment of a new blackshirted paramilitary force. To whom are they accountable? Surely, we are better than that. In recent weeks at the Olympics and football finals, we have stood and proudly sung our national anthem: “For those who’ve come across the seas, we’ve boundless plains to share, with courage let us all combine to advance Australia fair.” Let’s do just that – Advance Australia Fair.
– Michael Schell, Berkeley Vale, NSW
Different approach in French trials
About 75 per cent of men charged with rape in Australia get off (Jane Gilmore, “Shame, and blame”, September 17-23). Reasons include: the system does not try to find the truth; evidence is concealed on the grounds that jurors are stupid; victims have to give evidence, but rapists do not; untrained judges are largely passive; lawyers control the process and are allowed to confuse witnesses and jurors with sophistry, a technique of lying by false arguments, trick yes or no questions, shifting the goalposts et cetera. In France, about 95 per cent of men charged with rape are convicted. Reasons include: the system seeks the truth; evidence is not concealed; trained judges control the process, question witnesses, and do not let lawyers obscure the truth with sophistry.
– Evan Whitton, Glebe, NSW
Taking country to task
I am so proud to be Australian. We have just notched up 25 years of uninterrupted economic growth but our foreign aid is at an all-time low. And we have bullied and tricked Timor-Leste out of its much-needed oil revenues. Aboriginal lives are often short, impoverished and miserable. We have no sovereign wealth fund after a once-in-a-lifetime mining boom. We promised to bring 12,000 Syrian refugees here, but have managed 3000. We promised the world we would do better at climate change, but rate No. 20 out of the G20. A massive new coalmine has been approved. Science is disparaged. Gambling law reform was defeated by vested interests. The younger generation cannot afford housing. Equal pay for equal work is still a myth. Women are underrepresented in parliaments and companies. The poor are penalised. Inequality is growing at a rapid rate. So proud.
– Janet Simpson, Glebe, NSW
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This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Sep 24, 2016.
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