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.
Continue reading “1992_07_july_leader11”


Every recession yields a shakedown of responsibility: political, legal, economic and corporate. When things go wrong, fingers are pointed. We are now witnessing, in addition to political finger-pointing, a great deal of buck-passing and blame-shifting in the corporate world. Inevitably some of this has ended in the courts.

Last week in the NSW Supreme Court Justice Rogers set out some principles dividing responsibility for huge corporate losses among auditors, senior management and directors. While he was dividing responsibility, there were others dividing blame. Justice Rogers was ruling on who should bear the alleged loss of $50 million by the Australian electronics company AWA Ltd, much of it in foreign-exchange dealing.

Under Australia’s corporate law, the foundation of which goes back 1{ centuries, responsibility and power is divided. Unlike a sole traders, who are themselves responsible for raising capital, making decisions about how it will be spent and the distribution of profit, companies split the responsibility for these functions. One of the central reasons for the law creating corporations was to create a dichotomy between capital and management. The corporation has been part of the genius of Anglo-Saxon capitalism. It has been a recognition that some people have capital, but no knowledge in how to put it to good effect, and others has skills of management, but no capital to put them to good effect. Married together, the results can be hugely productive. They are productive in a way not achievable without the legal creation of the business corporate entity, which has perpetual succession and can sue and be sued in its own right. The corporate entity has shareholders (who provide capital) and directors who provide management. Part of the genius of the corporate system is that shareholders have no inherent right to interfere with management. Collectively, they have a right to elect a board of directors, but after that they have no rights other than to vote to replace them. Even the distribution of profits is determined by directors. It is much like the relationship between voters and government in a democracy.
Continue reading “1992_07_july_leader9”


There is more than one element to a banana republic. Paul Keating sounded the alarm seven years ago. he said Australia was fast becoming a banana republic. His warning related to Australia’s foreign debt. But huge debt alone does not make a banana republic. The other element is a decaying public infrastructure. Well might he reissue his 1985 warning.

The recession has caused governments to prune back the amount of money they are spending on public works, particularly public buildings and the ceremonial structures of our cities and towns. Canberra has been especially hard hit. According to the chairman of the National Capital Planning Authority, Joseph Skrzynski, the Parliamentary Triangle is in desperate need of maintenance.

It is not a question of new works, but maintaining existing works. New works, alas, seem out of the question. In 50 or a 100 years people looking at the great public buildings in Canberra and elsewhere in Australia will notice a gap as they look at the foundations stones. Very few stones will carry dates between 1989 and, say, 1995. One can wander around Melbourne or Adelaide today looking at foundation stones and “Est.” dates on buildings and see the gap from 1890 to about 1902.
Continue reading “1992_07_july_leader7”


Something is with the grant of legal aid to those charged over an incident at the Iranian Embassy earlier this year. Eight of 13 who applied got legal aid. The committal hearing is to resume in September.

It must be said at the outset that the case is before the courts and in issue of the grant of legal aid has nothing whatever to do with the merits of the case.

It has been estimated that the legal aid will the taxpayer about $1 million. That is an awful lot of money for just one case. It has resulted in caustic criticism, especially on talk-back radio in Sydney. The shadow attorney-general, Peter Costello, has also weighed in. Several questions come to mind immediately. Why so much money? What effect will it have on the ACT legal-aid budget? What role, if any, did the Commonwealth have? What sort of legal aid, if any, should be granted to non-citizens? And why did these defendants get lawyer-of-choice aid?
Continue reading “1992_07_july_lead26”


Law Week opened yesterday (monjul27) with praise and a warning from the Attorney-General, Terry Connolly.

He said the legal profession was responding to community demands for cheaper more speedy service.

However, if it did not respond to community and government prodding, the Government would not resile from action down the track.
Continue reading “1992_07_july_lawweek”


A Farrer woman has been hit for land tax on what she says is her mother’s house.

Monica Brunner said yesterday her mother, Hilda Beran, bought the house in Mawson in 1973 after the death of her husband. She put it in her daughter’s (Mrs Brunner’s) name because she thought she would ultimately be inheriting the house anyway. Mrs Beran is 88.

“”Morally, the house belongs to my mother,” Mrs Brunner said. “”She paid for it and lives in it. Yet I have to pay land tax.”
Continue reading “1992_07_july_landtax”


The Landlord Advisory Service has called upon ACT landlords to speak up for their rights at the a public meeting being held by the ACT Community Law Reform Committee.

The meeting is at Phillip College from 4pm to 7pm next Monday.

The service has placed an advertisement in The Canberra Times tomorrow saying landlord rights to chose a tenant, to be paid rent and to retain vacant possession of their properties are under threat.

It says tenant groups have many ideas for change.
Continue reading “1992_07_july_landlord”


From today employers of more than half the Australian workforce with have to pay extra superannuation and spend more on training.

Employers groups says the changes will result in major job losses or increased prices.

The Confederation of Australian Industry says the superannuation increases will cost between 45,000 and 60,000 jobs.

From today employers with a payroll of more than $1 million will have to pay each employee 4 per cent of salary in vested superannuation to all employees earning more than $450 a month, up from 3 per cent.
Continue reading “1992_07_june_super”


From today the ACT Supreme Court comes under the province of the ACT Legislative Assembly and Executive.

A formal ceremony will be held at the court to mark the occasion this morning.

The significance of today’s change is that the Assembly and its Executive (for practical purposes, the Attorney-General) become responsible for the administration of the courts as well as appointments to the Bench.
Continue reading “1992_07_june_supct”