1995_01_january_leader04jan

The tables will turn today in the United States. For more than half of the past 50 years the Congress has not been controlled by the party which has the presidency, but in nearly all of that time it has been Republican Presidents facing a Democrat-controlled Congress. Today Democrat Bill Clinton faces a Republican-controlled Congress. He faces a more difficult task on two counts. First, past Republican Presidents have been able to secure quite frequently support from a block of conservative Democrats from the South. There is no equivalent group of chamelon Republicans, though occasionally one or two liberal Republicans break ranks.

Secondly, Democrat Presidents like to initiate programs that require legislative backing whereas their Republican counterparts have, of their nature, been suspcicious of high governmental intervention in domestic policy. A Democrat President like Mr Clinton, therefore, will need more congressional co-operation than a Republican like his predecessor to achieve electoral credibility. Mr Clinton staked much on moving towards a universal health scheme. He had difficulty with a Democrat Congress on that; with a Republican Congress it will be hopeless. But it will not be all bad for Mr Clinton. For a start he will have someone else to blame and someone else to call a spoiler. Before, his own party was the spoiler and he had only himself to blame for under-achievement.
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1994_06_june_pirate

The Business Software Association of Australia announced last week that it had caught a pirate.

It got an injunction, costs and unspecified damages from Adelaide bulletin board operator Jarrad Webb in the Federal Court.

Webb was offering Aldus, Microsoft and Autodesk programs over his bulletin board. This means people with a computer and modem can dial a phone number and download the files on to their computer. People pay for the use of the bulletin board, typically sending money and receiving a password.

Some of these programs cost up to $1000 in the shops. Sure, you get a manual if you buy from the shop, but there are so many guides to major programs available in the shops that this does not matter.
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1994_06_june_actps

The separate ACT Government Service will come into effect on July 1 after legislation was passed in a special sitting of the ACT Legislative Assembly last night.

The special sitting dealt with some 250 amendments to the original Bill. A move by the Opposition to postpone the Bill for more consideration was defeated when the Independents voted with the Government.

The Chief Minister, Rosemary Follett, said extra rights and equity would be granted to 14,000 ACT public-sector employees who to date had not been given the status of “”officer” in the Commonwealth service.

The new Act brings virtually all public-sector employees into the service as “”officers”, unlike the Commonwealth which excluded many blue-collar employees and employees in business enterprises.

In the ACT these people would have better career paths and choices because they would be eligible to apply for jobs on merit throughout the ACT and Commonwealth services.

She said the rights of the other 9000 until-now nominally Commonwealth officers in the ACT service had been maintained.

In getting the Bill through the Government agreed to some changes sought by the Opposition and Independents when it realised the numbers were against it.

The Legal Aid Commission is to be completely independent. The Director of Public Prosecutions and ACTEW are to come under the Bill, but be “”autonomous bodies”, which puts their chief executives in the shoes of the Public Service Commissioner for the purposes of their bodies.

The operation of autonomous bodies has been changed to give their chief executives a much greater say in employment matters which will enable greater flexibility in enterprise bargaining in ACTEW.

The merit principle is to be applied to Chief Executives more strictly than in the original Bill, though the Government argued that this might leave Ministers’ actions in appointing heads of department open to court review.

The main thrust of the Government’s Bill remains: that the vast bulk of ACT public-sector employees are “”officers” of the service; there is a uniform code of conduct and discipline; the merit principle applies; that certain base conditions apply to all employees (long-service and maternity leave, promotions and appeal rights); and that employees can find the law in one Act (unlike the Commonwealth).

The Commonwealth’s complementary legislation is yet to be passed. The Opposition and Democrats are likely to get some changes to the Federal Government’s position. It is likely that Section 50 transfers (where the Commonwealth boss wants someone from the ACT at the same level without going through the interview process) will continue for two years.

The ACT Act allows for these type of transfers from the Commonwealth indefinitely.

Both Governments have agreed that officers from either service can apply for Gazette jobs in the other service on merit, which makes ACT officers more mobile than their counterparts in the states.

The whistleblower provisions were passed, but the Assembly agreed to consider the Opposition’s stronger provisions as a separate Bill later.

The Assembly agreed to an amendment from Independent Michael Moore that the public-sector management standards be disallowable by the Assembly.

Ms Follett said she expected remaining industrial issues to be settled in the Industrial Relations Commission soon.

She said the Government was pleased at the support for the statement of values and ethics in the Bill.

“”This will give our public servants much greater guidance about our expectations of their behaviour,” she said.

The president of the Law Society, Robert Clynes, said he was pleased with the result which showed democratic processes in the Territory were working. He also praised the government for funding i the Budget a duty solicitor for those in police custody and continuing funding for legal aid for those seeking domestic violence orders.

1994_06_june_actplan

A “”groundswell of community confusion” has resulted in the ACT Assembly’s planning committee bringing its review of planning legislation off the back-burner.

Opposition Planning spokesman and committee member Greg Cornwell said yesterday that submissions would now be sought on planning law. He had earlier called for a review citing “”the groundswell of community confusion about planning matters, in particular the impact of current development procedures on residential neighbourhoods”.

In the past year there has been widespread complaint from residents of stand-alone residences about nearby conversions to dual and multi occupancies, especially in the older suburbs of Red Hill and Yarralumla.

Mr Cornwell said that at the time of the Draft Territory Plan following the post-self-government 1989 planning law, few people realised the full implication of the multi-dwelling rules: that single residences anywhere in Canberra could be converted to one- or two-storey multi-dwelling residences on the one block and that in some place blocks could be amalgamated to build units.

He said, “”In some ways the delay has been useful because more people understand the implications of planning law now and so submissions to the committee will be better informed and cover a wider cross-section of the community.”

The chair of the committee, Wayne Berry, will now write to the Minister for Planning, Bill Wood, inviting a government submission.

Mr Cornwell said the committee would also seek submissions from the Department of Environment, Land and Planning and the ACT Planning Authority. It already had some community submissions and would welcome more.

Mr Wood said yesterday that he welcomed the review and that the Government had already prepared material. He had long recognised the need for continuous review of planning laws and procedures. As new procedures came into force there was often a need for review and fine tuning.

The other member of the committee is Independent Helen Szuty.

In another planning development, an appeal against planning decisions to permit development on part of the Tuggeranong Homestead site will be heard later this month by the ACT Planning Appeals Board.

The ACT Government has a policy of 50 per cent in-fill and 50 per cent greenfields development to accommodate growth in the ACT. The in-fill has been made up of development of green bits within the present city and redevelopment of old houses with units and multi and dual occupancy.

1994_06_june_actewcom

A takeover bid has been launched for the ACT’s biggest business.

There is a lot at stake as the rival management groups vie for control of about $1.5 billion worth of assets (or about $3 billion using replacement cost accounting), about 1400 employees, a turnover of about $350 million, $31.1 million and at least 100,000 customer accounts. Continue reading “1994_06_june_actewcom”

1994_05_may_actps01

Seamless” is the buzz word when talking about the new ACT Government Service. There is to be a “”seamless” transition from having all ACT public servants as part of the Commonwealth service to having a separate ACT service. There is to be “”seamless” transfers from one service to the other.

You can just see Bernard Wolley interrupting: “Er, Minister, if it is to be seamless then it is the same fabric, so you cannot have two fabrics joined seamlessly.”

And he’s right. There will be some seams when the new ACT service begins on July 1 and about 20,000 Public Sector employees in Canberra find themselves moved by legislation from the Commonwealth Service to the ACT Government Service.

It is inevitable, if we are to have a separate service, and without a separate service we cannot be truly called self-governing. The seams are not a bad thing. What are they? How will the two services differ and what effect will that have on employees, present and future?
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1993_05_may_lease

A North Canberra redevelopment which has come under fire in the Federal and ACT Parliaments has been withdrawn and will be redone, it was announced yesterday.

The joint private-ACT Housing Trust redevelopment in Torrens Street, Braddon, was to have drawn Federal Building Better Cities money and be a model for inner-city redevelopment, however, it was condemned by the Canberra Conservation Council and several leading community groups for poor solar-energy use, privacy and other problems.

The Minister for Land, Environment and Planning, Bill Wood, told the Assembly that the developer had advised the ACT Planning Authority that a revised proposal was being investigated “”which will seek to achieve better solar orientation and streetscape”.
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1993_03_march_polsum

Retain existing sales, wholesale, petrol excise and payroll tax. Cut company tax from 39% to 33%. Cut income tax. In Jun 94 $3.30pw at $25,000 rising to $23.25 at $50,000 and above. In Jan 96 $3.30pw at $25,000 rising to $24 at $50,000 and above. No cuts below $20,000.

Coalition: Abolish sales, wholesale, petrol excise and payroll tax. Impose GST at point of consumption of all goods and services except health, education, food for home consumption, residential land. Cut income tax. In Jul 93 $2.30pw for everyone. From Oct 94 (GST day) from $6pw at $10,000 to $49.70 at $40,000 and above. Taper capital gains tax until none is payable for assets held for more than five years. No capital-gains on goodwill.

Health:

Labor: Increase Medicare levy from 1.25% to 1.4%. Buy 10,000 private beds for public patients to cut waiting lists. Basic dental care under Medicare to health card holders. Keep present AIDS funding.

Coalition: Cut $1.3bn in grants to states for hospitals which would be made up with private-insurance input. Medicare to change: no general bulk-billing; rebate cut to 75% of schedule fee; penalties of up to $800 for individuals on $35,000+ and families on $45,000+ for those failing to take out private insurance on tope of the 1.25 per cent levy. Incentives for low-income earners to get private insurance with rebates of up $800 for family, phasing out at $30,000 income.
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July 1992. Justice for Australian writers

The Copyright Agency Ltd dished out $6 million last week to 1600 Australian writers and other copyright owners. That was the takings for all the photo-copying done in Australia’s educational institutions. It was a triumph of pragmatism over artificial legalism. The result, by and large, was justice for Australian writers. They got a financial return for the use of their work. Continue reading “July 1992. Justice for Australian writers”

Caligula, the rule of law and Australia

The Roman Emperor Caligula (born 12AD, murdered 41AD) has had some bad press in the past, say, 1900 years.

And I am about to give him some more, not for all his personal torture, rape, murder and incest, but for his more general undermining of the rule of law.

It is an opportune time for doing so because in Australia in the past couple of weeks we have seen the rule of law gradually triumph over rule by persona, despite the cries of banana republic, political bankruptcy and economic doom and gloom.
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