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Letters to the Editor

Date
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America's shame

SHAME, America, shame. What does it take for you to act against guns?

L. Christie, Canberra City

Humane alternative

MICHAEL PLANE refers to the horrendously sadistic slaughterhouse practice photographed in an overseas abattoir which was recently presented on ABC TV (letters, December 14). When opening an animal shelter for RSPCA (ACT), the ex-governor-general Sir William Deane quoted ''a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated''.

Hugh Wirth, an ex-president of RSPCA Australia, has long maintained the export of live cattle and sheep should be banned, because of unsatisfactory conditions of transport and uncertain and often inhumane treatment at their destination.

Although there are large vested interests in the live export trade, we could become a more humane society and provide local employment by re-opening properly supervised abattoirs and refrigeration facilities close to cattle and sheep farms in Australia, under strict humane supervision and consultation with religious authorities, for the export of frozen meat. This could be no less profitable and acceptable to populations in the Middle East and southeast Asia, where most of our meat exports are destined to go.

Bryan Furnass, Hughes

Royals should face polls

A regal clawback of power is building up in Britain (''Royal advice worth its weight in gold,'' p20, December 15).

In addition to the weekly secret discussions the Queen has with the British Prime Minister and the many secret letters Prince Charles sends to parliamentarians, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh are now publicly handing out advice. This unelected family are increasingly using their high profile to manipulate political decision making. The British and Australian monarch has significant power. She can refuse to sign an Act of Parliament, can dismiss a prime minister and is commander in chief of the armed forces. President Assad might wonder why, with so much power and money, she doesn't become a dictator. Probably she is satisfied with the amount of surreptitious power-wielding her family does. There is a simple antidote. Allow the people to vote for whoever they want as monarch for five-year terms. The people know which royals they prefer. Giving the job to the eldest child is no longer enough. As elected officials the preferred monarch (whether a Windsor or not) could then have a say in government in an open, honest manner. The people might sometimes choose to have no monarch for a five-year period or, as we gained maturity, more. We could do away with the situation where a person is ''royal'' for the term of his/her natural life, with all the loss of human rights involved. And the Queen and her husband could be allowed some retirement years before the ravages of age publicly humiliate them. Would we lose stability? Other nations can stand up straight without the Windsors propping them up. Let's democratise the monarchy and thus affirm our own self respect.

Rosemary Walters, Palmerston

Question of conscience

FURTHER to the correspondence on Jack Waterford's article on Vietnam War era conscription (''How I lost my marbles'', p21, December 2), there was one important gap in Jack's commendable coverage. Is it true that conscripts were not (technically at least) forced to go to Vietnam? Or, perhaps, was that another case of conscientious objectors having to oppose all war, not just Vietnam?

Ian Douglas, Jerrabomberra, NSW

The people pay

IN THE coming royal commission into sexual abuse, Jack Waterford makes a very pertinent point about the vicarious liability obligations of the Catholic Church and the multitude of wider community institutions and authorities who have paedophiles in their ranks. This poses an interesting question should the commission uncover a paedophile in parliamentary ranks. Does the parliament as an institution of the people of Australia then have a vicarious liability? I look forward to an army of ambulance-chasing lawyers banging down the doors of Parliament House, offering their services. Like death and taxes, the commission guarantees one sure outcome. We, the collective voting public employers, will be digging into our pockets for a long time for the massive inquiry costs as well as a host of inevitable compensation claims, whatever the vicariously liable institution.

John Bell, Lyneham

Support response

IN JOHN RYAN'S letter (''Funding vital to ensure victims of crime have a voice'', December 8), he states that people have to wait for up to three months before getting an appointment with Victim Support ACT. This is not the first time I have seen this stated publicly. It is not correct. Victim Support ACT has a team of qualified social workers, counsellors and psychologists who assess new clients immediately upon contact or within days of referral. Victim Support ACT responds to more than 95 per cent of new referrals within five working days. Clients are then allocated to case management if that is the appropriate clinical response to their circumstances. The time between first contact and allocation to a caseworker varies according to the complexity and number of referrals we receive. In my last annual report I said that there was a delay of six to eight weeks for some cases. Currently there is a two week delay. Mr Ryan also states that the ACT government has withdrawn VOCAL's funding. Since the year 2000, VOCAL has been funded to develop and maintain a volunteer program to provide practical assistance to victims of crime. The maintenance of a volunteer program is one of my functions under the Victims of Crime Regulation 2000. Last year, I decided to conduct an open tender process for the delivery of the volunteer program. In doing so, I wanted to ensure transparency of process and responsible acquittal of government resources. I engaged Shared Services Procurement to oversee that process. Communities@Work was the successful tenderer. The new volunteer program, Side by Side, is operational. Communities@Work and Victim Support ACT have demonstrated a positive commitment to build a strong partnership and I am confident the Side by Side program will deliver high quality services to victims of crime.

John Hinchey, Victims of Crime Commissioner

Slaves to greed

PAUL MALONE'S ''An Asian vision blinkered by greed'' (p22, December 9) identifies profit as the covert agenda of the Asian century white paper. The driver for profits is only matched by the avarice of the consumer's self-gratification of wants and projection of self through accumulation of likenesses of ''attainment''. Malone's observations are particularly pertinent at Christmas. Hypnotised by flashing lights, irresistible wrappings, imbued with bonhomie, and to the gentle cadence of Jingle Bells, Christmas shoppers are spoiled by globalisation's rich bounty, where their sole dilemma is choice. Few will stop to consider the purchased, attractively-priced electronic bauble may have been made in Foxconn's suicide-inducing, Chinese sweatshops. Globalisation, the cornucopia of ''affluenza'', has imposed ever more degrading forms of exploitative slavery on ever greater numbers of humanity.

Albert M. White, Queanbeyan, NSW

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