Federal Politics


Funding vital to ensure victims of crime have a voice

In David Ellery's article about Karl Gruber (''Passionate for victims of crime'', Panorama, November 17, p3), a volunteer with the Victims of Crime Assistance League, VOCAL, raises some interesting points about providing help for people who have been through traumatic experiences. While it is commendable that the ACT government has taken the lead role with victims of crime, it appears that people have to wait for up to three months before getting an appointment with the government's Victim Support Service.

VOCAL's trained social worker with 20 years' experience and her supervised volunteers can help people earlier so that physical injuries are noted promptly (perhaps with later compensation in mind) and a start can be made on helping to heal emotional wounds. The ACT government has announced that it will withdraw VOCAL's modest funding at the end of this year. It would be a shame if this action deprives victims of crime of much-needed assistance in dealing with their pain.

John Ryan, Griffith

Throne by error

Karen Kissane (''Eyes of the world train on Dilatey Katie's stomach'', December 5, p2) writes that, with the announced pregnancy of Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, the Queen is thus expecting her first great-grandchild. Had Kissane consulted today's edition of The Australian, or the current edition of , say, Whitaker's Almanack, she would discover that her majesty is already a great-grandmother (twice over), through Princess Anne. The Princess's son , Peter Phillips, has two children - Savannah and Isla - who are now, respectively, 13th and 14th in line to the throne. Does anyone now conduct any research before writing a report?

Paul E. Bowler, Holder

The best solution

Columnists and letter writers have recently been berating the government for the awfulness of its asylum seeker policy. They should contemplate how the current arrangement came about.


Last year Julia Gillard proposed the ''Malaysian solution''. This was a swap deal in which asylum seekers arriving in Australia on people-smuggler boats would be sent to Malaysia and, for each one, Australia would take in and settle five refugees from Malaysia. The proposal was a good deal less than perfect, with some humanitarian and legal flaws to be overcome. But it had the best basic concept of any refugee/border-protection policy yet devised. It would have been a very effective deterrent of the leaky-boat/people smuggler approach. It would have been of benefit to Malaysia, thereby strengthening good relations with an important neighbour, and it would have made a substantial contribution (on a five-to-one basis) to the relief of the total human suffering of refugees.

Unfortunately, in an alliance which was as unlikely as it was unholy, the Greens sided with the Coalition to pull the rug out from under Gillard. In this short-sighted pursuit of policy purity over political pragmatism they brought about a very foreseeable result that has already become significantly worse for the refugee community as a whole than the Malaysian solution would have been. That very Pyrrhic victory also greatly increased the likelihood that the next election would make matters spectacularly worse both for refugees and, quite possibly, for the Australian Greens.

Roger Quarterman, Campbell

Healthy debate

In response to Greg Jackson (Letters, December 6), the main point of my December 3 letter was an explanation of why the Nissenbaum study on sleep and ill health near wind turbines could not have been ''fabricated''. I can only suggest rereading my earlier letter, and the Nissenbaum study itself. Secondly, Jackson says he does ''not deny that people have real or perceived health issues'' and that ''it remains abundantly clear … that the actual source of the purported health problems remains unestablished''. Neither did the Senate Community Affairs committee that investigated the impacts of wind farms, reporting in June 2011. It called for further detailed research in its recommendations, which have still not been acted on.

On the question of ''perceived'' health issues, much has been made of the ''nocebo effect'' or a psychological explanation of adverse health effects, promoted by Simon Chapman. There is no evidence to support such an effect with wind turbines. In fact, in the Nissenbaum study, people were initially positively predisposed towards turbines. If anything, one might expect improvements in health indicators.

There are physiological mechanisms being investigated that explain the physical ill effects caused by wind turbine noise, such as Professor Alec Salt's work on infrasound and the inner ear.

More telling is how quickly some politicians and those pushing ideologies or selling wind turbines want to locate the problems ''in people's heads''.

Murray May, Cook

William Grey's assertion (Letters, December 6) that coal-fired generators continue to burn coal at the same rate regardless of wind turbine output is simply wrong and is a myth being spread by fossil fuel interests in the United States.

Recent studies in both Colorado and South Australia demonstrate real reductions in emissions and coal generators resulting from the increase in wind power. Two coal generators in South Australia have now been taken out of production. The export of power to Victoria from South Australia resulting from increased wind power production is at the expense of brown coal power generation.

Doug Hynd, Stirling

Some inducements

Justin Said (Letters, December 4) displays breathtaking chutzpah about Israel's eagerness to restart talks with the Palestinians. His statement that ''all kinds of inducements have been offered, including an unprecedented 10-month freeze on building in the West Bank settlements'' could be rephrased as ''all kinds of inducements have been offered, including an unprecedented 10-month freeze on violating international law''. And now, as part of its relentless quest for lebensraum, Israel is building ever more housing in the West Bank in a move which, it unashamedly states, is intended as punishment for the Palestinian vote in the UN. Collective punishment of a whole people is also a violation of international law.

Some inducements.

Adrian Sever, Hawker

An uphill battle

Ross Fitzgerald (''Murmurs in the pews: royal commission will rock churches'', Forum, December 1, p7) is spot on to remind us that it has been 12 wasted years since Fiona Patten oversaw the publication of a list of all sex crimes by clergy in Australia that had come before the courts, and sent a copy to every state and federal MP and every church. The long overdue royal commission needs to be fully aware that the institutional change it is charged to deliver comes after years of institutional denial and obfuscation.

For example, Bernard Francis Law, an American cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church, resigned as Archbishop of Boston on December 13, 2002, after church documents were revealed which suggested he had covered up sexual abuse committed by priests in his archdiocese.

Despite this, in 2004, Pope John Paul II appointed Law as Archpriest of the Papal Basilica of Saint Mary Major in Rome. The cardinal, then 80 years old, retired from this position in November 2011 with no mention of his role in the cover-up of sexual abuse by the clergy. He retains his title as Archbishop emeritus of Boston and titular Cardinal Priest of Santa Susanna, the American Catholic church in Rome.

Dr. Peter A. Smith, Mount Archer, Qld

Subsidy not answer

R. Warn (Letters, December 6) argues against smart meters and in favour of continued cross-subsidisation of peak electricity use, by trotting out the tired old socialist line that ceasing the subsidy would penalise the poor and the aged.

He provides no evidence for this assertion. The major cause of increased peak loads has been the proliferation of reverse-cycle airconditioners. The poor and aged are probably less likely on average to install these than the more affluent. If they do install them they are more likely to use them during off peak as well as peak periods. So, overall, it is quite possible that reducing off-peak charges and increasing peak charges would in fact benefit these groups.

Even if Warn is correct and poor and aged people are net beneficiaries of cross-subsidies, a universal subsidy is a very inefficient way to help them. Market economies depend on consumers receiving accurate price signals. Subsidies distort these signals and lead to inefficiencies. It is not a zero sum game. If Warn or I reduce our peak electricity usage, everyone else benefits. If we increase it, everyone's costs increase. It therefore makes sense to provide an incentive for us to reduce it.

Disadvantaged people can be assisted more efficiently with either targeted rebates or increased social security benefits.

Paul Pentony, Hackett

Boycott matches

Despite the fact I love cricket, I won't be going to any of the Sri Lanka games here in Australia, least of all against the Chairman's XI in Canberra. The Sri Lankan government is committing war crimes and crimes against humanity against the Tamil people. It is why so many refugees are from Sri Lanka. Yet the Gillard government forcibly deports Tamil asylum seekers back to Sri Lanka to face arrest, imprisonment and sometimes even worse fates. Sporting boycotts have been part of the process of pressuring cruel regimes to stop their human rights abuses before. The current criminal Sri Lankan regime should be subject to the same pressure. Don't go to Sri Lanka games.

John Passant, Kambah



The many-faceted T. Abbott has butchered, green-grocered, brick-laid, tractored, cycled and now truck-driven his way into the nation's hearts. But let's hope our admiration for this very versatile man will not extend to putting the nation in his hands!

Olle Ziege, Kambah


Global warming deniers look at the little picture. "How can the world be warming," they say, "when I need a pullover in December?" Wake up, dopeys, we are talking global, not south-east Australia.

Anna Nguyen, Holt


I call on Julia Gillard to immediately deport the illegal immigrant koel birds that wake all at 4.30am and transport them to offshore detention aviaries for processing.

J. Heffernan, Torrens


Can we please face facts about Ricky Ponting as he is (at last) shunted off the front page of cricket? Remember his constant fiddling with field placements during overs that wasted time and should have been worked out beforehand? Remember his strange captaincy decisions? At least one enabled him to single-handedly lose the Ashes. And he holds a record by losing three Ashes campaigns. Good batsman, yes, but captain, an emphatic no.

Peter Baxter, Symonston


Well done to Andrew Constance, Barry O'Farrell, Jenny Macklin, Julia Gillard, Bill Shorten, John Della Bosca and every parent advocate that ever struggled to afford diagnosis, a hoist, electric wheelchair, therapy, supported day program, after-school care or safe specialist accommodation.

Jane Salmon, autism parent, Lindfield, NSW