1992_07_july_merge

Inflation-fighting policy and the Accord had changed to the extent that the Prices Surveillance Authority and the Trade Practices Commission should be merged, the chairman of both bodies said yesterday.(tuesjul28)

Professor Allan Fels was commenting after the authority issued a report this week on real-estate agents after an inquiry headed by Dr D.C.Cousins.

The report concentrated on the competitive elements of the industry which caused high fees, rather than regulatory measures to hold them down. It attacked recommended maximum prices (which were rarely discounted) and high entry qualifications.
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1992_07_july_mental

The legal system had forsaken Australia’s mentally ill and it was a disgrace to the nation, according to Australia’s Human Rights Commissioner, Brian Burdekin.

“”The common law, our democratic institutions and our industrial mechanisms have failed the mentally ill,” he said.

The mentally ill and homeless suffered systemic and institutionalised discrimination. Nearly 80,000 mentally ill young people “”have no facilities and many take their own lives”. Of the tens of thousands of older people wandering the streets of our cities, more than 15 per cent were mentally with no care or treatment. The were abused and exploited and not protected by our legal system. Up to 70 per cent of old people in nursing homes suffered dementia. The homes were not designed to care for them. Many were routinely over-drugged as a management tool, not for treatment.
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1992_07_july_ltax1992_07_july_1

A 70-year-old widow pensioner has been hit with a $910.83 bill for land tax even though she lives in the townhouse concerned.

Mrs Betty Downes, of Hawker, is another in a series of people hit by the strict drafting and application of the land tax law.

Her daughter, Carole Duthie, of Bruce, says the case is unjust.

It arose as follows. Mrs Downes’, husband, William, died in 1978, leaving her a life estate in a house bought in his name. On her death the house was to go to the three children.
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1992_07_july_llord

The Landlords Association of the ACT was formed this week.

About 75 landlords of residential property in the ACT formed the organisation in response to moves in the ACT to change tenancy law and the new land tax.

Its main aims are to get quarterly payment of land tax (instead of the present requirement to pay the lot before August 15 on pain of 20 per cent interest) and to have monthly tenancies after the initial annual lease runs out. Under this system landlords as well as tenants can give notice of one month to quit premises. This is the system in NSW. In the ACT tenants have a rights to stay indefinitely, subject to the owner moving back in and other special circumstances.
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1992_07_july_leader1992_07_july_

Anecdotal and apocryphal evidence, though of no probative value can certainly be very illustrative. A story doing the round at the Australian National University several years ago when the Faculty of Economics was coming under fire for failing some sixty per cent of its first-year students is an example. The story goes that the faculty was coming under fire at the University Council for concentrating too much on research and not enough on teaching. If only the teachers would do more and better teaching, fewer students would fail, it was said. To which one council member is reputed to have replied that perhaps the faculty could learn teaching methods from those who taught women’s studies, where the pass rate was almost 100 per cent.

The important point is that the quality of teaching is extremely hard to measure. That is the case because the reciprocal quality of learning is equally hard to measure. How does a government measure and then improve teaching standards without facing the cynicism exemplified by the response to difficulties faced by the ANU’s Faculty of Economics? The Minster for Higher Education, Peter Baldwin, has decided to spend $5 million a year trying to find out. He has chosen Dr Don Anderson to chair the Committee for the Advancement of University Teaching.

Much of that money is to be spent on showing how modern technologies such as radio, television, computers using CD ROMs and the like can be used to improve teaching. Dr Anderson thinks this will free university teachers from the tyranny of lectures. He thinks the lecturing method is antiquated and owes something of the lecturer’s need to be prominent and in a position of power. There is a germ of truth in this if the university lectures are in fact formal lectures with more than 40 students where interaction is impossible. Alas, this is becoming the case, certainly in first-year courses. It was not always the case, certainly in later years. The lecture was more a large seminar. Most of the talking was done by the lecturer, but much was done by the students. It worked in the Socratic tradition.
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1992_07_july_leader17

The Franklin River in Tasmania is almost the only river in the temperate world that flows from its source to its mouth through wilderness, undammed, mighty and free. It is a great tribute to Australian society that its heritage value has been recognised and the river and its surrounds preserved for posterity. Its preservation was achieved through World Heritage listing and Federal legislation. Its heritage value is now well recognised.

How bizarre, then, that a man-made dam across a creek in a recently man-made city should be considered as a matter of heritage. The proposal by Labor MLA David Lamont to seek heritage listing (albeit not on a world but local listing) for Lake Ginninderra is perverse. Lake Ginninderra (created by the damming of Ginninderra Creek in the mid-1970s) has about as much heritage value as a three-bedroom brick-veneer with en-suite bungalow in western Sydney.

Sure, it is a pleasant lake with great community amenity. But let’s not confuse our values here. Heritage is about irreplacable things of historic, geographic and cultural value. Mr Lamont’s proposal does not enhance the value of the lake; rather it devalues heritage.
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1992_07_july_leader15

The republican movement in Australia, or at least the latest public manifestation of it, has rightly confined itself to the symbolic issue of Head of State and not muddied the waters by wider issues of constitutional reform. This has prompted different conclusions by different respected and largely neutral commentators. The Clerk of the Senate, Harry Evans, says it tends to show that the rest of Australia’s constitutional arrangements do not need radical change. Professor Leslie Zines, of the Australian National University, says it shows that Australians are easily distracted from issues of substance in constitutional reform by the emotive and symbolic. Professor Zines argues there are other pressing issues of constitutional reform.

Both have sound points. The Head of State is a symbol and the Australian electorate can get easily distracted from more pressing questions of reform, constitutional and otherwise.

People in the republican movement have said theirs is not a distraction from broader economic issues. Surely, Australians are intelligent and mature enough to run two debates at the same time. It would be nice to think so. But the history of the Australian electoral process shows otherwise. Elections have been won and lost on last-minute emotive appeals: guns in NSW in 198? and the green appeal in the Federal election in 1990 are examples. Indeed, most Governments and Oppositions appeal to emotions rather than reason at election time, usually because it works.
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1992_07_july_leader14

The Western powers must keep up the pressure on the Serbian army to stop the violence in Bosnia-Hertzogovina and it must continue its efforts to get supplies through to the non-Serbian population of Sarajevo, the Bosnian capital. The historical rights and wrongs and the demography behind the fighting will be hotly contested. Each side blames the other, and says it has right and history on its side. Fundamentally, it comes down to political borders not matching the ethnic make-up of the population. When that is combined with a history of enmity, violence is almost inevitable.

Tito and the Stalinist legacy must take most of the blame. Throughout his empire Stalin subdued nationalist aspirations by artificially pandering to them. He would nominally allow them greater chunks of territory in their “”autonomous” regions than the ethnic make up of the population warranted. The “”autonomous” region would still be ruled by his totalitarian followers, but potential national uprisings were subdued. With the collapse of the Soviet Empire, the fallout has been often violent clashes over territory. The clashes have frequently been based on unstable and unsuitable borders, particularly in what was Yugoslavia, were added to artificial borders has been the difficulty of minority enclaves of Serbs within the borders of the other constituent parts of what was one federal nation.

The moment Croatia declared its independence last , the Serbian army moved in to protect Serbs in those enclaves and to grab as much territory adjacent to the old Stalinist border as quickly as possible. Bosnia was inevitably next.
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1992_07_july_leader12

The best interests of the department have been cited by both sides in the dispute over whether the Department of Arts, Sport and the Environment should move from Civic to Tuggeranong. Left unsaid, at least publicly, are the selfish motives for those who want the move and those against.

On one side is the Public Sector Union which has taken up the concerns of what it says are the 90 per cent of the 800 staff who do not want to move. On the other side is the Minister, Ros Kelly.

The debate must be laughable from the perspective of people living in Sydney and Melbourne. For them the 20-minute trip from Tuggeranong to Parliament House or Civic would be luxury. In Canberra, some consider it a burden.
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1992_07_july_leader11

Australians can cautiously welcome resumed defence ties with Fiji. Australia quite rightly severed ties and co-operation with Fiji after the 1987 coup by then Colonel Sitiveni Rabuka. Mr Rabuka is now a retired general and the elected Prime Minister of Fiji. After five years of military dictatorship, Fiji returned to constitutional rule last month, albeit a flawed one. Thus is was appropriate for Australia to consider resuming defence contacts and other co-operation with Fiji. As part of this process the Prime Minister, Paul Keating, invited Mr Rabuka to visit Australia in September.

In 1987 Mr Rabuka overthrew the elected Government of Dr Timoci Bavadra. Dr Bavadra headed an Indian-dominated coalition of the Fiji Labour Party and the National Federation Party. Ethnic Fijians had long expressed concern about ethnic Indians outnumbering them and taking more than just the economic power they had achieved in business and the professions, but taking political power which would inevitably lead to greater Indian land ownership, something that had been denied them by Governments led by Ratu Kamisese Mara since independence in 1970. In 1987 ethnic Fijians feared being dispossessed in their own land by Indians who had been brought to islands when a British colony to cut the sugar cane.
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