Federal Politics


Hard to justify a dirty culture overseen by good men

Since my ordination to the priesthood 12 years ago, the millstone of sexual abuse revelations has weighed heavily. Indeed, such is the extent of the crisis, in some circles, priest and paedophile have become interchangeable words. It is as if we have moved from an unhealthy ''a priest would never do that'' to a just-as-unhealthy ''he's a priest, so he probably did do that''. And while a royal commission is not everyone's cup of tea, I welcome a comprehensive response that sits outside the church.

My abiding hope is that this process will inspire the institution to look deeply and humbly within itself in order to address the culture that allowed such criminality.

Focusing on the perpetrators is, in some ways, the easier task; but a dirty culture overseen by good men, well, that's not so easy to call to account: a culture in which careerist clerics and prince bishops placed personal gain and reputation ahead of everything else, even the lives of the young.

Surely, it is better for a man, for a church, to roam the streets destitute, foraging for the truth, than to roam the corridors of power, feasting on privileges and honours that do not last. For ours is a profound responsibility: to walk humbly and gently alongside others, especially the most vulnerable.

Fr Peter Day, Queanbeyan, NSW

The royal commission on child sexual abuse should not spare the top end of town from searching examination.


For example, former prime minister John Howard should be asked why he allowed the Department of Foreign Affairs to suspend for five years Alastair Gaisford, who in 1995 blew the whistle on paedophiles in the diplomatic corps. Only one diplomat was charged, and he was acquitted. The rest have been allowed to get on with their careers.

Chris Smith, Kingston

The question Cardinal Pell should answer is: has any Catholic priest and/or Catholic church official, convicted of child abuse, ever been excommunicated by the Catholic Church. If not, why? After all, excommunication can be imposed for physically attacking the Pope; why not vulnerable children?

Jon Jovanovic, Lenah Valley, Tas

More action needed

Graham Downie (Letters, November 13) has highlighted the urgent need to re-direct the resources of ACTION into improving the bus service before attempting to install light rail.

Even though light rail has had incredible success in converting car commuters into transit riders, there would be little point in operating a world-class light-rail line from Gungahlin to Civic if one continues to operate a sub-standard anonymous bus service in Gungahlin and elsewhere.

One of the keys to the success of transit in hundreds of cities is the supply of high-quality passenger information and lots of it.

The potential customer must be bombarded with information at every opportunity - online, at every bus stop (as is done overseas and in Melbourne), in the foyers of public buildings, on the buses, at tourist venues and in letterboxes. Feeder bus information must include the connections on Route 300 services and those connections must be honoured.

The absence of such an approach in Canberra is regrettable and contributes to the high level of anonymity of ACTION.

Maybe the aim of ACTION's director, James Roncon, to see ACTION as ''the best bus service in Australia (''Canberra's own ACTION man'', Forum, October 20, p3) will be achieved as a result of a big improvement in the coverage and frequency of the service, and the supply of infrastructure and the delivery at saturation levels of passenger information to eliminate the anonymity of ACTION. Only then will light rail become an appropriate supplement to the bus service.

Ian G. Cooper, Scullin

Consult the people

The ACT Planning and Land Authority is considering an application by Westfield to construct three towers, one of 24 storeys overlooking Lake Ginninderra, on a very narrow strip of land adjoining the north side of Belconnen Mall. The time for complaints against this hideous proposal has expired but ACTPLA should reopen the matter for proper review by Belconnen residents.

The Westfield application stated that there were no interested parties and that consultation had occurred. These statements might be legally correct but are very misleading. In lay terms, all residents of Belconnen are interested parties to a project of this scale and location, but few would be adequately aware of it. At a recent meeting of about 40 in north Belconnen men, few were aware of the application; when they were made aware, strong dissatisfaction with the proposal was almost unanimous.

ACTPLA should have mailed, to all Belconnen residents, major details of the application, together with ''before and after'' views from relevant vantage points including Diddams Close Park immediately opposite the Arts Centre, Luxton Street-Lathlain Street intersection, the park adjacent to the Arts Centre, and Ginninderra Drive where it crosses the dam wall. These details should also have been placed on large notice boards at every entrance to Belconnen Mall. I ask ACTPLA to now take this action.

Clearly, the policy for building height limits in Belconnen town centre also needs to be reviewed. I request the ACT government to canvass Belconnen citizens on this related issue.

R. Salmond, Melba

Areas worth saving

After two hours of questions and consultation with the National Capital Authority on the fate of Stirling Ridge and Attunga Point, there is really only one issue at stake: no matter what the cost or what the foreign diplomatic needs are, these two areas of natural beauty, small though they are, should not be chopped from the rest of the parkland and lost forever to future generations. With the undoubted intelligence of the NCA team, it should not be beyond them to come up with alternative plans to house future embassies and The Lodge.

Joyce Wallington, Yarralumla

Do the research

I agree with H. Ronald (Letters, November 7) regarding the subject of climate change, alias global warming. I am so bored with reading the climate alarmist drivel that is believed by so many gullible people - Felix MacNeill being one. It just goes to show that some of the people can be fooled all of the time. I, like most of us, was fooled in the beginning but then, like any good scientist, I looked at the evidence for both sides. That evidence now overwhelmingly supports the null hypothesis. Planet Earth is behaving much as it always has, warming and cooling according to its ancient solar and orbital cycles, and there is nothing that we mere humans can do about it except adapt.

I advise Felix MacNeill to actually check out the painstaking research conducted by those scientists who are sceptical regarding global warming, and then compare it with the works of the IPCC pseudo-scientists. The easiest way for him to do it is to go on the net and Google the words ''rice video'' and listen with an open mind. Then he should type in the words ''climategate emails'' and take the second link to Forbes magazine for an introduction to climategate. The third link will take him to a PDF file where he can view the emails. Maybe then he can have an independent thought.

Judy Ryan, Lyons

Lyrical efficiency

The Institute of Public Affairs identifies public sector employment as ''a serious risk to economic robustness'' (''50,000-plus staff draining our economy'', the Public Sector Informant, November 6, p4). It argues that labour and services tend to be less efficient in the public sector.

Is efficiency what is needed?

In 2008, United Airlines flew about 237,000 passengers a day. One efficient way of transhipping those passengers' luggage is to pass it hand to hand, rather than load and unload trolleys.

There is a risk that a baggage handler will drop a piece of luggage, and this is what happened to a guitar at Chicago. The $US3500 guitar was broken. After a year of unsuccessfully attempting to obtain some form of recognition of responsibility for the damage, the guitarist wrote a catchy ballad about the event, United Breaks Guitars. It was posted on YouTube in 2009 at www.youtube.com/watch?v=5YGc4zOqozo.

Within four days it had been viewed by 500,000 people, who now knew that United broke guitars.

In 2009, United carried about 892,000 passengers in a four-day period. So of the 1,392,000 people with experience of United in those four days, the only thing that 40 per cent of them knew for certain about the airline was that it broke guitars. The baggage process was efficient, but the business outcome was suboptimal.

What price is efficiency?

S. Dyer, Downer

Numbers game

Now that the US election is over and President Obama has won comfortably in the Electoral College, it would be great if journalists and commentators could pledge that at future elections they will ignore national opinion polls. These polls have great entertainment value (and when they are close they enable our breathless anchorpersons and newsreaders to use the magic formula ''too close to call'') but they are pretty much irrelevant in terms of predicting a winner.

It would be much more informative if our commentating classes stuck to predicting Electoral College votes. They would still be able to play with opinion polls taken on a state basis as predictors of college votes in battleground states. They might find these polls a little dull as they tend to be fairly consistent. For example, Obama held a comfortable lead in polls in Ohio for most of this year.

The national numbers become relevant when there is a large discrepancy between popular vote and college vote, as there was this time. But that's the nature of the American system: thanks to guys in wigs 200 years ago, the world's oldest democracy has one of the world's least democratic electoral systems - and is likely to keep it.

David Stephens, Bruce

Aircraft noise sharing argument will not get off the ground

I read with amusement the Tuggeranong Community Council's alarmist comments on aircraft noise sharing and the approval of Tralee ( ''Tuggeranong gets set for flight noise'' (November 14, p8). It seems now they have just become the puppet of the Canberra Airport. It also appears they have no idea where the Tralee development is and how far it extends well within aircraft noise planning requirements. The whole noise sharing argument is another scare campaign of the Canberra Airport and has no substance whatsoever.

Somebody needs to explain to the community how noise sharing can occur around Canberra and Queanbeyan without violating the strict requirements for aircraft approaches along the ILS into Canberra Airport when 80 per cent of aircraft landings take place from the south due to prevailing weather conditions and topography. Anyone who has flown into Canberra knows that flights travel over Queanbeyan and not Tuggeranong. It is impossible to have noise sharing between Tuggeranong and Tralee because they would be on the same approach into and out of Canberra.

Likewise only about 20 per cent of departures occur to the south. Even though planes on departure rise much more steeply, albeit with more noise, I cannot see how noise sharing can take place without a significant deviation of departure offsets out of Canberra Airport. We constantly hear a campaign of fear around noise sharing so can the Tuggeranong Community Council or anybody for that matter please provide noise sharing maps that have any technical accuracy which clearly shows how noise sharing is likely to take place particularly when there are so many other technical constraints at play.

Gary Chapman, Queanbeyan, NSW

There is more than tracking a flight path involved in the developing story, ''Tuggeranong gets set for flight noise'' (November 14, p8). When the airport can afford to move its fight against urban encroachment into second and third party representatives, the old money trail emerges. Cui bono? Who profits, besides Snow, that is? Who or what is behind the bank behind the airport?

Gary J. Wilson, MacGregor

Workplace safety

K. Palmer (Letters, November 15) makes some valid points around ''workers attitude towards workplace health and safety''. Also he is correct in so far as workers have a duty of care towards, their own wellbeing.

However, what he fails to understand is the fact that far from ''strong-arming employers'' the unions have made occupational health and safety a matter for concern. This is as a direct result of employers placing the workforce at risk by putting profits before safety.

I refer, of course, to the article ''Nishi has red flag for work safety (November 15, p1) - one of a special series being run by The Canberra Times - which details what ACT WorkSafe Commissioner Mark McCabe called an ''unacceptable'' number of workplace safety issues.

I am afraid, K. Palmer, the facts speak for themselves!

John Dunmore, Dickson

Sedentary hazards

Your editorial ''The pros and cons of teleworking'' (November 13, p8) suggested that ''Just as it was before the Industrial Revolution, the home may once again become the principal place of work''. The pre-industrial working day was long and likely to involve a fair amount of hard yakka - weaving, woodworking, shoe making, tilling the land, harvesting, keeping animals etc.

This kept our skeletal, muscular and circulatory systems significantly more exercised than teleworkers ever experience. Despite the occasional over-exertion and injury, workers were, overall, probably fitter and less prone to metabolic and cardiovascular diseases caused by inactivity.

Today's teleworker, instead, doesn't even need to walk to and from a car, bus or train, but still sits for long hours. The health implications are obvious.

Our physiology resulted from millions of years of evolution associated with constant activity (gathering, seeking water and shelter), with occasional spells of intense action. Since teleworkers miss on the already limited exercise provided by commuting, its advocates and users might consider ratcheting up their daily activity.

Jorge Gapella, Kaleen


A very predictable line

There is nothing more predictable than Hillary Clinton promoting the US stance on anything. In Perth we had the same old war-drum thumping about the Iran bomb, which does not exist, but not a squeak about Israel's 300-plus nuclear warheads. So with the Australian contingent fawning at every opportunity and hardly a word on the importance of China, it was much ado about nothing.

Rhys Stanley, via Hall, NSW

Clerical errors

The letters supporting the splendid contributions of Major General Alan Stretton (November 14) remind us that important sins of omission are sometimes committed by politicians, while sins of commission are sometimes evaded by clerics.

Bryan Furnass, Hughes

Repeat offender

I was fascinated by the cover page of Times2 (November 14) that has an almost full-page picture of what is obviously the same guy in bed with two different women. Might I remind you that in these enlightened times what's good for the gander is also good for the goose, and what you show is quite unfair to women.

Jean Main, Page

An unfair target

Good on Jack Waterford (''PM's inquiry will bite many'', November 14, p16) for pertinent observations on the planned pogrom on the Catholic Church, including his assessment that almost all transgressions were inflicted by 5 per cent of clergy (I have seen other figures of 4 per cent, about the same as in the community). Talk about flogging a dead horse.

Chris Smith, Braddon

No way to the north

Canberra's north/south runway cannot be extended to the north as suggested by Paul Bowler (Letters, November 14) for one reason. The high ground to the north has determined the necessary, and minimum, flight profile for safe aircraft operations and prevents any extension to the north.

A. Wilkinson, Gowrie

One law for them

If the police can deal with thuggish behaviour internally, and the Catholic Church can deal with criminal offences internally, then it makes sense for Australian Muslims to deal with offences internally under Sharia law.

Dallas Stow, O'Connor

Observers under fire

Israel's intent to complain to the UN about ''spillover'' (or not) fire from Syria (''Gulf states support Syrian alliance'', November 14, p10) sits oddly with her readiness to kill UN military observers whenever the opportunity presents itself.

G.S. McKergow, Forbes Creek, NSW