Have you ever been at the end of your tether? That's where I am today. I am 69 years old, husband dead, four grown children, one of them a son, 37, who is severely mentally ill. He has been this way to varying degrees from when he was 16.

When he is well, you wouldn't find a more delightful, fun-loving, interesting, talented man, but when he is sick, he changes into a rude, ghastly, ignorant pig.

He met his partner 10 years ago and for eight years he was fairly stable. They had a little girl and settled into a happy lifestyle. My son had a well-paid job in the private sector and was very talented in his line of work. His partner worked in the public service. They had a mortgage like other young couples and things were fine.

Then I got fairly aggressive breast cancer and it seemed to completely tip my son head over heels. He and I have always been close. The past four years have been absolutely diabolical. He has lost his home, his family and his job.

He has spent time in and out of the psych ward at Calvary Hospital, but due to the fact he's a wonderful actor who has no trouble convincing doctors and staff that he is fine, he rarely stays long enough to get well.

His dreadful behaviour caused his long-suffering partner to pack up their daughter and move back to live with her parents three times - 18 months ago for the last time, and who can blame her?

He has ended up on the street a couple of times since, so of course I've let him come and live in my house, but it doesn't work. He desperately needs to be locked up in a psychiatric ward until his medication is sorted out, but beds are never available.

My son has his own case manager but this man refuses to speak to me as he says it ''breaches patient confidentiality''. No wonder so many of these poor wretched people commit suicide. It's a tragedy that they're all crying out for help but there's no help available.

So, what would you do?

Name and address withheld by request

Detention disgrace

The ABC Lateline program of March 12 highlighted a significant issue for our mental health and corrections systems.

The plight of the young indigenous woman detained indefinitely in a West Australian prison because it has been determined that she is unfit to plead over a relatively minor traffic offence on mental health grounds is a national disgrace.

The WA and Northern Territory governments stand condemned for their failure to provide adequate secure forensic facilities. Amazingly, the NT government has just opened a $50 million facility, however, as it is a shared facility, it has been determined that it is not suitable for the young indigenous person for ''safety'' reasons.

If the young woman were white and middle class, there would be national outrage. It is estimated that there are between 30 and 50 people nationally in the same situation, almost all of them indigenous.

The ACT government also needs to hang its head in shame as the ACT is the only jurisdiction in Australia without a secure forensic facility. Despite desperate calls from ACT judges, magistrates and mental-health professionals for more than a decade, all we have seen are numerous feasibility and scoping studies but no facility. We are now assured that a facility will be opened in 2017, however this is subject to further feasibility and scoping studies.

People with a mental illness who are subject to criminal charges should not be held in a corrective facility but should be provided with adequate treatment.

Philip Lee, Kambah

Wind farm queries

While Minister Simon Corbell has little patience for those who question his plan to develop wind farms in NSW to provide sustainable electricity for the ACT, I hope he is prepared to tell the public who will pay, and how much, for the design, development, operation and maintenance of the infrastructure to feed the farms' electricity into the ACT.

Also, would the minister please tell the public whether this infrastructure will feed directly into the ACT grid or via a NSW grid. If the latter, surely the NSW grid owner would set the price for power fed into the ACT.

Ed Dobson, Hughes

Derek Wrigley (Letters, March 17) takes a swipe at all those who ''perpetuate myths to discredit wind farms''.

One of these ''myths'' surrounds bird fatalities. Wrigley backs his sweeping claims by quoting an ornithologist who works for Hydro Tasmania, a company that operates wind farms. This leaves me wondering what he has to say about the recent draft National Health and Medical Research Council literature review, which cites consistent but poor-quality evidence of noise nuisance, sleep deprivation and effects on the quality of life around wind farms.

Does Wrigley support the NHMRC's call for further high-quality research on this issue?

George Papadopoulos, Yass, NSW

Fuzzy figures

Angus Taylor, the federal member for Hume, says ACT residents will pay a huge premium for their 90 per cent renewable electricity (''Neighbours at war'', Forum, March 15, p1), but let's look at this claim.

ACT residents currently pay 18¢ per kWh. Sourcing 90 per cent renewable electricity will add about 3¢ to 4¢ per kWh, but the costs for the wholesale electricity component will be fixed for the next 20 years.

Residents in Mr Taylor's electorate currently pay about 28¢ per kWh. Perhaps the member for Hume should spend more time considering the real reasons for the high cost of electricity in his own electorate, and less time demonising renewable power.

David Osmond, Dickson

Brave Bernies

Major Bernie Gaynor (''Major's stand exacts a cost'', Times2, March 17, p1) is right: the Australian Defence Force is following the downward path of the US forces in allowing political correctness to gut it from within.

Major Gaynor's principles are not only Catholic but Protestant as well, which of course is not cool in today's world. Those who take the Bible seriously will agree with him, and be unpopular alongside him.

Is there something about the name ''Bernard''? We had Bernie Banton taking on the injustice of big business, Senator Cory Bernardi valiantly challenging sacred cows, and now Major Gaynor is willing to tell it like it is at a heavy cost to himself. I salute all three Bernies.

J. Halgren, Latham

Coalition's move to abolish minerals tax a fool's errand

Maybe the Irish are over with any notion of rational talk - whatever that means (''Irish are after being over any notion of rational talk'', Times2, March 17, p5) - but their cousins in Australia, whose forebears kissed the Blarney Stone, haven't caught up yet.

Ross Gittins (''End of mining tax will damage jobs'', BusinessDay, March 17, p10) reminds us of what was known when the mining tax was first set up under Labor: that we could expect little gain for Australia until the end of the infrastructure phase of developing the mines, when the mining companies could no longer write off expenses against revenue, thereby paying no tax, to wit, by negative gearing.

Negative gearing, but with a difference; with 80 odd per cent of profits going overseas, not into the pockets of locals, as happens here with housing investors.

So, what does the Coalition do? It wants to abolish the mining tax, so removing any chance of Australia benefiting from what would have been a rapidly expanding income stream, when we most need it. My uncle Jim from Galway in Ireland was fond of telling yarns about ''when two fools met''.

In this case, the two fools are our government and us.

Ralph Sedgley, O'Connor

It is clear from the Ross Gittins article (''End of mining tax will damage jobs'', BusinessDay, March 17, p10) that the abolition of the mining tax on resource profits would damage our nation's economy at a time when employment growth is weak. As the resources boom shifts from the investment phase to production and export, the loss to Australia of income generated by mostly foreign-owned mining companies could be immense. As Gittins points out, to abolish the mining tax would be ''an act of major fiscal vandalism'' - and political bastardry.

Lorraine Ovington, Fisher

At last an understandable summary of why dumping the ''mining'' (minerals resource rent) tax will be bad for Australia and for Australian jobs. Ross Gittins' article sums up how even the emasculated version of the tax that the Gillard government was conned and/or browbeaten into by the ''big three'' foreign-owned mining companies was at least bringing in some revenue and thereby helping to create jobs.

In the near future, once the capital investment (and depreciation) phase is replaced by the production (and export) phase, the revenue stream was due to increase considerably and with it the country's ability to create jobs in other industries and in services.

Despite all this, the Abbott government, in its infinite wisdom (and its subservience to the ''big end of town''), will scrap that tax, and the jobs it could help create, as soon as it can. Likewise, Abbott will scrap the carbon tax as soon as possible, removing another revenue stream that was earmarked mostly for more job creation, especially in the renewable energy sector.

The real Abbott agenda is becoming more obvious: get rid of all the nasty policies of that hand-wringing ''socialist'' Rudd/Gillard/Rudd government, create unemployment to force down wages and, in the process, cause as much collateral damage to unions as you can.

Douglas Mackenzie, Deakin

Paying for overpopulation

The introduction of WorkChoices and its peaceful scrapping by way of the ballot box after it was experienced is a good example of democracy working. Yet future historians will probably regard the current time period as one in which Australian democracy on an overall basis failed us, because our elected Labor, Coalition and Greens politicians, to appease their corporate masters, have ensured our population has grown to the point of it being ecologically unsustainable. And reducing our numbers is, to state the obvious, not as simple as repealing bad industrial relations legislation.

Other than the environment suffering, overpopulation will ensure we continue to pay ridiculous prices for small blocks of land, suffer the effects of congestion and pay very high land rates to cover dramatically increasing infrastructure costs.

The article ''Rort fear after 457 loophole reopened'' (March 12, p1) telling us the Abbott government has quietly reopened a visa loophole that allows employers to hire an unlimited number of foreign workers under temporary working visas (most of whom will gain permanent residency) means our current ridiculously high level of immigration will actually increase and things will get worse. Much worse.

It's one thing not caring about your environment or yourself but, if you truly love your kids and/or grandkids, or potential kids and grandkids, think of them before you vote for one of the main three parties.

Paul Remington, Gordon

No end to property plight

Chinese property investment will be examined by the House economics committee as it reviews our one-sided foreign investment laws. But will it all be too late?

Historically, by the time this government reviews the laws that allow anyone from anywhere to virtually outbid generations of young married Australians, thereby stopping them from ever owning their own home, supporting instead ''foreign investment at any price'', it will probably all be too late.

Rhys Stanley, Hall, NSW

Climate cool for CSIRO

I have nothing to do with the CSIRO but do know a lot of scientists who are looking for jobs overseas.

This government of rugger-buggers appears to think that if they shoulder charge hard enough any problem will be knocked out (''It's fight for a job in public service'', March 14, p1). One of their easiest targets is the CSIRO, which has just announced almost 2000 redundancies. Is this possibly because that organisation engages in the research that dare not speak its name: climate adaptation?

Sean Regan, Numeralla, NSW

Oil price rise fuels need for planning

Michael West (''Blinkered to threat of rising oil prices'', BusinessDay, March 17, p7), quotes ex-Saudi Aramco geologist Dr Sadad Al-Husseini as predicting that oil will be $140 a barrel by 2016-17. Let us not forget the global financial crisis was partly triggered by oil prices reaching $147 a barrel.

Where is Australia's plan to deal with rising oil prices? Our transport system is 95 per cent dependent on oil and, should there be shortages or a significant price rise, the economy will inevitably suffer. Are farmers to be ensured supplies and compensated for higher prices? If not, food prices will rise necessitating an increase in pensions so people don't go hungry.

Jenny Goldie, Michelago, NSW

Plane-hiding experts

A group of 20 employees of the company Freescale Semiconductor, comprising 12 Malays and eight Chinese nationals were on board MH370 as announced by their CEO Gregg Lowe. That company works for the Department of Defence in Austin and specialise in communications on the battlefield, band radar HF, guided missiles, electronic warfare and identification of planes (friendly or foe). They are doing research in electronic warfare allowing weapons capable of hiding the presence of planes in the sky. Is it me or is it a strange coincidence?

G. Coquillette, Spence

Possums playing up

Unlike C. Carey (Letters, March 15), I am relaxed about possums in the roof cavity. They don't make much noise, and I am not aware they are doing any damage. If they entered the rooms I would draw the line, but they don't.

Presumably Carey's 10 possums were serial - that is, no sooner was one removed than another moved in.

It sounds like the New York Subway, where they undertook large-scale rat poisoning, only to find a fresh batch moved in when the poisoned were no longer there to defend their territory.

Michael McCarthy, Deakin




The comms systems of the Malaysian Boeing 777 airliner was not all that was switched off last week, apparently. Australia's much-vaunted ''over the horizon'' radar system would have (should have) detected MH370 and been able to track it as it would have been a suspicious aircraft. But apparently the system is no better at tracking aircraft than it is at tracking illegal immigrant boats arriving on Australia's shores unseen and unannounced.

What else can't it detect?

Guy Swifte, Garran

My tip is that, if the missing aircraft did in fact fly on for another six hours or so, it's landed in Pakistan. But will the world find out? Did the Pakistanis tell us they were sheltering Osama bin Laden? Same answer.

Olle Ziege, Kambah


With so much money involved (more like $1 billion), The Canberra Times has a responsibility to all Canberrans to force the ACT government to achieve the maximum benefit from such a large investment in light rail, rather than pander to a few like Shane Rattenbury who happen to have the balance of power in the government.

M. Silex, Greenway


Penelope Upward (Letters, March 15) defends the retention of the Union Jack on Australia's flag. She wonders why anyone would want to remove the divisive, superstitious, religious symbols (assorted Christian crosses) of three foreign Anglo-Celtic countries from our national flag. What parts of ''separate, independent, multicultural, constitutionally secular, nation'' does she not understand?

Mike Hutchinson, Reid


Why is the ABC so desperate to sabotage the successful border protection policy of the Coalition government?

Owen Reid, Dunlop


Greg Cornwell (Letters, March 17) calls for a referendum to reinstate the death penalty, saying ''the public was never asked for an opinion about its abolition''. Leaving aside that this is a matter for individual states and territories, not the federal government, I don't recall the public being asked its opinion on the ending of witch burning and adulterer stoning either.

Paul McElligott, Aranda


If C. Carey (Letters, March 15) put a light inside her roof space, the possums would soon become someone else's problem.

Bob Gardiner, Kambah


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