Local government, federal problem?

Niall Clugston writes: Re. “Crikey Clarifier: local government recognition in the constitution” (yesterday). The argument against the local government referendum is not just about “states’ rights”, as the Crikey Clarifier suggests. Currently state governments have total power over local councils, including the power to dismiss them.  A constitutional change to give local councils federal recognition and to make them, to some extent, a federal responsibility is a recipe for never-ending confusion and conflict. Will a sacked council be able to appeal to the constitution?  If not, surely the amendment is pointless.  If it cannot guarantee local government’s existence, how can it ensure recognition or funding?

Tony Dean writes: Stephen Bartos inexplicably omitted to mention that the WA government is also opposed to the proposal, so with three states against it, the whole deal is dead in the water.

John Sved writes: Any referendum question needs bipartisan support (Liberal and Labor) to have any chance of success. Both parties seemed to be in favour of this question when it was originally discussed.  But local government recognition was sacrificed because it was more convenient for the Liberal party to recommend NO NO NO NO (shades of Tony Abbott) rather than the more nuanced NO NO YES NO.

The ‘public airwaves’ myth

David Salter writes: Re. “Where was Big Kerry? Moguls leave Canberra with little credit” (yesterday). As the tireless Bernard Keane notes, the response of print bosses to the question as to why newspapers shouldn’t be regulated while the electronic media have been since their creation is always the same: radio and TV use “publicly owned” airwaves and are protected from competition. That may be so, but it doesn’t follow that the content of the electronic media therefore needs to be regulated, only their operations.

Kerry Stokes and Kim Williams are apparently unable to grasp that if they accept the principle of government content regulation in the television outlets they control (which they obviously do), they can have no logical basis on which to reject similar levels of regulation in print. Why nobody at the Senate hearings made that rather obvious point escapes me. Perhaps the specious “public ownership of the airwaves” rationale has been repeated so often that it’s now assumed as fact — even by politicians.

Unemployed not shut out by 457 holders

John Band writes: Re. “With unemployment so high, do we need 457s?” (yesterday). Marcus L’Estrange might be happy to see an untrained unskilled worker as his doctor, or be happy to operate machinery designed and installed by someone who never finished an apprenticeship. But I think he’d be in a minority. Long-term unemployment in Australia, which is among the lowest in the developed world, doesn’t reflect foreign workers stealing jobs. It reflects people who’ve been failed by the (school and adult) educational system and left without the skills required in the modern workplace.

The minimum salary for 457 holders is the higher of the market rate for the job and $51,400 per year (more if they have poor English or work in IT). There is no overlap between the group of Australians competing for jobs at that level and the group of Australians who are long-term unemployed.