Letters to the Editor

Time society grew up about mental illness

I applaud the sentiments [of] Rex Smith (Letters, February 18). No one can say the terrible tragedy at Tyabb in Victoria would not have occurred if the father had received the right treatment, but the odds of a better outcome have to be higher on good treatment than no treatment. Smith refers to how society looks for a system to blame instead of blaming its collective state of mind. It is all part of a maturing society.

As our science improves the likelihood of better mental health, so must society's attitude change from one of dread to one of nurture and support for people who suffer mental illness.

The attitude of the community has to change. We are very good at sympathy and support for people afflicted with other diseases, and that is the way it should be.

Now we have to grow up and realise mental illness is just another chemical problem like diabetes or asthma. It's another step to take on our journey as a maturing, civilised society.

I know about the subject because mental illness is in my family. I also know from first-hand experience that modern medication can work wonders. Equally, the skill in the medical profession in this area is improving rapidly. Still a long way to go, but, thankfully, improvement is at work. I have seen a person who had resisted medication and help from the medical profession for years, and probably for good reason, turn the corner with good help and good medicine..

So, good on you to Rex Smith for your brave stance on this touchy topic. Let's all keep the victims of the Tyabb tragedy in our thoughts, but let's hope and work towards a maturing attitude to mental illness.


John McMahon, Gowrie

The cost of trauma

It is true that avoiding war will reduce the post-traumatic stress disorder in military personnel (Letters, February 13). But not all wars are avoidable, albeit Australia hasn't really been in that situation yet. PTSD in the military also arises through peacekeeping operations, accidents in non-combat operations, disaster response, training and even bullying and abuse. That's just the military. PTSD is also common among police, emergency services personnel, crime victims, road accident survivors and witnesses.

So preventing the incidents that trigger PTSD is an admirable aim, but not completely achievable. Given the enormous financial cost of PTSD (setting aside the emotional cost for now), there is a surprising lack of prevention through selection and training to make people more resilient, and an apparent lack of research in those areas. In Australia alone, PTSD probably costs many millions of dollars a year, so you would think insurers or the mainly government employers would be motivated to investigate prevention.

Peter Marshall, Captains Flat, NSW

Commemoration is key

Christopher Jobson (Letters, February 18) disputes the number of Victoria Crosses awarded to Australians.

The Australian War Memorial is proud to recognise that 100 extraordinary Australians have been awarded the Victoria Cross. There are no regulations governing who can be considered an Australian Victoria Cross recipient. Therefore, the memorial has opted to recognise the Victoria Cross recipients listed in historian Lionel Wigmore's 1963 edition of They Dared Mightily, as well as those awarded the honour since.

At the heart of everything we do at the memorial is commemoration. Each Australian recipient of the Victoria Cross has a place in the Memorial's Hall of Valour, so that their extraordinary feats are not forgotten.

Dr Brendan Nelson, director, Australian War Memorial

A rare migrant

I have watched with fascination the often uninformed debate on the koel in Canberra. Reading from my father's Birds of the ACT: Two Centuries of Change, published by the Canberra Ornithologists Group in 1999, I find that ''The ACT is just beyond the southern edge of its normal distribution'' and ''One was seen in 1946'' and the next report was in 1981 in Lyons followed by another in Narrabundah in the summer of 1985-6. Finally, my father writes: ''Since then this species has been reported nearly every summer, but it has never been numerous.'' His summary says: ''Rare non-breeding migrant in the ACT. Records have been more frequent since 1986''. With a nice warm summer, we can expect this migrant to be here. It is behaving quite normally and has every right to be here.

Brian Wilson, Curtin

Back to the '70s

I was reading Jenna Price's article (''Running out of time to end silence on violence'', Times2, February 18, p5) when I had a shock. Are there really still people who advocate the teaching of nothing but literacy and numeracy? When tertiary students jumped on this bandwagon in the mid-1970s, I thought it was a work-reduction strategy and that they would grow out of it upon attaining maturity and learning about brain development etc. Apparently not.

How sad.

Barbara Malpass, Sutton, NSW

Fox puts hand out

So, billionaire transport king Lindsay Fox has been gifted 2400 square metres of public beach in Portsea ('Merry Christmas, Mr Fox',, February 16).

Is this the same Mr Fox who, only a couple of months ago, publicly applauded cut-backs in government assistance, reportedly claiming that: ''When you expect to get something for nothing, the only person you're fooling is yourself.

''I've never had anything. No more handouts. Handout days are over''?

Seems like the age of entitlement isn't quite dead for everyone.

John Richardson, Wallagoot, NSW

Tangled in deceit

There are remarkable similarities between disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong and former federal MP Craig Thomson, especially in regard to what the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah described as the human heart being ''deceitful above all things and beyond cure''.

It seems that people, at certain times in their lives, make such a remarkable effort to so convince others that a perpetual lie is truth that eventually, in their own eyes, it indeed becomes so. While we need a degree of empathy for those whose sin has publicly found them out, it is a sober reminder of the truism in those poetic words by Sir Walter Scott: ''Oh what a tangled web we weave, When first we practise to deceive!''

Peter Waterhouse, Craigieburn, Vic

Let's move on from political point-scoring on industry jobs

Both major parties are publicly vying for the leadership as to who has been able to lose the most manufacturing jobs. I would add to H. Ronald's view (Letters, February 18) and say that the future of the country depends on both parties rising above this time-wasting debate and start contributing to one that sets the course for the future by engaging in the Hawke-Keating reforms.

For a start, they could request the transcript of Andrew Liveris' address to the National Press Club in October 2012. It was entitled: ''Is Australia heading for an economic storm. The tyranny of unintended consequences.''

Mr Liveris, Australian CEO of Dow Chemical, is quoted as having brought his career experience to bear helping to shape the US government's approach to advanced manufacturing, and he tries to do the same in his home country. His contention is that Australia, with vast resources of gas and oil, merely exports those, fuelling the manufacturing needs of other countries creating millions of jobs overseas. Each petajoule of gas shifted away from industrial use means giving up $255 million in lost industrial output for a $12 million gain in export output.

Not only have Andrew Liveris and Dow Chemical tried to motivate us into taking steps to move to value adding, but they have prepared The Dow Chemical Company Advanced Manufacturing Plan for Australia. I sincerely hope representatives from both parties will read it and then act.

Eric Lindemann, Greenway

Big Biz is waging economic war on Australia's industrial heartland. What Big Biz did to Detroit, it will do to Geelong: lay waste to it. I accuse the Abbott government of cowardice in time of war. As industrial casualties mount, it deserted the jobless. It will let 1000 Alcoa aluminum jobs die in Geelong. Big Biz is exporting Australia's car-making jobs. Why won't Tony Abbott save us from ruin?

He's scared of losing Big Biz donations. He needs Big Biz cash to win elections. What does Big Biz get? It owns Tony. What do we get? Smoke and mirrors. What do we need? Tariff protection. Free trade is code for job losses.

Graham Macafee, Latham

Need a new gorilla

It is hard to disagree with Virgin chief executive John Borghetti (''Virgin lashes Joe Hockey over 2000-pound gorilla comment,'', February 18) that it beggars belief that the federal government will provide assistance to a publicly listed company that is allegedly operating in a free market environment. To support a company that operates as a duopoly on the grounds of ''national interest'' is waffle. Qantas has no more claim to the national interest than General Motors Holden had, and that didn't stop the Treasurer from forcing it to show its hand.

I have a thought for the two gorillas in the Australian aviation industry. Bring in a real competitor. It is called a fast train network. Let's see some real competition and let's encourage some genuine infrastructural change for the national future. I wonder what Borghetti and Joyce would have to say about this new gorilla?

Bradley Greer, Chapman

Climate review sham

Residential electricity prices have increased dramatically over the past few years. The Abbott government has tried to blame the carbon tax and green energy schemes while ignoring excessive spending on poles and wires that was the largest contributor to the increase.

Now we see that gas retailers are pushing for price rises of about 20 per cent as the price of gas soars.

This will also follow through to higher electricity prices because much of the wholesale electricity price is determined by gas power station pricing.

Increased supply from renewables will help insulate us from the massive increase in gas prices.

However, the Abbott government continues its war against renewables by appointing a climate science sceptic to review the renewable energy target.

One wonders if the government has any interest in the primary causes of rising energy prices?

David Osmond, Dickson

The Abbott government's appointment of climate sceptic Dick Warburton to head the review into the renewable energy target is beneath contempt. This sham review is not about electricity prices.

The target costs the average householder about a dollar a week - a minuscule cost to protect us and our children from extreme weather and dangerous climate change.

Electricity prices are just a flimsy smokescreen. The review aims to neuter or scrap the clean energy industry and clear the way for more coal and gas - an unspeakable betrayal of the Australian people.

Lynne Holroyd, East Hawthorn, Vic

Right person for the job

Now that we have a sceptic of anthropogenic climate change appointed to head the review of renewable energy targets, a major investor in junk foods to advise the Assistant Minister of Health on nutritional standards, and a professed critic of the Gonski reforms to re-examine the national curriculum, I look forward to a review of ''plain packaging'' and the effects of smoking on health to be conducted by the CEO of Philip Morris, a review of the performance of the ABC by Alan Jones, and a review of the work of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Abuse by Cardinal Pell.

Alastair MacLachlan, Turner

Double standards

Come on, Tony. How about a royal commission on Manus Island? We can have one on unions and insulation so, given the circumstances that are becoming public knowledge about Manus Island, it's time for an open royal commission. Won't happen of course; Rupert Murdoch won't allow it. Besides it's quite acceptable for people to die from Coalition negligence but not acceptable if it's from Labor negligence.

Roger Laws, Bonython

Best to take wrecking

Sir John Sulman designed the ''iconic'' matching Sydney and Melbourne buildings. They loll each side of Northbourne Avenue at its intersection with London Circuit.

They clearly do not measure up to Brunelleschi's famous 1420 Foundling Hospital, as suggested in Gang-gang (''Canberra's slice of Renaissance'', February 18, p10).

Compare the awkward proportions of Sulman's squat colonnades, and ill-proportioned first-floor facade openings, with Brunelleschi's brilliantly delicate treatment and articulation of those elements. Sulman's work is actually closer to ''Spanish Mission''-style architecture, popular here in the 1920s and carried out with more panache by notable Australian-climate-aware architect Sir Leslie Wilkinson. Apparently, someone thought the colonial style of a traditional Australian country town hotel with lofty verandahs over the footpath would suit Canberra's early commercial buildings. Not a bad idea, but ''empire loyalist'' Sulman was appalled, and compromised with the architectural cringe we see today, made worse by the recent bland, single-pane glazing-in of the first-floor verandahs. Apparently Sulman was on a promise of five more matching pairs at the corners of the other avenues radiating from City Hill.

Heaven forbid! The buildings can never do justice to their very important siting, even with extensive restoration. They should be compulsorily purchased by the Commonwealth and replaced after a properly convened, binding architectural design competition, with references to the architecture of Griffin (prevented by the likes of Sulman from ever designing a prominent building in Canberra) a preferred requirement.

Jack Kershaw, Kambah



I would love to be given $38,000 to go snowboarding. Or $380, or $38. Whingeing Bruce Brockhoff (''Bright hits out at parents meddling after extraordinary funding attack'', Sport, February 19, p27) should realise that to be given even 1¢ of taxpayers' money on something as useless as snowboarding should be seen as an unbelievable bonus and nothing else.

Dominic Stinziani, Higgins

Was that Chumpy or Chump?

L. Christie, Canberra City


Well, there's one lot of boat people we needn't process: the rioters on Manus Island. Send them back whence they came. We don't need any more violent people in the country.

B. J. Millar, Queanbeyan West, NSW


G.J. Barker (Letters, February 17) defends the Canberra hospital system. My experience is that if you present with something like a suspected heart attack, stroke or allergic reaction, the treatment can't be faulted. However, if you present with something like suspected appendicitis or a fracture, you can be in for a very long and very unpleasant wait.

Gordon Fyfe, Kambah


My experience of Australia Post differs from that of Marguerite Castello (Letters, February 19). I received a letter, which had been posted in Melbourne on February 3, on February 15 in my PO box. At the nearest post office I was told, ''It happens all the time.'' Another letter recently took five days to come from Brisbane. Perhaps it does happen all the time.

David Cook, Wanniassa


I am writing on behalf of the Hindmarsh Drive Potholing Club to thank the ACT government for reopening the facilities which were closed for a brief period recently. Our Weston Creek branch is particularly grateful for the caverns between the Tuggeranong Parkway and Badimara Street, which has seen a dramatic increase in membership now the middle lane has a similar facility to the outside lane.

John Howarth, Weston


In response to A. Shroot's infantile defence of the indefensible illegal occupation (Letters, February 17), one could easily forgive him for his firm belief that a lie repeated thousands of times becomes a truth universally accepted. However, it is becoming obvious to all interested in the situation in the Middle East that with friends like Mr Shroot, Israel has no need for adversaries.

Adam Rustowski, Belconnen

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