1997_02_february_uk high commissioner

Misconceptions and misunderstandings by Australians about Britain and Britons about Australia are preventing better partnerships, trade and investment opportunities for both countries, according to the British High Commissioner, Sir Roger Carrick.

He told the National Press Club yesterday that the typical Australian impression of Britain was one of beefeaters, castles, feral tabloid newspapers, warm beer and lousy food.

In fact, he pointed out, the best French cuisine in Europe was to be found in London.
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Residents of Ainslie joined the concern of other residents associations in the inner north about traffic in their suburb this week. They say it is getting as bad as on the western side of Northbourne Avenue. The traffic flow, particularly at peak hours, in residential streets on both sides of Northbourne Avenue has increased substantially in the past five years and is likely to continue climbing. The reason has been obvious. New suburbs have been built, notably Gungahlin, North Lyneham and West Belconnen without laying out reasonable road infrastructure to bear the traffic they would generate. The land has been sold for the newer suburbs, with profits going to the developers, without provision for the necessary public infrastructure outside those suburbs. (And incidentally, the town centre and other non-traffic infrastructure in Gungahlin have been similarly ignored.)

The result is a bunfight of competing interests. Residents of Gungahlin, quite reasonably, want to get to work in Civic, Woden and beyond. Residents of inner north, quite reasonably, do not want large volumes of through-traffic charging through their suburbs on roads that were never designed to take it. Residents of the fringe of Mount Ainslie and the green belt between inner north and Belconnen do not want freeways carved through the bushland to take the Gungahlin traffic. ACT rate-payers do not want to subsidise a light-rail system or some other economically irresponsible dream solution. People who respect the notion of Canberra as the national city do not want Northbourne Avenue … the present gateway to Canberra … to lose chunks of its median strip to turning lanes, bus lanes, train lanes, or extra lanes.
Continue reading “1996_03_march_leader27mar”


The industrial dispute, or more correctly disputes, in the ACT are reaching crisis. The disputes are not so much about pay and conditions, but about power and the whole public-sector industrial-relations culture. On one side the Liberal Government is determined to break-up the monolithic approach of the previous Labor Government which was to deal with the whole public-sector as one and make wage rises and changes in conditions across the board. The Liberal Government wants industrial relations to take place agency by agency. Moreover, it wants pay rises to be paid for by efficiencies, rather than by Budget allocation. There are more efficiencies and trade-offs if practices in each agency are looked at rather than looking at only practices across the service.

Over the past month or so the Government has tried to break the ranks of the 12 unions with which it is dealing by offering separate pay rises to separate sections of the public sector. The unions have rejected each offer, and clearly the strategy has failed. The union leaders obviously feel they have greater bargaining power if they act collectively (because they can cause greater disruption and revenue loss) and have persuaded their membership of that. Employees, however, might get higher pay rises if they dealt on an agency basis because more money would be available than through the Budget alone.

This dispute is more about power than pay. It is about union power and government power. And Canberrans are caught in between. During the dispute, Canberrans are inconvenienced by bans and after it, Canberra ratepayers will suffer if the Government gives in and provides pay rises out of the Budget.
Continue reading “1996_03_march_leader11mar”


John Howard’s policy of matching Labor’s bribe and don’t frighten the horses on Medicare may neutralise health as an election issue, but it will surely fail as a long-term solution to Australia’s health problems.

It fails to understand Medicare’s weaknesses and therefore fails to do anything about them. And without those weaknesses being fixed, Medicare fundamental strength will be eroded. Continue reading “1996_02_february_health”


It is so easy. Out comes the credit card. A quick slash across the electronic reader and the purchases are taken away for consumption. Last month Australia put another $2 billion on the international credit card, according to figures issued yesterday. Next month interest will have to be paid on it, and the rest of the $180 billion we owe overseas. Continue reading “1996_01_january_leader19jan”

The wonder of Undara lava caves

January 1996

It happened only recently; just the other day geologically speaking.

A couple of hundred kilometres south-west of what is now Cairns, the Undara volcano erupted. That was 190,000 years ago.

Lava spewed from the volcano covering some 1500 square kilometres. Liquid lava is like water. It does not spread out as a sheet, but rather forms rivers. This is what the Undara lava did. One such river flowed, red-hot at 1200 degrees, for 160 kilometres before the lava stopped spewing from the volcano.
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The move by Bob Carr to put the vice-regal officer in a city office has a precedent … from the equally republican-minded Prime Minister of the Irish Free State, Eamon de Valera.

In 1932, De Valera engaged in a concerted attack on the office of Governor-General and the incumbent, James McNeill, whom he saw as an unwarranted and unwanted English entity. Continue reading “1996_01_january_governor”


The defection of British Conservative MP Alan Howarth to the Labour Party is perhaps more a sign of the changing philosophies of the two political parties than a sign of the man’s own change in allegiance. The Conservatives left him rather than he left the Conservatives. Or Labour joined him, rather than he joined Labour.

Of course, the defection might also be partly put down to Mr Howarth realising that Labour appears to be the party more likely to be the party of power in the next decade. Politicians like to be in power, whether for the altruistic reason do good things for people or for selfish reasons. Often the vehicle to power is less important than power itself. Fore example, many people in positions of power in the communist regimes of the old Soviet Union and Eastern Europe re-emerged after the downfall of communism in other guises.
Continue reading “1995_10_october_leader10oct”

1995_09_september_leader12sep rural aid

The Western Australian Farmers’ Association’s threat to withdraw support for funding CSIRO agricultural research because it is offended by one CSIRO scientist’s view is unconstructive messenger shooting. The scientist Dr Dean Graetz, said last week, “”I think the best drought aid is nothing. Rural industry must face the fact that droughts are part of rural industry and if you can’t cope with them you have no place in that rural industry. . . . We are subsidising people who are poor managers.” Continue reading “1995_09_september_leader12sep rural aid”


The Leader of the Opposition, John Howard, has sensibly distanced himself from Victorian Premier Jeff Kennett’s slash-and-burn attitude to the Federal Public Service. Last month Mr Kennett engaged in an unthoughtful diatribe against the Federal bureaucracy, making unsubstantiated and inconsistent claims that the top public servants had failed to show leadership or contribute to Government policy. He said they were not like Victoria’s top public service who “”are very much full partners in trying to bring about a restoration to Victoria’s base.

The inconsistency has been in Mr Kennett’s criticism of what he called Labor’s politicisation of the top of the public service on one hand yet calling on it to lead and create policy on the other. And it is all right, of course, for top public servants in Victoria to be “”in partnership” with a Liberal Government.

In Canberra this week Mr Howard said, “”It is not appropriate in the modern Liberal Party for just generalised slanging of public servants.” It is a welcome distancing from Mr Kennett’s remarks and from the approach of the former Liberal leader, John Hewson, who stood on a platform of a huge reduction in the Federal Public service.
Continue reading “1995_09_september_leader02sep”