One of the early atrocities of Canberra’s creation, which began 100 years ago today, was the official obliteration of much of its extraordinary history. It wasn’t only the the original inhabitants who for decades were written out of the histories by politicians and bureaucrats intent on overseeing a white imperial capital.
The people who built the place also were erased from the recorded past by the removal of buildings and facilities too humble for the grandness the planners wanted.
One consequence has been that Canberra has an artificial past lacking flesh and blood, which has made it easy for non-resident critics to poke fun. Actually, its history has a powerful thread of humanity quite removed from politicians and public servants who have come to represent the city.
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Katy Gallagher, about whom little is known outside the Molonglo tundra of the Australian Capital Territory, is set to become a distinctive political figure nationally.
On Saturday she will be - if opinion poll findings are correct - the first Labor leader elected since Julia Gillard limped home in 2010. And, of great importance to Labor, she could be the first incumbent to defy a Liberal campaign which is based on attempts to frighten the voters.
If she does prevail she could be promoted by her federal colleagues as evidence that scaring the electorate doesn’t always work and can be countered. And that voters are not easily spooked.
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Today marks the centenary of the launch of the competition to design the national capital city of Australia.
On May 24, 1911, Minister for Home Affairs King O’Malley announced an international competition for the design. In 1899, the Colonial Premiers had decided that the permanent capital would be in New South Wales, not less than 100 miles from Sydney, and a Congress was held in Melbourne four months after Federation in 1901 on the planning of a capital.
Dalgety was first chosen as the site of the future capital in 1904, but four years later the Canberra Yass region was selected as a replacement. The site for the Australian Capital Territory was transferred to the Commonwealth of Australia in January 1911.
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Prime Minister Julia Gillard has been confronted by concerned members of the Labor Right over legislation that would restrict the ability of the Commonwealth to overturn territory laws.
Their fear is that it would allow the territories to introduce their own laws on same-sex marriage and euthanasia, and the Prime Minister has been forced to delay her support for the bill. Wayne Swan this morning has said the concerns are “legitimate.” It’s a statement of the obvious that Julia Gillard is squeezed from the left by her coalition with the Greens, and from the right by the Labor party’s right wing concerned it will lose touch with increasingly angry base.
Perhaps what is less clear is what the territories’ legislation will actually allow. Legally it doesn’t actually allow gay marriage or euthanasia, but there is a divergence between legal and political realities which would open up the door to their legalisation.
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If Ralph Waldo Emerson was right when he said: “a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds,” then the Australian Greens must hold the bragging rights to having the biggest brains.
For no other political Party has the ability to be so inconsistent when it comes to public policy than the Greens.
Two recent incidents, which received huge media attention, demonstrated this perfectly.
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Canberra just got a whole lot more boring.
With their Jedi Council-like wisdom, the ACT Government has banned the social evil that is fireworks from private sale and use in the capital.
While this decision kills off one of the few uniquely Canberran outlets of fun, it’s a pretty interesting ban from a Government that presides over laws that have enabled nobody to be convicted of murder in the last 11 years.
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