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This is another nail in the coffin of public trust

Well, now we have it. Adem Somyurek as minister for local government promised to bring “participatory democracy” to our local councils with his recently enacted review of the Local Government Act.

It was nonsense, of course, as his mandating of single-councillor wards was calculated to shore up the electoral prospects of major party candidates, including his own, against all other comers in council elections. However, it was nowhere near as efficient as his now-exposed antics within the ALP, where he has effectively purchased the votes of large numbers of ALP members to the point where the Victorian branch operates under his direction.

Ian Hundley, Balwyn North

Is this what the party is really like?

Your editorial is right (“Labor must expel stacker Somyurek”, The Age, 15/6). And with him should go that egregious aspect of the recently enacted Local Government Act that requires all councils to change to single-member wards. It is just a ploy to enshrine power with the Labor and Liberal duopoly, shutting out smaller parties and independents.

Was this Somyurek’s brainchild or does it reveal what Labor is really like when you look under the bonnet?

Michael Hassett, Blackburn

A staggering multitude of revelations

The multitude of revelations in The Age/60 Minutes report into the Victorian ALP (The Age, 15/6), are simply staggering. Hot on the heels of the ALP “red shirts” saga, government-employed staffers appear to be used on party branch stacking activities on a massive scale.

Ministers’ portfolios are labelled as nothing jobs, and the MP at the centre of the investigation appears to control who becomes a member of parliament and also who becomes a minister of the Crown. The very nature and direction of government seems to be steered by one man, which in turn has significant impacts on legislation and decisions made by government. If that is not enough, we hear that the Premier is going soon, and one man could decide who the next one is.

A high-powered investigation should be undertaken into the activities of this minister and his staffers. To simply allow the current situation to continue will see our democracy continue to be both diminished and denied. Victoria stands at the crossroads, Daniel Andrews should choose a path.

Mathew Knight, Malvern East

It’s an institutionalised modus operandi

Branch stacking in the ALP is an institutionalised modus operandi for any ambitious party member seeking to enter any one of our parliaments.

There have been too many parliamentarians who have had a cushy career in Parliament courtesy of “the stack” in the last 50 years to count. What can be counted is the number of dollars in salary and superannuation they have taken from Australian taxpayers during their flawed careers.

Adem Somyurek is not the first sitting politician to be accused of branch stacking. Sadly for all Australians he is unlikely to be the last.

Brian Sanaghan, West Preston

THE FORUM

Not a lot to choose from

With the shocking revelations in The Age about Adem Somyurek’s wheeling and dealings in the Victorian ALP, federal Coalition cabinet ministers allegedly using taxpayer funds to attend a fundraising function in Sydney, with governments oblivious to calls to alleviate the suffering of asylum seekers in detention, the ongoing battle by the homeless for safe and secure accommodation and the perpetual delays by the government to provide recognition for First Nations people, it is no wonder many are fed up with politicians and their shallow promises.

One can only describe the conduct in all of these areas as disgraceful.

It is time for real leadership around the nation, but when one looks at who is available, sadly, there is not a great deal from which to choose.

Bruce MacKenzie, South Kingsville

Credit where it’s due

I want to give credit to Amanda Vanstone, with whom I rarely agree (“It’s an insult to censor our viewing”, Comment, 15/6).

Writing without political partisanship, with cogent arguments about why we should not destroy recordings of the truth of our past, as in film, books, or even statues she makes the case for keeping records so that we remember in the hope that we might undo past wrongs.

As she says, “Erasing the past, however painful it may be to remember it, is a mistake.”

This is why #BlackLivesMatter and #MeToo have arisen to recover memories and crimes of the past so that we can make changes. We need to learn from our history not silence it.

Yvonne Hunter, Torquay

A test is not sufficient

We need to go much further than giving a history test to a prime minister-elect (And Another Thing, 15/6). We must test all potential candidates before accepting their nomination for an election.

As well as a clear-eyed understanding of Australian history, they need to demonstrate an understanding of their role as representatives, acting for the general good, not their personal advancement.

Jim Spithill, Ashburton

Pseudo arguments

So called “pro-choice” anti-vaxxer advocates are the equivalent of the anti-seatbelt lobby of the 1970s. They present us with emotive, non-evidence-based pseudo-science arguments.

Being unvaccinated is equivalent to not wearing a seatbelt in a car. All is OK – until there is an accident. These people endanger not just themselves and their families, but others in the community.

George Greenberg, Malvern

An apology looks like this

An apology cannot be conditional, it is: “a written or spoken expression of one’s regret, remorse, or sorrow for having insulted, failed, injured, or wronged another”.

So many times politicians and other public figures say “If I have offended, then I apologise … “

The “if” means that they are equivocal about their statement, or not sure that it should be given, or a face-saving device, or simply a ruse to sit on the fence.

Hence Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s latest comment on the issue of slavery in Australia: “My comments were not intended to give offence and if they did, I deeply regret and apologise for that.”

Did he realise or not that offence was taken, and if not why not? An essential part of a sincere apology is that the action will not be repeated, and that restitution will be made.

This should have read simply as: “I deeply regret and apologise for my comments.”

Andrew Leung, Richmond

Churchill’s other side

Yes, Winston Churchill, with the help of the allies, was instrumental in defeating the Nazi regime but let’s not forget he compromised some nations of the Commonwealth, which he no doubt thought were dispensable.

He worsened the the famine of India by exporting what little rice stocks they had to the war effort. He initially blamed the famine on crop failure which was partly true but added later that they were basically eating themselves out of house and home because they were “breeding like rabbits”.

This part of Churchill’s history may be a contributing factor to people wanting to deface or remove his statue.

Greg Bardin, Altona North

Batman is misunderstood

If the Prime Minister cannot get his history right, the rest of us can at least not rewrite it.

Debates about destroying old monuments are a case in point. John Batman, arriving in Melbourne, purchased (say respectable historians) 100,000 acres of land from local Aborigines. The cost was a pile of blankets, knives, tomahawks, looking glasses, scissors, handkerchiefs, shirts, jackets, suits, and flour.

Was this fair? Hard to tell; there was no going price of land.

Batman clearly did not see the terra as nullius, and some authorities have suggested that the agreement to sell the land amounted to a “treaty”.

But the New South Wales and British governments went into cardiac arrest at the possibility Batman’s deal undermined other NSW land deals. The Batman purchase was declared illegal. This undermined any Indigenous-settler agreement and Indigenous people, rightly, were upset at perceived white duplicity. Any chance of a peaceful local settlement – a dubious chance anyway given what had happened in NSW and Tasmania – was sunk.

However we view what happened afterwards, pulling down John Batman’s statue down would simply misunderstand the whole event.

Max Liddell, Coburg

Another secret trial

The secret trial of convicted drug runner Karm Gilespie is to be condemned as it has been by many observers.

However I am sure those observers will not and have not been as critical of Australia’s secret trials of Bernard Collaery and his client “Witness K” over the dreadful spying and undermining of Timor Leste’s rightful oil revenues.

Rob Park, Surrey Hills

Time takes care of them

Be wary of erecting statues. As Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said: “The natural alone is permanent. Fantastic idols may be worshipped for a while; but at length they are overturned by the continual and silent progress of Truth, as the grim statues of Copan have been pushed from their pedestals by the growth of forest-trees, whose seeds were sown by the wind in the ruined walls.”

Ray Peck, Hawthorn

He also damaged councils

Adem Somyurek has done more than stack branches and threaten politicians. As Local Government and Small Business Minister he has overseen changes creating single-member wards in some council electorates (eg Bayside) that will make it much harder for councillors not affiliated with the ALP and the Liberal Party to get elected. (To those who say councils do not have ALP and Liberal party affiliated councillors – tell ’em they’re dreaming …)

The strategy is designed to reduce election of independent and green councillors. Previous multi-ward elections resulted in a more accurate representation of the community. Here’s hoping a more representative system can be restored.

Margaret Beavis, Brighton

Go figure

Thanks to free childcare, children of the poor have attended and thrived. Aboriginal communities report increased enrolment and engagement with learning (“Indigenous children ‘thriving’ in free care”, The Age, 13/6).

The government says it wishes to improve the lives of Indigenous Australians. It insists free childcare ends at the end of the month.

Go figure.

June Factor, Ivanhoe

A relevant footnote

We’re told those who fail to heed the lessons of history are doomed to repeat its mistakes.

Two recent examples: first, the desire to remove statues of past figures whose exploits offend current sensibilities. (Where would this stop? You cannot just forget historical reality.) Then there’s Scott Morrison’s selective memory, trying to whitewash the blackbirding and then pretending to apologise.

I’m sorry, Prime Minister, in order to apologise properly, you need to apologise for what you said in failing to recognise the historical record, not for causing offence if others didn’t like what you said.

The recent honours list provides a relevant footnote: we continue to erect statues for future generations to deface.

Jenifer Nicholls, Armadale

Powerful disincentives

It is a miracle that we still elect some competent, honest and well-motivated individuals to various parliaments.

However, as long as preselection depends partly on the patronage of Labor Party factional warlords, or a few superannuated zealots in Liberal Party branches, the talent pool for the major parties will be limited.

Once elected, the regular need to abandon previously held convictions in the name of party solidarity must be a further disincentive for good candidates to have a go – not to mention the quality of some leaders they are expected to follow dutifully.

Norman Huon, Port Melbourne

The tip of the iceberg?

With the latest details being published about what goes on behind the scenes in the Labor party, there should be little disbelief by politicians of all persuasions as to why the public is extremely cynical about them as a group. Adem Somyurek, now, is just one we know about, but is he just the tip of the iceberg?

Why would people with high ethics, morals and a genuine interest in improving society want to participate in politics? How many potential candidates, who have the capacity to lead and make the country a much better place, don’t put their hand up lest they become sullied by the experience?

Greg Tuck, Warragul

AND ANOTHER THING

Politics

Labor branch stacker Adem Somyurek is out on a limb.

Graham Cadd, Dromana

It is time for the Labor Party to house clean and throw out Adem Somyurek and all his cronies.

Alan Inchley, Frankston

We can walk and chew gum. The national cabinet needs to tackle the interlinked COVID-19 and climate crises

Greg Curtin, Blackburn South

Politics has been dodgy since the day it was invented. Other than the state opposition no one is really interested, surprised or concerned.

Ian Powell, Glen Waverley

The more politicians talk about “common sense”, the less sense they make.

Bernd Rieve, Brighton

Dealing with the past

Maybe Vault could make a welcome return to a prominent position in the city? It is a statue without baggage. It can offend no one.

Ray Kenyon, Camberwell

Oh the irony, Basil Fawlty is the voice of reason.

Craig McArthur, Sunderland Bay

Coronavirus

The idea that a COVID-19 quarantine for international students arriving in Australia should be less than two weeks is medically indefensible, and puts the education dollar ahead of the health of every citizen of Australia.

Anita White, Kew

The wearing of face masks in crowded places (“Masks could be the best defence from virus”, 15/6) also serves as a visible and constant reminder that some members of society, for a number of reasons, are far more vulnerable to infection.

Vikki O’Neill, Ashburton

Finally

Use your initiative, Daniel Andrews: Instead of demolishing the public housing in Ascot Vale, as owner, apply for the $25,000 renovation grant for each unit from the federal government, spend a further $125,000 per unit from state funds and by the end of the year the tenants will be back in good housing.

Meg Paul, Camberwell

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