I guess we shouldn't be too shocked at Cardinal George Pell's latest suggestion that Catholic priests be insured against being sued for sexual abuse. (''Pell wants panel to set victim payouts'', March 25, p1).
He is after all the Pope's right-hand man with charge of finances and it is to be expected that he now has his eye on the bottom line. The church certainly does not want to be burdened financially by these bothersome claims. Much easier to insure and be done with it.
But here's another suggestion and I am pretty sure it will be cost-effective, too. Abolish the absurd requirement of celibacy for priests. That way there would be priests who lead full lives with rich life experience able to contribute to the church and the community. We all know that married life is no protection against paedophilia, but at least those with a healthy attitude to their own sexuality may choose to become priests.
Marriage has survived over centuries for many reasons, but one is the need for us to have close, loving and intimate relationships. The priesthood would not become a refuge for some young men, scarcely out of boyhood, with little sense of their own sexuality. It is a rare young man with a very normal, healthy interest in sexual matters, who willingly decides to forsake all sexual experience and intimate relationships for the rest of his life.
And why on earth should he?
Judy Aulich, Giralang
I can just see insurers queuing to offer protection to Catholic priests who might be sued for committing sexual abuse, as suggested by Cardinal Pell at the royal commission.
While they are considering such a wonderful opportunity, we could ask if they would like to offer insurance protection to other criminals, in order that they don't have to pay from their own pockets, when sued by their victims.
Fred Barnes, Bruce
With no due respect I remind the former Archbishop of Sydney that Commonwealth governments were in no way responsible for all the degenerate behaviour of all the church's clergy. As Justice Peter McClellan remarked during the hearing on Monday, many small, terrified children were too fearful of complaining about the treatment meted out to them, to raise the subject at the time of the assaults. Let the religious organisations pay in every way for the hellhole they created.
Frank McQuade, Kogarah, NSW
Think before speaking
It was stunning news from the Attorney-General that we will soon be able to be safely, legally bigoted (''Australians have a right to be insulting or bigoted, says Brandis'', March 25, p3). At present only politicians are protected from prosecution for making defamatory, insulting, misogynistic, racist and bigoted statements under ''parliamentary privilege''. If there is a single rule that should be removed it is parliamentary privilege. It would result in a Parliament of individuals who would actually have to think about their statements before they make them and who would, maybe, speak intelligently rather than giving us mindless drivel on the few days they are in ''the house''.
In the meantime this government seems determined to open the doors to Australian bigotry while waging war against Islamist bigots and admonishing Asian bigots and damning bigotry in other cultures. From what I can see, the reasoning underpinning this apparent contradiction in government policy is their view that foreign bigots are simply evil while Australian bigots are OK because they are exercising their democratic right.
It is a 19th-century white supremacist perspective and that's where it should remain.
W. Book, Hackett
How refreshing to see our Prime Minister and Attorney-General reflect a deep understanding of freedom of speech and the guts to say so. Voltaire would approve.
H. Ronald, Jerrabomberra, NSW
I have a right not to be subject to bigotry. The balance? In responsibility. With rights come responsibilities. The bigot has the responsibility in a civil society to respect others. If I am expected, according to Senator Brandis, to respect the bigot's right, so does the bigot have the responsibility to respect my right not to be subject to the bigotry.
Marguerite Castello, Griffith
If bigots have rights, why don't asylum seekers?
John Passant, Kambah
The society we enjoy in this country is largely based on tolerance and getting along with our neighbours. George Brandis' endorsement of bigotry goes against this ideal. It serves to encourage fundamentalists of all persuasions and hatred of people who do not comply with fundamentalist ideas.
Indeed, it is virtually an endorsement for terrorism.
David Groube, Guerilla Bay, NSW
A knight to remember
I predicted in these columns before the 2010 election that Tony Abbott would reinstate knighthoods if he became PM.
What a clever little starting number, four a year. That will keep the tribe of OAs in its place. All to be at the PM's whim, any time, and with the Queen of Australia's approval. That really is the backward step.
Being G-G, the high life at Yarralumla for five years and being on a select list are reward enough. What more is required? Before long, it will be 40 a year including ''deserving'' politicians. Egalitarianism has gone out the window of hierarchy and privilege. All republicans should, like me, be glowing with rage.
By the way, do partners of dames, de facto wives of sirs and same-sex partners get a title too? If not, the new tier of honours is discriminatory. Better get Brandis on to it.
Sarah Brasch, Weston
Can we look forward to Sir Andrew Bolt, knighted for his contribution to free speech? Or perhaps Sir Scott Morrison, knighted for his services to human rights and open government?
Tony Weir, Melba
Choking not joking
I choked on my morning coffee when I read that the ACT government is introducing legislation to make things even easier for planners and developers to get their way on key projects (''Right of appeal to be removed for 'big ticket' developments in the ACT'', canberratimes.com.au, March 20). The ACT planning regime is already heavily skewed in favour of development. The Project Facilitation Bill seeks to extend this bias even further. Its main purpose is to silence dissenting viewpoints and get rid of due process, such as the right of appeal, so that projects the government thinks have a ''high public benefit'' can be rammed through irrespective of community concern.
As with existing ministerial call-in powers, the bill runs counter to responsible governance and represents top-down, pro-developer planning at its worst.
If anything, the new legislation is potentially even more dangerous than call-in powers because of its broader scope. The risk is that the government will see the new arrangements as less controversial than call-in powers, and will therefore be prepared to use them a lot more often. I wouldn't be surprised if in a few years every second project is deemed ''of high public benefit'' and fast-tracked to override community opposition or environmental concerns. Without the community and courts keeping planners and developers in check, stand by for some truly horrific planning outcomes.
Max Kwiatkowski, Holder
Propagandist not bold
The article ''Light rail brings a bold new vision for our city'' (Times2, March 24, p5) was ridiculous. It contained stale buzzwords and phrases: energising a century-old dream; re-energise public domains; re-energise and reshape cities; vibrant corridors; progressive; seamless; respect and reinforce; and bold new 21st century vision.
More importantly, its claims were unsubstantiated and illogical. How can energising a century-old dream be a bold new 21st century vision? How can trams create corridors between ''key nodes'' without ''need to rely on major interchanges''? How will a tramway be more convenient than cars? Most Canberrans use cars because public transport is very inconvenient for them. Will trams be cheaper than buses? If so, will subsidies be non-existent?
Why is Canberra ''about to embrace'' the tram project when so many of its citizens oppose this enormous waste of money?
The Canberra Times should publish genuine comment, not blatant propaganda.
Bob Salmond, Melba
As a direct beneficiary of the light rail (tramway) project of course one would expect Daniel Bennett (''Light rail brings bnold new vision for our city'') to laud it. And, of course, the benefits of a tram system are understood by those who have had the opportunity to experience them in Europe, as I have. However, he, like the government is happy to keep the negative side hidden. He fails to mention that the $1 billion-plus (2011 figure, including risk) could be spent to better effect for all Canberrans and not just a few. He fails to mention how the report City to Gungahlin Transit Corridor Infrastructure Australia Project Submission, August 2012 contains conclusions but neglects justifications. In particular, the derivation of benefits to costs ratios is highly suspect and easily challenged, even though the government used these figures to justify the project. Readers may not be aware that this report compared two options - a Light Rail Transit (LRT) system for $615 million and a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system for $348 million. The report also estimated the benefit/cost ratio for the LRT at 2.0 and the BRT at a much higher 4.25. Notwithstanding the BRT's considerable capital cost and benefit/cost advantages, the ACT government decided to implement the LRT option. The government owes it to all Canberrans stuck with paying for the proposed tramway to give both sides of the argument.
M. Silex, Greenway
Storm in a coffee cup
Alan Parkinson's and J. McKerral's letters (March 24) reminded me of Mark Twain's famous quip that, though people never stop complaining about the rising cost of living, it hasn't become any less popular.
The difference these days is that, should we decide to be short-sighted and petty about small cost rises, we can certainly help to make life rather less possible - at least if we were hoping for something civilised.
But fortunately Messrs Parkinson and McKerral are as wrong about the costs of renewable energy as they are about the back-up requirements.
We've been hearing a lot lately about triple-headed monsters (which seem to have evolved to inhabit electricity bills as well as rates notices and now threaten to drive us all to the terrible wilderness of Queanbeyan!) as well as giant squeezing pythons with strange ankylosaurus-like wrecking ball tails. But these zoomorphic wonders are myths and, as with the cost of the carbon price, the actual cost of the ACT's renewable energy target will undoubtedly closely match the official estimates: about the cost of a cup of coffee each week.
Felix MacNeill, Dickson
Two correspondents (Letters, March 19 and 21) refer to the frustrations experienced when health service providers rely on the blanket notion of ''privacy'' as a reason to withhold important information from carers.
The ACT's health records legislation was amended nearly a decade ago to allow appropriate information sharing with carers. Information can be shared with the consumer's consent. Alternatively, if the consumer is unable to consent at the time, information may lawfully be disclosed if it is necessary to enable a carer to safely and effectively provide appropriate services to the consumer. There are further provisions outlining the circumstances in which information might be shared with family members if they are not undertaking a caring role.
My office (ph 6205 2222) can deal with complaints about disclosures of health information, and would welcome contact from carers who have concerns regarding the advice given by service providers in the ACT.
Mary Durkin, Health Services Commissioner
I fail to understand ACT Auditor-General Maxine Cooper's problem with the ''average speed camera'' system on Hindmarsh Drive. Something about the technical details of the exact placement of the cameras? My experience is that, whereas previously people frequently sped, especially downhill, they now don't. Isn't that what the system is supposed to do?
S.W. Davey, Torrens
Inspectors' gadget a lofty expense
The Canberra Times has often featured birds in its columns, but a more recent flying whirlybird has been attracting attention as it flies low over Canberra houses. It is the ActewAGL helicopter that's supposedly checking power lines around the suburbs.
It would be interesting to know what the cost/benefit of this form of ''inspection'' is to ACT taxpayers. For example, I have been flying a small two-seater Robinson R22 helicopter, which costs about 16 cents a second in fuel to operate, plus considerable registration, maintenance, airport and air-traffic-control charges.
I understand larger helicopters, like those used by Actew, could cost about 75 cents per second to run. Are we getting value for money?
Ric Hingee, Duffy
The National Arboretum has been a great success and is a popular destination for both Canberra people and visitors.
What is not clear, however, is why the Village Centre closes at 4pm each day and why only limited services are available from the coffee shop after about 3pm (for example only take-away coffees). Despite this, paid parking applies until 5pm.
Why can't the Village Centre stay open until 5pm, with full services available? At the very least, a 5pm close should apply at the weekends and during peak holiday periods because there are often many people still at the centre when the 4pm curfew takes effect.
The paid parking times should align with the availability of full services at the centre.
E.A. Swain, Barton
TO THE POINT
REVIVING THE EMPIRE
Why must we superimpose the rags of a fallen empire on a perfectly good merit-based Australian honours system by declaring some Australians lords and dames? Like those who laughed Wentworth's proposed Australian nobility out of existence nearly 200 years ago, we should mock this ill-judged exercise of executive power until it is rescinded.
Jane Baker, Yass
I can understand why Mr Abbott would push this anachronism but why, oh why, did Ms Bryce accept it? After several years of blemish-free, uncontroversial and charming incumbency she has allowed her PM to cast a shadow over her departure. Surely she only did it on the advice of her PM.
Ian Foster, Nicholls
Our new knights will be ecstatic to join the ranks of other great Australians knights. Who can forget Sir John Kerr, Sir Robert (Robin) run-over-the-bastards Askin. And don't forget our Queenslanders, Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen and his loyal police commissioner Sir Terry Lewis. Dame Edna Everage, our favourite, must be keen to get some new members of her elite group.
Harry Samios, O'Connor
One day, any Australian girl or boy can now grow up to be knight or a dame.
Rob Ewin, Campbell
Crimea was taken by Greeks (7th century BC), Goths (250 AD), Huns (373), Khazars (8th century), Byzantine Greeks (1016), Kipchaks (1050), Tatars (13th century), Ottomans (late 15th century), Russians (1783).
Why shouldn't Vlad take the Crimea in 2014?
Barrie Smillie, Duffy
On CBS' Face the Nation, US Secretary of State John Kerry, representing a country which makes Genghis Khan look like a wimp when it comes to illegal invasions, now retains the award for the shocker of the century when he said ''You just don't, in the 21st century, behave in a 19th-century fashion by invading another country on a completely trumped up pretext''.
American exceptionalism, gross stupidity or hypocrisy … or all three?
Rex Williams, Ainslie
If federal government departments are serious about cutting excess staff then they should start with the ''executive assistants'' (read ''personal assistants'') of branch managers.
Let the poor dears manage their own diaries and book their own hair appointments.
Phil O'Brien, Flynn
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