Another Good Reason to be Active in CAP

By Dr Chris Braddick, Policy Director

We came together to form the Community Alliance Party from a wide range of backgrounds and with a variety of motives: to improve the efficiency of government in the ACT; to strengthen the accountability of our elected representatives, or simply to make a difference to the way the ACT is run. Now it seems there is another reason to be politically active: it makes you feel happier! Recently published research by two university psychologists from Germany and America has confirmed Aristotle's 2,400-year-old observation that community activism fulfils a fundamental human need.

The authors, Malte Klar and Tim Kasser, looked at three aspects of 'happiness': i). 'hedonic', basically whether someone is experiencing pleasant rather than unpleasant emotions; ii). 'eudaimonic', meaning a sense of life having purpose and direction, and iii). 'social well-being', that is, how positively one is interacting with the community. In order to feel good, they argue that we need to feel satisfied in each of these areas.

A healthy ACT democracy requires that ordinary people, like you and I, devote time, money, and energy to counteract the many powerful forces that hinder government in the interests of the community. Struggle is inherent in political activism, which is why there are plenty of angry and upset activists in the CAP. Nevertheless, according to Klar and Kasser, it seems that even angry activists also have a sense of well-being that comes from being engaged and connected, competent and autonomous.

Of course, it is perfectly possible that people who feel a stronger sense of purpose, more connection to their community, and more generally positive are the type of people most likely to engage in political activism. So to strengthen their case, Klar and Kasser conducted a simple experiment. They asked hundreds of students to write letters to the management of their college cafeteria complaining about the variety and taste of the food on offer. Another group of students wrote asking the university café to offer locally-grown or fair-trade produce. Even after this rather insignificant political action, results suggested that participants assigned to write about political issues reported feeling significantly more alert, energized, and alive than did those who wrote about the purely hedonistic aspects of food.

Incidentally, engagement in what Klar and Kasser defined as 'high-risk' activist behaviour—meaning anything that would lead to arrest or physical injury—lacked the positive associations with personal well-being.

Admittedly, their study was short-term and limited to American students and activists, whose outlook might be somewhat different from the average CAP member. Nevertheless, after taking into account participants' age, ethnicity, political orientation, and education, those who scored higher in political activism consistently reported higher levels of personal well-being. In short, 'Activists live a happier and more fulfilling life than the average person' said Klar: a finding confirmed by my personal experience. So why not come along and join the Party!

Malte Klar and Tim Kasser, 'Some Benefits of Being an Activist: Measuring Activism and Its Role in Psychological Well-Being', Political Psychology, Volume 30(5), July 2009, pp.755-777.



by Dr. Chris Braddick CAP Policy Director

At the last Weston Creek Community Council meeting more than 30 people were turned away because a room designed to seat 40 was already at double capacity. The main issue on the agenda was the Molonglo and North Weston development, to which the majority of residents are just waking up (see Issue 1 for my opinion). As usual, the bureaucrats sent to defend the government's arbitrary decisions were given a 'warm' reception. I'm told that the ACT's five other Community Councils (Belconnen, Gungahlin, North Canberra, Woden Valley, and Tuggeranong) are less belligerent (being managed by Labor Party hacks), but I may be misinformed. (I certainly hope so!)

Being directly (and inadequately) funded by the ACT Government clearly limits the Community Councils' independence. Allegedly, it has on occasion delayed a council's annual stipend when they proved too recalcitrant. The Department of Disability, Housing and Community Services (under whose jurisdiction the Community Councils fall) provides links to their individual websites, but otherwise pretends that they don't exist. Similarly, MLAs only seem to remember their local Community Council meetings in the month or two before an election. But for the CAP, the Community Councils represent an important potential asset. They are excellent places to learn about the issues that concern your neighbours. Secondly, their meetings are also fertile grounds from which to recruit new party members and perhaps even identify potential candidates. Thirdly, they are another, albeit imperfect, channel through which to communicate our frustration with this arrogant government. Perhaps after the next election we can develop the Community Councils (or something like them) into a mode of direct democracy, with MLAs required to report on Assembly proceedings and residents engaging in real policy debates to determine the best future for our city. What do you think?

Finally, in case you were wondering, the Weston Creek Community Council kindly agreed to repeat the Molonglo meeting for the benefit of latecomers on 8 July at 7.30pm.



by Caroline Ambrus

An eagle was sitting on a tree resting and doing nothing. The rabbit saw the eagle and asked him, 'Can I also sit like you and do nothing?'
The eagle answered: 'Sure, why not.'
So, the rabbit sat on the ground below the eagle and rested. All of a sudden, a fox appeared, jumped on the rabbit and ate it.

Moral of the story: To be sitting and doing nothing, you must be sitting very, high up.

I sadly fear that we, the members of the Community Alliance Party, are the rabbits of the food chain.

ACT governance is tainted at every level. This is one of the main issues that brought us together. Undemocratic practices are inherent in contemporary governance which is about keeping secrets, practicing deception, being ignorant, greedy, indolent and irresponsible, ad-nauseam. A lot of people know this is true but too few try to do anything about it. Why? Well those on the inside are comfortable and those on the outside are powerless.

The cure would require root and branch reform, perhaps even a revolution. But where are the revolutionaries? Are they still in nappies? Are they swotting over University text books? Are they sweating it out in the mortgage belt and catching the bus to work every day? Are they sliding into retirement whilst topping up their superannuation? Are they waiting in the Centrelink queues for the Government's uncharitable relief? Or are they the grey nomads racing around the country or jet setting it overseas?

A revolution requires the passion and commitment that springs from desperate circumstances. The Government has done its job well in Australia. The powerful moneyed minority is comfortable, so there is no consciousness of who is screwing whom and for what. And where there is knowledge, there is usually no compassion. The disenfranchised majority is so busy and distracted that radical change is off their radar. The majority's main priority starts with the basic necessities and a modicum of comfort, if good luck or good management prevails that is. Governance is the last thing that they are likely to consider, but it is the genesis of their trapped and sometimes impoverished circumstances.

Compounding all of this is the fact that most people still believe that Australia is the 'lucky country'. Our parliaments are supposedly squeaky clean. Our democracy is unsullied. Corruption is something that happens in those undemocratic, 'dirty' little countries overseas. This is why the Government encourages xenophobia.

But the most disturbing fact is that few Australians are aware that the ship of state is leaking like a sieve. Governments keep their secrets so well that they are able to get away with murder and nobody is able to find out where the bodies are buried. Even if secrets are leaked to the press, it is compliant with the prevailing political agenda.

All governments will run amok if they believe that people don't care. People who care enough to challenge government decisions often give up caring because it hurts so much when heavy handed government actions disenfranchise them. Communities in every Australian jurisdiction are constantly sidelined in the decision making process. Population-wide depression has set in. Helplessness and apathy is the malignant outcome. The ACT community is a classic case. The syndrome is painfully obvious here because it's such a small jurisdiction and the web of corruption may involve our families, our friends or our neighbours.

Where does the Community Alliance Party stand in all of this? Well let's face it, the Party is largely run by a bunch of oldies; myself included. Anybody who has lived to a significant age in Australia has run afoul of the Government for one reason or another. It's inevitable. It is a sad fact that we have the experience, we have the knowledge, but as we age I believe the passion dims. We put in a heroic effort getting the structure right, with salutations to the shakers and movers. But now I feel that we are tinkering at the edges, fine tuning the structure, when we should be taking the fight to the Government in a more strident manner than we are at the moment. Perhaps we are overwhelmed by the enormity of the task we face. Perhaps we too are too comfortable? I have the feeling that I am the only one itching to man the barricades and I don't like it and I don't know what to do about it.

I do know about revolutions. I was a part of the women's movement, Google me! I was also marginally involved with the tent embassy and with the gay rights movement. It's not that I am yearning for a return to the sixties, but one lesson I learned was how to run a revolution on the cheap with a handful of friends. Three people can be a multitude. You never let anybody know what your numbers are and you don't have public meetings until the force is with you. I was apprehensive about the hospital car park meeting for that very reason. But it went very well and there was a respectable turn out, so my fears proved groundless.

The women's movement adopted the tactic of non-violent direct action, in the belief that the theory would consequently emerge. "Her story" testifies that this was the correct approach. I believe that the Party has adopted the reverse, that if the theory is right then the correct action will follow. I also believe that we have become stuck in theory mode which in itself may be intellectually satisfying, but it "doth not a revolution make".

I believe that we need to think more creatively. Here are a few wild ideas. We could erect a Democracy Tent outside the Assembly. The press would lap it up and we would get our message across. Or perhaps the tent could be mounted on the back of a trailer and we could park in all sorts of places where important people gather. This kind of visible presence attracts followers and our numbers would swell. More importantly, we might attract a younger demographic. In order to garner attention in this media dominated milieu, the action has to be radical, humorous and attention grabbing, otherwise we will remain relatively obscure as a political force.

The done thing for political parties is what we all did at the last election, mug shots on posters, placards, letter drops, media interviews, advertising and so on. The competition was stiff. We tried to find the money to compete with the taxpayer funded Labor Party and the corporate funded Libs with limited success. Then there were the Greens who have sweated it out forever, so it was inevitable that they would get in on a shoestring, eventually. The point is that if we had been able to divert the money, the time and the enthusiasm into other ways of establishing our presence on the political stage, we might have attracted even more attention (and votes) than we did. Politics is never a level playing field and we don't have the resources to play by existing rules. I believe we have to rethink what we are doing. We have to bypass the existing political model of winning friends and influencing people. We have to invent a new game. We might even have some fun in the process.

Certainly it will get the true blue establishment offside, but look at what the suffragettes achieved. Their commitment was boundless, to the point of putting their lives on the line. I'm not suggesting that we should simply follow suit, but perhaps we could be a little more "out there", to see, and to be seen. We might be derided as a bunch of rat bags, but that's better than being anonymous. Somewhere in all of this, if we are creative, clever and cunning, we will get the message across, which is what we want.



by Susan Penn-Turrell

I read with interest Caroline Ambrus' article in the CAP News "Are we eagles, foxes or rabbits?" July 2009. It is a question I have asked, silently to myself of course, of the good citizens of Canberra since I arrived back here in 2006 after an absence of 18 years. Canberra does not appear, despite its overwhelming intelligent demographic of public servants and politically connected population, to be a hot bed of conspiratorial mutterings in dark smoke filled taverns and meetings on fog wrapped bridges at midnight. Yet dissent exists and revolutionaries are everywhere - it is just expressed in a different, very Canberran way. It's talked about. It's just not acted on. After all, I was told from early on, its just so damned hard to be heard when no one is listening and in Canberra – let's face it – if someone does actually hear you banging your drum too loud, they are more than likely to be the friend of the person you have just publicly berated.

Revolution in Canberra has become a convention of talk but an unspoken agreement we all give up before anything is actually done. The boat must remain, at all costs, un-rocked. After all, that way we continue to get paid, and the politicians continue to pour forth comforting rhetoric about how everything they do is for "the good of Canberra". That should be enough, they say, for us not to hold them to account or question, outside the pub door, the validity and honesty of such far reaching government prerogatives as "vampire planning decisions". We call them "vampire decisions" because should the connected personal history of those attached to the negotiations and the handshake agreements ever see the light of day – it would all blow up in a ball of fire.

That all sounds so depressing and unmoving doesn't it? Change against such reasonably based apathy cannot be nurtured or delivered by lullabies and sweet talk but change in Canberra is just waiting to be kicked into life. I felt inspired to write about how a small group of Canberrans have commenced their own quiet revolution – the tactics we are using and the vision we share. It may help CAP members to reflect on where and how they can take CAP to the place they want CAP to be.

In 2008 I heard, via the grapevine, that plans to build a 210 mw gas fired power station less than 100 metres from my home, were within weeks of being approved. Naturally I immediately raised, within the democratic process, my objection and almost instantaneously was accused of, amongst other things – being (and I digress here to apologise for using such foul and evil language but we are all adults so brace yourselves…) a NIMBY.

I found someone to discretely explain to me that NIMBY meant "Not in My Back Yard". Before I realised the full and powerful impact of using this acronym, I laughed. "Of course it's in my back yard. Canberra is so small if they built it 100km across the border it would still be in my back yard." Pollution doesn't run up to the state line and then retreat for fear of offending Mr Stanhope. Despite this NIMBY is a dirty word beloved of politicians and used by the press or the business groups of the ACT to shut down and demean anyone who objects to their plans, their designs, their desires. NIMBY is a very politically powerful word because of Canberrans have allowed it to become one. In my opinion it is the extension of the tall poppy syndrome – when someone in the ACT sees another person standing up and saying "Stop" there appears to be a wave of jealous rage and the 'acceptable' retort is "you are only saying that because you are a NIMBY".

Anyway I won't go into the details of the power station issue itself, so you can all relax– the website retains a potted history and details of what the government said and did, that will have you waking in the wee small hours clutching your oobie-blanket in a cold sweat – but I would like to impart how we made such a nuisance of ourselves and how we still do. In other words how we started our back yard revolution.

It is not rocket science - although we did have a rocket scientist advise us on pollution figures and turbine sizes. It is not high level political science - although we did have a few political science graduates who considered the political angles. It did not need an expert strategist just returned from the UN- although we did have one or two people who understood the fundamentals of strategic service delivery. It did not take media experts to deliver the message - although we had a few media and marketing experts to advise us….are you seeing a pattern here? Everyone we needed was in the community already. It was an issue which could be shown, without exaggeration, hyperbole or mistruth to be in everyone's back yard. Most of those potential supporters could not be used as resources until they understood what the common goal was and how it mattered to them to join. Once they had been shown not only how it mattered but how they could help – all we had to do was ask.

Once therefore you have a set of defined objectives you need to show people – not just tell them – show them how this matters to them. Give them a forum to tell you how it matters to them. Have in you back pocket the ways they can help. We had immediately a group (a small group!) of people who volunteered to deliver information across the immediately affected suburbs. We designed the flyers to show people how they will be affected, contact numbers and a date and place for them to join in and learn more. We paid for printing ourselves and in organised groups walked through the suburbs. We had a web site, email, PO Box and telephone contacts for people to call us, check up and get involved. We created ways for those who were housebound, without internet access or socially isolated to engage and have their voice heard.

But going back one step - the first task was to allocate a central team who would co-ordinate the how and the when. This team drove the strategic plans of the group. Their primary role was to deliver an outcome in line with our defined mission statement. The central team discussed as necessary how that aim would be delivered. The "rules of engagement" were delivered at every meeting and at every opportunity – no one was to behave in any manner other than socially acceptable, non-violent, using validated information. No one was to send anything out, emails, flyers, letters in the name of the group, unless cleared by a majority of the central team. No one was to use defamatory comments or insulting, aggressive, disrespectful comments in the name of the group. They were however allowed to use the words and actions of developers and politicians back as ridicule if they so warranted and for the most part they gave us so much material we used but half.

Although we had a designated spokesperson, we had a group of back-ups who would invariably refer to the designated spokesperson even when they delivered an entire message. We had a central media contact direct media towards the designated spokesperson if possible but would flawlessly arrange for one of the known backups to step in if necessary. The core group wrote all the words spoken or printed. It was therefore a consistent, agreed, and as far as possible, checked as factually correct message.

The consistency of delivery coupled with the seemingly omnipotence of the group is a key essential. The core group was small – in fact very small – although Caroline in her article is spot on – never reveal your numbers. We laughed ourselves silly when one of the developers described us along the lines as being "a large group of well funded, highly organised, blokes". The large numbers comes not from the core driving group but from those you inform and involve. We made sure however, that in some form or other we were everywhere and we were seen. We had tee shirts printed "Leave Labour Blank" which we wore at every photo opportunity. It only takes one person associated with the group, to be photographed or seen at an event for the group to be noted as having a presence. We had a trailer with a bill board over it which a group of volunteers drove around. We had humorous slogans painted on bill boards placed around town and taken to events with us. When in doubt of the numbers, we invited other groups along to rallies and events but we made sure our group was seen. We made a point of pre-writing and organising appointments with the media who found they could rely on us for subject relate comments even if the subject was somewhat removed from our core issue. We sent out press releases regularly, made sure we had something useful to say on talk back radio and consistently wrote to the Canberra Times and Chronicle. In other words we created a visible, accessible voice of the community which the media came to – and still does.

CAP has a few years to build a community presence but it should start now. It does not take large amounts of money or large amounts of people. It takes strategic thinking and commitment. CAPs aims are community inclusion and democratic representation and nothing sums up the failures of the government to achieve these basic aims as much as the current state of planning in the ACT. It may not seem like a sexy place to start but from this all things flow. Commenting on planning is an opportunity to comment on housing, education, health, social inclusion, welfare, child protection, safety, transport – I could go on but planning and the democratic decision making around planning is the core of politics in the ACT. It's just my humble opinion but if I was driving political change on behalf of CAP I would design a plan to be seen to care, to be heard to voice the concerns of the people and to offer proactive practical alternatives. That does not mean you need to have fully formed policies about every issue – defining your principles will inform how policy functions. In other words there is little wrong with the existing laws and policies rather the principles of democracy have been lost in the way the current system delivers those policies.

CAP needs to get itself a humorous catchy identifiable slogan. Get it on a tee shirt. Get it on your letter headers. Get out there at charity events, at planning meetings, connect with the media more actively, organise an event with a school. Start now. Drive your change. Gandhi said "you must be the change you want to see in the world" – CAP wants to be a community driven party then it must engage the community. It has the leaders, it has the mission statement – now is the time CAP needs to sell its revolution to the people who need it. Show them how it matters to them. Be at the places the community are and be seen. If you show people how it matters they will engage and everything you ever needed is already in the community – CAP should not be afraid to ask.

Don't sweat the issues – trust me – this government will provide more opportunities for CAP to react than you can possibly handle so its important for CAP core group to be discerning in their selection but not to let the 'big one" get away.

Last word of advice - don't wait. Canberra cannot wait and starting a year before an election is too late. NIMBYism will have taken hold. The revolutionaries will have been lost years earlier. This is the time they need to start to be seen. There are a group of Community Councils in the ACT which should be forming a layer of accountable audit to the flat level of government we currently suffer under. Where is CAP in these Councils? Why is CAP not helping the councils to bond? Get CAP members down there to help the community, listen to the issues, offer support, get seen, get a voice, get engaged – move Canberra by moving yourself. The revolution is here, it just needs a kick to get it really going. You've got the boots, you've got the legs – go on give it a kick – you never know…


ACT Issues for Age Pensioners - Making Ends Meet

by Vic Bayliss

Currently, it is extremely difficult to obtain help of any kind, unless one is in a crisis situation! The two main reasons for this unacceptable situation are inadequate government funding and very poor management. The care/social services entities that I am acquainted with are poorly organised, inefficient and lacking in many qualities that are necessary within a group which has, as it's declared aim, a desire to help those in need, and in particular, the aged in our society.

I have personal knowledge of Communities At Work, Home Help, Tandem and Adacas. All of these entities have complained that insufficient funding is their major concern. A secondary complaint has been that obtaining appropriate staff in sufficient numbers is very difficult. Whilst these two items are valid excuses, it is of significance that not one of these groups has been prepared to concede that wastage within their organisations is rife, or that poor management and policy making have a large part to play in what I shall call their inefficiencies. It is also a fact that much of the funding which these bodies receive, goes towards salaries, money that is actually intended to help their needy clients.

Another point worthy of mention is that although these bodies bemoan the fact that they are underfunded, and therefore have to prioritise as to those whom they can help, they are still able to find sufficient funds to advertise their services, something that is surely unnecessary when, by their own admission, these bodies have insufficient funds to enable them to service all of their applicants anyway?

The groups/services to which I have referred, along with other similar services, are partially or mainly funded by H.A.C.C., yet not one of them fully attains the standards that H.A.C.C. lays down. Indeed, they all seem to fall well short of those standards! It is also my considered belief, that there are too many service providers, and that while several of them overlap in what they provide, no two offer identical services, thus causing much confusion to prospective clients. There is an urgent necessity in the ACT, for just one umbrella organisation to be formed, which could deal with all of those services that are currently provided in various combinations by groups such as the aforementioned. And this proposed umbrella organisation should be funded by the government answerable to it. It would cut out duplication, the brokering of services, and with the right sort of management, they would be far more efficient. It would be a one stop shop!

Waste is a huge problem within all of the groups that I have knowledge of, and is a follow on from the bad management, to which I have alluded. It manifests in many ways, e.g., expensive news letters, the ratio of management to production staff being far too high, too many meetings being held when delegation of duties should be the order of the day, the issuing of monthly statements to clients (unnecessary), duplication of duties, over regulation (by both Government decree and of their own volition). The list goes on! Bureaucracy, seemingly more important than care within most groups. Help is not available to a great many people who, in many instances, badly need it. There seems to be an attitude which suggests that the organisation, it's staff and it's systems, are far more important than it's clients. An idea well worth looking into would be an organisation that could be largely run by volunteers. (Take a look at D.O.M.E. in Adelaide, an organisation of which I have some working knowledge).

How does the lack of sufficient, efficient social services (I use the term social services in it's broadest sense) impact upon Age Pensioners? It manifests itself in many ways: in depression, in loneliness, in poverty, in isolation, in discrimination, in harassment, in feelings of insecurity, in feelings of helplessness, and in health problems. Because of a combination of these effects, there is undoubtedly a huge increase in the amount of illness and hospitatisation associated with age pensioners, and consequently, a vast sum of money has to be spent in order to treat these problems. This is an expense which could be avoided if the root causes, ie the lack of sufficient care and social services were to be tackled, and made available, in the first place, to all who needed help.

Nine years ago the ACT government promoted an initiative called "A Mature Canberra". It resulted in a workshop being held on 7 June 200I, at which many aspects of the problems inherent within the ageing community in Canberra were discussed. Certain conclusions reached, and a number of excellent solutions were put forward. It is interesting to note that after almost a decade, virtually nothing appears to have changed. We still have the same problems. And yet, many of the solutions mooted nine years ago would still be applicable were they to be put into practice today. But, sadly, nobody seems able to find either the funding, the interest, or the energy to get on with the work that is so urgently required.



by Vic Bayliss

Dedication - Desire - Determination - Drive - Epochal Event

These are presumably the kind of motivations that you all had concerning the various issues that impinged directly, or indirectly, upon your lives, and regarding which you thought that, "if I want change, then I must take some sort of action". And lo and behold, you heard of a group of people who likewise were unhappy with how Canberra was being governed: who had said "enough is enough, let's get together, form a party, and do what we can in order to make some changes". And so you thought maybe these people can make a difference, and you consequently joined the Community Alliance Party.
Correct me if I am wrong, but nothing has changed, has it? Stanhope is still in charge; still making bad mistakes; still not inclined to listen; still indifferent; and remorselessly taking Canberra down the slippery slope to rack and ruin. Therefore, as members of CAP we, each of us, need to become somehow involved in creating some changes. We need to revisit those initial thoughts which we had. A good starting point would be for all of us to attend our general meetings in order to put our personal thoughts to our executive and to other members, where, at the very least, one will obtain a sympathetic hearing and your ideas may well have an effect upon our policies.
Obviously one does not wish to spend one's whole life thinking of nothing but politics. However, to put that into context, attending up to six meetings a year in order to, hopefully, make a change in our lives for the better, is surely not too miuch to plan for. So I am appealing to your sense of proportion. Why not make a point of coming along to our next meeting. It is hoped that at this year's AGM we will be announcing the general meeting dates for the ensuing year, in order that you can insert them in your diaries. (No excuse for then missing those all important meetings.)
For those of you who may wish to become more involved in what goes on behind the scenes in planning for the future, it must be said that you would be heartily welcomed to put your energies/knowledge/intelligence/ideas to good use in the furtherance of CAP's future fortunes. That interest can be in any number of areas, such as the management of the Party - its policy making - its social side - its fund raising and so forth. Simply contact a member of our executive and discuss your ideas/thoughts with them. Only by becoming involved can we hope to affect the necessary changes in the ACT, and as we all know, changes are desperately needed.


CAP defends its name

by Dr Alvin Hopper

Members will be aware that CAP has expended considerable effort – particularly in the run-up to the previous election – in gaining public recognition of its name, including its registered abbreviation "Community Alliance". The law recognises – in various areas including trade marks – the importance of protecting an established name that has public recognition.

CAP's executive felt considerable concern therefore when it became known, in February 2009, that a group calling itself "Communist Alliance" had applied for registration as a federal political party. An objection was lodged with the Australian Electoral Commission ("AEC") on behalf of CAP. This was based on a provision of the Commonwealth electoral law that prohibits registration of a party with a name likely to be confused with the name of another party, or with the registered abbreviation of another party, where the other party is already registered federally or in a State or Territory. CAP had such prior registration in the ACT, and so it was able to lodge an objection.

Regrettably, it took the AEC over a year to produce its final decision, which it did in April 2010. The AEC recognised that "the names of the parties appear visually similar", but went on to hold that "there is sufficient difference between the names and the abbreviations to allow the registration of the Communist Alliance". CAP's executive took the view that there were proper grounds for challenging this decision and an appeal was therefore lodged with the Administrative Appeals Tribunal of the Commonwealth. The objection was lodged promptly, but it has taken the AAT about a year to come up with a hearing date. The appeal has now been listed for hearing, by a bench of 3 Judges, in Canberra on Tuesday 28th June 2011. The venue is 40 Marcus Clarke Street (4th floor) and the starting time is 10.00 a.m. The proceedings will be open to the public, so any interested member is free to attend. Alvin Hopper, assisted by Caroline Ambrus, will represent CAP, and they would welcome the presence, as members of the public, of other CAP members.

As regards costs of the proceedings, members should note that the matter is being conducted without charge by CAP's secretary, Dr Alvin Hopper, who is a retired government lawyer. The proceedings are therefore being conducted at minimal expense to CAP. Moreover, the AAT does not award costs against an unsuccessful party, so CAP is at no risk in that regard.



by Dr Chris Braddick

A.C.T. Now! the inaugural community forum hosted by the CAP in July, was a great success. It demonstrated the effectiveness of holding open forums to expand the arena for public debate on the governance of our territory. For more than six hours concerned members of the community engaged in lively debate. Ideas were aired, information was shared, lessons were learned, and friendships were forged. The Conference identified a wide range of problems confronting the A.C.T. community, including the justice system, education, budget, energy, population growth, waste management, tourism, transport, the voting system, and many more.

After a warm welcoming address from Party President Jane Tullis, the day kicked off with an insightful analysis of the Hare-Clark electoral system from "Australia's leading psephologist", Malcolm Mackerras. He argued in favour of an enlarged ACT Assembly with all constituencies returning the same number of members, but opposed a change to the casual vacancies system that would allow a political party to nominate a replacement.

The session on Governance continued with a passionate presentation from CAP Founding President Ric Hingee on the importance of financial accountability and commonsense spending practices in the ACT. Ric recounted a litany of wasteful spending by the ACT Government in recent years, with only the under-resourced Auditor General attempting to hold it to account. (That her replacement was pre-selected by the ACT Labor Party must be a cause for real concern!) Ric argued in favour of a 'co-operative, community/district council form of government'. In the Q&A section, Stuart Gordon made the interesting point that Ric's accounts of financial blunders were more meaningful to the average citizen than the actual sums involved because of the widespread culture of incompetence they revealed.

Next up was Dr. Jenny Stewart, Chair of the Woden Valley Community Council, and the author of the recently published collection: The Two Canberras: essays in public policy. She spoke of the frustration of attempting to influence a Government that remains sceptical about community groups (despite plentiful opportunities for 'symbolic consultation'), while simultaneously trying to encourage members of the local community to volunteer their time to participate in an institution widely perceived as having little influence. Jenny also highlighted a number of recent community council successes, but without more leadership she appeared pessimistic about the future. The idea of elected community councils was mooted by Ric Hingee, but the speaker was not enthusiastic.

Session 1 came to a close with a presentation from Caroline Ambrus, Canberra author (and CAPital Focus editor: I'd better say something nice!) Caroline gave a powerful account of what it is like to spend your days (and fortune) fighting perceived government wrongdoing through the ACT courts. She has frequently encountered misrepresentation, maladministration, mistakes and malice, but precious little justice. Damien Haas, a former bureaucrat, commented that Caroline might sometimes be confusing simple incompetence for corruption.

In Session 2 the focus shifted to ACT infrastructure and the issues covered ranged from planning and population to light rail and solar power. First up was Jack Kershaw, an expert of long-standing on development and planning in the ACT. Jack lamented how outside influences had been ruining our territory, citing numerous examples where the National Capital Authority and relevant Joint Parliamentary Committees were sidelined. He recommended increasing the number of ACT senators to at least four (preferably including two independents) as one means to improve this situation, but the practicality of this suggestion was questioned by Malcolm Mackerras amongst others.

Not surprisingly Damien Haas, the Chair of ACT Light Rail, spoke in favour of introducing a light rail network in the ACT. However, backed up with colourful graphics and a mountain of data, Damien made a very convincing case for its staged introduction, as well as a damning critique of current ACT public transport policy. He pointed out that, to date, no ACT Transport Minister had ever deigned to meet with representatives of ACT Light Rail.

Jenny Goldie, a former National President of Sustainable Population Australia, offered a rather bleak picture of the ACT's future, with politicians supporting rapid population growth (projected to reach 500,000 by 2042), while ignoring the warnings of climate scientists like Doug Alcock, who predict higher temperatures (rising between one and 1.6 degrees by 2030) and lower annual rainfall (perhaps 25% down). Her case soon received support in the Aecom Report examining the effects of climate change on the ACT population, and further bemoaning the inadequacy of government preparations (see: CT, 23 July 2011, 'Capital's Future of Extremes'.)

The session closed with Stuart Gordon, an industry professional, informing the audience about the boom and bust development of solar power in the ACT against the background of an ever changing regulatory and incentive structure. He thought ACTPLA did a good job (although I've been waiting two months for them to inspect my solar array!) Members of the audience offered their own favourite alternative energy solutions: Ric spoke about solar thermal and Don Allan promoted nuclear fusion.

After a delicious lunch kindly provided by party members, Mike Crowther, a law enforcement officer of two decades standing, opened Session 3 on government services. In his usual inimitable style he lambasted the ACT Government for its policies regarding the Alexander Maconochie Centre—including the proposed needle exchange—before moving on to a more general indictment of the ACT criminal justice system.

I never thought I would see the day when Mike was followed by an even more impassioned speaker, but Gerry Gillespie, Chair of Zero Waste Australia, came very close. In recounting the sorry tale of Revolve, the not-for-profit recycling and waste management organisation, even previously unsympathetic members of the audience appeared moved. The treatment of Revolve at the hands of the ACT Government is scandalous and his call for a public inquiry appears fully justified.

No less scandalous was the way the ACT Labor Government closed many of Canberra's best public schools. However, Trevor Cobbold, National Convenor of Save Our Schools, preferred to offer a detail dissection of the underperformance and declining standards of ACT government schools. He warned of consequent increasing social segregation and recommended a new funding system that provides more resources to students in need. Jenny Stewart added that the ACT educational bureaucracy was hidebound and unlikely to implement the necessary reforms.

Our final presentation came from the The Chronicle's well-known columnist, Don Allan. Though a little unsteady on his pins, he presented a very solid argument for reform of the way tourism is promoted in the ACT. Although the ACT would never be more than a 'niche destination', Don argued that a regional approach would help.

In a concluding session on 'the Way Forward', discussion centred on the concept of 'community rights' as a potential solution to many of these challenges. I presented my still evolving ideas in favour of direct or participatory democracy in the ACT, drawing in particular on the example of Iceland. Representative democracy everywhere is facing a crisis. Our so-called representatives increasingly appear to represent their own interests, and those of their financial backers, their parties, and related vested interests, rather than the community at large. I see the promotion of practical community rights (including, but not limited to, the right to: recognition as a community; public access to all information on decisions affecting communities before they are made; a pollution-free environment; public safety; high quality, inexpensive, and timely public health services; high quality, convenient and public education facilities; frequent, reliable and inexpensive public transport, and green spaces for relaxation) as effective stepping stones to the achievement of a participatory democracy in which everyone has a direct say in decision making. New technologies are making this a realistic possibility, and growing disenchantment with the political status quo, is making it a necessity. Needless to say, my ideas prompted some heated discussion, and clearly require much further refinement before they could be adopted as the basis of a party platform.

Media coverage was reasonable for such an event: two speakers were interviewed on local radio, City News and The Chronicle ran articles, and WIN TV sent a film crew. In a press release, President Jane Tullis summed up the feelings of many present: "What an indictment to find that so many of our local experts and peak bodies have never been consulted by any other political party in the formulation of their policies, or by the Government to inform their decision making. No wonder legitimacy for many of our A.C.T. Government's decisions is lacking. Without the wisdom and humility to seek advice from those who have dedicated their working and voluntary lives to the Canberra community, but choosing instead to rely on 'yes men' and over-paid 'consultants', any government will lose its way."


The Hare-Clark System: does it need changing?

by Malcolm Mackerras

Election expert Malcolm Mackerras spoke about the Hare-Clark electoral system as it operates in the ACT. He addressed the question as to whether there was a need to reform the system. His first question related to the number of members. He argued that 17 members was unsatisfactory as a number because it meant differing numbers per electorate. Hitherto Molonglo has elected seven members while Ginninderra and Brindabella have elected five each. This is unsatisfactory because it means differing quotas between the three electorates. He argued that the Assembly's size should be increased to 21 (so each of three electorates would return sevenmembers) or 25 (so each of five electorates would return five members). His personal preference is for 21 members.

The other question relates to casual vacancies. There is now before the Assembly a bill to allow party machines to appoint a successor in the case where a party runs out of candidates to fill a vacancy. Mackerras said he opposes the bill because it is his opinion that every member should be directly elected. Under the present provisions (which Mackerras supports) a member can only join the Legislative Assembly by being a candidate at a popular election. Mackerras believes that should continue to be the case.

Mackerras was questioned about his attitude towards the current redistribution of seats. He said he supported the proposal of the Gungahlin residents for a radical change to the maps of Ginninderra and Molonglo so that Gungahlin could lie wholly within Ginninderra. He went further and said he had attended a hearing on 24 June relating to the proposals. In his presentation at that hearing he stated his reasoning for this view.

Soon after our meeting the Augmented ACT Electoral Commission released its report entitled "Proposed Redistribution of the ACT into Electorates for the Legislative Assembly". The date of release was 7 July. The proposal is that Ginninderra should have 101,569 electors and return seven members, Molonglo should have 75,149 electors and return five members while Brindabella (whose boundaries would remain unchanged from those applying at the 2008 election) would have 71,429 electors.

Mr Mackerras has publicly expressed strong approval of this report. He is particularly impressed with the seven-member Ginninderra electorate. It comprises the whole of Belconnen, Gungahlin and Hall, together with the Canberra Central suburbs of Lyneham, O'Connor and Turner. The boundary between Ginninderra and Molonglo is clearly defined. It is Northbourne Avenue. Consequently all suburbs east of that road are in Molonglo while all suburbs to the west are in Ginninderra.


Tourism: What is the tourism industry?

By Don Allan

The authoritative lnter-Secretariat Working Group from the United Nations; the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development; and the World Tourism Operation and Statistical Office of the European Communities, which publishes the Tourism Satellite Account (TSA), defines tourism as: 'activities of persons travelling to, and staying in, places outside their usual environment for not more than one consecutive year for leisure, business and purposes not related to the exercise of an activity remunerated from within the place visited.'

On that basis it means that business and political visitors are not tourists. It also means they inflate the published number of tourist visitors to Canberra.
But the TSA goes further in saying that tourism is not an industry but a collection of private sector businesses owned either by individuals, public and private companies or Governments that, to some degree, cater for travellers.

In Canberra, the latter businesses are private attractions, the accommodation sector- comprising hotels, motels, B&Bs, backpacker units; conventions; event companies; national and local retailers. Most cultural activities and the National Attractions are Federal Government businesses managed and marketed by the public sector.

Unfortunately, the private sector's lead in tourism marketing has declined with the lead in tourism marketing going to the bureaucracy. In a sense the first ACT Tourism Advisory Authority in 1990, good idea as it was, started the decline. In fact the only tourism businesses represented on the Authority were three star accommodation houses and one small travel agency, whose representative was closely involved with a Government education provider; the other members were public servants. I should add I was a member of the Authority but chose to resign because I doubted the Authority's purpose.

During much of my nearly forty years in Canberra I've been involved in the tourism industry. And much as many people see it otherwise, the reality is: tourism is niche industry that makes a significant contribution to Canberra's economy. It is niche industry compared to Canberra's two principal businesses, Government and the bureaucracy; the private sector is third in line.
Some local politicians however, believe that Canberra's tourism potential is equal to that of some of Australia's better-known resorts. In tourism terms unfortunately, Australia's image is tide, sun, surf and sand, and even though Canberra has a lake, the absence of surf, sun and sand, keeps it lower on the ladder of preferred tourism destinations.

But being a successful niche industry is no disgrace; indeed the world has many successful niche tourism destinations. What makes them successful is that they realise it makes more sense to spend money on maintaining or extending their niche status than trying to make themselves what they could never be, a mecca for millions and millions of tourists.

As I see it, creating a new range of unique attractions/activities is how Canberra can continue to be a successful niche tourism destination. Naturally the attraction and/or activity must be particular to Canberra and not found elsewhere. Such attractions/activities would help make Canberra a must visit destination; anything less could turn it into an online destination.

And even if Canberra becomes a metropolis of half a million people, it will remain a bureaucratic city whose destiny in tourism terms will be a niche destination. Unfortunately, even as a niche destination, Canberra will have problems because in the years ahead not only will the War Memorial and Old Parliament House fade as attractions, so, too will New Parliament House that already has started to lose its 'New ' appellation.

And as technology progresses, I also have reservations about whether or not the National Museum and National Library – the latter in particular because of a personal love of books - will be thought of as interesting, resulting in a reduction of school visits. Indeed, if new and interesting attractions are not developed to help restore diminishing interest in the National Capital, Canberra might well become the geriatric Capital rather than what it should be, a thrusting innovative city full of surprises that promise an exciting future.

The problem with tourism in Canberra is that few of the people responsible for its development as a niche industry are futurists. Not that this surprises me. What else can be expected of people whose way of life has been determined by the working and social environments in which they grew up? In a sense many Canberra citizens having become conditioned to living in a cosseted and protected city and a city of administrators want that environment to be retained.

I say that because many people in the place where I was born, a town of mining and steel industries, became conditioned to that environment and still live there because they cannot adjust to a different environment. Just like many Canberrans.

But one of the answers to Canberra's tourism problem lies nearby: the Canberra Region. There is much talk about the Canberra Region but at the moment the only result the talk seems to achieve is more talk. There seems little real co-operation. An argument used to excuse the lack of co-operation is, that because the ACT and NSW have different governments and so have different priorities such a relationship isn't possible. Codswallop! Governments from different states and different political philosophy work together when it suits them. This would seem to suggest that working together in tourism doesn't suit one or other of the Governments concerned.

However, what is clear about an association between the two would certainly benefit Canberra. A whole new vista of history lying hidden in much of the region surrounding Canberra, Queanbeyan, and the rural and coastal districts of NSW, could be opened up.
It is a rich history of which probably most Australians, never mind overseas visitors, know nothing. It is a history that has not been damaged in the same way as that of early America. It is a history untainted as yet by the Hollywood syndrome but a history that in my view would inform and entertain visitors.

But where are the people who can tell that history? Not in offices of the bureaucracy I suggest, but in the rural villages and hamlets where history is still being passed on orally. As Canberra has many people who have researched its past, and because its early history is held in the historical records of NSW this should help make co-operation easier.

And while I think history has role to play so, too, does the future. As I said earlier Canberra tourism is short of futurists who will project what tourists will want in the future. Unfortunately, it also lacks the entrepreneurs who will speculate on the futurists being right.
It springs to mind also that a company, Canberra and Region Tourism Development Limited by Guarantee, should be formed with shareholders the ACT and NSW Governments; National Capital Authority; South East Region Towns and Shire Council and the Region's private sector. Such a company could draw together all the businesses involved in tourism working together to promote the region.

I suggest also, that like other industries, the tourism industry must recognise the future. And the ACT Government also must stop treating tourism simply as an industry that provides politicians with photo and public relations opportunities.

At the same time the public deserves to be given more accurate tourist figures and the number of people the industry employs. It has to be said of the latter that, the figures currently being quoted, are almost the same as twenty years ago.

The time has also come to recognise that driven by technology the future is rushing towards us at an ever increasing speed. And whether we like it or not, tourists visiting Canberra and Region in the future, as will Canberra's citizens travelling elsewhere, not only want the technology and the services of the day, they will also want to be interested and entertained.

But even as we boast of Canberra being a city of opportunity why are our young people deserting it in droves? Indeed, that the Government has seen it necessary to establish a "Live in Canberra" campaign does not inspire confidence. And the fact that the majority of university students leave the area after graduation, tells its own story.

The tourism industry cannot, indeed should not, wait for other people to do it first; it should be leading not following. And if we do not lead, Canberra will come to be classified not as a must visit destination, nor even an online destination, but a standby destination.


A letter from the President, Jane Tullis

Dear Members and Friends,
Election year is finally upon us. Now, more than ever, it is time for an ACT-focussed, community-centred political alternative to rise up and challenge the status quo. As usual, the major parties seem to be consumed with tearing each other down rather than investing their energies into building a better Canberra.

We were all disappointed not to have succeeded in having a candidate elected to the Legislative Assembly in 2008, but valuable lessons were learned from the experience. Unfortunately, our prediction that "a vote for the Greens is a vote for Labor" has proved all too accurate. We've continued to see the Government bullying our community with the abuse of call-in powers and the never ending planning debacle. It still prefers to squander our taxes on things we do not need, rather than properly fund essential services. Selflessness is the characteristic most desired of our politicians—with the needs of the community placed above one's personal interests—yet, such integrity is still sadly lacking within the Legislative Assembly. At least the ensuing sense of popular anger and frustration should provide an excellent platform from which the Community Alliance Party can launch its 2012 campaign.

Once again it is time to ask you to consider the ways in which you can assist our Party to succeed in gaining representation within the Legislative Assembly. The most obvious way is, of course, through donations and we are in dire need of financial support. However, I do not want you to think that finances alone are the solution: we will need volunteers throughout the year assisting with policy reviews, campaign strategies, membership drives, fund-raising, and letterbox drops, etc. If you can help in any way, please email me directly and I would be delighted to meet with you to discuss opportunities.

Our membership fees have remained modest as we value your continued participation and support. It is time, however, for me to communicate the simple fact that we will need at least $20,000 to sustain a basic party election campaign, not to mention the additional dollars required by each candidate to mount their individual campaigns. I am asking each member to pay the $20 membership fee confirmed at our AGM last year, if you have not already done so. I am also humbly requesting a $50 donation (or more if you feel you can afford it), in addition to the membership fee in order to create a solid financial platform upon which we can build our 2012 campaign.

To contribute, please send cheques to the address above or alternatively you may donate funds directly into the Party bank account: Account name – Community Alliance Party; St George Bank; BSB 112-908; Account Number 068420061. Please remember that donations to political parties are no longer tax deductable.

I am pleased also to announce that our first public meeting for 2012 will be held on Saturday 17th March from 2 to 4pm at Havelock House, Northbourne Avenue. We will have previous CAP candidates in attendance to advise prospective candidates on what to expect, and we will discuss the major issues on which to base our 2012 campaign. Please encourage others to come along. We formed as a party to demonstrate that good governance comes from transparency and genuine consultation with the community; we aim to live these principles through regular public meetings.

Finally, thank you for your continued support of the Community Alliance Party and I look forward to seeing you at our meetings in the run up to the 2012 Election.



The following is a direct quote from the North Canberra Community Council submission which also reflects many of the thoughts of the Community Alliance Party.

'On 15 March 2012, North Canberra Community Council [NCCC] sent a submission to the Standing Committee on Administration and Procedure in regard to an Inquiry into the ACT Self Government Act []. A number of recommendations have been made in response to the assessment of the performance of the three branches of government in the ACT, including that the number of MLAs should be increased, and the ACT Auditor General and Ombudsman should be made Officers of Parliament. The Standing Committee is considering holding public hearings in April to discuss matters raised in the submissions.

NCCC Recommendations:

The number of MLAs should be increased according to the increase in Canberra population.
There is a dysfunction in the Government branches operating in the ACT All branches should operate with maximum cooperation avoiding wastes and balancing their resources by solving their skill constraints.

The report requires an additional study on the position of the Community councils in the Act Governance framework covering the communication process between the ACT Government and the Community councils.

The ACT Auditor General and ombudsman should become officers of parliament to increase the ACT Government integrity safeguard levels.

To improve ACT governance integrity a Governance Integrity agency should be instituted in Canberra establishing formal coordination and links between designated integrity agencies.

A Ministry of only 5 is insufficient for effective cabinet government, and raises questions about whether the ACT should continue to operate this type of system without an increase in its size. Given the complexities of running both a city and a state Government the span of Ministers' portfolio responsibilities is immense. The current number of ministers should be expanded proving better governance.

The creation of an independent Community Advocate legal position in order to assist residential planning legal conflicts sent to the ACT Civil and Administrative Appeals Tribunal (ACAT).


Prof John Halligan deserves to be praised for the high quality and integrity of his report on ACT Governance. Beneath the praising of some advance of ACT Government to improve governance we alarmingly note that much more need to be done to get close to the Latimer House principles that should be the light on the hill for Governments democratic governance. It seems that previous and current ACT governments were quite complacent in this area.

From John Halligan report we see that a potential tension exists between the Latimer House Principles and constituent features of ACT government despite the extent that certain principles can be fully and appropriately realised in a small and intimate system of government. The report found problems in Act Government branch processes independence that need to be reconciled with effective relations between branches.

Much depends on the adaptive ability and capacity of the branches in the ACT system in balancing resource and skill constraints with creative interpretation in the application of such principles. ACTPLA low quality planning approval practices during the recent ten years and their uncoordinated relation with other branches like Land Development, TAMS and ACT Environment are all there to validate the ACT executive governance dysfunctional aspects mentioned by the Halligan's report.

Statutory Office Holders, Oversight and Integrity

This report section indicates that much more needs to be done for the statutory Office holder's position to be aligned with the Latimer Principles. The report found that ACT is ten years behind in the integrity area comparing with the state of Victoria. This section should raise an alarm bell because involves important statutory officers such as the Auditor General, the Ombudsman, the Human Right Commissioner and the Director of Public Prosecution.

The statutory officers mentioned above should receive adequate resources and a higher level of independence.
In terms of the Latimer Principles certain statutory office holders should be made officers of the parliament. In New Zealand, UK and other English speaking countries the Ombudsman is a parliamentary officer to protect integrity and independence.

The same applies to Auditor's General role to promote public accountability. Point 78 of the report laments the lack of sensitivity and respect in the lack of consultation in appointing a new Auditor's General in ACT.

To improve ACT governance integrity a Governance Integrity agency should be instituted in Canberra establishing formal coordination and links between designated integrity agencies. This may be a precursor to the integrity branch concept. The report indicated that a parliamentary select committee in conjunction with the relevant oversight agencies should produce the elements of an ACT integrity system and recommend how oversight and integrity will be enhanced.

This is a vital democratic point and all the ACT Community Councils should request the lack of an Integrity System issue to be addressed urgently as a core political promise to be implemented now or at least in the next legislature. Dysfunctional ACT agencies we all know about will a hard time justifying their low quality practices if a proper ACT Integrity System is in place as suggested by the Latimer House Principles for good governance.


The timely delivery of justice is big issue in ACT and has been affected by the different views within the Executive and the Judiciary. We as a council should expect much more progress by the ACT Government in addressing the backlog of judicial work, to improve the Judiciary and Act citizen communication and to enhance the working relationship between the related branches.

ACT residents contemplating opposing a development application need to understand that for some reason, if it goes to the ACT Civil and Administrative Appeals Tribunal (ACAT)., then the Planning Authority and the developers become joint parties in opposition to the residents.

There are problems in the way the ACAT. is handling complaints cases by residents against the inefficiency of the ACT Planning authorities. So your tax dollars are used to assist the developers in the case against you, the taxpayer and resident. And linked to this, to make such an appeal is an enormous commitment in time and possibly money. Your taxes are at work here, not for you but against you. The development industry fully understands this. No matter how bad the original submission, they allow in the budgeting for the possibility of dealing with opposition by residents knowing that the government assists the developer's cause as the Planning Authority needs to defend its decision to allow the developments to go ahead, no matter what evidence is presented to show how bad a decision has been made.

Significantly on the day of an appeal, the residents will have to face two legal teams, one each for the Planning Authority and the developer, who then work together to deal with the residents.

We believe that an ACT Community advocate to defend a wide range of planning complaints will be necessary.

Opportunities for Community Councils to have a greater role in government

The system of Community Councils has existed in the ACT for over a decade. John Halligan has not covered in his report the community sections like the Councils. This may be due to the limited scope, time and funding allowed for producing the report. Important missing elements in the report are the position and collaboration of ACT Community Councils. ACT Government should use more of the Councils feedbacks in order to better serve Canberra Governance quality.

Although Community Councils receive Government funding, they are neither formally elected by the areas they serve nor do they have any power to implement the matters on which they have an interest and opinion. In addition, the Legislative Assembly has no formal relationship with Community Councils.

Accordingly, whilst the Government generally accords the councils some courtesy, it can choose to ignore the concerns of Community Councils if it so wishes. This current situation wastes the wealth of local knowledge and expertise that the membership of Community Councils possesses.

Political Executive

Professor Halligan noted in his report that with a Ministry of only 5 members "the complexities of running both a city and a state government the span of Ministers' portfolio responsibilities is immense" (p.4). Given this immense task, it is unfortunate that the resource that Community Councils presents is not better used.'

by Renzo Gobbin on behalf of North Canberra Community Council, PO Box 396, Dickson ACT 2602


Judicial accountability

by Caroline Ambrus

Errors in deliberations

Judicial deliberations amount to interpretation of the laws, precedents and the evidence. Judicial errors such as ignoring or misapplying relevant precedents and misinterpreting evidence can be appealed to a higher court on points of law. But in practice, judges of the higher courts are notoriously reluctant to make findings of error in the lower courts as this can reflect badly on their peers, especially if the case is reported in the media or on court websites. So the errors are repeated and compounded.

Because of the judicial appeals process, complaints about legal deliberations are barred from being considered by another complaints process such as the Ombudsman, the Law Society and so on. So if a litigant feels aggrieved at a court's judgement and cannot afford an appeal, it's tough luck.

Errors in process

Judicial processes relate to the administration of a case. Maladministration includes delay in delivering a judgement, bias shown by relevant questions being unanswered or issues bypassed, errors in comprehending the evidence rather than in interpreting it, not considering the issues raised in the application or in the defence, failure to assess the credibility of witnesses, failure to assist a self-represented litigant or to allow assistance by a McKenzie friend, and failure to accept the evidence of acknowledged expert witnesses which has not been rebutted.

Errors in process are not usually appealable to a higher court as they are not points of law but comprise legal practice and process. An appeal that raises such issues will likely be rejected by the court as being inappropriate. However, the ACT Human Rights Act has a provision for a fair trial which would cover maladministration of a case. This would be a fresh application, not an appeal from a decision of a lower court.

Complaints about court processes made to an agency outside of the court system are usually swiftly rejected or ignored because agencies regard the judiciary as untouchable. In practice complaints agencies tend to confuse judicial deliberations with legal process. The differences are imperfectly understood and defined. The Ombudsman's Act in particular has confused the issue.


In common with the other two branches of government, the executive and the legislature, accountability operates according to a chain of command or a pattern of voting. But there is no accountability when a head of jurisdiction makes errors in process.

The Judicial Commission will only consider complaints that impugn the personality and social behaviour of a legal officer; specifically that the officer is mad, bad or dangerous. The penalty is termination of his or her employment/contract. These complaints are filtered by the Attorney General, who has appointed the officer in the first instance. Needless to say, the Judicial Commission does not convene very often. Consequently, judicial executives can do what they like, when they like and to whom they either like or dislike, with virtual impunity.

The problem does not end here. There is a trickledown effect on the jurisdiction. If the chief justice, the chief magistrate or the General President misbehaves and gets away with it, he or she is most likely to condone or cover-up the same behaviour in other officers within the jurisdiction.

This can be observed in ACAT, where the General President, Ms Linda Crebbin, delayed her decisions for long periods. According to the ACAT website case reports, so did other Tribunal members. It took the ACT Law Society an unprecedented writ of mandamus to the Supreme Court to encourage Ms Crebbin to make decisions on cases which involved the Society. She responded with appropriate haste and issued the judgements. But this did not stop her from delaying decisions on other cases where the litigants lacked the clout of the Law Society.


To address this judicial absence of accountability, complaints about judicial process should be examined on the evidence by an independent organisation/committee, separate from both the judiciary and the legislature.

Thereafter complaints should be resolved by the committee and/or referred to the Attorney General, the Judicial Commission, the Auditor General, the Department of Justice and Community Safety, or the Human Rights Commission for appropriate action. These bodies would be required to report back to the committee on the progress of the complaint and whether it has been resolved.


Why don't we have candidates for this election?

by Mike Crowther, CAP's new president

The CAP executive, under no small deal of pressure from me personally, took the difficult decision not to field candidates in the 2012 ACT Legislative Assembly elections.

Why? This is a question that we have been asked a lot lately. Why isn't CAP running?

One local writer went gone so far as to declare our party 'dead'. Well to paraphrase Samuel Clements: "Reports of our death have been greatly exaggerated."

The decision was based on the reality of the political situation in the territory, and our inability to mount an effective campaign given our resources. I'd like to first look at the 'black' side of our ledger.

CAP has sufficient members to justify its existence as a registered political party. In fact, we were ruled good to go by the electoral commission just prior to the election being called. (* Neither the Australian Democrats nor the Pirate Party had the requisite number of registered members to do so.)

CAP has, by any measure, excellent, and well crafted policies. This of course would be news to people like the Canberra Times political reporter who as late as September this year wrote that: "..C.A.P. has no polices." We do, and we have damn good ones. Evidence the fact that our opponents have never been able to attack us on, nor match the quality of our policies.

We have a well constructed and functional constitution. Don't ever underestimate the value of this solid foundation. Look at the dysfunction of the old parties… lackluster candidates being parachuted into safe seats… branch stacking… muzzling… The founders of the CAP had many, many years experience observing political skullduggery and went to great lengths to craft a constitution that would make the CAP resilient to hijacking and other acts of bastardry that abound in Australian politics.

So if the CAP was a car I was trying to sell you, I would say she has been superbly engineered, has a well appointed design and comes with 12 months rego and full insurance. That having been said we have some problems....

There is virtually no fuel in the tank. The major parties have a good stream of income. Last election Labor spent $1.5 million dollars on the ACT campaign. (Some of this comes directly from the mouths of children who's addicted parents have shoved the grocery money into the pokies down at the Labor club.) The CAP is never going to be able to match the sort of largesse showered on the majors by developers et al and we have to use our campaign dollars judiciously. However we still need some campaign dollars and these have not been forthcoming.

We did not have acceptable candidates declare early enough. It is no use throwing a candidate into the community two months out from the election and expecting the community to warm to them. The majors get away with this, but they have sufficient funds (and in the case of Labor, the Canberra Times) to convince the public how hard candidate X has been working behind the scenes. Our candidates have to knock on doors, pound the pavements and that needs to take place at least two years out from the poll; otherwise, people will rightly ask, "Where was the CAP bloke/woman last year when XYZ happened in our area?" "Why are we just hearing from you now… you're all the same you politicians."

The Val Jeffrey factor. Val (bless his cotton socks) is running for the Liberal Party. Val was our 'lead' candidate in 2008. In 2012 he dealt our party a body blow. Not by defecting to the Liberals, (people are welcome to come and go in the CAP with no hard feelings.) Val damaged us with his media statement that he'd always been a Liberal and that the CAP was just another way to have a run at the assembly. CAP was in the public mind, labelled as a Liberal stalking horse/front party, even though this was untrue. It is going to take a couple of years to regain our credibility as a genuinely independent, grass roots party. This can only be done by getting up close to, working with, and talking to community groups. Val damaged our trust factor. Once lost, this can't be simply purchased by advertising. It has to be rebuilt brick by bloody brick.

Finally, the time simply wasn't right for Minor/Independent candidates. That statement may shock some. However, hear me out. In 2008 we faced an antagonistic media. The ABC broke its own rules to exclude CAP from the free media address given to other parties. The Times misquoted our candidates. One WIN journalist was given his marching orders after his electoral comment was not to the taste of the then chief minister. CAP still managed to get some good media opportunities by being clever.

In 2012 however, things are different. There are a number of parties in this contest. Besides the old three, there is 'Bullet train for Canberra', 'Marion Le', 'Motorists', 'Liberal Democrats' as well as nine Independents. Pages 6 and 7 of Sunday's Canberra Times carries what is labelled 'What the Parties are Offering'. This is a lie. On my count there are seven parties running candidates in this election. (Not including the Australian Democrats and Pirate Party who are running individuals.) The Canberra Times is reporting on only three. Liberal, Labor, and, yes well done that boy at the back… the Greens. The only real mention of independents has been negative: Phillip Pokock's homophobia (Canberra Times 24 September)and the Canberra Pirate Party's alleged connection with the Pirate Party in Germany where an ex member had written an article on decriminalising the possession of child pornography (Canberra Times 12 September). This has been their apparent policy throughout this election. Anyone relying on that paper's reporting for its election coverage would be forgiven for believing that there are only three parties in this town.

Partly due to this and partly due to the lack of the widespread community anger that existed in 2008, I believe that the result will be Liberal 8, Labor 6, Green 3. This means a return of a Labor-Greens government. Running candidates in this election would have depleted our already low resources, burnt out potentially good candidates in an environment in which they simply cannot win, and prevented us from closely following trends, re-grouping and being ready to fight in 2016.

A Labor-Greens win, whilst bad for Canberra, will make our position stronger in 2016. If I may, allow me to cite the case of one Chris Bourke, member for Ginninderra, Minister for Education, Aboriginal Affairs and Corrective Services. Put at its kindest, Mr. Bourke is a poor communicator. During the 2008 election he was kept well clear of the media and, funnily enough for a would-be politician, the public. His election slogan was 'Known to Ministers, and Chief Ministers' in other words, vote for me, I'm with Labor. He was not subsequently elected, but won his seat on the resignation of Jon Stanhope. His performance as a minister, in any of his portfolios has been abysmal. (One howler was telling an estimates committee that Jim Best's Billabong Corporation wasn't a 'real' Aboriginal organization, a statement he later retracted.) His election campaign in 2012 has been marked by silence. Speeches? Radio interviews? Shopping centre meet and greets? Chris doesn't need to do all that guff. He's known to ministers… and chief ministers. Make no mistake. Based on nothing more than membership of a particular party, Chris Bourke and others like him WILL be returned to office on Saturday and in the coming four years are going to make an absolute dogs breakfast of our Territory.

The question is will CAP then be ready to stand up for the people of Canberra and challenge them?

I have a number of plans to revitalize the party and improve its fortunes in the coming twelve months. I'll keep you well informed but I would ask you, please, don't wait until September 2016 to ask "Is CAP running a candidate?" Become active now. We start running for the next election on Monday the 22nd of October 2012.



by Caroline Ambrus

It's about pleasing the electorate with improvements in service delivery such as transport, health and green waste garbage. It's about renovations such as urban renewal of ageing local shopping centres. It's about new infrastructure such as master plans for town centres, with roads and hospitals thrown in for good luck. All of these promises focus on the visible manifestations of government. If any of these promises are ever fulfilled, governments can point to them as evidence of its efficiency, functionality, predictability, honesty, reliability and so on.

What this and other election do not feature is the cracked crappy state of governance in the territory. The incumbents and the hopefuls must be hugely relieved that the electorate is stupid enough to swallow the bait so freely offered at election time.

What has not been addressed is the basic structure of ACT governance that allows the unelected senior public servants to exert a disproportionate amount of control over the lives of Canberrans. The ridiculous allocation of ministerial port-folios to a gang of five means that ministers can't attend to all the matters put before them. This leaves control in the hands of unelected ministerial advisors and the public sector. It is a fertile ground for control of the electorate through misrepresentation (lies), discrimination (playing favourites), bullying (whistleblowers), indolence (not doing the job), misappropriation (stealing) and getting rid of any relevant evidence. Then when the matter becomes public through the press, or when a constituent complains, everybody runs for cover and nobody takes responsibility. There is no disciplinary action or dismissals. The requirements of the Public Sector Management Act are ignored. This is the way Canberra is run and so far no election has mentioned the administrative worm at the core of the territory's apple.

A case was reported in the Canberra Times October 12, right in the middle of the current election campaign, which epitomises this. It was about a father whose wife and three month old daughter went missing in 2010. He reported it to the police but they were not located. It wasn't until this year a Family Court process informed him that his baby daughter had been voluntarily entered into care in 2010.

The father complained to the relevant Minister, Joy Burch, but was apparently ignored or dismissed, so he complained to the Children and Young People Commissioner, Alasdair Roy. When the Commissioner intervened, the Minister was obliged to take the father's complaint seriously. Mr Roy informed the Minister that Child Protection Services should have contacted the father to assess formally whether he was a suitable placement option and that he should have been given the opportunity to respond to any concerns or allegations about his suitability. He told the Minister that the legislation had been breached. She apparently responded by carpeting Care and Protection Services which resulted in the Director's apology to the father.

On the face of it, the front-line workers' ignorance of the law and disregard of the father's common law rights is hard to understand when everybody knows that parents have certain rights that the Government can't breach at a whim, or even for a serious reason. Further, there was no evidence whether the father was an exemplary citizen or a criminal.

At this point the story gets interesting. The way that various players positioned themselves to avoid responsibility for what really was the abduction, concealment and involuntary confinement of the baby girl, demonstrates that ACT governance is riddled with corruption and maladministration. The story reveals quite explicitly a political lack of accountability and a bureaucratic lack of transparency.

In explaining her position and apologising, Care and Protection Services director, Helen Pappas said: "I acknowledge that communication should have taken place with you from the very start. I would like to advise that the relevant policies are being reviewed in light of your experiences.'' This is a predictable bureaucratic response. What kind of policy is necessary for the Government to consult with the child's other parent when this is an unalienable right?

Joy Burch's defence according to the Canberra Times was that it happened two years ago, as if this was enough to wipe the Ministerial slate clean. The Minister claimed that reforms to the care and protection sector had been made since, but she was not specific, so the public only has her word that her department will no longer unlawfully intervene in family affairs. She played her own political card when she stated "For the Canberra Liberals to play politics with a sensitive case without knowing the circumstances, and to attack the difficult decision made by a front-line worker without knowing the context is deplorable. A week out from the election we are yet to see a single policy from the Canberra Liberals on vulnerable families or care and protection. All we get is more attacks on front-line staff whose jobs would be at risk under a Liberal government.''

The Minister's excuses were not relevant to what actually happened. Her carefully worded defence normalised what was the ACT Government's criminal breach of parental rights. The effect of such poli-speak is to sanitise the unacceptable until it becomes acceptable.

In commenting on the case Vicki Dunne, the shadow minister said ''This is a matter of leadership. How many times do things have to catastrophically go wrong in her department before this minister will take responsibility and take hold of this department and turn it around?'' We watch with interest to see if, after the election, the next Minister steps up to take responsibility when her or his department stuffs up.

In future we as a party need to lobby for ministerial responsibility and step up when ministers duck for cover under a mantle of platitudes and ambiguous rhetoric such as the excuses the Minister, Ms Burke, generated.

This case should be one where the community joins together in protest over the unlawful acts of the ACT Government. The relevant front-line workers, the director of the Care and Protection Services and the Minister should be sacked. Anything less means that the issue has not been taken seriously and the same thing will happen again and again. Voiceless people will continue to be victimised and bullied and babies will be torn from their families.




So you thought that your vote preserved democracy. It does, but the following information will help you to make your vote even more democratic.

The voting system in the ACT and Tasmania is the Hare-Clark proportional representation system. To be elected, a candidate must obtain a set proportion (or quota) of the votes for his or her electorate. Any candidate whose votes equal or exceeds a quota is elected. The system is known as a 'single transferable vote' system. Each voter is given one vote, which can be transferred from candidate to candidate according to preferences shown by the voter. If a quota is obtained, the votes are only distributed proportionally whereas if someone is eliminated they are distributed at 100% value.

To vote, voters simply number preferences for candidates by writing 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and so on against the names of candidates on the ballot paper. After polls close, every number '1' vote is counted. Candidates who record enough number '1' votes to gain a quota are elected. Votes received by elected candidates surplus to the quota are allocated to other candidates according to voters' preferences. After that, the candidate with the fewest votes is excluded from the count and his or her votes are allocated to other candidates according to voters' preferences. This process of first transferring surplus votes and then excluding the candidate with the fewest votes continues until all vacancies are filled.


Minority governments
Minority governments are much more common in Tasmania and the ACT than in jurisdictions where Preferential Voting is used. Seven Tasmanian governments since 1948 have lacked control of the House of Assembly, and the first four ACT elections after the achievement of self-government (1989) saw the return of minority governments. Governance by minorities means that the parties have to mediate and negotiate in order to govern.

Reduced party control
With Hare-Clark ballot papers lacking the 'above-the-line' provision of Senate elections, combined with an absence of how-to-vote cards and the rotation of party names, Hare-Clark voters are much freer to vote as they choose. The freedom that voters have can make Hare-Clark elections quite unpredictable at times. (continued page 2)

No seat is safe
Party candidates are more vulnerable than in Senate elections, where the combination of fixed-order party lists and above-the-line voting gives protection to particular candidates. In Tasmanian and ACT elections, however, parties may not rank their party lists and, hence, voters have much freedom to target a non-performing MP, even though they may continue to vote for that MP's party. The system provides no blue ribbon seats for complacent or tired party members.

Everyone is an opponent
The relative lack of safety for candidates is emphasised by the fact that individual candidates are fighting for votes not only from their party opponents, but also from members of their own party ticket. In fact some candidates will attempt to become associated with one part of their electorate, while others will work at canvassing the whole electorate, irrespective of whether they are 'trespassing' on the preserve of their colleagues. Some long-standing candidates can make it difficult for colleagues to develop a presence in the electorate.


The 2008 ACT Assembly Election

by Professor Jenny Stewart 

James Sizer's votes were distributed at the first count, with just over half going to Val Jeffrey. Val, who received 4,109 first preference votes, continued to be 'in the hunt' until the 15th count, at which point his votes totalled almost 6,000. By this time, Val had received almost 2,000 votes from other candidates who were eliminated ahead of him.   On the 16th count, however, Val became the bottom-ranking candidate, and his votes were distributed according to the second preferences on those ballot papers. Val's redistributed votes ended up largely with Amanda Bresnan, Joy Burch and John Hargreaves (over 2,000 were exhausted at this point – ie many of Val's 2nd preferences were for candidates who had already been excluded). So Val's preferences were helpful to Labor and to the Greens.
Candidate selection

The Brindie outcome shows the importance of having well-known local candidates who are able to campaign strongly as a team. The 'lead' and the supporting candidate between them probably need to poll about 6,000 first preference votes. But with reasonable preference flows from others, reaching the 10,000 mark is not an impossible task.  Val's 4,000 votes show what a high profile candidate can achieve. James worked extremely hard, and had he been able to poll even a few hundred more votes, the result might have been really interesting. (Joy Burch, who received only 800 more votes than Val was elected, so Val was not that far off).
Candidate tactics

Tracey Mackey (who received over 4,000 first preference votes) was not high profile, but she (and her husband) door-knocked exhaustively in the 'forgotten northern suburbs' of Brindabella. Joy Burch (also not high-profile) ran strongly on community opposition to closure of the health centre at Erindale. So if CAP candidates are prepared to door-knock targeted parts of the electorate, and to pick-up on local issues as they arise in the inter-election period, they would greatly enhance their chances of success.

Party profile

The performance of the AMP in Brindabella (and elsewhere) shows the importance of a clear 'brand'. The CAP had excellent policies, but did not succeed in clarifying the Community 'brand' to voters. In itself, the word 'community' does not mean a lot.  But if voters understand that it means 'commonsense policies' in health, education and transport, and an end to wasteful government, they would be much more likely to support the Party.

Party tactics

Emphasise in how to vote cards to vote 1 and 2 for the CAP candidates (almost half the people who voted for James did not vote '2' for Val). Try to encourage people voting for other parties to 'top up' with the Community Alliance (ie vote first for the party of their choice, whether it be ALP, Liberals, AMP or Greens, but put the CAP candidates after their favoured candidate or candidates from the other party).  This means that, where candidates from other parties are eliminated, the CAP is more likely to pick up their re-distributed votes.


The election outcome clearly shows the importance of high-profile candidates, good electioneering and electoral tactics and clear party branding to electoral success.

 If the CAP wishes to maximise its chances next time, it needs to target particular electorates where it can put forward at least two candidates with a strong local following. These candidates should follow clearly thought-through local strategies, supported by as much marketing as the party can muster.  

The Party needs people to change their votes, so it should position itself next time so as to have as broad an appeal as possible. The Party might also develop an approach to people who are planning to vote '1' for candidates from other parties, but who might be persuaded to put CAP second.


Incomes and Outcomes

by Dr Chris Braddick

What happened in Brindabella

19 candidates, quota was 10,556 votes (16.6%). CAP total first preferences were 4,829 (7.62%): Val 4,109, James 720. Joy Burch was elected with the lowest first preference vote of 4,965. James was eliminated in round 1 (442 of 720 votes went to Val); Val in round 15 (of 6,264 votes, 2,000 went to Greens, 1,600 ALP). CAP's best result, Val was clearly our star candidate.

What happened in Ginninderra

27 candidates, quota was 10,009 (16.6%, same as Brindabella). CAP total first preferences were 1,897 (3.16%): Mike 324, Jane 782, Roger 791. There was no significant flow of votes received from non-CAP candidates. Mary Porter was elected with the lowest first preference vote of 3,719. Mike was eliminated in round 15 (225 of 324 votes flowed to CAP); Roger in round 23 (513 of 791 to Jane); Jane in round 28 (of 1516 votes, 500 went to Libs, 400 Greens, 200 Mark Parton, 175 ALP).

What happened in Molonglo

40 candidates, quota was 11,034 (12.5%). CAP total first preferences were 1,004 (1.14%): Alvin 132, Nancy 135, Owen 151, Norvan 586. There was no significant flow of votes received from non-CAP candidates. Caroline le Couteur was elected with the lowest first preference vote of 3,334. Alvin was eliminated in round 7 (89 of 138 flowed to CAP), Nancy round 18 (104 of 173 to CAP), Owen in round 25 (161 of 232 to Norvan), Norvan in round 58 (of 955 votes, 250 went to Greens, 180 Libs, 125 ALP, 100 Pangallo, 80 Mulcahy, 70 AMP). CAP's worst result, but faced added complication of the most candidates and most parties (Mulcahy, Pangallo, LDP).

Best booths

Brindabella: Condor – 341 votes (10.46%); Gordon – 362 (9.21%); Tuggeranong Pre-poll – 794 (8.98%).

Ginninderra: Belconnen pre-poll – 301 (3.74%); Charnwood 193 (5.44%).

Molonglo: Duffy 48 (2.57%); Gungahlin pre-poll 50 (1.38%); Woden pre-poll 76 (1.31%).

Does this reflect where we campaigned the most vigorously?


This was a $3m election! Total campaign expenditure by all 8 parties and 86 candidates totalled $3,002,702 (cents were rounded). Unfortunately, we will have to wait until 1 Feb 2010 for figures on donations to political parties (though not to individual candidates.)

Expenditure by parties (inc. their candidates) was as follows, in descending order:

ALP $1,392,643; CL $1,124,989; Independents (inc. Democrats) $133,426; CAP $111,403; AMP $80,311; Greens $68,033; Mulcahy Canb $57,126; Pangallo Inds $24,459; LDP $10,312.

Compared to the 2004 election, this was more than double the expenditure for Labor ($547,773) and Liberals ($489,843), but only 1/8th more for Greens (not inc. their candidates' spending).

This works out at an average of $176,630 per seat, (or $34,915 per candidate) although for Labor the cost was $198,949 per seat won, for Libs $187,498, but for Greens just $17,008! The cost per first preference vote was on average $14.19, and for each party was as follows, again in descending order:

Mulcahy Canb $24.40; Inds $19.17; ALP $17.60; CL $16.83; CAP $14.41; LDP $13.32; AMP $7.61; Pangallo Inds $5.75; Greens $2.06!

Of the independents, the only significant spenders were Helen Cross $71,050 (similar to 2004) and Mark Parton $48,774.

Finally, it may be some consolation to our candidates to learn that although Val won more votes than the rest of the CAP put together (4109: 3621), he also spent considerably more than the rest of the CAP candidates put together ($54,670: $39,925). In other words, Vals votes cost $13.30 each, while the average for our other eight candidates was $11.03.


I agree with most of Jenny's 'lessons' (except for the comment about our name). However, I would like to emphasise the lack of a direct correlation between campaign expenditure and the number of seats won. In short, in the ACT, pots of gold are no substitute for a strong party identity, solid organisation, high profile candidates, enthusiastic volunteers, innovative campaign strategies, and a clear, consistent and attractive message.


Why I joined the Community Alliance Party

by Greg O'Regan

As the ACT elections came into focus towards the end of 2007 and into the early 2008, the deficiencies of the ACT Labor government sharpened for me. I had been an ALP and union member for years, having joined it with enthusiasm, but over time I had become disillusioned. I resigned.

For all its conferences and committees, my experience showed that there was no place in the Labor Party for the individual. The Party was hamstrung by factions and vested interests within and without. It had bowed to radical feminism. Political correctness and social engineering were rife. It was swayed by uncompromising pressure groups whose priorities were not always those of the ordinary Canberran. A totalitarian behaviourist culture seemed to have invaded the psyche of the ALP here. A climate akin to Big Brotherism was abroad: an attitude of knowing what is best regardless of community thinking and action.

Long incumbency seemed to have rendered the ALP ministry conceited. It wished to be a "first" among other Australian governments in social engineering, ready to confect rights for some and disregard true societal values and the greater social needs of the ACT.

Consultations were held more for form than for advice. Having ticked the consultation box, the government and its agencies would do what was originally planned anyway. Prime examples are the consultations about school closures decisions; same-sex marriages, the profligate and risky water purification plant versus a new dam in a new catchment, the mess of hospital parking, the closing of a needed library, and lately the fiasco of a polluting gas-fired data centre adjacent to residences.
The list of failures and indiscretions of the whole government and that of at least one of its Ministers was sufficient to have me look for a more representative citizen-oriented political force.

The ACT Liberal Party had some appeal but at that time was deeply divided and without its traditional backers. It was trying to renew itself but keen memories of Kate Carnell's administration still put me off.

A serious study of the Greens showed it to be an exploitative organisation that used general concern for the environment for more global sinister purposes. It is more totalitarian and micro-managing than Labor. My unwillingness to see the Greens as an alternative to Labor was recently vindicated when the Greens ACT leader confessed to the wilful deceit that the Greens played on the electors of Canberra by admitting that Green and Labor policies "are not too far apart".(See City News, 23-29 April, 2009: "Greens Leader tells:" We're just like Labor!" That connection had been publicly and vehemently denied in the 2008 election because the Greens were as aware as most, that the electorate was looking for an alternative to local Labor and the Greens desperately wanted to appear different from out of favour Labor.

Around January 2008 I found that there was a group of concerned citizens who were also looking for an alternative to the current parties in the ACT Assembly. Over succeeding months those people formed a new political force in the ACT that would be responsive to communities' needs and aspirations. The group adopted the name "The Community Alliance Party" to reflect that.

The CAP formulated policies (most of which appealed to me), and found courageous and able candidates prepared to put those policies before the electors. CAP had few resources, so the candidates largely had to finance their own campaigns and muster what help they could. For each of them the task was herculean, all-consuming and historic. It was years since any ACT group had had the audacity to challenge the larger parties. The local media were puzzled by the challenge to the status quo as they perceived it.

While no CAP candidate gained a seat in 2008, many lessons were learnt for the 2012 elections. Among these are that CAP must persevere, publicise its determination and purposes, and enlarge its membership.

I for one intend to maintain my membership and support.



Judicial Complaints
Legislation and Policy Branch
Justice and Community Safety Directorate
GPO Box 158

The Community Alliance Party expresses its concern that there is no ACT legislation or an independent, administrative process to hear complaints about judicial unprofessionalism, misbehaviour, maladministration and incompetency. There is a complaints policy in place in the ACT. However it stipulates that complaints are decided by the head of the jurisdiction. The legislation that applies in New South Wales and federally has similar provisions. Because the process is in house or relies on the head of the jurisdiction for an outcome, it is neither independent nor transparent.

A judicial complaints process can only cover complaints about maladministration as opposed to judicial deliberations. Legal, substantive issues can, in theory, be appealed to a higher court. However, the differences between administrative and legal issues are poorly understood and have not been clearly defined by the judiciary, by the laws, or precedents, or by public sector administration. Professor John McMillan attempted to address this in his report "Commonwealth courts and tribunals, complaint handling processes and the Ombudsman's jurisdiction, report by the Commonwealth Ombudsman, by Prof. John McMillan under the Ombudsman Act 1976, REPORT NO. 12/2007" (appendix 1). Confusion arises when maladministration can be argued as an error in law rather than an administrative failure. The outcome depends on judicial interpretation and in the absence of clear definitions, decisions are discretionary. When judicial officers receive a complaint, the temptation is choose not to decide whether the matter is administrative or substantive and advise the complainant to appeal to a higher court. But this is often not feasible, desirable or affordable, especially when a complaint can be dismissed arbitrarily as being beyond the court's jurisdiction.

Any complaints process established by the ACT Government needs to be clear on what issues can be considered and those which are appealable to a higher court. The present framework of law and precedent needs to inform policy decisions as to what sort of complaints process is applicable to ACT needs. The establishment of an independent complaints process will give complainants some certainty that they will receive fair consideration. Without adequate legal research, clear policies and guidelines, complainants are disadvantaged and their complaint can be dismissed without adequate, lawful reasons being given.

The grey area of the law is between substantive and administrative issues. This has not been satisfactorily addressed. In the process of defining the differences, the judiciary will possibly argue that administrative matters are intrinsic to judicial deliberations. The judiciary is adept in resisting any challenge to its power base, its defence being the increasing incomprehensibility of legal language and obsessive attention to minor points of law, with cases being the first casualty. The present legal system has created an untouchable judicial class which enjoys privileges and immunities that are inappropriate in a democratic society. Perhaps this needs to be addressed before a complaints policy is considered.

Some feasible examples of judicial maladministration is the officer's failure to:

* deliver a timely judgement;
* consider the issues included in the court documents;
* assess the credibility of witnesses in reasons given for a judgement;
* assist a self-represented litigant or to allowing assistance by a 'McKenzie friend';
* accept the evidence of acknowledged expert witnesses which has not been rebutted;
* give correct advice on procedural matters, including legal representation.
* be impartial, polite and punctual.

At the present time the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act covers complaints about judicial and administrative matters, but this process is not easily accessible as the case has to be heard in the Supreme Court where application and court costs are high. Further, there is a potential to overload the Court with cases, resulting in delays, thus creating additional complaints. Many of these complaints could be resolved using a complaints system, particularly when it is about an administrative failure.

The present judicial complaints policies, where complaints are heard by the head of the jurisdiction, invite further maladministration. He or she is in the unchallenged position of being able to make the final decision as there is no further process for appealing the outcome of a complaint. The in-house complaints process can be used to hide administrative deficiencies, favour colleagues, operate for personal advantage or to further punish the complainant by arbitrarily dismissing the complaint. Further, the present complaints policies do not take into account how complaints against a head of jurisdiction is handled. There is no mechanism, at least in the ACT, by which he or she has to stand down when a complaint against him or her is received. Given that the complaints process is potentially corruptible by a head of jurisdiction through her or his manipulation for personal advantage, the whole jurisdiction can become corrupted. Consequently, the community is affected as complaints about judicial maladministration cannot be addressed by the legislature or the executive as there is no complaints process. The present legislation, the Judicial Commission Act, limits complaints to serious matters. The result in the ACT has been the erosion of judicial standards and commensurate community dissatisfaction.

Accountability is one of the mainstays of democracy. The parliament is held accountable through elections, the public sector (the executive) is held accountable by oversight agencies and the Commissioner of Public Administration. The judiciary is held accountable through open hearings and publication of decisions and reasons. However, the publication of reasons is often heavily edited to support the judges' decision. The primary material is the open hearing of a court case, but this has to be attended in person to gather information as to the substance of the case. Transcripts are not available to parties who are not involved due to copyright restrictions. Copyright is owned and controlled by the judiciary which limits or denies access to this information. This results in a legal process which is not transparent and as such cannot be held accountable.

ACAT complaints process

In the ACT there are two possible avenues of complaint against ACAT member's maladministration of their cases. Neither of these has been made accessible to complainants, the main reason being that the status of ACAT is ambiguous and there has been no clarification of this by the legislature or the executive. Politicians and public servants will not accept complaints under the present legislation as they believe that like the judiciary, ACAT members are untouchable. However, according to CAP research and anecdotal evidence, they are not. The legislation, i.e. the Public Sector Management Act and the Ombudsman Act have provided avenues of complaint.

CAP informant, Ms Caroline Ambrus reported on her experiences in trying to make a complaint against Ms Linda Crebbin's maladministration of a case she defended in 2009. She stated:

"I complained to the Ombudsman about Ms Crebbin's:
* two year delay in issuing her decision;
* focus on personal and professional matters in her decision;
* incorrect advice about legal representation;
* impeding my 'McKenzie friend' from assisting me at the hearing;
* failure to consider my application for third party proportionate liability, and
* addition of interest onto the judgement debt over the two year period.

I was informed by the Ombudsman that the Ombudsman's Act prohibited it from investigating complaints against ACAT members. Consequently my complaint was dismissed."

"I checked the Act, and Section 5(2)(d) stated that the Ombudsman could not investigate 'action taken by a tribunal, a member of a tribunal, or a member of the staff of a tribunal, in the exercise of the tribunal's deliberative functions.' The 'deliberative functions' qualification applied only to ACAT and the ACT Human Rights Commission, but not to the other entities mentioned in the section. By implication the Act allows the Ombudsman to investigate complaints about ACAT procedures, as distinct from members' deliberations on law and precedent which can be appealed to a higher court. The Ombudsman's Act intended that the Ombudsman does not usurp this function. My complaint focussed on Ms Crebbin's procedural and administrative errors, rather than on her decision and the reasons, and I argued that accordingly these could be investigated.

My interpretation of the Act was confirmed after further research. The former Commonwealth and ACT Ombudsman Professor John McMillan in his Report (appendix 1) gave guidelines on what tribunal and court procedures and personnel are able to be investigated by the Ombudsman. I wrote to the Ombudsman providing this information and asked that my complaint be reconsidered or referred to its legal team for an opinion. I followed up the letter with phone calls. The officer handling my complaint was adamant that the case had been closed and that she was not going to refer it to the legal team for an opinion.

In respect to verifying the legal status of ACAT, I checked the Public Sector Management Act to determine if ACAT was a part of the public sector. Section 5 covers which authorities were excluded from the provisions of the Act and ACAT was not included. Presumably its employees, including members, have to comply with the Act, particularly section 9 which covers what is expected of public sector employees. This makes sense in that the Judicial Omissions Act only covers serious complaints which warrant dismissal of a judicial officer or an ACAT member. The legislature probably intended that the Public Sector Management Act allowed for complaints about maladministration by ACAT members to be referred to the Commissioner for Public Administration.

On 25 August 2012, I emailed (appendix 2) the Shadow Attorney General, Ms Vicki Dunne, who wrote to the Attorney General, Mr Simon Corbell. In his reply to Ms Dunne (appendix 3), he claimed that ACAT was independent. I wrote to the Attorney General suggesting that, according to the Public Sector Management Act, section 5, ACAT members were not exempt from the provisions of the Act and as such ACAT was under the auspices and control of the executive. He replied 6 September 2012 (appendix 4) with the claim that ACAT members were excluded because they were remunerated by fees, allowances or commissions only, which is an exclusion under section 5(e) of the Act, a rather curious approach, I thought. On 11 September 2012, I replied by email disputing Mr Corbell's interpretation of the Act. However, again on 8 January 2013, he repeated his assertion. Mr Corbell is the Attorney General and presumably he has access to legal advice. However, he chose to provide me with misinformation; presumably to avoid answering questions as to ACAT's status.

I am appalled at the way I have been treated by politicians and public sector employees in respect to my complaint. I have been offered various opinions which were served up to me as authoritative statements without being substantiated by the facts or the legislation. Apparently no one has obtained legal opinion in spite of the issues raised in my complaint which needed clarification according to the law. I can only surmise that the responses I have received reflect that there are no politically or legally correct answers, or alternatively that, as a complainant, I just don't matter, along with many other aggrieved litigants in the ACT."

According to the information provided in this submission, CAP questions the reluctance of the Attorney General and the Ombudsman to investigate their jurisdiction over the existing complaints processes against ACAT members. Consequently, Ms Ambrus has made representations to the Commissioner for Public Administration, Mr Andrew Kefford, who is investigating this issue. In your consideration of the present and the proposed judicial and tribunal complaints process, would your department please obtain legal advice on the issues CAP has raised and inform the Party of such?

The absence of a fair and independent complaints process has already affected Canberrans who have suffered at the hands of indolent, arrogant, unaccountable judicial officers. If the barristers and the lawyers are complaining, and they are, it can be inferred that this problem is widespread. One measure of this is that visiting judicial officers are reluctant to continue working here. What does that say about the present incumbents?
The courts are the last avenue of complaint in our society. If they do not observe the rights of individuals to comprehensible information about legal processes and cases, the community's faith in the legal system is corroded and democracy is mocked by the judiciary.



by Dr CHris Braddick

Our differences from the other parties are methodological not ideological. We see the solution to the ACT's growing problems as a more participatory or deliberative form of democracy. The Executive has developed five concrete proposals that build on the foundations established by our founding principles and our existing policies on accountability and governance. These state that "The CAP believes that the ACT should be an interactive, living democracy…"and asserted correctly that "Community participation confers legitimacy on decisions. Community consultation and negotiation are essential at all stages and all levels of the decision-making process. A genuine exchange of information and ideas will allow government to identify needs, minimise waste and maximise effectiveness in the provision of community services and facilities. An interactive approach may also contribute innovative solutions to problems." We have also drawn on international experience from comparable communities in Europe and North America and recent public submissions by ACT institutions.

1). First, we want to promote a more collective form of decision making in the Legislative Assembly. Currently, the burden of government rests firmly on the shoulders of just five individuals ('the gang of five'): how can they possibly reflect the wishes of 350,000 Canberrans. In this respect, we agree with much of the North Canberra Community Council's submission to the Standing Committee on Administration and Procedure last March which was reprinted in our most recent newsletter. Rather than simply increase their number, this would allow all MLAs to play a more equal role, with more evenly shared workloads and responsibilities (as recommended recently by the ACT Law Society). Ultimately, this should lead to decision making by consensus rather than the bullying and narrow majoritarianism of representative democracy. For example, the fundamentally undemocratic 'call in' powers of ministers would be abolished.
But a more democratic assembly is not sufficient. We also want to bring the community into the heart of the decision making process in new and original ways.

2). Rather than sham 'consultations', we support the 'open source governance' or 'open politics' movement. Rather like Wikipedia, this would allow any citizen to contribute to the creation of policy through an application programming interface or via citizen questionnaires. Such experiments are already taking place in cities in Canada ('Imagine Halifax Project'), the United States ('Oregon 150 Project'), Germany (Pirate Party now represented in 4 State Legislatures, with 7-12% support fourth most popular party in Germany), Iceland (new national constitution), and Sweden (Aktivdemokrat). Why not a Canberra 100 project?

3). 'Citizen councils'. Structurally these would resemble jury service, but would bring together randomly selected groups of ACT residents to examine major pieces of proposed legislation (large spending projects or tax reforms, policies that change the character of the city) with the right to access any relevant documentation, call public servants to testify, and the power to call referenda (Oregon).

4). Petitions. These should be granted official status, requiring debate by the Legislative Assembly. Elections every four years are not sufficient to guarantee good governance so we also want to enable recall elections of MLAs by a petition of their constituents. Naturally, a reasonable threshold would have to be set and specific grounds cited.

5). We support the call by the ACT Ombudsman to the Hawke Review for an Integrity Commission, with the purpose of helping residents who are dissatisfied with the ACT Government to make complaints about MLAs, their staff and the judiciary.


An authoritative voice from the past has the last word.

The Community Alliance Party had its official launch at the Albert Hall, Yarralumla, on Thursday 12 June 2008. Tony Powell AO, former Commissioner for the National Capital Development Commission was one of the keynote speakers. His inspiring, insightful speech is transcribed as verbatim as possible from the video of the event by Jonathon Reynolds posted on

The first reality: The National Capital is not sustainable in its present form. It is not sustainable because it is not possible for the ratepayers of the ACT to fund the ongoing development of the National Capital. The ratepayers' income will never be large enough to do that. Land sales which are such an important part of the ACT Government's income are a depleting resource and it's only going to require some sort of economic downturn or a reduction in population growth before it becomes even more apparent that funding from the sale of land will not be adequate to meet the overall budget requirements.

In that context it is only a question of time before the Commonwealth Government will have to take back financial responsibility for the key land use elements of the National Capital as distinct from the land use elements of Canberra as a metropolis. In other words, it is only a question of time before the Commonwealth has to resume fiscal management to the National area, the metropolitan parkland network, the National Capital open space system and National Capital institutions in terms of their sites and settings, like the Botanical Gardens.

The second reality that flows from the first is that the ACT Government is to renegotiate basically the 1988 agreement which was foisted on this Territory without any consultation or prior agreement because it is loaded against the interests of the people who live in this Territory, is loaded against the interests of the idea of the National capital and it is loaded in favour of the desire of the Commonwealth in 1988 to acquit itself of responsibility for funding the development of the National Capital.

The third point I want to make about realities is that it follows from what I said. There is a critical need to reinvigorate the National Capital idea. Canberra as a National Capital, both physically, functionally and in terms of image as a national Capital has deteriorated. This is not the quality of National Capital it was in 1988. And it doesn't have the status in the minds of the Prime Ministers, of the Parliament and of the agencies of the Commonwealth Government that exists in the Territory. There are too many instances of where — I don't need to talk about Mr Howard's rejection of Canberra — but it is true to say that the Commonwealth does not try to carry out many of its important public functions, particularly its national functions in Canberra. And there's no push on the part of the Commonwealth Public Service to have Can-berra get facilities needed for large conferences, research type institutions.

The fourth point I want to make about realities is that the idea of the neighbourhood, what town planners in the NCDC called the neighbourhood unit, that idea is under threat. When the Stanhope Cabinet sat down and decided to get rid of thirty-six primary schools, as far as one can see that was done in a budget context. They did not recognise that the basic building block of the neighbourhood unit is founded centrally on the idea of there being either a primary or a secondary school being the core of that neighbourhood. So when they dispensed with twenty-six or thirty-six primary or secondary schools, there goes the neighbourhood because what happens then is that the open space has no meaning. The central road network has no meaning because the activities that are supposed to take place in and around the school are gone. And so now they come up with is that they're going to knock down the schools and build community halls. Now that's somebody sitting around the table and saying 'well what will we have to replace them'. Not an idea of a community hall that's come from some sensible understanding of how the community operates and needs to operate.

Those four realities, and there are more, but those four realities — you do not hear the Stanhope Government or the previous Government, Carnell, Humphries, ever talk about the sort of things I've just alluded to. But it must be obvious after twenty years that the 1988 agreement between the Territory and the Commonwealth are not sustainable. And unless those sorts of big picture realities are recognised by all of you who are going to stand for public office and if you manage to get into the Assembly, you are not entitled the to sit there comfortably with your $120,000 and say 'now I'm here and I'll just ride along with what everyone else is doing.' There are fundamental issues that affect the viability of Canberra as the National Capital and Canberra as a metropolis cannot flourish without the National Capital function being alive and well and growing.

The National Capital Authority is currently the subject of a Senate enquiry. The aim of the enquiry, if I read Senator Lundy, the Chairman of the Committee, correctly, she is trying to sort of close it down as much as possible and hand over to this inept Territory Government that I've just been talking about, responsibility for more of Canberra planning and development. The need is following on my contention that the whole National Capital idea needs to be reinforced and re-invigorated, that you need an NCA with the resources and the capacity to do more, not less, to look after those National Capital elements I've just alluded to earlier.

So there is a need to review the National Capital Plan because it is twenty years old and to also review it because in the recent case of the Territory Plan, the ACT Government has taken out all of the objectives, policies and principles that underlie strategic planning. And it has transformed the Territory Plan into simply a zoning and development control plan. It doesn't say anything about the character of the city, of the valued aspects of environment that need to be protected by proper planning principles. Not only that, they've changed the Territory Plan so as to remove most of the rights of consultation and objection and appeal that existed prior to — . And they've it by saying that's what's happening all over Australia. That is developer driven ideology that State Governments are taking on board and the Stanhope Government has taken on board, not for the interests of the community but for the interests of themselves.

[The first thing is] on the question of governance, the restoration of the National Capital idea is the most important issue for any Territory Government. And I can't stress that too much because the future of Canberra depends fundamentally on its success as the National Capital. And what that means is that for any Chief Minister — that relationship between his Government, or her Government, and the institutions of the National Capital, particularly the Prime Minister and particularly the Commonwealth Parliament should be high on their list — and we have Chief Minister Stanhope who seemed to go out of his way to antagonise the previous Prime Minister and appears to be similarly inclined in relation to Mr Rudd. And I'm at a complete loss, I mean that it is just an issue of common sense that you would know that for this Territory unless it has the active patronage of the Prime Minister it will not flourish. It will not get major institutions, it will not get adequate funding, it will decline as a place where the Prime Minister of the day wants to be.

The second thing is that under the present Government, the public administration is highly fragmented so that nothing gets done because there is no single agency in charge of programmes, performance, letting of contracts, performance of contracts. The case of planning and land management spread over five different elements of the Government and so there is no one group of professionals collecting together to deal with things like land use in relation to transport, land use in relation to subdivision, land use in relation to development by the private sector, etc. So the whole thing performs badly so that's why this Territory has the longest waits to get planning approvals. Hardly a week goes by that there isn't some adverse complaint about the performance of the planning and development system.

And the third thing I want to refer to under governance is the role of the Assembly. There is something obviously wrong about a system where five Assembly members are working flat out all the time and the remaining fourteen or however many they are only have to turn up for sixty odd days a year to attend legislation and committee hearings. I don't know how you engage more of the Assembly in the day to day workings of government and administration. But you've got to be able to do better than that. The other thing about the system of Assembly elections is that its been set up ostensibly so that each electorate has multiple members. What that means in practice is that if you've got a problem in your local area, you can't find a local member who'll be sufficiently interested or feel accountable to you to respond to that. And so it may suit the parties or it may suit the idea of having parties elected more as a greater likelihood than having independents. But nevertheless as an instrument of democracy it is a joke. So something needs to be done to make the elected members more representative. But more importantly, something has to be done to engage more of the Assembly in the business of day to day government.

The final point in my view is that there is a need to empower and enhance the ACT Public Service. The balance of skills in ACT management are all wrong. The Commonwealth Public Service operates basically as a policy formulating and implementing public service. It is different in the States. They are much more responsible for the delivery of tangible services. In the ACT, the bulk of public servants in all of the key Territory departments have basically a policy type function and more we need — we need to get rid of a whole lot of those people and we need to get more people who are trained in things like municipal administration. And more people working in areas of education, social welfare, urban development who are trained to deliver tangible facilities, tangible services in a efficient way, on time, to meet actual needs. Now I'm not saying it's the Public Service's fault. All I am saying is that the time has come now for that to be recognised and for the Government to put a lot more money into training and assigning people much more sensibly than they do at the moment.



by Jane Tullis (President)

The Independent Living Centre (ILC), currently located adjacent to Cooleman Court in Weston, has state of the art facilities for demonstrating specialised equipment and design concepts for people with disabilities.

Only two years ago, over $600,000 was spent on renovations to make the ILC a premier showcase of assisted living equipment and design. The facility has a specialised display kitchen and bathroom, ceiling hoists for moving equipment and furnishings, specialised flooring, and a wide variety of display items that has been only made possible through having a large floor space available. We should all be proud that our taxes have been put to such good use.

…and now the Government wants to move it…to a smaller area…to a site which has no accessible bus access…which involves a 200m uphill walk for disabled people to gain entry…which will cost an additional $10-14 in taxi fares for any northsider using the facility.

Once again we see a complete debacle in Government planning. NO consultation was undertaken with the clients of the ILC. As far as I am aware, no consultation has occurred with the suppliers who provide and service all of the equipment which is loaned to the centre.

The Government justifies this waste of public money and the reduction in services possible to be provided by labelling it as one-stop shop as they are also collocating the ACT Equipment Scheme currently located at The Canberra Hospital. However, due to the very nature of the services provided, it will still not be possible to have one appointment and leave with the equipment in your possession as it takes time to order from the suppliers, etc. You may have read the article in Friday 11th September's CT where a client of the ACT Equipment Scheme was also arguing against the move as, for her prosthetic needs, she is best served a by a facility co-located with the specialists (ie at the hospital).

So what could possibly be motivating this current planning disaster? I have three theories:

The Government closed 23 schools recently and said that several of them would be reserved for community services use. The proposed new ILC site is the former Village Creek Primary School. I think the pressure is on for the Government to put something in place (and it would seem anything will do regardless of how illogical and impractical it may be)
The current ILC site is prime real estate at the popular Cooleman Court precinct which is set to expand even more as the new housing development commences in the Weston area. One can not help but have a dose of cynicism when considering what possible reasons the Government may have for moving a large floor space government funded complex from prime real estate.

As part of the hashed together $1b redevelopment plan for The Canberra Hospital, the Government has found it cannot fit the ACT Equipment Scheme in anywhere. In order to justify moving such an essential hospital-based service, the Government has cobbled together its one-stop shop idea and therefore had to grab something to go with it (ie the ILC).

So what can we do? The CAP has again come alongside the organisation and written a media release in support of the ILC clientele. But you can also assist by writing to or emailing the Minister for Health, Ms Katy Gallagher to express your concern over the proposed move and to question the fiscal responsibility of wasting over $600,000 in refurbishments a mere two years after they were done.

Step by step, CAP is making an impact as organisations and individuals approach us for help. Please continue to feed through to us areas you know of where we could be of some assistance.



Mike Crowther

Just after the last election Mary Porter expressed her serious disappointment with whoever stole her sign thanking the residents of Ginninderra for re-electing her.

Mary was at pains to differentiate that action from the orgy of sign theft which affected other parties during the campaign. Mary saw that as 'just part of the argy-bargy of an election.' Those of us who had to put our hands into our own pockets to pay for such things saw it a little differently. To my simple way of looking at things, taking and disposing other peoples property is theft. Destroying other peoples property is malicious damage. The Crimes Act appears to agree even if Mary doesn't. I look forward to seeing if she will maintain her 'all's fair in love and politics' stance should she find herself on the receiving end of such criminal tactics in 2011.

It cost them

A friend recently asked me if, given the fact I didn't win and was left out of pocket, what satisfaction could I draw from the '08 election? I don't think the Community Alliance party can take full credit, but in company with the Motorist Party, the Pangallo 'Indepen-dents', and other genuine independents like Mark Parton, we caused the ALP to spluge $1.5 million dollars. That's a lot of grocery money fed into the Labor club poker machines and doesn't include the 'black' money. (Black money obtains favourable media coverage/comment for the incumbent in return for lots of allegedly 'non-political' government advertising.)

The Media

Speaking of the media, this is probably a good time to reflect on their behaviour during the election. About three weeks prior to polling day, I received a 'Dear Candidate' letter from the Canberra Times extolling the benefits to me of advertising in their quality journal. And I may well have been tempted to do so had it not been for an editorial the day before which stated that in their (C.T.) opinion, the best electoral outcome would be 8 Liberal, 8 Labor and 1 Green with the Labor party being returned to government with the support of the Green. As I pointed out to them in my reply to their generous offer, why in the name of Satan's arse would I spend money arguing my case in their paper when its own editorial staff advocates a vote for my opponents? This is the same outlet that labelled CAP's most high profile candidate, Val Jeffrey, an 'Independent'. Although I must say that my personal favourite media moment was being asked by the C. Times to supply 100 words on what I would do about drunken violence in Civic. In 98 words I laid out three basic steps. Make police totally responsible for licensing, relieving police from their custody role at the watch-house, and replacing monetary fines with British-style community control orders. What they printed was "Mike Crowther (Community Alliance) is a former Prison Officer and suggests more police and tougher penalties are the answer."
Sub text: This bloke is a law and order nut with simplistic solutions.

ABC television was also less than even handed. CAP was refused the free air time given to the Libs, Labor and the Greens. Our party argued the toss on this and were eventually advised by ABC management that, yes, we were right we are entitled to equal time, and yes, their initial decision to exclude us had been wrong. The bad news was that it was too late to change their decision. Stiff cheese and better luck you're your next election eh what? (In the midst of this, ABC aired a program about the 'green political phenomenon', which just happened to showcase the ACT's Green candidates.)


If it ain't broke, don't fix it

by Caroline Ambrus

Our aim in forming the CAP was to have members elected to the Assembly. We believed that CAP representation in the Assembly and incorporation of our policies into ACT governance would guarantee a 'fair go' for the community. The assumption was that if we fixed the structure, changed the policies, the laws, the procedures, and the guidelines, then good governance would be the inevitable result. But this can only be guaranteed if politicians are humble, judges are just, public servants serve the public, and all of them are honest. In this ideal world, election to the Assembly would be an aim worth pursuing. But in the ACT, most politicians are arrogant, many judges are myopic, some public servants are indolent, and corruption stalks the corridors of power. A bleak view perhaps, but one which reflects the culture of ACT governance.

In assessing the integrity of governance, we have to look at the nature of the ACT jurisdiction. It is small. Everybody in the three layers of government knows everybody else. They studied at the same university, they intermarried (one way or another), they send their children to the same schools, they congregate at the same watering holes, they sit on the same committees, they play or watch the same sports, and they all have the same loyalties regardless of political affiliation. This political class or glorified buddy network transcends the public good and nobody gives a damn. This has had a harmful effect on the development of ACT politics. Nobody takes responsibility for anything. There is always a mate waiting in the wings to take the rap, to orchestrate the cover-up or to sweet talk the agencies which were established to keep the incumbent bastards dishonest (not honest, as anyone who has had dealings with the Ombudsman will verify). But even this is not a necessity. Like big fish in a little pond, our politicians defecate sufficiently to muddy the waters and the local media laps this up and regurgitates it under the disguise of news.

The diminutive ACT jurisdiction is not going to change, no matter how many CAP members or independents are elected to the Assembly. The Territory's borders are finite. The buddy system is well entrenched. The danger is that when new and aspiring politicians from whatever political party join the Assembly, he or she will be co-opted into the mate game and their fine ideals will be compromised or forgotten. Look what happened to the ACT Greens. The problem is that whenever Mr Stanhope or his successors say 'bang' everybody plays dead. The Greens could hardly wait to roll over. There is no reason to believe that independent or minority party Assembly members would behave otherwise. The powerful have inherent credibility and a charisma that draws in naive new chums from every political colour and creed. The long standing Assembly members have probably become buddies or have become so steeped in cynicism that they are no longer a force to be reckoned with.

For some years now the CAP has circled around the incumbent ACT Government. We have spent much time and effort forming a political party, constructing policies, putting up candidates, commenting on issues and generally marking out our territory within the ACT jurisdiction. But the reality, that the jurisdiction is personality driven rather than process driven, must be addressed by CAP so that more appropriate tactics can be adopted. Up to this point the Party has focused on addressing structural concerns and has very politely adopted a 'hands off' approach to challenging the individuals who are responsible for the erosion of democracy. As an activist for many years, I can verify that the structure is sound. The laws and associated instruments are mostly adequate and fair, and checks and balances are mostly in place. At the core of the problem is that most of the incumbents, either elected or appointed, routinely ignore these structures as they pursue their personal interests at the expense of their constituents.

To extend the fish analogy, the dead fish rots from the head down.



by Caroline Ambrus

At the end of last month CAP put in a submission to the Review of the ACT Public Sector to be conducted by Dr Allan Hawke. The terms of reference addressed were:
• effectiveness in delivering on government policies and objectives;
• performance and accountability mechanisms;
• how existing structures differentiate between the roles of policy and regulation;

The terms of reference were addressed through the experiences of individuals with the ACT Government's investigation of their complaints. In all cases, the Government arbitrarily dismissed the complaint without a credible investigation and blamed the complainant for the problem.

The theme of the submission was that: the Government acts to control dissent, through the public sector disabling or disregarding accountability mechanisms put in place to ensure that complainants get a fair hearing. It covered the role of the Ombudsman and the courts in the complaints process, accounting for their failure to properly investigate complaints. It traced how the Government and the public sector dismissed the complaint whilst appearing to investigate it to the satisfaction of the complainant.

The submission concluded that the flaw in governance that allowed such inequities was the Government's breaches of the separation of powers between the parliament, the executive and the judiciary. Ministers as members of the executive with portfolio responsibilities and as parliamentarians with constituent responsibilities, wear two hats which present a conflict of interest. In addressing complaints, the submission demonstrated that ministers will back the public sector, even if this means breaching the rights of the complainant to a fair hearing.

This process has been confirmed in the Assembly by the debate 10 February 2009 when Vicki Dunne, MLA, proposed: 'That this Assembly:

(1) notes the potentially prejudicial comments made by the Attorney-General on ABC radio and ABC TV on Tuesday, 3 February 2009, in relation to the actions of two detainees who went onto the roof at the Belconnen Remand Centre on Friday, 31 January 2009; and
(2) expresses serious concern in the Attorney for his actions in so doing.'

The motion was carried when the Greens voted with the Liberals which probably accounts for the current enquiry. The motion was fundamentally weak, which is probably the reason for its support. The Attorney General, Simon Corbell, MLA, should have been sacked, and would have been if the Assembly was serious about addressing ministerial breaches of the separation of power, which are in the constitution to cull governments' abuses of power.
In her speech Vicky Dunne argued:

'A few weeks ago the first law officer of the ACT—the Attorney-General, Simon Corbell—went out of his way to reflect upon the guilt of two men who had been charged following a well-publicised incident at the Belconnen Remand Centre on Friday, 31 January. His comments have been construed as contempt of court and a clear breach of the separation of powers between the executive and the judiciary...
We are here today, Mr Speaker, because Simon Corbell, the Attorney-General of the ACT, has sought to subvert the laws of the ACT for his own base political gain. Sadly, the Stanhope government's ministerial code of conduct is honoured more in the breach than in the observance and its most recent example is the outrageous statements made by the Attorney-General...
He has tried to deflect attention from his and his colleagues' failing in relation to the operation of the BRC [Belconnen Remand Centre]. The Attorney-General has ignored the Human Rights Act and the Attorney-General has ignored the body of law that upholds a right to a fair trial. Mr Speaker, this Attorney-General has failed all the standards set out in the ministerial code of conduct for the highest standards of probity and integrity.'

The Code of Conduct for ministers states:

'The position of Government Minister is one of trust. A Minister has a great deal of discretionary power, being responsible for decisions which can markedly affect individuals, organisations, companies, and local communities. Being a Minister demands the highest standards of probity, accountability, honesty, integrity and diligence in the exercise of their public duties and functions. Ministers will ensure that their conduct does not bring discredit upon the Government or the Territory... Ministers will uphold the laws of the Australian Capital Territory and Australia, and will not be a party to their breach, evasion, or subversion.'

As usual the words are a tokenistic hollow mockery of decent ministerial behaviour.

The examples in our submission are contiguous with the Attorney General's breach of the Remand Centre detainees' rights to a fair trial and the presumption of 'innocent until proven guilty'. According to complainants', the public sector's handling of their complaints breached their legal, constitutional and human rights.

Complainants have reported that decisions from in-house and Ombudsman investigations usually favour the Government, despite compelling evidence of wrongdoing. These 'investigations' are aimed at covering up public sector mistakes, not addressing a complainant's grievance or delivering justice.

The submission examines the Government's claims that it handles complaints with transparency and accountability. Examples from complainants demonstrate that this is posturing, maintained to convince them, and the electorate, that an investigation has been conducted and the complaint has been addressed.

The complainant is often left with no option but to abandon the complaint or take it to court. Most people give up, as court action is fraught with costs and difficulties. If a complainant goes to court, the Government Solicitor's pre-trial tactics are aimed at putting pressure on him or her to withdraw the complaint or face expensive, excessive legalities.

The silencing of complainants means that the electorate is kept in ignorance and is lulled into believing that the Government is doing a good job. The media is implicit in that it does not report complaints, unless the complainant has been killed or deported, or it involves important people. Those who are without credible support, are routinely disbelieved and dismissed, which demonstrates that 'might is right'.

We hope the submission will be accepted by the enquiry and published along with the rest on the relevant web site. Given our claim that the Government's first priority is to govern unimpeded by complaints and related inconvenient accountability demands, its rejection would verify this. Mr Stanhope has a problem whether he accepts the submission or not. If he accepts it, the issues are on public record. If he rejects it, he would have to explain his reasons perhaps to us and the media.