Federal Politics


Family may be the big loser with the Winning Edge

The Winning Edge policy released last week marks the end of the Australian Institute of Sport as many Canberrans know it.

The AIS ''family'' has been a strong part of the community since 1981 and over 3000 athletes have moved to Canberra in the pursuit of sporting excellence. Canberrans have made them part of the community, particularly through housing, education and work opportunities.

As all families grow and mature, there is the inevitable change in how they are structured and located. Children, or in this case AIS sports and their athletes, may leave the nest at the end of 2013 to take their own journey in life.

My concern is now for what I call the ''parents'' of the AIS family - the high performance coaches, the leading sport scientists and the world class training facilities. How often will the athletes and their coaches come back and visit their AIS parents and utilise their expertise, knowledge and facilities?

What will be done to help the transition of the AIS parents into this new world? Will the AIS parents take on a new lease of life or divorce without the everyday demands of the athletes?

I will be observing over the next 10 years to see how the AIS in Canberra is intimately intertwined with the high performance plans of national sports organisations.


I hope the Winning Edge policy will be as successful as the 1994 Olympic Athlete Program, which resulted in Australia winning 58 medals at the Sydney Olympics.

The AIS played a major role in that program.

Greg Blood, Florey

Switched on ideas

Prime Minister Julia Gillard is going to get together with the state and territory governments and regulate against the power companies ''gold-plating'' their distribution infrastructure.

In recent years the companies have been upgrading their infrastructure in response to council, state and territory regulation brought in to reduce the occurrence of bushfires, blackouts and brown outs and the courts finding them negligent. In addition, many existing power poles are fast approaching, or have exceeded, their use-by date - please explain where the ''gold-plating'' is occurring.

The PM is also going to talk to the power regulators about varying the electricity price depending on whether it is being consumed during peak or off-peak periods. If these talks are successful they would need to be followed by an upgrade to ''smart'' power boards and the power companies' billing systems. Who would pay for these upgrades?

Additionally, these upgrades would have to be complimented by heavy duty units, like dishwashers, clothes dryers etc, having time switches on their power outlets. Unfortunately, many of these units' on switches cannot be activated if the power is not on.

Further complicating this strategy is that peak and off-peak periods vary between rural, urban, CBD and industrial areas and the time of the year.

Are these more ''aspirational programs''?

Ed Dobson, Hughes

No repercussions

I'm glad the captain of HMAS Coonawarra didn't leave the keys in the ignition of his patrol boat robbed of its small arms in Darwin last week. (''Navy tightens security after arrest over brazen weapons theft'', December 3, p3). Had he done so, we may have lost the boat as well. However, I am surprised that the chief of the navy and the officer in charge of the base don't seem to have been court-martialled.

For all the downplaying of the incident by various commentators this is surely a very serious incident. How on earth do robbers enter the base, tie up the one guard on duty, pinch a load of weapons and then walk away unseen?

Timothy Walsh, Garran

Big majority still agree human role in global warming  feasible

Crispin Hull wrote an excellent article on earlier, industry-funded, environmental denialism, which ultimately collapsed, on pesticides and ozone destruction (''Time to take the heat, then fight harder'', Forum, December 1, p2). The parallels to climate denialism are striking. However, he said ''unfortunately, the theory of human-made climate change is fast becoming a minority opinion among the general population''. In fact, a recent Lowy Institute poll showed over 80 per cent of the population accept anthropogenic global warming, at the very least as feasible. On the figures, it is likely that less than 10 per cent of the population specifically reject the concept.

What has changed since 2007 is a significant fall among those who support urgent action (rather than action some time). This is quite different from rejecting the science, and probably relates to the ending of the recent drought, and the arrival of the global financial crisis.

A recent US poll showed a strong rise in acceptance of anthropogenic global warming, 14 per cent in two years, to where a majority now accept the science. This probably relates to the recent severe droughts, record temperatures, and severe storms, in the US, phenomena predicted decades ago by climate scientists. Judy Ryan (Letters November 28) thinks the absence of the IPCC from the Doha talks is something for climate denialists to trumpet. Seeing that the two expert bodies that created and run the IPCC, the World Meteorological Organisation and the UN Environment Program, were there (and reported on disturbing evidence of accelerating warming), her argument seems pointless.

Paul Pollard, O'Connor

Crispin Hull is usually well-informed, so his column bagging climate scientists for allegedly not having the courage to sound the global warming alarm is amazing for being so far off the mark.

Among many examples, one must start with James Hansen, who faced down vilification, threats and bans from the G.H.W. W. Bush administration, his employer. He also copped, and still cops, flack from more timid scientists who think he goes too far, though he has been broadly correct for over 20 years. Read his book Storms of My Grandchildren. The difference between the climate issue and the ones Hull cites is that the stakes are much higher, and the level of organised disinformation and vilification is much higher. Scientists have faced vilification, mischievous disruption of their work, threats of lawsuits, threats of congressional censure, death threats, parliamentary inquiries, and hysterical attacks on their professional integrity, all for doing their job.

Media persist in giving equal time to dissenting scientists, though their number is now well below 1 per cent. They also give abundant time to non-scientist sceptics in the name of political ''balance'', relegating the science to being just another opinion. Some media campaign against the science.

The seriousness of the situation would justify regular front-paging of the scientific news, but instead we get the usual trivial nonsense from our infantile politicians. Articles explaining the science seem to get less priority than they did a few years ago, though time to avert disaster is growing desperately short.

I also wish more of my scientific colleagues would speak out, but their reticence is far from the main problem. Hull merely adds more insult to the insult and injury already suffered by many courageous scientists.

Geoff Davies, Braidwood, NSW

PM hiding truth

Last week the Prime Minister behaved like a cornered animal, hissing, snarling and lashing out at anyone who challenged her version of events in the AWU scandal. The more she avoided answering legitimate questions, the less credible she appeared. By week's end it was established she had indeed been involved in highly questionable actions. With vast sums of money still unaccounted for, there is a stench surrounding this issue that will not go away until the matter is examined forensically, away from the theatre of Parliament.

H. Ronald, Jerrabomberra, NSW

Albert Hall faux pas

It was good to see your November 30 supplement, ''Let's Talk about Disability'' with several contributions focusing on questions of access. The only seriously false note was struck by Joy Burch, ACT Minister for Disability, Children and Young People, whose contribution on page six invited readers to visit an exhibition supported by the ACT government at the Albert Hall. The minister's department should have warned her that the Albert Hall is an object lesson in how to make life difficult for disabled people.

It is hard not to notice, for example, that the main entrance is several steps above ground level. When the weather is good, ground-level access may be possible through the glass doors on both sides of the building. Disabled parking near the hall is minimal and the disabled parking bays are located by the main entrance.

After dark, the few disabled spots are often taken over by other vehicles with the result that disabled people have no option but to park some distance away. Finally, if they do manage to get inside, disabled males will find that the only access to male toilets is down an awkward flight of steps.

All in all, if the ACT government wishes to demonstrate that it takes disability issues seriously, the least it could do is to refurbish the hall, yet again, and, while we are waiting, it should cease using or promoting it as a venue.

Barry Hindess, Reid

Road not the problem

As someone who uses the King Highway at least twice a month, I disagree with the premise of the article ''Horror road in need of multimillion upgrade'' (December 1, p5). I find that without exceeding the speed limit I can safely travel from Batemans Bay to Canberra in about two hours and 15 minutes. ACT Policing Superintendent Kylie Flower nailed the real problem: ''The Canberra community are still not listening and heeding the message that you need to drive to the conditions, and you need to drive at an appropriate speed.'' To do this, drivers need to use their imagination when planning their trip to and from the coast and, if the driver happens to be a male aged below 25, they also need to factor in that they have not yet fully developed their problem-solving skills and are also likely to be highly charged with testosterone - a sometimes lethal combination.

Educating drivers and improving road-safety measures will not solve the problem because, as much as our state and federal governments like to introduce new rules, regulations, fines and demerit points, there is one thing they cannot successfully legislate for or against - human nature. I would also urge Mr Evans and other concerned orators to focus on the Nerriga Road from Braidwood to Nowra, which in parts doesn't seem to have been improved since white settlement, if they really want to do something useful for motorists.

Les Brennan, Sunshine Bay , NSW

Lundy office

It may be that calling Senator Kate Lundy's office ''dysfunctional'' (''Lundy office 'dysfunctional''', November 30, p2) is simply untrue, as her current staff assert. But something odd is going on there. I sent her an email on October 15, then phoned her office some three weeks later. The staff member found my email and told me I could expect a reply towards the end of November, as the senator would be away from the office a good deal till then. Yesterday I phoned again. A new staff member answered. She couldn't find my email at all - could I re-send it? But what could have happened to it? I asked. I've no idea; we have new staff here now, she said. But how can Kate represent me in the Senate if my emails to her get lost? Well, it's not my fault, she said.

''Dysfunctional'' may be a harsh word, but there is room for improvement.

Dr Howard L. Silcock, Narrabundah

PM likes to get out

So, Prime Minister Julia Gillard enjoys representing Australia on the world stage (''PM more at ease when she is abroad'', December 3, p3)?

Of course, having just been rolled by her own parliamentary caucus on the question of the Palestinian Authority's status at the UN and given her fatal disconnect with her fellow Australians, I suppose we shouldn't be surprised that the PM is more at home hanging around with the leaders of Panama, the Czech Republic, Micronesia, Nauru and Palau, along with our 'special friends', Israel and the US.

Advance Australia fair indeed!

John Richardson, Wallagoot, NSW

Cost plan a con

Julia Gillard's plan to cut electricity costs for residential consumers is a con. By preventing the construction of infrastructure to meet demand from population growth and to redress past years of upgrading neglect, she sentences Australia to the kind of service normally seen in developing countries, not advanced nations like Australia. I well recall the so-called ''brown outs'' while working in the Philippines. Do we want this to be Australian's future? The rollout of smart meters aimed at charging higher rates for 'peak periods' (aka high summer and deepest winter) is a great recipe for disadvantaging the poor and endangering the lives of the aged. All in all it is a misconceived attempt to mitigate the impact of Ms Gillard's carbon dioxide tax.

R.C. Warn, Weston

Hamas to blame

I agree with Vic Adams (Letters, November 29), Hamas bears most of the blame for the situation in Palestine, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. I was a supporter of the Palestinians as a result of my studies in international relations at the ANU, but lost interest in the issue after Arafat turned down proposals by Prime Minister Barak during discussions with President Clinton at Camp David in July 2000.

These proposals included the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the entire Gaza Strip and 95 per cent of the West Bank, the creation of an independent Palestinian state and the dismantling of Israeli settlements in those areas, land compensation and other offers. When Arafat rejected the proposal, and made no counter-offer, I gave up on the Palestinians who, to my mind, had their best chance for peace, improving upon the Israeli initiatives and preventing the deaths of innocent people on both sides of the conflict. Hamas is not interested in peace and it requires the Palestinians themselves to remove Hamas from the equation; not something I can ever see happening.

Ric Hingee, Duffy



What a marvellous opportunity for Australia in its newly elected status on the UN Security Council (''Sitting on top of the world'', December 3, p9) to show its concern for humanity by suggesting to the council that one of its aims should be to see that the poorer nations are sufficiently fed, and Australia to show its sincerity by donating some of its surplus food to this cause.

Dave White, Deakin


Hugh Tyndale-Biscoe and Adrian Gibbs (Letters December 3 ) hit the nail on the head: politicians won't take an issue seriously - in this case, the crisis indubitably facing the planet - if they don't think it is a popular vote-winning issue. Let's all speak out, to make it clear that we support the integrity of the world's most eminent scientists. Then maybe we'll see real action on global warming from our politicians.

Barrie Smillie, Duffy


The ABC has reshuffled its broadcasters to improve ratings (''Louise Maher dumped in ABC radio shake-up'', November 28, p3). To my mind dumping Louise Maher from the drive show is more likely to raise the ratings for 2CA. What a loss.

Rolf Hoppe, Campbell


Noelle Roux's humorous letter (November 29) quoted Horace Rumpole's on the subject of the AWU episode. Thinking of Rumpole reminds us that it is now the festive season; perhaps this was the first Noelle?

Peter Baskett, Murrumbateman, NSW


I am sick and tired of the self interested spoilt child behaviour of both sides of federal politics. Executives of major companies have performance payments as part of their overall renumeration, so why can't politicians also have performance targets linked to their renumeration? Ideally, there should be short and long term targets that cannot be achieved without both sides working for the good of Australia rather than self interest.

Alan Walker, Murrumbateman, NSW


John Sandilands (Letters, December 1) laments the state of affairs in federal Parliament. Consistent with this was a speech in the Senate on November 29 by Greens leader Christine Milne on a bill to control excessive noise from wind farms. People from rural communities with genuine concerns about noise generated by wind turbines were cast as ''astroturfers'' fronting for coal industry interests. This was deeply offensive to those concerned. Bob Brown's exit has ushered in a new form of extremism.

Murray May, Cook

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